The loudest voice in your life

Group cuddle, c. 1952 – mom, me, and teddy bear, one of my favorite toys.

“Is God’s voice the loudest voice in your life?  That’s the question.  If the answer is no, that’s the problem.”- Mark Batterson, Whisper

“They [the Emmaus disciples] said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened the Scriptures?’ “- Luke 24:32 (ESV)

After many hours of labor, my mother Elinor gave birth to me on July 3, 1951.  Since Dr. Hauck, mom’s physician, determined I wouldn’t survive a natural birth, he performed a Caesarean section.  Mom later described the first physical features she noticed, my “big, bright blue eyes and beautiful hands with long, slender fingers.  In her hospital room, her whispering spot, God’s voice was the loudest voice.  And mom leaned toward His whisper.

As a result, mom probably thought of her twin brother Elmer, who asked for violin lessons at the age of nine.  Beginning with the second semester of his freshman year at North Division High School in Milwaukee, Uncle Elmer was chosen to play in the senior orchestra.  Eventually, he held the seat next to the concert master.

At the age of three, my parents bought me an inexpensive portable record player.  My first choice of records consisted of an album of marches.  Also, mom and dad enrolled me in a record club, introducing me to classical music.   Furthermore, as an alto in Ashburn Lutheran’s Children’s Choir, my sense of pitch kept me from getting thrown off-key by the sopranos.

Writing in Whisper:  How to Hear the Voice of God, Mark Batterson notes God possesses an outside voice He’s not afraid to use.  However, when God really wants us to hear Him – because what He needs to say carries great importance – He speaks in a whisper.  Just above the absolute threshold of hearing.  As Pastor Batterson explains, when someone speaks in a whisper, you must get very close to hear:

“We lean toward a whisper, and that’s what God wants.  The goal of hearing the heavenly Father’s voice isn’t just hearing His voice, it’s intimacy with Him.  That’s why He speaks in a whisper.  He wants to be as clos to us as divinely possible!  He loves us, likes us, that much.”

Through the silence of proactive listening, we battle daily against the competing voices within us.  But with each small victory, God’s voice gets a little louder in our lives.  With perseverance, God’s voice becomes the only voice we hear.  To bring this to fruition requires listening with more than our outer ear.  We need to give God a second hearing with our inner ear.  As a result, His truth gets from our head to our heart of hearts.

The loudest voice in your life defines the image that shapes you.  This Easter, tune your inner ear to God’s whisper.  Come awake to the loudest voice in your life.

“Christ is risen from the dead/ We are one with Him again/ Come awake, come awake/ Come and rise up from the grave.”- Matt Maher

My God — the strength of my soul

Winter, 1953 – On the sidewalk in front of our first home, Dad prepares to take me for a ride in my Radio Super. Note: he’s the one WITHOUT a proper hat!!

“Surely God is the strength of my soul/Your love defends me, Your love defends me/ And when I feel like I’m all alone/ Your love defends me, Your Love defends me.”- Matt Maher

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.”- Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

“It is the nature of love to bind itself.”- G. K. Chesterton, A Defence of Rash Vows

In January of 1953, when I was eighteen months old, my parents purchased their first home on West 89th Place in Evergreen Park, IL.  As a result, they moved a little over three miles southwest from their apartment at 65th and Maplewood.  Located in the Marquette Park neighborhood of Chicago, their building nestled closely with other apartments and brick bungalows.

Due to a severe attack of gastritis at fifteen months, it took another two months for me to walk unassisted.  However, as Mom wrote in her account of my early years: “Once you started, you ran everywhere.”  Perhaps that’s one reason they made the major financial commitment to home ownership in spacious Evergreen Park.  I needed freedom to roam the suburbs!

In the story behind “Your Love Defends Me,” singer/songwriter Matt Maher offers the following observation.  He states that our society finds itself increasingly less and less capable of sitting still.  Thus, what people do at any particular moment defines them.  Furthermore, we live in an age where everyone’s fighting for some type of cause.  Yet, to achieve that cause, we must do the exact opposite.  Like the Israelites facing the menacing Egyptian army near the Red Sea, God wants us to stand over there and wait.

That requires commitment, the foundation of intimacy.  For without commitment, there’s no trust.  And without trust, we lack intimacy.  In addition, since God created us in His commitment-making, commitment-keeping image, we’re drawn to commitments.  Yet, the very idea frightens some people.  Because they perceive that commitment limits freedom.  In truth, commitment paves the pathway to freedom.  Therefore, when you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, commit yourself to a noble calling of God, He releases His power in your life.  You find yourself.

Finally, as John Ortberg encourages in I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me, God remains faithful:

“Because of grace.  Because God is a commitment-keeping God, and at the cost of the cross where Jesus died, he keeps his commitments to us — even when we fail, even when we fall down, even when we don’t keep our commitments to him.”

So, when you’re unable to do the “next right thing,” seek God- the strength of my soul.  As you reach the end of yourself, stand over there.  Be still.  Declare what God’s strength will accomplish.

The sustaining face of God

Former 4th graders Gayle Christmas and Stacey White with Mr. H and wife Vicki at St. Paul Alumni Reunion.

“When we genuinely, happily serve in unacknowledged ways and places . . . we find the sustaining face of God.”- Sara Hagerty, Unseen

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and you life is hidden with Christ in God.”- Colossians 3:2-3 (ESV)

My anticipation and excitement grew daily as the weekend of the St. Paul Alumni Reunion drew closer.  Since St. Paul Lutheran Church and School (Dorchester) in Chicago called me to my first teaching position in 1974, I treasured the opportunity to reconnect with a very special place and time.

At the Friday evening meet and greet, as well as the picnic on Saturday at the school, I forged new friendships with four students from my original 3/4 class.  My wife Vicki and I also toured the school.  And for the first time in 43 years, I stepped into my assigned classroom.  Right at the top of the stairs.  As I stood there, I found it hard to imagine that 32 children actually fit in that room!

Most noteworthy, blessings overflowed as I talked with my former students, amazed at the strength of their relationships, maintained and rooted in faith over 4 decades.  Furthermore, the alumni encouraged me through their welcoming spirit and resolve to see St. Paul continue as a beacon of light and hope.

St. Paul established it’s roots in the Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago in 1889.  Under the sustaining face of God, St. Paul remains one of two Lutheran elementary schools still operating on the South Side.   In addition, St. Paul’s vision statement proclaims their calling a “light for the community, providing active support through praying, caring, sharing, and outreach.  Hence, over the past 128 years, St. Paul’s roots still endure, anchored deep in the knowledge of God’s love.  As a result of this hidden, underground growth, St. Paul’s branches bear fruit in and out of season.

However, in the aftermath of a ministry downsizing or vocation loss, we must avoid falling captive to the allure of living for the next big thing.  For the chief end of every human being is to glorify God.  Also, as Sara Hagerty exhorts in her most recent book, Unseen, the sweetest greatness begins as we’re rooted, made, and nurtured in secret.  Where God alone sees us.

Yes, Sara notes, great kingdom impact results from dramatic and observable actions.  Yet, we understand God doesn’t need us to do His work for Him or do it under our own power.  Most importantly, the foundational basis of kingdom impact comes from the cumulative moments we spend:

  • looking at God
  • bringing Him glory in private
  • letting Him shape our insides

In conclusion, Ms. Hagerty observes, these two kingdom impacts aren’t mutually exclusive:

“It is instead about a glory we can’t always measure.  It is the work that happens beneath the surface, deep in the soil of our hearts, that in time produces a great harvest of fruit and growth.”

All under the sustaining face of God!

Mighty Lord of all Creation

The Valparaiso University Chorale sings at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, 31 October 2017. Photo courtesy Valparaiso University.

“Mighty Lord of all Creation,/ Dearest Saviour, O how little carest/ Thou for earthly fame.

Thou whom all men would acclaim,/ Thou in Majesty the Highest,/ In a lowly manger liest.” – Grosser Herr, O starker Koenig, bass aria, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Barenreith  edition

“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and see, as it had been told them.”- Luke 2:20 (ESV)

On Tuesday, 31 October 2017, 107 members of VU’s Alumni Reunion Reformation Tour queued up in front of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany.  Since the German government declared this day a national holiday, Dr. Matthew Becker, our tour leader, scheduled our arrival one hour before the service started.  By 9:30 AM, no seats remained.  Latecomers stood in the aisles.  One crisp ring of the glockenschlag calls us to worship.  We rise.  Choirs, ministers, and liturgists enter.  Our mountaintop journey begins!

St. Thomas dates back to the 12th century.  Following 100 years of neglect, St. Thomas went through total restoration in 1990.  The church measures 76m (249′) long.  Also, the nave’s dimensions are 50m long (164′) 25m wide (82′), and 18m high (56′).

On 5 May 1723, St. Thomas appointed Johann Sebastian Bach as Thomaskantor.  He held this post until his death in 1750.  St. Thomas interred his remains at the top of the chancel steps.  People often lay flowers there.

Before Bach started scoring a sheet of music, he scrawled J. J. — Jesu, juva — at the very top.  Bach’s notation represented the simplest of prayers – Jesus, help me.  Thus, Bach’s cantata’s literally began as prayers.  In addition, as he completed each composition, he inscribed the letters SDG – Soli Deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone.  Through this inscription, Bach personalized one of the Reformation’s rallying cries.  As a result, His life singularly expressed that Latin phrase.  As Mark Batterson exhorts in All In, “no one can glorify God like you or for you.  Your life is an original score.”

To J. S. Bach, Pastor Batterson notes, the distinction between secular and sacred represented a false dichotomy.  Since all things were created by God and for God, no exceptions exist.  He’s the mighty Lord of all creation.  Therefore, the first tenet of the Westminster Short Catechism states: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

Furthermore, in Colossians 3:23 we read – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  Soli Deo Gloria, then, is the why behind every whatever.  Thus, our prayers need to focus more on internal attitudes than external circumstances.  For all our circumstances present an opportunity to glorify God.  And while we tend to thank God for the things that take our breath away, Pastor Batterson encourages us to thank Him for every physical breath we take.  Hence, to truly worship and glorify the mighty Lord of all creation, He must dwell within your heart:

“Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,/ Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,/ A quiet chamber set apart/ For You to dwell within my heart.” – Lutheran Service Book #358, verse 14

An inverted sense of measurement

Behold, the Implantable Loop Recorder (Medtronics),measuring 1 3/4″L x 1/4″W x 1/8″H!

“We somehow have an inverted sense of measurement in that big things seem to us small or familiar while small things become big to us, at least in terms of our time and attention and energy.”- Jared C. Wilson, The Imperfect Disciple

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”- 2 Corinthians 3:18

In July 2015, a severe infection caused my heart to go into atrial fibrillation (AFib).  Following my second ER visit in three days, the attending physician referred me to Dr. Imran Niazi, an electrophysiologist.  After an echocardiogram, Dr. Niazi advised inserting an Implantable Loop Recorder (IRL) to monitor my daily heart activity.  On 20 August 2015, Dr. Niazi inserted the device under the skin on the left side of my chest.  He positioned it above the left atrium of the heart.

For the next two years, the transmission monitor next to my side of the bed recorded the day’s heart activity when I walked within 10 feet of it.  However, to the glory of God, the monitor never recorded any AFib events!  Consequently, on 27 July 2015, Dr. Niazi extracted the device.  Also, the attending technicians deemed it “highly unusual” for the device to record not even a trace of activity.

When I returned home from St. Luke’s Medical Center, I took time to behold the amazing recorder – my familiar companion for two years.  Writing in The Imperfect Disciple, Jared C. Wilson defines behold as follows – “to ‘hold’ something in our vision, to let the weight of it rest on our mind and heart.”  Although the current model of the IRL comes in at 87% smaller than the previous one, the technology behind it boggles the mind.  Small in size, yet big in stature.

Similarly, Jared observes, we’re parched, starving, thirsty, and hungry for the glory of Jesus.  However, we keep stepping over Jesus’ glory on the sidewalk.  But, every day when you encounter Jesus, you face two choices: simply looking at Him or actually trying to behold Him.  Jared believes that one reason Christ’s glory fails to captivate us centers on our diminished capacity for anything gloriously big to enthrall us.  Instead, we zero in our focus on small, worldly things.  This creates in inverted sense of measurement.  All kinds of media bombard us, while the gospel seems so one-note and familiar.   Therefore, Jared counsels, turn some things off and put some things down.  In other words, rather than doing something, just sit there.

In conclusion, Pastor Wilson asserts, our inverted sense of measurement boils down to one thing:

“We have, fundamentally, a worship problem, and so long as we are occupying our minds with little, worldly things and puny, worldly messages, we will shrink our capacity to behold the eternal glory of Jesus Christ, which is the antidote to all that ails us.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”- John 1:29

Patience is more than endurance

Dad’s first new car, a blue/white 1962 Rambler Classic 4 door sedan.

“Patience is more than endurance.  A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer.  God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says — ‘I cannot stand anymore.’  God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, the He lets fly.  Trust yourself in God’s hands.”- Oswald Chambers

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”- Romans 12:12

“People ask me a lot about the values I got from playing for the Cubs for so many years (1953-1971).  The value I got out of it was patience.”- Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub”

In the summer of 1962, after 13+ years of marriage, my parents – Bill and Elinor- bought their first new car.  For a little over $2,000, they purchased a blue/white Rambler Classic 4 door sedan from South Side Rambler on South Ashland Avenue in Chicago.  The Rambler replaced an aging, green metallic 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline Coupe.

One notable feature of the Classic was a safer, twin circuit brake system.  Only a few cars used this in 1962.  However, my most vivid memory centers on the colorful push buttons that engaged the automatic transmission.  In addition, I remember the rounded upper window points on the back door and the rounded tail lamps.  With the demise of the Electroliner, the Rambler provided reliable highway transportation.

Approximately three hundred years ago, a prisoner in the Tower of London carved the following words in his cell wall.  He truly understood that patience is more than endurance:

“It is not adversity that kills, but the impatience with which we bear adversity.”

As Jared C. Wilson discerns in The Imperfect Disciple, at its root, impatience reflects confusion about control.  In other words, impatience represents the rotten fruit of self-sovereignty.  To our chagrin, people and circumstances don’t operate as if we’re the center of the universe!   Therefore, we need the gospel to cultivate patience in us.  For patience is more than endurance.  Denial of our adversity, in contrast, fosters impatience.  Hence, as we trust our sovereign God, who ordains all things, we grow more patient with others.  And we relax in God’s better hands.  We realize what impatience costs us in our relationship with God.  We enjoy abiding in Christ.

In conclusion, Pastor Wilson summarizes how the gospel grows patience through humbling:

“We are sinners who stand only by the virtue of grace. . . . saved by grace alone.  Knowing this helps us climb down from our pedestals.   It’s at the top that we mistakenly inflate our own sense of importance.  Coming down to see that the ground is level at the foot of the cross helps us regard others with more thoughtfulness — and more patience.”

Facing things out of my control

Our green singing finch (center) and cordon bleu finch (left) in their birdie condo, 1964

“I can rest in the fact that God is in control.  Which means I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control.”- Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued

” . . . but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of  the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”- Romans 8:5-6 (NIV)

On a typical day in 1964, dawn’s first light shines in the Henning’s living room.  Our green singing finch – aka “Bird” – awaits his cue.  As I lift the cloth covering the birdie condo, Bird springs into alpha-finch mode.  He immediately  asserts his dominance over his companion, our docile cordon bleu finch (https://www.crownofcompassion.org/2014/09/02/finch-whisperer/), affectionately known as “Bleuy.”  Once Bird settled that issue, they live peacefully the rest of the day.

However, when Bleuy dies, Bird (https://www.crownofcompassion.org/2014/08/19/sing-joy/) remains inconsolable.  He’s hoarse from constantly singing his grief song.  Although we add a mirror to convince him he’s not alone, we can’t fool him.  Ultimately, facing things out of my control, we rescue Bird.  We return him to Mr. Erling Kjelland at Sedgwick Studio.  Consequently, Mr. Kjelland kindly places Bird in a large cage with many new finch friends.

In his latest book, The Joseph Calling: 6 Stages to Discover, Navigate, and Fulfill Your Purpose, Os Hillman puts forth the truth that we all need an encounter with God along the way.  For only an encounter with God provides us with His sustaining and healing power.  Furthermore, this pivotal encounter packs major significance during the isolation stage of the Joseph calling.  During this stage, we often experience deep feelings of loneliness as well as abandonment.

As a result, Mr. Hillman points out, the isolation stage harbors danger to your psyche.  In an effort to cope – when you say “I’m facing things out of my control” – it’s possible to fall prey to many kinds of sin.  On the other hand, allowing God to enter this time with you often produces a fruitful season.

Finally, during this stage God blesses you with time to develop an intimate knowledge of and relationship with Jesus.  As you separate from the old, you prepare your heart for what lies ahead.  And as you serve others amid your pain, you’re God’s conduit of healing to them.  Serving’s also the catalyst leading to your own freedom.

In conclusion, John Ortberg (Soul Keeping) contrasts the “with God” life and the “without God” life:

“The ‘with God’ life is not a life of more religious activities or devotions or trying to be good.  It is a life of inner peace and contentment for your soul with the maker and manager of the universe.  The ‘without God’ life is the opposite.  It is death.  It will kill your soul.”

The silence of contemplation

West Waterfall at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL

“Leisure is a form of silence, not noiselessness.  It is the silence of contemplation such as occurs when we let out minds rest on a rosebud, a child at play, a Divine mystery, or a waterfall.”- Fulton J. Sheen

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”- Psalm 58:11

Inspired by a visit to the Portland Japanese Gardens in Oregon, Rockford businessman John Anderson began construction of the Anderson Japanese Gardens in 1978.  Master Craftsman and designer Hoichi Kurisu provided ongoing assistance to the Andersons.  Consequently, Mr. Kurisu transformed the Anderson’s swampy backyard along Spring Creek into a Japanese-style landscape.  In 1998, John and Linda Anderson donated the Gardens to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association.

Today, the not-for-profit oasis continues to grow and change.  Most importantly, the Anderson Japanese Gardens impart a tranquil setting for replenishment, contemplation, and “slowing.”

In Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, Bill Hybels suggests none of us functions at our peak when depleted.  So, if you’re telling God what to do or mad at the world, perhaps it’s time to sit down together with God.  Because you’ve lost your bearings on true north, you’re just spinning.  But God’s plan pours new streams of replenishment into your soul.

Thus, Pastor Hybels identifies the biggest bucket-filler in life as walking firmly hand-in-hand with God.   As a result, when you’re really connected with God, you’re quicker to stay on God’s agenda.  Furthermore, being right with God and tuned into Him filters out all extraneous noise.  And spending time with God yields the antidote to one key energy-killer: image management.  It’s simplest and best to follow one agenda only: God’s.

However, spending time with God poses problems for the hurry-sick.  Hence, John Ortberg (The Life You’ve Always Wanted) suggests two practices designed to help us live unhurried lives.  John labels the first practice “slowing.”  He states slowing involves “cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.”  For example, Pastor Ortberg asks us to look for the longest line at the grocery store.  Next, get in that line.  Finally, let one person go ahead of you.  Do this for a month.

In conclusion, John offers a second, more traditional practice- solitude.  He notes that an old phrase describes solitude as the “furnace of transformation.”  Therefore, this practice requires relentless perseverance as well as commitment.  Pastor Ortberg finds it helpful to sort this concept into two levels:

  1. brief periods on a regular basis – ideally each day, even at intervals throughout the day
  2. extended periods at greater intervals – half a day, a day, or even a few days

As Henri Nouwen once wrote, “In solitude I get rid of all my scaffolding.”  You practice the silence of contemplation.

Each day holds a surprise – only if we expect it

On its 50th Anniversary in 1991, an Electroliner passes a Silverliner (built 1917) at the Illinois Railway Museum.

“Each day holds a surprise.  But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.  Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy.  It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”- Henri Nouwen

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up- do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”- Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

On Sunday, February 9, 1941, the first North Shore Electroliner went into service.  Debuting as the North Shore Lines’ premiere electric rail equipment, the Electroliner featured coach service as well as tavern/lounge amenities.  Partially inspired by the Burlington Zephyr, the Electroliner’s principal body color consisted of a medium blue-green trimmed with salmon-red stripes.

Capable of operating at speeds up to 90 mph, the Electroliner remained in service for 22 years, advertising one-way, through fares to Milwaukee or Chicago.  Furthermore, the celebrated train evoked surprise for two reasons.  Interurbans (1)  faced their last stand by the early 1940s  and (2) weren’t thought of as high-speed operations.

Writing in The Upside of Adversity (2006), Os Hillman fortifies our spirits when he states that God desires to turn our desert places into lush green valleys of blessing.  Yet, when you’re in that desert, your most significant concern revolves around when your trial will end.  As Os explains, he believes your trial will end when it doesn’t matter anymore (emphasis author’s):

“Once you’ve lived a long time in a state of adversity, status and influence don’t mean much anymore.  You appreciate the blessings God gives you, but if they were removed, you’d still be okay.  Your security is in God, not circumstances.”

Most importantly, Mr. Hillman examines the connection between adversity and success.  In particular, he stresses the perspective adversity gives to success.   As a result, Os describes five principles to remember as you graduate from a time of adversity to a time of blessing.

1.  View success as a gift from God.  Since all success comes from the Lord, that means you receive it, not achieve it.  And that applies to all your possessions.  God gifted them to you.  Os adds: “When all you have is a gift. there’s no room for pride – only humility and gratitude.”

2.  Learn how to handle praise.  While the approval of people comes and goes, God’s approval lasts forever.  Therefore, all praise belongs to God.

3.  Live a humble life.  As Rick Warren observes in The Purpose-Driven Life, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

4.  Be held accountable for humility.  Ask trusted Christian friends to hold you accountable for a humble attitude.

5.  Remember that God saved you and has plans for you.  Everything that happens in our lives = an undeserved blessing of God’s grace.

When we see the rainbow, the shower’s over

A partial rainbow rises above Chestnut Mountain Resort near Galena, IL.

“It is said that when we see the rainbow the shower is over.  Certain it is, that when Christ comes, our troubles remove; when we behold Jesus, our sins vanish, and our doubts and fears subside.  When Jesus walks the waters of the sea, how profound the calm.”- Charles Spurgeon

“Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout.  I the LORD have created it.”- Isaiah 45:8 (ESV)

On a recent vacation to Galena, IL, my wife Vicki and I dined at the Sunset Grille, a restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River at the Chestnut Mountain Resort.  After enjoying a relaxing meal along with a idyllic view, we walked back to our car.  Suddenly, Vicki spotted a partial rainbow, with every single color vividly displayed, in an otherwise clear sky.  This phenomenon puzzled us, because no storms passed over the resort.  However,  when we returned to our hotel, the clerk informed us that a brief, heavy thunderstorm hit the hotel, about 12 miles northwest from the Sunset Grille, earlier that evening.

Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, you enter what pastor and author John Ortberg calls the “uncertainty period.”  Most importantly, John asserts, a significant reason for your uncertainty exists — a good of not knowing.  Consequently, Pastor Ortberg believes, this “uncertainty period” offers:

  • a unique opportunity for growth
  • a confident, joyful approach to life, even when you don’t yet know if you’ll get what you hope for
  • a type of soul strength not available through immediate answers
  • a call for trust rather than condemnation to anxiety

Thus, uncertainty forms an essential element of life.  Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk and spiritual intellect, once suggested that if you find God with great ease, perhaps you’ve found something other than God.

Therefore, Pastor Ortberg explains, trusting God provides the necessary foundation as you struggle with the not-knowing times of life:

“You have to trust the author.  You have to believe that God has a good reason for keeping his presence subtle.  It allows creatures as small and frail as human beings the capacity for choice that we would never have in the obvious presence of infinite power. . . . God wants to be known, but not in a way that overwhelms us, that takes away the possibility of love freely chosen.”

Finally, John concludes, you’ll find God anywhere you’re willing to see the entire world through wonder-filled eyes and a tongue fluent only in praise.  In other words, as Max Lucado states:

“We don’t need an ‘Over the Rainbow’ god.  We need the One who created rainbows.”