The Marking of a Tragedy

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tragedy is a word we hear frequently today. Whether yet another police shooting,an airplane crash,forest fires that claim numerous lives and cause untold property destruction,or a multi car pile up on the highway,tragedy is constantly in the news.

But there is another kind of tragedy that while maybe not the type that makes the six o’clock news,it’s devastation is just as far reaching,and in some cases much more so.

I’m referring to personal tragedy. The kinds and types of tragedies that happen to all of us who live with fallen people in this fallen world.

Many of us have been deeply wounded by very personal tragedies. The scars we bear,whether physical or psychological offer testimony to the devastation inflicted upon us. Many times this comes in the form of an act perpetrated against our will. Victims of sexual abuse,those who suffer domestic abuse,children abandoned and neglected,can all readily identify with the word tragedy.

Other times tragedy comes in the form of simply living “life” as we know it. Those of us who have endured the loss of a loved one,whether through death or divorce know this type of tragedy very well.

Sadly,for many the tragedy becomes a part of us,a unique “branding”,or mark that seemingly imbeds itself in our DNA. It can become who or what we are,just as easily as any other type of identifier lets everyone know that we’re a fireman,a fisherman,or a baker.

Experience has taught me that this new addition to our DNA will continue to exert more and more influence over our lives,to the point that we ultimately mark this tragedy as THE event of our lives. In essence,it defines who we are.

Once that happens,we find ourselves returning again and again to the memories of this tragedy. We don’t want to. We fight as hard as we can not to. But we have marked this point in our lives and no matter how hard we work to keep the painful reminders of the past in the background,Satan will use every opportunity to bring them to the forefront. Because he knows that we must find a way,once again,to confront the demons of these past tragedies.

I fight this battle over many tragedies I have experienced. Especially today,December 1st. Today marks 49 years since my Dad passed away.That’s a long time ago. So long ago that memories that were once vivid and fresh in my mind are now starting to fade a bit.

I find myself wishing for the days of my youth when I thought I lived in a perfect world. Funny how your mind convinces you that everything was so great,when we all know better don’t we?

I marked a tragedy the day that my Dad died. There is no doubt about it. I didn’t realize it at the time but it is painfully obvious that I did. And this tragedy has maintained its grip on me for forty nine long years.Forty. Nine.Years.

This tragedy pulls me backward when I want to go forward. It haunts me,even consumes me at times. It causes me to distance myself from those I love so that I can return once again to happy childhood memories in my mind. A time long before I knew what a tragedy was.

When I was seven years old our home caught fire and was seriously damaged,so much so that all four of my siblings and I were dispersed to live with other families until months later when we were all reunited. This did not seem to me to be a tragedy,though for certain my parents thought so. I was too young to comprehend the financial impact and hardships this event cost them.To me it seemed to be an adventure of sorts,even though the family I lived with was so different than my own. I didn’t even mind having to wear hand me down clothes!

Looking back is a two edged sword isn’t it? On one hand,looking back can remind us of happier times with friends and family,and all of us cling to such memories.

On the other hand,looking back to focus again and again on the tragic events of our past can be debilitating,especially given the circumstances some have had to endure.

For me personally,I often wonder when or if I will ever free myself of the tragedies of the past. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect to. Who can say?

All of this was brought home to me today when the Love of my life said these compelling words: “you know,if we lived in Bible times you would be turned into a pillar of salt”. Ummm…OUCH!

But I understood exactly what she meant by that,for she is witness to my many mental forays into the past. And she bears the brunt of the aftermath. With love and grace,she never fails to point me back to Jesus.

Just as I’m going to try doing for you.

The past can never be undone this side of heaven. Tragedies that were,will always be with us,until this mortality is replaced with immortality.

To the hurting and wounded among us,God has promised us a hope and a future. He has a plan for our lives,and that plan is centered around the hope we have in Christ. I for one am looking for a future when the former things are passed away. Old memories will be reaplaced with the new memories we will begin to make in a home that will literally be perfect in every way.

Memories that will never include a tragedy.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Lessons From the Cave

Posted: November 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

This morning I wanted to share a beautiful Psalm of David with you.

I love David. I love everything about him. I love that he has a heart that longs for God. I love that no matter how far down he gets,he always remembers where his strength comes from. And yes,I love his humanity. His failures remind me that stumble though I may,there is a Faithful God that forgives and does all He can to restore that which the enemy has stolen from me.

1 A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, And in Your righteousness. 2 Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous. 3 For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead. 4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed. 5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. 6 I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah 7 Answer me speedily, O Lord; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. 8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. 9 Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; In You I take shelter. 10 Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. 11 Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. 12 In Your mercy cut off my enemies, And destroy all those who afflict my soul; For I am Your servant.   Psalm 143.  NKJV

Psalm 143 offers us a glimpse into the depths of despair that David had reached and the painful words uttered here reveal the magnitude of the situation he finds himself in. If we look closely into the anguish of David,I believe we will see a familiar pattern of spiritual warfare not at all unlike what you and I contend with.

He states that he has been persecuted by the enemy. How many can identify with David in this regard? Persecution of the soul is a wearisome thing,is it not? It exhausts you to the point of leaving you feel as though your life has been thrown to the ground,feeling as if you are nothing more than a door mat.

Ever felt like a door mat? That’s how David felt.

It leaves you feeling as if you are in darkness,almost as if you were the living dead. Deep despair will do that to us. That feeling of hopelessness and utter despair drives us to the point of not really living,but simply going through the motions of life. Eating,sleeping,doing….but not really living.

David declares to the Lord that his spirit was overwhelmed within him. Overwhelmed is not good,is it? The sense of being overwhelmed can be debilitating,paralyzing,and all consuming. One thing I’ve learned is that overwhelmed people tend to make poor choices. I’ve made enough of them to know. Being overwhelmed prompts us to do something,anything,to alleviate the anxiety of the moment and this leads to us making bad decisions.

Sound familiar?

Finally David says that his heart is distressed. This spells trouble. This is the final step of the process,the pattern is revealed. David said he was persecuted,his life was crushed down to the ground,he dwelt in darkness like those who were no longer living,his spirit was overwhelmed,and finally his heart is distressed.

It always comes back to this doesn’t it? This issue of the heart. The feelings that David were experiencing were all tied into his heart. Just as ours are. We cannot escape our own humanity,our frail condition leaves us vulnerable to negative attacks on our heart from the enemy. Our being is rooted in the one place most susceptible to outside influences: the heart

As Christians we all go through times when we could have penned this particular Psalm. None of us are immune or exempt from the same emotional roller coaster that David was on. None of us. I like to remind people that if you think your life is perfect,free from pain and distress,a veritable box of chocolates,then you need to do a little self examination in light of God’s word. You may be surprised at what you find. Or what you find is missing.

So what do we do when we find ourselves feeling like David? Well, I think he said it best here:

5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. 6 I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah.

Turn your heart to the Lord!

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

Oftentimes we are plagued with various thoughts that lead to discouragement.Thoughts that if left unchecked can also cause us to question God’s faithfulness.Or cause us to wonder if there really is Someone out there that cares for us.

Did you know that one of the greatest heroes of the Bible was a man often consumed with nagging doubts and insecurities?That he was better acquainted with the agony of defeat than the thrill of victory?

The Psalmist of Israel,King David, knew his share of battlefield victories and defeats.Starting as a young man slinging a stone at a Philistine giant, David became a man of war the moment Goliath fell to the ground.From that day forward,whether leading a victorious charge as Israel’s commanding general or losing the battle of his life on a very different type of battlefield,David knew only too well the ups and downs of warfare.

All of us,in looking over our own battlefields,see both victory and defeat,as well as the high costs associated with them.None of us can stake a claim as remaining unscathed in battle,for we have been wounded and beaten,battered and bruised,and if we’re being totally honest;left for dead.Many times.

Just as David suffered bouts of depression and insecurity,so do you and I.It’s in our DNA.And it’s called being human. And every last one of us suffers from it.

But thanks be unto God,the story doesn’t end there!

This morning I was reading a Psalm of David that deals with this subject matter. In this Psalm,138,David acknowledges God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.Do you ever need to hear that God’s love is unfailing,or that He alone is faithful? I know I do. Every day.

This Psalm is beautiful in it’s simplicity and tenderness as David reminds us that the Lord cares for the humble and truly does hear us when we pray.Yes,we may be tempted to believe that God doesn’t care,but the humble are close to His heart.

Finally,David says what all of us need to be reminded of from time to time, that the Lord will work out his plans for our lives.Beloved,God is faithful.

When the world is spinning out of control and evil seems to have the upper hand,be strong and know that God Almighty is working out his plan for your life.Please read that again.The God of heaven has a plan for you and He is even now working it out.

Yes,we may question that from time to time.We may lose a battle now and then(but never the war!). Insecurities? Got ’em. Scars from the battle? Plenty and then some. Surrounded by troubles? On every side.

None of that matters though,because the promises of God are backed by the honor of His name.And if that were not enough for you…He will never abandon you because HE MADE YOU! You are His and belong to Him!

Psalm 138

1 I give you thanks, O  lord, with all my heart;
I will sing your praises before the gods.
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me;
you encourage me by giving me strength.
4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, lord,
for all of them will hear your words.
5 Yes, they will sing about the lord’s ways,
for the glory of the lord is very great.
6 Though the lord is great, he cares for the humble,
but he keeps his distance from the proud.
7 Though I am surrounded by troubles,
you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
and the power of your right hand saves me.
8 The lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O  lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Worthiness.

Many of us do not understand how powerful this word is. Nor do we realize how much of our lives are spent agonizing over this subject.Often,we do it without even thinking about it,as if somehow we are already programmed to feel less than,or unworthy.

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If you think about it,we deal with this issue of unworthiness from a very young age up until we depart this life. School children learn early about pass/fail,which equates to worth/ unworth.Adults have their worthiness judged regularly in the workplace by performance reviews or some other means of determining their level of performance.

 

Our western society is based upon the premise of worthiness.If everyone played by the rules,the worthy would get the degree,the deal,the job,the new car,the promotion,the happy marriage.

The unworthy get the leftovers.The crumbs.They get the dirty factory jobs.In other words,they get what the “worthy”discard.They carry with them the label of “less than”.

For the Christian however,we are not measured by the world’s standards.Our self-worth cannot be based on what others think of us,or whatever particular box they want to place us in.

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There is only one opinion,or authority, of our self-worth that should concern us.That of course is what Jesus Christ thinks of us.

Knowing this of course does not stop the enemy from doing all he can to persuade us otherwise.A great many Christians continue to struggle daily with inferiority and depression.To think that these battles can be easily and quickly won only reveal that we have deceived ourselves.

I have struggled with this issue of worthiness in my own life for as long as I can remember.Perhaps you have as well.From my early childhood I was told that I was never going to amount to anything,and for a long time I believed that.In truth,it became a part of me.

But not any longer.

It took a while, but I have learned that in this life the quest to become “worthy enough” by the worlds standards is a fools game.You can attend all the seminars,sign up for all the self help classes,take all of the personality profile tests there are and end up at best temporarily feeling better.No,the worlds standard of worthiness is unobtainable.

I never realized the gravity of this until I met the Lord and asked Him to forgive me of my sins and to come,live within me.I soon understood that the world does not give,it only takes,but Jesus was a giver.And He never looks down at any of us.

That is why we should always remember that we were “worth” dying for. We are never a “less than” in His sight. Hardly! We who the world thought unworthy have become heirs of God,and joint heirs with Christ.Does that sound to you like God thinks of you as unworthy? Believe me,Jesus has no losers!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life“.  John 3:16   NKJV

To all who struggle with feelings of never being good enough,or that you are damaged goods,or somehow will never make the 1st team,I want to leave you with this:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”.   Jer 29:11   NKJV

Have a blessed Sunday!

Ron

Becoming Humble

Posted: November 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

I’d like to share this amazing post with all of you.If you’ve ever wondered about the necessity of allowing God to fight your battles,this post from Unshakeable Hope explains it better than I ever could.Thank you Bill for your commitment to our Lord and Savior.You are a living testament He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Unshakable Hope

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1It’s been 20 years since I was diagnosed with ALS, and I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over these long and difficult years.

The strange thing about being taught lessons from difficult circumstances is that you have no idea that you’re being taught a lesson at the time. This was the case with my learning about humility. Unlike learning lessons from books or teachers, experiences, especially really difficult experiences, teach us lessons that we never forget. These lessons literally become a part of us.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – CS Lewis

I don’t remember giving it a lot of thought at the time, but I suppose that I considered myself to be a fairly humble guy before being diagnosed with ALS. I now know that I didn’t even understand what true humility was…

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Having just moved to SW Florida from Ohio I have been trying to get my bearings and learn a little bit about the area we’re now calling home. Aside from the obvious beauty of the ocean,the beach,and the various rivers and harbors,I have been struck by the lushness of it all. The locals say we are heading into Fall but for this country boy from Ohio when it’s in the upper 80’s it sure seems like summer time to me!

One thing I’ve learned that isn’t different from Ohio however is that there are large numbers of poor and hungry children here. In this immediate area the percentage of children qualifying for free or reduced school lunches ranges between 48 and 75 percent,depending on the county.

So what’s so remarkable about that,you may ask?

Well,for starters, the amount of wealth in this area is staggering. Homes costing upwards of sixty million dollars can be found within an hour of me. Yes,you read that right: $60 million dollars! Million dollar homes don’t even raise an eyebrow in this part of the country.Talk about culture shock!

And lest you think that unbelievable consider that there are certain country clubs charging upwards of $250,000 just to join! Which,by the way,does not include the monthly costs of up to ten thousand dollars.Hopefully for those who can afford such things,membership does have it’s privileges!

With all of this wealth as a backdrop it seems impossible that such a large part of the population struggles to provide enough food for their families.

But of course this is by no means unique to this area. Wherever you live in America this same condition exists. Cities large and small,rural or metropolitan areas,pick any part of the country, all have similar conditions. As a matter of fact,it’s always been that way. It just hasn’t been as noticeable as it is now.At least to me.

The Great Divide

The gulf between the haves and the have not’s has likely never been wider than it is right now. The disparity in income levels appears to be ever increasing.Some might say it’s just me getting an up close eyeful of “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”. But I don’t think so.

Now please understand,I harbor no animosity,jealousy or bitterness towards anyone who has accumulated great wealth.It’s none of my business frankly.So I certainly don’t know what I’m missing (if anything).

Just as it’s none of my business what people do with their money,or to what charities they may donate to.

But I am troubled when I read in the papers where hundreds of thousands,and in some cases millions of dollars,are raised for a particular cause or event while children are hungry.Forgive me,I know it’s none of my business,but my lack of education and social status prevents me from understanding why priorities are what they are.

Being exposed to the magnitude of wealth in this area,albeit from a great distance,has perhaps brought to the forefront of my heart and mind something that has long troubled me.

I come from very humble stock. I’ve never had wealth nor do I anticipate ever having it.I have no rich uncles.What I do have however are memories of what it’s like to be hungry as a child.I know what empty cabinets and a bare refrigerator feels like.Few things in life are more cruel than having little, if anything, to eat.So it is very easy for me to have empathy for those who are struggling just to put food on the table.

The vast wealth of this nation is rivaled only by the depths of poverty to which some must try to overcome.I understand how hard it is to climb up from the depths of despair in order to make a better life for your family.Now try that while being hungry most of the time.Is it any wonder so many simply give up?

On the subject of poverty,I recently read part of a speech given by Herbert Hoover on August 11,1928 before a huge crowd at the Stanford University stadium.I was struck by the timeliness of it all as I was writing this particular post. In it Hoover had this to say about poverty:

“Given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years,we shall soon,with the help of God,be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation”.

Eighty eight years ago this speech was given to a loud,enthusiastic crowd of supporters.

In that time the world has changed exponentially.Atomic weapons have been developed and used.New nations have been birthed while others have faded into obscurity.Another world war and several lesser wars have been fought all across the globe since 1928.

Manufacturing and farming technologies have advanced in unimaginable ways.For more years than I can remember,America has fed a large part of the world.In America today,more food is grown than at any other time in our history and many still refer to us as the “bread basket”.

Yet for all of our technological advances,for all of our knowledge,for all of the great wealth we have,we still haven’t come close to fulfilling the words of Herbert Hoover.

Perhaps we should finally try something different to eradicate the poverty issue in America.

Maybe for once we should look at poverty as a heart issue and not a social issue.Maybe if instead of staring at statistics and charts,instead of developing more programs to throw money at, we look into the faces of those who are desperate.Maybe we should look past the color of someone’s skin or nationality,and instead look into their eyes.

Or could it be that we are too afraid of the reflection we would see?

Today my family and I did something we always love to do,which was to go to the beach.At least that’s what the girls call it.For me,it’s all about the ocean.That vast,incredible ocean.While they can spend hours talking,picking up seashells,or just walking together I am transfixed by the grandeur of the sea.2016-11-09-13-34-46

The sea,with it’s timeless,repetitive rhythm of the tides that come and go as if they have been programmed by some Master craftsman to continue unabated for all eternity.

Never stopping,never slowing,but in a rhythmic pattern choreographed by Someone far greater than any of us.

I feel so small in His presence…

It is a world unto itself,something so vast and incomprehensible as to render the most prolific of writers utterly speechless.

Who can begin to describe the complexities involved when this was first placed into motion? Where is the mind that can trace back to it’s origin this cycle of ebb and flow?

It is here,in this place,that I sense Him in a way that defies all human comprehension.

For there is a Holy solitude here. Here,among the many people who have come from far and near to rest in the warm sunshine and to fall asleep listening to the sounds of the relentless waves crashing into the shore.This is a Holy place.

In the midst of all that is going on here,there is an unexplained sense of calm and order.

It is a solitude unlike any other,as if one can here “deep call unto deep”.

In the midst of this crowded beach I stand gazing out at this seemingly endless body of water called the Gulf of Mexico,and I am nearly overcome by the sense that I am surrounded by One who is greater than all I can see with my own eyes.2016-11-09-13-43-01

It is as if I hear His voice whispering to me that what I am witnessing is something from eternity past.Strong. Ageless. Timeless.

His voice,this ocean,the ceaseless tides,are all reminders that He is still in control of it all and that I do not have to fear what tomorrow may bring.

The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.  Psa 93:4 NKJV

We serve a Mighty God.He calls the waves and the winds to obedience.By His own decree we have been bought with a price and are now the Sons and Daughters of God.He has redeemed us and knows what every tomorrow will bring.Being God,there is no event that can take him by surprise or catch him unaware.

Do you not fear Me?’ says the LORD. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence, Who have placed the sand as the bound of the se2016-11-09-13-47-14a, By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, Yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it.  Jer 5:22 NKJV

 

 

Lord,in your Presence I feel so small.Hide me under the shadow of your mighty hands.

May I never get so high-minded or proud that I forget just how great You are.