Perspectives

A different look at every day issues.

Obstacles - Part 1

The only thing about our journey through life (upon which we can depend) is that we will face obstacles along the way. I wish I could say that there is a viable option in which we can determine both the severity of the obstacle and its duration.

Obstacles (also known as challenges, trials, tests, tribulations, etc.) are what shape and mold us into a useful part of the human race. If nobody accepted the challenge of an obstacle and simply sat down and crossed arms, nothing of value would be learned or modeled for others.

Obstacles shape us in several ways. I know . . . who wants to be shaped by the difficulties inserted into our life? Probably nobody. However, obstacles are a part of life and we must learn to capitalize on the potential personal gain one can experience through head-on confrontation with whatever seeks to block our progress.

Obstacles take many forms. They can be rejection, character assault, or even prescribed training like our armed forces utilize to harden and shape those charged with keeping us safe and free. Obstacles can also take the form of repeated detours that leave us questioning our original travel plans though life.

Here are several questions you can ask yourself when faced with an obstacle.

Questions:
What am I supposed to learn from this roadblock?
Am I on the right path?
Is my timing in God’s will? 
Is this roadblock actually a divine protection keeping me from disaster?
Have I sought God’s will for my life and did I listen when He revealed it?
Am I determined to face each obstacle with a willingness to overcome it?
Do I look at each obstacle as a sign that I’m not supposed to go that way?
Do the obstacles keep me in a continual state of defeat?


I intend to address some of these questions in Part 2. However, re-read the list above and really think about how they might represent your attitude toward obstacles. This article’s intent is to bring light on those things that may be keeping you from realizing your God-given potential.



“Living in the Moment"

During a recent trip to the east coast of Florida, my wife and I decided to take in some beach time since our hotel was close to the ocean. We relaxed as we strolled in the wet sand as the only sound was that of the crashing surf and countless sea gulls calling to each other. 

We walked down to the edge of the water and allowed the surf to lap at our ankles and then retreat to the collective body of water. The ebbing of the waves was, in itself, relaxing. We are often able to repeat this exercise in relaxation given our proximity to one of Florida’s beautiful beaches. We are truly blessed!


On this particular day, I came away with a little more than relaxation. I noticed that as long as the surf  didn’t wrap around my ankles, nothing changed. But when the surf enveloped my feet and ankles, I noticed that the sandy base beneath my feet began to erode from the water causing me to sink a little deeper into the wet sand. It didn’t take long before I had to step to the side and allow the process to start all over again. 


While I have experienced this erosion phenomenon many times during my residence in Florida, I had never really given much thought to it. Perhaps I was in a more perceptive state of mind as several thoughts came to me.

First, there are times when we just want to enjoy the moment but before long, find ourselves stuck in that which was once enjoyable but eventually become a trap. Rationalization and justification begin their predictable process only to leave us without an authentic exposure to what started the whole sensation in the first place.


Second, our lack of movement ensures an absence of new revelation. What was once enjoyable and relaxing has become a tedious process in maintaining what was lost through our stationary stance.

I believe that God wants to give us new experiences each day to keep life from lapping around our ankles and entrapping our future in a “moment” experience. He wants us to allow his mercy and grace to flow into our lives each day—not to entrap us but to free us from our propensity to live in the moment with no eye to our future. 


If the enemy of our soul can keep us from accepting new places and new adventures with the Father, he can stifle our spiritual growth.

Remember, we can live so much “in the minute” that we miss the big picture of God’s ongoing provision and revelation. 


"What You Fear the Most . . . "


Director James Cameron produced an ocean adventure epic costing 69.5 million dollars and was called, ‘The Abyss.’ In his 1989 story, a team of oceanographers worked on the ocean floor in a laboratory designed for deep-water exploration. As I recall, the movie was one of the first of its kind in which they took CGI (computer generated imagery) to the next level in entertainment. I sat mesmerized by the imagery on the screen and felt fully ‘submerged’ in its story line. In short, the story was about their encounter with a life form that emerged from a giant ocean canyon they referred to as the ‘abyss.’ 

So, to make a long (and very exciting) story short, the team member played by Ed Harris decided to risk his life in an effort to see how far down the abyss went. There were additional factors that weighed into his decision, but for brevity sake, let’s leave him there for now . . . falling deeper and deeper into the canyon.

Life is like that. We encounter abnormalities that threaten to sink us and drag us into an abyss. We might even feel helpless as we free-fall downward into what can only be our worst imaginations

Believe it or not, God designed these times to teach us to trust him more. While we rarely appreciate the experience in real time, hindsight always teaches us that God will not let us crash into something at the bottom of the abyss in which we find ourselves descending. The lesson takes place during the free-fall. It is then that we encounter the sustaining power of a father who loves us too much to treat us in a reckless manner.

Back to The Abyss. Eventually, Ed Harris hit the bottom of the abyss. There, beautiful creatures took him on board an alien spacecraft and saved his life. That’s the Cliff Notes version. What he feared the most was what saved his life.

The lessons we learn during our apparent free-fall are the lessons that will save our lives and prove that God really does know what he is doing and that he loves us more than we could ever imagine.

Remember, nothing ever happens in your life without first gaining his permission.

Jim Beaird

"In the Eye of the Storm"

 As I was driving to the office the other day, I heard a song by Ryan Stevenson – “The Eye of the Storm.” I could not help but listen as the lyrics articulated what we’ve all been through this last week – a hurricane of epic proportions! Every part of our state of Florida was impacted. Yet, the song had been written prior to the state’s catastrophic storm. Interesting. I think the providence of God played in there somewhere . . . just in time.

I am reminded that storms are not optional. They are a part of the natural system of the earth. They produce scenarios that really challenge individual thought and reason. I weary of people saying that God has judged our state by sending a storm to wash away things He doesn’t like. That's just nonsense.

A storm is a storm. Period. What God DOES want to accomplish, however, is to get people to work together and believe the best in each other. Watching neighbor helping neighbor pleases the Father. It is then that the very best impulses emerge from our fallen human nature. 

We are forced to take inventory of what is really important in life and, in those moments when the pain of overload threatens our willingness to go on, He is right there . . . in the middle of the storm.


“In the eye of the storm, You remain in control;
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul;
You alone are the anchor, When my sails are torn;
Your love surrounds me, In the eye of the storm.”

(A special thanks to Ryan Stevenson!)

Jim Beaird


Ram in the Thicket


We have all measured the cost of our own generosity. In our minds, we think, “I can afford this . . . or at least recover shortly.” Isn’t that the way human nature calculates seeming acts of sacrifice?
Abraham was asked by God to give Isaac as an offering upon a mountain. Isaac was God’s fulfillment of a promise made long ago to a barren couple well into their final years. Now, God told Abraham to give him back.
Imagine with me the untold devastation the couple felt when everything they had ever hoped for and prayed for was now being recalled.

I can see the knife being held in his hand just as it ascends before the plunge. I can see the young boy on the stack of stones being used as an altar. I can see the pain in the father’s eyes as tears flow down his cheeks. But, like I said, God provided a ram to be the sacrifice. He wanted to know what was in Abraham’s heart. Would he cling to the blessing of a child in his old age or would he honor God’s directive?

Of course, we know the biblical narrative behind the directive. It was a test. Abraham passed. The boy and his father returned home to a very relieved mother.

Isaac’s father was provided a ram in the thicket—just in time!

God does ask things of us in order to test and stretch our faith. He knows what’s ahead and has promised to always keep us in the hollow of his hand. However, during the test we often feel abandoned and left to our own calculations. God’s reason for the test is to take us to the next level in our trusting him and in his demonstration of provision.


What is He asking of you? Has he asked something that your calculations cannot justify? Your part is to trust him. His part is to provide a ram in the thicket—just in time. What he placed in your heart, he will accomplish – with room to spare.

Jim Beaird

"The Pain of Overload"

“It hurts!”
Those were the words of David Tate, 180 pound safety for the 1990 Chicago Bears. He was not referring to getting blocked on a play. He was referring to the good-natured rivalry between the smaller defensive backs and the defensive line of the Bears.

One day, 320 pound William “the Fridge” Perry caught Tate and collapsed on top of him. As if that were not enough, 270 pound Richard Dent, 275 pound Dan Hampton, and 270 pound Steve McMichael joined Perry in squishing the much smaller Tate. That’s 1135 pounds of pain! More than half a ton! Tate later replied, “I don’t think those guys knew how heavy they really are!”

Life has a way of weighing us down and pinning us to its playing field. We feel hard pressed with the responsibilities of life—not to mention the things that occur without warning. It seems that surprises come in multiples—one thing after another and usually on top of what is already weighing you down.

Jesus told us that we could trust Him to take us through life’s toughest trials. In Matthew 11:28-30, He said,
“Come to Me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”


When life hits you and pins you down and when you think the very life is being crushed out of you, look to Jesus Christ and trust Him for the strength to come through victorious! He’s already been crushed and bruised beyond what we will ever have to experience.

Jim Beaird