Though a heavy blanket of darkness threatens to overwhelm me I search through its suffocating fabric for a spot of light and tear it open.
Someone needs Jesus.
When I’m bound up in my troubles and can’t seem to get out of my own head, when my biggest issue is my list of issues, I set them aside.
Someone needs Jesus.
When any effort I make seems to be just a drop in the ocean of the world of troubles, I take up an oar anyway and row with the strength I do have.
Someone needs Jesus.
Walking down a crowded street people part around me like water swirling round a stone. How many are really drowning while pretending they can breathe? How many? God could use me to lift them out of the water and point the way home. Will I reach out? Lord, give me the courage to reach out.
Women who feel weak and used, men convinced they’re not enough, children forced to grow before they’re ready need real help and compassion fueled by Jesus. For those cast aside by those who should have cared, for the people even advertising ignores, let them know they are precious in the sight of Jesus.
Lord, please keep in the front of my mind names of those I know who don’t know you. Help me take down barriers while it is day and there is time.
God of wonders, author of the world, each soul is precious to you. Give me a heart with a burden to share and proclaim your good news. This is my prayer, Amen.
Prayerfully seek your heavenly Father. Earnestly engage as you seek Him. Ask intentionally and specifically when you pray. Cry out your heart’s desire. Enter, walking in faith the path God has prepared for you.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
Who are you? The answers to this question might range all the way from simple to deeply philosophical. We are more than our name, our parents, where we live, who we love, or what we do. We are more than any of the traditional definitions of identity, whether grouped together or set apart. Proverbs 22:6 says, Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. One interpretation of this verse is to encourage children in the way of their natural talents and abilities. Yes, parents should provide godly instruction and moral foundational training their children take with them the rest of their lives, but just as important is the insight a parent can give that will help a child fully develop the unique qualities God has planted within them. While we all spend our lives searching for and developing what it is that makes us special, those most responsible for our growth and development should give special prayerful attention in this way. Has a parent or someone else in your life made an effort to help you grow your talents and discover your best self? What an invaluable gift!
What’s in a name?
Often there’s a story behind someone’s name. Were you named after your parent or another family member? Do you have an unusual name? Does your name reflect a wish from your parents that you would inhabit a particular quality or trait? In some cultures the strongest driving force motivating individuals is protecting the honor of the family name. Last names are often changed following marriage. Sometimes people change their names to change their story. There are many instances in the Bible where God changed an individual’s name for just that reason.
“You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram, your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you” Genesis 17:4-6
“That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered.Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” Genesis 32:22-28
Later, in the New Testament we find Jesus has changed the name of a fisherman named Simon, revealing the new course his life will take. “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” Matthew 16:18-19
No matter what your name is now, God has a plan for you. That plan may not involve a legal name change, but without a doubt, there are many names he will give you, like: loved, overcomer, redeemed, chosen, forgiven, son, daughter, saved.
Who do you call me, Lord? A name I didn’t know, that didn’t know me. Who do you call me, Lord? I’m full of joy and expectation because you call me Free. If you’d asked before I knew you and the moment you called me friend I might have said the only hope I had was someday it would end. But now that you have named me, I’ll never face this life alone, for all of my todays and the day you call me home.
By the time most of us reach adulthood, we’ve probably spent numerous hours in waiting rooms. Waiting room. Now there’s an appropriate name, right? And who waits in waiting rooms? Patients! Even though it’s spelled differently, that’s a pretty appropriate word. Most of us like to know how our time is going to be spent. If something is supposed to take an hour, we can get a little irritated when the hour comes and goes. What about lines? Whether you’re standing in line at the grocery store, or stuck in the middle of hundreds of cars on a freeway, waiting can be a challenge to our cheery nature.
Patience is one of those virtues God instructs us to develop in our walk with him. In 1st Corinthians 13 patience is mentioned in a description of love: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, … Romans 12:12 says further: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Certainly the pandemic we find ourselves in the middle of has strained our patience. “I can’t wait” seems to be a constant theme in our discussions. People say things like, “I can’t wait until I don’t have to wear this mask,” I can’t wait until everything is back to normal,” and “I can’t wait for all this to be over.” No matter what the issue is in our lives, there’s no doubt patience will continue to be a lesson we have to brush up on. If you’re like me, while you’re busy relearning it, one of the people you’ll have to be most patient with is yourself.
God, thank you for being patient with me, one of your many works in progress. Help me replace my impatience with prayers you’ve yet to answer with gratitude for those you have.
“They’ve finally come up with the perfect office computer. If it makes a mistake, it blames another computer.” Milton Berle
“I must tell you I take terrible risks. Because my playing is very clear when I make a mistake you hear it. If you want me to play only the notes without any specific dynamics, I will never make one mistake. Never be afraid to dare.” Vladimir Horowitz
Not to compare ourselves with God but an average parent can imagine how God might feel about the human race. You could nickname most of us Will because we have a tendency to exert our wills throughout our lives for better and for worse. I will study this subject until I have it down. I will grab that hot skillet at an age when I’ve yet to know for myself what hot really means. I will use prayer, love, and reason to grow healthy relationships or I will engage in selfish and unhealthy behavior to the detriment of myself and those around me. To be sure, all of us Wills will make mistakes, some intended and some unintended. How do we deal with the mistakes we and the others around us make? What reaction should we then expect from God, and how should that model prepare us to meet the challenges mistakes pose in our lives?
When I consider how God feels about our mistakes, I think he’s the perfect example of an ideal parent. First, he gives us plenty of room to grow and learn from our mistakes. A good parent is able to set boundaries while creating an environment the child can thrive in. Learning our way into being our best selves always involves some trial and error. For some of us, a lot of trial and error. Sometimes we even have to go to trial for our errors! God’s grace, forgiveness, and attitude of forbearance do not remove natural consequences. That hot stove will still burn. Traffic school might be the best you can hope for if you decide to set your own special speed limit. Your spouse may have married you for better or for worse but not, for example, felony murder. What you will find with God though, is he never runs out of grace. His love and forgiveness are always enough and more. If you trust in Christ, you’re part of the family. Period.
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14NIV
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9NIV
God, there you are before and after my mistakes. I learn. I grow. Always you forgive. When I’m afraid to move on and lack faith in myself, I lean deeply into you because you live.
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” C.S. Lewis
The story of Jesus Christ, his birth, life, death, and resurrection has often been referred to as the greatest story ever told. As beneficiaries of the gift of life Jesus made available to us through his sacrifice, we have become a part of this wonderful story.
We’re all born to live our own particular story. Think of your story as being like one of those Russian nesting babushka dolls. The biggest doll could represent God and his creation of the whole thing. We’re all somewhere down the line, the smaller dolls, if you like. If you’re a guy and you’re bothered by the idea of being a doll, be a… G.I. Joe. Whatever floats your boat. You get the idea. It doesn’t take any special effort to narrate your story. We all do that automatically from the moment we have an awareness of our own existence. As we grow older, the story going on in our head grows in size and complexity but our tendency even as adults is to make it mostly about ourselves. We call people who have little concern for the stories of others narcissists. I was watching a documentary the other day which mentioned an act of bravery by a soldier involved in our troops’ landing on Tarawa during World War 2. The soldier saw a grenade land in the middle of his group and immediately jumped on it to save his fellow soldiers from being killed by the blast. Miraculously, he survived and recovered from his wounds. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, but never told his family. When asked about his act of bravery, he said there was no time to think about what he did, he just did it. When he came home, he put the medal into a drawer and never talked about it until he was interviewed for the broadcast. This man carried with him an innate sense of the greater story.
One of the most difficult things to truly do is put yourself in another person’s shoes, especially if their feet are smaller than yours. Seriously though, even if we recognize the value of empathy, and our experience is significantly similar to another’s, we can still only go part way toward knowing how they feel. There are just so many variables in the human experience.
Right now, we seem to be in the middle of a most calamitous time in our history. Not long ago it would have been hard to imagine anything pushing covid 19 off the front page. Then in quick succession the killings of two black Americans highlighted some of the great inequities in our society’s handling of racial differences. It’s clear we have a long way to go to make our democracy truly available to all its citizens; much farther than many of us realized. While we may not truly be able to place ourselves in the shoes of another, we must try, and with the knowledge gained from trying, we must act.
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40 ESV
Setting aside that I don’t know you, do I care? If my world works for me, do I see you standing there? Am I my brother’s keeper or even a reliable witness? Where’s my responsibility in inequity’s redress? How much energy have I wasted toward what didn’t count for your kingdom? When you return, let me not be found wanting, considering what I was given.
My wife and I are opposites in many ways, but I guess it’s one of the things that keeps our relationship interesting. Consider how the two of us eat and read. When I’m finished eating, Lori will often be only half way through her plate. However, while she can read a book in a day, I’ll take weeks to plod my way through the same tome. Of course, those are inconsequential things in the bigger context of a marriage. Right at the top for both of us in a list of priorities for maintaining our relationship would be our faith. Our goal individually and as a couple is to check our attitudes toward every aspect of our lives through the prism of how God sees it. God is our most reliable source. Hebrews 13:8 ESV says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. In our lives, where so much is uncertain, we can always count on the teachings of Jesus to be our solid and reliable guide. If Jesus is your source, if he is your rock, in a game of rock, paper, scissors, rock should win every time. Although currently the reputation of the news media as a whole is under fire, ideally, professional journalists should rely on multiple sources when the truth of a story may come into question. Reliable sources are a news organization’s life blood. The reason is if a story is proven to be untrue, it can cost that organization readers or viewers, which will translate into lost business. While we’re on the subject, remember that “the media” relies on advertising dollars to exist. When you click, view, and read you are telling advertisers what you support. In that sense, the media is us. It will live or die based on the attention it receives. But even if selling news isn’t your business, other people are judging your credibility every day. We’ve probably all had conversations with others regarding whether we can believe what someone else has said. If something that person said didn’t ring true, we might say, “Well, consider the source,” meaning the person in question didn’t have a reputation for telling the truth. When it comes to our relationships with — I guess just about everyone, trust has to be at the top, and once you become known as someone who lies, mishandles information, or is in other ways untrustworthy, you can expect that bond of trust to become broken. Truth and trust help to bind us together and free us to be the men and women of God we were always intended to be. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 NIV
Since I started this post off by talking about my wife, and thinking about the racism and hate that’s been so present in our national discussion lately, I thought I would mention something she taught me about the subtle racism that can infect our everyday speech. Let’s say you’re relating a story to a friend. The story involves a person of color, let’s say, black. When you tell that story, is the fact that the story involved a black person relevant? Would you have mentioned their color if they were white? Our descriptions of people can play into all sorts of stereotypes designed to divide into categories of inferior and superior without our being aware of it. When we allow racism and hate to become part of us in even subtle ways, we are pulling away from the source of love, truth, and eternal life who is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I don’t have to tell you who the source of hate, division, and the father of lies is, do I?
“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” Author Unknown
Be the change. Reflect the source that flows through you, perfect love that casts out all fear. Be the hope, the good news of salvation, of changed lives, and dried tears. Strength doesn’t always reflect expectations, and soft words can turn away wrath. Offer to kneel with another, an other. Encourage a better path.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10 ESV
It’s tough out there, isn’t it? File that under all time greatest understatements. If you aren’t suffering yourself, you surely know many who are. If we weren’t already convinced of our interconnections with everyone else on the planet, we should be now, as we’ve seen how a new virus can impact the world’s physical and economic health with little respect for national boundaries. If you care to involve yourself in the abundance of finger pointing and opinions found on the various news outlets and social media, you can take your pick. However, if you redirect your focus to what God’s word says about the human condition, you will see evidence of mercy, grace, healing, love, and redemption no matter what trouble we find ourselves in. The beauty and challenge of the Christian walk lies in transforming how we automatically react to events to how God would have us react. There is reason to hope for and expect change for the better, but I believe this hope must be founded on the results gained from submission to God and his will for our lives. If we allow God to have his way with us, I believe the value the Holy Spirit adds to us and draws out of us individually will bring a corporate change in our homes, communities, and world.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10NLT
When God proved his love for us by sending his Son to be crucified and then raised from the dead, he settled for all time the question of how much value he places on each human life. Yours. Mine. Everyone we will ever meet. I am convinced God has placed particular value within you. But I am also sure that potential value will die, no one will ever see it, and the world will be the poorer if you do not do the work to seek it out, nurture it, and give it life. Each of us have certain gifts. They do not have to look like someone else’s gifts. Indeed, comparing ourselves to others is often the best way to derail our dreams because it’s much easier to see the end product of success than the muddy failure ridden process which often precedes it. You are not too young. You are not too old. You are not too anything to be exactly what God wants you to be. For God to use your gifts and abilities, no matter how significant or insignificant you may now believe them to be, you must see them through the lens of steadfast faith in his eternal design.
Give me eyes to view myself as you do, God, embracing the ways in which you work. When has the sculpture ever told the sculptor, “No, not there”? Help me mine, like gold the value you know within me Without your help I would never see it there.
This photograph of someone else’s hands on a manual typewriter keyboard reminds me of my college days. My fingers slipping off the keys, getting stuck in between as I wrote a paper. If I made a mistake I would slip a little piece of paper with white out on one side between the offending key and paper and press the key again. It was a relatively slow, pains taking process. The typewriters we used in Journalism classes were IBM Selectrics. These ubiquitous preferred electronic office typewriters were much faster and easy to use. Also, they didn’t eat fingers. The third keyboard in my student life was a VDT (video display terminal). We used these keyboards attached to small monitors to download stories onto diskettes. Fast forward 40 years or so and the writing I do now is different, but still influenced and benefited by the analytical/critical skills I learned in school. Who, what, where, when, why, and how still often find their way into my writing. Something a favorite professor of mine used to say was, “Our job is not to tell readers what to think, but rather to tell them what to think about.” That puts the onus on us as communicators. After determining the topic/story, whether speaking with someone face to face, or writing, I still believe the ability to get a message across is one of the most important skills any of us can cultivate. If we aren’t careful though, comprehension can be the drowning victim in a flood of communication. Unfortunately, the age of social networking encourages worship of the podium and “like” addiction. It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing applause from the same audience over and over again. Too often, the participants in platforms like Facebook foster an atmosphere of us vs. them instead of appealing to each other’s hearts and what we have in common.
Since today is Mother’s Day, you might be asking yourself what any of this talk about communication has to do with it. I’ve always believed the best communicators are great listeners first. Anyone with a loud voice can make a speech, but not everyone is a good listener, which is a hallmark of quality communicators. My mother was a wonderful listener. Looking back, I know she put as much or more effort into hearing than she did in being heard. This was one of her gifts to the world, and to the degree it is mine, she deserves much of the credit. As a Christian who believes the gospel message must take primacy in my life, I recognize that my words matter. I alone am responsible for them, both the ones I utter and the ones I choose to mull over and process.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 ESV
“It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear.” Italo Calvino
“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Truman Capote
Lord, inform what we say and write to the exclusion of words that tear down and divide. Help us work the muscle between our ears to devote more attention to what we hear. Focus our discernment toward what you say through your word and our brothers and sisters today. Then if reconciliation and peace are worth being preached like the song says, “let it begin with me.”
Mayday is the word used around the world to make a distress call via radio communications. The call signals a life-threatening emergency, usually on a ship or a plane, although it may be used in a variety of other situations. Mayday got its start as an international distress call in 1923 and was made official in 1948. It was the idea of Frederick Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. He came up with the idea for “mayday” because it sounded like the French word m’aider, roughly translated as “come help me” in English.
Yesterday was the first of May, otherwise known as May Day. Although the two are not related, it made me think about mayday, and the fact that many of us, even though we might not actually be in a ship or plane at the time, have wished we could pick up a radio, call “mayday” and be rescued.
We do our best to be strong and prepared for what life throws at us, but just as the pilot of a vessel must know when to ask for help, so must we. One factor I try to remember is that the help I receive is inevitably help for my family and friends as well. Pushing the shipping analogy a little further, the aphorism, “a rising tide lifts all boats” applies here. If we seek God, and seek his help early and often in our lives, those whose lives are affected by ours will benefit. For my family, friends, and community, I believe in God, believe he rewards those who seek him, and believe he hears us when we ask for help in our time of need.
Help for rescue Lord, amazing rescue My joy abounds for God, you rescued me And every day I need it you’re my life preserver Jesus you’re so good to me
Help for rescue Lord amazing rescue Though my ship’s plunging you lift me up on wings You’re never late, you meet my faith Every time you bring me in for a safe landing
Help for rescue Lord, amazing rescue When I’m uncertain you point me home When I go forth, you’re always north I can’t be lost, you’re my forever compass bearing
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16 ESV