Jan 26, 2012

Lost in the Belly of a Whale

When we feel stuck, trapped, or paused with seemingly nowhere to go, it’s not a great place to be. Rarely would any of us want to be in a place (job, relationship, etc) that seems to be going nowhere. And when we get into those times in our life we want to get out of them QUICKLY! I certainly do! I don’t even like it when my feet get stuck under the covers when the sheets are too tight!

In fact, very few of us would put on our “bucket list” that we want to get stuck in the situations we find ourselves in such as stuck in an elevator between floors; or in a bad marriage or job feeling trapped; paused with seemingly nowhere to go… 

Most of us when we are stuck, trapped, paused with seemingly nowhere to go look for the “reset” button so that we can get things moving again. It definitely was not part of the path we thought that we would take as part of our five-year plan.

We easily identify with King David when he wrote;

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)


David continued in Psalm 13;

“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;  Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” (Psalm 13:3-4) 

And yet, when we grip reality (not utopia) we will come to discover that life is full of pauses; times where we have opportunities to feel stuck and trapped with nowhere to go.

I say opportunities because they need not always be places that we need to struggle to get out of. When we learn to embrace them, they can be places of great provision and rest and comfort as we wait for the movement that we so long for.

Although it may be very difficult to see the place where you find yourself today as providential, it can be a great place to be when you keep your eyes upon God and trust in His mercy knowing that He WILL provide. 

David continues in Psalm 13;

“But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

Even in the story of Jonah we can see the great provision of God. The Bible records;

“Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” – (Jonah 1:17) 

Did you catch that? It says that “the Lord prepared”. The Hebrew word there means; A primitive root; properly to weigh out; by implication to allot or constitute officially; also to enumerate or enroll: - appoint, count, number, prepare, set, tell.” 

My friend, although your circumstances may be very different than anything that I have ever experienced, I want you to know one thing that we hold in common: We both have a God who is passionately in love with us. He wants us to know that He DOES care what you are going through and where you are currently at.

And more than just changing your external situation (and He wants to and will), He wants to change the internal part of you that is really looking for contentment and peace as you struggle to make sense of your current situation.  

He is waiting for you to respond to His mercy and grace that has already been extended to you through Jesus Christ. And you can; today. And it can make all the difference in the world as you spend this season of your life seemingly lost in the belly of a whale.

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"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Jan 19, 2012


-n   A way of regarding situations, facts, etc, and judging their relative importance

It’s January at the time of this writing and this past week, the temperatures (finally) dropped as winter (finally) began to set in. I remember thinking to myself; “Today it is too cold but in two days it will be just right”; even though the temperatures would be the same. It’s all a matter of perspective.

You see, today I needed to be outside; going back and forth from the garage to the house and back again as I worked on a project in the house. On Saturday morning, the temperature would be very nice because I would be skating outside (Yeah, I get to play hockey inside on Friday nights and play outside on Saturdays because the outside rinks are FINALLY open!).

In Minnesota this year, with no snow on the ground, we had golf courses open as we hosted temperatures in the mid-fifties in January and because there has been no sand on the streets, it has been perfect weather for motorcyclists! Cathy and I saw fishermen in boats on the Mississippi River. Yesterday I saw a photo in the paper of someone sailboarding on open waters.

We simply could NOT get the temperatures cold enough outside to keep ice rinks frozen and so almost all hockey has been played indoors.

Last year in Minnesota we had one of the snowiest winters on record; we had no where to place the snow as most of our driveways and intersections already had piles of snow well over eight feet tall! We had frozen rinks but there was too much snow on them to be able to skate on the rinks!

Which of these two winters you like best is all a matter of perspective.

How we choose to view life can make or break how fully we really live our lives. The seasons of life can change drastically at times and be seen as “ugly”, or the changes can be seen as “beautiful”; all depending on your perspective.

I started thinking about this when I had to replace the lockset on our garage door late one night. I had to run to the store and on the way I realized that I had a choice to make as to how I would respond. I could either be grateful that I had the expertise to install a new lock and the skills and the knowledge to do so, or I could respond frustrated with this interruption in my day. It’s all a matter of perspective.

I have thick hair and so I “have to” get it cut every month. Actually, if the hockey-mullets would come back in style then I could grow it long again. Wait, were they ever in style?

Why am I writing this? Because at the grocery store I saw a woman who has hair that is very thin; she’s actually bald on top and does a comb-over. My guess is she would love to “have-to-get-it-cut-because-it-is –too-long”. It’s all a matter of perspective.

My muscles were sore due to playing two hockey games in a row; but still not the same as the daily aches and pains associated with being in a wheelchair. It’s all a matter of perspective.

We need to look up to the Lord and let Him give us a new perspective on our situation: For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJV)

How we choose to go through this year and this life will be partially up to us. We may not get to choose what comes our way, but we DO get to choose how we respond to it. It’s all a matter of perspective. We gotta let the light shine!

Jan 12, 2012

Arms Wide Open

I came to the door of my daughter’s house carrying a large pot of soup and several bags of items necessary for the family gathering that would soon take place. I was greeted by my son-in-law who reached out to take some of the items from my hands so that I could return back to the car and take another load.

Cathy and I had just come from a Sunday morning church service, still dressed in our ‘church clothes’. We had wanted to get the two pots of soup to the gathering as soon as possible after we left church and made a decision to wait to change out of our dress clothes until after we got the soup on the stove. 

Standing at the glass door was another person, my granddaughter Fallon, thirteen months old….waiting to see her “Pa”. I heard her call my name as I approached the glass door and looked to see her face pressed against the cold glass door that was covered with condensation from the cold winter day. 

I thought that I could ignore her in order to return to the car to get another load to bring into the house; which included the clothing that I wanted to change into. I heard her little voice call out again; “Pa” and looked to see her looking up at me with arms wide open, heart exposed, and longing for her “Pa” to pick her up and hold her.

It really didn’t matter to her that the soup ‘needed’ to get on the stove in order to heat it up for the rest of the family who were also eagerly awaiting Cathy and I. It didn’t matter to her that I ‘needed’ to change out of my dress clothes or at least take off my tie. It didn’t matter to her that the floor was covered with bags filled with items for the gathering, some of which needed to get put into the refrigerator. It didn’t matter to her that the floor had piles of snow carried in on the bottom of our shoes as we walked across the yard.

She, at that moment, didn’t want anything or anyone other than “Pa”; and so she called out again; “Pa” looking up at me with arms wide open, heart exposed, and longing for her “Pa” to pick her up and hold her. 

At that moment I also thought of my adult children, recalling the days when they were young and wanted me to ‘hold me’ as they looked up at me with arms wide open, heart exposed, and longing for their dad to pick them up and hold them.

And my heart broke as it always does when I see this precious little one longing to be with me and so I let everything else go and bent down and picked this little one up into my arms and received her love. And I held her tightly to my chest soaking in each heartbeat of this precious unmerited encounter.

I think that is why a loving God would allow children to be born in the toxicity of this broken world. Simply put, they remind us of His love for us and how He really wants us to come to Him. He wants us to come to Him with arms wide open, heart exposed, and longing for our “Pa” to pick us up and hold us.

He isn’t as preoccupied with the religious things as we might think. He wants us to come to Him and spend time with Him as though nothing else matters.

One of the most vivid displays of this is recorded in Matthew 23:37when Jesus Laments over Jerusalem and says; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (NKJV)

But God didn’t stop there; He demonstrated His own love toward us, “in that while we were still sinners; Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He hung on a cross while we were yet sinners arms wide open, heart exposed, and longing for us to come to Him like my granddaughter does each and every time I see her.

Won’t you come to Him now? He’s waiting for your response to His open arms.

Jan 5, 2012

It’s a Wonderful Life

One of the reasons that the movie; “It’s a Wonderful Life” is such a favorite for some many people is because we can relate to the story. We too, like George Bailey, want to know; really know that our life makes a difference to those around us. We want to believe that it we hadn’t lived, the world as we know it would be different.  

We long, passionately, to deeply know and believe the words of Clarence in the movie; “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?”

And yet, for many of us, we simply cannot accept the truth of the message of the film; EACH OF US MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD! And so, we too, like George Bailey, struggle to find any meaning and purpose in our lives and cry out:

God... God... Dear Father in Heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I'm at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God.”

And so, we want to give up; to pull the plug, to cash in our chips; to stop living because we don’t see our lives connected with a master plan. That is the problem and the solution to living a wonderful life.  

And we will miss it if we buy into the false belief system that everything revolves around ‘me’ (egocentric narcissists) or the false belief that each individual life doesn’t make any difference.

What George Bailey saw, but didn’t really get, is that our lives become wonderful not because of us and what we do, but because of the One who made us and has a purpose for our lives.

YES George, God is there and He DOES hear us when we call out to Him, and He DOES show us the way when we ask.

This really struck home with me recently when I was holding my granddaughter Fallon rocking her to sleep (she is thirteen months old at the time of this writing). Just a note; Fallon was staying at our house and was in an “I-only-want-grandpa” time of life. I was holding her trying to get her to sleep as she hung tightly to me; clinging firmly to one of my fingers with her whole hand. 

In my mind I flashed back to a time when life wasn’t making sense to me and I saw no hope for my circumstance ever changing. I was in such a depressed state of mind that I couldn’t drive over bridges without pondering the thought of pulling over and jumping off to end it all.

If I had not pressed through those thoughts in the past, not only would I not have had the chance to hold this precious one whom I love so very deeply, but I would not have been there to be a source of comfort for her.  From there my mind was filled with gratefulness (and my eyes with tears) as I pondered all of the joys and experiences that I had from spending time with my own children and wife and my grandson Emmett (who is only four months old at this writing) whom I also love so very deeply.

So many cards and emails and letters have come to me describing how the intersection of my life with theirs has had a positive impact. So many experiences I would have missed; so many things simply would not have gotten done if I had chosen not to go on during that time of deep discouragement. You see, I really did have a wonderful life.

Do you see yourself as part of the plan of God for this world? Do you know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made; a wonderful work of God created for good works? You too can live a wonderful life (not perfect) but still awesome, wondrous, miraculous, prodigious, astonishing, amazing, astounding, phenomenal, unique, curious, and even strange.

All it takes is surrendering your life to Jesus Christ to be both your Savior (receiving Him as the only One who can provide forgiveness for your sins) and your Lord (bowing before Him as the only One who has the right to direct your steps and plan for your life).

You can do that right now where you are.

The Bible tells us “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13 NKJV)

Need further help: www.RiverHopeMinistries.com

 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:14 NKJV)