I remember, in younger days, when I would have thought, “Hey, that’s what I want- a very comfortable life.”
Sounds cozy, protected, the good life.
A “safe zone?”
Sorry, not for me.
Every meaningful event in my life has been preceded by a quite uncomfortable life.
Mistakes I made, experience gained, all after extreme times of discomfort.
Deep depression led to the moment that I gave over control of my life, to the One who made me.
What is life, anyway? Isn’t life the whole range of emotions; joy, sorrow, pain, exhilaration, depression, contentment, longing, fulfilment, triumph, defeat, first place, last place, second place, (so close), heartbreak, love, separation, reuniting, broken relationships, restored friendships, getting hired, being fired, disappointments, God’s silence, God’s voice.
The comfort zone, the safe places, aren’t really all that comfortable, or safe.
My sister, Elaine sent me a Facebook birthday greeting. She reminded me of a couple of things we used to do together.
We would set up a ramp, line up two marbles at a time, and race them. Single elimination tournament. All the marbles til we got down to the final two. We would cheer for the winner of each heat as if they were human.
There would be one winner.
The world champion.
A one story dollhouse on legs with no roof. A mom, a dad, a girl, a boy, a dog, a cat, and a mouse all had magnets attached to their bottom side, or feet. There were wands that we would use to move the inhabitants through the house. They could open doors, move furniture, leave so the animals could have free run of the house.
We were the gods of this family. We planned their lives, arranged their circumstances, even gave them their words.
They were totally dependent on us.
There are four kids in our family ( well, we used to be kids) and my sister and I were the middles.
We had great imaginations and we spent countless hours together in her room, away from the other two, making up worlds and situations. We had cowboy and Indian figures that would have all sorts of terrifying circumstances to overcome.
All at our whim.
We controlled everything, every outcome.
Except that time when a bad guy captured my favorite cowboy, the one with the legs bowed so that he could ride his horse. I called him “Jim.” (Good cowboy name, don’t you think?) Anyway, the bad guy was trying to extract information from Jim and put him in his torture device, a gooseneck desk lamp. As the bad guy laughed maniacally, Jim’s right leg melted off.
Nooooooo! He never rode a horse again.
There have been times in my life when I wondered if my imagination was the only reason I believed so strongly in God.
Except, I was never able to plan His moves, His words, His life.
I was the one under His power. He orchestrated my circumstances, the lessons I had to learn, the trials I had to endure, the joys I got to experience.
Maybe he gives us imagination so that we can begin to anticipate the unseen invisible world around us, and to receive visions and dreams to propel us forward into a LIFE of His planning.
Thanks, Elaine, for sharing that most important part of being prepared for what is yet to be.
We had been working on this wedding for weeks. Wendy planning. Jennifer pushing, helping organize, making calls. Me just trying to follow orders. On Friday, we spent half a day at the venue, with the first part of the decorating. They worked on the flowers. I did ladder and assembly stuff with my manly tools. Carrying, loading, unloading. Then rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. We got home about ten. I curled up with a blanket in my chair while Wendy did some finishing touches on the Cornhole Game we had built. She woke me up about 12:45, and we went to bed.
5:30 AM. I began loading the last of the stuff. I woke Wendy at 6:00, and I kept working. Man, I was really looking forward to the end. My favorite part would be the visiting with friends and family during the after celebration. I knew that there would still be the tear down, reloading, and unloading the uhaul before I could really relax. But I can’t possibly think that far ahead. Wendy was running late, and was ready to leave. I hadn’t even had my shower, so she went on ahead. She called me in a few minutes. “I feel horrible. I’m just asking God to please don’t let me have a stroke. My blood pressure feels really high.” I said, ” Just go there and be the boss. You know what needs to be done. Just get the others to do it.” Of course the big task would be Zoe’s hair. She figured she needed 2 to 2 1/2 hours. When I got there, I delivered the last of the stuff, and took food orders for McDonald’s.
Delivered the food. Wendy took two bites. “I don’t have time to eat.” ( Or drink. She left it all sitting there.) I made a few trips to Walmart, moved all through the venue filling in some gaps. Wendy was doing Zoe’s hair. I called her a couple of times. “Doing hair. Too busy to talk.” Finally, the place was decorated, guests were arriving, I was suited up, and I spent some time visiting the early arrivals. My favorite part. It was quickly time to get with Zoë, to lead her into her next chapter. Wendy looked at Zoë. “What’s wrong? Are you crying?” Zoë replied, “I’m scared!” I asked,”About the future or about now?” (Visions of runaway bride flashing in my brain.) “No, I want the future! I’m scared about right now!”
The walk, the ceremony, man and wife, the kiss….it is done.
Now to the fun part.
Oh, wait. The pictures first.
Then the fun part.
Pictures over. The sun is down. The lights are illuminating, and Wendy and I begin our walk up the sidewalk to the barn to visit (YEA!) and have a cup of something hot. ( Man, I am really looking forward to that coffee!)
Dick and Ann were walking with us, and we kept stopping.
I looked toward the barn, wanting Wendy to see my brothers and sister.
I looked back. Wendy was looking down at the ground. My head started to turn, and I saw her go down. Fast. Her forehead head hit the ground with a thump.
“Wendy! Are you okay?!” I was kneeling beside her. I tried to get her to respond. No response. No twitch. No movement.
“HELP! I NEED SOME HELP! PLEASE SOMEBODY HELP!”
I have never felt fear like I felt it at that moment!
A nurse, a doctor, more nurses, a nurse practitioner, paramedic, all at the same wedding.
Wendy’s eyes opened, she answered every question lucidly. Name. Date. Where we were. She didn’t know why she was on the ground.
But she was alive.
Everyone clapped as they rolled the gurney carrying Wendy through the pavilion…right past the barbecue…like she had just scored the winning run.
When they put Wendy in the ambulance, three year old, Harper, my great niece, came up with her Nezzie, Belinda. “We should pray for Wendy,” she said.
The paramedics did some checks, and we left the party that we had been working on so long.
Ambulance to the hospital, check-in, all the tests. Medicine for high blood pressure. Nothing else.
And that’s why the cracker dinner was okay with me.
The nurse said, “We are going to go ahead and release you as soon as your blood pressure goes down a little bit. We have never let someone out this quick.”
Power of prayer.
God is good.
We made it back to the wedding in time for the last dance.
We got to see Zoë before she and Evan left.
And, we had so much help, doing the tear down, it was almost like a party in itself.
Not monetarily. Mom and Dad always scrimped on things to provide for the needs.
My dad got my first baseball glove with points he made from his job as a cookie salesman.
But, I never wondered whether my parents loved me.
There was something intransitive. They weren’t physically demonstrative. We weren’t huggers.
But I always had the sense when I was with them, they were glad I was there.
I felt like I was their favorite.
Apparently, my brothers and sister felt the same way.
When I was born again at the age of 26, I began a relationship with the God of the universe. As my Father.
I began to believe that He really did like me, that He liked me to spend time with Him, that He still loved me, even when I did stupid, selfish things.
He had great plans for me.
I can see in my mind possibilities for greater and greater involvement with my Father, growing closer all the time.
A friend told me this week that, because his dad had always maintained a distant relationship with him, that it is not easy for him to think of God in this way, to see himself as a “favored son.”
My wife tells me that my perception that people generally like me is not her perception for herself. That that also makes it difficult for her to feel worthy of God’s favor. She knows in her head that He loves her, but the feelings of being loved don’t come naturally for her.
My eyes are always being opened a little wider by listening to others.
What is your perception of God?
How do you think your childhood may have affected this?
Recent CDC report says that the Corona virus thrives on protein, particularly the protein found in human and animal hair.
CDC guidelines for stemming the tide of COVID19 is to shave all heads, and the bodies of animals that live indoors.
I know you keep telling yourself that you can change the world.
Or, maybe a little more teamwork, we can change the world.
Are you sure that you will like it once it is changed?
Sometimes, it feels like your life just needs a little more excitement, a good cause, a purpose to get up every morning.
Adrenalin is great, isn’t it?
Being a part of something, doing something, taking action, seeing results, all make the heart beat a little faster. The cheers of the crowd make you feel like you are really making a difference.
Like you are changing the world.
Suppose you win.
You get up the next morning, the sun is shining, you turn on the tv, and you see the crowds cheering, and it feels so good.
In a little while, though, the euphoria disappears, and the same old restless boredom rises inside you.
The world around you is changing fast, but you are the same as you were before.
Suppose you lose.
Disappointment becomes like bile rising in your throat.
After all that work, energy expended, meetings, planning sessions, protests…was it all for nothing?
You turn on the tv, and you see the crowds cheering. How can they be happy? Everything is the same as it was!
Your heart sinks, and you realize that you are the same as you were before.
You haven’t changed at all.
DO YOU THINK, “ THERE MUST BE SOMETHING MORE?”
You have to start to wonder, what am I here for, where am I going, is there anyone who cares?
So, start to think about it. If the world you are seeing seems to be divided in half, one side raging against the other, who is behind this turmoil?
Imagine for a moment that maybe there was a mind behind this whole creation. The workings of the seasons, reproductive properties of the plants and animals, even the processes that you know are working in your own body are too complex to have just happened. Randomly.
It’s actually pretty amazing if you think about it.
But, when things start to go wrong, you wonder why.
And that is when you are close to seeing the truth.
The Creator must have an enemy, one who is intent on breaking down the Creator’s work, and rising to the highest pinnacle of rule himself.
And he needs subjects.
And, there you have it. Division and turmoil and disorder and confusion.
You don’t have to choose him as your king, you only have to reject the Creator.
Then, you belong to the anti-creator, the destroyer, the accuser, the father of lies.
If that is the side you are on, you are trapped in a life that ultimately will not satisfy.
Now, here is the good news. You can switch sides, if you are trapped in the enemy’s camp.
And, if you want to switch (and not everyone will, but if you do), you can return to the One who made you.
Call out to Him, tell Him that you want His rule over you, and that you want to return to the Life He planned for you. He has already paid your way back in.
He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the price of your rebellion. He died, so that you can live.
He is offering you forgiveness for your rebellion.
All because He loves you.
You get to choose.
He will change you.
He will put His life in you.
Then, you can begin to change the world, because, His power begins to live in you.
“You can’t be serious. Why would he tell you you can’t eat from the best tree of them all? He’s afraid you will be smarter than him.”
“What is wrong with this guy, building a big boat? Is he crazy? There has never been a flood before. He is a total nutcase.”
“You are a mighty people. You don’t need God giving you orders. You should build a tower up to heaven. You can do it!”
“You need to be careful. You don’t want to anger the gods. You should sacrifice your oldest kid to gain their favor.”
“You know, all the problems are because of those Jews. You should lock them all up in camps. Actually, kill them . They are the only thing keeping you from becoming the most powerful leader on earth.”
“ You should make the government more powerful, religious people are holding you back, believing in a god. You should make the government GOD.”
“Who says men can’t marry men, or women marry women. You love who you love, what’s the difference?”
“You are not ready to be a mom. Don’t you see how that will destroy your life? You haven’t really lived yet. You should get an abortion. It’s only a clump of cells.”
“You don’t need no paper from the city hall, keeping you tied and true. Love will keep you together.”
“You can make more on welfare than you make on that crummy job you have.”
“You don’t have to get married. Just go ahead and live together. If it doesn’t work out, you are free to leave.”
“You should have the right to choose what you do with your own body.”
“This virus is really, really deadly. You have to protect the people. You should shut everything down, tell people to remain in their houses to stop the spread. Churches. Those are really a bad place for spreading germs. Be sure to shut them down, right away.”
“Do you see what the police are doing. You need to let them know you won’t put up with that anymore. Riot, protest, cause some damage to get their attention.”
“If you tell that enough times, they will come to believe it is true.”
“You can’t compromise. You must resist everything they try. Otherwise, they will gain all the power.”
“If they are trying to argue against you, just shut them down. Get louder than they are. Don’t let them speak to the young people.”
“Don’t compromise. Your reelection is the most important thing. Just tell them what they want to hear. you can back off of it later.”
“You just need to change the subject, change the focus, when they start to question you.”
“There is no God! Churches just want your money, they just want to control you.”
A masked friend told me the other day, to my unmasked face, that we all have to know what we believe, and why, and live by our convictions. And accept, when others live by theirs.
He was talking about masks.
But, you know, he was right in so many ways.
Covid19 has made us all think about things we didn’t use to think about.
I have thought a lot about the idea of fear.
When we first learned about this horrible new disease, we were quickly convinced that it was going to spread so fast, that the hospitals would be overwhelmed, and people would be dropping like flies.
“We have to lockdown for two weeks to slow the curve of infections.”
Toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, and many other common items began to disappear from the grocery shelves.
We were convinced that every person could be carrying the virus that could potentially take our life.
We separated, we masked, and we stayed home.
For way more than two weeks.
Churches followed the rules and closed down.
For way more than two weeks.
Every time I began to question why, I was told that the disease is very dangerous, and we all have to do our part to stop its spread. I may be a carrier, even if I have no symptoms.
There is a scripture I learned years ago.
“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 direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I had to figure out, what does “with all my heart” mean?
In 1978, I became a new person. I looked the same, but, on the inside, a brand new life was beginning to grow.
I began to see the world around me through the eyes of the One that was living inside me.
“Fear not,” He would say, “for I am with you.”
“Do not worry about what you would say if you were questioned, for I will give you the words when you need them.”
“Do not fear when men attack you. I am always here.”
“Do not fear the the deadly pestilence, or the terror at night, or the arrow that flies by day, nor the plague that follows at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” Psalm 91 (paraphrase)
So, trusting with all my heart, does it mean believing what He says?
I believe this virus is real. I do not believe everything I am being told about it. How can we believe anything that comes from political positions or from the “news” media these days?
What is Truth?
So, if my God tells me not to fear, do I hide myself from every possibility of being exposed to this virus?
Is it possible that trusting Him is the best protection from everything that could possibly happen to me?
During Covid19, I was found to have colon cancer.
A peace that I could not explain rested in me.
I trusted God and went through the process of having it removed.
I was prepared to live, if He planned that for me, or not to live, if that was His plan.
Trusting means letting God order my paths, letting God take me directions I did not plan to go, letting the onset of fear be an indication that maybe I am not trusting Him with all my heart.
“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 than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:25
We were made to interact with each other, to talk, to share, to hold, to help.
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But, in you heart, revere Christ as Lord.” 1Peter 3:14-15
When anyone tells me the safe thing to do is to separate from others, to cover my face (and my smile) and to wash my hands fifty times a day, because that shows that I care about the health and well-being of others,
Somehow, that doesn’t seem like trusting the Lord with all my heart.
I did it! I watched the entire presidential debate!
Funny thing, though, The next morning, I woke up and had a normal day.
Here is what I am learning.
(He who has ears to hear, let him hear.)
As long as I believe the problems arising in this country are fixable by a man or a political party, I will continue to fall into deep disappointment.
Choices are made every day, and I had forgotten that every choice we have made as a country has some sort of consequence.
Once, we decided that It was wrong to allow prayer and Bible reading in government schools.
Consequence: Values of the Creator were not taught to the children, and a humanist philosophy of “please yourself” began to grow. Belief in God diminished.
Once, we decided that if a coming birth would be inconvenient, or a burden, that it should be legal to murder the unborn child before we could see it, and then we could pretend he/she never existed.
Consequence: Human life began to be viewed as having less intrinsic value.
Political theater became less about the good of the country and more about gaining power.
Consequence: Friendly debate, and compromise to pursue a greater good gave way to total resistance to anything the opposing side proposed.
Most of you can stop reading now, because you already perceive the direction I am headed.
When there really is a God (He Is), and a people who have turned away from Him decide that they can control the world, God will allow the consequences of removing His blessings from the people to play out. God removes His protection.
“We can do better,” we say.
Except, in our forgetting God, we also forget that there is one who is opposed to God, who wants to pervert every good and perfect creation of God.
Like it or not, natural humans tend towards natural, earthly, profane decisions, and quite easily lose focus on a greater good. Or a True Good. They begin to hear the voice of the enemy. They begin to believe a lie.
When a nation approves the murder of an innocent before he enters into his created purpose, God will punish the nation.
It may come as an attack from without.
It may come as an attack from within.
It may come as a plague, a pestilence, or as pandemic.
Man has two choices at this point.
Accept the warning and turn back to God….
Or, raise his fist and continue on his own path.
I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
I cry aloud to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble. Psalm 142:1-2
So, when I watch a debate between men and sense that we may be looking at solutions of a nation’s ills in the wrong way,
I find myself thinking, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 118:6
About a year ago, I found myself getting out of breath quite easily.
Sometimes my upper legs would burn as I carried a heavy object up a hill.
My stomach would often hurt after even a small meal.
But, I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway, so I was eating less and less.
At night, I couldn’t relax my legs, and sleep, which had always come easily for me, did not. I was taking melatonin every night and still found a period of wakefulness hitting me around 2 or 3 am.
I knew that some of this was a sign of aging (I am nearly 69), but it had come on fairly quickly, and it was very different for me.
My endurance had really declined, and I was waking up tired the next day.
“I praise you, Oh God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
So, July 1st, this year, I had an accident at work (not related to these maladies) that got me admitted to the hospital.
While there, I was discovered to be anemic (that explained a lot) and the doctor said that it doesn’t just happen, there has to be a cause.
A colonoscopy a few weeks later, followed by a C-T scan, found one lone cancer in my colon.
Mr. C had moved in without invitation, hiding in my “house”, messing with the controls.
He had to be taken out.
This week, on Monday, I stripped down, put on their flimsy robe that only slightly gives you the sense that you are not completely naked, and put myself into the hands of the surgeon and his nurses, and the hospital staff.
When my eyes closed at 1:00 and opened five minutes later at 4:00, they told me that the trespasser had been evicted, but I had had to lose a bit of my “house” because he had “chained” himself to the bed.
So, I was a little bit sore. (A lot.)
Two days later, I went home.
My appetite was back, but I could only eat liquids for a few days.
My stomach didn’t hurt after a meal.
My pain reduced to only the spot of the largest incision, and that was, for the most part, easily bearable.
Sleep through the night was sweet, even up to 10 hours. (My pattern for years had been 6, or 7 at the most).
When I told Wendy about this on the third day at home, she said, “You know what? I haven’t heard you snore since the surgery!”
If you want to make me laugh (it still hurts a little to laugh), tell me that this body I live in for now came about through a random, mindless evolutionary process.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Proverb 25:2
“For the life of the creature is in the blood….” Leviticus 17:11
It was through the blood tests, initially, that my problem was revealed.
I was ignoring signs that my Creator had built in to tell me something was wrong with my body.
It is designed to work efficiently, to rest easily, to restore its strength, to figure things out, to create,to grow, to love.
You might say, “In the image of God, He created them.”
There are always signs that something is wrong; in our bodies,
and in our world.
Ignoring the signs does not fix anything.
Placing youself into the hands of the One who made you is a really good place to start.
Don’t make me laugh.
Don’t be blind to the wonders that are constantly showing themselves to you.
Let Him take you to the purpose He has made you for.
For, you, too, are fearfully and wonderfully made.