Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cloudy Days

"It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, 
to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; 
and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, 
and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; 
for his mercy endureth for ever: 
that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud
for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.
2 Chronicles 5:13,14
(KJV)
(Emphasis added)


Whew!
This blustery cold is something, isn't it?
My brother, David, called from his home in Ohio to check on me tonight,
and he said, "Well, I think it made it up to zero today!"
Burr!
Just the thoughts of it makes me want to wrap up in a quilt and hibernate for the rest of the winter!
It is cold enough here where we live.
 I honestly don't know how anyone could stand it much colder.


I must have really weakened through the years.
I grew up in that frigid Ohio cold.
Got up and went to school in it every wintry day.
I remember standing by a gas pump, pumping gas into my old car,
and watching the bitter wind whip so hard that the water that was standing in the area
near the gas tank spout froze over completely...just while I was standing there.


I remember living through the Great Blizzard of 1978, (click here to read).
In a 24 hour period, my hometown of Dayton, OH was estimated to have gotten 12.2 inches of snow.
51 people died in that storm, and because of its rage,
the Ohio Turnpike was shut down for the first time ever.
We were stranded.
The snow was piled high around our front door.
Bless their hearts, Richie and Danny got in their work van,
and braved the harsh elements to drive down Brandt Pike to our apartment.
They had to literally dig us out a path from the usually heavily-traveled road
(which, on that day had zero traffic, due to the conditions),
just so we could make it to the street.

I remember Richie going outside in the mornings to leave for work
and icicles literally freezing in his still-damp hair.

Growing up, I used to love to get outside in that cold....
go sledding with family,
make snow angels,
and build snowmen.

Now, after living in Florida and a bit farther north for so many years,
I think my blood has literally thinned, just like they say it will do,
and just hearing about that cold sends me shivering!


We've seen some cloudy days in several parts of the country this past week.

As dreary as they seem, they tend to be some of my favorite kinds of days.
I love being able to stay indoors,
spend real quality time with Kevin and Zach,
get into the Word and study,
and not have the pressure of having to go out and hit the fast lane.

Cloudy days can be some of the best days.
It's all in our perspective.

I have taken a real interest in the study of clouds in the Bible.
Have you ever pondered the fact that in the Old Testament,
God's presence was represented in the clouds and in the thick darkness?
After He brought the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt,
with a great and mighty hand,
He led and directed them by using a pillar of fire by night,
and a cloud by day.

All they had to do was to follow His lead through the cloud and the fire He provided,
and as long as they did, they would find their way to the land He had promised to them.

Today's verse of Scripture tells us that the glory of the Lord (in the form of a cloud)
had so filled the house of God,
that the priests were actually physically unable to minister.
The cloud rested so heavily upon their midst, that the power was just too intense.
It was literally brought down because of the praise and thanksgiving
they sent up to Him as they played music, sang, and worshiped Him from their hearts.

Praise always invites God's presence.
Even in the worst of times, if we can will ourselves to thank Him for all He has done,
He will come, and He will abide nigh at hand.

"But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel."
Psalm 22:3

Usually, when you think of a cloud, you think of dreariness, 
the absence of sunshine and no hope.


But, the thing I am learning is this....
there is glory in the cloud...
because God's presence is there.
And in order to find that glory, I need to give thanks....
right in the midst of darkness.
God's glory will be revealed wherever and whenever He is praised.

We don't learn the deep lessons in the shallow, frivolous, fun-filled moments of life.
No, those kinds of lessons are reserved for the cloudiest, darkest times,
when we wonder if God has completely forsaken us and whether He still cares for us at all.
What we forget is that He dwells in the very clouds that overshadow our paths....
His presence is there....strong and powerful.
When the battle is at its most intense, when the furnace heat is turned up seven times hotter than usual,
when the cloud completely covers the sun,
we tend to automatically dub ourselves as completely separated from God.

We couldn't be more wrong.

During moments of such anguish and trial,
God is there.
Jesus walked around in the flames with Shadrach, Meshach, and Adnego. (Daniel 3:25)
He wasn't on the outside cheering them on or waiting for them just outside the furnace door.
He was in there.
With them.
Enduring the heat.
Just like they were.
When they walked out, 
the four of them walked out together...
as a unit.
Can you imagine how intimately they experienced the reality of our Savior?
Had they never walked through the fiery furnace,
they would never have been close enough to touch Him.


On cloudy days of life, we have two choices.
We can start blaming God, lashing out at Him, 
reminding Him of how many ways He could have prevented the cloud,
or we can start praising Him and seeking His presence in the cloud.
He is there.
Right in the midst.
Always.
As our praises go up, His glory will descend...right out of the midst of that cloud.
The cloud will begin to pour out 
and rain down abundant showers of blessing!
What looked like hopeless abandonment by God
will suddenly turn into a comforting overflowing of His very presence.

It is all a matter of whether or not we are willing to praise Him...regardless...
in spite of....no matter what.

It isn't easy to raise our hands or lift our voices in thanksgiving in the midst of suffering.
It is hard to say, "Thank You, Lord", when our bodies are in pain,
we can't breathe, or the trials of life are pressing us so hard, we are near to giving up.
The automatic, human thing to do is to start complaining....
to point our fingers at the One Who is sovereign and can prevent anything He chooses to.
I think that is the main reason we tend to blame God for our troubles.
We know, deep in our hearts, that He has all power, 
and He can allow or prevent any and all things.

But sometimes, the clouds are necessary, and He allows them to overshadow for our good....
to more clearly and intimately reveal Himself to us.

True contact with the power of God happens in the clouds.
This is where we truly experience Who He is...
this is where the profound lessons are learned.

Hebrews 5:8 never ceases to amaze me.
Speaking of Jesus Christ, it says,
"Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which he suffered..."


I don't know about anyone else,
but it is extremely difficult for me to fathom Jesus needing to "learn" anything.
He is God.
He is all-knowing.
He created the world and everyone in it.

It was the human side of our Lord...His flesh...
that had to "learn" obedience.
This "learning" process was completely accomplished through suffering...
in the darkness....as the sky above Him was cloudy & overshadowed.

Are we any better than He?
Are there not lessons in this life that we can only learn through suffering, also?

It is in the fires of trial,
the tests of affliction,
the clouds....that we learn and come into a greater understanding of Who God really is.

Being so ill over the past week and a half
has made my heart go out even more to those who are chronically ill...
those who suffer like this day in and day out, unable to breathe,
due to COPD, emphysema, asthma, and other health conditions.
The value of a breath has become so precious to me.
Hopefully, this problem is short-term.
But, what about those who suffer every day?
Those who must make such effort every time they inhale and exhale?

My dear blogging-friend, Debby, is such a precious inspiration to me.
She lives, day by day, with chronic, debilitating illness.
I have thought of her much through this siege of pneumonia.
I would love it if you would visit her blog here.
http://learningtobalancelifechanges.blogspot.com.
I know she has found God's glory in the clouds on many a gloomy, pain-filled day.
She has passed that glory on to me many times through her sweet comments and words.

There is a beginning and an end to every trial in this life.
Coming to know God through the clouds...finding Him there....
allowing Him to minister and speak and pour out His glory
makes the darkness worthwhile.

Cloudy days are here.....but with them, comes God...
the One I crave and long for and hunger after.
And the nearness of His presence 
makes me thank Him for the clouds.



6 comments:

  1. I so enjoyed this blog & the pics. I have lived in IN my whole life & have plenty of experience with the cold mid-west winters. Even though I was only 5, I vividly remember the blizzard of '78. My brother walked quite a ways to the grocery store. Course, that was before cellphones & many of the techie things we have now. Thankful that God keeps us -- through all sorts of interesting weather. Blessings to you, sweet blog friend.

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    1. So good to have you stop by today, Angela! Oh, wow! So, we were neighbors...almost! Actually, we did live in Indiana once...in Union City, on the border of Ohio. Yes, so thankful for God's many blessings...including you, dear friend! God's peace to you and yours through the New Year! Love, Cheryl

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  2. Thanks for putting those words inn print. You always inspires me to devote more time to the Lord. To enjoy the comfort in His presence day in and day out no matter what kind of situation we are into.
    Here is blowing and cold too;) Good to be wrapped by God's warm embraze:)

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    1. Thank you so much, Joy, and glory be to God! It is such a joy to know HIM and to live under the umbrella of His grace! Love to you, my dear friend!

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  3. I visited your friends blogg Debby and will also be folllowing her:)

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    1. That is wonderful! You will definitely enjoy her writings.

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