You Call This A Storm? It’s Time for a Showdown! (why Lt. Dan might have been right the whole time)

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thunderstorm

Something caught my attention this morning as I walked through the garden, harvesting the morning’s asparagus.  I went out a bit earlier than usual today because we are supposed to have some potentially destructive storms come through our area and I wanted to protect what I could and harvest what I couldn’t protect.

Then the wind picked up, the storm clouds began to swirl, and rain drops began to fall.  It was at this moment, I noticed it.  Maybe I noticed it before, but it never stuck with me like this.

At the moment I was trying to shelter “my” plants from the storm, they were reaching out toward it.  Each plant was standing at attention with its leaves stretched skyward, waiting for the nourishment that this storm would bring.  That got me thinking…

How often do we cower and try to wait out the storms that come into our lives?  If we learn from our surroundings, the plants respond to storms in a completely different way than we instinctively do.  They don’t cower from storms like they do from a hot sun.  They “know” that within the storms lie a perfect opportunity for growth; an opportunity that they aren’t going to miss.  So they reach for it… making themselves vulnerable to being destroyed… taking such a risk!

And it never fails!  After each storm I don’t see dead plants in my raised beds, I see plants that are full of life and energy; plants that are ready to produce what they were created to produce.

So the next time you feel a storm of life approach and you start to feel a bit nervous, consider the plants.  What potential is there for growth?  Fulfillment of such potential doesn’t come without risks, so maybe… just maybe…

Instead of hiding and waiting for the storm to pass, maybe it’s time to reach out for the opportunity for growth that this storm might bring.

You might be surprised how full of life you are when the storm is over.

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Securing A Foundation For Happiness

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How is it that in the middle of Ravensbrück (concentration camp), this quote could rise from the lips of a dying woman?  What is it that gives someone a resolve so strong that in the midst of unimaginable adversity, this message of strength, hope, and faith would pierce through their darkest of hours?

How is it that this resolve is not only possible, but exists in the lives of people everyday, yet many miss out on it and are left with a feeling of hopelessness over situations that are so much less dire than life in a concentration camp?

Allow me to share a passage with you that points to where I find my strength.

Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT)

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

Just know that having this foundation for strength & resolve goes much beyond an intellectual understanding and has to be coupled with real experience to produce lasting results.  Much like a fall arrest system (a.k.a. safety harness), you can read the manual and learn that if you tighten this strap and properly hook in to the right place, it will protect you against a fall, but you don’t really KNOW that it will protect you until you’ve experienced a fall while wearing one of these pieces of equipment.  Then you know the power of the harness in a completely new way.

You learn that you really CAN rely on this equipment to do what it says it will do.  This type of knowledge allows you to focus more on the task at hand- knowing that this system will do what it is supposed to do- and allows you more fully engage those around you as you seek to help them understand what safety is available to them as well.  And this, I suppose, is where I’m at in my journey.

I KNOW my source of strength and I’d like others to know how to have it as well.  I hate seeing people hurt, confused, lost, hopeless, bitter, and spun up because they don’t have anything secure to rely on when the world they thought they could rely on comes crashing down around them.

So, if you’re curious on how to gain this secure footing, please ask!  Reading the above passage is a great start, but without knowing how to couple it with experience, it is remain something that sounds good now- but when the time come that you need it, you don’t know how to rely on it and it will just add more confusion later.

My prayer for you this week is taken from the passage above:

16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Though You Slay Me – part 2

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At the end of Though You Slay me- Part 1, I ended with the encouragement to renew yourself every day.  I also said that I would follow up that post with Part 2 that would let you know what you can do to actually make that happen.  It sounds obvious, but if you don’t know how to make things better all you can do is acknowledge the need for it to become that way.  Am I right?  So what exactly can we do to renew ourselves daily?

First, you have to understand that this is not a one-dose spiritual vaccine that offers a lifetime of protection.  This is something that most be done daily for you to renew daily.  You cannot watch a television that is unplugged today simply because it was plugged in yesterday.  That isn’t how it works.  In order for the television to turn on, it must be plugged into a source of power.  It is the same with renewing ourselves.  We must be daily plugged into the source of power for the renewal/recharge to take place.

Colossians 3:10

New Living Translation (NLT)

10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

In order to be renewed daily, you must learn to know your Creator and become like him.  It is a two part process.

  1. Learn to know your Creator – you must daily be reading from him, about him, and for him.
  2. Become like him – simply gaining knowledge isn’t enough, you must be in the process of changing to be more like him.

The way you learn to know your Creator is by reading your Bible.  It really is that simple.  I know that life situations and schedules can be tough to manage, but the only way to get renewed daily is by exposing yourself to the Word of God- and no, that doesn’t mean using your Bible as a pillow and hoping that osmosis will work in your favor.

Step 2 requires further action on your part.  You see, just gaining knowledge about the Bible isn’t good enough.  You might be a champion at the Bible category in Jeopardy, but without your intentional changing to become more like your Creator, your knowledge is a source of dangerous pride and complacency.

I liken this to a kid getting muddy while playing in the yard after a thunderstorm.  The kid can sit in front of the garden hose, stare at the garden hose, and really hate being muddy, but without taking action to turn the water on and rinse himself off this kid will stay dirty- unable to come inside and satisfy his hungry desire for the freshly baked cookies in the kitchen.  Mom absolutely will not allow that filth in her house and no amount of his frustration will change that.  If he wants the cookies, he must make a change.

Does the knowledge of what the garden hose can do help this kid if he is unwilling to take the steps necessary to turn the hose on?  Without his willingness to take these steps, the water is not going to come out of the hose to wash away the mud.

So it is with us spiritually.  The mud of life- disappointments, labels, accusations, hurts, fears, etc.- will not be washed away and replaced with joy and peace without our willing and intentional change from where (and who) we are into something that much more closely resembles our Creator.

Just remember, reading the Bible and making the decision to become more like God today is only good for today.  You must do the same tomorrow and each day after.

Romans 12:2

New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Though You Slay Me – part 1

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2 Corinthians 4:16

New Living Translation (NLT)

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.”

We get knocked down, but we get back up again.  This is something that is supposed to separate us that are “in the world, but not of the world” from everyone else.  Our hope comes from a deeper place.  Our resolve is stronger.  When we get knocked down, we don’t stay down.  We get back up.  We press on.  We don’t lose heart.  We never give up.  We never give in.

When you choose to live a life that goes against what society promotes as acceptable, you can expect to catch some flack.  Those opposed to your point-of-view are going to try to knock you down in a society that champions “tolerance” as long as it helps them achieve their desired end.  If you are in the way, you will be removed.  Those are the rules.  That is to be expected.  Refusing to “go along to get along” paints a fresh target on your back and seems to always place you under the watchful eye of scrutiny and, increasingly, under an immense amount of pressure to conform.  You definitely cannot have thin skin and expect to be a champion for an unpopular cause.  This is especially true when we are talking about the cause of Christ.

This extra heartache can be expected from those opposed to your worldview.  What happens though, when those near and dear to you- those that you trust most- seem to betray you?  What happens when that person you trust most- YOU- betrays you?

You know your body isn’t supposed to hurt the way it does.  You know your joints are supposed to move and not be locked up.  Your mind doesn’t remember things like you know it should.  You are out of breath and confined to a life where you debate whether you are living, or merely existing.  You are one argument away from divorce.  One sneeze away from bankruptcy.  Every time you get a raise, your car breaks.  Always seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel never seems to get any shorter.  You can’t find anywhere to plug in and recharge.  Everywhere you go leaves you more drained and less hopeful for the future.

You’ve heard the promises of healing and restoration- yet it never comes.   As far as you can tell, you’re doing everything “right” yet nothing seems to work.  It seems like everyone and everything is a source of another unfulfilled promise and an inevitable let down.  Your trusted friends are full of cutesy sayings and anything-but-helpful “advice” but nothing is playing out in your reality.

How do you respond?  What do you do?

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

New Living Translation (NLT)

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Focus on the solution, rather than the problem.  Renew yourself every day.   Sounds good… now how exactly do we do that?  We will look at that in the next post.  Here’s a hint- you can’t recharge if you’re not plugged into the only source of real power and hope.

Until next time, don’t lose heart.  Never give up.  Never give in.

Read Part 2 here:  Though You Slay Me- Part 2