Perspective

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“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)

Who would’ve ever thought the Lord would use a Snoopy bobblehead to teach me a thing or two?  Snoopy has now been on “my cover” twice in a row.  It’s safe to say I did not see that one coming!

At the beginning of each year, a specific word in tandem with just the right verse becomes my guidepost of sorts to help guide me through the coming year.   Last year my word was “grateful.”

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

Time marches on, as they say, so this brings us to my word for 2022, of course.  Typically it comes to my prayerful attention through various means and ways sometime in the first week or two of the new year.  This time, however, in a first, it surprisingly appeared right before  2021 was officially over.  My 2022 word?  Yes, you’ve no doubt guessed it already from the title of today’s post:  “Perspective.”  And not just any kind of perspective, but godly perspective.

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”  Romans 12:3 (NKJV)

“The greatest tragedy for any human being is to go through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own.”  Doug Baldwin

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”  A. W. Tozer

It’s fair to say this is an area of my life in need of attention as the Lord wasted no time providing me with a teaching moment in the early goings of 2022.

On the very first Monday of this new year, I had no sooner settled down at my desk upstairs to begin my work than my phone started ringing.  Looking down, I saw my wife’s name on caller ID.  I had just finished lunch not 5 minutes earlier with her, mind you.  “What in the world?” I thought to myself, already feeling a bit of frustration swelling up in me since we had just spent an hour or so together.  Her voice sounded more urgent than usual when I picked up the call, though, exclaiming, “Come here!  Now!  I need to tell you something!” 

As I walked a bit begrudgingly down the stairs, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that was so important for her to tell me now, yet wasn’t important enough during our lunch to tell me about it then.  “Doesn’t she know I have work to do?” I thought to myself with a tinge of self-proclaimed importance iced with a bit of dismissiveness as to the likelihood that whatever she has to say would turn out to be significant enough to justify the interruption.  Yes, embarrassingly, I know this is not a good look for me.

Arriving in the living room, she pointed to the opposite end of the couch with an outstretched finger.  “Sit!” she commanded.  As I sat down, my mind began to race.  “Oh boy,” I mused, “This doesn’t sound good.  What have I done?

Before I could even speak, she put her finger to her mouth and whispered, “Shhhhhh…listen!  Don’t say a word.  What do you hear?”  “OK,” I thought to myself, “I’ll play along, although I have no idea whatsoever where this is going.”  And then, within the quietness, a faint but steady and distinct “tap…tap…tap” sound came to my ears.  “Do you hear it?” she asked.  “Yes,” I replied.  “It’s that tap…tap…tap sound…right?”  Glancing in the direction of the sound, I immediately recognized its source.  “It’s coming from bobblehead Snoopy as his head is going up and down,”  I stated matter of factly.  And yes, at this point, you’d be right thinking my level of excitement was nonexistent compared to that of my wife’s, which seemed to be building by the minute.

Undaunted by my lack of enthusiasm, she excitedly replied, “Yes!  But I didn’t know that at first.  I thought it was the leaky kitchen faucet dripping again.”  She then went on to explain that she had just gotten all comfy on the couch with a blanket and a magazine for some much-needed quiet time winding down from her very early morning job when she became increasingly aware of the irritating sound.  She tried her best to ignore it, but that only made it louder in her mind. 

Unable to disregard the annoying sound any longer, she got up from the couch in somewhat of a frustrated huff and walked the few steps into the kitchen to turn off the faucet.  Only then did she discover the real reason for the noise was bobblehead Snoopy.  “And then something fantastic happened,” she exclaimed.  “I wasn’t annoyed anymore.  No, I felt just the opposite…I felt…soothed.  After all, you know how Snoopy’s constantly bobbing head always manages to brighten our mood, ” she announced as I nodded my head in agreement.  Then before I could even speak, she quickly added with a starry twinkle in her eyes and an octave higher voice, “My PERSPECTIVE changed once I realized it was Snoopy and not the faucet making that sound!  Isn’t that crazy amazing?!?!

Suddenly,  her reason for interrupting my work became crystal clear.  And just like that, I was no longer annoyed at having my work disturbed.  Instead, a soothing wave of encouragement and delight washed over me.  You see, like my wife, my perspective of the circumstances changed for the better, too.

“Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back and get a little bit of a different perspective and re-evaluate things.”  Austin Aries

And so, it would seem we’ve now reached the logical end of this post.  Surprisingly, however, that is not the case.  You see, this story is like a quilt the Lord is weaving, and as it turns out, the quilt is incomplete.  A vital part is missing that I haven’t previously considered until now.  What’s the missing piece?  “Prosperity,” which is my wife’s word for 2022.

As I sit here writing, I must confess that I am experiencing an abundance of prosperity in my life at this time.  How so?  As a husband, my heart is joyful because of my wife’s unbridled excitement to share her experience with my word for 2022.   As a writer, I can also tell you that telling stories like this always makes my heart smile, even dance.  And, last but certainly not least, as a child of God, I’m overwhelmed by His desire, kindness, and patience to teach me a still better way, His way.  In short, I feel incredibly blessed in terms of prosperity right now.

Upon reading that last observation, the world will likely say, “Hey!  What you’re describing is not prosperity because there’s no mention of wealth!”  To that, I reply, “But, I am wealthy in other ways that don’t involve money.  Can’t you see that?  Like so many other things in this life, grasping the true meaning of prosperity requires the proper perspective.  Where then can such truth be found?  There are our ways and viewpoints, but then there is the Lord’s perspective shining gloriously above all else.”

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

Help us to accept our grief as pain that will empower us to live; our uncertainty as a difficult opportunity to discover unknown dreams and directions; our illnesses as a strong light which helps us see at last our health; our loneliness as the most authentic beginning of human love and solidarity.  Help us, not to be Pollyanna pieties but sincere seekers for wholeness of life.  Help us to open the door of the morning and say:  what happens, let all of it be a blessing.  Amen.”   (Singer of Seasons, Beverly Sawyer)

You see, my friend, it’s all a matter of perspective regarding how we perceive our circumstances and lives.  There are our limited, selfish, earthbound ways and viewpoints, and then there are those of the Lord’s that gloriously know no bounds.

“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.”  C.H. Mackintosh

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5 (ESV)

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Blessings by Laura Story from the album “Blessings.

Light headed

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”  John 8:12 (NKJV)

And just like that, it turns out my most recent post, which I had thought would be my last post of the year, isn’t the last one, after all.  Surprize (wink)!  What can I say?  When the light of inspiration strikes, it buoyantly sets into motion a creative adventure with the Lord like none other for me.  I pray it is the same for you.

Recently we bought a cheap solar-powered Snoopy bobblehead.  We weren’t looking for him at the time, mind you, because he wasn’t even on our shopping list.  However, there he was on a shelf alongside a host of other bobbleheads, all seemingly laser-focused on capturing our attention with their almost hypnotic up and down movements.  It was like a bobblehead flash mob, but with one standout “star” in our eyes.  How could we resist, given that we love Snoopy and all things Charlie Brown?   Encouraged by Snoopy’s eager, nodding approval, we decided the right thing to do was take him home with us, and so we did.

Snoopy’s new home is on our kitchen counter-top.  Much to my delight, I’ve discovered that my daylight conversations with him are always positive and uplifting.  Indeed, watching his head always nod affirmatively is something that brightens my day.

I’ve noticed a few other things about Snoopy since he’s come to live with us.  One, when the lights are off, he’s motionless and has nothing to say.  Two, his head starts bobbing almost immediately as soon as the lights come on.  Lastly, the longer the lights are on, the more pronounced his head bobs up and down.  In short, no light amounts to no enthusiasm whatsoever, while more light equals visible, unmistakably passionate movement.

We can say the same about our walk with the Lord, can’t we?

“You were placed on earth to know God.  Everything else is secondary.”  Greg Laurie

The amount of enthusiasm, devotion, and passion we have for God and His Kingdom directly depends on how much and how often we bask in His light through prayer, Bible study, and other spiritually edifying choices that all result in authentic worship experience.

“Keep on being faithful, because God honors faithfulness.  Not bigness, but faithfulness.  Not the great crowds, not the great set-up, but faithfulness in the place He put you.”  Billy Graham

The truth is we are brought to a spiritual standstill when we are outside God’s presence and alone in the dark.   Our forward motion is non-existent. 

“If we are unexcited Christians, we should go back and see what is wrong.”  Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There

Just as you do in all relationships, you have to invest time and energy in your relationship with God to reap the rewards; otherwise, negative consequences will arise.

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  John 4:24 (NKJV)

“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  Matthew 12:30 (NKJV)

And so, the stage is set for the dramatic divide between darkness and light, stagnation and forward progress.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”  Romans 8:5 (NKJV)

The more quality time we spend with Him, inevitably, the greater our enthusiasm and desire for all things of God.  His light amplifies our motion on His behalf and in His direction. 

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  James 4:8 (NKJV)

“The Bible is the only book whose author is always present when one reads it.” Anonymous

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”  Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

The question on the table for all of us throughout each day is, “Are you headed in the Light direction?” Will we choose to nod in affirmation of Jesus, or will we stand stoically silent in the dark?

“Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” Luke 6:48 (NKJV)

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“Two Sets of Jones” by Big Tent Revival from the album “Big Tent Revival.”

Surprize!!!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  James 1:17 (NKJV)

What’s one thing God and cats have in common?

Before I give you my answer, note that I’m in no way putting God and cats on equal footing.   God is the creative force here; cats are the products of His efforts.  Creator and created, big difference!  The root of this question stems from the idea that what an artist creates cannot help but say something about the artist.   Hence, cats have something to tell us about God, the Creator.

“The personality of the artist leaks through their work. God included. He reveals himself through nature, as the Scriptures testify.” John Eldredge from Beautiful Outlaw (highlight mine)

So, here’s my one-word answer to that question that you may or may not have seen coming based on the title of today’s post:  surprise.  Surprised?

A cat’s uncanny ability to show up in some of the most unexpected places and ways always elicits a reaction from those fortunate enough witnesses.  More times than not, whenever something unforeseen happens, it’s downright startling, as in “Whoa, I did NOT see that coming!”

Not that long ago, I was walking through our kitchen and was completely caught off-guard by our cat, Ringo (yes, after the Beatle!), staring out at me from one of our kitchen cabinets that had accidentally been left open.  Even today, it’s a treasured memory that continues to refresh my soul for its disruption of my otherwise unremarkable, vanilla day because it serves as a priceless reminder that I gloriously don’t have everything figured out, especially when it comes to God.

Surprises like this are a gift because they awaken the once wide-eyed but now all-too-deeply slumbering child adventurer in me.  I don’t know about you, but it’s a joy whenever my much younger self shows up because doors to possibilities suddenly appear that my deadened, cookie-cutter adult self either won’t or can’t conceive of as even existing.  My earlier “God-in-the-box” post touched on this issue.

“and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:3 (NKJV)

“On worship: ‘For many, Christianity has become the grinding out of general doctrinal laws from collections of biblical facts.  But childlike wonder and awe have died.  The scenery and poetry and music of the majesty of God have dried up like a forgotten peach at the back of the refrigerator.’”  John Piper, Desiring God

Such a delightful interruption in my day is a trumpet’s call to be open-minded about just how much more extraordinary, grander, and more mysterious God is than my pedestrian, earth-bound, more “mature” thoughts will comfortably allow.

“Jesus rarely comes where we exect Him; He appears where we we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a worker can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord’s surprise visits.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

And with those truths front and center, it also leads me to contemplate His brighter-than-the-sun, absolutely pure Holiness.  Could the chasm of differences between the Lord and myself be any more stark and dramatic?   To that, I gratefully exclaim, “Wonderfully not!”

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

“No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.”  1 Samuel 2:2 (NKJV)

Our God is not in the least bit humdrum, nor is He passive and ambivalent to the goings-on of this world as some would suggest.  Since the foundation, He has been actively involved in His creation, including, of course, His purposeful commitment to the ongoing, ever-deepening One-on-one relationships with His children.

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

Given the vast differences between God and ourselves in tandem with His desire to conform us to the image of His Son, our Savior, Jesus, we have every reason to anticipate that God should and will upend our ways. 

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

He will upset our status quo for His good purposes.

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”  A. W. Tozer

In the lives of believers, disruptions of all shapes and sizes that lead to the changes He desires to take place in us as proclaimed by scripture should be considered “normal” to expect, shouldn’t they be?

“We do not so much search the Word of God as the Word of God searches us.”  Barry Black, US Senate Chaplain

What sort of God would He be if He didn’t boggle our worldly minds, challenge our mistaken beliefs, expose our tightly-held, wayward assumptions, and overturn our oh-so-carefully but far-too-often selfishly set tables?

 “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.”  Matthew 21:12 (NKJV)

My friends, Jesus is an utterly beautiful disrupter of our doggedly-entrenched worldly condition for good reasons.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;”  Luke 4:18 (NKJV)

Praise God because He is so much more than we dare think or imagine whose generosity knows no bounds.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

He has, after all, given us a surprize beyond measure, Jesus, in a most surprising but oh-so-delightful, completely God-like way.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV)

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16 (NKJV)

It is no surprise that Jesus didn’t come in the form or way that the world expected.  Even to this very day, He continues to give Himself as the ultimate prize to all those who would believe in Him.  And that, dear brother and sister, I pray brings you immeasurable joy and delight every day of the year, especially during this Christmas season.  May God’s surprises continually refresh and bless you in the most remarkable, hope-inspiring ways throughout the remainder of this year and those to follow according to His good and perfect will.   

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27 (NKJV)

“Praise the Lord” by Crowder from the album “Prodigal Son (Deluxe Edition).”

soaring thoughts for sore minds

“God is infinite, and because God is infinite, you and I can be bold and brave in the universe, just the same as the little boy who is brave when his father is around.”  A. W. Tozer, Delighting in God

Recently, my wife and I went out for a later than usual lunch at one of our favorite beachside restaurants.  Accompanying us was my unwanted sullen attitude, which only worsened as a long line of other hopeful diners unexpectedly greeted us at our restaurant of choice.

Patience challenged as I was, I suggested we leave and find a place where we could walk right in with no waiting, but my wife brushed right past my attempts to avoid the crowd, cheerfully observing, “What else do we have to do this afternoon?”  She was right, of course.  It’s just that I didn’t want to hear such positivity as she joyfully, and I begrudgingly took our place at the back of the line.

Why my lousy attitude?  Simply put, I was under siege by a ruthless army of restless, negative thoughts feasting on my worries of “what wasn’t yet, but might be.”

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”  Matthew 12:25 (NIV)

Despite the crowd, we somehow ended up getting the table we’d both choose if we were the only people there.  Sitting outdoors at this time of year overlooking the beach is nothing short of a breath of fresh air, yet my gloominess refused to budge an inch even in the face of our good seating fortune.

All the while, I was trying to tamp my negativity down to prevent our afternoon from becoming a washout.  I felt like I was falling in slow motion off a cliff, yet there was nothing I could seemingly do about it even though I knew better, which made it even worse for me.  I was aboard a self-pity train headed fast towards nowhere good that I desperately wanted to jump off of but maddeningly couldn’t.  Such a tight spot is so frustrating and debilitating for professing Christians to find themselves in, especially for one who writes about my faith as I do.  And with that thought, another chain wrapped itself around my leg.

But then something fortuitously happened out of the blue that completely rearranged and refocused my thinking.  Or perhaps I should be bolder and use the word “providentially?”

“Do you perceive mere coincidence, or do you discern the hand of God?” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

We had been watching a dove sitting forlornly on a nearby ceiling fan blade.  You see, it couldn’t find its way off the seasonally enclosed deck.  While observing the weary bird’s dilemma, I had already ironically thought to myself, “It seems that I’m not the only one trapped today.”  If misery loves company, then the dove was my company.  Suddenly, the bird left the overhead fan blade and landed directly on my head, much to my and everyone else’s surprise and amusement.

There’s something remarkably transformative whenever you perceive yourself as seen instead of unseen, you know?  It’s so encouraging and uplifting.  Here’s how my friend, Mindi, put it in my trucks top rescue post when she was battling feelings of abandonment during a rough time in her life,  “The bird just sat there sweetly looking at me, tenderly reminding me God was with me, watching over me. Instantly my focus was changed from my circumstances to Him. It was a deeply beautiful moment when I truly felt…well, not so alone.”  Amen?  Amen!

“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.” C. H. Mackintosh

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

In that moment of clarity, just as Mindi had experienced, my burdens were left behind as my thoughts also turned away from myself and towards Him.   A few short minutes later, with the help of some other diners, the dove also found welcome release from its captivity, as well.

The enemy would have you believe you’re a forgotten castaway adrift on a raft all alone.  The truth is just the opposite: the Lord always has His eyes on you because He is always with you, His precious and deeply loved child.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’”  Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV)

“’ teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”  Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

This particular day I needed to be reminded of the Lord’s promises.  I needed to refocus my attention on Him.  Graciously that mindset change was initiated by a dove improbably landing on my head.

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)

As much as I’d like to say my faith is rock-solid 24/7, it’s not.  The good news for you and me, though, is that while we have our ups and downs, our heavenly Father never wavers!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)

I pray this story is an encouragement and reminder for you to turn your focus on Jesus regardless of your circumstances.  When you do so, He gloriously transforms your sore earth-bound thoughts into thoughts that majestically soar heavenwards.   May you experience that sweet relief in Him!    

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”  Jeremiah 31:3 (NKJV)

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

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“You Raise Me Up-Acoustic” by Selah from the album “You Raise Me Up: Greatest Hits.”

preauxvision

With God, an ocean of unfathomable possibilities exists right behind us; all we need to do is turn around for a new perspective.

If the late Cajun chef and beloved humorist, Justin E. Wilson, could see “provision” spelled as “preauxvision,” he would most likely enthusiastically exclaim, “Hoo-wee, dat’s sum unexpected Cajun flavoring mixed right in there, I gah-rown-tee (guarantee)!”

True to his love for preparing Cajun cuisine, Mr. Wilson once told the Associated Press, “Cajun cooking is the ability to take what you have and create a good dish and season it right.”  Or, put another way, in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, even the most improbable ingredients prepared with the proper seasoning in just the right way can make your taste buds get up and dance.

“Blessings sometimes show up in unrecognizable disguises. ”  Janette Oke

And so it also is with God’s unexpected provision in our lives.  Indeed, the Lord is capable of making the unlikely, the seemingly impossible, happen.  He is, after all, the Master Chef of all creation.

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)

Using just the right seasonings of His mercy, grace, wisdom, and love, our Heavenly Father can take all of our circumstances and create something good out of them.  Even those that appear to be utterly hopeless and bewildering from our perspective.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”  Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”  Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)

Let me share a story of an unlikely provision in my life from last year amid the pandemic with you.

If you’ve read my bio, you’re already aware my business partner and I began a start-up oil and gas exploration business a few years ago.  Although our goal is simple, the pile of bones of many who have gone before us testifies how truly challenging it is.   Our task is to identify drilling locations with the hopes of ultimately finding and producing an economic accumulation of oil.  Each barrel of oil found and sold becomes the lifeblood that provides the revenue stream we need to survive.   

So, how have we done?  In the three to four years we’ve been in business so far, we’ve been abysmally unsuccessful in this endeavor.  To date, we have produced zero barrels of oil despite our best efforts, which have been bathed in unceasing prayer by myself and many others along the way. I can assure you this was not how I imagined or expected things to go believing that we would be successful within the first year or so.  In short, our prayers seemingly went unanswered, much to everyone’s growing dismay.  But, oh, this is where it gets exciting in the face of such outwardly disappointing results.

“May we be strengthened with the understanding that being blessed does not mean that we shall always be spared all the disappointments and difficulties of life.”  Heber J. Grant 

Last year due to the pandemic, oil commodity prices plummeted to less than zero, hitting a record low of around -$38.00 per barrel.

Following that unbelievable oil price collapse, I wondered how we could ever possibly survive this historical low point for the industry.  However, my anxious thoughts were suddenly brought to a screeching halt by a staggering realization that raced triumphantly through my mind.  Simply put, it dawned on me that had all our prayers been answered according to our expectations and desires, everything would’ve come crashing down around us, abruptly ending in bankruptcy.  You see, there would’ve been no way our fledgling company could have financially survived taking an extended negative price hit on selling our oil.  But, astonishingly, because we had no production during the price crash, we lost nothing and were able to continue to stay in business.  How crazy is this turn of events?

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  Corrie Ten Boom

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Gone were my aching questions about why our prayers for success had gone unanswered.   Suddenly my doubts and fears disappeared and gave way to words of praise for Him for this unexpected form of provision.  In an instant, the Lord used a shocking turn of events to lead me to thank Him for not answering my prayers according to my expectations but instead for answering them His way.  Friends, there’s no other way to say it, but, “Dat’s sum dance-and- praise-worthy preauxvision as only the Lord can provide, I gah-rown-tee!”

 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)

“He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.”  Psalm 107:29-30 (NKJV)

Gratefully, He is exceedingly superior to me in every way.  Amen?  Amen!

“O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.”  Isaiah 25:1 (NKJV)

 “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”  Psalm 30:11-12 (NKJV)

Lord, I’ll trust in You with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. In all my ways I’ll acknowledge You, and You’ll direct my paths. You alone know best because Your ways are higher than my ways, and Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Without faith it’s impossible to please You, so I’ll draw near to You and believe that You reward those who seek You. God, You call me blessed because I have not seen, yet I still believe. You always keep Your promises, and You don’t change like shifting shadows. You’re my dwelling place, my helper, my strength, and my defense. You are mighty, robed in majesty, armed with strength, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. You made the heavens, formed the dry land, and Your renown endures through all generations. You won’t slumber but will watch over my life. You fashioned the ear, formed the eye, and determine the number of stars and call them each by name. God, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and there is no one in all the world like You. (YouVersion original devotional, Praying God’s Truth Over My Fears)

He is by Crowder from the album “Milk and Honey.”

talking trash

“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’  And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”  Revelation 21:5 (NKJV)

 “I have found little that is ‘good’ about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think.”  Sigmund Freud

We’ve all heard it said, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  I was recently blessed to consider this well-worn statement from a spiritual perspective.

Black bears are a pretty standard sight where I live.  They routinely show up in all of the various neighborhoods in the area in search of food.  Their favorite target?  The practically unlimited and readily available buffet of residential trash cans. 

As you might guess, bears are sloppy diners.  They’re never worried about the mess their uninvited foraging leaves behind, which can be pretty substantial if they happen upon a heavily loaded garbage can.

A few weeks ago, the bears treated themselves to an early breakfast at the front of our subdivision.  The aftermath of the bear’s morning celebration stretched from one side of the road to the other, resulting in one resident, a lady, pretty overwhelmed with the clean-up task in front of her.

Upon seeing her predicament, I decided the right thing to do would be to lend her a helping hand.  I have to tell you that I did so with some reluctance because I knew this was a recurring problem for this family.  After all, they were known by all the neighbors never to secure their garbage cans overnight.  In other words, this wasn’t their first post-bear-buffet-clean-up rodeo.

To further add to my less-than-pure motives, as I was picking things up, another neighbor came up to me to point out there were more piles of garbage “over there between those houses and be sure not to miss them.”  And yes, you’d be right in guessing I got a bit Clint Eastwood-squint-eyed upon hearing that comment.  Fortunately, the sunglasses I was wearing at the time did an excellent job of hiding my displeasure over such a “helpful” suggestion.  She quickly added that she had wanted to help pick up, but her husband told her it wasn’t her problem to fix.  Again, let me applaud the unsung and often overlooked advantages wearing sunglasses brings to the table in such situations.

All that to say, my heart’s attitude had become increasingly in the wrong place as I worked my way through the piles of garbage randomly strewn about multiple front yards.  There was a growing grumbling and mumbling on my part each time I picked up a piece of trash. “This really isn’t my problem, so what am I doing here cleaning up someone else’s trash?”

And that’s when a whisper graciously redirected my attention from me to Jesus, saying, “Aren’t you thankful Jesus saw you as so much more than ‘not His trash, not His problem?’  How blessed you are that He didn’t walk away from your sinful mess but instead chose to give Himself up for you willingly.”

I can’t begin to tell you how wonderfully humbling that clarifying moment was for me.  My entire outlook changed from one of oppression to liberation.  My efforts were no longer burdensome, but instead, there was a newfound blessing to be experienced in the task that lay stretched out before me.  Who knew picking up trash could be so joyful? 

“Jesus Christ knows the worst about you. Nonetheless, He is the one who loves you the most.”  A. W. Tozer

Friend, let there be no doubt in your mind and heart that when Jesus sees you, He doesn’t see you as the world does, or even perhaps as you see yourself.  You are not worthless trash that is better left untouched on the side of the road.  You are His creation of immeasurable value that is worth touching.  To Jesus, you are not just any treasure; you are His treasure, the reason He came into this world.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Casting Crowns, “Love Moved First” from the album, “Only Jesus.”

trucks top rescue

(photo courtesy of Mindi H.)

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would have then perished in my affliction.”  Psalm 119:92

“What do you think?  If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which as gone astray?”  Matthew 18:12

Not long ago our friend, Mindi, shared an experience with me about when God sent her life giving hope and encouragement in a most unexpected and unlikely way during an extremely sad and very difficult time in her life.

Some years ago Mindi’s job was cleaning the bathrooms at a truck stop.  She described it as “doing a filthy job in a filthy place.”  You can only imagine what it must have been like—what she had to deal with day in and day out.

One day, despite the appalling physical conditions surrounding her, she confessed with head bowed low that she was so hungry that she was considering eating half-eaten food that had hopefully been left behind in the trash can in the nasty restroom she was about to clean.

Brushing away the tears of hopelessness in her eyes she opened up the door to the restroom to begin her job when she was completely startled by the unanticipated presence of a bird sitting on the sink in the restroom.

Describing that moment, she said, “The bird just sat there sweetly looking at me, tenderly reminding me God was with me, watching over me. Instantly my focus was changed from my circumstances to Him. It was a deeply beautiful moment when I truly felt…well, not so alone.”

Isn’t it wonderful how stories of hope restored like Mindi’s make us feel not so alone, too?  Even when it seems all is lost and we have been forgotten God reminds us in Psalms 34:18 that He is there for us saying, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Echoing Mindi’s experience Rick Warren  beautifully observes, “Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days—when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great—and you turn to God alone.”  Amen, brother, amen.

In the midst of your brokenness He still lovingly calls out to you, “Where are you?” just as He did with Adam and Eve in the garden.  Ever the prodigal child’s Father, He longs for you to return to Him and in so doing run to your side and embrace you, desiring to fill you with hope and joy, all the while wiping away your tears in a beautiful, shared moment of tender worship and intimacy no matter where you might be…even if it’s in a highly unlikely place of worship such as a filthy restroom at a truck stop.

Are you surprised He, the creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, would choose to show up for you in such a place? Are there valleys so uncomfortably and painfully low in your life that you believe the Lord will not meet you there?

Deep down you think to yourself, “He would never come here…no, not to such a dark, ugly, shadow-filled place as I’m now in.” Let us prayerfully reconsider such thoughts.

In “Within and Without” Ann Voscamp puts it this way: “The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”  Isn’t this what David is saying in Psalm 23:4? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The truth is the very opposite of what those negative w-hiss-pers in your head are trying to persuade you to believe about Him: there is nowhere…NOWHERE…He will not go to be with you…to rescue you.  Indeed, Jesus declares, in Matthew 28:20b, “And surely I am with you ALWAYS, to the very end of the age.” 

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” Psalm 139:7-12

Cory Asbury, Reckless Love (radio version)

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