The Last Will Be First

Matthew 20:16 – “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Does it matter if someone’s promises from God were fulfilled quickly, when others endured decades before their arrival? It’s not up to us to measure the fairness of that.

Isaiah 55:8 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

Should a person disqualify himself because he thinks he should earn seniority? Should he anticipate what God may do, by corporate standards? Should he reject an offer that others “earned” by being faithful longer?

That would be a huge shame, a tragic waste of an opportunity. He should take what God offers even if he has suffered little, waited less, or believed only briefly compared to others.

Those who endured much didn’t do so without gain. Those who remained hopeful of God through challenging circumstances, amassed patience, character, wisdom, insight and depth during the wait. Those who were spared suffering, or were the cause of their own hardships, will never understand all that a long-sufferer learned from injustice. Know that the faithful are not unrewarded. Let him reconcile his “unearned” blessings with that, if he must.

There is no reason to disqualify himself because he just came on board with what others were faithful to for years. He can and should jump into the opportunities God offers and allows him, even if he previously criticized or disbelieved it. It’s God’s offer. Who are we to view God’s ways through world-based lenses?

I pray we are given eyes to see God’s way. Without his view, we risk rejecting the abundant life he offers. What a waste that would be, a decision not without consequences. Imagine disqualifying ourselves from full potential, only to later realize the gravity of our error. Talk about regret.

So, let the last be first. And when he takes his position, let him demonstrate humility, gratitude, and respect to the faithful before him.

Proverbs, 22:4 – “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”

 

 

Retrieving A Promise

Who could ever resist something grown by God?

Not that we can’t fail to be fertile soil for God’s seed. Sadly that’s common. We can disallow a seed to be planted, or after receiving it, we can later discard it. Many people do that when a promise no longer elicits the pleasant emotions it did at first. Once it becomes a challenge, the promise is thrown out.

Matthew 13:3-8 – And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.”Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.”And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

Matthew 13:18-23 – “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

Is it too late to retrieve rejected seeds or partially developed promises from God?

I doubt it is too late. I’m not referring to those people who will never, ever choose what God wants for their lives; I’m thinking of those who couldn’t hang in there as a field for God’s seed, promise, or word due to personal weaknesses. Would God give them another opportunity?

God is merciful, forgiving and understanding. Surely he wouldn’t reject a person aspiring to pleasing him. Regardless his past. Regardless his timing.

 

 

Promises Fulfilled

What happens when we’ve heard God’s word and promises, and believed to the point of great hope for our lives, but the promises remain unfulfilled?

Proverbs 13:12 – Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

After a long time hearing how good life is going to be someday, we need to see it happen. I’m not talking about wanting it to happen — we did from the first talk of it — we need it to happen. An unmanifested promise eventually elicits pain from the place it used to evoke hope.

Imagine a business promised its employees improved salaries and benefits. As months passed, the employees’ thoughts and emotions underwent change when the talk failed to become reality. After years of hearing promises that weren’t fulfilled, they felt foolish for their naive enthusiasm early on. Even the most loyal employees grew suspicious that the owners’ promises were empty words. Hope disappeared entirely for some, and barely held on for others.

Years passed. The business owners held yet another employee meeting to reiterate the promises. What once motivated had a different effect on people: It served to remind them how the meetings have disappointed. It sparked pain, not hope.

When I toured Dachau concentration camp in Munich, I imagined how the prisoners must have struggled to retain hope of liberation. Some were unable to, assuring their deaths by broaching the restricted fenced area to be shot by guards. Others held on to hope, managing (amazingly) to face each day of barbarous conditions. Maybe some developed dysfunctional thinking to detach from reality to cope.

Each person was different emotionally and mentally. Some were more resilient regarding hope, some lost it quickly. Some exuded anger, others were inexplicably peaceful. Some found that to be with the angry or cynical was too much — it snuffed what little hope they were able to salvage — so they withdrew to their inner world where hope was sustainable.

This photograph is of Dachau concentration camp survivors at the arrival of the allied forces.

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Liberation day. Hope fulfilled. What a powerful, historical, inconceivably-emotional, and incomparable moment in time.

Faith in a promise when it remains unfulfilled, even when that promise came from God, is not easy. The Bible is full of stories where God’s prophecies and promises were not manifested for years, even centuries. The people of those times surely experienced the “struggle-to-believe” that is common to man.

There are times our hope is slowly dying within. We are on the verge of taking action to absolve the inner turmoil. We consider going back to living the way we did before we grasped God’s promise and simply stop believing it — it seems that might relieve the pain. If we made life decisions based on a promise, we fear that those decisions were foolish. We consider denying our own personal history to erase the memories — maybe that will cure the inner conflict caused by deferred hope.

We can’t explain why, but we know something has to change. We’ve experienced what carrying a promise of God has done to us over the years. A seed was planted within our spirit or soul. It initially brought warmth to our souls, but changed over time. It became uncomfortable, a source of angst, and is often unbearable.

At the point when our heart has become sick, we need the promise to transform from unseen to seen. (Unseen to others but ask the bearer of the seed and they will say they were acutely aware of the seed over the years, sometimes painfully so and they will marvel that the same acute awareness they experienced could ever be unseen to others.)

A promise from God can’t stay an undeveloped seed, it must grow. While it is growing, it causes us to feel we must change or life must change. Something must give! How could a true seed of God, that hasn’t been discarded by the person it resides in, and doesn’t depend on the will of others, do anything but manifest?

Isaiah 55:11 - So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

The promise must become what God intended it to be. It is pushing to be seen. The person who is the field sown into, feels it as it grows, and must let it happen. He can’t manage it, control it, or change it. No wonder, if it’s a seed planted by the God, the creator of the universe — who can prevent something grown by God?

Amid the growing pains of faith, we can take our inspiration from the survivors of Dachau. Surely, if they sustained hope, we can too. We must hang on to our personal promises from God, and remain fertile fields for them to grow to fruition.

We look forward to the day that our hopes in God’s promises are fulfilled. Our liberation day. Hope fulfilled. What a powerful, historical, inconceivably-emotional, and incomparable moment in time it will be.

The World According To Juniper

Juniper for blog DSCN2144

I once lived on the streets of Chicago. Harsh winters. Hot summers. Wind and rain. Hunger. Fearless dogs and feral cats. Taxis. Rushing commuters. Bicycles. Unpredictable humans.

Until one of them spotted me. He jumped off his two-wheeler and scooped me up. I landed inside a big brownstone. Tall Guy brought home a bag of food. Got my own bowl, too. Some days he let me on the balcony, where I lounged in the sun and watched dogs on the beach. The earth ended there. Nothing but water beyond.

He named me Juniper, after a bush. Got the idea from his garden-center job. He also called me Little Girl, or Underfoot, and guessed I was not yet a year old. He held me overhead, stretched out like Supercat, and walked me around the place. I loved flying.

A month passed, then two. I ended up confined to his small bedroom. He had three college roommates, all sneezers. I heard a new word: allergies. My human friend turned sad. He had a small black box that rumbled at random — one night he talked into it. “Mom,” he said, “I have a big favor to ask.”

I met the human called Mom soon after. Tall Guy said goodbye and locked me in her car. It rumbled like the black box, only more. Through the windows, I saw buildings and trees fly away like leaves. I howled till I was hoarse. Due west for three long, miserable hours.

Inside her garage was a rabbit. In her house were worse despairs: a large dog and a male cat. She trapped me in their turf, unmindful of rules. Where I come from, even the youngest alley cats knew those. Separation. Finally, she thought to close doors. I got the basement. Heard the dog above, sniffing, searching for me.

Adjustment — another new word, used often the first week. And “Oh no, fleas.” I heard her on her small black box. “A spay, please. She’s under a year, we think.”

I was put in the car again and passed to a stranger. Spent the day in a cage, out of the cage, on a cold table, back in the cage. Before dark, I heard the vet tell Mom, “She is actually a he. And he’d already been neutered. We shaved him before we realized. And he’s not one, he’s about five.”

My human family, not exactly animal experts. They talked it over and decided, “Juniper still works.” When they’re all together, they laugh and remember the errors. They could have looked before they named me. And shaved me. Insult to injury, the neighbor girl thought my name was Jennifer.

In time I befriended the foxhound, Annie, and the big tabby, Gabe — the rabbit, Molly, kept safe in her cage. We had three years together. Watching Annie tree squirrels and circle for hours, excited. Staring at birds, and dogs out on walks. Tackling Gabe. Sunning on the porch. Playing chase in the house. Making Mom open the door. Let us in. Let us out. Let us in. Let us out.

I learned adjustment never ends. Lost old Molly first, Annie two autumns later. Should have known when Gabe lay next to Annie her final days. Big Dog stopped going up steps, so Mom slept on the couch the last week. We ached when Annie was gone. For a long time, we thought she was ’round every corner, behind every door.

Gabe and I adjusted. Two male cats on one turf. I stopped pouncing on him. He let me touch noses. Gabe was getting frail, not feeling right. He let me lie closer and closer. When he shivered, I sprawled on him, giving warmth at night. A year after Annie passed, Gabe did, too.

Ceaseless adjustment. I’m twelve now, the sole animal left. I do volunteer work, keyboarding for Mom — both computer and piano. I can still jump from fridge top to upper cabinets. I’ve never been more secure, more content. I do wish she’d sit more often, for unlimited time curled up in her lap, and to bat at the strings of her hoodie.

Got a full belly every day, fresh air when I want it. Interesting work. A faithful family. When Tall Guy visits, we play Supercat. I still love to fly. I don’t even mind sharing my name with a bush outside my home.

My home. That sounds so right.

Back in the day, it wasn’t this way. It was high risk at big cost. Turfs fought for, earned or lost with scratches and bites. Cars and bikes and humans to dodge. Scraps to scavenge. Weather was brutal as often as not.

Juniper for blog DSCN1644

I have my own territory, my own turf now. Climate-controlled, with food in my bowl. Safety and warmth and people I adore.

Home.


Published previously in The Dispatch/ Argus, December 2013.


 In memory of our good buddy, Juniper.

February 19, 2015

Juniper for blog, cropped shot DSCN2143

 

God In The Details

Several years ago, a friend who was worn down and distressed by a loved one’s animosity and life choices, asked for help in the form of prayer. This is a followup message I sent, after we’d addressed the details of the issues in other emails:


Subject: Parting seas.

Hey ___ ,

Nice teamwork! Sorry you get the front line on earth, while I get the less painful spiritual fight. You mentioned being distraught, which is no fun. I know it all too well. I’m glad you were shown a distant perspective of what’s happening on earth, at least for now.

It seems to me that God pulls us up with Him to see the big picture sometimes, and other times leaves us on earth where we can’t see the forest for the trees. I suspect our work with Him is effective with both layers of perspective having great value. What you are doing with ___ , though unpleasant and painful, is having a positive, priceless and permanent impact.

I used to wish I could just stay above in the spiritual perspective where nobody can hurt me, but work for Him must also be down in the thick of it. Besides, it’s on that same, often painful earth, that He blesses us with rewarding and wonderful things.

The past few weeks I’ve “heard” that what opposed me before, is falling away now. It makes my outlook on life finally hopeful again. I feel excitement for what God has ahead. Could life actually be forward-moving, productive, satisfying and happy? Could the years of trying, but getting nowhere, actually be winding down? I think that’s what God is communicating to me. It’s taking awhile to adjust to it, as I’m so used to experiencing disproportionate amounts of life’s injustices and pain.

In daily life, many sources of trouble and opposition really are falling away. Problems that used to be impenetrable aren’t all immovable anymore. (Some remain rock-solid obstacles, but I sense that He is taking a different route around those.)

I believe God is saying that life ahead will be significantly different, because He is coming alongside my efforts, and adding His power to what refused to budge. As the seas part, His plan and purpose can forge ahead.

How does that change being alive? Life becomes productive where it was futile, celebratory where it was dour, free where it was tripped up by ill-intentioned people, abundant where resources had been stripped and depleted, and happy where it had been hopeless.

So, that’s my unplanned, unexpected little sermon today!

Later, friend!


There you have it — a glimpse inside my life with God.

It’s more about listening and understanding, than about soliciting.

It’s more about belief in what God says, than about discouragement and fear in dire circumstances.

It’s more about learning who He is while engaging with Him in daily life, than about distance between us.

The gap has been bridged by Jesus’s sacrifice of life, and by the presence of His Holy Spirit on earth. As unlikely as it seems, and as difficult as it is to absorb, He longs to partner with each of us, to engage with us every hour of every day, and to help and empower us in the details of our lives.

 

Winter

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cindigale:

As another Valentine’s Day nears …

Originally posted on Cindi Gale:

It is Valentine’s Day and snowing here in middle America. This is the day of love, we’re told. Tradition, media, and society show us what love looks like. But what if your life doesn’t look like that? What if you are in the season of winter? What if your winter has been going on for a long, long time?

DSCN1760Don’t be misled or feel inadequate if you don’t fit the mold on this day of candy, cards, dinners, and flowers. In truth, love doesn’t fit into that mold either.  It can’t be reduced to a stereotype. It can’t be forced. It comes in its own time and may never look like an advertisement or movie. Do we really want it to, anyway? Isn’t that a rather small depiction of love? In Solomon’s writings, love is large and is intertwined with seasons.

From Ecclesiastes ~ To every thing there is a season, and…

View original 246 more words

Acceptance

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The following are the words of Dr. Eugene May, today, 8 February 2015:

I am often amazed at the opinions that so many of us have of ourselves. We have a tendency to see all of our “FAULTS” and “FLAWS” and, as a result, we find ourselves under “CONDEMNATION.” However, I made a decision many years ago to look at myself as God sees me.

Paul brought a tremendous revelation to us when he wrote, “… He made us ACCEPTED in the Beloved.” When I look at this verse from Ephesians and then read, “There is therefore now no CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus,” I see that God “ACCEPTED” and “LOVED” us with our “FAULTS” and “FLAWS.”

Does this mean that God is not concerned with our “FAULTS” and “FLAWS?” No! But it is God who is working in us to “CHANGE” us into the “IMAGE” of His Son, which is the goal of our lives. Paul also said, “… For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” It is the Holy Spirit that God uses to bring us to perfection.

Child of God, do not submit to “CONDEMNATION,” for you are “ACCEPTED” in Jesus Christ, even with your “FAULTS” and “FLAWS.” Is He working on you? Yes! The Holy Spirit is the One that brings “CONVICTION” and “CHANGE.” Now, walk in your “ACCEPTANCE” in Him.


Ephesians 1:6 – “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

Philippians 2:13 – “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Romans 8:21 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”


With gratitude to Dr. Eugene May for permission to share his writing.