Friday, September 30, 2011

the case for weakness

I know...strength triumphs over weakness.  "To the victor go the spoils".  "Winning isn't's the only thing." Now that we are into football season and baseball playoffs are starting we are more fixated on winning than ever.  In fact I have been running low on spiritual energy because too much of my energy has been spent watching teams grapple for victory.  But the reality of it is that we don't always win and for every winner there is probably one or more losers.  Much of our experience is below the average when it comes to physical health, relationship success and even our personal moral conduct.  What hope is there for our weakness, our failings, our below par days and ways?

I think this is where the Lord really shows up big-time in our lives!  When we are on the downside there is more upside for Him to find openings in our hearts and minds and to gain access and influence in our personality.  The apostle Paul talked about this.  He had been through multiple stonings and beatings and threats and yet he could say from experience:  "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.'

When we are low...feeling below...He would have us know that He is near and that He is the strength we need to succeed.  Our down times are prime times for His upside.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

out of the fog

The pond was like an impressionist painting this morning with fog and mist blurring the features of water, trees and shoreline. The moisture in the air seemed to hold everything together and greeted me with a cold, wet kiss under a low ceilinged sky. The intimacy of the weather reminded me of the closeness I have with my Lord and the question mark that shapes every new day was replaced by a statement of His reality and purpose. I remembered that every aspect of my life centers on, and returns to, the fact and the existence of a living God. I have a heart and a mind and a will but they are as vague as the foggy morning around me without the sharp inner presence of the Maker of all. So I will rise up, out of the fog, and stride into this day with His purpose and His presence. The fog of my life lifts as His light washes over me.
1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Friday, September 23, 2011

headless (or how to get a-head in life)

When I was little, one of the scariest stories I heard was The Legend of the Headless Horseman. It had to do with an awkward school teacher named Ichabod Crane and it took place back in the 1700's in the Hudson Valley of New York where Dutch immigrants had settled. The very idea that an evil character pursued people out on dark lonely nights..riding headless on horseback was both terrifying and, now that I think about it, totally ridiculous. Our head is our control center. There is absolutely no way that riding a horse or seeking to accomplish anything without a head makes any kind of sense. (Of course scary stories don't have to make fact I don't think they are supposed to!). But, in another sense, many of us are walking around something like the Headless Horseman (so I guess we're also the Horseless, Headless Horsemen). We were designed by our Creator to have our own heads and to have our heads directly under His Head. Without His control center governing our heads and without His authority heading our personal decision and value center we are as awkward and incomplete as a headless horseman. Yesterday we talked about being homeless until we have found our Home in the I'll stick my neck out and claim that we are headless until we align our personal heads under His Head. When I was in the Navy we'd ask the helmsman (steering the ship) what his "heading" was to ensure he was going the right direction. When our heading is in the direction of the Lord we can be confident that we are lining our head up with the one true Head of all.
Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I caught just a brief piece of a radio story about a homeless man in California and I thought about all the homeless people in our country..... The men wearing dirty army surplus jackets and frayed jeans with scruffy beards and matted hair who stand at intersections in urban areas with hand-scrawled signs saying "Homeless and hungry...please help". There may be more of them these days since our economy has cast many out of work and wars have a way of creating some veterans who just can't seem to merge back into the flow of civilian life after the trauma of the front lines. When I was little they were called "bums" and I was a little afraid of them. But I think that "homeless" is probably a more accurate term. And then I realized that we all start this life "homeless". Even if we come from loving homes and families our inborn nature is to be separate from our spiritual home. We actually wander and wonder through the roadways and intersections of life until we discover the One who has come for us. We are all homeless until we find our true home to be in a close relationship with our Maker. We know that it's Home because there is that peace that can only come from unconditional the kind of love we knew growing up in our childhood homes (and some have not experienced even this kind of love). It's almost like we are all out there with signs and scruffy clothes declaring to the world, "Lost, lonely and empty...please help" at the intersections of our days.....until we realize that the old story of a God who delivered a family nation from slavery and His Son, who died on a cruel cross, is a story with personal meaning...and when we grasp the outstretched and nail-pierced hands of the carpenter from Nazareth....we are finally home!
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I have needed a passport...not for international travel, but to apply for an educational program. I used to have a passport, but somehow it has disappeared in the course of moving several years ago. So I waited in line yesterday for three hours at a local post office to submit the forms and pay the fees. You don't have to wait in long's possible to make appointments but, once in line I decided to stick it out. Others who were waiting ranged in age from 5 weeks to retirement age and I heard of plans for holiday cruises and visits to relatives overseas. The mother and father of the newborn baby are friends and are excited about traveling abroad to present their new child to his grandparents. Because, the fact is, you just can't cross the borders and oceans to enter another country without a passport. It's your official statement of national identity and if you can't prove your national identify you can't legally enter another country. I thought about our spiritual identity and how, once we have realized our need and placed our total trust in Jesus, we receive a new spiritual passport. The interesting thing is that our new passport is stamped with Heaven's seal because that has become our eternal residence at the point of our faith confession. It would have been worth a longer wait than three hours to obtain this passport because, when I show up at the shores of eternity and the gate of Heaven only this passport will allow me to enter. There will be no processing delay at that point, and once we are through the gate the passport will not be needed again and Heaven will be the final destination.
Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise

Friday, September 16, 2011

morning thought

What is there about the brand new day,
As we face the east and pause?
All is new and light breaks fresh,
Alone before our God.

The glow of sun below the rim
of trees shows He is near.
The theater of sky above 
awaits His brilliant star.

Life reduced to simple terms,
Just He and I alone,
Reminds me I'm completely His
As this new day unfolds.

He has not spared anything
that I should need for life.
All of me and all for Him
together we will stride.

That's why I face the east today
and gaze the brand new sky...
reminded that it's all from Him..
So for Him I will fly.

Ecclesiastes 11:7 Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

they're grown

A great joy these days is knowing my children as adults. My memory locker is full of images of three little girls prancing around, playing with friends, and filling the back seats of our minivan or next to me in the pickup truck. Now they are young women. They have negotiated higher education and found careers. They have walked down the pathways of love and found life partners (two married and one engaged) and Meredith has four children of her own. They have joined the ranks of the rest of us as adults and I enjoy knowing them as grownups. They are people with purpose and they walk with Jesus resident in their hearts. They are good and close friends to others and seek to brighten their corners of the world. We can joke as adults together too and it is good to see that humor has passed to the next generation. And, best of all, they are still (and will always be) my little girls!
Job 42:15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's (Rob's) daughters

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

all a gift

Standing next to the pond this morning, I began thanking the Lord for life and parents and all the experiences that have shaped me. Suddenly it occurred to me that "it's all a gift". I had nothing to do with being here...I had nothing to do with my design...I can take no credit for any aspect of the functioning of this body...The many blessings I enjoy are all because I have been given this life and all that comes with it. So...if this life is a gift...what is to be done with it? Does it make sense that I was given so much to be simply satisfied with self? The best gifts don't sit on a shelf and certainly don't remain unwrapped. The best gifts give pleasure as they are opened because of the potenial they hold and the best gifts are held and used to fashion gifts for others...and to give joy to the Giver.
Ecclesiastes 5:19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.

Monday, September 12, 2011

the land

The land stands silently on either side of the country road. On one side a crop of corn is past and the short-lived stalks wither, awaiting the reaper. Directly across the road a large field is sprawling with a low, green crop of beans. It's the same kind of soil, in the same stretch of countryside. The land produces the base and the provides the raw nutrients that, combined with light and rainfall, permit the food to grow to maturity...crop after crop...season after season...year following year. We are like the land, as individual people and as people groups. God has invested our frames with the structure and the raw material to produce crops in seasonal fashion. With the light of His Word and the rain of His Spirit, and the disciplined tending of the great Farmer, our lives grow to maturity and produce a savory yield for a Heavenly delight. And when our final crop has been collected for earthly harvest, our land will go on to produce for Heaven's markets . Crops and seasons come and go...but the land remains.
Ecclesiastes 5:9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.

Friday, September 9, 2011

old roads

There is something a friend...about an old road through the country. Its bends and twists, potholes and gravel, and landmarks of large trees, old cottages and ancient cars greet you as you move old acquaintances. You are so comfortable traveling on the old road that you anticipate each landmark just before seeing it, just as you anticipate the next phrase of a familiar hymn before it is sung. Old roads take you through fields where crops rise, mature and wither in an obvious panorama of life's patterns...but they faithfully bring you home again. An old road is a trusted friend, who makes a comfortable companion. Jesus wants to be our favorite "old road". He promises to open up the sweetest views of life and He promises to bring us home.
Luke 24:32 They said to each other, "Didn't our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

water power

I was struck by the difference between water at rest and water in motion this morning. As raindrops pelted my local pond, the sleepy water conveyed a placid peace. High over the pond the bald eagle posed regally surveying the scene. Here and there a fish would jump and break the surface. But in the background I could hear a muffled roar. Tracing the sound, I came to the spillwater dams that contain the pond and also carry off the overflow. Due to the heavy rains of the past week there was a roar of excess water running from the pond over the concrete wall and into engorged streams beyond. Water at rest communicates peace and serenity. Water in motion expresses power in its motion, force and sound. There are times when we need the still waters that we walk past to restore peace within. But we also need the unleashing of water power through the spillways of our heart...we need water power that won't carry us away, but that will propel us in purpose. It is wonderful that the same pond (Heavenly pond that is) can provide water for both purposes.
John 4:10 Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

without power

One reflection on Hurricane Irene...most of us "coastal dwellers" in the mid-Atlantic lost electrical power for a day or more.  At our house, we lost power for four days while others were powerless even longer.  It's not unusual to lose electricity for brief periods, like an hour or an afternoon.  But losing power for multiple days is numbing.  There isn't much we do or experience that isn't supported, provided or accompanied by electricity.  Everything from keeping our food cold to keeping our air cold to keeping us in touch with our world through the computer and tv...  And the nights become amazingly dark and still in our homes and down our streets without electricity.  One night my wife, Shirley, and I stood in awe of the starry night sky, where we could see the Milky Way and more stars than we knew existed...normally the lights in our area wash out most of the view.  It makes me think about living without the power of the Lord in my life, compared with living with the power running.  Before I came to put personal trust in the living God I ran on my own limited power (something like the power from a couple of D cell batteries in my flashlight).  I was used to a low level of light and a limited experience of living.  When I realized the great love of God was personally directed toward me in the form of His Son...who gave up the power of His own life for me...the lights really came on in my life and it has made all the difference.  It was like the feeling I had when I approached our neighborhood last week and saw the lights on in all the homes.  The power was back and we could resume our lives!

Romans 6:4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Monday, September 5, 2011

cross section of a tree

I finally made it back to my local pond this morning, after Hurricane Irene had passed and downed trees had blocked the road.  In fact, two large pine trees were blown down near the water's edge, where I view the pretty water.  Someone had cut through the trees with a sharp chain saw and I decided to count the rings and determine the trees' ages.  They were somewhere between 45 and 50 years old.  The diameter of each tree was about 10".  I noticed that the first rings in the life of each tree were fairly wide...perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 inch in width.  Then must have come some lean years with rings narrowing to something less than 1/8".  But each tree showed the final decade or so of growth with very narrow small and close that it was hard to separate one year from the next.  It struck me that perhaps those last years of life the tree had put most of its growth energy in the vertical dimension...growing up more than out.  And it occurred to me that, if you could take a look at the cross section of our lives and of our years that we might be similar.  When we are young we measure growth with marked physical change and we grow outward into the physical world.  Then come the lean years when growth stalls a bit with trials and dry times.  But there comes the time in our adult years where the cross-section can't measure the growth properly...these are the years when we learn that most of the growth energy needs to be in the vertical dimension and so, like the pine tree, we reach up to Heaven.   Like the pine tree, you can't get a good measure of our growth from the cross section...whether few years or many, a tree is most noteworthy by its height.  And our upward growth marks our trust in the God who has planted, and rooted and watered us.

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Rob Smith