Winter Surprises

23 01 2016

Sharing the beauty of winter:

Enjoy a shovel-free view of winter from pictures I took and assembled in the “Winter Surprises” video I created:

https://youtu.be/bownpnIV7hE

On a serious note:

Winter Storm Jonas is affecting millions of people. The impact of the storm has taken some by surprise. It’s worse than predicted in certain areas. Please pray for people living near the New Jersey shore. Flooding already seems to be worse than Hurricane Sandy.

When such disasters strike, some wonder Where’s God? I don’t presume to have all the answers, but I would like to share something with you. Today a devotional I wrote was posted on Rest Ministries. Below is an excerpt of that message titled, “Discovering Winter Surprises Despite the Cold.”



I gotta admit; I dread winter. Cleaning snow off our cars exhausts me. One winter, the snowstorms were relentless. I barely had time to recover before another storm hit.

 One storm dumped a foot of snow. It took longer to remove.  I stopped to catch my breath and spotted a scene that took my breath away. The sun glistened off mounds of snow. Mounds that appeared to be topped with whipped cream by God’s own hand.

 That winter surprise propelled me to finish quickly. I jumped in my cleared-off car and set out to do a photo shoot. Some scenes grabbed my attention. Others were discovered by seeking them out. God’s beauty was found when I looked up, focused closer, and studied shadows.   

 We can face the winter seasons in life that way. Isaiah tells us to, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

 Seek God: look up, focus closer, study shadows. He is near.

 

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God can be real to your child.

30 10 2014
Clinging to God as a Toddler

Clinging to God as a Toddler

Reaching out to Him as an Adult

Reaching out to Him as an Adult

“What’s wrong, Al?” I asked. The fellow teacher always seemed joyful. Normally, his love for the Lord splashed across his face. God’s peace glistened in his eyes. But not that day.

He checked his mailbox with his shoulders slumped and his head down. As if to hide pain or frustration. Something happened to smother his joy.

Every teacher has one of those days from time to time. A day full of problems. When they’re barraged with a multitude of incomplete assignments, relentless unruly behavior, and unending interruptions.

“I’ll be okay once I get my eyes back on the Lord,” was all Al replied. And he went on his way.

That single sentence was the sermon I needed. His godly advice came in handy when I experienced those kinds of days. Those words helped me adjust my focus when difficult days knocked the joy right out of me.

I’ll be okay once I get my eyes back on the Lord.

Don’t we all experience those days? Days when life gets the better of us. When we can no longer cope. When it becomes impossible to hide the hurt under a painted-on smile.

God, are You there? I need You. I need Your help. Where are You?

No answer. That silent treatment form God is unbearable. What can we do when God seems to be elusive?

We desperately need to know how to find Him. Not just for us. But so we can offer wise advice when our children go through trials.

What’s the secret? It’s no secret, really. Al’s stated it in a way even a young child could understand it. Focus on God instead of the problem. Then the challenges will shrink in light of His greatness and power.

How can we teach children to maintain an eternal focus? There are subtle ways which would instill godly thinking.

When our boys were toddlers, adults would often ask the typical question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I taught them to reply, “More like Jesus.” They learned that God had a purpose for their lives. One they’d discover. No matter what occupation God prepared for them, the goal would always be to become more like Jesus.

Many people ask students in high school and college a similar question. “What’s your major?” A different question could help young adults shift their focus heavenward. “How and where are you going to live out your faith?”

I’m blessed to still have the opportunity to teach education majors at a Christian university (Cairn University). We discuss many scenarios they might encounter out in the field. The students offer solutions to each problem.  Their responses reveal insight into each situation.

Rarely, however, do their answers include God. Seldom do they add, “I’d pray for wisdom to handle the situation,” or, “I’d trust God to provide the resources and guidance.” It’s not that they don’t know the Lord. They’re simply responding the way many of us react to challenges. By handling things first and turning to God as a last resort.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for not seeking You when I need You most. Thank You for being so patient with me. And for being so accessible. Help me turn to You when I’m FIRST confronted with a trial. Teach me to rely on You before going in my own strength. Help me to lean not on my own understanding, but to acknowledge You in all things. How I want to see Your hand in every area of my life. Give me lessons I can pass on to my children. For Your glory and for Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here’s a challenge:

Does a drama queen live in your house? It could be a toddler who throws temper tantrums. Or a teenager with raging hormones. What could you say or do (during calm times) to help her focus more on the Lord?





Here we go again.

15 09 2014

bus.keep.eyes.Lord.PS

Watch out! It’s coming.

What’s your it? Another school year which means a more hectic schedule, behavior issues, and assignment pressures? A reoccurring trial that brings chaos, stress, and tears? An illness that interrupts life, drains energy, and causes uncertainty?

Would it make a difference if the trial announced itself, “Look out. Here I come!”?

Probably not. When you’re in the path of a tornado, no umbrella will keep you from being swept away. When you’re headed for a car accident, bracing yourself won’t stop it from happening. Can anything be done when life’s warning system bellows, “Watch out!”

Remember, ducking won’t help. So, “Heads up!” Shift your focus to God.

I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, right. That’s easy for you to say. You have no clue what I’m facing.”

I gotta admit, it’s not a typical reaction for me to turn my attention heavenward during a trial. That would require me taking my eyes off the problem. I usually assume full responsibility to solve or manage the situation. Shifting my focus to God would mean I’d have to relinquish MY control.

A fellow teacher helped me see just how simple it can be. When I taught in a public school, I discovered the third grade teacher was a Christian. Al’s eyes seemed to sparkle with the love of the Lord. He greeted everyone with a soft smile and a sweet, “Hello.”

We’d pass each other in the hall and whisper a quick prayer request.

“Pray for my after-school meeting.”

“Pray for one of my students who is failing math.”

“Pray for me to get my papers graded in time for me to get to my son’s game after school.”

One day Al and I stopped at the teachers’ mailboxes at the same time. Al didn’t look me in the eye. His head hung low and he mumbled a brief, “Hi.”

“What’s wrong, Al?”

“I’m having a bad day. Once I get my eyes back on the Lord I’ll be fine.”

His two-sentence response became a sermon. His message reverberates in my mind whenever things get tough.

Faced with the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), Al’s advice helped me cope.

“What out! Here it comes. MS is headed your way.”

His godly advice taught me to have a right-focus during difficult times. It framed my thinking. I didn’t waste time dwelling on the diagnoses and details. I simply dealt with the pain, fatigue, and regular injections. All the while keeping my eyes on the Lord.

It’s getting easier to get my eyes back on the Lord. It’s no longer my last-resort strategy.

Faced with parental challenges, another friend provided much-needed Truth.

“Watch out! Here it comes. Your son has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”

Decades ago, Chris, struggled with organizational and social skills (due to his ADHD). I shared my discouragement with a close friend at church. She told me a five-word sentence that restored my hope. During hard times, her father would reassure her by declaring, “God’s still on the throne.”

Since then, when things seem out of control or desperate I remind myself, “God’s still on the throne.”

The Creator of the universe, who spoke everything into existence, has my life under control. He’s working out His perfect plans.

What about unbearable pain or unspeakable loss?

“Watch out! Here it comes. Your son has drowned.”

That’s what Dave and Trish endured. Howie and I met them in college. The four of us shared a deep love of the Lord. So after graduation we kept in touch. The arrival of our first son came around the time of their first son, Ryan. When Ryan was two he drowned in their backyard pool.

What could make that more horrifying? Trish’s parents and Dave’s parents had both experienced the death of a toddler when they were young parents. So the grandparents were grieving the loss of their grandson while re-living their own nightmare.

In the hospital, minutes after Ryan died, Dave turned to his father for advice.

“Dad, you’ve been through this. What can you tell me?”

“You talk about your faith. Now you’re gonna live it,” was all he said.

So, if you’re hearing, “Watch out! Here it comes,” remember:

Keep your eyes on the Lord.

God’s still on the throne.

Live your faith.

Dave’s father’s advice helped him survive. Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.