What Makes Big Things Possible

water dropThe holiday season is fast approaching and as memories are remembered and time is shared throughout these next few weeks, let us not forget to be thankful for the small things. I’m sure we can all think of people and things and events that we are thankful for – our spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters; our wedding day or our first day on a new job and signing the papers on our first home. Those are the big things that most, if not all, of us are thankful for each and every day. But there are smaller things, little events that have as much of an impact, maybe even more, on our lives that we often take for granted.

If you’ve been following this blog you know that I have recently started a new job. I have been in training for the past 4 weeks and Monday will be my first solo day. There has been so much information to assimilate and policies and procedures to become familiar with that keeping my head on straight has been quite difficult. My prayer each day has been, “Lord, just help me to remember what I need for today and remind me tomorrow of what I need to know then”…and he has. There have been moments – moments of clarity and understanding – that have given me hope that I will be successful. Maybe someone was praying for me or perhaps someone cleared away something that would have made things more difficult for me to learn…I’m almost sure many were granted great patience! It is these small things that I am thankful for.

Over the weeks I have shadowed several people doing the job that I have been hired to do. They each have their own style and method of getting to the same place and I have realized something quite profound – for me at least – that reminded me of the whole reason I began writing here just over a year ago: “It really is all about the journey”. We are all headed to the same place; we each have the very same final destination. We will all meet The Maker one day and nothing will change that fact. The real issue at that time will not be whether we made it there or not, but what did we do along the way.

Did we reach out to that one in need? Did we pray that prayer when no one was listening? Did we encourage each other? Did we remove stumbling blocks from someone else’s path? Did we love with our whole heart? Did we believe the best or expect the worst? Did we forgive…and then choose to forget? These are just some of the small things that are often unknown to those who benefit from them but have the potential to effect significant changes in the lives of those around us. The Good Lord has done – and is doing – these things and more in each of our lives. He moves like the wind but the brush of air as he moves is often un-noticed in this busy world. He is reaching to us when we are in need and praying for us at the Father’s right hand. He is encouraging us and clearing our path. He is loving with his whole heart and believing for the best in us. He forgives and our sin is remembered no more.

I do so very much appreciate all of the great and wonderful things that I have in my life as, I’m sure, most of you do as well. But it is the little things – the whispered prayer, the slight impression, the few dollars slipped into someone’s pocket, the simple smile or the loving hand slipped into another’s trembling fingers – these are what I am truly thankful for. These are what the journey is really all about because it is these that make the big things possible.

There Will Be Mud!

stormyfarmMuch of my though life has been about change recently. My wife is headed back to school, I am almost done with my master’s degree, I’ve got a new job after being a stay-at-home dad for the past 7 years, my son just started driver’s training, my daughter is beginning to look at colleges – and yesterday the power steering belt shredded on our Escape and I had to spend 3 hours at the mechanic’s! As if life changes were not enough, the seasons wait for no one to be ready! With winter slowly creeping in the ground does not freeze before the blanket descends so the ground becomes a sloppy, slushy, muddy mess that gets everywhere! Ugh! And then we have to let the dogs out to do what they have to do and they come in looking like a used old rag mop that won’t dry out! I can’t believe I’m going to write this, but I cannot wait till the ground freezes and winter sets in for good so the mud and mess will go away…(at least till spring)!

This has been a difficult and stressful few weeks in our household but I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that on the other side of the struggle is a place of greater freedom and better opportunity. I know this because I have experienced this process of change a few times before in my life. My wedding day 18 years ago, the birth of our kids 14 and 16 years ago, a year of dealing with lung cancer 9 years ago, our move from Upper Michigan to Lower Michigan 6 years ago, all came with the same kind of messiness that we’re in right now…and the Good Lord got us through them all and I know he will do it again! Let whatever is around the corner become a lesson learned and wisdom gained. There are often obstacles and hindrances when we follow God’s leading and all of that difficult stuff can make us want to quit, but he is there in the struggle making a way through.

Let’s just face it head on – change can be messy! The process of letting go of the past and grasping for what lies ahead is usually a mix of emotions and a jumble of confusion and series of spits and starts as you find your way forward. That is the important part…the forward movement…it really makes no difference how badly you falter or how unsteady you may feel as long as when you fall you fall forward. Don’t lean back on your heels and by all means don’t turn around and go back. Just stand tall, lean into the change and press on. You’ll get where you need to go…you may create quite a mess in the process but that is all a part of it. There will be mud!

Oh, and now I have a half-baked loaf of bread in an oven that decided to quit working! What a hot gooey mess….good Lord!!

Snow On The Rooftops

snowychalletSometimes winter comes in like a lion, roaring upon us and thrashing us in its icy jaws till we finally give in and accept our fate. Other times, like this year, the season slowly creeps in in spits and spurts while we relax and enjoy the changing of the scenery. The leaves are all fallen and the fields are dressed in an earthy, sullen garment, mottled and withered and wet. It is sometimes difficult to find beauty in the dreariness of late fall, but this morning I woke to a sure sign that this malaise will soon turn to joy – snow on the rooftops.

Each and every home is white with fresh fallen snow and all their little chimneys are spewing whiffs and wafts of smoke from furnaces and fireplaces heating the homes within. Spots of white in a sea of gray and brown litter the countryside like poke-a-dots and remind us that while winter may be slow in coming, it is on its way. On some morning soon I’m sure I will wake to a freshly dressed landscape all decked out in a new heavy white coat studded with diamonds and sparkles clinging to every tree branch.

While I’m not one who enjoys winter very much, I do appreciate the seasons and how they change from one to the other. I cannot imagine living in a place without them. I like the constant reminder that change is inevitable and necessary for new growth to happen. The Good Lord has created an incredibly descriptive metaphor within the cycle of the seasons – of life and growth and dying then living again. Tales of change and struggle and re-creation are told before our very eyes, and hidden within the very heart of winter is the story of new life and hope to a world in desperate need.

 

This Is What Faith Is

frosted leafIt was a very chilly 18 degrees here in Michigan when I got up this morning and with the first snow of the season that came along yesterday it is really feeling like winter wants to settle in. This weather is rather early for us here in the Lower Peninsula but for my homeland in the Upper Peninsula, this is par for the course. When I was a kid we would often find inches of snow covering well frozen jack-o-lanterns during Halloween – Lake Superior can bring on a winter chill quite early some years!

For the next few weeks the weather will probably be quite a mix as the cool of autumn gives way to the crisp of winter. Seasonal changes can get pretty messy as we learn to let go of the past and deal with the present while preparing for the future. The winter coats get hung on the hooks with the boots underneath while the slickers and galoshes are stuffed away. The garage gets cleaned out from all of the summer honey-do projects to make room for the cars, and the snow-blower and shovels replace the lawn mower and rakes at the front of the shed. And yes, there will be mud as the new snow falls on not quite frozen ground…and that mud will find its way into the house.

Finding a new normal is a process. You can’t let go and hold on at the same time…it just doesn’t work. Each and every season of our lives requires that we release what we have become comfortable with and grasp the next rung on the ladder – and then pull ourselves up. Sometimes it is not simply a step on a ladder but seems more like a leap from one swinging trapeze to another over a grand canyon with no net beneath. Letting go can be tough but if you don’t, eventually you’ll just stop swinging and be left hanging and losing your grip.

When it comes right down to it, there really is no change without some bit of unknown. Every change we are presented with has an inherent element of faith required. We do not really know the outcome of each and every choice we make or transition that comes our way. Will winter finally set in before Thanksgiving or wait till Christmas this year? Will I make it through training in my new job in time to be a benefit to the company? Will my car start this morning? Even the smallest things can make us doubt our choices. For example, on my first day of work at my new job I wore a white shirt and it was a bit chilly out so I put on my fleece jacket that I had not put on since last winter. When I took it off my crisp white button-down was covered in black lint from the inside of my fleece and I spent the day wondering if my new boss and co-workers had noticed. No one said anything about it and all went well, but I learned virtually nothing that first day except to never wear a fleece with a white button-down again! The next day came and then the next and I’m beginning to get a handle on things, but it is going to take some time and I am sure there will be some other things along the way that trip me up…and that is OK…change is a process.

This is what faith is…believing in what can be even though the evidence may say otherwise. I will learn this new job and learn it well even though it seems overwhelming right now. I will make it through this class even though I’m having trouble understanding it right now. I will get my honey-do list done, (at least started), before the snow flies for real this year. Winter will set in even though it is muddy and mucky and sloppy right now. And most importantly – the Good Lord will be there to catch me if…and when…I fall or fail.

 

Rain In Heaven

rainbowThose that know me well know that I would much prefer a rainy day to a sunny day any day. I know this is a bit strange but there are some reasons behind it.

First and foremost, I was saved on a rainy day…well, it didn’t start out raining but after I prayed my simple prayer and came out of the most profound experience of my life and stepped outside…it was raining! I had never smelled the air so clean or felt so fresh and free in my entire life. I know my emotions had much more to do with the experience that I had just gone through, but the rain on my face is the first thing I remember afterward, and has stayed with me since. There has been nothing in this world that has come close to what I felt when those raindrops hit my face on that day!

Another memory that is embedded in my mind are the many, many camping trips our family took when I was young. We would usually be gone for a week at a time and lugged around one of those big old canvas tents that always has that packed, musty smell…no matter how long you let it air out. That aroma was especially strong after a rain and we always seemed to run into some rain when we were camping. We would spend hours in the car watching signs fly by and distant storms that always seemed to be standing still. When we finally arrived at a packed campground, we’d be confronted with all kinds of different people milling about with the smells of campfires and hot dogs and hamburgers being burned…and the packed, musty smell of our old canvas tent that had been rained on the night before and hadn’t dried out yet. I know it’s kind of strange, but I love that smell…

Driving home from work the other day I caught a quick glimpse of a rainbow. Fall is in full swing here in mid-Michigan so sun-showers are common and rainbows can usually be found. It was in one of these quick autumn rain/snow showers that the promise revealed itself – that is what rainbows are, you know, promises. Just imagine how Noah and his family must have felt after the flood when it would begin to rain again. They must have been quite afraid thinking of another flood…until they saw that rainbow hiding in the storm. (Sometimes we don’t see those kind of promises unless we’re in the storm.) This rainbow, as with most, got me feeling a bit nostalgic about people and places I’ve been and how my most precious memories often involve rain…and how much I love the rain. Life for my family has gotten quite busy lately and with all chaos it is difficult at times to see if we’re headed in the right direction. I really needed to see that promise hidden in the rain. I think we all have these kinds of signposts on our journeys.  That thing that reminds you that you are on the right path and it is leading you somewhere. For me it is rain…for you it may be butterflies or bugs, breezes or beaches.  You may not feel any different and your circumstances may not have changed, but there is that promise that reminds you what has been and how far you really have come since…and encourages you to take one more step…and then another…and another…because he made a promise to you.

I hope there’s a special place in heaven where it’s always raining…that would be a beautiful place!

(This is a repost/edit of one of my first writings on this blog a little over a year ago when no one knew I was here! If you liked this one, click on over to “Other Writings…” for more early works!)

That Is Where He Is

trafficlightsThe events of the past inform those of the present and the future is a consequence of both. Perspective is the salve that lessens the pain and strengthens the healing. I have learned that I am a product not only of the joys I have experienced but also of the pain and without one, I would not understand the other. We will never comprehend true joy if we do not experience the depths of suffering and we will never learn from the suffering if we do not believe that joy comes in the morning. I believe that the Lord’s hand moves people and events in and out of our lives in order to perfect his will in us. If I believe that the Lord’s hand moves me from beginning to end, and I do, then who am I to question the tool that is in his hand. You can’t blame the hammer for pounding the nail. I could scream to high heaven about the wrongs that have been done to me and demand recompense, and there have been times that I have done just that. It has gotten me nowhere. Each and every event in my life has been a crossroad and I have been given the choice: stay on this road that I know the Lord has placed me on or turn off and seek my own will. It has been an easy choice to press on through the good times but not so easy to willingly walk into the deep, dark places. The only thing that has enabled me to choose the struggle is the belief that he is in the joy as well as the pain…and wherever he is, is where I want and need to be.

Tomorrow I begin a new part of my life and my walk. I’m stepping into some unknown territory – into a new job with new people to meet and new experiences. I would be lying if I did not say that I have a certain amount of fear and insecurity, but outweighing all of that is an excitement that I have not felt in quite some time. Almost like I’ve been on a detour around a huge construction project and am finally merging back into the flow of traffic. My eyes are wide open looking for oncoming travelers and scanning the horizon for new signs and directions. I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road ahead but I have no doubt that the Lord is leading…his hands are all over it!

Yes!…No?…Not Yet?!

waitingThere are, I believe, three possible answers to each and every question. You may find any number of other possible answers to a question, but in the end, if you’re asking the Good Lord, one of these is what you will get. We all like to hear the first…Yes! We all hate to hear the second…No? And we are all often confused by the third…Not Yet?! We are so like children…

It is great when you get a yes! That means go ahead…do it! Everything is in place and you are ready to take that step. God is telling us that he has gone before us and made sure that what is about to happen has been planned out and is ready to be perused. Buy that new truck! Take that job! Start that ministry! You’ve prepared, you’re ready…go for it!

It’s not so great when you hear a no, (sad face). I think I’m ready! I know what I’m doing! That looks like so much fun! What could possibly be wrong with that? What God is really telling us is that this or that is not the best that he has planned for us. This will take us off course. That will bring us trouble in the end. And that other thing will lead us away from him. Don’t go in there. Don’t commit to that. Don’t borrow that and become a slave to the lender…stop!

Not yet is a mixture of both. I hope I can get there someday. I’d really like to do that. Having that would really help. When God says not yet, he is really giving us a glimpse into our future. A look at what will be. He gives us hope that things will change and we can be different, better, healthier…maybe wealthier if that is in his plan. We all like to have the hope but are often a little disappointed that we’ll have to wait.

In each of these answers, the Good Lord has buried an amazing amount of care and compassion. He loves us so much that when the time is right he says a big-hearted, “Yes!” He also loves us so much that when he in his wisdom knows that something will bring us harm or struggle, he says, “No.” And his amazing love for us shines even brighter when he says, “not yet”, for it is in this not yet that we are told that we are on the right track and to keep going. It will happen. I’m putting the pieces together for you. Listen and I’ll tell you when to move ahead!

I have learned to appreciate all of the answers…I still complain a bit about the no’s but have come to really love the not yet. That is the one that motivates me. That is the one that encourages me. That is the one that really lets me know that I’m not in this life alone and that I’m moving in the right direction.

“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.” Jeremiah 29:11

(The hardest thing is waiting for one of the answers…!)

He’s Getting Ready To Show You Something

stormclouds.jpgI love rain and just about anything to do with it; thunder, lightning, wind, puddles – they all add to the experience. I can be a happy wet camper listening to the rain on the canvas roof, or a wanna-be storm chaser following the clouds across the land. I have stood on a mountain top arms outstretched in a down pour and huddled in a tent with a good book and the pitter-patter of rain drops lulling me into a late afternoon snooze. There is just something about it that quiets my soul while assuring me that there is someone bigger than me.

This has not always been the case. I can remember when I was a little kid being terribly frightened of storms…especially at night. At the first sound of rumble or the distant flicker of lightning through the window I would duck beneath my blankets as far as I could, curl up in a tight ball, drill my fingers into my ears to block out the sound, and bury my eyes in a pillow to block out the flashes. Every so often I would open an ear and peek out the corner of an eye to see and hear if the storm had passed and then cower again at the sight and sound of the storm. I had no idea what all the noise was or an understanding of lightning. I knew it was loud and blinded my eyes and was unpredictable.

Over the years as I grew to understand what storms were and how they grew and moved and changed, I became less afraid and more amazed. I learned to see the beauty in a flash of lightning and hear a distant rumble as a signal to get ready for the show – like an orchestra warming up before a concert and then the house lights flashing to let you know it was about to begin. I allowed myself to sit back and watch the storm approach, feel its fury, and then pass on by. It came, did what storms do, then moved on…and I was still here. It didn’t consume me. It didn’t pick me up and take me with it and then drop me somewhere when it was through. It didn’t hurt me.

Now, I know that some storms do have the ability to do all of those things, and I have experienced some pretty terrible storms that have caused damage. Sometimes storms that come along are too ferocious and unpredictable to just sit and watch and you have to run and hide. But there is one thing I know: the Good Lord brings the storms along your path to change you or change your place. The storms either reveal who we are and how we need to change, or where we are going and where we need to go…sometimes both.

Sometimes the gentle rumble and flash of light is just the Good Lord letting you know he’s there in the clouds…so don’t be afraid…he’s getting ready to show you something.