Friday, March 16, 2018

What Are You Really Seeking?

A familiar story in the Bible is Jesus feeding a crowd with only a small amount of food. A large crowd had gathered to listen to Jesus' teaching. The day had grown long and meal time approached. Jesus asked His disciples how they were going to feed all the people. They located one small boy with a small amount of food. Jesus thanked God and broke the bread and fish to distribute it. The food filled 5,000 men plus women and children. With leftovers! (John 6:1-13)

We tell this story to children and teach it among adults. It's an important story about God's provision and Jesus' power. But do we remember the "rest of the story"? (Sorry, Paul Harvey.) In John 6:15, we read that Jesus withdrew into the mountains because the people were going to force Him to be the king. Okay, we know that God's plan for Jesus was different than becoming an earthly king...but there is something else going on here. Further in the chapter, we discover what.

The crowd discovered that Jesus and His disciples are gone. They searched for Jesus and eventually found Him. Jesus responded to their questions: "You are looking for me because I fed you. You should be looking for that which satisfies eternally."

Jesus and the people discussed more about this--bread for now verses bread for eternity. Jesus told them: "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again." (John 6:35) Jesus teaches them more about who He is and what He is doing. The result? Many of the followers could not accept what He said and deserted Him. (John 6:60) Jesus was not really what they were seeking.

We've been seeking things since we began this journey. And, recent events have led us to seek other things. But we've learned that most of all, we need to be seeking Jesus and that which will bring God's glory.

Listening to the radio the other day, I heard the song "More Than Anything" by Natalie Grant. (Apparently God continues to direct our radio station to play what I need to hear at a certain time. I hope the other listeners don't mind all the songs that I need!) Natalie Grant sings these words:
Help me want the Healer, More than the healing
Help me want the Savior, More than the saving
Help me want the Giver, More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus, More than anything
Too often I think I want the answer, the healing, the gift more than I want Jesus. The crowd wanted the bread (earthly sustenance) more than the Bread (eternal life). Throughout all our journey - and especially in recent days - God has continued to show me that I need to be pursuing Him. Not a particular path or a particular trait or a particular knowledge. But Him.

May we want Him, seek Him, more than anything else.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A New Year

from Steal Like an Artist Calendar
It's a new year. A time when we often think about changes or new attitudes and habits. A few years ago I read about choosing one word for a yearly focus. I've been doing that for the past few years. I do have a word this year, one that sort of just became my word without a lot of pondering and praying. But that's not what I want to write about right now.

I sometimes choose goals for the year. Last year I read a lot about choosing goals for the year and then setting quarterly goals within the year to move toward completing your goals. I did that last year - setting goals, that is. I didn't meet them but I did progress on some things that I wanted to do.  I at least thought about them regularly as I read them and worked toward hitting my quarter marks. And I also knew when I made decisions that led to things other than those goals. (Which made me wonder if I really wanted to accomplish those things in 2017.) I set more goals for this year. Some the same as last year (or variations of them) and some completely different. But goals are not what I'm thinking about or what I want to be my total focus this year.

In the past I have sometimes chosen a Bible verse to be my focus for the year. Not every year but I've done that a few times. Sometimes a verse appears after I choose a word for the year or grows to be a focus after the first weeks of the year. This year, actually even before January started, I began thinking about a verse. It was a familiar verse. It was a timely verse, timely for me and my life. I turned to it and read it. I thought about it and repeated it. I wrote it down in various places. It came to mind at various times throughout the days and weeks.

So I decided to make this verse the focus on my year. The verse is Matthew 11:28. "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

I feel weary and burdened. Some of that is related to the past couple of months and what has been happening with our family. Cindy's illness made me also feel weary and burdened. (I can only imagine how it makes her feel.) Lots of burdens have piled up in my mind as a result of it. I also feel burdened because my work has piled up a little - due to distraction and to difficulty just getting motivated. I feel burdened when I see my spiritual immaturity and lack of faith, when I doubt and when I choose myself over my Lord. I feel weary and burdened because of so many things.

This year I want to come to Jesus. When those burdens weigh down my mind and heart, I want to come to Him. When I feel weary and unable to take another step, I want to come to Him. I want His rest, His comfort. I want Him.

I pray that this year I learn to rest in Jesus. I hope to be thankful when I feel burdened because it will remind me that Jesus is there, waiting for me to come to Him. And I pray that you can rest in Jesus, too.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Unable to Stop Speaking

"We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20)

Peter and John were in front of the Jewish leaders. They were told to stop preaching in Jesus' name, to stop telling about Jesus. Their response was that they could not stop speaking about it. They could not contain themselves.

In these past weeks, Cindy and I have seen so many things happen. So many people have called or written notes. So many people have given tangible blessings to us - food, money. So many people have prayed for Cindy. God continues to bless us and we cannot stop giving Him to glory.

A little while back, I wrote something on Facebook that, upon reading later, I felt sounded self-congratulatory and hyper spiritual. I noted that when I want to complain, I praise instead. I need to explain a little further. 

We have had some challenges. And there are days I call out to God that things are difficult. There are days I feel inept or overwhelmed. But anytime I start to complain about things - you know, type comments into social media or start that text or begin to dial a call - I am reminded of all that we've been given. We have seen God at work since Cindy went into the hospital. When complications arose, the doctors caught it quickly and addressed it. When she needed a little more time to gain strength, the system worked it out. When we need, God provides. I cannot complain in the face of all we have received. 

God is good and He deserves all glory.

This time of year reminds me that God gives to us and we must glorify Him. Our Savior came as a baby. He gave His life to save us. All glory to God for this alone.

But then, He continues to work in our lives. Cindy still cannot hear. But scans show no ossification of the bones in the there are things that can be done. Cindy has said, "God is in control." I am reminded daily that nothing has happened (or will happen) that takes Him by surprise. We cannot stop speaking about what God has done and giving Him the glory.

I want to shout with the angels, "Glory to God in the Highest!" Even on the challenging days and difficult times. 

All glory to Him.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thankful Each Day

I am a traditions kind of guy. I like traditions of all kinds. Growing up, I liked holidays when we did the same things as we had done the year before. I liked the same foods on the table at Thanksgiving, the same ornaments and decorations at Christmas, the same church play of the nativity (I was Gabriel!), the same gatherings of family for all the holidays. In fact, I would probably be the guy singing that song in "Fiddler on the Roof."
"Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!"
But I also discovered as I grew older that traditions change or fall by the wayside. Things at Christmas change as little kids become bigger kids and then teenagers. Family gatherings change as people marry and have children. Traditions become merged when you begin your own household. Traditions change.

But one holiday that maintained for me has been Thanksgiving. I may not still gather at my grandparents' house with all my cousins, but I still gather with family and often have the same types of foods - even if it's just two of us. However, this year we had a completely untraditional Thanksgiving. I sat in a hospital room with Cindy and my mother. We ate turkey and dressing made by the hospital kitchen. (It was tasty but the dressing was definitely not the traditional dressing I like.) We did have the traditional nap after eating; we all dozed in the quiet room.

Yes, traditions are important and comforting. But what I learned this year is that the important thing is relationships. (Of course I knew that but it was important to be reminded.) Our Thanksgiving may have been untraditional but I was with my mother; she had put aside her own everyday life to be with us for a couple of weeks. I was with Cindy - and that's something I cannot take for granted after this past month. She was eating regular food, on her own, smiling at me, talking with me. I am truly thankful.

So often I forget to be thankful, to truly thank God for what I have each day. But the unexpected things this month - both the unexpected health crisis and the unexpected blessings that have been given to us - make me realize that God gives me undeserved and unlimited grace each and every day. I should make it a regular practice (tradition??) to give Him thanks and praise.

God is good all the time. And all I do and say should be to His glory.

I hope that eating turkey in a hospital room does not become a new tradition for us. But I hope I will be as thankful to God each Thanksgiving - and each day - as I felt when I looked at my wife's face on this particular Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Unexpected Paths

A little over two weeks ago, everything was as it usually was. We went to work. We went to church. We taught preschoolers in choir and Sunday School. Cindy was feeling a little under the weather...a cold, allergies, something like that. We were just traveling along on our regular road as always.

Then we were on a new path, an unexpected twisty path. Definitely not on our itinerary.

For the past two weeks (has it just been two weeks?), Cindy has been in the hospital. We arrived in the emergency room via ambulance. Then to ICU, intubated and sedated. After waking and alert she moved to a regular room. And now in rehab.

Severe pneumonia that also developed meningitis. We're currently dealing with some memory impairment. And, oh, she cannot hear. Is this permanent? We don't know at this point. But we're definitely on an unplanned path with still unknown twists ahead.

These past two weeks have been quite a journey. Here are a few things I (Scott) learned along the way. (You know me, I gotta think about stuff to process it.)

1. Things can change instantly. Two weeks ago Cindy was working on her computer and even went into the office one day. We talked and laughed and joked as always. Now she's working on getting back her mobility. And we communicate in a combination of sign language, lip reading, and writing notes. The change has been instant...and long at the same time.

2. Our church family is great. We have received meals, cards, gifts, and visits. People have been more kind and generous than I could have even thought. And they are continuing to minister to us regularly.

3. Life doesn't stop. Just because we hit a new patch of road doesn't mean that everything else changes or stops. Bills still need to be paid, clothes washed, responsibilities met. Cindy and I tend to work as a team  - she handles some things and I handle others with each of us picking up the slack when needed. So I've spent some of the past week trying to figure out where we are on some things and taking care of business. And I couldn't just ask Cindy what needed to be done. Things are fine but it did create some stress for a few days.

4. God is good and hears our prayers. Where we are now I could not have predicted even a week ago. We've had a few low points when I've been really worried. (I know you're not to worry but it sometimes happens before I can stop it.) A couple of days I wasn't sure how long we would be in the hospital. I still don't know when we will go home but we are so much further along.

5. No matter what happens, it's for God's glory. Seeing God work. Hearing from people all over the country who are praying for Cindy. Reading verses and hearing songs that reinforce God's sovereignty throughout anything. Whenever I worry or struggle, I see God's hand at work. I only pray I can glorify Him through this complete journey.

And the BIG ONE - Ask for help.
Okay, I'm still working on this one. I like to think I can handle things. But if the last week has taught me anything, it's that people are ready to help and people must allow others to help them. I was thinking the other night about the verse: "Bear one another's burdens." (Galatians 6:2) I've always focused on the first word - the admonition to help, assist, carry the burdens of others. But these past two weeks have made me see this verse differently. God also is telling us that we must be willing to yield our burdens to be borne by others. No one can help bear my burden if I'm shouldering it all alone. I must share my burden - my need - with others. Then they can help bear it.

And this has reminded me of something else that I was once told: Do not steal someone else's blessing of helping you. If I keep the burden to myself, I rob someone of the opportunity to help. And I don't want to rob someone of joy and blessing.

I haven't mastered this asking for help yet. But I'm working on it. (And I hope I learn it without a new lesson!)

There are more lessons...and more to come, I'm sure. But I know God is at work in Cindy's life and in mine. May He be glorified in the days ahead.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sometimes It's Hard

I (Scott) feel like a weak follower of Christ. I trust God and seek to do His will. Of course, I fail because I am a sinner (like everyone else). In that way we're all weak.

But sometimes I struggle with the path I'm on. I know God is Sovereign. I know everything is in His hands. But at times I feel like something is amiss. I see the lives of others and wonder why mine isn't more like theirs. I look back to see where things turned an unexpected corner and wonder why the path diverged like it did. Sometimes it's hard to be where you are.

Social media - while great - can help contribute to these thoughts. I see posts about children's accomplishments and photos of kids or grandkids...and wonder why my path is different. I read about the success of former colleagues or see someone excel in my same field...and think that somewhere I missed an important opportunity or misheard the voice leading me.

Sometimes it's hard to be where you are. Sometimes it's hard not to be where you are not.

God doesn't make mistakes. And the sovereign, all-knowing God leads and directs and makes things happen in His will. I believe that. I cling to that. I know that. I've seen that. I know there are things I could never do or have ever done if things in my life were different. And yet, in my humanness, sometimes it's hard.

The Christian group FFH sings a song "One of These Days." In that song, they sing that one of these days (in heaven), we'll do all the things that we've never done before; we will witness all the things we've missed; we will learn all the things that we've never known before. One particular verse that I always remember is this:
One of these days I'm going to see just what became of me
On the day that I believed when You took myself from me
And I believe I will see what I would have been if You didn't save me
One of these days
I don't know if we will really see what we would have been if we had not been saved. But I do know that we will see our Savior face to face and we will truly know Him and who we are in Him.

That's what I cling to...on the days when it is hard.

Here's the song if you want to hear it

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Signposts on This Journey

Three years ago (plus a couple of months) we began this blog to reflect our current journey with God. Now, a little further down the road on that journey, here are a few things that I've (Scott) learned. (I won't speak for Cindy. I'll let her tell her own thoughts if she chooses.) There are a few "signposts" if you will.

1. God is faithful.
God is faithful...even when I'm not. He supplies the faith I need to be faithful. Before this journey, I trusted God and knew that He loves and cares for us. I've seen too many "it just happened" instances to doubt that God works in the world today. But this journey has shown me in new ways that God is Sovereign and He will not let us down. Yes, we struggle sometimes but that's to whittle away more of the "not depending on Him" aspects in my life. God is still at work and I must depend on Him.

2. I'm a slow learner. Or at least a stubborn one.
When I read back through some of the posts on this blog, I see that I've already "learned" something that I am currently relearning. I have trouble changing my mind about what I think should be happening. I think that one thing should be happening...God shows me that something else should be happening...I thank Him for leading...then I go back to trying to make the first thing happen again. I trust God. But sometimes I act as if I must make sure He does it the right way (i.e., my way). So He must remind me (again) to trust His way.

3. Letting go is easy and hard.
Even if you know that God is leading in a different way (His way), it is still hard to let go of a dream or concept or plan. (See #2.) God showed me this when the truck was wrecked. I knew - before we even contacted the insurance company - that it would be totaled. It's 20+ years old. The damage was pretty significant, even the truck did still run. I prepared myself for the decision. And they did total it. Cindy and I talked about paying repairs ourselves and keeping the truck. (I really did like it.) But I knew that we had to let it go. We needed to take payment from the insurance company and get another vehicle. And God provided one that cost only a small amount over what the insurance company paid for the truck. God showed me that letting go is easy when grounded in Him. But it's also hard because...well...change is hard. (And sometimes I still miss the truck - but I enjoy the gift God gave us in our little car.)

These are not the only lessons but they are some big ones. And, when I read through them, they really add up to one lesson: "He must increase but I must decrease" (John 3:30).