Opportunity for Great Joy


What trials are you facing today? Not court proceedings or legal things, what ordeals and hardships make your life hard to bear? You may be facing one or more life trials right now. Life trials bring us pain and suffering. They bring us distress. None of us want them. Yet, if you are drawing breaths, if you are reading these words you know life brings troubles. If you are not in a life trial now, you also know one is coming, likely soon.

What if we could consider life trials as opportunities? No, my sanity is intact. The idea that a trial in life is really an opportunity is not mine. One with infinite wisdom is the originator of the idea that trials in life are a chance for joy. There is an example we could consider.

To begin think about shyness. Call it a fear of people. Perhaps shyness around others is one of your life trials. Our example is a bird. A very shy bird around people. This bird is large, but shy. It would seem that being large would eliminate shyness. For the Pileated Woodpecker shyness is safety. Shyness for this bird is not a trial or trouble, it is an opportunity for protection. Shyness keeps this woodpecker nearly as large as a crow alive.DSC_0003_1532sig

Pileated woodpeckers are found in forests in most of North America. Find them in the hemlock forests of the northwest, the maple forests of the northeast, the cypress swamps of the south and forested places in between including Canada. This big bird likes big trees. Nearly a foot and one half long and weighing almost 1 pound, pileated woodpeckers are bird giants compared to other birds found in the same habitat. Its size, including a jumbo-sized beak allows it to feast on the number one preferred food of its diet: carpenter ants. The colossal beak soft at birth and bone hard in adulthood is an impeccable insect harvesting tool. That is, insects living inside the hardwood of trees. This long-billed wonder can excavate holes in trees nearly 20 inches deep and up to ½ a foot wide at the bottom. John James Audubon, one of America’s premier bird artists, testified of pileated woodpeckers stripping the bark off entire trees to satisfy their ant cravings.  He added that almost always the entrance hole of the pileated nest was found on the fair weather/sun-filled south side of trees. Audubon, a careful observer of nature, also wrote these words about the pileated woodpecker, he noted, “The Pileated Woodpecker is every-where to be found in the wild woods, although scarce and shy in the peopled districts.”DSC_0009edsig

We look at shyness in people as a liability. God put it in the Pileated Woodpecker (and all other animals) to preserve its life.

We see shyness in the pileated woodpecker. But in the bird, it is not a trial, it is a gift from God. And God has given us his words regarding life trials, … Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your perseverance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your perseverance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:2-5

Let’s go back to your current trial(s)in life. Can you really count them as joy, even “great” joy? There are many reasons why the answer is yes. A big reason has feathers. You can see it. God cares for and protects the magnificent pileated woodpecker. He has given it everything it needs: beak, long tongue, stiff balance giving tail, large body, loud call, even long life; and yes- shyness. God freely provides all these gifts for a bird of his creation.DSC_0013edsig

You are different. God loves you. He knows your heart. He knows the trials you are facing. He knows the trials you will face in the days ahead. He never leaves you. In his eternal Word, the Bible, he tells us to “consider it an opportunity for great joy” when we encounter trials.  Really? Yes, certainly. We have evidence God’s Word is true. One clear indication He has given to us is a large billed, loud and very shy woodpecker.

Are you in a deep trial today? You could let the trial destroy you. Or, you could take God’s word and consider it an opportunity for great joy.


Fear Remover

Fear. We have many of them. What is fear? Strong fear is terror. Milder fear is dread, possibly anxiety, distress could work too. Fright is fear. So are panic and alarm. Fear is a human response to living. Fear is an unfortunate reality we face each day.

We can list the things we humans fear most. Surprisingly failure comes before fear of death. Third in the top ten is rejection followed by ridicule and loneliness at 4 and 5. These fears can overwhelm our waking hours and bring sleepless nights. These fears drive us to seek professional help for relief.DSC_0024_1150sig

Animals have fear also. They fear humans. This fear applies to large predators. It seems the mountain lion would have little to fear of humans. Yet, a graduate study of mountain lions in the southern Santa Cruz mountains of California seems to confirm the innate fear mountain lions have of humans. When natural sounds, a frog calling, were played the mountain lion continued its behavior. (eating a deer carcass) But when the same lion, at the same carcass, heard a human voice it fled.

In our current culture we are unsure of the reason for this fear of humans. We question whether this fear is genetically inborn, or perhaps the animals’ environments. We also consider the possibility that it is a combination of these. There are a number of other theories. As we ask other people for an explanation of this real and tangible animal fear of humans, we find most are unsure.DSC_0025_1151sig

There is an unambiguous and understandable explanation for this found in the Bible. After the flood, God spoke to Noah and his sons and told them that “fear and dread of them would fall on all of the beasts of the earth.” This same fear and dread has created a strong demand for the telephoto lens. The goose, woodpecker, swans and the deer in the photos provide visible proof.

Return with me to the reality of human fears. While other humans can help allay our fears and even overcome them, the same God who put fear of humans in animals speaks to us about our fears. God’s words are plain. The eternal, living God of the universe speaks to all of us in plain words filled with comfort. God says, “I am with you.”

What are you afraid of today?  Is it simple like spiders and snakes? Or much deeper. You have failed: in a job, with a friend, perhaps your marriage. You’ve been rejected even ridiculed-by friends, family or worse a spouse. You feel completely alone. Perhaps you’ve been given the numbing news by your doctor that you are dying. And right now, life seems wrecked for you. Your fears are overwhelming.

Listen to these words again: God says, “I am with you.” There is no other book like the Bible. It is God’s speech to us. Do you know how many times God says, “I am with you” in the Bible? 21. Twenty-one times God speaks to people in the Bible and assures them they are not alone with their fear. That’s 21 times from the beginning of time till the time Jesus walks with his disciples.

“I am with you.” God speaks these words to you now, today. The One who put fear of humans in animals REMOVES fear in humans. Yes, God is with you. Just tell Him your fears. He knows them already. We are never alone. The perfect love of God casts out fear.DSC_0070_1154sig

Prescribed Fire

When fire burns in your life, expect God to be at work purifying your life for His purposes.

Think about fire, like ablaze, flames and conflagration. We do not want to be trapped in fire, but what if fire was good for us?

What is fire? There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. Physical fire is heat and light; and more. It is a chemical reaction and when a fire burns it is called combustion. The chemical reaction is with oxygen and a fuel gas. Not gasoline, but the gas released when fuel is heated above a specific temperature. In the photos, the fuel is a handful of twigs from our lawn. Dry leaves started this fire. When small twigs just above the leaves reached a temperature of 300°F, the heat began to decompose the cellulose material in the wood. As the fire began, smoke formed. Smoke is a blend of the compounds of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. As long as there is fuel and oxygen a fire will continue to burn.DSC_0033sig

The fire in the photos was controlled. It was pleasant and gave off a comfortable heat and an agreeable aroma of wood smoke. Uncontrolled fire is dangerous and causes death and often significant destruction of property. We humans fear fire in an uncontrolled situation. We should.

There is secure kind of fire. A prescribed fire is one recommended by a biologist. Biologists responsible for the health of habitats regularly use prescribed fire to maintain optimal plant growth, return nutrients to soil, minimize the spread of plant species not native to a habitat, and generally improving live in a food web. It seems counterintuitive, but prescribed fire is beneficial. Centuries before settlement and increased populations, fire was a normal and restorative part of forest, and prairie habitats.

Fire has a role in our spiritual lives. It is at times, destructive, but it can also be highly beneficial.  The Bible speaks of fire in both ways: destructive and beneficial. It describes God as “a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29 God uses fire to strengthen us. This is the spiritual fire. Call this fire trial.

No human living enjoys life trials. Yet, God allows us to experience them even suffer in life trials. Why would God do that? Doesn’t the Bible tell us God is love? How can a loving God allow us to suffer trials? They hurt, bring pain, and heartache.

God knows what life trials do for us. Physical fire purifies metal. Fires burns away impurities and leaves pure metal. Earthly trials for humans burn away human impurities: pride, ego, coveting-you know-all of the things we humans do which fail to meet God’s standards. God is the author of earthly trial (fire) He prescribes it. He knows exactly how much fire you can withstand. While the fiery trial rages in your life God is watching. He knows when you can stand no more, He knows when the trial has done its purifying work. Think of it, is there anyone in the universe who knows you better than God the Father? There is no one. Besides this truth, remember another, God loves us. His love is perfect and unchanging.

Are you experiencing a fiery trial? Turn your heart to God. Tell Him about the fire. He is allowing it. Seek His strength. While it may hurt, let the trial (fire) do its work. When God prescribes a fire, He knows what it will do for you. In a fire now? Trust God. He is working the purification of your heart

…everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it (YOU) shall be clean… Numbers 31:23DSC_0049sig

Perfect Peace

The English language is filled with abundant and descriptive terms. For me synonyms are a delight to explore. Look with me at the word peace.  Its synonyms are calm, quiet, stillness, tranquility, silence, harmony and serenity. Peace also means goodwill. It is a word few humans would deny they wish for in their life.

Five months ago, my mind was on peace. It has been on my mind many times since, but especially again today.

When we face trials, we think about peace. There may be suffering or difficulty in a trial, but peace is not associated with life struggles. Yet peace can be in every trial, every heart ache, every struggle. If an entrepreneur could develop a device, something electronic with a screen would sell, or perhaps a mixture of special herbs for an aroma of peace. Whatever the invention, it’s creator would become wealthy beyond imagination.DSC_0078_244sig

Yet, peace is already available. It is free. Peace can be found outside, in natural settings. There is peace by a flowing stream, a quiet lake, beneath a stately tree, or on a vast expanse of grass. There is peace in the midst of a city with the sound of traffic in each ear.

Fortunately, this peace cannot and will never be invented. This peace was created, perfectly, freely for everyone who needs it. The Creator of this peace is God. This peace is referred to as “the peace of God”. Think of it. Calm, quiet, stillness, tranquility, silence, harmony and serenity-and goodwill. Each blended in perfect quantities which provide a true peace for each human heart. This kind of peace cannot be found in any human enterprise or invention. This peace surpasses human understanding. Nothing on earth is its equal, this peace does not originate on earth, it comes from God alone.

We know the task of a guard. A guard protects, watches, and shields. The peace of God is specifically described as a guard. This is not any guard-this is God! He never succumbs to the failures of human guards. God never slumbers or sleeps. God is everywhere present, wherever you may be on earth. He is at your hand. How close is that?

God knows all things. He knows before your enemy approaches. And, God is all powerful. No enemy you will ever face can overcome Him. This peace, the peace of God is real. Look at the flowers, they do not work, they do make their own clothes, yet their blossoms take our breath away. God provides for them. You are of much more value to Him than them.DSC_0005_330sig

Do you need peace? Tell God. He is near, His peace is available now.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7DSC_0064_241sig

No Secret Place

DSC_0032_207sigDo you have secrets? Thought so. Me too. We think our secrets are confidential, ours alone. They are private for no one else. Secrets are personal. They are things we want concealed. There are good secrets, like a surprise gift. Then there are the ugly ones we do not want to talk about.
Some secrets are embarrassing. We hold these private because they might embarrass us. Some secrets are painful. They hurt too much to share.
There are the mega secrets. These are embarrassing and painful. We want no exposure on these.
We keep secrets about our lies, our thefts, our bitter anger, our lusts and how we resent others. We live with ugly secrets.
We fear what others may think. We fear what others may say. So, we keep secrets.
We keep our secrets so well that we get used to the ugliness of some of them. We fool ourselves. We think our secrets aren’t so bad.
There are times when being able to escape to a thundercloud to hide alone seems good. Other times it seems perfect to escape to a wilderness. These places seem like safe ones for secrets. It is not possible to hide secrets in either place.
Why do we delude ourselves thinking we can keep secrets?
Yes, we may keep others from knowing our biggest embarrassments and greatest hurts. Truth is, we cannot keep secrets. Not one, ever. Every human secret from the beginning of time to now is known. God knows them all. He knows all of yours and all of mine.
“Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?
Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24.
Even if you could hide in a thundercloud or a wilderness-God is there, always. There are no secrets with God.
But wait, since no one can hide from God, no one can keep a secret from God, consider the other truth: all-knowing God loves us. Why keep a secret from God? His love is perfect, never-failing. He forgives; all, always, forever. Tell Him your secrets. He waits for you to share your burdens. Give your secrets to God. Run to Him with your secrets. There isn’t one He does not already know about. You can be free of your secret burdens.


DSC_0107_031Trouble- it may be a problem, or a difficulty. Trouble causes worry and brings distress, even anxiety. It causes suffering. My guess is trouble came in some form to you today. If it didn’t, there will be trouble soon. Our world is filled with it. Everyone has it. Trouble is part of being human.

What is the solution to trouble? Can it be overcome? The answer is yes.

My name is David. There was a king who had my name first. King David had trouble, an ocean of it. Trouble pursued him before he was king. A king wanted David dead. Kings command armies. This king commanded his army to kill David. When the king’s army was hunting him David wrote these words, “For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.” Psalm 27:5

Who was David speaking of? God. David trusted God to conceal him, hide him, and place him out of reach on  high rock-of trouble. God did.DSC_0082_022

But, you say, that was long ago. Today’s troubles are different. How can an invisible God keep me when I am in trouble? This makes no sense.

Go outside for the answer. Find a rock, any size you can hold in your hand. Oh, bring a copy of this with you. Read the next words out loud. He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! (Deuteronomy 32:4)

We know about rock. Our trouble solution is the rock Maker.  God is our perfect ROCK. In trouble?  Go to the ROCK (God). Bring your all your troubles to Him. You will find Him always perfect, just and fair. Can you imagine a rock as big as God? Hold that little rock, and say the words of Deuteronomy 32:4 aloud again. What is the solution to earthly trouble? The Creator of earth, of you, and I and the rock you hold. He knows your trouble-before you knew it. He loves you, go to Him. Just tell Him your trouble. We can all share our combined troubles at the same time. He hears each of us and keeps the universe in order while He does.


The Full Earth

DSC_0043_116sigHow was your day? Yes, busy. Likely stressful. Perhaps you have suffered pain, physical and emotional. Maybe you feel like a wreck.

Whether your day is ending or just beginning, consider this truth. The everlasting God of the universe-the universe you and I live in, loves you. Even though it may not feel like it-We are in His faithful perfect care. He tells us in His word the Bible that He will never leave or forsake us. It was King David who wrote these words in the Bible about God; For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. Psalm 33:4-5

Stop what you are doing, step outside, take a deep breath. Tilt your chin to the sky, remind yourself, the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. Say them out loud.