The Clouds…

I stepped outside last night and the feel of the cool air was refreshing.  I gazed up into the sky to look at the stars.  It’s a beautiful sight just to stare at what God has created.  Throughout time men and women have looked up and seen the same site I looked upon last night.  As I could feel the breeze coming in from the west I could also see the clouds moving in to obstruct the beautiful view.

The winds of change can bring so much that impact our lives.  Some times these winds bring news of great hope, love, joy, and happiness.  Other times these winds bring clouds of  hurt, disappointment, and despair.

We all experience these winds at some time in our lives. We have experienced them with our friends and loved ones:  The bad news of cancer, the unexpected death of a friend, the loss of a job, or the horrible end of a marriage – all bring it…

If we aren’t alert to the troubles that these clouds bring, we will fall into a trap that will blow us off of the path God has intended for our lives.  I’m sure if we are both honest we have all been there at some point in time within our faith walk.  Margaret Feinberg writes about her life where the “marvel of life” was misplaced.

Faith invites us into an enchanting journey—one marked by mysteries of divine beauty, holy courage, irrepressible hope, unending love. But in my life, any sense of the splendor of God had faded. I knew I needed a fresh encounter with God to awaken me from my sleep, to dis- turb me from my slumber.

And so I prayed for wonder.

Palms extended, wide-eyed with expectation, I waited for an answer. And God did not disappoint. For me, a prayer for wonder asks the Lord to expand my capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 7).

When we look through the lens of the Holy Spirit we can see the good in all things. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (NIV).

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. (Psalm 91:1-2, The Message).

Seeking doesn’t always bring answers but rather more questions.  These are lyrics by The Choir, in TheLoudestSoundEverHeard_covertheir song, The Forest, from their newest album, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard.

More is hidden than revealed. Sometimes the path to understanding is concealed. It hurts to be alive, your pain is real. Go on laugh until you cry, it’s good to feel

The sun will shine. The sun will shine on you. The sun will shine. The sun will shine on you.

I believe the sun will shine on you and me, my friend. I have learned to trust the turning of the seasons. Even now the sun is breaking through the clouds again. But I still don’t know the causes or the reasons

So, in the wake of unanswered questions how do you deal with change that comes throughout the seasons in your life?  I have found praying and reading the Bible are two of the best ways to deal with that which I can’t understand on my own.  Just as those stars have been there throughout time – God is always here with us.  He is not out there somewhere but right here among us.  If the clouds have obstructed your view of God – pray! Pray that He will reveal his marvelous love… may you be filled with the wonder, excitement, and joy of his love.

The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8, The Message).

Do you live Wonderstruck?

My friend, Margaret Feinberg, has a new book and 7-session Bible Study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas Day)a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. Wonderstruck will help you:

  • Recognize the presence of God in the midst of your routine
  • Unearth extraordinary moments on ordinary days
  • Develop a renewed passion for God
  • Identify what’s holding you back in prayer
  • Discover joy in knowing you’re wildly loved

 To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video.

In Wonderstruck, Margaret guides the reader on a journey to discover the wonder of God.  I have personally begun to look for God and to see Him in my life in wonderful ways as a result.  I have begun praying to see God’s wonder in all things around my life.  God has not disappointed! God is nearer than we realize – we just need to take the time to look for him.  When we seek Him we will find Him.

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. You can learn more about this great book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.57 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble for all you savvy shoppers.

God enjoys the prayers of his people

Have you ever walked into a room where candles or incense were burning? If so, you know how the aroma fills up the room. Depending on how well you like the aroma will determine how you respond to it.

I have a pastor-friend who told me several years ago that he was praying for me. He was specifically praying for me to be full of joy. I was in the midst of a time where I was very frustrated with how life was going. I was praying, reading scripture, serving in church… you know, all the “right” things. He was right I lacked joy!

It was during this time that I found out my wife was pregnant with my 4th child. I quickly did the math and realized this baby would be 16 years younger than the oldest and by the time she would reach high school I would be… well, we’ll leave that for a later post. I was stunned at the news. I was literally speechless all day. I sat in silence until that evening then I went outside and started a fire and I just sat there and I prayed.

I didn’t walk away with answers to all the things going on in my life. I didn’t have some major revelation from God in that moment. My circumstances hadn’t changed. I walked away changed… just a little. I walked away with a glimmer of hope and assurance I hadn’t felt for a while.

While reading and praying I was drawn to Revelation 5. It was in verse 8 where I read that the prayers of God’s people are in bowls of gold.

…the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8, The Message)

I stopped here and pondered the thought that our prayers are a sweet-smelling aroma before God. He delights in our praying that he finds in our words. David prayed, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:4, NIV).

A prayer marked by faith is never about what happens on our terms or time lines, but God’s. Faith-stained prayer brings us to a place of trust and hope. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 17).

Every year I enter into December with a sense of hope and anticipation that great things are going to happen. This year has been no different. As I look to the future, I am reminded that my hope is in Jesus. My trust is in him. Before the things of God are revealed in my life, I’m understanding His desire for me to come before Him and pray. I believe this December is to be a time of drawing away from the crowd and settling down in the quietness of prayer. Seeking the face of God.

I absolutely love the desert

Oh how I miss living in the desert…

For too long now I have been living in a spiritual desert.  I’ve been camped out under the same rock trying to shield myself from the scorching heat of my stuckness.  I understand it’s time to journey on and explore this desert I find myself in.  I’m not sure what I have gained here while camped out underneath this rock but I know one day I will find meaning and understanding for this season.  One thought I am beginning to grasp is the need to rise above the mediocre and move toward the greatness God has destined.

We were visiting a church several weeks ago.  During the worship these lyrics jumped out at me, “All of my deserts are rivers of joy.” I mentioned I love the desert.  And when I look back at my time of physically living in the Southwest I see rivers of joy.  I look forward to looking back at this season of life and saying the same thing. 

I was reminded of John 14:12 this morning where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (New Living Translation).  God intends for each of us to be moving toward greatness.  He tells us here in John that we will do even greater works… but we must believe in him…  Even in the times of desert living.

Our lives have the propensity to become messy.  Everything about each one of us is not perfect.  Yet we try hard to make our lives look neat.  We want to make everything look perfect.  We attend churches with stained glass windows and/or churches with rock bands filling the room with great music, lights, and dry ice… all looking and sounding good.  But when it’s all torn down what really remains?  Hopefully, in both situations, relationships are being built so that when the stain glass windows and the music fades that the heart of it all will still be standing.

After having lived in the beautiful Southwest, I understand that there is a lot of life in the desert.  For me, its a beautiful place that is open with great views all around.  To some the land may look barren but it’s really wide open spaces full of excitement.  So much has adapted and been created to sustain life there.  I believe we will each spend our time in the desert of life.  It’s not a place we should avoid but rather take advantage of.  It’s there, in the stillness of the desert, we can draw close to God.  It’s a place for us to be able to sit back and enjoy looking into the face of God and keep our focus steadfast on Him. 

The desert at night is breath-taking!  The first time I ever stopped on New Mexico HWY 550, in between Albuquerque and Aztec, I realized I couldn’t see one foot in front of me due to the darkness.  But I could see more of God’s creation in the sky than I have before.  I never would have seen the beauty above me had I kept my focus on the darkness in front of me… I had to look up.  When we find ourselves in a desert place with darkness all around it’s not until we look up to God that we will see His glory.

Romans 5:2 in The Message says it best,

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

If you find yourself today in a land that is dryer than you would like keep your eyes on Jesus.  Look to him and him alone for your joy.  We will not find joy looking in any other direction.

Thanks to Richard “Richee” Parks for the photo!

Create in me a pure heart

Psalm 51 is the heart of David speaking with God concerning the sin he committed in adultery with Bathsheba.  It’s interesting to point out verse 4, David’s confession to God, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;”  The bottom line to David’s sin is that it was against God – his Heavenly Father.  It brought about a separation in their relationship.  Here is a beautiful account of his confession and the beginning of a journey of a closer relationship with God.

I’m encouraged by the words of David I read in Psalm 51 and the encouragement found in the devotional I’m reading currently.  We should never allow those failures, lapse in judgment, and sin to hold us back from the future God has destined for us to live.  We should not allow anything to get in between our relationship with God.  As soon as we do, we must confess our sin and ask God for forgiveness. 

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-12, NIV)

This is an excerpt from, “Living a Divinely Inspired Life,” a devotional at YouVersion.com,

In your life journey, there will be setbacks and possibly even failures. There will certainly be situations that you did not plan for. There were many attempts to the moon before the first successful manned mission of Apollo 11. Do not be influenced or discouraged by your previous failed attempts. The God who has given you the vision will give you victory.

If you find yourself in a place where you are separated from fellowship with God take the time right now to read Psalm 51.  Pray the Scripture you read and ask Jesus to forgive you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with his power to overcome the obstacles, failures, and sins you find in your life.  Trust Jesus and he will see you through to a joy-filled journey.