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No Shadow of Turning

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift descends from above, from The Father of lights with whom there is no change nor a shadow of turning.”

As a boy, then as a young man, I experienced some things that no one should ever have to endure. From the age of nine until my first year of marriage at age twenty-six, I lived with anger, self-doubt, and deep emotional pain. I felt as if God had completely forgotten me and had left me vulnerable and unprotected. As a result, at the age of nineteen, I began abusing drugs and alcohol. I could barely live with the pain and the shame. These substances temporarily numbed the pain. But when they wore off, the pain was still there… sometimes even greater than before. Although I didn’t always see it at the time, looking back, I can see times where God sent “angels” to me at my darkest moments. At my deepest moment of pain, contemplating suicide, I felt the touch of Jesus’ hand and heard His gentle voice speaking His peace and love to me. This is a moment I will never forget.

During my first year of marriage, I was able to, with the help of God, my wife, Brenda and some good and godly counselors, finally conquer the pain and endless self questioning. Never during this time did my dad or my wife reject me or judge me.  They just loved me, prayed for me, and continued to reach out to me… although at times I’m sure they had their own questions, they showed me only their love.

This life can bring some hard but important lessons. I learned some lessons about my father, whose love carried me when I could not carry myself. I learned some lessons about my wife, whose strength and courage bolstered me at my weakest moments. Most of all, I learned a life-altering lesson about God.  The Bright Shadow of God is a constant. It exists without change, without fail!

As humans, we falter. We can utterly fail. We are painfully flawed. But we have a Father who is perfect. He longs to give us every good gift. He desires the very best for us. He never changes. His Bright Shadow never moves away from us.

Looking back on my life I can clearly see all the moments where His Bright Shadow fell upon my life, bringing His overwhelming love and comfort. Occasionally we will reject Him. Our pain can blind us to His love. We can turn away from His love, even blame Him for our pain. But we have a patient and loving Father. He is there, even when we are not fully aware. He gently draws us under His Bright Shadow.

He never changes.

His compassion and love are constant.

As He always was, He will always be.

He is faithful and true.

He LOVES us… and His immense faithfulness endures throughout eternity.

There is no shadow of turning!


Renewed Wonder

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through Him and for Him.

~ Colossians 1:15-16

Children seem capable of seeing the invisible almost as if it is more tangible and real than the immediate reality.  They can easily penetrate beyond the veil of signs and perceive their meaning as if no barrier existed at all between the visible and the invisible.  Adults, on the other hand, seem to have an inveterate suspicion of anything invisible.  If we cannot confirm something via sight and touch, then we grow leery of it.

Yet so many of the things that we rely on the most in life are in fact invisible:  sound, oxygen, electricity, the wind, the internet, love.  We never see the gasoline we put in our car.  And while it is natural for Christians to grow in their faith by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, we have to wonder where our preschool ability to “see” the invisible went.

A sense of wonder is the right thing when it comes to faith.  Jesus remains “invisible” to reawaken childlike wonder in us.  If we want to be able to experience the “Bright Shadow of God”, then we need to regain our wonder.  In regaining our wonder, our humanity blossoms in a way it never could otherwise.  Wonder is the strongest expression of one’s self.  When we wonder, we are the most attuned to the “mystery” of the invisible.   Book knowledge cannot lead us to the infinite.  When we are devoid of wonder, we remain deaf to the sublime.

Can we regain our wonder?  The surest and quickest way to restart our wonder is to undauntedly focus on a single object.  In one astounding moment the object of our focus will seem as if we have never seen it before.  Our wonder is then revived.  Focusing on the invisible God, we begin to see the Bright Shadow.  What we look at hard seems to look back at us.  Ultimately, we will receive the likeness of that which we fix the eyes on.

I want to be surprised again with the invisible presence of Christ.  I want my life to be filled with wonder again.  I want to stand in the Bright Shadow of God.


Realignment

I recently purchased a new car.  I periodically take my car in for service to keep it running smoothly.  I also take it to a professional to have it realigned.  This extends the life of my car and improves its performance.

I also visit my Chiropractor on a regular basis to get an adjustment/realignment for my back.  It’s sometimes uncomfortable, but necessary to keep me walking tall and functioning at my optimal ability.  Again, I trust a professional.  Can you picture doing your own chiropractic adjustment?

The visits to my regular physician help me to be aware of my physical health.  These visits help me to align my lifestyle to a healthier perspective.

For all of these alignments I go to the professionals.  These are things I can’t do for myself.  Not knowing the proper techniques or having the right tools for these adjustments, I would be in trouble.

In the same way, our heart, mind, and soul need regular realignment.  I wouldn’t let my car or my body fall into disrepair… even more so, my heart, mind, and soul require maintenance.  Driving a car that hasn’t been aligned is destructive to the life of the vehicle.  Living without realigning is even more destructive and perilous.

So, how do I keep aligned spiritually?  Once again, I don’t trust this adjustment to a non-professional.  I can’t do it myself.  I must turn to God’s word for guidance.  Spiritual alignment is required daily.  Our minds are bombarded with thoughts and ideas that can easily throw off our spiritual alignment.  A few moments spent with the One who fearfully and wonderfully made us will bring us back into alignment with His plan, His purpose, His will.

Lord, help me to look to You each day.  Help me to stay aligned with Your plan and purpose for my life.  Amen.

I am reminded of the words from an old chorus:

“Change my heart oh God,
Make it ever true.
Change my heart oh God,
May I be like You.

You are the potter,
I am the clay,
Mold me and make me,
This is what I pray.”


Manners

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”  ~ Romans 12:10

I remember hearing my mother say, “Where are your manners, young man?”

In our home, “please” and “thank you” were not optional… they were a requirement for proper, respectful behavior.  This seemed to remain a constant until the 1960’s and 1970’s arrived.  The social rebellion and disrespect for others seemed to creep into the fabric of American society.  Common courtesies from the prior generation disappeared.

In a sense, this verse in Romans reminds us of our manners.  God wants us to treat each other kindly, with respect, with honor… to sympathize with each other and to keep a humble attitude.

Indeed, we can get frustrated with one another… we will get annoyed at situations… we will get impatient with traffic… we will get frustrated with co-workers, family, friends.  This verse reminds us to watch our attitude… to watch how we respond.

Another scripture in 1 Peter says it in a little different way…

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters.  Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”  ~ 1 Peter 3:8

Lord, help me to be kind, thoughtful, loving, tenderhearted, and humble!  ~ Amen


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