Pain in this life is a given.
It is unavoidable.
It will happen.
It is a foolish endeavor to attempt to avoid it touching our lives. Seasons of pain come and go. Sometimes the season is short but sometimes those seasons seem endless. Sometimes the pain is of our own doing, a consequence of a rebellious spirit. Other times, we are blindsided by life and we find ourselves in the crosshairs of a fallen world.
What do we do when we find ourselves in a season of unrelenting pain and hardship? If pain is inevitable, then there must be some kind of help out there for the afflicted, some Divine provision for a hurting soul.
Maybe we need to change our understanding of pain and it’s purpose in our lives. Sometimes it just helps to know something has purpose.
What would happen if we saw pain as a tool? Then recognizing how that tool is used in our lives would be hugely significant.
Let me explain.
If pain is a tool, then we need to recognize whose hands hold the tool.
If the tool finds its way into the hands of the enemy, we can be sure that it will be used to cripple us, maybe even destroy us. We know the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy. John 10:10
But, if the tool finds itself in the hands of a loving Father, then we can be assured that the tool will be used to chisel and shape us into something beautiful. We could then claim Romans 8:28 with absolute certainty. We could know beyond any shadow of a doubt that, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Armed with that assurance, we could stand up under the weight of any pain.
We don’t often have a choice as to whether pain enters our lives or not, but when it does, we do get to choose whose hands will hold the tool.
Choose your carpenter wisely.
Have a great week,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
A few months back, my friend, Julie, and I headed out to a sporting goods store to purchase kayaks. For some years now, our families have vacationed together at the beach and each year Julie and I rent kayaks. We love to paddle around in the creeks, and really, in our minds; we think that we are well on our way to becoming Master Kayakers. So at the end of last summer, we decided that it was time for us to save our money and buy our very own kayaks.
We researched and talked about it for the next year, and then we were ready. When we got to the store, according to Julie, we had to choose the correct length of the paddle by comparing it to the length of our arm expanse. So we would take a paddle off the rack, stand it up on end, and see if we could touch the top. If we could, it was the right length. Of course, there was also the concern of finding the right color paddle so that it wouldn’t clash with our kayaks. We took down paddle after paddle looking for the right length and color. That in itself made us look like two idiots who thought they knew what they were doing but clearly did not. Then we confirmed our idiot status by knocking the entire display down. THE ENTIRE DISPLAY.
There is no way to discreetly knock down a paddle display.
I guess, truth be known, we aren’t Master Kayakers either.
Really, if you had been with us on our last excursion, you would probably be completely and utterly dumbfounded as to why we would ever want to continue with this as a hobby.
Last year we stayed at a different beach, which had both creeks and man made canals. So the way it was laid out was like this: the ocean flowed into the inlet, which flowed into the creek, which then flowed into the canal. Basically the canals gave the houses access to the creek. Because of their location, the water was much calmer in the canals.
You need to keep that in mind.
We decided to head out late one afternoon because the tide was almost all the way in, and we knew that it was the best time to go and not get sucked out into the ocean where there are waves and big sharks. I have this fear of being adrift in the middle of the ocean with no diet Pepsi or boiled peanuts while the sun is blistering my skin and Jaws is circling my Kayak.
What we didn’t take into account was the wind. When we turned the corner that led out of the canal and into the creek, the water turned really choppy and the wind was blowing, oh, I’d say about 40-50 mph. Listen, if fisherman can make a story respectable by exaggerating the size of the fish, then a kayaker should be able to make her story exciting by exaggerating the speed of the wind.
At first it was really great fun. The wind was at our backs and we were coasting down the creek nicely. The only thing we had to use our paddles for was to steer. The wind did the rest. As the wind continued to pick up, we started moving faster and faster. We were having the best time ever until we realized two things. First, even though the tide was coming in we were going out – quickly. Second, as much fun as we were having with the wind at our backs, we probably were not going to experience that same fun when we turned around. Basically, the coasting would be over.
We decided to turn around and head back to the canal. That’s what we decided to do; unfortunately that’s not what actually happened. We paddled and paddled and paddled. Water was splashing into our faces. I needed windshield wipers for my sunglasses. I began to wonder how much further we had to go because all the docks were beginning to look the same. Then I realized that the reason the dock to my left looked like the one that had been to my left just 5 minutes earlier was because IT WAS THE SAME DOCK. We were not moving. And let me tell you, if we stopped paddling for even a second, we would fall back at least two kayak lengths.
I turned to say something to Julie but she wasn’t behind me. Some kind of way she had made it to a dock and was hanging on for dear life. I couldn’t bring myself to stop paddling because I knew if I did, I would lose all that ground that I had fought so hard for. I could see the bend that lead back into the canal up ahead, way up ahead, but I just couldn’t get there. I was about to give up when I saw a boat round the bend with our boys in it. They sized up the situation and through my fogged up, water spotted sunglasses, I could see the big grins on their faces. Of course, they had several smart-alecky things to say. I promise you I would have smacked one of them with my paddle, but I was too afraid to stop paddling.
They picked up Julie first then came up beside me. When the boat pulled up beside me, hands reached out and grabbed my kayak. It was a beautiful sight! The boys held onto our kayaks and towed us back to the canal. It was still a rough ride and salt water was still splashing all in my face, but the paddling was done and my aching arms were finally able to rest.
Paddling a kayak in a storm is a lot like maneuvering through the storms of life. If we allow God to, He will teach us and perfect two important spiritual disciplines in our lives: endurance and perseverance.
Sometimes, like Julie, we have to hang on – ride the storm out. That’s endurance. We have to be still and wait, and while we wait, we hang on to Jesus with all our strength. In the end, we learn to undergo hardships with out giving in and without losing hope. We learn to trust and our faith increases (James 1:2-4).
Then there are times when we are called to keep pushing forward, no matter how fierce the opposition or how weary and discouraged we are tempted to become. We refuse to give up. That’s called perseverance. We keep paddling because we know there is hope; we know the storm will end or we will make it to calmer waters. We know God is watching carefully, He knows our weariness, and He knows what we are capable of. And when it’s time, His hands will reach out and steady us, and though the wind is still blowing and the waves are still battering us, we will be able to rest as he leads us to still waters. We are stronger for having persevered because we get a glimpse of the real strength, His strength, in our lives (Psalm 28:7).
When we keep our eyes on Jesus, storms will not destroy
us; they will make us stronger. And when He leads us into
still waters, He will restore our souls (Psalm 23).
Have a great week!
A little over a week ago, we had to make the agonizing decision to put our 14-year-old lab, Hunter, to sleep. For those of you who have four legged family members, you understand the heartache. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially under those circumstances. We really didn’t think she would make it through the night last Wednesday night. Truthful, we were hoping that maybe she wouldn’t because we knew that if she did; we were going to be faced with a gut wrenching decision.
She perked up a little bit Thursday, but our Vet gently confirmed what we already knew in our hearts needed to be done. Drew, my oldest held her head in his lap as the preparations were made. It was fitting that he be the one to hold her, after all, she was his. Sam, my youngest, climbed into the back of my Yukon so he could be beside her and the doctor made room for me to be next to Her, too. We all held onto her and cried as she slipped away.
Gosh, another year has come and gone. I just learned to write 2015 on my checks – just in time to have to start over learning to write 2016. It’s crazy.
The older I get the faster time seems to move. Really, the faster changes come. For example, not too many years ago I was smarter and wiser than my children. Obviously, as time has marched forward, they have become much wiser than me in many things, one being how to properly raise children.
This fact has come to light due to the careless way they perceive that I am rearing their youngest sibling. They recently felt the need to correct my parenting or lack of parenting skills by bringing my woeful parenting ways to my attention. It seems that I am way too lax with the youngest. He is allowed to get away with way more things than they were ever allowed to get away with.
Because I am not one to turn down a good argument, I decided to present them with a brief rebuttal:
1. He has perfected his “badness” by watching and learning from his older siblings.
2. If the older siblings had not been so difficult, I would not be so tired and would be better able to keep up with his antics – which as you will remember he has learned from them.
This is an awesome music video by Shane and Shane with an excerpt from John Piper's message, "The Glory of God in the Sight of Eternity." It encourages us to not lose heart in the face of suffering and it reminds us that our suffering is never meaningless. If you could use some encouragement, listen and be renewed.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for my friend, Grace. She and her family found out that her dad was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. They brought him home to care for him. Tonight he went home to be with Jesus.
When she first learned that her dad had cancer, there was shock, confusion, fear, and lots of questions, some with no definitive answers. There was heartbreak and sadness.
But then God reached down and began showing her his hand. She became clearly aware of His attention, even His attention to the small things. The more aware of His attentiveness, the calmer she became, the stronger she became. It has been truly amazing to watch.
What do you do when the pain is so deep or the fear is completely overwhelming?
Do you shut down?
Do you pray?
What if the prayer isn’t answered quickly and the circumstance that you find yourself in drags on?
What if the answer is “No”?
And when you pray, do you pray out of fear or trust? Do you pray that the circumstance changes or do you pray that you change?
Certainly, we should ask God to intervene - Jesus did. Three times He ask His Father to change the circumstances. Three times He asked that He not have to walk the path that was before Him.
But then, He surrendered His will to the will of His Father.
We find the account in Luke. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus didn’t want to walk the path before Him. He was in agony as He pleaded with His Father in the garden that night. But even more than wanting to be released from the fearful road ahead, He wanted to obey. He wanted His Father to be glorified more than He wanted to be spared the pain before Him.
Luke goes on to say that after Jesus surrender there in the garden, an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.
When we pray, with a surrendered heart, God will do no less for us. We will be strengthened. We will receive courage for the road ahead. There is tremendous power in prayer that seeks God’s will and His glory. A greater work in our lives is done, not when the circumstance changes, but when we are changed.
Have a blessed week,
“For a child will be born for us…He will be named…everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Christmas has always held very special memories for me. When I was growing up, I remember going to bed on Christmas Eve not able to sleep. When I went to bed, our Christmas tree was decorated with not a gift under it. I would be in bed with my eyes shut, listening for the sounds that stories promised…reindeer paws! I would always drift off for a little while, but I could not wait to wake up my mom and dad and see what Santa had left us under the tree! Every Christmas…my mom and dad were there. One Christmas, I remember getting a Simon game, a Merlin, a bunch of records/albums, a typewriter…pure joy as a child! Not one single memory of a Christmas that my dad was not there. My dad was not a perfect dad, but he was there. As I have grown up, I am not sure my children can think of a Christmas that my dad has not been there. He has always shown up with gifts in his hands and a lot of jokes. He would only stay a few hours and he was ready to go home…but he was there.
This Christmas is my first Christmas without my dad. He passed away last January and this has been my year of “firsts” that everyone has told me about. As I have tried to get through the season with joy, I have had a lead stone on my heart and a lump in my throat knowing my dad will not be there.
This morning, I was reminded that I have consolation. I have a Father in Heaven that is always there. Thousands of years ago, God knew that I would need a reminder in my time of hurt. Through a prophet named, Isaiah, God leaned down and gave me refreshing joy! “For a child will be born for us,” (for Stacey) “He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” My Father in heaven never intended for my earthly father to be there every Christmas. His Son would fill that place. His Son would be born in a very uncomfortable stable, in very uncomfortable circumstances for people like me to have stability and comfort in His love for us! My Father in heaven never intended for my joy to rest in the comfort of what has always been. My Father in heaven intends for my comfort to be in Him alone. He sent His Son to encompass all of my “emptiness” and “loneliness”! He sent His Son to be my Prince of Peace when change in inevitable! He sent His Son to be my joy in my sorrow!
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This Christmas, I will look to the Son on Christmas morning and be filled with peace!
Have you ever wondered why God protected the Israelites from the Egyptian army by parting the waters of the Red Sea? What I mean is, why part the Red Sea when He could have just wiped out the entire army even before it got near His children, or He could have simply changed Pharaoh’s heart and caused him to not even desire to pursue the Israelites? Why did He orchestrate such a dramatic escape and rescue?
I really had never questioned why God choose to part the Red Sea over less exhausting options. But a while back, I was reading Psalms 66, when I ran across the answer that prompted me to ask the question. I’m not sure that makes sense, but hang with me a minute and I’ll try to explain what I’m talking about.
When God parted the Red Sea, He did so to show His children Who He was – how powerful He was. I think maybe He knew that the image of the walls of water on either side of them as they passed through to the other side would be so branded on their minds that it would help to encourage them during the hard times ahead as they followed Him through the dessert.
They were told to set up stones to serve as a memorial and to tell future generations about Him and the mighty things He had done on their behalf.
But somewhere along the way, as that story and others were passed down, they must have lost their luster because the children of Israel had a difficult time trusting and following God through the dessert. They even forgot about Him and turned to worship other idols. I wonder if when they told the story to their children, if they even remembered to tell the story, was there any excitement? Did they share the story in such a way that the hearer was in total awe of the God of Israel or was it just another story?
What about us? Do we share all those stories with others? Do we even remember them ourselves? Are they just some stories in a book, something we’ve heard, or do they thrill us and encourage our hearts? Do we fully realize that our God is the same God who rolled back the waters of the Red Sea?
Are those stories even applicable today? It’s been a long time since waters have been parted…or has it?
If our God parted the Red Sea, is He not completely capable of parting seas in our lives today? If He can shut the mouths of Daniel’s lions, can he not shut the mouths of the lions circling us? And, if He can walk through a fiery furnace with three men and bring them out without one singed hair or even the faintest scent of smoke on their clothes, can He not safely bring us through the intense fires in our own lives?
Think about it a minute: Has a sea ever been parted in your life, or a lion’s mouth closed, or have you ever walked through a fiery trial…and survived?
If so, then you have a story worth telling.
When He does great things for us, He intends for us to be awed by them and by Who He is. He intends for us to set up memorials so that when we face future trials, we will remember what He has done in the past and we will receive strength for the journey ahead. And He absolutely intends for us to share our stories with others. He is not looking for eloquent storytellers. All He wants is for us to share our stories with sincere awe, gratitude, and a humble heart. As our brothers and sisters in Christ are reminded of the intimacy we are allowed to share with our Father, how He is actively involved with His children, they will be reminded of Who He is and gain strength for their journey. Maybe He will stir a desire in others who don’t know Him and He will draw them to Himself…all because we shared our story.
If you have some time, grab His Word and read Psalms 66. Then start telling your story to everyone who will listen.
Have a great week!
Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me. Psalm 66:16
“No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” -Philippians 3:13
Edisto Beach is a place that our family loves dearly. We have built thin peaked drip castles by the hundreds, combed the beach for shark’s teeth until the back of our necks cramped, and had crabs enthusiastically grab onto stinky chicken necks time and time again just before their captor quickly scooped them up. One of the funniest snapshots of my mind is a time when we were going to an inlet to dig clams and seine for fish and shrimp. We were all doing our thing when my youngest son let out a scream that would curl your toes! I honestly had never heard anything like it!
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