Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Zoning Out

One of the great blessings of this season of my life is the freedom I have to travel.
Often my travels take me to Portland, OR where 2 of the most wonderful grandchildren live!  (I know, I’m a wee bit biased.)  But my most recent adventure took me to North Carolina.  In the middle of a frigid, wintry Upper Peninsula day, I got an overwhelming urge to visit my BFF.

Thankfully, I was able to get a last minute ticket at a reasonable cost. After running my plans through my hubby, and with no commitments pending that were not changeable, I got online and booked my ticket.

It was a wonderful week, filled with relaxing moments, the sharing of our lives, good food, movies and quiet time. It was a time of refreshment and regeneration that flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to head home. 

VERY early (try 3:15am!) on the morning of my departure my friend drove me to the airport, a tough hour for a non morning person like me.  After checking my bag, I headed to my gate.  Thankfully everything went like clockwork and soon I was on my way.

I made my connecting flight in Detroit (I never just assume that is going to happen per previous experiences!) and by the time I boarded I was tired and ready to be home.  As I was settling in for my short flight the flight attendant got on the PA system; he ran through the usual instructions about seat belts and “in case of a water landing”, how to manage the air mask, etc.  I zoned out having heard that message so many times.

And then a very real thought came to me. “What if…?” What if suddenly there was a real emergency?  I asked myself if I would truly remember all of those instructions when it really mattered.  Would I remember where to find my life jacket?  Would I remember where my closest exit was?  How easy it was to just zone out when I was getting instructions I had heard so many times!

Hmm. That gave me pause…and I connected this experience with my walk with Jesus. I began to ponder over the many times I have heard Bible stories, or read familiar verses.  What about John 3:16?  That verse has been recited and heard so many times that I wonder if it has become almost too familiar?  The story of Jesus’ birth or the description of the Easter events…all familiar for someone like me who has been in church most of her life.

Here is my “profound thought” when the storms of life hit me and I am floundering: Where do I turn when I can’t easily discern direction, and chaotic thoughts abound? As a follower of Jesus, I become desperate for comfort, direction, guidance and peace.  Those wonderful Bible stories and lessons become very valuable, life-saving even.  At that point in time, even if I have zoned out on them in the past, I urgently want to remember what God says in His Word.

In Luke, chapter 24 we read about the women who went to the tomb of Jesus, having no idea what they would actually encounter. They were unprepared for what they saw…the empty tomb.  Two men (angels?) spoke to them, reminding them of all Jesus had told them about what was going to happen to Him.  And the scriptures say, “and they remembered His words”.  I want to remember the stories taught to me over and over again from God’s Word.  Unlike the airplane experience, I don’t want to zone out on God’s timeless Truths…ever again.

John 12:16, “His disciples did not remember these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.”  Those disciples who had traveled with Jesus throughout His brief time on earth…do you suppose they occasionally “zoned out” when Jesus was preaching?  Or at the very least were distracted by other thoughts?  Praise God for how He brought His Truths into the minds of Jesus’ followers when they most needed them.

What about you?  Have you heard stories and verses over and over again and “zoned out”?  I challenge you (and me) to allow fresh breezes to fan the timeless Truths of the Bible.  Will you join me in reveling in the Truth of God’s Word, no matter how many times you have heard it?  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

HOPE and New Beginnings

I don’t know about you but, truth be told, I’m not one for New Years Eve celebrations.  You know the kind: party hats, Auld Lang Syne, toasting the old and ringing in the new…that.  Oh, there was a time when those traditions were important but as I age, I am content to “celebrate” within the warmth of my own home.

Today is the very first day of 2018 and, true to my previous statement, Charlie and I enjoyed a quiet evening at home.  Actually, it was rather amazing that we both stayed awake long enough to watch the ball drop in Times Square!    

However, something of significance did happen right outside our living room window. We are immensely blessed to live in a community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where trees, lakes and wildlife are inherent in our geographic DNA.  We have snow and very cold temperatures right now, another good reason to stay indoors.

In the midst of the ordinariness of life, I heard the sounds of fireworks.  Yes! Our small city was enjoying its own version of the NYC fireworks and “ball drop”; only here it is a “pasty drop”.  (The pasty is a local food with a fascinating history…not to be confused with pastie!)  Our local park, just blocks away, hosted both events and we loved watching the fireworks from our living room window as they exploded their vibrant colors across the sky.

As we focused on the excitement outside, a word flashed through my mind.  As we basked in the light and warmth of our fireplace, grateful to NOT be outdoors in the frigid air, the word HOPE danced through my brain and around my heart.  A simple word filled with profound meaning.  How is it that in this world with so much sadness and suffering, we continue to look forward with HOPE

So many of my friends and loved ones are struggling in different ways.  Marriages are stressed, finances inadequate, health threatened.  How can we approach a new year with so much HOPE?  If it depends on wealth….well we know how quickly that can disappear.  A phone call after a lab test can change a HOPE that is anchored in good health.  A house/business fire can make worldly goods and jobs disappear within minutes.

1st Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living HOPE (my emphasis) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …”

Romans 15:13, “May the God of HOPE (emphasis mine) fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in HOPE.” (emphasis mine)

Do you get that?!  We have every reason to celebrate, to set off fireworks, to proclaim and laugh and rejoice. When we truly comprehend that our HOPE is not in the things of this world…then we know the health report, bank statement or even the worst catastrophe we can imagine cannot keep us from the HOPE that lies in Jesus.

He is coming back! (1st Thessalonians, chapters 4 and 5).  Maybe 2018 will be the year of His return.  Why not?!  In Revelation 21:5 Jesus says He will make all things new. We don’t have to wait on His return to experience new life.  II  Corinthians 5:17 promises that when we put our trust in Jesus, WE BECOME NEW!

I can’t think of a better way to look forward to a year filled with HOPE than to sink deeply into the promises God gave us through His Son, Jesus.  What a wonderful way to approach the unknown. We may not know what is ahead but God is already there.  We can hold to the same promise Jesus made to His disciples when he said He had prepared the way. (John 14)
I don’t know about you, but my HOPE is in the One whose birthday we recently celebrated.  Jesus was born into humble beginnings, lived a perfect life, suffered on the cross, died, was buried and then resurrected from the dead. From the cross He declared, “It is finished.”  He paved the way.  His life, death and resurrection means, when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, we have HOPE for today as well as for eternity.   

Have a happy, HOPE filled New Year!