Where I Am 5

Romans 8:35-39

Whenever our children are in serious need there is nothing that will get in our way to be with them. The time our communications got crossed and our son was left standing on our front porch alone, we hurried back from across town determined to overcome any obstacle. It is that way when you love and care for someone. Nothing can get in the way.

In his letter to the church in Rome Paul is reminding the faithful followers, those who have been enduring much suffering, of the love of Christ. What problems does Paul list in verse 35? For whose sake are the faithful facing death? Through whom are we conquerors? What can separate us from the love of Christ?

As we face the sadness of life, those losses and setbacks that can even make us numb with sorrow, we can feel that we are all alone. We can often think that no one cares and no one knows the depth of our own depression. But we need to remember that Jesus Christ is the presence of God, even in our darkest times, to offer the comfort of love.

This passage has always been a profound reading for me. Paul in his masterful way of communicating presents all the possibilities – present, future, height, depth – and states that none of these can come between us and Jesus’ love. And what is the first thing he mentions? Death. Not even death can separate us from Jesus.

As we recall the loved ones we have lost over the past year, as we consider our own personal sorrows, our hardships and our own suffering, we must always remember that there is no power – not even the power of death itself – that can come between us and God. No matter what we are going through, no matter how profound our anguish, God is always present with us to give comfort.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Get as comfortable as you can – a warm blanket, hot cocoa or coffee, slippers, scented candles, whatever it takes – and thank God for giving you more comfort than all of these.

Where I Am 4

Psalm 23

Most of us have jobs we love and jobs we hate. We may work at a job we love, or we may find the job tedious. But even jobs that do not garner a paycheck may bring us happiness or be a drudgery to us.

Some people struggle through the 9 to 5 obligation of their career, while others enjoy their labors. We also have jobs or responsibilities at home – cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn. Each of us can usually find something that must be done, but something that is also a pleasure to do. For myself, I love the job I am paid to do, and I also (believe it or not) love to do the laundry at home. They both are necessary things to be done and they both bring me joy.

Psalm 23 is one of the most famous and well-known passages of the Bible. It describes a job being done by God. What job does the Lord do? What are some of the things He does in this job? Who benefits from this?

The 23rd Psalm is a common reading for those in need of comfort. It serves as a very simple and descriptive reminder of all that God does for each of us. Like a human shepherd who tends sheep, God tends to us. He gives us rest and comfort – green pastures and quiet waters. He accompanies us through good times and bad – restoring our soul and guiding us in right paths. He also provides protection with His rod and staff, and sustains us with whatever we need by preparing a table for us.

And a big part of this job that God performs is giving comfort. He anoints us with oil, an act to make us feel special and valued. He makes our cup, what we have in life, overflow with His love and goodness. And He plays host to us, not for a little while, but forever.

It is important to remember all the many things that God does for us. But we must also remember that this job of shepherd is a job that God loves. He delights in giving us the good things in life. He delights when we rely on Him for guidance, protection, and comfort. We certainly find happiness in knowing God watches over us as a shepherd. But let us remember that God does it gladly.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Remember a time when God gave comfort, guidance or sustenance. Thank Him for it, and remember that God was joyful when He did it.

Where I Am 3

Isaiah 25:6-8

Holiday celebrations are often marked with tremendous meals. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, birthdays all involve a special meal. There is usually an abundance of food and typically it is some of the best food. The time and the food are an opportunity for being together in fellowship and happiness.

This passage from Isaiah describes such a celebration. Who will prepare the meal? What will the meal include? What else will God do? How do we know this will be true?

As we work through the trials and difficulties of life we can keep our focus on the eternity that we will spend with God. In His tremendous love and mercy He will invite us to a banquet of the best food and drink.

And why will He do this? Because He loves us so much that He will be celebrating our being together with Him. And the celebration will involve more than the best food. God will remove our sorrows and our grief. He will give us comfort – wipe away our tears. He will remove any sense of remorse or loss, any bad feelings that may cover us like a sheet. The celebration will be more than just for us too. It will be a celebration for God that His children in need have come to Him for comfort.

But we need not wait until the end of all time to enjoy this celebration with God. God waits for each of us to turn to Him. In our moments of sorrow and loss God promises comfort and His presence to get us through. As we weep for our loss, as we grieve the ones we love, let us remember that our God is with us to give comfort. And our time with God, as we turn to receive His embrace, will be a time of celebration and great joy as our hurting soul communes with the eternal Almighty who abounds in mercy and love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Take a moment to remember the losses which cause you to grieve. Then lift your arms to receive the loving embrace of God, who will celebrate you.

Where I Am 2

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Near the end of the movie “Little Big Man” (one of my favorites) the Indian chief who is “grandfather” to Little Big Man prepares for his own death. Wrapped in his burial cape and standing on a mountaintop he speaks to God thanking Him for all that the chief has been through. “Thank you for my victories, and thank you for my defeats,” are some of the words he says.

I have always found that moment in the film to be very moving, and I have felt that the chief’s prayer is one that every Christian should have. It is easy to thank God for all the good things that happen in life. It is easy to appreciate happy times.

But we need to learn to appreciate (appreciate – not enjoy) the difficult times in life. It takes all times, good and bad, to make a life complete. It takes happiness and sadness, laughter and tears to make all of life a whole life. The first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes 3 express all the elements of what makes up a life.

As much as we want a lifetime of happiness, a life of nothing but ease is no life at all. Without hardships and challenges we only see part of life. It takes both happiness and sorrow to make a life complete.
I find it interesting that scar tissue skin is stronger than skin that has not healed. I feel the same is true of our spiritual life. Overcoming hardships and challenges gives us strength, teaches us lessons, and makes us better people.

And, although it is cause for sorrow, the loss of a loved one is a natural order of things. We must look at the life that has ended and appreciate all that has been experienced.

Just as in nature old plants must die to the world, be buried, so that they may give life to new plants growing in the next season, so also each of us must come to the end of our time. We yield to those who follow, offering our experience and wisdom, our blessings and instruction, in the hopes that the next life will be better.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is the most recent challenge you have faced? What have you gained from that experience?

Where I Am 1

John 14:1-3

The game of “Peek-a-boo” is fairly simple and one that almost every child enjoys. But it is also an essential game in the development of an infant. One of the stages in the development of a child is a stage where the child learns to trust in the absence of a parent. The child must reach that point where he or she knows that the parent will go away, but will return. “Peek-a-boo” lays that groundwork.

Today’s passage is a wonderful expression of assurance and hope offered by Jesus. How can the disciples avoid worry, according to verse 1? What image of heaven is given? How do we know it’s true? Why is a place being prepared?

Today’s Scripture is read at almost every funeral and, so, I have read it dozens of times. As I read this passage this time two things struck me. The first was that this passage is part of the time together in the Upper Room. This is was not something spoken in a void, some pithy non sequitur that resonates with each of us.

This was part of a lengthy conversation and time of intimacy with those closest to Jesus. He was spending this last meal with them, this type of farewell dinner with his followers. Jesus knew he was leaving and he knew the disciples would have a difficult time without him. But he also knew they had to trust they would see him again.

His words were meant to keep the focus, not on the separation, but on the return. They should keep their hearts set not on their sorrow, but on the joy of the reunion. Jesus wanted to give comfort.

And that is the second thing. It is not important to me what heaven looks like. I don’t care if it is puffy clouds, flying angels, streets of gold or lots of mansions. What is important is that we will be there because Jesus wants us there. God wants to be with us for eternity. Jesus said, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

We each may experience physical and emotional challenges in life. We each may need to confront our own mortality. But we each must remember that although there are times when we feel God is absent, He is with us. Jesus will return to get us and gather us to himself, because he wants us to be with him.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What causes you the most fear or worry? Pray that Jesus will give comfort in that situation.