Author Archives: Clark

Stumbling Blocks

A few times this past week, I encountered several obstacles in the road as I traveled the daily highways of life.  Not counting dead animals, I had to swerve around large concrete chunks, potholes, and several pieces of truck tire.  I got stopped behind someone on a roundabout who didn’t understand how to use it as traffic got backed up behind them.  You never know what you may find as you drive through Iowa.  There are many times I’ve had to slow down or drive around deer, cattle, and others animals as well.  What do you do when you encounter obstacles like this?  You could say ‘I have the right to be here more than they do’ and just drive through them, while putting yourself and your vehicle in danger.  You could just drive around them and hope nobody else runs into them.  You could stop and remove the obstacle from the road if you don’t put yourself or others in danger doing so.  I’ve done all of these at different times, but any decision has risks and rewards.  How do you deal with life’s obstacles?

It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.  Romans 14:21

I saw someone post a question this past week about a scenario they encountered.  They had a relative staying with them for a couple days who was a recovering alcoholic.  They were questioning whether they had the right to have a drink (of alcohol), despite the fact that this person was staying with them during this time.  The (not necessarily Christian) consensus was to ‘suck it up’ for a couple days and put the other person’s needs above their own desires.  As Christians, this should be a no-brainer, but do we ever act in ways that put our own preferences and desires above the needs of someone with less will-power or faith than us?  What stumbling blocks have we not only left for others, but because of our actions or inaction, actually placed in front of others in their walks?  We might feel justified in everything we do, but does that make it always the right or best thing to do? 

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  1 Corinthians 1:22-24

In this passage, we are reminded that God’s way of doing things is often counter to what we would do or expect.  Were there any stumbling blocks or issues that initially kept you from understanding and receiving Christ as your Lord?  For many, the concept that salvation is bestowed on us by grace through faith is counter to our tendency to have to earn everything we have through our own works.  None of us can earn salvation, even after we have received Christ, but there is still a tendency to keep or prove our salvation through our own good works.  None of us are perfect, but are in daily need of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Let us not demand perfection from those around us either, but offer them grace, and forgiveness, and encouragement to grow closer to the Lord.  May your life be one of guidance to those around you, leading them by hand around stumbling blocks and obstacles along the narrow path as they continue to walk toward Jesus!

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.  Romans 14:13

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Just Right

Have you ever had a night were you did not sleep well?  How did that impact the rest of your day?  It may depend on a lot of factors.  When I was younger, I had no issues sleeping well without waking much through the night.  The past 2-3 years or so have been a different story.  Our daughter just turned one a month ago, and more often than not, she sleeps fairly well through the night.  If she doesn’t, then no one else does either.  We have a 6 year old that has had difficulty sleeping also and when he wakes up, everyone else knows it also.  This has gotten so common, that my sleep schedule has gotten off track and even if everyone else is sleeping well, often I am still not.  It has gotten to the point that if I get at least 3-4 hours of sleep a night, I do fairly well during the day, but less and I am struggling a bit.  If I get 6-8 hours I feel a bit groggy, as it seems to be too much sleep for me.  Sometime, I hope to get back to a normal routine were I get a regular amount of sleep that is just right.  What happens when you do not get a good night’s sleep? 

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24

A couple weeks ago, I had to finish a project and I worked through the night without any sleep.  I pushed through the day and by the next evening, I could tell that my judgement and reactions were impaired.  I don’t think I had done this since an all-night cram session in college, but my body did not recover quite as quickly as it did then.  I can definitely understand why sleep deprived drivers can cause accidents.  This past year, I worked with a High School student who was often tired and wanted to sleep through the day.  When I asked him how much sleep he got, he wouldn’t say, but did note that he stayed up very late playing video games most nights.  In an age where electronic devices, social media, binge watching, and other distractions make it easy to stay up late, we seem to be losing the battle for a good night’s sleep.  What do you do to ensure everyone gets to bed on time?

Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare.  Proverbs 20:13

Distractions aside, one factor that may help as much as anything is being disciplined about getting to bed on time.  We have a bedtime routine for the kids with bath, and books, and songs to help them know it is bedtime.  I should do the same.  After the kids are in bed, there are fewer distractions and I can actually get something done around the house, but at the same time am usually exhausted and if I stop moving for more than a few minutes, my body wants to fall asleep.  If I nod off for a while, and wake up again, I need to get to bed quickly, or my body thinks I just had a nap and am ready to go for a few hours again.  I need to be better disciplined about reading, devotions, bedtime, exercise, and other things, because it helps me physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally and in almost every area of life.  In fact, often my prayers are for sound sleep, and structure in my life to get done all that I need, and to give the rest up to God each day.  I never get done all that I want in a day, but hopefully all that is needed to do well. 

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:8

The more we trust in the Lord and give control up to Him, the less stress and anxiety we will have in our lives.  No matter how much we do, there is always more we can do, and we should not feel guilt or regret in a job well done.  Learn from our mistakes and move on.  Doing selfish things that negatively impact our sleep and lives should teach us to change or face the consequences of our actions.  Do the best you can with what you can control, and give the rest up to the Lord or seek His advice on what you can do better.  May you find a good balance in your work and rest to help you sleep well each night and day that you entrust to the Lord.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30


Yours in Christ,
Clark

Mow Now

Every time I try to type the word Mow into my phone, it autocorrects and changes it to Now.  I appreciate Autocorrect when I am in a hurry and it corrects my misspellings, but I feel there are some things it shouldn’t try to change, then again it is only being told what to do by those who programmed it.  How about you…who is telling you what to do?  Who or what dictates your course of action through the day.  If you have an employer, you likely have a certain job description that guides you into the majority of your work.  If you are self-employed, you still likely have projects to work on and it is in your best interest to finish them sooner than later.  What about all the other things, like mowing the yard, getting your oil changed, exercising, going on a date with your wife, spending time with your kids, etc…how do those things get done?  Do you wait for opportunities to just happen, or do you schedule them in also?  What if it is not raining and you need to mow now, does something else get the boot?

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.  Proverbs 27:1

Today, I had some time off work, and had a nice sized list of things I wanted to accomplish.  Mowing the yard became a priority as we had a slight break from the rain and the yard was looking a little gnarly.  This seems to be the theme on an almost daily basis, as urgent things take over.  What is most important to get done today?  Another term I have heard used is the ‘Tyranny of the Urgent.’  It is almost as if you are being yelled at by whatever things you are tasked with that seem the loudest.  This was due yesterday, get it done!  Its not always the most important things, as those often take a back seat to the most demanding things.  Sometimes you have an opportunity to participate in something that rarely happens, and I am a sucker for trying to make those one-time meetings and experiences happen, again often at the expense of other things that need getting done.  How do you juggle it all, and still do well?  Practice I guess, or saying ‘no’ to things that should not take priority in your life.  How do you prioritize what is most important in your life? 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

It is easy to do what is easy in life, but takes greater effort and discipline to do what is right.  Just take a look at what Jesus did in his short ministry.  He related to those he came in contact with in a personal way and addressed the heart issues they were struggling with, whether a blind beggar, Pharisee, outcast woman, tax collector, or anyone.  He knew what each person needed most, and what we all needed most.  I especially like the story in Matthew 9 where a paralyzed man was brought to Jesus (expecting Jesus to heal him), and instead He forgives his sins.  And to confirm to others that he can forgive sins, physically heals the man as well.  We all go to God with our wants and needs, and often our greater needs are not those physical things that we think will make us complete, but healing on a deeper level than we are often willing to admit.  Brothers, we are all broken to varying degrees, whether physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, or a little of everything.  When we can admit that, we are more open to being  restored by our Savior, and being used by him to help others.  This is something that I need to realize on a daily basis. 

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32

So, take some time to inventory all that you can do, have to do, and should do today and what part that may play in your own salvation or the salvation and growth of others.  Are you addressing needs at home as well as work?  Where are some areas you are lacking and require help to get done what is needed?  May you turn to your Heavenly Father for direction whether you are walking the right path or not.  May each day be blessed as you seek to honor Him in all you do this day, and each day of your life.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.  Psalm 37:23

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Doom and Gloom

In my world, the past few weeks seem to have mostly been filled with clouds and rain with a better than average chance of maple tree helicopter seeds.  If we did get a day without rain, everyone and their brother was slogging it out in the yard to try to keep the grass in check, or clearing water from their basements.  The week ahead looks wet as well.  Coupled with other daily challenges, it may be enough to get you down.  It might not be as bad as everyone complains about, but when you get stuck in a rut of disappointing things, whether weather, illness, difficulties at work, trouble with relationships, or other life events, it can be easy to become discouraged.  What is your response when the storms come and life gets you down? 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

Sometimes when things seem bad, out of control, or heading in the wrong direction, I play the worst-case scenario game.  You come up with a way in which the situation could be worse, because it always can, and it makes the current mess seem less tragic.  I’m not trying to belittle the current situation, but more so, trying to be thankful for the things that are going well, or counting my blessings, so to speak.  I’m sure you know people in your life, where everything is a drama, whether minor or major issues.  There are those that seem to roll with the punches better than others as well.  Not to downplay discouragement, but there are also those who also struggle with significant depression, which can threaten livelihoods and lives.   Be aware of this in those around you. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

What is your first response in an unexpected emergency, whether work related changes, or something more significant?  Do you come up with the best solution right away, or consult others on what options you have?  How often do you give it to God, or at least ask for guidance in your next steps?  It may not always be your first response, but when we pray, it takes some of the pressure out of the situation.  Often when I ask for guidance, help, or answers from God, it helps put the situation I perspective, as often it is not the worst thing that I could be dealing with.  Often, the urgency of the situation can also be tempered with hope and a direction to start walking. 

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.  Isaiah 53:3

Lastly, you have a friend who can identify with you in your pain and suffering.  We fist think of the poin and suffering Christ went through surrounding the crucifixion, but that was just part of it.  He was rejected by many during his lifetime, whether the religious elite, or the folks from his hometown.  He was betrayed by one of his disciples, and rejected by people he met each day.  But he was not only seeking fame and the praise of other men, but only of his Father in Heaven.  Yet, by doing this, he is the most famous person to have walked the earth.  Let him be our example whether it is raining or the son is shining in our lives today!

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Or the Highway

 

We have a strong-willed 3 year old who is usually a fairly good kid, most of the time.  When he gets tired, or if he decides there is something he wants he becomes determined and won’t budge from his demands.  We often give him an option from two acceptable choices and let him pick, and if neither is a good choice in his eyes, he stands there and pouts and tries to wait you out.  It doesn’t work.  We don’t budge, but if we did, his determination would instantly grow ten-fold.  Once we think a tactic works to get our way, we are even more motivated to try it again.  I am amazed at how often I think some of these 3 year-old tactics will work for me as well.  What about you…what strategies have you used to convince someone that you are right and should get what you want?  Does it always work?

“This, then, is how you should pray:  “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Matthew 6:9-10

If we think we can trick God into getting what we want, then we would stick with this strategy and always try to find a way, because we know better, right?  If we were just persistent in asking for what we thought was best for us, we may be able to wait him out, or change his mind.  Or maybe by waiting, we may change our own minds.  When we go to God in prayer, it is not about asking God to give us what we want, but to conform our wills to His, because what He wants is always best.  Maybe not always for us, but for others, and maybe not in the short term, but often in the long-term.  May we hear from God today about what is best and may we then act accordingly!

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  Mark 14:36

Yours in Christ,
Clarrk

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