Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17

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Beyond the Clouds

It rained today.

It rained yesterday.

It rained the day before.

I’m not fond of rain. It messes with my hair. It messes with my shoes. It messes with my mood.

James 1:17a (NASB) says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” Amidst this soggy season and my soggy mood, God gave me a good and perfect gift. I saw it while driving in the rain. A blue patch peering out from behind the dark, ominous clouds that loomed above as rain poured down.

Have you ever seen that? Just a little patch of blue peeking out from behind the gray of storm clouds. Though I was hurrying to class, I pulled over and tried to capture photos with the camera on my cell phone. They didn’t come out so great, but the image is forever etched upon my grateful heart – this reminder of God’s great love and that He is always there, just beyond the clouds.

Now the only thing that beats one gift is two gifts!

God gave me a second gift during the afternoon drive home. The sun had come out, so I enjoyed a surprisingly dry and breezy walk to my car. But during the 59-miles journey home I experienced a little sun, then an immediate and heavy downpour, more sun, some dark clouds which changed gradually to fluffy white clouds, then a quick shower and more sun and finally another downpour for the last 5-8 miles. All along my route conditions changed.

So what was the gift? It was this second reminder of God’s faithfulness through the storms of life. Just as I experienced sun, downpour, clouds and showers during my drive, so it is with life. We have sunny seasons, cloudy seasons and seasons of rain. But He does not leave us in one season. We pass through.

He is with us, and He will not leave or forsake us Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV).

A gift for you may be found in Deuteronomy 30:9 (NIV) which promises, though your season may be stormy, He will, again, delight in you.

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A Decision You Can Stand By

I remember being a teacher and wondering why my principal didn’t seem to have common sense. Though I didn’t say anything to anyone, I often wondered. “Why doesn’t he get it?” “Why doesn’t he just do this?” “Can’t he see that he needs to do that?”

I had all the answers.

And then I became a principal. Let me just say that it was much easier being a “behind the scenes” principal and knowing what my principal ought to do than doing it myself. Until you actually walk the halls of a principal you don’t realize how much there is to deal with. Students. Parents. Superintendent. Community. Central Office. And the teachers. And the custodial staff. And the cafeteria staff. And the law. And local board policy. And…

While some decisions are relatively easy, others really require deep thought and consideration. You learn quickly that no decision is made in isolation. Many individuals will be impacted by the simplest of decisions. Many precedents will be set. Be careful what you give a nod to today because tomorrow others will be lining up outside your door with the same or similar requests or other variations. Things can quickly mushroom. And no matter how you answer most questions, someone is unhappy with your response. Soon you come to realize there is no completely satisfactory answer.

Yes, that last statement was a little facetious. A little.

You learn to “do your homework” and get as much information as possible, then you make the best decision you can at the time. You make a decision that you can stand by, and then you move on.

There are many occasions in our lives when there are no completely satisfactory answers.

Have you ever wondered where God was? During a storm like Katrina. During the September 11th attacks. When someone we love dies or, as I learned yesterday, when the mother of a 2nd grader and a 5th grader is killed. Just stepping out of her car. Here one minute. Gone in the next.

Did God take a holiday? Step off the throne for just a moment? Look away? Blink?

In times like this we have no completely satisfactory answer.

But if we “do our homework” and get as much accurate information as possible, then we know that God does not take holidays, step off the throne, look away or blink. In Hebrews 13 He tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. In the words of my pastor, “Never means never.”

Make the best decision you can. Make a decision that you can stand by. Make the decision that even though we, in our humanness, cannot understand suffering we must trust Him, trust His faithfulness, trust His promises and trust His Word.

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“Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing…” (Luke 5:1-5a, NASB)

The last thing fishermen do is wash the nets and pack them up, and that is what Simon and the others were doing. It had been a long night. They had worked hard. And caught nothing!

Are you right there with them? Been a long day? A long week? Are you glad that it’s finally Friday? Feel like washing the nets, packing them up and heading home – or somewhere other than where you are? So did the disciples. But over walks Jesus and tells them to put out into the deep and let their nets down for a catch. Excuse me? Isn’t this omniscient Jesus who already knows that they’ve been at it all night? Doesn’t He see them washing the nets? Surely He understands the routine – washing the nets means we are quitting?

Yep, that’s Jesus. He waits until we get to the end – not of the rope, but of ourselves. Because as long as we believe that we are in control and that we can handle things, we don’t look to Him. We don’t listen to Him. We don’t seek Him. We don’t follow Him.

Let’s look back at the Scriptures. Luke 5:5-6 (NASB) says, “Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.” How did the disciples go from packing the nets to breaking the nets with a heavy catch? Immediate surrender (of their own thinking), immediate acknowledgement (of the command) and immediate obedience (to Jesus). Jesus said, “Put out…and let down your nets.” Simon said, “I will do as You say.”

If things don’t seem to be working for you, perhaps it’s past time for you to surrender your thinking and look to Jesus. One more thing – look ahead at Verse 11 of this same text. “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”

TGIF! Thank Goodness I Follow!

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Attention Deficit Disorder

You’ve probably heard or read this old joke.  I just found it in my email from 2004.  (Yes, I have archived email from 2004…and before that, too!)

“Recently, I was diagnosed with A. A. A. D. D. – Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

 This is how it manifests:  I decide to wash my car. As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the hall table. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the trash can under the table, and notice that the trash can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the trash first.  But then I think, since I’m going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.  I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only one check left.

 My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go to my desk where I find the can of Coke that I had been drinking. I’m going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over. I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the coke a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye–they need to be watered.  I set the Coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers. I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.

I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill. Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day: the car isn’t washed, the bills aren’t paid, there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter, the flowers aren’t watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook, I can’t find the remote, I can’t find my glasses, and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.

Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I’m really tired.  I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail.”

This semester I am teaching two undergraduate courses in Special Education.  On the first day of class my 46 students and I engaged in some lively dialogue about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  I asked them to please tell me who does not have ADD?  They laughed as we launched into deeper dialogue about the differences and challenges that we all have, but beyond that dialogue I have continued to think about ADD – Spiritual ADD that is.

You’ve experienced it.  (I refuse to believe that I am the only one.)  You know how it goes.  While praying your mind wanders to the children, the dry cleaning, fixing dinner.  While listening to the minister on Sunday you begin to doodle a grocery list or a “to do” list in the corner of the bulletin.  While reading your Seminary homework sleep overtakes you and you weren’t even sleepy when you began reading. (Yikes, I slipped a confession in there with that last one.)

Peter experienced ADD.  He left the boat to join Jesus as He walked on water.  As long as he kept his focus on Christ, he was fine.  The very moment he became distracted, looked away, took his eyes off Jesus – he began to sink.  And that is what happens to us.  We become distracted, turn our focus away from God and we sink.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”  The Amplified translation of this Scripture says “look away from all that will distract” and “look to Jesus.”  Easier said than done?  Certainly.  But we must be intentional in our walk, our service and our relationship with Christ.  Identify your distractors and rather than a pill, endeavor to take captive every thought and cease every action that is not of the Lord.  Determine to maintain focus during prayer, worship and life.

At the end of the day you still may not know where your keys are, but you will know where YOU are – centered in the will and plan of God!