Archive for July, 2010
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
As she steps across the stones-
she finds that there is a way to cross the water.
I’m not trying to get my way in the world’s way. I’m trying to get your way, your Word’s way. I’m staying on your trail; I’m putting one foot In front of the other. I’m not giving up. (Message)
I don’t think there is a question more asked in our lives then “what am I supposed to do?” There are hundreds of books that attempt to answer the quest for God’s will in our lives. I also find there are many discussions and at times arguments on whether or not God has a perfect will for our lives or is the road wide for us to walk in peace with God. Living in the “right” way, walking on the right path is a pursuit that I have attempted to stay close to my whole Christian life. I want nothing more than to follow the will of God. The problem is that I am not sure there is “one” will of God for me or any of us for that matter. I really don’t think any of us has the definitive answer on that one. I can’t think of a topic more intimidating for me to write on than finding God’s will for anyone’s life.
In 2008 I made a decision after many months of prayer and counsel. It was a life altering decision to leave a ministry that I had invested my whole heart into for 22 years. I sensed there was a change coming and wrestled with God and with man to find out what I was supposed to do. I had become disenchanted with something that was at the core of my being for most of my adult life. But, what now?
There have been times in my life when I had the proverbial “sand in my shoes” that brought enough discomfort for me to change something. I tend to be a “loyalist” and really I don’t change easily. This method of moving me towards change was probably necessary and had worked many times in my life. In leaving the ministry there was no doubt that something needed to change. What had been the greatest blessing had become one of the most painful things I had experienced.
Once I walked out the door into a seemingly empty place I found myself telling the Lord, “Lord, whatever you want for me is fine. I do not want to contrive my future out of familiarity or personal desire. I want to turn this season over to you for whatever you want to do with me.” Then I added, “surprise me!” At that time I just worked on building a home office over my garage for a place to work. This would give me a place to search, to pray, to find out just what God had for me to do.
Stalwart walks in step with God; his path blazed by God, he’s happy. If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand. (Message)
I began trying new things. I wrestled with my flesh. I started, stopped and sorted through my heart with others. It was a very random place to be but it was certainly interesting. As I looked for my surprises he was faithful to bring them. Each week it seemed He threw in some new idea, a new concept, or added a new person to help me search. I began to describe it as packages under the Christmas tree. I didn’t know what was in them, but I knew they were going to be good. I unwrapped package after package to find He was leading me one step at a time. If I went the wrong direction or failed in some way it seemed even in that, He was leading me forward with the lessons learned or with His abundant grace to fill in the gaps.
We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it. (Message)
One of the most interesting things I found from the Lord was a leading for me to get a job at local car dealership. I believed with all of my heart that I was being obedient, even though it was off the path I had desired, I was willing to go where He led me. I was there only two weeks but those were very significant weeks of learning about God, learning about others, and finding my heart to be alive and well. I also found some amazing opportunities to minister to others there. I wrote more on this story if you’d like to read it from my blog archive on our website.
Surprise after surprise, God led me along the way into some amazing things and some very interesting opportunities. Step by step He is still working and surprising.
Looking back on your own life can you see an order to things? Can you see how God has used your decisions, your experience, and yes, your mistakes; to reveal to you Himself? I’d bet you can see Him through it all if you look for Him in it.
Are you in a pickle? Have you changed paths lately? Do you feel as though you’ll never find His will for you? Maybe you are right in the middle of it and are trying to look elsewhere. Does it seem you are in a place that appears to not fit what you had thought to be God’s will? Are you crying out to Him for direction?
The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going? (Message)
I remember times when I had absolutely no idea where God was leading me. My only option was to take a step. No matter whether it was a good one or not, it was as step. I had to trust in the goodness of God to work it out. He will bring others around you, resources to you, and if a detour is necessary that will come also.
Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life. I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road. I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys, or wasting time making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake! Don’t take Wicked Bypass; don’t so much as set foot on that road. Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way. (Message)
As I grow older I think what I am finding is the truth in the many scriptures that speak to God’s leading in our life. I find that it is a life that is built, step by step. As I cross over strange places, familiar spaces, and the rivers of life there are stepping stones that are quite ordained by God to lead me. I am not as afraid of losing my way anymore because I trust Him more. I am not so afraid of a stumble here and there because I know that I will stumble. He doesn’t need to find me laying in a ditch somewhere because He never left my side and has exactly what I need at the moment. Though I may not understand it, I trust it is for my good.
I know, God, that mere mortals can’t run their own lives, that men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life. So correct us, God, as you see best. (Message)
We had sensed there was a change coming for my wife Vileen but we didn’t know what it would be. In our hearts we had been in prayer for a long time seeking God’s direction for her personal vocation. Our marriage had always surrounded my heart’s desire for ministry but we hadn’t discovered what Vileen had wanted. She began to talk about serving others in helping them manage their homes. Vileen has a strong administrative gift in her personality and is very talented in bringing order to disorder. She also has a strong servant’s heart. As she prayed she talked about wanting to move towards a home organizing vocation.
We were far too fearful and needy to make the decision for Vileen to leave her job. It was a steady source of income for us and frankly, just easier to let things remain. But, low and behold, some sand crept into Vileen’s shoes. Hum, what was God up to and what are we to do?
As Vileen prayed I felt more and more uneasy about her prayers. I was fearful about losing even more income and taking that risk by our own initiative. God, in His redemptive love, once again moved us off of neutral. Vileen lost her job in April. She called me when I was at lunch with a good friend. I hung up and looked at my friend and said, “my wife just lost her job”. The blood rushed out of my body with fear and yet I also had some excitement somewhere in there. “Oh, boy, now what are we going to do?”
God amazingly showed up and Vileen has had the wonderful opportunity to start her home organizing business. Day by day, step by step doors began to open that gave us both a peace and a joy about beginning a new endeavor. A fresh start for Vileen was just what God had up His sleeve.
He truly has provided as we have engaged His leading. I have seen the little things each day that have built into the bigger picture. From a meeting to a referral, then to some advice and so on, minute by minute God was at work. He has provided answers to many prayers that were not prayed in faith, rather they were prayed in fear and desires out of the fears and yet, our loving Father heard her heart.
What is your heart crying out for? Do you have unfulfilled dreams? Does it seem you are in a dead end job or vocation? Or, are you experiencing the sand in your shoes? Well, maybe God is ready to move in your life too. Open up the doors of your heart to Him and see if He just might be getting you ready for your own fresh start. If you are praying that way, ready or not, He may move a mountain for you. He may just slip in a little surprise to let you know He is listening.
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Sometimes we just need to know someone is there.
Thank you for reaching out to me today.
I felt all alone.
The Lord said this to Moses right before he was going to take him away from this earth, and before he would leave the people he had led for so long:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Duet. 31:6
Then as Moses charged Joshua to carry on with the plan he said:
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Duet. 31:8
Loneliness is one of the most common experiences we can share with each other. Moses had felt alone a lot as he tried to lead a disgruntled and frustrated crowd for so many years. Then as Moses knew what Joshua would be facing in taking over, he made sure Joshua heard what was needed for his upcoming task. He needed to know he wasn’t alone. I think one of the most significant things we can struggle with is the thought that we are alone in the battle ground of this life. God knew we needed to know that He was with us no matter what.
There are those times when we feel alone, separated from others. I can feel lonely because I am struggling with something personal that I don’t think anyone else can relate to. I can also feel lonely when I am in the midst of a crowd but overwhelmed with a personal life issue. I miss the connection with them assuming they don’t understand what I am going through. The reality is that they may not know anything about it. At times, I just feel lonely, period.
I remember a time many years ago when I told some friends that I was having a “Christmas Open House”. I cleaned, decorated, prepared food, set the grand buffet with all kinds of goodies. 6:00 came, 7:00 came, but no one came to the door. Then at 11:00 I started to put the food away, none of it eaten other than from my own snacking. As I was closing down my unattended party something hit me. I had survived my worst nightmare. I went to bed with a weird kind of satisfaction. In some ways this lonely event brought me to a new level of victory. I hosted a party and no one showed up. I didn’t die, I didn’t lose my breath. But, I did feel disappointed, kind of lost and rejected. Might I add, I felt a little embarrassed. What did this misfortune say about me?
Just because I am talking with others on a regular basis doesn’t mean that I am connecting with them. I realized after the fact that my invitation was passive and not personally expressed to individuals. I truly believe if someone would have thought that I wanted to spend the evening with them at my party they would have come.
The smiling faces we see in most pictures aren’t always telling us the truth. We can’t assume that people feel loved by the way we see them interacting with others. We all know how to look good in public or to talk good on the phone. But often times the loneliest people are the ones who look the least alone. Because we don’t believe they need anything from us we can actually leave them alone.
Loneliness can be a result of feeling rejected by someone that is important to us. We may have had a friend move out of town, or someone in our life has gone through a significant life change that alters the way we have been used to connecting subsequently we feel alone. A friend’s divorce, a job change, or leaving a church we had gone to with each other; can produce a sense of loss leaving us feeling lonely.
So, what’s the point? Reach out to someone today. Ask the Lord to put someone on your mind to call or stop by to see. As I am writing this I am creating my own list. With new mediums like FaceBook and text messaging, we have lots of opportunities to just say “Hello, I am thinking about you today.” But even better, pick up the phone and call someone. I remember the slogan, “Reach Out and Touch Someone” to advertize the telephone service. It was a great way to encourage us to tell someone else they are important to us and really make a difference in a simple easy way. Christians are born into a new family. How can our family function in a healthy way? Maybe a brother or sister could use a word from you today and you didn’t know it.
God sets the lonely in families. Ps. 68:6
We don’t have to assume someone is in trouble or is desperately alone in order to contact them. Maybe it will mean even more to someone that we called them “just because”. But there are those who really need to know they aren’t alone today. Your spontaneous “hello” may make a world of difference to them.
What about those people who have made a huge difference in your life? Do they know that you feel that way? Please tell them. Some people labor for years giving to others and wonder, “am I making a difference?”
A lady called me recently and asked to take my wife and I out to breakfast. She said she had something to talk with us about and wanted to update us on their family situation. I am used to people wanting to meet with me to discuss life issues that are troublesome to them. I am grateful for the opportunity to help others and love being able to do that so I was prepared to listen and somehow help her. When we got to breakfast she said, “John, I need to tell you how you have helped me several years ago. My life was changed from your influence.” She went on with explicit detail and of course I was surprised and encouraged to hear her words. I felt even more motivated that day to continue to make myself available for others. I was “stimulated to love and good deeds” from her taking the time to tell me how I had helped her.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb 10:24-25
Think back to your own life growth. We have all experienced those times when someone helped us, spoke to us with encouragement, or stood by our side. Have you told them they helped you? Make a list today of those people and if at all possible take the time to let them know how you feel.
There is another friend of mine that sends me text messages with prayers, scripture, and thankfulness on a random basis. I just received one today,
“Love U John Smid! U r a blessing 2 me! 2 day I know U will bless someone!”
I never know when they will come but feel so encouraged when they do. Can you take the time today to send an encouraging message to someone?
In some cases, reaching out to others may not bring forth what you hope for, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t helping. I know a man who said that a friend of his sent him cards for Christmas, birthdays, and just because – for years. He had been in a very challenging life situation but didn’t have the courage to do anything different but through the cards and letters of encouragement over time he felt ready to make some changes. He often speaks of the unconditional love he felt as a result of this friend reaching out to him consistently during the darkest time of his life. He often mentions that no matter what he was going through, he knew he had a friend that cared about him.
One day I returned to my office after lunch and found a cassette tape and a note from a man in my mens group at the time. He had heard me talk about a type of music that I liked. During his busy work day, he took the time out to bless me with a tape of that style and a note that said, “I love you brother”. Fifteen years later I still remember the way I felt encouraged, the blessing that was to me during a very lonely time in my own life. I knew someone cared. It only took a few extra minutes from his day but impacted me for a lifetime.
Maybe there is someone you know that you feel concerned about but don’t know how to help them. How about just telling them you love them and are thinking of them and doing this periodically, not just when it is their birthday or a holiday, but just because. You never know what may be going on in their life when they receive your caring words.
Don’t wait! Who is on your mind today? We all need to know we aren’t alone. Each one of us needs to hear the words “I love you” from those who really mean it.
This may be a lonely time for you. See if it helps to reach into someone else’s life when you need to feel connected.
I suspect it may.
Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Sometimes in the turmoil of life we need something to focus on that shows us His power.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”
When I lived in Northern California some of my favorite times were sitting on the rocky coast listening and watching as the waves came in. The icy blue water was cold and translucent and the white caps blended through it. As the tide moved in or out the randomness of the movement kept my attention. It just seemed that the heaviness of life washed away with each crashing wave. Life seemed to soften, to soothe as the consuming ocean brought something to focus on. It was then that I could ponder, think, and release.
The rumbling water was at my feet and yet I couldn’t deny the depth of the seemingly endless ocean. The greatness was incomparable. I loved those times and keep them stored in my memories so that I can even smell the strange but familiar smell of the kelp seaweed on the sandy shore.
There are those times when I feel confused or overwhelmed. I need something to focus that helps me meditate on our omnipotent God. The ever increasing power of His greatness can shrink my troubles into manageable segments if I allow it to.
A few summers ago I was in the middle of some of the roughest times I can remember. I was feeling overwhelmed, confused, lost and certainly overrun with seemingly unmanageable trials. Each morning I would get up with an wringing knot in my stomach and by the end of the day I was so tired from living through the anticipated anxiety. I searched and searched to find a solution but to no avail. I struggled each day to get up in the morning and at the end of the day a great escape into an interesting TV show seemed to give me a little break. But, after far too many of those days I needed more than the temporary relief of a TV show. I needed something much greater.
So, I remember as clear as day going to my private side porch almost like I had a severe goal in mind with my bible in hand. I was going to sit down with God. I began to talk with the Lord in an exasperated silent voice. “God, I am my end. I need something from you that is tangible and something that I cannot confuse with my own head or someone else’s words. I am desperate for hope, desperate to know you are here and that you understand. I really need to hear from you. So, I sat quietly for a moment then opened up my bible.
He took me to a passage in Jeremiah. “Oh, my gosh! God, you really heard me.” This passage was all about my situation. Not only does it describe in general terms what I was in the middle of but He even took me to a place where my heart was revealed. No one else could have done that!
“You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.”
Than as I looked further into the story at hand there were such specific details. He used the words like, “wounds”,” injury”, “forgotten”. Then he moved on to “restored”, “healed”, “rebuilt!” As I read on he spoke of “thanksgiving”, “moving forward” and “increasing.” Then in the last verse of the chapter I was reading it said, ” In days to come you will understand this.”
It was obvious to me that I had heard from the Lord. The similarities and words in this chapter were so in line with where I was at I knew that my God was with me in my trials. Even more, He comforted me with showing me a future that was hopeful and even mysterious. The words brought me to a place of relief and yet some of the ambiguity caused me to wonder how He would fill in the details. My current trials now became more of a building project than a prison of despair. It was so much like the crashing waves, close and sharp and yet far and mysterious like the ocean. But none the less, real, even tangible.
Uh oh, I got to a place where I stopped:
“I am with you and will save you, declares the LORD. Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”
Discipline me? I didn’t like that part. So I had to think for a moment. Oh, yeah, this is the discipline of the Lord, He loves me. He doesn’t deal with me like a human would. God is always teaching, loving, kind, and intentional. He doesn’t give me the back of His hand, rather I believe I can trust His discipline to be good. Actually, I turned to a place where I was looking forward to His discipline because I knew it would help me to grow and it would not shame me.
“No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.”
Someday I’ll understand? Oh, yeah sure. Someday? “Remember, God, I want something NOW!” But even that brought me to a positive place. I knew that in the end of life I would understand all of this. But it didn’t seem that He was talking about at the end of life. It appeared to be a time sooner than that where I would be given some understanding.
That was several years ago and amazingly, I mean amazingly, the words in that chapter have become more true than I would have ever imagined. I felt heard and comforted by the Lord which was awesome. I received the detail that was written and kept going back to that passage over and over looking for more of the prophetic content to reveal itself to me. And it did!
So, I moved into a place of thankfulness as He said I would. I found this to be a revealing learning process to look back to that dark time and actually say, “Thank you Lord, for showing me amazing and wonderful things.” I began to see lessons coming into my life and changes in my heart that were so strange to me and yet so wonderful to receive.
I think I am beginning to gain understanding now. As I filter the situation through knowledge, thanksgiving, and lessons learned, the clarity He promised is coming into view. It sure has been a journey, and I wouldn’t want to relive any of it! I still remember the anxiety in my heart, the emptiness in my stomach, and the extreme confusion I was experiencing. But there seems to be a blurry filter that has taken away the edge of what I was feeling. I guess you might call this healing.
I have grown in my knowledge of Him. I have gained better understanding myself and others. My faith has deepened. My heart has changed.
“Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”
Something powerful to focus on? Just look around a little bit. It doesn’t have to be a mighty crashing wave to see His power.
Yesterday I looked into a ceramic pitcher sitting on our side porch. Yes the same porch where God spoke to me years ago. Deep down inside was a grassy nest. It held some hungry tiny baby birds waiting for their mama to return with their food. They were so delicate, so hidden. I thought, this mama found a great place to hide them. I could hardly hear their squeaking in the insulation of the nest and the rim of the pitcher.
But even in that I saw the power of the Lord. His power isn’t a clenched fist ready to punch the wrongdoer. Rather His power is able to crash the waves, contain the ocean and yet to hold the delicacy of these little birds in His hand without hurting them.
I think in the turmoil of my life, both are needed. The strong arm of the Lord and the gentleness of His heart. How about you? Can you feel His power? Can you feel His softened heart?
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
Friday, July 2nd, 2010
The quiet stillness of the slowly flowing water into the fieldside tributaries.
We may not see it but God is soaking us with His care.
1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
Take a moment and breathe this in. Cast all your anxiety – on Him – because
He cares – for you.
This passage comes to my mind a lot. Those of you who know me know that I am a pretty high maintenance person sometimes. My emotional levels can go down quite easily and when they are down I can feel pretty defeated. It’s during the down times that I have the greatest need for special comfort to help me on the course of life.
One of my negative self talk mantras is, “what am I chopped liver”. This phrase comes up when I am feeling unheard, unimportant, or just ignored. I have to pay attention when I am hearing that in my head. This is when I need to hear something to counteract the lie that comes with my self talk.
This passage is simple and yet profound. To read this scripture is to see one of the most descriptive statements on who God really is, His character, and how He relates to us. If you are anything like me you also have those challenging days where you feel fearful, anxious, or just plain needy. Where shall we turn to gain strength to keep moving forward?
The New Living version of the Bible says, cast all of your “worries” and “cares” to God. Do you worry? I certainly do. I worry about provision. I worry about relationships. I worry about doing the right thing or failing to succeed. So, in a fuller context, I would say He very much cares about my worries.
I have always heard that it was a sin to worry. But worrying is more about what I am feeling than it is about not trusting God. I am feeling fearful, insecure, concerned and all of this translates into feeling “worried” about something that is very important to me. If I think about God’s heart through this passage, He knows when I worry and wants to help me with the worries that I seem to often fall into. Because He cares deeply, I feel validated when I worry.
The Message says, ” Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” This particular version goes a step further in this concept. Not only does it give me a sense of his desire for me to live more freely from my weakened self talk, but says He is “most” careful with me. Given my emotional sensitivities and weakness towards self pity, I can trust that God will be careful with me.
This doesn’t mean in any way that He will treat me with kid gloves, I don’t need that. Rather, He says He will take great care with me. That tells me that with great consideration and thought, He will come into my life with just what I need. And who better than God to know how to handle me? He knows exactly what I need and the right timing to bring it.
As I look at the picture of the slowly moving river it gives me rest. The calm nature of the slowly moving tributary through the fields shows that it is providing the area with the nurturing quality of water but not so much as to wash away the foundation. It is just easing into the fields with great care. It is soaking, not with stagnant pools rather a fresh flow from somewhere upstream.
There are times when I can handle the rougher things in life and actually can be invigorated by them. But, when I am particularly fragile emotionally I really need the cautious and yet specific care of my Lord’s love.
One of my favorite scriptures is:
Isaiah 40:27-31 (The Message)
- Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
- Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
- God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out.
- He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
- But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles.
- They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.
In the NIV it actually it sounds more like an announcement:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
When I am feeling tired, drained, worn out from life I think of the song that goes with this passage. “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint….they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
It is something that requires me to take it in, to soak a little with it, to breathe a sigh of relief that someone is watching out for me. The immovable knowledge that someone cares. There is a powerful but tender God who is willing to breathe His life into me when I need it most.
It is during these times when I need to be specific about “casting” my cares upon Him and to know that He cares for me.
09 BE THE DIFFERENCE
(Song by Paul Berkus, used with permission) www.paulberkus.com
© John J. Smid 2010