Frantic and Frazzled

frantic

Have you struggled with the stuff of life to the point that you felt weary and teary?

I’ve hit the wall and collapsed twice because I mismanaged stress, kept a crazy schedule and got burnt out. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I had no choice but to rest and sleep for days.

I ignored the warning signs, disregarded what others advised and refused to get the help I desperately needed. I jeopardized my health and the well-being of my family. I allowed the tyranny of the urgent to sap my energy and scuttle my strength.

Frazzled to the core, I finally just wore out. I had nothing left to give. I felt empty and lost.

Eventually, I learned to set my pace so I could run long and finish strong. I discovered how to recharge my batteries, renew my mind and rebalance my emotions. I decided to slow down, rest up and look around.

Oh, I still struggle. It’s part of life. That’s why I ask and rely on God to rejuvenate me.

The tough warrior-king David struggled, too. He wrote, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow …” (Psalm 6:6-7). He fought exhaustion, sadness and stress.

David had fierce enemies who wanted to kill him. Trusted advisors who tried to betray him. Close friends who plotted to ruin him. A rebellious son who conspired to dethrone him.

The stressed-out warrior-king got tired of struggling and fighting. He wanted to give up and go away—but he didn’t. Instead, he asked God to rescue and strengthen him.

David prayed, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help” (Psalm 69:1-3).

He also declared, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help … he heard my voice. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:16-19).

David desperately cried out to God—and experienced God’s strong hand and sustaining help.

Know this, my friend—no matter what’s threatening to slam you down and take you out, it’s no match for our mighty God. He’s all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present at once.

God sees what you’re going through—knows what you’re feeling—and hears what you’re saying. He’s focused on you. He cares about you.

That’s why you can trust God with everything—and talk with him about anything at any time.

God is waiting and listening for you. Will you trust and talk with him today?

 

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Caught by an Avalanche

French Alps Mount Maudit

Twenty-eight experienced mountaineers were climbing in the French Alps, attempting one of the most dangerous ascents in all of Europe, when they were caught off-guard by an avalanche.

They were surprised and hit by a fast-moving wall of snow that was 60-feet high and 500-feet wide, as they traversed the icy 14,649-foot ridge of Mont Maudit (meaning “cursed peak”) on their way to the summit.

Eight of the climbers were killed that day, after being buried and swept more than 600 feet by a towering wall of snow. They died on the mountain.

Nine were airlifted to a hospital with cracked ribs and broken bones. Two others were missing and presumed dead, but later hiked down the mountain and walked into town. By nightfall, local authorities had accounted for every climber.

I wonder what it’d be like to get buried by an avalanche and survive to tell your story.

Experts say an avalanche is a cascading mass of at least 100,000 tons of snow sliding down a mountain that can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. That’s a lot of fast-moving snow!

Maybe you’re feeling like an avalanche is chasing you downhill today. Perhaps you’re freaked out and frantic because of your awful predicament. Somersaulting out of control and gasping for air. Trying to hang on and ride things out.

When life shoves us to the ground and knocks the wind out of us—we often get angry, confused and disoriented. Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by anxiety, discouragement and fear. Other times, we imagine and assume the worst, and give up.

Sometimes, David reacted that way, as he struggled with challenges and circumstances. But he also confidently declared, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength” (Psalm 18:30-32).

As David wrestled with the stuff of life, he learned to trust God.

Do you trust God when life slams and surrounds you with an avalanche of lousy circumstances, topsy-turvy emotions or ornery people? If you struggle with that kind of a response, try this:

Expectantly cry out to God. Trust his unchanging Word. Anchor your hope in his grace and care. Rely on him for peace and perspective. Experience his constant presence, power and protection.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” That’s why we can always trust God—no matter what’s happening around us. He’ll never let us down.

Struggling Slugger

Babe Ruth

Legendary slugger George Herman “Babe” Ruth—who hit 714 career homeruns and held that record for 50 years—was jeered by fans near the end of his amazing career.

Babe Ruth’s long-time fans celebrated his exploits as a New York Yankee—but in 1935, their loud applause turned into fickle catcalls, as they booed the living legend who’d clobbered twice as many homers as anyone else in baseball.

But why? They booed Babe Ruth—affectionately nicknamed “The Sultan of Swat”—because he bungled several routine fly balls in the outfield and struck out every time he stepped up to the plate during one of his final ballgames at Yankee Stadium.

But, as the fans’ jeering got louder and louder, a little boy jumped over the railing onto the ball field. With crocodile tears streaming down his face, he ran across the outfield grass and threw his arms around the legs of his struggling hero.

With a big grin, Babe Ruth reached down and picked up the boy—and hugged him tight. After a while, as the stunned crowd watched from the bleachers, Ruth gently lowered the boy to the ground, patted him on the head and took his hand. Then, they walked together to the dugout.

The jeers turned into cheers and then tears, as the crowd watched “The Bambino” and the boy saunter toward the dugout. They were moved by the boy’s bold admiration and action.

The fans knew Babe Ruth struggled as a drinking man and an aging athlete—and they ridiculed him for it. But one brave boy remembered Babe Ruth for who he was—a living legend wearing a New York Yankees uniform—and covered his glaring errors with grace and love.

That boy’s split-second decision to overlook and forgive his hero’s shortcomings illustrates what the apostle Peter—who repeatedly denied his Savior—learned and wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

As followers of Jesus, we’re called to love people with authenticity and intensity—and when appropriate—cover their sins and shortcomings. That brand of love and protection is rare and often misunderstood today, but the Scriptures say it’s a top priority for every believer.

That’s why we should graciously and humbly say to our fellow strugglers:

“I know you’ve failed and disappointed God and me (as I have you), but I’m still going to put my arm around you and say, ‘I love you.’ Remember, we’re struggling on this journey together—and I need God’s grace and your covering—just as much as you need mine.”

The apostle Paul wrote these words to his co-strugglers, “Love is patient … always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4,7-8).

Knowing that, let’s reach out and love struggling people. Let’s stand and identify with them—and “cover” them with grace, love and forgiveness, just as Jesus covers us!

 

Gone Wacky and Wild

Way Cool Dog

In high school—way back in the 70’s—I’m sure I wore “rad threads”, walked with a “boss” swagger, spoke “way cool” lingo and did “far out” things with “groovy” people. I “flipped out” when I really liked something. I enjoyed “kicking back”. I “dug” living and being me.

Yeah, I was one “cool cat” and a “hip dude”—with a nonchalant attitude!

Fast-forward 40 years. The somewhat sane world of yesterday has gone wacky and wild.

Today, we live in a confused culture that rejects and opposes absolute truth, seeing it as rigid, archaic and foolish. It attacks and challenges the Bible, saying it’s just an old-fashioned book, full of blatant errors, strange contradictions and pious platitudes.

We’re hit over the head with warped values and weird thinking. What once was wrong is right, and what once was repulsive is popular.

More than ever, truth is relative. Evil is good. Integrity is rare. God is gone.

Students can’t pray at school. Rebellion isn’t bad. Sins are just bad mistakes. Adultery is just an affair. Fornication is just a one-night stand. Homosexuals and lesbians are gay. Men and women swap partners and switch genders. Demons are sought-after spirit guides.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our world system is far more deceived and depraved.

Long ago, Abraham faced mega-depravity. The Bible says, “The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” (Jude 1:7).

These cities were so perverse that Abraham’s nephew Lot couldn’t find even ten righteous people. Because of their depravity, God destroyed everyone, except for Lot who just barely escaped with his resistant wife and family.

Much later, when judges ruled and rescued the Israelites from evil oppressors, the Bible says, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). Evil ran rampant.

Centuries later, Paul wrote, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is … no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10-12, 23).

Struggling with his own sin, Paul declared, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

Only Jesus can rescue us from the powerful clutches of depravity and sin. Only Jesus can redeem us from the vice grips of rebellion and compromise. Is he your Savior?

Going South and Sideways?

Road Sky Clouds

Have you ever caught yourself going down a wrong road?

I’ve turned down one-way streets and dodged approaching cars. Entered exit ramps and wheeled around, just in the nick of time. Hung a left instead of taking a right and got way off course. Ignored the map and got lost. Gone south and sideways.

When we accidentally take a wrong turn, we get flustered and anxious. When we deliberately take a wrong turn, we feel guilty and convicted. But fortunately, we can admit our mistakes and make things right with God and others.

The Scriptures clearly teach what we can say and do whenever we find ourselves going the wrong way: We can stop and turn around. Do a 180. Make an about face. Admit our sin. Talk about our short-coming. Get back on the right track.

That’s exactly what the prodigal son did—after he bottomed out.

With inheritance money burning a hole in his pocket, the son left home and ran off to enjoy some wild living. He went his own way, and did his own thing.

But before long, he’d spent every nickel. He was broke, hungry and tired. That’s why he hired out to feed pigs on a stranger’s farm—and that’s where he hit rock bottom and recognized his wrong ways.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:  Father, I have sinned against God and you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up, and went to his father” (Luke 15:17-20).

When the lost son recognized his mistakes, he turned around and headed home. When the kind father saw his son still a long way off, he felt compassion. He ran to him, hugged and kissed him. No second thoughts. No judgmental remarks. No odd expectations.

When the wayward son confessed his sin, the father forgave him and demonstrated amazing grace. No sharp words.  No harsh criticism. No pious stance.

Now get this. Instead of hiring his son as a ranch hand—as the embarrassed young man had imagined—the father joyfully received and embraced him and threw a big party in his honor. He pulled out all the stops and celebrated the return of his son.

Likewise, when we admit our sins and ask for forgiveness, our heavenly Father forgives and embraces us. He demonstrates his amazing grace and relentless love, as he restores our broken fellowship and renews our strained relationship.

Oh, how our Father forgives, restores and celebrates when we repent and return home!

 

Stand Boldly and Speak Confidently

Children 2

Nobody likes bullies. They’re mean, ornery and cocky. They threaten and intimidate. They taunt and jeer. They hurt and scar people, inside and out—sometimes for life.

I got bullied by guys twice my size. They stuffed me inside trash cans. Stole my lunch money. Kicked and knocked me down. Bad-mouthed and belittled me. Harassed and hit me.

Fortunately, that brazen bullying was short-lived because Dad taught me to fight and defend myself. He said, “Son, never pick a fight; but if someone starts a fight with you, make sure you finish it.”

So, I ended up fighting a lot—all the way through high school.

I fought often, and enjoyed it—but I hated bullies. That’s why I stepped into tense situations and stood up for friends and strangers who were being pushed around, beat up or bullied.

Today, I’m not proud of my bare-knuckle fighting days, but I’m okay with how I stood up for others. And thankfully, I’m now a much gentler man.

Who or what do you stand up for today?

Long ago, the bold prophet Elijah stood for righteousness and truth on top of Mt. Carmel, as he squared off with wicked King Ahab and 400 false prophets. Anointed and empowered by God, Elijah stood alone against the forces of unrighteousness, idolatry, abuse and false practices.

God expects us to stand for what’s right and true, and speak on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized people who can’t defend themselves. Humbly. Boldly. Persuasively.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

But before we stand and speak, we must know who we’re defending. Unborn babies. Elderly folks. Disabled people. Terminally ill. Outcasts. Rejects. And the list goes on. To many, these individuals may be the lost, last and least of people. But not to us.

As I watch Elijah in action on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), I see five principles for us to apply, as we stand and speak for what’s right and true.

With courage and conviction, we must (1) pray for God’s direction, power and blessing, (2) trust God and leave the results with him, (3) be willing to stand alone, (4) speak boldly, and (5) say and do what’s right, regardless of the consequences.

Like Elijah of old, let’s stand boldly and speak confidently—and let’s rely on God to empower us to say and do what’s right, no matter what.

 

Lost Treasure

Painting Renoir Skiff

A Virginia woman drove into West Virginia—where she went to a flea market, and spent $7 on a cardboard box containing a Paul Bunyan statue and some odds and ends.

She didn’t think much of the green and pink painting that she found inside the cardboard box—that is, until she uncovered and looked at the back of the frame, and saw the word “RENOIR” written there. To her surprise, she’d bought a valuable painting for just a few bucks.

An East Coast auction house offered to help the woman sell her original masterpiece, painted by the famous French impressionist master, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and valued today by experts at $100,000 or more. That’s a lot of cash for something that was stuck in a box and forgotten!

Have you ever discovered a lost treasure? King Josiah did.

Josiah was eight-years-old when he became king of Israel. He lived in Jerusalem, and reigned for 31 years. He worshipped God, lived with integrity and pursued righteousness.

The Bible says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).

Unlike many of his predecessors, King Josiah had a whole heart for God, just like King David.

About 10 years after becoming king, Josiah sent his secretary Shaphan to the temple, directing him to account for the money collected to buy supplies and repair the temple.

That’s when the high priest Hilkiah told Shaphan about his incredible discovery. He said, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:8).

Imagine that, the Book of the Law—the first five books of the Bible—had been neglected, and lost inside the temple for years. Stuck on a shelf inside God’s house, it was gradually covered with thick dust and cob webs. It was left and lost among less important things.

Excitedly, but with some embarrassment, Shaphan told King Josiah about Hilkiah’s startling discovery—and then he read aloud from the Book to the young and humble king.

Josiah tore his royal robes, and wept openly. Then, he ordered the high priest to go to the LORD, confess their corporate neglect of the Book and seek his direction. Next, God blessed Josiah because of his broken and repentant heart.

Today, God’s people still misplace and bury the Book.

How? We neglect, ignore and lose God’s Word when we stop reading and delighting in it. We grow callous, apathetic and indifferent toward it. We abandon and forget about it.

Have you tossed your Bible—or do you treasure it more today than you did yesterday?

 

An Incredible Lunch

Lunch Box

In grade school, I carried my lunches inside metal lunch boxes—featuring Lassie, Superman, Batman, Wagon Train, Bonanza and the Rifleman—until I hit the 7th-grade. That’s when I retired my no longer “cool” lunch boxes—and became a brown-bagger!

I started taking my lunch in a brown paper bag, which Mom usually packed. She always penciled my name on the outside, and often hid encouraging notes and fun surprises inside.

My buddies sometimes teased me about Mom’s notes, but I think they were just jealous of how she encouraged me. On a tough day, I couldn’t wait to see what Mom put inside my lunch bag.

One day, Jesus made lunch for a lot of hungry people. They came out to the countryside to see Jesus’s amazing power, hear his authoritative teaching and receive his miraculous healing.

Earlier that day—after hearing their friend John had been killed—Jesus and his disciples had climbed into a boat and rowed across the lake, hoping to rest and grieve, away from the crowds. But that’s not what happened. Thousands of people were waiting for them on the other side.

The Bible says, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). Ignoring his fatigue and sadness, Jesus cared for them.

Surrounded by people again, our tired and grieving Savior healed and cared for individuals, one after the other, possibly until late in the afternoon. The people were hungry and thirsty—and probably grumpy. Maybe they forgot to pack lunches, or figured Jesus would feed them.

When the disciples asked Jesus to send everyone home, he said, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ When the disciples saw a boy with his lunch, they reported to Jesus, ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.’ ” (Matthew 14:16-17).

That wasn’t enough. They were far from the city. They couldn’t run to McDonalds or Taco Bell.  Convinced it was impossible to feed everyone, the disciples thought, “We can’t do this!” They were absolutely right. That was the point. They couldn’t do it, but Jesus could—and he did.

That’s why Jesus took and blessed the boy’s small lunch, and miraculously multiplied it to feed 5,000 men—and probably just as many women and children, if not more. That’s why Jesus told his disciples to go and serve lunch to the hungry crowd.

After everyone had eaten fish and chips until they were no longer hungry, the disciples retrieved 12 baskets of leftovers. Can you imagine that? Twelve astonished men holding full baskets!

Our Savior’s amazing miracle spotlights two awesome principles:  (1) There’s no problem too big for Jesus to solve, and (2) There’s no need too great for Jesus to satisfy.

Jeremiah 32:17 agrees, “Ah, Sovereign Lord … nothing is too hard for you.” That’s why I believe we can always rely on God to care about our troubles and provide for our needs!

 

Inside My Heart

Letters

In 1968, my father went to Vietnam, where he fought the Viet Cong—and taught the South Vietnamese how to provide triage care and run field hospitals in a war-torn countryside.

Just before he shipped out of Camp Pendleton, Dad put his hand on my shoulder, and told me to take care of Mom and my brothers. I was a 7th-grade boy—and I did my best, working hard as the “man of the house” and tackling chores Dad usually did. I took my new role seriously.

At times, I wondered if Dad would be okay and if I’d see him again, but I never wondered if he loved me. I knew he loved and thought often about Mom, Doug, Jeff and me.

For as long as I can remember, my now 81-year-old father has told me, “Son, I love you.”

That’s why he wrote at least one letter to me almost every day for two years—and some days, he wrote two or three letters, just to me. Of course, he wrote many letters to Mom (sometimes as many as four letters a day) and my brothers.

I think it’s safe to say my loving father wrote more than 700 letters only to me, which he signed “Love always, Dad”. They were full of encouragement, hope and joy.

I kept a lot of Dad’s letters and put them in a special box, along with a lot of other letters, cards and keepsakes. I treasure them—and every once in a while, I take out that box and sift through the things I’ve kept. They’re prized possessions that I cherish, deep inside my heart.

King David cherished the Scriptures—God’s “love letters” to us. One day, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he sat down and wrote Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible. He carefully crafted 176 verses that spotlight and communicate his love for the Scriptures.

David wholeheartedly and joyfully treasured the written Word of God. He memorized and meditated on it. He cherished and craved it.

David wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. He had a lot of warts. He made a lot of mistakes. At times, he was a knucklehead. He sinned and rebelled. But he treasured the Word in his heart.

He wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts. I delight in your commands because I love them. I keep your precepts with all my heart.” (Psalm 119:11, 14-15, 47, 69).

“Oh, how I love your law. My heart is set on keeping your decrees. I love your commands more than gold. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your word. See how I love your precepts. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly” (Psalm 119:97, 112, 127, 131, 159, 168).

Can you hear David’s heartbeat for God? Do you cherish the Scriptures? I believe David had a strong spiritual pulse because he had a huge thirst for God and a hearty appetite for his Word.

Do you wholeheartedly love God and treasure the Scriptures?

 

When We Stumble

Falling

Have you tripped over a tree root, slipped on a wet rock, fallen off a tall ladder or misjudged the street curb? I have—and I’m usually not a clumsy guy.

I’ve also landed flat on my face on the hard asphalt, collided with a stone wall and hit my head on the bottom of the pool—more times than I can remember.

It’s embarrassing when you fall in front of people—because they see everything. Some laugh and tease you. Others gawk and point at you. No matter their response, it’s humiliating.

When I was a boy, I pedaled my tricycle into a big wooden toy box, flipped over the handlebars and landed inside—right in front of everybody on the back patio. In grade school, I fell off the steps of a stagecoach at Knott’s Berry Farm—right in front of a long line of waiting people.

In college, I lost control of a big Kawasaki and slid across wet pavement—right in front of my buddies. As a young husband, I crashed my ten-speed on Pacific Coast Highway and took a big nose-dive onto the blacktop—right in front of rush hour traffic.

Everybody stumbles. We trip, slip and fall down. We make mistakes, do foolish stuff and mess things up. Sometimes, we deliberately do what we know is wrong. We disobey and rebel against God and his teachings.

Maybe you blew it yesterday. Yelled at your wife. Sassed your mother. Criticized your pastor. Hurt your friend. Bad-mouthed your boss. Gossiped about your neighbor. Kicked your dog.

The Bible tells the stories of Godly men and women who blew it—and knew it. They zigged when they should’ve zagged. They went left when they should’ve gone right. They went south when they should’ve gone north. They wandered and strayed from God.

Like them, we stumble—and face the awful consequences of our sin. But thankfully, after we repent and confess our sin, God lavishes his amazing grace on us, and forgives and restores us. The Bible says, “…though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again” (Proverbs 24:16).

That’s not a blank check or a green light for us to say and do what we know is sinful and wrong.  Instead, it’s a sure guarantee of God’s restoring grace and transforming power.

Know this, if what we say and do doesn’t square with the Scriptures, we’re off in the weeds—and God doesn’t want us to stay there. That’s why God opens his arms, cups his mouth and calls out:  “Son, get back on track! Daughter, get right with me!”

God wants us to change our course—and make a 180-turn back to him. He invites us to run to his side, take his hand and walk with him. He longs to forgive, cleanse and restore us.

Always remember, our forgiving Father patiently waits for us to repent and reach out to him. He’s ready to pick us up and dust us off—and eager to extend grace and forgiveness!