Archive for the ‘encouragement’ Tag

I Wonder   4 comments

I wonder what it’s like to be normal, to feel the weight of life’s stresses and hardships balanced out by its joys and pleasures.  I wonder what it’s like not to fight against deep misery every day. not feel crushed by the brokenness of the world.  I expect that when the bumps in the road seem small, the catch phrase verses and bumper sticker encouragements have enough lift to clear your axle.  For the average guy, commonsense advice for tackling problems probably works.

My Facebook friends cheer one another on with links to meditations and quotes that inspire them, and I hear one more rousing verse of Kumbaya as their bus pulls away from the stop where I am left standing.  Unfortunately, I can’t even force myself to see my world from this positive perspective.  I cannot “choose” to be happy.  I’ve tried.  I would have to live in denial of my actual emotional experiences, and I seem constitutionally incapable of that.  I can choose to follow God, to trust Him as best I can, and I do, each day in the face of emotional riptides, but it has led to only tidbits and crumbs of peace and joy.

What is it like to feel life is good, expectations and hopes are often satisfied, and goals motivate rather than burden?  What is it like to have all that extra energy, to have room for creativity and exploration and a wide range of possibilities?  I wonder how it changes a person’s perspective, spirituality, approach to the day’s happenings, understanding of others.   Do those folks use that big supply of emotional resources to understand and face into their fears?  At the expense of their own comfort, do they embrace those who are different and disagree.  Do they strip back their layers of self-protection and dig deep into who they really are?  I wonder.

Posted September 16, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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Hope When Hope Is Gone   Leave a comment

Matthew 1:5 and Obed fathered Jesse

Obed is to me a sign of hope when hope has breathed its last,  CPR hope.  For some of us, like Naomi, life seems like a ragged march of crippled dreams, and we wish for it all to be over.  After Naomi and her family were driven to destitution by a famine, they fled as refugees to a foreign country where her husband and both sons died.  She returned in old age to her homeland with a widowed and childless daughter-in-law Ruth, and they survived as beggars.  Naomi was not only at the end of her own fruitless life, but with no offspring, she was at the end of her whole family’s history.  She began life full of promise–Naomi means pleasant–but all those hopes were dashed along the way, and she was tottering towards a pauper’s grave.  She told everyone to stop calling her Pleasant and instead to call her “Bitter.”  Her hope had burned out. Then hope lit up her darkness.  In the last extreme something happened, something unexpected and outrageous–a wholesale redemption.  Ruth married Boaz and gave birth to Obed.

defibrillator

According to Old Testament law, Obed, the son born to her daughter-in-law, was Naomi’s own grandson.  In one moment her life was transformed from penniless, meaningless, and future-less into the bloodline of the Son of God.  Her friends called Obed her “redeemer, restorer of life and sustainer of your old age” (Ruth 4:14,15).  Grace, even last minute grace, rewrites our whole history.  It does not simply counterbalance the negative, but transforms it into something great and good.  That is the meaning of redemption. Take all the zeros of our life strung together, and add this one element of grace and it changes 000000 into 1,000,000.  However empty and broken our lives seem, the message of Obed is that grace sweeps us into the grand scheme of God’s redemptive purposes.  “Why are you cast down, O my soul?  Hope thou in God.” (Ps. 42:11)

Cohen

Posted September 4, 2013 by janathangrace in Bible Grace

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The Best of All Things   3 comments

Today is our anniversary.  Since I come home from work after Berly is in bed, I was able to do some shenanigans to surprise her in the morning.  She woke up Wednesday to banners draped from the rafters reading “BERLY IS THE BEST”.  On Thursday she found a 3 foot paper flower I had made and a love poem.  This morning she came downstairs to see an 8 foot tall card I made her covered with a list of her attributes.  Here’s a snap of the card and the ten page list of attributes follows (I could have written hundreds more)–hey she deserves a lot more than a giant card!  I spent some time this morning selecting a few of her good points and expounding on them to her.  I was thinking to myself, “Hey, she’s married to me, so that wealth of goodness is all mine too!

Me and Berly

“A few of the hundreds of reasons I am glad you are my wife”

CAPABLE, ENDURING, FORBEARING, FORGIVING, GENTLE, LONG-SUFFERING, MEEK,

MILD, PERSEVERING, PERSISTENT, SELF-POSSESSED, SERENE, TOLERANT, TRANQUIL,

UNDERSTANDING, CONSIDERATE, CALM, COMPOSED, EQUABLE,

KIND, TEMPERATE, CONSIDERATE, RESPECTFUL,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

MILD-TEMPERED, ACCOMMODATING, VALOROUS, ATTENTIVE, BENEVOLENT,

GLADDENING, COMPASSIONATE, KINDLY, MINDFUL, OBLIGING, SOLICITOUS,

SYMPATHETIC, TACTFUL, TENDER, LEVELHEADED, TENACIOUS, THOUGHTFUL,

UNSELFISH, WARMHEARTED, UNCRITICAL, UNDEMANDING, UNHURRIED,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

DISCERNING, STABLE, STEADY, TOLERANT, FORGIVING, UNDAUNTED,

MERCIFUL, MILD, DILIGENT, STEADFAST, AFFECTIONATE, VALIANT,

APPRECIATIVE, BENEVOLENT, CARING, CONCERNED, EARNEST, EXPRESSIVE,

COMPETENT, FAITHFUL, LOYAL, SWEET, THOUGHTFUL, GOOD,

COURTEOUS, FRIENDLY, PERCEPTIVE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

GOOD-HEARTED, GRACIOUS, KINDHEARTED, LOVING, STRAIGHTFORWARD,

TENDERHEARTED, CONSIDERATE, RESPONSIVE, CONSCIOUS,

PEACEABLE, ENCOURAGING, HEARTENING, COURAGEOUS, INSPIRING,

ADMIRABLE, DELIGHTFUL, ENGAGING, ENJOYABLE, GRACEFUL,

DAUNTLESS, REFLECTIVE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

LIONHEARTED, STRONG, BRAVE, PEACEFUL, TRUE,

VALOROUS, HOPEFUL, SELF-RELIANT, SELF-SUFFICIENT, TRUSTING, WISE,

INTELLIGENT, TOUGH, REASONABLE, ASTUTE, AWARE, CAREFUL,

FRANK, CONTEMPLATIVE, INSIGHTFUL, PRUDENT, SENSIBLE,

TACTFUL, SOFTHEARTED, ATTENTIVE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

SUPPORTING, AWAKE, GROUNDED, RECEPTIVE, SENSIBLE, CLEVER,

ABLE, BRIGHT, DEEP, GIFTED, TALENTED, COOPERATIVE,

TRUTHFUL, CANDID, ABOVE-BOARD, AUTHENTIC, CONSCIENTIOUS,

DECENT, DIRECT, EQUITABLE, GENUINE, INTUITIVE, HONORABLE,

INGENUOUS, OBLIGING, OPEN, PLAIN, REAL, RELIABLE,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

SINCERE, STRAIGHT, STOUTHEARTED, TRUSTWORTHY, TRUSTY,

UNFEIGNED, DIRECT, GENUINE, GUILELESS, UNCONTRIVED, UNPRETENTIOUS,

DEPENDABLE, COGNIZANT, RELIABLE, SOLID, SIMPLE, MINDFUL, THOROUGHGOING,

LOYAL, RELIABLE, CONFIDING, CONSTANT, ENDURING, HONORABLE, STEADY,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

ACCOMMODATING, SOUND, AUTHENTIC, REAL, SOUND, STERLING, UNADULTERATED,

UNALLOYED, UNVARNISHED, PRAISEWORTHY, GENUINE, PROFOUND,

CONSCIENTIOUS, FORTHRIGHT, GUILELESS, COMMISERATING,

RESPONSIVE, SENSITIVE, SOFT, SUPPORTIVE, SYMPATHIZING,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

EMPATHIC, RESOLUTE, HARMONIOUS, LISTENING, ACCEPTING,

ATTENTIVE, INTERESTED, OBSERVANT, ACCEPTING, DEPENDABLE,

AFFIRMING, TRUSTING, RESPECTING, AGREEABLE, EMBRACING,

COMPANIONABLE, SUPPORTIVE, ENCOURAGING, REASSURING, COMFORTING, GROWING,

DEDICATED, HARD-WORKING, FAITHFUL,

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

PURPOSEFUL, DETERMINED, ENGAGED, INDUSTRIOUS, UNFEIGNED,

SOFTHEARTED, SHARING, INTIMATE, PRINCIPLED, CONSISTENT,

UNBREAKABLE, BROKEN-HEARTED, EMPATHETIC, UNDEMANDING, WELCOMING,

WOUNDED HEALER, OPEN-HEARTED, WILLING, COMFORTER

AWESOME

Posted May 10, 2013 by janathangrace in Story

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Embracing the Cactus   Leave a comment

Today I ran across this video from 2011.  It is a vignette of two famous actors who have been in the gutter more than once, but prop each other up with forgiveness and acceptance as they stumble along.  Hollywood films portray beautiful truths, but Hollywood lives rarely do.  Here is a two minute “acceptance speech” by Walter Downey Jr. that is a message of hope for those of us who are recovering sinners

EMBRACING THE FALLEN

EMBRACING THE FALLEN

Posted January 15, 2013 by janathangrace in Story

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Spiritual Overdrafts   2 comments

fireworksI am an artist and poet at heart.  I’m not referring to my abilities, but to my perspective and energy.  I have powerful visceral responses to all things creative, whether by God or fellow humans, and my mind bursts into a flurry of thought shooting out in all directions like a fireworks display.  Within minutes, each separate thought has branches and sub-branches like a cauliflower head bursting into bloom in my mind.  It is exciting, invigorating,  delicious.

dusty roadBut when my spirit is tamped down by depression, I stumble along with just enough energy to lift one foot at a time between long halts to rest.  Everything around me is dusted with dullness like the shoulders of a dirt road.  I can see and appreciate beauty, but it does not sink into my heart to awaken life.  As a young man I was so full of energy and purpose and hope, but I spent it all on “virtuous” sacrifices that broke down my spirit rather than building it up.  I did not live out of the spontaneous delight of who I was but out of the driven obligation of who I should be.  I did not live from the joy of God’s love, but from the fear of his frown.  I lived out of the law and not out of the gospel.

Emotional energy is much like a sponge–once dried out, it loses its powers of absorption.  Without some emotional reserve to start, I cannot soak up the encouragements around me.  I see them, but cannot feel them at any deep level.  They do not renew me.  Because it takes time for the good to soften my soul, I need an oasis in which to rest, an environment rich with living waters, but in my experience those spots are rare and brief, and so the desert winds parch away the rain that falls.  I catch and hoard my little cupful, but it does not last long.  Had I lived from the start out of my true self and in the riches of God’s grace, the energy I used for good would have been a renewable resource.  But I feel as though my forest is chopped down, and I must start over, scratching out life from the dust.  I see hopeful saplings of emotional growth, but the full rewards seem still a long way off.

saplings

Posted December 7, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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Light in the Dark [God’s Love Letters]   5 comments

Matthew 1:4 And Nahshon fathered Salmon.

The name Salmon appears only once in the Old Testament, at the end of Ruth in a four-verse genealogy.  (He appears one other time as Salma in a mirror genealogy of Chronicles). 

In the town of Bethlehem, Salmon’s son Boaz plays supporting actor in the romance play Ruth.  As a historical introduction to Ruth, the book of Judges tells of the steep moral decline in Israel, ending with a 3-day civil war in which tens of thousands of Israelis are killed.  Bethlehem was at the epicenter of this huge national crisis for it all began with one of their own daughters being brutally gang-raped and dismembered.  Without a timeline we do not know whether Salmon was a soldier in this battle, but he certainly struggled against the corruption that engulfed his country.

Salmon lived in the days of the Judges, and that book finishes ominously, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  But springing up from this maelstrom of evil is Ruth, a book of hope, whose last verse reads: “To Boaz was born Obed, and to Obed, Jesse, and to Jesse was born David.”  That is to say, King David, forefather of the promised Messiah.  Yet Salmon had no glimpse of this hope.  He died in the night that swallowed his nation.

In spite of this, Salmon (according to Matthew’s genealogy) was in the center of the world’s great channel of redemption.  Without knowing it, he was the father from whom the Christ was to be born.  His life and history and progeny were surrounded by God’s richest outpouring of grace, the giving of His very Self to the world.  How might this realization have lit up his darkness with hope, his trials with patience, his life with purpose?   And amazingly, we are each in that very place of Salmon… in a far better place, actually.  

We are not simply in a long line of succession through whom God’s grace will eventually come, but we are today channels of God’s grace to the world.  The Messiah has come.  He is here.   If Christ is in us, then He is shining out from us to the world, despite how troubled and confused and pointless our lives may seem or how foreboding the shadows. I am his candlestick, and it is mine to burn, however feebly.  It is His to shine that light where He sees fit, and He always makes the best use of every flicker.  I am His vital partner in this bedraggled world’s salvation.

Posted November 12, 2012 by janathangrace in Bible Grace

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The Ups After the Downs   Leave a comment

Things were going fairly badly this last weekend.  My several hundred dollar chain saw died before Friday’s storm, which not only was a loss of that amount, but prevented me from making money clearing trees for the thousands who had trees down (about every other house on our street, for instance).  A huge tree from our yard was uprooted and crushed our neighbor’s shed, and I was trying to find out our home-owner’s insurance deductible (but the insurance company was closed for the weekend).  Our power went out, and hundreds of dollars of food was spoiling in our fridge and freezer.  We had no air conditioner or fans or ice on the very week the tempurature decided to climb above 100F.  My mower stopped working in the middle of cutting a lawn on Saturday, and I had no way of getting it up the steep ramp into the back of my truck (it weighs 500 lbs.).  I had to finish the 1 acre lot with my push mower (in said heat).  We had no internet to know what was going on (when the power would be back on, for instance), and my brother, undeterred by our lack of electricity, suddenly showed up in town for a visit (from the West coast)… we offered him warm orange juice and a candle to use the bathroom.  In this sweltering heat, we soon found out the electricity would be out for a week.

The financial hit was troubling me most as I have been unable to drum up enough clients to make my summer mowing economically feasible for us.  On Monday, I reached State Farm and found out that since this was an “act of God,” my neighbor’s insurance would be responsible to cover the costs.  My wife and I had been planning to visit a nearby friend (her “step-aunt” I guess) to celebrate the 4th and spend the night.  When they found out our electricity was down, they very graciously opened their home to us and allowed us to pack our refrigerated food into their fridge and freezer.  So here we sit in a beautiful lakeside house for the week, forced to have a vacation we could never afford.  As we were packing up to drive down here, Kimberly brought out a netbook she had but never uses.  I forgot it was around, and suddenly I realized I have the replacement for my laptop (which I’ve been badly missing for 2 months) only smaller and so much handier.  I figured out how to get the mower onto my truck (backing it up to a bank where I had towed my mower and pushing it in on the level ramp), and on Monday I was able to fix it with a $6 spring.  All in all, the week has been a wonderful refresher.

Posted July 4, 2012 by janathangrace in Life

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