Why Does God Say, “Look at Me”?

A child is doing something that she thinks is amazing and calls out, “Look at me!” An adult posts a new selfie on Facebook and asks, “What do you think of the new look?” A husband flexes his muscles before his wife with an expression that communicates, “You’re amazed, right?” We all do it at one time or another, but calling attention to ourselves is usually looked down on.

This is why it can be bewildering as to why God wants us to worship Him, telling Him how great He is. Does God have insecurity issues? Why does He want our attention, our praise and worship?

The great professor of Cambridge and influential author C. S. Lewis addressed this question. Tim Keller in his book, PRAYER, writes and then quotes Lewis on this subject, “If God is the great object of admiration behind all other beauties and magnificence, then to praise and admire him would be [to quote Lewis] ‘simply to be awake, to have entered the real world… we must praise God or live in unreality and poverty.’”

God wants us to praise and worship Him because in doing so we are seeing reality as it really is, that God made everything, sustains everything, and is infinitely greater than it all! To be aware of the visible creation is only part of reality. The bigger part of reality is to understand and respond to the One responsible for it all, and the appropriate response is awe and worship. To fail to respond to God in this way means we have an inaccurate view of reality and that we “don’t get it.”

Life can be far more than an animal-type existence where we simply respond to the material world as experienced by our five senses. We more fully grab all the gusto of this life when we look upward, worshiping, being in awe of, and giving thanks to the One who put us here in the midst of everything that He’s given us!

God lovingly wants us to have a full grasp of reality and that includes having a right view of Him that will lead to the appropriate response of adoration. No, God doesn’t need us to praise and worship Him, but we have a need to do so!

“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 92:1


Right Person, Right Place, Right Time, Right Thing

It was early morning. I was returning to the hospital to visit my wife Diann who was recovering from surgery. After pulling into a tight parking space in the hospital garage I surveyed the situation to see if I had left adequate room on each side of my car. I then observed a young woman doing the same after exiting her car. “Not much room,” I said.

I made my way down the parking ramp, the young woman a few steps behind me. Once past the security guard at the reception desk we both entered the elevator. “You have someone in the hospital?” I asked.

My father just died,” she said with great emotion.

She had apparently been called at home with the news and had rushed to the hospital. Perhaps it was my combined look of surprise and sympathy at her answer or maybe I had a harmless grandfatherly look about me, whatever the reason, she reached out for a comforting quick hug. I said a sentence prayer for her, the elevator door opened, and I stepped out, turned back and said, “God bless you.” The elevator door closed and she continued up to her floor and I to my wife’s room.

A chance encounter? I choose to describe it in different words, it was more like a divine appointment! If God has no trouble keeping the earth spinning around the sun in just the right configuration and at the right velocity and has electrons spinning around the nucleus of the atom in exactly the right way at the right speed and has a gazillion other elements of the creation synchronized in just the right fashion, then He can easily direct your life and mine, if we let Him.

Life’s an adventure when you believe, and act on the belief, that God has His divine appointments for us every day when it comes to the people to see, the things to do, and the places to go. God’s calling for each of us is unique. You and I are the right person in the right place at the right time to do the right thing!

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17

Fourth Week in Advent

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” Not me! We’re spending this Christmas in Florida.

A snowy scene is so much a part of the ambiance of Christmas that there are even lighted snowmen ornaments for sale here in Florida.  Some Christmases we spend in Mexico where they also display lighted snowmen ornaments, and I dare say nine out of ten Mexicans have never seen a real snowman, let alone made one! Think about it; how much of the world never celebrates a white Christmas? Certainly the first Christmas, the Christmas that started all Christmases, the one in Bethlehem, likely didn’t have snow.

I know, if you live in a colder climate it’s nice to have a blanket of snow for Christmas, best yet is a light snowfall on Christmas Eve. I agree, I grew up in Iowa and lived most of my adult life in Michigan. So, for you northerners, I hope your dream comes true.

But let’s all take stock for a moment. There are a lot of trappings of Christmas that we count on for it to be a good Christmas in addition to a Christmas snowfall – Christmas presents, Christmas parties, Christmas trees and decorations, Christmas carols, Christmas ties, sweaters, vests, and socks.

Is this what makes Christmas really Christmas? You know the answer as well as I do. So, as we enjoy many of these “Christmasy” elements let’s not be so distracted by it all that we fail to take the holiday back to its source. I try to be a creative writer so I steer clear of cliches which means I WILL NOT use the cliché, as true as it is, that we should “Keep Christ in _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.” You go ahead and fill in the blanks yourself!

Food Train

Tray of food brought to us by a Food Train participant

During my wife Diann’s recent post-surgery recovery people from our church brought us food on a regular basis for about two weeks. They call it a food train at our church. When someone in the church is going through a difficult time others in the church sign up for the food train on line to provide a meal. When I was told the food train was planning on stopping at our home I explained that I was fully capable of cooking our meals, but they insisted on helping us out in this way.

I argued against the food train coming to our house, but I didn’t argue very hard or very long. I sort of liked the idea of answering the doorbell and having someone standing there with a hot meal ready for us to enjoy! As it turned out the food was far better than any pizza delivery, it came with genuine smiles and a few minutes of warm conversation, and I didn’t have to pay, not even a tip!

Since then we’ve had the opportunity of being part of the food train to take sustenance to someone else in post-surgery recovery. It’s a good system; you help me when I’m down and I help you when you’re down. It takes humility to receive graciously, and it takes love to give graciously. Both can be a challenge.

Accepting help requires that we overcome an over inflated self-esteem that says we don’t need anyone’s help or that we overcome an under inflated self-esteem that says we aren’t worthy of anyone’s help.

A healthy balance on the self-esteem issue is found when we recognize our value comes from being valued by God. Because He also values everyone else, as He does us, and given the fact that we are all but frail people of dust, we’re called by Him to help others and to be helped by others. It’s the divinely established economic system of give and take and take and give!

We’re blessed when we let others help us, and they enjoy being a blessing. We’re a blessing when we help others, and they reap the benefits of being blessed. It’s blessings all around!

“At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” 2 Corinthians 8:14

The Elephant in Our Daily Lives

“It’s the elephant in the room.” The familiar phrase prompts an interesting image, an elephant taking up most of the space in a room. Elephants are big, they can throw their weight around, and they can be noisy as well; if an elephant were in the room it would be difficult to ignore! The phrase is used when referring to a subject that no one wants to talk about because it’s uncomfortable, hard to deal with or controversial, but it’s a subject that’s impossible to ignore.

Lots of topics could be a candidate as the elephant in the room, depending on the people involved and the circumstances being faced. I’m thinking, however, that there’s one subject that beats out all others as being the supreme example of the elephant in the room. That subject is God.

The universe is absolutely huge! There are billions of galaxies with billions of stars in each. The known universe extends over 13 billion light years in size! If God made it all and keeps it all going then He is bigger than it all! In other words there is no bigger subject in the universe than God!

Consider then, too, the fact that God has made us as intelligent beings who are not only self-aware and aware of others, but we’re capable of being aware of Him! Obviously, God has unique plans for us, the pinnacle of His creation.

It doesn’t take, then, a whole lot of thought to come to the conclusion that God matters most, and should matter most to us, for without Him nothing would be that is, including us! Follow the line of logic a bit further and doesn’t it seem to make sense that we should be orienting our lives around Him, if He’s the biggest subject in the universe?

What’s amazing is how we can spend so little of our day thinking about Him and living in response to Him. He’s the ultimate elephant in the room. He doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be ignored!

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Second Sunday in Advent

This is the second week in Advent. Most of us are making preparations for Christmas. We wouldn’t expect gifts to appear magically under the tree without shopping for those gifts and having them wrapped, nor would we expect a Christmas party to come together without the significant work of preparation.

Then why would we expect Christmas to impact us in a profoundly spiritual way without preparation? Let’s be thinking about the Christmas story as we drive here, there, and back again. Let’s reflect on the miracle of it all when we hear the traditional Christmas carols. When we wrap gifts for others or anticipate opening our gifts may it prompt us to think of God’s great gift He unwrapped for us in Jesus’ birth from the womb into the world.

Over the remaining weeks leading up to Christmas may we be led into a deeper appreciation of what’s behind all of the hoopla. May we see the holy hoopla of it all!

First Sunday in Advent

Today begins the first week in Advent. These four weeks leading up to Christmas are to be a time of preparation for being able to fully embrace Christmas, taking it to a level far beyond that of Santa, presents, parties, decorations, etc. Pray with me that with all of the meaningful, nostalgic , and also hectic aspects of this special season that we can take it to the highest level.  This level is where the focus is on Jesus, who was born among us, is the source of this season and the One who can make this season of Christmas all that it’s meant to be!

Better Than Self-Help

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is a phrase that’s been around a long time. My take on the phrase is that you’ve got to succeed and make something of yourself by your own effort.

Of course it really doesn’t work, to lift yourself off the ground by reaching down and pulling on the top of your boots or shoes. So the phrase, though it sounds good, really isn’t true in a literal sense.

Even in a metaphorical sense the principle to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is a fallacy. We all need the help of others. No one’s truly a self-made man or a self-made woman. The old African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” is true not only of children but adults too! To succeed at life is a group effort. In this way we are no different than the ant or the bee; both are social insects, dependent on the colony and hive. There’s no such thing as an ant or a bee thriving on its own.

We all stand on the shoulders of others, and others must stand on our shoulders. It’s shoulders all the way up and all the way down! We’re to look beyond ourself, look around us, doing a horizontal scan of 360 and see how we are all to be there for each other.

But we humans are not only designed for horizontal relationships with each other but also for a vertical relationship with God. Much of what we need to succeed in life is to come from above.

The self-help industry of writers and speakers would have us believe we can unleash the greatness within us in order to be great and do great things. When I look within myself I don’t see everything as being good, not at all. When I watch children play in a nursery, a day care, or on the playground I don’t see perfection, I see very flawed little people who don’t always play fair, and they grow up to be very flawed people, like you and me! English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge stated that “the depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality, but at the same time most intellectually resisted fact.”

Looking within ourselves to become self-actualized is doomed to failure. The answer is to look above us and receive the love, forgiveness, and ever present help and guidance of the God who made us, sustains us, and redeems us!

No, we can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and that’s okay. There’s a far better way to become more of who we were meant to be. Far better than looking within ourselves we’re to reach out and help each other and reach up for the help of God!

“I lift up 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

What Can Be Gained from Pain

The late Fred Rogers, known as Mr. Rogers to millions of children, met a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Mr. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him. The boy was shocked! People had offered to pray for him, but no one had ever asked him to pray for them. He said he would try; since Mr. Rogers was close to God he figured it would be okay.

Tom Junod, doing a profile on Mr. Rogers for Esquire magazine, complimented Mr. Rogers on seeking to build the boy’s self-esteem by requesting prayer. Mr. Rogers replied, “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.” (from an article in the Tampa Bay Times by David Brooks, July 8, 2018)

One of the possible positive ramifications of pain in our lives is that it can deepen our faith, drawing us closer to God, that is, if we choose to let it. I recall a woman named Jane in the church I served in Toledo, Ohio, who went through a lot of pain during her life. Her husband had suffered from a debilitating stroke for years until he died. Her adult son was fighting substance abuse and losing. Jane herself had been diagnosed with cancer and was dying. Yet, as I visited her, I found her to be full of peace and joy! I had come to encourage her, but she encouraged me! This was because she was close to God, not in spite of her pain, but in large measure because of her pain!

No one likes going through a painful experience, you’d be a masochist if you did. Most of us have to admit, however, that going through bad times does often teach us lessons we don’t easily learn during good times.

Painful experiences can make us a bitter person or a better person. One of the ways it can make us a better person is to let it draw us closer to God. We have a choice.

How we respond to God during a painful time is a choice. We can decide to be mad at God, disappointed in Him, or accept the notion that He doesn’t care. Or, we can choose to cry out to God, to reach out to Him, and to trust Him. The journey through problems and pain can take us, as Fred Rogers said, “very close to God.”

“But as for me, afflicted and in pain – may your salvation, God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29)

Limitations Don’t Have to Limit

While Diann and I were hiking a trail in a national park out west we met an older couple also hiking the trail. I can’t recall if I was catching my breath and told him and his wife to pass or how we ended up standing there in a short conversation with them. Turns out he was 81 years old. He walked with a cane, but it certainly didn’t slow him down. Said he had both knees replaced and a hip replacement. He’d had a leg brace for many years. A while later, at the end of the path, I saw him head toward the bathrooms. One was marked “Handicapped,” but he didn’t use it; he entered the regular bathroom.

What a guy, I thought! He had all these physical issues, used a leg brace, and a cane but didn’t see himself as being handicapped! I want to be like him when I grow up to be 81 years old! (Just a note here: Handicap restrooms are vital and necessary for many people who would have a difficult time using a regular facility. I suspect this gentleman, during his recovery from his different health issues also used handicap restrooms. It’s just that, by God’s grace, he apparently no longer needed the special facilities.)

This elderly hiker with the cane and leg brace reminded me of the great truth that limitations don’t have to limit us! We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we respond to what happens to us! The degree to which limitations impact us has far more to do with our attitude than with the circumstances themselves!

There’s story after story in the Bible of people hitting up against difficulties of one kind or another. Part of each of these stories is about how God had a plan through it all for each of these Biblical characters in spite of those difficulties. As long as they kept faith in Him they saw God work things out for the good. It didn’t always mean it worked out the way the person wanted, but it worked out for the best, God’s greater good. The good news is that God calls us to unfold His unlimited possibilities within that which limits us!

“I have learned that everything has limits; but Your ways have limitless possibilities.” (Psalm 119:96, my paraphrase)