Posts Tagged ‘Discouragement’

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“GLORY OF THE BONSAI” – March 19

March 19, 2016

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith”.’”  Romans 1:17

CLF - Olmstead ParksHe gazes out the window upon a familiar sight.
The Big Oak swaying in the breeze.

Dominating the landscape, it sends limbs far into the sky.
Within it canopy, countless birds find rest and make a nest.

No river is too far for its driving roots.
It drinks deeply from an unseen source.

The Gardener delights in it’s canopy.
The Gardener delights in it’s cool shade.

The Gardener loves the Big Oak.

He looks at his small branches.
They don’t even eclipse the table.
Why don’t they reach the sky?

Although, he has tried.
He tries to send them high.
But every time, they’re clipped short.

It is as if he is bound and pulled down.

He looks at his shallow roots.
They don’t even fill the divot in the a rock.
He knows they need to go deep.

Although, he has tried.
He tries to send them deep.
But every time, they’re rolled in a ball.

It is as if he is contained and drained.

The Big Oak is so much better.
How can the Gardener delight in his canopy?
How can the Gardener delight in his cool shade?

The Gardener will never love him as that Big Oak.

Unseen hands rotate him and he looks out a new pane.

Malus_hupehensis01
He sees the Big Apple Tree.

Its branches are filled with fruit.
The harvest is full.  Worker’s baskets overflow.

It produces a 100 fold, maybe more.
It’s fruit will bless tables far and wide.

It’s roots pull in nutrients for each blossom to grow.
It’s branches are thick;
they can bear the load of fruit, multi-fold.

The Gardener delights in it’s sweet fruit.
The Gardener delights in it’s abundance.

The Gardener love the Big Apple Tree.

He looks at his single cone.
It is so very small.
He knows there should be more.

Although, he has tried.
He tries to grow more.
But every time, it takes so long.

It is as if he lacks the power to grow.

The Big Apple Tree is so much better.
How can the Gardener delight in his produce?
How can the Gardener delight in his abundance?

The Gardener will never love him as that Big Apple Tree.

Doors are opened.
People line up in single file, along every aisle.
He doesn’t know what for.

A party ensues.
Happy faces filled with congratulations.
Pictures are taken with a group all around;
But he doesn’t know what for.

The people leave and the doors are closed.
The Big Oak sees him through the right pane.
The Big Apple Tree sees him through the left.
Bonsai_IMG_6408He sits in a house of brick and glass.
He’s been given the best location; a centerpiece.
This house was built for him alone.

He resides upon a table of stone, made for him long ago.

Ribbons hang along every wall.
Awards and plaques are stacked in trophy cases.
They attest to his “best in show”.

The Gardener spends innumerable hours with him;
more than with the Oak or Apple tree.
Pruning every leaf, wiring every branch, binding every root.

The Gardener has made him a work of art.

The Gardener delights in his canopy.
It was never intended to provide shade.
The exacting artistry of the Gardener is reflected in every shape.

The Gardener delights in his produce.
A single fruit is precious.
The Gardener knows what He has given.

The Gardener is perfecting it all.

As long as he compares himself to those who have been given more;
As long as he believes that he is in control;
As long as he doubts the hand of the Gardener;

He will never know that he is the Gardener’s pride and joy.


I don’t know why some have been gifted with amazing minds while others struggle for a coherent thought.

I don’t know why some have been gifted to capture a stadium while other can’t even get their pet’s attention.

I don’t know why some have been miraculously freed from addiction while others continue  stumbling in their temptation.

I don’t know why some have been given health while others linger in affliction.

I don’t know why some have been given wealth while others have to scrape for every penny.

I don’t think we are supposed to know.

Consider the glory from weakness; blessed are the poor in spirit.
Consider the glory from hurting; blessed are those who mourn.
Consider the glory from humiliation; blessed are the meek.

Each is a pruning, binding, training.

We are called to live by faith, which is a gift of God.  We are called to live under exacting artistry of the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Therefore, you can trust that all the pruning, binding, and training has a purpose.  It frees you to simply be.

You are being created into a work of art, exactly the way the Master wants you to be.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for perfecting.  Thank you for giving me gifts and depriving me of others.  Father, I place all my trust in you.  Help me to live by faith.  Help me to worry less about what I need for tomorrow and focus on the blessing I can be today for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

This post was inspired by the bonsai video and the amount of effort and time it took to create this tree.

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REVELATIONS FROM A BAD RACE – April 1

April 1, 2014

““Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

In my last post (Race Day), I was in the midst of pre-race excitement and the unknown of never having competed in a cycling event.  I am now in the haze of reflection on a weekend of bicycle racing.

 

ToO Road Race 2014

I now know that my day-dream of standing on a podium really was a silly fantasy.
I also know the dreaded realization of being crushed by  “real” cyclists.

Time Trial:

I knew I was in trouble as I watched the other riders warm-up. I was impressed by the degree of aero-equipment that whizzed past me; TT bikes, aero-helmets, aero-wheels, and skin-suits of every variety and shape.  The vast majority of my competitors wore the gear of a cycling team and looked very fit.  I did not see any newbies, like myself.

The actual race confirmed my fears. They release competitors individually, in one minute increments. I was passed by three racers. In fact, I was passed within the first two miles by the guy who started immediately behind me, after I had been averaging over 23 mph.  I finished 10th…out of ten, in my age group, 76th out of 87 overall. However, I had personal bests on both climbs and I maintained my heart rate between 155-165 bpm. It was probably the best I could do.

I am satisfied with the race since my finish was strong (for me).

Criterium:

The crit course is located in the downtown section of a local town, in the form of a rectangle with two block straight-aways and 90 degree corners. It is flat and fast. From the whistle, we were immediately up to 25 mph. I managed through the first and second corners.  On the third corner, I was set up on the outside of the turn. I could not see very far ahead due to the group so I set my line base on the rider inside of me. We all leaned into the turn but I quickly released that I was being pinched into the curb as we were coming through the turn. I grabbed my brake a little too hard and felt my back tire slip toward the curb at which point I felt this sense of weightlessness. The next thing I knew I was standing in a grassy area adjacent to the course, inspecting my bike.

I had crashed in my first lap. Fortunately, I landed on the only grass aligning the whole course.  A rider with better bike handling skills and experience probably would never have crashed. I am a little disappointed that I did not get back on my bike and finish the crit – I probably could have. The crash rattled and scared me.

I did not finish well. In fact, I did not finish.

Road Race:

I didn’t want to do the road race after my experience with stages 1 and 2. I had been humbled and outclassed. I had done the pre-race ride and knew what a day on the road race course would be like.(Strava-Like Community)   A few friends encouraged me to continue and consider the road race as an opportunity to train and gain experience. I had no answer to their encouragement so I sucked it up and went for it.

To my surprise, I hung with the group until the climb at the end of the first lap when I was dropped and the group was gone. I rode in solitude for the next two laps, as I had expected, finishing 12th …out of twelve, in my age group, 49th out of 58 overall. I am happy that I persevered through the race even though my time was not competitive.

Measure the Heart
I was thinking about Paul’s encouragement to compete in a way to obtain the prize.  Thankfully, God does not judge our faith by outward appearance. He knows our heart. He knows the blessings and abilities that He has granted each one of us. He does not grant the prize based upon the external accolades from this race we call life.

God judges us based upon our heart.

I may have exhibited more heart and determination than my weekend rankings may have exhibited. I have not been blessed with much of the youth, experience, strength and athleticism on display by those real cyclists. I don’t have the luxury of time to put into dedicated cycling training necessary to achieve the sort of cycling fitness and power that I saw this weekend. But given where I am, I might not be in last place if heart were a category.

God judges us based upon our heart and what our love for Him motivates us to do with all the blessings and abilities He has given us. That is why we should not judge other people by their actions. We never know how competitive their heart really is. They might actually be running a better race of faith than I am without many of the advantages I have been given.

DSC_0037

 

Race Well
We are all in a race. The goal of this race is to persevere and finish strong in our faith. We should all be striving to hear the words, “well done, good and faithful servant”.

We may feel outclassed by other people’s faith and dedication.
We may have crashed our faith due to inexperience and poor decisions.
We may be rattled and afraid of where following Christ might take us.
Bad experiences may have us at the edge of wanting to give up.
We might feel discouraged as we slog along in solitude.

Remember, God does not judge the external results of your faith. He judges your heart. He knows the gifts He has given you. He knows the disadvantages you are overcoming. He knows the faith He has given you. He has you exactly where He wants you. He is providing you with experience and training so that you will persevere to the finish line.

So, don’t give up; look to other real faith racers as examples of what is possible. Take heart in knowing that God has given them the strength to follow Him as they do. He can do the same for you. Most likely, He is already doing it as long as you continue to show some heart – a heart dedicated to loving God more than anything.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the opportunity to race this weekend. Thank you for showing me how important heart is.  Thank you for giving me grass to crash into.  Thank you for the faith that you have given me.  Thank you for the experience and training that you are putting me through.  Lord, examine my heart.   Give me examples to follow and be encouraged by.  Help me to suck it up and continue when I feel like giving up.  Remove all fear of following you with a wholly dedicated heart.  Help me to keep the prize of living well for your glory in sight. I want to embrace the hope of obtaining the prize. Grant me a spirit to race my life well. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL – Mar. 9

March 9, 2014

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”  Philippians 3:8

Angry Gopher

Angry Gopher (Photo credit: *~Dawn~*)

I walked my nine acres of unproductive farm-ground in hunt for the only thing my property produces in abundance – gophers.  The rains of March have cleared my land of snow and sapped the frost out of the ground.  As green sprouts begin to push out toward the surface, other monuments to spring have been appearing across my acreage – the miserable gopher mounds.  I have a gopher problem substantiated by last year’s trap total of 126 gophers.  I have written about my hate of gophers before (Trapped Like a Miserable Gopher).

In response, I have picked up my ritual of gopher trapping.  I walk across the fields carrying a five gallon metal bucket filled with traps and flags that creates a rhythmic beat as trap chains beat against the bucket’s metal side with each step.  My shovel acts as a walking stick, keeping time with each step across uneven ground as I scan the surfaces ahead for any irregularities.

glaukos / Foter / CC BY-NC

While I hate gophers, I enjoy gopher trapping.  The menial nature of trapping allows me to pray and think as I haphazardly meander from one suspicious dirt mound to another.  On this day, the beating of the chains against my metal bucket drew my mind to the song “It is Well with my Soul” and thoughts of this last week.

My week contained a very unexpected discouragement.  It was another notable discouragement in a series of discouragements that have spanned the last several years.  Therefore, the lyrics of this song became more of a question than a statement.

Is it well with my soul? 

Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0

“When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot”…have I been taught to say, “It is well with my soul”?  I consider what has transpired over these last several years and contemplate much of what I have been taught.  I have not experienced anything even remotely close to the tragedy of Horatio Spafford, author of “It is Well with my Soul”.  I know how materially and relationally blessed I am.

Yet,I think that years from now when I look back on this decade of my life, I will recognize it as a time of sustained pruning.  I have been taught such important lessons through all these discouragements.  I have been taught that there is only one thing upon which we can place our hope.  My lessons have come by the loss of many things that I unknowingly held dear.  It was only through the curtailment of these treasures that I discovered just how much I overvalued them.  I have lost my health to cancer, wealth to business failures, respect to employee intrigues, service to a Church plant closing, and friendships to disregard.

As I cleared dirt from the gopher hole I had just dug up, I mentally tried to clear away the debris of feelings in my search for an answer to the question of whether it truly was well with my soul.  I look back at what I have learned from each of these experiences. Upon each loss, I have chosen Christ.  There has not been anything that I have lost that has made me question the love of Jesus Christ for me.  In fact, my disappointments have drawn me closer to him.  When I have been stripped of what I value, I have come to recognize that it is not precious in comparison to Christ.  I stood in an empty field as pockmarked with gopher mounds as my life with disappointments and I sang:

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

It truly is well with my soul.  I know that my losses are insignificant in comparison to some but I am learning to cherish each loss because of what I have come to deeply know through them.  It has only been through disappointment that I have learned to rest in the blest assurance of Christ.  I had not realized how blind I have been to my pride and discontentment.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I gazed at my house in the distance and know that I have so much more that can be lost.  I mentally imagined losing it all – would it still be well with my soul?  Can I count all that lay before me as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord?  I cringe at the thought of walking the same path as Horatio Spafford.  I immediately know that I could not endure that on my own but I also know that I would not have to.  Today’s troubles are sufficient for today, there is no need to fret about the losses of tomorrow.  My Lord’s hand is strong and he will provide the strength needed at the precise time of need.  Therefore, I sang:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

I know that my days of trouble are not over.  I have many disappointments in my future that will teach me many lessons that I have yet to learn.  My hope is that I will learn from these previous disappointments in order to handle future losses in a more God glorifying manner.

This recent loss has revealed another blind spot in my life.  I thought that I was living joyfully.  I thought that I was showing to the world that I cherished Christ more than the treasures of this world.  However, I have learned that the imperfect manner in which I let go of those things that I highly valued, had more of an effect on people that I care for than I had realized.

I have grumbled about unfairness.  I have moped over what should have been.  I have withdrawn in sadness and defense.  I know that I have walked joylessly for significant periods.  I guess I had hoped it had not shown.  I have learned that my sinful response to loss has been a discouragement to others with considerable ramifications.  I unknowingly allowed loss to become a repelling stench to some rather than a God glorifying aroma that draws others to my Lord and Savior.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I have learned the importance of being a shining light in this world particularly in times of personal loss.  I am prone to selfish navel gazing.  However, God is most glorified when others can see us counting everything as loss in the mist of the loss.  There are consequences to wallowing in our despair.  Others are encouraged in their faith when they observe us holding firmly to Christ and allowing the cares of this world to easily slip from a loose grasp.  It is our losses where we can show others the great hope that we have.  I cannot change the past but I can plan for the future.  Therefore, I hope to learn from my past and embrace future losses with an eye to glorifying God in all circumstances.  May the Lord grant us all the strength to look beyond our loss, and demonstrate to the world watching where our true hope resides.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for all the losses that you have allowed in my life.  Thank you for revealing to me what I have been esteeming more than you.  Forgive me for holding on too tightly to the things of this world.  Forgive me of my pride.  Forgive my of my lack of contentment in you and you alone.  Father, forgive me for missing the opportunity of glorifying you in my losses and showing the world around me how wonderful you are.  Protect and encourage those who I have let down and discouraged.  Lord, I praise your name (It is Well ~ Kutless).  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Resources:
How to Count it All as Loss

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“MAKING A GLAD STREAM” – March 1

March 1, 2014

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.”  Psalm 46:2

Snake River in Idaho

I received an overview of rivers as I trekked across southern Idaho for a recent ski day.  I crossed the Snake River, which is a slow, wide, and meandering river that is not very inviting.  The Snake River is a dark muddy river where I live.  It is full of sediment washed from thousands of acres.  It cuts into banks of soil in its century’s long search of the perfect course.  Energy continually dissipates as soils are consumed along the river bottoms, producing an opaque soup that is not fit to consume.

Stuck in Customs / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As I ascend into the mountain reaches, the rivers become narrow and hardened.  The soils have long ago been washed away and the underlying rock exposed.  Channels lie fixed between mountain ranges.  Water flows with vigor and energy.  The life-sustaining water tumbling across the rocks of these rivers and creeks glistening in the morning sun, inviting a refreshing taste.

The parables and other imagery of the Bible mixed and mingled as I contemplated these rivers that accompanied me in a weary descent from an enjoyable day spent sliding down a mountain.

I could see my life as a follower of Christ illustrated in the changing of these rivers.

I know that I live mostly oblivious to the majority of the deep spiritual realities all around me – like looking through muddy water.  The polluting influences of my flesh have long obscured the truths of the living water of Christ.  I get periodic glimpses of fleeting clarity to bolster my hope during those brief periods when my eyes clear of selfishness and the resulting murk of life.

The eroding work of the Spirit has continued through the years to churn away at the banks of my idolatrous world.  I meander spiritually through this life as the Spirit relentlessly undermines one unholy edifice after another.  It has always been messy when a bank of bad soil finally collapses into the rushing power of the living water.  Confusion and questions swirling in the obscured wash of a life being gouged deep.

Yet, the Spirit is faithful.  The flowing power of the living water has never diminished and the cleansing flush of the divine always brings clarity through reliance, restoring tranquility to the child, love by God.  The seemingly meaningless meandering of a life endlessly eroded is never futile.  God is accomplishing a concealed purpose within the sightless depths of our soul.

English: Shoshone falls located in the state o...

He is washing the bad soil of our flesh away to reveal the bedrock of faith.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  (Matthew 7:24)

We are able to have a hope in the future only through a life firmly fixed upon the rock of Christ.  We can only find that rock through the hydraulic mining of the Spirit, removing layer after layer of bad soil from our lives.  The entire process of sanctification, being transformed from one degree to another into the image of Christ, is a messy and bewildering process.  We rarely can see through the muddy confusion of a life being hydraulically washed by the Spirit.

I have often been frustrated by the ostensibly random patterns to life.  I have wondered if I had jumped the banks of my purpose.  I have wondered why events have transpired in so unexpected ways.

By faith, I know that there is nothing random in the life of an heir of God (Rom. 8:16-17).

Maybe, all the chaos that we don’t understand is evidence to the continued work of God in our lives.

Maybe, the sudden bend in circumstance is another opportunity of the Spirit to remove the bad soil of our lives.

Maybe, the vigorous nature of suffering and disappointment is the living water driving deep into hidden crevasses of our soul to remove the last vestiges of rebellion.

We need to take heart through all trials and temptations because the Spirit of God uses those times to drive us onto the rock of our faith – Jesus Christ.  He loves us too much to allow us to build our lives on bad soil.  He loves us too much to leave us in our idolatry.  He loves us too much to allow us to continue meandering through life in an endless search for contentment.

It is because of love that He continues to wash us clean
– as painful as that might be.

My hope is that every child of God will look back at their lives and see a transformation as distinct as the difference between the Snake River and a mountain creek.

May we be washed clean and Christ exposed in every aspect of our lives.

May our course be gouged deep into the sure foundation of the King of kings.

May the living water flowing through our lives invite others to taste and see that the Lord God is so very good.

May the assurance of our salvation abound through the clarity of a life being continually washed by the word of God.

May our lives be streams that make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the good work that you continue to do in my life.  Thank you for continuing to erode away at my selfishness, disobedience, pride, and discontent.  Lord, thank you for repeatedly bringing me back to the sure foundation of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Please continue your work in me.  Don’t leave me as I am.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“SEEING BEYOND TOMORROW’S GLOOM” – Feb 22

February 22, 2014

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Nick Kenrick .. GO Canada GO / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The future looms before every person.  The length and breadth of these tomorrows are generally assumed greater than their actual duration and are often casually dismissed.  However, every breath taken is an act of exploration into a realm never before experienced.  The mystery of tomorrow forces us all into the uncertain adventure of living life.

In my optimism of youth, I relished this adventure.  The future was a land of opportunity and freedom.  Without responsibilities and obligations, I raced around the blind corners of tomorrow, crashed through decisions without apprehension, confident that the future was a gift that waited to be opened.

Scott Hudson * / Foter / CC BY

Years have been spent on this adventure of tomorrow and my optimism for youth has waned.  Explorations into the temporal mysteries has proven that all that lay ahead is not the pleasant gift I once assumed.  The unabashed plunge to see beyond the bright horizon has been slowed by the dim of experience.  Hard knocks and expensive lessons weigh down optimism.  Disappointment and torn relationships sap the spirit of adventure.  Unfulfilled expectations and suffering erode confidence into trepidation.

The filter of experience reveals the future as a dark, dense forest where even a breeze becomes lost.  Experience teaches that the adventure of life is a long walk through an imposing, meandering wilderness of darkness broken only by sporadic patches of light.  It is a place where dreams are swallowed and a sanguine disposition gasps for air.

Mirkwood!

Mirkwood! (Photo credit: eckenheimer)

Hope is lost when informed only by the rhetoric of experience.

Experience knows that the satisfaction sought in the land of tomorrow never can be sustained in the present.

Experience knows that happiness and contentment can be stolen by a telephone call.

Experience knows that esteem can slip away in a wave of miscalculation.

Experience knows the eternity within man’s heart will  eventually be swallowed by failing flesh.

Daunted courage is all that can come from a mind informed only by experience.  Hard earned wisdom will inevitably restrain the will into steps of caution through a future of unseen but anticipated difficulties.  The optimism of youth cannot withstand the honest revelation of experience when its hopes are placed within the finite horizon.  The finite future is a dark land of trials and tribulations that no amount of optimism can overcome.

Experience can only be rebutted by a hope that resides beyond the finite horizon in the infinite. 

Undaunted courage to walk through the difficult mysteries of tomorrow arises from the hope in the land that is promised but yet unseen.  Optimism is sustained through finite disappointments of today only when informed of an infinite hope that cannot be taken.

Art4TheGlryOfGod / Foter / CC BY-ND

Hope abounds only within the completed work
of the Overcomer of this world, Jesus Christ.

The power of positive thinking is a foolish hoax of the deceived.  There is no power in the optimism for a finite world.  Experience has taught me that hope is lost in the finite but the Spirit sings to me of the everlasting joy in the infinite.

Therefore, I reclaim my youthful optimism by setting my eyes beyond the finite horizon to a promised land at the feet of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Overcomer this world.  I can joyfully race around the blind corners of tomorrow, crash through decisions without apprehension, and confidently stride toward the gift of eternal life while I endure all things because I eagerly await my adoption as son, the redemption of my body (Romans 8:23).

That is the power of an optimistic life that leads to peace.
True, unfailing power comes only in thinking that is set upon the positive redeeming work of Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, give courage to my soul to face tomorrow.  I take all my fears and failures that experience beats down upon me and cast them before you.  I renounce my pessimism that years have hard won.  I reclaim the optimism of my youth, transformed by your grace.  Spirit, speak to my worn soul of the joys that await.  Revive my vigor for a life lived in the conquering power of my great Redeemer.  Thank you for giving me the gift of eternal life.  Help me to set my eyes upon your promises beyond the finite horizon that I am drawn to.  Draw me deeper into you … Draw me to the infinite.  I praise you O Lord (Take Heart).  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MIRACLE OF SALVATION” – Feb 20

February 20, 2014

“And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:26-27

English: Ambulance 5

Imagine  you are in your home and start to feel light-headed and nauseous.  The concern in your spouse’s eye is evident as she picks up the telephone to call for an ambulance.  As you ride in the ambulance to the hospital, you hear the muted words of a paramedic saying to the driver, “You had better step on it,” as your eyelids descend over your consciousness amidst the sensation of increasing speed and the noise of a distant siren.

When you open your eyes, you find yourself lying in a hospital bed within a body that has been transformed into something weak and foreign.  Tubes and wires tug at tender skin with the slightest movement.  Nurses scurry in and out of the room interrupted only by periods when they poke and prod away your dignity as quickly as it emerges from a groggy past.

You strain to focus on the faces of those assembled around your bed.  The recognition of those whom you love slowly seeps through an unexplainable confusion.  They are smiling joyfully with faces that bear the fleeting remnants of tears and fatigue.  You have no idea as to why they are so joyful.

Five days have passed since your last memories.  You are told that you nearly died.  You are told  you have been through something impossible.  You are told that you have experienced a miracle.  Yet, you don’t remember anything.  All you know is that you are uncomfortable and want to go home.  You have no idea how far you have come but you are aware of how far you have to go to get back to the person you last remembered yourself being.

Discouragement descends like a wave despite all those celebrating around you.

This has been my Dad’s experience over the last couple days.  I posted in “PRAYER REQUEST – My Dad” and “MY DAD – An Update / Answered Prayers” regarding my Dad’s brush with death.  My Dad has been recovering remarkable well.  He is out of the hospital and currently at a rehabilitation center to continue his recovery.  I know that he is discouraged because he is not where he wants to be.  When I first heard that he was discouraged and grumpy about being in the hospital it irritated me.  His response seemed so ungrateful given what I know he had been through.

I asked him what was the last thing  he remembered.  His last memories are of the ambulance ride to the hospital.  His negative response was not that surprising when I realized that he did not know what he had been through.  He does not remember any of it.  Therefore, we have been explaining to him everything that has happened over the last week but I know  it all feels so surreal to him.  On Sunday, I read to my Mom and Dad the blog posts and many of the prayer-filled comments that were posted.  I think that helped.  They are deeply appreciative of all the prayers that were offered on behalf of my Dad.

Discouragement is going to be a struggle for my Dad in the coming months as he continues to recover and your continued prayers for him are appreciated.  We will continue to remind him of how far he has come rather than the distance he has to go.

I am reminded of our salvation.

Why do we lack joy when Christ has saved us?
Why do we grumble when we are a new creation in Christ?

abcdz2000 / Foter / CC BY-SA

I think  we often fail to live a life of gratitude because we don’t realize how far we have come.  Like my Dad, we don’t have a memory of how bad our condition truly was without Christ.  Even those who have walked an overtly sinful life before coming to Christ probably don’t have a perfect or complete understanding of the vileness of sin.

I have never seen the glory of God.
I have never physically felt the burning holiness of the great “I AM”.
I have never physically stood in the throne room of God Almighty and seen the pure righteousness of Christ.

I can become discouraged by the persistence of my own sin and the long road of sanctification I know I have ahead of me.  I can become impatient and irritated when my life does not work out the way I want it.  I can be pessimistic about the circumstances of today.

Fotografik33 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I fall into these un-joyful traps when I fail to appreciate the gift of my salvation.  I was dead in my sin.  I was justly condemned to eternal punishment.  I don’t have a distinct memory of being spiritually dead, but I believe what the Bible tells me about my fallen sinful condition.  My attitude turns to gratitude when I am reminded of how far the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ has brought me.

I have been brought from death to life in Christ Jesus.
I am a new creation in Christ. 
The old has passed away and the new has come.

The new is even more miraculous when you are reminded of the old.  I cannot help but be joyful when I focus on what God has done for me.  I cannot help but be grateful when I consider what my Lord has saved me from.

May we as children of God live in the glorious revelation of the miracle of salvation.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for giving me eternal life.  Thank you for opening my eyes.  Forgive me for not appreciating the miracle of my salvation.  Forgive me of my ungrateful attitude.  Lord, give me the joy of my salvation that washes over my entire life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“PULL-UPS” – Jan 24

January 24, 2014

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Romans 15:1-2

Now drop and give me twenty!

The other morning was an unpleasant flashback to my high school P.E.  days where I was required to complete pull-ups in demonstration of my fitness.  I was able to do one pull-up with the assistance of the “gimme hop” but then I would flop about, hanging from the pull-up bar like a fish proudly displayed on a stringer.  I could not do a pull-up to save my life.

I completed the P90X program about two years ago.  Mr. Tony Horton is a great proponent of pull-ups and their many variations.  I did not have a pull-up bar at the time so I did my “chin-up equivalent” exercise on my Bowflex.  I was feeling rather good about  the fact that I was maxing out the “bows” with respectable sets of repetitions.

English: ATSUGI, Japan (Feb. 3, 2011) Tony Hor...That was until I purchased P90X3.   Horton is  still a great proponent of pull-ups.  He does pull-ups in the video with such ease that one has to question with him, “where’s gravity?”

Last weekend I installed an actual pull-up bar in our basement.

I was reminded that pull-ups are a lot harder than Mr. Horton makes them look.

Marines pull-up for America's birthday

I got my first “gimme hop” pull-up in but on the descent I knew I was in trouble.  There I was, in all my past high school glory, doing the same fish flop at the end of extended arms.  My delusion of “pull-up equivalent” strength was quickly crushed under my own weight.  I was forced to complete the work-out with the assistance of having my legs propped up on a chair while my back struggled to heft my bulk.

The presence of gravity is not questioned when I do pull-ups.

My difficulties with pull-ups spurred me to contemplate the reality that Christians are not very good at granting grace to either those who are strong or weak in their faith.

I am amazed and encouraged by the faithfulness of Gladys Staines.  I posted a quote from her  QUOTE (Gladys Staines) – Jan 23.  Often, we observe our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, such as Mrs. Staines, go through incredible difficulties with what appears to be ease.  It may not appear that the cares of the world are weighing them down in the slightest.  They appear to handle difficulties as easily as Tony Horton does a pull-up.  However, the apparent ease and grace of their actions does not mean what they are enduring is easy.

Regarding the martyrdom of her husband and two sons, Mrs. Staines said the following:

I feel sad that I do not get to see my sons growing up. Christ has been my companion, but at times I miss the support of my husband.  God gives me great support, and the prayers of people has been a source of great consolation…

Isometric exercise: one armed pull-ups

I am reminded of all those people in my life whose faith appears so strong that I underestimate the difficulty of their trial.  The reality is that I have never had to walk their path.  God shows the strong amazing grace and gives them their strength to endure but that does not mean in the quiet of the night they don’t battle sadness and discouragement. The strong still need support and prayer.

I remember when my wife and I walked the difficult path through infertility.  In retrospect, we did not handle that period as well as either of us would have liked.  It was a time  my wife and I were learning to do real spiritual pull-ups.  It was plain to most who were watching that we were struggling.  We were chastised by a few for our reservation in sharing in the excitement of others who were experiencing the joys that we deeply wanted.

English: JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 30, 2010) El...

While there was truth in the admonition, the demeaning tone was of a person who thought they were strong when they had never actually walked our road.  Their opinions on our behavior were derived from “spiritual equivalents” that did not grant them an understanding of the difficulty that we felt.  We could have used more grace and understanding as we were growing in our faith – even though we were not handling it very well.

Most of the time, I don’t know if I am the weaker or stronger brother.  I don’t think it really matters.

It does not really matter that someone is doing the spiritual equivalent of the pull-up fish-flop in an area that I can endure with ease.

What matters is that they are still on the bar of faith.

It does not really matter that my strength may not be equivalent and I cannot relate to the strength needed to carry the cross that God has given to some of my sister or brother in Christ.

What matters is that they are still on the bar of faith.

Faith is not defined by how easy we make it look.  Faith is not dependent upon us walking through life in a manner that makes it look like the cares of this world don’t weigh us down.  Likewise, our faith is not less real if we are barely hanging on, desperately squirming under what feels to be too hard to bear.

Our eternal security rests in a faith that continues to cling to Christ, no matter if that appears powerfully glorious or pitifully weak.  We hang on.

Christians, may we all learn to show more grace and understanding to our fellow heirs in Christ. May we learn what it means to show love to the strong and the weak alike.  May we learn to encourage our fellow brothers and sisters to grow in our faith and above all – never let go of Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to encourage those who are yours.  Forgive me for being judgemental regarding temptations, trials and struggles that I just don’t understand.  Forgive me for not praying for those who are enduring well.  Forgive my actions that may have caused some to want to give up.  Father, I want to encourage my brothers and sisters to hang on despite how their faith may currently look.  Teach me how to do that.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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