Surrender With Hope

Surrender is sort of a dirty word in our day. Maybe it has always carried the stigma of being a failure, a loser. Today, however, I propose that surrender is far from bad, or a sign of losing. Surrender is actually to our benefit when we stop trying to be in control of things that are out of our control, things that were never intended to be in our control.

This tree has surrendered to the wild rages of Lake Superior, yet it thrives.

One consideration is who or what are we surrendering to? Giving in to a maniacal dictator is threatening for our life on all levels, but to a benevolent leader, that is a different story. What we seldom understand when we try to take control or protect ourselves, is we are taking the place of our Creator in our lives. The one who made us tells us his plans for us are good, abundant, loving and full of hope. Surrendering to one with those characteristics almost feels good.

Rather than feed you all those scriptures, I invite you to sit with Psalm 103 for a few minutes. As tempted as I am to emphasize verses or ideas I will resist this time. I will, however, feed you a question or two to prime your thinking_

  • If I am going to surrender to anyone, why should I trust the God of the Bible?
  • What is unique about how the God of the Bible sees us? (Opposed to people or sometimes ourselves.)
  • What characteristics of this God are most inviting to you today?

Please take a breath and try to take your time. Please journal what you learn if you can. Come back later if you need to. I would enjoy hearing from you and what touches you.

Abba,  Give us grace to receive what you want to say to us. Thank you that you are both willing and able to speak each of us as unique individuals. We surrender to you long enough to sit with this psalm for a while. 

Psalm 103 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Where’s The Bug? Admiring God’s Creative Nature

I love to take walks. Cities will do, but I am happiest in nature. When I buy a cell phone the most important feature to me is the camera! I am one of those who walks around with my eyes nearly always on alert, at least at some level, for a good photo. Attempting to capture God’s creative nature, hoping to help it live beyond the moment, is a joy to me. So, enjoy the photos and look for the bugs.

Easy assignment to find the bug.

In this first one, I liked the bright yellow against the gray cement. There is something about the mix of God’s creative nature and man’s ingenuity. These flowers are under a large bridge next to an asphalt walk way. A semi-urban feel, where God’s creative beauty still thrives. Man’s God-given creative abilities rarely deter flowers and bugs and so much more of creation from adapting.

The one is easy, but can you see the second? (Enjoy the thistle=}. It makes me think of my Scottish friend and another friend in Scotland this week.)

The bees were very busy on the thistle. The second bee kept bombarding the one on this flower. I thought he wanted a turn, but when the big guy moved to another thistle he did not replace him. More wonders of the created world….

This was the toughest one, but I cropped it to help you out a bit.

I may have made this too easy with my cropping. =} This monarch butterfly with its wings closed blended really well with the half blooming flower. It is remarkably easy to keep walking and miss these small wonders. It really helps to walk with our eyes wide open on every level. In some urban districts our radar is on our safety, but on this nature path on the outskirts of a town it was hard to not notice the beauty both large and small.

I hope you are able to enjoy the gifts of beauty Abba has placed along your path. Sometimes it takes work to see them, other times, like a bright sunset, God’s creative nature is hard to miss. When you do notice, please take a deep breath and enjoy the gift. I bless you with eyes and spirit wide open to the Creator of all things. May you be able to stop, daily, in wonder of God’s creative nature…let me know how it goes.

A Tribute To Peter Van Boven Jr.

A tribute is a way to thank and honor someone. My dad, Peter John Van Boven Jr., was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on May 19, 1928. His parents came to Ann Arbor from other parts of Michigan to attend the U of M. After Dad completed his studies at the U of M and his military service in the Air Force Reserve, he had a blind date with that woman who became my mother, Carolyn Snyder, a student at the U of M.

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He was instantly smitten. It took Mom a bit longer to realize it was right to spend the next 50 years married to him, and they married on 9/11/1954, decades before 9/11 became infamous. They raised a family in Ann Arbor, of which I am the middle child. Dad ran Van Boven Inc., A fine men’s clothing store just off campus.

I began working for him when I was eight years old. Yes, I manned the front of the store during sales. My job was to keep an eye out for “five-finger discounts.” If anyone looked tempted to take something without paying, I learned to ask if they needed help. A warm body keeps most people honest.

From dad I learned the values of honesty, hard work, responsibility and the beginnings of leadership development. As a member of the owning family, I received few if any privileges. The only one I remember was dad taking me to lunch most of the days I worked with him. That was over the span of my 14 years of seasonal employment. He taught me to set the example, even if I was a child. One winter I literally walked over two miles to work in a blizzard because the roads were unpassible and dad & I lived the closest to the store of all the employees. We had to open.

Dad was athletic, fun-loving and adventurous. (He and the teams he played on won many awards.) All of those are characteristics he passed on to me. When my years of university were coming to an end, I let my parents know that I felt I should go to Africa to be a teacher/missionary, Dad gave me a blessing to go follow my adventures while I was young and able, then he and mom came to visit me in Nigeria where I spent my first two and a half years in Africa. On the way to the airport for them to leave the continent, we had a flat tire. Dad taught me as a teen how to change a tire, but he was out in the 110 degree Fahrenheit heat serving a van full of my friends who had come for the ride.

When he was 56 he was playing water basketball over lunch when he was hit hard in the neck. A few days later he had a massive stroke from a clot that formed in his artery and lodged in his brain. For the next twenty years he lived with dignity in spite of little to no ability to talk. He could function remarkably well considering. When he was finally freed of his earthly shell he had lived to see my kids into high school. He died less than a month before his 50th wedding anniversary. I launch this very small and terribly incomplete tribute to this great guy on the anniversary of his going to glory.

I am truly grateful you already heard this from me before you passed, but here a few more words of tribute.

Thanks dad for being the role model you hoped I would become. Thanks for loving mom all those years and for being faithful! I am grateful to God for placing me with you and mom. How happy I am that you are now more whole than ever! I do not anticipate joining you for a while, but I know you are in the great cloud of witnesses cheering me and others on.

Do you have someone you want to give a tribute to? Even if you do not or cannot give it to them, you can write it for yourself and Abba. Or, take some minutes to think and pray about it.

Your Story, HIStory

One of the interesting things about being a follower of Jesus is that he has a history and we have our own history. When we meet him and begin to follow, we begin a personal history of our relationship together. I grew up a skeptic. My family attended church regularly when I was small, but despite hearing about Jesus I did not move from myth to personal relationship with the resurrected Jesus until I was a teen. Even then I had a lot to learn.

Josh McDowell was a big help for me coming to understand the difference between scientific fact, that can be repeated, from historical fact, that cannot be repeated. Once I learned of the overwhelming historical evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, I had to make some decisions. If he is really who HE said he was, I had to decide what to do with that information. How can I continue to live as if Jesus was just another good guy?

He was radical in all the right kind of ways. He did not care what the religious leaders of the day thought. He loved people and had the power of the Creator to heal the sick, make the lame walk, blind see and the deaf hear. He even resurrected people from the dead. Yes, it all checks out as historical fact. Best of all he loved people, perfectly… even me… even you. That is what the Cross is all about.

I was still young and idealistic. I left my comfortable life behind to go teach secondary school in Africa so people who had yet to learn about Jesus could hear about him. It was in those times of sickness, loneliness and difficulties, so far from biological family, as well as the joys of new friends and disciples of Jesus that Jesus and I forged our HIStory together.

Looking back over 40 years of shared history with Jesus I find it hard to imagine any other way of life. I have learned, like King David in Psalm 139, that I am never alone. The power and the love of our creator is always with me, no matter what. [emphasis mine]

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Where are you in your personal history? Are you young and idealistic? ‘Seasoned’ and faithful, with your own full HIStory? Or are you still not sure if Jesus even truly existed? What do you want to ask Him? Whether or not you believe, He is listening. He will find a way to answer so you can know it is Him if you are open to look. (The Bible is a reliable short cut. ;=} )