Tag Archives: journey

Strength to Strength

They go from strength to strength . . .  Psalm 84:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.  My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.   Psalm 28:8

As I think on my day, I cannot help but think about the mountain of circumstances and events that surround it on all sides.  It’s fairly daunting and no health supplement will give the strength to cross over.  But, the truth is, tomorrow is on the other side and despite the fact the mountain is tall and steep, I know it must be climbed.images

I remember standing on the top of one of the “Ivy League Peaks” in Colorado and seeing the world from what appeared to be — the top!  Mountain after mountain, capped with snow and rock blanketed the landscape in all directions.  It was truly breathtaking.  But the more than ten hours it took for me to get to the top was no pleasant journey.  No doubt, there were pleasant moments — the scenery, the cobalt-blue lakes adorned with beaver homes, forests of aspen, the treeline and then nothing but rock.  If you’ve been there, you know what I mean!  But it took a focus, determination and a strength that was beyond my likelihood.  My focus was on the mountain before me, I knew it meant climbing to the top — and it was obvious, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

It’s like that in life too.  It’s easy to focus on all the mountains, in all directions, and wonder and worry about how to manage the challenges each of them face.  But God gives us today and on that mountain calls me to draw upon His strength to get through it — to climb it.  And if I strain in His strength, He assures me of even more strength!  I move from strength to strength.  He enables me to make it through today!

So, I choose to trust Him — my heart trusts Him!  I call on His strength today and in the end, I see the beauty of His strength in me.  It is throughout the day that I approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help us [me] in our [my] time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Thank you Lord for the strength you have given and the promise of your provision of strength over and over again.  It is through this I praise your name!

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Psalm 105:1-4

by: Mark Cruver

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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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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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Yesterday Looms Tomorrow

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You re a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.  All such boasting is evil.  If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.  James 4:13-17

Sometimes days are predictive.  At other times the days ahead can be as mysterious and anxious as a haunted house.  It’s amazing how deep our minds can dig into the plans we have for ourselves in looking toward tomorrow.  Unfortunately, our culture, perhaps our bent, is to gather from yesterday and build a structure of our own tomorrow.  While there is a place to look back to learn from history, it is a dangerous practice in trusting the Lord and living for Him each day.

In the book of Genesis, Lot’s family was granted a pardon by God to flee the city of Sodom.  But as they did, they were to not look back.  They were to remain focused on where they were going, not where they had been.  And as God rained down fire upon Sodom, Lot’s wife could not help herself and turned back to look.  It was a costly mistake as she turned to a pillar of salt.

Granted, people aren’t turning to pillars of salt for looking back on yesterday, but there is a lesson (many lessons actually) here, demonstrating obedience, a pursuit of God’s will, a focus to things to come, the plans He has for me!

And it may be true that my yesterday looms today, but God has gone before me and built my tomorrow!  It is today that I live in yesterday’s tomorrow God made just for me!  And today, well, He is shaping my tomorrow and whispers in my ear — “Just wait and see what I have planned for you!”

May I not boast of my tomorrow and blame yesterday for it!  Instead, may I lift my eyes to the Heavens, in front of me and rejoice in knowing that today was yesterday’s stage for my tomorrow!

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.  Psalm 118:24

by:  Mark Cruver

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Hold To It

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

It’s not easy staying the course. I think my ideal is life should be smooth sailing, but as a dear one says often, “God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.” The turbulence in life can deter my attention, missing the actual moment God has created especially for me!

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the life of Moses lately. There’s really too many lessons with that man! But in my circumstances, there is much to gain by peeking into the life he lived. Chosen by God, Moses was given the task to lead the people of Israel from captivity (slavery) to the Promised Land (freedom). This being a place he’d never seen and trusted the words of God that what He said was true. Leading a million or more people through the desert had to have been the most challenging thing he had ever faced. This I know, because the Bible speaks of the whining, complaining, arrogant, disobedient, entitled people he was leading. And perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad had they made it there in the 11 or so days it should have taken, but instead, it took 40 years. In fact, Moses himself would never step foot on this land.

I mention Moses because in some ways, I feel like he must have felt. Tired, discouraged and faced with more questions than answers. Yet the lesson I can learn from Moses is much as Christ spoke about to the Jews from the book of John. It’s much easier to veer from the truth and slip into what I feel may be better . . . my way, not God’s way. But Jesus tells us, “hold true to my teaching . . .” Press on, stay the course, keep your chin up, trust, believe and know whom you have believed and am persuaded that He is able.

So, hold to it! Paul said in I Corinthians that it was “by the gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word” for it is in that “which you have taken your stand.”

Lord Jesus, pressing forward in the face of gale-force winds is draining. I feel somewhat discouraged, but I know that my hope is not in the journey. My hope comes from you alone! I am choosing to live in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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Are We There Yet?

It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.  Deuteronomy 1:2

Every parent can relate to that ride from home to somewhere that received the inevitable, “Are we there yet?” from the backseat.  Maybe one time would have been acceptable, but for some reason, this question echoes for hours until arrival.  Words that come to mind are patience, patience, patience.  But, because it compares greatly with running your nails across a chalkboard, the likely response is something like this . . . “We’ll get there when we get there!”

I can’t imagine how much of this Moses had to endure!  Forty years of wandering in the wilderness in pursuit of the Promised Land with millions of Israelites.  It was a journey that could have only taken eleven days.  Getting to the Promised Land took more than you or I would perhaps ever truly understand.  But one thing is for certain, it required  a focus, a direction, a compass that pointed and motivated them contrary to their circumstances.  It took a level of faith unlike anything they had ever encountered.  More importantly, it required of them a fix on God . . . and as their minds were no longer experiencing the faith of deliverance into the Promised Land they continued to wander.

Life can often find us circling this same mountain — especially in the midst of crisis, pain or hurt.  Healing and deliverance is desired quickly and all attempts are taken to make it so. But God’s time is so different.  He sees, answers and moves in ways so contrary to our understanding that we find ourselves buckled in the backseat asking over and over again . . . “Are we there yet?”  And from the front we don’t hear . . . “We’ll get there when we get there!”  Instead, we hear Daddy say, “No, we’re not quite there yet, but I can’t wait to show you what I have prepared for you!”

I just know in five minutes I’m gonna ask Him again!

Lord Jesus, I know I’m not there yet — but I can’t help but ask you over and over.  In the midst of my life I know I need to keep fixed upon you with my eyes, heart and mind on you at all times.  Maybe one day, I’ll stop asking if we’re there yet.  🙂  But for now, my faith is strengthened in knowing you are in control and that I’m resting in the knowledge of your sovereignty.  You never cease to be there all the time!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.   Colossians 3:1-2

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Right Place, Right Time

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  Mark 15:21

Ever wonder whether or not you were where you should be or doing what you should be doing or going where you should be going?  I can imagine most everyone has asked these questions of themselves at one time or another.  And sometimes, after our experiences we second guess our purpose there.  Why is this?  Is it a lack of faith or a hole in our trust?

There was a man that the scripture tells us was just “passing through from the country.”  Not much else is said for his purpose in Jerusalem, but it’s likely he was there to bring a sacrifice not realizing that which was going on at the time.  And this man, observing the radical journey Christ was taking through the streets, being led to the Hill, by cracks of the Roman whips and shouts of hurt and pain from those whom He loved.  Simon found himself in the right place at the right time.

Unlike anyone else to have ever lived on this earth, Simon from Cyrene actually carried the cross of Christ!  It doesn’t make him any more holy by any means, but to have carried the cross for Christ must have been the most unbelievably symbolic moment of time.  As I mentioned before, it is most likely Simon was there for his own purposes, but God chose him to escort THE Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of all.

I would dare suggest that Simon would have preferred not to be the one to carry this cross.  I might figure that he was wishing he was not standing where he was standing, or made eye contact with the Roman soldier that called him out.  He may have even felt as though he was the one “helping” Jesus to the cross.  The opportunity for doubt, shame, regret and wishing he had not been there at all was ever-so present.  He might even had thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But God used Simon for the Glory of God and the Salvation of the World!

Lord Jesus, today is the anniversary of the day Simon carried your cross!  We speak of how you carry our burdens and the weight of all sin hung with you on the cross that Simon carried for you!  I’m in awe.  It has shed a whole new light on the events of this day.  May I be reminded often of your journey to the cross — for me — and the many times you demonstrate your love for me!

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”   Genesis 50:20

 

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His Glory Revealed

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  II Corinthians 4:11

It’s difficult to describe the depth of our pain to others.  There are times when pain can show it’s character on our face, in our actions — in our voice.  The screams of pain is universal.  It has a different sound, a signature that pierces us all.  From a thumb that finds its way beneath the blow of a hammer, or the pressure from an abscessed tooth — no one can deny how much those hurt.  But the pain that hurts far deeper than any flesh wound, is the pain from brokenness.

Yet, somehow, in the midst of our painful circumstances our brokenness is coupled with the death of Jesus.  Even in my most painful moments, I have cried outloud, “Why must I continue to be a witness of your death through this pain?”  And without pause, He responds . . . “Because, Mark, it is necessary — then I will be revealed!”

Oh man!  Could it be?  Is it possible?  That my brokenness will, or better — does, bring Him glory?  Lord, I don’t know how this is possible, but one thing I do know — that you don’t abandon your people!  As I’m reading your word you are blessing and speaking.  I want to personalize it for me.

But I have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from others.  I am hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  So, then, death is at work in me, but life is at work in me too.  Therefore, I do not lose heart.  Though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day.  For my light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   II Corinthians 4:7-9,12,16-18

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When God Asks

. . . my cup overflows.   Psalm 23:5

In the course of my life I can guarantee I’ve reached the million mark in a number of areas.  There’s been more than a million cups of coffee (ok, maybe not that many-but close!), a million steps since I learned to walk, a million sneezes (each time I sneeze I do them in threes-that adds up fast!), a million mistakes and a million peanut M&M’s.  But one thing is for sure, the benchmark of asking God to do things, change things and make things happen have far exceeded a million I think.

I just celebrated my birthday this last weekend and the top question on the board was, “What would you like?”  Others were wanting to create a day full of blessings by giving things I’d enjoy.  My day was filled with my favorite things (I suddenly started humming that song from The Sound of Music) — ugghh!!  I was overwhelmed at times and stuffed to the gills for most of the day!

I have spent a great deal of my time in life asking God for things.  Some of those requests and prayers have been answered, while some are still in the queue.  And now, many have asked me for the answers to questions in order to bring blessings to me.  That day was made marvelous through the diligence and willingness of those asking of my favorites.  But what about God?  How often has God asked me, about me?

I know that God cares about me, in fact loves me beyond measure.  I also know that He wants nothing but the best for me — even though my choices have not always opened the door to His blessings.  But God knows my heart and He knows what delights me and my spirit.  Knowing this, sometimes He doesn’t actually need to ask — He knows — and He blesses.  My day entails keeping a close watch out for His subtle surprises — to see the beauty in the blessings of those things in which He knows I find delight.  I don’t always accept those blessings as I should, nor see them as from His hand.

My cup, indeed, overflows!

  • The honks high above of the Sandhill Crane, circling in their flocks on their journey home, grabs my attention in awe and wonder.
  • The dazzling dance of a bumblebee in the garden captures me.
  • The sounds of a saxophone.
  • The burst of orange, blue, yellow and purple from the sun’s first kiss of the day takes my breath away.
  • The heartbeat of the ocean gently breaking on the shore in the early morning hours mesmerizes me.
  • The subtle breeze of springtime.
  • The sounds of my children laughing.
  • The winter night sky is overwhelmed with the details of His creation.

When God asks me how He can bless me, these are a few of those things He shares with me!

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed at how much my cup runs over.  My party is clearly not over or my cups would be dry.  Instead, you have filled them to overflowing!  I celebrate these many blessings and more — may my eyes continue to recognize your hand in all things.

. . . because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.   Genesis 49:24-25

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Forever Following

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6

Today I returned to an old favorite — Psalm 23.  If you haven’t read it in a while, it is chock full of encouragement and hope.  A great book – a short daily read – that I would recommend is Max Lucado’s Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms.  It’s amazing!

As I was rereading this passage this morning, it struck me how David stresses that goodness and mercy (love) follow me.  Follow me?  God’s goodness and mercy?  Well, depending on your personal theology of God’s whereabouts, this can crash someone’s party if all they think is that God’s dictating from some throne.

This suggests one, if not two things.  First, as implied, this means that God’s not just ruling like we see of the images of Pharaoh.  He is not the unapproachable conductor of all things.  On the contrary, He is personal, relational, compassionate, with an abundance of grace and love beyond our wildest dreams.   Which leads me to the second.  While God is clearly “seated” on the throne, He, through the Holy Spirit, pursues me!  Pursues!  David understands this in his remembrance of God’s presence through the guarantee of God’s goodness and mercy following me every day.  It reminds me somewhat of the old 90’s episodes of Dukes of Hazard when the “good ‘ole boys” were in “hot pursuit.”  They couldn’t seem to cut a break!  I, too, am in “hot pursuit” by my Savior — every day!  And trailing and flanking that pursuit is Goodness and Mercy!

But even in the midst of great news, where goodness seems so obvious, it’s possible for circumstances scratched by the sharp nails of darkness to overshadow our hearts and minds with pittance.  Its unfortunate that such be robbed from our lives, but God still moves!  He still pursues, not sitting and ruling from a throne, but running and guarding, protecting and whispering in our ears at every turn.  Whispering the Truth of His goodness and His mercy that stands firm against the lies of darkness, the thief in the night, and fills me with joy unspeakable, full of His glory!  All this in spite of my circumstances.  Amen!!

Lord Jesus, I’m reminded of my first day of school.  I was so scared, worried.  I didn’t like kindergarten and I wasn’t going to stay.  I remember planning my escape down to the very minute for when I’d make a dash.  Mrs. Mapstone was faster than she appeared as I remember she was a bit older than me — much older!  Remember how I made it out the door and just beyond the ditch before she caught me?  I was so not happy about that!  But as much as I was frightened to be at school, I think the bus was even worse.  I remember looking back over my shoulder more than once to see if mom was still there.  She was.  You’re pursuing me, right?  Life’s bus ride and classroom are filled with so many things.  Some I know, most I don’t.  I’m looking back, if that’s o.k., to see your Goodness and Mercy!  I see them . . .!

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