Author Archives: Clark

Hit or Miss?

It’s the middle of Summer and by now, either you are engrossed in baseball or you are not.  This year, I am not, which may mean that I am not a true fan.  I will watch more games when we get closer to the end of the MLB season and in post season, but till then, I will catch a game when it works out.  Years ago, back when I was in High School, I was playing baseball several days each week, and was following baseball each week when I could and when the stats were updated in the Sunday paper.  At one time, I knew most every player on every team and watched the battle for the best ERA, home runs, and batting average.  If you watch much baseball, you realize most every player gets out more often then they get a hit, so it is basically a battle to see who the best loser is, which usually makes them a winner for the season.  What do you consider a good batting average at work, in relationships, and other areas of life? 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Have the majority of the past 10 interactions with family members been positive or negative in nature?  Have most of the past few projects you have worked on gone well?  We can look at how things go in our day to day lives and often start to see patterns of good and bad habits.  Often, others can see these things before we can and may even say, you don’t seem like yourself, or you appear to be in a slump.  I may have a streak of days that seem less productive than I would like and start to ask ‘why’.  I’m sure baseball players do the same when they are in a slump, and may need to change something about the way they are hitting or pitching.  I may have picked up some bad habits, or need to change something about the way my daily routines of eating, sleeping, and how I use my time are going.  Who knows you best and can help you figure out what to change to get out of your slumps? 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’   The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31 

A friend I have known for over 10 years, but haven’t really talked with in over 5 years, recently reached out to me and started asking questions on how he could grow closer with God.  I don’t know a lot about what has gone on in his live over the past several years, so I was basically asking more questions of him than giving answers.  I also suggested talking in person or on the phone as a better way to correspond than by messages, but am still waiting for him to find a time that works.  I truly enjoy opportunities like this to talk about faith with anyone, but making time to delve into deeper questions is almost essential to get to the root of the issues we may have.  How often do you get to share your faith or discuss spiritual issues with believers or non-believers?  Would you consider these interactions successful? 

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”   Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Luke 23:42-43

I wonder if the disciples thought that Jesus failed or succeeded at His mission when He went to the cross.  Based on the comments in Scripture, it appears they were looking for a different outcome.  One of the few who recognized the gravity of the situation was another man dying next to him on the cross.  It wasn’t until they realized that Jesus had risen from the dead that they realized He had hit a homerun and was a game-changer not just for them, but for everyone.   Has His death and resurrection changed the game for you?  If you are in a spiritual slump, what things have worked previously to help you grow closer to God?  Make a list of three things that have worked in the past and make a concerted effort to do these few things for the next three weeks.  For me, those things are (1) consistent prayer, (2) time to read both scripture and other things that are edifying, and (3) time to talk with others about meaningful things.  May your batting average and enjoyment of the ‘game’ improve as you do what it takes to be your best in all areas of life. 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Happy Dependence Day!

I hope you enjoyed Happy Birthday USA, Yesterday.  How did you celebrate your independence day?  For most, it has turned into a day off work to celebrate and be a little self-indulgent with friends and family, food and fireworks.  Not all bad, right?  I mean if I earned my paycheck, I’m entitled to spend it however I want, etc, etc.  Most of us think we are fairly independent, self-sufficient, and masters of our own domains, yet we do not often realize how much we owe to those that have gone before us to make this country and our lives what they are today, as well as how dependent we truly are on others for our day to day existence.  How much to you depend and rely on others, or on God each day to get your needs met?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Maybe you even heard some reference to the Declaration of Independence, which was the statement which initiated the movement away from Great Britain and into our own sense of self-identity.  Yet, even after the revolutionary war and onward in the world, the United States was still quite dependent on other countries to accomplish these things.  Trade within the colonies, and with other countries was robust and essential for growth as a nation.  Even today, with all the drama over trade and tariffs, we are all still fairly dependent on international trade to sustain our appetites, as much as we would like to be self-sufficient.  How much of what is in your home was made or sourced from outside the region, state, or even country you live in? 

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Romans 13:1

In the same way, we are really dependent on our government for meeting many of our needs.  As much as we complain about taxes and keeping the government ‘out of our business’, we often take for granted the infrastructure, protection, laws, and means for living our lives each day.  It is not a perfect system, but without highways, law enforcement, medicine, and recourse for injustice, our lives would be much different.  It is also said that many in this country are one paycheck away from disaster, or being homeless, if they lose a job.  Even if you have enough savings or other supports to keep you off the streets, if the supply of gas, electricity, or food at the grocery store were cut off today, mass panic would ensue, as most of us are extremely dependent on these things for our day to day comfort and survival.  Also, when we become sick or injured, we realize we depend on technology and the expertise of others for our continued survival.  Not as independent as we believe ourselves to be. 

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  Matthew 16:25-26

So, how much do we depend on God each day?  With an attitude and culture of ‘doing it my way’ and wanting to have it all without much effort on my part, or anyone else’s help, is there any wonder many don’t feel the need for God in their lives?  Many, whether Christian or not, would like to make the life they want without any consideration or consultation from God in the equation.  How do we avoid this mindset, or how do we grasp the concept of how much we truly need God for our existence?  Little do we realize, how much we depend on God for all that sustains us…food, water, air, shelter, etc.  We can start just by regularly giving thanks for these things.  The more I do this, the more I understand His provision.  We can also move away from excess and things that take away from what is most important in life, e.g. less entertainment and more engagement.  As you come to understand how dependent you are on others for your needs, may you grow more in your trust and faith in God as the ultimate Provider and Sustainer of our lives!

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4

I lie down and sleep;  I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  Psalm 3:5

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Fresh Fruit?

Maybe you have been asked this question, ‘If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?’  For me, it would probably be grapes.  I don’t eat them every day, but it is one food that I never seem to grow tired of.  I would say that of most good, fresh fruit.  This past week, the black raspberry bushes that grow along the ditch and our yard started producing ripe fruit.  I walk down there most every day with two eager helpers and can pick almost a ½ gallon of yummy berries.  If you want some, let me know.  We are also promoting a fruit sale for fresh peaches if you are interested.  We are surrounded by a variety of fruit each day.  Is most of the fruit in your life good or bad? 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

Would you eat any fruit that did not appear perfect?  What if it was starting to get too ripe, or had a few spots on it, or maybe just a little oddly shaped?  Most of us would discard these for the best looking examples.  I have tested the limits of how ripe a banana can be to still be edible, otherwise it may make for good banana bread.  One of two apple trees in my yard produces small, greenish-yellow apples of the mushy variety.  I do not like them and they are barely edible when they are at their best, and I am truly tempted to cut the whole tree down.  I will likely trim it way back to see what happens.  Do we do the same with people in our lives?  If the fruit they produce looks bad, do we not give them a second glance, or try to avoid them altogether? 

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  Matthew 7:15-20

If someone were to look at your life and judge your fruit, how would they describe it?  Maybe it is not easy to categorize, as with a stop at the produce isle, you can find an assortment of quality.  You may be able to find examples of good fruit and not so good as well.  Even just in the words that you say, if like me, you can be encouraging someone one minute, and condemning someone, or even yourself the next.  We may never get it perfect, but there should definitely be a dominant, good fruit when your heart and mind are in tune with the Lord.  We are all imperfect, and can be thankful for forgiveness, but the condition of our hearts definitely motivates our words and actions.  I find this definitely the case in my own life.  What branches in your life need trimming?

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.  James 3:17-18

We make judgements and decisions every day.  When you look at the fruit that is produced in your own life, or the lives of others, you can definitely get a look into their heart and soul of that person.  Even if you are discouraged by what you see, there is hope that they can change.  You may even know some who have come to Christ or even changed their lives seemingly overnight.  Even with a child, they definitely have a bent toward certain things, but how they use their strengths and abilities can definitely transform them or others.  With Christ, most anything is possible, even for you and me.

So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.   Colossians 1:10

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Sometime

Well, as of today, its finally here!  Though you may have felt like this past weekend was a little hot and oppressive, it was only Spring, so it couldn’t have been that bad, right?  Most people I talk to seem to prefer the extra ‘hot’ they get in the Summertime compared to the extra ‘cold’ of Winter, but then this is Iowa, so most will complain about the weather regardless of what it is like.  Its either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too cloudy, too windy, etc.  Even if we had on-demand weather that we could order, it still would not make everyone happy.  Honestly, being born and living most of my life in Iowa, I have come to embrace and celebrate the change of seasons.  We can find something to appreciate about each season and each day if we try, even just a little.  Whether it’s the weather or the hundred other little things that we experience each day, our perspective can be influenced for better or worse, if we allow it to.  What’s your favorite season? 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

If someone were to ask you, ‘what season of life are you in’, what would you say?  You can base it on your age, what career path you are on, or where you are in relationship to your family members, or even God.  Changes in any one of these areas can have a significant impact on your attitude or even outlook on life.  I was holding a 6 week old little girl this past evening and realized I had a depth of love and care for her as much or more than any other person I have known in my life, including myself.  There are many hopes and uncertainties ahead, but my goal is just to do the best I can each day to give her and my family and friends and even strangers the best life that I am able to do.  That doesn’t mean money and things as much as it means life lessons and the importance of knowing Jesus.  Being generous with what I have to give may vary from season to season, but the intent stays the same.  ‘God, use me to further your Kingdom and Your Love, however that may look in any situation.’ 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.   Matthew 5:44-45

Most every night in our house, after we are done with dinner, I get a request for ‘Dance!’ from a 3 year old.  This usually consists of 2-7 songs, which I may change up a little, and lots of chasing one another around the kitchen, some hide and seek, and a few dance moves thrown in for fun.  We didn’t usually ever do this before these requests came in, but I am finding it is not a bad tradition, even with the baby sometimes.  We are in a season of dance in our home.  There are likely many other seasons we all will encounter as we pass through this life, with some being planned, and many unplanned.  When we have God central in our hearts, we can fully embrace and get through whatever seasons we encounter, till the time He calls us home.  We don’t always get it right the first time, but when our hearts are right, there is always an opportunity for a season to grow. 

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:29-31

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Food for Thought

 

Have you ever over done it on a buffet or eaten much more than you should have, even to the point you were very uncomfortable?  Why would we do this?  I recall being at a wedding reception of my wife’s cousin and after having a plate of food, saying ‘just one more’ of those sandwiches, because they were so good.  That ‘one more’ put me over the limit to where I knew I had overdone it and felt bad for the rest of the reception.  I wasn’t that hungry and didn’t need all that food, but did it anyway.  This behavior is not always limited to food, but can often apply to anything we take in our body, whether drinks, drugs, screentime, work, entertainment, etc.  Why do we still do things that we know are not good for us? 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4

One Summer while in college, I worked mostly outdoors in Southern Louisiana and started each day with a breakfast at Poche’s Fried Chicken.  As I recall, this consisted of made to order eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns or grits, a biscuit and coffee all for $2.00.  This pretty much filled me up for the day till lunch and dinner on the road, but several times in between, the hot, muggy days made me sweat and created a thirst like no other time.  While I was often offered a Coke or Sweet Southern Iced Tea from hospitable folks I met, nothing quite satisfied like a few large gulps of water, which probably totaled a gallon or more each day.  I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I had not been able to drink at all while working some of those long, hot days.  What’s the thirstiest you can ever recall being?  Do you ever thirst for spiritual things the way you do physical ones? 

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  John 4:13-14

While I am usually able to meet most physical needs myself, I could often relate in a small way to the wandering Israelites when I went long stretches without much to eat or drink or without making any sales.  The Israelites couldn’t just stop at the store, or a nearby house to ask for what they needed, as they were totally dependent on God to provide water or even food in the form of manna, when they needed it most.  While most of us think we are fairly self-sufficient, we are not that far from being in distress if those water or food supply chains that we take for granted were to be disrupted.  I recall once when we were under a ‘boil order’ and asked not to drink our town’s water till further notice, the bottled water in town was sold out at all the stores within a few short hours, as people did not know how long they would be without drinking water.  Most of us do not like being dependent on others to meet our needs, like when we were infants.  But when we are, even for brief time, we start to understand our need for God just a little bit better.  How much do you depend on God each day?

Taste and see that the Lord is good;  blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

God often relates to us in a practical and personal way, as we see examples of this throughout the bible.  We realize our physical needs when we hunger and thirst or gasp for air, and He relates these to our spiritual needs, which really impact our health in the same way.  When we have gone too long without a drink of water, we come back to life when that first drink reaches our body.  Our spirit also comes to life when the Living Water of his Spirit touches our soul.  We also experience this in a small way when we take Eucharist, or communion.  When we take communion and other meals into our bodies, we use all five senses to physically experience God’s provision for our daily physical needs, as well as how He sustains our spirit.  When you pause to give thanks before each meal, how does that impact how you experience the act of eating and drinking?  Do you regularly take into your body the things that satisfy your soul, as often as you do to meet your physical needs?  Once you have tasted what God has to offer, you will surely want more!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.   Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Matthew 5:6-7

Yours in Christ,

Clark

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