No Darkness

Where do I go when darkness overwhelms? Where do I go when evil abounds and hopelessness prevails? Where do I go when I am powerless to right what is wrong?

To the only one who will accept my collapse for a time into total dependency.

To the one who sheds light on what is dark … little by little, or all at once … it isn’t up to me but up to him.

To the one who brings me into a partnership, not puppetry as I once imagined of him.

To the one who changes my expectations and beliefs  — about almost everything — who corrects wrong-teaching acquired from birth forward, the misinformation about people and God, earth and heaven, death and life, evil and good, darkness and light.

To the one who believes in me, and proves it by stepping back and expecting me to implement his private tutorials, making life a practice session, a lab class to follow the didactic portion of his lessons.

Even when I whine, “Me? I want you to do it! I know you can do anything! Why can’t I be a puppet instead?” and beg, “No, no, you do it for me; injustice and trouble and opposition scare me!”

To the one who doesn’t give in to my arguments, and responds with, “No, I know you can do it. That is my way, asking you to put my instructions into practice. Wanting you to take the mind of Christ forward, step by step, day by day. Helping you to walk out life overturning evil with my laws and precepts, my love, my justice, my mercy.

To the one who stands firm despite my fears, and helps me understand his will despite my finite mind.

To the one who explains when I don’t understand, “I don’t coerce, I ask to be in partnership; it’s always your choice to do so or not. What is a person if they are only puppets and pawns? I value you, each and every one of you, I welcome you to join me in partnership … by choice, never by force.”

To the one who declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

To the one who makes is possible, to together …

Overturn evil with good.

Take back life from the clutch of death.

Release captives of the prince of darkness.

Turn mourning into gladness.

Demand justice where there was none.

Bring mercy, hope and love to deprived people.

Shed light on what is dark.

All of this and more … little by little, or all at once …  it’s not by our might or by power, but by his Spirit. For he is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

 

DSCN0261.jpg God is light, for blog

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Those Who Wait

A year ago ago this decade-old geranium was near death. I didn’t have the heart to dispose of it, so I nursed it instead, giving it a new pot and fresh soil, proper watering, and the prime sunny spot in the garage for the winter.

It’s been on my porch all summer, but today I looked up from my reading and actually saw it. It has more blooms than ever before. Half facetiously, I anthropomorphized my geranium. I was happy for it in a way that a parent is glad to see their child who has struggled so terribly finally flourish.

But this isn’t about my awesome, resilient, over-achieving child geranium. Look closely at the picture above, and see what I finally noticed as I crouched with my camera, centering and getting the light just right. That’s my dog photo bombing my geranium’s fifteen seconds of fame.

She was waiting for me to throw a toy, as I frequently do from the advantaged, elevated level of the porch. She’s a border collie, a herding dog, bred to stay with livestock for hours and days on end. Patience is her virtue. Even her slinky posture as she waits is due to her breed: often cat-like, poised for speedy reaction.

I guess she was there in the yard, waiting in that position, for up to thirty minutes before I spotted her through my camera’s viewfinder. When I’d first noticed the geranium and stood to take its photo, at my feet was another of her Frisbees. She had obviously deposited it there before assuming her post in the yard.

She does this “waiting” both outdoors and in, anticipating my propulsion of any number of gnawed balls or discs. I oblige for awhile, then inevitably busy myself with chores or projects. An hour later when I finish my task, she is still there. Waiting. Focussed. Expectant.

Ponder this:  She’s waiting for me, not another person. So I respond to her. I throw the Frisbee, kick the ball, let her in, let her out, take her for a run when she’s fidgety from inactivity. If she took up her post at the periphery of our yard for passersby to notice, to come play, to engage with her, I would respond differently. I wouldn’t stop to attend to her, I’d keep on keeping on with my own thing.

If she put distance between us and had her back to me, searching for someone other than me to respond to her, it would be futile for me to attempt interaction. If she were oblivious to my existence, it would be pointless for me to attempt engagement; I would be throwing my efforts to the wind. She would be heedless to my affection, devotion, love, direction, caution, discipline, or teaching. If she was looking anywhere and to anyone besides me, I would have no reasonable choice but to continue my day independent of her.

But she doesn’t do that. She waits for me.

Because she waits for me, I take notice of her expectations. What does she want from me? What does she need? She’s looking to me to engage with her, meet her desires and needs … so it is I who responds.

It is I who studies her face and body language. It is I who learns her idiosyncrasies, her behaviors, the constants about who she is. It is I who steps in to keep her safe, to redirect her bad habits, to train her. It is I who has a plan in place to guide her to her potential.

It would be a shame for her, and a shame for those who will share her life with her, if I were to turn away when she looked to me.

I have “the sky’s the limit” in mind for her potential. She’s only a year old, so she’s far, far from that now, but I don’t expect her to be there yet. She can’t be there yet. She still has much developmental maturation ahead. I only expect her to progress, at the pace she can, toward her full potential.

I also don’t expect her to get there by herself. She can’t get there by herself. She needs my commitment to her, my patience, direction, repetition and consistent expectations. She needs me to provide opportunities to challenge her. She needs me to set her up for success. She needs me to understand that incremental successes rejuvenate, encourage, and motivate to take on the next challenge. She needs me to understand that too many failures will convince her “the ground is the limit” instead of “the sky is the limit”.

I am pleased to act on behalf of my dog who looks to me, who waits for me. I am committed to her for the long haul, for her lifetime.

How much more, then, would our Father commit to people? I include every person on Earth — we are all his if we look to him, if we turn from having our backs to him to having our faces to him.

If we have all our lives thought him “fictional”, but one day decide to consider him as “real”, and if we genuinely look to him to respond, he will. He may require us to wait a bit, to separate those who are sincere from those who are disingenuous, but he will respond at least in proportion to our degree of expectation.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV):  13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

If we give him more and more of our concerns and issues to address, he’ll respond even more — he is there to help as much as we expect him to.

If we give him all of ourselves to love, direct, caution, discipline, teach, transform, heal, rejuvenate, motivate, and fulfill, then he will respond beyond what we ask or imagine. With God, his hope and expectation for each of us is, “the sky’s the limit.” But we need him to get us there.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV):  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Isaiah 64:4 (NIV):  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

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A Good Work In You

Humans are a needy lot. Beyond imperatives like food, shelter, and sleep, we need affirmation, hope, motivation, truth, non-fragmented thoughts, noble attitudes, competence, friendships, acceptance, wisdom, and on and on and on.

dovetail-joints--for blogUDU2Ny0yNDcuMjQ5ODM= (1)Do we rely on God to meet our needs? Our areas of lack dovetail with God’s provision. Our needs are a mortise filled with God’s perfectly-fitted tenon. It is a partnership, a melding of a finite human and the infinite God.

John 15:4-  “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

Often our needy lives merit considerable restoration. If a piece of furniture could do the impossible and re-grow its own broken or missing parts, it would be called rejuvenation. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rejuvenate all that we ever lost?

But when it involves the unwillingness of other people, rejuvenation isn’t always possible. That’s when God provides a replacement. God DOES fill the need. He has a detailed, complete plan for your restoration. He dovetails pieces together while crafting the fulfillment of that plan. He is at work creating a masterpiece only he fully envisions.

carpenter, inlaid wood

No single piece of wood comprehends its placement during the design process. As a part being manipulated in the carpenter’s hand, we can’t see his plan. Yielding control to him often elicits anxiety — we fear what he’s going to do and when. We need to remember:

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Psalm 62:5 “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Be still, soul. Rest in God alone. You need not fear him. He is concerned for your well-being.

Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” (Common English Bible)

Trust that God is tirelessly at work meeting your needs, restoring your soul, and establishing your good future.

He will choose the inerrant time to move you from his secluded workshop and publicly unveil his great work. Your purposeful and meaningful life will be recognized as one unable to have been crafted by man alone.

There is sure to be awe-inspiring beauty in his finished work.

inlaid floor for blog

John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Take Charge – Hope and a Future

In our lifetimes, we are given countless chances and opportunities. That doesn’t mean we always notice them. Or take them. Sometimes we see a chance—we even want it badly—but let it pass by. While others take charge of their lives and seize opportunities, our feet are stuck in mud. Or we’re caught in a strong current and can’t break free.

river pic for blog 1Let’s use a river metaphor. A man wants in, but is waiting for someone to set him safely on a raft in the center of the river. In another case, a woman is in the water and wants out—her river is cold and ruthless—but she stays there, captive to the current. Both the man and woman think the power to change their circumstances is in someone else’s hands.

Do people see themselves as having a victim mentality? Most don’t. They have views such as “accept the bad with the good”, “it’s karma”, or “it’s fate.” With a sigh of resignation, many Christians say, “God’s in charge”.

But if we asked God instead of presuming his thoughts, what would he say about fate, chances and opportunities? How much of our lives does he view as ours to control? How many opportunities do we miss and fail to take, that God may have set up for us?

Our paradigm of life determines how we address this issue. If our philosophy is that karma, God, or some immovable force controls our lives, we are likely to put up no resistance when things go badly. We train ourselves to accept that “shit happens”, as the saying goes. On the other hand, if our philosophy is that we exclusively control our life and there is no God, we are likely to exert much resistance when the current of life pulls us in undesired directions.

Those two philosophies are quite polar. Most people’s paradigms are somewhere in the middle. And almost all people have those views without being cognizant of them — they lay somewhere deep in the subconscious, having been covertly adopted in the midst of events that occurred from birth forward.

How much damage do we do to ourselves unknowingly, due to our subconscious philosophies? How many currents of life have swept us into directions we never belonged, because we didn’t put up resistance? We may have believed it was God’s doing, when it might not have been. It may even have been Satan’s doing. How do we know? How do we manage life without knowing?

river current for blogI think we get tossed, pulled, tugged, and overtaken by evil on a regular basis. And I think we develop philosophies about those currents in order to console ourselves.

How can we know what to accept and what to resist? Is it possible to discern? Doesn’t it seem overwhelming, even hopeless? Who are we to out-whit powerful, wanton forces?

There is a way to avert being a victim of harmful circumstances. With God, it’s possible to take charge of your life. All the enemy powers of the world united, can’t destroy God. Your team may include only you and God, but focus on who your teammate is!

Romans 8:31 – What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God will show you how to overcome what is not from him. You can beat illusive and powerful strongholds that have controlled your life and mind. You don’t have to know the outcome of each conflict in advance, or what skirmishes might be ahead, just face each day with God as your ally.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Seek His thoughts and plans for you. Wait. Listen. Understand. Then agree with Him and make decisions accordingly.