Monday, September 1, 2014

Laboring for the Right Things


Our Chihuahua-terrier mix, Molly, "working like a dog."

Since I write my blog posts a couple weeks in advance, I’m now thinking about Labor Day since that’s when this will appear. For some reason the words to the Beatles’ tune, “A Hard Day’s Night,” come to mind: “It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog…. I should be sleeping like a log.”

Actually, having a dog, the phrase “working like a dog” doesn’t compute well for me. Our Chihuahua-terrier mix is 16 years old and sleeps about 23½ hours a day now. She’s the one that’s sleeping like a log. I suppose when the “working like a dog” cliché originated, it was in reference to shepherd dogs energetically herding sheep, St. Bernards faithfully searching for lost skiers, or German Shepherds or Doberman Pinchers trained for war or law enforcement.

Or her preferred activity, sleeping like a log.
But often we hear people complaining of “working like a dog,” whether they’ve actually observed a dog at work or not. In any case, it’s clear that’s not a good way to be working. I’ve always figured if you really feel you’re working like a dog, you should investigate another line of work.

I’m fortunate to have found myself in a profession that, while it’s required hard work and long hours, has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. I started as a newspaper editor for a community newspaper, being an editorial staff of one. Then I worked on other newspapers, before becoming a magazine editor, followed by opportunities to write freelance articles, author and edit books, and even do a weekly email workplace meditation that’s sent around the world and translated in more than 20 different languages.

This work has been demanding, sometimes tedious, often stressful, but I’ve never felt as if I were “working like a dog.” (Actually, since dogs can’t write, the analogy doesn’t seem to fit anyway. I have written about dogs on occasion.)

So as we celebrate Labor Day, it would be nice if everyone could find work that not only paid the bills, but they also found enjoyable. Something about which to feel enthused and passionate. For some that’s a fantasy, an impossible dream. But it’s still something worth aspiring to.

At the same time, there’s another kind of work worthy of consideration, work with results that will endure past the next deadline and won’t have to be revised or redone when the boss says so. It’s work that will last forever.

Jesus described this in John 6:27 when He said, “Do not work for the food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then He added, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” This doesn’t mean simple intellectual assent, but transforming faith, since anyone that has truly met Jesus Christ can never be the same.

We invest our working hours to earn money to buy food that will consumed and immediately forgotten. That’s necessary, of course. But sometimes we keep fruit, milk, vegetables and bread too long and have to throw them away. There’s nothing quite like the fragrant aroma of rotten eggs or spoiled potatoes, right?

So we’re to work for “food that endures to eternal life” – what’s that? This has a number of meanings and applications, but one thing for certain: Jesus was discouraging us from devoting 100% attention to the pursuit of position, prestige and promotions, or material targets like houses, cars and toys, things we have one day and can easily lose the next.

That’s why Christ also said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Are the activities you’re engaged in – your work, as well as hobbies and pastimes, everything that consumes your time and energy – things that will enhance your life and the lives of others not just for today, but for eternity? If so, that’s noble, worthwhile work. Stuff of which legacies are made.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Disconnected from the Power Source


A dark computer screen is not conducive to bright writing.

There I was, minding my own business, finishing an article I’d been working on. Suddenly, my computer screen went blank. The light in my office went dark, and the air conditioner stopped running, so I knew there was a problem. Our electricity had been disrupted. Few things make me feel more powerless than when the power is out.

In days of yore, when journalists like me executed our wordsmith tasks on prehistoric machines called manual typewriters, I could have continued working – as long as there was enough light to see what was on the paper. But thanks to the advances of technology, when a desktop computer is disconnected from the power source, work comes to an abrupt halt.

Thankfully, I didn’t lose much of my work. Years ago I had learned a vital lesson: I’d written about two pages of copy but failed to hit the “Save” button when, to my dismay, the power went off without warning, casting my well-crafted words and paragraphs into cyberspace oblivion. What I had written, I can’t recall. Perhaps it was the start of the next Great American Novel. Who knows? But when my computer came back on, the words were long gone and couldn’t be recaptured, having flown to the communications cosmos. Since that day I always try to remember that Jesus saves – and so should I.

We now have notebook/laptop computers, tablets, and even smartphones that can meet our writing needs, but I’m a traditionalist. There’s something about a real-sized keyboard and sitting at a real desk I find not only comforting, but also productive, even inspiring. So I’m sadly and hopelessly dependent on the power company to keep me going. When the power stops working, I do too.

When the power's on, there's no
limit to what a computer can do.
But what if I’d just kept typing away, my fingers flying across the keys creating sequences of words and sentences and paragraphs on my wireless keyboard (battery-powered, of course) despite the darkened computer screen? Would it have made sense to continue working with my computer’s hard drive in “park”?

Of course not. But that’s how we approach much of our lives, especially spiritual pursuits. The power’s off, but we press ahead convinced we’re doing something meaningful and good in our own strength.

The apostle Paul referred to this in a letter to his young protégé, Timothy, when he described religious people as, “without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Timothy 3:3-5).

As we read this indictment it’s easy to think, “Yeah, I don’t want to be like those people!” But what if “those people” happen to be us? Many of us have learned well how to go through the motions, using the right words and following the expected rituals and practices in church settings, but when people observe us outside that setting, do they see any semblance of the life and power of Jesus Christ manifested in our lives?

That, I’m convinced, is the distinctive between religion – mankind’s best effort to reach God (including in some cases, institutional Christianity) – and a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Repeatedly He told His followers about the futility of attempting to do God-stuff in what the Bible calls “the flesh.”

He said things like, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Then Jesus added, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Essentially He’s saying He is the power source – but too often we “unplug” and try doing things for Him rather than letting Him do His work through us.

One of Jesus’ parting statements to His followers was, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). Christ left the earth physically, but in His stead sent His Spirit, the power source for us to live the life God calls us to live.

This is what Paul meant when he wrote to believers in Rome: “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature (the flesh), the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work…. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:5-6).

As I mentor men, I emphasize this truth – something I learned years ago but still remind myself every day. When we try to do good things in the flesh, by our own power, we often encounter failure. Much like pounding on a computer keyboard when the electrical power is off. We can try hard, giving it maximum effort, but things won’t turn out the way we’d like.

But when we appropriate the power of Christ, desiring to do what He wants in His way and through His strength, the outcome not only will be better but also will require a lot less effort.

So if you’ve been diligently endeavoring to do good, moral, God-honoring things, but find yourself worn out, even discouraged, there’s probably a good reason. Perhaps you’re not drawing from the Source of power.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Renewing the Great American Spectacle


Across the nation, millions await the whistle for the opening kickoff
of the 2014 college football season. 

After a seemingly interminable wait, it starts again this weekend – college football season. With memories of bowl games that concluded the 2013 season fading, hopes for fans across the country are at their apex. Whether you root for Alabama or Aliquippa State, Wisconsin or Winthrop, Syracuse or Slippery Rock, expectations are high. Your team, like all the others, is undefeated, for the moment.

So let’s revel in that moment. Forget soccer – it’s time for real football to commence! With its pageantry, spectacle, craziness. They’ll be on display in stadiums from coast to coast, everyone decked in their favorite school’s colors, bands blaring fight songs, cheerleaders jumping and screaming, coaches raving and ranting, demanding “110 percent” from their team.

I’ll be rooting for Ohio State’s Scarlet and Gray, as I have every season since 1966. But I’ll also be admiring the sport’s teamwork aspect – players performing their respective roles and, if they do them well, powering their team to success.

Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers get most of the acclaim, but the huge, unheralded linemen are the ones that make possible the exciting runs, spectacular passes and…touchdowns. On defense, success requires hefty hulks on the defensive line, agile linebackers and speedy defensive backs, all doing their part to disrupt the opposing team’s offensive schemes.

It only takes a single breakdown – a failed block, a missed tackle, an untimely penalty – to shift momentum and potentially change the outcome of the game. So when the question is asked, “Who’s the most important player on the field?” the truthful answer is every single one of them. This brings to mind familiar adages like, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.”

The latter observation comes from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:9. The Scriptures speak extensively about teamwork, affirming none of us alone is as strong as when we’re working in concert with others, aligned to the same mission or goal. A few verses later in the passage it states, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Proverbs 27:17 declares, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” and any good football coach will tell you competition within the team serves to make everyone better.

I love the moment in a football game when, after a big play, teammates converge to back-slap, high-five and chest-bump, engaging in mutual congratulatory support. While it’s not talking about American football, Hebrews 10:24-25 refers to this when it says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds…. Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another.”

And speaking of teamwork, the Bible uses the human body as a metaphor for teamwork and unity built around a common purpose, especially the Church of Jesus Christ. It even alludes to our tendency to give special notice to the more spectacular parts:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts…and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have special concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

So when you turn on your TV to watch your favorite team, remember when it’s operating smoothly, with the various players effectively carrying out the responsibilities of their positions, it’s how the body of Christ should function. And when there’s a lost fumble, interception, missed block or tackle, that’s kind of how the body of Christ looks when we fail to fulfill the role God has called us to fill. So try not to miss your assignment – no matter what you’ve been given to do, it’s important.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Enough Evidence to Convict?


Compared to other parts of the world, people professing to be Christians in the U.S.A. have it pretty good.

Yes, the entertainment media typically portray followers of Christ and those who believe the Bible as buffoons, bigots or worse. The mainstream news media often don’t seem to know how to fairly report on someone that’s devoted to Jesus Christ. And angry atheists and freedom from religion types would rather people of faith be closeted, much as people of alternative lifestyles used to be. But looking around the globe, it seems clear American believers could have it much worse.

One of the most under-reported international scandals – at least as far as the U.S. media are concerned – is the intense persecution and slaughter of Christians in Iraq and Syria, as well as other nations, by Islamic extremists. Followers of Christ are systematically, and savagely, being purged from lands they have inhabited for 2,000 years.

Numerous media sources outside the United States say the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken control of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, giving Christians three choices – renounce their faith and convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax, or be killed. Most have fled, leaving a region with more than 20 centuries of biblical heritage.

Across the river from modern-day Mosul lie ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh, where the Bible states the reluctant prophet Jonah was directed by God to spur a massive spiritual revival. Jonah’s tomb supposedly is housed in a mosque in the city. Yet today, having been expelled from their homes, Christians are virtually non-existent in that historic area.

I’m not an international affairs reporter, so all I know about this tragic situation comes from the BBC, Canadian news and other media sources. But it causes me to wonder: What if similar persecution occurred in the United States? Given the direction things seem to be taking, it could happen. What if all who professed faith in Jesus were told either to deny their faith or die? How would we respond?

Perhaps there’s an even greater question: If such persecution arose, would some of us as individuals be ignored, with the oppressors reasoning, “That person can’t be a Christ follower. There’s no evidence that he (or she) believes in Jesus. Nothing to indicate that at all. They’re harmless.”

In a court of law, the verdict is usually determined by the burden of proof. Therefore, if charged with being a follower of Jesus Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict any of us?

This question comes to mind because of a discussion I had recently with friends. James 2:17 declares, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by deeds, is dead.” Historians report this passage troubled reformer Martin Luther because he had been protesting the works orientation of the Roman Catholic church he was leaving. And Ephesians 2:8-9 does tell us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

But this doesn’t erase the responsibility for Jesus’ disciples to properly and consistently represent the Lord we claim to follow. If the Spirit of Christ lives in us, as the Bible asserts, shouldn’t there be outward evidence of what’s happening inside of us?

The next verse in the passage cited above says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus doesn’t just offer the hope of life after death, but also life before death – with a purpose.

He told His disciples and other listeners during the so-called “Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Jesus wasn’t instructing us to generate light of our own, but to reflect His light. The best way, He said, is through our actions. And if we’re not reflecting the light of Christ in our homes, at our jobs, in the classroom, the athletic field or wherever we happen to be, it might be reasonable to doubt whether we truly know Him at all.

We each need to honestly ask ourselves, if charged with being a Christian, genuine followers of Jesus Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Matter of Testing and Trusting


Have you seen those team building exercises some companies use where staff members line up in two parallel rows while a colleague turns his or her back to them, and then drops backward, trusting the group to catch them before they hit terra firma?

I’ve never tried this – I think the back of my head is allergic to smacking the ground. But it’s an interesting test of trust. “Do I really trust these guys to catch me before I fracture my skull?” “Will Josh say, ‘Oops!’ and let me slip through his hands because of our disagreement last week?”

This definitely isn’t something you’d want to attempt with a group of strangers you have no reason to trust. They might think it’s hilarious to watch you bonk your head. But even with people you know, it’s preferable to have a trusting relationship established before you put it to the test. Do they like you? Are they reliable? Are they strong enough to catch you?

Which raises an interesting consideration: Do you find these folks trustworthy because you’ve already put their trust to the test? Or do you try to establish trustworthiness first before testing it?

In some respects, it’s probably both. The initial time we fly on a jet, we can’t know from personal experience the aircraft will get us there safely. But we know jets do fly, and most of them do arrive at their destinations without problems. And we generally place our trust in established airlines with strong safety records. Which is why if you’re wanting to give away frequent flyer miles on Malaysia Airlines, I’m not interested. No thanks.

Marriage is another of those trust-then-test endeavors. Everyone exchanges vows with idealistic sparkles in their eyes: “He’s going to make me so happy!” “She’s going to be everything I ever dreamed!” Uh, maybe – maybe not. Months or years later, couples often think, “Sure, I said for better or worse – but I didn’t know it was going to be this worse!” They start off with unlimited, unquestioning trust, but when put to the test, it falls short of their expectations.

Faith in God can be both trust-then-test and test-then-trust. Years ago I had a skeptical friend that liked the idea of having a God he could rely on to guide his business, but didn’t assume the Bible was true. Basically, his attitude was, “God, if I’m supposed to believe in You and what the Bible says, prove it.”

Bill would arrive at the weekly prayer meeting with a list of prayer requests, usually about some project or problems he was dealing with at his company. He’d ask the other men in the group to pray for his needs, then report the following week on if and how the prayers had been answered.

Finally, after testing both God and biblical principles in how he operated his company, Bill committed his life to Jesus Christ, concluding both God and the Bible could be trusted.

This approach worked for Bill, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Only one place in the Scriptures does God authorize His followers to put Him to the test. After instructing believers to bring the tithe (God’s portion of their resources) to the temple to provide for those in need, He says, Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10).

Here God invites His people to give freely, assuring them He can more than make up for what they have generously contributed for helping meet the needs of others. But in most instances, the Scriptures urge us to trust first and then discover the Lord indeed is worthy of that trust.

Years ago I adopted a passage I consider my “life verse” – Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Over the years, more times than I could ever recount, this promise has proved true in facing a variety of personal and professional needs: Career direction, marriage and family challenges, financial struggles, health issues, unexpected emergencies. Many times I’d run out of options and had idea what to do next. At such times, often in ways far beyond my understanding, God provided direction and the answers we needed.

Another verse makes a similar declaration: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it” (Psalm 37:5). Sometimes we don’t see God at work in our lives because we’re not truly committed to Him and refuse to trust Him. That doesn’t mean He won’t respond to our needs, but when we turn to Him in trust – what the Bible calls “childlike faith” – then He eagerly responds and says, “Now watch and see what I can do.”

What – or who – are you trusting in today?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Almost Like a Hollywood Script!

Coaches, umpires and parents surround injured Tanner,
seeking to determine the extent of his injury.

As the game unfolded, it seemed to be following one of those schmaltzy, predictable Hollywood scripts – kind of like “Bad News Bears” or “The Mighty Ducks.” Only this was real life in real time, being witnessed firsthand by parents and grandparents and friends.

In the top of the first inning of a preliminary game in the 7-and-under classification of the Rick Honeycutt World Series in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., Tanner is playing the pitcher position for the Owls. (At this level, adults do the actual pitching.) Diving for a looping pop fly to his left, Tanner catches the ball, then gets up and throws the ball to third base, doubling up the runner who had left the base. He grimaces in pain, but seems to shake it off.

The opposing team, the Bats (you know they have to be good hitters, right?), proceeds to score four times, taking an early 4-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Tanner bats second, hits a single, then runs to first base. Reaching the base, however, the young fellow doubles over in pain. His left hip is hurting badly, and trying to run seems to have aggravated the injury.

After about 10 minutes of trying to comfort Tanner, it’s obvious he needs to go to the dugout and get off his feet. The umpire allows a pinch-runner, and Tanner is carried off the field by one of the coaches. The problem is the Owls are already short two players and removing Tanner from the game would necessitate a forfeit.

Perhaps inspired by their hobbled comrade, the Owls rally for five runs and take a 5-4 lead heading into the second inning. Tanner and Colt, the catcher, swap positions to enable Tanner to simply stand behind the batters and remain in the game. His parents, feeling it wouldn’t do further harm, allowed their son to continue playing.

After the Bats go scoreless in the top of the inning, the Owls score the youth league maximum seven runs in the bottom of the second, building their lead to 12-4. Tanner does bat and hits the ball, but being unable to run out the play, is thrown out at first. No problem, right? The Owls are up by eight and seem in command.

The Bats, however, have other ideas. They score seven runs of their own in the top of the third, tightening the score to 12-11, and the Owls go three up, three down, failing to score in their half of the inning. Tanner doesn’t have to go to the plate this time around.

In the top of the fourth the Bats, true to their nickname, score seven runs and take a seemingly commanding lead, 18-12, with just the last half of the fourth to go as the 60-minute clock is winding down.

Awakening from their mid-game snooze, the Owls get their own bats into action and start whittling away at the Bats’ lead. Five Owls cross the plate, closing the score to 18-17, and another single sends the tying run home.

Once again Tanner is carried
off the field, this time in victory.
The score is tied, 18-18, with one out, a runner on third base, and the batter coming up is…Tanner. Gamely taking practice swings, he shrugs off the pain and smacks the ball into the outfield. Determined, Tanner shuffles to first base ahead of the throw, but it doesn’t matter – the Owls’ 19th and winning run has already crossed home plate.

Fans erupt with cheers on both sidelines, applauding the courage and perseverance of little Tanner. Parents add some proud tears. A coach carries him off the field, this time with the thrill of victory. The agony is gone, at least momentarily.

If this had been a movie script, chances are it would have been immediately tossed into the “Not a Chance” circular file. But the story is true, proving sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

Not to over-spiritualize, but this seems a great metaphor for the apostle Paul’s declaration, “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize…” (Philippians 3:12-14).

Young Tanner played through his pain and proved to be a very unlikely hero. His teammates, the Owls, overcame adversity of their own after losing a big lead and then trailing by six runs with just one at-bat remaining. They all forgot what was behind and pressed on toward the goal to win.

It would be nice to say they all lived happily ever after, but of course for these seven-year-olds there’s still lots of story yet to be told. One thing for sure – they’ve already had the opportunity to learn a very important lesson. Even the Bats, who in this game found themselves cast in the role of co-stars. Maybe next game for them.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Perspective Makes All the Difference

Viewed from above, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
looks almost like a storybook village.

Recently I heard about a man visiting New York City for the first time. The mass of people walking down the sidewalks in front of the towering buildings, and the cars and taxicabs jostling for position on the streets, seemed chaotic and confusing. “How can anyone get anywhere, or get anything done, in this place?” he wondered.

Then a friend invited him to go up the historic Empire State Building and view Manhattan from the 86th and 102nd floor observatories. From those vantage points the tourist gained a very different perspective of the activity below. Traffic seemed to be moving in an orderly, controlled manner, and people (despite appearing no bigger than fleas) were following their respective courses unimpeded by the surrounding crowds.

Below, the brick streets might present an intriguing
pattern, but lack the grandeur seen from above.
Over and over I’ve realized the view from above makes things look strikingly different, as I discovered years ago while visiting the picturesque city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. Below, shops seemed quaint and pleasant. But from atop the courthouse in the centrum, this community sometimes called the most photographed city in Europe took on a much greater scope and more impressive grandeur.

Life has a way of being that way, too. When we’re caught up in the muck and mire of everyday living, life often seems to be lacking any sense of order or purpose. And when we encounter inevitable adversities – family issues, work challenges, health problems, financial struggles and unexpected calamities – we become convinced that pointless chaos reigns.

At such times it helps to take a step back, if possible, to gain a better perspective. Sometimes that “step back” is achievable only with the passing of time. But often we discover the turmoil we are enduring – or have endured – had “rhyme and reason” we couldn’t comprehend at the time.

A job we thought perfectly suited for, only to see it offered to someone else. The baby arrives with problems requiring the little one to remain in neo-natal intensive care for several weeks. The air conditioner quits working, right in the most dogged days of summer. The annual checkup with the physician reveals a condition you didn’t suspect, demanding immediate attention. And so it goes.

In the moment, these crises seem overwhelming. They suddenly thrust your life into turbulence, like a ship wandering into the midst of a hurricane. How do we keep from sinking?

For people of faith, the response is usually a mixture of prayer, perseverance – and panic. Why don’t disasters give advance warning, put themselves on our calendars weeks in advance so we can adequately prepare?

Most times these crises do come to an conclusion and then – and only then – we might be able to get the “view from above,” perspective that was lacking as the storm was swirling around us.

Someone once put it this way: It’s like we’re the ground troops during a battle, while God is flying a helicopter, viewing and guiding the conflict from above.

We’ve heard it said so many times, it’s seems trite, a cliché. But it’s true just the same: Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

In the midst of whatever trial we’re facing, all we can see is NOW, the immediate. The what’s and why’s of things happening are lost to us since we’re too busy reacting to whatever circumstances present themselves at that instant. But God has the overhead view, the Empire State Building vista, where believe it or not, things aren’t as random and chaotic as they seem.

As He promises in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord is saying He understands we can’t make sense of hardships and pain we’re currently experiencing, but He’s working and using them for our ultimate good.

The next time you encounter a situation that seems beyond your capacity to handle, think of yourself as standing on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. All around you are throngs of people, cars and taxis. Craziness seems to reign. Then envision yourself transported atop the Empire State Building, gazing down at the now almost serene-looking scene you just left. That’s God’s perspective, the one that matters.