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).

Friday, June 30, 2017

Asking in Difficult Times

We have had some tragic things happen to families in our church recently. The impact of these has pushed through many in our church and even into the community. Often in these tragic times, we wonder why God would allow these types of things to happen to children or to families who are trusting and following Him.

Nothing remotely comparable has happened to me or my family. But we still have difficulties and struggles. And even in these relatively minor struggles we ask why. We often wonder and ponder how and why such things occur.

Job did. Job lost everything--his animals and his wealth; his family; even his health. And Job had sought to follow God faithfully. He didn't curse God when he lost what he had. But he did ask lots of questions: Why was I even born? Why should I continue to hope? What future do I have? Why have you made me your target? (Job 3:11; 6:11; 7:20) Job wondered why things had happened to him since he had sought to be faithful and follow God.

This week I sat in funerals, listened to words from my pastor, and have pondered these issues. And in my limited understanding, one particular thought became abundantly clear. The question is not WHY. The question to ask in these difficult times is WHO. Who is the One that is Ruler? Who is the strength and comfort? No matter what, who is ultimately the victor?

When God speaks to Job, this is the question God offers: Who laid the cornerstone of creation? Who set the boundaries of darkness? Who established the seasons? God asks question after question about these things. (Job 38-41) And what is Job's reply? "I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours is thwarted." (Job 42:2)

When things are difficult and even tragic, we can know that we are still in God's hand. God holds us and helps us. He is there. And we can trust Him, even when all it seems we see is darkness.

So I'm going to give up on WHY and focus on WHO.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lest We Miss His Kingdom's Goal

Traveling on this journey of the Christian life is continually revealing. I (Scott) continue to see God at work, leading us and providing for us. I continue to see how I fail Him daily. And sometimes when I look back to earlier times, I wonder if I'm regressing rather than progressing.

I remember times when I was more faithful to pray. I see times when it seems I was more connected to God than I sometime feel now. I wonder if my life was more as it should be with God than it is now. However, as I prayed and pondered on these things, a new thought gave me pause. Maybe, in my continual journey with God, I am more aware of things in my life that are not what they should be.

Maybe as I mature, I see areas that need attention. I see where my pride fuels actions. I see times I neglected to act as God would lead. I am more attuned to the pull of disobedience. As God chisels away things in my life, more of the underneath is brought out, areas that laid hidden but now have seen exposed to His light.

So I rejoice in these newly discovered areas. I do not rejoice that I am still immature and worldly. But I rejoice that God is at work, helping me discover them and, hopefully, releasing them to become more as He would have me to be.

Today I read these words from the hymn "God of Grace and God of Glory." This is the third verse (you know, the one that Baptists often skip!).
Cure your children's warring madness;bend our pride to your control;shame our wanton, selfish gladness,rich in things and pour in soul.Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,lest we miss your kingdom's goal,lest we miss your kingdom's goal.                         --Henry Emerson Fosdick
These words, written in 1930, could have been penned today. Often our society - and we Christians in our society - focus on selfishness and pride, rich in things but poor in soul. I see God working on my own selfishness and pride, things that I did not (maybe chose not) to see in years past. Or maybe I was just too busy focusing on other things that needed to be chiseled away. 

A large part of our journey now has been trusting God and not ourselves. I pray that God would work to keep me focused on His kingdom's goal and not on my own selfish ambitions or my own ideas of what should be happening in my life. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Broken for God

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God. Psalm 51:17 (CSB)

Some things have happened over the last few weeks that have made me (Cindy) think. A few weeks ago, on Sunday, April 23, was the third anniversary of the accident. The car accident landed me in the hospital with some serious injuries. I was broken—broken for God.

This incident changed my life. Not physically, because I have fully recovered from my injuries. But spiritually, I will never be the same. Everything that happened caused me to look into my relationship with God. Was I really relying on God the way I should? Was I trying to grow in Christlikeness, or was I putting on a show for others to prove how much I was following God? Did I have true love for people, or was I just tolerating people?

Sadly, when I really examined my faith, I came up lacking. Looking back, seeing where God was leading is now clear. God broke me to bring me back to Him. I can say with assurance that my faith is stronger than ever before. I have no worries, but give them all to God. I believe that nothing happens except what God ordains. I know that whatever comes along the way, God will handle it.

Here is what I know: If God has chosen you, He will pursue you with a relentless love. He will use any method He chooses to get your attention.

Are you listening?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Soft Whisper

I have often heard people refer to the "still small voice" of God. For a long time I wondered about that. I always picture God's voice as big and booming. God is omnipotent and vast - so isn't His voice the same way.

I remember the first time I read 1 Kings 19, the story of Elijah in a cave. In 1 Kings 18 Elijah confronted 400 prophets of Baal. In that encounter, God made Himself known and the people saw who was the real true God. Then Elijah prayed and a three-year drought was broken when God sent a downpour. But now Elijah was running away. Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah said, "I'm done." He crossed the wilderness and was fed by an angel. Now he was in a cave.

God asked, "Why are you here?" Elijah said, "I'm the only one left standing for you, God. And they're after me now."

Elijah was a prophet of God. That was his identity, his calling. He was good at it. But as he looked at his present circumstances, he was struggling with it. God said He would bring His presence to Elijah. A destructive wind blew through the mountains, but that wasn't God's presence. Then an earthquake, but that wasn't God's presence. Then a blazing fire; not God's presence either. Then came a voice, a soft whisper. There's the still small voice. God said that Elijah was not the only one left. There were other followers. And Elijah's work was not done. He had a successor to anoint and new kings to anoint, too. He was still a prophet and had prophet work to do.

As I read this again, I wonder if Elijah questioned his whole prophet ability. Maybe what he thought he was good at wasn't really true. I certainly have had that experience. For a long time, I felt that I was made to be a teacher of young children. It seemed that my abilities fit perfectly with teaching. I seemed good at it. I enjoyed it. A few years ago things happened that made me question that. If I wasn't a good teacher, what was I really? I didn't do very well then. In recent days I've been feeling like what I once did well is now at best mediocre. Maybe I'm not really meant to be a teacher. Maybe I'm not good at what I thought I was good at.

Those voices can be really loud. And destructive. A forceful wind, an earthquake, a blazing fire. 

But I need to hear the soft whisper. And how do I hear that? I must be quiet. I must listen. 

Maybe I have more teacher work to do. Maybe I have different teacher work to do. Maybe who I thought I was I really am. 

God didn't tell Elijah, "You are a prophet." He gave him work to do. He corrected misinformation and mistaken belief. He affirmed that God's plan was in control.

Listening to the quiet voice through His word, I hear the same. I have work to do, tasks to accomplish. I must have a true and accurate picture of the situation (God's perspective). I can be confident that God is in control.

Each day I must find my wilderness cave and listen. The voice, the soft whisper, is there.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Casting Anxieties

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares for you." 
(1 Peter 5:6-7)
 I think I wear this verse out, especially verse 7 - casting all your care on Him. I seem to carry a lot of care, a lot of anxieties and worries and such. I remember this verse and cast it on Him. But then I pick it up again or pick up new ones. (So did I really cast it in the first place??)

The other day I was praying, asking God to help me with the worries of this particular week. And the worries of things that I see coming down the road this year. We seem to be at a particular place and see little movement at the moment. So I was praying and feeling a little dejected.

I prayed specifically for the worries that I was carrying at that moment. "God, I cast the worry of ___ on you" I prayed. Then I moved my head as I mentally tossed that rock into God's hands. I did this for every worry, care, or anxiety that appeared in my head. (There were several.)

As I sat quietly after that prayer, I realized that I actually felt lighter, at least mentally. I went to my desk to begin work and felt...happier and more at peace. And I was actually surprised that my anxieties and worries were lifted. Why is that? Why am I surprised when God shows up as He says He will.

Oh, the issues are still there. I'm just not continually thinking about them. And when I do, I ask God to help me face them and deal with them as they come.

Look back at the verse above. I think we often skim over verse 6, the beginning of that. We don't humble ourselves under His hand. We try to take on things ourselves. We let our pride and our own efforts get in the way. We must give up trying to do it. (I'm always trying to take things back.) I must continually cast my pride on Him and humble myself, realizing my dependence on Him for....well everything.

Also, we tend to miss the middle part of that verse. He will exalt us; we won't exalt ourselves. And it will come in His time. I think that's one of the things that God is continuing to teach us during this part of our journey. We must submit to His Sovereignty and His timing. He is in control. We control nothing. We humble ourselves. We cast our cares. We wait. We listen. We obey.

So tomorrow I'll be casting whatever new worries have risen in my mind. And will again thank Him that He is big enough to handle it all.

And hold on to the end of that verse with both hands: He cares for us.