Do We Need a Cloud?



Whatever branch of the family faith tree we reside in, most of us hear that we need to follow God. It’s portrayed as a key point of obedience and something of value to God. As such it can be easy for us to skip over the truth: it’s vital to us.


God asks us to follow Him as a means of protection and provision, but from Eden onward we have been plagued with wandering off on our own paths. We’ve looked at his admonition to follow as restrictive, holding us back from good things we don’t want to miss. Isn’t that the same lie the serpent whispered to Eve in Eden?


All these years later, we still believe that might be true far more often than we want to admit or even realize sometimes. It’s that nature we inherited when Adam and Eve first decided to go their own way wondering if God was withholding something good from them.


Following Him has always been about love and less about limits. Limits were a means of expressing his love so we would not be harmed and discover his goodness.


Ever since Eden God has been trying to get that key point across to us and it is one of the things we hear Jesus say in the New Testament, “Follow me.”


beach-clouds-dawn-391522It can be easy to suggest we aren’t sure where He wants us to go. We don’t have a neon sign lighting the way nor a voice like Charlton Heston in the movie, The Ten Commandments. We also don’t have what led the way for the Israelites after they left Egypt and built the tabernacle − a cloud that lifted above the tabernacle when it was time to move and fire that burned in the cloud when it moved by night.


So many thousands of years later, do we still need a cloud? Did we learn nothing from that story we read in the Old Testament in Exodus?


We see a clear picture of how often the story makes clear that it is never a good idea to follow your own path if God is there to lead. Over and over again the story of God written in the Bible shows us our role with Him is that of a follower if we choose Him as ours. His path demonstrated that He was a good leader full of reward and blessing if we followed.


The Old Testament is filled with visible symbols that point to an invisible God, but when beautiful-clouds-cloudy-1642220He came to earth as Jesus He “showed us a better way” and He wanted to indwell our hearts rather than light a fire in a cloud above. He desired an intimate relationship with us that got broken in Eden.


The earthly ministry of Jesus gave us a living picture of God so we would be clear on the truth and when He ascended into heaven after his resurrection, his plan was not to leave us without help. He exhorted the disciples to look for and wait for the Holy Spirit who would make Jesus manifest in our hearts and whose leading and nudges would show us how and where to follow.


That requires us to listen. The Holy Spirit’s voice isn’t loud and demanding, but quiet. He gives us prompts to encourage us on the path we are to take, the words we are to say. To hear Him means to come close and invite Him to be close − it’s the only way we can hear Him.


How do we know it is Him you might ask? I think the best answer is to come to know God’s story well by reading the Bible regularly and without jumping passages or portions. That way when we sense that nudge we can compare that to what we already know of Him in the Bible. If it sounds like, looks like, etc. Him, then we grow in confidence. That can help us come to grips with this God, this Jesus, and know we should not be caught off-guard by the surprising way He may take us.


Isaiah illuminates that truth in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV):


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”


Following God is sure to be an adventure and on the journey we will come to know Him better and He will help us to discover things about ourselves we will be sure to miss without Him. It will never be boring.


Do we really need a cloud (or want one)?






Do You Know Your Job Description?

Photo by from Pexels


One of the important things to find out whenever we start a new position is to get clarity on what the job description is. If we don’t have that, we might think we are doing a good job and still miss the mark when it comes time for an evaluation.


I have worked in six different paid positions throughout my life. Each was unique and varied in the needed skill sets. Most of them did not come with a written job description − one was a teaching position − and sometimes not even an oral one was given. When I did receive a job description, I sometimes discovered there were expectations not included in what I was handed in writing.


It was more than a bit frustrating not to have clarification on these things when it came time for an evaluation. I recall one evaluation by a principal when I was teaching where he marked that I needed to improve by pursuing additional education. I think it is appropriate to want to see that happen, but I was more than a bit frustrated since I had just completed a Master’s degree and that was not acknowledged. When I asked him about this, he only said, “more education is always good and I couldn’t give you good marks on everything.” What was he saying and not saying?


I also didn’t initially know the importance of asking for a job description in writing and having an opportunity to clarify any questions I might have (including what was unspoken and written between the lines).


Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

Even in volunteer positions or non-paid ministry positions, not having a clear understanding of expectations and desires in a “job description” can set us on the path to misunderstandings, confusion, and frustration. Many of you know the results can vary from burnout to resentment to bitterness and broken relational trust and respect.


Maybe what we are missing is the view by some that we should simply “know” what is expected if we are offered a particular job or position. That can be even truer if it carries a title that someone believes should be self-explanatory.


Things can get stickier still if one of our desires is the title and what that brings with it for us. Our perception of the meaning or significance of the title can suggest to us that we are “more than” or “less than” those with whom we work. As a consequence we determine what responsibilities are “above” or “beneath” us.


Have you considered how differently Jesus, Son of God, King of kings, demonstrated in his life on the earth that He did not consider it beneath Him to wash the feet of others, dine with those who were sinners, or heal those who were not among the chosen people of the day?


Some among us sadly do not think they are worthy or capable enough to hold a job or position of almost any kind. They sometimes languish by choice or history or circumstance in the “no man’s land” of doing nothing.

Photo by Flo Maderebner from Pexels


Today as I was studying in a commentary for a workshop I will be participating in later this fall, I read a significant statement that grabbed my attention. It pointed to the main thing and too many times we stumble over making the main thing, the main thing.


Douglas K. Stuart sums it up perfectly I think when he writes this:


“To be in the image of God is to have a job assignment. God’s “image” is supposed to represent him on earth and accomplish his purposes here.”


His statement serves notice to one and all. If we are human, made in God’s image, then we ALL have a job assignment to represent him on the earth and accomplish his purposes.


But before we think that means we need to go to seminary or a distant mission field, consider what the life of Jesus looked like on the earth. He ministered in powerful ways, but common ways as well. He healed and spoke sermons that turned the cold hearts of many to Him, but he also broke and served bread, washed feet, fished, and hung out with friends as his Father’s representative.


I once heard a pastor say that Jesus was fully tuned in to looking up to heaven and seeing what his Father was doing and then that is what He did.


Yes, humanity fell in Genesis 3 and our ability to function perfectly in the image of God was twisted, but that did not thwart God’s plan for mankind. From that point in the story onward, God slowly and patiently teaches us our way back to Him and it doesn’t wait till the New Testament to be demonstrated. We see it again and again in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, David, and others.


What is our job description?


We may have more than one, but the main one is to represent God’s image on earth and accomplish his purposes here. It isn’t about title or position, but is everything to do with character and whether or not we look like Him.


To be clear on our job description as an “image bearer,” we start by reading his story from Genesis to Revelation and then (like Jesus) looking up to see what God is doing.


Nothing is common that He has ever done.

Photo by Zé Zorzan on Unsplash


When Our Efforts Fail



Have you noticed the uptick in the efforts of so many that want to see things as they do? It seems there is less tolerance to accept others and their own perspectives. As a result we do all in our power to try to change them. After all, we believe we are right, don’t we?


The sad truth is that when we do not succeed in persuading the other person to adopt our view or our truth, we can be tempted to be unwilling or unable to extend grace. It can be far too easy to walk away from the relationship or put it in such a frosty place that it becomes uncomfortable for us as well as the other person.


It’s thought provoking how often these differences can come from the smallest of things. Many times they relate to preferences rather than actual right or wrong beliefs or thinking. Other times they come from a contrast in lived experience or knowledge, but we cannot skip over biases or prejudice as causes as well.


Some of the areas that remain the stickiest have been so since mankind was created, I think. You can likely guess them − politics and issues related to our spiritual beliefs.


As you might guess, these things are prone to be most ticklish in our closest relationships.

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels


During the years I worked as a marriage and family therapist, one of my favorite resources was a book entitled How to Change Your Spouse (Without Ruining Your Marriage), written by H. Norman Wright & Gary J. Oliver, PhD. The title often appeals to someone who has not been successful at changing his or her spouse despite feeling a need or desire to do so.


Of course the title doesn’t reveal what is involved and requires us to look beyond our preferences alone and see what is good for the whole relationship. An example of their premise is to look at the level of commitment to the other person (in marriage or any close relationship).


Commitment is not a word used or revered as it once was. We like things as we like them and too often our commitment in any relationship is very very conditional.


One quote of the wisdom of the authors of the book I noted is:


“You commit to another person because of the depth of your love and because being with the person fulfills you. You commit knowing the other person’s faults…any marriage is two imperfect people making a commitment to accept one another.”


How true that is in marriage and just as true in any close friendship!


Christina Morillo at Pexels

We can miss that the change we seek for us from them usually is not looked at as something that will be a gain for them also. If we don’t do that, it shows that self-focus lurks around our motives and is not defeated.


A key here is summed up by this sentence by Wright and Oliver:


“Whatever change you seek needs to be advantageous for both you and your partner (or friend…my addition)…”


Change requires something of each of us. Some of us handle it better than others. Maybe we see change with a negative lens and forget that without change there can be no growth in any area or realm of our life.


If asked if we want to grow in any area (you make the choice), we might choose “yes” if we really acknowledge what not growing looks like: stale, dormant, stagnant, lethargic, and lazy (to name a few).


Another key to keep in mind if we desire change in another person is to remember that he or she may be able to more readily change a behavior than a preference. You may groan and wonder what good that does?


I’m glad you asked that.


If we are committed to what is best for both persons in a relationship and choose to change our behavior, it tends to result in softening the sharp edges and allows the other aspects of the relationship to grow stronger.


There are persons in my life who do not line up with my preferences in a number of areas while having other aspects of them that I like a great deal. Choosing to change my own behavior has resulted in a “win-win” and allowed the relationship to weather the differences between us.


Acceptance given often comes back to us as a gift.


Lisa Wingate wrote this truism regarding change in her book, Tending Roses:


“What we cannot change, we must endure without bitterness. Sometimes we must try to view the actions of those around us with forgiveness. We must realize that they are going on the only road they can see. Sometimes we cannot raise our chins and see eye to eye, so we must bow our heads and have faith in one another.”

Lisa Wingate in Tending Roses



An Invitation




Life had never been easy for Esther.


Born in exile around 492 B.C., she experienced the consequences of the rebellion of the generations of Israelite brothers and sisters before her. It couldn’t have been easy for her  when her parents died.  She must have feared what would become of her. Her heart must have become calm when Uncle Mordecai came to the rescue and adopted her. He not only provided for her as best he could, but also sought to protect this beautiful young girl.


Esther’s beauty set her apart from many of the other girls entering their teenage years, so it is not hard to imagine her uncle needed to be watchful of her. Certainly he must have attended to developing her character as well, telling her the history of their family from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.


That beauty resulted in her getting noticed while they were living in Susa in ancient Persia (now Iran) when Queen Vashti turned down a request from her husband, King Ahasuerus, to display her beauty to a gathering of his guests.  After Vashti’s choice, she was banished from his presence and her position.


7df3696c2ea8b036fd615254869c12b6The king’s key man went searching throughout his kingdom for a new woman to be queen since Vashti had embarrassed him when she refused his request in front of many important guests. Esther caught his eye and was taken into the king’s household to go through a lengthy period of beauty treatments before being presented to the king.


Some scholars suggest that Esther was perhaps fourteen years old as all this is happening (not an unusual age to be considered for marital union in those days).


Even so, what must this have been like for Esther? Taken from her uncle into a king’s household, she would have faced values, customs, and religion that were not her own. She also knew she would face this powerful king and become a part of his harem. What could she have known of that?


From the outset of the story, Esther gained favor in how to choose the beauty treatments and assorted other things prior to being taken before the king. Could it have been her uncle’s training that equipped her to be wise about such obedience and the potential improved position it might make for her?


Had God already created an attitude of heart, mind, and spirit in this lovely young lady to fit with his design and fulfill his purpose?


When it was time to be brought before the king, everything she was told to do to prepare achieved the goal and the king was very pleased with this young beautiful girl. Her night with the king appeared to go well and then she was taken into the harem where she would wait to be called into his presence again.


It was in the harem where she learned that a wicked advisor of the king had plotted for the ashton-mullins-j1HU-Oll7KI-unsplashdestruction of all the Jews in the realm. Her uncle admonished her that she needed to go before the king with a request that would result in the Jews being spared.


Esther must have trembled at the thought. She knew the rules included a demand that if she risked going to the king without him requesting her, she could lose her life if he saw her and did not extend the scepter.


If you know this story well, you know what happens. Esther became queen and God used her to save the Jews as her Uncle Mordecai gave her wise counsel.


I also saw a metaphor within this story during a recent reading of it.


None of us could come into the presence of a holy God. Our humanity (shot through with sin) could never come into the presence of his righteousness. All the slaughter of oxen, sheep, and doves could not accomplish access lost when Adam and Eve sinned.


But God’s love and mercy extended a holy scepter in the person of Jesus Christ. If we accepted this scepter (Jesus), we could come into God’s presence robed in the washed white garments Jesus provided.


We need not fear to come before God with our requests. The invitation has been extended. The scepter has already been offered. If our hearts will welcome his Son, we need not fear to come to Him.


Will we respond?





Unintentional Neglect


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It can be so easy. We don’t plan for it to happen. Often our heart’s desire is for the exact opposite, but still it happens. Sometimes unintentional neglect slips into our life unnoticed. It hides just out of the corner of our eye.


Unintentional neglect happens in most of our lives in a myriad of places.


It can happen in caring for our home when we lose track of how long it has been since we really looked at what is growing in our refrigerator. We mean to clean it out periodically, but invariably a soft squishy cucumber (my recent find) or an apple at the back of a drawer doesn’t grab our attention. We are doing so many things that only when we discover the evidence of our neglect do we discover it.


e31ba0e837cdfd2fc5d27b1b297f2463The same issue can crop up with handling our finances. We know the checkbook needs to be balanced and reviewed, but we really don’t want to take time to do it and it gets put off until we have a check bounce or the bank transfers something from a savings account to cover it without asking us first. We may have a budget, but we can so easily forget to keep tabs on how it is doing and where we need to adjust it each month.


We get excited about getting a new or better car and we hear from the salesman all the schedule of maintenance we need to follow to keep it running at its best for as long as possible. Unfortunately, we neglect the odometer as a clue to a need for an oil change and we fail to look at the tread on our tires to notice they needed to be replaced months ago.


And it doesn’t stop there, does it?


Unintentional neglect sneaks into our relational connections as well. Sometimes it sounds as if “out of sight, out of mind” is a truism. We move to a new neighborhood or a new state and those people we felt so close to and saw routinely slip to peripheral vision. We promised to stay in touch. We spent some many special times together, but days slip into weeks and weeks into months and if it continues the relationship fades.


Any move from a job or changing a church does the same thing. If I see you regularly, I 2d0d883101a6170aa9780cfe16091f74am reminded of who you are to me and you stay in focus. It happens when a health issue prevents us from doing what we used to do with someone. Getting together becomes more complicated and we can unintentionally avoid it − dealing with the wheelchair or a walker doesn’t fit our skill set or comfort zone.


Unintentional neglect shows up in whether or not we remember birthdays or significant anniversaries in someone’s life. It’s not about a gift or an extravagant display of some sort, but whether we are remembered that seems to nourish the relationship. It can be a card, a text, a phone call, or a shared cup of coffee.


If you are someone who does pretty well with the things mentioned above, do you also notice and observe the small things, small changes in a person we care about? If so, do you comment or ask or follow-up with the person?  Yes, we intend to, but in our own busyness we don’t really see “into” the person or if we do we aren’t sure what to say or ask. How long can we/will we listen and simply be with the person?


Unintentional neglect also can nibble at our relationship with the Lord. We may start a new year with a plan to be disciplined and purposeful about growing and spending time with the Lord beyond going to church, but January may go decently and we fail to notice something interrupted our plan and soon days pass and we have spent no time with Him in any meaningful ways. Our lamps are not filled and the light within us dims.


Unintentional neglect reveals whether our words mean what we convey.  It also results in unintentional consequences.


This is why it is so crucial that we be all the more engaged and attentive to the truths that we have heard so that we do not drift off course.

Hebrews 2:1 (TPT)