Archive for February, 2011

Some people say that God doesn’t speak. We’ll leave the question as to where they got their power of speech for such an accusation for another day. Personally, I think it would be very unfair of God to expect us to believe in Him in the absence of some sort of definitive proof or messenger.

That would be like me doing business in a foreign country and expecting them to manufacture a product for me without some form of deposit. That’s not gonna’ happen!

The nakedness of the trees in winter has provided me with a lot of proof that God roams about pretty freely, and I dare say wildly, during the course of any one day.

I can pick up movements in the woods that would be impossible when the leaves are on the trees. It can be deer walking in single-file foraging for their next meal. It could be seeing fifty-five turkeys (counted ’em) spread throughout the back yard. It may be the juxtaposition of the male cardinal against the stark white contrast of the freshly fallen snow.

Sometimes, proof-by-observation gets invaded because we are in need of a reassuring tap on the shoulder or simply because God is kind and wants to give us a full-blown hug through His version of instant-messaging.

And so it was yesterday when a bald eagle suddenly flew right by my window, leaving me stunned and in awe of God’s ‘majestic messaging.’

His wingspan, flight, power and beauty left me speechless. I think that’s probably the normal reaction when this God, who is often accused of being ‘silent’, speaks. 

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they [all people] are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

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I’ve been watching the deer and the turkeys forage during what seems to be a “Valley Forge” winter in upstate New York.

They have to move very cautiously and slowly in the deep snow as their feet break through the crusty covering. It almost looks like they’re twisting an ankle or breaking a leg with every step. Winter has slowed them down considerably and the only thing they can do is go with it.
They ‘hunt’ (bad choice of words?) for their next meal and it seems like pretty slim pickings.
Slow times come to us all. A friend of mine is recuperating from a stroke and his days go rather slow. A relative’s business has slowed down to a breaking point. And I find myself in a pretty slow time as well right now as I wait for my springtime to arrive.
The deer and the turkeys seem to stick together, almost in formation at times. There is something to be said about unity during the dead of our winters.
I feel like this slowness always raise the same poignant question: at what moment in a dead part of my life will my faith grow as cold as this February day? And is it just happenstance that it’s always at this very freezing point when I ‘lose it’ that I seem to find it. God seems to test us right up to our limit. 
One might think that pretty mean of Him, to test us to our breaking point. But as for me, it always reveals how easily I’m ready to bail on Him, even though He’s never failed.
As I watch the deer break through with another crust-cracking step, I recall this “dear” reminder: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, I will do it… and I will not give My glory to another…” We get life in this death and He gets glory.
Slow times are tough on fast people when heaven grows as quiet as this winter day. Yet, the Psalmist tells us to “wait silently for God alone…[our] hope is from Him.” Psalm 62:5 
Isn’t it something that so much can be said in the slowness of silence?

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Filed Faithfulness

I was hunting down some files in my barn in the freezing weather yesterday for the third time in as many weeks and I was ready to kill the people who were auditing me, murder the people who didn’t do what they were supposed to do and just about anyone else I could think of. 

I would blow hot air onto my fingers, shake them, stuff them in my pockets – anything to get them warm so I could feel my fingertips enough to flip through individual files to find the papers that would finally absolve me from a substantial fine.

And it was in the lifting of one particular file that almost made me cry. It was a line of credit bank statement that read, “$200,000” with interest totaling 786 bucks that particular month. I was frozen by something other than the chill in my barn. It was the memory of how the very month of that statement, just before Christmas two years ago, I had unsuccessfully pleaded with our local bank to extend me even more credit in the wake of a tough year that included in its baggage the stock market crash. The kicker about the memory was that I had applied for the line of credit years earlier when I had absolutely no needs. But something made me do it. I don’t even know why I picked the figure of $200,000. If I hadn’t received that line back then, I surely would not have gotten it approved when the money dried up after the crash and we might have been forced into bankruptcy.

But what really changed my anger in the barn into a heart of thankfulness is that I remembered what God had done in the ensuing six months. In the middle of the country’s deep recession and my depression, I was able to pay that line back in full within six months.

But that wasn’t the only memory in the barn that spun my attitude around. I thought about my accountant whose records, though now covered with mouse droppings in my barn, were in order and I was able to retrieve what I needed for the audit. 

I sifted through some other files in my search and found that a young girl in my employ had doodled large and elaborate drawings on the dry accounting files.

And I thought about my friend who trudged through thigh-high snow just now to help me get those files out of the rafters of the barn while his patient wife waited in the car outside.

And I thought about how You, O God, had just brought me through something worse than a business’ demise, deeper than the snow and colder than the weather. You weathered the frigid reaches of my soul and warmed me with memories of Your faithfulness, now gently ‘filed’ forever in my heart.

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Most of don’t like pressure. Yet, it’s actually a calculated way of seeing where we are weak and what we’ll let God do with it.

Facing our seventh winter storm in just about as many weeks, I was using a snow shovel that I had only bought recently. I was in no mood for the cheap thing to punk out on me. But sure enough, in freezing weather, I hit some ice and the handle starts spinning on me.

I looked down to see that two screws were loose – and for a change they weren’t in my head.

I was flabbergasted. The success of this shovel’s design was based on two little screws that were so under-engineered for their job that I was ready to scream, “Planned Obsolescence” right in my driveway! They probably wouldn’t have heard my complaint in China, anyway. Talk about the old expression, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link!”

Everything in life is designed to take pressure. But if it’s under-designed for its very job, it will fail; and usually at just the moment it’s needed. That timing is no coincidence. A tool or anything is meant to come through for what they were designed for, SOOOO, it will almost always fail in the middle of the driveway of your circumstance. And you’ll feel like swearing, too. You might even. Perhaps that will be your pressure point in the test of patience?

Well, pressure did come to me recently, and, again, the weather brought out what I SWEAR I didn’t know was in me. I had to search through some storage files in the rafters of my garage where some papers were hiding that could save me over $100,000. It was in the single digits and it was dark and I could hardly hold on to the flashlight because my fingers were so numb and my back was hurting from bending over to dodge the rafters without falling ten feet to my demise and I was swearing under my breadth at those who had put me in such a position.

Pressure was beginning to make something come to the surface that shocked me. I actually started having a meltdown; a faith crisis. “God’s not pleased with me.” “Where’s your faith, now, Jerko?” “You’re going to pay that six-digit fine.” “You’re never going to find the needle in the haystack.” “Why don’t you just give up and pay the hundred grand – you’re kids don’t need an inheritance.” “God is against you because of all of your stupid mistakes.” 

It was a sewage of disgust. An enema of my faithlessness. All from fear from the PRESSURE of facing a fine. God had hit some ice in my heart. My two screws had popped and this shovel needed some redesigning.

I never found the papers… that time. I went back out with a friend a couple of weeks later and that seemed to make all the difference. I found them. Maybe on this particular occasion, I wasn’t ‘designed’ to do this job by myself and that became another lesson for another day (and blog): life’s pressures are sometimes only handled with some extra screws, I mean people.

PRESSURE will come. We are tools in God’s hands. Some jobs have a way of revealing where we could use a little work, a little re-design, a beefier this or that, a humbling that dictates we need another beside us, a whatever. 

When PRESSURE comes in rafters that make it feel like a cold day in hell, it may be a little reminder that heaven has ‘designs’ for us, screws loose notwithstanding. 

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Most of life’s concerns would be solved right here: “Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God. PONDER the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug.” Isaiah 51:1

Most of the times that we are confused or wonder about where we are going or how to treat another person or whether to give a little more of ourselves or our resources would be less perplexing if we would simply PONDER the God from whose image we are made.

I believe someone (a doc?) once told me that I came from good stock. They knew my parents. So, I could always ask myself, “What would dad or mom do?” 

If you don’t (or didn’t) have parent(s) whom you could look up to, God is the great equalizer. If you’re a king or a pauper or just an average person, we are all on level ground when it comes to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus makes a way to that “quarry.”

So, please know that half of life’s battles have to do with how we look at ourselves in relation to our God. Who are you looking to for those answers? Who is the rock that you were cut from? If it’s the neanderthal man, it may come as no surprise that you have an identity crisis.

God invites us to get to know Him. It is in getting to know Him that we come to know ourselves, who we were designed to be… a masterpiece fashioned from a rock that even Michelangelo couldn’t come close to chiseling with such artistry. PONDER that.

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