The Way Life Should Be

My wife and I are on a mission. Our goal is to, eventually, make a visit to all 50 states. We have been incredibly blessed to stop by, and subsequently get a magnet from, a decent portion of the 50 states in our great Union already. (Quick poll: if we have been to a state but forgot to get a magnet can we just buy a magnet on Amazon, or do we have to go back in order for it to “count?”)

Anyway, one of my favorites, if not the favorite, state so far would be Maine. (Fun fact: Maine is the only state whose name is only one syllable. Go ahead say all the states in your head, it’s true!)

I fell in love with Maine in a matter of minutes, literally. Now, I know that the short time I spent there does not necessarily offer a complete and fully accurate picture of what life in Maine might be like. But, with that being said, what I did see and experience was absolutely breath-taking.

I was debating of whether or not to share a bunch of pictures here and I decided to just go with the one. (Taken by my awesome wife, by the way.) The reason I am not showing more is that, even though the pictures we took turned out really well, they still do so little justice to just how beautiful it truly was.

God is such an awesome and incredibly creative creator. This world that He has made is so beautiful. (Read more about that HERE.)

Maine was awesome. The coast was my favorite. I could sit there on a rock and stare off into the ocean for hours. The blueberries were heavenly. The lobster was in mac n’ cheese. The donuts were exceptional. The trees were tall and skinny, just the way they should be. (Oh, also trees make up 90% of the land in Maine…so that’s neat!) The people were down-to-earth and friendly. And did I mention the coast?!

While we were driving we saw a sign that stuck with me. It read, “MAINE: The Way Life Should Be.”

I remember smiling and saying out loud, “yea, that’s about right.” I mean, if there is a way that life should be lived it probably is: on the edge of a forest-on the top of a cliff-next to a lighthouse-overlooking the ocean-eating fresh blueberry pancakes. Now, that’s living.

I kept thinking about that sign for the next few days and even weeks. The phrase itself makes my mind run to Genesis 2. Back to the Garden. Back to the way life should be.

That one chapter in the Bible where all was as it should be. Man and woman walking and talking and living and enjoying life together next to God. Together with God.

If you look around you today, you won’t find a picture-perfect garden paradise. Instead, you will see brokenness, pain, hurt, despair, sin, and death. This is not the way life should be.

That is important for us to remember. This new normal for mankind is so “not the way life should be” that God did something about it. He sent Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross so that we could experience life, abundant life. (John 10:10)

Jesus came to show us the way, and the way that life should be. (John 14:6)

And, God promises, for those who put their trust in Jesus, to take away all the things that stand in the way of “life being the way it should be.” (Revelation 21:1-8)

You may be reading this and be thinking, “that’s great! I have already trusted Jesus, but how do I navigate life today?”

That’s a great question. Proverbs 3:5-6 gives a great answer. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Trusting in Jesus today and tomorrow and the next day and the next…that is how we, not just survive, but thrive in this life.

Trust in Jesus.

That is the way life should really be.

God is Good.

Can I just start off this post by stating an obvious and simple, yet jam-packed phrase?

God is good. Like, really really good.

I typed “good” into the Google machine looking for some synonyms and got the following.

Excellent. Exceptional. Favorable. Great. Marvelous. Satisfying. Wonderful. Superior. Ace. Boss. (Those last two make me chuckle, but they are still so true.)

The point is, God is so good, so amazing, and so incredibly other-worldly that all of these words, both, perfectly describe Him, and at the same time fall incredibly short.

The depth of God’s goodness has absolutely no end. He is wholly perfect and perfectly holy.

So, you might be wondering what happened? Why am I spending all this time praising God for His goodness? What big news do I have? What awesome thing happened to me lately that I am responding to and writing in such a way?

Nothing…and Everything.

Nothing- in the sense of what most people might think warrants praise and adoration. My life looks pretty much the same as it did last week. I don’t have any awesome or exciting news. I have often heard people say (and I am sure I have said it before as well) something along the line of, “God is so good…here is what happened.” It is almost as if “God is good” is the introduction to some bigger and better news that we have. Now, it’s necessary and appropriate to give God the glory for the things He has done in our life.

But in reality, “God is good” is the best and most important thing that we say. That phrase shouldn’t only be an introduction of good news to come, it is the good news.

God is good. Period. It doesn’t matter if we have good news to share or not. It doesn’t matter if we are in the midst of a good situation or bad. God is good regardless of our perspective.

So, in that line of thinking, no, nothing extraordinary happened to me. God just simply being God is more than enough for me to exclaim, “God is good!”

But, at the same time…everything has happened. I woke up this morning. As I write I am enjoying the comfort of one of God’s many gifts to mankind-coffee. I have an awesome, beautiful, adventurous, and brings-happy-tears-to-my-eyes-when-I-think-about-her wife. I have a wonderful church family. I have a wonderful family. I have the coolest job ever. And I have hope for eternity.

So, yeah. God has given me every reason to stand up and shout, “God is good!”

But, once again, God’s goodness isn’t dependent on my situation. Even if all those things I listed above were, in one moment, taken away from me…God would still be good. He would still be worthy to be praised. Because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways and thoughts are so much higher and more incredible than ours. (Paraphrasing Isaiah 55:8-9)

Psalm 34:1-3 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”

Did you catch that? “at all times.” God deserves to be praised because He is good. Time, situation, and feelings shouldn’t get in the way of that.

What about you? Can you shout out loud that God is good? Today, will you, regardless of what the rest of the day looks like, recognize that there is a great, big, awesome, and good God who is worthy of being praised, and will you praise Him?

Today, even though it’s just another average day, I have every reason to say, “God is good!”

Allergy Season at its Best

I have a confession. I have seasonal allergies.

Ok, if you have been around me at all during the Springtime then you know that wasn’t much of a confession.

The Spring and Fall have caused me to be a mouth breather for about as long as I can remember. (However, on the plus side, as I have gotten older the Fall side of things hasn’t been quite as bad as it was when I was a kid…so yay?)

A little less than a year ago I went to an Allergist to check what exactly I was allergic to and also to find out what I could do about it. The doctor confirmed that I actually wasn’t allergic to much, but that what I was allergic to I was really allergic to. He also confirmed that the few things that I had reacted to manifested themselves most during the Spring and Fall.

I remember saying, “Ok, I kind of knew that already. So, what can I do about it? How can we cure this?” I was looking for some sort of pill, shot, or miracle.

His answer was annoying, profound, and completely spot on.

“The best, and only real, way to be cured is to stay away from the things that make you sick.”

That statement, while easier said than done, is still some of the best advice I have heard.

The doctor then explained to me what causes allergies. He went on to use a bunch of fancy words that I can’t remember, but I was still able to get the sense of it.

It wasn’t necessarily the ragweed itself that caused my symptoms, it was how my body responded to the allergen. My immune system sees certain “triggers” as threats and works extra hard to expel them from my body. The results are sniffling and sneezing. To quote Switchfoot, “The sickness is myself.”

I have been thinking a lot about that conversation with the doctor lately. And while I can’t avoid Spring, I do think that his words are still some of the wisest I’ve heard.

“The best, and only real, way to be cured is to stay away from the things that make you sick.” It doesn’t just apply to allergies.

There are many things in life that make us sick. There are many things in our lives that are harmful to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. While I know that we cannot just simply gate ourselves off and avoid them all, that’s not typically how life works, I do think that we should make efforts to avoid our “triggers.”

1 Thessalonians 5:22 says to abstain, or flee, from every kind of evil.

2 Timothy 2:22-23 instructs us to flee from youthful passions and lusts and to “have nothing to do with” foolish debates that cause quarrels. Instead, Paul says, to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.”

And Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The best way to avoid the consequences of sin is to avoid sin.

We become emotionally and spiritually congested when we try to work life out on our own strength and in our own way. The awesome thing is, that God knows that we are sick. He knows what harms us and He has given us the cure. Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we can be healed from all that ails us. We must put our trust in Him.

But even after we trust in Jesus we still have a tendency to run back to our “allergens.” We still tend to grasp at the very things that make us sick. We need to avoid them.

But we can only truly avoid them with God’s help.

He can and will give you the strength to make it through your “allergy season.” But you need to talk with Him. Agree with Him that you are in need of rescuing, admit that you cannot do it on your own, thank Him that Jesus made a way for you, trust Him to guide you, and actually listen to and follow Him.

As the writer of Hebrews puts it- “let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…and cling to Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith.”

Ok, time to blow my nose for the 10,000 time today.

Spring Snow

I don’t care what the weather says…it is spring.

The calendar doesn’t lie, Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 was the official first day of Spring.

For many people across the country that is very welcomed news. However, those same people might be having a hard time believing that Spring has indeed sprung. I recently heard someone say in passing, “the weather didn’t get the memo.”

It’s hard to think about the things that define Spring; baseball, tulips, and grass that is actually green when there is still snow falling from the sky. Now, let’s be fair…this kinda happens every year, at least in the Midwest. So, with that in mind, we really shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, shame on us for expecting anything different.

Personally, I am in no hurry to usher in allergy season. However, I can still understand and sympathize with those who look longingly towards the warmer weather.

It can be an extremely frustrating thing when, even though you can see the start of the next season, you just can’t quite grasp it yet. And yes, I’m still talking about the weather, but I’m also kind of not.

You see, looking forward to the future and the sunny days that it brings can be a very healthy and helpful thing to do. The problem, however, is when that is the only thing we do.

When we only look forward to what is to come, we actually might miss some of the extraordinary things happening right in front of us. Like the strangely beautiful juxtaposition of fresh snowfall on newly budded flowers. Or a well-used snow shovel propped up against a lawn chair. Or even the fearless bit of green that pokes up from the frost covered dirt.

We cannot forget to be faithful to the present as we look forward to the future.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, this is something that I must continually remind myself of. Jesus said in the Bible that He would, one day, return to gather His church, home to Heaven with Him. Jesus told His disciples, “don’t be troubled… I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself.” (John 14:1-3)

In the book of Acts when Jesus ascended into heaven angels spoke to the disciples and said, “why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

And Jesus, Himself, told His disciples, and subsequently, all who follow Him after, that they are to be His witnesses. And in Matthew 28 He commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus promises eternity in Heaven for all who believe in Him. The wonder and magnitude of that alone is incomprehensible. And yet, we are still here…on earth. Why? Because there is still work to be done. There are still people who need to know about the love and life that Jesus gives.

And so, we need to be faithful while we wait.

I would encourage you to have this same approach to the seasons in your life, those that are weather-related and those that are not. Faithfulness in the present, alongside expectations of the future, are two things that can actually coexist. But we must be diligent not to only focus on one over the other. If we only focus on the snow on the ground, then we can easily miss the greenery underneath. But if we only focus on the coming greenery then we forget our responsibilities in the present-like shoveling snow and putting the grill cover on.

So, once again, let us be faithful while we wait and trust in God’s timing. …Besides, it’ll probably snow again in May anyway.