Countdown to Retirement

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Note: I am resuming writing a blog after taking a sabbatical from blog writing. I hope to continue until I retire in April of this year.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven”. Ecclesiastes 3:1 

Ever since getting a smart phone, I have been constantly amazed at all the things it can do and all the apps that are available for use. Over a year ago, I downloaded an app called “Countdown”. I was able to input an event and a date and the app would begin a countdown to the appointed time.

I entered the event, “Retirement”, and the date as April 30, 2019. Every time I access the app, it gives me a countdown to the appointed time of my retirement. As I am writing this article, the app is telling me that I have 10 weeks, 5 days, 14 hours, 7 minutes and 29 seconds to my appointed time of retirement. 

Why do I consider my retirement as an “appointed time”? The writer of Ecclesiastes has said it very clearly and concisely. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. Intrinsic in this verse and the verses that follow is the idea that there is a time for things to begin and a time for things to end. 

As my time at Evergreen SGV is drawing to a close, I have had multiple opportunities to reflect upon the decades gone by. We had a Staff Retreat where everyone was able to share words of affirmation to me and me to them. We have had a Board Retreat were affirmations were shared between me and my fellow leaders.

In the midst of those two retreats, a myriad of memories were shared of the things for which we are grateful. We communicated stories of human drama and relational joys. We regaled one another with the things we witnessed as God did His thing with His people at Evergreen over the years. 

In retrospect, one thing was very evident as we relished the present moments pondering the precious past. God has been very good to us. He has been with us every step of the journey. He has seen us through thick and thin. He has undergirded us in times of trial. He has comforted us in time of heavy-heartedness. He has uplifted us in times of great victories and joyful triumphs.

As the countdown continues, I become more aware of the paternal presence of the Father, the saving grace of the Son and the prodigious power of the Holy Spirit. We have been so very blessed over the years. 

With the seconds ticking toward an inevitable conclusion, my heart is filled with thanksgiving for the people of Evergreen and the Good and Great Shepherd who has led us every step of the way.

Do you have a countdown happening in your life? Please remember that God is in control and He has an appointed time for every event under heaven.

Something to think about…

God’s Megaphone (Part 4 of 4)

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“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

First thought: If you are currently going through a painful experience, it may be difficult for you to read what I am writing. 

Second thought: God does not cause suffering.

Third thought: It is important to seek and derive meaning in our suffering.

Fourth thought: Relief from pain and suffering may not be the main Christian answer to pain and suffering.

Fifth thought: Healing from within suffering is as wonderful as healing from suffering. 

Sixth thought: We need to show readiness to suffer alongside the people whose suffering never gets healed.

And now, the final thought. 

Final Thought: God sees things differently than we do.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” 

God’s thoughts are higher than our grandest thoughts. God’s plans are better than our greatest plans. God sees things differently than we do.

We see ordeals... God sees opportunities. 

We see pain… God sees purpose. 

We see suffering… God sees steadfastness.

We see shattered dreams… God sees the pieces for a new beginning.

Something to think about…

God’s Megaphone (Part 3 of 4)

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“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

First thought: If you are currently going through a painful experience, it may be difficult for you to read what I am writing.

Second thought: God does not cause suffering. 

Third thought: It is important to seek and derive meaning in our suffering. 

Fourth thought: Relief from pain and suffering may not be the main Christian answer to pain and suffering.

Here are the next two thoughts.

Fifth thought: Healing from within suffering is as wonderful as healing from suffering.

Lewis Smedes wrote, “Healing from within suffering is as wonderful as healing from suffering. God gives inner strength that compensates for loss, and gives the sufferer resourcefulness to live faithfully and effectively.”

I personally marvel at people whom I know who live in constant pain and do not disclose the presence of pain by the way they live. With God’s help, they have received healing from within their pain and suffering and can live with joy in the midst of their pain and suffering.

Sixth thought: We need to show readiness to suffer alongside the people whose suffering never gets healed.

Professor Smedes wrote that as Christians, we tend to "expect and celebrate God's triumph over our suffering while we show little readiness to suffer for the people whose suffering never gets healed."

We should never shy away from those whose pain and suffering continues in the midst of persistent prayer and exhaustive endeavors at remedy. We should join them in their pain and suffering. We can’t give them answers we don’t have, but we can give them our presence and our support. In other words, we just love them.

Something to think about…

God’s Megaphone (Part 2 of 4)

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“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis 

First thought: If you are currently going through a painful experience, it may be difficult for you to read what I am writing.

Second thought: God does not cause suffering.

Let me continue the thoughts.

Third thought: It is important to seek and derive meaning in our suffering. 

Vicktor Frankl was a World War II Concentration Camp Survivor. He wrote that “When we suffer, the single most important ingredient is seeing purpose in it. Lack of purpose breeds hopelessness; purpose imparts the strength to sustain. Suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning.”

Brother Lawrence, a Seventeenth Century Monk wrote that “To suffer is one thing, to suffer without meaning is another, but to suffer and choose not to press for any meaning is different again.”

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 

Included in the verses are two little words, which speak volumes, “…so that”. Paul wants give meaning to our afflictions.

Fourth thought: Relief from pain and suffering may not be the main Christian answer to pain and suffering.

(Thoughts four through six come from one of my professors, Lewis Smedes)

Lewis Smedes wrote, “Ministries of healing are not the main Christian answer to suffering. At their very best, they eliminate a particular suffering of a particular person. They do not remove all suffering from life, and there are still many others suffering the same suffering that was just healed. The healings are signs "that God is alive, that Christ is Lord, and that suffering is not the last word about human existence".

If you are in the midst of pain and suffering, perhaps it would be wise to accept that God will eventually give meaning to it all even if you don’t feel it and that relief from your ordeal may not be the main answer from God.

Something to think about…