Sunshine After the Rain


Finding the path to peace in life can seem daunting at best.  For most of us, the path to the end of the day is enough to think about.  Yet, as the days go by and turn into weeks, months, and years, we can look back and learn from the paths we’ve taken seeing that, even in the darkest of times, there was a light to guide us.

It has been some time now since I last blogged.  For a number of reasons, I decided to take a break after completing my 365-day quest to blog every day last year. Those reasons included no less than changes in family dynamics, work stress, and a need to spend more quality time with the Mrs. in the evenings.  All were factors.  I will admit, however, that I missed the nightly routine of sharing my thoughts of the day with you.

Yesterday, during our morning walk together, the Mrs. and I were bundled up to keep warm after a cold Fall rain that fell earlier that morning.  The air was cool & fresh.  Even though it was misty, the clouds were beginning to part and the sun was starting to shine through the rain drenched tree leaves.  To top off all the Fall greatness around us, it was also Friday and I was ready for a break.  This week had been a stressful one full of travel, work pressure, and life.  So, this walk was perfect timing. 

As we walked past a puddle in the sidewalk, something pulled at my heart to look back at the leaves in the water on the sidewalk.  The sun had begun to shine down on them in the midst of the rain.  Inside my heart, it was as if the Lord began to speak in that still, small, loving voice of His saying, ‘There is always sunshine after the rain’… 

Over the past few years, many of us have gone through difficult times with the loss of family members, loss of relationships, and family health issues that rip away at every part of our hearts.  Often, it’s easy to look at those situations and become overshadowed by the dark clouds.  It seems like the rains will never stop.  We go from one downpour to another.  For those like me, you may even feel like you’re putting your best ‘face on’, but inside you’re hurting and find it hard to share with others out of fear of being perceived as weak. 

In spite of ourselves, there is a steady hand at work beneath those dark clouds to guide us, protect us, and comfort us.  It’s a loving, but strong hand.  One that will never leave us or forsake us.  It’s the hand of the Master.   Our heavenly Father who sees all, knows all, and loves always. 

So today, look up.  There will be sunshine at the end of the rain.  Even in the midst of the storm when the thunder is drowning out His voice, know that He is with you.  He will calm the storms and bring you peace.  His light will shine and push back the darkness in due season.

When the day comes and the sun is shining again in your life, you will be able to look back and see that you were never alone.  His hand was there with you and His light is there now to make the right path known to you.   If it weren’t for that unconditional, never ending loving hand in my life, I truly don’t know where I would be.  I suspect it wouldn’t be where I am today, and I know I wouldn’t be blessed with the Mrs. in my life. 

We all face the rain and walk through it from time to time.  The key is to remember, even when it’s cold and dark all around us, is that, one day, the sun WILL shine again.  We will be ok.  No matter what life may throw at us, He will keep us and shine the light on our path; even in the midst of the rain… 

Spinning Around in the Chair of Life


Let’s face it, half of the battles we face in life are those brought about by our own decisions; whether we thought they were from good intentions or bad.  Others come our way naturally through interactions with those around us whose decisions affect us (both good or bad).   How do we navigate this life of seeming uncontrollable circumstance?  We never really know what the next day may bring us.

Like many my age, I’ve wrestled with the natural inclination to turn inward and to look backward second-guessing decisions made long ago by myself and by others.  It’s a process of reconciliation we all go through as we realize later in life the things we once thought to be true are not and those we never thought true are.

As I get towards the end of that phase of maturing, I’m finding a sense of peace that I hadn’t had before brought about by a letting go of the things I had no control of and the realization that I’m not alone with the poor decisions I’ve made.  Learning to forgive one’s self is a good thing even when others still hold onto what they believe in order to appease their need for self-justification.

Occasionally spinning around in that chair of life allows us all to look back at life today and forward at life in the future.  It can be a difficult process at first as the enemy of our soul will try to condemn us for the poor choices we’ve made or tempt us to overly self-inflate ourselves taking more credit than we deserve for the good choices made.  The one reassuring thing that has given me healing and peace of heart & mind has been the still, small voice of a loving Father who has shown Himself real to me through it all.  In that, I can find rest; and so, can you.

Tonight, if you’re near that stage where you’re able to turn around in that chair of life and look around at the past, present, and future, I want to encourage you to ask your loving creator to show you when, and how, He was with you through those times.  I know that He will.  When He does, don’t be surprised if you begin to see things differently.  Most importantly, you will grow in your faith knowing He will always be with as you as you travel through this short life here on Earth.   And, that, is exciting!

He Will Meet You by the Water


By the shores of Lake Michigan, one could look out and see nothing but water.  It was like the ocean, just without the salt.  We loved walking along the beach with Mom picking up stones to skip, looking for lost treasure, and wading into the crashing waves. Mom has always loved the big lake.  Growing up only a short car ride away, we would go there every summer.

There’s always been something special about large bodies of water that captivate me.  They have not only been places of rest for my soul, but I’ve felt a sense of connection with them; something inherent inside of me is drawn to them.  Perhaps some of my distant past relatives were sailors, fishermen, or just lived by the sea (something I know is probably the case based on the recent DNA test we took). 

l’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Certainly, there are many others who are drawn to the water just like me.  It’s as though part of us innately longs to be near it.  It could be as simple as our survival nature calling us, or it could be something more.  

Even Jesus spent much his life and ministry near the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and John, both fisherman by trade, were two of His closest followers.  Water’s association with our faith is seen in the act of being baptized (the submersion under water after repentance) to symbolize our souls being cleansed; our old life being cast away and new life being born.

More than anything, we all need water to live.  It’s the basic building block of life as and the very first thing scientists look for when searching for other planets like our own.

If the longing within to be near water is indeed a spiritual one as well as a physical one, what is it saying to us when we feel it?  For me, it’s saying there’s a part of my soul that feels empty.  There may be a hurt or wound that needs healing.  My inner man may be longing for a lost relationship to be restored.  Or, God may be calling me to a place where He can wash me from within of the uncleanness that has built up by living in this fallen world.

It’s in this way that God speaks to us.  Many people think that God will never speak to them, but He does. He made us to hear His voice and to be drawn to certain things for a reason.  The instincts we feel, at times, could very well be our Heavenly Father looking to speak to us. 

You may have been feeling empty, hurt, or just carrying a burden that you need to let go of lately and, for some unknown reason, you have been longing to get away to a place by the water.  It may be a small stretch to think that it’s God calling to your heart, but it’s possible.

The truth is, He cares and wants to fill us with ‘joy overflowing’.  He wants to give us ‘rivers of living water’ flowing from within our hearts.  His plan is for us to have ‘life, and life more abundantly’. 

For what it’s worth, He’s waiting for you by the water (whether real water or imagined).  Jesus walked on water to get to his disciples who were tossed by the sea and He’s walking to you too.  He’s reaching out His hand to you tonight.  If you take it, He will speak to the storm in your life and bring His calm.  You don’t need to go to a distant ocean somewhere, you just need to open your heart to Him, and He will come in, wash away the mess, and fill you again.  I promise…

The Old Barn Out Back


When I was young, during my teens, our family moved to a home just on the opposite side of the river from downtown.  The area was full of homes built in the 1800s for merchants who would ride their horses into where they worked. 

Our home, although modernized, had an old barn in the back where they used to keep their horses.  It was a two-story barn and the exterior wood was faded gray from years of weathering.  Inside, there was a small work area and a rickety wooden stairway leading to the upstairs loft where I feared going.  Full of old tools and piles of wood, the loft was dusty and dangerous.  One never knew what critters might be living up there; possums, racoons, squirrels, and who knows what else.

Behind the barn, we built a fenced area for the dogs and a dog house inside of a smaller enclosed area to help protect them from the weather.  It was my job to clean the dog pen and keep them fed, so I was in and out of that old barn every day (not to mention the trash cans we would keep inside where I would take the trash to or the shovel, snowblower, and riding lawnmower for my other chores). 

Over time, I became accustomed to that old barn.  The nostalgia of it, and some of the old tools that had been stored in it for so many years, were unique in a world that was so quickly changing.  Even at a young age, I learned that something can last a long time if you take care of it.  It may have been old, but as we repaired parts that needed it, I could see why it lasted so long. 

Thinking about it now, the barn reminds me a little of life.  We all have a ‘Barn out back’ in some ways, where we keep those old memories of experiences, some good and some bad, that are no longer in the front of our minds, but ones we still hold onto.  It’s where we store all our past hopes and dreams that we just can’t find any room for in our lives anymore.  It may even have critters (bad memories) crawling around that we try to avoid, but that make their way out when we least expect them to.

Somewhere in that barn, are the tools we turn to in times of trouble.  Even though those tools help us through the difficult times, we put them back in the barn until we need them again.  Some tools may be old and dangerous (habits and self-sufficiency).  Others may be very helpful and productive in our lives (prayer and faith).

Every so often, we need to clean that old barn. We need to rid it of those old tools that have become dangerous, empty the trash that has built up over time, organize the clutter, and shore up the weak supports so the weight of the world won’t come crashing down on us when it storms. 

I’ll always cherish what I learned from that barn.  Looking back, I can see that even an old, rotted building can teach lessons to anyone willing to learn.  For me, I’m still working on my ‘Old barn’.  It’s a work in progress but, thankfully, I have the help of the Master Carpenter. 

His strength helps to lift and remove the garbage and old hurts.  His light helps to shine on the places of darkness where critters may be living.   And, the wind & water of His Spirit help to blow out all the dirt and refresh what’s stale. 

The barn out back in my mind & soul doesn’t scare me anymore.  It’s only when I leave the door open that darkness and the storms of life can hurt me now.   Over the years, it’s become a place of refuge; a place where I know I can go to meet Jesus.  He is the master of the barn now and will always be there with me.  He fills it with joy, peace, light, and, most of all, He fills it with His love that nothing outside of that barn can bring…

Kick the Can


One of the games we used to play while walking to school or while walking downtown to grab a candy bar at The News Stand, was ‘Kick the Can’.   It was a simple game really.  We played keep away while kicking the can down the road.  It was more soccer than anything else, but with a can.

 In an odd way, I used to feel a bit sorry for that can.  By the time we reached our destination, it was dented up, beaten down, and sometimes smashed completely flat by one of us.  For the cost of just a throwaway can, much joy was gained, and a few kids were kept out of trouble.   

 A lot can be said about that old can I would feel sorry for.  I guess I sort of saw it as myself at the time; the one who was picked on and bullied.  I played the game more defensively trying to protect the can from other players who liked to smash it just out of meanness. 

I knew I wasn’t the can, but even today, I feel that way about the helpless and vulnerable; those who feel like life has constantly played with their lives kicking them down the street or just discarding them in the trash.  In some ways, I’ve felt that way myself on several occasions and, believe me, I know how that feels.

You may be feeling like that tonight; as though life has looked you over and tossed you out.  Maybe you feel like you’ve been used by others to help their career advance only to leave you behind.  You may even feel like your life is spiraling down a steep hill having been kicked aside just waiting for the final foot to fall smashing you to the ground.  That once shiny can, new and bright with colors, you once felt like, is now sitting in the mud rusting away.  It seems like only a matter of time before you’re gone, and you no longer have any purpose.  Hope has turned to despair and the fullness inside is now empty.

If that is you tonight, I want to encourage you that there is still hope.  You may feel left behind, stepped on, and like you’re wasting away, but underneath that rusty finish is the strong metal you were made of.  Sure, it may have some bruises and dents, but it’s still there.  With enough fire from heaven and handy work of the Master, it can be reshaped into something beautiful, useful, and strong again.  The rust and dirt will be washed away leaving only a shining finish reflecting His creative touch. 

All you need to do is offer Him your life as a vessel for Him to shape.  He’s looking for broken vessels to put back together again; reshaping them into something new and beautiful.  You may be just what He’s looking for.  I know I am…

Having a Positive Outlook


As I get older it seems one of the main topics of conversation has become none other than the weather.  It may also be due to the fact that I live in Texas where the weather can make dramatic changes from one day to the next.  When I lived in Northern California, the weather was the least talked about topic.  Every day it was sunny and 65 degrees.  Not bad, I know. 

When I was young, we were lucky to know what the weather may be like in the morning let alone the hourly forecast for the next two weeks.  It seems technology has brought all of the science right into our hands these days which can help us plan our entire week around the forecast.  Or, cause one to be OCD about every cloud in the sky (me).

Having a positive weather outlook seems to change our view of our entire day.  Having the thought of possibly facing thunderstorms on the way to or from work can also dampen our day.  Why does our outlook on life tend to follow the weather outlook anyway?  Does the weather have anything to do with how well I do my job?  Maybe, but probably not so much.  Does it affect my relationships?  Not really.  Does it affect my ability to live life comfortably?  YES. 

Life seems to have enough stresses these days and the thought of having to deal with baseball sized hail falling from the sky is just about the last straw. It’s enough for most of us to keep our lives in order let alone have to deal with flooding waters coming into our home, tornados, and in these southern states, even hurricanes.  Can’t it just be sunny all the time?

The truth is that life is like the weather.  We don’t always know what we’ll be facing every day.  Our life may be stormy one day and sunny the next.  Having a positive outlook will help us to deal with those changes as they come.  Life will throw those baseball sized hail balls at us and they may even do damage we weren’t prepared for.  How we prepare and how we react to them will make all the difference. 

If there’s one thing I know more than anything else, it’s that we have a loving God who cares about every aspect of our day.  He even cares about the weather.  He cares if we’re flooded, have hail destroy our car, or have winds blow over that tree in the front yard. 

Most of all, He cares even more about the storms we will face in life.  During the worst of storms, He will be there to shelter us and guide us through to safety.  He knows the future and will prepare us for that day when we face the unexpected changes that try to wreak havoc in our life.  In the end, He will be the light that shines on our path. He will bring warmth in the cold, clarity when it seems foggy, and new life by washing away all the dirt.  We can have a positive outlook no matter what the weather is like outside.  Because of Him…

Unconditional


How many times have you ever received a promotional mailer, email, or just heard a salesman offer you something that sounded too good to be true only to find out there were so many conditions attached that it might as well have been impossible?  I know I have; at least a thousand times.  The bait and switch method of marketing is all around us trying to lure us into something that will benefit others more than ourselves.

It seems that our culture has evolved into a culture of give to get.  In order to get what we want, we need to fulfill someone else’s set of rules, processes, and requirements to receive what we’re looking for. It starts in our grade schools.  If you want to be accepted, you need to be pretty, funny, athletic, or rich.  If you fail to meet the criteria of being ‘popular’, then you’re tossed aside and expected to stay out of the way.

The same is true with adults in ways that aren’t so obvious.  Work, friends, family, and even church have expectations on us that, if we fail to meet, we’re either ostracized or looked down upon.  It’s as though acceptance and love have strings. 

Conversely, have you ever met someone who just loved you for who you are?  It didn’t matter what you said, how you acted, or what you did, they just kept on loving you no matter what.  Many of us probably think of a parent or that one friend in our life who stands out above all the rest.  Others of us may have never known such acceptance.  Their life may have been full of rejection, failed expectations, and cruelty from those who only wanted to take from them.

Life can be cruel.  There is no doubt about that.  Adding to the harshness of this world we live in is the reality that we are all flawed.  None of us are perfect (though some would never admit that).  At the heart of us all is the inherent need for love and acceptance no matter what we do; the longing for unconditional love.

I’ve been fortunate to have had numerous people in my life who have loved me not matter what I do.  Several good friends, my mother, and wife being among them.  Sure, I may have (and still do) driven them crazy from time-to-time, but at the end of the day I could rest assured that they would still be there and love me for just being me.

At the opposite end, unforgiveness is one of the most destructive forces in our world.  The lack of accepting another because they have failed us, hurt us, or done something we see as unforgiveable, tears at the very fabric of our society.  It leads a person straight down the road to hate.  Once there, it’s very difficult for them to turn back.  I’ve been on the receiving end of that hate in my life for things I haven’t even done.  To see how that unforgiveness has wreaked havoc in those people’s lives is a sad thing to see.

Fortunately for all of us, there is only one whom we ultimately need to find acceptance from; God.  I say fortunately because of all there is in this world, there is one thing I know without any doubt; that our creator and heavenly father loves us with a love that goes beyond our limited human understanding. 

His love is truly unconditional.  No matter what our church, our friends, or even our parents have taught us, His love is without end.  There is no stopping God from loving us just as we are.  His love sees through the messiness, the heartache, and the pain to the soul He created inside of us.  It reaches beyond the judgment, the false accusations, the betrayal, and the hurt to bring healing and acceptance; not because of what we do, but because of who He is. 

If you’re struggling with rejection, fear, and unworthiness, know that there’s nothing you can do to earn His favor; you already have it.  All you need to do is accept it by faith.  It’s just waiting for you.  No matter what life may have thrown at you, you are loved today by the God of all creation; unconditionally and without hesitation…