The Open Word

A Moment with Pastor Mike

The Stray

He’s just a stray that showed up at our place out of the blue, but somehow this little pooch has tugged at my heart-strings. Our neighbors have named him “Ernie,” and I just can’t help it; I’m kind of smitten by him.  He’s rambunctious, all puppy, and (as my dad used to say), full of vinegar. He can be quite obnoxious (at times), especially when he’s constantly jumping around trying to get your attention, but there’s something vulnerable and sweet about this little man.

Every day when I return home, he’s there waiting for me.  He looks at me with those longing brown eyes, and I inevitably run to the box of dog treats to get him a biscuit.  Imagine that…he’s the dog, and I’m the one playing “fetch.” I returned home at about 9 p.m. last evening and he made quite a show of excitement as I was pulling into the drive. I couldn’t help but smile. 

Just to clarify, we don’t need another dog at our place.  We already have black and yellow Labradors that greet me in the driveway. There’s just something about Ernie though!  He’s an orphan, and sometimes I just can’t help but see myself in his predicament.

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”  Psalm 10:14

Before I met Christ, I was a spiritual “orphan” of sorts. I was always looking for a soft place to land where I would feel totally accepted and loved—not for how I behaved, but because I had inherent value in someone else’s eyes. It makes me wonder how many other spiritual “orphans” are out there…people who crave acceptance, simply because someone else finds value in their existence. 

The Rough Terrain God

“I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”  John 17:15

Jesus prayed for you!

Take a moment and let that sink in.

Long before you were born Jesus prayed for you, and He prayed for me. He recognized that we would have challenges in this life; that we would struggle with the things that this world serves up to us on a fairly regular basis. The pain we feel, the heartache that we endure, the unfairness of it all serve to remind us that we’re living in a profoundly imperfect world.

Jesus had no illusions that life is perfect, or that it doesn’t take precarious turns that we didn’t expect. His prayer reflects this idea when He simply says that He’s not praying that we are taken out of the world. Life is messy, and Christ acknowledged it.

If I’m alive, I’m going to experience problems!

The journey is often rough, rocky, and more than we are able to bear on our own, but Jesus didn’t pray that we would be taken out of it. He prayed that we would be taken through it. There’s a huge difference between what so many teachers and preachers seem to be espousing, and what Jesus actually said. You and I aren’t promised proverbial sunshine and rose gardens.

We’re promised a divine companion Who will walk with us through the tough terrain of living on planet earth.

How "fine" are you, really?

“How are you?”
Have you ever had anyone ask you this simple, three-word question?  How do you generally answer them?

For years I responded to this question without really thinking about what I was saying.  My answers would often look like these:
“I’m great, and how are you?”
“I’m doing fine.”
“Good, and you?”

It seemed like no matter what I was going through, I would gloss over what was really happening and give the person the answer that I thought they would want to hear. I did that for a few reasons.

1.      I thought that people were just being polite, and I didn’t want to prolong a conversation with someone who was just attempting to pass the time of day with me.
2.      I wasn’t certain that I could trust them with an authentic answer that included some of the struggle that I was currently going through.
3.      I wasn’t sure that they even truly cared how I was doing.

Have you ever responded like I did to that question of “How are you?” even when it felt like your entire world was falling apart? If you have, welcome to the community of life-travelers who want to be able to say “I’m great” and actually mean it. Being authentic with another person is such a vulnerable thing.  How do we correctly convey to someone that we’re not doing well, without putting ourselves into a situation where we might further exacerbate an already challenging day?

“I’m blessed!”

Lately I’ve been using two words to answer this inevitable question that comes up several times a week in my life.  “I’m blessed!”  My life isn’t always going well, but I am always blessed by a Heavenly Father Who hasn’t forgotten about me.  If the individual that I am speaking to wants to dig a little further about my challenges, I can share some of the struggles that I am experiencing. 

“I’m blessed” is always an appropriate response though, because I am!