Sunset, Sunrise

1185570_10202069214277424_889783993_nRecently I had the opportunity to watch a beautiful Florida sunset. I was in Florida with two of my boys.  We’d travelled there from Iowa to be with my 96-year-old grandfather who had fallen and was in the ICU. We’d spent many hours with him in the hospital and then helped him transition into Hospice. We had taken a much needed break from a very difficult week and gone to a favorite pier on the Gulf of Mexico to get some fresh air and rest a little.

As I watched the spectacular sunset, I couldn’t help but see the parallel of my grandfather’s life. He is experiencing the sunset of a life well lived.  He has no regrets and has been heard to say quite often, “I’ve had a good life. No one has had a life like mine.” But now his life is coming to an end and the sun is setting.

As we watched together, my sons and I, the younger one said, “Mom, isn’t it neat that while we’re watching the sun setting, someone else is seeing it rise?” I thought about that and realized that God was trying to tell me something so simple but so profound.

The end of a life is not the end but the beginning of something new for a believer in Christ. It’s also not the end for those of us left behind, but is the beginning of a new chapter where we can continue the legacy of what we’ve learned from someone we love.   We can all choose to leave a legacy to the generations to follow.  Each one of us can impact someone else’s life and leave the world a better place because we tried to make a difference. That’s what my grandfather did.

My grandfather’s last words to my sons were, “Remember fellas, family is important. Make it good.” Perhaps they will be heard to say those same words to their great grandchildren sometime in the future. They can choose to follow Christ and impact future generations. Psalm 103:17 tells us  But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children (NIV)

God has been showing me that this principle of sunset and sunrise applies to all aspects of life. Whenever there is an end to something, whether it be a relationship, a job, or just a season in one place, there is also a new beginning. Something new always follows.

It’s okay to grieve the end of something but allowing yourself to find hope in the promise of a new beginning is what will bring the healing. I will miss my grandfather so much  but I know I will see him again. In that I can rejoice while I begin the next chapter of the life God has given me.

The last part of Psalm 30:5 says Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. 

Indeed, joy comes in the morning, with the sunrise of a new day.

Life is a Maze

Have you ever been to a corn maze? In every direction, all you can see are walls. Walls of corn taller than you are. You move through the paths finding dead end after dead end. Each time you must retrace your steps you wonder if the next choice will be the right one. It’s easy to get turned around and find yourself in the same dead ends over and over again. In a complex maze, it could be possible to wander for so long that anxiety increases to the point of panic.

Our lives are like that maze. We can only see the path we are on. We can only make one decision at a time. We cannot always see whether we are making any progress at all. We just keep moving, hoping we will eventually come out at the right place.

What we don’t want to do is let anxiety or panic take over. What must we do to prevent this? We must make the decision to trust God no matter how tall the walls and how complicated the path. No matter how confused we feel as we wander from dead end to dead end.

You see, God is the designer of the maze. He knows exactly which path we must take to get to the exit. If we could rise above the walls and see it from His perspective we would not be concerned about making it out. We would be confident in each turn because we could look ahead and see the dead ends so that we could avoid them.

But we can’t see our lives from an external perspective. We can only rely on God for guidance.  We can also rest in the knowledge that even when we make a wrong turn, we don’t get lost forever. We can always turn around and try again. That’s God’s grace at work. He will patiently lead us along the path and will bring us out of this maze called life when we have completed all he has designed us to do. Each path teaches us something, even the dead ends.

Keep moving and trust God to guide you. Listen to the quiet voice of the Lord, leading you to Himself one step at a time. You really are getting closer every day even though you can’t always see it.

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21

God’s Grace is Sufficient

God’s grace is a mystery. How can He continuously offer undeserved grace to us? How can He give us chance after chance to get it right and love us when we fail over and over?

God gives grace for the moment. One moment at a time. He doesn’t give us a stockpile of grace to use at our convenience or at our leisure. He gives it as we need it and only He knows when that is.

For that matter, He doesn’t give us a stock pile of anything. Everything He has for us; grace, peace, wisdom, knowledge…it’s all given exactly in the moment we need it and never before. We can’t save it up for future use. If we did that, we would find ourselves depending on our own ability to ration out the supply as we felt we needed it. We would stop being dependent on God.

Sometimes we think God has  left us or forgotten us but He cannot do that. When we ask for forgiveness, He forgets our sin but He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. He is always with us.

There’s an old song that says “Your Grace is sufficient for me. Your strength is made perfect, when I am weak. All that I cling to I lay at your feet. Your grace is sufficient for me.”

It is in that place of surrender that God’s grace is enough. He can only fill an empty vessel. When you lay all the things you are depending on for your strength at his feet, he can fill you with his perfect strength. And there you will find peace as well.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Are You Willing to go Wherever?

Bird on Fence

At the end of the 9th chapter of Luke there is a short bit of dialog between Jesus and his followers.

“And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” 60 But he said, “Permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 (NASB)

Continue reading Are You Willing to go Wherever?

The Third Watch

Courtesy Flickr - hosullivanIn the scriptures, there are references to the third watch. Most scholars believe this is the time between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. The time most of us are asleep. That is unless we happen to be wide awake. Sometimes sleep is evasive.

I used to have trouble sleeping. I’d wake in the night and the silence in my usually noisy household would be overwhelming. As I lay there trying to do all the things that are supposed to help sleep ( I never actually resorted to counting sheep) I would become more and more anxious and the quiet would become heavier and heavier. I’d think of all sorts of things that only increased the anxiety.

And if I had one long sleepless night, I would find myself dreading the next night. What if it’s the same? What if I am awake again for hours, all alone? The more I would dread it the more likely it was to happen again.

I tried reading, I tried watching a movie, I tried writing. Those things were all fine activities, that I should have been doing in the daytime, not when the rest of the household was in pleasant slumber while I counted the minutes until sunrise. And none of those things helped me sleep.

Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place. I went to God’s Word. I laid my anxiety before Him and asked him for wisdom and for peace.

Here is what he gave me.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.

Proverbs 3:24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Do I still have sleepless nights sometimes? Yes. But now I know that if I am awake, God knows it. He has promised me sweet sleep so eventually I will sleep. In the meantime, I read my Bible and thank the Lord for His promises. I also pray for others who might be awake and anxious as I used to be. Now I believe that if I am awake, I might as well put that time to good use. I use it to pray not only for those who might also have anxious nights but also for anyone God brings to mind. I am not distracted in those moments and I can pray with purpose.

If you are troubled by sleeplessness, spend some time meditating on the verses above. Maybe even commit them to memory. And join me in praying for others who sometimes struggle in the third watch.