NO EXPERIENCE WASTED

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:28 (NLT)]

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. [Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)]

rocking chairs

God has a plan for each and every one of us and no experience is ever wasted. All that happened in the past has prepared us for what’s happening today and what will happen tomorrow. Consider Moses—the first two-thirds of his life were merely preparation for what he did during the last third. As a member of Pharaoh’s household for the first forty years, he acquired a unique skill set. The adopted son of an Egyptian princess, he understood the workings of Pharaoh’s court. He’d been given a royal upbringing and an excellent education. Since he was cared for by his birth mother, he also understood his Hebrew heritage. With that background, he was well prepared to confront Pharaoh about the plight of the Israelites. In fact, he probably was the only Israelite who could gain access to Pharaoh’s court and that royal education served him well when he wrote much of the first five books of the Bible.

Moses’ second forty years were spent as a shepherd in Midian. A stranger in a strange land, the pampered prince had four decades to learn how to live as a nomad and shepherd. He also had forty years to learn about controlling his temper (the reason he landed in Midian in the first place). The skills he developed while herding dumb animals in the wilderness prepared him for forty years of guiding over two million “stiff-necked” people and their livestock through the desert.

At eighty, Moses might have been thinking about taking it easy—maybe selling the sheep and relaxing in his hammock under a palm tree. God, however, wasn’t going to let those eighty years of experience go to waste. Our life experiences do more than develop character and spiritual maturity; they give us a unique skill set. Everything we undergo provides us with distinctive strengths and abilities. Our successes, failures, sorrows, joys, pain, gains and losses prepare us to do God’s work. Yesterday’s experiences become today’s assets.

We know how the story of Moses ends—over the last forty years of his life, he fulfilled his purpose and led the Israelites to the Promised Land. How will our story end? Like Moses, will we use our assets to further God’s Kingdom or will we waste them while relaxing in the hammock under a palm tree or sitting on the porch in a rocking chair?

No experience is wasted. Everything in life is happening to grow you up, to fill you up, to help you to become more of who you were created to be. [Oprah Winfrey]

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. [1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)]

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KNOWING HIM WELL

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. [Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT)]

spiderwortMy husband and I have been married for fifty years now and there’s not much that surprises me about him anymore. Even the surprise birthday celebration he planned for me earlier this year wasn’t a surprise. Oh, the way he managed to fool me into thinking I was just going to a business dinner—that truly was a surprise; that he chose to do something special for me was not. I was sure that, true to form, he had something wonderful up his sleeve for my 70th birthday; I just had no idea what it actually was!

After fifty years of togetherness, more often than not, my husband and I think alike. When one of us makes a suggestion, the other usually admits to having the same thought and, with at least 97% accuracy, we know what the other will order at any restaurant. We recognize each other’s voice in a crowd and probably have a good idea what the other is saying! After half a century, we’ve seen one another at our best and worst; there’s nothing left to hide and any awkwardness, embarrassment or shame is long gone. I know when he needs some nudging and he knows when I need words of encouragement. Appreciating each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we rest comfortably in the knowledge that we love, trust, and honor one another completely. It’s not boring in the least; it is relaxed, pleasant and peaceful. Even though we usually know what to expect, as my birthday celebration proved, we can still surprise one another in beautiful ways.

The covenant relationship of marriage is much like our relationship with God with one major difference. Through five decades, both my husband and I have changed to complement one another. God, however, doesn’t change and any changing that must be done is done by us, not by Him. As in any relationship, the more time we spend in His presence, the easier it is to recognize His voice and to hear the Holy Spirit’s whisper in our hearts. The more we read God’s word, the more likely it is that our prayers will be in harmony with His plan. As we draw closer to Jesus, we become attuned to His rhythm and pace and we’ll even begin to walk like Him.

At its most basic, Christianity isn’t a doctrine, philosophy, code of ethics or a way of life; it is a relationship with God and believing in Jesus is not the same as having a relationship with Him. We have to spend time in His presence, praying, listening to His voice, and reading His word for that relationship to flourish and grow. No relationship is developed overnight; it took decades for my husband and me to get to this point in our marriage. Fortunately, developing a deep relationship with our triune God doesn’t take nearly that long. Like marriage, however, it is a relationship that continues to mature and mellow through the years.

After fifty years, I can ask myself, ”What would Bob do?” and pretty much know the answer. As we develop our relationship with God, we’ll be able to ask, “What would Jesus do?” and know that answer as well!

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. [1 John 2:6 (NLT)]

You must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. [2 Peter 3:18 (NLT)]

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ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. [Deuteronomy 32:11 (NLT)]

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! [Psalm 103:5 (NLT)]

bald eagleThe eagle is mentioned more than any other bird of prey in the Bible. References are made to its swiftness of flight, ability to soar high in the air, excellent vision, the way it sets its nest in high places, and the strength of its wings. The above two verses about eagles, however, are more figurative than literal and have no scientific basis. Although mother eagles do hover over their young, they cannot carry them. A bald eagle’s lifting power is only about a third of its weight. An eaglet ready to fly is as heavy as its parents. If Mrs. Eagle tried to carry junior, they’d both fall! The second verse about being renewed like an eagle is probably connected to an ancient belief that every ten years the eagle disappeared into the sun, dove down into the sea with the setting sun, and emerged young again. There’s a similar urban myth that at 30 years of age, the eagle flies to a high mountain top and makes the difficult decision between death or the painful plucking out of all of its feathers and the destruction of its beak and talons. After waiting several months for everything to grow back again, it will be transformed and the refreshed bird will be able to live another 30 years. Not so; like the rest of us, when it’s time to grow old and die, the eagle has no choice. Like other birds, however, when the eagle molts, old worn feathers will drop and new ones will replace them.

The Bible’s figures of speech have more scientific basis when they refer to the eagle’s wings and ability to fly. Isaiah tells us that trusting in the Lord will allow us to soar on wings like eagles. An eagle’s wing span can be over seven feet and yet those powerful wings weigh less than two pounds. Nevertheless, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane! By using the wind and updrafts that come off hills and mountains, the eagle’s wings can carry it as high as 10,000 feet and move it faster than thirty-five miles an hour. During migratory season, those wings can easily carry an eagle over 125 miles in a day.

Isaiah is correct: trusting in God truly will allow us to fly like eagles. With faith in God, we will have strength and stamina and, like the eagle, we can rise to great heights. Just as the eagle uses the wind to propel himself up and through a storm, we can use God’s power to fly through the storms of life. When we trust in the Lord, we can soar like eagles. May you soar today!

You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren. [William Henry Hudson]

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)]

For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. [Psalm 91:3-5 (NLT)]

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HE WATCHES

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. [Psalm 139:1-3 (NLT)]

Doesn’t he see everything I do and every step I take? [Job 31:4 (NLT)]

security camerasImmanent and omniscient, God is everywhere and can see everything. When you think about it, that’s a bit disconcerting. Is God a voyeur who likes peeking at us in our most intimate moments? Is He similar to the paparazzi who try to capture celebrities in their most embarrassing ones? Like those ever-present security cameras or the traffic cop with his radar gun and ticket book, is He hoping to spot us doing something wrong or catch us breaking His law? My life is boring; why would God be interested in me?

Last month, fourteen of us were in our seats at the ballpark when a friend’s friend offered my husband and me two extra tickets. Unlike ours that were high and overlooking right field, they were in the eighth row directly behind home plate. We declined the generous offer because moving to those seats meant we wouldn’t be with the rest of the family. Watching the game really wasn’t our priority—being with family was! The purpose of the afternoon wasn’t the Cubs; it was watching the little girls get their hair French braided by an older cousin and hearing the big brother explain a walk-off home run. It was making sure no one got lost in the crowd or choked on a peanut. It was holding children on my lap, handing out water, and seeing the girls giggle while sharing secrets. It was laughing at the children’s antics and watching them cheer on the home team. It was seeing Grandpa wipe catsup off messy faces, Dad shepherd kids to the ice cream stand, and a little one fall asleep in his mother’s arms. That’s when I understood why God watches us. It’s not so He can act as a Heavenly hall monitor and catch us doing something wrong; it’s because He loves and cares about us! We are His precious children and He loves us as much as my husband and I love our family. That’s not to say God won’t correct us when necessary and there were a few moments that afternoon when we had to offer some correction to the youngsters. Nevertheless, we watched them because it gave us pleasure and I think God watches us for much the same reason.

I love watching the grands romp in the pool, build sand castles, play games, do their homework, snooze in the car seat, fly on the trapeze, perform in a show, jump on the trampoline and hang from the monkey bars not because they are exceptionally talented or beautiful (which, of course, they are). I watch them simply because they are mine and I love them. We are God’s children and, like a loving grandparent, He watches over us all because we are His and He loves us.

The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. [Psalm 121:5-8 (NLT)]

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YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. [Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)]

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. [Psalm 20:4 (NLT)]

oxeye daisy
What is it your heart desires? A photo safari in Africa or a river boat cruise along the Rhine? A paid-off mortgage or an enormous IRA? A private chef, personal trainer, maid or someone to chauffer the kids to their assorted activities? To be free of physical ailments or pain? A better paying job, longer vacation, or nicer boss? Better behaved children, a more loving spouse, or an abundance of friends? Are these the things our hearts desire or do we really desire the things that will accompany them—things like love, security, joy, serenity, a sense of well-being and peace? When we commit everything to the Lord, we will have those things, even without the luxury items, vacations, ideal situations, money or even the health.

Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else. [Woodrow Kroll]

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. [Psalm 73:25 (NLT)]

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. [Psalm 145:18-19 (NLT)]

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AFTER THE STORM

compass plantThe terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. [Acts 27:20 (NLT)]

“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! [Psalm 107:28-30 (NLT)]

While walking this morning, I could see the toll last night’s hail storm took on the wildflowers. Many that yesterday stood tall and proud over the prairie were now bent and broken. These defeated looking plants made me think of a friend and the storm that overwhelmed and nearly defeated him.

Raised in a Christian home and once a believer, he lost his faith in a loving God years ago when a series of medical errors left his child with severe brain damage. Angry at God and then disillusioned by the hypocrisy he saw in his church, he decided to worship the god of achievement and wealth. All went well for him until one day it didn’t. The storm hit when the multi-national corporation for which he worked closed its doors. In spite of his stellar resume, nearly two years passed without employment. When the economy tanked, so did his investments and his savings dwindled to nothing. Upside down with his mortgage, his god of success and prosperity was nowhere to be found. It was at that point that this once proud man literally fell to his knees and humbly admitted his defeat and nothingness to God. He wanted to believe but needed to know that God really was there. He didn’t ask for relief; he asked for reassurance of God’s presence. “Show me that you exist, that you care, that you are good!” was his simple prayer.

Most of those drooping wildflowers along the trail will again stand tall when the sun shines. Like those flowers, my friend was raised up when he turned to God and allowed the Son back into his life. Within a day of his prayer, he received a call from a struggling Christian-based non-profit and, within a week, he’d started working there as the CEO. Several years have passed and he is happier and more content than he was in his previous life. Because of his business acumen, the organization he serves is now thriving and people’s lives are being changed in incredible ways. His child is still disabled and his standard of living is not what it was before the storm, but he lives joyfully in the knowledge of a loving and good God—a God who can still storms and lift a drowning man out of the sea.

A hail storm can knock down flowers and, sometimes, God knocks us to our knees with a storm of troubles. It’s when we’re on our knees, however, that the only place to look is up! When we ask God to reveal Himself to us, we shouldn’t expect Him to do it with a job or financial support. After all, God only promises relief from all of our troubles in the next world. In this life, we will be relieved only from some of them; other troubles He will enable us to endure. Nevertheless, when we humbly and sincerely ask God to reveal himself to us, He will.

If God seems far away, who moved? [AA slogan]

But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found him. [2 Chronicles 15:4 (NLT)]

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