Tag Archives: Difficulties

Weathering the Storms

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.'”
Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)

Along my life’s journey, I’ve come to recognize that there are particular stretches of the trek when trouble, trial, and trepidation seem to close in on every side like a perfect storm. You can’t escape it. You can’t plan for it. They just happen. The real question is, have I prepared myself, spiritually, to weather such storms?

This past week my siblings and I moved our parents into an assisted living facility. My dad has been in the hospital for the past three weeks. Diagnosed with a nasty bacterial infection that only complicates his cancer and cardiac issues, we need to get him into a skilled-care facility for about six-weeks of IV antibiotics. Meanwhile, our mother, in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, is now struggling with the realities of a new environment, a whole host of unknowns to confuse her, and the loss of my father’s constant presence and protection. This, on top of what was already a dizzying travel schedule, seasonal pressures from work, and a daughter getting married half-way across the country in a few weeks. Oh, and I’m now into the second week of a nasty head and chest cold that has zapped much of my energy and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

“I don’t understand how you are doing all of this” Wendy said to me a couple of times this week amidst much needed empathetic and medicinal hugs.

In today’s chapter, Zechariah records the fifth vision of encouragement he has for the exiles who are seeking to restore Jerusalem and the Temple. This vision is centered on Zerubbabel, the appointed Governor who is tasked with leading the daunting project from a political perspective. It is not an easy task. He is subject to a pagan Persian Emporer. He is surrounded by enemies on all sides who want him to fail. He is leading people who are divided regarding whether this is even a worthwhile project to pursue. Then there is the sheer magnitude of the task.

God’s word to the overwhelmed leader:

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

I have come to the conclusion that I cannot keep the storms of life from pouring down upon me. That’s just part of the journey. I can, however, prepare myself to weather the storm in healthy ways.

First, I recognize that I am not alone in this. If I truly believe what I say that I believe, then God is always present from which to draw upon the spiritual resources I need. And, I am surrounded by a community of family and friends for camaraderie and support.

Second, I try to stay present in each moment and focus only on what that moment requires. I can’t do anything about the past. It’s useless for me to waste time and energy on the “if only’s” and “we should have’s.” Likewise, Jesus reminds us: “Tomorrow has enough worries of its own.” What do I need to decide or accomplish on this day, in this particular moment?

Third, I choose small ways to care for myself. Choosing not to worry about a task that isn’t a priority right now. Eating a healthy meal, getting a good night’s sleep, consciously noting all of the blessings I have despite the circumstances, taking a short nap, slipping in a quick ten-minute walk around the hospital floor, or sneaking away for a few minutes of solitude and prayer in a quiet place. I’m reminded that Jesus regularly slipped away by Himself. If I’m not caring for myself, I’m not going to well at caring for others and the needs of the moment.

Which is why I find myself in the quiet this morning. I have a lot on the task list today as I prepare for another week on the road. But, I needed the same reminder God gave Zerubbabel this morning. My might and strength only go so far. It’s the infinite resources of God’s Spirit that I require in the perfect storm raging around me. It is the recalibration of mind and heart that I need on this Monday morning.

And now, it’s time to move on to what this next moment requires.

Have a good week, my friend.

Click on this image to go to an index of all posts in this series on the writings of the prophet Zechariah!
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Difficult Paths; Explicable and Not

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, to observe all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29 (NRSV)

My life journey has led me on some difficult paths…

Some paths were difficult, but I willfully chose them knowing full well where they would likely lead. As Bob Dylan put it, “like a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat, going 90 miles an hour down a dead-end street.” Those difficulties and the natural, negative consequences which affected myself and others are on me.

Some paths were difficult because of the willful choices of others and their natural, negative consequences which directly affected me in hurtful ways. Those difficulties are on the individuals who made those choices.

Still other paths were made difficult because we live in a fallen world in which sickness, disease, and inexplicable tragedy may suddenly affect any one of us at any time. Those difficulties are on Adam, Eve, and all of us who tread this earth east of Eden.

Some paths are made difficult because we live within a Great Story of good and evil. Evil exists in the world carrying out its chaotic and self-centered motives to destructive ends. Whether through direct attack or ripple effect, those difficulties are on the evil one and all who follow.

Then there are difficult paths I tread and I cannot explain them. They don’t fit neatly in any of the previous sources I’ve identified. These are the most perplexing. These are the things which I place within the description found in today’s chapter. These are the secret things that belong to God. I don’t see God’s purposes or perceive His reasons, and I struggle perpetually to find a place of contentment or peace in the mystery of it.

This is why it is called a faith journey.

 

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 46

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“No, I’m not finished with you yet.” Jeremiah 46:28 (MSG)

I am bankrupt both financially and spiritually.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I am utterly alone. There’s no one to help me.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My dream lies in fractured pieces around my feet.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I did it….again. I’m such a wretch.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I’m always a finalist, but I never get the job.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
Old age is upon me. My body is wasting away.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My every attempt to have children is a miscarriage.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My body is wracked by incurable disease.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I am nobody, nothing, going nowhere.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My life counts for nothing. I’m a squirrel in a spinning wheel.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”

Believe.

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Chapter-a-Day Exodus 2

Wilderness wandering. Pharaoh heard about it and tried to kill Moses, but Moses got away to the land of Midian. He sat down by a well. Exodus 2:15 (MSG)

It's amazing to think about how much story can be crammed into one verse; how much life experience can be condensed into two short sentences.

Moses, the "chosen one" now stripped of every luxurious blessing that was afforded him as an adopted son of Pharaoh. Moses, the murderer. Moses, the man on Egypt's "Most Wanted" list. Moses, the man on the lam. Moses, the rich and famous member of the King's household now alone, broke, and homeless in the barren wastelands.

How often do we find God's people alone in the wilderness? Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden, and flung into the wilderness outside. Abraham leaving his comfortable home to become a nomadic wanderer. The nation of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years in search of the Promised Land. David, anointed king of Israel, flees from Saul into the wilderness of Judah and waits almost 30 years before ascending to the throne. Elijah, the triumphant prophet, flees into the wilderness in fear for his life. John the Baptist, preaching repentance from his desert pulpit. Jesus, led into the wilderness for 40 days of testing and temptation.

Life's road leads us all to barren places. The wilderness is an unavoidable stretch of the journey for any who desire to follow in Jesus' footsteps. You don't learn about perseverance in Pharoah's palace. The lifestyles of the rich and famous do little to build the necessary character qualities God desires from His disciples. Purity is acheived in the refining fire. Maturity is found on the journey through the hinterlands.

And, you never know what divine appointment God has for you when you stop at the well for a drink.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Hamed

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 137

"Oh, how could we ever sing God's song in this wasteland?" Psalm 137:4 (MSG)

The lyrics of Psalm 137 don't pull any punches. This song was sure-fire, sixth century B.C., mesopotamian, ten verse blues. The song writer was living in captivity. Uprooted from his home in Jerusalem when it was sacked and destroyed (Read more about that from another "soul man," Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations), we find our lyricist standing by the Euphrates river as his Babylonian captors mock him and call for a song. In defiance, he hangs his blues harp on the limb of a nearby willow tree and sits down to weep and cry out to God in an angry rage.

Life's road will take us through some pretty barren wastelands. Consider another bluesy musical trip down Route 66. Chicago is a rocking great place to start. There are some amazing views through the plush green of middle-Missouri and into the plains of Oklahoma. But, before you wet your toes in the deep blue Pacific off the Santa Monica pier, you've got some long stretches of desert wasteland to traverse.

We can't always control where life's road will lead. As another psalm writer, Solomon, penned, there are times along the journey to crank up the music and sing with the windows rolled down; there are also times to hang our blues harps on a tree by the road and keep silent. Both are equal parts of the journey.

Our job is to keep going.