Rain

Dagny cookies

It was raining as we drove to Charlie’s birthday party, but first birthday parties are a rare and beautiful thing, never to be missed on account of moisture. We ran through the puddles and up the walk to join a festive crowd feasting on loaded platters of goodies and snapping enough photographs to keep Facebook happy for days. The first thing I noticed was the cookie tray, because Charlie’s mom is an ace in that department (see above). Then I noticed the sign (see below).

dagny sign

I thought, “I should blog about that one day,” took a photo of those thought provoking words, filed it away, and never got back to it.

Then Harvey came, and I wondered if those same words sounded too light and trite, too “just smile and bear it and move on.” I don’t believe God ever means for us to plaster a fake smile on our hurting selves and pretend there is no pain in this life. There is pain. Why else would there be so many Bible verses about comfort? We wouldn’t need comfort if we didn’t have pain.

I do believe the words, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Don’t worry. Don’t look into the future and assume that all will be forever lost. God is on our side and has the power to do all things, to provide even beyond our asking. Be happy, or joyful if that makes you feel better about the word choice. Underneath all the present pain or rain, we know the One who makes the sun shine is still in charge.

Still we cry, we suffer, and we struggle to tap into the truth, to draw strength from that which we cannot yet see. Harvey wasn’t the only storm many of us will face this year. And when those storms come, it won’t work to hold our breath until they pass. We have to keep going, keep walking, keep working. And when we are truly trusting, maybe we can even allow our hearts to dance. 

           

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When Lightning Doesn’t Strike

clear pool dirty pool

Why am I in Austin? Just one month ago I owned a house in Houston. The pool there is under water now. As I write I am not certain about the house. Meanwhile, I spent yesterday playing with my grandson in a home that is high and dry. We moved here under unusual circumstances that played out very fast. It’s only by the grace of God that we are here instead of wondering whether or not to evacuate a house that was home for nearly three decades.

The grace of God left others in a place where floodwaters are rising. My heart hurts, and I do not understand why many have lost so much and are in the midst of such hardship while I am here. When I told Steve that I needed to replace the blog set to post today, he said, “Use that verse about seeing through a glass darkly.” Here it is in the KJV:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13).

A glass darkly. So, truth be told, God never promised that we would understand this side of heaven. It’s sometimes hard to trust in the dark, but that’s what we are called to do. Sometimes it’s harder still to trust through another’s hardships than through our own, but that’s still what we are called to do. One of these days, so says the verse, we’ll know what we do not know yet. But not now. Hard words, but truth.

This passage comes from what is widely known as the love chapter. So, when we are called to trust, we are also called to love. Love means prayer. It also, quite often, means action. I don’t know what my tasks will be when the Harvey waters recede. I don’t know what God may call you to do either. But He does call, and equip, praise God. So, as he shows us glimmers of understanding, may we have the courage and selflessness to love in whatever way he directs.

To God be the glory, even in this.

The Waiting Game

worried-girl-413690_1280 waiting pixabay.jpg

As I write this, I am in the middle of a rough month. Multiple friends and loved ones are facing deeply painful circumstances, and I am hurting with them. I’m praying for healing, wisdom, provision, direction… I’m also asking the Lord for encouragement, for them, primarily, but for myself as well. I don’t know yet how our Loving (but sometimes hard to understand) Lord is answering those prayers in the lives of my friends, but here are three ways he has encouraged me in just the last 24 hours.

A text: It read, “Thank you for praying for us. We will be fine!” That hurting friend’s proclamation of faith lifted my spirits.

A reunion: We went out for breakfast while out of town. The manager roamed among the tables, making sure her customers were satisfied. She paused at my table, and our eyes locked. We both froze for a moment, silent, thinking. Then we burst into hugs and tears, finally recognizing one another as dear friends who had lost touch for a decade. She gave Steve and me a brief recap of her life, ending with these words, “The last year was very difficult, but now I know why. It got me here (to a good place and a great job).”

A quote: I opened my web browser, and these words, saved in an old search, popped up, “Nothing touches the child of God without first passing through the will of God.” While I’ve been unable to find a reliable source for that quote, it’s very close to this one by Hannah Whitall Smith, “Not a trial comes except by His permission.” In other words, I believe, if we have heartache, our Lord has allowed that heartache. And if he has allowed it, surely he will see us through it.

And so, I have cried tears of both pain and of hope today. I’ve heard his still small voice say yet again, “Trust me.”

Hope

(Shared by a member of Men Living R.E.D., Northwest Bible Church, Spring, Texas.)

accident

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Although this verse is about suffering for doing good, it also applies to the way we handle difficulty. If we mope around like the world is coming to an end, who will be compelled to ask about the hope that is in us? If we know that heaven is our ultimate destination, that our joy is not in this world, we may provoke the question, “Why are you different?” Let me share a personal story —-

Back in my Texaco days, I was running a meeting and my daughter called me. I ALWAYS answer for my family – no matter what I am doing (sorry Texaco). I put the meeting on pause and answered.

My daughter had been in a minor car accident and she was pretty shook up.

I turned away from the meeting and went quickly through the Dad questions: Are you okay? Yes. Are you safe right now? Yes. Is anyone else hurt? No. Are the cars blocking the road? No.

Big sigh of relief – Okay, honey you are okay. Everything is okay. Cars are just equipment. Take a deep breath and calm down.

Do you want me to come get you? No, I can drive it home. Be careful. Sit for a few minutes and relax. I will look at it tonight. Not to worry. Everything is going to be fine. I love you.

It was over quickly, and everyone in the room could not help but hear the interchange. I told them that she was fine; it was just a fender bender. No big deal; she just needed to talk to me.

After the meeting and over the next few days, almost everyone came up to me to talk about the phone call and my handling of it. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but I learned that it spoke volumes about my relationship with my daughter. The Dads in the room were surprised that I wasn’t more upset about the accident and inconvenience and expense. The Daughters in the room were envious that their own dads were not as understanding. They saw my relationship with my daughter as something special. All of these conversations naturally led to talking about eternal things.

Why did I tell this story? Three lessons learned:

1 – Perspective – keep your eyes fixed on the real prize – show the hope that is in you.

2 – Don’t forget that everyone is watching – especially and even more closely during the down times.

3 – As the Holy Spirit said through Peter — Always be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in you.

Is the way you’re living right now compelling any questions about HOPE?

Pennies or Heaven

sunshine unsplashed

I’ve heard two great sermons lately. Okay, I’ve heard more than two, but there are two I’d like to tell you about. They fit together well. Here’s the short version of the second one first:

We have the hope of heaven!!! (March 2016 Austin Stone) In other words, no matter what is happening right now, we can look ahead into an amazing future, one worthy of great rejoicing even on the days when our present day is full of the muck that life can bring.

We need to drop our pennies!!! (March 2016 NorthWest Bible Church) Let me tell you what I mean. A few weeks ago, my pastor said, “You can let a penny block out the sun.” Huh? Here’s how.

  • Grab a penny.
  • Go outside on a sunny day.
  • Hold the penny up close to your eye in just the right spot, and it will obscure that fiery ball.

Yes, the sun will still be there. Yes, there will still be light. But you will not be able to see the sun itself.

We sometime do that with our troubles. Both our hard times and our joyous times ought to draw us to the Lord who loves us. But do they? Sometimes. Sometimes not. In every circumstance, we can focus on God, responding with prayer and praise, or we can zero in on our circumstances alone, keeping our eyes firmly fixed on only the difficulty at hand, drawing it ever closer to our eyes. When we do that, we are letting our pennies block out the sun, the light and power of God’s presence. Yes, he’s still there. But we manage to nearly forget about him in our shortsighted obsession with our problems.

What pennies are we holding today? What brilliant sunshine are we missing? It’s time to drop our pennies and take a good long look at the sun, the son, the God who is always enough.

Broken Again

heart-401499_640My heart is breaking again, filled with fresh grief at the news of yet another friend who is facing grave illness. “Facing” really isn’t the right word. More like engulfed in it: constant pain, limited mobility, countless medical tests and consultations. As she stoically described her condition, I struggled to hold back my tears until after I hung up the phone. Then, thankful once again for a husband who will let me cry in his arms, I sobbed until I could barely breathe. The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur, except for the whispering of these thoughts within my soul:

  • I still believe that God is good and that he is in charge.
  • There is no good in the thought that often comes when faced with another person’s sadness, “What if that were my fate as well?” We are each given the strength we need to walk the path chosen for us. We aren’t equipped to walk another’s path. Such an illness is not my path. If it ever is, God will sustain me through it then, as he no doubt is providing for my friend right now. After all, he loves her even more than I do.

But, something has been added to my path, for now have another friend who is hurting. She needs me. For that I can count on the Lord’s supply: comfort in my grief for her, direction as to my part in helping out, and time to do that which He shows me. He is not giving me the grace to be ill, for I am healthy. He is giving me the grace to walk alongside a sick friend, which in and of itself can be very hard indeed.

Bearing one another’s burdens takes on many different meanings, according to the circumstances at hand. Always, though, the call to carry comes with the promise of our Lord’s provision. Ultimately, he is the one bearing those burdens with us. One of the ways he provides is by allowing us to share what we have learned with one another. Have you ever been called upon to help a friend in deep need, or perhaps been the one in need yourself? What did you learn that you can share with me?