Archives For struggle

Unexpected Journeys

Jeff Olson —  June 16, 2011 — 2 Comments

Unexpected journeys. Little and big…life is full of them. A quick trip to the store turns into a car accident and a long night in the emergency room. The drive home from work turns into into break down on the highway and a long wait for tow truck. A call on the cell phone turns into the news that someone you loved has passed away.

We can negotiate the little journeys of life–mostly. The big journeys, however,  can turn our lives upside down.

I have a friend who just started down one of those big journeys this week. His cancer is back, and he is having a bone marrow transplant. This is an aggressive treatment that requires extensive chemotherapy,  a long stay in the hospital and  several months of isolation to complete. This is not at all how he and his wife expected to spend their summer and fall.

Unexpected journeys…the big ones can certainly rock our worlds. Some of us have a solid faith like my friend. As he enters this journey, I genuinely see in him what David wrote about in Psalm 23:4

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”

Others of us have more of a struggle. We go through times like David wrote about in Psalm 22:1

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?”

God is gracious God who meets us where we are. During those unexpected journeys there are times for both Psalm 22 and Psalm 23.



Word of God Speak

Jeff Olson —  June 2, 2011 — 8 Comments

A few Sunday’s ago, I was in a funk as I was driving alone to church. For many reasons, I wasn’t in a good place that morning emotionally and spiritually. I was praying, trying to tell God where I was at, but it didn’t seem like I was getting any traction.

As I struggled, the song Word of God Speak by the group Mercy Me came on the radio. It’s a song I’ve heard dozens of times, but this time the words of the first verse pierced me:

I’m finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it’s okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Whoah! I found myself chuckling at the timely message.

Yes, there are times to unload and get things off our chests. But in the end, being heard is not as important as hearing what God would say to us.

After pulling into our church parking lot, I took a few minutes alone in my car before heading in. Quieting my heart, I listened to that still small voice of the Spirit. What I heard rescued me. It wasn’t a lot, but it was just what my uncertain heart needed.

The song Word of God Speak goes on to say:

I’m finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

“Be still, and know that I am God”…Psalm 46:10.



A Change of Plans

Tim Jackson —  August 18, 2010 — 7 Comments

Does your life go just the way you had it planned? Mine sure doesn’t. The question is, how do you respond when your plans change? Or maybe better said, how do you respond when your plans get changed?

I recently returned from a 20-day vacation to the American West with my wife and 3 adult children. (Now you know why I haven’t been posting anything over the past several weeks.) We’ve dreamed about and have been planning a trip like this for years and finally all the stars aligned to make it possible. We drove 5,000 miles (Yes, that’s 5 with 3 zeros!) and were privileged to enjoy the rugged beauty of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. All in all it was a fantastic, memory-making trip of a lifetime for us.

But we also had our fair share of hiccups along the way . . . primarily in the area of vehicle challenges with the vintage 1973 motor home we inherited from my in-laws. Both before we left and occasionally throughout the trip, we encountered obstacles that we had to overcome. At times I had visions of our adventure becoming a sadistically laughable tag line for yet another Chevy Chase/National Lampoon vacation movie gone bad.

Prior to the trip, the old machine spend over a month in the shop to diagnose and fix a faulty electrical system. After getting the green light to go,  we subsequently blew a power steering hose as we were literally pulling out of the drive way. I’m not kidding! I envisioned our trip draining out with the fluid leaking all over the road. We quickly rushed to the garage and begged our mechanic to craft a new hose (because, of course, you can’t find a hose at the local parts store for a 1973 motor home on short notice). Masterfully he completed the task the same day and twelve hours later than we’d planned we again departed on our long anticipated adventure . . . before something else could go wrong and scuttle the whole dream.

We encountered several additional “mechanical” challenges along the way (like a broken alternator one day out and a faulty battery connection that stopped us dead in our tracks for a couple of hours when we were just 10 hours from home). But, those are only part of the story.

We returned on schedule  and I had visions of blogging about all the things God had inspired me to write about and share with you all . . . and then my plans were changed.

I had allowed for a couple days at home to take care of unpacking and cleaning up the home front prior to getting back into the saddle at the office (pardon the shameless western metaphor but I couldn’t resist). Much was needed after being gone almost 3 weeks–mowing the overgrown lawn, repairing the motor home, weeding the 3-foot high weeds that were threatening to totally overrun my vegetable garden. Sunday afternoon I bent over to pick up a bolt that had fallen to the floor in my garage. I tried to straighten back up but couldn’t. Ouch! Literally! The familiar sharp pain in my lower back told me I was in trouble. Shoot! That’s not what I had planned.

I’m not unfamiliar to back pain. Six years ago I went down with a bulging disk in my low back. It took 6 months to rehab it. While this present pain was not as bad, it was another warning bow shot that I had been neglecting to take care of my body during vacation. Now it was time to pay the price and there was no discussion about it.

So what do you feel when your plans are foiled? I must confess that quite often the first place I go is frustration. “Awe come on! No! Not now! I’ve got too much to do!” My response can quickly dissolve into complaint that morphs into anger and then sinks into despair. “Fine. Forget it! Why bother? It never works out anyway!”

Fortunately, I don’t stay there as long as I use to. And thankfully, God has been patient with my slow growth. Being willing to ask, “Okay, God, what are you up to now?” has been a major shift in my heart and demeanor. Back pain has been used of God to force me to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).

In times of disappointment, struggle, pain, and changes in my well-laid plans, a belief that has grown into a deep and abiding conviction over the years is this simple but reassuring truth: God is up to something good all the time no matter what. Whether I feel it, see it, or experience it at the moment, doesn’t change the reality that God is always involved and at work in all the details of our lives. I believe that. And that sure helps me handle the changes of plans that get thrown my direction.

So how about you? I’d love to hear how you’ve battled, struggled, and worked through your response to game-changing plans in your life.

Pulling Weeds

Tim Jackson —  July 7, 2009 — 1 Comment

boys-weeding-flickr1Weeds. I hate them. I remember as a kid that I always dreaded taking my turn weeding the family garden. Hot, sweaty, bugs, and those contemptible and irresistible weeds. The clay soil in our garden was so hard that pulling a weed was next to impossible. I sometimes secretly wondered if my dad just decided that he wanted to have a garden to torture me and my brothers with the chore of weeding.

So why do I find myself spending time off after work in the evenings and on weekends on my hands and knees or with a hoe weeding my own garden? I mean, I remember vowing to never have a garden when I grew up. But here I am, weeding again, and not because I have to but because I want to. I must be in need of some serious therapy. Right? Okay, maybe not, but how is it that what I loathed as a young boy is something I choose as a man?

It’s because the weeds aren’t the only things I remember from my boyhood home in Central Pennsylvania. I also remember the succulent bi-color sweet corn, the zucchini,  the scallions, and those luscious Big Boy tomatoes that came later. And I must confess that I devoured my fair share of BLT’s, fried zucchini, and butter-drenched corn that always ended up dripping from my chin. The joy of the harvest from your own soil tastes sweeter, richer, and is far more satisfying than anything bought from a  store.

The weeds are also theological to me. Weeding always reminds me of  Genesis 3:17-19, the gender specific curse on the man. “Thorns and thistles” are a product of the Fall and the Curse in the Garden of Eden. “Painful toil” and “the sweat of your brow” are the guarantee of a hard life that has its fair share of struggle and turmoil for each of us, regardless of whether we plant a garden in our backyards or not.  And the weeding–it never ends.

Weeding is a constant necessity if you want to enjoy fruitfulness in this life. Neglect the weeds, and you’ll be overrun, overwhelmed, and be tempted to just give up. And if you give up, the joy of harvest will be stolen.

So, what’s it going to be? Is there a plot of your “life’s garden” that needs some attention? Is your fruitfulness being stolen because you’ve been neglecting your weeding? Are you ready to get on your knees and start pulling those nasty weeds? I hope so.juciy-red-tomato-flickr

And remember: there is a delicious harvest if we do our weeding well.