Broken Down Walls

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Along the amazing Oregon coastline is Devils Punchbowl, a large “bowl” naturally carved in a rock headland and partially open to the Pacific Ocean. We happened to visit it during low tide, when the waves were gently lapping against the entrance.

But at high tide, it’s an entirely different scenario. Waves enter the bowl, filling it to great depths and bringing in stones, shells, and other material from the ocean. The bowl is filled with water, swirling and churning, seemingly full of fury and anger. Although there are times at low tide it is safe to enter, like we were able to, it’s not a place you’d ever want to be at high tide.

“A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” Proverbs 25:28.

Have you ever been around a person that’s like that? Full of unpredictability, anger and with no self-control? You have no idea how they will react to anything you say or do.

There are times all of us feel angry. This verse causes us to be mindful that our feelings must not control us. Our behavior and actions must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can help us forgive when we don’t want to forgive. He is the only one who can help us deal with anger and frustration in a self-controlled manner, without lashing out at others. He is the only one who can help us deal with the myriad of emotions we experience in this life.

Life is filled with experiences and situations that will cause anger. That is why we must be careful to live in submission to God, allowing Him to direct our thoughts, actions, and responses in ways that bless others and bring glory to Him.

Why Am I Afraid?

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Sometimes a storm enters our lives, like this storm came upon Lake Michigan on the early fall day we arrived. The effects of the storm turned this ordinarily calm lake into a body of water that looked more like the ocean. The surf churned and crashed onto the shore. The waves battered and washed over the pier. Winds blew fiercely. It was dangerous and scary and we quickly forgot how beautiful it could be.

“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26.

Sometimes the same thing happens in our lives. We can be clipping right along, things going smoothly, life seeming good, and out of nowhere, a storm will rise up. Out of the clear, blue sky. With no warning at all. And life seems to go out of control. The waves of adversity and trial batter our hearts and wash over our hope. The fierce winds of doubt cause chaos deep in our souls.

And then it happens. Jesus steps into the middle of our circumstances, and calm emerges from the storm.

Why should we be afraid? Hasn’t He calmed our storms before? Haven’t the waves of difficulty and distress washed over us a hundred times in the past – yet here we are?

We so quickly forget His faithfulness. We unthinkingly wonder will this be the time He forgets us and sleeps right through our desperate need? But it’s not, and it never will be. Jesus is always with us, calming our fears and our storms.

I’ll Never Be the Same

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They named her Eisley, and they loved her fiercely and prayed for her continually before she was ever even conceived. We all did.

When she finally arrived, she was soft and snuggly, with sweet dark eyes and downy brown hair and rosy pink lips. She was sleepy and wiggly and hardly ever fussed.

She had ten long, beautiful fingers and ten perfect toes. We all wondered. Would she be a pianist, a basketball player? Her daddy, our son, said he would teach her the guitar.

She loved to stretch out her little legs, mostly one at a time, and looked mildly comical when she did it. She smiled. A lot. The experts say it’s gas, but her grandparents knew better.

How could one little seven pound baby enter the world and change it so effortlessly? I have no idea, but she did it. It was love at first sight for everyone who met her.

Who knew she would leave our lives almost as suddenly as she entered them, because of a failure in the adoption system?

Although I’ll probably never see her again until Heaven and she’ll probably never even know I exist, I’ll never be the same again. I’ll think of her and pray for her and love her for the rest of my life. And one day down the road, when the pain subsides and I have hindsight on my side, I know I’ll thank the Lord for those precious ten days with Eisley.

“For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” Lamentations 3:33.

When you decide to surrender your life to the Lord, it’s not as easy as some may think. It’s a life of yielding and trusting and submitting. The Lord will do things in your life that make absolutely no sense. In fact, sometimes His ways seem punishing. That’s where the faith comes in. You trust Him even when it may go against your better judgment.

But when you’ve tasted His love and grace and mercy, there’s no other option. You don’t want to live life without Him. So you just trust Him and try to make it through another day. That’s where I am right now. But I know, without a shadow of a doubt, He loves me and is with me and one day, I’ll thank Him for even this.

His Path, His Name

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When we saw this path in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we decided to venture down it for a while. It was intriguing and looked like an interesting place to spend a few minutes.

However, it wasn’t long until we decided we had had enough. It appeared to be entering some terrain we weren’t quite prepared for. There were some possible risks associated with what lay ahead. So, we had the luxury of turning around and retracing our steps, and then moving on to the next point of interest.

Perhaps it would be nice if all of life were that easy. But it’s not.

“He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3b.

God is calling me to walk down a path. I don’t really want to go. It looks scary. There are some risks if I follow Him down it. But it’s the one with His Name on it.

God attaches His Name to the path He takes us down. His entire reputation as a faithful and loving God is at stake as we trust, follow, and obey Him. He is not fearful of the outcome or the destination of this path.

We may think we have everything to lose when we follow God, but do we really? According to this verse, it is actually God – His Name and reputation- who is taking responsibility. All His attributes- His faithfulness, mercy, lovingkindness, wisdom, omniscience- are on the line.

God is leading me down this path. I don’t want to go. But when I read His Word and see that this direction is guaranteed by the God of all creation, I can’t do anything else. Why would I want to? He’s led me down paths I didn’t want to go before. Yet each of them brought much good to my life. And in hindsight, the paths I preferred were full of dangers, toils, and snares that I didn’t see, but He did.

So though this is a most unappealing path right now, and though there are a hundred other directions I would prefer to head, I will go down this one, the one that is guaranteed by Almighty God.

I Am Lonely

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I’ve always loved to see one lone tree on the prairie. I don’t know why. Maybe I identify. Maybe we all identify. As we drove through the prairie of South Dakota, we saw several scenes like this one, full of haunting and desolate beauty.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16.

We’ve all been there – in a place where there seems to be no one else. Not that anyone else would help. The psalmist here is desperate for the presence of only one – and that One is God. The writer doesn’t rely upon his own merits or accomplishments to get the Almighty’s attention, but instead throws himself upon the mercy of God.

When we sin, when we are disappointed, when we are pursued by trouble, when adversity hunts us down, when we are lonely, there is no one else who satisfies. No one else who can even begin to meet our deepest needs. And certainly no one else who truly understands and cares.

But Jesus does. After all, He’s been there – alone in Gethsemane, alone on Calvary. He’s been denied and betrayed and mocked and cursed. He sympathizes with us, and as we cry out to Him, He hears us. And no matter how we may feel, when we invite Christ into our lives, we are never truly alone.

Whatever Pleases Him

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I don’t know why, but there is something comforting about coming to the end of yourself and throwing yourself upon the Lord. This usually happens after great adversity.

Up until then, we mistakenly think we have some amount of control of our lives. We have desires and dreams, goals and plans. And we spend our days trying to make those things happen. There’s not really anything wrong with that per se, but it can lead to the false assumption that we really have some amount of control over our lives or that we are the “master of our destiny.” And that’s just not true.

“The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” Psalm 135:6.

At first glance, this verse may seem intimidating. It may even seem as if we don’t stand a chance. God does what pleases Him, and that may not always please me. Sometimes what He does may not make sense and may even seem harsh. However, He is the Creator and Ruler of all that we see, and He also sees what we do not see.

It’s a good thing that what pleases God is always, always what is in my best interest. The more I come to know Him and the longer I walk with Him, the more I realize what pleases Him and what is best for me are truly inseparable.

Adversity causes me to come to the end of myself, give up my own ideas and ways of doing things, and throw myself upon His mercy. And never once has He rejected or abandoned me. I am safe in the arms of God.

The Heavens Declare

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This beautiful sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is one of many we have witnessed over the years. We have seen hundreds, maybe thousands, yet no two have ever been the same. Each has been uniquely amazing. The cloud formations in this sunrise were extraordinary and the color was so bright.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1.

Through these words, we can see that David is not merely observing a beautiful sight. Yes, it is beautiful, but it’s much more than that. He is moved by what He sees to praise God. That is what I want to do when I am in God’s creation.

I love the beauty of God’s creation, and I can’t wait to see more of nature, but I don’t want it to stop there. I want to learn more of this God, who by the very power of His voice brought all creation into being, and I want to proclaim His glory.

It’s one thing to enjoy and appreciate all the beauty God has created; it’s an entirely other thing to know and have a personal relationship with the One who designed and made it all. He has been and is with me in all situations and circumstances. He has provided protection and resources at the very time I’ve needed them. He has healed me from hurts and sickness. He has forgiven my sin and lovingly restored me. The Creator of this world is worth knowing!

A Great Light

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When the first light of day hits the top of these gigantic granite peaks, everything changes. The air changes as the sun begins to rise, bringing warmth to the chill in the air. Light replaces the darkness, bringing hope and a new perspective.

In fact, light changes everything. It erases the fears that darkness brings.

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2.

Before Christ came into my life and changed me, I walked in darkness. I had no purpose and wandered aimlessly. My sin separated me from God and stood in the way of my finding true joy.

But when I came to the end of myself and living life my own way, repented of my sin and asked Christ to be my Savior, the Light of the World flooded my life and gave me purpose and joy. I’ve never made a better decision. But Christ didn’t just come for me. He came for you, too.

Perhaps you feel like you’re living in darkness. If so, there’s Light for you in the Person of Jesus Christ. Leave the darkness behind and give your life to Him today.

They Lacked Nothing

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I saw this view in a brochure about Canyonlands National Park before we ever went in person, and I knew I wanted to go there. So on our road trip to the Desert Southwest in 2014, we swung through Moab, Utah to see both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.

At Canyonlands, layers of canyons surround you, plus the backdrop of the gorgeous LaSal Mountains provides uncommon scenic beauty. It was more beautiful in person than any picture that could ever be taken of it.

Deserts can be beautiful, but they are not welcoming. However, at times God allows His people to go through deserts.

“For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.” Nehemiah 9:21.

Yet through those deserts, He provides everything that we need. Even when we are rebellious and our willful disobedience leads us to wander in a desert, God’s mercy tenderly continues to provide our needs and nudge us back towards Him.

This verse from Nehemiah is referring to the Israelites wandering in the desert following their refusal to faithfully follow God into the Promised Land. Though there was a price to pay for this act of rebellion, the Lord never left them nor abandoned them. He continued to protect them and provide for them.

I’ve experienced this too – God’s love, mercy, and grace in the face of my disobedience. When He had every reason to walk away from me, He walked towards me. What an amazing God He is, who would use even my wilderness wanderings to show me how much He loves me.

God Looks Down

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I had never flown across this entire country until 2015, and it just amazed me. God’s creativity and order were so evident from the skies, as well as from the land.

The topography changes I saw were wondrous. The beautiful forest covered east gave way to the patchwork quilt-like heartland. How do they get those fields so straight? Then came the Rockies – and then land so barren and remote it looked like the surface of the moon. Finally, green emerged again as we got closer to the Pacific Northwest.

When you fly, your perspective of the world changes, and you realize just how small you are and just how great God is. And yet…

“God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” Psalm 53:2.

God, in all of His glory and all of His majesty and all of His worthiness, looks down. He looks down from heaven, where He is continually worshiped, to a world that rejects Him. He looks down from heaven on all mankind – each of us – to see who has a heart for Him.

Who will respond to His overwhelming acts of mercy, grace, and love? Who will accept His pursuit of a loving and everlasting relationship with Him? Who will give up their own agenda to yield their lives and futures to the One who is all-wise and has the perfect plan for them?

When I picture the God of all this universe turning away from the praise and worship of all heaven to look down, I am amazed and humbled. How can I ever again go on with my regularly scheduled life, pursuing my own ideas of happiness and fulfillment? How can I not be affected by this Divine Love?

Lord, forgive me for having such a narrow view of my life. I want to be one who puts down my own agenda and looks up to You, as You look down on me.