Turning Loose the Leaves

leafAs long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest,
cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.
Genesis 8:22 NLT

The leaves fell, and I knew there were some things I needed to let fall as well.

During one autumn week, the wind blew and the leaves descended in droves from the trees. I watched maple trees filled with pulsating red leaves allow them to tumble to the ground.

As my feet trudged through the mounded leaves, I thought of the above verse. What God had promised was happening. But just as surely as the trees turned loose their leaves, I too had to free my life of things that have a habit of hanging on if I were going to enjoy God’s best.

Bitterness was one leaf I had to let fall. Reasons for bitterness—against others, God, or both—can be numerous. Perhaps the trials of life have gotten me down, and I begin to wonder whether or not there really is a God who cares. Maybe relationships or jobs have ended unexpectedly. When bitterness hangs on, life is miserable.

Unfair decisions are another leaf. These are made by others but affect me. The decision to end a job, a relationship, a contract, or even a life. I can’t control unfair decisions made by others. The feeling of being powerless leads to despair and can easily usher in hopelessness—and its bedfellow depression.

Past hurts can hang like unfallen autumn leaves. Life is filled with them. I can hurt others intentionally and unintentionally, and others can hurt me. Hurts…well, hurt. They put a damper on life. Wishing they could be undone only leads to further misery.

Unforgiveness is like the stubborn leaf that refuses to fall. Hurts must be forgiven, or bitterness and a life of misery will follow.

Physical pain is also an unwelcome leaf. Especially when doctors can’t find the cause, when medicine isn’t doing the trick, or when my prayers for God’s healing don’t bring relief.

While I may have no control over physical pain or other’s unfair decisions that hurt me, I can avoid the leaves of bitterness and unforgiveness. What’s in the past is in the past and should stay there. Reliving it or using it as an excuse for present unwise behavior keeps the leaf from falling where it can do what God designed it to do.

Let the unhealthy leaves fall from your life tree, and enjoy the life God gives you to live.

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Thanks at Thanksgiving

thanksgivingBe thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

Thanking God in every circumstance is challenging—some might say impossible.

I’m a nostalgic kind of guy. In my mind’s eye, I can imagine myself sitting at a table with the early Pilgrims and their Indian neighbors who had shown them where to hunt and fish and how to plant. They made it through a long winter, planted their crops, and reaped a bountiful harvest. They thanked God, but also their Indian neighbors.

Fast forward about 400 hundred years, and here I am wishing I could thank God in a similar fashion with my parents, children, and grandchildren all gathered around a table. But our family has been torn by death, divorces, and remarriages which have increased and decreased the number of parents and grandparents—along with the houses they all need to get to during the holiday season. Add to the above health complications and distance and the challenges are multiplied. Though my wife tries her best to get them all to our house on Thanksgiving Day, she never succeeds.

Even though the Thanksgiving celebration doesn’t look as I want it to, I can still be thankful—in all circumstances. And for quite an impressive list of things.

I’m thankful for family. Although they don’t always act as I wish, I’m proud of my family and thankful God has blessed me with children, grandchildren, and Christian parents.

I’m thankful for friends. The person who has several people in a lifetime who will stick with them through thick and thin is fortunate. Moving around so much has made this challenging for me, but I can still find several people whom I could call on if I needed them.

Worshipping a forgiving God makes me thankful. Through Christ, all my sins are forgiven—past, present, and future. He has removed my condemnation and given me Christ’s righteousness.

Believing God has a purpose for my life makes me thankful. He says He has plans for me, that they are good, and that He wants me to prosper. I don’t have to drudge through life; I can enjoy every moment.

Knowing God has the power to redeem any and every situation also makes me thankful. The frustrating situations I encounter and the suffering I endure are redeemed by God’s sovereign power. He brings good from bad and orchestrates events in amazing ways.

This Thanksgiving season, give thanks to God.

The Power of One

oneGod replied to Moses, “I am who i am.
Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.”

Exodus 3:14 NLT

Who knew one CD could change the entire service.

Our music leader was off for the day. My wife had spent hours putting music together, meeting with the sound technicians, and practicing with the praise team. Sunday morning arrived, and we were excited about the service—until the CD with all the music they were going to sing by wasn’t in the case.

Since it was three minutes before services were to begin, my wife’s mind went into shock. She had obviously left the CD in her laptop—which was at home 10 miles away. Getting it wasn’t an option. In a three minutes span, she and the sound techs dug up a few praise songs, and the pianist suggested a couple of hymns.

Although the service got off to a rocky start—the praise team hadn’t practiced the songs and my wife’s voice cracked because of seasonal crud, the Spirit of God soon took over and fixed what appeared to be broken. The power of one CD had been trumped by the power of Someone more powerful.

Moses experienced the power of One when God instructed him to go before a foreign king and tell him I AM has sent him to deliver his people from 400 years of slavery.

The power of one can be devastating, disturbing, and mind-boggling. One statement from a doctor, “You have cancer.” One call from the boss, “I need to see you in the office immediately.” One text from a girlfriend or boyfriend, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” One call from the police, “Your son has been in a bad accident.” One visit from the military chaplain and an officer, “We’re sorry to inform you that you daughter has been killed in action.” The list of ones is endless…and so is the pain they can bring.

Just as God took over the failed service my wife had planned and soundly defeated the Enemy’s effort to quench the moving of God’s Spirit, so He can do the same with any life situation we tackle. He is sovereign. Nothing happens outside of His control. His plans are always better than mine and can never be thwarted by the tactics of Satan.

Whatever God brings out of the one apparently bad thing will always be better. Trust Him to control your one thing.

Lessons from a Waiting Room

waiting-roomWait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the
 Lord.
Psalm 27:14 NLT

Important lessons can be learned in waiting rooms.

My wife and I have been frequent flyers at the local emergency room lately. We visited for my wife because of unexpected fluid gain and abdominal pain. Her last visit led to a brief stay in the hospital. My visit was due to a minor bleeding issue.

Although we learned some lessons from waiting in the emergency room, both of us agree we are sick of going there. But I don’t have to visit an emergency room or even a doctor’s office to experience the benefits of waiting. Life is filled with waiting rooms of various sorts. It was when the psalmist wrote the above words.

In life’s waiting rooms, I’ve learned things don’t often happen as quickly as I wish. This predicament develops what the psalmist calls patience—a worthy virtue but not one that’s always enjoyable to develop. A typical emergency room stay in our small town is four hours. As much as one hour in the waiting room itself and then three more waiting on doctors and nurses to do what they are going to do.

Waiting rooms have taught me life is unfair. When I see people who don’t have and can’t afford insurance. When I see people who’ve been abused by others or who’ve had crimes committed against them. And when I see people addicted to drugs who are making a visit to get a pain fix. Or when I see bodies mangled by wrecks.

Waiting rooms develop compassion in me. When I see and hear about the various conditions that bring people in for emergency care, my heart reaches out to them. I wish I could intervene. I thank God for His grace that has kept me from being in a similar situation.

In the waiting room, I learn unfortunate situations often get better. Yes, some die in the emergency room, but many more are tended to in a way that eventually leads to their healing. Trials have an end, and God determines it.

Waiting rooms also remind me I affect only a few of my life events. God, however, controls them all, and I must trust Him with the trial, the length of the trial, and the outcome.

When life puts you in the waiting room, take time to learn important life lessons.

hiding1For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.

Psalm 32:7 NLT

One sheet and 4 kitchen chairs made a perfect hiding place.

Lovey was my maternal grandmother’s half-sister. My memories of her are fading, but I do recall she played with me and my cousin. One of our favorite things was to make a tent. This we did by taking a sheet and spreading it over four kitchen chairs. Seems like an easy enough exercise, but if the chairs weren’t positioned correctly, the entire thing would collapse.

After our tent was constructed, my cousin and I entered and sit. Being young boys, we probably giggled and talked. We were in our hiding place…safe from the world. Though anyone could have easily discovered us by looking beneath the cover, we didn’t see ourselves as exposed.

God was the psalmist’s hiding place. Someone he could run to for protection when his enemies were fast upon his heels. Someone who comfort him when it appeared others had turned against him.

I’ve experienced other than honorable conditions in which I tried to hide from God. Mainly when I intentionally sinned or involved myself in other shameful behaviors. Rather than confessing, I tried to hide like Adam and Eve. Hiding didn’t work for them, and it didn’t for me either. God’s convicting Spirit worried me until I made things right with God.

God would rather me hide in Him for more honorable reasons. I can hide in Him for comfort. When life—or others—have frustrated, disappointed, betrayed, or angered me, I can hide in Him for comfort.

I can hide in God’s love. It’s unconditional. Nothing I do or say can make Him love me more or less. He loves me consistently—although this doesn’t relieve me of living according to His standards.

I can hide in God’s power. Nothing life throws at me is more powerful than He is. Lion, bears, nor an angry king were more powerful than the psalmist’s God, and life’s present enemies aren’t more powerful than God’s power to deliver me.

I can also hide in God’s salvation—not from life’s trials and tribulations, but from sin’s power. Through the forgiveness offered by Christ, I can enjoy the assurance of being forgiven and accepted by God. No more do I dwell under condemnation.

Let God teach you to hide in Him—not from Him or in anything else.