An unchanging anchor for your soul

I think it’s safe to say that autumn has finally arrived in Kansas. It’s been cold enough for the last few evenings that the leaves are beginning to change colors. Fall is my favorite time of year–the bright colors, the chill in the air, the pumpkin-flavored everything. Just makes me want to wrap up in a sweater with a cup of tea and read all day.

We get used to the seasons changing, especially here in Kansas. We get every season in the course of a week sometimes, so weather changes are common for us. But even though life changes just as frequently, it’s more difficult to handle than the weather. If the weather is changing, you just put on more layers or take off more layers. You grab an umbrella or a pair of boots. Or you bring your sunscreen and a hat. When life changes, we’re often left stumbling around in circles, trying to make sense of things that just don’t make sense anymore.

Life is always changing. In our human experience, it’s the one thing we can always count on. Life will change. That’s life. It is a fundamental part of our existence, even down to our language. A language that doesn’t change is called dead. A life that doesn’t change isn’t really alive.

So if change is part of life, why is it so hard to handle? Why is it so difficult to face changes in our homes or our families or our relationships? Isn’t there a way to face change without the heartache it inevitably brings?

leaf-autumn-16016Today’s verses are Hebrews 6:16-19.

Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Change always brings some level of hurt, maybe small, maybe big, but it’s always there. Even if the change I’m experiencing is good, I still feel a slight twinge of sadness for the way things used to be. But it’s not the good changes I worry about. It’s the big ones. It’s the ones that mean I have to leave everything I know. It’s the ones that mean I have to do something I’ve never done before. It’s the change that means I have to get uncomfortable. That’s the change that scares me. That’s the change that hurts me.

Change hurts. It always does. And if you think you can escape it, you’re wrong. So instead of trying to avoid being hurt, maybe it’s a better idea to take steps to learn how to manage the hurt before it hits.

How do you deal with change? How can you stand your ground when no ground feels certain? You just have to find somewhere to stand. You need an anchor, something that won’t change no matter what. And that’s God. God always keeps His promises. Always. And for His children, those of us who’ve chosen to follow Jesus, He’s always promised to love us, to provide for us, and to guide us.

When our lives change, when everything turns upside down, we just need to run to Him. We need to tell Him what we’re going through, what we’re feeling, what we need, and then we just need to stand on His promises. We need to trust Him as our Rock, the solid ground that will keep us standing even through the storms of life.

It’s not easy to do, though. Not because it’s difficult but because it goes against our inner programming to throw all our abilities to the wind and depend totally on God. But that’s the only way we’ll survive. That’s the only way we’ll get through life’s changes, the good ones and the bad ones.

God is our anchor. He’s the one unchanging point throughout history. And if we make Him our anchor, we’ll always have a safe place to be. We’ll always have a sure place to stand. And from that one, sure place, we can take a new step forward, trusting that He’ll catch us if we fall.

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Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

It’s all part of the plan

Isn’t it strange how plans can change? At the drop of a hat, in the blink of an eye, your plans can turn on their head. And suddenly everything you thought was certain isn’t so certain anymore.

I planned to go to work this week, but most of this week I’ve spent at home. Working from home, yes, but it wasn’t what I had planned. I planned to have a meeting with a friend about drama on Wednesday, and that didn’t happen. And I have plans to eat dinner with friends tonight, but if I still can’t get out of my driveway by the end of the afternoon, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Plans change because we have very little control over the big moments of our lives. The only control we have is how we react when inevitable change smacks us upside the head.

Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

Our lives change all the time, mainly because we don’t understand our lives. If we could see our lives like God sees them, I think we’d get a different perspective on who we are and what our purpose is here.

God doesn’t change, so His plans don’t change either. His plans for us are the same today as they were when He build the foundations of the universe.

What we have to wrap our heads around practically speaking is the fact that even though our plans have changed, we don’t have to freak out about it. Because God’s plan is the same. Everything that happens to us is all part of the plan. There’s nothing that happens to us in our everyday lives–or even on extraordinary days–that God can’t fit in to the masterpiece that is the story of our universe.

Look back over Scripture. Can you find a time where God let someone down? Now, I’m not talking about a time when someone was disappointed. Or a time when someone thought God had abandoned them. Those times are all over the place, but those times are none of God’s doing. Those times are people giving up on God and choosing to strike out on their own.

Throughout the length and breadth of human history, God has never once let anyone down. He hasn’t once turned His back on us. He hasn’t once given up on us, although we give up on Him all the time. Every promise He’s made, He will keep. There are some outstanding, yes, but the fulfillment of those will change everything and the longer He waits, the longer the people of our world have to get their heads on straight. So I don’t mind waiting a bit longer.

Don’t give up on God. When your plans don’t work out the way you think they will, don’t throw your hands in the air and decide that God has abandoned you. When you don’t get to do what you wanted to do, don’t decide that God is determined to squash you or that He’s up in heaven looking for a way to make your life more difficult. That’s not the case at all.

God has a plan. It’s a good plan, and He will keep His promises. So when change happens (and it always always does), don’t freak out about it. When you find yourself face to face with events and circumstances that you can’t control (like a driveway full of snow and subzero temps that make shoveling practically impossible), don’t decide that God has left you to figure everything out on your own. That’s not the way He works.

God has a plan, and it’s big enough to include the unexpected changes you’re going to encounter. So keep holding on to God. It won’t be easy. And understand that change isn’t something that bothers Him because He knew it was coming, and that has to make it easier for us to deal with. If He knew it was coming, He knows what we need to make it through.

Sunflowers in bloom at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God knows how our lives are going to change

Summer has finally arrived in Kansas. It took a while, but it made it at last. Usually we have summer in July and August, so it’s running late this year. Now the question is how long will it stay? One thing you can always count on in Kansas is that the weather won’t stay the same. That’s what we always say to folks who complain that it’s too hot or that it’s too cold: “Just wait a day or so. It will change.”

But it isn’t just the seasons that are changing. Everything is changing. My entire family is teetering on the edge of a really massive season of change in all our lives. And it’s all good. But it’s certainly going to change a lot of things.

The biggest example is my mom’s job. Due to her current health situation, she’s had to start working from home, and it’s not likely she’ll ever go back in the same capacity as she used to be. We all knew it was coming, but now that it’s here, it feels like it sneaked up on us. Last week I helped her clean out her office at church, and I was surprised how sad I was. It’s not like I didn’t expect it, but I was still sad to see the day arrive.

Everything changes. Nothing about us stays the same over the course of our lives. And the only way to make it through with your sanity somewhat intact is to hold on to something that doesn’t change, because then no matter what else turns upside-down you’ll still have a solid place to stand.

Sunflowers in bloom at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunflowers in bloom at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Malachi 3:6.

“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.”

God doesn’t change. Ever. He’s the same as He was when He created everything. He’s the same God who saved Noah and his family, the same God who brought Israel safely out of Egypt, the same God who helped Joseph interpret dreams and David write songs.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around that the God I have conversations with every day is the same God who formed the universe out of nothing. It’s hard to believe that a God that powerful would care, but the Bible says He does, so I believe it.

This post isn’t long today. It’s mainly just a remainder . I did a whole month’s worth of posts on change toward the beginning of the year as I was preparing for my best friend to leave for England, but I needed to remember today that God is the same now as He was then. When I’m facing all of these upheavals in life, good and bad, I need to remember that God stays constant.

The seasons don’t shake Him. Our actions don’t surprise Him. And even when it feels like everything is spinning out of control, He still knows what He’s doing. He hasn’t lost control. He hasn’t abandoned us. If He didn’t abandon Israel, He won’t abandon us either. He promised He wouldn’t, and He always keeps His promises.

So whatever change you’re facing today, just remember that everything about you and around you can turn over on its head and God will still be the same. That’s comforting to me. That helps me face the upcoming changes in my life with courage and confident hope that He already has it settled. I may not know what’s coming, but He does. He’s preparing me, and with His help there’s nothing I can’t conquer.

The barn at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A foundation stronger than your circumstances

I work in the plumbing industry, which is really strange for me to say. That’s my full-time job. I write articles and brochures about my company’s pipe-joining systems for plumbing and heating in homes, commercial projects and industrial plants. Starting out in this job (three years ago March 22), I knew pretty much nothing about plumbing. I actually knew very little about the entire concept of creating a building from the ground up. And I can’t say I know everything now. Honestly, I probably shouldn’t even say I know a lot. But I know so much more than I did.

But there was one aspect of building construction that I did understand and that was the concept of having a strong foundation. If a building doesn’t have a strong foundation, you’re asking for trouble. As I posted yesterday, Kansas is one of the windiest places in the world, and if your house isn’t firmly attached to something, one of those strong windstorms will blast through and take your house with it. It doesn’t even need to be a tornado.

But the same is true in life. If your life doesn’t have a solid foundation, the storms of life can rock your world. But they don’t have to be giant storms. Even little cracks in a foundation are a big problem. Just like everyday issues can chip away at you until you’ve become someone you never intended to be.

The barn at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The barn at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:6.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.

Throughout January I’ve been posting about change and how to deal with change when it comes. And I suppose I should preface all of this by stating something obvious: Even if you have a strong foundation, life is still going to throw curve balls at you. Even if you’re firmly grounded, you still experience earthquakes. Just by having a strong foundation it doesn’t mean change isn’t going to have an effect on you; you’ll still experience it. But the strength of your foundation will determine how you handle the experience.

My property has a chicken house on it that was built probably in the 1940s. I’m guessing. There’s also a barn about 100 yards away from the chicken house. It’s a small barn. No loft. I’ve mentioned this a few other times before, but I experienced a ridiculous windstorm here in early November last year. That crazy south wind slammed into my chicken house and lifted it eight inches off its foundation, bent it backward and twisted it sideways. It’s a wreck.

That same windstorm did absolutely no damage to my barn.

Why?

Well, there are probably some other reasons, but I don’t think it’s wind break. Both the barn and the chicken house have about the same amount of trees between them and the open south pastures. Granted, the chicken house faces south, while the barn faces east with its side toward the south. But the strength of those winds should have shaken the barn up somehow.

My best explanation? The barn has a better foundation.

The chicken house was really just sitting on the dirt with some concrete poured around it. It was hand built by the family who first built our house, I think. In any case, it wasn’t exactly a professional job. Neither was the barn, for that matter, but it was built much later. And while I don’t know the state of its foundation, it’s a bigger foundation than the chicken house in any case. So when they face the same damaging wind storm, the chicken house gets bashed to pieces because its foundation isn’t strong enough to support it.

Foundations are–well–foundational. If you don’t have something strong to build on, the whole of your structure will suffer. But foundations can be deceiving too, because maybe you think your foundation is strong enough, but you don’t really know what it’s made out of. And you spend your life building on it, and then one day everything comes crashing down because you didn’t realize how weak it actually was.

Some foundations wear away with time. Or they erode. Or they just weaken. Maybe they started out strong, but as the years pass, they just wear out because what they’re made of isn’t a good enough material for building.

So if you’re going to build a life, why would you build on a foundation that’s uncertain? The economy and finances, human relationships, even yourself are uncertain at best. And if you try to build your life on those things, it’s all going to come crashing down. If you’re going to build your life on a foundation, you need to build it on something that doesn’t change. I know people who have gone through intense trouble. Deaths. Layoffs. Bankruptcy. You name a horrible thing, and they’ve experienced it. But in spite of it, they’re still standing strong. How is it possible?

Their foundation is stronger than their circumstances. Just like my barn, they have a foundation that is stronger than the storms they’re facing. They have chosen to build their life on the truth of the Bible, on the truth of God’s love, and on the faith that God knows what He’s doing and that everything He does is good, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

So check your foundations today. What are you building your life on? Yourself? Your friends? Your job? None of that is good enough. Build your life on Christ, the Rock that doesn’t change. And all that means is to make decisions based on what the Bible says. Live your life the way Christ did. And not only will your foundation grow strong enough to weather any storm, your life will change too.

Wind in the ripening wheat heads at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

When everything changes, God is constant

Kansas is a windy state. Many folks don’t realize that, mostly because many folks don’t think about Kansas. We’re kind of low on the totem pole as far as noteworthiness goes here in the U.S. We’re ranked 50th on the tourist ratings. Most travelers just drive through Kansas without stopping. And, yes, there are areas of the state that are immensely, ridiculously flat, but the whole state isn’t like that.

I love it here. I love traveling to other states, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But I tell you what: The wind in this state is nuts. The wind never stops blowing here. If we ever have a completely calm day, usually it just means that a huge storm is about to come crashing down on you (we have huge storms too).

Around here, especially in Western Kansas, the high, constant winds provide another outlet for generating energy. If you haven’t seen the wind farms in Western Kansas, let me tell you they’re amazing. It’s like you’re watching acres and acres of giant ballerinas spinning in the sky. I don’t know why they make me think of dancers because those giant wind turbines are standing still, but something about the turning of the blades makes me think of ballerinas. I don’t have a photo of them because the stretch of I-70 where you can see them the best prohibits stopping, but I’ve been tempted to risk it just to snap a picture.

Not just any place can host a wind farm cost-effectively. There has to be enough wind to make it viable. The point I’m getting at is that the wind is constant here, constant enough that putting a wind farm in the middle of nowhere is a good idea. If the wind only blew half the time, it wouldn’t be worth it; but you can always trust the wind to blow in Kansas. Wind in Kansas is constant.

Wind in the ripening wheat heads at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wind in the ripening wheat heads at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

All throughout January I’ve been posting about change and how life changes and how we can deal with it. Facing change with boldness, facing uncertainty with confidence, is not an easy thing to do, but what I’ve learned is that if you can find something constant in any situation, standing your ground gets a lot easier.

I hate talking to people I don’t know. I’m know good at talking anyway, but holding a conversation with someone I’ve never met is very difficult for me. But if I can find common ground, it’s easier. If I can find some constant between us, we have something to talk about.

I love visiting other countries. I love studying other cultures and other languages. But I’m not a linguist, and sometimes communication is hard because I don’t speak the language and I don’t understand all the cultural nuances. But I’ve met family, brothers and sisters in Christ, from countries all over the place, and even if we don’t speak the same language or come from the same culture, we have something in common. We all follow Christ. And that constant gives us something we can both relate to.

We don’t say a desert is constant because the sand is always shifting. It’s different from one moment to the next. The shorelines aren’t constant because the ocean reshapes them. But rocks? Rocks are eventually weathered away by erosion from wind and rain, but it takes a long time. When we see a rock, we think about it being solid and unchanging. That’s the difference.

And that’s the difference between people and God.

People aren’t constant. We aren’t steady. We may try to be, but it’s our nature to be blown on a different course every day by the winds of popular opinion or anxieties or circumstances. And while some have grown enough in their walk with Christ to understand the importance of being constant and steady, we’re still human; we’re still vulnerable to the lure of inconsistency, no matter how damaging it is.

I’m not saying you can’t trust people. We have to trust each other. But that trust always needs to be supported by a level of understanding that human beings are still made of dust.

But God is different. God is constant. Like the wind in Kansas, He’s always there. Like the giant rocks on the faces of great mountains, He doesn’t change. Like an anchor at the bottom of the ocean keeping the huge ships from drifting away on the tides and unyielding undercurrents of the sea, He can’t be bullied and He can’t be intimidated.

God is constant. Completely constant.

He’s always been there. He’ll always be there.

Coping with change in life is just like any other struggle we face, like talking to people we don’t know or venturing into cultures we don’t understand. If we can find something constant to hold onto, everything else will fall into place. And God is the constant we need in our crazy, out-of-control lives. When you reach out to Him, He’ll be there. He’s waiting for you right now, arms open, hands extended.

Will reaching out to Him make your life less nuts? Probably not. But when everything around you is spinning, it’s nice to know that you have someone to hold onto who isn’t.

Lizard on a rock on a hiking trail at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

When everything changes, God is good

I know good people. They’re the kind of people I can trust will always do what’s right, even when it’s difficult. Those are good people to know, to surround yourself with, because they keep you honest and they usually experience good things as a result of their wise choices. Granted, they aren’t perfect. Nobody down here is, but there’s something about people who always do the right thing that is attractive and terrifying. You want to be friends with them, but you’re afraid of them at the same time because if someone always does what’s right, how do they feel about someone who usually ends up doing what’s wrong?

Most of the time those good people don’t even consider themselves good, and the ones I know certainly don’t. They’re just trying to follow Christ as best they can. And that’s one of the amazing truths about God is that He truly is good. There’s no one better. And because He is truly good, everything He does is right.

Lizard on a rock on a hiking trail at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Lizard on a rock on a hiking trail at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 32:4.

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.
    Everything he does is just and fair.
He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
    how just and upright he is!

There’s no second guessing with God. If He does something, it’s good. The Bible says that over and over and over again. So where does all the hurt and brokenness in our world from? Well, God didn’t create the world like this; He created it perfect, and we’re the ones who broke it. He’s doing the best He can with a world that refuses to listen to Him. If He wanted a world full of robots to do His bidding, He could have “fixed” our world long ago, but that’s not who He is. And those people who get angry at Him for allowing atrocities in our world would chafe against a solution like that anyway.

I don’t claim to understand everything. I don’t claim to understand God. Nobody can do that. But I would like to think I know His heart. I know what the Bible says about Him, and I believe the Bible. So when the Bible says He’s good, that means He is. The world isn’t good. I’m not good. People aren’t good. But God is. And He is working to make things good again for the people who follow Him.

Does that mean that everything that happens is good? No. But we’ve got to remember that the world is currently under different management than it was originally intended. God created it and gave it to us to take care of, but our first parents forfeited that right when they disobeyed, and Satan took over. Yes, God is ultimately in control, but right now Earth is under the governorship of Satan. We gave Him that right, but one day God will take it back. One day God will make everything right again. And until then, we have to trust Him.

So how does that help us today? Today we face a world that is more uncertain than ever. Personally, I live in a country that no longer recognizes itself. Like a rebelling teenager, the United States has pushed away from everything that is good and is striving to do wrong because we can. The rest of the world is already there, but the U.S. is running to catch up and the consequences are going to be disastrous. The whole world is running itself into the ground. I have to laugh about doomsday clocks and the Mayan calendar and all the other threats that say the world is going to end because the world is going to end, but not with ice or fire. The world is going to collapse on itself, rotted from the inside, trying to support a facade of self-righteousness that’s too heavy for something without a spine.

The world is changing by the hour, and most of those changes are bad. Or they will bring bad things, even to people who trying to live right. But because I know that God is good, I trust that He does good things and that He can take even the ugliest situation and make it beautiful.

So when everything goes wrong today, remember that God is good. We may not understand what’s happening or why, but if you’re a follower of Christ, nothing can happen to you that God can’t use for good.

Big horn sheep grazing at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Status quo

This is the time of year when everyone starts thinking about change. We think about changing our weight. We think about changing our style. We think about changing our habits and the types of people we hang out with and the things we do.

Everyone changes things up in January, and I think it’s ironic because deep down inside, I don’t think anyone really likes change. People are creatures of habit. Even the change we initiate is uncomfortable, and most people I know change things up because they don’t want to get stuck in a rut. They do it as a preventative measure; not because they yearn for change. Maybe I’m wrong and there are people out there who thrive on change, but I haven’t met one before.

But change is essential. Without change, we don’t grow. Without change, we plateau. Without change, we get comfortable, not only with ourselves but with God. And that’s a place I never want to be. I never want to be comfortable with God, where I feel perfectly capable of doing everything myself and never having to ask Him for help.

Big horn sheep grazing at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Big horn sheep grazing at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Genesis 12:1-3.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

God has a history of helping ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and the story of Abraham and Sarah (at this time, Abram and Sarai) is just one example. There was nothing special about Abraham. He was just a guy who made a choice–to follow God instead of rejecting Him. But that one choice changed everything.

God told him to leave. Leave his home. Leave his family. Leave the life he’d built in the country he’d always known. And just go. God didn’t say where. He didn’t tell Him where he’d be living or how he was going to get there or when (or if) he’d ever come back.  Just go.

And Abraham did.

The trouble with me is that I hate change. I despise it. I can deal with it. I don’t mind coping with change, but it’s my least favorite thing in the world. I understand why it’s necessary, but I don’t like it.

I have the same internet provider I’ve had for years. I have the same cellular phone provider I did when I was a child. I use the same brand of shampoo and conditioner on my hair. I hate change. But change is good.

Now, does that mean the status quo is bad? Well, not necessarily. Change is good, but many people are in a position where they have to keep to the status quo right now. Changing right now would have a negative impact on their lives or on their families. But if God has told you to change, you need to do it.

The thing about Abraham is that God had huge plans for him. Like this verse lays out, Abraham had a great future in store for him. I mean, imagine what would have happened if Abraham hadn’t done it. He would never have left. He would never have become the father of Israel. Everything hinged on Abraham doing what God called him to do. Granted, God would have worked out His master plan some other way, but think about what Abraham would have missed out on.

The long and the short of it is that God couldn’t have used Abraham where he was. He had to move. He had to change.

I have a lot of things changing in my life this year. Some changes I’ve chosen. Most of them I haven’t. They range from my personal life to my professional life, from my own life to the lives of the people I love. And the one uniting factor is that I have absolutely zero control over any of it. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m a control freak, and not having control over anything shakes my world.

None of the change is bad, necessarily. On the contrary, most of it is super exciting and shows just how much God is working not only in my life but in the lives of others. But in all these situations, the only thing I can do is hold on to what I know is true and keep moving forward.

Change is unsettling and uncomfortable and unpleasant. And it helps me remember that I’m not in control and that I need help daily. Change helps us grow because we don’t know what’s coming next and we have to rely on God for every step, because when we change everything up we don’t know what the next step is going to bring.

But if God has called you to change something in your life, don’t be afraid of it. If He’s called you to change, do it. The story of Abraham tells us that God’s already worked out the details; he just needs us to say yes and take that first step, even if we can’t see where we’re going.