What If the Light at the End of the Tunnel Isn’t What You Hoped For?

Have you ever had one of those days when the light at the end of the turned out to be a freight train barreling toward you? I remember my preacher dad asking this question many times. I recently had such an experience.

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We had returned from our sudden 4200 mile road trip to attend a family funeral. I was just about caught up on housecleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and paying bills. I was looking forward to a quiet evening, when my child’s desperate call came in. The next three days exploded with drunkenness, an arrest, a missing person report, an overnight in ER, and hours of pouring Christ-like love into our adult child. Restoration is possible but requires difficult steps on our child’s part, and tough-love on ours.

With children who’ve entered our family after traumatic beginnings, dramatic happenings are frequent. Our kids are now well into adulthood so gratefully these incidents are rare. But I do remember feeling steam-rolled flat night after night when they were all still at home.

What do you do when high-stressed events are piled one on top of the other? How do you think? How do you continue to love? How do you muster the strength each day? Where do you find the true light?

I know only one place.

Your word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path (Psalm 119:105, NKJV).

 

For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness (Psalm 18:28, NKJV).

I remember many a Sunday standing in church with hands raised, face turned heavenward, and voice lifted in worship as God restored my battle-weary soul. I recall reading and praying Psalms that proclaim God’s strength and love and faithfulness. I sought comfort while hiding in the shadow of His wings. I found renewal when resting on my Rock. I bolstered my heart with promises from His Word. And I trusted in the surety of His purposes.

Only One Light promises to show the way. Only One is strong enough to dispel the deepest, darkest night. Only One is the Bright Morning Star.

So when the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a freight train, what do you do?

DUCK!

Depend on God’s promises.
Understand you won’t always understand the whys – and don’t really need to.
Commit to trust and obey regardless.
Keep on keeping on.

©Cheri Johnson July 2016

The Moment I Caught the Twinkle in God’s Eye

The Twinkle of God's Eye

Glancing out the window, I smiled as the rainclouds made way for the sun. One tiny droplet caught my eye as it clung to the bottom of the deck rail, refusing to surrender to gravity’s pull. The perfectionist in me wished it would let go so the sun could finish transforming my soggy view into dry and warm.

But then I shifted in my chair, ever so slightly, and that stubborn globule became a story of God’s creative handiwork. The sun had caught that one little pendant and turned it into such intense brilliance I could barely look at it. If I moved my head in different angles I could see yellows … or blues … or oranges and reds that looked like a little flicker of fire.

My discovery of this fiery little bead caused me to ponder God’s creation of the world in a new way. The first thing He spoke to the formless void was, “Let there be light!” Never before had I considered that light meant color – brilliant and captivating, dazzling and ever fluctuating.

Soon implications from other lessons began to illumine my soul.

• When Jesus came to be the light of the world (John 8:12), it wasn’t just to dispel darkness – though that is very true. He also came to fill our lives with sparkling, variant beauty.

• When He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV), that light is not just a dull glow – it’s our own unique flaming hue.

• Recalling eighth grade science, I remember that for light to refract into a rainbow, the object receiving the light must be transparent. Praise God the blood of Jesus has washed us clean!

• Like the lone drop on my deck rail, sometimes we have to hang in there until the storm clears and the sun reappears. It’s at these delicate moments God shines through us in ways that overwhelm, transform, and invite wonder.

Kaleidoscope

I’m so glad I waited and watched that annoying little drop. All I needed to do was make a slight change in my perspective to catch the twinkle in God’s eye. Suddenly I longed to linger, begging the sun to stand still and the dangling jewel to brighten my world a little longer.

©Cheri Johnson July 2016

When Darkness Seems to Hide His Face

It was a lengthy trip – sixty-plus hours in our car. With my sister-in-law’s death approaching and a niece getting married, on a whim we loaded up and traveled nearly 2000 miles. We drove like maniacs, arriving after two long days. We celebrated – both at a wedding and a memorial service, hung out with family, and began our return trek ten days later. This time we drove shorter days and stopped three times to visit with friends and other family members. At the end, we had driven 4200 miles.

When you spend the majority of a day with hands on a steering wheel, blinking at dotted lines, and moping behind semis in road construction areas, talk radio helps stimulate your brain. And so we heard a great deal about Hillary’s clearance, the shooting of Philando Castile, and the ambush of the police officers in Dallas.

Saturday night at home we sat dumbfounded as our local news reported the protest in the middle of the interstate in the heart of our city. Sunday morning I read how 102 protestors were arrested and 21 officers injured. Good grief! No, make that stupid grief.

And horrible grief, overall.

Some days it seems darkness is all we see.
Uncertainty and doubt whisper louder in the dark.
Roots of bitterness sprout into angry weeds.
Fingers of fear steal a strangle-hold around our hearts.
Poisons that paralyze our hope.

I remember the days following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. We were again on a thousands-of-miles-long family vacation. Pride surged as we read scores of marquis proclaiming “God bless America” and “United We Stand,” while gas prices spiked overnight. I battled irrational fears. What if terrorists were hiding out in the national parks where we camped? Will we have enough money to make it home? One night while driving down a lone dark highway, I knew I had to deal with the fear that had invaded my mind.

When we live by faith, we believe even in the dark the Light is there. We may not see Him, but He sees us.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

(Psalm 139:11-12, NIV)

The Light has all under control.

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.

(1 Chronicles 29:11, NIV)

None of the horrid things happening around us surprise Him.

I foretold the former things long ago,
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.

(Isaiah 48:3, NIV)

None of it is new.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV)

So what can we do “when darkness seems to hide His face”?

We “rest on His unchanging grace.”*

When darkness seemsto hid His face . . .

What else can we do in the dark? Nothing productive or helpful. If we don’t have a flashlight or a light switch to turn on, and if we don’t want to go tripping and bumping around, we sit still. When we don’t have answers or words to share; when things are out of our control and there’s nothing we can do; we rest. We close our eyes and rest.

I do have control over the darkness. Instead of staring at it, I can ignore it – or at least deny its power over me. I choose what darkness I’m going to look at: either that caused by outside forces, or that which I see behind my eyelids. Closing my eyes allows me to look inwardly at the Light of the World.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

(John 8:12, NIV)

The darkest night can never extinguish the LIGHT.
Truth always frees.
Forgiveness always wins.
Faith robs fear of its stronghold.
Hope denies darkness its power.

 

*My Hope is Built, Words: Ed¬ward Mote, cir¬ca 1834

©Cheri Johnson July 2016

The Night of a Thousand Sparkling Lights

Whi-i-i-i-stle. Whi-i-i-i-stle. Don’t breath … BOOM!
Wait for it! Wait for it! Sparkles and crackles
illuminate the night with a hundred falling stars.

“Oooo! Ahhh!” older humans proclaim
as toddlers cry in fear
and preschoolers cover their ears.

The hour-long sit on musty blankets,
the every-other-minute “when’s it going to start?” whine,
the necks craned back while eyes focus high,

and the zillion new mosquito bites
were worth the twenty minutes of explosions
and splashes of patriotism across American skies.

Blankets sloppily draped on sticky arms,
midst a hum of vehicular exits
and sleepy heads are carried home.

Like Christmas in July:
raucous time with family,
foods, sweets, and laughter,

We remember where we live
and the cost for that privilege.
We celebrate our Independence

Across this great land –
in every town big and small –
of the United States of America.

Independence Day

Up With People used to sing
“Freedom isn’t free.”
Somebody … lots of somebodies

had to pay a price.
Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers
had to sacrifice.

Liberty costs
comfort, time, self, …
Life.

Be it a soldier
or our Savior –
or SAFE parents –

Freedom
requires we count the cost
with hope for a better day.

©Cheri Johnson July 2016