I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
2 Corinthians 7:4b
Note to subscribers: I had a technical glitch publishing this post this morning with some nasty HTML coding issues. My apologies. I trashed the original post and am reposting, so you may have gotten two emails. Sorry. Maybe it’s the cold 😉
I write this post from the depths of winter in Iowa. It’s -13 as I tap out these words, which is a bit warmer than it was yesterday. This morning I woke up to find our hot water heater isn’t working. Lovely.
Just a week or so ago I was sitting in O’Hare airport in Chicago chatting with a wonderfully gregarious transplant from New Zealand. He was complaining about the weather extremes he’s learned to live with here in the midwest of North America. It reminded me of an observation Garrison Keillor once made: Living in the midwest is like spending your summers in Death Valley and your winters in the Arctic. Indeed. Here’s the headline from the Des Moines Register on Tuesday:
Along the journey we face all kinds of different challenges. While it’s human to grumble and complain, I often find it personally necessary to make myself put things in context. This morning’s chapter provided it for me.
In writing to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, Paul references “all our troubles.” Later in the letter he provides specifics. Let me jump ahead for the sake of today’s thought. Paul writes:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received the forty lashes minus one.(Note: 39 lashes with a scourge was the ancient prescription to bring the punished to the point of death without letting them actually slip into the comfort of death). Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones (Note: Paul’s would be executioners actually believed they had successfully stoned him to death. His body was carried and dumped outside the city of Lystra and left for dead.), three times I was shipwrecked (Note: He doesn’t mention the venomous snake bite that should have killed him.), I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move (Note: Scholars say that Paul logged some 10,000 miles during his journeys. That’s roughly 21,120,000 steps without a FitBit) . I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
As I said: Context can be a good antidote for self-centered misery. It’s cold this morning and my water heater is broken. I am, however, in a warm house, with warm clothes, and a warm wife. The water heater guy will be by in a few hours to deal with the hot water problem. Boo-hoo for me.
What I found even more fascinating as I read Paul’s words today was that while he endured torture, stoning, shipwrecks, snakebites, imprisonment and the rest, he states that his “joy knows no bounds.”
Along this journey Wendy and I have learned a lot about joy (though I will freely confess that I know far less than Paul). Joy always jumps off the page at me, because it is one of those words that holds a lot of meaning for Wendy and me. We’ve learned from our journey together that joy is something deeper than a momentary feeling such as happiness which flits in and out with the ever shifting winds of circumstance. Joy comes from a deep spring. It’s not a surface, run-off emotion. You have to drill through bedrock of suffering to experience the flow of joy. It is a spiritual by-product of the three things that remain when all else is stripped away: faith, hope, and love.
In the quiet (and a blessedly warm home office) I am thankful this morning for the flow of joy that Wendy and I have come to experience, independent of whatever momentary personal circumstances we may be experiencing.
By the way, temperatures here in picturesque Pella, Iowa are forecast to be 57 degrees (above zero) on Sunday.
Stay warm, my friend. Have a great day.
We have been slogging our way through one of the coldest, most brutal winters I can remember. Around where we live, the casual conversation revolves ceaselessly around the weather and how sick everyone is of snow, ice an sub-zero temperatures.
Because Wendy and I have invested so much in our place on the lake, going there has eaten up 98 percent of our vacation time for the past several years. We love it there, but because we both work from home (be that home in Iowa or home at the lake), we are almost never unplugged for any length of time even when we’re hanging out at the lake. For our anniversary this year, Wendy and I decided to treat ourselves to a week away from cold, snow, work and the grind. It’s our first true “getaway” vacation since our trip to London in 2009.
Tomorrow morning these wayfarers will be up before the butt-crack of dawn, leaving our computers behind, and heading south and out to sea. We will be unplugged and pretty much unreachable for seven days. Needless to say, there will be no posts for ten days.
Carry on. See you when we return! 😉
This past weekend I spent some time down at the lake. I grabbed my camera and went on a little photo safari of the winter landscape. Even though it was cold, the temps reached far enough above freezing to allow the frost on this pine tree to return to liquid form. I loved the way the drops clung to the end of the needles as though they just didn’t want to let go.
For the past four years I’ve talked about and desired to have a winter guy’s getaway to the lake. Even though there is relatively little to do on the lake, the opportunity to get out of Dodge and have a little of R&R with the boys is a good plan. This year I was finally able to pull the trigger and make it happen.
Matthew and I headed down late in the day on Thursday. The thermostat at the Playhouse is set on 40 degrees during the winter while we’re not there and I knew that it would take a while to warm up the house. In addition, there were beds that needed to be made, supplies to buy, and you never know what problems you might encounter after three months. The thermometer inside the house read 42 degrees when we arrived, but the thermostat’s LCD display was blank and wouldn’t come up. I hit the button that should kick on the furnace and the fan kicked in, but I couldn’t get the display to work.
Matthew and I headed to the grocery store to pick up our list and figured we’d see if things were warming up by the time we got back. It was still 42 degrees when we returned, so I pulled the thermostat apart, changed the batteries, tried to warm it up with a hair dryer in case the liquid crystal display was frozen, and prayed. After about 15 minutes of wrangling the display suddenly worked and we were able to get the furnace working. Even then, it was a chilly few hours waiting for the house to warm up.
Friday was spent in preparing for Paul and Chad’s arrival. We also went into Osage to get a new thermostat and caught a matinee showing of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” After returning to the Playhouse we threw two whole bbq rubbed chickens on the grill with some hickory smoke. By the time Paul and Chad arrived, we had a huge spread ready for them. The theme of the evening was “Who am I?” Dinner conversation around the table went until about 10:30-11:00 p.m. before we moved to the more comfortable living room. It was interesting as the conversation revolved around the men who were (or were not) mentors for us that shaped who we’ve become. It was almost 1:00 a.m. before we called it a night.
Saturday morning we had breakfast together and immediately the conversation from previous night launched into further give and take. About mid-morning we called a halt and went into a few hours of individual quiet time. I took my camera outside and walked down the shoreline, spending some time in prayer and taking a few pictures of the winter landscape. We reconnected for lunch and then sat down to watch “Captain Phillips” on DVD and ended up downstairs playing eight-ball on pool table Wendy’s grandpa made.
Dinner on Saturday evening was surf and turf. We had salmon and steak on the grill (mesquite smoke this time). The theme of conversation on Saturday was “Where am I?” and we each shared where we find ourselves in the journey and what are some of the questions, concerns, joys, and dreams with our current waypoint. Once again the conversation went into the late hours before we called it a night.
Sunday morning came early and we fixed one last big meal as we packed up. The conversation over breakfast was “Where am I going?” and we shared ways that we could pray for and encourage one another as we returned home. We switched things around for the return trip and Paul rode with me, allowing us the opportunity to connect during the drive.
Looking back, it was everything I wanted the weekend to be. Relaxing with a handful of men, eating well, having fun, watching good movies, and having great conversation as we share the journey together. I think this might be the beginning of a tradition.
I have been in meetings in Minnesota the past two days. A cold blast of north wind overnight brought temps into the single digits. Refreezing ice on the roads is making the morning commute dangerous. There is forecast of snow and freezing rain for my trip home. Yuck.
I miss the lake in July. This photo, which I took of Wendy on a sunset boat ride back from Bulldog’s Beach House last summer, gave me warm thoughts this morning. Thought I’d share. 🙂
Chapter-a-Day Genesis 28
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” Genesis 28:16 (NLT)
When I was a kid, the Parka coat became all the winter fashion rage. The Parka’s extra large hood with fake fur lining not only covered your head, but the drawstring would cinch the hood shut until you only had a small peep hole to look through. The parka was effective at blocking the wind from your face on a blustery Iowa winter day, but became a detriment when the kids on the playground started throwing snowballs. Your vision was so terribly restricted that you were completely unaware that a snowball was hurtling toward your head with the speed of a major league fastball. In fact, given the Parka hood’s additional restriction of your hearing you probably hadn’t noticed that a snowball fight had broken out at all.
In the past couple of weeks we’ve been reading about God’s continual presence and interjection in the lives of Abraham and his descendants. I find it fascinating that in today’s chapter Jacob suddenly had an epiphany and was aware of God’s presence in a dream. The truth of the matter is, if he’d been more aware, he might have recognized God’s continual presence and work in he and his family.
How much in life do we miss simply because we bind ourselves up in a spiritual Parka with the hood cinched shut? How much of our life is spent with the eyes of our heart so insulated by self-centered concerns that we cannot see the obvious presence and work of God all around us?
Today, I want to be fully present and aware of God’s presence and purposes which are at work all around me.
- When we are weak (kellybaesen.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 28:10-22 – STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN (pastorross1.wordpress.com)
- We Could All Do With a Little More Laughter (tomvanderwell.wordpress.com)
- BU Student Arrested During Snowball Fight (boston.cbslocal.com)
- Bored or Tired at Work? The Answer is not finding something new, but… (justifiedandsinner.com)