Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Elevator Floors

So real it's scary

I must say that this is a nasty trick to play on elevator riders. When I go into an elevator I do not give a second thought to safety. Over the years I have made a mental note of enough elevator inspection certificates that problems with the ride to the next floor do not even cross my mind.

Put this up there with one of those primal fears – spiders, snakes on a plane, and floors that drop out from under you.

Although, I must admit the clip is interesting to watch. In an instant people go from being totally inside their heads (What’s for lunch? Will this meeting go well? Does my breath stink?) to being totally outside their heads. We are witnessing the onset of fight or flight response. And some of these victims just might flee right up the side of the elevator wall. For just a bit, they cannot see the floor that supports them.

But, just as quickly as it began the fight or flight mode shifts down into normal gear – all except for the heart rate and emotional response. These continue for a while. That is why, when leaving, several of the victims look back at the elevator as if they cannot quite believe it all turned out okay.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8: 24-25

Isn’t this clip interesting metaphor for hope? If we assume that hope is something we always see we will be disappointed in it. This is the human kind of hope; an optimistic feeling drawn from past experience or current evidence. It is a glass-half-full kind of hope. We think things will go well because we can see the floor below us. Everything is as it should be and all is well.

But, what if it isn’t all well? How do we fare when a lost job, lose a loved one, or a devastating diagnosis drops the floor from under us? Our human hope does not serve us well in these situations. The what ifs start creeping in.

What if we lose our health insurance?

What if I cannot go on without my loved one?

What if the answer to my prayer is not what I want to hear?

We cannot cling to the wall of the elevator with a handful of what ifs.

The hope of the Bible is an assurance. It does not demand that we quickly decide if we will fight or flee. It does not depend on circumstances, strength of character, or bootstraps. Biblical hope is just there, whether or not we see it.

Hope is there because it has already been accomplished for us. A new floor is already in place. The answer is already written. The deed is done and our Salvation has been won.

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But, take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

God is not as concerned with our happiness as He is with our Salvation. He warns us that we will have troubles and He makes no promises that we will be able to endure or conquer those troubles. Instead, He reminds us that He has already overcome. He is the hope we do not always see; the hope that saves us.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:43

Go ahead, take His hand. He’s got this.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Missed Blessings


The idea of mixed blessings is an easy concept to understand, but this little girl suffers from missed blessings. As she opens the gift, the kitten escapes. She thinks she has been given an empty box. After her parents encourage her to turn around and look, she brings her hands to her heart and announces “ Oooh, I have a cat.”

One wonders, if her parents hadn’t said anything, how long it would have been before she noticed her gift crouched behind the tree.

When I am faced with a mixed blessing, a blessing attended by grief, I seem to instinctively know how to respond. I separate the good from the unfortunate and find a way to both rejoice and grieve. At least I can make it seem like I know how to respond.

But a missed blessing is a different situation. I miss blessings when I sit right in the middle of one and still continue to complain. Just like this little girl I miss the blessing even when it meows at me from inside the box.

To wit:

I’m frustrated trying to get information or access for one of my contract jobs.

          Ooops -- I have work.

My body continually reminds me that I am getting older and more tired, less strong and less capable.

          Ooops -- I have good health.

I made a mistake ordering online and ended up driving over ten miles to pick up my pizza.

          Ooops -- I have money for food.

I got to spend time with my kids for the second time this Christmas.

Car seat warmers work to keep pizza warm.

I have seat warmers in my car.

Which is no small thing given the kinds of winters we have in Nebraska – oops

          I have a car with seat warmers.

It appears I need more practice with the “Search for Missed Blessings” game. My goal for this year is to turn around and look for the missed blessing. What God gives me rarely runs away and hides. Instead, my blessings sit on my lap and beg for my attention.

I rejoice in God’s love and care for me. I rejoice in my opportunities to worship and serve Him with gladness. I pray God fills my heart and my thoughts with gratitude for His mercy and grace.

God loves me. He loves me through my grumpiness, my pain, my sorrow, my joy, and my missed blessings.

God loves you, too. Happy New Year!

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas 2016

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13

2016 has been a challenging year. It would be easy to focus on strife and struggle only to end the year without hope. Over the last twelve months our world has seen so much death, destruction, hatred, and lies. If we ever doubted that we were sinners living in a sinful world, surely social media has crushed that misconception! We need to be reminded of the grace of Christmas every day and it seems especially desired as we end this year and look toward 2017. 

The message of Christmas is about faith, hope, and love. A God-given faith that strengthens us, a hope that gives us courage, and the love we need to live, work, and nurture those we encounter each day. The message of Christmas is so much more than angels, shepherds, and a baby in the straw. It is everything. It is forever. It is Salvation. 

The children of Israel had waited countless generations for a Messiah. They waited through sin, through victory, through evil kings and occupation. The faith that sustained them continually pointed them toward a manger – even if they did not recognize the Gift when it cooed in the hay. 

For generations Christmas has filled the hearts of God’s children with hope. We have hope for what the Savior can accomplish in our lives. We have hope for peace on earth. We have hope of someday entering heaven and touching the face of God. We must remember that the hope of Christmas is not a fingers-crossed kind of hope. It is an empty-grave hope.  It is a hope that is assured because of the love of the Father, the work of the Spirit, and the death and resurrection of our Savior. 

Yet, as important as faith and hope are to our lives, love is certainly the greatest of the three.

God is love and the baby Jesus is that Love walking and living among us. We so desperately need this love and yet we throw it away in favor of the things and worries of the world. Christmas makes us stop, and listen, turn to our faith, live in hope, and most importantly - love.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,endures all things. Love never ends. I Corinthians 13:7-8a

Our world needs the Love of Christmas now, more than ever. We pray that God will allow us to block out the world and to feel this love and live it in our home, in our church, and in our community.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Backing out of Trouble

It is hard to step out into the internet without bumping into a cat video. For your entertainment pleasure, here is a compilation of cats with their heads stuck in things.

My favorite thing about this clip is how the cats think they can back out of something they are stuck in. Watching the clip we can easily see that the cats could walk backwards for a mile and still have that potato chip bag on their heads. 

I wonder if God watches "clips" of humans in bemused trouble. Does He shake his head and whisper "silly children" under His breath? If this is true, then I personally have been the source of much laughter. 

Cats have one excuse for getting stuck in things. They are curious and want to have a sniff-map of their world tucked away in their heads for future reference. Any new object in the territory needs to be explored and categorized. 

I have no such excuse for the problems I cause myself. 

Oh, I have plenty of reasons: pride, gossip, idleness, to name a few. But, I have no excuses. God did not create me to sin. He created me perfect and from my conception I have been fine tuning my ability to get myself stuck in my own sin.

This verse in Amos draws a picture of how we walk from one sin induced trouble to the next. We walk blindly into trouble and our attempts to escape the consequences of our sin are in vain.
It is darkness, and not  light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the  house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a a serpent bit him. 
Amos 5: 19, ESV

The intent of the verse is to show how we cannot elude God. He will find us in our unrighteousness no matter how we try to backpedal our way out of it. 
We may try to blame others, but God stands before us with the truth.

We may try to claim an excuse, but God stands before us with the truth.

We may resort to denial, but God stands before us with the truth.

We sit in a darkness of our own making. 

But, God's pursuit of us is not limited to holding us accountable for our lack  of righteousness. God seeks to return us to the Light, by making us, once again, righteous.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. Micah 7:8, ESV

We may put our heads into one bag or box after the other. We may try, in vain, to extricate ourselves from our humiliation. We may disappoint again, and again, and again. Each time our Heavenly Father gently picks us up and removes the darkness of our own sin with the blessed forgiveness offered by our Savior. 

We are sinful. We are silly. We are His precious children.