The Umbrella

 

 Matthew 10:22
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

An umbrella or parasol is a canopy designed to protect against rain or sunlight. A parasol is designed to protect from the sun. An umbrella is more suited to protect from rain. Often the difference is the material; some parasols are not waterproof.


That last sentence makes all the difference in whether you’ll come out of your downpour unscathed or not.  To state the obvious, an umbrella is superior to a parasol, facing sun and rain.   What does that have to do with this verse?

Everything, because the word endureth comes from the Greek hypomeno.  The first definition is to stay under (behind), i. e. remain.  Jesus was saying that as long as you stay under my canopy, you’ll be safe.  

As I said, an umbrella is only as good as the material it’s made from.  The question has been asked, can the Church endure in this modern age?  The answer is a resounding Yes, not through ourselves, it’s because of Him. 

If you’re struggling today, let me recap His qualifications.  Stepping out on nothing, He created the worlds. Taking on everything, He later stepped into the world to save it from sin. Christ has fought everything from sin to satan and overcame.

Every century has asked His followers if their God could carry them through, and we continue to stand.  We are covered by a God greater than dynasty and dictator. Philosophy doesn’t shake Him, and problems don’t trouble Him.  

So when that doubting voice whispers in your mind today, “Will you make it?”  You can answer without fear, knowing the material your canopy is made from.  Before Kevlar, there was Christ!  No matter what you will face, or have fought, Jesus is still strong enough to carry you through.  

Whether you’re facing a scorching drought, or traveling through the storm, He will bring you safely, and securely home!  Jesus knew what they would face, that’s why He warned us.  It’s also why, in the warning, He gave us hope. The Lord said, “I have seen the end, and you can make it, as long as you hold my hand.” His umbrella is big enough to cover us, and powerful enough to keep us!  


The Unsigned Painting

       I love to paint. It’s not necessarily the final product that is the most enjoyable, it’s the process. The act of putting paint on canvas, and the improving of technique.  The same is true in life, it’s the act of living that brings enjoyment.

My point is this, yes your life is a production, but every breath is a part of the final product.  If that’s the case, you are not finished. There is room for correcting mistakes, learning a new skill, and yes, changing one’s life. It’s the unsigned painting that brings the artist the most joy, the most improvement, and the greatest opportunity.  

The final act of a painting is not even the signature, it’s the varnish.  Art dealers prize the long dead signature of a few hundred year old artists as the prize.  Art lovers appreciate the brush strokes.  In short, the painter loved painting, and fans admire how they accomplished it.  Once it’s signed, then it’s coated to endure the ages.

So many times today, we as a culture are so wrapped up in what we produce, that we fail to appreciate the process.  The fact of the matter is, people who manufacture goods earn their wages in the production of goods. The skills they develop are in the act of producing, and the finished product benefits from this.  

When it arrives, it’s going to be unwrapped anyway.  People don’t admire a banana moon pie, yes a personal favorite, they eat them.  The wrapper gets tossed in the trash, the dessert gets enjoyed.  If your life has some bitter areas, there is still time to sweeten the final product.  

I understand that it’s easy to write “change your situation”, but it’s much harder to live.  The good news is that change is a process, it’s a bridge to cross.  You don’t have to paint like Monet, just paint.  Will you make mistakes? Yes, but they’re fixable, the only thing that isn’t is a blank canvas.  

Artists will tell you, whether you paint or write, your enemy is the blank page.  As long as you’re not trying, you’re not getting better.  If you accidentally blacken your river, apply more blue.  If you get the face to light or dark, adjust, and correct.  Only by beginning can we improve.

What are you hoping to accomplish today, what do you need to fix?  Wherever you find yourself in life, you’re still breathing. Get up, and begin from where you are. The painter Grandma Moses started at the age of 78, and lived to be 101 by the way.  Her new course added life and adventure to her days.

That voice that whispers you can’t is only true if you don’t try.  If you try and stumble, get up again. If you’re too tired to walk, crawl until you can walk again.  Don’t allow anything to talk you out of living.  Fear, regret, and fatigue want you to give up and stop trying, but that’s the only way they can win!  If you lay down the brush, your painting will never be signed.

God will walk with us through the process, provided we pick up the brush. In this life, we’ll make mistakes, but as long as we’re pursuing, there is hope. He’s had experience in picking up the pieces and helping turn them into a masterpiece.  

Never allow years of mistakes to trick you into believing there isn’t hope.  Past failures are only determining factors if your idle in your present. Your life isn’t over as long as your heart is beating.  Your future is in the unsigned painting, so add a new road to your picture.

If it isn’t signed, it can’t be varnished. The coating that preserves a painting is waiting for the artist’s signature.  He will carry us through to the end, just as long as we don’t give up.  It’s a new morning, drink some coffee, and get started. You’ve got an unsigned painting to work on! 

The Sea Horse: Why Yellow And Blue

  “Why yellow and blue?”  Elizabeth asked Aaron, it seemed to take him by surprise.  “Why?  I thought it was pretty obvious.  Blue is the color of the sea, yellow is the color that represents light. Oceania’s hero needs to send the message that there is strength and hope in our city.”

“Why a sea horse?  Why not a whale, or a dolphin, or something.”  Henry walked in with the cast matierial to wrap Aaron’s broken leg.  He answered for him.  “That’s the easiest of all, it was his Mother’s code name as Ambassador.  Nicolai gave her that because of her home town and her first ambassadorship to Ireland.  It was also the name of his Dad’s boat that he was born on.”

Elizabeth looked around the Sea Cove. “How did you get the technology to build this?”  The Judge spoke up.  “Henry supplied the funds, but your Aaron and his step brother Webb are the brains.  Aaron’s recovery wasn’t wasted, he earned as many degrees as he could.”

She started to ask another question when Aaron raised his hand to stop her.  “You stopped me the other night from telling you how this all started with your Grandmother.  Let Henry tell you now.”  “I don’t know if I’m ready to hear, I loved her so much.”

Henry scratched his head.  “I think you have the wrong idea.  Your Grandmother was a hero.”  “But my Dad …”  Nicolai took up the story.  “Your Dad was connected to your Grandmother, as an agent. He was planted in the criminal organization to get information.  He was the first “British Rose”, and Rook’s first assignment as team leader. He took that codename to protect his family, so there would be no trace back to you and your Mother.”

She swallowed hard. “Where were you?” “Saving the life of a young man half way across the world.” “It cost me a limp, but he got me to safety.” The Judge responded.  Henry took up the conversation again.  “For us, it started in Oceania, your Grandmother needed a doctor to go with the Ambassador and her family. She was expecting a child, and wanted a doctor to travel with them on a off the books mission.”

“Wanda introduced me to her representative, Carla Lyman.  Carla worked for the CIA, your Grandmother’s bureau.  Nicolai had recommended his team because your Grandmother felt her team had been compromised.  She was right, only they didn’t stop with silencing her, they kept up ‘the accidents’, including Norm Silva.”

“What accidents?”  “That night on the boat, one of your Grandmother Wanda’s team followed her to the boat.  He tried to kill her, I had to operate to save her, she recovered, but the injuries were career ending for her.  That’s why your Father became an agent, to continue his Mother’s work.”

“Another operation happened that night, Elaine and her husband gave birth to a son.  We thought the worse days were behind us, until a few years later.  Rook’s point man, and Nicolai’s old partner, was the captain of the ship that night.  He had since retired and started a family, changing his name in the process.”

Aaron took over the last leg of the story.  “He thought he had covered his tracks, but still kept one eye open. He even settled near Henry and Carla to watch after me.  Since Dad’s boating accident, Mom spent most of her time in Washington.  Until the car wreck when I was five, and Henry and Carla adopted me.  I learned later that neither was ‘an accident’.”

Elizabeth hugged him as he continued. “Between them, they kept my life quiet, until I was 18.  These people don’t like loose ends, which is what they viewed the Judge, and his young part time assistant as.  We were trying to fight in our own way.  I stayed late one night to help the Judge, not knowing about the explosion until it happened.” 

“According to the news, four people were lost in the fire, I thought three had.  Until I found the Judge, that is.  I spent time recovering, Henry repaired my face, Webb taught me, and Nicolai trained me. Before I could start my campaign, they got rid of the last person they were afraid of.”

“You mean Norm Silva.” He agreed. “Norm was Nicolai’s old partner, now a fisherman in what is now the suburbs of Oceania.  He tried to stop them from amalgamating this town through corruption and greed.  They responded by silencing him.”

“The night before the attack, he came to see me.  I was angry, he said I couldn’t let that anger destroy me.  He said that I was like this city, and that we both were too important to be a cesspool.  Like the ocean, we were full of possibilities, and that we had to maintain hope, to stand for the light.  To uphold right, and dispel the darkness.”

“That’s why I guess I really chose yellow and blue.  For my parents, for your family, for Norm Silva, and for Oceania.  They need to know that there is hope, and together we’re going to help them find it.”

Beauty In The Struggle

  
No one likes to struggle, whether its financial, physical, or mental, it’s not something we plan to do. The danger though is, if we’re not careful, we can miss the beauty in the struggle.  The greatest lessons I’ve ever been taught, the  strongest examples in my life, were from people in the midst of a battle.

The pain was not pretty, the hurt, the tears, none of that held any joy, please don’t misunderstand.  The anguish isn’t what is so glorious, but the endurance and the victory are.  In articles like this, our minds gravitate towards life altering battles we’ve witnessed, and those are so powerful.

However, this morning, let’s look at the smaller ones.  The Parents that struggle to make the budget match the bills.  The Pastors who patch up their vehicles to keep them running because the Church has a need.  The school teacher who could make more in almost any other industry, but chooses to teach anyway.

How many kids get a full meal because their parents limited their own dinner each night? What about that Mother who buys her children clothes, maybe not from the best store, but sees they have a new outfit for Easter? In our pursuit of the brass ring, do we forget to be grateful for the metal rings that hold what we already have together?

Again, don’t misunderstand, I think anyone who betters themselves should be applauded and rewarded.  What I am saying, is because I am human, it’s sometimes too easy to forget the reward in the resistance.  Muscles are grown under pressure, character is forged in trials.

We appreciate the carefully cut diamonds in rings, but it’s the beaten or melted, and formed gold that holds them in place.  President’s in history were proud to be sharecropper’s sons.  They’re position was a direct result of the path their parents walked.

In your struggle today, who’s watching you?  What child, or grandchild will overcome life jarring situations because of your everyday victories? It’s easy to see yourself as being all alone in the sea, but you’re not.  You’re not drowning, you’re teaching someone else how to swim.  

To all of you today who are overworked, underpaid, and exhausted, thank you.   Thank you for your everyday sacrifice.  Thank you for not being selfish, and for putting our needs above your own.  You may think those calluses and blisters are not attractive, but to those of us who are the recipients of your struggle, they are the among the most beautiful sights we’ve ever seen!  

The Act Of Learning

  
Last week we talked about the power of study, today I’d like to talk about the act of learning. One enhances the other. Today though, I want to look at the pursuit of new knowledge itself.  
As adults, it’s easy to spend time with only those things that give us enjoyment we’re familiar with.  That’s perfectly fine within limits, however we don’t have to limit ourselves to what we already know.  Previously, if you wanted to learn a new skill, you would have to take a class, or read a book, both of which are still valuable.  The problem is, people lead busy lives, and they may not have the time or the money for those options.  
What we do have available to us are more free tools than ever before. Libraries of information are open to us.  These are not only the physical books and buildings we grew up with, but digital ones as well.  Wikipedia, YouTube, Kahn Academy are all free resources to learn a new skill. Whether it’s about history, a new hobby, or another culture.  Even the public libraries now offer eBook apps that enable us to make time for learning without an appointment.
Learning is important for three reasons.  First, it adds value to our lives.  We expand our minds when we take in knowledge.  Every human, no matter how they did in school, no matter how insecure they are about their own intelligence, can learn something.  I also believe that every one of us has a talent of some kind, it’s only a matter of finding what it is.  
If you are insecure about your intelligence, if you did struggle in school, I challenge you to learn one fact a day that you didn’t know before.  At the end of each week, if you’ve only retained one of them, you’ve learned something new.  You’ve also proven to yourself that you are smarter than you believed you were. Your self-worth has been increased, you’ve learned something about yourself in the midst of learning something new.
It will give you a new outlet.  Boredom is something very sneaky, it can be a gateway to depression.  The more you know, the more avenues you have to travel, leaving that sense of ‘everything is the same’ behind.  A new outlet will open your point of view to how others see things.  
If you are a mathematician, try learning about art, or vice versa.  Place yourself in a different scenario, and see how others would get out of a situation.  It will add insight and perspective that you couldn’t of had before.  Many times the answer to solving a problem is by knowing how to view it from a different angle.
Second, it will add value to others.  Your new confidence, skill, and viewpoint will be an example to others.  Your children, co-workers, and friends may be inspired to enhance their own education by following your example. 
It’s not that you are flaunting your new knowledge, when we do this it’s more about arrogance than learning anyway.  It’s that you are saying, “If I can do this, so can you.  I’m no Einstein, but I can improve my mind by learning about him.”  The most detrimental attitude comes from a feeling of the inability to learn.  If you can counteract that in the eyes of a child, you are a true hero.
Thirdly, and as important as anything else, it will remind us that we as humans, will always be students.  Too often in life, if we’re not careful, we can think that we’ve learned everything we need to know.  When we think that, we unintentionally withdraw from learning, shutting ourselves off from a wonderful world of opportunities. If we were under 18, we’d call this a drop out.  
If we’re over 18, we are tempted to simply say I’m too old to learn anything new.  When that happens, we are once again dropouts.  We withdraw from new horizons, climbing higher mountains, experiencing sunrises that we haven’t seen before.  Learning lifts us, leads us, and allows us to lend more of ourselves to others.
Every skill I have, everything new that I learn adds value to me, to those around me, and honors our Creator.  The very act of learning says, I am smart enough to know that I have more to learn.  A teachable spirit will never grow arrogant or indifferent.  It will always be a willing heart, ready to listen, to grow, and to share. 
Bishop Spencer McCool Senior is one of the finest Ministers that I’ve ever met.  On top of all of his Scriptural knowledge, he knows how to work on electrical wiring, plumbing, and numerous appliances.  These aren’t skills that you would immediately associate with his calling, but he’s made the difference in numerous people’s lives with them. He does this, not for profit, but to benefit others. To help those who don’t have the same skills that he has.
When we first moved into our home, we couldn’t afford to call a plumber to fix our kitchen’s water problems. Bishop McCool, our Pastor’s Father-In-Law, happened to be in town.  They told him about our predicament, and he volunteered to help. He is a man that has guided my soul in numerous decisions in my life, and was now blessing our home.  
Bishop did this out of love, and because he had the knowledge.  How many times have we made the statement, “I would help if I knew how to …?”  In this day when learning is just a podcast or video away, how much more could we learn that would add value to ourselves and our loved ones?  

Stand Still

  Stand still … each time a command. Both occurrences would stop chariots, involve two different nations, and in each instance there would be an Exodus.  The first time God used Moses to part the waters of the Red Sea. The final time, they walked into the water, because another sea had been parted.

The last time the phrase was used, and the only time in the New Testament, was in Acts.  The Ethiopian Eunuch had stopped to hear Phillip’s message about Jesus, and was ready to be baptized. When arriving at the water, he commanded the chariot to stand still so he could be baptized.

Calvary became a very different Red Sea, thanks to The Lord Jesus. His blood flowed, separating us from our sins. He performed His greatest miracle while suspended for six hours on a cross.  It was far from a place of no activity, Christ carried out the greatest transaction of history that day.

In Hebrew, stand still mean to station.  Much like the famed Grand Central in New York, all lives pass through these two words. An equally like the terminal, it’s not a place where nothing happens, but one of transition.  The question is, are you strong enough to listen and wait, when everything inside you is saying run? 

Standing still is the last step before your transition.  It’s that breath before a long jump, an exiting to doubt.  Transition gets your attention, causing you to pause just a moment before heading towards a new horizon.  

If you’re in the middle of a decision, a crisis, or something bigger than you, I’ve been there. I encourage you today to add the other factor present at both instances of stand still in the Scripture.  God was there to say, “You’ve done all you can do, you came to the water’s edge, now let me take you across to a new beginning.”

Whatever you’re facing today may be bigger than we are, but it’s not bigger than Him. He’ll either part the waters, lift you above them, or keep you through them.  Either way, you will not drown, you will birth something new.  You’re not at the end, just the interlude, so take a moment, talk to The Master, and stand still to watch Him work!

The Sea Horse: The Elite

  

The Elite, as they had been dubbed, stood looking at the rubble of Armor’s latest exploit.  It was Wes Kane’s first skyscraper, Kane Towers.  “You still think we’ve got a handle on this city cousin?”


“Drop the tone in your voice cousin, I’m not one of your scared employees.  I’m family, and I taught you better than that.  Family works together when no one else can. I have a plan.  Agent Rook let me down, but this Carbuncle is promising. Let’s go.” 


With that Martha Hilbrite and Wes Kane got in the limo and left.  Martin Potts, the power broker didn’t leave, it was his job next.  He had to do what ‘The Elite’ refused to do, deal with the mess.  Oh Martha made guesses as to what would happen next, but refused Martin’s plans at the same time.  


Her theory was that this Carbuncle would seize the vacuum of power Rook’s failure had left.  This way, Armor and High Society would be subdued by the new machine, and they wouldn’t get involved.  Martin was through with guessing games, he was acting.


Another limo pulled up, with a Mother and son inside.  “You have what we want?”  “Yes,  can you make what I want happen?”  “Of course we can.”  “How can I be sure?”  They handed him an iPad as he watched twenty million dollars leave his bank accounts.


He smiled, handed it back and said, “Worth every penny.  Make this city mine again.”  “No, we will make this city ours, and allow you to play in it.”  Potts stood there plotting how he was eventually going to take them down also, as they drove away.