Wednesday, December 28
Sunday, December 4
Friday, November 25
Monday, October 24
One Sabbath afternoon not too long ago, I overheard a conversation between two of my friends, and it intrigued me. A group of us had decided to go hiking at Laurel Falls, but some of us needed to be back home earlier than others. Our group split, and while the majority of our fellow hikers went up to the falls, the rest of us played and hiked down among the large rocks in the stream.
I was sitting with Allana, Margie, and Heather on one such large rock while Ivan was skipping rocks, throwing big stones in the water, and just generally being a guy. Then Ivan came and showed us a great find-- a very large flat rock, which he then proceeded to throw in the water after each of us had commented on how much we liked it. A few minutes later, Ivan returned again with another large, flat rectangular rock.
"Do you like my rock?" he asked as he showed it off to each of us.
While he was preoccupied, Allana turned to me and said jokingly, "We'd better not tell him that we like it or else he just might toss it into the water as well."
And so Allana feigned indifference toward the rock. Ivan was a little dismayed.
"What's wrong with my rock, Allana? Why don't you like it?"
"Well, I don't know what's so great about it," she answered apathetically.
"What's not great about it? It's a perfectly square rock!" Ivan exclaimed exultantly.
We all laughed, and Allana replied, "There's nothing square about it! How can you say it's a perfect square?"
Ivan was quick to defend his find. "Well, it's an awful lot better and more square than all the rest of these rocks!"
The banter continued for a while until we moved on to other amusements. But Allana's and Ivan's discussion got me thinking. It was quite clear to all of us that the rock was not, as Ivan had claimed, anywhere close to a perfect square. Even his defense admitted that fact.
Sometimes I think we present our plans and designs to God the same way that Ivan presented his rock to Allana. We tell Him how great it will be if things will just work out the way we've planned, and when God says no to our plans, we're so quick, whether by words or by actions, to defend our schemes.
"What's not to like about it? It's a perfect plan!" we complain to God. And even when we're honest enough with ourselves to admit the obvious flaws, we still try to sell God on the point that it's a much better plan than any other that we can see at the moment.
But that's just it-- God sees so much more than we do. And while our designs may seem like the closest thing to perfect we can imagine, God sees the true perfectly square rocks that are hidden from our sight.
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." Psalm 37:4-7a, ESV
"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!" Psalm 84:11, 12, ESV
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil." Proverbs 3:5-7, ESV
Saturday, October 22
Saturday, October 1
There are two things I relate to in that discussion. Recently I've realized that I keep praying for God to take control of my life, to lead me in His path, but all the while I'm pleading with Him to let my chosen path be His path. And that's not surrender. That's called control.
The other thing in that discussion on control that really resounded with me is when God says, "you're either moving toward me, or away from me." Sometimes, I get tired of God chiseling. Sometimes, I feel like I can't take any more refining at the moment, and I want to take a break. I want to just stay right here, rest awhile, and then God can start refining me again when I've regained my strength. But there is no staying right here, because to stay right here is to be moving away from God. And I don't need to regain my strength because God has promised to be my strength. In all His refining, when I feel like I can't stand any longer, when I feel like I can't take any more of the flame of God's holiness burning away the dross, He reminds me that if I would rely on Him, I wouldn't have to stand for myself; He will be my sustaining power as He chisels away everything that keeps me from reflecting the image of God.
"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." Isaiah 48:10, 11 (ESV)
Thursday, September 22
"No longer was it a matter of faith with them that Christ was the Son of God. They knew that, although clothed with humanity, He was indeed the Messiah, and they told their experience to the world with a confidence which carried with it the conviction that God was with them." Acts of the Apostles, p. 46
Christ's divinity, authority, and power to save was no longer a mere belief-- a vague idea in their heads that couldn't fully be explained; instead it was fact. Not only was it fact, but it was a certainty that changed their lives, their daily actions.
God keeps bringing things to my attention that make me realize that somewhere, somehow there is a disconnect in my own and many other Christians' minds. Somehow God is not as real to me as He ought to be. If He were, it would be impossible for me to doubt His power, and it would be impossible for me to distrust His love and the goodness of His plans for me. Because if God were as real to me as He ought to be, His love and power would be a fact that would change my life, my daily actions.
Somehow the things which are seen, the things of this world, have become more real to us than our heavenly home (of which we are true citizens) and the God of love who dwells there. I know this because if God were more real to us, we would live our lives as if nothing else in the world matters as much as He does.
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." Hebrews 11:8-10
"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." Hebrews 11:13-16
"So we do not lose heart. . . as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16, 18
"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" Philippians 3:20
Monday, September 19
Monday, August 22
Monday, August 15
Wednesday, June 15
Thursday, May 12
Thursday, April 14
Sunday, January 23
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
On that day the LORD their God will save them,
as the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown
they shall shine on his land.
For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!
Zechariah 9:9, 11, 12, 16, 17a; ESV
Tuesday, January 18
When I was in Tchad, every day brought more suffering into my scope of awareness. Granted, my time in Tchad was not solely filled with sorrow and suffering; there was joy, too. But my eyes were opened to the pain and suffering around me in the listless eyes of those too exhausted to weep anymore, in the mother's sobs over the death of her child, in the harsh cruelty of a desert land. And I think that I had forgotten, in part, that sorrow and despair are not confined to foreign lands.
The last two days at work, I was assigned to check IVs on several floors, including the hospice unit and the oncology (cancer) floor. I don't know if I had just been blind and my eyes were finally re-opened in the last two days, or if there has just been a sudden increase in the amount of suffering recently, but whatever the case, I was made more aware of the pain and suffering that exists all around me.
One man was sleeping-- peacefully, it seemed. His daughter was outside the room on the phone, and I overheard her in a strained voice explaining to another family member what the doctors had told her. "He only has a few more weeks at most. So right now we're just trying to keep him comfortable. They said that as time goes on, he will just start sleeping more and more..." Her voice trailed off.
On Sunday, I had changed out an old IV for an elderly woman on hospice unit who was very much still with it. She had many family members in the room, and she talked back and forth with each of them. Monday, I walked in to check her IV, and the family members were still there, chatting with each other while she lay in bed, awake, but with eyes closed from tiredness. A tiredness that seemed less like a tiredness from lack of sleep and more like a tiredness of fighting.
I had greeted a man on Sunday in hospice and asked, "How are you doing today?" "Oh, pretty good, pretty good," he had replied with a polite smile. I chatted for a minute and commented on the sunshine coming into his large window. Monday morning, I asked again, in cheerful tones, "How are you today?" His reply was as discouraging as the grey sky outside the window. "Not very well today. I'm worried sick about my wife. She's here in the hospital too, and I can't seem to get a hold of her." We talked a bit, and I gave him some advice on how he might get in touch with his wife. I tried to remain cheerful as I bid him goodbye.
The next room on hospice was an even sharper blow to my heart. An older man, a mere skeleton of himself, sat in bed with hollow eyes that remained completely unpenetrated by my cheery, upbeat demeanor. He responded to my questions, but I felt like I was interacting with a shadow of a man rather than a real human. I can't hardly explain what it was in his eyes and voice that struck me so deeply, except to say that where life should have been, an apathy devoid of hope had settled in.
But what really pierced my heart was seeing a dear friend of mine in the hospital. It's like a nightmare really. To see someone your own age very ill and fatigued. It made me realize once again that Satan is no respecter of persons. Evil has no regard for age, innocence, or character and attacks indiscriminately and brutally.
I can't tell you how many times I came close to crying at work yesterday because I lost count. But in the solitude of my car on my way home, I listened to a song of home-- heaven-- and cried. I can't remember the last time my heart ached so badly to be home, to be rid of the seemingly endless pain and sorrow caused by the absence of Love-- the presence of Satan and sin.
Somehow, through all that happened, I was really beginning to feel that God was very far away. But when I got home, I saw something posted by a friend, and it reminded me that despite all the suffering and pain, God still is. And in the end, Love wins. Here's the full poem:
Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
'There is no peace on earth,' I said;
'For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!'