Photo Worthy

We just finished the Thanksgiving season with all the family gatherings, delicious food, and lots of photo opportunities.  Now the oranges and golds are being replaced by the reds and greens of Christmas.  More pictures to come, for sure!

Already our social media is brimming with the pictures that others are sharing of their Christmas decorations.  So much beauty and creativity!  I love doing that every year, sharing the warmth and glow of the season.

But the brightness all around us, even if we only see it in a photo, sure can make the other side of life seem even darker than usual.

Other’s picture-perfect moments, if compared to some of ours, seem off-the-chart wonderful…and ours.  Well, the line on our chart is going in the opposite direction.  Way down.

Several years ago, I saw this picture of Mary and Joseph after the birth of baby Jesus.  It’s probably the most accurate portrayal of the nativity that I have ever seen.

The call of God on their lives to be the earthly parents of Jesus came at a huge cost to them.  They knew that their reputations would forever be tarnished.  Gossip and judgmental stares would be their lot. 

But can you imagine the long trip to Bethlehem for the census?  The discomfort, hunger, dirt, and fear? 

Then the baby being born in an animal stable.  We don’t know for sure, but did they have help delivering baby Jesus?  How Mary must have wished for her mother to be beside her! 

Can you imagine how alone they must have felt?  No family that we know of to surround them with love and care.  No beautiful nursery ready for baby Jesus.  No comfort of a soft bed for Mary or Jesus.  No kitchen full of food, or a meal train at the ready.

Joseph and Mary submitted without reservation to God’s call on their lives.  That special call might seem sweet and incredible to us but to them I can pretty safely assume that on most days it was anything but that.

Over this past week, mixed in with all the beautiful pictures of family gatherings, I was receiving other pictures from our dear friends.

 Dan and Wendy have loved and cared for their Elijah (Speedy) for many years.  Speedy has an extremely severe form of Epilepsy.  He was hospitalized yet again during Thanksgiving, for six days.

Lots of tests.

Still, lots of unanswered questions.

Always, always there is so much love from these amazing parents for their Speedy.

But the pain…the grief…is so real. 

Raw…and deep.

Wendy and I talk a lot.  We speak the same language that comes from special needs parenting.  We can be real with each other.

We understand what Dale Davis was saying in his commentary on the book of Luke when he talked about the benediction in Hebrews 13:20-21…about the part that says may God “do in us what pleases Him.”

That part is scary because we don’t know what it is that will please God.

Can we be like Mary, though, and submit to God’s will for our lives?

“May it be done to me according to Your word,” Mary replied as she was called to be the mother of God’s Son.

“Submission is preferable to consolation, for consolation pleases us, but submission pleases God.”  (Thomas Hog, 1692)

Let that sink in.

There are so many times that I would far rather have the photo worthy moments of family and fun and excitement and adventure and beauty to be the posts of my life.

Not the incomplete family photos. 

Not the tiredness…anger…frustrations…comparisons…resentments that often accompany this special-needs life.

How about you?  What is it in your life that you feel isn’t photo worthy? 

What would you gladly trade in for a more beautiful shot?

Somehow, though, I know that God looks down on our broken and He sees the very people and things that bring Him the most glory and the most joy.

He sees way beyond this temporal into a plan for each life that goes far beyond what we will ever know on this old earth.

And that’s what is eternally photo worthy.

The Sudden Dark Clouds

The other morning, I looked out my favorite upstairs window and saw this very pretty sky.  The puffy clouds and the sunshine reminded me of summer.

Not long after, however, I noticed from another room that it seemed darker outside.  I went back to the window and was shocked at what I saw.

Whoa!  In such a short time the scene had totally changed.  We went from bright and happy to dark and foreboding very quickly as a cold front began blowing in.

I have had those sudden dark times in my life. 

That Sunday years ago when our normal day turned into terror as Aaron lay on our kitchen floor, seizing violently.  The blur of a frantic call to the medical clinic…the ambulance…the German children’s hospital.  The stabs of deep fear mixed with the frustration of the language barrier and the culture that was in many ways unfamiliar. 

We went from worshipping God at church that morning to being blind-sided by a situation that we were totally unprepared for.

But let me tell you that Psalm 18:28 is true!

            “The Lord my God illumines my darkness.”

He was there with us in that foreign hospital room, during all the tests, and the diagnosis…and He has not stopped walking with us on this road of special needs.

My prayer list keeps getting longer with names of so many who are hurting and struggling through various sudden changes.

Gary’s cousin, now a much-too-young widower whose precious wife collapsed and was gone.

A friend’s daughter…a young wife and mother…fighting cancer.

A cousin and a friend recently widowed.

Jobs ended.

Marriages over.

Cancer returning.

Listen to what else David says in Psalm 27:1:

            “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

God brightens the unknown!

His light shines brightest in the dark.

His character positively glows in our deepest hurts and with our tear-stained cheeks.

And we have no reason to fear because He is fighting for us.  Psalm 27:1 continues:

            “The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?”

I love the song, Blessings, by Laura Story.  Read the lyrics:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand

To ease our suffering

And all the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear

And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near

We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love

As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea

And long that we’d have faith to believe.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life

Are Your mercies in disguise?

I saw this beautiful scene a short time later, after the scary dark clouds had gone away, and I was reminded that God is still our light and our salvation.

Don’t fear, dear ones.  God is still there in the clouds, and He WILL illumine your darkness with His sweet presence.

Impossibilities

We had some very pretty clouds one recent morning that I enjoyed as I looked out my favorite upstairs window.  I sat at my desk having my quiet time as my eyes kept glancing out at the ever-changing sky.  Suddenly there was brightness as the sun began to shine.  I quickly snapped this picture before the moment passed.

One fact that I have observed over my years of sky watching is that when the sun shines on storm clouds, the clouds become more beautiful.  The sun sharpens the contrasts between the clouds and the rest of the sky, and between the clouds and the ground.  The true beauty of those storm clouds is fully shown when the sun shines.

I have just finished studying the book of Ruth.  This familiar story is one that we love to tell.  It’s a favorite for children’s Sunday school classes.  It’s so familiar to us and so easily compressed into a 30 minute lesson that we often don’t stop to really consider what God did with Naomi and Ruth.

What especially spoke to me this morning was how Naomi found herself in an impossibly difficult and hopeless situation in a foreign land.  She was an Israelite in Moab.  Her husband and two sons had died.  She was left destitute with no means of support.

We all know the story.  Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, stayed with her and together they traveled back to the land of Israel.  Ruth asked permission to go gather grain and by God’s providence she ended up in the field of Boaz.  He was the kinsman-redeemer, unknown to Ruth, and they ended up getting married.  To that union God gave them baby Obed, grandfather of King David and ancestor of Jesus Himself.

OK.  It’s a wrap.  We’ll have a new story next week, children.

But wait!  Stop!

Just think of how the providence of God is all over this story.

When we let God’s light shine on this story then we can see the deep storms surrounding Naomi and Ruth.  Their situation was truly hopeless.

But God’s light also reveals the beauty of those storms because it was in those hopeless moments that God’s plan was so amazingly revealed. 

Do you find yourself in a scary and desperate place? 

Do your walls seem impossible to climb?

Do your clouds look dark and foreboding?

Do you think of your future needs…or your needs today…and wonder how on earth things will work out?

All I know is that God wants to shine.  He wants to show me how He works in the darkness of the storm.

But it’s how HE works that I need to stop and see.

And God doesn’t need my help.

He needs me to trust.

The God of Naomi and Ruth is my God, too.  He has a plan for me that He will accomplish every bit as much as He did for them. 

Hopelessness is the best venue in which we can see God shine. 

And as God shines, that storm will prove to be a place of beauty…the beauty of knowing my heavenly Father better and seeing that His plan in this place is truly full of His providence and purpose. 

Don’t Listen to the Loudest

When we moved to this home nearly 23 years ago, we lived in a semi-country setting.  Across the highway from us were farmer’s fields.  In fact, there were fields both to the west and east of us.  Things sure have changed over time.  There are several big new schools just over a mile from us, and across the highway the farmer’s field is gone.  Instead of tractors and combines there, now we see…and hear…all sorts of construction equipment as a huge housing development is being built. 

All the growth has brought lots of extra traffic.  Our property backs up to the highway.  We have a tree line that gives some privacy.  But there isn’t much that can hide the sights and the sounds of growth…progress, some would call it.  We miss the quietness, though, that we loved.

It’s now the time of year for open windows and chirping birds.  I was at my desk early this morning.  The birds were waking up, going about their early morning activities, and their various sounds were so pleasing to me. 

Yet the birds weren’t the only ones busily starting their day.  So were people.  Pretty soon I was having a hard time hearing the birds over the sound of all the cars and trucks and school buses and motorcycles. 

The birds hadn’t stopped singing, though.  I could still hear them even when a group of vehicles drove past.  I just had to concentrate on listening to them and ignoring the other sounds coming from the road. 

I’m amazed at the very loud sounds blasting us from this culture today.  Woke Disney.  Gender confusion.  Sexual dysfunction.  Open borders.  Drugs.  Violent crime.  Men in women’s sports…and the refusal of our top leaders to even define what a woman is!

And one of the saddest of all is the horror of abortion and the fight from the left to keep the murder of babies available and legal.  Yesterday the governor of Colorado signed a bill that ensured women could kill their babies at any stage of pregnancy, for any reason.  My friend who lives there, a pediatrician, said that this action is celebratory now…and she is right. 

All of this, and so much more, is just heavy and sickening to those of us who follow Christ.  And the voices who promote these lifestyles in our world today are often the loudest.  They blast at us from the news, social media, corporations, movies, music, television, classrooms…daring us to disagree and trying to silence us when we do.

A couple verses I have just studied describe this so well:

“But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of…”   (II Timothy 3: 13-14)

Paul told Timothy to expect evil to get worse.  Alfred Plummer says it well when he described their personal deterioration as the seducers being duped by their own deceit. 

And so the evil ones GO, but Timothy is told to CONTINUE.

Evil loudly goes from bad to worse.  Isn’t it interesting that the word ‘go’ means to progress?

 Progressives today are nothing new.  But their direction…their progress…is totally in the wrong direction. 

Unlike the progress of the wicked, we who know Christ are to continue in the things we have learned from Christ.

We learn by listening to God, for He has not been silenced.  He is still speaking, just like the birds outside were still singing.

We also need to continue in all that we know…that we have learned…in our life walks with God.

The word “continue” means to cultivate stability.

The brash noises of sin all around us being condoned and celebrated must not move us from hearing God’s voice above it all.

Now more than ever we need to be still and be stable in God’s truth and listen carefully to Him above all the noise of our ungodly culture. 

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

  

Feeding on Faithfulness

One of Aaron’s favorite things to do in all the world is to eat out at a restaurant.  The promise of eating out makes every doctor visit or dental procedure totally worth his time. 

Aaron might vary a little in what he will eat at the different restaurants that we visit, but always…if possible…he will order a side salad with “no croutons and two ranches.” 

And often he will order another of his favorites…French fries!

Not long ago, while he munched on his fries at lunch, he had an idea.

“Mom?” he asked, “can we make French fries?”

“I kind of made them last night in the air fryer,” I answered as I reminded him of the potato wedges that we had eaten.

“I didn’t see them that way,” he responded.

I smiled at Aaron’s response. 

He has, yet again, given me something to ponder.

A couple blogging friends mentioned Psalm 37 last week.  I decided to read slowly through that wonderful Psalm in the mornings after my regular Bible study.

Verse 3 jumped out at me.

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”

Guess what the word ‘cultivate’ means?  It means to ‘feed on.’

Dwell in the land and feed on faithfulness.

‘Dwell’ can also mean ‘rest.’

The land is wherever God has put me. 

So, I am to rest where God has put me and feed on faithfulness.

That sounds pleasant at first glance.  But what if the place God has put me is less than ideal? 

What if it’s just downright hard?

Fact is, God didn’t say that I am to be faithful when my pasture is lush and green…when my place in life is fun and easy and fulfilling.

He just said to dwell there in the pasture where He has placed me…stay…rest.

And while there, feed on faithfulness.

Here I am, approaching the age that I used to think was REALLY old, and I am still in a large sense raising a child.  This time of my life was what I used to hear being referred to as having the time of my life. 

Empty nest and all that.

Hasn’t quite worked out that way for us.

But I can’t deny the fact that God didn’t qualify the type of land He would ordain for me.  He just told me to rest there.

And to feed on faithfulness.

You see, we can all be faithful where we are.  The form it takes is what sometimes trips us up.

Caring for Aaron, in all the shapes that caring takes, is me feeding on faithfulness.

But many times, I’m like Aaron as he compared the air fryer potato wedges to French fries.

I don’t see it that way.

I don’t see managing Aaron’s medicines, doctor visits, tons of paperwork, or driving him everywhere as having a lot to do with my faithfulness to God.

I most definitely get tangled up in tiredness and complaining as I work to keep him fed, active, happy, encouraged, and clean.

Sadness at seizures and frustration during behaviors jerk my emotions in all directions.

And as the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years, it sure is easy to lose the sense of living in faithfulness to God.

Seems like I often compare my grass to others, and usually theirs is so much greener than mine.

Their feeding on faithfulness seems exciting and fun.

Mine?  Pretty dull and daily.

And often dirty. 

But something I’m learning…ever so slowly…is to look up to God when I feel like looking over to someone else’s land.  Keep my focus on my Shepherd and on the land He has given to me.

To see every tiring moment as an opportunity to trust Him, to do good, to rest in this place, and to feed on faithfulness.

To remind myself, at the end of another tiring day, that God smiles on my faithfulness. 

“I didn’t see it that way, God,” I often think.

“Oh, but I did, my dear,” God whispers. 

And I rest.

Draw Near

I have a very simple olive wood nativity set that I put out every year for Christmas.  I bought this set in Israel many years ago.  I love its simplicity and the memories it brings to me of my times spent in Israel.   

This year, as I was decorating, I asked Aaron if he would like to place the nativity scene on top of the cabinet where I always display it.  He agreed, and so I left him to it as I continued putting out other decorations. 

Later, as I walked by, I saw what Aaron had done and I had to smile.  You see, he placed the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph, and the animals in a tight group around baby Jesus in the manger. 

I usually have them spread apart, like this.

My first instinct was to rearrange the pieces in the way I always have them.  But I stopped myself.  First, I didn’t want to hurt Aaron’s feelings – making him think that he had not done the job correctly.

But looking at this little scene, with every person and animal huddled close around baby Jesus, has made my thoughts go to the significance it portrays.

The whole depth of God’s love for us is demonstrated in that humble manger scene.   To think that He planned the way of our salvation through the gift of His only Son is astounding. 

Jesus, God Himself, drew near to us as he was born in a filthy animal stable and placed in a dirty feeding trough.  He endured the difficult life of a human during a very hard time in history.  Israel was ruled by brutal Romans.  Jesus was not welcomed in that world and was eventually crucified.  His death went far beyond politics, though.  He lived and died to make the way for us to know God…to come to God through His sacrifice for us…to bear our sin so that we could be sinless in God’s eyes.

Jesus grieved over Israel’s refusal to believe that He was the Messiah.  His heart broke as He looked over the city of Jerusalem and said that He would have gathered them near as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. 

And how He wants us to draw near to Him in that same way!

James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”  (James 4:8)

He has said that if we seek Him, we will find Him.

Draw near to Him for salvation.

Draw near to Him in every upheaval of this life. 

Cancer.  COVID.  Divorce.  Prodigals.  Danger.  Tornadoes.  Finances.  Termination.  Caregiving.  Death.

Just add your situation to the list and then purposely draw near to Jesus.

Satan wants to distract us and defeat us by making us look at the impossible and the hopeless.

But Jesus wants us to know Him and to see that with God all things are possible.  With Him, we have hope both here and now, and for eternity.

And to be able to say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”  (Psalm 73:28)

Humbled and Hungry

Recently, Aaron and Gary had both been feeling puny.  In fact, they had each been tested for COVID.  Thankfully, both were negative. 

When a family member is sick, I slip into full-on caregiver mode – which means I usually hit the kitchen and start cooking.  I did this last Monday, making a huge pot of potato soup.  It was way more than the three of us needed but that’s the way I roll.

We sat down to eat that evening, where Aaron declared that he didn’t like potato soup and that he would not eat. 

“That’s fine,” I said.  “Suit yourself.”

Gary and I proceeded to eat.  Finally, realizing that I was not offering another option to him, Aaron begrudgingly agreed to try a small amount.  Three bowls later, he left our table full and happy.

“I liked the potato soup, Mom,” he told me later.  I just smiled and thanked him, not telling him that I knew he would because he had eaten it before and loved it.

Sometimes Aaron needs to see that I am not going to give in to what he wants.  I will allow him to get hungry in order for him to learn that the food I have made is good and that he needs to eat what is offered. 

How amazing it was that the passage I read in Deuteronomy 8 happened right after this object lesson!

Moses was reminding the Israelites about the reasons God had told them to obey Him and to remember all the ways He had led them. 

And then in verse three:

            “He humbled you, and let you be hungry…”

God let them be hungry.

Why?

So that He could feed them with the manna that He provided.  There was nothing they could do in the desert to feed themselves.  He gave them what they needed, and in their hunger…a hunger he allowed…He showed them a great truth.

“…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” 

I didn’t enjoy seeing Aaron hungry.  It would have been easy for me to rush in and offer him something I knew he liked just so he would eat.  But if I did, then he would have missed an important lesson:  You eat what Mom has provided.

I can look at my life and see that there are many times when I don’t understand the way that God has led or the events that He has allowed. 

I ask why.  At the time, a decision seemed to be wise and right, but it led to situations that were hard.  Sometimes those ongoing situations are the very ones that roll around in my brain in the dark night hours.

But I have learned to push those circumstances aside and to look at God Who loves me without fail.  And I know…I KNOW…that the hard times – the times I am humbled and hungry…are by His design and His allowance.

God isn’t being mean when He allows me to experience hunger.  He knows that in my hunger I will be more aware of His provision, and I will learn that I do indeed live and eat and prosper only through His food that He provides.

His words to me are manna and life and strength.

And I will come to Him one day, hopefully, full of His Words that I have eaten, and I will thank Him for the hunger that brought me to the place of being satisfied with His goodness.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  (Psalm 119:103)

A Cloud of Fear

It was shortly after 6:00 this morning when I walked into the room where I have my quiet time with the Lord.  As I always do, I looked out the window at my usual view…a view I have grown to love. 

And there, right above our Pin Oak tree that has been in hundreds of my sky pictures, was a lone dark cloud. 

It was so odd and unexpected.  Most of the sky was clear except for a few clouds here and there. 

I looked on my weather app and even the radar was clear. 

But there was no denying that just outside my window sat a large dark cloud.

It wasn’t long before I heard rumbles of thunder.  By now the cloud had moved, and the rising sun was reflecting out of it.  I could see a shaft of rain in the distance. 

All of it was truly beautiful.

I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating.  The most beautiful sky pictures usually involve storm clouds. 

Storms can be frightening.

But storms can also be beautiful, and storms can bring much needed nourishment to our land.

In fact, we need storms for life and growth.

None of us have far to look today in order to see a storm cloud.   Not a literal storm cloud.  However, just turn on the news or read the headlines, and there you see it…a cloud of fear.  Many clouds of fear, actually, all around our world.

We’re all dealing with those clouds, but many are also dealing with clouds that are even closer.  Personal clouds of fear are right outside your windows.  Situations exist that are beyond your ability to dictate and manage.

Yet in those fearful clouds, those scary circumstances, there is the beauty of knowing that if you are walking with God then He is in charge.  He will only allow what is best for each of His children, even if part of that plan contains fear or pain.

Never forget this:

            “Out of my distress I called upon the Lord;

            The Lord answered me and set me free.

            The Lord is on my side;

            I will not fear.

            What can man do to me?”  (Psalm 118:5-6)

And finally:

            “The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us…”

            (Psalm 118:27a)

The Lord is God.

Be sure you know God, personally, through Jesus. 

Then take comfort in knowing that the Lord is on the side of His people who know Him.

And we have nothing to fear, now or in the end. 

Listen Carefully

I was on our patio the other morning, enjoying the cool air and stillness before I had to start another busy day.  It’s nice to see and to hear squirrels rustling through the branches of nearby trees, or to hear the sweet chirps of our many cardinals, or the whir of a hummingbird’s wings.

But soon, way up in the top of our huge oak tree, came the loud squawking of a Blue Jay. 

His voice soon overtook all the others.  I had to make myself listen carefully in order to hear the quieter, more pleasant birds that were still there but were being drowned out by the shrill voice of that Blue Jay. 

What a picture of my life lately!  Satan knows exactly when to yell in my ear, reminding me more of what I don’t have than what I do have.  He knows when I am vulnerable…when I am more susceptible to letting him drown out God’s voice.

It’s easy to cave and listen only to his discouraging yells…to let him make me question God’s past leading in our lives.

“Are you sure it was God’s will for you to move here?”

“Too bad you can’t re-do some of your parenting.”

“Look at what they have that you don’t have.”

“Well, that hasn’t turned out like you thought it would.”

I’ve had to make myself stop hearing that very loud voice and instead focus on God’s quieter voice, just like Elijah did.  Elijah, in I Kings 19, was just coming off the high of tremendous victory.  He ended up physically and emotionally drained…vulnerable to Satan’s attacks of discouragement and depression. 

He ended up in a cave, where God told him to stand on a nearby mountain.  “And behold, the Lord was passing by!”

First there was a strong wind, but the Lord was not in the wind. 

Then an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

A fire was next, but still the Lord was not in the fire.

Finally, there was the sound of a gentle blowing…a low whisper. 

And God spoke to Elijah in that soft whisper of a faint breeze. 

Over the past couple weeks, I have had to make myself NOT listen to the loud voices of doubt and questioning.  I have had to discipline my thoughts to remember the past leading of God.

I was trusting God in the past, and He led me…He led us…to where we are.  Why doubt Him now?

Did I trust Him then?  Then how can I doubt Him now?

It’s a conscious choice I must make.  Do I let the loud voice of doubt crowd out the small yet firm voice of God?

At the end of the day, may I choose to listen carefully to the right voice in my heart and not the loudest.

         “My sheep hear My voice…”

Damaged

During our trip to the Houston area last month, we noticed that the palm trees looked different.  One normally expects palm trees to resemble these:

But instead, this is what we saw.

I stood there staring as I snapped this picture.  The trees looked both silly and sad.

“Bless your hearts,” I wanted to say.  I am from the south, you know.

Andrea explained what had happened.  The prolonged deep freeze this past February had taken quite a toll on the palm trees.  Many were irreparably damaged…dead.

I have read a little about the palm trees and found out that one way you can tell if a palm is dead is to scratch a section of bark off the tree.  If there is green underneath, then the palm is alive.

These sad looking palms we saw were, despite their damage, alive.  We could tell by the growth on top, odd as they might have looked.

This past Sunday at church we were privileged to listen to a live interview between our pastor and a prominent businessman from our city.  Britt Fulmer discussed his cancer journey.  Unless God works a miracle, there is nothing humanly possible that can be done for him.  Again, barring a miracle, heaven might soon be a reality for Britt.

Yet I walked away from that service full of hope and praise.  That is because Britt was full of hope and praise.  He conveyed, through his rather frail voice, the strength OF God because of his total trust IN God.  There was no anger, no regret, and definitely no fear as he confidently gave testimony of his total trust in God’s plan for him in this trial.  In fact, Britt has grown during his hard bout with cancer.

I think of so many I know who are battered from life’s prolonged adversities.  One can look at them and see the damage in various ways in their lives.  It reminds me of those palm trees.

But you know what?  Those palm trees are still standing, despite showing the stress of the freeze they endured. 

And they’re growing!  If we scraped off a section of their bark, we would see green underneath.  

Life is there!

Roots run deep!

James talked to believers about trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1: 2-4)

That word “consider” means to make a judgment.  We have a choice to make when we encounter various…multi-colored…trials in this life.  Are we going to allow God to work in our lives the endurance that He desires?  That endurance is the act of abiding under the difficulties. 

Will we abide under the prolonged pain in our lives, whatever it may be?  Because if we choose to do that…to abide under the suffering…we are really abiding under the shadow of the Almighty Who has our best interests and His glory in mind. 

To abide means to endure without yielding. 

So, to endure means to abide…and abide means to endure.

It means I stay put in the place God has put me, even if He has put me under suffering. 

I don’t yield to unbelief.  I don’t give in to giving up on God. 

Instead, I allow endurance under the hardships to produce in me a maturity and growth that is evident to everyone around me.  But I can’t produce that growth myself.  Only God can grow me in that way as I abide in Him, fully trusting His plan for me.

Suffering hurts, no doubt about it.  Long-term suffering takes a toll. 

But what will others see in me beyond the damage? 

Will they see growth, even if I feel like it’s just a little bit? 

Is there green under my bark? 

Oh God, grow us in our prolonged sufferings so that You will be honored and others will be amazed at what You have done!