Psalm 57

“God, be gracious to me; be gracious,
for I have made you my refuge.
I shall seek refuge in the shadow of
your wings
until the storms are past” (Psalm 57:1).

I chose to read through the Bible again in 2015, this time using the New English Bible translation. I’m currently in the middle of the Psalms and I ran across one that I had to re-read and then re-read again because it was perfectly timed for the weather we’ve been having.

To be fair, this part of the country has seen mostly rain and not much in the way of actual storms. But storms don’t always mean lots of rain, lightening, and hail. Sometimes storms come in the form of losing a job or losing a loved one. Sometimes storms are seasons of life that are difficult. Those storms don’t always come and go within 24 hours. Some can last for weeks and months and even years.

But the same Jesus that spoke peace to actual winds and waves so long ago is just as capable of speaking peace to your and my storms. Often I’ve noticed that He will allow the storm to rage, but He will calm the child within the storm (and I’m fairly certain that is not original with me).

For me, storms have been the place where I’ve found Jesus to be most faithful. Even when I can’t see the end of the storm clouds and wonder if the sun will ever shine again, I know even then that the promises of Jesus are just as true in the darkest storms as they are on the brightest days.

I’ve read through the Bible more than once and yes, I have read the last page. There are no storms or thunder or trials or pain or suffering there. Only victory. Only peace. Only the joy that comes in the morning after a night of weeping.

 

 

 

You Are Not: A Reminder

I’m about to repeat myself. Again.

I find I keep returning to the same themes in my writing over and over, probably because I keep needing to hear them over and over. Here’s one more reminder for the road.

You are not your worst fears about yourself– that you’re essentially unemployable and that you will never find out what you’re good at and be able to make a living with it.

You are not your spotty employment background or your so-so credit score or your monumental mistakes in the past.

You are not your history of relationship failures (or your history of failure of relationships).

You are not your failed marriages or your broken relationships with your parents (or children).

You are not who you were and you are not yet who you will be.

You are the Beloved of your Abba Father, the apple of His eye.

You are Forgiven, with a blank slate as clean as if there were never any bad marks on it.

You are a child of the One True King, despite your questionable family history and your own long list of personal quirks.

You are exactly where God wants you to be and He knows where you are and where He’s taking you. And trust me, you will get there one day.

 

Being Present to the Present

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A few years ago, I bought a set of DVDs called Sunrise Earth. They are exactly what you think they are. Each program is 50 minutes of spectacular sunrises in some of the most beautiful places in the U.S., captured without any additional music or commentary. In short, the filmmakers let nature speak for itself.

I confess that I haven’t really watched any of these until very recently. I even forgot I had them.

But I rediscovered them and found myself watching the beauty of nature unfold. Instantly, I was in North Maine at Kidney Pond, watching a mother moose with her calf cavorting in the water. I could literally feel my blood pressure falling and a feeling of calm and serenity coming over me.

I confess. Too often, I don’t see the nature in front of me because I’m too focused on where I have to be on Wednesday or something coming up on Sunday. I fret and I worry about what may or may not happen in the future or what could or should have happened in the past.

I can’t change either one of those. I can choose to live in this present moment and be alive to all that God is unveiling before me. I can choose to look out my window and see the sunset (or God forbid, actually forklift myself out of bed at the ungodly crack of dawn to witness a sunrise).

I can also choose to be thankful for the moment I’m living in. I can decide that I don’t want to be so obsessed over the future and the past that I miss this present. Jesus said that tomorrow will take care of itself. And that God will take care of you when that tomorrow comes. It won’t make one bit of difference if you worry or not, because fretting over the future won’t change one iota of it.

So I’m going to continue to be a broken record and say that I want to be fully present to where God has me right now, whether it’s everything I hoped it would be or not. I can look down at empty hands and see all that I am missing out on or I can see those hands as ready to receive all that God is preparing for me in a future that is so much bigger and wilder than anything I could ever dream of on my own. It’s all about my perspective.

It’s my choice. It’s your choice, too.

 

When Fear Ends

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Today I open a Bible and flipped around randomly through its pages. I just so happened to look down at where I landed and, lo and behold, I looked right at Psalm 27. Here’s what I read:

The Eternal is my light amidst my darkness
    and my rescue in times of trouble.
    So whom shall I fear?
He surrounds me with a fortress of protection.
    So nothing should cause me alarm” (Psalm 27:1)

That reminded me of something I learned a long time ago about fear.

What are you afraid of right now? What is the greatest cause of anxiety and stress for you at the moment you are reading this?

Imagine the worst-case scenario were to come true (which is highly unlikely– think 1 out of 1,000 times). Imagine that you get fired from your job, you flunk out of school, your checking account goes belly-up.

Now, picture this. Even in the midst of all that wreckage, God is still there. You can lose jobs, money, possessions, friends– even spouses– but you can never lose God, because it’s not you holding on to God, but God holding onto you.

I love the image that I heard somewhere. When you hit rock bottom, you find that God is the Rock at the bottom. And maybe that’s a good place to be, where you have nothing left to stand on but the One True Foundation of Jesus.

An old black preacher described fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real.” The future that fear shows you may look legit, but it is always a lie. That’s because fear will always show you a future without God in it.

God promised in His word that perfect Love casts out fear. Fear can’t stand in the presence of God’s unfailing love. The only way for fear to win is for you to doubt God’s love and believe that it has come to an end. Faith is the antidote to fear and it doesn’t have to be great faith in God. All you need is faith in a great God.

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A Really Good Question

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While I was house/dog-sitting at a friend’s house, i was channel surfing. I ran across a program that was just getting started on TBN.

Normally, I avoid that channel like the plague, but the program featured Max Lucado, one of my favorite authors, so I gave it a shot. As it turns out, I did indeed choose wisely.

Max spoke on Joseph of Old Testament fame losing everything he had– possessions, family, reputation, freedom. He was literally looking up from the lowest point in his life at one point.

Then Max asked a profound question: “What do you still have that you cannot lose?”

Maybe you’ve lost your health. Or a job. Maybe it was a spouse. Or a child.

Maybe you’ve lost your reputation.

Whatever it is, there’s one thing you can’t lose. Your destiny as a child of God. Because God looked down on you at your very worst and said, “I choose that one. I want him. I have great plans for her.”

Your identity isn’t lost when you lose everything. You are still God’s. He still loves you and still has your name tattooed on His hands and on His heart.

Joseph was faithful to His destiny and God rewarded him. And so he will reward you. Maybe not in this lifetime, but you can bet there is nothing you’ve lost that won’t be restored a thousandfold over.

I love how Max said that our lives aren’t the dashes between our birth-dates and death-dates. They’re more like a grain of sand on the beach of the eternity of God’s stedfast love. I like that.

Maybe I should watch TBN more often.

Cold Rainy Monday Nights

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I don’t mind the rain. I don’t even mind cold and rainy nights. As long as I’m looking at the rain through a well-insulated window from inside.

Actually, I don’t even mind driving in the rain as long as it’s not dark outside. But that’s what I found myself doing tonight when I took my paycheck to my bank’s ATM on a dark, rainy Monday night. At least it was a short drive.

There’s something very peaceful about listening to rain hitting the windows and the roof. Especially if you have one of those antiquated tin roofs. It’s one of my favorite calming sounds.

It helps me to be still and be quiet. It helps calm my anxious thoughts (if I have any) and not be so prone to thinking ahead to the next day or the next week. I think I even pray better when I hear the rain outside.

I know I need to make time for those moments of doing nothing but being intentionally still and quiet and ready to hear God’s voice. It doesn’t have to be all day or even for an hour. It can be fifteen minutes where I don’t have any televisions or radios or iPhones to distract me from what God might be wanting to tell me.

Maybe we can encourage each other to cultivate those quiet moments during the day. I think it would make a huge difference toward getting my mind back toward spiritual things and my eyes refocused on Jesus.

So those are my thoughts on this wet cold Monday evening.

Those Times

I’ve been living my miracle. I’ve been counting my blessings and finding joy in the everyday minutiae of life. But sometimes . . . .

You know the feeling. It happens when you’re tired or hungry or by yourself– or all three. 

You feel like your friends will all eventually abandon you. Little things, like someone not responding to a text or someone else who usually liked and commented on your posts not having done so for a few days, seem like proof that you’re not really wanted or desired.

You find it’s much easier to wallow in that old mire of self-pity and entitlement than to fight for the joy and to consciously bring to mind the blessings. Sometimes it does feel good (but not in a good way) to feel sorry for yourself and believe that no one truly understands or cares about you. Lies are sometimes easier to believe and more comforting than the truth. Well, most of the time.

It’s at those times when you want to lean on what you’re feeling as a gauge for how you’re doing. It’s times when you want to use your understanding as a crutch for figuring out your life at that particular moment.

But just remember this familiar verse:

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“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding [or feelings]. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6. Amplified)

I added that part about feelings, in case you wondered. But it’s implied in the Hebrew. 

Trust God, not in how you feel or what you think. Those things (thoughts and feelings) aren’t always trustworthy. But God is.

And I know from experience your friends aren’t nearly as ready to abandon you as you think they are. Sometimes, they just get caught up in life, their own pain, crazy work or school, etc. They haven’t forgotten or left you.

Remember even if one or two has left you, God never will. He’s promised with an oath as sure as Himself to be with you, no matter what, not only up to the end, but beyond.

That should help you get past those times.

 

A Little Sunday Perspective

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“Look carefully at your call, brothers and sisters. By human standards, not many of you are deemed to be wise. Not many are considered powerful. Not many of you come from royalty, right? But celebrate this: God selected the world’s foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world’s weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong. God selected the common and the castoff, whatever lacks status, so He could invalidate the claims of those who think those things are significant. So it makes no sense for any person to boast in God’s presence. Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption. As the Scripture says: “If someone wants to boast, he should boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

Hi. My name is Greg and I used to be a nobody with no hope, no purpose, and no future. I was hopelessly lost and about as far from God as humanly possible.

Then Jesus found me.

Those of you who know my story might be scratching your heads right now and asking, “Weren’t you 7 when you got saved? What bad things could you possibly have done at age 7?”

Well, according to the Bible, anyone without Christ is dead in sins and alienated from God. That was me.

I look back at when Jesus found me. I don’t remember the exact day or feelings I had. I do know Jesus changed me and has been transforming me ever since. I do know I got a direction, a purpose, a new name, and a future.

According to Forbes or GQ or Entertainment Weekly, I am a nobody. But Jesus knows my name. That more than makes up for looking like a fool and an idiot in the eyes of the world for what I believe and how I live my life.

Jesus knows my name.

I can’t get over that.

At least when I’m not caught up in mind games about how this person may or may not like me. Or how I might have offended this or that person.

If I have everything the world has to offer and don’t have Jesus, I really have nothing. I lose. If I have Jesus and absolutely nothing else, I have everything. I win.

I am so forgetful about what really matters. The best things in life aren’t free; they’re not even things. They are the people God brings into your life, whether for one hour, one day, one month, or a lifetime. They are the ones who remind you of who you really are and Whose you really are.

You can replace things. You can never replace people once they’re gone from your life.

So that’s why I can say I’m blessed. I’m rich in the currency of love. I am living my miracle every day, the miracle of seeing blessings everywhere, of finding joy in every place and circumstance, of always finding God right where I am if I only know where and how to look.

It truly doesn’t matter if people remember my name after I’m gone. It won’t matter if no one ever finds me attractive or desirable. My Abba is very fond of me, has chosen me, made me His child, and forever called me His Beloved.

That’s enough for me to last a lifetime. That’s enough for a lifetime of lifetimes. I’m good.

I See You

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I am your friend and I see you.

I see you when you think no one else does. I see you at your worst moments when you’ve made poor decisions and chosen based on fear and greed rather than from faith and love.

I see you when you broke another promise to a friend, to a parent, to yourself, to me.

I see you when you feel most alone and abandoned by everyone you thought cared the most for you.

I see you when all you can see is heartache and pain and all the broken pieces of your wrecked life.

I see your future when you can see only a past filled with regrets and a present with no end in sight.

I see you whole and healed and radiant and beautiful and desired and wanted and chosen.

For I am The Lord your God. I am your Maker, your Redeemer, your Father, your Lover, your Friend, your All.

I have been a Witness to every moment of your life. You have never ever been alone or forsaken. You have never been out of my sight or out of my arms or out of my heart.

My love for you is the same as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. It is complete, perfect, passionate, healing, and life.

You are forever mine and I am forever yours.

You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.

i will sing and dance with joy over you every night and hold you in my strong embrace every day. You belong to me.

Has It Really Been 22 Years?

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In case you’re wondering what 22 years is referring to, that’s how long it’s been since I went on an actual date. With an actual girl. To a place outside my imagination.

At first, that thought was horribly and mind-numbingly depressing, but later I saw it as a blessing. More on that later. Back to the sad me.

I’ve never kissed a girl. And no, I have not nor will I ever kiss a dude. Blech!

I’ve never even held hands with a girl outside of prayer groups. And yes, I was one of those guys who tried to strategically place myself next to the girl I liked right before the prayer started so I could hold her hand. Notice how I said “tried.” Key word there.

But you know what?

I’m still blessed.

I’m still living my miracle.

How?

I have known nights where I didn’t think I could hold on until the sunrise. It was then I felt my Abba’s arms encircling me, holding me tight. There is not a moment when my hand has ever slipped out of the firm grip of my Father’s strong hand.

And yes, I have known the sweet kisses of grace and the embrace of mercy unfolding over and around me. I know what it is to be desired by the Great Lover and ravished by Sweet Words of Love. I know Jesus sings over me nightly because His delight is in me.

So I am as blessed (or more so) than people with far more impressive dating resumes who have found their dream-mate.

I know I was, am, and will always be the dream in God’s heart, the apple of His eye, the one He adores, and His beloved son in whom He is well pleased.

That is so much more than enough for me.