The Miracle in the Rain

“I will be glad and rejoice in Your love,
for You saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.” Psalm 30:7

It was raining steadily as dozens of cars crept through the student drop-off line at my school. Some students prepared for the weather, wearing rubber boots and carrying umbrellas, but others did not. One little girl, in particular, was reluctant to get out of the car in just her tee-shirt and shorts. From the school doorway, I could see her and dad going back and forth.  Finally, I saw him say, “Get OUT of the CAR!”
The dejected youngster exited slowly and began to make her way down the stairs to the building below–head down and arms folded. By the time she reached the door, she was soaked, her clothes polka-dotted with rain. I said, “Good morning, young lady!” But it was too late; she promptly burst into tears.

Several children waiting to go into the building noticed the commotion. Turning to look in unison, they seemed about to take a step back. But then, the most amazing thing happened. One child stepped forward, and then another, and another. The drenched and distraught 2nd grader and I were soon surrounded by smiling students, one of whom exclaimed, “Group Hug!” Quickly, everyone encircled the two of us in a tight ball, frozen in place for a good five seconds.

When everyone let go, a miracle had occurred! The sopping wet youngster was no longer sobbing. She dabbed her eyes with a tissue, offered by another student, and chose to face the day.

As a Christian, it is comforting to believe God knows the troubles of my soul and sees the pouring “rain” on this life’s journey. He is a God of love who helps us love one another. A group of children and a little wet friend just reminded me of this.

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Big Rocks and Goldilocks

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“Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.” Colossians 3:18

My company recently embarked on a “Big Rocks” campaign: four major things to focus on and improve. One of the these is customer service. Consequently, a grinning picture of our CEO with the caption, “Tell us how we’re doing.” is on prominent display through out our building. Customers who wish to chime in can call, email, or connect with the big boss via a QR code.

The invitation for public input straight to the top makes many of my co-workers and me nervous. What if a customer just has a “beef” with one of our departments and wants to cause trouble? Perhaps we’ve bent over backwards to satisfy but to no avail. Does the CEO even know this?

It’s like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: some think our porridge (customer service) is too hands on (hot) and some think it’s too impersonable (cold). Furthermore, the few who feel it’s “just right” may camp out at our building (sleep in our beds) putting upper management on speed dial.

What’s a dutiful employee to do?

One answer, as the scripture above suggests, is to look beyond the big rocks to someone even bigger–God Himself. Though I honor and obey all my bosses–right up to the top– my REAL boss is God. And He’s certain to outlast any corporate improvement program.

Massive boulders just aren’t big enough.

This post shall now be concluded by the poet Robert Frost:

So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

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A Little Girl and God

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Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:13-14

My wife and I used to teach Sunday School at a shelter for abused, neglected, or abandoned children. One particular morning we encountered a sparkly eyed five-year old with a perpetual grin.  When we started the Bible story, about Jesus and the little children, she seemed particularly attentive. So I asked her, “Have you heard about Jesus?” She said no. Still sensing a connection, I gently probed, “Have you heard about God?” “Oh, I know God,” she said. “We take naps together!”

I said something like, “Oh, you do?!” and then continued with the story. But the rest of the day I tried to wrap my mind around what this sweet little girl said about God–“We take naps together!” I pictured a home, chaotic and out of control; a prison where a frightened little girl hid in her room to escape the negligent adults who were supposed to be her caregivers. She’s hiding in the closet (or maybe under the bed) sobbing uncontrollably, but then God Himself comes and comforts her until she falls asleep. And THIS is what she calls “taking naps with God.”

The miracle of God’s little slumber party friend was still on my heart when I said my prayers that evening. I started by thanking Him for looking out for her and for letting me in on the secret. But then, I just couldn’t hold it:

“God, do you take naps with big people?”

One More Night With the Frogs

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Pharaoh called in Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to God to rid us of these frogs. I’ll release the people so that they can make their sacrifices and worship God.”

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Certainly. Set the time. When do you want the frogs out of here, away from your servants and people and out of your houses? You’ll be rid of frogs except for those in the Nile.” 

“Make it tomorrow.” Pharaoh said.  Exodus 8:8-10

Near the beginning of one of the most epic stories in the Bible, (The Ten Plagues of Egypt: Ex. 8-11) this curious event happens. Moses asks the ruler of Egypt to let the Hebrew people go but Pharaoh refuses.  So God turns all the water in Egypt into blood.  Next, He sends swarms of frogs.  But when the most powerful man in the known world gets to set the time to take the frogs away he says, “Make it tomorrow.”

Tomorrow?!

Why on Earth didn’t he say,  “Immediately, if not sooner?”

Perhaps it’s simply human nature to hold on to something we know we should let go.  Just a little… longer.

An unhealthy habit.  A toxic relationship.  Fill in the _________________.

“I’ll end it tomorrow.”

The problem is, tomorrow becomes the next day and then the next.  And the frogs just keep piling up.

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When God opens a door, start moving in that direction.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Do it!

 

Check, Not Checkmate

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“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9″

The apostle Paul penned these words to his friends in the ancient city of Corinth. He had been spreading the Christian message in another city, Ephesus, and was trying to decide whether to stay put or move on.

There had been many opportunities for Paul in Ephesus, but also much opposition. His preaching had been met with riotous mobs and death threats. Most people would take this as a sign to get out of town, but not Paul! He decided to base his decisions on God’s activity rather than what his enemies were doing and stayed in Ephesus for another year.  Many more converts were added to the church during this time.

One can only assume, but I bet Paul’s life felt something like a chess match. Over and over, his opponents backed him into a corner–putting him in check.  But God always provided a way out and kept Paul out of checkmate.

This has recently become real to me. In fact, I started this blog because I was placed in “check.”

For several months, I sent a dozen or so Christian colleagues at my company a Bible verse with an encouraging thought every morning.  These are friends who attend a weekly employee prayer group or asked specifically to be included in the email. Nevertheless, someone in our company complained to HR, telling them I was sending “scriptures” through company email. The next thing I know, my boss gets a visit from corporate.

No, I wasn’t told to cease and desist.  But the reality that someone took offense at my attempt to encourage a few Christian friends was deflating.  I was really down for about 24 hours, but then recalled the words of a dear friend, “There are always options: good ones and bad ones.”

I chose the best option I could and avoided checkmate.  When the time comes, I hope you will too.

Almost Any Wind Will Do

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

When I was in grad school, a buddy of mine had a little ten foot sailboat we liked to take out on the weekends.  My friend didn’t know much about sailing. I knew even less.  But we had a blast cruising around a little lake near the university.  That is, until this one day.

It was picture perfect with a 10-12 mph wind, which meant we were moving right along–cutting a big arc across the middle of the lake.  Suddenly, and I mean out of nowhere, the wind died down to almost nothing.  We were dead in the water and drifting AWAY from shore.  It’s a good thing the boat came with two oars, because we ended up rowing a half mile to land!

Well, we brought her in (sort of), up to this boat slip where we were met by a blue-eyed, blonde-haired teenager grinning for ear to ear.  It’s turned out this kid was a Norwegian exchange student who knew a thing or two about sailing. He’d watched our little “dilemma” unfold from shore.  We tried to explain how the freakish break in the wind left us stranded, but he was having nothing of it.  “For a sailor, almost any wind will do,” he said, still grinning.  “May I show you?”

He then proceeded to shove off, set the sail, and slowly navigate out to the middle of the lake and back under the power of an almost imperceptible breeze.  It’s funny, I don’t remember sailing much with my friend after that.

There’s a life application here somewhere…

Forces beyond our control, like the wind, can either help us or hurt us.  It all depends on how we set the sail–make the best of God’s grace.

Bon Voyage!

Why we should stop asking, “What would Jesus do?”

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“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He (Jesus) said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”  Mark 14:34

About twenty years ago, WWJD? was a popular acronym: What Would Jesus Do?

It’s a great thought, but is this completely discernible in the 21st century?  I’m fairly sure the Son of God wouldn’t tweet about what He had for breakfast, but how can one be certain?

Perhaps a better question is, What DID Jesus Do?  Now, this is discoverable!  The scripture above, for instance, records the actual behavior of Jesus in full-blown crisis mode.

In Mark 14:32-42, we find Him in the garden with a few close friends, emotionally and physically drained by the knowledge of his impending death.  The Amplified Bible says he was, “deeply distressed and extremely anguished,” and he, “fell to the ground and prayed.”

So, here are two things Jesus did during the biggest crisis of His earthly life:

  • He sought comfort and guidance from God.
  • He asked a few close friends to come near–both physically and in prayer.

Sounds like a winning formula.

Circle the prayer wagons!