This past week Nadine and I lost two of our close friends to death. How painful to have two people who touched us so differently leave this earth.
Jeff was a close friend who was struggling with life and the meaning of life when I met him. He was having problems with his marriage when I met him that later ended with divorce. He wasn’t happy in his job that was inconsistent with having him being able to work consistently. He had a horrific childhood and was estranged from his family.
I came along and encouraged him to get his GED which he did and was so happy that for once in his life he had accomplished something he could be proud of. He was passionate about cooking and creating beautiful tones of smell and taste. After encouragement and harassment, he applied and was accepted into culinary school where he excelled and graduated with highest honors.
More than any accomplishments we saw him attain, Jeff was a good friend who shot straight in his communication and frankness, and was a loyal comrade. He was always there when called upon and hated the facades of christians who lived two different lives, one in public and one in private. More than anyone in our lives that we have known, Jeff impacted Nadine and I and we will always cherish the times we spent with Jeff.
Jeff, you will always be loved and thank you for marking our lives.
The second person in our lives that died this past week was Elaine, a fellow traveler of Christ who came yearly for the winter months from Michigan. She and her husband fellowshipped with our small group and marked our discussions with insight and wisdom she had gained reading the bible.
She always brought freshness to our discussion and we could see and hear from someone who lived out their lives supernaturally. She was a Jesus follower but more than a follower, she was being transformed by His power. We will miss her, but her insight will be tattooed in our lives forever.
Jeff and Elaine, have fun in heaven together. Death for you all is a ticket to spending eternity with the Master.
James Taylor in 1977 wrote a folk song that has been sung by millions of tongues all over the world. I was reminded of the song when my step-son and his wife sent the following picture of our new grand-son, Greyson.
Greyson is the second one from the right and seems to be having a good time with his new friends. It encourages me to make a call today and reach out to touch my friends. Thanks Greyson
How many times have you been been in a pickle, a jam, a rock in a hard place, a real doozy? No matter what we do we can’t move away from the problem we are facing. We try every logical way to fix the problem and to no avail. We look at and work every alternative but we find ourselves still stuck with the problem. After we have used up our creativity, our skill set, our mind and our muscle with the same result of not having solved the dilemma, we finally look to the Lord and say, “If you get me out of this one I’ll never do it again.”
I was reading in a book that is familiar to us, but most of the time we focus on the main character of the book and not focus on his counterparts. I’m referring to Jonah and the whale. He was running from what God wanted him to do and finds a boat going in the opposite direction. He is fast asleep in the bottom of the boat, as the sailors are experiencing a perfect storm. They have been in a lot of storms before, but never one of this size. They throw cargo off the ship but see the storm beginning to tear the ship apart. They cry out to their gods. They wake Jonah up. It then says, “The men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.” Jonah 1:13-16
They tried everything before calling on the Lord to fix the problem. When all their effort failed, they turned to the Lord and He calmed the sea. Paul, an apostle of Christ, said in Romans 1 the no one seeks the Lord. We have the tendency to rely on our own human effort first before turning to Him.
On this journey trials that come our way are hidden road maps placed by God to get our attention. The raging sea did it for the sailors. Looking at trials as God’s alarm clocks for us can move us to a closer connection with the Master and Solver of lives problems.
Sand and Fruit Snacks. Together. In the Mouth. Yummy. At least that is what Keaton, my 1 1/2 year old experienced at the beach on Sunday a week ago. We were having a great time in the sand when he got hungry. He was a sand ball from head to toe. No part of the body was clear of sand. Victoria unwrapped the fruit snack plastic container and he went for it. Sand and all. I was cringing at the thought of biting down on the gummy fruit snack with sand. But he never thought a thing about it. He ate the mixture and wanted more. I don’t have that picture, but took one of he and his older brother Brayden on a fire engine the day before.
O if we could only experience life like that and not become negative regarding the things that so easily distract us. The sand was a distraction for me, but not for him. He never thought a second about what it might taste like. He experienced life with the negative and positive and didn’t miss a beat. How we might see life differently if we weren’t so distracted by the negative things that come into our lives and miss the positive along side the negative.
On this journey, enjoy the sweet things of life when they come and they will if you open your eyes and mouth to them.
A couple of days ago I took this picture of a mother and father quail under a bush outside my office window. If you look closely you will see the mother sitting on three babies to warm them from the rainy weather that was outside. It reminds me of Jesus talking about his children in Jerusalem and says, “. . .how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37
What a great picture of what the Lord wants to do for you and me if we only crawl under His wings.
Prayer is an act of humbleness toward God. It is in essence saying, “I can’t, but You can”. Prayer is a weakness in my life and has been for many years. I guess I was raised by parents who loved God, and taught self-reliance. Dad and Mom worked hard at their professions of teacher, mail carrier and do-it-yourself mastery. I learned so much from them and meditate often on what they gave to my life. They worked for everything they got in life and taught me to do the same.
What was missing over the years was my limitations in life that came through various experiences I had. It has been in those set-backs of life that have caused me to see my inadequacies and weaknesses and sinfulness. Not that I didn’t have some of those thoughts over the years, but it has become more and more clear to me over the last few years of life. I truly am a sinful person with thoughts and actions that are not pleasing to the Master. As I read the Old Testament, I am more and more drawn to the passages where God is venting his anger toward those who are screwing up. I guess that as I am trying to get closer to my Lord and Savior, I am seeing more and more of my foibles, my limitations, my weaknesses, my mistakes, my inabilities.
It’s because of these thoughts that I am drawn to Solomon in this passage in II Chronicles 2 when he said, “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; (2 Chronicles 6:36-39 NIV) “We have sinned!!!” “We have done wrong!!!!” (We have) acted wickedly!!!!” I am more broken when I replace the “we” with “I”.
It’s in our brokenness that forgiveness comes. It’s in our mindset of not being able to give direction to our lives that God comes to us and begins to direct our lives. It’s a journey of BROKENNESS that God brings forgiveness and direction for the future.
There are many voices out there today seeking to get our attention. We are bombarded daily, hourly, every second of the day with messages that are trying to give us counsel. “You deserve a break today (food).” “You have worked long hours, You deserve it (luxurious car).” “Just 15 minutes could save you hundreds (car insurance).” From movies to watch to TV shows to turn to. Our minds can be filled with noise constantly. Things to buy. Shows to watch. Pills to take. Cars to drive. Insurance to buy. You name it. We are bombarded with it. It can drowned out the important voices that can transform our lives.
When I was driving around frantically trying to find the airport (story from the previous blog entitled “Process of Forgiveness: Part III Change of Heart”) the voices in my head caused confusion and misdirection. Until I stopped and asked the person on the side of the road who knew where the airport was. It was his wise counsel to turn left at the next corner and go 2 miles that changed everything. When I turned toward the expert, all the voices stopped and I got back on the right path to get me to my destination.
Solomon knew where wisdom came from and where true counsel resided. With the Lord as he continues his dialogue, “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, . . . and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken. . . (2 Chronicles 6:36-39 NIV) The only council that is worth listening to is the counsel from the Lord when we have gone astray.
This bolded passage reminds me of the question that the pharisee asked Jesus what is the great commandment to follow. Jesus responded to the man by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . .”(Matthew 22:36-37) It’s only when we turn back with every part of our being that sends a message to the Master that we want only His guidance and direction. It is an all in mindset to change the direction or our lives and surrender our lives over to the one who knows all.
On this journey turning away from our sin and turning toward the Master sets in motion a transformed live.