Monthly Archives: November 2014

Looking through new eyes





Something quite extraordinary happens when you’re able to see the world and others through different eyes.


I’m guessing you have paused for a moment when a young child makes an observation about something beautiful that you missed. It’s a moment of revelation, introducing us to something new or something important we may have forgotten. Like the little girl who looked at her mom, no make up, disheveled hair and old sweatshirt, saying, “Mommy, you’re beautiful.” Or the lad who says to his dad, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” Having your first child is like that too. You may be filled with so many questions and doubts. But when your eyes lock with theirs for that first time, when they first hold you in their trusting eyes, something special stirs in your heart, and you want it to stay that way forever.


In his book, Revolution in World Missions, K.P Yohannan tells of a young missionary in India who was badly beaten and left to die on the outskirts of town all because he shared the gospel of Jesus. Looking to the heavens, he asked God to give him the love of Jesus so he could return to the town again with renewed compassion for the people there. Immediately after his prayer, the young missionary said it was like God removed the eyes from his head and replaced them with the eyes of Jesus so he could see the people as Jesus did.


Did you know the same thing happens when we ask God to see through His eyes? For the first time we are able to see grumpy people as people who need God’s grace and truth. Even our enemies, when seen through God’s eyes, become worth our prayers. We look at our stuff and suddenly see things others need. We look at our paycheck and see it is indeed sufficient for our *needs* if we were to “Live simply so others may simply live.”


You know this if you sponsor a child from another country through an organization like Compassion International. As you pray for them and write to them and receive their letters and prayers, you find yourself praying also for their family and community, and their country. You start seeing people around the world through God’s eyes and it changes your vision forever. It’s like putting on a whole new pair of glasses that brings the world into focus in a way you couldn’t have imagined.


Are you tired of seeing the world through jaded glasses that make life look miserable and hopeless? Why not ask God to give you His eyes so you can see others and the world differently… the way they really appear from heaven. Prepare for an extraordinary new look on life!



The rest of the story



Sometimes the work of God in our lives is a mystery. In my journey through AML, I recall feeling that His grace did not dispel the pain. But it did give me assurance to bear it a little longer, one day or moment at a time with certainty that God’s Word remained true despite how I felt or experienced it.


What are we to say about the part of our story that is filled with seemingly hopeless and unbearable trials? Only that they add to a long history of faithful warriors fighting seemingly unbeatable odds. Our singular expectation is to stand firm in God’s protective armor, faithful and courageous, prayerful, and mindful of God’s blessings in the face of turmoil. Even so, the testimony of strong warriors and faithful servants have not always gained them access to the promises they sought. For example:


“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with US would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:35b-40


The passage that follows points to US…and our leg of the faith relay which somehow completes theirs:


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3


So it seems that our journey of faith through all kinds of trials is necessarily linked to the completion of the race of the faith heroes of all history. You and Moses, Gideon, David. It seems that we are presently completing the chapters in the REST of the story that will be told in heaven for all time. Perhaps in ways unknown to us, our most difficult chapters of our story are also influencing the story of others who will be encouraged to press on and continue their race. It is evidence that Jesus’ suffering for us was not in vain, and that His grace continues to strengthen so we will not lose heart.


Live well, until you reach the end of . . . the rest of the story.



Evidence of thanksgiving



It’s Thanksgiving Day, a day first set aside by President Lincoln in 1863, as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”



Of course, you know it is Thanksgiving! The car is packed and ready to travel over the river and through the woods to visit family and friends if we haven’t already made the journey. Turkeys and hams are in the oven and all the rest of your favorite fixings are warming on the stove. The table is set, ready for the feast. Perhaps the TV is set up for the afternoon sports, or puzzles and games have been brought out of the closet for some fun times. There will be a boisterous time for sharing and laughing at worn out family stories and jokes. And perhaps a time of sadness. No matter how old are or what you’ve accomplished, you’ll likely take your birth order place once again at the table and be remembered fondly as you were years ago.


All this is evidence of the day we set aside to be thankful for family, friends, food, laughter, home, and health. Hopefully we remember to give thanks for such a great and compassionate God. But after the day has passed, even after the leftovers are gone, will the evidence of thanksgiving remain in our hearts?


It doesn’t happen automatically of course. Just as we are so intentional about organizing the special day’s festivities, we need to be intentional each day to keep the scales of our lives tipped to thanksgiving. We need to be intentional in remembering who God is, all he’s done, and all he still promises on our behalf. It is the intentional humbling of our hearts and appreciating and valuing others that gives real evidence to a thankful life. It is evidenced in our intentional choosing generosity over greed, sensitivity over callousness, and others over self. When we are so thankful for our forgiveness we find it easy to forgive others. When we realize the grace that has so freely been bestowed on us, we are compelled to give grace to others.


Is there evidence of thanksgiving in your Facebook posts, your emails, your checkbook register? Is a heart of thanksgiving evident to the waitress at the restaurant, the clerk at the store, and those you meet on the street? is there someone across the world who knows your name and gives thanks for you? let’s let our thankfulness be evident each day!


Give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18



The power of remembering



Our memories are odd things. Have you noticed how it is easier for you to remember some things than others? As you review your past , has it been selectively colored by the memories you’ve chosen over the ones you’ve ignored? Perhaps you’ve chosen to remember only the happy times, forgetting there were times of sorrow that also shaped you. Or maybe your past memory is so shadowed by a series of unfortunate events, you’ve quite forgotten the seasons of happiness you enjoyed. You may not be aware of it but your interpretation of today’s events are shaping your memories as they occur. The filter through which we sift our daily events and emotions shapes the way we will remember today and also affecting the way we step out into tomorrow.


We are reading a psalms devotional by Matthew Jacoby, founding member of the Aussie band Sons of Korah. The reading from Psalm 116:1-4 starts “I love The Lord because he has heard my appeal for mercy.” The psalmist talks about “the ropes of death” being wrapped around him and of being eventually freed from their torments. Jacoby’s message reminds me of the importance of remembering to be thankful even in the midst of pain. He writes:


“Beginning your time of prayer with thanksgiving will change your prayer life radically. Remember the prayers that God has answered in the past. Remember the times when you trusted God for a certain matter and God demonstrated His faithfulness in a way beyond what you had hoped. Remember the times when you were overcome by trouble and sorrow and God lifted you up. Meditate on these things, praise God for all these times and give heartfelt thanks to him. This will create a spring of faith and zeal within you from which prayer will naturally flow like a river.” M. Jacoby


‘Remembering’ has power to shine the light of hope into our dark sorrows. It draws us closer to God at the precise moment we feel distanced from him. Remembering his faithfulness and compassion that are renewed every morning fuels our faith. It pours balm on our wounds and lifts our eyes to see his glory again. Remembering God’s goodness and perfect plan may not free our bodies from the present prison today, but it frees our spirit to rejoice in the great hope we desperately need to find and maintain until the shackles are finally released.


May you be blessed today in remembering who God is, how He loves you, all He’s done, and His promises yet to be revealed in your life.



Everyone has a story – what does yours say?




Perhaps you’ve heard it said: “Everyone has a story.”



It’s true. We do all have a story.  And likely yours is a collection of memorable people, places and events, some exhilarating and happy, others filled with the darkness of pain and sorrow. There may be parts of your story that you have forgotten and parts that you’ve remembered differently than how things really transpired.  Your story may well include the people who came before you, the ones who influenced family and friends who ultimately had influence on your parents and older siblings who influenced you. For each of us our unfolding story speaks to who we are and how we live in this world.


When thinking about the chapters of your life, you might reflect on periods of time (childhood, early adult, later years). Some of our chapters focus on our children and grandchildren and where we’ve lived and visited.  We have a short chapter on cancer and a much longer one on God’s grace. Each anniversary we reflect on and give thanks for the way God has worked through the chapters of our lives marked by the most memorable people, places, and events.


Think about your story. How have you come to be where you are now?  Who are the people who have spoken truth and value into your life? What lessons have you learned that you want always to remember and pass on to others? How have the celebrations and sorrows of your life contributed to who you are now? How has God spoken most clearly to you?


Writing your own story is helpful to remember what it is about living that you cherish. If yours is a Christian testimony, you might condense your story into three chapters: who you were before you knew Jesus, how God spoke to you, and how He has changed your life since.  The chapters of your story and mine shine light on how our character and values have changed over the years. They reveal whether we live thankfully or desperately. For each of us our story might appear as an eclectic collection of events, places, and people, though I suspect that it is not nearly as random as we may think!


Finally, your story may also be your eulogy. When you and I are gone from this earth, it is the impression of our stories that remain in the lives of those who have shared them with us. Taking time to mentally sketch out or actually write your story may bring renewed perspective to your present life. At the same time it may remind you of how you want to live the rest of your life, focused on your highest values and ambitions.


I hope you will take some time this week to (re)discover your story and let the part not yet written speak gently and intentionally into the lives of those around you, and perhaps others around the world that you have not yet met.


Everyone has a story. What does yours say?



Taking out the garbage





Are you thankful for trash haulers? I am. Around here, Friday is garbage day. Early every Friday morning some men come around with a large truck to haul away everything I’ve put in the trash cans. I take out the garbage on Thursday night to be sure I don’t miss the truck. In fact, I take out the garbage throughout the week. Probably you do too, because we don’t want it stinking up our house!


Maybe you’ve known or heard of someone who hoards things. What we would consider trash just keeps piling up in their home. We might ask, “How in the world could someone live like that?!”


I wonder if we took a look in our “spiritual home” what we might find cluttering up the place. Our spiritual home the core of our being. You might think you have your spiritual home all cleaned up. But have you checked it for the trash that crowds out a thankful spirit? Things like bitterness, envy, resentment, gossip, anger, worry, unforgiveness, and discontent are easily hoarded. Of course, we have rationale for why we keep them around. “If you only knew what Sally did,” we say, trying to explain away our unthankful ways. “If you knew the troubles I’ve faced, you’d understand being bitter.” I get it. We all have our sorrows that beset us and threaten our gracious hearts. But when you realize that NONE of these hoarded attitudes do you any good, you may be moved to take them to curb like the unwelcome guests they are.


Our spiritual home is where we talk to God and also where we grumble. It is where we give thanks for so many blessings. At the same time it is where we harbor resentment toward others. Our negative and impure thoughts clutter up our spiritual home. Our self-seeking and lazy habits add to the piles of trash that make our home anything but ‘home sweet home.’ Like a hoarder, we may not see the piles amassing. We may not observe how they are crowding and overtaking our spirit. It’s easy to become accustomed to the stuff around us and not be bothered by it. But after a while it starts to smell. And not like a sweet fragrance our life is intended to be.


Just as people find it satisfying to ‘simplify’ their homes by removing the clutter, so keeping our spiritual home clean brings satisfaction and renewal. Let’s sweep out the stuff that hinders our ability to live thankful lives.


And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . .And be thankful. Colossians 3:15



Switching tracks



When I was a lad my dad built a train table for us boys. It was a large HO scale set with tunnel, trestle bridge, and three different passenger and freight lines. I still have the special wooden snow plow my dad made. I had to sell the rest of the set when I moved to Australia, but it was a beauty!  One of the nice features was that it didn’t just go around in circles. It had switches so you could turn a train onto different tracks or sideline some cars and pick up others.


I started thinking about those switches the other day. I suppose the switches are operated automatically in the real train world these days, but in my experience as a “train engineer” one had to pay close attention to throw the track switch so the trains didn’t get in a wreck.


Come to think of it, our thoughts sometime travel on tracks of sorts. The phrase, “having a one-track mind” comes to mind. You know the feeling, when you’re so driven and focused on one thing, that you can’t easily see another ‘track’ or way of thinking. Or something distracts you and you find yourself ‘sidetracked’ from where you were going in the first place. (Tell me this doesn’t just happen to me!)


Then there are those times when we get on the wrong track. We start to complain or judge someone. We focus on the trivial while forgetting the important. We find that we have picked up unnecessary baggage cars that strain our load. We’ve left important goals and values on the side tracks. Confusion sets in when we’ve lost our way and we wonder if there is any way we can get back on track.


There are some baggage cars that weigh all of us down. Paul names them in his letter to the Colossians: whatever belongs to your earthly nature, immorality, impurity, lust, greed (which is a form of idolatry) to name just a few. He says we need to switch other baggage to the sidelines too, including anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, lying (including ‘white lies’). Then switch on a new load that will seem light to carry: the knowledge of who you are as God’s child, a person of worth, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Pick up forgiveness, love, thankfulness, and wisdom that gives you the desire for unity, peace with others. (Colossians 3:5-16)


The good news is we all have the God-given power to throw the switch. Switch from negative thinking to positive options, from worry to faith, from bitterness to forgiveness, from complaining to thankfulness. There are so many switching opportunities for us each and every day!


Take a look at the track you are on these days and the load you’ve been carrying. Sideline the weight that is slowing you down, pick up the lighter load that will get you to your right destination.  And remember – keep your eye on the switch!



Happiness is reaching for the prize




I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14


Some old carousels had special rings suspended away from the carousel platform. If you leaned out from your perch and really strained while going round and round, you might have grasped a ring. Sometimes you’d reach but miss. Sometimes you’d actually touch the ring but fail to take it. But you kept reaching and straining, focused intently on getting that prize. As you did this, you might have noticed others simply sitting back and enjoying the ride. You think to yourself, maybe that’s what I should do, just let life take me round and round, enjoying the music and the dazzling lights. But your eye was on the rings. Grabbing the iron ring would give you a sense of accomplishment but there was no real prize associated with it. But taking the brass ring gave you a special prize, usually another ride on the carousel.


Does life sometimes seem like one endless merry-go-round, spinning round in the delirium of lights, music, and motion? Have you found yourself straining to reach some prize only to fail to grasp it firmly? Or maybe you’ve found the temporary thrill of grasping so many unfulfilling iron rings.


Perhaps our faith journey is like a carousel ride. Only sometimes it’s more like we are running the opposite direction the carousel is going, still trying to reach the prize. After a while we may be tempted to forget the prize and just sit back on the painted horses and simply enjoy the ride or endure its passing. But our real happiness is found in continually reaching for the prize. Paul counsels us about this in Philippians 3:


Paul knew what his real goal was and kept focused on it. Too much focus on life’s painted horses and dazzling lights lulls us into a sleepy disoriented slumber. Fixing our eyes on Jesus even in the mundane things of life keeps us focused on what truly satisfies and our purpose for being.


Paul kept no confidence in the flesh, no confidence in abilities or traditions, past achievements, or awards. He considered all this as a loss (actually garbage) compared to knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus was his only confidence. When you’ve reached and strained to grasp the brass ring, you realize that Jesus has already taken hold of it for you. And yet, we need to continue pressing on, reaching, persevering, really straining to reach the prize.


It might be okay on a merry-go-round to just sit back and enjoy the ride. After all, it is merely a temporary diversion. But on life’s real carousel we only go around once and we ought to orient our efforts on straining and pressing on to reach the prize that has already been won for us. Keep your eye on the prize and the one who has already won it for you.



Happy is the one who trusts



Happy is the man who trusts in The Lord. Psalm 40:4

Happy is the one who never loses faith in me. Matthew 11:6


What words come to mind when you think of being happy? Probably you think of peace, serenity, security, trust. We naturally desire these. And yet, while we all seek happiness, we so easily put ourselves in fretful situations where we are sure not to find it!


There were certainly times when trust is a challenge. In my cancer journey I was quite familiar with Romans 14:8: Live or die, I win because Jesus is Lord. But what about the in between time when it seems, this is not real living nor death?  That’s when trust is harder, isn’t it? In those times we worry, we fret, we analyze and try to sketch an escape route from our pain. We fight to gain control over what we can never control. We are anything but happy.


Sometimes hearing a certain diagnosis brings people so quickly to the very end of their rope they desperately reach out to grasp the only faithful hand, God’s. Others suddenly come to the awareness of the truth of God in such a resilient way, they trust Him inherently. Some who have not built trust in God during times of plenty find it immensely difficult to trust Him in times when everything seems taken away. But it is possible.


Big faith or small, we build on the measure of faith given to us. (Romans 12:3) Our trust in people is earned in small measures at first, isn’t it? As you come to trust someone consistently in small ways, that trust grows to bear the weight of heavier matters. Someone who has been faithful in great things bears your deeper trust. And so it is with God. If we can trust “He who did not spare His own Son but gave him freely for us” (Romans 8:32) can’t we trust Him for our daily challenges? If you trust Him with your eternal life, doesn’t it make sense to believe His Word to be true for today’s struggles?


If you find it hard to trust God for the outcomes of your problems, look to a moment at a time when you found Him faithful. Ask Him to show Himself to you and trust Him for a glimpse of His greatness. You don’t have to endure your whole life right now. Trust Him to honor His word to give you grace, one moment at a time. It will be an imperfect and awkward dance if you are not used to it. It will seem that you are always wanting to take the lead. But trust a little. And as you find assurance, trust some more. Let God build your trust and find a certain contented happiness that satisfies more than what we find in this world.



Happy is the one who lives free

It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.2 Corinthians 3:17


We all want to be happy but there is a battle raging for the control of our mind. It fights on the fronts of lies about who we think we are, our past hurts, guilt over forgiven sin, fear that we haven’t kept some list of do’s and don’ts. It uses our self-image and performance to say we are inadequate. We are bound by our self-absorption and our burdens. The battle makes us slaves to our wrong thinking and habits.


Christ didn’t pay the price for our sin to set us free from its punishment only for us to go back to the shackles of slavery. The Word says, it is for freedom that He set us free. In other words, once freed by His grace He wants us to live in that freedom.  What does that look like on a daily basis?


It is believing His Word to be true and living as if it really is true. Our belief and our actions are intricately woven together. We can say we believe God, but if we don’t act on those beliefs, our actions point to what we truly believe. If I present you with a rickety old chair with one missing leg, would you sit in it? No, because you don’t believe, that is you don’t trust it will safely bear your weight. You can politely say, oh I believe it will bear my weight, but your actions will prove otherwise.


Likewise, we can say we believe the bible to be true. But what if we actually proclaimed it to be true by how we lived! God says He loves you. When you feel unloved will you believe His love for you? When you feel abandoned will you believe without a doubt that He is near? When you feel lost and confused in a noisy world, can you sit in silence and listen for His voice? When temptation comes knocking at your door can you believe he will show you the way to keep the door shut? When you feel like a failure, can you hear Him cheering you on? When you feel like you are fighting a battle on all sides, will you choose to believe that He goes before you, He is your rear guard and He is by your side? That all you have to do is stand firm, and he will do the fighting for you?


The things that would enslave us fall down when we pick up the bible and say we’re going to live in the power of Christ, believing it to be really practically true in our life. Trade the yoke of slavery to fears and doubts for resting in God’s faithful arms and be free.