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Posts Tagged ‘chaplain’

ash tree

A Kansas summer can feel horrible.  It often has searing heat, strong wind, and humidity that makes us all crave air conditioning or an ice-cold lemonade.  Our conditions are harsh and demanding every year.  These challenging elements try us and yet there are old trees standing in every community.

The heat, wind, and drought like conditions allow certain trees to develop a strong root system.  One where they dig down into fertile soil and become an anchor when storms, tornadoes, and gales unleash their worst across Kansas.  The trials, torment, and tough times produce strong trees that can survive truly horrible conditions.

People are the same way.  No one desires a season of pain, anguish, or torment in life, but it often finds us.  This tough season of life is often seen in the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a serious illness, financial difficulty, a broken relationship, terrorist attacks, war, and other traumatic events.  These are all examples of very challenging life experiences that hurt when they happen, but can produce stronger roots.

James writes to the Jerusalem church in verses 2-4 sharing:

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.”

While it does not feel good when it happens, trials can ultimately yield endurance and strength to our faith and our life. When life seems dark and difficult, be like David and pray to God for strength.  When you are scared, reach for your Bible and take comfort knowing that God will not forsake you.  When you grieve, know that Christ also wept with hurt and loss as He consoled a community of mourners. Endure.  Stay strong.  Keep your faith.  Maintain your trust in the Lord and you will find a new season of life through Christ.

Science and psychology has finally caught up with this lesson from James.  Study after study now document resilience and post traumatic growth for people who have weathered trauma and a hard season of life.

While trauma can impair people in many ways, it turns out that there is routinely a higher percentage of people who demonstrate the ability to bounce back and learn from a hard season of life.  And yes, they are often people of faith who rely on their religion, faith, or spiritual practice for healing and recovery.  Today, faith is often embraced as a central and beneficial means of coping with tragedy.

Consider how trees survive in England.  The climate is wet, damp, and dreary. Spend a week there and you will pray to see the sun.  The soil is often moist because of the frequent rain showers.  This climate prevents trees from establishing deep roots in the soil.  The root system instead stays near the topsoil, hardly ever going deep into the ground.  A strong wind storm will often topple multiple trees in England provoking a community clean up in villages across the country.  Trees that have not been tested with hardship do not produce deep roots.  They are instead the first to fall when the storms of life come their way.

While summer conditions feel bad now they make deep roots, bring hope for tomorrow, and deliver a new season of life.

 

 

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photo 1

I think many people struggle with faith because of how they view God.  Some view God as a rule giver issuing edicts from on high.  Others view God as a divine Santa Claus bestowing gifts and answering prayers.  And many will fall in between the two.

Some resist seeing God as an authority figure altogether.  It may conjure harsh images from their past.  Others resist this view of God for the simple reason of maintaining control.

I believe that it is okay to view God as an authority figure.  There are plenty of times when I gladly submit to authority.  If my computer goes haywire, I call tech support and carefully follow the technician’s guidance.  Sometimes it is a slow, step-by-step process where I need assistance due to unfamiliar territory and a lack of knowledge.  Other times I call for a reminder, receive an update, or get a tune up on my machine and I am quickly back on track.

People also submit to authority when they want to master a difficult sport like golf, tennis, or rowing.  They hire a coach, pay for lessons, or join a club so that practice can yield a great swing, an ace shot, or a straight course on the water. Practice and instruction will yield better performance no matter what the sport.

People also visit the doctor when they are sick and in need of care.  Philip Yancey, the Christian author, shares that, “a doctor is probably the most helpful image for me to keep in mind while thinking about God and sin.”  His view of God speaks to our human condition.  The doctor wants to deliver physical health.  The doctor shares wisdom and expertise that I lack.  The doctor also knows what habits, issues, and conditions are likely to cause injury.   I often receive his opinion on things to avoid and a prescription that will improve my life.  We should seek out God’s advice and opinion for living just like we seek care from a doctor.

It is important how we view God.  Often we do not realize our view of God is skewed, but there is a plumb line to show us what is straight and true.  God has given us His Word as the clearest description of who He is.  In the Old Testament, God reveals His character – His love, righteousness, wrath, justice and promises. In the New Testament, God reveals Jesus – His character in flesh.

Take time to visit with our Great Physician who is always on call.  He knows what can heal, cure, restore, and redeem.

 

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Army seal

Today, in 1775, the Continental Congress voted to raise an Army and truly make ourselves free.

Celebrate that freedom by praying for the men, women, and families who serve our nation so well.

May God protect our Soldiers, strengthen their relationships, and sustain them as they return from war.  Amen.

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arlington

Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:13

Those are poignant words at any time of year, but they ring loud in the heart of our nation during Memorial Day.  We remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  We honor their sacrifice in the defense of liberty, their love of country, and their devotion to family and friends.

Take time this weekend to reflect on the people who have died for you.  They are not merely black letters on a tombstone.  These names are the husbands, wives, sons, daughters, loved ones, and battle buddies who are missed every day.  Pray for the countless families and friends who are suffering with loss this weekend.

May God comfort their pain and grant them the peace of Christ, the one who died for all mankind.

 

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lent 2014

Lenten practices take time, practice, devotion, and patience.  We are often tempted to ignore our spiritual practice and rush into Holy Week.  Many will ask, “shouldn’t we celebrate and rejoice on Palm Sunday?  Shouldn’t we rush to the empty tomb just like the disciples?”  Yes, but within context of the entire story. There is joy at the end of the story, but it is important that we take time to focus on the total ministry of Jesus and the joy that can bring.

In Luke 10: 1-24, Jesus appoints additional disciples to go ahead of him and visit every city and place he intends to go.  They are to travel in pairs.  They are instructed not to carry a wallet, a traveling bag, or sandals.  Take what you have.  Hurry.  Don’t stop to greet anyone on the way.  Stay where you are welcome.  Be courteous, kind, and eat what people serve you.  Heal the sick and tell people, “The kingdom of God is near to you.”

These disciples go, obediently perform mission work, and return.  The disciples come back very happy.  They were not promised lush accommodations.  They were not promised lavish meals.  They were not promised a living wage.  They were told to go and perform the work of a missionary on the charity of others and they returned full of joy.

The disciples performed great miracles on the authority of Christ.  The sick were healed, demons were cast out, and people found salvation through the message of Jesus.  The disciples are full of joy because they were instruments in God’s plan.  Performing the work of God gave them joy.  In short, they have joy because they were used by God in a mighty way.

The work that we are given may not be glamorous, glorious, or even miraculous.  The challenge is to be faithful and obedient, no matter what task we are given.

When we are busy doing the work of Christ, let there be joy in our hearts. When the work seems tedious and complicated, let us focus on the harvest. Apply these lessons to your spiritual practice for Lent.  May God give us a holy perspective on the tasks we have in front of us and the ability to rejoice through the entire journey.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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lent cross

Lent can be a great time of discovery.  It is often viewed as a time to focus on what is truly important in life.  We also need to examine what is truly important in our Christian walk.

Jesus performs a miracle at the Bethesda pool in John 5:1-15.  Scripture records that a man was healed after being ill for thirty-eight years.  Jesus asks the man if he would like to get well and then commands him to, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.”

All these events were done on the Sabbath, a day set aside for worship.  Many people saw this previously crippled man walking through their streets. While there should be shouts of joy, exclamations of praise, hand shakes, back slapping, and chaotic rejoicing people instead focus on our recently healed walker carrying a cot.

Tradition did not allow people to “perform work” on the Sabbath.  Carrying a cot would fall into that category.  It was not the law of Moses but their interpretation of it that prohibited carrying loads of any kind on the Sabbath. Folks were so fearful of ever breaking the Law that they built an artificial “hedge” around it, comprising volumes of extra rules and stipulations. In fact, this hedge created an additional 613 provisions so that people could avoid breaking a commandment. While this was done to avoid offending God, it only drove a wedge between the people and God.  It created an atmosphere where the people focus on works and wrongs instead of the message and ministry of Jesus their Savior.  In short, they missed the miracle.

Jesus was present.  He was in their midst.  The Messiah was alive, active, and at work in Jerusalem.  Jesus was just footsteps from their door.  The Lord performed an incredible miracle where a man’s life was transformed and physically healed.  A crippled man was able to walk, perhaps for the very first time in his life.  But people could only see a Sabbath infraction instead of the Savior.

Let us rejoice when a family shows up to worship instead of snickering that they are fifteen minutes late.  Let us be joyful when a man arrives in the sanctuary instead of judging the clothes on his back.  Let us celebrate the future when a criminal accepts Christ instead of focusing on the past.  Let us see the miracle.  Let us see the Savior.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

 

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lent-give more

Today was exhausting.  After a full day of counseling, visiting Soldiers, and spending four hours in the car, I finally made it home.  I shut the door and breathed a sigh of relief.  There was just enough energy left to go upstairs, kick off my boots and take a nap.  That way I could salvage part of the evening at home. In order to give quality time at home and offer something significant, I needed to take a break and re-engage at a later time.

We often face this dilemma with our families.  We also face the same dilemma with God.  What kind of offering do we give God?  Does God get our first fruits or the leftovers from our day?

As we focus on the season of Lent and strive to maintain our spiritual practice, it is important to examine the offering we bring to God.  Exodus 23:19 shares, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God….”  Not only should God get what is currently available, but the best of what we have to offer.

Giving our best to God is a daunting challenge.  It requires time, energy, and devotion.  Allow this Lenten time of self-examination and sacrifice to strengthen your spiritual commitment and resolve.

The Lord has given grace, healing, and redemption to an afflicted world through Jesus Christ.  God has given His Son as the atonement for the sins of humanity. While there is no way to repay this perfect and holy gift, it cries out for a response.  Christ’s crucifixion should call us to tears, shame, seeking forgiveness, acknowledging our need for a Savior, and ultimately changing our lives so that we pursue Him.  It should create a spark in us that never dies or wavers because of God’s great love for us.

As we mark another week in the season of Lent, examine your gift.  What offering did you bring?  Will God see the first fruits or the leftovers of your day?  Do not “call in” this season of sacrifice and commitment.  God deserves our very best from start to finish.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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