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Showing posts from May, 2016

NO CRINGING ALLOWED

God wants to love others through me but I sometimes cringe at His choices. Not that I think I am more worthy of His love than others, it is just so difficult at times. However, there is no escape for the heart where God dwells. To experience His love opens our heart to the surge of His love for all. While I mostly enjoy this process, there are moments when I wish to shut off the valve after quenching my own thirst, but He will have none of this nonsense. Restricting the love-flow from His heart to my heart and from my heart to others is a heinous crime. Lord of Love, forgive me for holding back Your love from others. Make me an open-valve fountain of blessing.

EQUILIBRIUM

Years ago, I looked out the window and received quite a surprise. Trunk to the ground, roots pointing skyward, a huge tree had fallen over our driveway. It is unsettling when things so unexpected happen. Soil and water, the very things that nourish a giant oak tree, can be its undoing when given in excess. It is the same with me. Only the Eternal Designer Who knit me together can help me keep equilibrium. My spirit, soul and body must be cared for properly. O Lord My Caretaker, guide me into balance and moderation. Keep me from seeking excessive sustenance outside of Your design or provision.

MOURNING TO DANCING

Only God can satisfy the deep longings of the soul. Again and again we search in all the wrong places, only to discover there is only temporary relief in earthly substitutes. Anguish is a grievous intruder, yet it can lead us to the ultimate relief of surrender to God alone. Biochemists take moldy, seemingly useless materials and turn them into penicillin. In the same manner, the Lord our Maker cultivates our desperation into a healing balm that can truly heal us by. Dearest Lord, forgive my wanderings and futile attempts to find peace in the temporal things of this world. You are the cure for every sorrow, You turn my mourning into dancing!

BAMBOOZLED

Generally speaking, I am not easily bamboozled. The great exception to this is my self-generated excuses to not do something I know should, but really don’t want to. Sadly, I often find my internal arguments for non-action quite impressive. Here I must pause and give thanks to the Spirit of the Living God who will not let me have my way without a fight. His constant and compelling promptings counter my self-deception and provoke me to action. Lord of Truth and Light, I am earnestly listening, fall afresh upon me. Reverse the work of stubbornness in me and push me forward into those things that please You.

MIRROR, MIRROR

As a child it was fascinating to stare into mirrors, each reflection revealing details I previously missed. I soon learned that the quality of the mirror and lighting made a huge impact on what I saw. As I’ve aged this experience has grown increasingly less pleasant, so I now prefer dim reflections. When it comes to the inner man the opposite has occurred. Having paid the price of human deceptions, I yearn for authenticity within, no matter the consequence. Lord of Truth and Light, while there is pain in the discovery, I want the transforming power of truth to transform my falsehood into Your image.

OPPOSING WINDS

A sailboat travels best with a “fair wind”, in other words, with the wind at its back. Airplanes, on the other hand, cannot fly without opposing winds; the opposing blast of air across the wings provides the lift. Life often feels unfair, as if we are sailing into opposing winds, but in fact, opposition can cause us to rise above the fray. This is the life of faith. Why do we expect the wind at our back when the very nature of faith is to press forward where others dare not tread? Faith is designed to lift us higher and higher. Glorious Lord, You have crafted us for the heights. Cut me loose from the things that bind me to ground level.

NO AND NOT YET

Though small children have plenty of time on their hands they still must learn to wait. Nothing seems to put their little souls to the test more than having to delay something they want now. A long road trip is especially hard for them to get their mind around and is repeatedly peppered with the question: “Are we there yet?” Actually, we never quite seem to grow up in this regard; patience with God’s pace is still an issue for me. I must learn to not bail out before arrival. Heavenly Father, teach me the difference between “No” and “Not Yet”. Grant me grace for the journey and help me not miss the lessons in the detours.

MISTAKES

One of the most commonly quoted maxims states: “We learn from our mistakes.” I should be absolutely brilliant by now. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to learn as quickly as I should since I continually repeat certain mistakes. Costa Deir, one of my spiritual fathers, once said to me, "Son, if all of your mistakes are new ones, you are making progress." I conclude that learning what not to do is a vital part of knowing what is best. Lord, guide me today through the maze of decisions along the way. Help me make good choices and grant me wisdom, spiritual advance and a few smiles.

WISE GUY

As would a wispy dragonfly lightly perch on a leaf, wisdom can land in the most delicate of hearts. Wisdom tears through thorny thickets and boroughs deep into rocky soil. There is simply no heart God’s wisdom cannot reach. Yet that is only half the equation. A heart must be willing to accept divine infusion. Once allowed to enter she brings all her clan: prudence, discernment, knowledge, good judgment and much more. Lord of Wisdom and Truth, grant me a wise and understanding heart. Help me acknowledge You in all things that Your wisdom may enlighten every corner of my soul.

THE FINGER OF GOD

When guiding a child through a delicate passage, a father’s finger in a tiny fisted hand is sufficient. Trusting the guidance, learning from the lessons of passage and holding on firmly are the tasks at hand for the child. Honestly, though much progress has been made, I am still that child hanging on for dear life. Thankfully, my Heavenly Father has not withdrawn His finger in disgust or indifference, but continues to extend His protecting hand; and I am still clinging tightly to His Presence. Lord God and Father, You are my Helping Hand, Yours is the Command of Safety and You Alone are the Way of Life.

RENOUNCING FEAR

God did not give us a spirit of fear. Despair, horror, anxiety and all of their evil cousins are rooted in the Adam’s fall. Through our trust in Christ, the “Second Adam”, we are restored to our position as sons and daughters of God. The Author and Finisher of our Faith did not fashion us to be ruled by dread and panic, we were created to “subdue the earth” and “have dominion over it”. Why should I give in to the convenience of fearfulness when I have been formed to rule and reign? Holy Father, I bow my knee to Your Divine Purpose and renounce anxiety, doubt and fearfulness. I thank You that You have granted Your children power, love and a sound mind.

PURIFYING LOVE

Divine love is an incredible motivator, activating a host of godly attributes. The key is learning to love others with God’s love, not our own. His Divine Love is pure, not polluted with mixed motives. Earthly love, on the other hand, is filtered through a swamp of self-centeredness, with only a trickle of pure love making it through to others. There is hope for me however since I can at least recognize the difference between His love and mine. Father, I want Your purifying love to surge through me to others. Sanctify my motivations and clear away the obstacles of pride and selfishness within me.

PAIN TO PRAISE

Whether physical or emotional, pain has a unique way of capturing all our attention. Life without some level of agony seems impossible, but I must not allow affliction of any sort to have more than momentary notice or it will soon sequester everything around it. God has provided multiple pathways for freedom from prolonged sorrow. Giving, serving, praising, comforting others or any act of selfless love releases abiding gladness and turns mourning to dancing. Lord, I earnestly believe Your words: “those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”. In my most difficult moments I will praise You, for my harvest is on the way!

HUMBLE AFFECTION

Blessings come in many forms. Some are huge and obvious, but most are pure and simple: a thought, a smile, a taste, a touch. As I reflect on how often God works unannounced, it strikes me how utterly unpretentious He is. The LORD can work on any scale and is worthy of all glory, yet stoops low to quietly craft a constant stream of blessings into our lives. He does not hold back for our lack of acknowledgement, His unrequited love pours forth without restraint. Lord God, Source of All Blessings and Glorious Benefactor, sin has dulled my senses and I am slow to see, but in this moment of reflective contrition I glorify You for Your humble affection.

NO SMALL PRINT

Buying, selling and leasing in a litigious society require the constant initialing of terms and conditions, most often written in small print.  Not so with God. Though in ages past, there were many hidden secrets and mysteries to navigate, now our path is straight and sure. The powerful combination of biblical truth and Holy Spirit guidance grants us access to all we need to know. More often than not, my confusion is caused by my own lack of surrender, not lack of knowledge. Holy Father, thank You for the straightforward power of truth. Help me knuckle under. I want Your ways to be my own.

LEAK PATROL

DANCING THROUGH THE STORM

I have passed through a few hurricanes over a lifetime. As outer bands spew copious amounts of rain and trees dance wildly in the powerful winds, there is an eerie beauty and justifiable fear. Palm trees, with their long, lanky trunks and floppy branches perched at the very top seem fragile until these moments. Actually, they handle the tempest better than stately oaks. While huge trees tear apart, the palms just dance through the storm. Father, I get it; what may appear as strength is not. You design each of us with unseen, inexplicable strength. Help me stay firmly planted in You as I dance through the storm.

ROOM FOR GOD

My mind sometimes feels like a crowded subway headed to the city center, each stop fills in more space until there is no room at all. In the hustle and bustle of a thought-filled mind there is no room for God. In those moments we must make a full stop; nothing is so important that it should be allowed to crowd out His Presence. Amazingly, with even the smallest pause offered, the LORD Almighty will turn turbulent confusion into a picnic by the river, gripping apprehension into a country walk and over-stuffed choices into star-filled night. O LORD My God, You turn my turmoil into awesome wonder and transform my murmuring into glorious praise.

VIGILANT VICTORY

On a morning walk I saw a large hawk being chased by a tiny bird. Small birds become very aggressive when a predator comes near their nest; they use their agility and quickness to intimidate a much larger bird and eventually the larger bird just goes away. In the same manner, I must be vigilant and defiant to be a victor in life. At times I accept the presence of hovering danger too quickly, thinking I am powerless to change my circumstances. That is simply not so, the Greater One resides in me. Blessed Lord, You have not left me defenseless. Though my strength seems small, Yours is unlimited and I can do all things through Your strength.

A GOOD FINISH

At the beginning of a race, some may get a better start than others, but a good start is not a guarantee of anything. In the final analysis, a good finish is the key to victory. As my father died of a heart attack, he held my mother in an embrace of love. As my stepdad finished his battle with lung cancer, he was leading both doctors and nurses to faith. As my spiritual father died he was still writing a book. There is never a loss for those who finish their course well, only a welcoming Savior declaring “Well done!” Blessed Lord, give me strength to finish well. Keep me in the race until you are finished with me on this side of the veil. By your grace and strength, I will finish victorious.

HEADED FOR THE HORIZON

When I look back at my life it is easy for me to see God’s mighty hand at work. He has navigated me through treacherous storms and carried me on eagles’ wings over oceans of blessings. Yet, as I again stand at the edge of a sea of opportunities ahead, I mostly see churning waves and dangerous obstacles. At times I still hesitate to cast off for the horizon, yet I know I can trust the Captain of My Soul to guide me along the way. Heavenly Father, only Your Word and Spirit will turn my gnawing apprehensions into solid faith. Maneuver me past my doubts; I trust the helm to Your guiding touch.

LORD, HEAR MY PRAYER

JARS OF CLAY

A trip to a high-end department store affirms a common truism: the more expensive the packaging, the greater the value of what it contains. However, when it comes to the person in whom God dwells the absolute opposite is true. The Bible describes the knowledge of God’s glory within us as “treasure in jars of clay”. I am often surprised at the packages through whom God works. The lesson here is simple, I dare not miss the treasure because of my reaction to an inferior package, nor should I doubt the value of Christ in me. Father, though I am unworthy of Your indwelling, You are nonetheless present. May the tearing away of my weaknesses reveal Your Glory.

LOVE HONORS

The issue of honor is in a very fragile condition in modern culture. Synonyms for honor such as: “respect, give value, cherish” help us see the problem, people who constantly demand these things for themselves are ill-equipped to offer it to others. Honor is more a principle than a code. Honor is not a rule; it is a culture. The societal breakdown of respect for others we see in our present-day culture is rooted in selfishness and a lack of honor for God and His ways. God honors our value as His created children no matter how vile or depraved we become. While we must still face the consequences of our rebellion, even His harshest judgments are administered in love and sorrow, not hatred or disregard. Simply said, love honors. Heavenly Father, show me when I lack your honoring love for others. Help me practice love at all times, giving proper respect and value to You and Your creation.

IT IS WELL!

Disappointments are as much a part of life as breathing; reality rarely matches our expectations. Dwelling on letdowns, large or small, leads to discouragement and despair, turning our world into a rusting junkyard. There is a more excellent way; I will dwell on the goodness of the Lord and confidently trust that He is in control.  I will surrender anew to the Lord of Lords, allowing Him to organize victory out of what appears to be defeat. Almighty God, Ruler of the Universe, You are working Your master plan. What You start You finish, what You promise is fulfilled. I am in Your loving care, therefore, it is well with my soul.

STOKING THE FIRE

On a camping trip, the night’s roaring fire becomes the next morning’s bed of coals. Lack of attention will eventually extinguish its potential for revival. Like a fire, love must be fed. If not regularly fueled, passion will eventually grow cold. Sadly, a heart cools so gradually that it is not easily recognized until it is nearly frigid. Life devoid of affection, life with no eagerness, life with no passionate mission is no life at all. Lord of Love, fill my heart with passion for You. Send a fresh blast of the mighty wind of Your Spirit and blow upon the smoldering embers within my heart. Set me ablaze for Your will and ways and make me a firestorm of Your love.

BLESSED MEDDLINGS

CALLOUSNESS

The hardening of the heart is a slow process. It may begin as a particularly prized opinion or stubborn commitment to a specific course of action. Disappointments begin to pile up and the stiffening process subtly commences. Hardening increases by rebellion against needed disciplines, bitterness over circumstances or by unbridled selfishness. As the hardening continues excuses are made, all contrary opinions are cast aside and no authority is trusted. In the end, callousness of the heart makes us resistance to truth itself. Father, grant me an open and pliable heart. May nothing I think or do be held so dear that truth may no longer penetrate.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Most Christians imagine spiritual warfare to be battling high-level, diabolical tactics proceeding from a well-designed operational plan, launched against us from Satan’s Central Command. While that may well be the case, most of my personal warfare emanates from irritating airline schedule changes, overcrowded intersections and disinterested help-desk attendants. In fact, my greatest battles do not proceed from the bowels of hell, but from the unsurrendered back-alleys of my heart. Of course, Satan and his minions are always willing to escort my strolls through the underworld of impatience and presumption, but last time I checked the Bible, he was defeated by Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Father, again I must confess, though I am Your son, I am still a rookie. Have mercy upon me and forgive me.

BITING MY TONGUE

Somehow, my tongue knows how to keep away from my teeth, but occasionally they painfully meet. Actually, my tongue does much better staying away from being chomped than it does avoiding the wrong words. I don’t like it when I bite my tongue, but in retrospect, I should do it more often. The tongue is biblically identified as being like a rudder, a wildfire, a horse’s bit and a source of life and death. Salvation of the soul must be accompanied by a taming of the tongue. Gracious God and Father, may the words of my mouth be governed by Your wondrous work of grace in my heart.

DANGEROUS INTRUDER

Unforgiveness is a dangerous intruder in the heart of the redeemed. Forgiveness is not an optional “add-on” to the believer’s life; it is the very foundation of our faith. We throw ourselves back into the abyss by clinging to offenses, all the while being utterly dependent upon God’s constant mercy. How I handle forgiveness is an indicator of my relationship with the Redeemer since He warns: “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” Heavenly Father, I release my offenses into Your hands. Cleanse my soul from every smidgeon of acrimony toward others and make my heart a place where unforgiveness cannot dwell.