We seem to have found a new thing we love to do.

We went hiking.

I’m not the most “outdoorsy” guy. I like being outside, but I’ve never been one to spend a great deal of time beyond the paved road. But I learned something important. There are just some incredible sights you cannot see from the paved road.

Here’s an example. The picture here was taken from the gravel parking area where the hiking trail began.

It’s pretty and green, but there’s nothing spectacular… just the promise of finding something amazing along the trail.

We chose to follow the trail. It led to a long, vigorous climb full of mud-holes, slippery rocks, narrow paths, steep stretches, many switchbacks, a few tricky crawls… and so much wonder.

One trail led us about 3 miles up and down and around and along to this amazing waterfall.

Another led us up through a spruce/fir forest onto a couple of grassy balds with views like this.

Still another led us up and up and up for almost 4 miles to step out on a rocky outcropping to this.

And through it all, I heard this whisper in my spirit, “You can’t see this from the paved road.”

But something strange happened in the climb. The weight of the challenges of this life seemed to fade. The weariness in our hearts seemed to fade as the weariness in our legs grew. The heaviness of spirit that comes from the good work of walking alongside so many dear friends through their battles of various kinds seemed to melt away with the sweat and the strain of the climb.

And we saw in the wondrous beauty of Creation a glimmer of an abiding spiritual truth: There are wonders to be seen through the weary, agonizing, struggle of life that simply cannot be experienced when life is easy.

I believe it’s at the heart of what Paul wrote to the Philippians in expressing his greatest longing and desire in his life, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3.10-11)

Suffering is a part of this human existence. It is a universal reality in this beautiful, broken world. But Paul’s desire was to experience the transforming power of Jesus’ resurrection that brings life from death, joy amid suffering, and ultimately everlasting life on the other side of the grave.

In those experiences in knowing Jesus – knowing Him more intimately through our struggles and sorrows and sufferings as well as through the triumphs – we see dimensions of His great love and faithfulness that simply cannot be seen in the days of ease.

In this He gives us more of that which we most need – Himself. In this is grace indeed.

Father, I know that days of anguish and struggle will come. Let me see the wonders of who You are in those inevitable moments and I will know that the pain has not been wasted.

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Beautiful Mess

May 31, 2018

These flowers are growing in my flower bed. I planted them a few seasons ago because my Sweetie loves daisies. I do too now. They’re very resilient and remarkably hearty.

I planted daisies so my wife would see them day after day and know that I love her.

But there are other less intentional results of planting daisies.

I see them and remember why I planted them. I see them in the winter time when everything is brown and dormant and I pull the old dead stuff away. I see them begin to come back each spring with those dark green leaves peaking through the mulch. I see them spread out and fill out and produce those little buds. I see the first flowers and know that there are many more to come.

But sometimes I just see the grass that I can’t seem to get to grow 3 feet away on the other side of the sidewalk and yet somehow thrives in the midst of the daisies. Sometimes I see that annoying nutgrass stalk that, if I pull it out, will somehow multiply and spread even more. Sometimes I see the dead leaves that I didn’t manage to get cleaned out of the flower bed very effectively.

When I look at the various parts of my life, I am beginning to realize that I tend to see the weeds instead of the flowers. I see the messes I’ve made and completely overlook the beauty in the midst of the mess.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying we shouldn’t pull weeds or clean the flower beds. But I’ve walked this earth long enough to know that there will always be more mess. But the inevitable mess grows like weeds from the same rich soil that yields the flowers.

What I’m getting at is that the mess is just a part of this world. The wonder of it all is that so much beauty can grow in the middle of the mess.

I probably don’t have to try very hard to convince you that this world is full of brokenness—mess. But I also don’t have to try too hard to convince you that there is so very much beauty right in the middle of the brokenness.

Yesterday I conducted a funeral service for a very dear, sweet lady who was a very faithful follower of Jesus and tremendous prayer warrior. That loss hurts for many of us. But the joy of the memories we shared with her and even the sharing of those memories together was genuinely sweet.

Sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive experiences. In fact, I believe most joys have a tinge of sorrow—someone we long to have share them that is not able to do so, something that we know would make it so much sweeter. And most sorrows have tinges of joy if we’re willing to see and acknowledge them—having been loved well, having experienced something precious to lose.

I think that our brother James so long ago was challenging us to train our eyes on the joys among the struggles when he wrote these words:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the steadfastness of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1.2-3)

Look for the joy amidst the sorrows, the flowers among the weeds, the beauty in the mess. It doesn’t take away the sorrow or the weeds or the mess. But it does produce a healthy dissatisfaction with what is and a deep longing for what is to come.

And I believe that, the more we long for what will be, the more we will strive to make the mess more beautiful here and now.

Look at the picture again. Don’t ignore the mess. But see the beauty.

The Mess of Failure

December 21, 2017

Failure is something we all have in common. We’ve all experienced it.

In fact, if we’re completely honest with ourselves, it’s a very, very common occurrence in some way or another.

Jesus’ disciples were familiar with this as well. When Jesus was arrested, His followers scattered. Peter followed at a safe distance, but then, when it was suggested that he was with Jesus, he denied that he knew Jesus… 3 times.

In their guilt and fear and lack of understanding, Peter and some of the others went fishing one night. And there, in their failure, Jesus came.

Jesus stepped into the mess of their failure and brought purpose.

Will you SEE HIM – that He is not finished with you despite your failures?

Will you BELIEVE HIM – that there is so much more of Himself that He wants to show you?

Will you KNOW HIM – more and more and more as you walk through this life seeking, following, learning of Him?