I Have Thought Deeply…

I have thought deeply about all that goes on here in the world, where people have the power to hurt each other. (Ecclesiastes 8:9 NLT)

It’s kind of a running joke in my family that I overthink things. I think deeply, I think broadly, and there’s no doubt that I think too much about things that don’t matter as much as I “think” they matter. And I think way too much about things that I have no control over. And I think… Anyhow, I can relate to Solomon (the author of Ecclesiastes) in terms of thinking deeply about all that goes on here in the world! I can’t really relate to his wealth and power, and I certainly can’t relate to his harem of somewhere around a thousand wives. But the “thinking deeply”, yes, I can relate to that!

Solomon’s very thoughtful writing in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is sprinkled with priceless gems of wisdom about values and behavior…

    • Wisdom is better than folly.
    • Good is better than evil.
    • Enjoy life as and while you can.
    • Think seriously about the meanings and consequences of the things people do and the things you see.

But Solomon sees the world as a place “where people have the power to hurt each other.”

Solomon is approaching his thinking from the perspective that “What you see is what you get!” At least at this point in his philosophical and theological process, he thinks that there is neither reward or punishment beyond death. He has no present hope of eternity and so his conclusions often contain the word “meaningless!”

At the time he is writing, Solomon is one of the most powerful, and certainly one of the richest, men of his time. By his own admission, he has denied himself no pleasure that ever occurred to him to desire. His world is totally in his control and he is able to satisfy his every wish or whim. Yet when he “thinks deeply,” his conclusions are that the world is primarily a place where people have the power to hurt each other and that life is meaningless and without hope.

There is an amazing contrast between Solomon’s perspective on the world as a place “where people have the power to hurt each other” (He’s not wrong about this, but it’s not a very joyful point of view) and the perspective the Apostle Paul has as he writes in Ephesians chapter 4! Paul, who is writing from a prison cell, not a king’s palace, writes from the perspective of a man who has voluntarily given up wealth and power and has suffered great persecution for his faith, and yet his writings are full of challenge and encouragement and hope. Listen to these words from Ephesians 4:1-7, 32…

1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. 4 We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. 5 There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all. 7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. 32 …be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:1-7, 32 NLT)

Instead of viewing the world as a place where “people have the power to hurt each other,” Paul’s perspective is that the world is a place where people are learning to be kind to each other, to serve each other, to make allowances for each other’s faults, and to become unified for a common purpose. It’s a purpose that involves neither wealth, pleasure, comfort, nor power, but is simply the purpose of being Christ’s body doing Christ’s work on earth.

Sometimes when I “think deeply” I get discouraged and find myself thinking like Solomon. I may begin to think, “What’s the point in all the things I try to do to help? Does it really matter? Does anyone notice? Is what I do making any difference at all?”

Or I may think, “Is there really a reward for serving and sacrificing and giving? Wouldn’t it be better to focus my energy and attention on taking care of myself and just let others take care of themselves?”

Or I may think, “Do people really care about each other? Do people want to help and heal and encourage, or do they only want to hurt each other?”

Here’s an example of my overthinking: Do I get discouraged because I am thinking like Solomon or am I thinking like Solomon because I’m discouraged? I don’t know. I do know that line of thinking burrows me deeper and deeper into self-pity and self-centeredness.

I do know that I want to think more like Paul. I want to judge not by outward appearance and external circumstance and short-term results, but to think in the light of eternal purposes and eternity with Christ. Here’s more from Paul:

9 So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. 10 Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters. (Galatians 6:9-10 NLT)


Father, today I purpose to not be short-sighted and self-centered in my thinking and my attitude. I purpose to live in the light of eternity and see the world not as a place “where people have the power to hurt each other,” but as a place where Jesus has given us the power to hear each other, to help each other, and to heal each other. In Jesus’ Name!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

What Good Are All Your Blessings?

But Abram replied, “O Sovereign LORD, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since I don’t have a son, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth.”  (Genesis 15:2 NLT)

What good are all your blessings? This seems almost—what? Sacrilegious?  Blasphemous? Or is it simply heartfelt honesty with God?

There have been times when I’ve felt like Abram did.

There was something he wanted so much that all the other blessings God had poured out on him seemed worthless to him. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate God’s goodness to him, it wasn’t that these things were simply poor in comparison to his greatest desire, it was that as long as he was still without the one thing he desired supremely, he quite honestly felt, “What good is all this?”

There have been times when I, too, have felt: “What good are all your blessings?”

    • Sometimes the pain makes the promise hard to see.
    • Sometimes the need makes the provision seem like not enough.
    • Sometimes the waiting seems too long and the longing too strong to look forward in expectant faith.

Has that ever been true for you?

I think Abram was right to be honest with God about how he felt. God didn’t rebuke or reject him. In fact, God used this encounter with Abram as an opportunity to add new promises to the covenant he had already made with Abram and to allow Abram to grow his faith even stronger.

God added new promises to the covenant…     

5 Then the LORD brought Abram outside beneath the night sky and told him, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that—too many to count!” 6 And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD declared him righteous because of his faith. 7 Then the LORD told him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land.”  (Genesis 15:5-7 NLT)

God added new challenges to Abram’s faith…

13 Then the LORD told Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, and they will be oppressed as slaves for four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. 15 (But you will die in peace, at a ripe old age.) 16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, when the sin of the Amorites has run its course.”  (Genesis 15:13-16 NLT)

God’s new covenant promise to Abram was a double-edged sword. God gave Abram a word of covenant promise that contained both the welcome promise of blessing, and the honest declaration that there would be difficult passages to be traveled to get from the promise to the fulfillment.

And then there is the “wild card” statement that there was another determining factor in the timing of the fulfillment. God said that “the sin of the Amorites had to run its course.” This is a reminder that it’s not all and only about me. Even in God’s covenant blessing and promise for the future, there are factors he is working with that I have no idea about.

If this was true of Abram then, I believe it’s true of me now. There are factors to the equation I am completely unaware of. So my place is simply to believe and trust.

There are two edges to God’s plan and purpose for my life, and to God’s purpose for your life too. There’s the promise of blessing and the promise that there are challenges to be faced along the way.

    • Are we willing to hear the hard part as well as the easy part?
    • Will we accept the cost as well as the blessing?

Is there something you are facing right now that makes you feel, “Lord, what good are all your blessings when the single greatest desire of my heart remains unfulfilled?”

Are you looking forward in faith to the promise God has made to you, but like Abram, you also see the pain and challenge this promise involves?

I invite you to pray this “Look up” and “Look around” prayer with me…

Father, Just as you took Abram out under the night sky and said, “Look up!” and just as on another occasion you took him up on a high ridge and said, “Look around,” please help me to look up and to look around and to realize that your promise is as good as your word and that your grace is sufficient for the challenges I will face on the journey. I believe your promise and I trust your goodness and your wisdom for my life. Amen!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.



Watching Buddy Run!

…For the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Long before Jake the Desert Bone Dog came to be part of our family in 2015, there was another dog who spent his life from about one year of age until he crossed the rainbow bridge in 2014 bringing a wonderful quality of the very best kind of “dogginess” to our extended family. Buddy was a rescue dog, a Cocker Spaniel mix. He never told us what the other elements of his “mix” consisted of, but Buddy was a great dog! And after his passing, I didn’t think there could ever be another dog as great as Buddy, but that was before I met Jake! If you read my stuff for any significant period or follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll read plenty about Jake! But this story is about Buddy the Dog.

One crisp, sunny winter afternoon I walked along an old track in the Juniper forest east of my Central Oregon home and watched my dog Buddy run. Buddy’s no greyhound, but he really loves to run! He runs with such abandon, long ears flapping, dodging sagebrush, leaping over weather-bleached juniper logs, chasing imaginary rabbits and deer!

Sometimes, watching Buddy run, I just had to laugh out loud! I could see the joy in him, joy that comes from doing what God created him to do. Because I loved that old dog, I felt joy when I watched him doing what he loved to do.

Buddy loved to run because that’s what God created him to do. I believe that because God is so good, and loves us so much, he made us to have the same joy in doing what he created us to do that my dog Buddy had in running through the forest and the fields.

Here are a few things we know about ourselves:

    • We do best what we care most deeply about.
    • We do best what comes from deep inside us.
    • We do best what we do with greatest passion.
    • We do best what gives us joy.

Eric Liddell, the Scottish distance runner featured in the 1981 movie “Chariots of Fire,” is quoted: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Why does it often seem so hard to know what God created us to do and to experience the simple, profound joy in doing it? Do we get stuck in the routines of merely “getting the job done”? Have we become trapped by the expectations of others? Are we too busy to take a deep breath and ask a couple of honest questions?

If these questions resonate with you, here are some ideas you could try:

    • Take time to take stock. What gives you pure, simple joy? Have an honest think about when you’re most joyful, most fulfilled.
    • Talk to those who know you best and care about you most. Ask honest questions: “When do you see me most joyful, most energized?”
    • Talk to your Creator about what you were made for.

I’m certainly not minimizing the importance of discipline, of doing what must be done, of fulfilling our commitments. This isn’t about only doing things that make you feel good. This isn’t about shirking responsibilities or duties. This is about being honest, being brave, and being willing to step out of your “must do” zone into your joyful “get to” zone!

And one thing more. You’re an influencer of others. You are, at some level, in some relationships, a leader and influencer. So think about—be aware of—what gives joy to those you influence most.

What if we parents and teachers and managers and bosses and other influencers looked carefully and caringly at those we influence and helped each of them discover just what God created them to do? What if we made it our pleasure to create opportunities for each person we love and influence to do the things that they were created for—the things that give them joy? What if we did that?

Just as I often took Buddy to the Juniper forest or the desert to create an opportunity for him to run, I believe God loves to create opportunities for people like you and me to “run!” And I believe that when we are simply doing what God created us to do, he rejoices – he feels the pleasure and joy of it with us!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy. (Proverbs 13:12 NLT)

 What do you think?

 As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.


I’ll Take Care of It

My friend Rick went to get his hair cut early one morning. On his way home, he stopped at the AM/PM station for gas. As Rick waited inside to pay, he couldn’t help noticing a young woman at the counter holding an 18 month old child, trying to make her debit card work. The card was refused three times, but she just kept rubbing the magnetic strip and asking the cashier, “Please try it one more time.”

Rick thought to himself, “Look how she’s dressed. She doesn’t look responsible enough to be taking care of herself, much less raising a child. No surprise she hasn’t got anything in her account to cover what she just spent.”

By now there was quite a line of people waiting to pay for their gas or buy their morning coffee. Finally the cashier called for another cashier to come and help as several customers were beginning to show signs of impatience! The young woman put her child down and took out her wallet and then just stood there at the counter holding her empty wallet in both hands. The cashier stood on her side of the counter, not making eye contact with the girl, and said, “You’ll have to call somebody to come and pay for this. Have you got someone you can call?” The girl just shook her head. Impasse.

Rick’s truck was ready and his pump number was called by the other cashier who had come out to help. He stepped up to the counter right beside the young woman. He swiped his debit card in the machine and punched in his PIN and the screen read “Approved.” The cashier handed him his receipt and said, “Have a nice day.”

Rick suddenly thought, “I could pay her bill. How much could it be? Even if it’s forty bucks, I could pay it.” Instead of thinking of all the reasons not to do it, Rick just said to the other cashier, “How much is it?” She looked at him and asked, “What did you say?” Rick said, “How much is it? How much is her bill?” The cashier looked at the register and said, “$20.00” Rick said, “I’ll take care of it” and took a twenty out of his wallet and handed it to the cashier. As she took the twenty Rick handed her, she asked, “You want a receipt?” Rick smiled and shook his head.

The girl looked so surprised – kind of embarrassed and surprised. She said, “Thank you so much!” She smiled and picked up her child and busied herself getting ready to go out the door, looking at the child to avoid eye contact with the other customers. Embarrassed, relieved, surprised. Rick just said, “Sure. Glad I could help.” They both went out the door together and the girl said, “Thanks so much!” again as she hurried toward her car. Rick said, “Sure. No problem.”

Then Rick got in his truck and started for home and being the amateur philosopher-theologian he is, couldn’t stop thinking about what had just happened.

First he prayed, “Thanks, Father, that I’m not broke at this point in my life. Thanks that I had the money in my pocket to do that. I remember times not too long ago when I was nearly in the spot that young girl was in. Thanks.”

Then he thought about the message his pastor had preached the previous weekend on being sensitive and willing to do “simple acts of kindness.”

Then later he thought, “Did I do that because I’m a Christian? I didn’t say, ‘God bless you,’ or ‘Jesus Loves you!’ I didn’t even invite her to church next weekend.”

As he thought about it a little more, he decided this:

    • If I did it because I’m a Christian and it seemed at that moment that it’s what a Christian should do, that’s a good thing!
    • If I did it because I just simply wanted at that moment to help a young girl who couldn’t pay for her gas, then maybe I did it because Jesus actually lives in me and I’m actually learning more to let him call the shots. That might even be a better thing!

Rick thought, “I hope I did it for the second reason more than the first one. Anyhow I’m glad it happened and it sure felt good to be able to do it. I hope next time something like that happens it doesn’t take me so long to actually do something to help!”

Like I said, Rick is only an amateur philosopher-theologian, but it seems like his conclusion about the incident and his response makes a lot of sense.

What do you think?

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.