Happy, and the Myth of “One More Thing”

How happy would you say you are right now?

Maybe you would say that you are as “Happy As A Clam!”   (Personally, I’ve never understood what it is about clams that makes them so particularly happy, but we can explore that intriguing question at another time!)  

On the other hand, you may find yourself Less-Than-Joyful at the moment.  

And if that describes you, I’d venture a guess that you’ve got an idea of what would “make you happy.” Most of us usually have a thing or two at the very top of the list.

If I could just see my team win the close one for a change…
If I could just beat this traffic…
If I could just get my kids to behave…
If I could just work for a reasonable boss…

If I could just get a decent night’s sleep without that infernal dog barking…
If I could just take a nice long vacation…
If I could just lose the last 5 pounds…
If I could just lose the first 5 pounds…
If I could just meet the right person…
     THEN I know I would be happy!

It’s what I call “The Myth of One More Thing”, and we’re all tempted to believe it. No matter where we find ourselves, no matter how up or how down – we would like to believe that if we could just have that one, next thing, it will push us over the top to unbreakably happy. THEN we’ll have a joy that won’t dim. THEN we’ll have a smile that won’t fade.

And sometimes the one more thing we are reaching for is small.
If I could just have a chocolate covered Twinkie…

And sometimes the one more thing we are reaching for is really big.
If I could just win a million dollars…

But the reality is that it probably won’t make us near as happy as we’d like to believe.

There was a landmark study conducted that tracked down, interviewed, and followed up on lottery winners. What the researchers discovered was that the typical lottery winner does experience, as expected, a rush of euphoria immediately after their good fortune. However, the ongoing effect was a surprise. The follow-up studies indicated that these same winners, over the long haul, were no more “happy” than people who hadn’t won. What’s more, the winners reported significantly less happiness from simple pleasures like hearing a funny story, eating a good breakfast, or receiving a compliment. (Brickman, Coates, and Jannoff-Bultman)

Even with such a stroke of good luck, the reality is that the euphoria quickly fades, and it may even leave behind a diminished capacity to experience the simple joy of everyday life.


The lesson is that nothing in our circumstances can compel us to lasting happiness – and nothing in our circumstances should be able to ultimately steal our joy.  

Our attitude is always a decision to be made.  Our joy is always a gift to be received.

The Bible says this in the book of Philippians:

“I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”   (Philippians 4:11-13, The Message)

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with wanting one more thing.
It’s just a shame to miss out on the joy while you’re waiting.

Greatness…Through the Fire

Along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains there is a narrow strip of habitat less than fifteen miles wide where some of the most magnificent trees in the world grow. There, and only there, in the absolute perfect combination of elevation, moisture, and temperature Giant Sequoias flourish. They are some of the largest and oldest living organisms on the planet.

These trees are spectacular for their size. Adorned with a billion leaves, they can soar to more than 300 feet tall, dwarfing everything in the forest below. But their true magnificence is in their girth. Some of the largest measure more than 150 feet around and weigh three million pounds. Just to put that in perspective, that is heavier than three, fully loaded, 747 jumbo jets.

These trees are unmatched for their longevity. The oldest have been growing for more than 3,000 years. Just to put that in perspective, when the stones were being laid for the Great Wall of China, already some of these trees had been standing on those California mountains for seven centuries.

There is a little known condition, however, necessary for these greatest of trees to reach their highest: Giant Sequoias have to live through forest fires. When we first look at them, mostly we are awed by their incredible size and beauty – but if you study them closely you will see that every single one of them bears the scars that come from passing through the fire.

When a forest fire rages through the Sierra Nevada’s we immediately fear the blackened destruction that it leaves behind, but for Giant Sequoias it is a necessary part of their path to greatness. It clears out the brush and smaller trees that compete for sunlight and soil nutrients. It opens up their vault-like cones, depositing thousands of seeds across the newly cleared forest floor.

God has fantastically designed these trees to survive what would kill most anything else. A fully-grown Giant Sequoia has the thickest bark of any tree on earth. It is fibrous, fire-resistant, and can measure up to three feet thick. A forest fire will scar the mighty trees, but it won’t kill them.

Not only will they survive the flames, but through them will to reach a strength and majesty impossible any other way.


 

The longer I have live, the more I discover that the same thing is true of people.

When I encounter people who have been raised up greatly for the Kingdom, I am usually struck by the great heights and reach of their lives. But I’ve learned that if I can get up close, and if I will look carefully enough, inevitably they too bear scars from where they passed through the flames – a season of painful testing through which not only did they survive but because of which they thrived. Those scars serve as a reminder of a necessary season of hardship God used to grow them taller and reach further than they could have any other way.

I don’t how it is with you, but I sincerely want to reach greater heights…it’s just that I’d like to get there, if at all possible, without having to go through the fire.  I’ve learned, however, that in the most majestic of God’s natural creation and in the best of His servants, He refines all of them and opens them up to their greatest potential through seasons of trials.

God doesn’t just merely bring us through the flames, He uses those seasons of adversity to prepare us for the greatest heights we have been designed for. It’s true in grandest of trees, and it’s true for you and me as well.


 

“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.”

(Isaiah 43:2-4)

 

 

Life in the Waiting Room

Reflecting back, I have not generally associated good times with Waiting Rooms.

The first Waiting Room I had significant experience with was the one right outside the Principal’s Office.  I became quite familiar with that little room.  It was not a joyous place.  We little boys sitting there spoke very little to each other.  We avoided eye contact.  We hoped not to be noticed.  There was an anticipation of what was to come, but it was not an eager expectation.  When your name was called and you were summoned back behind the door, good things rarely followed.  I learned early on in life not to like the Waiting Room.

As life progressed along, most of the other Waiting Rooms I experienced, also, were not places of joy.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has a BIG Waiting Room. What I learned there was to measure my wait in hours and not minutes, and that inevitably when I did make it to the counter, there would be one critical document that I had forgotten to bring along.

The Mechanic Shop has a Waiting Room.  The coffee there is always bad.  The vinyl seats have suspicious stains on them.  And inevitably the mechanic will come out from behind the door and explain how there are twelve things wrong with my car that I was not previously aware of.

And, of course, Hospitals always have Waiting Rooms.  In my line of work, I’ve spent more time in hospital Waiting Rooms than I would have preferred.  In fact, I can’t imagine that anyone would ever WANT to be in the Hospital Waiting Room.  We read, distractedly.  We glance at whatever is playing on the television.  We play cards…make conversation…but mostly, we just worry.  We just sit, worry, and wait for the verdict to come from beyond the door.

I know it’s not a completely fair reputation, but along the way I’ve been conditioned to think of a Waiting Room as a place that I want to avoid.

The problem is that sometimes life feels a lot like a Waiting Room.

  • Because I’m waiting for the phone call…
  • Because I’m waiting for the test results…
  • Because I’m waiting to see how the finances are going to pan out…
  • Because I’m waiting to see how my kid is going to turn out…

And each time I get that same nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, just the same.  I nervously hope for the best, but secretly fear the worst, and inwardly climb the walls while I wait for the outcome.

However, when I read the Bible it says that the Waiting Room of life to be a good place to be.

I don’t claim to completely understand this, I just know that it says this.  It promises that GOOD THINGS come to those who WAIT.  “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,” it says in Lamentations 3:25.  The Lord saves, exalts, honors, and does not disappoint those who…wait for it, now…to those who WAIT upon Him.

The first thing that we learn is that WAITING upon the Lord is a good thing.  And the second thing that we learn is that WAITING upon the Lord is always a hard thing.

Psalm 27:14 says it like this:

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and courageous.  Yes wait for the Lord.

We might be tempted to believe that it’s only people like us, living in a 4G world who hate the wait – but it’s not true.  In every culture and every generation, people have hated the WAIT.  But look at Psalm 27:14 again.  It is ones marked by strength and courage who have the patience to WAIT.  It takes uncommon strength to keep the faith in the Waiting Room, in the face of the worst but still expecting the best.  It takes uncommon courage to hold on to hope in the Waiting Room, knowing that bad is a possibility but good is God’s promise.  People like this are neither passive nor weak, they just have faith.  You can tell the difference because they don’t flail about while they WAIT.

Impact That Endures

If you had to choose, would you rather be FAMOUS in your own lifetime and soon forgotten…or be OBSCURE in your own time and remembered long after?

It’s a question that is more relevant today than ever before. One of the fascinating developments of our present culture is the incredible value it places on fame. In fact, today there is a phenomenon never before seen – people who are famous for nothing more than being famous. They haven’t accomplished anything memorable or become anything extraordinary. They have simply found a way to get in the eye of the camera and continue doing notorious-enough things to stay there.

A recent Pew Research poll indicates that younger Americans for the first time have made “being famous” one of their highest goals in life. Culture today encourages us to get as much attention as quickly as we can instead of making the greatest impact possible for time to come.

So, honestly now: Would you take FAME now or IMPACT later?


Today Oswald Chambers is one of the best selling authors of all time, but 100 years ago when he died he wouldn’t have had any inkling it could ever be so. He died unexpectedly at the young age of 43 and was at the time relatively unknown. He had lived his life passionately serving God but in obscure places. For traveled for a few years as an itinerate preacher and then taught briefly at a couple of small colleges. He established his own Bible school in London, but it closed its doors after just four years. In World War I he went to Egypt as a military chaplain, which is where he died tragically of a ruptured appendix.

He did write one book before he died. It remains a largely unnoticed little volume on the book of Job called “Baffled to Fight Better.” But despite the lack of recognition, wherever Oswald went he poured out his heart. Classrooms in Ohio, churches in Japan, and army tents in Egypts – he invested the truth of God into the lives of others.

And by his side through it all was his wife Biddy. Trained as a court stenographer, she made copious, personal notes of every talk she heard him give. It was only after his death that she began to write out his words and pass them along to others. Because of her efforts, Oswald became one of the greatest Christian authors of all times. Today there are thirty books which bear his name. His devotional “My Utmost for His Highest” is the number one devotional book of all time having sold millions – but all this impact was AFTER his own time.

  • So who was the most famous athlete in 1917?
  • Do you remember who the governor of your state was in 1917?
  • How about the richest person in your town?

They were famous then.  They’re mostly forgotten now.

In 1917 Oswald Chambers was buried in a cemetery in the Egyptian desert, his passing little noticed by the world. However, a century later millions know his name and untold lives have been impacted around the globe for the Kingdom of God.


Today I want to encourage you to serve God with faithfulness wherever you are with whatever you’ve got, passionately investing your life for Kingdom impact that will long endure and not for attention that will quickly fade.

“But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.”  (II Chronicles 15:7)

Monument to Magnificent Defeat

On the scenic foothills of the Alatoo Range in northern Kyrgyzstan there is a spot that looks up to the peaks of the towering Celestial Mountains, and down across the valley to the city of Bishkek. They have built there a great monument complex in honor of the Kyrgyz people. It’s name is Ata-Beyit.

But there is something different about this place. Most monuments of such a grand scale are built to commemorate national victories and grand achievements. This place, however, was built specifically as a monument to magnificent defeat.

Specifically, there are three heartbreaking defeats, that the Kyrgyz people remember together on that scenic hill.

There is a soaring monument to the defeat of 1916 when the Tsar Nicholas II decreed that all Kyrgyz men be conscripted into the Russian army to fight in the First World War. The people flooded toward China to escape, only to be trapped in the narrow Bedel Pass. On that mountaintop some 100,000 died, either massacred by soldiers or lost in the brutal winter.

The second monument on that hill remembers 1938 when at the personal instruction of Joseph Stalin, 137 leading citizens – writers, teachers, artists, and politicians were rounded up and led up those hills to be brutally murdered. Their bodies were hurled together into a mass grave, undiscovered for seventy years.

The third monument remembers 2010, when eighty-four young people were lost in a single day, murdered for protesting against yet another brutal regime, standing in the way of freedom.

Nothing but tears on that mountain…but the Kyrgyz people believe these must forever be remembered for they are magnificent defeats. Despite the oppression of their worst enemies, and the tears of these most painful tragedies, the Kyrgyz people have not only persevered, but they are today a proud and thriving people.

Sometimes there are defeats so magnificent that they simply must be memorialized – and every Christian understands this.

On the foothills, just outside of another great city, there is another site remembered with many tears and a monument to unthinkable injustice. And while it would be impossible to remember that place without being moved its terrible tragedy, we remember it because of something so magnificent in that tragedy. On that terrible hill – by His wounds, we were healed. On that terrible hill – through His cross, we are saved. On that terrible hill death may have won the day, but life-everlasting secured an unbreakable victory.

Some people might ask why go to such trouble to memorialize a mount of such great painful sorrow. We would say that some defeats are worth remembering, precisely because they contrast the magnificence of the final victory that overcame the evil of that place.

  • The Kyrgyz people have a mountain, and its name is Ata-Beyit.
  • The people of God have such a mountain. Its name is Calvary.

“Oh Death, where is your victory? Oh Death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55)

 

 

**Kyrgyzstan is a “closed country” to traditional Western missionaries, but because Missions Door works with indigenous missionaries who call Kyrgyzstan home, they are able to serve the poor in Jesus’ name, freely share the Gospel, teach the Bible, and plant churches. In the past several weeks I was able to visit, on-site with Bakhtiiar and Aisada A., tireless servants who lead our efforts in this beautiful nation. If you would be willing to help establish a Family Ministry Center in Bishkek that will be a holistic, permanent, gospel center please email a response to this post for more information on how you can donate to this special project of Missions Door and bless the people of Kyrgyzstan.

 

 

 

Practicing Positive Communication

“Honesty is always the best policy.”

…However, I would be quick to add, that honesty is not a COMPREHENSIVE policy. What I mean by that is that it’s possible to communicate words that are absolutely HONEST and yet do it in such a way that is less than CONSTRUCTIVE. Even the truth can be spoken in such a way that it builds walls instead of bridges, leaving behind wounds rather than understanding.

I know this because I’ve received such words.
And I know this because I’ve spoken them too.


 

Speaking truthfully often is only be the starting point for positive communication. So before you speak the words, send the email, or shoot the text – next time run it through a quick checklist.

1. Saying the Right Thing:  (The TRUTH Test)
It is not merely avoiding anything that could be called a lie, but positively conveying that which is clearly true. Jesus said that His followers should never have to swear to the truth on a stack of Bibles, or their Mother’s-Good-Name, or anything else. It should be redundant for them to swear to their honesty because the only things that they ever speak true. The say what they mean, and they mean what they say.

Is it honest?

2. Saying It the Right Way (The GRACE Test)
We can hurt people by telling a lie, but we can also wound them in how we tell the truth. The specific words we choose and the way we convey them will strongly influence whether our content builds understanding or is just a selfish dumping ground. Research indicates that a majority of interpersonal communication is conveyed non-verbally. Positive Communication means I am concerned for not only for what I say but also how it is received.

I know it was honest…but did it convey to them a positive sense of grace?

3. Saying It for the Right Reason:  (The ENCOURAGEMENT Test)
In Ephesians 4:29 Paul wrote: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” That word Paul used for “encouragement” was a term for building construction. Applied to communication it paints a picture of words that build people up as contrasted with those which leave them leveled. It makes me examine my motives. Why am I saying this? Is it merely because I feel entitled to get this off my chest or because I really hope to have a positive effect on their life?

I know it was honest…but did it build them up?

4. Saying It at the Right Moment:  (The TIMING Test)
Positive Communication means saying the right thing, in the right way, for right reason…but also having the sensitivity to know when it’s just the right time. Proverbs 25:11 says “The right word, spoken at the right time, is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver.” Ecclesiastes 3:7 says that “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Wisdom knows the difference.

I know it was honest…but was it the opportune time?


 

I wonder if you can remember a time when someone spoke unforgettably into your life.
Maybe it was something that you were dying to hear…
Or maybe it was something that you really didn’t want to hear at all…
But the lyrics were truth and the music was grace,
And when it arrived at just the perfect moment it just couldn’t help but do you good.

My encouragement to you today is to make it your turn – to find someone and speak with such positive hope that it might possibly become a moment they will never forget.

Right Place, Perfect Time

Jeremiah Lanphier was sitting all alone in the large hall on the third floor. He pulled out his pocket watch. It was exactly noon and it didn’t look like anyone was going to show up for his first prayer meeting.

Jeremiah was forty-eight years old with no ministry training or credentials. Until just a few months before he had made his living as a merchant in New York City. But the Old Dutch Church on Fulton Street was desperate to attract new members, so they persuaded Jeremiah to go to work for the church reaching out to the surrounding neighborhood.

For three months he had thrown himself into the work – knocking on doors, sharing the Gospel, and inviting people to the church. Few, however, had showed up – and none had stuck.

Each day the discouragement grew and Jeremiah would return in the afternoon to the empty church and pray there by himself for new strength to continue. It was during one of those times that it occurred to him that there might be others who, like him, needed to pray. He decided to host a noontime prayer hour on Wednesdays, thinking especially of businessmen who would be on their lunch hour.

For the next week he handed out flyers for that first prayer meeting – September 23rd, 1857. When the day came, fifteen minutes before the starting time, he placed a placard outside to direct the people in as they arrived. But now it was 12:15, and he was still the only one in the empty hall. At 12:30 he was just about to pack up and leave when he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. The door opened, and a businessman timidly looked in. Now there were two of them. A handful more straggled in, so that with five minutes left there were six in all. Although they prayed for only a few minutes they all committed to all come back the following week.

The next Wednesday the men arrived more promptly, and this time there were twenty of them. The following Wednesday, there were forty. Jeremiah was so encouraged He decided that instead of meeting only on Wednesdays, they should expand to noontime prayer every weekday.

The following Monday at noon the men gathered, unaware of the financial collapse that was going to unravel that week in New York City. Remembered as “The Panic of 1857”, the Stock Market plunged, banks failed, many lost jobs, and people began to search for hope. Jeremiah had no idea what was coming, but God did, and He had Jeremiah in just the right place at just the perfect moment…to change his world.

People began to pour in to those daily prayer meetings: Lawyers, bankers, brokers, doctors, and businessmen calling out to God. Within days a second prayer meeting was started on the next floor down, and soon a third, until the entire building was filled from top to bottom every day at noon with people in prayer.

Prayer meetings were started at more locations and within months 50,000 were meeting at noon for prayer across the New York City. The impact was so dramatic that stores would close at mid-day with signs on the door: “Closed Until Prayer Services are Concluded.” The movement spread and thousands were soon meeting in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, St Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Indianapolis.

What followed is called “The Third Great Awakening”, one of the most remarkable periods of revival in American History.  It is estimated that in the next eighteen months one million people put their faith in Christ and came flooding into churches.

It all started when an untrained, discouraged Christian worker by the name of Jeremiah Lanphier decided to start a prayer meeting in an empty hall in New York City. He seemed incredibly unqualified, and his strategy was painfully simple, but God was up to something – igniting a spiritual flame right there on Fulton Street that would sweep across a nation and change a million lives for eternity.


I tell you this story today just in case you feel too small, simple, tired, or discouraged to make a difference in your world. In fact God is looking for those who will prove that it is ORDINARY people in the hands of an EXTRAORDINARY God who will change the world forever.

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you… God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” (I Corinthians 1:26-28)

The Parts I Do Understand

“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I have always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand.”
– Mark Twain


 

 

I talk to people all the time who tell me that there are parts of the Bible they just don’t get. They tell me that they have all kinds of questions about what they are reading.

If it’s any encouragement, maybe I should let you in on a little secret: There are parts of the Bible that I can’t completely figure out either…or at least I haven’t figured them out yet! There are days when I have personal devotions and they feel pretty dry. There are sections that I read, and honestly – I wonder what the point is. Don’t get me wrong, after years of study I think I understand it better than I ever have, and I still feel like I learn more every single day. I’m just saying that I still have a long way to go and lots of questions.

  • I still don’t know what to make of the attack locusts in Revelation with hair like women and teeth like lions…except they sound really ugly and scary!
  • And I’ve never been able to completely get my brain around the wheel within the wheel in Ezekiel…but then, I was never good with engineering concepts.
  • And when my devotions take me through the genealogies in I Chronicles…my mind tends to drift, and sometimes coffee is the only thing that gets me through.

So there you have it: My open confession that after all these years, and all of the study, schooling, and academic degrees, there are still plenty of things in that Bible that I still feel like I don’t completely get.

However, I’ve discovered is that on a practical level it isn’t that big of a deal. Because there is so much in the Bible that already makes perfect sense, and that I still need to apply to my everyday life, that really…I have plenty to keep me busy!

Most of us as Christians are educated far beyond our obedience.

We are tempted to approach the Bible as an academic exercise with the goal of learning one more thing or answering one more question, rather than taking one step closer to God. Purely academic study can become a diversion from personal growth. Unanswered questions can become an excuse for not doing something with what we know for sure.

The message of the Bible is that, at its essence, it’s understandable. The promise of the Bible is that on those things that matter most, it is do-able.

“This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!”
(Deuteronomy 30:11-14, The Message)

At the end of the day our success with the Bible is not measured by how many questions we answer or how many mysteries we solve. Success is measured by the degree to which we allow God’s Spirit to re-shape us through that Book into the image of Himself.

It’s about how much we are willing to change
…with the parts we do understand.

Father Unforgotten

I assumed that we were stepping into a lean-to stable…

IMG_1858I could see a few flecks of seed in the muddy-dirt that several small pigs were scampering across along with one scrawny chicken. The stable had an old tin roof, but its walls were nothing but long sticks fastened to posts. In some spots, burlap was attached to form a windbreak. No door hanging, just an open space to walk through.

Once I stepped inside, however, and my eyes adjusted from the sunshine, I could see the hammock in the corner and the young children standing before me, barefoot in the mud. I now understood that I had walked into someone’s home.

We had traveled to this remote village of El Plantanal in western Nicaragua to meet some of the desperately poor who are served every week by Missions Door, the family of ministries that I belong to.

It is the most humble family home that I have ever been welcomed into. Off to the side was a small, open-fire stove – the whole corner of the room blackened from the smoke as it rose up and escaped out through openings in the walls and the roof. There was almost no food to be found in the house, except some remnants of boiled corn in an old iron pot. It was all they were surviving on this day.

A woman by the name of Maria was bravely leading this family. I noticed four pictures hanging on a rough wall that divided her tiny house into two rooms. The pictures were hung with obvious pride, and so I asked her: “Who are the people in these pictures?” Maria pointed out one with her brother, and two more of her children. The final picture, however, was a younger man wearing sunglasses, posing against a faux background of a fancy house. “And who is that man?” I asked. It looked like it could be a husband or a boyfriend. “That’s my father” Maria replied. I was surprised. He looked so young and prosperous. “Is he around today?” “No, he left a long time ago. When I was still very young he moved to Honduras to look for work, but when he found it he decided to stay there and start over with a new wife and children. We’ve never heard from him in all these years.” I muttered, mostly to myself: “…But his picture still hangs there on the wall.” She looked back at me. “But he IS my father. I don’t want my heart to be filled with hate, and I never want to forget that I have a father.”

 

In that moment it struck me how deeply God has planted within each one of us a need for the love of a father.

When our earthly fathers are at their very best, they merely approximate the love of our Heavenly Father that we have been created to experience. When our earthly fathers are at their most despicable worst, they cannot negate the goodness of what fatherhood truly is. And even when our earthly fathers are gone altogether, it does not erase the longing, put there by our Designer, to point us toward His love.

We want to know that there is a father from whom we have come, and to whom we still belong. …That there is a father who is faithful to provide and loves to give his children gifts. …A father who protects us and could never forget us. There is something about this deep and profound love that leads us to reach out toward our Heavenly Father.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are.” (I John 3:1)

 

I walked back out of that humble home, struck by all of the things that I had that Maria did not.

I always have plenty to eat, and I sleep in beds and on pillows that would seem like only a dream to her. My children have attended school far beyond the sixth grade, and I have a father in this life who is far more than a distant reminder on the wall. But I could only attribute Maria’s nearly unbelievable gratitude in life to her simple faith – that though she was abandoned by a man she chooses not to forget, she still belongs to God, and as a daughter she calls Him “Abba, Father.”

When Faith Meets Opportunity

Gold RushDesperate times are an opportunity to fail miserably or to thrive brilliantly.

In difficult days there is rarely middle ground. When the challenges are great and the odds are long – it is precisely at such times that people of vision are able to take things that might seem small and turn them into something unforgettable.

In 1850 there was a Bavarian immigrant living in New York city working in his family’s dry goods store. Just twenty years old, he read in the newspaper about the frantic Gold Rush in California. He reasoned that miners working up in the hills would need tents, so he bought all the canvas he could afford and headed out by boat for San Francisco.

Unfortunately, by the time he arrived he found that the market was already saturated. He was left with bolts of canvas to make tents but no customers to buy them. As one miner walked away he heard him call over his shoulder, “It’s too bad you didn’t bring pants. They don’t wear worth a hoot up in the diggin’s.” Twenty years old, all by himself in San Franciso, with every penny to his name invested in tent fabric, it was an opportunity to fail miserably or to thrive brilliantly.

The miner’s comment had given him a crazy idea. Without any other options, he took the canvass and cut trousers out of it. He then fastened them together with metal tent rivets. They certainly didn’t look like any other pants around, but they were so durable that soon miners were streaming down from the hills to buy themselves a pair of those canvas trousers.

The story might be new to you, but I’ll bet you recognize his name. In fact it might be on your pants right now. His name was Levi Strauss. In a desperate moment 165 years ago he cut his first pair trousers for a California miner, but millions around the world are wearing his pants today.

 

In difficult times we are often tempted to see our resources as something small rather than the seeds of something great.

I’m reminded of all the times in the Bible when God asked desperate people to take a look at what they had.

  • A stuttering man named Moses said he had nothing but a stick in his hand
  • A starving widow said she had nothing but a little flask of oil in the house
  • A hungry multitude could only find five loaves and two fishes in the crowd
  • A challenged prophet detected but one tiny cloud up in the sky

The people saw these things as something small. God knew they were the seeds of something great. All it took was the eyes to see the opportunity and the courageous faith to step out toward the unexpected.

 

What does it take to thrive brilliantly in desperate times?

It’s the RESOURCES on hand
  plus the OPPORTUNITY before us
    plus God-given INSPIRATION to reach for the unexpected
that combine for unparalleled breakthrough.

 

Maybe these feel like challenging days for you.
In fact, these maybe these even seem to be desperate times.
I just wanted to remind you today that God is still in the business of causing brilliant breakthrough in impossible circumstances. People of faith simply call them miracles. God still uses unlikely things like sticks and clouds, loaves of bread, and bolts of canvass. They might not seem like much to the untrained eye, but to those with the vision of faith they are the seeds of something bigger to come.

I love the question that the Lord asked to Moses, when he was yet to dream big.  In fact, I pose the same question to you today:  “What is that you have in your hand?”  (Exodus 4:2)