Up here, it’s cold, rainy and dark. The yellowing tree leaves pretend to be the sun but it’s still rank with clouds. Such it is transition for us Northerners from summer to winter through fall.
I enjoy the change but I have to choose to do so. I like when old and new collide into a splattering of colors, but I have to choose to do so. I happily breathe deep the morning chill that is the appetizer to frost, but I have to choose to do so.
My life – your life – is threaded with changes and transitions. Losses and hurts, joys and euphorias, all write on the pages our your story. How is God asking you to respond? How do you handle the ache of an empty household? How do you deal with the mountain of responsibilities that lean my way?
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12.
Basically, God indicates that I have the power of choice.
So, today, as the leaves fall around me and the fall-rain sets in, I choose joy.
We’ve begun a search.
Our youngest is a senior in High School and is in the process of college-shopping. For those of you who’ve walked this path, you know that it means college-visits and you understand the drill: setting up appointments with the various departments, looking at their academics, talking with coaches and those who fan the flame of the arts – it’s all part of the gig. But the most telling and the most exciting part of this journey is the time you actually step on campus to take a look and the environment and feel the ‘vibe’ of the school.
Why do we parents want to do this cross-country trekking? Simply because we want to know where our kids are going to be. We want to know what it looks like. We want to know it’s safe. We want a visual to hold when they leave our proverbial nest and venture to ‘that distant land.’
This morning, I did a college visit. (Stay with me as I make a connection). My SOAP Devotion was on Revelation 21+22 which describes the ‘college’ at which my oldest daughter, Makenzie, now attends. I walked the halls of the campus that holds an estimated 195 Quadrillion people. I strolled through its center cut in half by the flowing Alma Mater River of Life. I inquired about the after dark curfew for the dorms and found out there was none since night didn’t exist there. (Whew!)
At the end, I came off the visit satisfied that my Makenzie is in the perfect setting. She is in the Heaven that someday I’ll attend. She is meeting tons (literally) of new people. She is learning more and more about the President and Leadership of Heaven and she is completely happy – no sorry, worry or tears. My daddy-heart is joyful because I know where she is and what it looks like.
And the beauty is, it’s all free!
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I love the story Jesus tells in Matthew 18 of a guy who owed a king millions of dollars. The king decides to call in all his debts which obviously put the guy in a very bad spot. The man begged for mercy and the king forgave the millions. But then the forgiven guy turns around and finds someone who owes him only a few thousand dollars. He basically beats him up and puts him in jail until he could pay it back.
When the king found out, he had the original forgivee thrown in prison and tortured for his lack of compassion, perspective and mercy.
Millions and Thousands.
Crazy thing is, that doesn’t sound like our God. When God cancels the debt of our sin, it’s a done deal right? Why would a loving God turn and torture we who are born in sin? Aren’t we forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice?
What if the prison and torture to which Jesus is referring has a deeper meaning. What if the consequence of your lack of forgiveness feels like a prison. I know for me, when I hold grudges and harbor resentment against other people, that I am ‘tortured’ by the un-peace I sense and can’t live in freedom in that relationship until I forgive.
God has forgiven me the millions upon millions of sin debt. Today, I will strive to let go the feelings of wanting revenge, of passive aggressive tendencies and of grade-school grudges. Today, I will live holding the perspective of the millions over and against the thousands.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Anniversaries can sting. The recollection of the death of a chid. The days of counting since the dissolution of a marriage. The remembrance of a horrific event. That is today for we who call ourselves Americans. As we watched the events unfold thirteen years ago, we made note of where we were, what we were doing and how the days to follow were clouded by the dull numbness of shock and the feeling that we were, in fact, vulnerable.
The sense that we are susceptible to attack. The feeling that no place is safe. The gravity of our barrenness. That is how we are. And that is where God meets us. When we are broken-hearted and vulnerable, God meets us there. When we are under emotional barrage, God saves us. When our blue-sky life is suddenly darkened by the smoke of despair, God steadies us. And in our vulnerability, He whispers, “I am here.”
The story of the sower and the seed is rich with truth and application. (You can read it here). But of all the ‘soils’ that Jesus mentions, the one that hits me today is the good soil – not because it’s who I’m striving to be and not because it’s the Christian thing to say. It is the fascination with Jesus’ description of it. Jesus says “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it.”
Diving deeper, the greek word for ‘understands’ means to take truth and comprehend it as part of a whole. The word is where our English word ‘synchronize’ is derived. I think of synchronized swimmers. Their movements and positions in the water match each other. I think of a piano synchronized string to string. It is in tune and produces breath-taking music that soothes souls. I think of an engine synchronized by the master mechanic. It’s low hum is the reflection of uber performance.
My synchronization comes in aligning myself with who God wants me to be and then what He wants me to be about. I am His child and bear His name. I am to be about love and grace, mercy and peace. I am to add value to others which honors God. In that, I am synchronized by the Spirit to be a reflection of His love.
Than’s Good Soil.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 outlines your work this way: “It is good for people to … enjoy their work … And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.”
It has only been within the last few years that I’ve come to realize that work is indeed a gift from God. Did you know that? Obviously, your work helps pay the bills, provide for your family and secures your future, but did you know that what you are doing now to create income is a gift from God?
Why would that be a gift? Doesn’t it say in Genesis that man would toil in the earth all the days on earth? (Genesis 3:17).
- Work reflects the heart of God. God isn’t sitting in His heavenly lazy boy chair watching football games and soap operas. He is active in every aspect of your life. He is guiding and leading and working for the benefit of His kingdom here on earth and in heaven. By working, you are doing a God-thing.
- Work gives voice to your inner soul. If and when you find the kind of work that resonates with how you’re hardwired, if provides purpose and drive for your life. It creates a framework around which you feel alive. I spoke with someone who was transitioning out of a company and asked him if he’d go back into the same line of work. Without hesitation he said, “Absolutely! I love what I do.” This kind of resonation can take years to accomplish. I’ve heard it said that in your 20’s, you are discovering what you like to and are able to do. In your 30’s you are honing in on your skills and passions. In your 40’s you are developing a foundation and establishing your position. In your 50’s you are earning and reaping the benefits of your work. In your 60’s and beyond you are giving back and providing for the needs of others.
- Work adds value to others. The phrase “lot in life” means “what you are doing right now.” What is your work right now? Do you feel that it is adding value to others and if not, how can you change your outlook? If you work at McDonalds, your work helps feed people a meal. If you work at an office doing accounting, your work helps organize the financial situation of others. If you are in construction, your work provides refuge for others or helps provide spaces for others.
God has given you your work – what you are doing right now – as a gift. It may not be perfect. It may not be your ultimate landing place. It is, however, a good thing to work and do what you do as if you have God as your boss.
Ephesians 6:5-7 “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
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I’m a string player not a wind player. Simply put, string players play instruments that use metal, hyde or woven wires to emanate sound. Guitars, mandolins and dulcimers would fall into this category. Wind players use their breath to blow into an instruments, usually utilizing reeds and stops to create sounds. Flutes, trumpets and bagpipes (areophones) would fall into this grouping. Being a ‘stringer,’ I’m often in awe of the ‘windies’ and their ability to create such beautiful tones, balanced with the perfect pressure of their breath.
What’s more fascinating, at least to me, is a method they use called ‘circular breathing.’ Circular breathing is a technique used by players to produce a continuous tone without interruption. This is accomplished by breathing in through the nose while simultaneously pushing air out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks. So literally, one could play and entire melody line without taking a breath. On February 2000, Vann Burchfield set a new Guinness world record for circular breathing, holding one continuous note for 47 minutes, 6 seconds, surpassing the record held by Kenny G. (Watch a video on the technique HERE).
Think about that. Continuous breath. No pause. No break, just a sustained engagement with music.
For those of us who are Christ-followers, we too are circular breathers. From God’s perspective, there is no pause, no break in the movement of air He calls His Holy Spirit. His Spirit is in constant movement through the lungs of our faith. His Spirit lives and moves and breathes in and through us creating an unending melody line called our story.
You and I are circular breathers. We breathe the Spirit of God. We inhale and exhale as we walk in His Grace and there will never be a final note.