Friday, August 31, 2007

He's in all circumstances

The other day I spotted the following from an article online:

"I tell my guys, 'If you're in rush hour, find the slowest lane and sit in it. … I'll pay for the time and gas. The people behind you can't help but sit and stare,'" Brian Morris, the owner of a pool repair and construction company, tells the New York Times. Mr. Morris has wrapped more than 30 vehicles in his fleet with ads for his company. He attributes more than $1 million in revenue over the last year to people seeing one of his trucks in a driveway.

Few of us would consider sitting in traffic an opportunity, or beyond that, a blessing.  I applaud Mr. Morris for his vision to turn a negative experience into a positive.  When commuter traffic comes to a stop people have plenty of time to look around, read signs on other vehicles and remember the advertising.  If we can remember that God is Lord of situations, the sovereign ruler of time and events, we can to begin to look for opportunity in the midst of frustrating circumstances.  The use of our time is of the utmost importance to the Lord.   Look at Ephesians 5:14 Therefore He says:  “ Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

There is no need to be frustrated by events that we can't control.  Rather we should look for the opportunity to connect, reflect and glorify the Lord in the midst of the circumstance and turn frustration into fulfillment.
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The eternal now

Have you ever realized that, as much as we may think about the future and what it could look like......and as much as we may reflect on the past and what it could have been like....the reality is we live now.  In fact life really is a continuous succession of "nows".  Of course there is much benefit in planning for a future that will probably unfold and there is benefit in reflecting on the past to glean lessons and avoid repeating mistakes.  But there's a certain pioneering, frontier-like freshness that accompanies "Now".  As time greets us we are faced with an infinite variety of unknown possibilities ranging from surprising successes to unexpected circumstances with health to unforseeable accidents to disappointments and misunderstandings in relationships and exciting victories.  I think the best way to face Now is picturing the Lord at your side.  He is the one who knows how "Now"  will unfold and He is the one who is committed to never leave never abandon fact He has pledged to be with us until the end of all "Nows".  When you think about time as an endless succession of "Nows" it's not such a big leap to realize that one day we will go from a Now on planet Earth to a Now in Heaven.  That will be a real "Wow, Now"!  Let's squeeze all the freshness we can out of our daily "Now"!
Matthew 9:18-19 As he finished saying this, a local official appeared, bowed politely, and said, "My daughter has just now died. If you come and touch her, she will live." Jesus got up and went with him, his disciples following along.
Rob Smith

Play on

I love my morning walks.  It's such a peaceful time and all the earth around seems to be waking up.  The sky seems sleepy and reluctant to arise, until the glaring sun coaxes it out of bed.  This morning I noticed a small group of birds cavorting in the air over a soccer field.  It was obvious that they were chasing each other and, almost like a World War I dogfight, they would bend and twist sharply in flight to get the advantage over each other.  They truly were enjoying flight and they were definitely playing.  It occurred to me that, among all the things God made us for, He made us to enjoy each other and to have fun in a lighthearted way.  Even the birds play, and they don't even know where their next meal is coming from.  We humans start off playing a just naturally know how to turn routine into fantasy and fun.  When I'm outside with my grandson Peter (20 months old), all I have to do is look at him and he smiles broadly and runs away, inviting me to chase him.  We can get a little stiff as our older bones stiffen but I think it's healthy to rediscover play.  As adults we tend to take life and living just a little too seriously sometimes.  If you think about it, the serious work has been done by Father and Son so that the Holy Ghost can indwell us and among the blessings of our freedom we can celebrate life...and play!
Malachi 4:2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
blessings (go out and play)!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

flip this house

There's at least one show on TV that deals with "flipping" houses.  An investor with an eye for potential buys a home, invests money strategically to enhance the value and resells the home over a short period of time to turn a tidy profit.  I think it was much more profitable a few years ago, in the middle of the real estate boom.  Shirley and I were watching the show last night and the young man who ran the "flipping" business was arrogant and driven.  At one point, despite making hundreds of thousands of dollars on a transaction, he admitted that he had something like an addiction to the whole process.  It bothers him to hold sizable sums of money in the bank when he's confident he can turn another deal.  There didn't seem to be more than a momentary satisfaction when a deal completed, while the projects that were processing slower caused something like agony.  So we have a "successful" young man who really isn't very happy or free. 
But the thought today has to do with our own potential and the potential that lies in others.  The Lord looks at our untapped gifts, our age, our place in the community, our relationships (in short our total picture) and He sees the potential value we can add to His Kingdom.  When He enters through His Spirit, He begins to clean house, do some landscaping and add some sparkle to bring out the real person inside because He knows that we can't see all that lies within and we're not able to finish the process ourselves.  He is the Creator and the Completer!  I'm not really interested in being "flipped" for a profit, but I'm grateful that the Lord has committed to dwelling within and completing the renovation project.
John 3:34-36 (The Message) "The One that God sent speaks God's words. And don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that."
Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One thing we can't do

The big news yesterday was about football star Michael Vick, who grew up in Newport News and has pled guilty to charges of running a dogfighting ring.  Here's a blurb:

Michael Vick faced the world today, said he was sorry, and seemed believable. His apology sounded genuinely humble and refreshingly nonevasive, with none of the grudging subjunctives usually employed by athletes in trouble. Mr. Vick apologized to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, his teammates and "all the young kids out there," whom he asked to "use me as an example to use better judgment and make better decisions." He took full responsibility for his actions, called dogfighting "a terrible thing," and said "I need to grow up."

It'll take a lot more than one day of contrition to return Mr. Vick to the NFL, but the Falcons QB has probably already done more in that regard than many thought he would manage.

"I will redeem myself," he said. "I have to."

I'm sure there is a progression we move through when we've committed a gross sin and we've been found out.  Michael Vick is somewhere in that process.  Yesterday he expressed remorse and repentance, which are key steps in that process.  As is the case for all of us, the sincerity of his words are known only to he and the Lord.  I hope that Michael comes to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus and begins to walk with Him in a totally new life.  But one thing we can be sure of:  Michael needs to learn the meaning of redemption and the limits of our fragile abilities.  Focusing on his final words above, he needs to learn that one thing we cannot do is "redeem ourselves".  The idea that "we got ourselves into this mess and we'll get ourselves out" just isn't accurate.  It's because we're unable to walk a straight line that we need One who is able to deliver us from our sin.  Michael was one of the most elusive players to tackle in football but he was unable to avoid being tackled by sin.  In a sense he tackled himself.  Aren't you glad that Jesus looked down the corridor of time and saw the need each of us had to be redeemed and then faithfully gave up His life and demonstrated resurrection power to purchase our freedom!  The truth is that we all tend to tackle ourselves.

Romans 5:6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Rob Smith

Monday, August 27, 2007

Closer than humidity

We've been wading through some classic Virginia humidity lately.  You especially feel it when you've been in air conditioning and then step outside.  The moisture soaked air wraps around you like a wet towel.  Everything seems to happen in slow motion.  You walk slower, you work slower, you breathe slower, you think slower.  You feel heavy and sluggish and you realize that, apart from freon, you would not be in Virginia (supposedly freon is an "inert" element, but as far as I'm concerned it's very active as the coolant in our A/C systems).   Perhaps there is another way to think about humidity.  Another way to describe sultry southern air is that it feels "close".  You just can't escape the moist air.  It waits perched on your front porch, ready to encase you as you emerge from your home.   Jesus is also eager to wrap us up in His arms.  He doesn't wait for us to come outside, but He is "close" at all times.  He has a far different effect on our lives than humidity and He doesn't cause us to be sluggish....but just as we feel the moist air immediately and everywhere we move in the summer Virginia day we can experience Jesus.  He is even closer than humidity.
Romans 10:8 "But what does it say? 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:"
Rob Smith

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Auto attitudes

Earlier today Shirley and I were in Newport News running some errands and on the way home we stopped for ice cream.  While there, I spied a business sign outside the Dairy Queen: "New Beginnings Body Shop".  What a great business name, I thought.  I remember my first car, a forest green 1968 Mercury Cougar XR7.  I was practically in love with the car and waxed it about once a week.  During the first winter I had the car I experienced a fender-bender on an icy road.  I felt personally wounded when I saw the sleek car with crumpled sheetmetal and busted headlights.  It truly did feel like a "New Beginning" when I picked up the car from O'Neill's Body Shop in my home town.  In fact, with its fresh paint, the car looked better than before the accident.  I also recalled another auto repair facility in Newport News that I used to pass on the way to the Shipyard each day: "Davis Alignment Center".  This was a place that specialized in one vital car repair:  wheel alignment.  Between the two stores I thought two important aspects of spiritual life were captured: "New Beginnings" is where we all start when we turn to Jesus and turn from our sin to begin our new life for eternity.  "Alignment" is what we need daily to bring our thoughts and ways in line with our Heavenly Father.
Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Victor's Code

Over the past few years a blockbuster novel called the Da Vinci Code came out with a controversial story about famous art, the Church and a secretive sect.  I didn't read the book but I know there was some kind of secret message passed down in code form that contained some "important" information.  I was thinking about God's real Code (I call it "the Victor's Code").  Over the past few days it has occurred to me that all that is living around us is formed by a code.  Over the past generation we've learned a lot about DNA, the code of chemicals held in a double helix that the Lord designed to hold the specific design to all plant and animal life.  His design is more than the's more like the blueprints for a house and His system also includes a method of translating the blueprint into instructions for materials and labor and then implementing the construction and maintenance process.  His Code maps out how life is to be formed in all its splendid variety and then makes it happen.  Here's another amazing thing.  All of life is formed from the basic materials found in the earth.  God's Code draws upon the minerals found in the soil and the gases of the air, adds plenty of water and fashions every kind of living thing.  Today as I watched a construction worker shovel sand into a cement mixer I realized that the house he was building is made of the earth, too, and following a manmade blueprint.  When it comes to building things, we follow methods and use materials very much like our Creator-Father does.  
We really are clay pots!
Psalm 95:5 The sea is his, for he made it,
       and his hands formed the dry land.

 6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
       let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

 7 for he is our God
       and we are the people of his pasture,
       the flock under his care.


Rob Smith

Friday, August 24, 2007

purpose in a hiccup

I got the hiccups this afternoon after I ate a bunch of grapes a little too fast.  It made me wonder what hiccups are all about anyhow.  I certainly don't like to get them and it's frustrating not to be able to turn them off like a switch when they start.  Somehow when you eat food too quickly and it can't move down the esophagus through the normal muscular action the food puts pressure on a particular nerve, called the phrenic nerve, that leads from the neck to the chest and this triggers a contraction of the diaphragm which contracts and sucks in a rush of air, like a power vacuum.  Scientists think that this is one way for the body to help move the food along and avoid choking.  We all know that once the reflex is set in motion it can take a while to stop (By the way, I think I discovered a new way to end just tuck your head down and touch your chin to your chest...while you're down there you might as well pray, because you look like you're praying).  Anyhow, I think it's great that even something that can appear frustrating and a little embarrassing has a purpose.  Sometimes we're around folks who are just struggling...somehow they can't quite get past an issue or a problem.  They may need our help as spiritual hiccups to help them move past the problem without getting stalled.  If you feel the urge to help someone who seems hungup like this, put your head down and touch your chin to your chest...and ask the Lord if He wants you to be a spiritual hiccup...
Job 4:1-6Then Eliphaz from Teman spoke up:
"Would you mind if I said something to you? Under the circumstances it's hard to keep quiet.
You yourself have done this plenty of times, spoken words
   that clarify, encouraged those who were about to quit.
Your words have put stumbling people on their feet,
   put fresh hope in people about to collapse.
But now you're the one in trouble—you're hurting!
   You've been hit hard and you're reeling from the blow.
But shouldn't your devout life give you confidence now?
   Shouldn't your exemplary life give you hope?
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 23, 2007

what a friend

"I could probably get a job and stay here, but I'm not willing to part with my mule," Maday said. "He's my best friend and I'm not getting rid of him for nothing."
I read a story recently about a fellow out west who was desperate to find work but had no drivers license, due to driving violations.  He set out with two mules and rode for days.  One of the mules died but he continued on the remaining animal until he reached a town in Wyoming.  Unfortunately he'd become so attached to the mule that when he had to choose between taking a job in the city and saying goodbye to the mule, he decided to stick with the mule.  I guess he had to ride on to a more rural area where he could work and hang on to the animal.  Some part of me was touched as I thought about how this simple animal had faithfully labored to carry his owner for days.  Perhaps when no person was in his life to show him love, a mule met his need to be faithful, trust his leading and do what was required.  Somehow this example of love created a bond that was more important than the work the man set out to find.  I don't think we can overvalue the importance of unconditional love as one of our greatest needs, even if it comes from a mule!
John 15:12-13 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

quiet your heart when you're stuck in the mud

Last night I went out to see daily progress on the house we're building.  I like to go every night to catch up on what's happened.  But last night was different.  Just as I approached the house the sky erupted in an angry storm with torrential rain and lightning assaulting and thunder belching.  Eventually I pulled into the mud and gravel driveway to make a dash for the garage.  After surveying the construction progress (difficult in the dim lighting) I attempted to back out of the driveway only to get stuck, burying one of the front driving tires in the soupy mud.  I tried to rock the car out and just worked deeper into the muck.  I tried driving out on a board but the tire was too deep to climb out.  I finally surrendered and called AAA to get pulled out.  I had to wait about two hours for the truck to show.  During that time I started to get out of rest.  I didn't want to be stuck there.  I didn't like being taken out of my routine.  I didn't like losing the freedom to go when and where I wanted to go.  Then I realized that if I weren't stuck in the mud I'd be watching TV.  I decided to use the time in a different way and rest for a while and pray for a while and even go for a little walk.  It turned out to be a good time and when the tow truck showed up I actually had a joyful heart.  I had to quiet my heart even though I was stuck in the mud.
Job 11:18 You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
Rob Smith

Frame of mind

It occurred to me at work yesterday that different kinds of tasks call for different attitudes or mindsets.  When I'm analyzing data and numbers my mind needs to be in a quantitative mode that looks for useful information in the numbers.  When I'm reading articles or written text to learn or discern useful information from words and paragraphs my mind needs to be in a verbal mode.  I've found that it's best for me to stay in one mode or the other for a block of time because it's efficient to apply the same mindset to a range of tasks rather than flipping back and forth frequently.  Apparently there is a gear shift we need to do as we prepare our mind for different tasks.  It seems we need to prepare our mind to handle the challenge it will face.  Similarly, I think we need to prepare our heart and mind to experience the Lord each day.  There is a "mind set" and a "heart set" that is open to exchanging communication with the Lord and that is receptive to gleaning meaning from His Word and that can enjoy His presence.  I've found that I just can't expect to barge right into my relationship with the Lord each day.  I need to incline my mind and open my heart to Him and prepare to interact with Him.  Those are the best times.  When I allow time to prepare before coming into His presence.
Proverbs 9:1 Wisdom has built her house;
                   she has hewn out its seven pillars.

                2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; 
                   she has also set her table.


Rob Smith


Monday, August 20, 2007

Up and Down Forces

Christmas Day 2006, South Rim
The Grand Canyon is a gorgeous gorge.  In places it is over a mile deep and it runs for 270 miles along the Colorado River.  The layers of rock trace the history of the earth for many generations.  I didn't know until tonight that it is the product of two kinds of force: an uplift from below that thrust layers deep within the earth upward and the downward erosion of the river cutting back through those layers.  Because of the upward push, the river has flowed at a steeper angle and resulted in a more rapid cut through the rock than would otherwise have occurred.  In a similar way, our spiritual life is a product of forces that seem to move in opposition, at times.  We are thrust upward as we draw nearer to our wonderful Lord and we are fashioned by the rivers of life with challenge, trial and experience.  I have to believe that the ultimate result is a thing of beauty to our heavenly Father.  As we are pushed upward, closer and closer to our Lord I believe the rivers of life cut faster and deeper through our rock.
Job 38:25-26   Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
                      and a path for the thunderstorm, 
                      to water a land where no man lives,
                      a desert with no one in it
Rob Smith

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The harp

Today in church we were treated to a gorgeous and uplifting harp performance by Diana Elliott.  Aren't you struck by the heavenly quality of harp music?  There's some wonderful quality about the sound that transports you and fits so well with devotional thought.  I thought I'd find out a little about harps to see what makes the music so wonderful (beyond the thousands of hours of practice and talent of the harpist).  Most musical instruments are made of only a few different kinds of materials.  They generally have some moving parts, but not an excessive amount.  Harps have multiple kinds of wood and metal (as well as natural and synthetic strings). The mechanical system that allows pitch changes has almost 1,500 pieces of brass and steel that are precisely made and fitted, not only to function but to do so silently, to avoid interfering with the music itself.  Three kinds of wood have important roles: white maple is used for the outer frame because of its strength.  Spruce is used for the soundboard.  Its even and pliable grain leads to uniform sound production and rich quality.  Beech is used to hold the strings to the soundboard because it is especially tough.  A given harp may have strings made of steel, gut and nylon depending on the position and length.  When the raw wood is delivered to the harp maker, he stores it for six months to allow the wood to adjust to the local climate and minimize future splitting and cracking.  Each harp is considered a work of art and is customized with paint, varnish and carvings.  Some harps have a layer of gold applied (4 millionths of an inch thick).  So much skill is required to make a harp that multiple apprenticeships must be completed before one can oversee the whole process as a master harp maker. 
So much goes into the instrument but the result is a transcendent sound that can glorify the Lord and transport us in thought into His presence!  Of course I'm reminded of another Master Harp maker (or should I say Master Heart maker) who has fashioned a Creation of infinite variety and vast quantity that wondrously blends and proclaims His own majesty and glory.  You and I are pieces of that instrument and we each are fitted to contribute uniquely to His music!
Psalm 98:5 "make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing"
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Built to serve

My daughter Courtney has begun taking horse riding and grooming lessons.  Today I went with her to meet the horse and also the owner/trainer that Courtney is working with.  She is growing to love the whole phenomenon of horses and is starting to dream about having her own one day.  I learned a great deal about these fine animals and actually had a chance to comb down (or curry) the horse.  There were several horses in this stable.  One black horse seemed unhappy and was trying to bite the  bars of her stall.  Her name was Secret and she seemed to be holding some kind of unhappy secret inside.  I was told that she was the youngest horse there and was sad because she is ridden the least of all the horses in the stable (which are owned by different people).  It seems that the horses want to "work" and when they don't get enough opportunity they become somewhat depressed.  I was also told that when Secret is ridden her whole countenance seems to brighten and she's visibly happier.  It made me realize that God made all his creatures to experience purpose.  He certainly has plans in mind for us and important purposes to complete through our lives.  Like the horse, Secret, I think some of our unhappiness, at times, comes from feeling we're not experiencing or fulfilling a significant role.  I think we should expect purpose to be part of every day.  We want to feel the weight of something meaningful on our back and know the satisfaction of completing work that we were meant to do by our wonderful Lord, who makes all life to glorify Him!
Psalm 36:5-6 God's love is meteoric,
                      his loyalty astronomic,
                           His purpose titanic,
                               his verdicts oceanic.
                                   Yet in his largeness
                                       nothing gets lost;
                                            Not a man, not a mouse,
                                                  slips through the cracks.
Rob Smith

Friday, August 17, 2007


I've been thinking about storms.  They come in many different forms (hey, that rhymes!)
All last night I heard thunder rumbling and saw the flash of lightning as a classic summer thunderstorm marched across our area...a reaction to the big heat buildup of the past day.  Right now one of the first seasonal hurricanes is plodding  toward the Caribbean.  Over the past few weeks a storm has hit the stock market as excessive high-risk borrowing has resulted in business failures.  Six coal miners were doing their regular daily work 10 days ago when a "mountain bump" caused a cave-in and an exhaustive rescue effort commenced.  Yesterday afternoon as my physical therapist was exercising my arm (broken during my personal biking accident/storm) she mentioned that her Mom had a kidney transplant.  A friend of the therapist was the kidney donor.  Unfortunately this friend is now going through a marriage storm and divorce seems inevitable.
Storms blow through each of our lives.  We don't spend the majority of our time in a storm but the impact is often life changing.  Storms call for preparation  but they also call for endurance and trust.  We don't always know what life will look like on the other side of the storm but we know that the Lord has been with us every step of the way and He will help us find our way through the debris and chaos that lie in the wake of the storm.  He also will bring a clear sky and peace that stands in stark contrast to the storm.
Mark 4:35-38 Late that day he said to them, "Let's go across to the other side." They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, "Teacher, is it nothing to you that we're going down?"

 39-40 Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, "Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: "Why are you such cowards? Don't you have any faith at all?"

 41 They were in absolute awe, staggered. "Who is this, anyway?" they asked. "Wind and sea at his beck and call!"


Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

going home

I remember being on a 7 month Navy cruise in Europe and the Mediterranean years ago.  I'd never really travelled abroad before and I enjoyed seeing all the different cultures with their distinctive foods, architecture, languages and cultural distinctives.  For the most part it was great...I especially liked the challenge of trying to connect with folks without being able to speak more than a few words that we both understood.  But everywhere I went just reinforced how much I loved my home country...the good old USA.  I couldn't wait to get back.  I especially missed the burgers and my little red convertible and a certain Michigan farm girl.  If I had to rank the countries of the world I would have given the US a 97 rating (out of 100) and the next best country would have been about 30.  One of the strangest experiences I had was going to Norway where all the girls seemed to be taller than me.  Having experienced the best made it less than difficult to leave the rest behind and go home. 
Jesus came from glory...from the direct presence of God, the Father, in Heaven.  He'd only known the sweet sinless perfection of that place before He came down to dwell with us for a brief time.  He experienced all that goes with humanity, including being tempted (though without falling to it).  Of course, after His victorious resurrection He went home to be by the Father once again.  I can't help but think that if we'd started in Heaven and then come to earth we would also long to go back also.  We may not have travelled to Heaven yet, but it helps to remind ourselves that the plan for our lives began in Heaven, that our days were numbered before we were born, that we have work to do on earth and that ultimately we will go to the One who conceived our lives.  In a very real sense, we won't be home until we make that trip!
Philippians 3:20-21 But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.
Rob Smith


support and resistance

I have found that exercising and swimming in the recreation center swimming pool is a great way to help my broken arm regain strength and mobility.  I'm starting to think that swimming will become the primary exercise I do when I'm fully healed.  The water supports my arm with buoyant force and helps build strength through water resistance.  So I can move my arm through a wider range of motion since the water holds the arm up and as I exercise the arm by moving it through the water, the resistance acts something like weights.  After a workout, several minutes in the pool's hot tub are a great treat!  In a way this pool therapy is like the Lord's care.  He provides continual support for every aspect of my life and He holds me up, but he's also interested in developing character and producing fruit.  So He brings helpful "resistance" and strength training into the program.  As I exercise in the pool I'm mindful of the young lifeguards that watch us.  The Lord is watching us too and if we start to go under or flounder, He'll pull us up just as the lifeguards would in the water.  I think I'll stay on this training program for life!
2 Samuel 22:18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, 
                       from my foes, who were too strong for me.

                       19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, 
                           but the LORD was my support.

                       20 He brought me out into a spacious place; 
                          he rescued me because he delighted in me.


Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

designed, not defined

I remember reading or hearing about one of the great sculptors, who specialized in creating amazingly lifelike art from blocks of rough marble.  He said that he started by seeing the ultimate picture in the marble before beginning to chisel.  His challenge was to bring out the picture that already lay within.  In a sense, his genius was releasing the art that was trapped in a rock.  I think there's an important lesson for us in this.  Every day many forces are at work within and without our lives.  There are forces of expectation, judgment, preconception.  There are forces of popular styles, music, media.  There are internal forces of ambition, fear, worry.  Sometimes we let these forces act like chisels that shape us.  We need to remember that the Lord had an idea from the beginning of time just what our art should look like.  He designed into each one of us a unique package of personality, gifts, skills and interests.  As we walk through each day, He wants to be the artist that releases the picture of our lives.  Instead of  trying to shape ourselves, lets allow the master sculptor freedom to finish the picture in each of us, that He placed within us.  We are the work of a great Designer and we need not be defined by any other force.
Exodus 35:30 (The Message Version) Moses told the Israelites, "See, God has selected Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He's filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and know-how for making all sorts of things, to design and work in gold, silver, and bronze; to carve stones and set them; to carve wood, working in every kind of skilled craft. And he's also made him a teacher, he and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He's gifted them with the know-how needed for carving, designing, weaving, and embroidering in blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics, and in fine linen. They can make anything and design anything."
Rob Smith

Monday, August 13, 2007

surprise your Father

Do you remember playing hide and seek with your Dad before bedtime.  My Dad would hide in a closet with his shoe sticking out a little so we'd find him.  We'd see the shoe, open the door and yell "Surprise, I found you!" and we'd all start laughing.  Even though he wasn't surprised even a little, he was delighted to join in the surprise and he loved being found.  Tomorrow, when you think the Lord isn't watching (and nobody else will think you're crazy)  sneak up behind Him and yell, "Surprise, I found you."  Sure He saw you coming, and sure He really is the one who found you...but I'm pretty sure He'll be tickled.  I suspect He longs to play with His children too.
Hosea 11:1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."
Rob Smith

Sunday, August 12, 2007

faith healing

The last time I saw my orthopedist he said that part of my broken arm was not healing very fast.  He prescribed the purchase of a "bone healing system".  That sounded good to me.  After a few weeks the system was delivered.  It consists of a little strap that surrounds the arm and an electronic box a little larger than a pack of cigarettes.  The box generates ultrasonic energy through a disc in the strap around my arm.  I wear it for 40 minutes each night before I go to bed.  I was told by the health professional who delivered the system that the sound waves accelerate new bone growth and we should see results by the next time we visit the doctor in mid-September.  The only problem is...I can't feel anything happening when I turn the thing on.  It doesn't generate heat, make a sound, vibrate or even smell funny.  You push a button and big numbers countdown the 20 minute cycle (which I run twice).  Then I take off the strap and put everything away.  By the way, my share of the cost for this machine was several hundred dollars, a fraction of the total cost (insurance paid most).  I remain excited about using the device because my doctor has confidence in it, the girl who delivered it sang its praises (she's a nurse with some experience), and my physical therapist assured me that scientific studies show it really works.  I have faith that when I see the doctor we'll see progress, even though I don't really know how this thing works and I can't feel anything.
Our relationship with the Lord is somewhat similar.  When I feed from His word, or walk and talk with Him, or spend time in prayer I don't generally feel or hear or detect anything with the senses.  I'm convinced that the invisible energy I receive by the Holy Spirit is effective to clean me, fill me, heal me and guide me.  Often I'll look back after trusting Him through a difficult time and find that the evidence of His activity is obvious, even if I couldn't feel Him working at the time.
2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Forgotten goals

This morning I went for a walk over to the new high school.  It's very impressive.  I even sneaked inside for a peak until someone asked me to leave!  On the way to the school I passed a number of beautiful athletic fields: soccer, football, baseball, track and tennis.  On the way back I passed a spot where old soccer goals had been dumped.  They were upside down and twisted...kind of a cemetery for soccer goals that were no longer wanted.  It made me think about forgotten goals in our own lives and how we sometimes head in one direction to achieve a goal, only to be redirected in a surprising way.  I suppose that's how it's meant to be...we set out in the best direction we can, not knowing the future and really not knowing what's absolutely best.  On our way the Lord brings people, circumstances and the consequences of our actions to guide us toward the goals He has in mind.  So, when we look back at our lives we may remember forgotten goals as we see the goals God had in mind are in place at the ends of the field.
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Rob Smith

Friday, August 10, 2007

The makeup of light

This evening I drove through a sunshower and spotted a gorgeous rainbow ahead.  It was so clear (and so apparently near) that I actually seemed to see where it started and ended!  I looked close but didn't spot any leprechauns or pots of gold at either end (I'm not sure which end the gold is supposed to be located at).  My son-in-law mentioned to me later that he's always been struck with the seven colors inside the rainbow because seven is associated with perfection and God's perfect covenant with us.   Normally we don't see light...we see because of light.  Light is like a servant.  It reveals by shining in purity on reflected surfaces, but it doesn't demand to be seen.  God is the author of light and demonstrates his authority by breaking light into its beautiful pieces within the rainbow.  In a sense, when we see a rainbow we are getting a glimpse of the Creator's laboratory and we see how He combined colors to form clear and brilliant light.  If they weren't combined just so the world might have a red or greenish tint.  Our Lord is just that way.  He shines in purity on, within and all around us but He doesn't always make His presence obvious.  We know from the rainbow that our pure Lord of light is here.  His colorful nature blends to form perfectly clear energy that lights our way.  The rainbow reminds us that God is here and He'll never leave because He is just like light.  But we can choose to see Him in the light!
Ezekiel 1:28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Heat Wave

We're currently experiencing a heat wave.  We're in the middle of temperatures that are peaking over 100 degrees.  Last night it was still 100 degrees at 6 pm.  It occurred to me that we humans can tolerate a relatively narrow temperature band.  Back in 2003 there was a heat wave that claimed the lives of about 50,000 people in Europe, including almost 15,000 in France!  Unfortunately few homes are equipped with air conditioning there.  On the other extreme, we are also vulnerable to cold weather.  Over the past three months there has been a cold snap in the Andean regions of Peru and 70 children have died of pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses in this high altitude region, where temperatures have dropped as low as 4 degrees below zero.  So we have a comfort level of something less than 100 degrees of temperature and when the limits are pushed, people start to really suffer.  It's really amazing that 99% of the time the temperature is in that acceptable band.  The distance to the sun, the intensity of the sun, the angle of the earth's tilt, the effect of clouds and sky, the absorption of heat by the earth, and a bunch of other factors  all combine to cause the temperature to find that range.  Clearly, the Lord is holding us in His hand.  We are not very strong in light of all the forces that come together to form our climate and we need Him to hold it all together in just the right balance.  He does such a good job that we can forget He's there all the time.
Isaiah 40:12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
       or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
       Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
       or weighed the mountains on the scales
       and the hills in a balance?
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Living between the tides

Because of the sun and the moon, there are gravitational pulls on the earth's surface that cause regular movements of the ocean called tides.  We're all familiar with high tide and low tide.  I was intrigued recently to discover that there is a whole science called "intertidal ecosystems" that considers organisms that live between high and low tides.  At low tide these organisms are exposed to air and light and at high tide they live underwater.  This is a very harsh environment with dramatic change (hot sun and rough waves) and some remarkable creatures thrive here, including algae, barnacles and some crabs.  They often have shells to help them cope and provide built-in shelter.

In a way, we are also intertidal creatures.  The larger forces of life that pull each day sometimes bury us with problems and difficulty and, at other times, expose us to harsh treatment and attitudes that cut deep.  But we have a God who has fashioned us to cope, and even thrive, between the tides.  He is our shield (or shell) and He provides our every need, whether we are covered or exposed.  Although we live between the tides, we have been designed to cope...and even flourish because He is with us!

1 Chronicles 16:30-33 God is serious business, take him seriously;
      he's put the earth in place and it's not moving.
   So let Heaven rejoice, let Earth be jubilant,
      and pass the word among the nations, "God reigns!"
   Let Ocean, all teeming with life, bellow,
      let Field and all its creatures shake the rafters;
   Then the trees in the forest will add their applause
      to all who are pleased and present before God
      —he's on his way to set things right!


Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

hooked on growth


Ever since I studied for my MBA I've spent many hours reading and learning about how companies strive for growth.  Driven by what is called "the bottom line" they all seek to improve performance numbers.  They are looking to increase their share of the market and to boost their profits.  They look at the world in competitive terms and try to win against their competitors.  In short we are "hooked on growth".  Sometimes, in our modern culture, I think we've forgotten the most important driver for growth.  Expanding demand for goods and services is the basic engine.  In modern times, the "Baby Boom" is the most familiar example.  Somehow, however, growth of  families and human life has not retained this value, however.  Around the world, there are 46 million induced abortions each year.  This amounts to 26% of all pregnancies.  It's especially bad in places like Russia, where the rate is over 60% of pregnancies ended by abortion.  Birth rates have dropped too.  In America, there were 30 live births per thousand population in 1910.  This declined to 20 per thousand in 1940 and is currently about 14 per thousand.  I can't help but think that the breakdown of marriage, the incidence of abortion and the choice of millions to delay, or avoid, having children has had a big impact on our economy.  If we build healthy families, I believe, we'll help build a strong base for our future.  (It means more residents in Heaven, too!!) And that's the bottom line!
Psalm 78:6 so the next generation would know them,
       even the children yet to be born,
       and they in turn would tell their children.
Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
         The fruit of the womb is a reward.
 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
         So are the children of one’s youth.
Rob Smith

Monday, August 6, 2007


I was thinking about mirrors.  They're all around us.  Each of us spends time in front of one in the morning before we face the world...we don't want to create any shock waves as we emerge from our homes.  A mirror is a perfect reflection of our face.  It allows us to see ourselves the way others do.  On at least the surface level it helps answer the question of "Who am I?".  Imagine if you'd lived your entire life in a primitive jungle and never seen yourself in anything more reflective than a pool of might wonder what you really looked like and how you compared to friends and family.  Ultimately when a missionary came into your camp with a mirror and you saw yourself for the first time there would be a little bit of a shock because your expectation of your appearance would not match reality.  You might not like what you saw and you might feel like a stranger to yourself!  But after seeing your image for several days, you'd become comfortable with yourself.
When we draw close to the Lord it's like standing in front of a full body mirror that reflects a different that goes beneath the skin and shows us our hearts.  Some folks can go a lifetime and carefully avoid walking in front of that mirror.  When you first see this reflection it isn't pleasant...there are dark areas of the heart that we know exist but have a hard time facing.  But when we have the courage to let the Lord show us who we really are He steps in to give us the faith we need to trust Him and to replace the darkness in our heart with light.
His mirror reflects with grace rather than with light.
James 1:23-25 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 4, 2007

expert witness

Some would say the best way to prove the reality of God would be for God, Himself, to show up.  Certainly we'd be convinced if He came here, Himself.  He'd do amazing miracles and reveal amazing truth and all would fall at His feet......Of course, this did happen a few thousand years ago and, as you recall, not everyone believed despite the miracles and the great truths revealed.  We've become so blinded by sin that we really believe that lie Satan whispered to Eve in the Garden, that "You'll be just like God, knowing everything..."  We actually can be convinced that we know better than God how to run our lives.  We can be convinced that we don't need God.  I think that's why God brings expert witnesses into the courtroom of truth to speak up for His reality.  The "expert witnesses" are just regular people, like you and I, who have found God true and faithful and can testify to the fact that, at one time, their lives were like an unruly river that rampaged through life, crushing others in its path until the Lord came in and quieted the water to form a serene lake that reflected heaven.  You see, in some ways, the best ones to tell others about God are regular people  because those are the kind of people that God wants to reach.  When a regular person invites Christ into his or her life and experiences change we connect because we are regular people too.  So be encouraged.  You may be the "expert witness" God has in mind to testify to the simple and profound differences the Lord has made since you put your personal trust in Him. 
Acts 11:20-21 "Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."
Rob Smith

Friday, August 3, 2007

cling to life not to youth!

We are reluctant to grow old.  Certainly our culture has a youth fixation.  I was noticing that my hair is getting a bit thinner (though I am glad to have some hair!) and I started to wish I had my thick head of hair from when I was young.  But then I remembered that with that thick head of hair there was also a thick head of ignorance  that went with being young.  What is it about our fear of aging?  I think I's because signs of aging are also signposts that tell us the end is approaching.  What a news flash...we're not going to live forever, here.  Of course, why would you want to go on living here when all your friends are gone and your kids are old?  I already feel like life is passing me by...somewhere back when computers went from 286 processors to 386 chips and when telephones went from cordless to "too small to see", somewhere after Motown and before Rap, somewhere after contact lenses and before laser eye surgery, somewhere after ABC, NBC, CBS and before the Cooking Channel...I seem to have gotten off the train or life has started passing me by (in a hybrid car).  Have you caught yourself turning to your spouse after a commercial aired on TV to ask "What was that all about?"  So I say, why cling senselessly to youth.  Instead, let's cling tenaciously to life, real life.  We can embrace aging because it is as much a part of life as growing up.  It's all part of God's plan.  After all, this planet was designed to host many generations under the sun and we have to make room on the stage for the next show.  Instead of trying to stay "cool" with all that's happening in popular culture and instead of trying to look 10 years younger let's rejoice that the Rock of Ages holds us and the excitement of knowing the King of Eternity is just beginning some kind of movie preview we have tasted of His love and forgiveness.  We have known healing and deliverance from discouragement.  We have been set free from addictions and imprisoning habits.  We have met the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and found that He knows us and accepts us....and, beyond that, He awaits us to spend eternity in His presence.
We may be bypassed by popular culture but we'll never be forgotten or devalued by our loving Creator, who waits for us beyond time.
1 John 2:15-17 (The Message Version) "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity."
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 2, 2007

designed to see

I had an eye exam today and while waiting for the doctor I glanced at the big picture of the human eye that was posted on the wall.  It struck me how, at the same time, the design was both simple and elegant.  When the doctor came in I asked her to review how the eye worked.  The cornea protects the eye and brings in light from a wide angle...the iris opens and shuts to allow more or less light in through the pupil...the lens focuses the picture and the retina is like a living photographic negative that captures the picture and sends it down the optic nerve to the brain for processing.  Somehow the picture that is captured  on the retina is converted to electrical signals that travel to the brain and are interpreted as an image.  Just amazing!!  And not only do I barely understand how all this is possible...I had absolutely nothing to do with the design or the manufacture of my eye!  My sight is just one of the wonderful gifts that God gave me.  It occurred to me that all of my body, with all of its wonderful organs, systems, and processes are directly from the drawing board of the Lord.  I had absolutely nothing to do with any of it (and neither did anyone or any other intelligent source).  Why is it that I think I own my life or that it even is my life to control when, in truth, I just occupy the premises.  Two thoughts arise: (1) my attitude toward my physical life should be one of humble caretaking, for it is a great gift and (2) my identify is independent of the body (it must be...otherwise I'd be a whole lot more knowledgeable about how it works and what it takes to function).  No, it's more like I'm in this body for a great ride.  One day I'll leave it behind when it's time to live in a different kind of place.
In that place there will still be will radiate directly from Jesus, as He sits on the throne!
John 12:46 "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness,"made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Rob Smith

some bridges collapse

"MINNEAPOLIS - An interstate bridge suddenly broke into huge sections and collapsed into the Mississippi River during bumper-to-bumper traffic Wednesday, killing at least six people and sending vehicles, tons of concrete and twisted metal crashing into the water."
I read this news story online last night...what a tragedy.  Some 50 cars dropped about 64 feet to the river below and divers have been working to find survivors through the night.  This bridge had carried traffic faithfully for 40 years from one side of the Mississippi to the other.  They built it high and with a long 400 foot arch to allow large vessels to pass beneath.  On this night many of those crossing were headed to the Minnesota Twins baseball game in Minneapolis.  It's interesting that the bridge had been inspected in 2005 and 2006 with no problems found.  I thought about the faith we place in our roads and bridges every day.  Hard work and good engineering have made our highways very safe and this kind of failure is rare.  Unfortunately, anything made by man is prone to weakness, deterioration or failure.  When we depend upon a bridge that man builds we can't be absolutely certain it won't collapse.  That's why it's so imperative to rely on the bridge that God provides when we cross the most important river to find eternal life.  Jesus is the only bridge to life, but you can rely on Him.  He will not collapse, deteriorate or weaken and will carry you to life when you trust in Him.
Because of the Cross we are able to cross!
1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,"
Rob Smith