The Surprisingly Good News About Trouble

Odd how life-altering changes can come so abruptly, with no warning.  One moment, life is as it has always been, and the next, everything is forever changed. Trouble doesn’t take the time to call before ringing the doorbell.

I was blessed to spend some time with extended family yesterday. While visiting with my sweet sister-in-law and her husband, I heard an update on their friend Gerry who is suffering from ALS. There has not been much time between the initial shock of the diagnosis and the current new “normal” that can never seem normal of wheelchair confinement, a hospital bed at home, and having to be fed every bite of food he takes. Not much time, but surely many losses in that short period, with more on the horizon. No more golf, no more trips. No more of many things that were just a regular part of life, pre-ALS.

the surprisingly good news about trouble

I thought of Gerry this morning as I read 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” There’s a little mental game I play sometimes when I’m really struggling to be thankful. As silly as it sounds, the “what if” game has pulled me out of many a downward spiral by facilitating a desperately needed attitude adjustment. When our A/C was out for a week in the hottest month of the summer (and folks, we don’t live in Alaska), I asked myself, just for fun, “What if for every minute we have no A/C, $1000 was being added to our savings account?” I could imagine our excitement as we cheerfully mopped sweat and counted the seconds down together, “58…59…60!!!”

“KA-CHING!!!”

The really amazing thing is, according to 2 Corinthians 4:17, the “what if” game is a reality for those who know Christ. Picture a balance scale with me.

Now, on one side of the scale, load your troubles. You know what they are. Don’t be shy – load them all on…it’s a big scale. Sickness? Financial trouble? Relationships? Legal issues? Job? All there? Good.

Now, those “light and momentary troubles” (“easy for Paul to say”, we may be tempted to mutter bitterly) probably just made the empty side of the scale shoot upwards so fast its trajectory couldn’t be tracked by the naked eye, right? But hang on – the good part is coming.

What Weighs More?

While you are patiently enduring those troubles, they are actually working for you. They are performing an amazing, incredibly valuable function that is guaranteed to make you one day thrilled and grateful to have had every single one of them! They are “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”.

KA-CHING!!

Now a supersized, overstuffed, overflowing bag of eternal glory comes slamming down on the empty side of the scale – BAM! It doesn’t just gently tip the scales in the other direction. No, it “far outweighs” the junk on the other side! In comparison, the troubles seem like nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of the reward.

Why does this matter? What good is a huge load of eternal glory when it doesn’t make my current problems go away?

The answer to that is in the next verse.

“So we fix our eyes on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

So are you, my friend. Eternal, that is. And eternity is a heck of a lot longer than your life here on this tiny revolving ball of dirt and water we call Earth.

Sure, life here seems like forever. That’s why we have to “fix” our eyes on the eternal. Keep them there, and put blinders on if necessary! Our eternity is greatly impacted by our patient endurance here. Our moment-by-moment choices to honor God in the hard times matter more than we will ever know, this side of Heaven.

So what weighs more on the great balance scale of life?  “Light and momentary troubles”, or the eternal glory gained by them?  Don’t be fooled by the way things look now.  What you gain FAR outweighs what you suffer, and THAT’S good news!  It’s true for Gerry, and it’s true for you if Christ is the Lord of your life.

 

 

And if He isn’t, wouldn’t this be a great moment to change that?

 

With faith, hope, and love,

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Hold On Tight

 

I remember it like it was yesterday – the roadside carnival my best friend and I visited.   We were old enough to be driving around by ourselves and enjoying the wonderful freedom of sudden financial affluence from that American teenage institution, the First Job (I think I may have made a whopping $5/hour for rendering my expert services at an animal hospital, which included nearly fainting during a procedure my first week there) combined with the unparalleled excitement of the First Car.

Now it must be understood that when I was born, babies were still coming home from the hospital in cardboard boxes.  The current 10 gazillion dollar industry in baby safety products had not yet been unleashed on an unsuspecting public.  Apparently, traveling roadside carnivals had not yet undergone their safety revolution either at that point in history (if indeed they have had one).  My friend and I picked a ride and climbed into our seats, giggling and giddy.  Thin metal lap bar in place, we began to sail upwards towards the sky.  Once our car began to tip and sway, we realized with horror that our lap bar would not latch.  The attendant who checked to be sure everything was okay before starting the ride must have been so dazzled by us (I’m sure that’s what we told ourselves) that he completely forgot to perform his safety checks.

Mostly what we remember from that ride is bracing ourselves and hanging on for dear life.  Presumably,  the operator of the ride paid no attention to all our hollering because screaming people are the norm on carnival rides. When our car began to flip upside down, things really got tense.  Thankfully, we did not fly out of our seats and we lived to walk out on shaky legs, as we pledged to each other to NEVER visit another roadside carnival, and NEVER tell our mothers what had just happened…at least not for a long, long time.

The story I just shared was brought back to mind today as I read the Apostle Paul’s words, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (I Cor.15:2, emphasis mine)

There’s something exclusive about holding firmly to something.  On that ride, if Lara and I had been eating funnel cakes when we got on (who knows- eating on rides was probably allowed back then!), as much as I love a good funnel cake, that cake would have turned into a Frisbee as soon as I realized my hands were needed if I wanted to walk back to the car and not ride off in an ambulance.

To hold on firmly to something, we have to be willing to let go of something else.

The question we must ask is, are we holding firmly to the Word – the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us – or are our hands too full of other things to get a tight grip?

I am the notorious Queen of One Trip…trying to get everything from the car into the house in one load…and I can tell you from repeated experience – something usually gets dropped.

Are we hanging on for dear life with both hands, or do we just have a finger hooked on to the Living Word while we also fumblingly attempt to clutch ____________ (you fill in the blank)?

I certainly don’t want to have believed in vain.  There’s no addiction, no habit, no relationship, no prize of this world that’s worth it.

If there is something today that’s keeping you from holding on firmly with both hands, may I encourage you to lay it down?  I know the One who waits, love in His eyes, hands extended.  He IS worth it.  Don’t have believed in vain.

With love,

Christine signature 001

 

 

The Gift of Emptiness

There are so many things I ask God for.  Health, safety, blessing, patience, wisdom, patience, direction, patience.  Did I mention patience?

But sometime over the course of the summer I realized that IT had happened again.  In the course of the busy living, and the asking for all the good things we all want, and the basking in the good things God graciously gives, I had unconsciously slid into the “I’ve got this” rut.  Or maybe “pit” would be a better term.  The subtle shift from desperation for God to Professional Christian.  Yuck.  I definitely do not think the world needs more of those.  Because lurking in that pit are ugly things like smugness, self-sufficiency, and critical attitudes all slithering around their Big Daddy, Pride.  Not the kind of things nice Christians confess on any given Sunday morning.

Then one morning in my Bible reading, I encountered Jesus saying that without the wood-interior-doorFather, He could do nothing.   Not just “not as much”, or “not as many” or “couldn’t walk on the water quite as long”, but NOTHING.  That comes from a Greek word that means “NOTHING”.

If He couldn’t, what makes me think I am sufficient for anything at all on my own, either?  When did the speck in my eye grow into a 2 by 4?  When He said “blessed are the poor in spirit”, what did that mean?  Somehow I don’t think it meant smug Christians who are impressed with their own righteousness.

Do I know what it means to be poor in spirit?  To need Him?  To be aware of my great, cavernous need of Him? Because whether we are willing to recognize it our not, we all need Him.  Blessed are those who know it!

So instead of asking for things – however good they may be – I am asking for the gift of emptiness.  Sounds like a strange gift to ask for, doesn’t it?  But the great gift of emptiness is that vessels that are empty of the things of this world are ready to be filled with the glory of God.  Isn’t that what those of us who are Christ-followers want?  Just Him…more of Him.

Because I can’t heal a sick child, but He can.  I can’t comfort a grieving friend, but He can.  I can’t take a horrible situation and miraculously redeem it into something beautiful, but He can!   I can’t even be the godly wife and mother I want to be without Christ in me, the hope of glory.  And to have more of Him, there needs to be less of me.

So right now the gift of emptiness is looking mighty good…not for the sake of remaining empty, but in the promise of being filled to overflowing with the Presence of God.

Will you join me?  Drop me a comment and tell me what that looks like for you, and I’ll pray for you as we journey together.

With love,

Christine signature 001

 

PS – empty room photo credit: Photo via Visualhunt.com

 

 

True Beauty

“All beauty is only reflection.”

I read that today in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and it struck me as an incredibly profound but rarely verbalized truth.  Our culture worships beauty – never more so than now.  And whatever we were born lacking, we can purchase on a payment plan.  We can change shape, size, eye color and hair color.  We can de-wrinkle, fluff up, pouf out, and pay to look like we kissed the back end of every bee in a hive.

This kind of beauty – the kind that comes from a bottle or a syringe or a surgery – is it true beauty?  What about the beauty of a not-so-perfect looking, exhausted mother, tenderly caring for her special needs child day after day?

What about the beauty of utterly impoverished folk in a Third World country, walking mile after mile with no shoes to gather with other villagers and worship in grateful adoration?

What about the beauty of those who suffer for righteousness, whose stories and tears we will never know this side of Heaven?  And the beauty of those who humbly choose to forgive and bless when doing so exacts a great cost?

These, I propose, are the faces of true beauty.  And if “all beauty is only reflection”, as the moon is but a reflection of the glory of the sun, then of WHAT is it a reflection?  Or perhaps, of whom?

I believe the answer lies in a seemingly paradoxical ancient writing by the prophet Isaiah.  He writes prophetically of the coming Christ,

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Is. 53:2)

Isaiah had not yet seen this God-Man who, pierced and beaten, staggered under the weight of the sins of the whole world.  Under the weight of MY sin.  He hadn’t seen the weary trudging of dusty miles, the nights of no roof overhead, the aching loneliness.  He wasn’t there when this Man of no physical beauty gave life and dignity back to the woman with the issue of blood.  He didn’t get to watch as, with love in His eyes, He reached out and touched the shunned and miserable leper and made him whole.

Isaiah wasn’t there when the muscled back was laid open by a cat-o’-nine tails, only to then have a crude, heavy wooden cross placed on it.  The bleeding brow, the agony of slow suffocation…here, my friends, is beauty.

He endured that for you.  He endured that for me.  Oh, how beautiful He is!  Had Isaiah been granted just a glimpse, surely he would have asked how we could see anything BUT beauty in this consummate love and self-sacrifice.

Here is the beauty from which all other true beauty radiates.  And no matter what our past or our physical appearance, “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

So there you have it.  As you reflect the Beautiful One, you are beautiful.  True beauty.  Beauty of spirit that far outlasts fleeting physical perfection.

Beautiful friend, go do some reflecting today.  The world needs to see you shine.

With love,

Christine signature 001

 

 

Photo credit: href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/bardia_photowork/9848140103/”>Bardia Photography</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>VisualHunt.com</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”> CC BY-NC-ND</a>

Peace – Need a Refill?

Sitting at our favorite secluded nature spot (as secluded as one can get in a booming suburban area!), watching ducks glide noiselessly across sparkling water and feeling a gentle breeze blow across my face, my soul drinks in the splendor of a profusion of green around me.  Trees, grass, vines, and bushes join together in a silent, joyous symphony.  I exult in the still peacefulness of it and inwardly join their chorus.  I heed their call to be still, to listen, and to simply and deeply breathe peace.

Oh yes, I left things undone at home to come here.  It was a choice.  My lengthy to-do list waits, a sinkful of dishes waits, along with a host of other items clamoring for attention.  But today it strikes me that peace is worth more than check marks on paper, and I could use a refill.  Would it have fed my soul to scrub pots?  Well…perhaps, if I scrubbed them in gratitude for the abundant provision they contained, heart uplifted to the Giver of all good things.  But at times to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14), I must remove myself from the tyranny of schedule and bring myself and my children to this sacred altar where we offer up our busyness as a sacrifice and receive in return beautiful quietness of soul.

After all, everything else will be waiting for me when I return home, but I will return different – better – for having come.  And when life presses in, as it invariably does, I will be better prepared to face it.  Peace will do that for a person.  Life’s reversals – they don’t tend to give us 6 weeks written notice.  From one moment to the next, everything can change.  But circumstances are outside my being.  I choose what goes on in my soul.  I choose to take times like this to quiet myself and reconnect with the foundational values that make me who I am.

Faith, most of all.  Family, dearly loved.  Friends who have been ministering angels time and time again.  That’s one of the best gifts peace offers its takers – time and inner space to lift our focus and be thankful.photo_3174_20070904

Peace – could you use a refill today too?  I doubt we’ll find it in the nightly news, the perpetual chatter of social media, or the relentless pursuit of materialism.

But when you and I choose to sit at the feet of the Prince of Peace and learn from Him, we become more like Him.  Slowly – little by little – the work of a lifetime…however long we have, starting today.

How much peace do we want?  A thimbleful?  A trickling stream?  Or a broad, deep, powerful river – strong enough to buoy us up even over the rapids, and safe enough for the smallest child?  The One who IS peace has enough for you.  All it takes is an open heart – your empty vessel to receive.  Maybe today you would like to find a quiet place to offer up your heart to Him for a peace refill – I, for one, am so glad I did.

With love,

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Coffee and cookies photo: Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/fiery-phoenix/8345691281/”>Fiery-Phoenix</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>VisualHunt.com</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”> CC BY-NC-ND</a>