More Bumble Than Believer, [Aging]

A Bumble with a tender heart

It’s strange to be in the position of being older.  A whirlwind of days and nights swirl from this human drama, and I think I may be starting thinking about my exit— Lord willing, stage right.

I’m supposed to be a ‘veteran’ now– a mature believer.  I’m not supposed to get stressed.  However, age is a brutal teacher– and it seems we have to learn so dang fast, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. (Just the other day three teeth almost came out from the blast.)

Getting old is great in some ways. I only wish I could do it more gracefully.

On top of it all, it seems to me like my sin has poisoned the air that others must breathe.  I have contaminated so much. You might just say, I have ‘soured’ everyone’s milk.  “Learning to live with the  regrets” is a class that we should add to the local high school’s curriculum. It certainly would be useful.

A old friend is celebrating her birthday so I volleyed a semi serious “tongue and cheek” regret at her.  But then, I suddenly realized that there is a point when we realize that behind every older person, is someone else wondering what the hell has happened, and how did it get this way so fast? It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

As a Christian, I tentatively believe that this world I’m in, has folded open for me, and God has specified a direction.  I do contend though, unbelief is easier on a certain level, but I do not intend to take any detours.  Perhaps the real trick about reading a map in the car is that you most likely won’t get it folded back the same way ever again.  You must learn to accept this. And as a rule, maps seldom reveal the best detours.

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
    until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
    I will carry you along and save you.”

Isaiah 46:4, NLT

I must admit to having a connection to “Bumble”, that crazy, loveable, abominable snowman in one of those schlocky, animated children TV classics from my youth.  I guess I identify with that ‘misfit’ yeti– someone who finally sees the light, but only when all his teeth are pulled!  Somewhere in that show he seemed almost good,  but didn’t we all wonder for a while if he would come around or not?

I  also wonder about the thief on the cross who got his ticket punched by Jesus at the last possible moment.  When we finally make it to heaven, we will find him there laughing and celebrating like everyone else, just like he belonged.  I guess grace does that to a person.

“What does it matter?  All is Grace”

— Georges Bernanos. Diary of a Country Priest

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‘Sunning Ourselves in the Smiles of God’

A boy stood on a windy hillside, flying a kite. He continued to release the string of the kite and it went higher and higher until it was completely out of sight. One of his friends walked up and asked how he knew there was still a kite on the other end. He replied. “I know it’s there I feel it tugging on the line.” Like the kite, we can’t see heaven with our eyes, but we feel it tugging at our souls!

As a person with Bipolar its easier in some ways to think about that place I am journeying to.  Through many cycles of mania and depression I find this present life gets old, and the more I hear about heaven, the more excited I get.  I imagine a life without meds, and the constant monitoring of my moods.

 Heaven is described as:

  1. a great reward, Mt 5:11
  2. present suffering not worthy to be compared with future glory, Rom 8:18, 
  3. eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Cor 4:17,18,
  4. surpassing riches of His grace towards us, Eph 2:7, 
  5. beyond all we could ask for or even think, Eph 3:20.

I think of my infirmities and pain.  I can’t wait to “shed” this mental illness. 

To be free from it will be one of best thing I can think of.  To take off my depression, like a heavy coat on a warm day. To sit with Jesus in a garden with living water, that’s more refreshing than any iced tea. Eternity is my favorite thing to think about–

“Where the unveile’d glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.

—Ezekiel Hopkins 

I want to encourage you who are struggling now, with depression, anger,  schizophrenia, paranoia, abuse, OCD, addictions, PTSD or Bipolar, etc.  There is a day coming for us, when we will forget the agonizing battles that have gone on within us.  I boldly tell you with all the strength I can muster–there is coming the day.  So take hope and journey one more day, thinking of heaven.

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We Shall Sun Ourselves in the Smiles of God

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“Heaven is where the unveiled glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.”

Ezekiel Hopkins, “A Puritan Golden Treasury”

Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. (Mark 2:19)

This was Jesus’ idea.  He was bringing correction to the lives of those who were very serious, and therefore most religious.  Our native tendency is to asceticism.  We evaluate ourselves religiously by our prayers and our fasts.

For serious people we have a serious religion, and we focus on doing serious religious activity, for that is what our serious faith demands.

Jesus pointed out that mournful faces are not indicators of a pious life.  How can His disciples mourn when Jesus the bridegroom is nearby? His disciples are going to a wedding, not a funeral!

Without question the New Testament believers are to know repentance and self-examination.  We should grieve over our sin, but that grief is to be based in hope, and in joy.  If you are saddened by sin, that sadness must be tethered to joy and not to despair.  Jesus has revolutionized forever the nature of religious faith.

The disciples could not mourn and fast while Jesus was present.   He does not wish His disciples to go mourning and fasting when they have no occasion for such exercises. His words are a defense of Christian joyfulness. Christ wants His friends to be glad. There is an utter incongruity in a sad and mournful Christian life.  It does not make sense in the light of what Jesus has done.

Our sins have been forgiven.  We have been dipped into the righteousness of the Son of God.  The fierce enemies of our souls have been eradicated by Jesus.  All of this is to bring out a song from a grateful heart.  We revel in the smile of Jesus and walk under the banner of a wonderous love.  We have His forgiveness and been given His favor.  We should be radiant!

 I pray that you’d would rejoice in this wonderful day he has made.

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Gold Fears No Fire, [Comfort]

Things fall apart

“He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.”

-2 Cor. 1:4, NCV

“The sinners in Zion are afraid;
    trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

Isaiah 33:14, ESV

There has to be some sort of confusion here. Some discrepancy, some incongruity, something overlooked. But things are never what they seem, and that is accentuated when we are in real pain. We think that whatever trouble we get enmeshed in, can’t have any real redeeming value. Or does it?

After a period of time walking with God, whose presence is true fire, we should process this prominent thought. Suffering is part of God’s idea. He has plans that hinge on our pain. It has been deliberately placed into our lives.

A competent pharmacist will be extremely aware of the drug he is filling for a patient. Never too much, nor too little. God is even more meticulous and acutely alert when it comes to suffering and pain. He has an intense love for you through it all. He drops in the proper amount needed for that moment.  It is confined and designed to heal, grow, and strengthen. Never to harm or destroy. He is not punishing you.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

Keller understood. She was both deaf and blind, since infancy. From this dark and complete isolation, she broke through. Helen Keller became a potent and significant woman. She would graduate from college and became a famed public speaker of international renown.

“God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son” (see Romans 8:28-29).

Jerry Bridges

Gold fears no fire.

We must believe pain has purposes. Life teaches us how to love. Some seem to go through life “charmed”, they are really not hurt in any substantial way. If that is the case, reach out and help someone else, for there’s certainly enough pain and evil to go around. (We should find ourselves actively sharing in the trials of others.)

I think that when a believer finally arrives in heaven, they will be ushered in limping, wounded, leaning on an angel for support. They will bring it all to Jesus, their scars remembered, and their sins forgiven. And we will be transformed, fit for heaven.

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Heaven is Waiting for Us, [Anticipation]

There is a place…

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven,  Hallowed be Your name.”

 Matthew 6:9

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 3:20

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”

– CS Lewis, The Last Battle

We often struggle.  Life frustrates us and we really don’t understand why it seems so bitter and confusing.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to get an answer.  The scriptures open up for us at this point.  The answer is ‘heaven’.  Heaven is a promise from Jesus to you.  In that light of heaven we are to live our life anticipating that place.

The assurance of heaven is, is to lift us, and then connect us to that which is eternal.  On earth, life is to a degree, intriguing.  There is, in spite of many conflicts and issues, a certain random pleasure in our lives.  We seem to know that our existence here  is somewhat charmed.  But believe it or not, heaven is so much more, its going to be a ‘kick in the pants’.

The reality of ‘heaven’ is what keeps us moving.  Heaven is the realm in which our Father dwells.  From heaven there is a concerted effort to hold and maintain us as we stumble through life.  Heaven is the provision that is given to faithful hearts who are being transformed by grace.

I hold on to this feeble life because I know and understand the glory of heaven.  Heaven is the place where glory is at home, and heaven is the magnetic pull that will lead me into eternity.  If I am looking for a connection to something way beyond my senses, heaven gives me that wonderful reality. Heaven is where the Lord Jesus is enthroned and is waiting.  When we are once again united with Him, it will be in heaven.

The idea of heaven holds us and inspires us as we try to figure out our walk of discipleship.  It is that promise that compels us, and brings us into a spiritual compatibility.  He is reaching out for us as we are pressing to meet Him.  The very hope of heaven turns our head, and lifts up our vision.  Jesus is the Lord of heaven and He gives us the privilege to dwell in the place where He is.

Heaven is the place where I really belong.  There is nothing that can take its place.  Heaven is a place where all of the redeemed will find a homecoming.  This is where we belong.  Eternity is the force which drives heaven, it is not a ‘static’ place or an existence above time.

Our decision to abide in eternity gives the Father great joy.  He is anticipating our arrival with a great deal of joy.  Heaven will help us forget all the tribulation of our lives here on earth.  It will seem like a bad dream as we step into eternal reality.  Brethren, we are standing on the threshold of eternal life.  Let us press into it, where joy and peace will ambush us in a special kind of wonderful grace.

P.S. I had fun with today’s artwork. The rabbits seem thrilled, and their joy is palatable. 🙂

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I Want Home

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‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”                                                                                  

Jeremiah 32:17, ESV

“One should go to sleep as homesick passengers do, saying, “Perhaps in the morning we shall see the shore.” 

Henry Ward Beecher

I have never been there, except in a stuttering way on my knees in the Lord’s presence.  From there it is like climbing a mountain, and breaking through at the summit.  It is an astonishing awareness of home.  It is where I belong.  He wants me there.

But most of the time, I’m slogging through the peanut-butter of everyday reality.  It’s ‘scootch-slide-scootch’ most of the time.  But I recall my last trip up, so I hold on to that fragrant memory, and it is a tremendous relief to think about his presence.

I want home.  I can’t wait.  I hope he’s not disappointed in me, or disturbed by the fact that I have made such little progress.  The depression and despondency will slough off its skin like a snake.  I will know true freedom.  This is a sure thing.

I want home.  The presence of Jesus is waiting.  All of the knots will be worked out.  The dark burdens that nip at my heels will disappear.  This change is going to be powerful, and most certainly dramatic, and I want home.

For those of us who believe, we will arrive at a place of profound blessing.  We will squint back at our life on earth, and wonder what it was all about.  A hundred thousand years from now it will seem like a difficult dream which we really can’t remember upon waking.

We will be moving toward him.  There will be a magnetism that will exert its pull on our wandering hearts.  He will draw us to himself.  Guilt and shame, which has deeply infected us will be eradicated.  Sometimes, when people train to run they will wear “training weights,” creating more of a burden that has to be overcome.  In that way heaven can be understood, for we have spent well over 50 years training for that place.

We come into all of this like a man who has been lost in the desert. Without water, we stumble into what looks like a watery oasis, and we find a refreshing relief.  We have been “saved” from a certain death.  When we consider what has happened, and how the superheated desert almost destroyed us, we will marvel, and that quite often.  Each one there will have a story of failure and faith, and we will listen and than tell our story as well.

What has to be stated, and restated, is the astonishing presence of Jesus in that place.  Not only in our thinking, but in a real concrete way.  Heaven is not an an abstract or ethereal thing.  It is solid and strong.  We don’t imagine heaven, instead we are pounded by it.  It is more real than real, with a solidity that we will find most refreshing.

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”

Revelation 3:11

Hold on guys, keep your crown.  Don’t let anyone snatch it from you.  Advance into his presence, and let him do his stuff on you.  He loves you, far more than you love him.  He is pursuing you more than you are pursuing him.  Somehow that is quite comforting.  I want home!

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When Life is Dark and Heaven is Quiet

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God’s people have always had to wrestle with the things from the dark.  As believers, the Bible tells us that we are in a permanent state of war.  There has never been an armistice or treaty signed to my knowledge.  Each of us are in the front lines.  The devil has been practicing with a deadly form of “spiritual terrorism.”  And he terrorizes many with his posturing and manipulation.

Life can get quite oh so dark, and desperately bleak.  Many of us who struggle with a mental illness have been made very much aware of this situation.  No one needs to educate us about the dark nightmare that is come.  We know what has happened, in the ‘here and now.’

Over a couple of millennia, God’s covenant people have been harmed and harassed.  Enemies are constantly manipulating and twisting–in a very serious way, mind you.

“And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.”

John 3:19, NLT

God has not been silent.  And He certainly has not been passive.  As we read our Bibles (and let our Bibles read us) our faith becomes a bit like teflon.  Nothing can stick to us; even though so much is thrown at us.  When life is really dark, and terribly bleak, we can protect ourselves and others and avoid an ugly spiritual injury.

There are times when we can sense nothing. Sometimes heaven is silent. But I believe, it is never, ever disinterested.  We can read in our Bibles, Hebrews 12:1, (ESV.)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

I believe each of us has an audience.  Some say that this can’t be so.  And I do admit that there is a bit of a challenge here.  But if we look at the other parts of this verse, we simply can’t nullify the first part.  We must take the whole verse at “face value.”  We are not theologians, we are simple disciples.  He knows this.  He simplifies things in order to help us understand.  He has little reason to complicate things for us.

I believe that we are “surrounded” by saints from all ages.  They see in us a faith that justifies us.  And I must admit, that helps me.  I am part of a continuum.  I now know that my simple faith, must always pass the test of discouragement.

But now the torch is passed, and now I must run with it faithfully and honestly.  And when all is so dark, and things seem far too quiet, I still intend to hold up that torch and carry it all the way to my Father’s house.

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“There was a castle called Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair.”

John Bunyan, “Pilgrims Progress”

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