The Lightning and the Valley of the Shadow of Death…

I recently came across the story of Major Walter Summerford who was a British officer in the early 1900’s and he fought in World War I. While galloping through a field in Belgium he was struck by lightening. One would think that one lightening strike would be more than enough for one lift time, and for the most part you would be right. But in the case of Major Walter Summerford, this was only his first encounter of the mass voltage from the sky.

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Major Walter Summerford



After Walter’s initial injury sustained from the lightning blast, he was forced to retire early because for a time he was paralyzed from the waist down. He relocated to Vancouver Canada where he began to enjoy early retirement with outdoor activities such as fishing. On one such day in 1924, he took fishing pole and bait in hand and set off towards his favorite fishing hole. He perched (no pun intended) himself under a tree and began fishing…unfortunately the tree that he had decided to sit under destined for…yes, you guessed it, a lightening strike. Major Walter Summerford was struck by lightening once again. Initially Major Summerford was paralyzed on one side of his body, but remarkably, after two years of healing he recovered from his injuries.

One would think that being struck, not once, but twice by lightning it could never happen again, but the remarkable thing is it did. Major Summerford was walking one evening in town when another bolt of lightning crashed from the heavens and, defying the odds, found its mark on the body of poor Major Walter Summerford. This time the lightning strike proved lethal and Major Summerford eventually succumbed to his injuries.

One would think that this is the end of the story, but unfortunately it is not.
The body of Major Walter Summerford was then interned at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver. For four years his body was undisturbed until the spring of 1936 when his gravestone was once again struck by lightning. How could one be so unlucky some might ask.

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I find this story quite fascinating. We read of people and the trials that they have gone through and we wonder how they could ever overcome these difficulties. Some of us reading this right now have gone through or are currently going through difficulties and there are moments when we wonder if we will survive this (whatever ‘this’ is).

Our journey through the valley of the shadow of death isn’t always death itself. Sometimes it’s financial concerns. Other times it’s stress at work, or difficult coworkers, or problems with your children. We all find ourselves here in this valley. It’s almost as if we’ve been struck by lightning again and again and we wonder “Lord, why?” and then wonder if it could get any worse…and sometimes it does.

I know at this point it may not sound very encouraging, but bear with me.
We all go through the valley of the shadow of death.
We all experience terrible, horrible, no good very bad days.
We all wonder in times of great trial if God is really there with us, or if we can possibly handle another strike of lightning.

I am here to tell you that we can all make it through these dark times.
You aren’t alone in this journey.
You never were.
It may feel as if you have been, but you’re not alone.

God promised Moses and the Israelites that He would be with them,
My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
They had been through some very difficult things, many of the younger generations could only remember being slaves in Egypt. They had lived in this valley of the shadow of death all their lives.

Imagine experiencing your terrible, horrible, no good very bad day – EVERY DAY?!

The same God who promised that His presence would go with the Israelites also promises to go with us, and even in our times of trial He will provide us with the rest that we so desperately need.

How About You?
Do you feel as unlucky as Major Walter Summerford?
Does it feel like you’ve been kicked while you have been down?
I know at times it doesn’t seem fair and it is easy to become bitter and angry at your life’s circumstance, but remember that God is very near and He will never leave you or forsake you.

Prayer:
Lord, help me today in my stress and in my trials.
You know my breaking point, and my struggles.
Remind me when I feel all alone in this fight that I am not alone.
Cleanse my heart from all bitterness and unrighteous anger.
Guide me in my dark valley of the shadow of death and restore my soul.
In your name I pray these things.
Amen.

If It’s Not Broke…Then Break It.

There is a problem with our self-reliance.
Independence is a great thing, but are we independent from God?
Do we only require God’s help when it gets tough and we use God like a panic button?
The problem with self-reliance isn’t about having too much control, it’s about the willful choice of not surrendering.

what?
But isn’t surrendering a sign of weakness?

Not when it comes to surrendering to God.
He desires it.
Longs for it.
Yet, so few of us ACTUALLY surrender ourselves completely to Him.

Did you know that only reason Christianity spread so far and wide in the Acts church is because they were shattered and scattered?   Act chapter 8 records the shattering of the church as Saul persecutes Christ-followers.  Before he becomes Paul, he plays this vital role of breaking… broken

Without the breaking we don’t have a gospel message that goes far and wide.
Still today, without the breaking, I fear our witness becomes far too comfortable and contained…so much so that Satan doesn’t have to worry about us anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t long for the breaking…no one ever truly longs for such a time, but sometimes it is needed.

Could there be a need of breaking in your life right now?
Have you become comfortable in your faith or church or current state of life right now?
God desires our full surrender, and unfortunately, sometimes the only way for us to become fully committed and surrendered to Him is to be broken…to be shattered again.

What needs to be broken in your life in order for you to grow spiritually again?
What must you surrender to God in order to truly live for Him?
My fear in this time and era of the Church is that there are far too many Christians comfortably numb to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  I am afraid that many churches and Christians in the Western world are asleep and unaware of what God longs to do.

We have to WAKE UP.
We have to be shattered and broken again.
Without this, I am unsure if any of us will truly know the freedom of living by faith in God’s grace…because we haven’t invested or stepped beyond what we are comfortable with.  Did you catch that?

What WE are comfortable with.
There is no inclusion of His presence in that statement.
It’s all about what WE feel, and what WE want, and what WE can get from it…
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God,
SHATTER me again.
Lord,
BREAK me.

May it be our desire to be fully surrendered.
Not in our own time and convenience.
Not because we have nothing better to do, or we “freed up” some time in our schedules.
BUT, because it’s what God desires from us.
FULL and COMPLETE Surrender.

Father,
Break us again.

AMEN.

Hello Again, It’s Me…(A Pondering on Silence In The Prayer Journey)

We all go through times while on the journey where the road is silent.
Other times our prayer life is full of answers and confirmations from God.  Dare I even say that within those silent miles upon the road, I would much rather hear a “No” from God.  By that I mean, my prayers of petition don’t always get answered the way I think that they should be answered.  Thus, in those times of deep silence, when all I want to hear is a word from God, I would even take the answer “no” than nothing at all.

Have you been to that place?
Please tell me that I’m not the only one who has experienced these times.
And within those moments, thoughts run through my head.
Thoughts like, “Is it me?”  “Is my faith too small?”  or, “What did I do to deserve this silence God?”  And then even sillier thoughts fill my mind.  Thoughts like, “God are you off doing something else, or solving somebody else’s problems?”  When all along I know God is present with me, He’s just not saying anything to me at that specific moment.

marriageI equate it to my marriage. 
My wife and I will have been married this year for 20 years (in the world around us, that’s like paleolithic ages for marriages).  I love my wife very deeply, and I know that she loves me the same way…and yes, we finish each other’s sandwiches. (We’ve watched Frozen WAY too many times)

Long story short, we talk a lot.  We share each others hopes, dream, aspirations and the hopes and dreams for our children.  We journey alongside each other through the good days and the not so good days.  That’s what marriage is, that’s what deep relational friendship demands.  We are there for each other.

Jesus and the Marriage: 
Jesus used this illustration of the Bride and Bridegroom in the bible.  He told of the virgins who waited for the bridegroom to arrive…some were wise and some were foolish.  Later on in the Bible, Paul uses this same topic of the bide and bridegroom to illustrated how husbands are to care for their wives to the point of laying down their lives for them, just as Christ did for us.  The bible is full of wedding illustrations and the necessity to not only love each other deeply, but to anticipate and long for Christ’s return.

Back to my Marriage: 
There are times when we talk a lot…but there are also times when we enjoy each other’s company in silence.  Nothing more needs to be said…because we know each other deeply, and we, at times, know what we are thinking.

That’s how I like to view those silent times with our Father in Heaven.
We are still very much in His presence, but no words are needed.  He knows our thoughts, and our hearts…and so He simply journeys alongside us.

It is in these sacred moments of silence that I feel we begin to know and feel the very heart of God.  No words can describe it.  No ceremony can contain it.  We simply join together in His presence.  There is no greater joy than this.  Nothing more holy.
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So the next time you freak out when God doesn’t speak…just be silent.
The next time you fear He isn’t listening…pray for discernment to know He is journeying right next to you.  We don’t always need words, or to hear Him speak.  We walk in faith, knowing the Creator of the Universe journeys right beside you.  Revel in His presence.  Embrace His holiness.  Recognize that sometimes even in the silence, God is saying “Hello, It’s me, I’m still here…and I will never leave you or forsake you!”
-Amen and amen.

Easter Memories – Childhood Recollections…

I always have fond memories of the Easter season.
Growing up in the church, I don’t recall a time when I didn’t go to church.  Many times I sat through that dreaded (at least in the eyes of a child) 3 hours of the cross Good Friday service.  I also remember not being all that fond of early Sun-rise services either.  Waking up at the crack of dawn, even before the rooster would even begin to crow…the lights would twinkle in windows down the street as some rustled about in the early dawn.  Then we would hustle to a public outdoor service of some kind where the cold wind would always bite at my nose and send me to shivering later.  But there was always the reward of the warm glow of the Sunrise when it crested the mountain at the Eastern horizon.   Perhaps, in some way, that is why Easter sun-rise service has always been special to me.  I would shiver in the cold morning air UNTIL the Sun began to shine and cast its warming rays upon us once more.  It would remind me of the state I was in before knowing Christ – that cold and lonely place.  It was a place devoid of the Son, filled with selfishness and hurt…but when Christ’s love broke into my life and I accepted His forgiveness and grace – I could feel the warmth of His love.  It almost felt as I was wrapped in His warm embrace, and all was right with the world again.

Perhaps, as I reminisce of my many visits to those cold mornings of Easter Sunday, where we would sing “Up from the grave He arose“,  I too find myself being resurrected again.  I too identify with the empty tomb, for God’s glory has warmly shone into my life.  And when the glow of the rising Sun appears again, I see the hope of eternity once more in its rising.  No, not in the Sun itself, but in the Son-rise, a Messiah conquering death, a Savior delivering me once more from my sin-sick heart.

Death cannot keep his prey—
  Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away—
  Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
  Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Something more to Ponder.
What are you Easter memories?  Comment below and let the conversation continue!

Lenten Perspectives Day 2: Featuring Steve Simms

A Personal Admission Statement (for Lent)

by Steve Simms

 Success coaches make a big deal about the importance of having a personal mission statement. It’s a good thing to know (and write down) your purpose and the calling on your life. 

However, there is another statement that is far more important — a statement that clears the air of self-deception and denial — an admission statement. So, what do we need to admit?

The season of Lent focuses on that. It is a time for humility, for self-examination, for acknowledging our sin (and sins), and for genuine repentance. Lent reminds us of an unpopular truth, that we human beings are all sinners before the perfect and holy God. 

The mass of humanity (including Christians) objects to that fact. People say and believe things like: “I’m a good person,” or “I’m not a sinner.” But are those statements accurate about you and me and the rest of humanity? They aren’t according to the Bible.

Jesus said: “There is none good but the Father.” Romans states, “There is none righteous, no not one,” and “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Numerous Bible characters agreed with God’s assessment of their sinful nature and evil thoughts, words, and actions; by making bold admission statements. The prophet Isaiah said this about himself; “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” And Apostle Paul, wrote: “I am the chief of sinners,” and “I know that within me, that is within my flesh, dwells no good thing,” and “O wretched man that I am!”

The tax collector in the temple made a bold admission statement, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Meanwhile, the very religious Pharisee, trying very hard to be a good person, refused to make a sin admission statement. Instead the Pharisee prayed this self-congratulatory prayer; “God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

As long as we, like the Pharisee, believe that we are good people, we’ll never fully know the incredible depths of God’s grace toward us. Jesus put it this way, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” If we think that we only needed a little bit of forgiveness, we will only have a little bit of love. However, when we realize that because of our personal sin, we need infinite forgiveness (that cost God the death of His Son), we’ll follow and obey the living God with glorious gratitude, passionate praise, and lavish love!

So how can we ever know the depths of our sin and the incredible cost to the Father to give us His grace? We can sincerely pray this prayer of King David. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me.” As we do we can allow God to show us our sin nature and the sins we have committed.

As we behold our wicked ways and see what an incredible degree of forgiveness that God lavishes on us, we will be undone like Isaiah. We will be overcome with thankfulness for Gods awesome mercy and forgiveness — grace greater than all our sin! Then, like the tax collector, we’ll began to make admission statements: “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Lent is a wonderful time to write your own, personal admission statement. 1 John 1:8-10 can help you with that. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

SteveSteve Simms is a Soldier in The Salvation Army in Nashville TN, a Speaker and Author of the Book:

Beyond Church: The Lost Word Of The Bible- Ekklesia

Learning To Trust Again…

Perhaps you’ve been betrayed by those you trusted or called ‘friend’ or ‘family’.
Maybe you entrusted someone with personal information only a few would know, thinking that they would always keep it private…and they turned around and spoke ill of you while spilling your secrets to the world.  trust

They say that trust is earned, and that having true allies is often harder to maintain.
Friends, do you struggle with trust issues?
Do you have close confidants who not only listen to you, but tell it like it is?

blueprintMany times we take this imperfect blueprint of friendship, with all of its flaws, lies, broken trusts, and betrayals and we transpose it onto what we think we know about God.  We think that either God doesn’t listen to us, or perhaps He just doesn’t care that much for us.   We make assumptions that aren’t based upon God at all, but rather on the experiences of our world and those in it.  The truth is that God isn’t from this world, He is out of it, and as a matter of fact, He created this world.  Going even further, God ACTUALLY walked with Adam and Eve at the beginning of all things just to fellowship with them.  He truly cared about them.

Along the way, as you might already know the story, Adam and Eve disobeyed God…and broke His heart.   They were kicked out the garden, and you’d think that He would start to have trust issues with His creation, but instead He made covenant after covenant with the Adam and Eve’s ancestors.  He never stopped trusting and loving them.  As a matter of fact, His trust and love for us went so far as to send His One and Only Son – Jesus into the world to make things right for us…to set the story straight.  He never gave up on us…so much so that Jesus died in our place on the cross.
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I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I do know that God wants to tear down the imperfect blueprint that you might have about Him.  He won’t let go of you, and He has never stopped loving you.  The very, very big God of the Universe, comes down to your level and says “Here I am…and I’m not going anywhere because I love you!”  Perhaps you are very burdened today by the weight of so many hurts and problems.  Maybe it’s time to trust again…no, I don’t mean trusting others just yet, I mean start by trusting God to be there for you.  From this place of trust, healing can begin and He will restore your life and heal your broken heart.  (Psalm 147:3)

Prayer: 
Lord, I don’t know how to trust anymore.
I have been hurt by so many things in life and I feel helpless in this mess.
Thank you for loving me, even when I don’t love myself.  Help me to trust You.  I give you my hurts and my burdens…Lord, just be there for me…I want to trust again.  In Your name -Amen.

Something more for you to ponder today.
God Bless you!

What Are YOU Waiting For?

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Acts 9:8-9

We probably know the story.
Saul was a Pharisee, who lived out his religious convictions by punishing members of “The Way”.  He was a devout Jew, and was very popular amongst his peers.  He did what he thought was right…he did what he perceived to be God’s will.  But he was wrong.  On his to Damascus, God intervened.  His truth was the light that blinded Saul but it also seared his heart.  A divine course correction took place, and the person known as Saul died on that road.  No, he didn’t die physically, but the road marked out the conclusion of that identity, that mission, that chapter.  To many of his devout followers, he would be dead in their eyes for he was set on a new path by God, that of which they could neither follow or believe in.

Those with whom Saul traveled with led this now blind man into the city of Damascus where we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Whole sermons and sermon series’ have been preached on with this story – mostly focused on that road and God’s intervention and even Ananias when he arrives…but what about the waiting period between the two chapters?  What happened within the span of those three days?  I believe the soul searching that took place with this blind man once named Saul is just as important and has a lot to teach us.  This is not necessarily reading between the lines of the text, this is merely speculating, extrapolating and mulling over this human metamorphosis.  A blind man named Saul – Christian persecutor and sometimes executor went into Damascus, a transformed man on a mission named Paul exited that city with divine purpose, intent and a new found passion in life.

BUT…
What happened in those 3 days between blindness and commission?
What changes transpired there?
Is there something teachable in this narrative for you and for me?
I believe there is, so please allow me to share this with you now.
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“METAMORPHOSIS” 
3 Lessons from 3 Days of Blindness

1st Lesson:  Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching
Saul thought he was doing what God wanted him to do.
He was fighting for and defending his faith…but he was, in fact, persecuting Christ.  He had passionately taken up his cause with vim and vigor and knew he was in the right…then God turned his whole world upside down.  He was confronted with his own failures…he was confronted with his own mistakes, and it must have hurt.  Saul spends three days of blindness not eating and drinking.  It is a sobering response to the Theophany he had just experienced.  Within the words of Jesus, there was a course correction and for three days Saul had to have replayed that scene over and over in his head.  He must have prayed and fasted.  He must have explored every action that had led him to this place, like a movie playing in his head for three long days.

I find it interesting that 3 days pass.
3 Days that seem like a real death and a real resurrection.
3 days of emotional and philosophical death until God’s messenger arrives to offer new life again.  In a very real sense, Saul is in his chrysalis transforming and arriving at a new physical place.

Do we have chapters like this in our lives?
Has there ever been spiritual correction in your life that has hurt?
God doesn’t enjoy hurting us, it is more for our benefit and growth that these corrections take place.  There’s an old phrase – “no pain, no gain” and I think it applies here.  If we don’t experience some discomfort in life from time to time we might remain stagnant and planted in incorrect spiritual patterns.  God doesn’t want us to remain there, He sees in us the potential for something better, greater and far more substantive that what we have settled for now.  He wishes to adjust our paths, and help us grow into maturity within our faith.  But we have to be willing to accept these corrections which, hurt, but are meant to help us grow…and sometimes set us on a new, more holy path than what we have settled on.

2nd Lesson:  There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord
waiting4Abraham was an old man before God’s promise of being the father to many nations was actually fulfilled, and certainly Abraham tried to speed up the process with his wife’s handmaiden Hagar.  But the waiting was necessary.

David was anointed as king and successor to king Saul, but he did not become king right away, he had to endure hurts, the loss of his best friend when he had ran for his life.  But he did not stop being faithful to God – he persisted and eventually the waiting produced the crown in God’s appointed time.

Waiting on the Lord can be tiring and frustrating, and we may sometimes question if God will really show up in our lives and our situations, but in those moments of waiting we grow.  These times of waiting produces in us perseverance, endurance and fortitude.  You might not believe that you can wait on the Lord.  You may question your own strength, but rest assured you are not alone – the Holy Spirit is with you giving you the strength that you need.  When we wait, we must recognize our finite while we wait for the Infinite to enter our stories.  Saul waited for the appointed time.  He wasn’t told how long it would be.  He wasn’t told who would show up as God’s ambassador…he just simply waited.

Are you waiting right now for God to show up?
Are you growing frustrated with the “waiting game”?
Maybe we will someday declare as David did in Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him…”

Maybe we can declare this today!

3rd LessonThere is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present. waitinghospital
Have you ever visited a doctor’s office?
I am sure that you have.
Most of the time there are two places that you find yourself waiting.  First, you have to wait to be seen by the nurse on duty at the front desk as they take your insurance card and all of your vital information.  Sometimes they even take your blood pressure.  Then they call your name and the nurse takes you through the waiting room door into a hallway which leads to another, more intimate waiting room.  Sometimes the nurse asks you to take off your clothes and put on a gown…and then wait.  This is sometimes the longest wait that you may have at the doctor’s office.  That uncomfortable time dressed only in a thin paper gown, sitting on an examination table while some elevator music is droning on and on in the background.  But we cannot speed up that time.  We have to simply wait, even when it’s not comfortable or the most desirable thing to do – we still wait.  Finally the doctor in a white coat comes in and then we get down to business and the present can then be moved into the future.

If we believe that God sent Jesus to die for us, that Jesus resurrected and went to prepare a place for us, then we already understand what it means to wait.  We aren’t in some doctor’s waiting room or anything but we must acknowledge that Jesus promised to return one day – and so His people anxiously wait for his return
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But what about the little things of life?
What about the prayers we utter in the hope that God will answer them?
What happens in the in between time of God encounter and fulfillment?
We wait.
Sometimes we wait and wait.
Saul didn’t eat or drink for 3 days.
This parched, blind man waited for God’s fulfillment.
He didn’t know when it would happen, but it WAS going to happen.
He didn’t know WHO God was sending, but in the present moment he waited.

Many times we might feel stuck in the present while we wait for God.
We might grow frustrated and even weary in our waiting, but let me encourage you today:  The present waiting room of your life IS where God meets us.
We might not yet know it yet, but He is already present and with you right here and now.  We do not need to pine for the future in a “some day” mindset when we understand that God is sitting with us in our present waiting rooms.

Saul met God, then we he had to wait, then when God’s appointed ambassador arrived the commission was given and a much transformed Paul emerged to do the will of God.

Are you waiting right now for God?
Remember this while you wait:
-Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching.
-There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord.
-There is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present.
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Something more to ponder today.
God Bless you!  

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

Modern Day Psalm.

It’s been too long.
I have exchanged my prayerful conversations
for worry.
I have traded assurances
for fear…
when I should have stood firm,
instead I found
that my feet were slipping
into the depths of the murky mud.

I have become a husk of a man.
the shell
of what I used to be.
When I stopped looking up…
I began to sink.
When I stopped
trusting in You, O God
I began to lose it all.

Where can I go
Apart from you?
What I think in my mind
You already know it.
What I say with my lips
You understand it
and yet I wandered away
I wandered from You…
Why?
Why did I do that?

Could it be that my heart
was never truly in it?
Could it be that my faith
was an inch deep
but a mile wide?
In my distress…
In my darkest hours…
In my hopeless wanderings…
You heard me.
You not only heard,
but you answered me.
ME.

You answered me
in my circumstances
You answered me
through the voices
of brothers and sisters
You answered me
in the ways that cannot
be perceived by ear or sight…
You have been with me
through all of the storms.
I
was
never,
ever
alone.

You are truly my fortress.
You really are my Solid Rock.
I was not
washed away
because you would
not permit it
You would
not allow
it to encompass
and consume me.
I am alive
today only because
of You.

Look deep into
my heart dear Lord,
Find my love again for you.
Search me,
know me again.
Wash me clean.
Remove the blemishes,
Saturate my entire
existence with you
until there is
no differentiation
no beginning
and no end
to Your image
in me.

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