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I had my iPhone updated this week (You don't think I would attempt that on my own, do you?). As with most updates, the changes seemed to come in three categories: 1) "This is nice - a good idea;" 2) "This is OK, but it will take a little time to get used to;" and 3) "OH NO! Why in the world did they do this and how am I going to get around it?" The third category usually seems to be discovered at less than opportune times.

Tuesday morning arrives and I decide that I am going to send out 'Tuesday's Text' much earlier than usual. I go to the app on my phone, and what do you think I discovered? The 'update' eliminated nearly all of the names of the people who had asked to receive it! And, of course, as organized as I am, I had not saved the list anywhere else. My remaining list was terribly 'outdated.'

So much for an early sending of the day's Bible passage with God's encouragement.

As the day went on, I realized I would just need to use any open time I found to scroll through my contacts and add names back to the list. This is when my second problem occurred. Quite simply, I had almost no recollection of who had asked to be on the list.

So phase two of the strategy was developed. What I decided to do fell into the category of "Do I ask for permission or forgiveness?" Risk taker that I tend to be, I think you know what my decision was. Before the day was half done, I had gone through my entire list of contacts and added to the list of Tuesday's Text recipients everyone that I thought might benefit from receiving it, and the passage for the day (2 Corinthians 5.15) was sent.

As the text was sent, I prayed, "Oh Lord Jesus, keep your Isaiah 55 promise." "My word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do. You will indeed to out with joy and be peacefully guided." (Isaiah 55.11-12)

It was sometime later that I noticed another problem. The app that I use for sending out Tuesday's Text had a new category entitled "NoGroup". And any names on that list that I had attempted to add to the TT list were automatically excluded. As you can imagine, by the time I discovered this it was too late in the day to do anything about it.

As it often is in our earthly story, the bottom line has good news and bad news. First the good news: A variety of 'first time receivers' thanked me for the text - some even gave me names and numbers of others to send it to. The bad news: Most of the people who had specifically asked to receive the text did not! To you I express my apologies, and ask that we work on a solution together: Please resend your request to be included. At the same time, I will be transferring names from the NoGroup group to the Tuesday Text group.

And with this comes a word of the Lord that he is constantly updating (and is never outdated), "The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel's exiled people. He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds ... Our Lord is great, vast in power; his understanding is infinite. The Lord helps the oppressed but brings the wicked to the ground." (Psalm 147.2-3, 5-6)

The Free Press was not on the front porch this morning like it is supposed to be! This tiny little factor seemed to change my entire 'beginning of the day' routine. Yes, I could still read it on line (and did), but it's just not the same. I fear I may be out of sorts all day.

"Out of sorts" - I find this to be an unusual expression. I believe it is the opposite of "fit" ... as when the pieces all fit together perfectly. Out of sorts speaks of just enough disorder to cause confusion (Think of someone exchanging the the location of "e" on your keyboard with the location of "v").

I certainly am much more a 'person of routine' than I often consider myself to be ... rise up at the same old time ... get the Free Press (except for today!) ... have my OJ and vitamin while reading Portals of Prayer ... get clean and clothed ... bowl of Cheerios with fruit ... open up the lap top ... and I am ready for my day. On certain days Monica makes an appearance (I could tell you the days), while on others I am gone before her day needs to begin. I can only wonder why no printed copy of the Freep would leave me feeling as I do?

There are certainly many others I know whose lives are out of sorts for much larger issues than mine ... the recent death of a loved one ... the loss of job (even if through retirement) ... chemotherapy or radiation ... surgeries and hospitalizations ... fractured bones or relationships ... headaches and heartaches ... the list goes on and on ... and on and on ... What is a person to do?

When one looses their balance one thing that they should NOT do is continue to stumble around like a drunken fool! Something much more practical is to take a moment to gather yourself (perhaps by sitting down or holding on to something). Take a deep breath. Get reoriented. And, when ready, move forward.

These seem to be the simple steps taken by the author of Psalm 121. "I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever."

Simon Peter had one of those "out of sorts" mornings while walking toward Jesus on the sea of Galilee. "When he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?' When they got into the boat, the wind ceased." (Matthew 14.30-32)

The promise - and the outcome - in both stories are the same. The pieces of our lives do not always fit together as we anticipate ... or as we think they should. But our Lord Jesus has no desire to leave us "out of sorts." He reaches out to us ... helps us catch our balance again ... and reminds us of his promise to make all things fit together (Romans 8.28)

Now, I want to check out our front porch one more time!

The storms of life come in many different forms. At this moment I am feeling caught up in a storm of "busy". For this reason I am going to keep this very short today, and invite you to do a simple little exercise with me - to simply relax, and reflect up God's word.

Yesterday morning started like most Wednesday mornings. I left home around 6:15 and joined the men's FHL group at church (arriving a few minutes late, also per usual). The day went on to include a wedding rehearsal at Belle Isle, and trip to Ann Arbor, a stop at Wellspring in Livonia to visit my mother in law, and a few hours of office work at church. At 6:00 p.m. (or so) was another wedding rehearsal. During the rehearsal I received a text that set up an appointment for later in the evening, after the rehearsal dinner. On my way home I spoke with Monica on the phone (She is out of town). It was not too much after 10:30 when I finally got home.

This morning I hit the road about the same time as yesterday. I am currently sitting in the surgical lounge at Beaumont of Grosse Pointe. Everything is fine - it's just that someone needed a ride. This is just a little different environment for writing my Thursday's Thirst.

I know I have a "few" other connections to make today - I just received a text that should receive a reply. My goal is to just make it through the day. Tonight, thanks to a friend, Monica and I will get our first exposure to the new LCA and this year's version of the Red Wings.

So, the word that will carry me through - and hopefully help you, too, is the same word that carried the sons of Korah, Martin Luther, and many others. "God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil. ... The Lord of Armies with with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." (Psalm 46.1-3, 11)

There is more to this psalm that you can read on your own, but I am running out of time. The words for this day are simple: Relax ... Reflect ... and Refuge. In the midst of storms we can RELAX in the arms of Jesus. We REFLECT upon his word and promises. We are comforted knowing that he is our REFUGE and strength.

Have a happy Thursday.

Last week's thoughts concluded with the assurance, "God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas." (Psalm 46.1-2) These definitely were God's words for me, for I had no idea what the week ahead would bring. How comforting it is to know that, though we do not know what the future will bring, our God and Savior not only does, but he also is doing advance work in preparation for our safe travel through all the sudden, and unexpected changes, we face.

This week opened with the horrific shootings in Las Vegas. Senseless ... inexplicable ... crazed psychotic ... indefensible ... unsettling ... evil ... whatever terms you use to describe the scene on Sunday night, it certainly caught all of us off guard. And it has been the topic of every home visit I have made this week. How fortunate (blessed) it is that last week the plans had already been laid for me to take Psalm 46 and the singing of "A Mighty Fortress is our God" to each of these homes.

And then, yesterday morning, at 8:37, as I sat in my usual fashion at Tim Horton's, my phone rang. It was my brother from Wisconsin. Since he has become semi-retired he has started calling at times other than Sunday evenings - but never in the morning like this! I answered, and trembled. His news was sad, and totally unexpected. His wife, Nora, had been taken to the hospital the night before, but she did not make it. She had died at 5:00 that morning.

In the midst of our sorrow, and these sudden changes, the promise holds true. "God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble." And he goes on to assure us, "There is a river - its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High. God is within her; she will not be toppled. God will help her when the morning dawns. Nations rage, kingdoms topple; the earth melts when he lifts his voice. The Lord of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." (Psalm 46.4-7)

Many appointments for the week have been cancelled. Plans have been rearranged. Our bases are covered. We will be driving to Wisconsin in the afternoon. But the sudden changes we are experiencing are nothing like those my brother and his three daughters are experiencing (Or our sister in law's 95 year old mother, either). Nor are the challenges I face anything compared to what is faced by the families of the 59 who were killed in Las Vegas.

What were the words for last week? RELAX ... knowing that nothing takes Jesus by surprise (and he has plans - good plans - for us all). REFLECT ... remembering all of the blessings received (that is certainly what we will be doing as a family in the days ahead). REFUGE ... in ways seen and unseen, our Savior's arms will be wrapped around us (and, yes, his promise is that he will bring good things out of even the most tragic of deaths ... we dare not forget the third day after Calvary).

To these three words I am adding a fourth this week. REJOICE ... for the sudden changes those who die in the Lord are experiencing. John describes them this way: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. ... He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, 'Look, I am making everything new.' He also said, 'Write, because these words are faithful and true.'" (Revelation 21.1-2, 4-5)

Life in this fallen world is filled with many sudden, and sorrowful, changes. But Jesus - the Word made flesh who chooses to dwell among us - laces our lives with the constant we need - his grace and love. And then he makes sure that the final sudden change we experience ... contains no sorrow, for he introduces this change by saying, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25.34)

Until then, we live in the refuge of his care, and say by the power of the Spirit, "I believe in ... the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." Amen.

A couple weeks ago on a Friday I traveled with Monica to her Godmother's funeral in Saginaw. The lady was 95 years old, and Monica had received a birthday card from her every year. But that was the least of the blessings that Evie was to Monica.

Yesterday Monica called her other Godmother on the phone to wish her a happy birthday. Loretta is 96, and had just renewed her driver's license. The sum total of her grandchildren and great grandchildren is 40 or more. She, too, has been a faithful and prayerful supporter of Monica her entire life.

One logical conclusion you could reach from this is really quite simple: God, who knows our needs, recognized the incredible level of prayer support Monica would require throughout her lifetime, and thus granted her two Godmothers who would still be praying for her in their mid-90's. Another conclusion one might reach is that he saw Monica becoming a rich blessing in the lives of many, and gave her these two Godmothers as mentors, that the blessings might be multiplied exponentially. I, for one, choose the latter conclusion.

Throughout my lifetime people have recognized that I am not really Godfather material. Every time I have been asked to be a Godfather it has been as a 'tag-along' to Monica being the Godmother. I have always appreciated their concern for not wanting me to feel left out in the cold. I have also admired their wisdom in recognizing Monica as the greater blessing in the life of their child (something, I believe, each of our Godchildren would attest to).

Whether we are talking about Godparents, Godchildren or people we meet by chance in the street (Have I told you about the motorcyclist or the man and his two daughters I met last week?), a subtle little truth has been slapping me in the face this week ... We have been chosen by God to walk in the footsteps of Abraham!

You might recall how the Lord and two angels visited Abraham right before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. In a conversation with these two angels the Lord says, "Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. This is how the Lord will fulfill to Abraham what he promised him." (Genesis 18.18-19)

Just like Abraham, we are blessed by God to be a blessing to many others. First of all, God bestows blessing after blessing upon us from a complex, and often surprising, blend of sources. Godparents, family, strangers and friends are God's lifelong instruments in bringing his grace into our lives. His goal is that we would experience the riches of his love here on earth, and then its fullness in eternity. And then, before that eternity thing, he seeks to use us and our lives to be a blessing to many, many more. A truly blessed life is lived as we recognize the laser focus of multiple blessings God has coming our way and thus are freed from self (selfishness, self-pity, self justification, self-focus ...) to offer our lives in the service of lifting up (that is, blessing) every life that God leads across our path.

Jesus uses St Paul to say it this way, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God." (Romans 12.1-2)

Now, I would be remiss if I did not mention how richly I also have been blessed through my Godparents. They both have been in heaven for a few years already - I even had the privilege of speaking at the memorial service of one of them (and still chuckle at the idea of "destination hospitalizations"). I think, perhaps, God cut short their ministry to me because they could see Monica (great Godmother that she is) taking over their role in my life (I will let you think about that).

BOTTOM LINE: I know that I, like you, have been richly blessed to be a blessing to many.

"Remember," Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4.13-15)

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