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God’s Meanwhile

You and I know they mean well.

They say things like, “When one door closes, God opens another one.”

What I’ve found, and maybe you have as well, is that it can be rough out here in the hallway.

Their platitude is often not real helpful.

Those times between when “one door closes” and “another one” opens can leave us groping into the darkness.

Nevertheless, promises Isaiah 9:1, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

One of the primary keys to understanding some of the prophecy in our Old Testament is the understanding that time can be elastic. Past, present, and future seem to meld together and disappear into one another.

Isaiah 9:1 speaks of the future (there will be no more gloom) and the past (those who were in distress), but we still live in this present time.

I’m thrilled to know there’s a day coming when there will be no more gloom.

But I know people who are currently living in distress.

Just as it’s all getting overwhelming and I’m ready to tap out,  I hear an echo of something from somewhere: I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.

Yup, that’s from Psalm 23.

It goes on: Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.

Couple those two truths with Isaiah 9:1 and realize that in the midst of everything we get glimpses of part of the promise that There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

God’s Meanwhile is better than their Mean Well.

Looking forward to seeing you back here tomorrow.

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God’s Nevertheless

Nevertheless,
there will be no more gloom
for those who were in distress.
Isaiah 9:1

“There’s always a however in life,” says a coffee-drinking buddy from a town where I used to live.

Only later did I find out he was quoting an AM Radio character named Frank O. Pinion.

Smashing into one of life’s However’s can be frustrating. Sometimes it knocks the wind out of us. Sometimes it’s almost enough to leave us wanting to quit.

You have your examples; so do I.

However, (see, there it is again! only this time it’s a good thing), over these past several weeks I’ve been relishing one example in particular. It’s like The Grand However that outweighs all the other Howevers —

Nevertheless,
there will be no more gloom
for those who were in distress.
Isaiah 9:1

— Several times I’ve started to reach for the proverbial towel and throw it in to signal that I’m giving up. Right about then Isaiah 9’s vault door swings open. Inside are some of God’s greatest treasures.

And that door’s hinge is the word Nevertheless.

We’ll get back here tomorrow.

But for now, as we start a new week together, what situation in your life needs a liberal application God’s Nevertheless?

Nevertheless,
there will be no more gloom
for those who were in distress.
Isaiah 9:1

See Youself in This Picture?

Picture was taken by Major Clarence L. Benjamin at the instant a few of the train people saw the tanks and first realized they had been liberated.

“It’s Friday, the 13th of April, 1945. A few miles northwest of Magdeburg there was a railroad siding in wooded ravine not far from the Elbe River.

“A long string of grimy, ancient boxcars standing silent on the tracks. In the banks by the tracks, as if to get some pitiful comfort from the thin April sun, a multitude of people of all shades of misery spread themselves in a sorry, despairing tableaux. As the American uniforms were sighted, a great stir went through this strange camp. Many rushed toward the Major’s jeep and the two light tanks.

“This train which contained about 2,500 Jews, had a few days previously left the Bergen-Belsen death camp.”

Read the rest here:

https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/jewish-prisoners-liberated-death-train-1945/?fbclid=IwAR1hQ0n1nVBhjWoH5U0S0MzwoAhj4tE84vb2JmgPhmZ7Stjr5XHfFaX9m_U

I don’t want to take anything away from that situation. There is so much to be said about that reality.

But I do want to remind you that what those people experienced is, at another level, our story.

We were rescued.

We were given new life.

This Advent season, join me in celebrating God’s Greatest Gift that made our freedom in Christ possible.

See yourself in that picture?

 

 

“You Made Me” — part 2.

[Quick Review: yesterday we enjoyed “Art Appreciation.” It’s a poem by Joy Morgan Davis, which was shared with you and me by Patti. If that’s not sounding familiar, scroll on down to yesterday’s and scoot right on back up.]

A couple of people recognized that poem about being a “crazy-quilt” and its source, Women’s Devotional Bible 2. Again, I thank Patti for sharing it with me; that’s an edition of the Bible I don’t gravitate toward regularly.

And that image of God as Quilter…! Yes. Yes. A thousand times Yes.

I especially appreciate it after four decades pastoring churches and knowing a wide variety of quilters.

I have deep gratitude to, and for, all the quilters with whom I’ve shared coffee and conversation and well, yeah, with whom I’ve shared life.

God still uses family and friends and the quilters all around us. Some of those quilters put giant pieces of cloth into frames and take scraps and seemingly mis-matched shapes and colors and patterns, and do amazing things. They produce beauty.

Some quilters put our lives into fresh perspective and take the pieces we don’t understand or know what to do with, and do amazing things. They help us produce beauty.

Some of those quilters are men, some are women. Some of those quilters are older, some are younger.

Thanks be unto The Quilter for the quilters!

 

“You Made Me”

I praise you

because I am fearfully

and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

–– Psalm 139:14

Patti is a part of a Bible Study Group I get to work with, and earlier this week she shared this there. It’s with her gracious permission that I share it now with you. It was written by Joy Morgan Davis. See if this fits you like it does so many of us —

Lord,
Sometimes when I look
At my life
It seems like a homespun
Patch-work quilt . . .
Quaint, but not quite “together”!
There are bits and pieces of
Cloths and colors,
Scraps of material,
The days of my life . . .

When you began to put together
The days of my life
You must have known
Where each piece would go . . .
You’ve told me that I am
Fearfully and wonderfully
Made . . .
And I believe you, Lord,
I do!
I may not be a velvet tapestry,
But even crazy-quilts
Have purpose,
To give warmth and
Cozy comfort and
Color to a room!

Whatever I am, Lord,
You made me . .
Lovingly,
Carefully,
Reverently,
And exactly right!

— Loud Amen from this guy.

 

Are You That Someone?

Happened this week.

Tuesday evening it happened to Mark Doane. It’s with his graciously expressed permission that I can tell you this story.

The Rivers of Life Clergy Band had finished our sound check for a Christmas Concert in greater metropolitan Quincy, Illinois. Mark took advantage of the moment and went outside the church building to get something he’d left in his van.

The church’s office manager had come by the sanctuary earlier to tell us she was leaving for the day, was locking the doors behind her, and that people would be arriving in about half an hour to set up for the pre-concert Banquet.

And right there you can see what’s coming.

None of us did.

We were talking and making last minutes adjustments to our instruments and equipment and such, when our lead singer’s phone buzzed. As he hurried to the side door of the sanctuary, he shouted back at us, over his shoulder, the text message he’d just received from Mark:

Would someone come and let me in please.

Question: how many people have asked the same thing of us and our churches this week, but we’ve not responded?

I’m afraid that it happened to more people, and in more ways, than we know.

We have massive room for improvement.

What’s one thing you and I can do this week, and even today, to be that someone who will come and let [them] in?

The Burnt Out Christian

I think even I could handle this —

— but what’s a simple, easy-to-use way to find the Burnt Out Christian?

Jesus was clear about this: “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?” (Matthew 5:14,15 The Message Version)

In this video, the ones that aren’t able to shine aren’t getting current from the one that came before.

Hmmmm. The light’s not shining because the power wasn’t passed along by the one before.

Ouch.

You and I have been there. We’ve done that.

What are you doing today to both stay connected AND let that connection empower the one next to you?

I’d love to hear from you; hit me up, any of the usual ways, even right here, and I look forward to meeting you here again tomorrow.