No You Can’t

Learning these days that all the “I can’ts” I’ve often sighed or screamed out are holy ground. The place where God reminds me, again, that I cannot but He can – and, in His time, He will.

We’ve grown up in a world of self-affirmation, of everyone gets a trophy, of failure being a hidden word. Truth is life isn’t about us, the goodies, or the losses.

Time to teach our children, grandchildren – from first breath – that life is about…the Creator. “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 BSB)

I’m towards the end of the clock here on earth, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember what it’s like to be near the beginning or the middle.

I’ve seen lives lived from early on for Jesus. I’ve seen lives surrendered midway. And I’ve seen in the last bits of time true life found in the Savior. Sweetest are those who get the most time living here for Him. “I have come in order that you might have life–life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10 GNT)

Perhaps earth’s clock is ticking down, perhaps it has millennia ahead. But with my time I must now encourage, speak truth, live like I’m His. No more shyness about offending with His Name. No more sugar-coating to not rock a relationship.

For time runs out for us all. And on this side of the hour hands, I want to be a light that shows this truly is where joy is found, peace surrounds, and love abounds.

How about you? Will you choose now to let Him give the gift of life? Or if you have, will you use what’s left of your time living in the “He can”. Because no you can’t – fix the losses, the hurts, the pains. Only One can: “And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5a BSB)

Revolution

Today I am watching an everchanging landscape – mountains disappear and reappear as Smoky Mountain mist twirls up from the ground and descends from the clouds. It’s peaceful. A beautiful mystery of creation that at once enshrouds and then lays bare a beautiful landscape.

It reminds me: life is all about change. Personal or political or global – this world is spinning into a chaos of change that tends to leave us unnerved.

God knows we need reassurance: ” ‘For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then My faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,’ says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54:10 NLT)

The question being asked a lot these days: how are we, as God’s people, to live? In other words, when we see the deeds of wickedness being touted as normal, blatant lies being called truth, evil called good and good called evil – what is our role?

I will not pretend to have that answer, I am pondering it along with you. However, God’s Word never changes and all this turmoil is part of our devolving due to sin. “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low…And the glory of the Lord will be revealed…All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field…The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:4a, 5a, 6b, 8 NIV)

As we look for answers in these uncertain times, we need look no further than our Bibles. The Holy Spirit will show us our way and our role. It will require diligence on our part – to search His Word, to listen for His direction, and to not be afraid of what evil can do.

Just shy of two hundred-fifty years ago, a new nation was dawning; men and women God had called to a land we now call home, faced the same dilemmas. God called them to revolution, perhaps He will call us to that as well. But it may not be in the form of battles of men against men, rather in battles of prayer – standing firm for His righteousness – and being willing to sacrifice as so many Jesus followers have before us, and still are, around the world today.

“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But My salvation will last forever, My righteousness will never fail. Hear Me, you who know what is right, you people who have My law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults.” (Isaiah 51:6-7 NIV)

Delay Tactics

Greatest delay tactics I’ve ever seen are those from the under five group. Best witnessed when it’s nap time or bed time. One more story, one more drink of water, few more minutes rocking, night light on – no off – no on, and best one: one more hug and kiss.

I think they’re afraid they’ll miss something. That’s us. Most of the delays we try are because of fear. Fear we’ll make the wrong decision, fear we’ll miss out if we allow change, fear that if we admit we’re not in control things won’t turn out right, fear that…God doesn’t want the outcome we want.

Ann Voskamp recently said: “He who is driven by fears, delays the comfort of God.”

If that is true, then we have a good reason to not let fear be a motivator. No more what ifs, then whats, or let’s wait. Fear tells us to worry about how things will be, when God wants us to live in what is and trust that He’s bigger – and what He gives is better. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” (2Corinthians 1:3 BSB)

A man named Jonah learned long ago that delaying God’s plans is a lot more dreadful than walking in those plans. He ran one way, but even a sea voyage couldn’t change his ultimate destination. We, like Jonah, could save a lot of drama and trauma, if we wouldn’t run from His plan.

Our delay tactics in making a move, changing jobs, reprimanding a child, asking forgiveness of our spouse, doing the work it takes to get healthy, accepting the challenge of what is instead of wishing for what was, and mourning the past while missing the present – rob us of what God wants to show us as He shows up over and over in the moments of now.

Like a three year old fighting drowsy eyelids, we often think of all the reasons our way will work out best instead of accepting the unfolding plan of God.

Here’s the ultimate reward of God’s comfort: “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2Corinthians 1:4 BSB) So that we can comfort others…we live in a world in much need of comfort.

Power

Taking a hard look at the world around us, we see that the lust right now is for power. Not that this is something new, it’s just that before it was a combination of lust for wealth, or fame, or addictions, etc. Those “in power” in governments worldwide seem bent on only one thing. And it’s not what’s best for their citizens, but the desire to confiscate money and property and control the movement of and even the health of the people.

It’s an illusion. Greeks and Romans, Russians and Chinese, and the endless list through the centuries, all thought they were the power. But look at the outcomes to this day. If intimidation and fear is power, then that is indeed sad.

Christ said this two thousand years ago “But Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.’ “ (Matthew 20:24 NLT)

How about a comparison? Power by intimidation, fear, taxation vs the power to raise the dead to life. Power that monitors human movement and speech vs power to give eternal life.

Hmmm, that’s why since the beginning of time people have sought God. Oh, there are those who deny Him and His power; those that say there is no God. But in crisis, whom do they call on – how readily do they accept prayer from those who do believe?

Who, then, is the liar? It is those who say that Jesus is not the Messiah. Such people are the Enemy of Christ–they reject both the Father and the Son.” (1John 2:22 GNT)

Someday mankind will run out of time and all the grasping for control and power will cease. Someday people will be free – truly free. Someday a world ruled by this dictator or that king or president will be done.

Someday, for those who know Jesus, there will be a forever where people live in harmony and truly do love one another. But it can’t happen here in this world. This is where we learn what comes of wanting to be “god”.

There is power, and that power is in the Name of Jesus. Someday all will know: “that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11 NASB)

How Many Tears

Kitty got old; his heart gave out – at least the pumping of it. His heart for us was true to the end, purring and loving me like he had from the time we got him from the “homeless shelter”.

The day was spent in tears, saying goodbye, but not really letting go. Unconditional love never leaves us. And Opi, as we called him, loved us when we forgot to freshen his water or didn’t have time to sit and pet him. And he loved us well through good and bad years. Sixteen years.

Perhaps that is the message from God to us through our pets. That unconditional love does not find fault, ebb and flow based on shortcomings, or leave us ever. “Love is patient…kind. It does not envy…boast…is not proud. It is not rude…self-seeking…not easily angered…keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects…trusts…hopes…perseveres. Love never fails.” (1Corinthians 13:4-8b my paraphrase)

It’s lonely once a loved one isn’t here on earth – and yes, people, more than pets – but still loneliness. The kind that nothing takes the place of – and oceans of tears don’t stop the next flood when a memory comes.

I think that’s why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit after His death and resurrection. Before we accept Him as Savior there’s a void in us that we try to fill with all kinds of things – nothing satisfies for long. But that moment we say ‘yes’ – a companion like no other is ours forever. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.” (John 14:16,18, 26 ESV)

So how many tears does a soul hold? They can’t be counted by us, but not one falls without the Father’s notice. How many did our Savior shed while He was on earth? No doubt still does as He sees our brokenness.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4 NLT)

How many tears…does a soul hold? Enough to get us through this life. Then in eternity there will be no more tears. And the One who knows their number will fill us with unending joy forevermore.

Uncomfortable

A storm was gathering – as is often the case on a humid south Florida afternoon. I went outside to listen as the thunder gathered – my mood was similar. I was in a waiting time, for a phone call, knowing it wouldn’t be right away.

My head was down, contemplating and letting my thoughts swirl. Then I sighed and looked up – and in the midst of mounting black clouds and departing white clouds was an opening – to the heavens beyond. And I was reminded, once again, of a mighty and awesome God.

God who forms the clouds and directs the storms and moves the winds. Creator who formed me, shows me the way, and lifts my head to the heavens. “Let me hear in the morning of Your steadfast love, for in You I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8 ESV)

It takes years (at least for me) of walking with Jesus and seeing His faithfulness, to finally let go of keeping time. I want things in my time, on my schedule – so I can move on. To what’s next? Why do we always want what’s next when now is uncomfortable?

I’m learning (slowly) that there is much in the uncomfortable to learn from, to grow in, to be useful because of. “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time.” (1Peter 5:6 GNT)

Sometimes I smile to think that we feel we’re the only ones who go through the things we experience. Yet man, from the beginning, has endured much strife – and much joy. Each life is marked by both.

There is His promise, and His Holy Spirit in us reminds our hearts, that though this life will have its highs and lows – a someday is coming. A someday when we lift our heads, it won’t be to see storm clouds or sunshine, it will be to see the Savior of our soul.

All the sighs are so that our faith grows and reminds us: “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 CEV) We will always be uncomfortable here; we must keep our faith eyes on the promise of what is yet to come.

Sometimes Wait

Maybe you noticed, maybe not, my post didn’t come out bright and early in the morning. Sometimes the message is ‘wait’. I’m not a good ‘waiter’.

Is waiting a hard thing for you? Some don’t notice the ‘waits’, they just keep doing life. Often, I get lost in the waiting, thinking when it’s over that’s when life starts again. Time for a makeover – better late than never.

In Psalm 27 David went in and out of confidence in the Lord. Knowing God was his ‘light and salvation, his stronghold’. Declaring trouble would come, ‘for in the day of trouble’. Asking for the Lord to protect him, ‘do not leave me or forsake me’. Finally, declaring God’s goodness and saying: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14 NIV)

I think that David, like you and I, went from knowing He needed to rely on God and wait for Him, to being in despair throughout his life. Yet the Lord never did forsake him – and that is our truth as well. He will not leave us either.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4a NIV) Nothing changes with God – Jesus assured us of that. He told us He would be with us until the end of the age – and then we would be with Him.

So, in the waiting, the sometimes where we can’t get beyond what we are preoccupied with, faced with, feeling like we’re about to sink because of – we need to know God’s truth. Not ‘oh I know’ – know it because His Word is in us. We need to call it to mind and say it to ourselves or shout it out loud. And we can speak it to others who may be in the valley.

Long before the wait comes, long before the fear takes over, and long before we do walk in that valley – we must use that time to immerse ourselves in our Hope.

Then whether we’re living life and in the good times or we’re not sure what solid ground feels like, still this will be our call to the One in control: “As for me, I look to the LORD for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.” (Micah 7:7 NLT)

Get Close

Sometimes my grandsons just have to touch me. We can be playing trucks or train and suddenly my big-for-his-age four year old is in my lap, my growing-too-big two year old is putting my arm around him, and my too-heavy-to-lift one year old needs to bury his head in my shoulder.

Every now and then, usually when something like the loss of a loved one has happened – or tragedies like this past week – I just want to crawl into Jesus’ lap like a toddler and lay my head on His shoulder.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.(Psalm 34:18 NIV) Must remember: though the distance between here and eternity may seem vast, He is oh so close.

A few thousand years ago, David, the one with the tag line ‘a man after God’s own heart’ – wrote numerous verses asking ‘how long, O Lord, will it be before You answer’? Some answers we see, others not so much, and perhaps never. For the answers we seek aren’t always God’s plan. Is He still good?

How we answer that question will look a lot like how well we know Him. A pastor recently said, “God is near, but you have to come close.” Only one way to get close, to hear Him, to know He is good no matter what: His Word, the Bible.

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” (James 4:8 NLT)

I can testify to His lap that I cannot see now, His arm around me that I can sense, and I have buried my head in His shoulder many, many times.

But I didn’t always know His closeness – and still sometimes I forget it. Sometimes I feel like I’m all on my own. The gentle reminder of a friend or His Holy Spirit draws me back to what is truth, what is real, and what is mine. Today, you and I, we can draw close and make it through one more day – for He is a moment to moment God and time is in His hands.

Don’t Be Afraid

It’s been a hard week – not for me – for the whole world. The plight of the people of Afghanistan is overwhelming and evil appears to be in charge. And, sadly, a country I love, America, has blood on it’s hands for the role it just played in all this.

Yet, evil is never really in charge. Evil hearts win skirmishes and battles and the innocent pay the price. But what is here and now – and even when it gets much worse – is all temporary. Someday, the hearts and deeds of wicked men will be exposed – and someday this will abruptly end.

Are you ready?

We are called to always be ready, “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of My return.” (Matthew 25:23 NLT)

Don’t be lulled into thinking it’s been so long, maybe it’s not true. Jesus is returning and His promises are true. It could be in ten seconds, ten years, or ten thousand years – it is His timing, not ours. And our readiness is important.

Why? Why should we constantly be looking for God’s Son to return? Micah 7 is a good commentary on our world today – guess there is nothing new under the sun. Yet we are to look for our Savior: “As for me, I look to the LORD for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.” (Micah 7:7 NLT)

Teach us, God, to lift up our eyes, hearts, minds, souls, and spirits in constant expectation of Your Son’s return. Find us faithful on that day. Until we see Him face to face, help us expose evil and be a balm for those downtrodden by it. And when it seems to overwhelm us, remind us: The Lord of heaven and earth is in control and not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His notice.

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31 NLT)

3 a.m.

I have those nights. Ones where I wake up – wide awake. So comfortable, don’t want to move – but now the brain starts going.

I try to remember to ask: “Who do you want me to pray for Lord?” – but sometimes even when I remember and pray – sleep is illusive. Get up, stay put, get more comfortable, maybe just a drink of water?

It’s quiet then. I tiptoe out and pat the cat’s head. All alone with my thoughts and yawns. No lights. That’s when I can hear – myself and my wonderings, the quirks of our aging home, and the prompting. The Holy Spirit nudging me to consider things anew in the dim light. “And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6 NLT)

Here’s the deal – I don’t always get answers. Sometimes I don’t even know the questions. I’m learning the best way to spend wide awake time in the wee hours is in the quiet with Jesus.

Sure, my mind wanders off in all kinds of directions. But even a little heartfelt prayer here and there points me in directions I wasn’t aware I needed to go. We wander off God’s path all too easily, maybe 3am is for finding our way back.

“We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26b NIV)

Then again, maybe this wee hours time is for the friend we heard is getting divorced, the loved one who is making bad decisions, even a call to pray for our nation or a situation that seems out-of-control or hopeless.

Sleepy me hopes there aren’t too many of these 3am times. When there are, maybe I should learn to cherish them instead of worry about my lack of sleep – or worry about anything for that matter. After all, one thing is for sure: eight hours of sleep or five, God has it all figured out. He’s teaching me listen for Him when I can hear best.

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