The Blogging Adventure is part of my continuing sojourn. All are welcomed to read/comment/follow my trek through the days allotted me (Psalm 139:16; Hebrews 9:27). May these blog articles enhance your travels through life, give you pause to consider your choices, and either seek the Lord while He may be found or know that all who are Christ's are borne by His abounding grace (Romans 5:3-11).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Whatever Became of Contentment?

Our sojourn through this temporal life full of uncertainties with its transient moments of pleasure and pain are seriously overrated and far too often perceived as all that is important.  For example, consider these almost cliche`statements as representative -- look what I have  accomplished, see how fast I climbed the corporate ladder, notice that I was one of the first to shatter the glass ceiling. And to the few who actually believe that achieving immortal status through athletics, academics, or other "hall of fame" performances somehow brings peace and deserved worldly acclaim defined by status, applause, and legacy, be prepared for disappointment.  

What's wrong with wanting to be first?  What happens when my goals are so important that nothing will stand in the way of success?  Even when you know the admirers give only lip service, is it worth all the trail of pain, broken hearts, exhaustion, lost moments that can never be retrieved, and when the end finally comes, did money, fame, broken relations, estranged families, and things make you happy?  Oh, the few who do make the grade are such a  minuscule percentage compared to the total who attempt is lamentable but the results are similar.  Many think money will solve all the problems but the mere "love" of money leads to the same demise -- it's the act or path that leads to the ultimate goal that is trampled with good intentions and some not so savory aspirations.

In our culture, the word that defines the opposite has long been forsaken as an antiquated myth: CONTENTMENT What a rare jewel!!!  How is it achieved?  It is "learned" daily within the fires of life's kiln.  The Bible records three times the Potter and the Clay story.  The Clay is modeled, shaped, and formed by the Potter for His delight and use.  The Clay does not talk or disagree because the Potter cannot make a mistake.  So, when Potter (God) takes the Clay (human) and spins his wheel and moves His skilled fingers to shaped the object of His affection into any shape of His desire, it will be right!! 

The New Testament Apostle Paul explains the process from personal experience:  

Philippians 4:11-13 (English Standard Version)

11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be(A) content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and(B) hunger, abundance and(C) need. 13I can do all things(D) through him who strengthens me.
Please note:   (1)  "learned" - 2x = through actual experience; (2) Verse 13 - "...through him..." means Jesus Christ the Lord.

Contentment is not easy but it takes life's fiery trials along with the comfort of the Lord to mold our harden hearts into vessels that willing serve Him, humanity, and His people.  James 1:2-4 speaks of trials as a testing of our faith -- an untested faith is worthless.  But as we pass through the fire, affliction, and pain they make us perfect (mature) -- CONTENTMENT!!And when our days are over, and the memories and words spoken in remembrance of what we did, may the name of the Lord be interspersed and integral in our lives/faith so that our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and church will know that being content in Christ is priceless.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stopping Along The Way

I saw a squirrel this morning in my backyard looking for his buried treasure.  (I know because he found his post-it note).  Capturing that rare moment made me pause to just observe his twitching tail, motionless body resting on the arm of a lawn chair, big nut tightly held with his teeth, and eyes and ears piqued to any potential danger.  What a sight!!!  
These past thirty days have been a mixture of stress, sorrow, excitement, travel, prayer, study, cautious optimism, ad nauseum.   Reminds me of eating hobo stew - outside on a dark fall eve, a large kettle is placed over the open fire where all the group secretly opens their dinner contributions.  All the canned surprises are stirred and then, after a few bites, all the labels are revealed!!!  Can you say "Alpo?"  
Well, that is a vivid way of expressing my thoughts as to this past month.  The menacing part is that as I sample the cuisine, so to speak, I find myself laboring over things beyond my control  It has been said that seventy-five percent of our fears never come to pass and are often unfounded.  The lesson from the squirrel is that the Lord provided his meal, watched over his habitat, gave him a covering to keep him warm, and the sensitivity to be aware of his surroundings.  He was just stopping along the way as God gave him sense enough to do.  
Suddenly, I stopped all my busyness for some serious time to consider all the Lord does for me -- friends and family who support and give counsel/comfort to me in every way (may I never take them for granted), prayers answered (may I not fail to acknowledge His graciousness and mercy), a ministry that fulfills my longing (may I always seek His will), and a constant light through my journey to remain aware of my "surroundings" (may His Word and Spirit always be reverenced).  
Stopping along the way -- my sojourn is covered with His omniscient surety that I will persevere and, one day, I will also find my "post-it note" that reveals the ultimate treasure is found in Christ!!  

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Fog of Desolation and the Sufficiency of Grace

July 30th marks the one year anniversary -- the sudden, tragic, and unexpected death of our daughter, Lynea.  Oh, my wife and I are not the first nor the last to walk through the shrouded, foggy labyrinth of anguish and loss.  However, in retrospect, I believe each person's experience is intertwined with those unexpected gambit of emotions, the unsuspecting and unexplainable moments of sobbing and tears, and the ofttimes disorientation grief saddles us with in our day-by-day struggles with sorrows, memories, and other endless questions, angers, and doubts. 

Imagine yourself driving in a dense fog--visibility near zero, and yet, you must continue to drive through the cloud of uncertainty. What hazards lie in the roadway?  And yet, you press on.  The fog bank thickens, driving may be perilous but you have no choice.  That is how I define and envision much of my past year.  Except for one very important truth - one day the mist, haze, and fog evaporates.  How?  Why? Only God knows and I will be the first to say that along all the pathways grief meanders, in reality and in the mind, my Lord never left me to my own devices for the invisible Hand of Providence kept me focused on His love and grace even when I felt abandoned in this new wilderness experience.  He interceded by placing faithful family and friends to pray, support and comfort me; He open His Word to illuminate my mind as to His purposes; and He gave me the grace to awaken another morning, take another step, and turn my sorrow into peace,  Lagniappe is not restricted to business in this transient life but is a spiritual unction or that little extra gift of grace we desperately need to complete our journey as we " out our salvation with fear and trembling."  Philippians 2:12b (ESV).
The alternative is dismal and destructive.  Consider if someone decides to turn inward and reclusive holding to an introspective view that nobody could possibly understand our griefs and our emotions, then pity and bitterness exert control with a ruthless dominance leaving in its wake a life diminished and/or reduced to mere existence. 

Last week, for whatever reason, I walked out of the fog of despair into the light of peace.  Accident?  Just lucky?  Chance on my side?  Not at all for with my faithful wife who suffers the same pain and loss, prays with me with thanksgiving for what we had and for His continued goodness -- all because of the benevolence of the Father.  We are also learning to walk humbly in the fear of the Lord, praying without ceasing, and remember the words of David in Psalm 23:4:  "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me...." (ESV).   The beauty of this ancient song is that a "shadow" cannot harm anyone and its existence is due to light -- the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, who casts away the shadows and brings us through the remnants of fear and doubt for He is there all the time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rainbows and the Love of God

A child gazes into the cloudy sky after a storm and witnesses with amazement and wonder at the rainbow phenomenon.  Oh, she does not know that it is just a spectrum of colors explained by science due to the refraction of light through the droplets at specific angles that gives a prism effect.  To her, it is a magical moment or a sign of hope much like Dorothy's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."  Rainbows have been attached to all types of signs and symbols to mark the presence of or serve as a reminder of something important.  Throughout the ages of man, each civilization has inculcated the rainbow as an explanation in religion or myth.  A few examples will suffice:  the Greek mythology looked at it as being the path made by a messenger from Earth to Heaven, or the Norse imagined it as a bridge that connects the realms of where the gods live and humans.  Maybe the most imaginative is the Irish leprechaun's secret hiding place for his pot of gold (at the end of the rainbow).  The optical effect succeeds in keeping the leprechaun's stash safe because  finding the end of the rainbow is impossible for the closer you think you are to the illusive prize, the rainbow, in effect, will move further away.

Noah, after the flood, received a covenant from the LORD not to destroy the earth or man again by water.  He gave the "bow" as a sign of this unilateral agreement - a binding act of love that only He could keep.   Many believe that it was the first appearance of a rainbow because the antediluvian world had not know rain as we do.  Moreover, the language of Genesis 9:8-17 implies that the "bow" was given by God as a striking reminder of His eternal covenant -- imagine the joy and the remarkable significance it held for Noah and his remnant!!! 

A Divine of days gone by left these words for us to ponder:  "As it shines forth against a dark background which but shortly before flashed with lightnings, it symbolizes the victory of bright, gentle love over the darkly luminous wrath; symbolizes the readiness of the heavenly to [penetrate] the earthly; proclaims peace between God and man; reaching, as it does, beyond the range of vision, it declares that God's covenant of grace is all-embracing."  

Rainbows transcend the natural and scientific into the world's of literature, art, music, flags, colors, and our own imaginations.  When was the last time you noticed a rainbow?  Or even a double-rainbow?  Did it inspire you to see beyond the daily and mundane routine of life or give you that moment to share it with your little ones who squeal with amazement at its beauty and tell them that God's grace is is as real as the raindrops falling on her face. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lagniappe - What Is This?

Lagniappe (lan-yap') - a unique word to Southern Louisiana meaning "giving an extra or unexpected gift or benefit."  The good folks living below I-10 have inculcated it into their heritage through business and hospitality to show genuine appreciation.  I  heard of and experienced this wonderful expression on my first visit to "Cajun" country (Lafayette) in the mid-80's and the impact still resonates in my personal view of respecting one another.

But to be consistent and not found guilty of engaging in "pious fraud" is, well, often very difficult.  Wanting to "go the extra mile" can take on various scenarios and having the desire to be a "lagniappe" person when circumstances are less than desirable brings internal conflict and afterthoughts.  To carry out a Christian perspective of lagniappe as in the Gospels (Mt 5-7 - Sermon On The Mount)  requires not just a wanting to be liked for who we are but to be instilled with a passion to be like Christ.  This can only come through the work of the Trinity (1 Pet 1:2).

Yes, we do demonstrate the love of Christ by deliberate and/or random acts of selflessness, but the real lagniappe is what Christ did for all of us!! He became sin for us [who knew no sin] that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:19-21).  He is our substitute, our scapegoat, our High Priest, and the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Maybe Paul's words in 1 Cor 1:30 say it best:  "He [God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption." (ESV)

The lagniappe which is found in Christ is not just "a little bit extra" or "another scoop" but a lavishing of grace to undeserving sinners and will be forever heralded in the halls of heaven as the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world takes His rightful place of worship.   Read the words of Rev 4-5 and imagine the humbled redeemed singing with thanksgiving  "WORTHY IS THE LAMB..." throughout eternity.  He took mortal man - full of sin, unfit to be in the presence of the Father, destined for an eternity in the Abyss - became man, live a sinless life, wept great tears for His people at Gethsemane considering the dregs of the bitter cup He must drink, endured our stripes at the hands of soldiers, did not retaliate when the people mocked and spat upon Him as He bore our sins on Calvary, was obedient unto death, died -- and rose on the third day!!  Now He sits at the right hand of the Father serving as our lone Mediator [making our peace with God], Advocate [as the Accuser of mankind hurls complaint after complaint at the saints], Intercessor [hearing our petitions and cries], and the one-time Sacrifice that satisfied the righteous, holy wrath of the Almighty (John 3:36; Heb 10:10-12).

Lagniappe is a gracious act that can be practiced out of respect for a fellow human; however, when Christ is our Justifier, a miraculous newness of life occurs changing the heart of stone to a new heart that walks in the fear of the Lord and counts each moment of life as precious.