Even Grapes get Squeezed

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Ask a grape what it feels like to get crushed, but not out loud or people will think you are crazy. The truth is, there are times when many of us have felt or will feel crushed beyond measure. No one likes the process. If the grape is gently squeezed, only a little bit of the good stuff comes out. Unfortunately, to get all the good out of them, they must be completely crushed. This devastating process leaves a broken, outward shell; a fraction of what used to be.

But what comes next, is a miraculous work of God. When all the goodness is trapped inside the grape, no one can benefit from it. But when you are willing and obedient, God can use you in a way that you never imagined. This way can bring incredible discomfort, pain, or suffering. But through that struggle, you become a survivor and a beacon of light to shine for others. When what could have killed you, did not, they start to wonder why. When all earthly evidence says you should’ve quit long before now, they are curious as to why you are still standing.

When you no longer boast of your strengths, abilities, or knowledge, it is likely that you have been crushed in some tremendous way. You suddenly realize that you are just as human as everyone else. The process is grueling but one day you might just look back and see that it was not all bad. It may not be good that it happened but perhaps someone can draw inspiration from you. It may be exactly what they need to get through a difficult part of their life. When you share the same struggle as others, there is a unique feeling known only to those a part of it. There is a shared comradery the rest of us, without the experience, will never have.

Refuse to let a crushing experience destroy you. If you cannot seem to get through it for yourself, then look beyond yourself and get through it for the lives that follow. It may be for one person or ten. The number doesn’t matter. Whomever it ends up being, they are counting on you to overcome. Show them how!

Copyright ©2021 AuthorJeffKayser.com. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Lose Your Whistle

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I hope you realize that if comfort is your joy, the moment comfort leaves, you will no longer have joy. It doesn’t take much to become uncomfortable; it often happens in a moment’s notice. In a world that has news broadcasted 24/7, we have the luxury of repeatedly hearing how bad everything is. There were times when I did not realize I was supposed to be upset. But thankfully the news was there to remind me why I should be. I grew tired of the emotional roller and decided to take a break from the ride.

Reasons to become upset will certainly come. If you were invested in the stock market, today your lip may have quivered, followed by a twisted-up face. People are worried about all kinds of things; the list would be too long to name all the reasons. My take on it this year is to not give in to the pressure when unwelcome news comes. I know it will be difficult but at the same time, it will be worth it. I am not an old dog that must sit on a rusty nail. Like you, I am a remarkable human being with the intelligence to change what I can and accept what I cannot.

Complaining is the quickest way to give up your joy in times of discomfort. It weakens the mental state and robs us of joy that gives us strength. In dark times, it is tempting to give in to doubt. If you need a little help with it, look around. I remember once I was feeling the doom and gloom. It was a rainy day, the sky darkened with gray. The wind was blowing hard and lots of rain pouring down. I was walking in the yard and I saw a bird nest, lying on the ground. I felt bad for the bird that lived in it, having lost its home.

I wondered if there were more that had lost their homes too. I was already sad as it was, but it furthered saddened me to see their dismal situation. But eventually the rain stopped, the gray sky gave way to a slighter brighter tone. Soon, whistles filled the air, and the birds came back out. I wondered why they whistled so heartily. Had they so quickly forgotten what happened? Hadn’t one of them lost their nest, if not more? Yet the whistling continued.

Who would have thought cheerful little birds would remind me not to lose my whistle?

Copyright ©2021 AuthorJeffKayser.com. All Rights Reserved.

He Meets me in my Suffering

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I think one of the things that people struggle with, whether or not they believe in God, is why suffering exists. In the believer’s mind, why does he allow it. In the unbeliever’s mind, why should I believe in a God who allows it. There are many great minds out there who have made it a personal mission to search for answers to these deep questions. I have been alive long enough to know what suffering is to some extent. Suffering exists in many forms, but I have not had to endure even a small fraction as what others have. Though to the one suffering, theirs seems to be unique in every way, separate from others. That is because it is personal suffering and you will feel no suffering stronger than your own.

I’ve wrestled with the question, why suffering. I’ve heard many opinions on the topic and even formed some beliefs of my own. Like it or not, suffering isn’t going away any time soon that we know of. People have told me they once believed in God but endured a personal crisis, or that of a loved one, that caused them to see things differently. My heart goes out to them. Five years ago, I started a pursuit. Up until that point, I believed in God. I was brought up in a Christian home and taught to believe in the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I kept hearing about Jesus Christ and wanted to know more about his life here. I started reading the Gospel of John. Afterward, I read Matthew, Mark, and Luke. My pastor at the time was in a three-year study of the life of Jesus and taught on that topic every Sunday.

I asked myself a question, if God did take on the form of a man, then that would separate him from any other Deity of any religion. While I could not understand everything with timing, what I could see was how Jesus came and lived as a man. He witnessed the human condition of suffering by surrounding himself with it. He went to people that were shunned, outcasts in their communities. He saw value in people that others discarded. Crowds followed him wherever he went. There is no doubt he was wise and powerful because he shook up everything. As a man, Jesus was susceptible to the same emotions you and I are. He could have felt pain, sorrow, grief, and anger. The Bible clearly states he did. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, where it says, “Jesus wept.” Why would he weep? It is a good question to dwell on for a while. I have speculated the answer but do not think it is limited to just one.

Even when we completely believe an outcome to be true, knowing this in our hearts still does not remove the pain and suffering we must endure. When my brother died when I was 25, I believed in my heart then that one day I would see him again in Heaven. Yet, the grief and sorrow I’ve known at times early on were unbearable. Yet, somehow, I was sustained through them all.

In the time Jesus lived, Jewish people were being persecuted by the Romans. The disciples followed Jesus around and believed him to be the Messiah, the one who would bring in a new kingdom. When his body ended up crucified on a cross it seemed that everything they believed in, and the one they believed in, was for nothing. All their hopes seemed to disappear in one day. Jesus told them earlier on that he would be leaving. The disciples were distraught that the one they followed would go where they could not follow. But he assured them, in John 14:16, that he would ask the Father to send a comforter, a helper. The Spirit of truth was sent.

During our suffering, we succumb to just about anything to deal with it. I have come to rely on many things over the course of my lifetime. All have satisfied for a brief time but soon left me empty and unfulfilled. The world offers hope in a bottle. Some pay only once, a small price. Others pay twice, the second time with their health, or even their life. Anything else the world has to offer peace comes at a price. If you do not pay, you cannot have it. What hope then shall we have if we cannot pay the price? In a world that was broken and twisted by our evil hearts, God sent his son and established a new covenant. In order to save the world, he had to watch his only son be crucified by the hands of his own creation. Jesus cried out in Matthew 27:46, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Yes, God is all too familiar with suffering. While I do not understand why it exists, I’ve chosen to believe that God is just. If a person chooses not to believe in God because he allows suffering, the suffering will continue to exist long after your pronounced unbelief. I ask, in what do you place your hope in to endure suffering? In people of corruptible hearts, of whom all but one has failed? In governments, which have risen and fallen numerous times? In a substance, which when not available, leaves you powerless to endure a crisis?

By faith in God through Christ, I believe that he is with me at all times because his spirit lives within me. God is fully aware of my environment and circumstances. When trouble arises, the moment I turn to him, he is there. Always. Peace is made available. I don’t have to wait until a store opens to buy it. I don’t have to worry about it being stripped away by another person. He helps me endure every trial, every struggle. All this has been available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, all for no cost to them. But bear in mind, there was a price and it was higher than any of us could ever imagine. God sent his son, who paid this price with his life. What greater price can someone pay than with their own life?

God meets me in my suffering. In what, or whom, meets you in yours?

Perspective of Today

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With what is going on in the world today, fear, doubt, and worry have forced their way into most homes, businesses, and governments. The financial burden many people are facing today is unbearable. The loss some people are experiencing ranges from life itself (or loss of a loved one) to a loss of supplies. The number of cases increases, and our future seems uncertain. With all the social distancing, we are encouraged to stay distant from each other.

The loneliness of isolation further deepens our sorrow. Our hearts long to be close to one another again, to touch and to hug. Each day can be difficult to get through. There is no definitive end in sight to what is going on. We’ve heard good news from some areas that reignites our hope. Later, we hear some of those same areas are in trouble again. Questions plague our minds. What will happen in the next two weeks? Two months? What if it goes on longer, what will happen then? Can we make it?

You have a choice. You can put your faith in politicians, and hope they take appropriate actions. One thing is for certain, they themselves will be taken care of. You can put your faith in people, although many things happening is beyond peoples’ control. Many are losing jobs or being laid off. You can put your faith in the media, who are treating this epidemic like a ninety percent off sale, grabbing all they can get their hands on, further spreading the mass production of fear and hopelessness. You can try everything under the sun and see them all fail to bring the peace your soul longs for. If in that moment, when life has you on your knees, in your hearts you can cry out to the one they call Immanuel (God with us).

People are quick to assert what God is or isn’t doing but let’s not forget that God is sovereign. He understands the end from the beginning. It is only we who are dumbfounded by what happens. Rather than focus on all that is wrong, I am believing in all that is right. I’ve witnessed numerous human beings accomplish amazing feats with little to work with. Think of a potter that turns a lump of worthless looking clay into a fashionable vase. Think of Michelangelo who spoke of the masterpiece that lay secretly inside a block of stone. There have been countless lives who have taken a total disaster and created something beautiful. Imagine what the creator of the universe can do.

I said countless, but I believe God has numbered every life. I believe that he works in and through us, both believers and nonbelievers to accomplish his purposes. He tugs at every human heart, to hear his voice and follow. We are also instructed to love one another. Not everyone follows and many will make the wrong choice not to love one another. Here’s the thing though; enough will. We likely won’t hear about it, but you will see it in action. A neighbor will check on their elderly neighbors to make sure they have what they need. Grown children will do what they can to provide for their aging parents who are scared to go out. Some places will even give away needed supplies in order to make sure everyone has enough. Friends and neighbors will sacrifice and share with one another. Medical personnel will put their own health and safety at risk to care for those who have been infected with this virus.

All the bad is screaming during this epidemic. However, if you listen for it, you will hear the whispers of the good. Good works tirelessly, outside the spotlight, and often in the shadows. Good brings life and light to the darkest of places. Don’t just witness the good. Be the good! Understand that strength is not given for tomorrow, nor for any time in the future. It is given only today. In other words, strength is given for today’s battles, not tomorrows. We will get through this, day by day.

Do what you can not to spread the virus. Do all that you can to spread love.

I’m praying for you all. God bless, take care.

The Right One

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It is fascinating to me, as I believe it, how God sends people into our lives. It could be said they are sent at just the right time. However, even when it seems like it is the wrong time, it could turn out to be the right time. Years ago, I met a young man in his mid-twenties at my job. For his age, I was not shocked to see the behavior and hear of the things he was doing.

At the time, I had not attended church for a number of years. After my older brother passed away about five years prior, I wrestled with many questions. Even though I was not a churchgoer, I still considered myself to be a Christian. Based on some of my decisions and how I behaved at certain times, one may not have guessed it. But whenever the topic came up, I tried not to deny my faith. Maybe at that stage of my life, I ran from God. All I can say for sure, is that I was not running toward him.

The young man and I became good friends and shared similar interests. One day, a shocking turn of events happened in his life when he found out he was going to be a father. Over the next two years, I watched his life transform before my eyes. I won’t say what all happened, but it was remarkable. In that time, he began seeking God with a passion. That passion, to some, would have been considered extreme. Eventually, his enthusiasm bubbled over into my life and I wondered why he was so excited all the time. He knew that I was a Christian and our talks shifted toward the spiritual side of life. Since I was older and a Christian for as long as I could remember, maybe he thought I had answers.

He spent roughly six months discussing scriptures with me and passing notes with Bible verses scribbled on them. At the time, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was not looking at most of them. Every once in a while, I would take a quick peek though. He shared some materials that were available online for free. One story was from a book that took me months to get through because I could only do so in rather large chunks but spread out over time. The strangest thing happened. After stopping, each time I started up again days to months later, I was in a different place in my life that corresponded in the book. If I had rushed through the whole thing right away, it would not have had the same impact on me. The timing, in other words, was perfect. Words I desperately craved to hear jumped out at me, not just on one occasion but many.

My heart told me to go back and look through some of the other materials my friend had referred me to. At the time, free was the only price I could pay for something. Anything available for free is often deemed less valuable. However, there are times when nothing could be further from the truth. I remember downloading a series from a pastor who put all his material online at no charge. People argue until they are blue in the face over what preachers say and do. What I know for sure, is something in those messages reached out to me. The material wetted my appetize like salad and breadsticks, and I was ready for more.

Friendships can come and go throughout life because it is easy to lose touch. I have to admit though, since that point in time, my life has never been the same. For me, after years of struggling and wrestling with my thoughts, God started to do a new thing in my heart. To think, it all started when he sent the right one into my life.

The Hope of Love

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Something expectant mothers go through is the potential love that will emanate from that tiny human forming inside them. It’s truly remarkable how the creation of a human being works. Life doesn’t come with a guarantee for the child or the mother. They say a mother’s love is unique in many ways. I suppose when you have a person being formed inside your body, growing through nutrition provided by the mother, that would bring them very close to one another.

Day by day, the child grows from a small seed joined with an egg, into a living, thriving human lifeform. As mentioned, there is no guarantee made to the mother. Her child may despise her from the beginning, but that is unlikely. Even if she was convinced that this would be true, she still could hold on to a chance for love.

The child has the choice to say no to her love and utterly reject it. Doing such would likely bring devastation to her. Most mothers have the sincerest desire to have relationships with their children. Why risk having children in the first place if there is a chance that they will not reciprocate love back? When this chance for love is so strong, it cannot be ignored. Its value is so immense and so immeasurable that it must be considered. With all her heart, a mother hopes to receive that love, freely demonstrated back to her.

There will no doubt be heartache, suffering, and pain that she must endure through the long and tiring process. It doesn’t stop after the child is born but continues as the child is raised into an adult. Even when she feels that love missing in her adult child, she will keep returning to a single point called love because even the chance of love is worth its weight in gold.

So, why create a life that may choose to never reciprocate your love or even worse, come to despise you? As a creator of life, could the answer be…  for the hope of love?

Misplaced Faith

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We tend to put our faith in all kinds of things and even in people. When things don’t work out the way we planned for them to, it can be devastating. It leaves us feeling empty and hopeless. It makes sense for us to feel this way. After all, we may have placed it all on the line. Our hopes. Our dreams. So, when things don’t work out exactly the way we think they should, it feels like we should just give up.

That is a hard way to live. After all, things are constantly changing. Newer opportunities can come in a moment’s notice. People tend to think that their employer or potential employer is they only thing between them and being provided for. With today’s economy and its difficulties, many are finding this to be unreliable. Many employers don’t keep people employed for life like they used to, although some still try. The truth is, it’s tough to compete in the global marketplace. They may do everything in their power to try and keep everyone. But they must protect the company too or else all the employees will lose. Then again, sometimes it’s just about the money. Whatever happens, there is no doubt we cannot solely rely on any organization for our wellbeing.

Some choose to rely on people. A husband, a wife, a friend. It’s not to say you cannot count on them. Friends leave. Tragically, many couples are splitting up for a multitude of reasons. One of the big ones is because they don’t find themselves happy anymore. With everyone out to pursue their own happiness, watch out if you get in their way. We all have a selfish desire to take care of ourselves. But when we look out solely for ourselves, we tend to step over others or worse, on them. Friends can be the same way. If you stop doing something for them, they are quick to let you go. If you happen to come between people and what they think will bring them happiness, you will soon find out where you stand. Don’t be surprised if it’s not next to you.

Is there a better way to live than always relying on our constantly changing minds? To me there is. Instead of putting my faith in some thing or in people, I put it in God. Does that mean everything went right from that point on? Certainly not. After living this way for years since, I’ve never once questioned whether God existed, even during a time when my heart was broken as never before. All my hope for a bright future was gone. My faith was shaken. Family and friends expressed their sympathy but did not know how to help.

Much like a delicate piece of glassware shattered into hundreds of pieces, who could put it all back together – the broken remains of this fragile life? Yet, piece by piece, I stood witness to the love that put it all back together. I was loved through it all by a love that did not leave me. In fact, I had to be chased down at times. Though I kicked and fussed, this love did not abandon me.

The faith I had was tested and made stronger than I thought possible. The hope I lost was made new again. If you would have asked me if this outcome were possible, I would’ve have told you not a chance in you know where. But as grace would have it, my chances are not found in that place. My chances are found in the loving hands of my Creator – in whom I now place all my faith, all my hope, and all my love. God is love, 1 John:7-16.

In Your Dreams

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Many songs and movies have been made about having our dreams fulfilled. It is a common desire to live out our dreams, so much that many of us spend hours, days, even years in pursuit of a dream. Chasing your dream is not an easy path, which is likely the reason many dreams are given up on. Layers of resistance seem systematically designed to keep us from achieving them. That is why we must fight so hard to hold on, when we feel so much like letting go.

An interesting thing about dreams is that they often change relative to where we are in life. As a child, we may have wanted to be an astronaut. But when we got a little older, we realized that dream changed, especially if you’ve ever had a pair of eyeglasses. Part of being an astronaut is having 20/20 vision. Also, as much as I liked playing any sort of ball growing up, I knew I was not gifted enough in that area to pursue a career in professional sports. One by one all my childhood dreams disappeared out of sight. I already started working in a restaurant as a teenager but knew that was only going to suit me for so long.

In high school, they asked me if I liked being hands on. I did and ended up going to vocational school half the year and regular high school the other half. I learned carpentry and other skills that piqued my interest back then. There was more yet than what I imagined life had to offer. My teacher challenged me, and I grew. Eventually, I became a senior. Finishing out my vocational school required that I do an internship. I found employment working for a local contractor in the construction industry. I soon found out it was demanding work. I was only a laborer, so my pay was less than a carpenters’ pay would have been. I did decent work though and wanted more money, but it just wasn’t available.

Therefore, I switched to another industry altogether, running machinery. Not long after that, I went back to school again to become something else. What I am trying to say is that things will always change. In looking for our calling in life, we worry about making the right decision. Sometimes it blocks us from making any decision at all. However, in life it is usually not one decision. By taking a glimpse of my own history, it’s easy to see I have never been just one thing. If I would have waited to find out what I would be today, I doubt I would be who I am today.

Humans always change. It’s part of life. As such, our dreams will change too. Sometimes, it is for the worse and we no longer believe in our dreams. Hope must be reborn inside us to bring about change. But there are those still clinging tightly to their dreams, inspired to get more from life. Others may call you a dreamer. So what! Keep the dream alive by taking action daily to see it become a reality.

 

Trail of Hope

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Hope is a funny thing. That’s not to say it makes you laugh but it does have an interesting way of popping up now and then. Life is cyclical. For the people who understand math, it’s like a sine wave with continuous peaks and valleys. It tends to be crushing at times and acts as though it is trying to steal what little hope is left.

We look for hope as if it will be strung out across a billboard in big bold letters. So much time is spent searching for this grand expression of hope that we fail to see the hope that is hidden in plain sight. In my personal experience, it often comes in small ways; easily missed when we are not looking for it. Of course, we want things immediately but mostly things happen over time.

In the world of dating, it comes in what I like to call crumbs; little morsels of hope. When working through the many challenges that come with dating, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the downsides. Hours, days, and even weeks of talking to someone can disappear instantly over a seemingly minor thing. It isn’t always the sting of rejection that is hard to deal with, but the way in which people reject, such as disappearing without saying a word.

I doubt this ghosting is always intentional. Without realizing it until I typed these words did I acknowledge that I have done it to others. The last thing I wanted was for someone to be hurt by my words or actions. But I think the entire process can be so frustrating that a person temporarily gives up. I’ve done it myself numerous times when it felt hopeless. Why else would we give up if it were not hopeless?

While bumping along in a hopeless way, I would catch a glimpse of something, a sparkle, a crumb. In dating, it could be an interaction with someone in a store or an unexpected message from someone new. For those experiencing sickness or pain, it could be the trials of a new medicine. For the person hoping to see a change in their partner, family member, or friend, it’s the minor change that person exhibited in their behavior.

Is this the hope I was looking for? Could this really be it this time? We’re scared to follow the trail of hope for fear it may lead us back to where we are now in our current state of hopelessness. Here’s what I want you to consider. What if it is the thing you’ve hoped for all along? All the hoping, waiting, and rejection would be over. If the choice is made to follow the trail, you will surely risk losing hope again. But what will you risk by not following the trail hope leaves behind? Possibly everything you once hoped for. The truth of the matter is that it might not be what you hoped for. But if you choose to follow the trail of hope, even if it is not the thing, it could be the thing that leads to the thing that leads to the thing you always hoped for. Don’t lose faith. Follow the trail of hope!

Weary in Welldoing, part 1

When your efforts are spent on trying to change the world around you, it may not take long before they are spent. The needs of this world are too much for the select few who care enough to try to do something about them. If you are not careful, you can burn out and quit caring altogether.

I remember an experience where my “care” was put to the test. The beginning of summer brings about the end of the school year. Many local families could not afford the extra financial burden it placed on them to provide more meals for their children. Some people saw this need in my community and decided to do something about. For me, it was the first time I ever led a small team to raise money to benefit a local food bank and I was stoked. If you’ve ever tried to raise money for a fundraiser, you probably discovered that not all people are equally concerned about raising the funds. For me, it was an eye opening experience.

Some people were excited to contribute. They were a select few among the masses who have realized how wonderful it is to give, rather than receive. There were many happy to give. Next were those who gave out of guilt or embarrassment, with the “what will people think of me if I don’t give” mentality. Finally, there were those who resented being asked to give anything in the first place. Perhaps they believed that with their limited supply, they could not afford to give or simply had better things to spend their money on. How many from each category encountered on a given day may determine the wind in your fundraising sail.

Looking back, I have the imagery of myself then as one of those cheap fireworks that starts out shooting sparks everywhere and quickly fizzles out. I was so excited to help in the beginning but after experiencing enough negative reactions, I lost my excitement. I almost gave up all together but I received some encouragement and even a helpful tip that helped another person successfully raise funds. Beyond the generosity of givers, there was a way to obtain further donations, made possible by offering something in return.

This started the planning of a hot dog cookout day. It became a project that involved time management, resources, planning, and ordering. I had no clue what I was doing but my excitement returned the moment I started up again. I found a local grocery store that agreed to sell me goods at their cost, so I was able to get the hot dogs and buns cheaper. I kept watch for coupons in the flyers that came in the mail to find deals on soda. I put out a couple hundred dollars of my own money to buy all the supplies. Talk about motivation! Sell hotdogs or eat them for the next ten years. Working with a handful of volunteers, hot dog day came and we made it through the chaos of it all. In addition to the three hundred dollars donated earlier, we were able to raise over six hundred dollars more in profit to give to the local food bank.

The amount may seem small but to me it was huge. It was even more significant because I almost quit along the way. Just when I felt like giving on people, I was challenged in a new way to find an alternative method of raising funds. Helping charitable people secure nearly a thousand dollars worth of groceries to help our community; yeah, it was totally worth it!