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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Just go right on rejoicing

As I was traveling back from my friends’ home in New Jersey with my brother earlier this week, I experienced a very rare moment: my genius brother was wrong and I was right. It doesn’t happen often. Usually it’s the other way around. But I knew I heard the dude at the gate in Atlanta say that gate-checked baggage should be picked up at the baggage claim at the airport in Wichita when we arrived. So when we stepped off the plane in Wichita, I told my brother that he needed to get his bag from baggage claim, but he didn’t believe me. He’d retrieved bags in the jetway in Wichita before, so it made no sense for them to be sent to the baggage claim.

I didn’t argue because I thought maybe I’d misheard. That’s usually how it goes. My brain hears things or thinks things, and I end up distracted and don’t get the whole story. So when his bag didn’t appear on the jetway, he asked the gate attendant. Sure enough. His bag had been sent to baggage claim.

Yes! Vindication!

Ever been there? When someone assumes you’re wrong for whatever reason only later to discover that you were right? It’s a pretty awesome feeling, finding out that you were on the up-and-up when everyone else just automatically assumes you can’t find your own nose with both hands and a road map.

That whole little kerfuffle was funny, and it’s something light-hearted I can tease my brother about now. But there are other more serious showdowns in life where people accuse you of things of which you’re innocent. Or they claim you’ve done something that you haven’t done. Or they assume things about your heart or your attitude that they can’t possibly know. And, what’s most frustrating, you can’t convince them otherwise. Your accusers shut their ears to you, and the only one other than you who knows the truth is God.

What do you do then? How do you react or respond? And just what the heck are you supposed to do with yourself until God sorts everything out like He’s promised He will?

5JA2DJT9G9_1556x993Today’s verses are Psalm 109:26-31.

Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me because of your unfailing love.
Let them see that this is your doing,
that you yourself have done it, Lord.
Then let them curse me if they like,
but you will bless me!
When they attack me, they will be disgraced!
But I, your servant, will go right on rejoicing!
May my accusers be clothed with disgrace;
may their humiliation cover them like a cloak.
But I will give repeated thanks to the Lord,
praising him to everyone.
For he stands beside the needy,
ready to save them from those who condemn them.

Nothing happens in our lives without a purpose. Yes, life is dark, and the world is broken, and because of that brokenness terrible things happen to us. But there’s nothing so terrible in our lives that God can’t turn into something beautiful. It takes time and patience and a lot of trust, but eventually you’ll get there.

Hurting people hurt people. That’s the truth. And it’s that truth that reminds me that my battle isn’t against people. So no matter what anyone does or says to me, I don’t ever want to hurt them in return. And I want to remember always that the difficult times in life are the moments when God proves Himself the most faithful. Not that He’s less faithful any other time but I’m just paying more attention.

Trouble and heartache will come. Some of it you’ll bring on yourself, and God is faithful to get you through it. The rest of it you won’t deserve, and God’s still faithful then too. Our goal as a Christ-follower is to keep on rejoicing regardless. Keep on singing. Keep on dancing and praising, and above all else, keep your eyes on the Lord. He’s the one who knows your heart, and it doesn’t matter what accusation anyone throws at you when the God of the Universe knows you to your soul.

God is right. God is faithful. God is true. God is real. He loves me unconditionally, and He forgives me perpetually. He’s more than enough for me. And no matter where I am today or tomorrow or ten years from now, whether I have everything or I’ve lost everything, whether I’m safe or in danger, I will still say the same thing. Because He doesn’t change. And nothing anyone else says or does will change that either.

What horrible thing happened to you this week? What difficult trial are you facing today? Who’s telling lies about you or threatening you or hurting you? Don’t stop rejoicing. No matter what. Tell God how awesome He is and believe it and watch Him work.

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.

Rainbow in the sky near Esfuerzo Dos, Peten, Guatemala

When everything changes, God doesn’t

Do you know people who keep their promises? They’re good people to know. Their word means something to them, and you can trust that when they make you a promise, they will do all they can to see it through to the end. But how many times does someone have to keep a promise before it becomes part of their character? Once? Ten times? Half their life?

The amazing thing about God (one of the many) is that He has made thousands and thousands of promises, just that we know about in the Bible, and He has kept every single one. Maybe I’m generalizing, but I don’t think a normal average human being can do that. At some point, we have to break promises because we aren’t capable of always keeping them; but God is.

Rainbow in the sky near Esfuerzo Dos, Peten, Guatemala

Rainbow in the sky near Esfuerzo Dos, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Isaiah 44:8.

Do not tremble; do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago?
You are my witnesses—is there any other God?
    No! There is no other Rock—not one!”

From the moment He created time itself, God has been making promises to His Creation, and up until now, every promise He has made, except for a few, have become reality. And those few outstanding will change everything once He does what He’s promised to do.

The hallmark of someone you can trust, someone who keeps their promises, is that when they say they’re going to do something, they’re really going to do it. And that works with God as well as with people down here.

So what does that mean for us? Yes, it’s good to know that God keeps His promises, but you have to know His promises before it really has any bearing on our lives. You have to know that He has promised to never abandon us. You have to know that He has promised to help us get through life. You have to know that He has promised to make everything work out for good for the people who have chosen to follow Him.

Has He really promised those things? Yes, He really has. And because God keeps His promises, we can know that He will truly do them.

God has been keeping promises for thousands and thousands of years. The Bible is proof of what He has done and why He has done it. And since He has been keeping promises for so long, why would He stop now? What we need to remember is that God doesn’t change. In our whole life, our whole existence, He is the one person that doesn’t. Everything else does. Life happens. People die. Babies are born. People get married. People get divorced. People move and leave and return. Churches change. Jobs change. Economies change. Governments change.

In our lives on Earth, there’s only one constant: Everything changes.

And change isn’t bad. Most of the time it’s good because it forces us outside our comfort zone, but the change that we welcome is usually the change that we initiate. It’s the change that we don’t choose that is difficult to bear. It’s the change we have no control over that discourages us and frightens us and worries us.

But even when everything around us changes, God doesn’t.

I’m sitting at my office computer accessing the internet from a wireless connection that is broadcast to my farm from a tower in a nearby town. When high-speed internet came to the rural areas of Kansas, there was much rejoicing because we were all still stuck in the limited universe of dial-up modems for years. And with every year, our technology changes and our ability to communicate over vast distances improves. We are able to do things today that people 30 years ago could only imagine; we are able to do things today that people 100 years ago couldn’t even dream.

Our world has changed drastically in the last decade or so. It’s weird for me to stay that I remember 20 years ago, but I do. I remember what the world was like in the ’80s and ’90s. I remember watching the slow change that overtook us until we became the country we are today.

But sitting in my office with all my technology, living in my world that is so drastically different from the world I grew up in, I am writing about the same God who told Noah to build an ark to save who he could. I am writing about the same God who promised Abraham that he would be a great nation. I am writing about the same God who turned a little shepherd boy into the greatest king Israel had ever known. The same God who heard the cries of the people who were seeking Him, the same God who made everything, the same God who send Christ to die for us, is same now as He was then.

And in a world that refuses to stop changing no matter how hard we try to hold on to what was, having that constant is awfully nice. Because we can trust that no matter how topsy-turvy everything in our lives gets, God is still working things out. He promised He would. And if God has kept His promises for all these thousands of years, He isn’t going to stop now.

So don’t despair when things change. Don’t worry and don’t shut down because God’s not changing, and He still has the power to take any situation (especially the ugly ones we’ve screwed up) and make it beautiful. We just have to let Him.

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Does your shadow ever leave?

I am always amazed at how big God is. It’s wintertime now, which means it’s the best time of year to go stargazing, and if you don’t mind dodging wildlife, you can see more stars than you can imagine from my driveway. It’s those clear, crisp, quiet evenings when I’m trying to count the stars I can see and utterly failing because there are so many that make me wonder at God.

A popular late-night talk show host was talking to an actress on his show the other evening, and he is of the opinion that if there is a God, He has more important matters to deal with than us. But the Bible tells us differently. The Bible says God made everything and holds everything together and still wants to be a part of our everyday lives.

And this isn’t something that just happened in the New Testament. No, God was in relationships with His people starting in the Old Testament, in the very first book of the Bible.

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Genesis 46:3-4.

“I am God, the God of your father,” the voice said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.”

This is a promise that God made to Jacob, who is considered to be one of the Patriarchs of Israel. It started with Abraham, who I mentioned on Wednesday. Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob. And for those of you who know the Bible, you probably know where this passage comes from. Jacob’s youngest–most beloved–son Joseph had established an abundant and prosperous life in Egypt through God’s grace (read the story; Genesis 37-50; it sounds long, but it’s one of the most amazing stories you’ll ever read), and he had invited his father to come down and live with him because where Jacob lived was in famine.

Here’s the thing: Egypt was always considered a bad place. It was a place of pagans. It was a place of evil. And Canaan, where Jacob’s family was, had been given to his family. It was the Promised Land. So it’s no wonder that Jacob didn’t want to leave.

So this is what God told him: Go anyway. And God promised that He would go with him. God promised to go with Jacob into Egypt and promised to bring his family back out again. And if you keep on reading into Exodus, you’ll find out that’s exactly what God did.

But what stood out to me this morning is that no matter where we go, God will be there. And if God has told us to go somewhere, He’s going to go with us. There are examples all throughout Scripture about how people have tried to run from God (Jonah, being the best-known example), but in every case, what they discovered is that you can’t run from God. How can you run from Someone who is everywhere?

You can’t. It’s like playing hide and seek with your own shadow. You can’t get away because it’s always constant. Maybe you can’t always see it, but it’s always there. And it’s the same way with God.

So what does this mean today?

Well, for one, don’t try to hide from God. That’s silly.

And two? If God tells you to do something or go somewhere, don’t be afraid. He’ll go with you no matter where you go. He’ll be standing right beside you in those moments when you have to make a choice. He’ll be cheering for you when you do what He’s called you to do. He’ll be there. He promised.

In Jacob’s case, God told him to go to the worst place imaginable. God told him to go to a foreign land that had been reviled as an evil place, but even in that evil place, God was with him. And that same God who kept His promise to Jacob and all his family is our God today. He could be trusted to keep His word back then; we can trust Him to keep His word now.

So don’t be afraid of making hard choices and stepping away from your comfort zone. God doesn’t live in your comfort zone, and He’s waiting for you get out of it and come to where He is.