Patience is a blessing.
Interruptions––those inconvenient moments in our sense of order––can be a blessing used by God. They can be––not they will be––because it all depends on your availability to immediately seize those Divine opportunities.
Stoplights, for example, can be the oasis of your day. Since you are not going anywhere (and really can’t do anything about it), you can use the moment to focus on eternal matters. Pray. Thank God for family. Thank Him for anything and everything. Instead of being a seat of hostility and rage, turn the interior of your car into a house of worship. You’ll be having so much fun, you just might be disappointed to see the light turn green!
Broken things, as well, can be a delightful learning experience. When the kitchen appliance breaks, you can take one of two approaches. Either you have the opportunity to learn a new skill or you have the opportunity to reinforce an old one. Either way, you can come away from the experience more experienced. However, you can also delight in the opportunity of supporting the local economy by calling the repairman––who will properly fix it in a fraction of the time!
Sickness can be a blessing, too. Sleep is a wonderful fringe benefit of having a sick body. Weight loss, however temporary, is another great dividend to a time of illness. Being absolved from responsibility, albeit temporary, is quite nice every once in awhile. Best of all, however, is the way family members serve you with compassion in your time of great need––personally nursing you back to health!
Caring for children all day long can be a blessing. Piled-up laundry, unwashed dishes, floating toys in the toilet, devastated pantries, spilt food, scattered newspapers and ripped magazines can be a thud to your sense of domestic order. However, they can remind you that the inconvenience that children bring also comes with an indescribable, unmatched, understandably unequivocal joy that is unspeakable.
God, I give you permission to slow me down any day,
anytime with a precious, small set of untied shoes.
Inactivity can be a blessing. Do you believe in Divine cancellations? They are typically frustrating yet potentially powerful. Because a blank calendar means that nothing is happening and you are going nowhere, you have the golden opportunity to just wait––renew your strength, your focus, your purpose for living. If you remain alert, you might even discover something revolutionary that you would have missed had your appointment been kept!
Interruptions and inconveniences can be blessings because:
• They put to test your belief that God is really in control. It is easy to pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.“ It is quite another thing to live as if the prayer is true.
• They give you an opportunity to develop your sense of humor. When life is so wacky and beyond human control, we can always laugh––laugh hard, laugh long, laugh with others.
• They give you an opportunity to focus on the eternal, not just the temporal. Every once in a while, you need to wonder what really matters. Dave Gable, a minister friend, has a sign. In bold block letters it says, “IT JUST DON’T MATTER!” When given a seemingly desperate situation, many times upon reflection, he has been able to point to the sign and be reminded of the difference between the eternal and the temporal. Eternal things matter. Temporal things may not.
• They create an environment for growth. Healthy things grow. Growing things change. Changing things challenge. Challenges force us to trust in God. Trust leads to obedience. Obedience makes us healthy. Healthy things grow.
Instead of asking, “Why, God, do I have to be the one going through financial struggles?” ask “What God do you want me to learn from this situation?”
Instead of praying, “Why, God, am I still waiting for an answer to a prayer I prayed last year?” ask “What about me, God, do I need to change to be ready to receive an answer?”
Instead of demanding, “Why, God, did I not get the promotion I deserved?” ask “What other (and better) plans, God, do you have for me?”
Noah waited 120 years before it rained. Abraham waited 100 years before he had a son. Moses waited 40 years in the wilderness, then another 40 years leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land. Israel waited for the Messiah to come. The first Christian disciples waited for the Holy Spirit to come. The Bible is a book about waiting.
We hate to wait. We hate lines. We hate waiting rooms. It is a great emotional weight to wait on the waiter to bring our food! We love things in a hurry.
Sometimes, however, God takes His time.
It is called patience. Patience is a calm endurance––a courageous capacity to persevere. Especially when God isn’t in a hurry. Especially when you know what needs to be done because you know the situation so intimately. Especially when time is of the essence. As Americans, we pray, “Dear God, I pray for patience. And I want it right now!”
Much of the time, God answers by saying, “Wait.” He is not in a hurry because, unlike you and me, He is not limited to the present. He not only has access to––but, in fact, controls––the future.
Although He is seldom on time, He is never late.
What seems to be cruel to your present situation may really be disguised as kind wisdom for your future. Just like Garth Brooks thanked God for unanswered prayers, you, too, have the possibility of patiently waiting on a God who patiently waits on you.
Patience is a blessing. It comes to those who wait. So as long as you’re waiting, you might as well take advantage of the Divine opportunities being sent your direction.
It’d be a shame to have missed the very thing you needed all along!by Pastor Doug
Are you having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Are you feeling completely stressed out?
Stress is, quite simply, coupled anxiety. Anxiety is caused by the perception that something threatens your sense of personal order. It might be true or false. It might be visible or invisible. It might come with warning; it might not. It might involve other people; it might not.
Anxiety causes fear and timidity. It can cause sleeping disorders, headaches, back pain and all kinds of other physical ailments. Anxious folks lose confidence and self-esteem. Productivity and creativity are stifled.
It can also create bottled-up hostility––which, by the way, is a dangerous place for all of humanity.
Specifically speaking, anxiety steals that inner feeling––that deep serenity in your gut, that quality we understand to be inner peace.
Right before Jesus entered the final week of his life, he gave his followers a most important gift. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Peace is a gift. You cannot earn it. You cannot buy it. You cannot steal it. You cannot psyche yourself up for it. You can only (and simply) accept it.
It is not like the world’s peace, which, at best, is fragile and temporary. Look how many times Middle Eastern politicians have made peace. Count how many times they’ve kept it.
God’s peace is not related to circumstances. It’s real peace. It goes beyond human understanding. It transcends scientific explanation. Much like the inner qualities of love and joy, peace cannot be made, produced or manipulated. It can only come from God.
All you can do is create an environment for peace to prosper.
The Bible talks about three types of peace.
First and foremost, there is the possibility of having peace with God. This would be understood as spiritual peace. This type of peace combats the spiritual threats that come your way. It gives you hope in your eternal destiny. It assures you of God’s love. It directs you in settling your accounts with God, being made right with Him.
Secondly, there is the possibility of having the peace of God––emotional peace. This type of peace combats the emotional threats that come your way. When life seems chaotic, when the world seems to be falling apart, when everything is completely out of control, there is the great hope of having the peace of God. The hymnist wrote, “When sorrows like sea billows role––whatever my lot––Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well, with my soul.’”
Finally, the Bible encourages relational peace––having peace with others. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This combats the relational threats that come your way. Human conflict––which can lead to painful hate and violence––can only be resolved through making peace with others.
God is the source of true peace. His peace is a gift. He is in the business of giving it away to people like you and me. Here is how you can place yourselves in a position to receive His peace.
• Obey God’s Principles. The psalmist promises “great peace” to those who obey God’s law. When you––a part of created humanity––closely follow the Owner’s manual (written by the Creator), you operate at maximum effectiveness. God designed you to live in a certain fashion. Your operating instructions can be found in the Bible. Peace is the wonderful consequence of such living.
• Accept God’s Pardon. Most of our anxiety is caused by the way in which we harm God and others. This is a result of our selfish nature. That’s the bad news––the problem with which you must come to terms. The good news is that God forgives and releases you from the wrongs of your past. You have the possibility to trade guilt for peace––to have a clear, peaceful conscience.
• Focus on God. You have a choice to either focus on your problems or to focus on God, who holds the solution. When everywhere you look is filled with stress and anxiety, you choose to spend time with the God who holds the keys of the universe. As long as you look at your problem, it will overwhelm you. However, a look at Him (and that’s a really big HIM) will make your problem seem awfully small.
• Ask for God’s Peace. If you want God’s peace, ask for it. Asking is praying and praying is what brings peace of mind. Prayer is a tremendous stress reliever––a safety valve. When the pressure builds up, open the valve of prayer. Go ahead and turn your cares into prayers. God’s peace is not trouble-free. It is, merely, a sense of calm in the midst of life’s storms.
Experiencing peace is a gift that only comes from one place. It is a gift that waits to be unwrapped. It is a gift that has your name on it. It’s a gift that God wants you to have. Go ahead, open that gift today…
…and enjoy a good night’s sleep.by Pastor Doug
Many Januarys ago, I stood in a cemetery just north of Boston. It was cold––wicked cold. I stood on a plot of frozen ground and listened to a local pastor talk about “the dash.”
My friend, Barry, had just lost his dad to cancer.
Hugh Corey, a kind and compassionate man, was eulogized on that cold New England morning. Standing between rows of graves, I was reminded our lives will eventually be reduced to a dash.
For after listing your name, your gravestone lists your date of birth and your date of death. Everything else in your life is pared to a dash––the horizontal punctuation mark that separates those two dates.
My dash will include my days as a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, a father, a pastor. It will include whatever I did yesterday and what I am doing right now. My values, my goals, my dreams and my legacy will be summarized in my dash.
It becomes the chore of all who are left behind to fill in the blanks. Was he a good father? an obedient son? a faithful friend? a man who lived his dash with purpose?
What will they say about me? In fact, what would I say about me? Considering how my life will be summarized in a dash, what is it all about? What is my purpose?
Most people, when asked, have a very simple ambition in life. They just want to be happy. As Americans, we work hard at being happy––really hard. Acting, talking, smelling, looking and, especially, feeling happy is what life is all about––chasing “the pursuit of happiness” with all our might!
It’s easy to be happy when everything is going our way. It’s because happiness depends on happenings. If you seek ultimate happiness––much like the root word “hap” (which means luck or circumstance)––your life’s dash will be defined by your daily circumstances. You will buy into the fact that people, on a daily basis, can be happy because things just happened to turn out right.
But what about the rest of life? If everything is not working out––your day is not a perfect 10––you feel defeated because you cannot find happiness. Maybe, maybe, there just must be something that goes beyond mere happiness!
That’s why God created joy. It’s different. It’s deeper. Joy is an attitude. It’s not dependent upon circumstances. It’s your choice to rejoice. You can choose, regardless of your circumstances, to experience joy.
People who believe in God should be the most positive people in the world. Joy is a gift from God, regardless of your setting in life. Here are some reasons to rejoice:
• You have hope. With God in your life, no situation is completely hopeless. Hope is a treasure that can be stored down deep for perilous times. History has proven that prisoners can survive just about anything as long as they have hope. It’s not a hope in the stock market, or good looks, or a big salary or even a nice family. It is a hope in a God who gives life its meaning.
• You have a purpose. People trying to be happy focus on removing their problems. However, when they get rid of the big problems, they notice they have a bunch of small problems they didn’t notice when they were focusing on the big problems. Nobody escapes problems––at least, nobody still breathing.
Joy is learning to enjoy life in spite of problems. Inner joy is not the absence of problems, but the presence of God. A joyful perspective sees the possibility that problems can build character. God has a purpose for everything in your life and He can use problems to make you a better person.
• You have a choice. Whereas happiness is contingent upon circumstances, joy is a gift from God that can never be taken away––no matter how bad things get. An attitude of thanksgiving––counting your blessings––has a way of brightening your perspective. You can choose to be grumpy or you can take time to give thanks.
There is also a great inner joy that comes through giving. Giving facilitates joy. Cheerful giving will always overcompensate poor circumstances. It’s also true with serving. People who serve are usually too busy to stop and ask, “Am I happy?” Legitimate joy comes when we transfer our focus from ourselves to others.
Being thankful, giving away and serving others are choices we make each day. Joy is the reward for positioning your life around good decisions.
Hugh Corey passed away years ago––1998.
Hugh Corey was born seventy three years earlier––1925.
Knowing him, watching him, sharing life with him gives me the confidence to tell you that his dash––the dash between those two significant years––was one that is filled with days of joy.
How about adding joy to your dash today.by Pastor Doug
There is a difference between the manufacturer and the distributor.
The manufacturer makes things, converting material into a desirable form, creating something useful. A distributor distributes things. He is someone who delivers an item to individual customers in a specific region. Some manufacture; some distribute. That’s the way commerce works.
However, it is not the way love is suppose to work. Love––true love that’s pure and priceless––is very different, for God is the only manufacturer of love. Real love comes only from Him. He is the only correct source of love. He is the beginning of love––when you experience true love, you experience God.
God is love, not Love is god. Our society turns the words around and contaminates our view of love. Genuine love is like God. It is holy, just and perfect. There is no fear in real love. When you really know God, you will truly know love. Exposure to His love will give you the ability to love others.
So with regard to the riches of God shown through his extraordinary love, are we called to be manufacturers? or distributors?
I am naturally a manufacturer. I am wired to create, not distribute somebody else’s stuff. A “fixer-upper” is far more attractive than a “turn-key” home. An empty travel agenda is far more exciting than a predestined, prepaid, pre-booked tour. Making nothing into something is far better than buying something already made. I drive my wife crazy when I say, “Why would we want to buy that when I can make that myself?”
When it comes to love, however, I could never manufacture anything that remotely resembles the real thing. You and I are not called to manufacture or create love. We are just distributors––used by God to deliver His favorite product.
The songs on the radio would make you think that you’re a sizzling love manufacturer. Whitney Houston sings, “All I want to do is make love to you.” Everywhere you turn people are trying to make love, as if it were some newly discovered cookie recipe.
Love that is manufactured is not true love. It speaks of making and taking, leading to disillusionment and frustration––“looking for love in all the wrong places.” Distributing God’s love speaks of giving, receiving, freeing and finding love. All lead to God, which leads to real, genuine, deep, and wonderful love.
Manufactured love––the very best that the world has to offer––is a false love and a dangerous love. Nonetheless, it’s often the love of choice. It’s the love that is showcased. It’s the love that adorns the magazine covers at the checkstand. It is the love that the afternoon soap star understands. However, it’s not God’s idea of love.
At best, manufactured love is:
• Manipulative love. Taking love, rather than receiving love is coercing somebody into loving you. It is always self-serving. Manipulation conquers another, whereas true love discovers another. Do you say “I love you” in order to hear it said back? Are you a take-charge manipulator, always forcing your agenda on another? Or, do you manipulate by appearing weak so that you’ll get an abundance of attention? Authentic love never needs coercion; it will flourish without manipulation.
• Lust love. It may be called love, but it isn’t. Lust objectifies. It never goes beyond the surface––it is only skin deep. The real goal of lust is personal pleasure, not love. Making love is manufacturing something out of nothing, and when you use nothing as your main ingredient, your result is nothing. Relationships built on lust erode quickly and painfully. God’s love, however, is always pure, always deep––it is always worth the wait!
• Possessive love. Suffocating rather than liberating, staking rather than freeing, are not the characteristics of true love. All healthy relationships, friendships and marriages make room for the longing to be loved and the need to love freely. Manufactured love gobbles up another’s space. God’s love will create space in a relationship––always bringing freedom and confidence.
• Dishonest love. It masks itself rather than disclosing itself. It fakes love rather than finds love. It does whatever it takes to keep from being transparent. Susan B. Anthony said, “In life, actions speak louder than words, but in love, the eyes do.” God’s love––looking straight into your eyes––always points to an honest confession of the truth. True love has nothing to hide.
There is nothing at all wrong with manufacturing a product––in fact, it can be an art form. But when it comes to love, it can only be distributed. In fact, love was made to be distributed. We are God’s conduits. He pours His love into us to be poured into the world around us. Love cannot be hoarded; it must be given away.
Distribute love. It’s your only good choice, for God will supply you with unending opportunity. We love others as He loves us.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
The Apostle Paul, letter to the church in Corinth
(The Message translation)