As some of you know who follow this blog, I served most of my ministry as a lay pastor (as in didn’t get paid). But far from being a problem, the lay pastor situation gave me opportunity to serve as an associate at a small Brazilian church for 14 years, and a volunteer chaplain at a large nursing home. Some days, it was like the Clark Kent/Superman scenario, where I rushed home to shower and change clothes, then hurried out to hold the Wednesday afternoon services at Allied Skilled Nursing. I loved serving both at church and nursing home, but it was at my secular job, that God taught me the best lessons. So, let’s rewind 30 years to a day when I was mowing lawns. My home state Connecticut could be named after a Native American word meaning, “Land full of rocks!” Practically every lawn we mowed had at least one large granite boulder to mow around. One very nice property in particular, was blessed with an abundance of enough stones to build one of our famous New England stone walls. My friend Noel, who just started working with us, was not familiar with our properties and so he accidently grazed over one unseen stony protrusion after another. Finally, He stopped, said a few choice words and stated, “You guys have the worst lawns I have ever seen!”
“Come on Noel.” I said trying to keep a calm tone. “These are the ones Jesus gave us.”
“Well then, Jesus must not like you very much!” Noel retorted, then restarted his machine and began mowing the back half of the property.
Now, I know Noel’s opinion isn’t proper theologically, but I have often felt a lot like him! Some days it feels like other folks have nice easy lawns to mow. They don’t have rocks to mow around or hidden outcroppings lurking just beneath the tops of the long grass. Sure, I know that Jesus Loves Me Because the Bible Tells Me So, but there are some days I wonder how much He likes me! The answer I have discovered after whacking a number of rocks in my 71 years, is that God allows rocks to mow around because He does care. He loves us so much that He has given us the chance to go back time and again to difficult people, hard places and sticky situations until we remember where the rocks are. Then we can give Him thanks, in every situation as we learn to mow around them!
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 ESV
In light of the despair many of us are feeling from the two recent senseless mass shootings, I simply share this familiar verse. Though we have heard it thousands of times, the amazing thing is that God’s Word always has something fresh for our daily lives. The first time I came upon this verse I loved the idea of soaring like an eagle. I had spent half my life packing boxes and moving to another new neighborhood where I had to make friends and register for another school, but rather than feeling free, it felt more like life in a glass cage. Everyone knew who I was – the new kid- But I had no idea if they would like me, ignore me or pick a fight. Soaring like an eagle in my newly found faith in Jesus seemed wonderful. With Him I could leave behind the old reality of never belonging anywhere and fly with Him to a new life.
But something strange happened with my flight plan. One day as I was soaring nicely along, out of the blue a lightning bolt struck and burned off all my feathers and I fell to the ground. But once the shock of the crash wore off, I discovered that even though that I couldn’t fly any more, Jesus was still with me! Instead of a flight plan, I found myself on a racetrack where I began to run the race of faith. Up hills and down through steep dark valleys, I found that running wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Then one day, I woke to find that my knees ached, my hips hurt, and I could only manage a slow walk. As discouragement began to set in, the Lord came, inviting me to lean on His shoulders, and reminding me that He also struggled up the path that the Father had chosen for Him. Then as we walked along together, I remembered that He also was often the new kid in town, He too had wept at the grave of a friend and understood better than I what it meant to be alone. Today I am not flying well, nor even running my race quickly, but through all that has happened I am more than ever walking slowly but surely with my Lord!
If you have had a crash and burn landing or two in your life don’t give in to despair. If you do not have the strength to run another mile, be encouraged, Jesus will walk the second mile with you. May the Lord strengthen and bless you today and keep you today as you lean on His shoulder and walk another day with Him!
Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ Acts 27:23-24 ESV
When we were kids, my sister and I often argued loudly in the backseat of the car. We wouldn’t stop until our mom turned around and yelled, “Quiet! I can’t even hear myself think!” Today’s verse comes after a fourteen-day storm in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. After being battered for weeks by the waves, Paul and the sailors probably felt a lot like our mother!
One of the greatest difficulties during storms is our inability to think or sometimes even communicate with others. But no matter what our circumstances we can continue to pray. When it seems most difficult, we need to remind ourselves that God sends His message at midnight. In fact, He not only sent a message to Saint Paul in the storm at mid-night, but He chose many other times in the Bible to do the same for others. Remember, it was midnight when angels appeared to the shepherds. It was midnight when Jesus came walking out on the water and at midnight God will also send His message to us. At the darkest moment, when we are least expecting God will come and stand by our side and say, “Don’t be afraid.” What are you facing today? Is it midnight in your storm? It is not too late! In fact, midnight is the perfect time for Jesus to send His message that He will sail with us till we are home and anchored safely by the shore!