Passenger planes being shot down by missiles. Peace shattered in Israel and Palestine. Mass shootings in various parts of the country. Ongoing battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everywhere you turn there seems to be violence, hatred, and death. These realities in the world can be overwhelming. As a person looks at all of this, it is easy to come to the conclusion that God is not here. It would not be the first time in our history that people came to such a conclusion; remember the “God is Dead” statements from a few decades ago? But this conclusion could not be farther from the truth.
This last Sunday we heard about a man named Jacob who was fleeing for his life. He felt all alone and had no sense of where to go or what future might exist. He laid down his head to attempt to get some rest before he continued his flight journey. During the night he had a vision which appeared to open to the very throne room of God. God spoke to Jacob and affirmed promises of home and future to Jacob. God also made a promise that I think we need to hear today, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15, NIV) God was still with Jacob even during scary and dangerous times. God is still here now.
As a believer, I need to continue to pray about the situations in the world that are scary and dangerous. I need to continue to pray for those impacted by the events of violence, hatred, and injustice. I need to question why these events continue to occur and seek ways to prevent them. However, I must never lose sight of the promise that God gave Jacob and gives to all of us today; God’s unending presence with us. Whether it be on a global scale or the raging battles in my life, God has not abandoned us.
GOD IS STILL HERE!
This morning, this song just keeps playing in my head so I thought I would share it.
I want my life to be flowing water and not a stagnant pond!
Let me give a little background into that statement. One of the realities of life is that change is going to occur. In a conversation that I was having today, we both acknowledged this reality. I think there is always a part of each of us that hopes that things do not change. This is most often true when there are a lot of positives occurring in our lives. Just as much as there is a part of us that wishes to avoid change, there is an equal part that hopes for change. This hope arises most frequently when there are a lot of negatives taking place. However, we often have limited impact on change other than our ability to respond to, and at times, guide change. We cannot stop change.
As I reflected on change this morning, the image of water came to my mind. If you stand by a flowing creek or river, you realize that there is constant motion, constant change. This movement provides opportunity for life and can be very refreshing on hot day. Through the flowing water, we can capture some energy. We see forward progress of everything caught up in its flow.
Another scene with water is one that takes place at a pond which is neither spring feed or receiving the flow of a stream. When you stand alongside one of these bodies of water, you often detect an unpleasant odor. Many times there are all forms of algae or other plant life covering the top of the water. This pond is stagnant. There is no movement and often no lasting life. The reason is there is no change occurring with the water.
So if I carry the water image into my thoughts about life, I would prefer that my life be flowing water and not a stagnant pond.
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Crediting either Longfellow and/or Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots, the familiar phrase, “Into every life a little rain must fall,” comes to my mind this morning. We are having another small thunderstorm moving through our area. It seems to be that we are currently in a weather pattern which includes a thunderstorm at least once a week. I would have to say that it is much better than the weather pattern we have seen over the last few years during the summer when we saw little to no rain of any kind fall on our land. However, I know that for some people, this cycle of rain has become annoying.
As I thought about the recent rains and the phrase that I mentioned at the start of this post, I was thinking about the benefits of the rainfall. All of creation needs those drinks of rain for survival. During periods of drought, we clearly see what happens to trees, plants, animals, and humans when the rain does not come. Our world seems to dry up and wither around us. Everything takes on a brown cast. People’s attitudes tend to become negative and they become cranky. Rain on a regular basis can create a lushness in the world, settle the dust, and bring about an attitude of freshness and renewal.
Now, I realize some of you may be thinking that too much of even a good thing can be too much. We know of areas that are experiencing flooding because of all the rain. However, I would like to throw out the idea that even the flooding brings benefits. I am sure that if your property is damaged or you incur some financial lost due to flooding, you are not eager to agree with me. But flooding can provide opportunity to begin again, to start anew from the foundation up. Going through that experience can be difficult but the end result may be wonderfully beneficial.
I think that these ideas can apply not only to our physical reality but also to our lives in general. Everyone experiences sadness, difficult times, strains in relationships, and other challenges. We could look at these experiences as being the metaphorical rain that falls in our lives. As the quote mentions, “into every life a little rain must fall.” I think the key word in this situation is must. Just as our physical world must have rainfall for the benefits listed above, such is true in our lives as well. The benefits of renewal, settling of life’s dust and a fresh attitude can result from the rain in our lives. Even when we are overwhelmed with this rain, we may be given the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and begin again.
So explore the benefits of rain in your life!
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In our lives, we engage in a variety of conversations and receive information from many different sources. The period of time in which we live is characterized with endless threads of information from television, internet, talk shows, speakers, and printed materials. If you are able to manage your way through the rivers of information, you can easily become skeptical because often the information conflicts. These conflicts arise when a person hears from different sources on the same subject. It is very easy to become skeptical and dismiss almost all information that you receive unless you have first-hand involvement in the events or situation.
For me, this raises the importance of doing my own research and study. I believe that we were created with a very inquisitive mind for a reason. Humans were given intelligence in order that a person learns, discovers, and comes to observations by making an effort to gather information from various sources. Unfortunately, too many people do not desire to spend the time looking into matters and weighing the source of the information. Too many hear something on the radio, read something in an article, or hear someone speak and accept it as accurate and reliable information. There are many cases when this is true and totally acceptable. However, history shows us that there are unfortunately many times when people have been deceived, the information has been inaccurate, and individuals and/or the world have suffered.
So all of this leads me to put out a warning. Keep listening and reading but do so with some level of caution. Take the information that you are receiving and do some research on your own so that you know if you accept something as truth it is because you have gathered input from a variety of sources and come to the conclusion on your own. For me, this applies to everything from politics to world events to religion. Spend the time to verify that what you are hearing and receiving is accurate before passing the information along. Also, be prepared to be corrected or revise your opinions based upon new information which may be obtained. No one knows it all and everyone is able to make mistakes.
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The last few days have been very warm and very humid so when I stepped outside early this morning for my walk, I was pleasantly surprised by the nice cool breeze and the coolness of the morning. It was definitely a very refreshing experience and lifted my spirit. As I sat to write my post for today, I was thinking about that refreshing coolness. I realized that I was feeling refreshed after a very stress and emotion filled week last week.
Amazing how the Lord knows just the right time to refresh me. These periods of coolness in my life allow me to release the heat of life. Some days and weeks can get pretty heated and hectic. I believe this is why the Lord said that we need to take a sabbath. We need times to refresh ourselves. We need time to enjoy the cool breezes. We cannot sustain an “on fire” pace either physically or emotionally for an extended period of time.
Thank you Lord for the gift of refreshing coolness. Thank you for the gentle, cool breezes in the midst of summer. Thank you for the reminder to take sabbath and refresh my self.
Sometimes in life it is so easy to focus on what we do not have versus acknowledging what we do have. As we go through our day and have a variety of experiences, we can go down a path of wishing for something more. This path is one that contains thoughts of scarcity instead of recognizing the abundance around us and in our lives. While we should always be striving to move forward and having goals and items to obtain helps us make that forward movement, we can easily forget to take opportunities to celebrate what we have already achieved or have been given in life. I think that is why the old adage, “Take time to stop and smell the roses,” came into existence.
I think that this is a problem not only for individuals but for many organizations. In an organization’s constant quest for improvement and success, the organization easily can have a mindset of scarcity instead of abundance. Everyone gets focused on what the organization does not have in resources and opportunities, instead of realizing all that the organization already has and using it to further the goals and objectives of the organization. When this occurs, the organization can become paralyzed and will quickly focus inwardly in a protection mode. These truths apply to individuals as well.
So today, I encourage everyone to focus on the abundance in your life. Take inventory of all the wonderful people, experiences, opportunities that you have already received. Be grateful for the wonderful aspects of your life. Commit yourself to build upon these reasons for gratitude.
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One of the most important bits of knowledge that should be learned in a person’s life is the great assets found in people. As I reflect upon my life, I become acutely aware that the greatest assets in my life are the people who I have been blessed to have entered my life. Some of these individuals remain in relationship with me for long periods of time and some are only short time spans. However, there is not a one of them that has not added to my life in some way.
When I think of the blessings of life which have been afforded me by the Lord, I cannot think of any blessings which are greater than the ones of relationships with others. I often have stated that I believe that the most important thing for the Lord is relationships. I believe that we see this demonstrated strongest in the events which are recorded in Scripture regarding Jesus’ life. However, I believe that when we look at Scripture as a whole, relationships (whether they be between God and humanity or between humans) are central to the whole message of Scripture.
I am spending some time today to reflect on the great assets of people in my life. I hope that you might spend some time doing the same.
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This morning as I write, I am feeling deep sadness. Yesterday, I had to say good-bye to a young man who has been a part of my life and family for the last ten months. He has been a true joy to have in my life on a daily basis. He has taught me so much about a different world viewpoint and a country that I had limited knowledge about. He has impacted me in a tremendous way. I am excited for him that he is getting to return to his family and to his own country but I am also sad that I will have less opportunity to talk with him, spend time with him, learn from him and share my life with him.
As I have tried to process and live in the emotions that are currently flowing over me, I have realized that I am grieving over the reality that a piece of my life is missing. Ten months ago, I began a process of letting a new person into my heart, a place where he will always remain. Since he has a special place in my heart, I feel a void now that he is away. I am grateful that through technology, I can remain in contact with him. I look forward to watching him grow into the life that he chooses, even from a distance.
I am not sure if he will ever read this or not, but I need to tell Simon Neidhart that I am so proud that I was able to be your dad for ten months. I cherish the time that we shared and that you shared with my family. I am so extremely grateful to your parents and sister for allowing you to come to the United States and be a part of my family. You have impacted in me in tremendous and wonderful ways. My arms will always be open to welcome you if you ever have the opportunity to return to this country. I am confident that you will continue to become an outstanding young man with much success in your life. THANK YOU SIMON, my son!
A part of my life is now missing but never gone.
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I know that I have not been faithful in posting to my blog this month. I have had a crazy month with travel almost every week. Today is a catch up day in the office. So I will make the commitment to get back to a regular posting schedule. Please continue to watch and return to being faithful readers as you have in the past.
Also, I would really appreciate comments from each and every one of you. This helps me know who is reading my blog and allows for my interactive dialogue.
I hope that all of you are having a meaningful summer!