It’s been a long time since I have taken time to write. Without turning this into a journal or diary, I will simply say that it has been a rough few months. I was permanently “downsized” from my job. We nearly became homeless. I have been on a spiral journey full of confusion and frustration. It has been an emotional roller coaster. But through one of the most difficult times my family has ever had to face, I have learned (correction: am learning) some very valuable lessons.
I have been reminded that no matter what we face, God is with us! Emmanuel…God with us. I don’t know if you are going through a difficult time in your life, but I want to assure you that whatever it is, God is WITH you along the entire journey.
Second, I am learning the value of valleys and the wilderness times of life. Those valleys are those low, discouraging times when you feel like a failure. Those times when you feel all alone. Those times when you feel “things can’t get any worse.” In those valleys of life, God is with you. In those valleys, you learn value. You learn what is important and what is not important to make it through. I learned in my valley that my joy comes from God and family and friends. I learned that besides walking through a dark valley, I also am walking through a huge wilderness. The wilderness of life includes those moments when I feel so confused and lost that my mind is nothing but a fog. But God is with me.
The third thing I am learning through this time is that God truly cares. When I pray, I do not have to edit my prayers to make them sound good to God, I can simply pray “the raw footage” of my minds thoughts. God knows. He wants us to be real, raw, open and vulnerable. The tagline of my blog page says, “Focused Faith with Design Intent.” I have learned that the “designed intent” of my faith is to be real and raw. God truly wants our focus and intent of life to be open and raw with Him each and every moment of each and every day.
My prayer for us today is that we will give ourselves permission to intentionally be raw and open with a loving, caring and present God!
My wife and I have had the privilege the past few weeks to observe a pair of Eastern Bluebirds locate, build and settle a nest in our backyard. To our surprise, though the average female lays 3-4 eggs, our nest box had 6 beautiful baby blue eggs in it. We waited for 15 days to see if they all would hatch. Mommy bird spent a lot of time keeping the eggs warm. Then, the day came. All 6 eggs hatched. The past 18 days the babies have been crowded in their cozy nest box while each took their turn begging noisily for their meal worms fed from their mommy. We joyfully watched the little ones take their turns stepping on each other to get their chance to peek out their little round entrance. Today, the big day came when all 6 birds suddenly just flew away one by one.
We can only imagine what must go through a fledgling’s mind as it prepares to leave the nest. But what was so wonderful was the courage that each little baby had. Each one stuck it’s head out the hole of their nest box, looked each direction for a few seconds, then flapped its wings and in a matter of 2 seconds it was gone. There was no hesitation or delay. It was as if it looked back briefly at it’s warm, comfortable home since the day it hatched and then flew.
I think of the times we as humans find ourselves in our warm comfortable places in life. Though there is a fantastic world out there to learn, see and explore, we find it easier to sit in our nest rather than simply muster up the courage and face a new, exciting and unknown challenge. Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps”
Recently, my granddaughter called and said, “Hey, papa, guess who I studied about in church today? Zach!” I replied, “Zach?” “Yes, He is Zach, Zach he is.” “Oh, Zacchaeus!” She replied, “Yes, Zach, he is!” She was so proud of learning the memorable children’s Bible character.
We can all learn lessons from Zach. In Luke 19, we read about Zacchaeus. Here are 3 simple lessons I glean from the story of Zach that helps us in every step of our faith journey.
1) No one is “too bad” to be saved.
Zach was considered to be one of the worst kind of sinners. He was a cheating tax collector and deeply hated by the people of that culture. As Christians we often see some people as sinners that are “too bad” to be saved. Come on, let’s be honest. What do you think of when you hear the word, “prostitute?” We often jump to a judgmental conclusion. A few years ago, my wife and I were asked to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to a difficult area of the city. It turned out we served free turkey dinners at the back door of a building to women as they got off work from dancing at a nude dance bar. We met one lady that asked for 5 meals. She stated that she was leaving work to check on her kids before going out all night to “work the streets.” She agreed to let us pray with her. As tears rolled down her cheeks she replied, “I don’t know how else to support my family.” That day she ask God to help her turn from her past.
My wife and I learned that day to quit judging and pre-judging others and that all of us can find salvation.
2) Jesus hung around sinners.
Jesus wasn’t afraid to go to Zach’s house and hang out with him. I realize that life is rough for all of us and that our focus often becomes about survival. But when is the last time we started reaching out to our neighbors and other hurting people in the world and develop a relationship with them. Not just a “meet at Starbucks” relationship, but a “come to my house” relationship.
3) A converted person is a changed person.
Zach changed his life that day he met Jesus. How often we seek to trust Christ with our lives yet we are not willing to change. If we are truly tired of living a life of struggles and problems, we must be willing to change from living in fear to living with faith and trust.
I hope that you will sense God’s strength and peace in your life as you learn lessons from Zach.
I am a firm believer that one of the elements of a life centered with faith is courage. Courage comes from having faith in God even when all evidence around us says we are alone and all is lost. Whenever I face a problem or situation that requires faith and courage, I remind myself to simply face squarely with the issue and “tow the line.” Rather than sit around and complain, worry and take on the victim attitude, I utilize the acronym “T-O-W” to get through.
TRUST– We must trust even when everything around us is crumbling, I cannot cave in to a negative attitude. I must trust God no matter what. I keep on trusting through every circumstance of life.Proverbs 3:5 reminds us to simply, “Trust the Lord with all your heart.” No matter what, trust God.
OBEY– When things do not go according to our plans, we often choose to take control of things and basically tell God, “take Your hands off. I’ll handle this.” When we reach the point we feel God is not in control, we must not bend to taking control, but rather obey God by following where He leads.
Several years ago, I moved my family 1600 miles to take a new job. Shortly after moving, the position fell apart and we ended up having to leave the job. Even though I felt like cursing God, we obeyed His leading through it all.. We lost nearly everything. We had nothing left. Too say that I questioned God is putting it mildly. It just didn’t make any sense why God would put my family through all of that. But now that I look back on the incident, I realize that if we had never moved I would have never connected with a specific person that was able to get me in the job I am at today. I’ve now been in this position 18 years and it all is because our family chose to obey God even when things didn’t make sense.
WORSHIP– Even when the storms of life are raging all around us, it is important to continue to praise and worship God through it all. The lyrics of a song by Hillsong remind us that even when life hurts like hell, we must still continue to worship and praise God as loudly as we can.
If you are facing a difficult valley in your life and you feel like throwing in the towel, just TOW the line anyway. Trust, Obey and Worship God through it all.