I heard a story years ago about a mom and her little daughter – they were on a family vacation, and the little girl was wide-eyed with wonder as she beheld the Atlantic Ocean for her very first time. The mom looked down at her daughter, trying to imagine all that was going on in her mind, and finally asked her what she thought about the ocean, and the incessant waves that kept coming closer to where they stood. The girl answered, “Wow, Mom…it just keeps on flushing and flushing!”
I love that anecdote, and the way it depicts the ocean in all its splendor. Without a frame of reference, it really is hard for anyone to find a way to describe something so massive and majestic, much less to comprehend its pure power.
As a former boater, I once managed to get caught in a storm, about 5 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. To say that it was a frightening experience is an understatement! My 15’ boat seemed to get lost in the valleys between the peaks of those 6’ to 8’ seas. Yeah, it just kept on “flushing and flushing.” And as much as I still love to be on the sea, I don’t plan to ever find myself in that situation again!
Life does the same thing to us. Like those ocean waves, life can come fast and hard, pounding against us, just like those swells pounded against the side of my boat. And at times, it can feel like we’re going under. Those moments are never fun, for any of us.
One advantage to being older is that I’ve learned that such life “ebbs and flows” will come, and they will go. The water that is churned up now will soon become still, and calm will return. The trick is training ourselves to remember that fact – when we are in the middle of the waves, when we are feeling the powerful forces pounding against our souls and minds.
Jesus once invited Peter to join him – for a stroll. The difficult part was the fact that Peter was in a boat, and Jesus was walking on the water! But Peter accepted the invitation, and stepped out into the deep, and began to walk toward Jesus. Perhaps to his surprise, he was staying on top of the water! But it didn’t take long until his eyes were more on his environment than on his goal. And when that happened, he began to sink. How comforting it must have been for Peter to feel the strong arm of the Lord as he was pulled up from the water. Together, they walked back to the boat.
We can’t stop the ocean’s waves or its tides. They are going to come and go. Neither can we stop the ebb and flow of life events that we would like to avoid. But there is one thing that we can try to do…and that is to do our best to keep our eyes on the Lord.
Isaiah 43:2a says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” Take heart, and keep your eyes on Jesus!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I never get used to one reality in life – and that is the fact that life itself can change…in the blink of an eye. It is not a rare occurrence. In fact, it is a common one, experienced by everyone at some time or another. We can seem to be in a good place, and life is in a bit of a rhythm when, out of the blue, something major falls apart. We can be stunned, surprised, even devastated by the impact of this “interruption”. It happens with a diagnosis, or the discovery of a problem with a major appliance. Sometimes it is much more serious, as when a spouse suddenly announces that he (or she) is giving up on the marriage. Sometimes it is a tragic accident. But whatever it is, these events can take one’s breath away. They can leave him feeling gut-checked, with a direct hit between the eyes.
And our responses can often be less than stellar, and that too is normal. I call it, the “This is not fair” syndrome. That is the feeling when things up and change – in a breathtaking manner, and we can’t make any sense of it. Naturally, we deduce that this just isn’t right. It is not fair that it happened.
Just in the last week, a couple of events hit me suddenly, and I’ll bet I am not alone. First of all, it involved a phone call from my mechanic, who told me that my old car had basically died. It was unexpected, untimely, and “majorly” inconvenient. But then, when is it EVER convenient!
But that paled in comparison to what COULD have happened just a couple of nights ago. I was pulling out to the end of the driveway at our church, getting ready to make a right turn. I stopped, looked to the left and saw that it was clear, and then started to pull out to the right. But before I did, something told me to look again to the right. I am so glad I did, for there were cars coming toward me from my right, and one of them had made a sudden passing maneuver – and at the very moment that I could have made a right turn onto 39th Avenue, I would have been hit head-on by a car that was obviously going faster than 55 miles an hour. It wouldn’t have been good!
In the blink of an eye. Life would be changed…or worse - even over for me. But God was gracious and He allowed me, in that moment, to pause and look again.
We are not promised a life free of struggles or tragic accidents. These can happen, and they do happen. Sometimes to people we love. Sometimes, to us. The Lord promised us that, in this life, we would have many trials. But He also encouraged us that “He has overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
Our tomorrows can’t (or shouldn’t) be presumed upon to be smooth and trouble-free. When we plan, we are advised to say … “if the Lord wills…”
Thankfully, most days are much easier than the two I’ve described. But should you find yourself facing one, then call upon the name of the Lord, and trust Him. He will see you through.
Now, Lord willing, I will find a car…
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Patience is a virtue, one that is developed with difficulty. What makes being patient so hard? Several causes play into that answer, but two jump out to the front, at least in my mind.
The first hindrance to patience is the fact that, by nature, we humans tend to be impatient! That fact seems to be stamped in our DNA! Think about how many times we go through a drive-through window at a fast food restaurant, only to experience service that barely qualifies as being “fast!” Or, we get behind a driver that is taking their good old time, driving 5 MPH under the speed limit, on a day when you’re already late for an appointment! These are not isolated incidents – they happen to us all – all of the time. We are all part of the “NOW” generation – as in, “I want what I need (or want) NOW!!!” I want instant potatoes, fast food, ten minute oil changes, microwaved meals…and…how long will that take???
The second reason that this virtue called patience is difficult to come by – it involves the trying of our faith. Many of us grew up hearing the King James Version of James 1:3, where it says “…the trying of your faith worketh patience.” That means that patience is the outcome or product of a situation in which my faith has been tested! Uh oh – that sounds like a reward that comes after a time of difficulty…and that is exactly right. Patience doesn’t come all nice and gift wrapped, free to the user. Nope. It comes after a difficult, even painful time of testing. And that is exactly how God intended it to be. We all need patience. And He is faithful to put situations in our life that we don’t like, times that we don’t want, or people that jerk our chains – and in each and every case, that situation or person is there…as a gift from God, to work and grow patience in our lives.
Even in our prayer life, patience looms large. We come to God and we ask Him, believing that He hears and answers our prayers. And He does. But sometimes, He doesn’t answer in the timetable that we like. And when that happens…we become impatient, even with God, and we can even be tempted to feel that He doesn’t care. That couldn’t be further from the truth…He cares more than we can think or imagine!
I once had the privilege of meeting and talking privately with a diplomat from Haiti, a man who possessed great faith in God. He had weathered many difficult times, representing a nation that had experienced more poverty and governmental challenges than I could conceive. In this meeting, I was not only struck by this man’s humble nature, I was also impressed with his calm, patient outlook about the future. When it came to the future and his belief that God would meet his needs, and the needs of those with whom he worked, he made a statement that I’ve never forgotten. It has helped me many times, when I needed encouragement over a situation that seemed out or reach. He said, “I’ve learned a very important thing about God…He is NEVER late in answering prayers. But He is never EARLY either. He is always right on time…His time.”
What an encouraging thought – He will answer, in His time. And, in the meantime, He is building patience…in me.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I remember it so well. It was a brisk day in Southern Indiana – Evansville, to be exact, my hometown. I was in 8th Grade, and was alone, shooting hoops on the outdoor basketball court behind my school yard. For whatever reason, no one was around that late afternoon. I was alone on the court, and in my thoughts. And they were happy thoughts! I can’t explain why, but I began to dream that day – about a day when I might be blessed to have a son with whom to shoot baskets. I had grown up with a Dad who did that very thing with me. In fact, he was always there – at every Little League game, or at every event in my life that mattered. That always meant the world to me. Later, when I was a guitarist in a band, my Dad and Mom drove all over the place to just be there to support me. No doubt, that was just amazing to me, even then. I never knew life to be any different than having my parent’s complete love and support.
So there I was…daydreaming about a son, and promising the Lord that if He would bless me with a son, I would do my very best to be with him to support him in the same way as my parents had been with me. These thoughts were so fulfilling that I didn’t even mind being alone that day!
Fast-forward 16 years, to 1983. My wife Cindy and I had already been blessed with an amazing daughter, one that was the apple of our eyes. But we had also lost a child – my first son – a year earlier. That heartbreaking time did a lot in my life, more than can be contained in this post. But it did not rob me of hope or of the vision that was born in my heart on that breezy Indiana afternoon so long ago. And, in late August ’83, we were blessed with our son David.
Mike and David – circa late ‘83
And wouldn’t you know it, he grew up sharing my passion for sports (especially basketball), and also for music. Our years in the ‘80s and ‘90s were spent amazingly just like I dreamed they would be – shooting hoops, riding bikes, camping, and then following him around to watch his high school basketball team play. Add to that years of jamming together, and driving around watching David and two of his sisters play music with their own band.
Last year, David and his wife Beth became parents themselves – and Jude Wallace Gilland entered into our lives. He is the spitting image of his Daddy at that age. And I’m getting to relive that vision, all over again. And you know…something tells me that David and Jude will one day be shooting hoops together… I love being a Dad.
David Gilland and son Jude
Till next time…
~ Mike Gilland
I am an emotional man. No doubt. I always have been, and hopefully always will be. Emotions, in and of themselves, are not a bad thing – not by a long shot. We need them! Our affections for God, and for those we love, are dependent on them.
But unchecked emotions can bring along some highly troublesome side effects. When any of us live by what we feel, then we can wake up any ol’ day and be depressed, discouraged – or even “out of love” with our spouse, or even God.
Love and emotions are definitely linked. Love is not ultimately defined by emotions, but rather by truth and commitment. When I say I LOVE my wife, I am declaring that we are one. Even on days that we aren’t clicking, or during times when we conflict, I love her. We WILL have those days. All couples have them. And those days don’t mean that we don’t love each other. It means that we are human. It is our love that takes us through those dry and trying times. It is our commitment to each other that sustains our emotional state.
A friend once gave me a phrase that I have never forgotten. I was in one of those times, battling a feeling of depression. It seemed very real, and I was fully believing all that I was feeling. But my friend encouraged me to “inform my emotions”, not be governed by them. We don’t throw them out altogether in hard times. We are not to become robotic in our relationships. But when our feelings start to dictate things like our emotional “love” for one another, and take us down the path of feeling like we “lost our love,” then it is time to inform our emotions with truth. I have found it to be necessary to resist what I feel, and trust in what the Word tells me when those two things are in conflict. I am a big believer in having a clear conscience, so don’t misunderstand and think that I ignore all inner feelings. But I do have to weigh those feelings - with truth.
Here is why – we also battle against an enemy who would love to wreck our minds by planting thoughts and doubts. The devil is not omniscient, and is no match for God. But that doesn’t mean that he is not a roaring lion, seeking to devour you!
I have been counseling couples and individuals for 30 years – and way too many times, I have sadly seen couples split up, even divorce – all because they believed what one popular song by Barry Manilow stated. In the song, the singer had gone to a doctor and looked all over the place, trying to find the “feeling” once again, but realized that those “feelings” had disappeared…as fast as they came.
Those lyrics make for a catchy song, even a big hit in popular music. But they also describe a terrible way to live one’s life. It is much better to inform those feelings with truth than to be tormented and directed by them.
Till next time,
~ Mike Gilland
Sudden bursts of tragedy are never easy to handle. But such events are doubly hard when they come right after enduring a consuming and exhausting trial. Without a doubt, you have had a situation that suddenly appeared, leaving you feeling, “Why is this happening, after I’ve had such a difficult year, or month, week or even day?” Such was the condition of the widow and her son as recorded in 1 Kings 17:17-24.
Many of us are familiar with the story of this woman who, with her son, was about to face death by starvation. God sent the prophet Elijah to this lady, telling him that she would provide food for him (1 Kings 17:9). This had to be good news for Elijah, who had just recently had his meals delivered to him from ravens! Elijah obeyed and went to the lady, but once he asked her for a meal, the woman gave him the news that she only had enough for her son and herself, and then they would both die.
Well, the widow’s paltry pantry did not match God’s boundless provision. Not only did God use this situation to meet Elijah’s own need for food, it was an Old Testament version of the feeding of the 5000 with a bit of bread and few fish! – the supply of food didn’t run out, and all three were miraculously sustained.
That is…until verse 17, which begins with two fateful words: “After this…” Abruptly and apparently unrelated to the earlier trial, the widow’s son up and dies.
Now, the widow is completely overwhelmed with grief, and in that moment she did what most of us would do…instead of responding, she reacted. Basically, she blamed three people…1) Elijah – she turned to him first, asking “What have you against me?” 2) She brought God into the discussion, for in her eyes, Elijah was God’s man. And 3) because of that, she quickly blamed herself, indicating that her own sin had to be part of the reason why her son was now dead.
Elijah, however, did not react. He responded. Oh, may I respond to difficult situations the way he did! First of all, he DIDN’T lash back at the woman in self-defense. Instead, he had compassion on her, lifting her son’s lifeless body from her arms and placing the son in his own.
Then, Elijah did a most curious thing. He carried the son’s body to his own chambers, and there began a prayer meeting with God. He prayed…not once, not twice, but three times. And God listened to Elijah, and gave life back to the son.
Sometimes it seems that life isn’t fair. Those times help us realize that we are not God. Only God is God. He sees the end from the beginning. We don’t, and truth is, we can’t. That is a God thing.
It was a God thing in Elijah’s situation, too. We can learn from what he did in that difficult moment. Pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray the same prayer over and over again, if necessary. And pray knowing that we serve a God to listens to our prayers. In time, He will give us His answer. He always will.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland