Author Archives: Clark

Grounded

These past couple of weeks, we have been blessed with ample rain, including over 2” in the past 1-2 days.  This has been a change from recent weather, as we received no rain from July 20-August 20 and regular mowing had almost ceased.  In preparation for this time of year, I purchased a large bag of grass seed about 2 weeks ago, as I had planned to improve a few parts of the lawn.  Well, if I had been able to seed the lawn within a few days of getting the seed, it would have been perfect timing with warm weather and ample moisture to get those guys to germinate and grow, without having to run a sprinkler.  Well, hindsight is 20/20 and unfortunately, I did not get the yard seeded as I could have and have to wait a bit for things to dry up in the next week or so.  What is your response when you time things just right, or if you miss a perfect opportunity? 

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

Another reason they say to plant grass seed in August to September is because most weeds do not germinate around this time and the grass has less competition to grow.  If you have ever had a bare spot in the yard, you know about the only thing that naturally grows there are weeds.  You may even get into battles with dandelions, creeping Charlie, or other weeds and wonder how some of these things can be so resilient to withstand being pulled out, sprayed, etc and still come back strong year after year.  And if you let it go, it will just take over everything around it.  I remember as a kid on the farm, we had a small section of our yard that was basically yellow in the Spring with all the dandelions growing on it.  Not the ideal for most folks.

But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  Matthew 13:6-8

These two situations reminded me of some of the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds found in Matthew 13.  When Jesus related the parable of the sower, he described a variety of conditions in which the seed lands which either encourage or discourage the seed to grow.  You may even look back in your own life and recognize times in your life where these conditions existed and played out as described.  If you are like me, you may have even experienced most of these at different times in your life.  I recall growing up learning about God, but the Word never really taking root in my heart.  I remember when I was first born again and grew tremendously as a Christian, when I was in college, to the degree you would have thought I was a weed.  In recent years, the busyness of life seems to choke out new opportunities to grow and be more fruitful, but I hope it is a season that can still be productive, just in a different way or not as much as it once was.  Maybe this is not the way it was intended, but it seems to fit how my spiritual growth has been at different times in my life. 

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

We may look at the lives of those around us and point to some and say ‘look at that’, and say that someone is a good man, or a horrible person, depending on the situation.  We may look up to some we know or work with and aspire to be like them in some ways.  We may be as quick to condemn others based on what we have heard about them, or a situation we have seen.  Before we start to write off certain people as bad weeds, we should ask if they have ever had a chance to grow good seed in their hearts.  If others had given up on us, like we do to some, we may not have turned out like we have.  Plants grow better when they are cared for by a good gardener, and people do too.  Who has been that good gardener in your life?  Who are you helping to grow better this week? 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:23-25

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Reminder

If I just had to go from my memory alone, I would be very inefficient, miss appointments, and not be able to do my job very well.  My calendar and my daily routine usually help keep me on task and get done what I need to do.  Yet each day, there are things that I don’t get done that I wanted to accomplish.  There are also things that I spend time on, in hindsight, that were a waste of time and did not benefit me or anyone else.  Even though I keep lists and try to put things on my calendar, I don’t always remember to do so.  At times, I even remember to get done things that I forget to write down.  So, is it even possible to get through a day perfectly, without wasting time and getting done exactly what you need to do?  Maybe not, but what would help you move closer to using your time more wisely?  What is on your list of things to do today? 

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;  yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  Psalm 77:11

What would it take to make a dramatic change to your life and/or your personality?  Often it needs to be something dramatic, like a wake-up call in the form of a near death experience or the death of a loved one.  Otherwise, we often just fall back into the same habits and routines we follow most every day.  What does it even take to add or eliminate a small thing from your daily routine?  To start a new habit, like regular walking, substituting water for less healthy beverages, engaging in things that stimulate your mind instead of numbing it, etc, you have to be consistently aware of what you are doing and aware of the change you are seeking.  As creatures of habit, we often fall back into how we have always done things, what is comfortable.  Believe me, there are often times each day, where 70 percent of my body and mind just wants to find a quiet spot and take a nap, but it is often not an option.  How many excuses do you make each day for not getting done what was most important? 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.  Isaiah 40:8

There are times when I don’t read a verse from certain books of the Bible for months or years at a time.  When I am able to revisit, it often feels like visiting an old friend.  There is a familiarity, yet there are so many new things to learn as well.  You can spend hours catching up and it rarely gets boring.  I’ve said it before, and it still holds true, that daily time in the Word and prayer often makes the difference between a good day and a bad day.  It doesn’t even need to be a set amount of time, but just consistently doing it.  How would you describe your relationship to God and His Word?  Like any worthwhile relationship, it is good to check in as often as possible.  May you be blessed in doing so. 

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Condemned?

Over the past month, and more recently in the past couple days, likely you have heard the story of the missing University of Iowa student, Mollie Tibbetts.  The 24 year old man, Cristhian Rivera, who was charged with her murder has been the center of scrutiny for the past couple days.  Some things about this incident are known, but several others, such as ‘how’ and ‘why’ are not.  When a young person, like Mollie, is the victim of a horrific incident like this, it leaves many people heartbroken and angry.  I expected it, but am still amazed at how hateful many comments are in most public forums.  There are some cliché ‘prayers for family and friends of the victim’ as well, but didn’t see any concern for the family of the young man who seems to have committed this act, but mostly different variations on how he can burn in hell.  Is there a proper Christian response to a tragedy as horrible as this?

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  Romans 12:19

One friend who heard about this situation asked ‘why does it hit home for me?’  Many answered, because it happened in relatively safe, small town Iowa and it could have been anyone’s daughter, even yours or mine.  If it was close to home and was or could have been someone you know, how much more significant is it in your life?  My daughter is only 3 months old, but I have already thought about what she may face in 5, 10, or 18 years.  I want the best for her, but there are many things which may happen that are beyond my control.  The other thing we don’t often think about is what the family and friends of the young man involved must be dealing with.  I struggle to imagine what is must feel like for your child to be accused of murder.  What would you do in that situation?  Genuine prayers for all involved is not an unreasonable request.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Romans 12:15-16

Many people, Christian or not, seem to rank sins and take an odd ‘at least I’m not as bad as this guy’ pleasure in demonizing this man and his actions.  Maybe in some way this makes their own misdeeds seem more insignificant in comparison.  So, many are quick to cast the first stone when they hear about what happened and they lash out with words of anger.  Truth be told, we all deserve, and have received the death penalty for our sins.  Everyone reading this will one day be gone, and an ultimate judgement will be rendered to each of us.  To many, it doesn’t seem fair that a young person’s life should be over ‘before their time’, but it can serve to remind us of the limited time each of us has. 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9

Honestly, my hope is that this young man comes to a place to know Christ and receives forgiveness for what he has done.  That is not what most people want to hear.  They want justice, now!  A man who killed a young girl entering Heaven is not what most in the world would call justice, but is it not our hope for him? If not, can you find a place in your heart where this could be your hope?  Isn’t repentance and salvation what God would seek for each of us, regardless of where we are in life, even for the ones convicted of every unimaginable act or dying in prison?  Many of the most notable persons in the bible were guilty of murder, among other misdeeds, including Moses, David, and Paul, yet they were still used by God for His ultimate good.  May our prayers be for those who are mourning the loss of a friend and family member, and that something good would come out of these tragic events.  May your words be used to build others up and not just condemn. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Far Away

This past week, I got to explore a place I never desired to ever be…the crawl space of my old house.  This little two bedroom place is now a rental house and I have been doing some remodeling in it this past year.  There was recently an issue with one of the water lines, and with my father in law in the house above, I went on an exploratory mission, to find the source of the problem.  I had a whole new appreciation for the term ‘crawl space’ when I was squirming on my belly through 10-20” areas, having to go over and under duct work and even one spot only 8-9″ under a joist, which I wasn’t sure I would make.  Several times the thought of what I would do if I got stuck went through my head, along with what the life of a Vietnam tunnel rat must have been like.  I also rationalized that if I did get stuck without anyone above, I had my phone and could call for help, which didn’t give my wife any consolation when I told her the story.  When you are stuck, or in a tight spot in life, where do you turn for help? 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

I was visiting with a friend a short while after leaving the crawlspace and told him I felt like I was near the gates of Hell.  I had put on long sweats to keep the dust off me, was sweating, and aside from my flashlight, was in total darkness, apart from the rest of the world.  Though I was only a few feet away from where I lived for several years, it seemed a very foreign and inhospitable place.  While I was fairly close to civilization, there have been other times where I felt far away from other people and even God at times.  However, when I am away from other people or my comfort zone, I am usually better able to hear from God.  The inverse seems true also, when I am around people all the time, I have more difficulty spending time with and hearing from God.  What about you?  What times in your life have you felt the furthest from God, and what gave you hope in those times? 

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Luke 5:16

So, even though we may be overcome with various challenges and difficulties in life at times, we hold on to a Hope that transcends our circumstances.  Whatever we are dealing with, we can always turn to God for guidance and comfort in times of trouble.  Even when I was squirming through that crawlspace this past week, I could see a little light from the window I entered and knew there was a way out, even if I got stuck a bit, I knew there was someone willing to help me if needed.  When I get burdened with the challenges of life, I can step away and spend time with God at any given moment, because He gave me his Spirit and hope in Christ.  We have that hope, regardless of our circumstances and regardless of death.  Those tight spots in life help us appreciate this even more. 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;  he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  Psalm 40:2

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Worked to Death

To some, Work is a four letter word.  Usually, when things follow a predictable routine, and you can plan ahead, work for me is not bad.  This past week, I was working to try to get some house repair projects finished up, and I ran into some unexpected complications that demanded more days to correct than I had expected.  Needless to say, I was not able to meet my deadline and this impacted other work and family things which were planned, then canceled.  When doing work makes more work and productivity suffers, it is not fun, but having a proper perspective and a right mindset can help you persevere through most any obstacle.  What is your attitude toward the work before you today? 

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.  Proverbs 14:23

Honestly, I enjoy my normal full-time job 90 percent of the time.  There are no perfect jobs, but there are usually things you can find to like about most every job, if you look long enough.  As long as you are not putting your or other’s  life and health in danger, you should give yourself a little time to adjust to a new job.  Work ethics develop at a young age, as I remember wanting to help my father on the farm long before I was really much help, and eventually allowed to walk beans.  I encourage all young people who are starting to work to try a variety of jobs if they are able.  One Summer, when in High School, I signed up with a local work-placement organization who would call me when someone needed help with a project for a day or two.  I spent one day moving furniture, one day doing construction on a farm building, and another day riding all around Iowa picking up unused seed corn.  You can learn something from most every job you encounter, even if it is that you never want to do that job again.  Are there any jobs you feel are ‘beneath’ you and you are unwilling to do…Why is that? 

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  2 Thessalonians 3:10

At times, we may be critical of people who are panhandling, walking the streets, or not working – by our definition.  I know some people who have a disability, but still hustle and work several odd jobs to provide a meager income.  Not all disabilities are always visible.  I know several others who are fairly able bodied and minded, who are on disability or seek to be, so they don’t have to work at what they have been doing.  We don’t always know the whole story.  I do think it is important to give people an opportunity to show what they are capable of doing and even if they make mistakes, to allow them some room to learn new skills required for a job.  Not everyone is fit for every job, but they should at least be given a chance to succeed or fail, just like others have done for you. 

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?  Ecclesiastes 3:22

So, what is your attitude toward the work set before you today?  If your job is something you dread each day, you are doing it wrong!  We all have God given gifts and abilities that we can use for something good.  We may not always fully utilize them in every job we do, but we should make the most of every opportunity to do the best we can.  Even if you feel ‘stuck’ in your current place of employment, without much opportunity for advancement or other job prospects, you should still do your best work and focus on the things that you enjoy about it.  There is not ‘perfect’ job and the grass often seems greener on the other side till you get there are realize it is not.  So, learn to do your job as best you can, at least until an opportunity for something that may be a better fit comes along.  Remember, you are not just working for a boss, you are working for The Boss from now to the day you die, so get used to it and enjoy the work set before you!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.  Colossians 3:23

Yours in Christ,

Clark

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