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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Help for a Broken World


Have you ever had to go to a specialist?  It seems these days that there are specialists in EVERYTHING.  Even restaurants have started putting on their signage, “specializing in Italian cuisine,” or whatever kind they happen to be.  I always think of medicine when I think of specialists, as the family doctor will make referrals to them when difficulties arise.  A few years ago I learned that there are specialists called “cardio-thoracic surgeons;”  I always assumed that a cardiologist was THE heart specialist, but learned there are specialties beyond that.  

It’s probably a good thing, but sometimes it seems like specialties get overdone. At the same time, when you have certain medical conditions, you certainly want to be talking to the proper people, right?  You want the specialist then!

The heart specialist I think we need in our world is a broken heart specialist!  It seems to me that there are a lot of broken hearts out there in our world, as dreams shatter and hopes crash.  Hearts break when careers are cut short, when loved ones are lost to death and when relationships are broken through estrangements or divorce.  From the breakup of childhood sweethearts to the death of a spouse after 50 years, broken hearts abound.  

Has your heart ever been broken?  Perhaps it was broken by another person, perhaps by a tragic loss, or perhaps you are one of those compassionate people whose heart breaks anytime you see the suffering of others in our world.  There are lots of folks who could sure use a broken heart specialist!  I know there are plenty of times I have needed one.  

So, just as individuals share the name of a good specialist when their friends need one, I thought maybe I’d refer you to the broken heart specialist I found, in case you or someone you know needs one.

As I begin, let me show you a passage from Isaiah 61 in the New American Standard Bible:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord”

Isaiah 61:1-2a  NASB

This is the passage, quoted in summary fashion in Luke 4,  read by Jesus from the scroll given to him in the synagogue, publicly announcing the beginning of his ministry.

Now, there is a very good chance that this was the reading that came naturally in the cycle of biblical readings for synagogue services.  (notice in this passage that Jesus is handed the Isaiah scroll), which means he chose to make his announcement coincide with the day that passage was scheduled.  Although is is also possible that Jesus, as the guest speaker, chose this passage himself to read for the day’s exposition as a guest speaker.  Either way, he chose this selection out of all the possible messianic prophecies he could have chosen.  I believe this is a significant point.  Just as a medical student reaches a point in which he or she must choose his or her specialty, so God also chooses this manner to announce a specialty that includes assistance for the brokenhearted.

In my life, I have found that my physical body heals up a lot more easily than my inner being does. Kind of like the silly commercials on television these days that announce that words really can hurt, we all have awareness of events in our lives that leave behind bruises, scrapes and tears on a broken heart.  

I often think about King David, and the multiple times he faced betrayal and abandonment in his life.  His heart must have been broken and aching so many times.  But what did David do about it?  He turned to the specialist…he sought God’s healing, and as a result, we have the book of Psalms, the great heritage of the Jewish people and a Messiah who came through the lineage of David.  In my opinion David's specialist was pretty good.

When Jesus began his ministry and declared what his calling and mission were - he did so by reading this passage from Isaiah.   Jesus chooses a passage which aptly describes the compassionate care of a loving savior.  Ponder for a moment the scriptures that he did NOT choose to read as he declared his specialty.  

             Jesus did not choose to read the prophecy about the descendent of David
             who would sit on the throne forever, though he fulfilled that one as well.  

             Jesus did not read the passage about the seed of Eve who would bruise 
             the head of the serpent of old and his ministry certainly fulfilled that 
             one too.  

             Jesus  did not read about coming with power, or being the prophet 
             who would follow in the footsteps of Moses, nor the suffering servant of 
             Isaiah 53, nor about the virgin birth and not even about the coming of a 
             shepherd who would care for the people of Israel. 

There are a lot of other messianic prophecies that he did not choose as well.  Significant as all those things are, they were not what he felt was the key to the announcement of his life’s work.

Jesus chose instead a passage about preaching to the poor, release to the captives, eyesight to the blind (mentioned in Luke from the Greek Isaiah) and the binding up of the broken hearted.  

In other words, he chose this passage about compassion and healing as the identifying hallmark of his ministry from the very start.  

I appreciate that Jesus made this his first priority.  

And as you read about how he invested his time, you indeed find the story of one whose life was filled with great compassion.  He had time for lepers that were shunned from society, individuals bound in poverty, for other outcasts such as women of poor reputation, Roman soldiers, wild party guys, even tax collectors (and THAT must have required great compassion!).  

He was at the side of those in mourning, blind beggars and lots of individuals who today would have disabled stickers on their windshields.  He just cared about people.  And, of course, that was most profoundly demonstrated by his sacrifice on the cross to give us the opportunity to be lifted out of the worst bondage of all, the bondage to a sinful lifestyle and the resulting eternal penalty.

If you have struggled with a broken heart, whatever the cause, I would recommend that you make an appointment with this specialist.  My experience is that there is no wiser counselor, no better listener, no more faithful friend, no more understanding companion, no more skilled physician and no better prescription than this God who came to us through the incarnation as offers to bind up our broken hearts.  I’d give you his business card, but he doesn't need one, as his practice is accessible all around the globe.  You can access his treatment program by opening your Bible, and consulting with him wherever you happen to be.  He has also established a good support program in the form of local churches (though remember, they all contain hurting people who are in need of healing, too).  He does have a phone number - I have been told that God’s phone number is Jeremiah 33:3, though I often refer folks to the theme verse of my books, Jeremiah 29:13.  

Take your broken heart and give him a call; he is always willing to take on new clients and patients in need of his expertise. 

 In a world filled with brokenhearted people, it’s good to know there is someone who can help.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Celebrating Our First Decade...and Looking Forward to the Next Decade!


Celebrating ten years together!
So yesterday my wife and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary.  We did some simple things for the day, and had spent some special time celebrating last month.  Ten years.  It isn’t as long yet as either one of our first marriages, but it seems like a pretty significant milestone to me.  Especially considering where I started out…

In the midst of a divorce, there are lots and lots of emotions that can leave you pretty ragged and beat up.  After mine, I had serious doubts about whether or not I would ever consider getting married again.  Too much risk.  Too much hurt in the divorce.  Maybe too hard a task.  Maybe something I just wasn’t cut out for, and should just avoid.  But within a few years, I realized that I am the kind of person doesn’t really want to spend my life alone.  That I did want a life partner.  Even if it wasn’t easy, even if it was risky…I decided that one day I would try again.  And now, ten years later, I am glad I did.

I had good friends who had told me that just because the first marriage didn’t work out doesn’t mean that the second one won’t.  Some of them indicated that a second relationship could actually be significantly different from my previous experience.  I wasn’t sure I believed any of them.  Because I had also heard that although about 50% of first marriages end in divorce, it is something like 75% for second marriages and even higher rates after that.  So I was pretty cautious.  I was willing to do some dating, but before I would commit to marriage, I really wanted to be sure that I was in better shape, and that the relationship would be different and have some kind of chance of success.  And so, ten years later, I still feel good about the choice I made.  (And so far, so does she!—and that’s a good thing.)  

I like the fact that both of us believe that when you get married, you mean it…that you don’t expect things to be perfect and that your marriage commitment means you do your best to make it work.  So both of us try to do that.  I like the fact that we both have a great deal of admiration for the other, constantly finding things that amaze us about one another.  I like the fact that when problems arise, they are just that—problems;  they are NOT the end of the world or earth shaking crises…they are just problems to be solved.  I like that we enjoy wandering together, and doing simple things together.  

An individual staring a second marriage brings with him/her plenty of baggage, sometimes including step-children, sometimes including bruised and abused hearts (or, sadly, even bruised/abused bodies), sometimes financial challenges, sometimes ongoing entanglements, legal battles and other difficulties due to an ex, and frequently a person who has plenty to unlearn and relearn.  A particular phrase or gesture intended a certain way can have significantly different impact because of past experiences.  Tones of voices may be interpreted based on previous relationships, rather than the current one.  

I could probably go on and on about the things I like, and probably add some to the challenges second marriage brings.  But mainly, I just want to share a couple of things.  First, I am pretty pleased with our ten years together, I think it is a significant achievement and joy in my life, our lives.  Second, I want to affirm what friends of mine said long ago, that it can be different and a second chance can be a good thing.  Finally, I just want to offer some hope if you are a person who is feeling the loneliness or hopelessness of divorce.  Divorce does not mean your life is over, or that there no longer something to live for or that God no longer has a place for you.  There can be good things in the next chapters of your life.  Surprisingly good things.  Even if it doesn’t include remarriage (I know several people who prefer it that way for themselves).  

And if you are contemplating a second marriage (or beyond), I just want to encourage you that it can be a very good thing.  It may not always be easy, and you may not always have the answers, but it can be well worth everything you invest in it.  Just don’t get in a hurry.  Make wise choices in even starting the relationship.  Seek some godly counsel from those who care about you.  And step out in faith, knowing that God can guide your steps ONLY when you are moving your feet!  As for me, I’m looking forward to celebrating our 25th in a few years!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Perspective at the End of a Week


Divorce is a tough experience with a lot of unknowns and upheavals built into it.  It may be an individual’s first experience with attorneys and courtrooms.  So many questions and decisions can bombard the individual that it creates a feeling of being overwhelmed with a lot of uncertainty and loneliness.  At the end of it all, the divorced individual can end up feeling betrayed, abandoned by family and friends, hopeless and like everything significant has been lost.  In other words, it just isn’t a great experience to have!  However…

This week in the news there has been much made of the downed Malaysian jetliner, shot down over the Ukrainian battlefields.  Dutch families, it seems, were especially hard hit with losses of family members on the plane.  There have been multiple appeals seeking reclamation of the remains of loved ones, and calls for honest investigation to discover how such a tragedy could occur and to hold accountable those who perpetrated the deed.

In the Middle East, Israel and Hamas are battling it out once again, with Palestinian civilians caught in the midst of the battle.  I can’t imagine living in Tel Aviv just now, listening for sirens that might give me only 15 seconds to reach the safety of a shelter, and hoping that the antimissile missiles would protect the city one more time.  I can’t imagine living in Gaza having individuals firing rockets indiscriminately into cities filled with civilians, knowing that as they do so they have intentionally placed my family in harm’s way to use us as shields while the perpetrators hide in shelters, tunnels and fancy hotels.  I can’t imagine walking out into my neighborhood to find it in rubble from missile fire with tanks rolling down the street to weed out the troublemakers.  The fear factor must be enormous.

My parents died natural deaths after long illness and quality medical care.  My wife, children and I live in homes where we are relatively safe with clean water, food nearby and the possibility that our homes could be blown up by an enemy feels pretty remote.  To have suddenly and violently lose one’s most precious family members must be extraordinarily difficult and heart wrenching.  It is hard enough to lose loved ones through natural causes.  And it is hard to believe that callous individuals could create such losses with indifference or even enthusiasm!  Those individuals suffering from loss just now are deserving of our prayers and compassion.  

Divorce is a hard thing.  But there are things that are harder to suffer in our world.  The uncertainty created by the divorce process lasts for months, perhaps for a few years, but it is a temporary uncertainty as the individual begins the process of reordering life under new circumstances.  Some of those we have described have no option of reordering life, for lives have been lost.  The uncertainty of life for those in Israel and Gaza has existed for far too many years…and resolution seems very elusive.  

If you have suffered a divorce, especially if you have experienced it recently and are hurting and bruised, it can be helpful to have some perspective in the midst of it.  Without diminishing the loss and pain of divorce, there are things that are worse, things that could leave deeper and more lasting wounds.  I came out of my divorce bruised, somewhat jaded, and am aware that there are losses in life that can never be regained as divorce left impact on me and those I love.  But none of us are physically maimed by war.  None of us live in fear every day, ready to flee for our lives at a moment’s notice.  

In divorce, it is far too easy to become so self-absorbed in the struggle that perspective is lost and it feels like the absolute worst experience on earth.  Sometimes, in the midst of our own personal struggles (whatever they may be), it helps to realize that there are some things that are not so bad.  In a German concentration camp, Cori ten Boom found that fleas were a good thing…something that taught her things weren’t as bad as they could be, something for which to be thankful.  Whatever your situation, I invite you to join me in finding something in your life for which you can give thanks.  And as you are doing so, you might offer up a prayer for these people I’ve described whose lives are in such terrible upheaval at this time.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How are you leaving your world?


Many times over the years, I have gone to camp as a counselor, primarily with teens, but sometimes younger children.  I remember one leader I worked with who would, on the last day of camp, have everyone join in a scouting over the campground to pick up any trash that has been left on the grounds.  He used to say something that is very similar to one of my life habits:  “Let’s leave the campground in better condition than it was when we got here.”

My back, arms and knees ache today.  I have been working the last few days on my hands and knees to tile the back entryway of my house.  It is just the latest in a whole collection of improvement projects I have done on my 1880’s home.  As I was picking up the trash from the mess I had made, I thought of all the houses I have lived in down through the years and all the projects I have done on them.  It made me think of the cleanup policy we had at camp:  Leave it in better condition than it was when we got here.  I have done that with every home I had, as I enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing home improvement projects.  

But I also have tried to apply that principle to other areas of my life.  I have made conscious efforts to leave something good with every church I have pastored or attended - by doing things that would help make it better.  I have tried to have the same kind of impact in other areas through things such as youth programs I have helped with, boards I have served on, service clubs I have been part of, classes I have taught and the time I have spent trying to help and encourage others.  Even my divorce devotional books carry that same aim…to try to help make things better for somebody than they would have been without my effort.  

I think it is a pretty good question to ask oneself in life:  how am I leaving my part of the world in better shape than it was when I got here?  Oh, I don’t know that I can change the entire world…though it could happen, I suppose.  And I don’t believe that my influence has always had positive results; I have made my share of mistakes along the way.  Like anybody, there are plenty of areas where I feel that I made more of a mess of things than an improvement.  But that doesn’t change the fact that my intent and my efforts have been to try to make my corner of the world a little better place.  

I don’t suppose most people would even notice the changes that I made.  For example, the tile in the back hall covers an old flooring that was desperately in need of replacing, but nobody who walks in there now will realize that.  Or the shutoff valves at every sink and toilet will simply be taken for granted by whoever works on any of them after I have left, but whether they realize it or not, they won’t have to deal with the hassles that I have had to in my repairs.

I have known some people in life whose philosophy seems to be just the opposite.  Everytime they come around, I know that there is going to be a mess left behind to clean up.  Sometimes it is because they leave remnants of their presence in the form of trash or damaged goods.  Sometimes, though, it is because they leave behind bruised people and hurt feelings.  Sometimes they are people who are so self-centered that they are totally oblivious to their impact on anybody or anything other than themselves.  Sadly, they are actually oblivious to their impact on themselves, too, because they don’t seem to realize what kind of inconsiderate or self-centered people they have become.  

Each day, I believe, we have an opportunity to make something better.  

Every day, I believe, we have an opportunity to make someone else’s life just a little bit brighter.   

Every day, we have an opportunity to grow into better people because we do those things.  

I invite you to watch for your opportunities day by day, and join me in trying to leave the world and people’s lives at least a little bit than before we came along.  People you know will be glad you did.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What was God thinking?


My parents Leon and Nadine Crooks, more than 65 years of communicating!

Notice the title does not specify WHICH sex is the opposite sex.  There is purpose in that.  I remember doing a sermon a few years back in which I pointed out that if only men were involved, then the names of colors at the paint store would be things like:  brown, tan, red, light red, dark red, orangish.  There wouldn’t be any color swatches named ocean breeze, summer sunset, dusty tangerine.  There would also be no such things as potpourri or those fancy scented warming oil lamps.  On the other hand, if only women were involved, probably there would not have been any of the careers that involved really dirty jobs like grease monkeys, and there might not be explosives invented for any purpose at all, and vast unexplored territories might still be unexplored as they chose to stay in their current village to strengthen their relationship bonds. 

Though there has been much emphasis in past decades about equality between the sexes (which is an important issue), those who have tried to advocate that there is no real difference between the genders are deluded.  Do you remember reading in recent years about the psychological studies in which they thought they would prove that gender differences are based on nurture, only to be frustrated to find little boys bored with dolls and little girls walking past things like toy monsters and toy machines to get to their dolls?  As well as being equally frustrated by the fact that toddler girls made vocalizations that were primarily words while the sounds coming from the boys were more like the vroom of cars or other non-word type of noises.  In the same time frame, there were brain analysts who determined that the left hemisphere of the brain is more intimately connected with the right hemisphere in women than it is in men.  So, it turns out we have BOTH potpourri and grease monkeys. 

I especially appreciate the insights from the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, in which the author, John Gray describes particularly the communication gap that exists because men speak “Martian” and women speak “Venusian.”  It is similar to the theme of Deborah Tannen’s books about communication between the sexes.  I wonder if anybody has ever done a study on the cause of divorce in terms not only of the apparent problem, but in terms of the fact that the sexes comprehend, speak about and respond to the problems differently.  That is, there are times it is easier for me to talk through a challenge I face with another man, because he thinks the same way I do and innately understands what it is I am trying to accomplish.  To have the same conversation with a woman…even a woman as close as my wife…may require some additional translations that change and slow the process of communication.  One of the ways I have seen this is that sometimes a woman will say things in terminology that also addresses how the hearer might be feeling or responding, and so the communication can be so subtle and indirect that a man might completely miss the point.  (Not that I would ever misunderstand like that….)  Or, when a man says things, he may put the information out there so plainly, that a woman may wonder what he ISN'T saying, or what he REALLY means, not realizing that he actually DID say what it was he actually meant!  It can get very complicated.  Not always.  But plenty of times it does…I have seen it time and again in my office with couples I have tried to help.

Anyway, people talk about these kind of things in lots of studies, books, articles, magazines, television and radio programs.  But I don’t know that I have ever heard anybody really ask the question as to WHY things were designed this way.  That is, could there be a purpose in the difference?  Is there something unique that happens when the two genders come together in a committed relationship that enriches each of them?  Rather than allowing these differences to frustrate us, what if we chose to realize that they are trying to teach us something, to bring into our being something that would not be there without our relationship. 

There is an old story about the Hebrew words for man and woman from Genesis 2:23.  It is that the words in Hebrew for man and woman,  contain two letters in common, and one letter each that is unique.  The two letters in common form the word “fire,” indicating when one gender alone is present, fire is the result.  But combining the unique letter from each of the two words produces an abbreviation for the divine name of God, suggesting that when united together, man and woman touch something divine.  Maybe kind of silly, but I think there is a kernel of truth in it.  I know that my life has been greatly enriched by my wife and the other women, I have as friends, who see the world differently than I do and who have taught me things I would never have known apart from them.  And I would argue that I bring something enriching into the life of my wife, and the lives of my female friends, just as they do to me. 

It seems to me that all too often we miss some important things in life when we get frustrated or angry that the opposite gender doesn’t make sense, doesn’t act in ways we would act, doesn’t think the way we would think or doesn’t care about the same things we care about…whichever gender the opposite gender is for you.  I learned a long time ago, that I cannot be an expert in everything.  Therefore, if I am doing a project around the house or at work, I have learned it is wise to tap into the resource of the knowledge other people have. Taxes is a good example.  I hate figuring taxes.  So every year I make sure there is someone who understands and likes working on taxes who will come to my aid.  It is just smart to have that other perspective and expertise involved with my taxes. 

I think God designed the genders and marriage the same way.  When the Genesis story describes the formation of the woman, the conclusion is that she is a “helper suitable,” but which could also be translated as a “corresponding helper.”  Kind of a complementary or symbiotic sort of relationship is established.  And the idea is that each of us can be more than we are by ourselves when we allow someone from another planet (whether Venus or Mars) to join us in building something called a home and marriage.

Sometimes I wonder if our relationships would be a little easier if we quit assuming the other person should think/feel/respond/experience life the same way we do, and instead become investigators who try to understand what it would be like to see the world through the eyes of the opposite sex.  Or if it would be easier if we quit trying to decide which way of thinking/feeling/responding/experiencing life is better or right, and simply acknowledge the differences as each valid, and each bringing something different into the equation.  There might be a lot fewer misunderstandings and frustrations if we lay aside the expectations and simply assumed that there is much to learn from our spouse, if we are open minded enough to be willing to grow and learn from him or her.  I think God has intentionally provided a person to enrich our lives and understanding, to help us see the things we would not otherwise see, to teach us to value different things than we might otherwise value, and that if we refuse to learn from one another, we are creating the fire instead of touching the divine.  And it is in those fiery storms that many a divorce is born. 

I close with a simple comment:  if you have a member of the opposite sex who loves you as your husband or wife, then you have the wonderful gift of a treasure trove of riches God will bring to your life.  Don’t ever neglect or minimize the preciousness of the gift.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Trusting God, Part 2


So I have had several communications since the last blog, to which my wife attached a picture of a bridge in the fog.  I have added a second variation of the same picture for this blog, and want to add some thoughts from my various conversations on the topic of trust, using this picture as the doorway into understanding trust in God, especially when things are hard (as they so often are during divorce and the aftermath).
Take a few moments to really look at the picture.  Let it represent your life…with you standing on the verge of the next step, the next shore…regardless of what has brought you to the point that you are now leaving the familiar shore for another.  
Trust in God is a lot like that image, and a lot like the picture in the bridge.  Bear with me as I share some of my reflections.  First, and most noticeable, is that the opposite side of the bridge cannot be seen.  Where the bridge might end up, and the length of the span to be crossed to reach that end are clouded with fog.  Isn’t life like that much of the time?  The old saying, “if you knew then what you know now” attests to that very fact.  We can’t really see the future clearly.  We make our best guess, we try to make the right and the best decisions, to follow our dreams, but the certainty isn’t always there.  All too often, the future is obscured in a kind of fog.  Trust is stepping out onto the bridge anyway.  It is taking the chance, journeying into the unknown, making the beginning even if we can’t see the end.  When God has called us to step forward, we don’t always know where the road will lead, we simply know who our traveling companion and guide is…and that is enough.  I am reminded of Abraham, who was called by God to go out to a land, “that I will show you.”  He didn’t know where he was going, only that it was time to go.  (See Genesis 12:1 and following.)
Trust is NOT stepping out blindly into nothing.  As in the picture of the bridge, when we turned our car onto it, while we could not see the far end, we could see the near side.  We could see that THIS part of the bridge was apparently solid, it was well built and maintained, other cars were successfully traversing it, and that it was headed the general direction we were wanting to go.  God often doesn’t show us everything, only enough to get us going, enough to give us the assurance to try, and the example of those who have gone before.  Only as we step into what we CAN see are we able to then see the next step.  To be able to see the other side, one literally has to launch into the unknown, the unseen, to discover that which awaits us in the future.  (Abraham also fits this, but I think of Peter in Acts 10 and Paul in Acts 16.)
Trust requires us to believe in something outside of ourselves.   I did not make that bridge.  I don’t know what gage of steel or iron was used, or which of the two it is.  I don’t know who designed the supports, determined the stresses and torques, or placed the foundations in the water.  To cross that bridge means trusting in something besides myself, that other people and things can be trusted, and to take the chance that they are not.  I can trust the example of others who crossed before, I can trust the signs (and the people who made them) that indicate it is a structure that can bear the weight I bring to it and that it leads to where I want to be.  But I would never make it if I only trusted myself.  If that were the case, I would have to go out and check every girder, calculate every engineering formula used, measure each span, tighten every nut and test every weld, scuba down to check the pilings, disassemble and reassemble my vehicle…in other words, I would have to do everything for myself, even those things at which I am NOT an expert.  God asks us to trust his expertise as well.
Trust means that there is a goal, and I follow the map.  According to the map, that bridge would take me from Newport, Oregon, where we were, across to the other shore where we would be able to follow highway 101 on down the Oregon coast.  According to the map.  I didn’t write the map.  But the map was the guide that promised I could get to the desired destination by crossing that bridge.  Want to guess what the trustworthy map is we can turn to in our journey of life?  I think there is no map so trustworthy in life as the map of the Bible to help us get to the best destinations in our lives, and to the ultimate destination on the heavenly shore as well.  
Most of all, trust means action.  It would have done me no good to sit where we had taken the pictures, “trusting” that it would get me on down the coast…I would have still been in Newport.  Believing the bridge leads there is not the same as acting in faith or trust by driving out onto the bridge.  It would never get me anywhere until I put the car in drive and begin the journey.  The life of faith is the same way.  Believing it is important, or believing that Christ can forgive our sin and help us find a better life accomplishes nothing.  Unless, of course, it is a belief that is acted upon with trust and faith by stepping out with our lives onto the road that God has waiting for us.
Finally, one of the things I like most about the picture is that nothing can be seen on the other side of the bridge.  It doesn’t mean nothing is there, it merely means that it can’t be seen from where we were.  But there is an assurance that exists beyond the bridge.  One of God’s promises in scripture is that he will never leave us, that when we give our lives to him, God will stay close by our side wherever the road may lead.  So while looking from this side of the bridge means I don’t know what is on the other side, I do know that God will be there, and that God knows what is on the other side of the bridge, and if his call is to head across the bridge, then I can move forward in trust.

Whatever the uncertainties of your life…financial fears in divorce, future relationship questions, job loss and future employment, career path changes or changes in location, changing health concerns…whatever your uncertainty, it is merely a bridge leading to the unseen future awaiting you just ahead, where God has a beautiful journey planned just for you.  In the case of the bridge, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Oregon coastline.  But in the bridges of life, the journey with God carries beauty beyond the mere vistas we see with our eyes.  Bon Voyage!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Stretched by God


Ever heard words like that?  Sometimes, people who say that can be the least trustworthy people you may ever meet… like they have to convince you to trust them.  Other times, the issue is more our own, and we need to learn how to let go of control long enough to actually trust another person.  Perhaps you have gone on trust walks, or done the little trust exercise where you fall backwards trusting that the person behind you will catch you.  Those things are relevant because trust can be a difficult experience.  It is critical in a marriage, but because of the betrayals leading to and during a divorce, it can be a tough thing to be able to do if reconciliation occurs or when a divorced person remarries.  Beyond that, trust is a central key when it comes to one’s relationship with God…so much so that we regularly use the terminology of “faith” for those who are followers of Christ.  Is trust an easy issue for you?
Some people have a hard time trusting God.  In fact, I suspect most of us experience situations that stretch us, so that there are times in our lives when God allows certain extreme scenarios to arise for the purpose of teaching us how to trust.  Trust isn’t as hard as some might thing.  We do it all the time.  When we drive over a bridge, we trust the designers, the materials and the inspectors.  When we accelerate our automobiles, we trust the individuals who designed and maintained our brakes, that we will be able to slow and stop the car.  We trust the doctors who prescribe little pills, and we trust the pharmacists who bottle them for us, as well as the researchers who create them.  We trust the pilot of the airplane, the captain of the ship, the engineer on the subway train or the driver of the bus every time we step onto their vehicle.  The list is endless.  Generally speaking, that trust is well founded.   Occasionally, we find it was not.  But even so, none of us ever makes the pilot show us his license, inquire of his training and physical condition, or question his experience before we board a plane.  Even though we know there are times pilots have made mistakes.  Because we know that there are government agencies and oversight boards who do those things for us.  Trust is built into our society, from the water we drink and food we eat to the most complicated medical procedure we undergo.  And yet, all too often people struggle to truly trust  God.  Why is that?
Perhaps it is because they don’t know God well…although I have never met the person who designed the brakes on my automobile!  Perhaps it is because they don’t know the character of God…although I don’t really know too much about what kind of people are on the board of the bank where my money is held.  Perhaps it is because we cannot see God… although I have never seen the people or the process by which my medicine is created.  Perhaps it is because we don’t really like not being in control!  Perhaps.  
Many situations in life present a challenge to whether we trust God or not.  Divorce is certainly one of those, as we face an uncertain future, financial upheaval or fears of ever entering another relationship again.  For whatever area of life that trust is an issue for you, I invite you to consider the following passage from Matthew 6:25-33 (NASB):
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

You see, there is less in our absolute control than most of us would like to believe.  Think of that the next time you reach for a light switch that somebody else designed and made to carry electricity that somebody else generated through the wires somebody else made on the way to the light bulb somebody else designed and made that you have placed in the lamp somebody else produced.  Instead of trusting, many of us worry, often over things that are ultimately of no consequence in our lives.  In fact, God is the most trustworthy individual that has ever existed.  In the hardships of life, why are so many of us so willing to trust everything and everyone else, but hesitant to trust the God who gave us life in the first place, and whose plans for our lives are truly perfect?  I don’t know that I would claim to have the answer to why we don’t.  But even though I struggle with trust at times as much as anybody, I do believe that is MY issue, not God’s…and that life works best and hardships resolve best when I am trusting God through them.  How about you?