All posts by John

Flowers on the Porch

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If God does something for me and I don’t realize it does it not matter?  Did it not happen because I don’t realize it happened? I wondered that as I realized His work in my life, sometimes years AFTER it happened.  Was it less a Blessing cause I didn’t realize it?  No, I don’t think so but it does change some things in me…


When our eldest son sent his mother flowers after her hospital stay last year…they delivered the flowers and left them on the front porch.  No note, no notice, and we didn’t realize the flowers were there till days later.  Even then, the absence of a note meant not knowing for sure who sent them.  We eventually figured it out but…we didn’t know…


So, did not knowing they were at the house change the fact the gift had been given?  No.  Did not finding them for a couple days change that they had already been “delivered”?  No.  Did not even knowing WHO they were from change Who they were from?  No!  The fact of the gift, the giver, and the love it represented did NOT change because we we late to the party!  We didn’t know, we didn’t acknowledge, we didn’t feel gratitude, and we weren’t immediately impacted…even though the fact of the gift was absolute!


How many times has God sent us flowers?  How much Love has He expressed that went unseen, unrealized, and thus… ignored?  Wow–could it be that our life has been one continuous series of such things…and we just didn’t know, or didn’t see, or missed the significance of?  Oh yeah!  How many flowers have been sitting on our front porch…never seen at all?


How much does it matter?  It matters a lot.  

1.  I can’t respond or give thanks.

2.  I miss out feeling the tangible love the gift represents.

3.  I don’t grow in my relationship with the Giver

4.  I don’t increase in my understanding of the Giver


I miss out on more than the Gift itself–I miss out on all the wonderful feelings and emotions that gifts elicit.

Delayed Delights

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God does indeed Bless us over and over.  Sadly, often, we don’t see it.  Why don’t we see it? Several possibilities, I suppose.


Maybe I just don’t know the gift is there.  Flowers on the Porch? Maybe it is buried under many layers of events and emotions.Maybe my understanding is such that I just can’t see the Good and Blessing in the event. Maybe my attitude is horrible, or selfish, or twisted by bitterness/anger. Maybe I just don’t want to see…


Sometimes…we see it much later after looking deeper or just seeing something we missed back when it happened. What should I call it when I finally see some wonderful act or Gift from God in my life much later, often years later?  How about Delayed Delights!   Delayed, for obvious reasons.  Delights, because often that is what it does to realize it.  Wow–look at what He did!


40+ years ago I “dated” a very attractive girl and we were getting close.  I didn’t realize then that I was just a toy to be enjoyed, not a genuine friend.  Another friend took this gal aside and probably told her to “lay off” and stop it.  When I learned of her rude intrusion into my personal affairs…I was offended and quite angry!  But, now, years later I can see God’s Blessing in this.  That event shaped who I was, how I behaved toward my eventual wife, and so much more.  Somehow, I missed all that until just last year.  Yes, it took 40 years to see the Gift in the event.  It was truly a Delayed Delight as I saw so clearly how and what God had done in those events, so many years before.  And, I wonder, how many such things have I never seen, nor will I see?


Probably a lot.  But, I still enjoy looking for those Delayed Delights.

Blessings & Life’s Details

When God Blesses us or gives us something amazing…does it mean that life’s details are suspended?  If He miraculously provides an ideal low mileage car that I thought was not even possible, and when it turns out to be right here in Portland, does that mean it can’t get a flat tire?  Or have its alternator stop working?  Do the normal details of life stop just because God has acted on my behalf?


I used to wonder why God told us so many details about the children of Israel in the old testament.  How applicable could that be to us?  Really, a bunch of nomadic complainers is somehow relevant to my life and understanding?  Oh yeah!  And, this part about Life’s Details really applies.  
God gave Israel amazing victories over the people in the promised land.  Jericho for example–a clear miracle of God’s gift to them.  So, after Jericho–was there stuff to do to deal with the booty and bounty God had given them?  Did they have to sweat and work hard to gather all the gold and jewels and did they have to carry and sort and somehow store all this wonderful stuff they gained from this battle?  Yes!  Did anyone get hurt?  Sprained ankles, dirt & grime, tripped and fell, got scratched on thorns or jagged metal?  Yes!  Was it hard work to carry and load and deal with all this wonderful stuff that resulted from His Gift to them?  Yes!  Did life’s details stop because God had given them this amazing victory? No!


There were other battles too.  Even if God gave them victory, did some get injured?  Did some possibly die?   Did they have to train and stay in shape?  Yes!  Life’s details did NOT stop just cause it was of God!

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When God blessed me with the most amazing wife a man could have…did it mean she couldn’t get sick, or have a bad day or maybe even get cancer?  Did it mean she’s always in a wonderful mood and never has a headache?  No, there is no doubt I was blessed big time with this amazing woman but it did not mean God suspended life’s details, sickness, pain, or even…cancer…And yes, that wonderful miraculous low miles Audi found right here in Portland, for half its normal price…did breakdown with a bad alternator.  And yes, that amazing woman God gave me and Blessed me to no end…she did get cancer, twice…But, just as His Blessings aren’t limited by life’s details…I can still give Him thanks because my gratitude and praise aren’t limited by life’s details either.

Wait on the Lord…

This concept of waiting on the Lord has never been so real to me as it is right now. With Linda’s terminal prognosis, and cancer that has spread through her body, and with the possibility of things literally changing in hours…I understand “Wait” better than ever before.

This whole new phase of our life is so clearly bathed in Grace. So many layers of His provision in the unfolding of this situation as well as in the progression so far. Lots of Grace bombs–events that explode into our realization as God’s Grace and we’re sometimes surprised! And, we ask ourselves, “why are we so surprised? Didn’t we pray for ….?” But more than those answers and provisions are the neat little gifts He has thrown at us. Little things we can see so clearly as tender mercies, little love gifts that only the Giver and receiver understand the significance of. So many. So many.

The situation is clearly under God’s Sovereignty. And, He has answered our prayer, “Thy will be done” as well as “let us see your will in all this”. What is His will? It appears to be that Linda will die in the next few months.  But, there is emerging another wonderful layer.  That Linda, because of her imminent death,  will have an amazing impact on many people she cares for.  We see that not only has Linda had an impact on many people by her life, but now, we see that her death may have a secondary and possibly greater impact on many as well.  Such Grace!!  To have one’s life revealed to be so used by God in so many lives, but, to also have your death used as an amazing tool to impact just as many lives.  Or to impact them even further…or to challenge them in new ways…or to have leverage to cut thru the crap of human issues and speak Truth…or to simply leave someone with words and encouragement they will NEVER forget!

All that is truly wonderful.  But, when will all this happen?  How much time does she have?  When will things wind down aggressively and transition her to her new body?  We don’t know.  We won’t know.  And, we wait.  Literally, wait.  And, clearly, we are waiting on the Lord…to see such things unfold.  To see Him working in her circumstances.  To see people drawn to her due to her impending death, compelled to be with her, anxious to speak with her, simply wanting to be with her before she’s gone…Listening intently to every word she says…between gasps sometimes.

When we don’t know how much time we have, we wait on the Lord.  When we don’t know what will happen and how we might be used, we wait on the Lord.  When we wish to see how He will unfold a situation, we wait on the Lord.  When we are unsettled, confused, worn out, emotionally distraught, and have trouble knowing even what day it is…we wait on the Lord.

We wait on the Lord for Linda to depart.  To transition from her worn out cancer ridden body into a new wonderful body, and to be “with the Lord”.

 

 

 

What is Good About Cancer?

So, the cancer is there, big time.  PET Scan found it has spread to liver, lungs, bone, possible more including the brain.  Very late stage.  Technically my wife has Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer that has spread to multiple locations and is not curable.  Surgeon who did this last surgery saw much and though couldn’t tell me how long she had…said kindly, “months, not years”…after telling me what he saw was “as bad as it gets”.
But, we also see something wonderfully different.  30 years ago, when they found a large tumor in her breast, and that it had spread into her lymph system, we were given at best 50% chance of 5 years.  We asked the Lord for time to raise our sons, aged 4 and 6.  We asked for 5, maybe 10 years.  While we waited, her friend diagnosed with similar breast cancer died within 6 months.  Linda didn’t.
What we see now, is that God answered our prayers.  He gave abundantly, not 5, not 10, not even 15 or even 20 years…HE gave us 30 wonderful amazing years of cancer free healthy LIFE.  What an amazing answer to prayer!!!  She saw her sons grow up, graduate, marry, and now has seen 4 wonderful grandchildren…and played with them.  She has loved having two amazing daughters (in law).  We couldn’t have more children due to the first cancer and she desperately wanted a daughter.  She got two!  and now she has three grand daughters as well.  So much GRACE!
We weep with gratitude for those amazing years, freely given by such a Loving and Generous Heavenly Father.   Now, when that time freely given has come to an end, He further blessed us by letting it be unknown till now.  Letting her LIVE without the pall of cancer hanging over her head.  We were able to LIVE joyously and fully.  Now, as her time is up, and He has called her to soon be with Him, how can we not be overwhelmed with gratitude for those 30 years??  Yes, of course we weep.  I can barely see the screen thru my tears right now…but they are a sweet mixture of powerful gratitude as well as the tears of sorrow for how I know we’ll desperately miss each other.  The more intense the grief, the more wonderful must have been the gift He gave us.  And, we weep intensely.  Just one more example of His Love and Grace…

Privilege or Genie?

Is God really just a cosmic Genie?   Does He just live to do things for us, to provide, to fix our problems, to answer our prayers?  So much of our current thinking about Christianity and God seems to have this slant.

“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”.  Yes, He does, and it is in His Word.  But, our slant leans toward a specific life roadmap.  A roadmap where God tells us, “Here’s your college plan, your spouse, your job, your ministry, etc.”  It is a  nice outline of things from the moment we believe to our death.  Nice, comforting, reassuring …especially as we face so many challenges and decisions–hey, I’ll just seek God’s specific will in this and it will be cool!  So, we’ll pray, read the Word, share with friends  (I’m seeking God’s will in this…”)  maybe even post our seeking on Facebook.  And, at some point we’ll seemingly get God’s telegram about what to do.

It also seems that the “wonderful plan” is a custom crafted one, just for us.  Specific to ME, not something generic or the same as anyone else’s.  Something totally custom…showing just how special I am.  In fact, with millions of Christians, God must be crafting these custom plans for their lives on an almost full-time basis!

So, the Sovereign God of the Universe has created us and given us the privilege to know Him…overwhelming as that is…but, we want to think He just lives to make our lives go well?  To direct the details and tell us at every turn what “God’s Will” is for us?  Really?

And, as it follows,  we’re so important that if we fail to get God’s will and do something, for God, things may get screwed up.  We might foil His bigger plan or fail to give enough or…whatever it is, He NEEDS me to do my part or things could mess up.  Really?  Sovereign Omnipotent Omniscient Eternal God who created all that we see and don’t see,  but ,  desperately needing me to get with it and do my part!  I’m NEEDED for the proper operation of God’s plan and world!

That’s what it boils down to.  Who is the center of the universe.  Is it me or is it God.  So much of our Cosmic Genie thinking presupposes we’re so important.  Basically, it is all about us.  We’re central!  In reality, God is Sovereign and we’re amazingly privileged not only to know Him but to spend Eternity knowing Him.  It is NOT all about us, no matter how we disguise it as “seeking God’s will” or “living the Christian life”.  It is about God, and his Awesomeness, and breath taking worship inspiring opportunity to be one of His.  If we can’t understand that we are going to miss out on so much Joy and Thrill and Euphoria as created men and women born into His Family.

The Mystical Search For God’s Will

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Why is it we seem to always get mystical as we try to discern God’s will?

We all seem to default to looking for mystical signs of God leading us in our decisions.  We behave as if every event MUST have some meaning…we just need to figure it out…Oh, this car has 3 owners–that’s a sign God is saying don’t get this one.  Oh, that guy didn’t call me back for two days, must mean its not my car.  Oh, a new one showed up in Craig’s List–that means…!  Total unmitigated baloney as we try so hard to attribute meaning to every occurrence.

Really?  Does God make our lives a rat’s maze of twists and turns and we need to “discover” what His will is?  God has a “will” for our car?  For our TV?  For our xyz choice?  Really?  Is our calling to be always searching for His will in all these areas, blindly stumbling along watching carefully for the signs…like an old western tracker peering at the ground for footprints and broken twigs to tell him where to go?  Is that how God “leads”?

Or does God give us the freedom to live our lives and make our own choices, glorifying Him by letting His Word be the basis of our thinking.  The choice of car or job or house or rental or vacation spot does NOT need to be vetted by our Father since He can work His will regardless of which choices we make.  And, shocker–He knew what that choice would be in His Omniscience anyway and didn’t need to wait to find out!  He’s Sovereign and not limited by time or not knowing what we’ll choose.  We make our choices and He causes all things to work together for good…as promised.

His will is not which car but which priority.  Grow in Grace and the Knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Be conformed to the image of His Son.  Proclaim His excellencies.  As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of His Word.  Those are His Will, not which car, which job, which vacation…Those are trivial and easily subject to His Sovereign Will and Causation!

So cool to be able to Rest…

 

Will God…?

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After facing the question of “Did God…?” I found myself also facing the “Will God…?”  Question.  And there IS a huge connection!

How often we find ourselves wondering “Will God”  do this…or that?  I’ve asked, maybe I need, maybe I want…for myself or someone else.  But…Will God…do this thing I’m desiring?  Somehow, it seems if I’ve seen a bunch of “Did God” questions answered with “YES!” it would make believing He Will do the next thing easier.  It seems, yes.  But…

Children of Israel stood and saw God Do great things with the Egyptians following them.  They saw the Red Sea open for them and close on the Egyptians, killing all their enemies.  Wow–what an amazing thing they saw God Do.  Later, as they faced a shortage of water…they probably wondered, “Will God…?”  Will God provide the water we so desperately need?  They faltered and didn’t believe God would…

I’m so much better, right?  I have so many “Did God…?” events in my life, and so very many examples of God causing Good in my life.  And, I falter just like the Children of Israel did.  I’ve always felt they were such idiots to falter and fail to believe after seeing such amazing things  (Like the other miracles in Egypt).  But…

I have so much more.  I have God’s written Word with hundreds of pages of HIS direct communication, countless examples of His activity and miracles, and so many Promises to us as Believers…on top of 40+ years of seeing so many “Did God…?” events…And, I FALTER and fail to believe when faced with “Will God…?” events!!!

So, who is really the idiot?  The Children of Israel, or ME with so much more by way of events and evidence?  Whose failure is worse? Clearly…it is  MINE!!!

I have so very much more than they ever did and…I still falter so many times when I get to “Will God…?”

Why Are We Doing This?

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As I looked at an article on Hillary mentioning so many appearances in the past 6 weeks and the toll it takes…I wondered why?  All this work, all these years of working toward something…for what?  To be president?  Is it worth it to wake up with even more pressure in your life?  And when do you stop to enjoy all that you already have?

I saw a headline for Taylor Swift’s success the same day.  She’s doing well, running hard, seems to have a good head on her shoulders…at least for a media star.  I asked again why?  Why is she working so hard each and every day to build her career?  More money?  She has so much already.  More fame?  She’s one of the best and most famous.  So why?  To be remembered?  To be …what…?  Why is she doing this?  I wonder if she can answer that question.  Does she realize all that she is giving up for it?  Time with family, time with friends, time to even have a family or close friends…I have to shake my head and wonder.

It also reminds me to ask myself the same question.  My answer comes quick, maybe to quick.  Why am I doing this?  To grow, to be ready for eternity with my Heavenly Father, to encourage my family to do the same, and…well, I want to enjoy my remaining time in this body.  To enjoy time with my amazing wife.  To enjoy my sons and their wives (more like daughters).  To enjoy every moment possible with my grandchildren.  Not just to get somewhere or build something…but to revel in all the amazing stuff I ALREADY have…and I have soooo much!

If all we have is our earthly success then it makes sense to spend every waking moment building or growing your political career or your fame as an entertainer.  And you may even succeed.    But to spend so much of our time, and give up so many opportunities to enjoy these moments that will never again be ours, just doesn’t seem worth it.  President or most famous singer ever or most successful businessman–what was the overall quality of your time on earth?  And for a believer, how effectively did you use your time and talents to “grow in Grace and Knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” or “become conformed to the image of His Son”?

It really struck me hard as i pondered Hillary and Taylor– I felt so empty for them!  And I felt so good for the warmth and good of living for growth and enjoyment of God’s Grace.  No presidency, no fame, little money/status.  But, so much Grace and Growth to literally fill me with Joy!  It was a nice reminder today.

Who Is Doing It?

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Once we get our heads around the wonder of a relationship with the God of the Universe questions pop into our heads.  And, if He is Lord of our lives…how exactly is He Lord?  How does He do it?  How do we submit to it?  Do we close our eyes and let things ooze through our finger tips?  Do we let God be Lord like some sort of “use the Force” mystical process?  Answers are few and things are not clear on the mechanics.

As I look at my life I have to ask “Who is Doing it?” often.  Under my “Did God…” ponderings, I wonder out loud did He actually intervene or involve Himself in this or that?  I’ve got another Did God which I’ll probably call Did God 2 that is still in my notes.  But, several threads emerged this morning.  “Did God?” affects another area which I call “Will God?”   That’s where it hasn’t happened, we want it to (or need), and we wonder “Will God…?”  And, is this where faith comes in?  We wonder “Will God…?” and we need to trust that He Will!

Other things seem to tie in to these thoughts.  Again, the whole thing about luck for the believer.  Is there anything like luck, or is it only blessing?  Proverbs seems convinced “the throw of the lot is in the hand of the Lord” and seems to repeat that theme.  No luck, its in the hand of the Lord!    What about my skills and efforts?  How do those tie in?  Am I essential or not?  God works mediately but how does that affect the details of my life?  Does He use my skills, my involvement, or my efforts?  Finally, what about Rest?  How do these things tie into Rest?  Do they actually tie in somehow?

Gradually, I’m seeing they do.  I can only see the structure ever so faintly.  This morning it seemed so clear.  I have notes, little diagrams, but when I go to explain it, even to myself, will it be clear?  Not sure.  But I’m seeing a faint but clear structure or outline.  And, I’m actually excited since I’ve struggled with these thoughts for a long long time.   Today, for the very first time, I “saw” briefly a dim outline which answered some of those questions.