Just a Small Lighthouse

lighthouseThere is a children’s book that was originally published in 1942 called, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift. My daughter and I read it the other night. It tells the story of the building of the great George Washington Bridge through the eyes of a little red lighthouse on the Hudson River (based on a real lighthouse that was once in this location.)

We read the story of how the little lighthouse originally felt proud and important to help keep the vessels on the river safe in fog and rough weather with its flashing warnings about the dangerous rocks on the shoreline. Its warnings, night after night, kept those on the river safe from harm.

But one day, a shadow fell on the lighthouse as a vast bridge was  built right over it. When the bridge was completed, the little lighthouse noticed  that a huge light from the top of the bridge was flashing against the sky.  It was a big, brilliant flashing light that far outshone its much smaller rays.

The lighthouses felt that it was no longer needed, because of the much more effective light at the top of the bridge.  It felt discarded and forgotten and useless. But there came a night when the fog closed in and the lighthouse saw the danger on the river that no light was shining upon. It waited and waited for the man to come who would turn on the light, but the man did not come. Finally, when all seemed to be lost, the man appeared. Someone had stolen his keys, delaying him. He lit the lamp in the lighthouse, and the  light beams immediately flashed out through the fog as a warning to the vessels in peril.

The little lighthouse was needed after all. It had been dark, though, because its lamp was out. It could not light itself, no matter how hard it wanted to. It required the one with the key to come and light it.  In the end, the small, red lighthouse learned that the big flashing light it thought had taken its place was designed to warn airplanes, not boats and barges on the river. Only he could do that.

When I read that story, a light came on in my own mind. What a beautiful metaphor for those of us who feel useless at some points in our lives. We see the bigger, grander lights erected around us, the ones that pierce the darkness so much more effectively  and in a much more professional manner. We sit in the dark and wonder if our use is at an end. It looks that way at times, doesn’t it? We can feel unwanted. Useless. Discarded. And then one dark night, when there is danger for someone traveling in the dark and the fog, we see it, and we want to help light the way. But our light has flickered and gone out. We’ve been forgotten, it seems. The only One who can light our lamp feels like they have gone forever.

And then, there is the sound of the key in the lock, and our  cold, dark  lamp is lit by a kind and steady hand.  The One who had the Master Key all along had to open the door to light our lamp.  Then the  Light flashes on, the darkness is lit by our small but steady, strong beam, and danger is averted for someone lost in the fog of this world.

Our light is needed, no matter how small we think it is.  We may never realize what it means to someone else. This morning I opened a Hope Blog contact form message from someone who wrote anonymously.  The writer sent words of kindness and blessing to me. Their light shone brightly for this one person today. That light was needed. Thank you to the kind man who sent that.  God bless you. May the One who alone can light our lamps come again to our hearts and give us His light to illumine  the darkness.

A Little Note for Readers

In July, I passed the nine year mark for my small Hope Blog. Before that, I had a Blogger.com site called Front Porch Chats (long deleted.) After moving from South Carolina back to Wisconsin 10 years ago, I changed the name and started over. Somehow having chats on a front porch in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin seemed unlikely!

As noted before, I never started this blog to be a success by blogging standards. It was a simple antidote to writing about the toxic state of the evangelical church and American culture that I nearly killed myself doing on the once busy news and comment site  I published as an adjunct to the talk radio show I co-hosted and produced. My heart has always been first at home anyway, and so I have enjoyed writing about my family and the good things there are in this world—good things that are often obscured by the ugly.

I haven’t written on here for a while. After getting really sick in June of this year, I ended up in the hospital where they diagnosed diabetes. The summer has been spent adjusting to an entirely new eating plan and medications. Because I did not fit the typical Type II profile of being overweight, it was somehow missed. It would be an entirely separate post to write about how crucial it is to protect your health as much as possible and be vigilant about it. No emotional stress, no other  person or their agenda can be allowed to dominate you and take your health away. We are not here to be the emotional punching bags for others.  Walk away and stay away.  Lesson learned. Stress, over time, kills. It’s that simple.

emilysecondgradeOur little girl, our surprise baby (was it just yesterday she was born?), just started second grade today. I debated once again about killing the Hope Blog once and for all. I have other outlets on social media that are more gratifying for sharing ideas and thoughts and allow me to have a little tighter control over who can contact me. There are some sad people in this world who enjoy drive-by insults and inflicting pain for the joy of…inflicting pain. But there are a whole lot of others through the years who have contacted me with appreciation for covering some subjects that have helped them. Spiritual abuse, family emotional abuse and the destructive effects of narcissism are just a couple of those topics. It is a sadly high number I have heard from who are living in near despair in family systems or churches where  these emotional and spiritual vampires are destroying them, and they are at a loss as to understand how to deal with the situation.

My own and my family’s horrific experiences in the last few years in particular have given me a lot of painful insight, and all I can do is share what I have learned in hopes that somebody else may benefit. It is tempting to see God as having abandoned you in these situations. That is the worst effect toxic people can have on others – the sense of God also having turned his back. But in spite of damage done, we need to trust that His hand is there, guiding us in the dark, leading us and sending encouragement through others to help us through.  And then, we can be a light to others.

So, in my small way here, I am back, Lord willing. I have always loved to write, and I hope that if God allows me strength, that I can share here in some way that encourages others. All topics are not good, but what is good in them is when we can point to hope in God, our refuge and strength in this life. No matter how much hatred is leveled at us, sometimes inexplicably.

Fall is around the corner. Like it is for many, it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to leaves falling and making pumpkin pie. I can’t enjoy it anymore thanks to my new low carb diet, but Emmy and Tom still can!

I hope anyone reading this has a beautiful day. God made it, so it’s good!

 

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Unfailing Love

This song is simple but profound in its simplicity. I want to post this especially today to Hope Blog readers who may not feel you are loved or who have been injured and tossed aside by the ones who should love you the most. I have found comfort in this song that I came upon by accident a few days ago. I remembered it from hearing in childhood.

I sat down at the piano and played and sang it myself.

Unfailing love,
Flows from His heart,
And heals my soul.
In spite of who I am
He loves and makes me whole.
I almost can’t believe it’s true,
Unfailing love,
And yet I know,
He gave His life,
To give to me,
Unfailing love.

The message of this song ministered to me. I hope it blesses you if you need it today.

Call Back, if You Get Ahead

I read this post today from “Streams in the Desert.” Have you ever had someone “call back” and encourage you in your life?

Life is a steep climb, and it does the heart good to have somebody “call back” and cheerily beckon us on up the high hill. We are all climbers together, and we must help one another. This mountain climbing is serious business, but glorious. It takes strength and steady step to find the summits. The outlook widens with the altitude. If anyone among us has found anything worthwhile, we ought to “call back.”

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the very air was still.

Oh, friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your your face,
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky
If you have gone a little way ahead, oh, friend, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.
—Selected

From “Streams in the Desert”

This song says it all.

The Story – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

GreatisthyfaithfulnessThe greatest testimonies of God’s faithfulness that are written in song have come from those in difficult circumstances. How would we know of God’s faithfulness if not pressed far beyond our own strength and resources?

I posted a video today on another site of a hymn arrangement I want my son, Will, the resident organist, to play for me. My friend, Bethany Lewis, responded with a link which shares the beautiful story of how the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, came to be.

How many millions has this hymn blessed down through the years? The suffering man who penned it could still look to the goodness of God and His loving care in the middle of trouble. If you are suffering today, worried about how to pay bills, struggling with untold and seemingly intolerable burdens, look to the One who has not forgotten you. He is faithful, a loving Father who has engraved you on the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:16.)

Here is the link to the hymn story. (Thank you Bethany!) And below is the beautiful hymn played by the young man who is the senior organist at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The text of the hymn is below the video.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Refrain
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Refrain
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

In Praise of Micro Ministry

Grandchild offering small bouquet of summer wild flowers to grandmotherThere was a picket outside a mega-church in Seattle yesterday. Victims of the whole celebrity pastor system that allows pastors to operate with zero internal accountability are increasingly refusing to stay quiet. When all efforts at handling things quietly and biblically fail, those injured by those waving the banner of Jesus are going public. Due to the damage to souls that is done by narcissistic leaders in high places, this is a good thing. Destroyed faith and lives are not small things, and if others can be warned about these places, good.

Detractors cluck at vocal victims of these ministries for “touching God’s anointed” or “harming the cause of Christ”, ignoring the fact completely that people are the cause of Christ, including those in these ministries who are thrown under the bus. One pompous employee of a Christian media ministry told a reporter that employees should just suffer their losses for Jesus and say nothing. But those suffering the losses and abuse really weren’t suffering for Jesus at all. They were suffering for someone else’s image and power, no matter how conservative and Bible-believing a cause being run. Nowhere in the Bible are we called to shield predators, liars and abusers of others. If that’s what Jesus needs to advance His cause, it’s worth a second look at what we believe.

There is another kind of ministry, far away from microphones, spotlights, and donor letters. It’s the ministry that puts groceries on a family’s porch when they are hurting, the ministry of calling up a little girl on her birthday and singing Happy Birthday to her because she has no grandparents in her life, the ministry of somebody’s company and a kindly ear that doesn’t listen to criticize, jump in or one up the other person. This kind of ministry is one on one. It’s the hug in the middle of a coffee shop, a call “just because I wanted to check on you”, a surprise email, a divinely-timed meeting where encouragement gets exchanged.

The evangelical church is massively screwed up, and not just because of false teachers, Disney-style entertainment on stage or big shot pastors. The church of Jesus has gotten off track, ironically, because people stopped being important as individuals. We became statistics and numbers and cogs in ministry machines. In the name of “saving souls” of faceless strangers, actual faces and hearts became increasingly meaningless both internally in ministries and in many cases, externally as well. Workaholics in these settings justify their rotten priorities by running like rats on treadmills to save families and souls of strangers while their own are destroyed. What a twisted notion of ministry.

Our neighbors recently lost their little dog they had for 15 years. That little dog was the shadow behind Cheryl and John all the eight years we have lived here. Emmy was most concerned for our neighbor lady, and when we returned home from the grocery store, she saw Cheryl in her yard tending to her flowers. Em ran over to her and told her she was sorry about Boomer. She hugged our neighbor for a long time and they talked and talked. I was proud and touched to see the growing empathy in our five-year-old who is learning to feel for others in their sadness. That’s a real ministry she has in showing love to others.

To those of you who engage in the ministry of love, one on one, and think you’ve done little for God, I have great news for you. You are being the hands and heart of Jesus in a way that no big shot with stage or microphone ever could be. Scripture records the one on one ministry Jesus had to rich and poor alike. He mixed with the educated of his day, but also the lame and the diseased and the untouchables that society had shunned. That’s all I want to do with my writing anymore. I spent many years writing and speaking about aberrant spiritual trends within Christianity, 24 years in total. I still hear from those who appreciated the info. But the finest work I will ever do for Jesus involves continuing to love my husband and children and grandchildren, writing about life lessons, giving a little encouragement here and there, sharing family joys and struggles and letting God use it how He chooses.

Macro-ministry is a mess these days. Corruption of all kinds is rampant. Frauds abound. Micro-ministry, one on one with others, is where our energies can be safely spent when we commit our daily lives to Jesus for His use. Somebody needs a kindly touch today. Maybe you know them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now We’ll See What God Can Do!

My grandmother told me once that a relative of hers would go to prayer when there was an insurmountable obstacle in her life—something important that was lost, some need that emerged, a situation that could not be humanly resolved. Then, after praying, she would look up and say, “Now we’ll see what God can do!”

In Scripture we are told that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways. He sees the big picture, but we only see what is directly in front of us. We ask for something to be fixed, and he does something altogether unexpected and different. Not what we ask for always, but something that takes us further on the journey God has intended for us.

Relinquishing our own vision of what needs to happen is key. Otherwise you can completely miss the hand of God, or even shun it. I am seeing this so clearly in my life these days. We can rattle door handles at times, yearning for an answer to our pleas,  looking around for that open door or the next step, maybe even take off in a direction, only to learn that God had something else entirely.

More than anything else, I have found freedom in relinquishing human goals in exchange for what God has for that moment, however humble. Chafing and casting around constantly is not peaceful, and it isn’t productive. That’s because it’s too much of us, and not enough of Christ. As we take on whatever tasks God brings before us, however different from our human ideas, we can stop wasting energy, time and emotion. It’s called contentment.

The work we often vest with so much importance in our thinking can not only be the least important for our souls, but can serve as an obstacle to the deeper heart work God has for us. There’s a time to charge ahead with something, and there’s a time to step back. Failure to do this results in a great poverty of the soul that manifests in bad fruit in our lives. We can become brittle, impatient, prideful and defensive.

I am convinced that when we embrace contentedness and quiet, even in the face of what appears to be insurmountable difficulties, God will act. What He does in our lives may surprise us. I’ve learned that some of God’s richest gifts often come in strange-looking packages (tied up with string, as the song goes), but if He is truly sovereign, as His Word unmistakably declares, we can accept and even embrace those packages delivered to our door.

Today I am faced with a couple of exciting new packages in life! As my forebear said it so well years ago, “Now we’ll see what God can do!

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

– Isaiah 55:8-9

Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

– Ephesians 3:20-21