Where Did the Joy Go?

Erosion.  Webster’s defines it as “the gradual destruction or diminution of something.”  Some of the more common uses of the word revolve around water and wind erosion of the soil.  Often a natural event, but there are times when erosion takes place due to the actions of mankind.

hqdefaultI would imagine that when the house in this picture was completed, there was no thought given to it eventually ending up like this.  Most likely they were filled with joy at having a new home with a beautiful ocean view and promises of sunsets and enjoyment for years to come.  The thought of it falling into the ocean could not have been further from their mind.

I am reading a devotional right now by Tim Walter called Proceeding On: Discovering the Gospel in the Corps of Discovery.  It follows the expedition of Lewis and Clark – their pursuit to find the source of the Missouri River and their hope that it would lead to a connection to the Pacific Ocean.  That was not to be, but they did make the journey across the country experiencing hardship after hardship in the pursuit of their quest.

At times the expedition was under such great duress that they must have thought they would never make it.  The joy of the adventure was gone.  They were now simply enduring the next day as they trudged forward.  Hope kept them moving, but sometimes hope is only enough to keep the feet moving, not enough to keep a spring in the step.

Finally, they made it to the Pacific.  I can only imagine the joy that must have flooded back into their hearts and minds after such a long and hard trip.  William Clark recounted it in his journals using these words:

“Ocean in view! Oh the Joy!  That great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to see!” – William Clark, 1805

The journey was hard not because of any singular obstacle they faced, but because of the many they faced one after another.  No single event could have robbed them of their desire to move forward.  No single event could have eroded their spirits.  It was the repeated difficulties of the journey that took it away much like the crashing waves and blowing wind took away the sand that held that house up.  It never happens all at once, and there are opportunities to set things right before all is lost.

The devotional talks about how I could be experiencing the joy that I felt in the day I accepted Christ as my Savior.  He asks me to reflect on that and ask myself if I am remembering the feeling of the Holy Spirit working in me and asking God to restore that feeling in me as I go through life.  It got me thinking pretty hard about it and taking stock of where I am right now versus where I have been in the past.

As far as remembering the joy of the day I accepted Christ, I was about 4 years old, and I mainly remember a feeling of relief that I would be avoiding Hell!  Sure I was happy about it, but at that age, I would say that I was pretty sure that I was more relieved at getting out of the biggest punishment I could imagine at that time.  Obviously, as I grew up, the enormity of that decision became clear, and it means so much more to me that I have gained something so much greater than anything I have avoided!

So, as a Follower of Christ for almost 40 years, I can sadly look back on my life now and see the ebb and flow of experiencing joy in my salvation. The joy in my salvation has experienced some rough storms, had the foundations of it battered and beaten, and at times I have wondered if it would hold.

While I can look back and see times that things were bad, I can always see that the foundation held.  The troubles, doubts, and fears of life worked as hard as they could to undermine it and take away my hopes of holding on.  The sand around that foundation might have been friends, family, finances, work, or health, and there have been times that they all felt like they had been washed away, but the foundation held because it was built of something stronger – Christ.

Being a Christian is not an easy life.  Jesus didn’t promise to save me from trouble.  If He was about avoiding trouble, He probably would not have died in such a horrific manner.  He promised to be with me during the hard times, to help me hang on when I feel like I am about to go over the edge.

No matter how bad things may have felt, I had my Bible and the words of The Living God to give me stability and protection.  The storms raged, and it felt like more things were washing away, my joy seemed to be gone or at least diminished to the point it was hard to see or feel, but the reason for joy was still there, and it held until the storm stopped and things could be set right again.

I love how Tim put it in his devotional:

“There is no greater tragedy in the Christian walk than the loss of joy in our salvation.  This tragedy does not occur at a special time, but it comes slowly, over the daily battles we fight as we follow Jesus.”

It is in the minutia of our daily walk where we can win or lose the battle to keep our joy.  Allowing the stress of work to build, allowing a relationship to fade, or to let fear reign over safety or finances.  These are the places where the battle takes place – the subtle moments that are all easily defeated by the knowledge that God keeps His promises to us.  They only have power against us when they are not dealt with one at a time and are allowed to claw away at our joy a small piece at a time.

Tim used this verse from Psalms to encourage me today:

“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:12

It should be the prayer of every believer.  Calling out to God to keep the joy of our salvation alive is a necessity in Relentless Living.  It can’t be something that waits until things get bad, we need to be aware and focused on that daily as our safeguard against despair and fear.

So, how about you?  How is your joy?  Do you remember what it was like to be joyful in your salvation?  If you are like me, you struggle from time to time, but that is okay.  I’m in one of those moments right now, and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is sustaining me as I get through this, and that I am able to see today that I can experience that joy on a daily basis.

I feel a bit like Clark today as I have been reminded that I have reached that shore!  Salvation is mine, and I am so thankful for the gift, and for the experience of the hard times that make that gift even more precious!

51nsihkrf8lIf you would like to enjoy this devotional like I am, here is the link on Amazon.  I have not met Tim, but I hope to meet him one day and thank him personally for the encouragement I have been receiving from his insights into God’s Word and the glimpse into history as well.  I feel like Lewis and Clark were a little bit Relentless, and I want to be the same in my Christian walk, and this book is a great tool for it!  A big thanks to my friend Joe from Overboard Ministries for putting it in my my hand!





A Swagger Ain’t All Bad…

When I was 14, we had a little tan ’76 Chevy Chevette that I was sure would be my first car.  It was a great little runner with a manual transmission and a little 4-banger for an engine.  It also had a corrosion-assist air circulation system. (Read that as rust holes big enough to throw a grapefruit through.)  The interior was a little run down, and there were pits in the windshield, but in all honesty, the Chevette had not been built to turn heads and make people say, “Ooooooo!”  It was transportation.  Pure and simple.

Dad and I went through that little rag and gave her a new floor pan, some sheet metal, and enough fiberglass and bondo to build a small boat.  We finished her off with a paint job that was pretty wild for a Chevette… and then he sold her.  I thought she was going to be my first car, but Dad decided that his son probably could use a little more metal wrapped around him than that little Chevette could provide.  He was probably right.  I probably would not have gotten that first speeding ticket though…

A few years later, after giving my ’79 Malibu a paint job, I needed a winter beater.  I tracked down a ’78 Chevy Malibu that on the outside was REALLY rough.  It was burgundy with a black padded-vinyl top that had started to split and shred.  It had fuzz coming out all over the top and when it went down the road, the fuzz would wave in the breeze like an old fella that refuses to give up the comb-over.  The car had a hideous red interior with some rather unidentifiable stains in the seats, but I didn’t care.  It also had a small-block V-8 under the hood.  That old rag could flat fly!  I put a set of light truck snow tires on it and there wasn’t a place that car couldn’t take me.

4 years ago I bought a Buick from a guy at work because I needed a winter car.  While the outside of this car was not in bad shape, the inside was full of surprises.  It had a household light switch that operated the fan, The clock was not able to be programmed and was off by 2 hours and 17 minutes, and the high beams and dash lights would just turn off on their own from time to time.  The car had two broken sway links and a sway bar that was only being held in place by the bushings.  It was an accident waiting to happen.  It was the first car that I ever got stuck with on more than one occasion (each time in my own driveway), but when I hit the key it was always ready to go.

I’ve owned a lot of cars over the last almost 30 years.  Some of them have been nice cars, some of them I made into nice cars, and some of them were cars that had to make people wonder what I was thinking. Most recently I picked up an ’02 Pontiac Montana from one of my best friends.  Yep.  A mini-van.  Not just any mini-van though.  This car has some issues…

  • After driving it for two months, I have finally figured out how all of the door locks work – or don’t work.  There is a science to getting into this car…
  • It has a ton of rust that is not visible at first glance, but as you climb around in an under it, you start to really wonder what is holding it together!
  • I’ve made some repairs here and there:
    • cleaned the interior
    • fixed a coolant leak
    • swapped out the headlights
    • plugged a tire
    • put on new windshield wipers
    • replaced the cabin air filters. (After removing a mouse nest the size of my head from the blower fan housing.  Finally caught the mouse in a trap I set in the car.  Traps are still set because you never know if there might be more!)
    • The most satisfying repair was probably getting the windshield sealed so water didn’t run into my left shoe when I made a right turn.

Some of you reading this might think, “Wait a minute.  You said that you bought this car from one of your best friends?  Were you doing him a favor or is he really not that good of a friend?”  I can tell you that he is a great friend.  We’ll get back to that a little later.  There are things wrong with this car, but when I hit the key, it starts.  The blower throws heat (most of the time – not too concerned yet). It has an excellent set of snow tires, and a kicking stereo! (Even if the cassette and CD players don’t work and I can’t tell what station it is on!)  I’m loving this van!

If you go back over all of these vehicles I talked about, they all have something in common.  They might not have had a lot of show, but they all had it where it really counts with a car.  They ran!  They might not be worth looking at, but 4 tires that turn and and engine that runs are really the most important things you need in a car. Well, yes. We need heaters here in Northern Michigan, but you get my point.

I look back over the cars that I have had, and while I enjoyed the lack of emergency maintenance I have had with some of the nicer, newer cars, I have really enjoyed those beaters!  I like their quirks, the opportunities they have given me to learn new skills in auto repair (Thank you, Dad and Ray for your mentorship), and for the fun stories I have been able to share.  I could look at these cars as things that bring frustration, but they really don’t.  They are adventures!

12227058_10207948334177256_3231851094432208921_nNow that I am a 42 year old man driving a rusty, soccer mom mini-van.  I can only embrace the fun of it.  Right from the start I had dubbed this vehicle the Swagger Wagon, and my friend Ray even got some decals for me to put in the windows.  The decals are getting noticed at work and I’m loving it.  People shake their heads at first because they think it is silly, but when they ask me why I would associate my mini-van with “Swagger” I get an opportunity to share.  I am proud of that van, and here is why:

  1. It was gift from a good friend who saw a need and wanted to help.  I bought the van, but I didn’t pay very much for it.  After talking with my friend Mike about my wife stepping out of her career and how I needed to get a vehicle that would just get me to and from work, Mike stepped up and made me an offer.  I looked the van over and made an informed decision.  A decision that I would make all over again because it meant so much to me that he would help me out like that.  Mike has a heart for serving and helping people, and I can brag about the God that put that heart in him.  I can brag about how my God used my friend to meet a need.  It’s not the first time Mike has been used this way, but I am driving the proof of it around and telling people about it!
  2. It was evidence of God meeting my needs.  I didn’t need a brand new Silverado.  I needed a set of wheels.  I prayed for God to bring the right vehicle to me when the time was right.  I could have prayed for something nicer, but I knew that with the price I was willing to pay, God was going to need to be involved in any purchase I made!  I have seen God meet our needs just in time several times over the past five years, and I knew He would be there again.  I can brag about a God that is there for me over and over again!
  3. It’s fun to drive a  beater! This part isn’t really deep.  I just like having a car that I can fix without worrying too much about making sure that everything looks “just right”.  I have wire holding all sorts of things together in this van, and there will probably be much more!  It is satisfying to be able to fix it on the cheap and just enjoy driving it.  I take pride in keeping it as clean as I can and doing what needs to be done to keep it running, but past that?  The more bizarre the repair the more fun I have.  I can brag about a God that brought me a car that brings me this much fun!

Relentless living is about looking for the things that really matter.  It might be a dependable vehicle, a caring friend, someone willing to teach you something you need to know, or any number of other things.  Every day we come face to face with things God has given us that are really important if we just choose to see them.  After we see them, we have the choice to acknowledge Him in them or not.  I could hang my head because I need to keep a recurring appointment with an air compressor on my calendar since the tires all have slow leaks, or I can be thankful that they have great tread and I have an air compressor!

The Bible has a couple of words that reflect my feelings regarding this van and what it has brought to my life.  The first would be contentment and the other is joy.  These feelings are rooted in a trust that God is watching out for me and the needs of my family. How He meets the needs is up to Him. How I feel about that is up to me.  I want to bring my God Relentless praise, and as I reflect on how good He is to me, one of his children…

Well, if anything is gonna give you a little swagger, that oughta do it!



Loving Pain

painThere are a lot of words we can use to describe heartache.  Despair, discouragement, stress, struggles, difficulties, trials, loss, hurt, and probably a few more before we even get into the actual causes of some of those heartaches.  Words like death, divorce, job loss, financial calamity, and acts of nature all bring a tug at our hearts because we all know someone that has experienced one or more of these even if we have been able to avoid them ourselves.  The one thing they all have in common is that they all bring some sort of pain into our lives.

Why?  Why are we asked to face these things?  It goes back to the old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  Why do innocent people suffer?  Why are we given these portions of pain that we must carry?

The simple, old-fashioned, answer is that we live in a fallen world. There is evil in the world that mankind introduced with his first sinful act. (Yes, I said his.  Adam failed his wife before she ever took a bite.)  Because of that, sin did enter the world and as a result, we are not living in the perfect, hazard free environment of the Garden of Eden.  The question I ask after that though is “What is the point of it then?”

I’ve heard a lot of answers to that question over the years, and I don’t want to sound cynical, but it is hard to hear them when you are in the middle of the pain.  They sound trite.  They sound too easy.  They sound insincere when the person has no idea what kind of pain you are dealing with.

A couple days ago, I stumbled across an article on Fox News that linked to an interview of Steven Colbert for GQ magazine.  Joel  Lovell interviewed Colbert about several different things, but one part of the interview really stood out to me as Colbert talked about the loss of his father and brothers when he was 10 years old.  Colbert was the youngest of eleven kids, and after the tragedy, he was the only child left at home with his mother.
Stephen-ColbertLovell asked Colbert how he could have suffered the losses in his life, but somehow still arrived where he is today, about to take over the microphone for the legend, David Letterman.  The thing that struck Lovell was not that Colbert did not exhibit anger or open woundedness, but that he appears to be “genuinely grounded and joyful.”  Colbert answered by stating that he did not want people to  think this was a pat answer, but it was because of his mom.
Colbert lost his father and two closest brothers in a plane crash when he was just 10 years old.  He would go on later in the article to say that it was “a bomb” that went off in his life.  In the aftermath he watched his mom cope with the loss, and the thing that hit him the most was that she was not bitter.  He said, “by her example I am not bitter.  By her example.  She was not.  Broken, yes. Bitter, no.”  He said he thinks that she drew on her faith in those horrible days of grief so that she would not be swallowed by it.  He also said that her faith may have been what allowed her “to recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy…what is sorrow in the light of eternity?”  What a phenomenal example for a mother to give to her son! To be open and honest with the pain, but also showing that it need not take over your life.

As Colbert continues, he shares that we need to remember that acceptance of a terrible thing is not the same as being defeated by it.  We need to be real and accept that a bad thing happened.  The “bomb” went off, and it caused a huge explosion, but he said that he learned to love the bomb because of what he learned through it from his mother.  He said. “That is why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons on-stage.  It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

Tolkien believed that death was not a punishment from God, but that it was a gift. God’s desire to give us a way back to Him makes that true!  Colbert echoes that belief today when he asks, “What punishments from God are not gifts?”  I believe that he really understands the crux of this through this last quote, “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude.  It doesn’t mean you want it.  I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

Let’s face it, we all have faced, are facing, or will face something terrible in our lives at some point.  It isn’t that God hates us, or that He has given up on us.  He has simply allowed it into our lives for the purpose of telling the story of His redemptive work in His most prized creation – us.  We go through things so we can help people go through things so they can help people go through things too, and it is all because God is working in hearts and minds for His glory and to help us grow.  That’s it.

I’m personally watching some people go through some of these things right now.  Some are near the point of coming out of the bad time, others have been in it for awhile now, and one in particular has just entered it.  I have also been able to see them all reaching out to each other for help or to give prayer support, and even to thank God for allowing them to suffer a similar situation so they could fully understand the hurt of another!  That is the answer to the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  It gives us the opportunity to be the hands of Christ in the life of another.

fogging-bombRelentless people living Relentless lives.  People who can see the importance of hurt, not to be a martyr or to gain sympathy, but for the expressed purpose of using it to help another.  I can say I have been on both sides of it, and it brings back all the pain when you enter into it with someone else, but I know the power of the love that flows from that person into me when I see that pain in their eyes as they share their hurt not to show me how they have gotten through it, but to show me that I can get through it.

So, the next time a “bomb” drops in your life, remember Steve Colbert’s words, “You gotta love the bomb.”  Remember these words too:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (ESV)

He has a purpose for each of us. Sometimes it will involve pain.  Embrace it. You will never know who God is planning for you to help one day.





logo_frazzledI’m feeling it.  That pressure that sits right behind the eyeballs.  The pressure of knowing there is more to do than can be done, and that leaves you feeling paralyzed and unable to do anything.  Sleep is not the answer because once it happens, the dreams wake you up again.  You end up going through the day feeling like you are constantly trying to catch up as you see yourself falling farther behind.

Yep.  That’s where I am right now.  Call it what you want, stressed, frazzled, tired, deprived, or half crazy.  I just know that I have had a headache for the last five days, and have averaged about four hours of sleep for the last 4 nights.  I’m beat.  Feeling like I got little or nothing left.

So, I guess I only have one of two choices.  I can either continue to feel sorry for myself or I can give it to God.

Pity Party for One – The problem is, I know that having a pity party for one is not possible.  You just can’t feel sorry for yourself without affecting other people.  They will either fall into your funk, or they will get fed up with your funk!  Either way, you will end up dragging others down.  I know I have done that today, and I need to apologize to my kids this evening.  Tammi is gone tonight, so she avoided my party.  (At least today’s party…)  Tammi, I’m sorry for the last couple days!

Give It to God – Psalm 27:13 says – “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”  I have looked at that as a prayer in the past, but what if it was a statement of war against Satan’s constant attacks at my joy?  Would I see a difference in my attitude?   Probably so.  I think that is going to be my “mantra” tomorrow.  (That should have some old Baptists cringing! Tom is chanting!)  I need to keep my head focused on looking for God’s goodness.  A Relentless view of God’s hand at work in my life and around me.  That should help with the joy problem!

Relentless living doesn’t mean you can’t have rough days, but it does mean that as you think them through, you can and will find your joy again.  It probably won’t be in the events around you, but it can always be found in God!


2015 – “Whatcha Doin’?”

Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.

 – Exodus 33:13-18 (ESV) Emphasis mine

Many years ago, and by the date in the pic it was in the neighborhood of 14 years ago, I was sitting at the computer one night and Zach came over and asked a question.  He had a very good vocabulary for a little guy less than two years old, and I’m not sure why I did it, but I got the microphone down close to him and recorded the audio in the clip below:

He loved anything and everything about the computer and was always hopping up into my chair and grabbing the mouse.  He was a natural.  I don’t know how many times I would come back to the computer and find all the icons rearranged – or gone.  Some of it was his natural bent toward tech.  Some of it was he wanted to be like Dad, and Dad worked on the computer.

Over the years, we switched out computers a few times, but I have never gotten rid of that sound file.  It brings a smile to my face every time I hear it because it takes me back to the days when he was so little and interested in everything that I did.  “Whatcha doin’?” was a very common phrase in our house as he would toddle along behind me.  Whether outside, in the garage, at the computer, in the basement, or just coming in the house, it was almost a greeting, but I see now it was more than that.

That little guy’s query was a constant reminder of his desire to be a part of what was going on in my life.  He wanted to know everything!  Sometimes the answer would be enough in itself and off he would go to do his own thing, but other times it would prompt second questions or a request to help – to be involved.

wpid-2014-12-30-10.14.06.png.pngThis little guy will be 16 in five months.  Hard to believe how fast time flies.  He still asks the question from time to time, but the voice is a bit deeper now.  The hair on his head is a little darker, and there is a definite shadow of a beard on his face.  He doesn’t look up at me to ask the question like he did back then because he can just about look me in the eye now.  So much has changed, and it seems like a blink or two ago.

When Zach would ask me that question as a little boy, he was in pursuit of something.  I was too thick to notice it all the time, and really only picked it up as I started writing this post, but he was looking for a way to be a part of what I was doing.  I was focused on a task, an obstacle, a schedule, or a demand, but he was focused as much on getting to know me as he was on the work I was involved in.  Like I said earlier, sometimes the knowledge of what I was doing was enough, but other times he would join me in what I was doing.  In hindsight, I probably too often  turned him aside with excuses ranging from, “I don’t have time to let him help. It’s not safe for him. I want it done right.” I could have done better.

2015 is here.  Just like every year, people are thinking about the future.  What will this year hold?  Where will we be in twelve months?  We always get this way in late December and early January as we think about the unknown.  How will we get to the goals we have set?  Who will help?  Will I be happy?  Those questions have something in common.  As well-intentioned as they may be, they are about ourselves.  They’re not bad, but could we possible find a better option? Could we focus on our new year in a more Relentless way?

There are things I want to see happen this year, but there is something that I want to start doing particularly in my Quiet Times with God.  As I look at this new year, I am taking lesson from my son. I am going to take more time to ask God, “Whatcha doin’?”  In my life, my family, my job, my friends, my church – God, Whatcha doin’?

Three reasons I want to do this:

1. I want keep a daily focus on God. Keeping  daily focus on God by reading His Word and talking to Him about my life, the lives of those I love, and the  things that cross my path will keep my heart soft toward His direction.

2. I want to join Him.  If I am looking to God and asking Him to tell me what He is doing, I will see opportunities to join Him in things that He wants me to join Him in.  I won’t join Him in everything He is doing because I might not be the person He wants involved in it, but I will never join Him in anything if I am not asking what He is doing.

3. I need His help. I can do things on my own, but I need Him to show me the things that I am doing poorly.  I want Him to grow me, and if I am left to myself, then I will never be anything like what I can be with God.

When my son was little, I so very much enjoyed watching him trying to be like me.  Now that he is older, the feeling is more of a satisfaction.  I am pleased when his interests are in tune with mine and he wants to join me in the things I do.  I take joy in his individuality and in watching him pursue his passions, and I take joy in those times he wants to be like me.

I think God is the same way.  He made us all to be different, but He made us all to seek relationship with Him.  He made us all to have a free will, and He made us all have a desire to be a part of something bigger.  He has great joy in watching us use the gifts and talents He gave us that have no “real spiritual value”, and He loves it when we engage in activities that draw our hearts closer to His.Slide1

So, this year, this is my challenge to you.  Ask God, “Whatcha Doin’?” Look for Him in His Word. Get to know Him better.  See how He worked in the lives of His people in the Bible.  Seek out those around you that are showing Him at work in their lives.  Look inside yourself and see if there is anything holding you back from getting involved in something big for God, and let me say this.  If it is with God, it is big.  He is a big God, even in the little things.

So, can you do me a favor?  If you are reading this, could you share it with your friends and then do one more thing for me? I’d love to know something.  This year, “Whatcha doin'” to know God better?  “Whatcha doin'” to be Relentless in your growth in Christ?  “Whatcha doin'” to build relationships with others?  Message me or comment below.  I’d love to pray for your year too!

In HIS Grip,





Look! He’s Talking About Trees Again!

247-Bench-by-River-Fowey-at-ResprynOh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

– Psalm 1:1-3

I know that I have posted things about trees a couple of times on this blog, and I would like to tell you it won’t happen again… That would be a lie.  Why you might ask?  Well, because as I look at God’s Word and at my own life, I see all of these amazing word pictures about trees.  They really are amazing things, and like the poet said,

“I think that I shall never see a poem (or story, example, or picture) as lovely as a tree.”

So, Where do I begin with this one?  Let’s start with the passage.  As I read these verses, I see the first two verses as a warning and an instruction. The third verse gives me the word picture that pulls me in and makes me think.

I like how the Bible is full of such great and practical information, and that God presents things in such a way that even the most dense minds among us can figure this stuff out.  (Lucky for me!) God gives us truth that we should be able to grasp, and when we read it, it makes sense, but our practical application gets a bit messy.  So,  the obvious first verse truth is this:

We are happier if we don’t follow the advice of wicked people, live our lives in sin, or hang out with negative people.

Makes perfect sense.  Not so easy to do.  We are called to be a light in a dark world, and that to reach people we must go to them, but we forget that we need to be on guard at the same time. Negativity pulls us down.  When we get around really negative people, we are with people that are putting their own thoughts, opinions,, and usually feelings ahead of everything else – including God.  That’s wrong!

Think about the people that you are in contact with.  How many of them do you leave their company feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and positive?  Probably not many. How many do you leave them thinking, “Well, I got through it without making them mad at me.”?  How many times do you leave thinking you just want to go home and take a nap because you are feeling a weariness in your very soul? Yeah.  Not people we want to spend a lot of time with.  Why?  Not a lot of joy there, but it seems like those are the people we end up spending a lot of time with.

So where do we find it?  Where do we find the joy that we are looking for to get through life?  To be able to reach out to the negative with God’s joy?  To find delight in the every day activities that we are involved in?

Our delight, joy, happiness, fulfillment is found in God’s Word as we think about it and apply it in our lives as we go through our day and even as we lay down at night!

This morning I went to work feeling quite sick.  I had no fever or other symptoms that would keep me from working, but I felt like garbage and it was affecting my outlook on the day.  I was sure that since I felt lousy, my day would be lousy, and all early indicators showed that I was right!  I was struggling and was ready to pitch the day.  I took a minute and talked to God about it.

As I prayed I realized it had been a couple of days since I had really read my Bible.  I had been doing my daily devotional, but I had not been in the Word.  I stopped what I was doing and opened my Bible to a place that I knew I would get encouragement – Psalm 1.  As I read and journaled, I felt my spirit strengthen.  I still felt like garbage physically, and that really hasn’t changed all day, but my outlook changed.  I was able to talk to people, and even encourage a couple of people today.  That was the truth of God’s Word in action!

(Wow, he still hasn’t talked about the trees.  Do you think he forgot?)

Avoiding the sin and negativity of the world is one thing we have to do. Meditating on God’s Word – really digging into it and using it to examine our lives and make changes in our attitudes and behaviors  – is the other part. The result?

We will be as strong, healthy, and fruitful as a tree on the banks of a river.  We will have what we need to grow and thrive year after year and we will be have a prosperous life.

(Nope, He didn’t forget.  Here we go…)

Interesting things about tree roots:

  •  They usually grow between 6 and 24 inches under the surface.  There are some that grow deeper, but as a rule only about two feet.
  • One part of the root is designed purely to seek out water, and these pieces tend to live only about a year and then they are replaced by new roots that do the same thing.
  • They like to have moisture, but too much moisture will result in their rot, and that can lead to the death of the tree.
  • Soil that is hard will keep the root from being able to thrive.
  • Roots will generally extend 2-4 times farther out than the branches of the trees.

We could probably make a few different applications to our lives from those facts, but I am going to settle on another one:

The health of the root system determines whether or not the tree will survive the deep cold of winter, the scorching heat of summer, the violent winds that will blow. 

The roots need to be deep enough to keep the tree from falling when the wind blows against it.  In the same way, our faith needs to be deep enough to shrug off the doubts that Satan uses to buffet us when we are feeling low.  We need to know that the truth of God’s Word will hold us when we feel that lack of security.

The roots need to be close enough to the water to give the tree life and to produce fruit!  As I read the Bible and meditate on it I grow and change in order to be what God wants me to be.  As I continue to grow and follow the example of Christ and reach out to others I produce fruit in their lives as well.

The roots are a storehouse for the tree for the hard times.  There are times in my life when things look quite bleak.  I feel like I have nothing left to give, but so many demands are being made of me.  A tree cannot pick up and move when there is a drought, and I can’t just pack it in and walk away when things get too hot or cold.  Those are the times when all I can do is pray those verses of promise that tell me that God is in control and that He will bring things about in His time for a fruitful harvest.

I think God speaks to us through His creation every day, and at least for me, He speaks very clearly through trees.  So many lessons are there, and if you stick around with me, I am sure we will cover some more of them in weeks to come.  (If you get tired of it, let me know.  I will see what I can do about using lichen or fungus if that is what works for you.)

No matter what God uses to speak to me or you, His Word will always be the best source.  That was the whole purpose for this post.  I wanted to tell you about the truth that He showed me.  I need my roots to grow deep in Him.  I want to be fruitful for Him. I want people to see how He has helped me and how He can help them too.

My purpose as a believer is to bring God glory.  If I am going to do that, I am going to have to be intentional about how I do things.  Reading God’s Word, meditating on it, allowing it to work in me and reveal the things that need to change, and then making those changes is the process in which I can bring that glory back to Him.  He makes it all possible.

Grow Deep!

If this has sparked an interest in you to really get into God’s Word, I would love to hear from you.  I hope at the very least that it has offered an encouragement that God is there and that He wants to show you His love and care for you.

In His Grip,