Waking Up

Note: Straight-up spiritual post with a hope-filled word of prophecy for someone who needs it today

We live on four acres in the woods… as you can tell from the view from our front door in the picture above… and we love it! Living in the country like this affords us the opportunity to really experience the seasons (such as they are in Louisiana).

It’s definitely Springtime here right now. Azaleas are blooming in vibrant pinks and Dogwoods in their brilliant whites. The dull grays and browns of Winter’s “lifeless” sticks have, in the last week or two, almost suddenly become lush with all shades of bright green foliage. I’m sure they had budded, and it probably took longer than I realized, but I keep catching myself telling PR31 how those leaves seemed to come out of nowhere practically overnight.

Then, in just last week or so, PR31 came through the living room around 6:40am and told me that she had to go outside and listen to the birds. When she did, she said she heard so many different birds singing and chirping. I believe her exact words were, “It’s like the whole world is coming alive at that moment.” I began listening for that each morning during my time alone with the Lord, and she’s right. In fact, more than one morning, I went outside to hear it for myself. Sure enough, sometime between 6:35am and 6:45am all the birds in the trees around our home… along with the neighbor’s rooster… welcome the new day with their song.

Then yesterday, as I was thinking about all of this, I believe the Lord spoke something to my heart to post for someone today…

“Like the birds all starting to sing at once between 6:35-6:45am… and like all the flowers blooming and trees turning green as they once more they put on new leaves, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead says to you today that He is causing you to come to life again after a dark night… after a dreary winter season.”

I don’t know what you’ve been going through exactly. I just know that He put in my heart to say to you that He knows everything in your life has seemed dull and lifeless for awhile now. There have been moments when you have wondered if everything was dead. But in the same way that Christ rose from the dead on the third day… and that suddenly we noticed the birds singing their daily morning wake-up chorus… and that new, bright green leaves seemed to suddenly appear and fill out the trees and bushes… so God is stirring you to life once more! What has seemed hopeless and dreary will soon be blooming with hope and full of vibrancy! Even “rainy” circumstances which come your way now will only serve to produce more depth of color to add to your dazzling display. And others will stand back in amazement and watch as you display the glory of God’s work in your life, singing a wake-up song of your own to Him!

Open your eyes, and look around you at a full-color life. Open your ears, and listen to a song announcing a new beginning… a new day dawning… new life bursting forth! Soon you will see that “Winter” is gone and “Spring” is here. And it begins today!

Find A Window

PR31 and I truly love Hallmark Christmas movies. If you’ve read this blog for anything length of time, you know how much our family enjoys and embraces Christmas. Hallmark just adds to the celebration with their feel-good, happy ending movies each week.

On their Hall of Fame Christmas movie last month, there was a terrific quote from one of the characters. It was so good that I typed it into my notes on my phone during the movie, and today I want to share it with you. Joe said, “Hope begins when you are standing in the dark looking out at the light.

Maybe today your life doesn’t look so great. Maybe today you’re facing challenges that are overwhelming. Perhaps everything seems dark and hopeless around you. Nothing is changing for the good.

Let me ask you a question… Can you see a better future than your current condition? If you look outside your life… your situation… if you peer through a window of your soul… do you see something you would like? Do you see something you wish for… the way you wish things would be?

If you do, that is hope beginning in you. And if there is hope, there is possibility. Hope means there is at least the slightest belief inside you that things are going to get better… that the situation is going to turn around… that life will improve when…

The writer of Hebrews in the Bible says that hope is made up a substance called faith. So when you look from your dark situation through the window of your soul and see the light of what could be, you are really hoping… actually having faith… believing… trusting… that somehow, some way, Someone could fix what is wrong and life could be what you dream instead of what it is now.

I know there are situations in life which seem impossible. I know that things like death or divorce or drug addiction can make the room we are standing in awfully dark. My encouragement today is for you to find a window in that dark room. Pull the curtains back. Raise the shade. Peer out, and look desperately for light. And when you see it, don’t look away. Instead, breathe a prayer. Ask for that light to come pouring into your dark surroundings. Soon, options will become visible… help in the form of family or friends will be recognizable… and direction will begin to pull at you to step out of the darkness and into the light.

Find a window… find hope… find joy!

Keep The Lamps Bright

In doing some research recently, I came across some info on Wikipedia about “lamp trimmers.”  These were people who served on board ships before electrical lighting was used.  They were specialists who would go around the ship every few hours to make sure the oil lamps were all burning brightly, since the only light under the deck of a ship was what these lamps provided.

These folks were skilled at knowing just how to trim the wick to make it burn the brightest and the longest.  They knew just how much oil to keep in the lamps so that they would not run out, but would not burst into flames if they got knocked off and broke.  In other words, they made it their life’s work to provide light for others.  And they did it consistently, faithfully.

We live in a world much like those levels under the deck of the old-time ships.  And we should be those who commit themselves to making sure we provide light in the midst of darkness.

Light gives hope.  Light shows the way.  Light reveals.  People in our lives need light.  Let’s be lamp trimmers.

The 58th chapter of the book of Isaiah in Scripture challenges us to help those in need, saying that not only will we turn the darkness into light by doing so, but that the Lord will also bless us bountifully for our efforts.

It doesn’t take much to bring light to someone’s darkness… a kind word… a thank you note… buying them a coffee or a meal… sending them an encouraging text… congratulating them when they have done well what they do… helping them when they are busy and feeling overwhelmed.  It doesn’t have to be overdone, just like the lamp trimmers didn’t overfill the lamps.

We can trim lamps at home… at work… at church… at the gym… at the restaurant… at school… online… anywhere.  And you know, as we provide light for others, we also help light our own path.

So, from the early outset of this week, let’s determine to be those who bring light to the darkness of anyone we possibly can.  Trim on!

After This…

Ever noticed how when a child… or maybe even a teenager… has one little thing go wrong, it feels like nothing will ever go right again?  Yet mature adults can look at the situation and say with confidence that everything is going to be okay in the long run.  We burst off-key into song with, “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there will be sunshine.”  But the child doesn’t see it that way.

We don’t change much between childhood and adulthood when it comes to this, do we?  Oh, it takes a lot more than a skinned knee or our crush dumping us to make us feel like the world is caving in on us, but we have our moments…

Maybe it’s one health issue after another.  Or maybe you don’t get treated fairly at work, and then you lose your job.  Or perhaps your spouse leaves you, and then your kids get mad at you for the split.  It could even be as simple as every major appliance in your home seeming to break down within the same month. Whatever the case, we all hit some rough patches in life when we don’t see a ray of sunlight ahead… only dark times.

Job, of ancient Scripture, knew these kinds of times better than any of us.  He literally had the devil working against him.  He lost his wealth and all his kids within days. Then he got painfully ill.  His friends told him he must have sinned and made God mad… that he needed to repent for being such a spiritual loser.  His wife told him he ought to cuss God out, give up and die.

The crazy thing is, God knew Job wouldn’t cave.  He was actually showing Job off to the devil and everyone watching.  And He intended to bless Job doubly for all the trouble he went through.   But that ray of sunshine was hard for Job to see in the midst of the dark times.

Just like us.  When you get another downer of a report from the doctor… or when finances aren’t rolling in like they had been… or when it seems like everyone is against you… it’s kind of tough to see yourself as a trophy example God is showing off to the watching world.  It just all looks hopeless… and dark… and senseless.

This is why I am so glad for the 16th verse in Job chapter 42.  It reads, “After this, Job lived 140 years.”  After this.  I love that!  It’s like a parent telling their child the skinned knee will stop hurting and will heal up sooner than they think. It’s a reminder to me that… in those times when there seem to be no reasons, and no answers, and no improvement in the situation… there are better days ahead.  I have an “after this” ahead of me.  So do you!

I know it looks bad right now.  I know things are piling up on top of you.  I know there doesn’t seem to be an end to this rough patch.  I know it seems like your friends and family have turned on you.  I know you don’t think you can take any more.

But when God’s involved, you have an “after this” coming.  It may not look like it right now, but you do.  Job lived another 140 years after what he faced, and God blessed him even more than He had before.  And God will be there for you through your time of difficulty.  One day soon, you’ll come out of this rough patch, and your story will record that “after this, you lived and God blessed you!”

What People Look At

Yesterday afternoon, we went and picked up some fireworks to do with the boys last night as part of our family’s celebration of our nation’s independence.  We don’t ever spend a lot on fireworks… just some sparklers and Roman candles, maybe several fountains and one or two things that shoot in in the sky and go “BOOM!”

So, last night, we waited till it was as close to dark as we could stand, and then we went out in the driveway to celebrate.  The moon peeked out over the treetops.  Others in our heavily wooded subdivision were already lighting up the night sky with flashes of light and color.  Even the fireflies were getting in on the celebration.

We had a blast… yes, that pun was intended… lighting up our little area of the world.  It was so much fun watching the boys, sparklers beaming, running around like Mario with a superstar power-up.  We all ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the one firework that crackled and popped little blasts of light and sound far longer than any of us expected.

And part-way through our celebration, I noticed something.  None of us were watching the darkness around us.  Not one of us.  No one said, “Wow, there sure is a lot of darkness out here tonight.”  Everyone was focused completely and entirely on the lights being displayed in front of us.

And my guess is that it was the same everywhere fireworks were shot last night.  I’ve already seen videos on social media with people lighting a fuse and stepping back quickly.  Guess what? No one capturing that video focused on the darkness. Instead they kept the camera directed at where the small sparkle of a fuse suddenly turned into a shower of sparks lighting up the entire area.

In darkness, people look to light.  They focus on it.  And as soon as they see light, they forget about how much darkness there is around them.

We were designed to be light in the darkness of the lives of those around us.  For Christians, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world- like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.”  We have the opportunity to calm fears and warm hearts by bringing light into people’s dark life situations.

Darkness can’t stop light.  So wherever you go today, shine.  Just because the sun is shining in the physical doesn’t mean that people aren’t living in darkness. Show up and shine.  They will immediately focus on the light you bring and want more of what you have.

Meanwhile, Off-Stage…

A little-known- but not difficult to believe- fact about me is that I love theater productions.  Growing up, my parents took us to broadway-style productions like “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Texas,” and “Hello, Dolly” at the Moody Outdoor Theater in Galveston.  And I loved it!

So, in junior high, I took drama.  I learned how to do stage makeup… how to not upstage someone… the difference between stage right and stage left. I even starred in “Death of a Salesman” in our eighth grade production.

My love for stage production never waned. In high school, I portrayed the candidate for my opposing political viewpoint in a mock debate for our schoolwide mock election.  In college, I found joy in running lights and handling props. And I’ve also enjoyed my fair share of parts in Easter or Christmas productions at churches where I’ve attended.

Those who know me know that my happy place… the place where I often feel most comfortable and in my sweet spot… is on the stage, in the spotlight.  But life is not made up of only “on-stage” moments.  There are times when we must be “off-stage.”

In all the drama stuff I have done over the years, I recall that being off-stage required work as well as on-stage moments.  It takes quiet focus… staying connected with what was happening on-stage, all the while changing costumes, grabbing props for myself or others, etc. in order to be ready for the next scene in which I would be involved on-stage. Just because people can’t see that you are doing something at the moment doesn’t mean that you aren’t.
King Solomon revealed in the book of Ecclesiastes a truth which the Beattles would thousands of years later make popular… “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under Heaven.”  That means there are on-stage moments as well as off-stage moments in our lives.
What we need to realize is that, just because we might not be on the stage right now in our life’s production, does not mean we are not still part of the cast. In the meantime, wait patiently in the shadows off-stage and prepare for what is next. Know that what you are doing off-stage may not be seen at the moment, but people will be able to tell that you have been actively engaged when you enter the lighted stage once more.

Your next scene is coming up!  The director is going to call your name and tell you to get ready to go on.  You will once again be in the spotlight where people can see your participation.  Serve quietly now and you will shine brightly later.

Need Some Light?

PR31 and I LOVE the Smoky Mountains.  I don’t think I can overstate how much we enjoy it there. We would probably live there if we could. So, needless to say, we vacation there as often as possible.

Years ago… like B.C…. you know, before children… we had rented a house in Pigeon Forge for a week.  It was just the two of us that trip and so we had the whole house to ourselves.

One night, I got up in the middle of the night to make a visit to the facilities (aka, bathroom).  And since I didn’t want to wake PR31… because that’s how sweet a husband we all know I am, ha… I decided to navigate the trip through two doorways and back completely in the dark. I was successfully halfway through the adventure, feeling more relieved and incredibly sleepy, but as I turned to go out the bathroom door and took a step, my whole world suddenly came crashing to the floor.

My foot lost its footing… I stumbled… my shin hit something solid… Losing my balance as my body lurched forward, my face slammed into something metal and my nose exploded in pain… This was followed by my face sliding down a wall of some type… ending with me in a heap on the floor… growing… and feeling a little damp.

I was dazed and confused. I couldn’t figure out where I was or what had happened.

Till the light came on.  Angela said she heard a loud thud on the wall behind the headboard and then me groaning. It startled her, and so she came to see what had happened. It was only when she brought light to the situation that we discovered what had transpired.

In my semi-comatose state, I forgot that we were on vacation… in a different house and turned to the leave the bathroom where our door was in our house.  The only problem is that where the door was in our house was where the shower stall was in this vacation rental. I had stepped on the ledge at the base, lost my balance, hit my shin on the base, slammed my nose into the hot or cold knob, slid down the fiberglass wall and landed in a pile at the still damp floor of the shower.

PR31 laughed as she helped me up out of the shower and back to bed. I did not laugh at the time… but it’s hilarious now.

The truth is… I just needed light. Even a small nightlight would have done the trick.  Light would have pointed out where I was and where I needed to go.  (In fact, if I recall correctly, we bought a nightlight to put in that bathroom for the rest of the vacation.)

We all walk into some dark spots in life.  We’re not really sure where we are or how to get where we need to go.  In the dark, we get turned around and confused.  We cling to what we have known, but that may not be where we are at the moment.

We need light.  We need someone outside of ourselves who can bring light to the situation so that we don’t stumble… and fall… and hurt ourselves anymore.  We need God.

I love what the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 42:16…

“I will lead My blind people by roads they have never traveled. I will turn their darkness into light and make rough country smooth before them. These are my promises, and I will keep them without fail.” (GNT)

God wants to shine the light in your dark places today and make rough country smooth before you.  He’s promised to do it… and He always keeps His promises!