Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

Awake…Again…’Cus the Lord Knows Me Well.

3:00am, Ricki, do you know where you are? How far have we traveled together? Seriously, oh man, the challenges we’ve stared down, climbed over, worked through, or even ignored…remember? Do you recall that time, really it was a season or should I say siege, during which you just kept wagging your head back and forth muttering “No, no, no, no?” Yeah, that’s the one. And…yup, that one too. Well, yes, that also. Now do you know where you are? Where you always are? Umhmm, you got it.

Remember when I said, “I will never leave you or forsake you?”

Right. That’s how I said it in the later Letter to the Hebrews. But do you remember how I said it first?

Yup, there you go. Moses was finishing. Joshua was getting started. Your brothers and sisters long ago needed encouragement as the time for entering the Promised Land was upon them. So, what did I have Moses say? Exactly, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) That was a long time ago…about 3400 years! And then again, about 2000 years ago, my people needed that encouragement , so I reminded them again. (Hebrews 13:5)

So, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Now do you remember where you are? Yes, yes, yes, you are with me. We got this.

Thank you, Jesus. O Lord, thank you.

Standard
Bible, Life's Moments

The Dance

Late. My heart is in the word. My mind is in it too. Softly in the background the radio lets the sweet sounds of country produce a simple smile one moment and at a later moment a thoughtful, bashful blush.

It’s a beautiful combination. The work of the Holy Spirit illuminating my present world and the work of country music reminding me of my past world. I enjoy nothing so much as I enjoy the former. I enjoy only a few things more than I enjoy the latter.

And tonight, tonight, dancing into my thoughts and my heart came two partners. Learning, contemplating and exploring, the written word shaped and formed and provoked. My mind was excited. My heart was sometimes reluctant. And the Holy Spirit was near. Psalm 30:11,12…one partner.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness
that my glory may sing your praise
and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Smiling, crying and reveling, the words of Garth Brooks escaped the radio and tumbled through my soul. The Dance…a second partner.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know
the way it all would end,
the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain,
but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

I know the first partner was from God. There is certainty here. I’m guessing the second was too…though there is no certainty in this.

God does this you know. He woos us. He draws us. He compels us to come close. We dance with fire. He comes to the dance. He calls “May I have the dance floor and will you join me?”

I often smile. Sometimes blush. And I dance across the floor.

Standard
Adversity

Good Things In Small Packages

christmas boxI love that old saying, “Good things come in small packages.” Wedding rings come in small boxes. Pay raises come in small memos. Encouraging words come in small whispers. I like the old saying, because I like the truth of it: life is good when we get good stuff in small packages.

I was reminded of this when I read a small passage in the New Testament. It’s not a lot of words, but it sure contains some mighty good stuff. For me, it’s a gift from God in a quest for peace in a life filled with stress.

Here it is (Philippians 4:2-9): “(1) So then, my brothers and sisters, you are dearly loved and longed for—my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. (2) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (3) Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life. (4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (5) Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (6) Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (9) Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Now don’t run off just because it’s addressed to two ladies with funny names in a country far away and a time long ago. Let me share the good things coming in this small package. There are six of them…and who wouldn’t love to possess them when life and relationships run wild with stress.

—to stand firm in one’s faith (verse 1)
—to be at peace with others (verses 2 and 3)
—to rejoice at all times (verse 4)
—to be gracious with everyone (verse 5)
—to dwell upon virtuous, beneficial things (verse 8)
—to consistently apply God’s truth (verse 9)

Now notice, in verses 6 and 7, the one thing we need to do: pray. However, don’t miss the power in this small package. Remember it was originally delivered to two ladies with funny names feuding about forgettable things. What do you suppose Euodia and Syntyche were being asked to pray about? Right. One another. And what should inform their prayer. The six wonderful things surrounding this encouragement to pray.

Stop going in separate directions and pray for the capacity to stand firm together.
Stop fighting to gain advantage and pray for the capacity to get back on the same page.
Stop pouting to receive sympathy and pray for the capacity to rejoice over the good in others.
Stop criticizing to inflict pain and pray for the capacity to be gentle toward others.
Stop dwelling on negative things and pray for the capacity to see what’s noble and right about others.
Stop banking on faulty opinions and pray for the capacity to see God’s much larger picture.

Imagine: the ladies with funny names start seeing one another through the far-sight of God’s eyes rather than the near-sight of their frustration.

Imagine: you start to see your life and relationships through God’s eyes rather than the stress of your frustration.

Imagine: you face conflict, but pray to resolve it rather than fight about it.

Imagine: you face loss, but pray to challenge it rather than retreat from it.

Imagine: you face stress, but pray to manage it rather than crumble under it.

Imagine, just imagine.

It may have been delivered in a small package, but it’s mighty good advice.

 

Standard
Life's Moments

A Simple Invitation

Over the years in our youth ministry we have often discussed “God Bombs.” I learned the power of their effectiveness from my wife, Vanita. They are just simple, yet meaningful and timely, name dropping opportunities. Here’s how it works…

Sally, the soccer mom, sees Molly, another soccer mom, by being at most of the practice sessions and soccer games in which their two little girls participate. The little girls become instant friends. Sally and Molly take a little longer. Sally works at a relationship of integrity. The ladies become “soccer mom friends.” Time passes. They talk about many things. They share about their likes, their dislikes. They Facebook. They meet for coffee. Trust levels increase. They become friends, not just “soccer mom friends.” One day Molly seems a bit agitated. Sally, doesn’t pry, but as always she is friendly and encouraging. They sit with one another observing the game. They cheer. They chat about the usual small talk. Molly then says something out of the ordinary. She complains, not terribly, just simply about something her husband did. Sally just listens. She makes no observations. She just listens. She lets Molly be Molly. Maybe the only words she utters are something like, “Molly, I’m sorry things are not going as well as you like.” Something simple like that. Time passes. Days pass. Friendship grows. Molly talks. Sally is a good friend. One day, who knows why this day, maybe it just feels right, Molly once again is discouraged and shares something personal. In response, Sally says, “That must be frustrating. I don’t know what I would do without prayer when I deal with tough times.” She then goes right back to listening. That’s a God bomb.

Over time, Sally refers to her life with the Savior as simply and as meaningfully as she refers to her family, her hopes, her dreams, her daughter’s last game, her work, and what she has cooking in the oven. She and Molly become good friends. She doesn’t drop the entire Book of Romans on Molly as they discuss their lives with one another. However, over time, it becomes rather obvious to Molly how important the Lord is to Sally–and it doesn’t repel, it compels. One day it all falls into place. Sally has prayed and prayed for her friend. Molly’s heart is open to a simple invitation. It might look a little like this brief video…except, of course, it will be far more in keeping with the special nature of the friendship shared between Sally and Molly. It may be an invitation to a concert, to church, a retreat, or, better still, it may be an invitation to the Savior. But it won’t be awkward. It won’t be stiff. It will be a simple invitation…one as simple and natural as an invitation to meet for lunch.

Standard
Bible, Life's Moments

Protection From Above

I’m not sure, but I think my son, Daniel, once had shades of Snoopy lingering in his thoughts. You know, that particular image of Snoopy perched in a tree like a vulture keeping watch over everything below. Ready to pounce. Ready to provide. Ready to protect.

It’s okay. I got this.

It happened during that period of time when a mom and dad begin to nudge the responsibility and self-discipline training to the next level. Daniel was about 10 years old. Vanita and I had discussed some timing issues and some method issues regarding Daniel’s training. One of the items we chose was to leave him at home alone for a half hour or so.

“Daniel, we need to run to the store real quick. Matthew wants to go. Of course, Jessica is coming with us. Would you like to go or would you like to stay here and look after the house?”

Now all ya’ll know where this was designed to go. And it did.

“Really? I can stay here,” he asked.

“Yes. You’ll need to be very responsible. You know the house rules, right?”

“Yeah, I can do it!”

“Right, we know you can. So, okay, we won’t be long.”

Driving away produced no small amount of stress, but drive away we did. Training goes like that. A little older…a little more instruction…a little more responsibility…a little more autonomy to achieve success…a little more grace for the slips…and a whole lot of praying. We drove away with the stress and moderated it with the praying.

All these years later, I’m happy to report success. Back then, well, let’s just say I wasn’t always so sure.

We were anxious to get home, but we gave Daniel the time we had predetermined. We pulled into the drive way…and the excitement began. Daniel came on the run…not from the front door, not from the back door, but from up in a tree.

The tree was one of his favorite toys. It was one of those classic climbing trees. Situated just off the front porch and overlooking the front door, it provided a low branch for a swing and a tall climb for rambunctious kids. Apparently, it also provided Daniel with a fantastic ninja position.

“Dad, Dad…Mom, I saw this lady. I saw her.”

“What lady, Daniel?”

“The lady, the lady walking up the street. I could tell she was gonna come to our house.”

“Did she come to the house?”

“Yeah, I knew she would.”

“Oh, Daniel, did she knock on the door or anything?”

“Uh-huh, I knew she would.”

“You didn’t answer, did you? You know you’re not supposed to do that.”

“No, no, I didn’t. I couldn’t.”

A little bewildered, we just kind of stood there looking perplexed.

“I couldn’t answer the door. Instead, I said, ‘Who goes there!?’”

“What,” his Mother asked.

Daniel answered, “I said, ‘Hey, who goes there,’ and the lady jumped and screamed. I took care of it, Dad.”

“Daniel, wait, wait. What are you talking about,” I asked.

“Well, when you left, I was kinda scared, but I wanted to take care of everything, so I decided to climb the tree. That way I could be safe and watch over everything. So, I grabbed the hatchet…”

“The hatchet? Daniel, what? Why the hatchet? You know it only has certain uses and I need to be around when you use it,” I said with a nod to authority. On the inside, though, I knew where this was going and my Father/Daddy/Papa/Dear ‘ol Dad pride meter was climbing at break-neck speed.

“Yeah, the hatchet, Dad. (Breathing kind of fast) I was a little scared, but I knew I had to protect everything, (breathing a little harder) so I got the hatchet, (taking a gulp of air) turned everything off, locked the doors, put the key in my pocket, and climbed to the top of the tree. (Big breath, from corner to corner his smile stretched as far as the east is from the west). I did it Dad. Everything’s okay.”

“And the lady,” we asked.

“Oh, after she screamed and asked what I was doing in the tree, she left.”

Just like that, it was okay. It was okay.

Mom gave him a big, long hug.

I gave him a high five.

It was okay. Still is.

In just less than two weeks, Daniel will marry the lady for whom he has been praying, hoping, and looking for since he was a teenager. Her name is Abby. Daniel will perch over her. He will protect her and provide for her. He will pray with her, play with her, plan with her, and parent with her. He will be passionate about her. peaceful for her, and patient with her. Because he has such a wonderful Dad. No, take it easy, I’m not talking about myself. At night, before falling asleep, he’ll check in with Dad. After each long day he will say, “Dad, Abba Father, I did it. Everything is okay. The house is locked up. Abby is safe. (One day, hopefully) The kids are okay. I did it, Father. Everything is okay. Thank you. Amen.”

Here’s the important part…

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Update: Daniel and Abby, happily married, love one another and our Lord more and more everyday, help others and their little Rachel to do the same thing, and expect a brand new little baby boy any day now!

Standard
Bible, Life's Moments

Where is he? Where am I?

Saw this spoken word by way of a random search. Awesome.

Think I’ll get a coach and learn how to do this. I really like what young people are doing with different forms of communicating the hope found only in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Standard