Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Fires Bring Blueberries

Strong winds blew down a swath of trees -- leaving jagged trunks jutting from the earth.

 Driving by a few days later, we shook our heads and sadly recalled how beautiful the land used to be.

 I grumbled against the wind.

 Good hearted loggers tried to clean it up a bit -- by clearing some of the windfall. Their honest efforts, however, seemed more an invasion of nature than a healing. Their cuttings left deep scars, cold and stark.

 I drove by, shook my head, and grumbled against the loggers.

 The burning followed. How the fire started is still a puzzle -- perhaps a lightening strike, an engine spark, or a careless cigarette. Regardless of the start, it took the firefighting volunteers a full effort for the finish. Acres of charred stubble marred the landscape.

 I grumbled against the fire.

 But passing time has a way of healing scarred soil and human hearts. From blackened ground, new life emerges.

Twelve seasons later, quite by accident, we happened upon the barren place and were amazed to find bushes loaded with raspberries -- and a new patch of wild blueberries growing near the earth!

We joyfully filled a couple of ice cream buckets with sweet treasure.

 Before dinner that evening, we bowed our heads, thanked God for the berries and

Blessed the wind,
Blessed the loggers and
Blessed the fire.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Following Jesus Hard or Easy?

“Only the one who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”  

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Four Secrets for Effective Communication

Communication is to love what blood is to the body. When it ceases to flow, love dies, and rigor mortis of resentment sets in.

The ancient prophet, Amos, asked the rhetorical question, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"

Bob, walking by his neighbor's house, saw him struggling with a couch halfway in the front door. He walked up to his friend and asked, "Hey Fred, need a hand?"

"Sure!" came the reply, "I'm glad you stopped by. This has been a real challenge,"

So, he grabbed the end of the couch and started pushing -- but it wouldn't budge an inch. For about twenty minutes, both men struggled and strained as hard as they could, but made absolutely no progress.

Finally, dropping the couch from exhaustion, Bob said, "You know, Fred, this is just crazy! I can't understand why it's so hard for us to get this couch into the house."

"Into the house??" Fred replied, "I've been trying to push it OUT of the house!!"

When we don't communicate we often end up working against each other. We can't walk together unless we're going the same direction.

None of us are mind readers, so the only way to go the same direction is through clear, loving communication.

Doesn't communication cause fights? What if the things I need to communicate are hurtful? Isn't it better to just shut up and bear it?

Certainly, unwise and thoughtless communication can cause fights, but the lack of communication causes far more fights -- a hundred times more! It's better to communicate even the unpleasant things, rather than bottling them up inside, if you want your relationships to thrive.

The secret here is to practice the fine art of "disagreeing agreeably." This is mostly a matter of keeping a right attitude and sweet spirit as you tackle challenging issues.

All relationships require give and take. Great relationships require give and give!

1) Give In. You don't have to always get your way to be happy. Sometimes, the best and most loving thing is to submit to the other person's point of view, even if it's not your preference.

2) Give More. Can you give more love, attention and energy to this relationship? Make it your aim to outdo one another in love.

3) Give Way. Allow the other person some latitude and space.  Honor and respect the unique individuality of the other person.

4)  But Don't Give Up! You can't truly love somebody until you've been through some difficult times together. Don't quit when times are tough. Instead, dig in deeper, and discover the riches of loving forbearance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Prayer Doesn't Bring Revival

Samuel Chadwick is one of my favorite holiness authors.  His little book, The Way to Pentecost, is a classic.  Lately I've been pondering this observation from Chadwick: "Prayer doesn't bring revival."   At first glance, that doesn't sound right. Anyone who knows anything abour revivals says that prayer is essential to every great movement of God.  

But, prayer, alone, does not bring revival.  If it did, then the Pharisees would have been the greatest renewal leaders in history -- they prayed a lot. However, their prayers were mostly perfunctory.

The secret is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then they shall hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin and heal their land."

So, there we have it -- some important things that need to go along with our praying if we are to experience significant spiritual breakthrough.
1) Humility (Realizing our utter dependence upon our Savior)
2) Seeking the Face of God -- His Lordship -- saying "yes" to His will.
3) Turning from Wicked Ways -- to renounce sin (not just DE-nounce it, but Re-nounce it -- turn away from it!)

Seek God in humble obedience. turn from sin and then look out! Big change is on the way! The Lord wants to do something wonderful in your life!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Before You Give Up, Read This

We all feel like giving up sometimes. It comes with the territory of living.  When stress is high and energy is low. . . When frustrations multiply and patience ebbs. . . When conflicts abound and peace evaporates . . ., When the outgo exceeds the inflow. . . it makes us feel like quitting.

But throwing in the towel is seldom the best answer. I have discovered that hardship, endured with patience, faith and the best attitude you can muster, brings tremendous personal growth.  As my old football coach used to say, “No pain, no gain.”

So, what should you do when you feel like giving up?

1.  Face up to reality. 
It pays to know the facts. Problems don’t usually disappear by ignoring them. A clear picture of reality – even if it’s bad – is better than an unrealistic hope.

Discern between a problem and a fact of life. If you can do something about it, it’s a problem. If you can’t – it’s just a fact of life. We need to fix the problems, and accept the facts of life.

2. Reach up to God 
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). There is no better place to turn in difficulty than to God.

One day, facing a hard situation, I felt like giving up, and then I sensed God’s whisper to my heart. “That’s exactly what you need to do. Give it UP. . . to Me!”

If your problems are deep seated and long standing – try kneeling!

3.  Fill up your tank. 
Some activities drain you while others replenish you. Do you know which is which? In especially demanding seasons, make sure your energy is restored by replenishing. You will probably have to prioritize and schedule this in order to get it.

4. Straighten up your attitude 
Don’t cave into “stinkin’ thinkin’. A bad attitude will spoil everything for you. Negativity multiplies the difficulty by ten.

The best way to adjust your attitude is to begin praising the Lord and counting your blessings blessings. It is nearly impossible to say “Praise the Lord” with a frown.

5. Lift up someone else 
Another person is going through harder times than you. Find that person and bring encouragement.  Bringing blessing to others is like giving your dog a bath. You’ll both get soaked in the process.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Stop Whining and Start Mining

I have some bad news and good news.

The bad news is that you are going to have big troubles.  It's pretty much a guarantee that problems are headed your way.  Sometime, somehow, somewhere, you are going to experience difficulty.

Problems are a part of the human experience.  We shouldn't be so surprised when they show up.

The good news is that you don't have to let your troubles get the best of you.  If you process them right, you will grow and become a better as a result.

A few years ago, a buddy of mine called and told me his wife left him.  This terrible ordeal was the most painful and discouraging period of his life.   Someone else made an unfortunate choice that caused his life to crash.

I was impressed with how he handled this heartwrenching situation.  Instead of caving into dispair and giving up on life, he decided to become a railroad engineer.

Even from early childhood, he always wanted to drive a train.  But, life got in the way and circumstances brought him to a job he hated.  The heartbreak also broke the chains around his dream -- and he was free to fly.

Today, he's living his dream --  driving trains across the country and tooting the whistle at intersections.

When life throws you a lemon, make lemonade.

Treat your troubles like a goldmine.  You will find something worthwhile if you keep digging.  In hard times, stop whining and start mining.

Troubles are never neutral.  If they do not do you good, they will do you harm.  You must face them head on with courage and optimism.  The best is yet to come!

If you are walking through a dark valley, remember this is a tunnel, not a tomb.  Keep moving on.  Don't give up.  Sooner or later, you will come out on the other side, with a wealth of wisdom, faith and experience.