Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where did all those clouds come from?

Photo by woodysbell via
June Gloom. It's a particular weather pattern here in Southern California that occurs every May and June – and this year in mid July! – in which the clouds over the ocean find their way inland several miles and linger, sometimes into the middle of the day. Along the beaches the cloud cover often stays until the late afternoon, and sometimes even brings a fair share of drizzle along with it. Many residents and tourists expecting to frolic in the California sun ask, “Where did all these clouds come from?” Eventually the clouds are defeated by the sun's rays, and the beautiful Southern California weather that we all know and love faithfully returns to remind us why we love this region in the first place.

Just like those who expect Southern California to be beautiful and sunny all year long, we also have expectations of things going a certain way in our lives. We expect our cars to get us from point A to point B, and back to A safely. We expect our children to grow up to be productive members of society. We expect our jobs to sustain us in a comfortable lifestyle. We expect our relationships to be healthy, happy, and long-lasting. When our expectations are not met often we feel disappointed, discouraged, frustrated, maybe even forgotten. We might even feel as though God cannot see us through the clouds, and wonder if He will ever again bestow His favor upon us.

What if He doesn't? What if God won't reach beyond our personal cloud cover to see that we long to see His face? That's how it is when we live outside of fellowship with Him, when we are stuck in a pattern of sin in our lives. In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah tells the people, “Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen any more.” (Isaiah 59:1-2, NLT). Why should we expect God to bless us? Think about it – the rules you set for your children, for the most part, are not all that difficult for them to keep, right? If your own children lived as though you didn't see and hear them and lived outside of the rules you have set for them, they'd likely get into trouble all the time. That being the case, would you go out of your way to give them extra-special privileges? No, I don't believe you would. That's how God feels about us when we live life outside of the rules He has given us. We're cut off from God's light, sentenced to live under the gloom of unending cloudy skies. Where did the clouds come from? From our disobedience to God. Frankly speaking, we brought it upon ourselves as a result of our own actions. And the bad news is that there is nothing we can do on our own to change it. Life in Southern California isn't meant to be like this!

There is good news though. We don't have to think of God as just riding around on a cloud shaking his head as he watches the world he created spin out of control as it runs on some misguided autopilot. No, God is more personal than that. He wants to save us. He wants to hear our cries. He doesn't like the sin-cloud barrier any more than we do. That's why God sent Jesus – to provide a way to break through the clouds so we can be in God's light and warmth. God shows His love for us – it was while we were still sinners that Jesus Christ died for us.

But the clouds won't stay away forever. June Gloom will return; what happens when we find ourselves on the underside of the sin-cloud barrier again?

We don't have to stay there. There is always a break in the clouds. There is nothing in all creation that can separate us from God's love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! When the clouds bring just enough drizzle to mess up the dirt on your car, confess your sins to God. His arm is not too weak to save us, nor is his ear too deaf to hear us. For when we confess our sins to God, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Here comes the sun, and I say it's alright!

Monday, July 19, 2010


Commitment.  The word makes many people think of man and wife, two people joined together, living happily ever after, till death do they part.  There are actually couples who successfully live out that kind of commitment.  In fact, I know of a couple who have been married for over  70  years!

But commitment is not limited to relationships.  And there are commitments that are not entered into voluntarily.  I have a friend who recently had a court judgment go against her.  Without going into the boring details, or even the juicy ones, when the average rational-thinking observer looks at the facts of the case, all logic says that my friend was in the right, and should not have had to pay out any kind of money.  However, looking through legalese-tinted glasses, the scales of justice tipped in favor of the other party.  Since in this instance appeal is not an option, my friend now has a commitment to pay a significant amount of money to the plaintiff.  A commitment that is unfair, unjust, unwarranted, and unwanted. And no "back" or "undo" button to click. 

How is one supposed to deal with an unwanted, unavoidable commitment?
It helps a lot to accept that it is what it is.  Life is not always fair. In fact, there are times when fairness is replaced by the absurdity of the belief that we are all the same and every hand dealt is equal to the next. cha-Right!  Not everyone at the poker table can have a royal flush...

And now that this commitment is a part of your life, do the best you can.  Even though it may be painful and you don't like it or agree with the circumstances, work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you're really serving God.

I don't know who E. M. Gray is, but I found a cool quote that is credited to him:  "The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do. They don't like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose."  Life is full of commitments.  Some we enter into freely, some are imposed upon us.  When you're plugging away at the latter, do them with purpose.

I don't know about you, but the God that I believe in didn't just create the universe and let things spin helter-skelter out of control while he sits on his cloud and laughs hysterically.  No, the God I believe in not only has sovereign control over the universe but also is very interested in making sure we have the best in our lives.  But dag-nabbit if we don't insist on taking things into our own hands and making a mess of it!  Then when God tries to get us to change our ways and work with him to turn things around  (that's part of what "repentance" and "obedience" is all about) we sometimes have to go through some painful experiences in the process.  But when our obedience comes out of our love for God we can be sure that He will work every detail of our lives into something good, even though we might not see it that way at first.  Like a yellow post-it after a pink one (see my post from a couple of weeks ago).  Or in the words of an old Chinese proverb, "The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials."

And don't wait for someone else to make your life terrific. That's your job.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Attitude Check!

My pastor seems to like to provoke people at times.

At one point during last Sunday's worship service he prayed, "...and we give our attitudes to You, Lord ..."

So, my friends, I  leave for you this thought-provoking question:

What kind of attitude have you been giving to God?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blind Hope

Chiquita Mia.  My Little Girl.

Not a name you might expect for a discarded, half-starved, homely mutt, living under a rusted-out car.  And not a dog that most would be willing to adopt as a pet.  Yet Laurie Sacher, a staff member at the Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in central Oregon did just that.

In the book "Blind Hope:  An Unwanted Dog and the Woman She Rescued" author Kim Meeder recalls conversations with Sacher about her deep affection for her "Sweet Mia."  Yes, Mia was truly what most would consider to be unwanted.  When Sacher took the dog as her own, her first thought was, "She's a wretched creature ... just like me."  As the bond between canine and master grew deeper - a master she could not see due to blindness - Sacher tells of her many insights she gained about her own relationship with God - her own Master she could not see. 

What I liked about this book:  The book was easy to read, and had several stand-alone chapters that the reader can randomly read and be blessed with the lessons shared by Sacher and Meeder. 

What I didn't like as much:  Kim Meeder's telling of the love story of Laurie Sacher and Chiquita Mia was indeed heartwarming.  However, I could not help thinking some of the emotion might have been watered down from Sacher's story being told by someone other than herself. 

Would I recommend this book?  Yes!  "Blind Hope" is an inspirational story for all, dog lover or not, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey.  Click here to view the video to learn more about the story.  To read more, Click here to read Chapter 1 of a book that is sure to give you understanding of God's unconditional love for you and me.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Yellow and Pink Post-It Notes

Yellow.  Yellow.  Yellow.  Pink.  Yellow.  Yellow!  Yellow.  Pink.  Yellow.  Yellow.  Yellow.  Kinda pink.  Yellow.  Yellow.  Yellow.  Yellow.  I'm on a roll with the yellow.  Yellow.  SO PINK I CAN'T STAND IT!!!  Oh, good - another yellow.  Yellow.  BRIGHTEST YELLOW EVER!!!! ...

Imagine your life in terms of a time line, made up of yellow and pink Post-It notes.  The yellow post-it's represent the experiences, events, and people that have had a positive impact in your life.  things such as being born, activities in school,  special recognition you have received, your first date, graduation from college, the family trip to Yosemite, winning the lottery...  People, such as friends, teachers, parents, heroes, a motivational speaker, your spouse, your kids...   The pink post-its represent the negative experiences - being held back in second grade, your teachers saying you won't amount to anything, getting arrested (especially if it was for something that did not start out as a yellow post-it), a bad relationship, the death of a close relative, losing your home to foreclosure...

It's fun to talk about the yellow post-it notes that are on our time lines.  For most, the yellow's outnumber the pink ones.  But let's take some time to talk about the pinks for a bit.  Look closely - some of those can be a nasty shade of pink, and some are a more pastel hue, aren't they?  In many instances, that is true.  But look at that faded pink one - the one from when you were in the 10th grade and your best friend since grade school stole your boyfriend of two weeks - it was a deep pink at the time.  Just as deep as the one when your place of employment closed down a few years ago.  But when you look back at the BFF/BF incident, it's now faded.  Why is that?

Because you let go of the hurt.

Letting go does not mean that the pink post-it experience never happened.  It doesn't mean there is never at least a teeny bit of negative emotion when you look back.  Letting go of past hurts means ... well, let's be obvious here.  Letting go means letting go.  You are no longer holding on to it, dwelling upon it, re-living the pain over and over.  You have learned that going through the hurt was a necessary process, a prerequisite to growing into the person God wants you to become.

Let's take another look at our time lines.  Look especially at what is after the pink post-it's.  What do you see?  More yellow post-it's!  The pink's don't last forever!  There is a saying, "When you are going through hell, don't stop!"  God does not want to leave us in the wilderness forever.  In fact, it is not long after the worst of the pinks where you see the brightest of yellows.  If not for the times where God is disciplining us, shaping us, molding us, we would not fully enjoy the blessings that God gives us when we live according to His purpose for our lives.

When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome, one of the things he told them was "In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  That statement wasn't just for the first-century Romans; it goes for you and me as well. 

How do we see this?  In the case of the BFF/BF experience, XBF breaks up with your XBFF and he starts dating the head cheerleader.  Years later at your class reunion, XBF and the cheerleader are married.  He's in denial that he's going bald and wears his hair in a bad combover, and she can't stop talking about her latest plastic surgery.

As for the XBFF?  After graduation you let go of the resentment and bitterness that you once held toward her.  The two of you reconnect at the reunion, and later become successful business partners.  The income you have is more than you ever could have made at your job that closed down.  And because you are doing something you love, you have a more fulfilling life than you ever dreamed possible!

Yellows after the pinks?  I'd say so!