The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

Photo by Erick Tang on Unsplash

But You remain the same, and Your years will never end. Psalm 102:27

I knew something was up when I called to reschedule my dental appointment and an unfamiliar voice greeted me on the other end of the line.  They then asked me which dentist I wanted to see when on the rescheduled date.  Which dentist?  Wasn’t Dr. B the only dentist at this location?  I was told that there were now two dentists in the office.  Being completely comfortable and pleased with the dentist I had always seen, it was a simple choice to make, so I rescheduled with Dr. B.

Then there was a texted reminder of my upcoming appointment, instead of the usual phone call with a friendly voice on the other end of the line by someone who knew me.

As I pulled into the parking space on the day of my appointment, I noticed changes on the outside of the building.  It now listed two names instead of one.  While the name of the practice was still visible above the door, one of the large windows now displayed an unfamiliar name.

Then I walked inside.  The waiting area had received a facelift.  New chairs, clear partitions separating the office staff from the clients, a countertop filled with brightly colored brochures, and a few simple, minimalist decorations.  They had replaced a magazine rack with a large screen television that displayed upbeat music videos.  The room had a completely different vibe.

While checking in at the desk, the employee handed me a clipboard with several forms to complete.  You know, the kind you have to fill in when you are a new patient.  A new patient?

Behold, I am going to do something new, now it will spring up; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

The new office assistants were professional and courteous.  Anyone walking into the office for the first time would have been impressed.  But me?

As I sat in one of the comfortable chairs, waiting for my turn, I pondered the changes.  I had been going to this dentist for nearly a decade.  Even when I moved almost an hour away, I continued driving to his office because as much as I respect him for his professionalism and knowledge, I really appreciated the patience and kindness of him and his staff. 

I had become accustomed to seeing the beautiful smile of his wife behind the counter.  She is such a friendly woman, and she would always ask about my children by name.  We discussed our kids, upcoming weddings, travel, and the fun and challenge of finding the perfect gifts online.  I looked forward to our chats before the appointment and after, and the conversation was always uplifting.  We found much to laugh about, and I always left thankful that I had come.  I missed her that day and realized what a gift her always being there had been. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow. James 1:17

A familiar face escorted me to the dental chair, though a mask covered most of it.  Still, her kindness shone through her eyes and her touch.  I was always happy when our schedules coincided, which hadn’t happened very often lately. 

As I got settled in the chair, I noticed that music from other genres had replaced the soft jazz that had always played in the background.  Not offensive, but not the relaxing music to which I had grown accustomed. 

Dr. B approached the chair and told me that he would retire in a few weeks.  Well, that explained it.  I had known it would happen eventually, and the changes should have given me a clue, but it did not prepare me for the news.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

As he and his assistant got to work, my thoughts swirled.  Life gets busy.  The time between appointments gets stretched out.  Issues crop up and because of the busyness of life, visits get delayed.  I know that some people make their routine medical and dental checkups a priority, and they never miss an appointment.  Well, that’s not me.  Over the last couple of years, I have moved, married, and started a new job with more hours and stress that I have felt that I could handle at times (which is also why I have not written in a long time).  Taking time off for a dental visit almost an hour away, only to have to work even harder to make up the work I missed was difficult, so my appointments grew farther in between.

In all of this, never once did I sense frustration or condemnation from Dr. B.  He would just fix what needed to be fixed and never say a word about my extended absence.

As I sat there, I realized his actions reminded me of someone else.

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger son said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. After a few days, the younger son got everything together and journeyed to a distant country, where he squandered his wealth in wild living.

After he had spent all he had, a severe famine swept through that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. He longed to fill his belly with the pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him a thing. Finally he came to his senses and said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have plenty of food? But here I am, starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still in the distance, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. The son declared, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:11-24

In the same way the father had compassion for his son and welcomed him back with no words of condemnation, Dr. B. welcomed this prodigal back time and time again.

On my drive home, I felt a sadness that this chapter in my life is almost over.  I like the familiar.  I like knowing and being known.  I like routine, even if the routine isn’t always the easiest (there is another dentist about a mile away from my house).  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Times change. Covid has definitely changed things. Some changes are easy to accept, but others…well, it’s a process. I would say most, if not all, families have had to adapt over the last year. Sickness, food and supply shortages, loss of income, loss of friends and family, are just a few of the challenges we’ve experienced, and continue to experience. These times have stretched us beyond what we ever thought possible.  If our only hope was in this world, here and now, we would be tempted to give up, and who would blame us? 

But as for me, it is good to draw near to God. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may proclaim all Your works. Psalm 73:28

If that’s you, too, may I make a suggestion? Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and shut out the noise within and without. Quiet your thoughts, and reconnect with the One who made you, loves you, and knows you best.  Change is inevitable, but there is always good that will come from it if we have eyes to see it.   

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Lord, thank You that when we are hurt, confused, and don’t know where to go or what to do, You are there, our Refuge, our Shelter, and the One who goes with us.  When it is hard to find the good in our circumstances, help us to find it.  Give us eyes to see what You are doing in the midst of our trials.  Comfort us as only You can, and restore hope and joy again.  Thank you for making us more like You in this process.  While things may change around us, You never change.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Thank You for walking with us, and for giving us strength for the journey.  Lord, You are good and Your mercy endures forever, and we praise You.

Now to Him who is able to do so much more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Wait

Wildflowers

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

This originally appeared on my personal Facebook page as part of a writing challenge I participated in to stretch my writing:  Five Minute Friday’s 31 DAYS OF FIVE MINUTE FREE WRITES. This is spontaneous writing in only 5 minutes. The word for the day was “Wait.”

“I wait for the LORD; my soul does wait, and in His word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5

I have always loved wildflowers.  I love the mix of vibrant and muted colors, and the way they appear to be randomly strewn across the ground.  It’s like God Himself reached down with His hand full of flower seeds and scattered them where He wanted a splash of color.  There’s a wildness to them, tamed by no man, yet their beauty shines forth just as their Creator intended.

Have you ever seen a package of wildflower seeds?  A variety of seeds are all mixed together, and you have no idea what flowers are going to grow from the mix.  You plant and wait, and water and wait, and in time their distinct colors, shapes and scents are revealed for all to see.

I have an affinity for a succulent called Desert Rose.  They are my favorite flowers because they thrive on neglect…so even I can grow them.  They don’t bloom very often – mostly after a dry spell, followed by a few days of rain.  When you are fortunate enough to find them in the plant nurseries, they seldom have flowers, and the labels don’t indicate what color flowers will appear.  You take them home, plant, and wait for the surprise.

We are the same!  The times we have the most growth tend to be after dry spells, or times in the wilderness.  We are all in the process of maturing, and we won’t be finished until our time on earth is complete.

Look around and you will see people in stages anywhere from seedlings to mature, flowering shrubs.  We love to comment on the beauty of the fully formed flowers, but aren’t as enthusiastic about the seedlings and the shoots that are without bloom.  We can be impatient, can’t we?  We forget that we were once seedlings ourselves.

Wait.  Have patience.  God is not done with them…or you.

“For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:14

“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.” Martin Luther

Just Love Each Other

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

I had my first ever dream about Jesus, Yeshua, a few months ago.  I have thought of it often.  To be quite honest, it was a bit convicting.

In the dream, I saw a hallway with several white doors.  The doors opened and a person came out from behind each door.  We all then entered a common room where Yeshua was.  The group was made up of both men and women, probably in their 20s and 30s.  Yeshua looked around the room and said, in an exasperated yet pleading voice, “Just love each other!”  I immediately awoke.

Confession time.  I have not always been a loving person, and I still struggle with this at times.  Even as a Christian.

Isn’t love the trait that sets believers in Jesus apart from others?

By this, all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:35

Isn’t that one of the greatest commandments that Jesus spoke of?

Love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

So how can someone say they are a Christian and not love people?

Well, different reasons, I suppose.  We all come to Jesus with baggage.  We have all walked through life and picked up scars along the way.  Rejection from peers, the painful end of a close friendship, verbal or physical abuse from parents or a spouse, harsh or embarrassing comments from a teacher or supervisor, the heartbreaking end of a relationship or marriage, just to name a few.

None of us are immune.

In my case, there was fear of being hurt by people.  It was safer to make my heart a kind of fortress, where only a few select people were allowed in.  I didn’t do much outside of time spent with those select few because it was safe there.

What I didn’t understand was that what I thought was a sanctuary was actually a prison.

Thank God, He loves us baggage and all, and He bids us come to Him and leave the baggage at His feet.  Letting go is a process, though, because we’re often not even aware of the baggage we’re carrying.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Slowly, as we spend more and more time in God’s presence, praying and reading the Bible, He shows us what we’ve been carrying, and then He enables us to give it to Him. That thing is then no longer a weight to carry, but becomes the very thing the Lord uses to help set someone else free.

I’m so thankful that the Lord doesn’t leave us the way He finds us.

The more time we spend with Him, the more we become like Him, and He is love.  He fills us with love for others.

But how do we really love in a practical way, day to day?  I’m still learning, but one of the things that has helped me is a question I heard somewhere that really stuck with me:  why do we assume a person’s worst intentions when they hurt us, but expect them to assume our best intentions when we hurt them?

Can’t we assume that their actions were never to hurt us?  Can’t we believe the best, and look for the best?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Can’t we forgive when necessary and not get offended every time our toes get stepped on?

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

It’s not easy, is it?  But it is possible.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Looking at His love, at His sacrifice, and seeing our own sinfulness…knowing that even when we were in our filthiness, our unloveliness, recognizing how truly wretched we were, how can we, who have been loved and forgiven much, not do the same?

There are so many ways to love others.  We can encourage people when we see them struggling.  We can pray for them.  We can offer physical assistance if needed.  We can help them financially.  Whatever gifts the Lord has placed in us are to be used in serving each other, and by doing this, God is pleased and honored.

I have found myself crying out to the Lord, more and more, to help me love people with His love.  To help me see people the way He sees them.  To be filled with his compassion.  I believe these are prayers that are dear to His heart, and He is answering.  He is transforming me with His love.  I know He will do the same for you if you ask Him.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Lord, help us to love others the way that you do.  So fill us with your love and compassion that it overflows and touches everyone we meet.  Give us eyes to really see the people around us, and give us the empathy to want to relieve their pain.  Lord, Your Word says that he who waters will himself be watered.  You water us continually with your love.  Help us to do the same.