Getting Through The Rough Times

roughtimesI’ve see it happen more than once:  A husband and wife stand side by side as they watch a raging fire engulf their home that housed a lifetime of memories.  I’ve heard them ask: “What will we do now.  How we will get through the loss of everything we’ve worked for?”

And bad news, there have been hundreds of times that I’ve had to inform a family that their loved one has died, and I’ve heard the lament: “How will I get through life without him?

Then, there is the dreaded “C” word.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve sat in a hospital room and seen a friend sucker punched with the news that the diagnosis is cancer.  They almost always wonder aloud: “Is it rough going through the chemo treatments?”

There’s a key to getting through rough times.  If you focus on just the rough the door of possibilities slams shut and there’s no resolution to your heartache.  If, however, you focus on getting through, you open the door of possibilities and unleash the potential of God’s promises.

Rough times either make you or break you; they either make you better or bitter.

God is in the business of getting you through the rough times: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God (Isaiah 43:1-3).”

The key to manage your rough times is to “enter through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:1-5).” ~The Message

The Master Weaver: God At Work

quiltSob stories are often used to persuade people.  Some are brief like a short story in Readers Digest, while others are epic sagas.

Epic doesn’t do justice to the sob story I told in 1972.  The barracks I was housed in was a World War II structure that must have been built without any insulation.  It was as drafty as a tent with the flap up, and the cold wind blowing off the snow covered mountain peaks was a frigid and unwelcome guest—It visited too often and stayed too long.

With chattering teeth and artic adjectives, I began to spin a tale to describe my sorrowful plight.  My sob story had a clearly defined plot designed to convince Mom that I needed her to relinquish one of her beloved quilts.

To say that I wanted one of her quilts for the warmth it would provide, would be true; however, I also wanted one because it would have the loving touch of Mom’s hand on it.  Every square of her quilts were carefully stitched together to produce a beautiful piece of art that was also a piece of Mom.

I was reminded of my sob story while I was reading the 139th Psalm this morning.  Two words of the Psalm, “knitted” and “woven,” caught my attention and reminded me Mom.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:13-15

The quilts that Mom made were no accident.  They were carefully designed and crafted out of many separate pieces of cloth that had been saved for the purpose of creating a tapestry of love; likewise, you are no accident.

God loves you, and He is intricately  weaving  you for a purpose.  You may not understand how and why things happen, but God is at work in your life.  This is the message of the Master Weaver:

Our lives are but fine weavings that God and we prepare,

Each life becomes a fabric planned and fashioned in His care.

We may not always see just how the weavings intertwine,

But we must trust the Master’s hand and follow His design,

For He can view the pattern upon the upper side,

While we must look from underneath and trust in Him to guide…

Sometimes a strand of sorrow is added to His plan,

And though it’s difficult for us, we still must understand

That it’s He who fills the shuttle, it’s He who knows what’s best,

So we must weave in patience and leave to Him the rest…

Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly

Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why —

The dark threads are as needed in the Weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

~Author Unknown

Thanksgiving: A slice of Americana

macySince it began in 1924, Macy’s gift to New York City has become a time-honored tradition.  Macy’s miracle of 34th street is a festive celebration that runs for 2 ½ miles.  Some 3.5 million people will line the parade route to watch this amazing display of giant balloons and unique floats, and another 50 million will watch it at home.

For many people, this is the image they have of Thanksgiving, and it is what they think of as the start of the holiday season.  My thoughts are a bit different.

While I do think of the Pilgrims, the inaugural feast with the Indians and the giving of thanks.  This year, I find myself thinking of January 6, 1923, the year before Macy’s began their parade.

A record of the event was recorded in the pages of Eureka’s newspaper, The Democratic Messenger on January 11, 1923:  Harold Seymour, age 17 and Berta Hughes, age 18 were married by Probate Judge S.L. Chase in Reece, Kansas.

Harold and Berta would move a little east and a little north to Sallyards, a town that is now barren foundations, railroad tracks, cattle, and the Kansas wind blowing across the Flint Hills and through the Bluestem grass.

The white house where Harold and Berta lived is my slice of Americana.  My first memories of Thanksgiving are framed inside this house.  I can still smell Grandma’s cherry pie and chicken and noodles.  I can still see that big smile that lined the wrinkled face of Grandpa Seymour.

Even though I’ve forgotten the name of the songs, the vivid memory of Grandma sitting at the piano is fresh in my mind.  As she played, the family sang, and the clearest voice was Dad’s—a voice that was silenced by an untimely death 50 years ago.

Even though my grandparents, parents, and all but one uncle and one aunt are gone, I still have my slice of Americana.  Every time I pour myself a cup of coffee and eat a slice of cherry pie or dig into a heaping helping of chicken and noodles, I remember what I can’t forget, and I give thanks.

What are some of your memories and your slice of Americana?

From Zilch to Zero

zilchAfter watching the evening news, I wonder what the prophet Jeremiah would say about the world in which we live?  In his own day, he summarized the condition of mankind by saying the heart of man was full of deceit and wickedness.  I think the news confirms the prophet’s prognosis.

Like Jeremiah, Saint Augustine voiced his concerns regarding the plight of mankind.  Even though he was a theologian, and not a heart doctor, he was concerned with healthy hearts.  He thought a vibrant heart would manifest itself when a person showed love for:

  • the right thing
  • in the right degree
  • in the right way
  • with the right kind of love

Augustine’s focus on the importance of love may have come from his study of the Apostle Paul, who said:  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).”

If your life is void of any expression of love, you have a zilch to zero chance of doing “the right thing, in the right degree in the right way, with the right kind of love.”

The “right kind of love,” is a genuine love of obedience: “Everyone who really believes that Jesus is the Christ proves himself one of God’s family. The man who loves the Father cannot help loving the Father’s own Son. The test of the genuineness of our love for God’s family lies in this question—do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? For loving God means obeying his commands, and these commands of his are not burdensome, for God’s “heredity” within us will always conquer the world outside us. In fact, this faith of ours is the only way in which the world has been conquered. For who could ever be said to conquer the world, in the true sense, except the man who really believes that Jesus is God’s Son (I John 5:1-5)?”

Have you gone from zilch to zero, or are you a conquering hero?  The difference is the capacity to love.

Operation Cross Country

fbi2Operation Cross Country IX is not a marathon, but it is a rigorous track and field event.  The trackers come from a diverse field of law enforcement agencies, and the event is focused on saving kids.

As an ongoing national effort, Operation Cross Country IX, is a nationwide crackdown on sex trafficking.  The FBI joined forces with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and took the lead in this effort that rescued 149 underage trafficking victims.

Additionally, more than 150 pimps were arrested.  These puss-pockets of humanity are so sleazy they were selling kids as young as 12 years old.

FBI Director James Comey said:  “Our mission is to protect the American people — especially our children — from harm. When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror. We simply must continue to work with our partners to end the scourge of sex trafficking in our country.”

There are several organizations that focus their energy on rescuing those who are trapped in the commercial sex trade.  Shared Hope International is one of them, and you can gain a better understanding of their work by watching a brief 2 minute video.  Simply click here. 

The Lord says: “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  ~Jeremiah 22:3

A Shelter For A Helter Skelter World

birdTo say the world can be a mess is not an understatement.  Life is lived at such a fast pace, you may have gone to bed last night feeling overwhelmed and got up this morning still in a daze.

When you’re seeking a refuge of safety and rest, Psalm 91 is a wonderful passage of Scripture:

He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High
    will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty.
 He will say to the Eternal, “My shelter, my mighty fortress,
    my God, I place all my trust in You.”
Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers,   He will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.

You only have to look at the pages of Scripture to find examples of God intervening in the lives of His children.  Joseph, as an example,  lived through a series of hardships and trials.  At the end of his life he said people had planned things for evil, but God had planned them for good.

Like Joseph, you need to take an eternal perspective on life.  The weight of the present heartache or trial can skew your perspective on the future; however, when you look from the present back through history, you can often see how your life has been more than just the victim of circumstances.

Benefit from the opportunity that you have.  Don’t refuse the refuge–find comfort in the shelter of God.

Someone Is Watching

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When I woke up this morning, I was thinking of God and how He watches over us and cares for us.  I realize there are those times of heartache, and we wonder where He might be, but life is not a Wizard of Oz experience. We can’t peak behind the curtain to see who is pulling the strings that form and fashion our lives.

If you think God is good and God is great in the wonderful moments, how great is your faith when pain causes you to doubt?  In times of trials and temptations,I find comfort in knowing that God is the Someone watching over me:

  • Chronicles 16:9:  For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him
  • Psalm 34:15:  The eyes of the Lord are on those who do what is right and good. His ears are open to their cry.
  • Proverbs 5:21:  For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, And He ponders all his paths.
  • I Peter 3:12:  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Three quick thoughts from the verses above:

  1. God is always watching you.
  2. God is always ready to hear your prayers.
  3. God always has enough power to give you the strength you need to manage your situation.

At times I’ve prayed:  “God I don’t understand the why and what-for of my situation, but I know that you know and I see that you see, so I’ll not fear because you hear–you are attentive to my prayers.”

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

Raw Emotion

Reading-facial-expressions_articleDo you remember the last time you did it?  Something happened and you let your guard down and the true you showed:  Your emotions were on display for everyone to see.

Immediately following His Passover entry into Jerusalem the emotions of Jesus were easily seen :  “When Jesus came closer and saw the city, He began to cry, and He said, If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But you cannot see it (Luke 19).”

In a moment, Jesus went from the joys of the palm branches to the tragic reality of what the future held.  In this incident, it’s easy to see His love in:

  • His walk of grace as He came near to the city
  • His eyes of love in the way He beheld the people
  • His heart of compassion as He wept due to the spiritual blindness of the people

Is it a comfort to you to know that the love, grace, and compassion of God is yours to claim?  It’s available to you because of who Jesus is and what He did.  Notice how this is explained in The Message:

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.      ~Hebrews 4:14-16

The Sinister and the Saint

eyeI’m not sure if I should label it progression or regression, but I have gone from wearing no glasses, to bi-focals, and for several years now I have moved into the tri-focal stage.

Each step in this vision process involved a trip to the eye doctor and a prescription for new glasses.  The last time I got a new prescription for eyeglasses, I noticed the abbreviations OS and OD. The OS is for the left eye, and it is a Latin abbreviation that means “oculus sinister.”   The right eye is OD and is the Latin “oculus dextrus.”

The fact that I have a sinister left eye, made me curious, and I looked at the etymology of oculus sinister and dextrus:

  • The Latin meaning of sinister speaks of that which is “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left.”
  • Dextrus has the meaning of being “right or ready.”

In these two words, we see the struggle that each of us face.  It is the conflict between evil and good or flesh and spirit.  In Romans 8:5, Paul said:  “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

Since your “outlook” is determined by the flesh or the spirit, you may want to take an “in-look” at what the Bible says about desire:

  • James 1:14-15: Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him.  Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
  • Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
  • 2 Peter 2:14: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, they entice unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices.

Which one of your eyes guides you?  Do you see the world through the sinister side or the saintly side?   I encourage you to take a look at your life, and consider using the words of Psalm 119:36-38 as your prayer for today:

“Turn my heart toward Your Law, so I will not earn money in a wrong way.  Turn my eyes away from things that have no worth, and give me new life because of Your ways.  Keep Your promise to Your servant, the promise You made to those who fear and worship You.”