Nudgings #43 - Jan. 1  Happy New Year

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A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. (Luke 19:2-4, NIV)

Tradition says that Zacchaeus used to regularly come to water the tree where he found Christ. That tree, where Zacchaeus first saw Jesus—and more importantly, where Jesus first saw Zacchaeus—was a place of precious remembrance and new life. It is where the ever-flowing river of time lost its hold on that traitor, turned tax-collector’s heart and mind. It is where the wood, hay and stubble of a dead-end life turned into something green, growing and truly alive. 

For me, New Year’s Day is a place of remembering—it’s a place where I water the place of my new creation with tears of joy. Otherwise, it’s just another twist and turn on the river of time. Sure, I can let go of the regrets of last year and resolve to do better in the year ahead, but in reality, it’s just another day. But then I remember when I met Jesus, and He met me, and the burden of my heart rolled away. There is no life, hope or help in the turning of a calendar page. Jesus is the Lord of this New Year and He loves you! Remember Him. Happy New Year.

 


Nudgings #42 - Why He Came as a Baby

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The angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. (Luke 2:10-11, NIV)

The other night we took our daughter’s dog, Rio, on a walk and enjoyed seeing all of the Christmas decorations in the neighborhood. One house had a rather large Nativity Scene displayed in the front yard and it caught our attention. It was lit up, included all the characters in the story, and even had “Joy To the World” ringing out from a speaker hidden deep beneath the straw.

Rio was intrigued by the cow in the scene. It was funny to watch her stop and cautiously stretch out her neck to touch noses with the plastic beast. Once she realized it wasn’t real and all was safe, she lost interest and we kept walking.

My attention was on the child at the center of the display, and as we walked, I pondered the Creator of the Universe, stooping down, coming as a baby and living among us . . .

The scene of His birth wasn’t on the front lawn of a sleepy little sub-division, it was in the midst of poverty, struggle and danger. Jesus came in the flesh and lived with us in the humblest and most ordinary conditions. He lived quietly, faithfully, obediently and lovingly as He walked the rough and dusty roads of this life—through sorrow, suffering and ultimately to death on a cross “for all the people.”

Jesus was born to us—to save us. He didn’t come to us as a model, example, teacher, healer, or guide. His agenda wasn’t about Heaven or Hell or politics or popularity. It was all about you and me—living today in this very harsh and hard world.

He came to us as a flesh and blood baby, to live among us and save us from sin and all the hopelessness, sorrow, separation and loss that it entails. Jesus is the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe and the baby in the manger. He is real and in Him we are safe.

As we wrapped up our walk, I found my pondering had turned to humming . . . “Joy to the World.”


35 years . . . In His Name

Dina,

God’s gifts are good and perfect, His promises are true.
It is a precious gift for me, to celebrate 35 years with you.
As we care together, share together, live our lives as one;
Looking to the light of God, following His Son;
May our lives and our love, show the world why Jesus came.
I love you precious Dina, and will forever, In His Name.

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Nudgings #41 - A Free Life Jacket Kiosk

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Listen as Wisdom calls out
Hear as understanding raises her voice!
On the hilltop along the road,
she takes her stand at the crossroads.
By the gates at the entrance to the town,
on the road leading in, she cries aloud,
I call to you, to all of you!
I raise my voice to all people. …
But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death. (Proverbs 8:1-4, 36 NLT)

You choose.

The Wisdom of God is like a free life jacket kiosk at a lake. It’s always there and available, offering help, support, peace of mind, safety, good sense, protection and . . . life.

But most of us don’t give that kiosk a second look.

C’mon, life jackets are bulky, uncomfortable, too hot, they get in the way, and they just aren’t cool. The water’s calling and we jump right in!  We say, “I’m a strong swimmer, nothing’s going to happen to me,” . . . until it does, and then it’s too late.

The waters of life these days are rough, churning and dangerous, and every morning, as we enter the maelstrom, there stands the Wisdom of God kiosk—calling out, ready and available to help and to save.

Those who miss it, risk injury. Those who reject it, incur death.

Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God kiosk and the life jacket. “[He] is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24, NLT). He knows your heart, and all about your wants, needs, hopes, disappointments, challenges, losses, victories and failures, and he sees you struggling to stay afloat amidst the troubled waters.

And He offers help.

He says, “I love you and I want to save you. Come unto Me, put me on, and I will give you life.”

You choose.


Nudgings #40 - Psalm 131 Prayer Response

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My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3, NLT)

My prayer:
Pride is a part of me. Guard my heart Lord and keep me close, for I know you “oppose the proud but give grace to the humble.” I want and need you in my life—more than anything.


Haughty eyes . . . I have them. Forgive me God. Help me to not look down on anyone with criticism, judgment, or disdain. Give me eyes of love. Help me to remember how you see me . . . and may your kindness, mercy and grace be the lens through which I view the world around me.


Keep my eyes fixed on you Jesus. Steady me as the world of science, media, culture, entertainment, economics and politics swirls. Keep me from being caught up in it all. I am not my infantile urges. My peace is found in Jesus. He is my life, my growth, my maturity, my identity and my help.


I am wholly devoted to the Father who loves me, provides for me, guides me and cares for me—completely.


In You alone I put my hope and trust.
Amen.


Nudgings #39 - Cling to Jesus

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I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. (Psalm 63:8, NLT)

The other day I spent over two hours watching a power company worker climb and trim a huge tree. Wow. I can’t speak for the climber, but for me, just watching it all was an amazing, interesting, challenging, adventurous, nerve-racking and scary experience.

The climber used a harness, carabiners, ropes, two flip lines and a set of spikes on his feet to hold himself and his heavy chainsaw to that tree. At one point I saw the climber’s spikes slip, but the worker didn’t fall because his flip line and harness held him fast. The tree stood tall and strong, and as long as the climber clung to it . . . he was safe.

In Psalm 63 we find King David (a person just like you and me) in the midst of an amazing, interesting, challenging, adventurous, nerve-racking and scary experience––life.

And what did he do? He held on to the One holding him.

“I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (vs. 8)

So, that’s what I will do. I will cling to the mighty Tree of Life who is holding me––Jesus, the one who died upon a tree.


Grow

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Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days . . . Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. — John Wesley


It Went So Fast

Here it is, graduation season once again. It is a time for celebration and reflection. Here is a piece I wrote a few years ago about how precious and fleeting our lives are. I pray it is a blessing to you. 

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IMG_2001This moment contains all moments. 

                        ― C.S. Lewis

The other day I taught my final Senior Seminar class of the semester. With the end of the school year in sight it is interesting to hear college students say things like, “I can’t believe that my student teaching experience is almost over,” or “I can’t believe that I am graduating in just a few days. It went so fast." 

It went so fast? Really?

Student teaching generally comes at the end of an Education Major’s college experience and is sixteen grueling weeks of early mornings and late nights, scores of assignments and hundreds of lesson plans. It is the culmination of the four-year experience that is known as college.

Four years . . . and it went so fast?

Completing student teaching and graduating from college are significant occasions in life, hurdles to clear and milestones to achieve. They represent those challenges in life that exist as big, scary, anxiety-laden question marks, that in the moment, we just want to “get through” or “be done with.” But then suddenly, much to our surprise, they are . . . done.

When the goal is achieved and the challenge is behind us, we are left with the experience, the fun, the friendships, the memories—and the sense that it all went so fast.

It is times like these that resonate with the psalmist’s ominous words, “Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Ps. 39:5, ESV)

A mere breath? Is there really such a thing? A breath is a small, brief and passing eventbut oh so important.

Google says that the average person takes 24,000 breaths per day.  That is a lot of breaths, surely more than enough, you would think. But try holding your breath for a minute and you soon realize that every breath counts.

Breaths happen quickly, numerously, and without notice. But the brief second that a breath takes does not lessen its value or importance.

Much like breaths in the midst of breathing, the moments of life, albeit meaningful, slip away subtly, silently and unnoticed. Our adventures, struggles, experiences, emotions and relationships are nuanced through things like perspective and hindsight and then meld and morph into a nostalgic longing we refer to as, “the good old days.”

It's ironic, but even the young long for the good old days. Andy, from The Office, says it well,

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

Regardless of whether it happened last month, last year, or a decade ago—as we reflect back on those good old days, we find ourselves saying of life, “It went so fast.”

It is here that we experience a mix of melancholy and regret—a feeling that something significant happened and yet, we missed it.

But we didn’t miss it, we lived it. Or did we?

This quandary leads me to the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90. In vs. 10 he reflects back on his life and says,

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

His words are startling. Moses spent forty years shepherding goats in anonymity and then another forty years wandering the desert with God’s people. Over his 120 year life span, he was a prince, a leader, a prophet and a deliverer. He was married, had children and grandchildren, took a stand against evil, stood on Holy ground, and walked and talked with God.

Moses lived a long, full and storied life, and yet we find him looking back with a sigh saying, “Wow, it went so fast.”

If he felt that way, what hope do we have?

Two verses later (vs. 12), we find in Moses’ prayer the answer to this dilemma,

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

What does it mean to “gain a heart of wisdom”?

Wisdom comes from God. It is the good, helpful, guiding, life-giving way to act, think and live. It is God’s mind and the Holy Spirit’s prompting in our being and doing. It’s the way to live well, appreciate what matters most and take nothing for granted—not even a single breath.

Maybe gaining a “heart of wisdom” is liken to knowing you are in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.

So how do we gain this heart of wisdom?

Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days aright”.

To “number our days” is to recognize the immense value in the current moment. Upon this writing, the calendar tells me that today’s date is Wednesday, May 2, 2018. This date on the calendar is so much more than a number. There has never been a May 2, 2018, and there never will be again. Yesterday (the past) is gone and there is no guarantee of tomorrow (the future).  Today (the present) is all each of us have, and another word for present, is gift.

Each day is a gift.

God holds the gift of a day in high esteem. So much so that He initiates each one with hope, forgiveness and love. His mercies are new every morning and are as breathtaking and life-giving as a sunrise.

God gives us sustenance for each day’s journey. He feeds our body and soul with “daily” bread—with Jesus, who is our “hidden manna” (Rev. 2:17). And as we journey, God goes with us. On the path of life, we are to rely upon God and the Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in us, as we live every minute of the day.

David Roper says, “Time flies and so do we.” This is a hard truth that should cause us to live mindfully and carefully.

To “number our days aright” is to live them well and with purpose, and that begins with loving God and loving those around us. When we do this we can savor those moments, relationships and experiences that fly by so quickly.

Days and breaths are too numerous to count, but both are so important. Don't wish them away or waste them. Number them aright, not by counting them, but rather, by making them count.

For you can be sure that the day, the event, the challenge, the goal, the dream, and even the four-year college experience, will be over and done with before you know it, and you will find yourself saying,

“I can’t believe that I am graduating in just a few days. It went so fast.”


Nudgings #38 - Eternity

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God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT)

For now we see through a glass, darkly … (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)

I don’t understand all this “eternity” talk . . . but then again maybe I do, sort of. Eternity means forever, and forever includes tomorrow, and I spend a lot of time thinking about, wondering about and unfortunately, worrying about tomorrow. And I know you do too.

All humans have “eternity” in their hearts and minds. Just look at the way we all check the weather. The news stories and interest articles that catch and keep our attention are all about what is coming—what might be. And for all of us, at one time or another, things don’t look too good—in fact, they look dark. So what are we to do with this “eternity” in our hearts?

The wisdom literature of the Old Testament tell us to:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)

And Jesus, as he speaks to Jairus, a desperate father in the New Testament, says to us:

Don’t listen to them; just trust me. (Mark 5:36, MSG)

This “eternity” thing is in us, and way beyond us. We get it, but we don’t, and this place of tension and unease leaves us in a difficult place. What are we to do? Like the Apostle Paul, “we see through a glass, darkly.” He had eternity in his heart too, so I’m going to follow his lead. He says:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)


Boldly

[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15-16, NLT)

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Jesus made a way for us to pray—and lift our lives and our needs to the Almighty God—at all times. Prayer is not just what we do before meals or during a certain part of a church service, but it is to be who we are as Christ-followers. We are to be known as those “who call upon the Lord.”

The Apostle Paul tells us to, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph. 6:18, NIV)

Don’t let the Enemy dupe you into thinking that God doesn’t want to hear from you because of your sins and failures. Jesus paid our debt, He made a way so that we can come boldly to the Lord and call upon Him for help, care, strength and power in our lives. God is not looking for fancy words or a perfect performance, His ear is attuned to those who ask, seek and knock. He wants to hear from your heart. 

Pray at all times—as you walk, work, worship, go to a quiet place and gather with others—and do it boldly in Jesus’ Name.

Here are a couple of great worship songs to sing and pray to the Lord: