Monthly Archives: March 2015

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 3

DonD I-90_Gridlock_near_milepost_63_on_8-21-11_BWLife’s darkest corridors are detours–places of waiting and wandering along an unfamiliar path where negatives often develop.  Yet those dark rooms are also often God’s appointments for building His character in our lives, accomplishing His purposes, and leading us into the bright light where we can clearly see the path ahead.

Disappointment and discouragement become opportunities for grace and growth if we look for them during those dark hours and days of waiting or wandering. These detours become the hidden pathways on our journey where we discover things about ourselves and also about God that we would never discover in the full light of day. We should be grateful, because God uses detours to direct us and also to protect us.

When I took the above photo on Interstate 90 about an hour east of Seattle it was a warm summer afternoon and I was anxious to return home after speaking that weekend in a church on the east side of the state. It was not to be as I anticipated because we spent hours just waiting on the freeway. And those other drivers and I never knew the reason for the delay. But I know for certain that whatever the cause, the delay and detour of my schedule was for the good and protection of someone. Hopefully our delay prevented disaster for someone else, and perhaps for us.

After the death of Christ, but before the resurrection, there was a process of waiting—another detour.  Someone has written,  “Disappointments, His appointments, change one letter and I see, that the thwarting of my purpose, was God’s better choice for me.”  Each day, countless numbers of people, among whom are committed Christians, experience disaster, disease, or death in their lives or in the lives of their loved ones.  Their initial response is often denial or unbelief.  Healthy people work through this process to arrive at a place of acceptance, hope and healing.

The unhealthy alternative is to allow disappointment to turn into cynicism and negativity.  The natural thing is for disappointment to lead to discouragement.  Discouragement leads to despair.  Despair leads to depression.  Depression leads to disillusionment.  And disillusionment ultimately leads to disengagement – isolation from everyone and everything that has the potential to hurt you.  This is a vicious cycle that can be interrupted by the loving intervention of friends or by simply learning to watch for God’s grace to appear and for ways to grow during that dark season of our soul.

Every seed must be buried in a dark place in order to sprout and grow. And it often is so with our hopes and dreams. The detour in your life may be the place of waiting or wandering where the seeds of endurance  germinate and you establish strong roots to sustain you for what lies ahead.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”   (Psalm 27:14)  I think about those words, first written by David more than 3000 years ago.  How many people have clung to that verse over the past 30 centuries? For most of them, the wait is over.  For us, the wait goes on and we are uncertain about when the detour on our journey will be over.  But we can be certain about the one thing that makes waiting and wandering endurable:  grace and growth – and the hope that God is using these circumstances to fulfill His purposes and our destiny.

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 2

triumphal-entry-jesus-Palm Sunday:  From the high hopes of anticipation to the low slopes of disappointment.  In the journey of life, we all face this. We are disappointed when our expectations are not met, when they do not materialize, or circumstances seem to turn against us. Even God has experienced disappointment. But God always has a plan—just as He always has a plan for you.

5  Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6  And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:5-8 NKJV).

Did you notice the verbs in verse 6? God was “sorry” – he was “grieved in his heart.” Yet in spite of that, in the midst of a troubled world, Noah found grace. And God’s grace found Noah. If we will look beyond our own disappointment and discouragement, we will discover an opportunity for grace and growth.  God knew that the day would come when he would send his only begotten Son to provide an antidote for the sins of the world. And He knew it would be the most costly sacrifice ever made. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”  (John 3:16).

Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost according to Luke 19:10. He was in Jericho at the moment, and had just been accused of befriending sinners as he dined with Zacchaeus.  He knew that the road to Jerusalem from Jericho would lead Him to the cross. Yet He also knew that to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies that he would need to make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on the colt of a donkey.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He was greeted by, “the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”  Of course, they were expecting a political kingdom, not a spiritual one. Luke 19:11 “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.”

The expectation of the crowds was building. They thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately, so Jesus told a story about stewardship and the use of gifts bestowed upon those who serve in God’s kingdom.  It was really a story about Jesus and the way the kingdom would eventually come.

Would. Eventually. Come. Not, “would immediately come.” We are disappointed in life when our expectations are not met immediately, in the way we expect, or because we have the wrong perspective on our circumstances.

How about you?  Did you expect that the one who promised to “love, honor and cherish” would really do so until “death do us part?”  Did you expect to have the perfect family with 1.8 perfect children, all living in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect house with 3500 square feet, a bonus room and a 3-car garage for your Lexus SUV, motor home and boat?  Did you expect to have the perfect job with a perfect future and a perfect retirement?  Does it all seem like a cruel joke to you now, or have you just concluded that perhaps your youthful expectations were a bit unrealistic?

On that first Palm Sunday, the disciples and the crowds in Jerusalem all had the same expectation.  They believed Jesus was the Messiah and as such would soon overthrow the wretched rule of Rome and set up His earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem.  The crowds were welcoming Him as they would welcome a general returning from a victorious battle after winning the war.  So we can understand their disappointment when Jesus did not play the part.

After all, the crowds watched with amazement as He entered the temple and began throwing over the tables of exchange and throwing out the moneychangers.  “Now it’s happening” they thought.  “Now He is making His move.  And now that He’s taken care of business here at the temple, He’ll soon move next door and take the keys from the Roman Praetorian Guards.”

But He didn’t.  He just continued to teach and preach.  “What’s this, just more preaching?  No call to arms?  No call for a revolution?  Well, maybe He isn’t the One after all.”

And so the enthusiasm waned and the crowds disbursed.  Like a group of exhausted party revelers taking down the ribbons and deflated balloons, they picked up their garments and went back to business as usual. The lights went out on their bright hopes that this day would be different.

When the lights go out on our dreams and hopes, it’s always more comforting when someone is there to share the darkness of the experience.  Stay together during the tough times and the tough times won’t last nearly as long.  Jesus, too, understood disappointment.  When He went to the cross, nearly all of his friends abandoned Him.  Only a faithful few remained on that dark day to witness His death. Where will you go on the dark day of disappointment?

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 1

I’m taking a brief break from my series “On the Verge” to share a few thoughts as we approach Easter 2015.

triumphal-entry-jesus-

Passion Week in the life of Christ begins with Palm Sunday, which we celebrate tomorrow. Followers of Jesus view Palm Sunday as a time to remember back to the day when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem  (cf. Luke 19:28-48). The events that took place on that day set the stage for what was to be the most important event in the history of the world, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But before there could be a resurrection there had to be suffering and death.

We like the resurrection part.  Resurrection brings hope, promise and new life.  Like the crocus fighting its way through the last dusting of snow, Easter reminds us that the dark days of winter are not eternal.  For the believer in Christ, we find comfort in the words of Jesus, “Because I live, you shall live also.”  (John 14:19)

Yes, we like resurrection.  We just don’t like what happens prior to it that makes resurrection necessary.  It’s the suffering and death part that makes us cringe.  If we could, we’d just as soon bypass the hospital, funeral home and cemetery and instead book a direct flight to paradise.  “Just give me the keys to my mansion, thank you – I’ll skip the casket.”

Most of us would choose a crown without a cross, a blessing without a burden, a vacation without a vocation. Whether we like it or not, those unpleasant elements are as normal and necessary to our existence as dirt and rain are to flowers.  We will never blossom to our full potential without suffering.  That’s what Jesus’ final week before His death, burial and resurrection were all about.

There is a reason why these days are called the “Passion Week.”  During those moments we see Jesus Christ experience the whole gamut of human emotion.  From the ecstasy of Sunday’s triumphal parade to the agony of Friday’s cross, and everything in between we see how those emotions affected Him.  Fully human, and fully Divine, He was as Isaiah said, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”  (Isaiah 53:3)

On Palm Sunday crowds of people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as the Messiah.  Five days later the same crowds shouted, “Crucify Him!”  How could they have been so fickle?  Throughout the week, and especially on Thursday night His disciples all pledged to stay with Him, Peter promising to do so even if it meant prison or death.  A few hours later, they all left Him alone.

“We’ll always be here for you, Jesus,” they promised.  “We’ll always be together.”  But their good intentions melted like a cheap candle on a hot summer day.  When trouble came in like a flood, they all scattered and hit the trail for higher ground, every man for himself.

Maybe you know how Jesus felt.  If so, I am sure He knows how you feel.  Writing about Jesus, the author of Hebrews said, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”  (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)  He experienced the ultimate in passion and pain, so that He can help you make it through yours.  He offers two things you can’t live without: healing and hope. And when it seems like you have crashed into the intersection of disappointment and discouragement, remember it may just be a detour on the road to your divine destiny offering grace and growth.

Through the next couple of posts, I’m praying you’ll receive a major portion of healing and hope in the process of discovering grace and growth.  We all share some similar experiences in the passionate process of disappointment, suffering, death and resurrection.  These shared experiences should bring us closer together and closer to God, not farther apart.

On the Verge: Finding Your Tipping Point – Part 4 “Suspense”

cliff-hangerCliffhanger—the word immediately conjures up an image of some sort in your mind, doesn’t it? When reading a good mystery, you can always skip ahead if the suspense is so great you can’t stand it. If you are watching a DVD, you can also run it forward. When it comes to your own life, you have to just live it out. You can’t fast forward time, regardless of the tension or pain of the moment.

Suspense and mystery are part of what makes a good story. Those elements of drama combine to draw in the reader or viewer, until you feel a part of the action. For a few moments, their story becomes your story. “This is killing me!” you exclaim as you virtually hang by your bleeding fingertips on the cliff of suspense.

If you were a Seattle Seahawks fan watching your team during Super Bowl XLIX it meant a roller coaster of emotions. Full of cliffhangers, the game was the most watched program in television history. Once again gaining and then losing the lead with two minutes to go, the Hawks gain possession again and a glimmer of hope emerges. Moving the ball down the field, with 26 seconds left on the clock, every Seahawks fan anticipated this would be the final play, only inches away from victory. The tension mounts as the ball is snapped when, surprise! Russell Wilson throws an unexpected pass that gets snatched away and with it our hopes are dashed. Game over, and not as we anticipated.

Not what we anticipated. Opportunity snatched away. Tension gives way to disappointment or disaster. The crash when we lose our grip on the cliff can paralyze us from making another attempt. “Never again” we may proclaim, robbing ourselves of even attempting to making it to the verge of success again.

But we don’t enjoy wallowing in self-pity or just playing it safe forever. Hope springs forth and we may find ourselves asking, “What if? Maybe it is possible to get up and try again.” Once more the suspense builds until we find a way to move on.

Clock Pendulum suspension spring diagramPendulum clocks generally attach the pendulum using a flexible piece of forged steel, called a suspension spring. It works along with the main time spring to create tension and keep the clock ticking through the back and forth motion of the pendulum. While the mainspring provides continuous power, the suspension spring does its job by simply being flexible enough to bend back and forth, time after time for days, weeks, months, and years at a time. Remember, the suspension spring is made of forged steel = it has been through the fire.

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken. So what is the catalyst in your life to spring you forward? How has the forge and fire of failure made you more flexible? How can you increase that flexibility and use the tension in your circumstances to bounce back?  How can you leverage the resources you do possess to your advantage? How long will you remain in suspension before you take action? Who could you talk to and explore these questions? Next post we’ll discover some options for the power to move forward.

On the Verge: Finding Your Tipping Point – Part 3 “Perspective”

Clock magnifying glass Face value. That has to do with perspective. At first glance, all we see is what is visible at the moment, and from that particular point of view. We may assume or make a value judgment from that perspective, concluding that what we just observed tells the whole story—all there is to it. That can be a big mistake. In fact it can be a blind spot to us, because if we took the time to discover a different point of view, it might make all the difference.

I have more than a hundred old clocks, all more than a century old, and of all shapes and sizes. All have mechanical movements of some kind. Some are weight driven, some are spring driven. Some use a pendulum, and some use a balance wheel to maintain momentum. The mechanics are different in each, but the dynamic part is similar – they keep the clockworks moving.

What is the purpose in all this mumbo jumbo about clocks?  Regardless of how they operate, all clocks have the same major purpose:  to tell the accurate time of day. When you look at the face of the clock, you expect to see the correct time. Clocks line the tops of the bookshelves in my office. I seldom keep them all running—they are just for decoration and display. So they all register a different time of day. I often tell people when they look at the clocks and ask which clocksone is telling the correct time, “They are all correct, twice a day!”

To go beyond the face value, you have to take a second glance. Beyond the face, there may reside a complex system of machinery. This is true not only for clocks, but for people, and organizations, and families, and neighbors, and even cultures. To rightly understand anything requires closer examination beyond a casual glance and quick summation.

When a clock stops keeping accurate time, the problem seldom lies within the face. Something deeper is causing the problem, and requires more careful inspection. It may be something as difficult to detect as a speck of dust in the wrong place or as obvious as a broken spring. It may be the result of an overzealous owner drowning the works with a well-intentioned baptism of WD-40 that has gummed up the works. Whatever the cause, the clock is stopped and as Newton reminds us, an object at rest tends to stay at rest. Until some outside force repairs the problem, the clock will not start ticking again on its own.

What is keeping you from getting off the verge and moving ahead? Have you just accepted at face value your own analysis? Self-examination is generally a good thing, as is self-awareness. But self-diagnosis is often a tricky business, and may lead to disastrous conclusions. Some things are better done with assistance to help us see ourselves as others do, and examine our blind spots. While you might attempt to brush your hair without a mirror, shaving without one could result in some nasty nicks on your face. It may be time to get a second opinion, to let someone else take a closer look.

Whether you choose collaboration, consultation, counseling or coaching, soliciting another opinion can help you gain perspective, and get you off the verge. How difficult is it to admit and say, “I am stuck”? What is keeping you from doing so? Whatever it is, your answer to the previous question may be the one thing keeping you from moving forward or the catalyst for your healing.

James instructs us, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT) If confession of sin is a key to healing, perhaps confession of our other failures or frustrations may do the same by providing a different point of view as we open up and become vulnerable to another person. Their perspective could be just the thing to get you off the verge and start ticking away into your preferred future.

On the Verge: Finding Your Tipping Point – Part 2 “The Verge”

Grandpa Detrick's ca 1890 Seth Thomas Clock

Grandpa Detrick’s ca 1890 Seth Thomas Clock

We often live our lives on the verge. On the verge of success. On the verge of getting out of debt. On the verge of finding a rewarding relationship. On the verge of achieving that sought after promotion at work. On the verge of obtaining the scholarship. On the verge of finishing that degree. On the verge of fulfilling our dream.

The verge is a nice stop on the way to our destination. It is a terrible place to live permanently. If we camp there long enough, it becomes difficult to move on. While camped there we may analyze a million and one reasons why we got stuck in the first place, and another million and one reasons how we might move on, but we tend to be weighted down by the analysis to the point of paralysis, convincing ourselves that it is safer to just stay where we are at. Like I said earlier, passivity is the opposite of courage.

Wait a minute!  Stop the clock! Do not lose courage. Passivity is the inactive response to lost hopes and dreams. It is time for a change. You don’t have to live your life always “on the verge.” You can move past the verge.

Unlike the Apple Watch which I plan to never buy, I do have an affinity for old clocks. Not old clocks from the 1980’s with digital readouts, but really old clocks. Most in my collection are well over a century old, American made, and still working. And I work on them—have for years, both as a hobby and in a practical way to keep my collection running. Working on old clocks has taught me some lessons about systems, and mechanics, and maintenance, and life. They have also taught me about time, and how I use it, how I respond to it, how I measure it. After all, they have a lot to tell by listening to the tick-tock of the pendulum.

Verge - clockworksHow many mechanical items from a century ago are still functioning with their original purpose today? Not many! You probably don’t know that the term verge is a clock word. The verge is that part of a mechanical clock that keeps the pendulum moving back and forth – and keeps the rest of the clock ticking. The actual tick-tock is sound of the verge rocking back and forth, connecting with a toothed wheel that connects to other gears and wheels that eventually move the hour and minute hands, ever so slowly. When it is all synchronized, it is a beautiful thing. It keeps on moving, and keeping perfect time.

A verge is a lot like a tipping point. Malcom Gladwell states in his book, The Tipping Point:   “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

What if you could find the tipping point that would move you past the verge? What if you could stop listening to the melancholy melody that keeps you stuck? What if you could re-discover your courage? You can. Listen to another melody—a happier tune that will actually help you redeem the time:

“Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!”   Ephesians 5:14-16 The Message

“Make the most of every chance you get.”  The old King James Version actually instructs us, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” What if you struggled with financial problems, but had forgotten about an old savings bond your uncle gave you years ago? It may be worth $50,000 but if you never redeemed it, you would just be holding on to an old piece of paper while continuing to struggle with finances. Time is as old as “in the beginning.” To fully take advantage of it, we must redeem it.  My old clocks may be more than a century old, but they have taught me some redeeming contemporary lessons, and I look forward to sharing some of them with you.

On the Verge: Finding Your Tipping Point

Grandpa Detrick's ca 1890 Seth Thomas Clock

Grandpa Detrick’s ca 1890 Seth Thomas Clock

 

Today Apple announced the new Apple Watch. For somewhere between $300 and $10K you can own one yourself. I understand the $10K version is 18 karat gold. If you want to use it to tell time, you better have good eyes or good glasses, because the time display is small—or so I am told.

For most of my life, I have enjoyed a love/hate relationship with time. It is my greatest asset. And when I have plenty of it, time is my friend. But when I am facing a deadline and running short, frustration and anxiety turn up the pressure and seem to accelerate the clock. I try to quicken my own pace to catch up, but the minutes fly by and missed deadlines turn to missed opportunities. This results in–you guessed it–more frustration and anxiety. Only now they are joined by their close comrade, regret. This trio sings a melancholy melody in three parts:

  • If only. . ..
  • Life’s not fair!
  • Why me?

If you listen to this trio for long, you will get stuck for sure, especially when the trio is joined by their bully of an ally, self-pity. He gladly lends his voice to the newly formed quartet, singing bass. He especially enjoys the refrain, “What’s the use?”

Sound familiar? Listen to this quartet for long and you will start humming along with them. And they will steal your life, your soul, your courage. We all have to learn to listen in to a different station. I know. Been there. Done that.

Today I asked a friend, “What is the opposite of courage?” We had a good conversation about it and agreed that most people would say the opposite of courage is fear. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I believe something else. The opposite of courage is passivity. We’ve failed before. We failed again. And we will probably fail if we make another attempt. So, “what’s the use?” Passivity.

And that is a shame, because we are often on the verge of greatness. Remember the times when you said, “I can just feel it. I’m on the verge of something fantastic.” Especially when backed up by careful planning, disciplined focus, prayer, and hard work. You were launching into the confident expectation of certain achievement but landed in the bone-crushing agony of defeat. Shocked by the incredulity of the situation, you keep asking, ‘What happened? I knew I was just on the verge. . ..”

Nursing your wounds, you faintly hear that familiar old sad song. Before long you are singing along – you know all the words:

  • If only. . ..
  • Life’s not fair!
  • Why me?
  • What’s the use?

Wait a minute!  Stop the clock! Do not lose courage. Passivity is the inactive response to lost hopes and dreams. It is time for a change. You don’t have to live your life always “on the verge.” You can move past the verge. In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting on this theme and here are a few topics having to do with old clocks of all things, that will help you get past the verge and find your own tipping point:

  • Perspective – what you see on the face of the clock only presents the facts – the time in the present. What is behind the face is what keeps the hands moving.
  • Suspense – clocks have a suspension spring. Like clocks we actually need tension and drama.
  • Power – the force that provides energy – spring or weights –wound up, wound down
  • Perseverance – takes a licking and keeps on ticking
  • Alignment – the teeth in the clock’s wheels must be in perfect alignment – the front and back plates hold it all together
  • Opportunity – taking advantage of the moment – the only way the clock can move forward to the next second, minute, or hour is to take advantage of every moment’s opportunity.
  • Gratitude – accepting help from others and being grateful for the contributions of all who help you move forward
  • Leverage – the clock’s works are designed for maximum efficiency. Each part, however small, has a part to do.
  • Synergy – alone, any part would be unable to keep time. Together, they can do far more than any of them could do alone.
  • Re-calibrating – adjustments are needed in a clock, depending upon the season of the year, air pressure, age, etc.
  • Rest – recreation, restoration, oil on the pivot points.
  • Balance – the pendulum requires balance – level keel.

 

The Rest of Your Story

 

 

 

Log balanced on large rock Snoqualmie River 2-28-15 Different AngleHolding on in a precarious spot. Sometimes barely holding on, getting a grip, standing your ground, or trying to keep your balance is all you can do—just to survive. Or so it seems at the moment. And if you remain in that position for long, it is easy to feel stuck, and wonder if assistance or a chance to move on to a better place will ever come.

Is it possible in some circumstances of life that the difference between being stuck and having an opportunity to rest is our own attitude or perspective? There are striking similarities between three dictionary definitions of rest and just being stuck, with one exception.

First, the dictionary describes rest “as cessation from action, motion, labor, or exertion.” Sounds like it could describe being stuck, right? Another definition for rest is something that is “fixed or settled.” Again, you can see the similarity to being “stuck.” The third connotation for rest is where the similarity ends, as it is likened to “freedom from that which wearies or disturbs.”

When we are stuck, we typically feel weary, worried, and disturbed. But what if we used this period in our lives as an opportunity for rest? Easier said than done. I know from experience.

Perhaps one of the greatest invitations from Jesus in the Gospels is found in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (NLT) Weary, and carrying a heavy burden. . .sounds a lot like being stuck. Rest also sounds like being stuck—at least according to the dictionary! Perhaps the difference is a matter of our perspective and who we are trusting to bring us help and rest.

My oldest daughter Kristi sent me a powerful story this morning of a mother who discovered rest and hope in spite of the loss of a precious child. One line really caught my attention:

“Thankfulness, Hope, and Joy are not present only in good times; they are powerful reminders in the hard times that our story’s not over.”

Kristi, who has suffered a three year long battle wrestling with her own health issues while being a young wife and mother took courage from these words. Rest is a welcome relief when you feel boxed in, stuck, and helpless to resolve the circumstances that have you immobilized. I took the photo above the other day while enjoying a rare and restful hike with Kristi. Together, we pondered the forces required to place a log in such a position.

What are the chances of a log landing and lodging and staying perfectly balanced on such a rock? Especially when you consider the circumstances that brought it to rest were not restful, but the high raging floodwaters of the Snoqualmie River just below the falls. Hundreds of people, each with their own story, have passed by this very spot in the past weeks on the pathway to the lower viewing platform at Snoqualmie Falls. Perhaps they were inspired, as I hope you will be, that wherever you find yourself stuck, you will probably not be there forever. And from that place of being stuck, you may discover your next steps for your journey and be launched into the rest of your story.