When the Saints Go Marching In

For many of us, when we hear the word “saints” we think of those figures of long ago who lived memorable lives for God, accomplished great things, were mighty prayer warriors, and people of great faith.  We usually see these saints in pictures in old books or paintings on walls.  Usually, in these pictures, they have a glow around them or even a halo over their heads.

In reality, a saint is anyone who has said yes to Christ Jesus and seeks to follow him.  The word saint originates from the Greek word meaning “holy” or “set apart.”  The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers. Never is the word used of a special group of believers who serve God better than others. Scripture is clear that all Christians are saints.

For almost 30 years as a pastor of a local church, I have encountered living saints among the body of the church.  I’ve seen these saints share and sacrifice themselves in so many wonderful ways.  I’ve seen them change dirty diapers in the nursery, add numbers in the teller’s room, clean pots in the kitchen, hand out bulletins in the sanctuary, serve meals to the homeless, and write notes and cards to homebound members.  These individuals have shown me what authentic Christian love looks like.  They have also demonstrated to me the kind of humility that Jesus called us to have.

These saints also live knowing that God is not finished with them yet.  A true saint always knows there is room to grow more into Christ-likeness every day.  As someone once said, “saints are not born, they are made along the way.”  Becoming a saint is not an overnight experience.  It takes sacrifice, dedication, and living in faith, even in the most difficult times of life.  The saints I have met along the way have faced adversity, sorrow, pain, and suffering, but continued to trust in God.  Through it all, they continue to radiate a joy that has inspired me in my Christian walk.

The saints of God don’t simply walk the golden streets of heaven, but they can walk in and out of our lives every day.  They have something to teach us that they have learned along the way.  I am a better follower of Christ because of such individuals.  Even though some of these earthly saints have joined the congregation of heaven, I think of them every day and I give thanks to God for their continued presence in my life.  When the saints go marching in, I want to be a part of that number.  These saints are special people and I cherish every moment with them.

Let us give thanks to God for the saints in our lives.  May we listen, watch, and learn from them as they follow Jesus in their own lives.  Then let us realize that people are looking at us as we follow Jesus.  May we be a saint for them and pass on the loving glow that has been shared with us.  As Paul said, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)

All-Saints

 

Check Engine

The dreaded check engine light.  It is such a small little light, but when the check engine symbol lights ups in your car, then something is not working right.  A sensor in your vehicle has determined that something is not functioning as it should.  The light could mean anything from a transmission problem to a loose gas cap.  Yet, the lighted symbol can create anxiety for the owner as they do not know what is wrong.  And if it is something major, then you know that it can be costly to fix.  However, I think most folks are thankful to have an alert to catch the problem early before more damage to your engine may be done.  If something is wrong, then it is good to know as soon as possible.

What would it be like if we had a check heart light that came on in our lives, when something was not quite right in our relationship with God?  As a person of faith, I realize that there are times in my life in which my walk with God is not what it is supposed to be.  The life that Jesus called me to live often falls way short.  Even as I claim my allegiance to Christ, I still find myself entangled in my sin and stumbling through life.  My Christian walk is anything but Christian and my faith falters.

In Psalm 139, the psalmist prays that God will examine his life in light of his commitment and relationship to God.  The psalmist prays in verses 23-24:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.  

The psalmist prays that God will check his life to see if there is anything in his life that is not pleasing to God.  Maybe there is some sin, a spirit of unforgiveness, a grudge, a prejudice, or ill-will towards another that has settled into the heart. And if there is something wrong, the psalmist prays for God to help him fix the issue and live life in a new way; a way that glorifies God and professes faith in God.

As Christians, we should daily examine our lives and our commitment to Christ to see if there are places in our lives that need God’s touch of grace.  Is there something under the hood of our hearts that needs to be fixed, adjusted, or removed all together?  If we do not acknowledge there is something wrong, then we limit the work of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Yet, when we honestly examine our lives, identify our sin, and ask for forgiveness, then God can make right that which is wrong.  In 1 John 1: 8-9 we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Honesty before God is the best policy when it comes to a healthy Christian walk.  Examining our lives daily is the best way to keep our lives in tune with the life of Christ Jesus.

When we allow God’s grace to do its work, then we will believing the best life possible.  God’s grace can fix that which broken and restore that which has faltered.  And when God’s grace settles into our hearts, then God can lead us in the way everlasting.

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Weight Limit

 

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Have you ever entered into an elevator with a lot of people and then noticed the maximum weight limit sign on the elevator?  You start looking at the people around you, sizing up their weight, and then trying to figure if you are close to the weight limit.  We probably don’t have to worry.  A typical elevator can carry between 2100-2500 lbs.

Sometimes, however, we do grow anxious about how much we can carry in our lives when it comes to our concerns, problems, uncertainties, and fears.  Life has a way of bearing down upon us, leaving us overwhelmed, beyond burdened, and weary of the weight of it all.

Many of us are tired.  Tired of living with the weight of the world upon our shoulders.  The stress of living in a broken world, that spares none us, has left up wondering how much more we can take.  The heavy weight upon our shoulders only mimics the heaviness of our hearts. Someone once said, “When the heart is down and the soul is heavy, the eyes can only speak the language of tears.” We have all done our share of crying.

In 1 Peter 5:7, we read, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  Peter and the early Christians knew a lot about the weight of the world on their shoulders.  The early Christians lived under constant persecution, where suffering, pain, and death were day to day realities for them and their families.  They had a lot to worry about when it came to burdens.  Peter, however, called the people to remember that they could place all the weight of worry and anxiety upon the Lord because the Lord cared for them.

The apostle Paul also sought to encourage the early Christians as they struggled with the weight of the world upon their lives.  In his letter to the Church at Corinth Paul writes, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4: 8-9) Life can be heavy at times. However, we can cast it away, let it go, and let God lift us up where we belong.

Times have changed, but the burdens of this life are still heavy at times.  Yet, we do not need to carry them alone.  Rather, we can cast them upon the Lord, trust in the sufficiency of his grace, the strength of his power, and the tenderness of his love.  God never promised that life would be easy, carefree, and without a burden.  God did promise, however, that we could place the weight of the world upon him.  Indeed, God’s shoulders are the only ones that can carry it all.

 

 

Slip Sliding Away

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Most every person has taken a fall at some point in their lives.  We’ve tripped over something, lost our footing, or slipped on a slippery surface.  Sometimes we catch ourselves, sometimes someone else catches us, and sometimes we fall.  A slip and a fall tend to follow a similar pattern.  First, there is that moment of fear when you realize you are slipping.  It shocks you because it is so sudden, and you were not expecting it.  Second, your body reacts, and you reach out to grab something to try and break your fall.  Third, if you can’t reach anything you try to prepare for the impact of the fall.  All this takes place in a matter of seconds, so there is not much time to think about the slip and the fall.

But it doesn’t take a physical fall to feel as though our lives are slipping and we are about to fall.  Situations arise, often catching us off guard, and suddenly we feel as though the world has been pulled out from under our feet.  Life which felt secure and steady now feels uncertain and shifting.  At these moments we are often struck by fear at it seems we are about to lose control.  Our confidence wavers and we fear that we might not be able to hold it all together.  It can be during these moments that we feel helpless and hopeless.

When we read the book of Psalms, we witness the honest faith of individuals who often found themselves in difficult situations.  The psalms tell stories of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.  Yet, the psalms also speak about courage, peace, hope, and joy.  Indeed, the psalms speak the truthful reality of what it means to live in a broken world where slips and falls occur and where joy and hope can be found.  In Psalm 94: 18, the writer confesses:

When I thought, ‘My foot is slipping’,
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.

This particular individual felt as though they were about to slip and to fall.  Whatever they were facing, it felt as though they were about to be knocked off their feet.  Yet, at that moment the psalmist’s faith confessed: “your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.”  The psalmist confesses, that God’s steadfast love sustained him at the moment.  God’s love held him up.  In gratitude, the psalmists realizes the saving power of God’s love.

Yet there are those times when we do fall and hit the ground.  As a people of faith, we know that even with faith, sometimes life knocks us down.  Yet, the same God who seeks to keep us from falling also comes to us when we do fall to lift us.  In Psalm 145: 14 we read:

The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.

God comes to us in our fallen state, assures us of his presence, heals our brokenness, and seeks to help us stand.  God is not only with us in the fall, but God is with us when we hit the ground.  God knows that we live in a slippery world, that life can trip us up and we can fall.  Yet, whether we are walking tall, falling fast, or find ourselves in the dust, God will be with us.  Our faith doesn’t promise us that we will never slip and fall.  Our faith, however, promises that God will be with us regardless.  As God promised to Joshua, God promises to us in Joshua 1:9:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

 

 

You Are What You Eat

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Most people are familiar with the phrase “you are what you eat.”  It is usually said as a reminder that the food we eat will affect our physical bodies.  The first mention of the phrase “you are what you eat” came from the 1826 work The Physiology of Taste, in which French author Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”  And while I still love a good cheeseburger, I do know that it is not wise to eat one a day as a regular part of my diet.  Many of us realize that we should eat better.  Having the discipline to do so, however, is another thing.  When I see the golden arches of McDonald’s, I find myself craving an order of fries.  So, there is some truth in the phrase, “you are what you eat.”

In the book of the prophet Jeremiah, the prophet seeks to call the people back to their covenant with God.  The people of Israel had a way of forgetting God as the centerpiece of their lives, and often wandered away and sought and worshiped other gods.  They knew that their spiritual health needed God as the main entree, but they often went for spiritual junk food.  Thus, Jeremiah similarly reminded the people, “you are what you eat.”  In Jeremiah 2: 5 we read these words, ” they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves.”  Jeremiah realized that when something other than God became the center of the people’s lives, then their lives would be formed and shaped by whatever that was.  Indeed, what we value most in life, often determines the kind of life that we live.  For Jeremiah, a devotion to something worthless leads to worthless living.

Chronologically, we are a long way away from the day of Jeremiah, but our devotions have not changed too much.  We still tend to seek meaning, purpose, and joy from things that cannot ultimately provide it.  We still seek out other gods to give us our identity, value, and direction whether it be wealth and possessions, sexual pleasures, power, and prestige, or whatever we make room for on the throne of our hearts.  Jesus would speak this same truth in Matthew 6: 19-21,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

While we should all be concerned about the health of our physical hearts and how the food we eat affects them, we should also spend some time examining the spiritual diet of our lives and what is that we consume the most in our lives?  Whatever we treasure most in our hearts will shape our hearts.  Whatever shapes our hearts will determine the kind of lives that we live.

I would be dishonest to say that I always get it right.  It doesn’t take too long daily to find something else sliding into the place where God should be in my life.  Like the people of Israel in Jeremiah’s day, I am prone to wander after worthless things.  It is only by God’s grace in Jesus that I can find my way back to the One that can ultimately give me the life we all hunger for.

 

 

Make It Count

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There are 365 days in our calendar year.  Many of these days pass by without much fanfare.  We might call them ordinary days.  They are the days we go to work or school, pay the bills, grocery shop, change the oil in the car, and watch our favorite TV show.  Then there are those days that we highlight on our calendars:  The day we leave for vacation, our coming wedding day, Christmas, Birthdays, and the like.  For many of these highlighted days, we even count the days till they arrive.  How many more days before the “big” days arrive?  Sometimes we can hardly wait to get to that special day for whatever reason makes it special to us.

In Psalm 90, the writer ponders the human frailty of life in light of the eternal nature of God.  In doing so the psalmist confesses, “You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed in the evening it fades and withers. The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalm 91: 5-6, 10).  The psalmist concludes that our lives pass by quickly and should not be taken for granted.  Hence, in verse 10 we read, “so teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”  

The psalmist’s advice for living:  “count your days and make them count.”  In light of our faith, every day should be seen as special and worthy of our attention.  Each day we are allowed to live our lives in such a way that we glorify God.  Each day we can choose how to live our lives.  Our writer suggests that when we count our days, then we gain a wise heart.  That is, when we see each day as a gift of God, then we will live each day in gratitude and thanksgiving by making wise choices with the time that we have been given.  A wise heart will understand that life is a gift to be lived to its fullest and shared in love with others.  A wise heart will count its blessings and then share those blessings with others.

We only get one shot at this thing called life.  There are no do-overs and we cannot turn the clock back and relive the days that have already passed.  We can only live in the moment that we are in.  Not even tomorrow is promised to us.  Hence, we need to make each day count by loving God and by loving others.  For when all is said and done with the days of our lives, these are the only things that matter.  So, let us count our days and let us make our days count.

 

Calm, Cool, and Collected

We’ve all been warned before:  “Watch out, he has a quick temper.”  Be careful around her, “she can go off at any moment on you.”  “That group has a short fuse, so watch yourself.”  Such statements are warnings against engaging with someone because the individual or the group has a reputation of getting angry or upset in the blink of an eye.  Things may seem fine, but all of a sudden, they explode.  A quick temper, a short fuse; we’ve probably experienced it in some form.

On the other extreme, we have known individuals that it takes a lot to get them upset or mad. They just seem to absorb the situation around them, regardless of how stressful it is, and simply move forward in calm, cool, and collected manner.  When times are uncertain and anxiety is running high, we look to such individuals to help navigate us through it all.  In the language of Family Systems Theory, we look to those who are a “non-anxious presence when everyone’s anxiety is off the chart.  An individual who can keep it together as well as ourselves.

As people of faith, we trust that God, in spite of the chaos of our world at times, has things under control.  God does not allow his divine frustration to spill over into temper tantrums, vindictiveness, or hostility towards you and me.  Even with every reason to let us have it at times, God remains calm, cool, and collected.  The psalmist realized this in the 145th Psalm where he confessed, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 145:8) For the writer of this Psalm, God could be trusted to keep things together where others might lose it, go off the handle, or explode in anger.  God is able to handle the stress of a world which seems so tightly round up that it might spin off its axis.

Likewise, in our own individual lives, our insides can get all tied up in knots as well, our stress level erratic, and we are unsure how much we can take.  We ourselves might feel as though we are about to explode from the inside.  In faith, however, we can bring all of this to God and trust that the God we come to will not turn away from us, throw up his hands in frustration, or strike out at us in pent up anger.  Rather, we are met by God’s gracious mercy, abounding love, and patience.  God is calm.  God is cool.  And God is collected.

Regardless of how stressful life can become, God can handle it.  We simply must trust that God is ablet to hande it all; including our own lives.

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I Believe, Help My Unbelief!

For almost 30 years I have stood behind a pulpit every Sunday and tried to bring a message of hope to the people in attendance.  My faith in Jesus Christ has led me to believe that the story of his life, death, and resurrection is a message of hope for the entire world.  Now there is no doubt that we live in a broken world and that our own individual lives are broken as well.  At different points along our journeys, we find ourselves looking for a light of hope when the darkness envelops us.  We look to a light that will lead us out of the darkness and into the brightness of a new day.

Jesus once said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) In Jesus we are promised that we can have the light of life to accompany us as we live out our lives in the world; even when the world and our lives are dark.  This is indeed a message of hope.  It is a message that I felt called to proclaim many years ago and have sought to be faithful to its truth.

But in all honesty, there are times in my life when this light barely flickers.  I imagine you have experienced the same thing.  During these periods I don’t feel very hopeful.  Life has put me in a tailspin and it just seems that I sink deeper into darkness.  I know that Jesus is the light of the world, but sometimes I doubt the power of his light.

In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, there is a story in which a young son is brought to Jesus to be healed.  The young boy seems to suffer from some form of epilepsy.  Mark tells us that the boy falls into convulsions, falls to the ground, and rolls about and foams at the mouth. When Jesus asks his father how long he has suffered, the father says since childhood.  The father also asks Jesus to have pity on them.  To his request, Jesus responds, “All things can be done for the one who believes.” (Mark 9:23) The father wants to believe, but confesses his doubts by saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) It is the prayer of an honest man.

In my own life, even at times as I have been preaching a Sunday sermon, I have been inwardly praying, “I believe; help my unbelief.”  Even as I proclaim the hope we have in Jesus Christ as our light in our darkness, I must acknowledge the doubts and darkness within.  I need help with my belief.  I can’t muster up the strength to believe, but even my faith is dependent upon God’s grace.  “Yes, I believe.  But Lord, help my unbelief.”

As followers of Jesus, we are a mixed bag of faith and doubt; light and darkness.  This is why we are dependent upon God’s grace to help us in our weakness.  It is why our faith cannot grow without the help of God’s grace.  The prayer of the father may be one of the most honest in the Bible.  May we be honest as well before God.  May we trust that God’s light can poke holes in the darkness of our doubts and lead us to believe as Jesus said, “All things are possible for the one who believes.”

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Recalculating

If you depend on a GPS system on your phone or in your car to get you from here to there, then you have undoubtedly heard the voice message “recalculating.”  If you miss a turn or turn the wrong way, then the GPS system will automatically reset your directions based on your last movement.  It will now give you new directions to follow.

Sometimes it would be nice to have some kind of system to help us make decisions about the direction of our lives.  Often, we find ourselves in situations in which a decision is to be made that will have an impact on the direction of our lives.  Hence, we want to make the best decision that will lead us in the right direction.  As a result, this uncertainty about which way to go can lead to sleepless nights and anxious days.

As people of faith, the hope is that God will show us the way.  We often bathe these moments in the waters of prayer asking God to direct our steps.  We not only want to make the best decision, but we also want to move in the direction that God desires.  In my own life with such moments, I have often turned to a scripture passage from the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs 3: 5-6 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  The scripture invites me to trust God and acknowledge his presence in my life and my decision-making process and God will show me the way.  The scripture also reminds me to lean not simply on my own understanding, but rather to lean into God and trust his guidance.  It has been my experience that God will show us a way, even where there seems to be no way.

Yet, even when I do try to honor God’s presence in my decisions, I still find myself at times making a wrong turn.  Rather than choosing to follow God’s lead, I venture out on my own.  During these times, however, I either end up lost or stuck at a dead end.  Fortunately, God’s grace is always recalculating.  God is a God of second chances.  Even when we falter, God still offers himself to us and his faithfulness.  When we make a bad turn in life, God does not turn away from us, but he goes with us and then helps us recalculate as we try to move forward again.

We may feel stuck or lost in our lives.  We may find ourselves beating ourselves up for making a poor decision.  We may be wondering if there is any way forward.  Yet, wherever we are right now in our lives, we can trust that our God is with us.  We can also trust that God will show us the way as we lean into him.  And even if we have made a bad decision, God is always recalculating to show us the better way.

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The Rest of the Story

Everybody likes a happy ending.  Whether you are reading a book, watching a movie, or watching a play, you hope that the story ends well.  Indeed, it can be disappointing to get caught up in a story and then not have it end well.  On those occasions, the story leaves us disappointed, sad, or even angry.  We want a good ending; a happy ending.

Life is made up of stories.  Each person’s life is a story.  Each day in a person’s life is a story.  From the moment we are born to the moment of our last breath we are part of an unfolding drama that involves people, places, and things.  Sometimes the drama is rather mundane and ordinary.  On other occasions, our stories can leave us breathless with fast-paced action.  Parts of our stories are happy, and parts of our stories are not happy.  Likewise, each story is unpredictable.  We do not know what each day will bring.

In the book of Psalms, we read the thoughts and prayers of ordinary individuals trying to make their way through the world with their faith in God.  Thus, it is not uncommon in the psalms to hear the cries of those who are trying to figure out the bigger story of their lives.  For example, in Psalm 39: 4 we read, “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”  Here the psalmist prays to know how the story of their life will end.  Will it be a good ending? In our own lives, we too sometimes wonder how it will all end.  When we read or hear the latest news stories, we sometimes wonder how we got ourselves into such a mess and if there is any hope for the future.  When you add your struggles to the mix it may feel as though there is no way the story can end well.

The apostle Paul never had it easy.  Once he decided to follow Christ, he found himself in a daily struggle to survive.  He endured beatings and imprisonments, shipwrecks, floods, and hunger.  Paul knew what it was like to just get by living in the world.  Yet, even with all these struggles and hardships, Paul knew how the story would ultimately end.  Paul writes in Romans 8: 18-21:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Paul knew that despite all the difficulties that he faced in life that his life would end well.  Indeed, it would end well for all those who trust in Christ Jesus.  As Christians, we know that ultimately God will have the last word for all of creation, and each of our lives.  The broken world will not have the final word, but a God of blessing will.  When all is said and done, all will be well.  Oscar Wilde, the great Irish poet, and playwright said it well:  “Everything is going to be fine in the end.  If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”  It is no wonder that the final word of the Bible is the word “amen” which simply means, “so be it.”

We can trust that God knows how the story will end for he is the author.  And if God is the author, there will always be a good ending. So, Amen.

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Dozing Off

I could barely hold my eyes open. It was a lecture about Victoria, Canada. It was the next stop on our family cruise. Now I had never been to Victoria, Canada, nor did I know anything about Victoria, Canada. You would think I would want to soak in every bit of information I could for our next stop. However, I couldn’t stay awake. I know this because my family videoed me dozing off. They have a good laugh with it now.

Sometimes it is hard to stay awake: sitting in class in school, maybe a pew at church, a boring movie, a long car ride. We’ve all had those experiences where we fought off sleep as our heads bobbed up and down and our eyelids felt like they were lined with cement. It can be a challenge to stay awake when you’re tired. And when you do doze off, you may miss something in that moment of slumber. So, if you are in the company of others, when you do wake up, you ask, “what did I miss?”

In the book of Psalms, the writer considers God’s presence in his own life. We read in Psalm 121: 3-4: “He who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” God does not doze off. God does not tire or get sleepy. As a result, God does not miss out on our lives and our day to day experiences. Even when our days are slow and dull, God does not rest God’s eyes. The writer Job would confess, “For his eyes are upon the ways of peoples, and he sees all their steps.” (Job 34:21)

Our steps take us in many directions over the course of our lives. Likewise, some of our steps are made with joy while other steps are painful and slow. Some steps keep us close to home while others are made in distant lands. Yet, as our scripture reminds us, regardless of where our walk takes us in life, God’s eyes are upon and God eyes are always open. God never misses out.

With this good news, we can live in faith trusting that our God is never asleep on the job. Rather, God’s love for us, energizes his passion to watch over us and keep us. We are safe under the watchful care of a God who never sleeps.

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Labels

When I was young, I was very sensitive to the labels in the back of my shirts.  The label which tells you the brand name, the type of fabric, the size, and where it was made.  These labels irritated me and as a result I often cut and remove them.  I just did not like labels.

We also tend to label people in our society.  We label people and give them a name.  We label our gender, our race, our age, our body size, our origin of birth, and the like.  Labels help us identify ourselves.  Unfortunately, however, our world often uses labeling in negative and hurtful ways.  Labels can be used to degrade people.  Labels like fat, ugly, slow, weird, useless, worthless, stupid, and the rest.  Sadly, this list is long and is well used.

We can also allow labels to define us.  After long enough, we can begin to believe the labels and succumb to their often hard judgments about who we are.  As a result, we live out of that label.  When a load of negative labels are placed upon us, we can be overwhelmed with the weight that they bring.  Weight that can leave to depression, despair, and defeat.

This is why it is important to remember that our Creator has already labeled us from the beginning.  In Psalm 139: 13-14, the writer reflected on this truth and proclaimed in praise:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

God has created each person with a loving intent and purpose.  God does not create junk, cheap imitations, or damaged goods.  God has labeled us out of his goodness and love.  Hence, each person can claim as the psalmist did that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  This is the label that we must allow to define ourselves.  The world’s labels are second hand.  When we allow God’s label to define us, we discover worth, meaning, and destiny.  God has a plan for our lives and has from the very beginning.

As God’s children, this truth should also lead us to refuse to label others in ways that do not honor God.  When we treat others with respect and dignity then we not only affirm them as part of God’s wonderful creation, but we worship the Creator who designed them and placed them in our world.  Such knowledge should lead us to affirm every person’s worth, value, and sacredness.  Ultimately, all that really matters is God’s label.  Let us not forget it in our own lives as well as the lives of others.

fabric with two buttons
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Thank You For Being My Friend

“I get by with a little help from my friends,” says the song made famous by the Beatles and Joe Crocker.  Friendship is an important part of our lives.  Most people’s earliest memories include friends from their neighborhood, school, or church.  As we grow, we gather more friends based on life’s experiences and the encounters we have with other people.  Some of these individuals we consider friends, while others are good friends.  Then if we are fortunate, there may be a best friend.

The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  Friends usually share some kind of common story.  Somewhere along our life journey individuals connect with others who find themselves joined by a story that is important to them as well.  It can be a happy story or even a sad story.  Yet, nevertheless, some common experience brings them together.

I am grateful for Christian friends and church friends.  As a follower of Jesus, I have come to realize how important and how much I need to be connected with friends who share the same story of Jesus and a relationship with him.  It is not easy living in this world.  Jesus himself told us we would have troubles.  Jesus knew firsthand that life can rough you up along the way.  Jesus, even as the Son of God, gathered friends around him to walk with him during his life and ministry.  People called his followers his disciples and Jesus did too at times.  However, in John 15:15 Jesus speaks these words to his closest followers, “But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from my Father, I made known to you.”  Jesus would also tell them, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus needed friends.

If Jesus needed friends who shared his story, how much more so do we?  My Christian friends have been a tremendous source of encouragement, belonging, and love throughout my years.  I really cannot imagine trying to navigate through life without them.  Just knowing that someone loves you in the Lord is a blessing.  And this is especially true when life bears its weight down upon you.  To know that there is someone to help carry the load and that you are not alone can make all the difference.  For me personally, this is why a weekly gathering for worship and fellowship is so important.  As we gather together, we are each reminded that we are all a part of the same story and we are on this journey together.

Indeed, I get by a with a little help from my friends.  Rather, a lot of help from my friends.  Thank God every day for your Christian friends.  They are a special gift.  We don’t have to do this thing called life by ourselves.  God has invited us to be part of the story of his Son.  A story that brings us together, joined by his love, and blessed by his presence among us.  Thank you for being my friend.

smiling women and men sitting on green grass
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Broken

On a couple of occasions over the years, when I have received a package in the mail it rattled.  A rattling sound came from the package that wasn’t supposed to be there.  Nobody needed to tell me what I already knew; whatever was in the package was broken.  The joy of receiving a package in the mail was now replaced by the sad reality of brokenness.  Even though written on the packaging were the words, “fragile: handle with care,” the item was broken.

The popular 80’s songwriter and performer Sting in his song Fragile writes these words:

                                             Lest we forget how fragile we are                                                     On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star
Like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are
How fragile we are

Over the course of my life, one thing I have learned about myself and others is that we are fragile.  That is, we can be broken.  Life has a way of leaving us in pieces at times.  Experiences can shatter life sometimes with a crash, while at other times we quietly realize the cracks in our lives, uncertain of how we received them.  These times of brokenness can leave us depressed, discouraged, and defeated.  When you are standing in a pile of rubble it can be difficult to see what to do next.  It can be overwhelming.

In the scriptures, we read in the book of Psalms, the prayers, cries, and longings of people who feel overwhelmed by life.  They may describe themselves as though they are sinking in mud, laughed at by their adversaries, and even in lost in the depths of the earth.  In Psalm 31: 9-12 we read this prayer:

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror* to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.

There have been times in my life in which I felt like a broken vessel.  My spirit was broken.  Although those around me may have not known, I could hear the rattles within.  Every step I took reminded me of my brokenness.  The hurt and pain were hidden beneath a veneer of happiness for others to see.  On the surface, life looked good.  Beneath the surface, however, I felt like a broken vessel.

Later in Psalm 31: 14-15, the psalmist would confess: “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, You are my God. My times are in your hand.”  The psalmist would trust God with his brokenness.  How the psalmist arrived at this point I do not know.  All we have is the confession, “my times are in your hand.”  The psalmist somehow found the faith to trust that God could handle his brokenness and even restore his life.  The psalmist would trust that God’s grace would be able to make him whole again.  I’m sure that the psalmist had his doubts at times, as there are no quick fixes for most of life.  But in the hands of God, he knew God could bring forth something new.

I wish we did not live in a broken world.  I wish that I, or the people I love, never felt broken. Yet, I hear the rattling every day.  I pray to have the faith of the psalmist, trusting that God can take broken vessels and bring forth new life.  I pray to trust that my times are in God’s hands.  And if I have to experience brokenness in the world in which I live, are there any better hands to be in?

mending-a-broken-vessel

Scream

Sometimes in life, you just feel like screaming.  For whatever reason, fear, frustration, impatience, exhaustion, agitation, and the like, you just feel like a scream will make you feel better.  Screaming can have a cathartic effect. For some, it’s therapeutic. When you have a ton of pent up stress brewing in you, letting it out verbally can give you a sense of relief. When you’re feeling flustered releasing it out can make you feel a little freer and take some weight off.

There is no doubt that most people carry a heavyweight of burdens with them.  While invisible to the eye, hearts can be heavy, and sorrows hidden as we pass one another with our pleasantries and greetings.  Deep inside, we may be ready to scream.  For one person they may openly let their scream be heard not caring who hears it.  Others may bury their face in a pillow to muffle their scream and thus not draw attention to themselves.

The Bible is full of screams.  I imagine that there were screams outside Noah’s ark once the flood came.  Jonah probably let out a scream right before he was swallowed by a large fish.  Mary screamed in childbirth as she gave birth to Jesus.  Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax collector, probably screamed with joy when Jesus told him he was going to his house.  And even Jesus screamed as he hung on a cross as he was crucified.  Sometimes you just have to scream

In Psalm 107 the writer repeats the phrase, Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” (Psalm 107:6) In this particular situation, the people raised their voices and cried for help amidst their trouble.  Their cry was ongoing, seeking to draw attention from God to notice and understand the difficult situation they found themselves in.  Would God hear them?  Would God respond?  When you are screaming for help, where is God anyway?

If you are like me, during this global pandemic where our lives have been so altered by the rapidly spreading virus, I have found myself just wanting to scream sometimes to release all the stressful energy that builds up when life is altered and any return to a previous time does not seem to be an option.  So, we scream, and we scream a little more.

The good news of scripture is that God is not put off by our screaming. While someone screaming in front of us may make us feel uncomfortable, God remains steadfast even in our screaming desperation.  God doesn’t check out when the anxiety level rises, but God remains a peaceful presence wherever we are screaming from.  And even as we scream, God is already working to deliver us and bring us to a better place.  It might not happen immediately, and we in fact may have to scream some more, but we can trust that God is near, God is with us, and God will deliver.

So, if you have to scream, then scream.  If you have to cry, then cry.  If you have to throw up your arms in frustration, then throw up your arms.  God can handle it all.

file-20200520-152288-mkivz7                                            The Scream by Edvard Munch

Choose Compassion

photo of people reaching each other s hands
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We have all had that experience of sitting down in a restaurant and looking through a menu to choose what we would like for our meal. If the menu is full of delicious entrees, choosing one might not be an easy decision. Likewise, when you know that your server will soon be returning to your table to take your order, then the pressure is on. What will you choose?

The great Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote these words about decision making: “We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will, therefore, draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the center: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork, you must make a decision.”

In our day to day living, we come in contact with individuals, who for whatever reason, are struggling, suffering, and in need. Society is full of broken people. You don’t have to step too far away from your front door to meet a person in need. Sometimes you don’t even need to leave your own home. The decision that we have to make is how will we respond to human needs?

Jesus encountered all kinds of individuals in his life. In the first century, people were broken then just as they are today. When Jesus encountered a person in need he always chose to respond in compassion. In Matthew 8: 1-4 we read of just such an encounter:

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Jesus chose to heal the man of his leprosy. And thus, in what would have been seen as shocking, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the man with the dreaded and contagious skin disease. Jesus’ choice of compassion led him to reach out to this man who was hurting in so many different ways. There were plenty of reasons on the menu of why Jesus could have refused to help the man: his health, he didn’t know the man, what would others think, how long would he have to be involved, what might it ultimately cost him? Jesus could have easily talked himself out of doing anything for the man.

When we encounter human need our minds often ask the same kinds of questions. Likewise, we can decide to do nothing. However, as followers of Jesus, we are called to choose compassion. Jesus demonstrated the kind of life that we are called to live. Lives that are attentive to human need and a willingness to stretch out to others even when it may be costly. We must choose compassion.

When it comes to following Jesus, the menu of our choices is clear. Jesus would say in Luke 6:36 “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” Compassion for others sometimes seems to be in short supply in our world as we focus so much on ourselves and our own needs while forgetting the needs of those around us. Jesus, however, invites us to look beyond ourselves, to see the needs around us, and then choose to stretch out our hands and touch the lives of others with the same compassion that God has touched us.

The Heat is On

President Harry S. Truman, our nation’s 33rd President, was well known for using the phrase, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”  The phrase means, “If an activity is too difficult, or the pressure of a situation is too much for a person to handle, then perhaps it would be best to stop doing it and/or leave.”  I think most people have experienced those times in life in which the heat was on and we just wanted to escape our present situation and find relief.

In my early working days, I worked a few summers to help prime tobacco from some of the local farmers.  Priming tobacco, pulling the leaves off tobacco stalks, was indeed one hot job.  One row of tobacco at a time you walked, bent over, pulling off the leaves that were ready and then tossing the leaves into a nearby trailer pulled by a tractor.  The rows were often long, and it was always a relief to get to the end of a row as there would be a cooler of water to get a drink from before moving onto the next row.  The water was a welcomed relief when the heat was on.

The atmospheric temperature today in Richmond, Virginia is triple digits; that is, 100+ degrees.  We are under a heat advisory which tells us to avoid too long of periods of exposure to the heat.  And indeed, it can be dangerous health wise to be in the heat too long.  Well fortunately, we do have places to escape the heat.  Air conditioning is nice.  An electric fan can also bring some relief.  And if you are able, a dip in a swimming pool in the midst of the summer heat can be a nice getaway.

However, there are times in life in which the heat is on in other ways where simply sliding into an air-conditioning room is not an option.  There are those times of stress, anxiety, pressure, fear, frustration, and mental exhaustion that leave us tired, weary, and depleted from the heat that often bears down upon us in life.  In such times it is easy to dry up and wither away when the heat is on.

As a people of faith, we are not immune from those heat stressed experiences that can bear down upon our lives.  There are times in our lives in which we feel the heavy heat of life bearing down upon us, draining us of life, and leaving us in danger of withering away.  The prophet Jeremiah, speaking to the people of Judah in just such a difficult time said,

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.”

 Jeremiah 17: 7-8

For Jeremiah, the heat will come.  However, what matters is where you are planted.  Jeremiah invites us to trust in the Lord when the heat is on in our lives.  When we trust in God, Jeremiah contends that it is like being a tree planted by water with roots extending into a stream drawing life even when life dries up around us.  Every person needs a source of life.  The question then to ask ourselves is “what is my source?”  In whom do we trust when the heat is on and the stress of living in the heat is bearing down upon us?  Where do we turn to for relief?  When we are thirsty for hope where do we go.

In the Gospel of John 7: 37-38, we hear Jesus speak, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  Jesus is the living water that we can turn to when we are thirsty for relief, hope, and life.  Indeed, Jesus is the only true source of life when the heat is on.  All the other wells of the world will eventually dry up and leave us thirsty.  In faith, we can trust in the limitless supply of life-giving water that is found in Jesus.  When we allow our roots to be planted in him, we can find life even when the heat is on.

Sometimes the kitchen is hot, and we just want to get out of it.  Life can leave us feeling stranded in the kitchen with our arms full of pot and pans, sweltering in the heat, and ready to give up.  Jesus invites us to trust in him during these difficult times and to receive the life-giving water he offers.  The heat is on, but so is God’s life-giving water in Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to live thirsty.  Jesus is always just a sip away.

Yellow Umbrella With Bright Sun And Blue Sky
Yellow Umbrella With Bright Sun And Blue Sky

Praying to the Devil

Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Marley once said, “If you get down and quarrel every day, you’re saying prayers to the devil, I say.” I wonder what Marley, who died in 1981, would say today about the state of affairs in our society? Now things like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets would be alien to him. But like anyone, it wouldn’t take him long to read over people’s comments on these platforms to realize how angry we have become as a society. Not only are people angry but we have become aggressive in our conversations seeking to pull others down, use sarcasm as a weapon, and to stir up others to join our voice crusade. Sometimes it feels like a free for all where we toss words and phrases around like hand grenades seeking to destroy as much as we can with the simple press of a computer click. It has gotten ugly at times; very ugly.

Now everyone gets angry at times. It is a real human emotion. And there are things in our world that we should get angry about. The problem it seems, however, is that we have lost our ability to talk to one another about the things that anger us without taking that anger out on others. Our language has become toxic and communication has crumbled under its weight.

In the scriptures, James in the letter that bears his name, writes about this communication breakdown among individuals. Even in the first century, individuals became hot under the collar and used words to inflict pain on others. In James 1: 19 we read these words of advice: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” It didn’t take James many words to sum up our shortcomings and offer some genuine guidance on communicating with others, but especially those we disagree with.

James first states that we should be “quick to listen.” Listening is indeed where true communication takes place. When we listen to others, we demonstrate respect to individuals even when we disagree with them. Listening involves attention hearing of what the person is saying and allowing it to move beyond our ears into our hearts and minds. What happens so often, however, is that we do listen, but while others are sharing their thoughts, our minds are already engaged in what our response will be. Their words simply get lost and we prepare our defense. We are working on our best comeback and counterpoint rather than truly hearing the other person. If true listening doesn’t occur, then we might as well give up on having real conversations. Listening takes discipline and intentionality. Thus, James says we should be quick to listen.

Following up on this, James then contends that we should be slow to speak. James realized, as we all do, how easier it is to shoot off at the mouth than to truly listen to another person. What happens is that we end up with a shooting match or shouting match where nobody hears one another. We tend to talk over one another, outdo one another with our clever use of words, or silence the other person with a barrage of comments that come out like machine gun fire. When you throw anger into the mix then it is often all out war. This is why so many people are suffering from battle fatigue and as the saying goes, “war is hell.” Perhaps this what Marley was suggesting that when we quarrel every day, it is like praying to the devil. The devil loves war whether it is with weapons of metal or weapons of words.

Finally, James says we should be slow to anger. Society today has a short fuse. We tend to go off quickly and explode in anger in the blink of an eye. Rather than process things or try to come to an understanding of things, we immediately light the fuse and let our anger explode. Social media is like adding fuel to the fire because we don’t have to see the damage that is done. The Chinese philosopher Confucius would once say, “When anger rises, think of the consequences.” The problem is that we don’t often think of what will happen after we light the fuse.

mad formal executive man yelling at camera
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The question becomes then how in the world do we implement James’s words in our lives? Well, first we cannot do it alone. None of us can control our anger by ourselves and by our own strength. If we try to manage our own anger with our own resources, we will inevitably be disappointed and find ourselves blowing up over and over again. Rather, it is only by God’s Spirit that we can live is such a way that our anger does not rule over us. It requires a daily surrender whereby we allow God’s Spirit to be the guiding force in our lives. Anger is not a sin—it is what you do with it that becomes sin.

There is no answer to our sin other than God’s grace. Only God’s grace can free us from those things that enslave us in this world. Only God’s grace can lead us to live lives that glorify God and demonstrate God’s love to all people; even those we disagree with. When we see every person as someone created in the image of God it will cause us to pause and think before we get into a war of words. As followers of Jesus we must set an example by choosing to use our words with deliberate prayer and thought, as agents of healing, rather than pain. I wish I got it right all the time, but I do not. I am often very guilty of the things that James warned about. But I pray every day that God will give me his Spirit so that my words say more about my relationship to Jesus so that with whomever I find myself in conversation with, my words will be the ones that Jesus chooses me to use.

When Your Plans Fall Apart

A common question that we often ask one another is “do you have any plans for the weekend?”  The question assumes that with some weekend time approaching what is a person going to do with their free time.  How are they going to fill the hours, where are they going to go, and who might they be spending time with?  And of course, we have all had our weekend plans disrupted by bad weather, an unexpected illness, car problems, or some other unforeseen event.  What we had planned out for the weekend suddenly falls apart.  Yet, when our weekend goes south, we can usually recover because another weekend is only a week away.

However, there are times in our lives when some of our biggest plans fall apart that are not so easily forgotten or left behind.  When life’s plans come crashing down around you the impact can be so much greater than a rained-out weekend.  In the book of Job in the Old Testament, we have the account of a man’s life when his plans for his life completely disintegrate.  Job is a wealthy man living in a land called Uz with his large family and extensive flocks. He is “blameless” and “upright,” always careful to avoid doing evil.  In the course of one day, Job receives four messages, each bearing separate news that his livestock, servants, and ten children have all died due to marauding invaders or natural catastrophes. Job tears his clothes and shaves his head in mourning. Job is then afflicted with horrible skin sores. His wife encourages him to curse God and to give up and die.  Everything that Job had planned out for his life is now gone.  Thus, in the midst of one of his prayers Job cries out, “My days have passed, my plans are shattered.” (Job 17:11)

Shattered plans.  It happens to all of us eventually.  Life takes a turn we were not expecting and all of a sudden we find ourselves stunned, stuck by the side of the road, and uncertain of which direction to turn.  Such events leave our heads spinning and our hearts aching as we try to regroup and figure out how to move forward.  It is hard to figure out which direction to turn when you don’t even know where you are.  Nina LaCour in her book Hold Still writes about recovering after a friend’s suicide.  LaCour writes, “My room is so quiet and empty it hurts.” It hurts when we are uncertain of how to move forward when life leaves us beside the road.

As a people of faith, we are not immune from having our plans sidetracked, changed, or abandoned.  Faith does not protect us from such experiences; just look at Job.  Faith does, however, call us to trust that God has a plan for each of our lives, even when we wonder if God knows what He is doing.  Job questioned what God was up to.  And like Job, I have often wondered the same thing.  But then I am reminded of the words from scripture like Proverbs 3: 5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  In faith, we are invited to lean on God and trust that God will straighten everything out.  Now, this does not necessarily mean some kind of instantaneous fix, because we all know life can be complicated and messy.  But these words from scripture, along with many others, teach us that God is busy working out God’s plans for our lives.  When our plans fall apart, God does not.  God would tell the prophet Jeremiah, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

So, what is God’s plan for our lives?  A future with hope.  There are no certainties about how our plans will unfold in our lives.  The only certain thing, however, is that God is still in control, working behind the scenes, never leaving us to ourselves, guiding us along the way, and offering to us a future with hope.  In a world where we have to let go of our best laid out plans, let us not forget that God will never let go of us.

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Too Tired to Pray

Most people will use the excuse “I’m just too tired” to do something that needs to be done.  I’m just too tired today to mow the grass, I’ll do it tomorrow.  I’m just too tired today to complete my income taxes, I’ll do them tomorrow.  I’m must just too tired to cook tonight, I’ll just order something, and have it delivered.  I know that that there have been times in which I did not have the physical, mental, or emotional energy to do something.  Rather, being so tired, I just can’t get myself to move in any direction about anything.  We might call it being exhausted, worn out, or just empty when it comes to drawing up any kind of reserve strength.  During these times it feels as though we cannot take one more step.

Christians are not immune from such exhaustion as a result of the stresses and burdens that come with living in the world.  As Christians, we do not possess superhero like strength by which we can jump tall buildings in a single bound.  Rather, sometimes we can’t even get our feet off the ground.  Indeed, this kind of exhaustion can spill over into our spiritual life and our relationship with God.  As a result, sometimes I find myself too tired to even pray.  I don’t know what to say to God as life has left me stunned like a boxer in a ring who has just taken the blow of a sharp undercut from his opponent.  I feel stuck, dumbfounded, and speechless.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he acknowledged the reality of sometimes standing before God speechless where words are in short supply.  It is to these times that Paul confesses, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  Even when we cannot find the words to our prayers, we have the assurance that the Holy Spirit is intervening on our behalf to communicate our silence and loss of words to our Heavenly Father.  When we are too tired to pray, the Holy Spirit can lift up our silence to God in prayer for us.  God’s Spirit searches the deepest parts of our hearts and lives and brings our needs before God.

We may be too tired to pray, but God is always alert, attentive, and aware of our deepest needs.  The prophet Isaiah would confess this truth when he said,

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

God is never too tired to hear the prayers of his children.  Even when we are speechless, the Holy Spirit is working in our lives to bring our hearts before God.  We may become too tired to pray sometimes, but God is always active and engaged in our lives even when we are silent.  So, when life stuns us and drains us, and our spiritual gas tanks are empty, we can trust that God will not faint or grow weary, but in God’s strength God will lift us up and causes us to mount with wings like eagles.  So even when are too tired to pray, the Holy Spirit is already working on our behalf to take our weary lives and lift them to heaven.

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