Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To Care

I have some friends going through a difficult season, a family losing a grandfather and dad.  My conscience was pricked when I forgot to ask, worse yet, forgot to pray.  I've been so engrossed in my own life that, dare I say it, I failed to care.  But it has given me some perspective on my own trials. 

The countdown to Thanksgiving paired with an important anniversary party for my in-laws, has caused me to be worried about what to eat and what to wear.  Trivial things.  Furthermore, I just made a big deal out of traveling across the country alone.  It seems silly now, why I was so afraid to do that.  Childish really.  If my trials are no deeper than that, then what do I know of suffering? 

Years ago at this time I was going through an almost identical struggle as my friend.  Except not.  My mother was dying, yet, she knew the Lord.  However, my friends' grandfather and dad does not know the Lord.  Huge difference.  How much greater their struggle, and how devastating!  I cannot imagine the pain they must be experiencing, nor the urgency of their prayers. 

God knows we need food and clothing, yet, we are not to pursue them.  Instead, we seek His kingdom and He promises to provide for our daily needs.  The culture is obsessed with 'touch not, taste not' in regard to food.  Fads abound.  Furthermore, the world's self-image is guarded and exalted by their brand name clothing.  It all seems so trivial, yet, how easy I fall into this trap and lose the right focus. 

In reality, God has recently showered His gifts upon me, providing for my daily needs, showing me that I need not worry about such things.   A freezer full of plump Oregon blueberries, hand picked by my sister, a salmon caught right out of the river, caught by my brother, boxes of apples given by a neighbor, a car given by my Dad, and so much more.  When God provides, He reaches over the top, beyond what I could ever ask or think!  

Yet, when I look at the seriousness of my friends' plight, I am humbled.   This season of pain in their lives runs far deeper than food or clothing.  It is time for me to get on my knees and be about kingdom work:  intercede for the lost, care for the hurting, and live God's great salvation, sharing it wherever I go.  

Compassion is not my strong point.  But just because my gifts lie in other areas, does not mean I should not practice empathy.  I am currently teaching a unit to a class of students on how Jesus cares for people.  It is convicting to say the least.  My desire is to be like Jesus and get my eyes off my own frivolities and truly care about others. 

"Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  Matt. 6:25 and 33

Friday, November 14, 2014


Courage:  Not the absence of fear, but faith in the midst of it. 

There's no place like home.  Over the last week, this truth became very vivid.  After a random phone call, I embarked on an adventure that sent me across the country in a pick up truck with my sister.  It felt like I was in a dream, it was all so sudden.  But the real challenge started when it came time to drive all that way back home . . . alone. 

I have to admit that I was scared, not so much of strangers, but of the cities I would be driving through, the barren desserts I would cross, and the storm I would have to beat.  Because of the massive cloud bearing down over our country with its load of snow, I could not take my usual route across Idaho, the route I know.  Instead, I dropped south and cut across Nevada, adding several hours to my journey. 

Normally that would not be a big deal, other than I was far from home and driving across some of the most remote areas of our country.  As I turned onto an unmarked road, described to me by my brother as a shortcut across south east Oregon, my cell phone lost coverage.  It was then I thought, "Okay, God.  It's you and me, some 300 miles of you and me with nothing else."  It's one thing to say I believe He is watching over me and quite another to have all crutches removed, looking only to Him for my safety. 

And yet, God gave me assurance that He had me covered.  As I started down that desolate road, the radio began a song.  The lyrics seemed directly for me.  "Be strong, do not fear, for I am with you..." I didn't know the song, having never heard it before or since, only that at the time, it spoke to my anxious heart. 

I claim to live by faith, but so often seek places of safety, you know, low risk.  Not that I should purposefully place myself in danger or be stupid about my decisions.  But at times God calls me to place my faith where 'the rubber meets the road'.  Is God real?  Is He powerful?  Is He good?  Then I should be able to lean my full weight onto Him.  At times He has to pry my hands away from what gives me confidence, in order to test where my faith really lies. 

Midway across Nevada I caught up with the edge of the Alaskan cloud.  It was awesome to see, it's ominous shade stretched wide over the valley floor, a distinct line across the sky.  I felt like I was in a race against nature, commanding, "No!  Wait!  Not yet!  Give me half a day!"  But I was reminded that God sends snow on the just and the unjust, and sometimes difficulties arise to make us stronger. 

By the time I reached Salt Lake, I was well under the cloud.  News predicted snow within the hour and so I changed my route again, going even further south.  There's nothing quite like circling the state of Utah to get across a mountain pass, but it can be done!  Finally, I entered the canyon lands.  I never knew that red rock would be so inviting, but it was, because it was home.   

Now and then God calls us to risk, to stretching, to growth, and to a deeper faith.  Normally that does not come through the forces of nature, but I will always remember this Alaskan storm and my unexpected road trip as one which challenged my fears.  I'm reminded that the clouds are the dust of His feet.  God controls the weather as well as what touches me.  And He can be trusted.

Though difficult, I'm glad for my travels, because it forced me to practice what I preach, that we need to do hard things.  Choosing the scary path, rather than the comfortable or safe, keeps me from becoming complacent and stagnant.  I want to live by faith, because I want to always go deeper and draw nearer to the Lord.  He is faithful.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Witness of the Stars

It was an ordinary day when I found out I would be taking a journey across the country.  Unplanned and sudden, I have to wonder if there might be a deeper reason for it all.  Yet, I am confident this plan is not a surprise to God. 

Recently, I spent a night camping outside under the stars.  I was reminded of Abraham, who went, without knowing where, and of God's promise to give him as many descendants as the stars in the sky, to bless him and to make him a blessing.   

Since taking a class on the constellations, I no longer look at the big dipper as a soup ladle, but rather a sheep fold, the handle representing sheep walking into a pen.  And I think of God and His ability to preserve His people Israel.  When I study their history as a nation, it is baffling that they still exist at all, and yet they are prominent in our current news reports worldwide. 

However, on the other side of the sky there is another constellation, the little dipper.  It too represents a sheep fold and sheep brought into safety.  As I think of believers in Christ, the church, I sometimes forget the big picture.  It seems like the church should be the big dipper, but no, we are only represented by the small.  In the grand scheme of God's plan, we are not so numerous as His people Israel.  Somehow, the little dipper seems mysterious, lesser known, like the church, set apart uniquely for this age.   

All this to say, how amazing that God cares to even know my name, let alone orchestrate the movement of my life.  How wonderful that He considers my frame and guides my steps.  Oh, if only I could truly grasp the depth of His goodness!  He is greater than my comprehension, yet more personal than words can say.   He stoops down to hear my cry, and holds me close to His heart. 

Living in town, I rarely see the stars in their full radiance, but I don't want to miss any of the wonders of God's creation, for "night after night they pour forth speech".  (Psa. 19:2)   All I can say is, "Wow!  Just wow!"  Who is like our God?  No one even comes close.  He can be trusted.  The God who scattered the stars across the sky and knows them each by name, is always at my side. 

"The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display His craftsmanship. 
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make Him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world."  
Psa. 19:1-4  (NLT)