Mailbox - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The U.S. Post Office doesn’t have a motto.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Sound familiar? Some folks would call that the motto of the United States Postal Service, although they don’t actually have a motto. That statement is actually an inscription on the main post office building in New York City. But it suits the post office pretty well.

I’m something of a recluse so I do a lot of my shopping over the internet and have it shipped to my house. So I rely on the mail a lot, and I don’t know how the mail works where you live, but where I live it’s sometimes daunting to deliver. But I can honestly say that my mail has never been stopped because of weather. And that’s saying something in Kansas.

The post office hasn’t ever really let me down, so I have a lot of confidence in them.

Mailbox - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Mailbox - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 57:7.

My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!

When you have confidence in someone or something, that means you trust them. Not just on the surface but you trust them implicitly to do what they have promised to do.

What do you have confidence in? As I just said, I trust the post office to deliver my mail. I also trust chairs to support my weight. I trust my car to start when I turn the key. I trust my roof not to leak when it rains. I trust gravity to hold everyone close to the planet. I trust the sun to come up in the morning and go down at night. I don’t trust the moon because I can’t ever figure out where it’s going to be from evening to evening, no matter how many astronomy courses I’ve taken.

It’s easy to have confidence in a chair or a car or the sun. We witness these things every day, performing the same tasks over and over again until we take it for granted that they will always function the same way. It’s easy to have confidence in the post office because they’ve never done me wrong. They usually exceed my expectations, actually.

It’s easy to have confidence in things you can see. So is it possible to have confidence in God, like this verse says?

It’s ironic to me that this is one of the songs that David wrote when he was on the run from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. Basically, David was on the run, hiding in caves, sneaking around, trying to survive, trusting God for everything because he was dead otherwise. You would think he would write a Psalm asking God why he had to go through something like this? After all, David was innocent. Saul was just trying to kill him out of insecurity and jealousy. David hadn’t done anything to deserve death. All he’d done was what God had told him to do. So in one perspective, God’s the one who got David into the situation in the first place. So how can David say that he has confidence in God?

When I order something online, I trust the post office to deliver it. I can’t see their processes. I can’t see the trouble they go to get to my package to me on time. I can’t see the difficulties they encounter. All I know is that I put my order in, and then a week later (usually less) I get my package in the mail. That’s the way it works. And they’ve come through for me enough times that I don’t have a problem trusting them.

That has been my experience with God. I ask Him for something, but even though I don’t always get an answer right away, eventually I get an answer. It may not be the one I want, but I just have to remind myself that God has a perspective that I don’t have. He wants to do good things for me. He wants to help me. And He has come through for me in so many other instances that I don’t have a problem trusting that He has my best interests in mind.  

God is always working, always busy, always up to something. Most of the time, I can’t keep up. I just have to hold on and enjoy the ride. And there are times when I really don’t understand what God wants me to do. But in those times, I still have a choice. I can either keep going or I stop trusting Him and trust someone else.

We always have that choice. God doesn’t force us to trust Him. God doesn’t force us to do anything.

So when it comes down to choosing to trust Him or choosing not to, it really is up to us. But you have to ask yourself, if you don’t trust God, who are you going to trust? Yourself? I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust myself at all. I’ve let myself down so many times. I’m lacking in so many areas that trusting myself with the major decisions in my life is a really bad idea. But as little as trust myself, I trust other people even less. I know that makes me sound like a terrible person, but it’s true.

I don’t trust people. I don’t trust me. So who is left?

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Loving like Jesus when it doesn’t make sense

Christians are supposed to live the way Jesus did. Every “good” Christian knows that. Actually, every “bad” Christian knows it too. So why is it so hard to accomplish? Well, yes, Jesus was perfect. But there is nothing that we have experienced in our lives that He doesn’t understand.

I think we get caught up this time of year remembering Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which is a good thing to remember. It’s everything. If Christ hadn’t come and allowed Himself to suffer for our sins, we would have no hope. If He hadn’t died and risen again, He would be like any other world religious leader. But so many times I think we focus on the fact that He is God that we forget that He was a human being just like we are. And He didn’t just come to die and rise again; He came to show us how to live.

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 5:2.

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Living a life of love is a lot easier said than done. Loving unlovable people takes some sacrifice, if we’re being honest about it. It’s a lot more convenient to just ignore them, but that’s not what Christ did.

He loved unlovable people. He forgave unforgivable people. He healed incurable people. If anyone was a lost cause, Christ gave them a reason to live and a purpose. He worked more than just physical miracles; He changed people. He still changes people today.

Granted, He didn’t waste much time on fools. And He didn’t concern Himself with the religious leaders who were already sufficient in their own righteousness. But the people who knew they needed help? They flocked to Him by the thousands, and He never turned anyone away.

So how does that example affect my life? How do I live the way Christ did? How do I love the way Christ does?

Jesus doesn’t discriminate. He loves everybody. It doesn’t matter where people came from. Even when Jesus was on earth, He healed everyone, regardless of nationality or race. Or even religious persuasion, if you think about it. Jew. Gentile. Neither. If they came to Him and they believed in Him, He helped them. Whether they were difficult people or kind people, quiet people or loud people, talented people or not-so-talented people, it didn’t matter.

It’s so easy to put labels on people. It’s comforting to be able to categorize others so that I know how to control them or how to handle them, but labels don’t really help. Putting labels on people puts them in a box that I don’t ever let them out of. Jesus didn’t label people. He loved them.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to live for people He loved. Jesus came to die, yes, but He also came to show us how to live. He sacrificed years of His life in service of people around Him.

Many of us are willing to die for the people we love because we know that we’ll go to heaven when we die, but what about living for people you love? That’s a bigger sacrifice. Because you have to give up what you want out of life to live for other people. And that’s difficult.

In our culture today, love is a cheerful happy feeling that swells in response to happiness. But that’s not love. Love is a choice. Love is action. Love is sacrificing yourself–your finances, your future, your job, your wellbeing–for the sake of someone else. And in our self-centered world, love is difficult to find.

Love isn’t easy. And real love is even harder. Jesus is the only one who had it figured out, and I’m thankful for that because as much as I try, I’m not there yet. I’m still pretty selfish myself.

But the only way to please God is with faith. And faith means taking God at His word. So if God says that I’m supposed to love people the way Jesus did, that means I should choose to do it even if it doesn’t make sense, even when it’s difficult.

That’s what Christ did. So that’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s never easy, and it doesn’t always feel good. And anyone who tells you differently hasn’t ever tried it. But nothing worth having was easy to obtain. And God’s got it under control. God knows what He’s doing, He never makes mistakes, and He always keeps His promises.

Gorilla sitting by himself

Independent and proud

I’m an independent person. I always have been, even when I was a child. My mom used to tell me that even as a very small girl I didn’t want to be held; I wanted to run around like an idiot. Not much has changed, I don’t guess.

There is certainly nothing wrong with being independent, that is until you start thinking that you can rely on yourself for everything. Then you’re just asking for trouble. Because none of us are strong enough on our own to make it through life alone. I don’t care how independent or self-sufficient you are.

Gorilla sitting by himself

Gorilla sitting by himself - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Ecclesiastes 4:10.

If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

I love Ecclesiastes because it’s pretty much just straight talk, and the passage where today’s verse comes from is all about the advantages of companionship.

Anyone who thinks the Bible doesn’t make sense hasn’t read Ecclesiastes. This is actually the passage where today’s verse comes from. It’s just so good, I had to post the whole thing:

Ecclesiates 4:9-12

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Two people are better than one. Why? Because if one person falls down, the other person can help them up. That is relevant in a figurative sense and a literal sense. If you trip and fall and scrape your knee, it’s a lot easier to stand up again when someone offers you a hand. Same thing when you slip and slide into some sin. It’s a lot easier to pull yourself out of a pit if someone helps you out.

In the cold, two people can keep each other warm, while one person will freeze to death. Two people can watch each others’ backs in a fight, while one person will be overcome. According to this passage, having someone to walk through life alongside you is a really good idea. But in our hardworking, busybody 21st Century American thinking, we don’t need anyone else. We are sufficient on our own. And if you ask for help, you’re weak. If you’re seeing a counselor, there must be something wrong with you. If you have an accountability partner, you must have a deep dark struggle with sin.

Well, you know what? Everyone is weak. Everyone has something wrong with them. And everyone struggles with deep, dark sin. Because everyone is human.

This is something I have to really fight in my own personal life because I hate it when people think I’m weak. I can’t stand it if someone feels like they have to take care of me or support me or try to help me carry my own weight. I don’t want anyone to have anything that they can hold over my head.

But that’s pride. And pride is pretty stupid, if you think about it.

Maybe being alone is easier at times because you don’t have to sacrifice to make someone else happy, but the result is that you are completely by yourself with no one to help you when the time comes that you need help. And, trust me, the time will come when you need help.

So weigh your options.

Independence with pride because you don’t want people to think you’re weak? Or independence with the knowledge that every now and then you might need help because you’re not perfect?

Mountains and jungle and corn - Peten, Guatemala

If the rocks can’t help it, what’s my problem?

The earth is beautiful. It doesn’t matter where you go on this crazy little dust ball we call home, you can find something beautiful. Even if that beauty comes in the form of desolate deserts in the Middle East or the lush rain forests of South America or the savannahs of Africa, it’s still beautiful and amazing and totally beyond anything that we puny humans could have made.

Mountains and jungle and corn - Peten, Guatemala

Mountains and jungle and corn - Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Psalm 98:4.

Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!

There are verses throughout the Psalms — throughout the whole Bible, really — that talk about how all of Creation is in a constant state of worship.

Trees, fields, flowers, birds, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars — everything that God made proclaims how awesome He is even though they don’t really have the ability to speak. So I find it ironic that the crowning jewel of God’s creation, the creation that is made like God and has been given a choice in the matter, refuses to give God the credit.

I am such a self-centered person sometimes. I get caught in the trap of thinking that God created everything for me. And that’s wrong. God didn’t create the world for humans. He didn’t create humans just so they could run around and have a good time either. He created everything for His glory.

God didn’t create the earth for me. He created it for Himself, just like He made me and everyone else. But God inexplicably gave us a choice. We can choose to serve Him or we can choose not to serve Him. We can choose to give Him glory or we can choose to live for ourselves. It’s up to us. Granted, we have to face the consequences of those choices, but that’s what it means to have a choice — accepting whatever consequences are associated with it.

But whether I choose to serve God and give Him credit and glory really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Yes, He wants me to. And, yes, He gave everything so that He could have a relationship with me. But when it comes right down to it, God doesn’t need me.

He doesn’t need me to worship Him. He has all of creation to do that. Creation can’t help it. The whole earth has been so marvelously stitched together that even the “simplest” of organisms is beyond our capacity to understand. The complexity and the creativity and the beauty is beyond mere circumstance and chance; the earth itself is evidence that God created everything. And if the rocks can’t shut up about it, what’s my problem?

If all of creation has no problem telling God how awesome He is, why do I hesitate? Why am I reluctant to worship Him for all the things that He is doing in my life?

I get so bogged down in all the everyday troubles and struggles of life that I forget sometimes what the purpose of living is all about. I forget what God has done for me. And I forget to thank Him when I should.

But when you get right down to the truth about it, God doesn’t need me to tell Him that He’s great. But if I can, it will change me.

If I can get my eyes off myself and my little insignificant life and focus all my energy and my intentionality on Him and His bigger picture, my life will change. My purpose will become clear. And my existence will not only have meaning now but will leave a legacy behind for others to follow.

Creation isn’t about us. It isn’t about us understanding how God did something. It’s understanding that some things are beyond our understanding. And it’s about giving God credit for everything because if we can do that, we can realize that life isn’t about us. It’s about Him.

And when we really wrap our heads around that, He can really start to use us.

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

If common sense were a gift, everyone would have it.

Some people are born with more common sense than others. That’s something I’ve heard said numerous times, but I’m not so sure it’s true.

Is common sense something that you’re born with? It certainly seems like some people have more of it than others, but does that mean it’s connected to their personality? Or is it something they learn over time? Is it the way they’re raised? Or is it something they are given?

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Proverbs 2:7.

He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.

That sounds pretty clear to me: common sense is a treasure God gives to people who are honest. But what does that mean? And how can that be? Because I know a lot of honest people who have a decided lack of common sense (just being honest myself).

Just for grins I read this verse in the Message, but because the Message has a lot to do with concept and context, you usually have to read more than one verse even if you are just looking for one:

Proverbs 2:6-8 says this:

And here’s why: God gives out Wisdom free,
   is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.
He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well,
   a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.
He keeps his eye on all who live honestly,
   and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.

The context of this verse is talking about God being a mine. In earlier verses, this chapter talks about searching for wisdom like you would search for silver. The Message actually uses the phrase “like a prospector panning for gold.”

Do you find it hard to look at common sense like a treasure? The longer I live, the more I realize how precious wisdom really is.

Common Sense is still valued on some level in our culture, at least in words. But in actions it’s becoming less and less preferred. With movies and television shows that glorify people who make foolish choices, our culture is wrapped up in rejoicing in the misfortunes of others. We are taught that foolish choices are entertaining, and I think in many cases Reality TV has influenced true reality so much that there’s no dividing line anymore.

We revere celebrities who have destroyed their families and their lives. We elevate people who make foolish decisions. We raise people who can’t tell the difference between right and wrong on pedestals and display them as monuments to our great society.

And the people who choose wisdom are regarded as backward. The people with common sense are called stupid and uneducated and mocked. That’s the world we live in.

If Common Sense were a gift, everyone would have it.

Salvation is a gift; Common Sense is something you have to dig for. It isn’t something you obtain when you’re born. And it isn’t something that’s just given to you with no effort on your part. If you want Common Sense, if you want Wisdom, you have to look for it. You have to search for it like you’re searching for treasure. And digging isn’t easy. It takes dedication and work and sweat. You’ll get blisters. You’ll get blisters on your blisters. But it’s worth it because Wisdom is treasure.

And just like any other treasure, you have to know where to start looking. If you want Wisdom, you have to go to the source.

If you want Wisdom, if you want Common Sense, read the Bible. Even if it’s just a little every day, it will make a difference. And if you have questions, keep reading because oftentimes the Bible will interpret itself. You don’t need a scholar. You don’t need a pastor. You don’t need a priest. The Bible isn’t complicated, but it will hurt because it strips away any righteousness we think we deserve.

I’ve posted about the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala before. That’s actually where today’s picture came from. It’s this stone mask just sitting on a chunk of rock on the walking path. One of the amazing things about Tikal is the number of temples that are still unearthed. All throughout Peten, if you go digging around in any random cave in a mountain you have a good chance of finding ancient Mayan artifacts. You don’t have to dig long, and you don’t have to look really hard. It’s a rich mine of history.

The Bible is the same way. God is the same way. We can find wisdom without a lot of effort. We can get common sense without a lot of pain. We just have to be willing to look for it.