Monthly Archives: July 2013

Like Yesterday’s Ragdoll

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.  Isaiah 64:6

Not so many years ago, my daughter had for herself a sweet little orange-striped kitty.  Had she been a boy, it would have been a real-life version of Calvin & Hobbes.  Classic adventures and discoveries every inch of her existence and countless moments of conversation and questions with answers.  It was beyond all else the most unique bond in our home.  Without “Two-Sides” (that was kitty’s name), going to sleep was impossible as was going to grandma’s or heading out on vacation.  Two-Sides went with us everywhere.

But as the days checked off the calendar and the whiskers on Two-Sides disappeared, the love my daughter had for her was still ever strong.  It was not a love of youthfulness or beauty, for Two-Sides had grown quite ragged.  Instead, the love my daughter loved Two-Sides with was a love that made Two-Sides beautiful.

It is not very different with me (and you)!  To God we are all rag dolls.  But we were not created ragged, for when God finished what He had fashioned in His own image He said with His own breath, “It is good!”  He loves me (and you) and that does not change over time!

But over time, we have all become like rag dolls, so crooked from sin and guilt that it would only feel similarly familiar to be discarded, forgotten, left to my own demise.  But no!  God changed everything because of His love for me!  Thank God my identity is not found in my raggedness, but instead in Christ who took my raggedness to the cross!

John Ortberg wrote in his book Love Beyond Reason:

“There is such a love, a love that creates value in what is loved.  There is a love that turns rag dolls into priceless treasures.  There is a love that fastens itself onto ragged little creatures, for reasons that no one could ever quite figure out, and makes them precious and valued beyond calculation.  This is a love beyond reason.  This is the love of God.  This is the love with which God loves you and me.”

by: Mark Cruver

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Beyond Comprehension


Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8

Today is simple. Summed up in a simple, yet humbling and submissive prayer. I cannot take credit for originally authoring this prayer as it was written by Anabel Gillham. Her words, however, echo my sentiment and heart toward my Heavenly Father. I share them because maybe, just maybe, they will resonate with your own.

Dear Father,

You are aware of everything that is going on in my world at the present time . . . what has happened in the past . . . and what is to come in my future. That is beyond my comprehension. You know all of my needs before I even tell You about them. That, too, is beyond my comprehension. But I accept it as Truth. I know it. And in spite of that, knowing, I enumerate all of my needs to You time after time. Of course, the presupposition would be that I don’t believe You heard me and You’re doing nothing about these crises of mine. Well, that’s wrong. It’s for my own benefit that I present them to You over and over again. I guess I think this will communicate to You how important they are to me. (I am so limited in my understanding of You.) Thank You that You have heard me as I talked to You and that You have taken these petitions and You are working Your mighty plan in each of them. In Your timing I will see and understand. My wisdom is infinitesimally small. Your wisdom is infinite.I refuse to tell You WHAT to do . . . but please confirm to me that You are DOING.

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Heart That Thirsts

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?   Psalm 42:1-2

It wasn’t but a couple of summers ago that water in our neck-of-the-woods was at a premium.  The hot days came early in the year and seemed to stick around for most of the season.  I could have sworn the earth swung a little closer to the sun that year!  It was difficult on many.  The grass and wildlife suffered, the homeless and elderly were especially vulnerable and life, in general, was spent more so indoors than out.  It was parched!  Water restrictions were placed on just about everything as the local reservoirs reached an all-time dangerous low.  Would it ever rain again?  Those who could . . . and dared, watered their lawns to save their investment.  But no amount of water seemed to revive the crispy lawns . . . nothing like a good rain does for certain!

This year is a bit different.  Actually, it’s over 20 inches above different!!  Things that never turned green are twice as tall, more full and I think, when no one looks, the trees and plants actually spit out the excess water!  Lawns are being mowed every few days just to keep up with the growth.  The liquid “manna” from heaven brings rich nourishment to the land!

The earth cries out much like my own heart cries out.  When I choose to do life separate from Christ, the land in which my heart is rooted becomes brown and dry.  It longs for nourishment and searches for sources that offer something to satisfy.  These false sources of satisfaction come at a great price.  My heart will not grow, will not flourish, will not blossom — it’s fruit will not be that of grace, but will hunt to be filled.  David warns us with how the heart works . . . “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  But with every other source, the thirst for what truly satisfies becomes stronger. And when satisfied with things other than Christ Jesus, that which flows from the heart represents a barren soul.

But when the heart finds and drinks from the fountain of Christ, the well that never dries, it flows with much fruit . . . the fruit of grace!

Thank you Lord Jesus for the quenching of my soul through the streams of living water that flows from you and you alone!  May I graze upon your grace and drink from your brook — all day long!

by:  Mark Cruver

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Life Sucks, God’s There

Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

“But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.  He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.  He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside.  The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.  He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.  He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. . . . Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”   Job 5:7-13,17

One of my favorite characters in The Peanuts Gang comic is little Pig Pen.  For obvious reasons, the poor little boy needs a bath!  Every where he goes a cloud of dust follows him and hovers over all he does.  Rarely do you hear a complaint from any of his friends, they just know . . . that’s Pig Pen.

I’d like to think I resonate with another of those famous characters however.  Maybe I feel more like Linus with his security blanket or Charlie Brown for his lack of self-confidence.  Perhaps Snoopy for his perseverance would serve as a better likeness.  And then of course, there are times I relate best with their teacher . . . mumbling something not worth listening to.  But in reality, more often than not, I relate with Pig Pen.  Not for the smell, but for that crazy dark cloud that seems to follow me everywhere I go at times.  Maybe you can relate.

That dark cloud often gets translated into a phrase we most commonly refer . . . Life Sucks!  When everything goes against us, fighting life becomes exhausting and gaining ground is something foreign.  When it happens enough, too much for our liking, there seems to be an overarching theme that sets into our minds.  It’s a tone we do not like, but nonetheless, listen to.  It says to us, almost unnoticed, that God must not be present since life sucks so badly.  In fact, it is drilled into our belief that if life sucks, then God must or even can’t be present.  The two are mutually exclusive.

Oh, how our hearts are so tender and deceived so easily.  The TRUTH is that even in the midst of life that sucks, God is there!  His heart is ever so aware of our burdens and stands ready to fellowship in our suffering.  The fall of man made life suck and since then sucky things happen each and every day!  But even then, God promised us He would never leave us nor forsake us.  It truly defines what it means to have peace amidst the stress.  All that sucks in our life, sucks to God as well and He desires nothing more than our hearts in middle of life’s valleys and celebrations.

Thank you, Lord Jesus for never giving up on me and most of all, never leaving me.  Thank you for joining me each morning for coffee and riding around town from place to place.  Thank you for sitting at the table with me and my family and resting each evening by my side.  Thank you Lord for hearing my complaints and disgruntlement.  Thank you for smiling and laughing when my heart sings in moments of joy.  Thank you for being there, even when life sucks!

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”   Deuteronomy 31:8

by:  Mark Cruver

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Broken Bottles

. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning it shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

There are so many moments throughout life that I have wanted to bottle up and keep forever to enjoy over and over.  Moments like the birth of my first son and each of his siblings thereafter.  The moment I placed my hand on my bride’s back and felt those beads draping her stunning self.  The day I received the call for my first real job!  The second I finally made it atop a 13,000 foot mountain, on foot, and peered from the top of the world!  The day I watched my middle schooler cross the finish line in first place.  The day my youngest caught his first fish.  And the list goes on.  Bottles and bottles of joy!  Oh, that we could just bottle it all up and keep it, experience it, taste and see it over and over.

In some, metaphorical way, we actually do.  With photos we revisit those moments, but the joy is somewhat diluted.  And with understanding and with time, our eyes become less fixed on those moments and diverted to other joyous moments or moments calling for far less celebration.  Either through an alternative experience or a devastation, there comes a moment when bottles we’ve stored in our wine-cellar like hearts gets broken.  What in the world do I do when a precious and very dear bottle gets broken?

The scripture tells us that the joy I store up in those bottles is not the joy I am to fix my eyes upon.  So, when a bottle I’ve stored up gets broken, it is through the joy I find in Christ that heals that brokenness and allows me to continue to experience the joy in those bottles I feel is lost.

Circumstances in the “here and now” often distract me from the joy I find in my relationship with Christ.  And I often confuse the joy, or lack thereof, with the continuation of the joy found in my bottles.  That comparison is not fair to the Truth found in the joy so ever available through Christ Himself, who lives within me!

Fixing my eyes on that joy means keeping a focus on those things set before me.  It is not meant for just a moment, but for life because of who I am!  I do this not because of the satisfaction in the moment, but for the result set before me.  It is the encounter of the One who IS joy, who endured the most undeserved suffering for me on whom I can remain focused, because of the joy in Him through eternity.

I must focus on where I am going!  So many things are there to distract me like anxiety, depression, loneliness, separation, fatigue, unworthiness, discouragement.   But I then remember the Truth, that God has conquered all of these.  When I take life with Him in focus, I can see more clearly His love, His Truth, His hope, His patience, His joy, His peace.

So, I focus my thoughts on the character and promises of my Savior, all things change!  Life changes!  The joy in those broken bottles are experienced once again through His joy and the world looks different, through Christ in me, the Hope and Glory!

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.   I Thessalonians 2:19-20

by:  Mark Cruver

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Depths of Discouragement

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.   Psalm 121:1-2

The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.  Psalm 121:7-8

In those moments when the rain refuses to stop, life begins to appear just as gloomy.  I’m not sure how people who live in the northwest find themselves in sunshine.  While the many drops of rain puddle in the yard and create ponds and sometimes rivers for days on end, I become increasingly more vulnerable to thinking less on encouraging things.  My chin and eyes, fixed on above drop and ponder — wonder — think.  The mind begins and continues to spin and in the world of wonder there is a playground of doubt that is fed by the evil one to discourage.  The cycle is a vicious spiral digging deeper into the muck of all that seems less than fortunate.  And then one dwells.

But David reminds us of the ever present hope in our Maker!  The one who sits upon the throne — rain or shine!  And in this Truth, God defeats discouragement through the hope of His promise to never leave our side — to be the Hope and the Finisher of all He created — including me!  Amen!

It’s more than just a state-of-mind.  It’s a belief, a faith in knowing the truth of His endless and unconditional love for me that changes things.  Bending in the shape of His will results in the shape of the cross!  It’s matchless and unlike anything ever known or understood.  So, despite circumstances, I stand on this promise!

Where does my strength come from?  It comes from the Lord!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

by:  Mark Cruver

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Fragrance of Faith

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  II Corinthians 2:14

For centuries, people have adorned themselves with fragrance to bring a sweetness to the air they breathe and a fresh and delightful aroma to their presence with others.  Not much has changed as our culture is no different.  A billion-dollar industry, perfume and cologne play an integral role in social awareness and relationship building.  Sometimes overused, it can throw a room of people in a tail-spin.  But when used in moderation, it can unite and welcome even the least known.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a family member while getting ready to head over to a friends house.  Getting ready and going alone, I made a comment as I dashed some cologne on my wrist.  I felt it was a waste of some good cologne to use for such an occasion.  But upon reflection, I realized it was as much for me as it was for everyone else.  Today I smell nothing — good or bad (thank goodness!).  Why you may ponder?  Well, I didn’t dash the cologne.

In Christ, I possess a fragrance that need not be applied every day.  However, it is one through faith, I must choose.  I must meet each day smelling of the fragrance of His triumph!  It is a fragrance of faith and victory that gives strength and power unlike anything on earth.  But when the prince of the air deceives my heart with lies and wages war in my mind, the aroma of His triumph is stifled by the smell of garbage, if I believe it.

Consenting without a single protest is easy to do.  It comes at a great price, but often, like a fox, sneaks it’s way through.  But the battle that wages for my mind is not one that I am incapable of taking captive.  Then, and only then, can I take a step back and allow my Champion to win!  This requires a trust and belief that exercises my faith to a level that surpasses understanding at times.  It’s big, but it’s awesome!

So, with my everyday choices that come sometimes in triplicate, I stand to choose with what fragrance to meet each day.  I choose, this day, to surround myself with the cologne of Christ and become a fearless fighter and soldier.  Through this Christ can, and will fight for me and through me!  Amen!

. . . then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . .  Joshua 24:15

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