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Also see MFC Eleven Week Revival – https://wp.me/p1buYw-iM
One of my favorite high school teachers was the late Mr. Robert Burke. His influence on my life went far beyond that of being my ninth grade Biology teacher. He showed genuine interest in my abilities and ambitions. He set high academic standards and expected me to reach them. He pointed out errors on my exams with a smile. He served as faculty advisor to the Bible Club of which I was President in my junior year. In the final days of my senior year, I handed him my yearbook asking for his autograph. When I saw he wrote more than his name, I eagerly looked to see what wonderful words of commendation he had penned. To my consternation, I read: May there be just enough clouds in your life to create a beautiful sunset.
Up to that point, I viewed clouds and storms as companions, and I certainly didn’t want any storms in my life. For some time after this incident, I interpreted the message negatively and allowed his words to “cloud” our relationship. In the years that followed, I had many opportunities to meditate on the phrase “enough clouds in your life”. Then one day as I was reading the Bible, I came across Nahum 1:3c: …the clouds are the dust of God’s feet. Hallelujah! Wherever there are clouds, GOD IS PRESENT! Furthermore, I read in Scripture:
We have many examples of God’s Presence in the clouds. When He called Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt, the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them on the way (Ex.13:21). On a clear day, you can see forever and go where you want; but on a cloudy day you must walk by faith knowing that God is present to lead you in the way He wants you to go.
In the Old Testament, there are many references to the Presence of the Lord in the cloud: leading the children of Israel, guarding and protecting them, and giving them words of direction. In 1 Cor. 10:1-2, Paul referred to this when he wrote: For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud [under God’s leadership and guidance—see also Exodus 13:21-22; Numbers 9:15-23; 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:33; Psalm 78:14] and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea [His guidance did not fail them—He successfully led them through the sea—Exodus 14:22,29] (NIV).
Given this background, we should not be surprised to read that When Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water, and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on [Jesus]; and lo, a voice out from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I delight (Matt 3:17).
Some time later, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up to the Mountain, and While [Peter] yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him (Matt. 17:5; Luke 9:34-35). This was God’s last speech from the clouds. After this incident, He spoke through His Son, and now He speaks by His Spirit through His Word.
One summer Sunday evening when I was 16 years old, my family was visiting with my grandparents on their estate in the open fields of Black Betsy. I heard someone gasp and say, “Look! There in the clouds!” We all ran to the back porch and looked up to see “Jesus coming in the clouds.” The body shape we saw was a perfect duplicate of the artist’s rendition of “Jesus”. He appeared to be walking straight toward us. We were all quite paralyzed by the sight. It seemed as if the Scripture were literally coming true at that moment:
I thought my heart would burst within me. This was an intense moment of self-examination—no time for theological interpretation of Scripture. Even after the clouds separated and we realized this was not “THE END,” the moment of reckoning had its impact. It was a day never to be forgotten. God was out walking and we saw evidence in the clouds.
DISCERNING THE CLOUDS
When the trials of life press in on you, look up! Do you see clouds? Remember that the Lord walks on them, rides on them, and raises them when He pleases. He stirs them up, and He causes them to disperse.
There are two Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated “clouds”.
(1) Nephos denotes a cloudy shapeless mass covering the heavens, hence, metaphorically it is used to refer to a dense multitude, a throng, as in Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
(2) Nephele is a definitely shaped cloud, or masses of clouds possessing definite form. It is used (a) of the physical element of the “cloud” on the mount of transfiguration in Matt. 17:5, and (b) of the cloud which covered Israel in the Red Sea, 1 Cor. 10:1-2; (c) of clouds seen in the visions in the book of Revelation, Rev.1:7; 10:1; 11:12; 14:14-16; and (d) metaphorically in Jude 12, and in 2 Pet. 2:17, of the evil workers there mentioned (Vines Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).
Some clouds that come bring neither beauty of sunset or sunrise, nor lovely blue skies. They bring neither rain or sleet, or snow; they are merely empty formless clouds called “fog”; they lay close to the ground and obstruct our view. In themselves, they are harmless, yet because of their presence many highway accidents occur. Often these are chain accidents—one loses his way and bumps into another, and so on. How much this scene relates metaphorically to spiritual “fog” as well. Sometimes this “fog” comes into our lives in the guise of people who lay close to us. They appear to be active and full of the Holy Spirit and living water, but soon we realize they are EMPTY—professing a form of godliness but denying the power of God to change lives. Their very presence has clouded our vision and our hope causing us to lose our grasp on spiritual reality. The sooner we realize the deception, the faster we’ll move out of the “fog” and back under the clouds that rise high above us.
Some clouds bring much needed precipitation into our lives. It’s the rain that brings life to the plants, trees, flowers, grass, and gardens. It’s the rain of the Spirit—fresh from on high—that brings growth to our Christian lives. Without it, we are parched and dry; drought takes its toll:
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God (Heb. 6:7).
As we have seen by example in Scripture, not all clouds are the same. They have different shapes and different purposes. Cloudman’s Mini Cloud Atlas gives 12 Basic Cloud Classifications in four families. There is the HEAP Family consisting of Cumulus Congestus, Swelling Cumulus, and Cumulus of Fairweather. There is the LAYER Family consisting of Cirrstratus, Altostratus, and Stratus. There is the HEAP/LAYER Family, consisting of Cirrocumulus, Altocumulus, and Stratocumulus. And finally, there is the PRECIPITATION FAMILY consisting of Cirrus, Cumulonimbus, and Nimbostratus. Each set of clouds has a description and a function. (To read more about these, go to http://www.cloudman.com). In addition to these categories, there are simply HIGH clouds, MEDIUM clouds, and LOW clouds.
All shapes. All sizes. Many descriptions. Many purposes. It is a relatively low percentage of clouds that brings storms, yet often we see clouds as carriers of negativity. Let’s get a fresh, new image of clouds. Look at them. Analyze them. How lovely is the sky with the little cloud puffs scattered about, or with the layers of clouds forming an ascending stairway to heaven, or with the heaps of clouds that appear to have golden light or silver linings. How welcome are the clouds that dump the precipitation on a dry and thirsty ground. Even after storm clouds have come and gone, there is the refreshing, cleansing smell of “life after the storm”.
Now transfer this picture to situations that come into your everyday life. We all need some clouds in our life. We Michiganders understand this. In the winter, a cloudless sky means the nighttime temperatures will dip low. In the summer, a cloudless sky means there will be no nighttime relief from the sweltering temperatures. Thus, we welcome the clouds! Have you ever thought how boring, barren, and colorless your life would be without the challenge and/or gift of “cloudy” circumstances? We often think life would be perfect if we didn’t have to deal with the interruptions, solve the problems, resolve the conflicts, and receive the blessings. Yet these make up the very spice of life that brings the beautiful sunrise, or sunset, as well as awesome daytime and nighttime scenery.
CLOUDS: GOD’S CHARIOT OR THE DUST OF HIS FEET
As one comes to the end of this earthly existence, how wonderful it will be to look back and see that the clouds which have come into life over the years are producing a beautiful sunset. They have come to cover, to rain on us, to protect, to guide us, to witness to us. They remind us that God has been walking in our lives all the time; we know, because we see the clouds. Sometimes when we want to rebuke the clouds, we need to stop and inquire as to whether the Lord Himself is riding on them!
May there be just enough clouds in your life to create a beautiful sunset!
(c) The Alabaster Box, VOL 16 NO 01 2001, C. Yvonne Karl
Click here to see Julius’ life in photos
Julius E. Karl – His Life from birth to marriage – https://wp.me/p1buYw-dl
Julius E. Karl – His education and degrees (see below)
Julius served an apprenticeship in cabinet-making before leaving Germany. With that training, he assisted with building homes for relatives in Canada then did various construction projects in Indiana to help fund his education. After marriage, he built a house for his family while he and Yvonne were teaching for 2 yrs in Louisville, Ky. (1974-1976).
His accomplishments on earth were many, but like Apostle Paul he would say: “I rely on what Christ Jesus has done for me. I put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could… I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (From Philippians 3 NLT)
As often happens with newly married men, my husband gained a few pounds. Not many—just enough to make his trousers a bit uncomfortable and cause the seams to split. He assumed that I, his new wife, knew something about tailoring since I frequently sewed my own clothes. Not wanting to disappoint him, I willingly took on the task of mending the seams.
My zeal, however, was exceeded by my ignorance. Instead of opening the seam and sewing it properly, I merely applied iron-on patches. Imagine his discomfort when he slipped into the trousers without looking at the repair job. He spent the evening trying to ignore the scratchy irritation caused by the patch. Kindly and graciously he did not comment about it until we got home.
Although the patch closed the seam temporarily, it did more harm than good causing damage to the surrounding fabric and the skin of my beloved husband. The trousers found their way to the trash can. I had looked for a quick fix and it ended in destruction. In the same way, many are throwing away the best God has for them because they don’t stop to think. They try to get around problems rather than solving them to the benefit of themselves and others.
In Luke 5:36, Jesus spoke a parable: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old” (NKJV). My own experience confirms this truth; but as I meditate and apply the basic principle to life, it begins to take on a much deeper meaning. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor.5:17,NKJV). Patches are not allowed.
When we are born-again (John 3:3,7), we are created anew—not our outer shell called the body, but the real person that we are—our spirit. Jesus doesn’t patch up the old; He gives us a brand new start: “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev.21:5,NKJV).
“You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness – righteous, holy, and true” (Eph.4:24,NLT).
In the next verse, Jesus continues: “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Luke 5:38, NKJV).
In the New Testament world there were no college degrees in packaging. Containers as we know them today did not exist. They took animal skins, sewed them together and used them as we would use bottles and jars and plastic boxes. As they aged, the skins would become dry and hard and eventually they cracked and liquid spilled out. If new wine was poured into the old wineskins, it would continue to ferment and the gasses would cause the wineskin to explode. Jesus told the parable and He said new wine must be put into new wineskins.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom. 12:2, NLT).
Many of our friends and relatives “act as if they are religious, but they reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Tim.3:5,NLT). They try to patch up their life in their own way—unwilling to let the power of God make them new because it might mean giving up some of their old ways of living in immorality and materialism, undisciplined in every way. At first, their ungodly attitudes and actions may be concealed from others, but soon they will become obvious. In fact, the Apostle Paul says: “You must stay away from people like that” (2 Tim.3:5b, NLT)—people like what? Those who say they’re Christians but do not live godly.
“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A NEW life has begun” (2 Cor. 5:17,TLB). That’s what it means to be “in Christ.” Die to old way; get a fresh start. Jesus says you can’t put new wine in old wineskins because they’ll burst and the joy will fall out of your life. “Now you can really serve God; not in the old way, mechanically obeying a set of rules, but in a new way” (Rom. 7:6b-TLB) having a life and breath relationship with Jesus Christ thus allowing Him to make all things new in you.
By the way, my husband never again asked me to mend his trousers. He did it himself for the rest of his life—and he never complained about it. In the same way, we cannot expect others to take care of the problems in our life. We have the Mighty Counselor living in us, continually reminding us of our responsibility to “put off” and “put on” certain things. Scripture tells us what natural tendencies we need to put off and the spiritual attributes that must replace them. We get in trouble when we try to keep our old ways and simply patch them up with something new. We cannot put the new attribute on the old pattern. It simply won’t work. No patches allowed.
Here are some “put off…put on” admonitions:
As you study the Bible, you will find many more references to “putting off” and “putting on.” It’s not enough to know about them; their purpose is to change you and give you abundant life.
“May the God of peace himself make you holy in every way; and may your spirit and soul and body be free from all sin at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess.5:23, NEB).
(c) C. Yvonne Karl – firstname.lastname@example.org
Published by UPCI in The Vision – September 27, 2009
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office… (Romans 12:4, KJV).
The phone call came in the middle of the day. “Pastor wants you to teach the third grade boys’ class in Vacation Bible School.” Since I was a high school teacher, I guess the pastor thought I should be able to teach any age anywhere. Reluctantly, I agreed to accept the assignment out of respect for him. The planning went well, but when the first day’s session was over, I was in tears—a woman in my twenties overwhelmed by eight third grade boys. They showed no interest in the class projects nor my object lessons. They talked louder than I and scattered crayons and snacks about the room. I could not grasp the psychology of “wiggling.” I pulled myself together and the with encouragement from other staff members decided to try again. After an even worse second day, I quit.
What did I learn from this? There are people who are called and chosen to teach third grade boys and I am not one of them. I had neither the gift, nor the ability, nor the talent, nor the desire to teach third grade boys. I was beginning to understand that “all members have not the same office,” and I should not try to fit into a niche for which I was neither called nor equipped.
(c) C. Yvonne Karl – email@example.com
Published by UPCI in The Vision – May 31, 2009.
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, is vividly etched in my mind. My mother was incurably excited about reaching that mountaintop. With my father at the steering wheel, we approached the little road that would take us to the top. Since I had grown up in the hills of West Virginia, driving around curves up and down hills was not new to me, however this was different. On that day, the mountain rose above the clouds. In fact, it seemed so high to my little eleven-year old eyes and mind that I feared we might be traveling to heaven. “Can we stop now?” I begged. “No! We aren’t there yet!” my mother replied with incomprehensible joy and anticipation. Why were we putting our lives in danger just to get to the top of a mountain? It was her dream. She had heard about it and nothing else would satisfy her. What drives one person upward is often exactly the same thing that paralyzes another with fear. Once at the summit, I was awestruck by the breath-taking view, all the while trembling and holding tightly to my mother’s hand. Years later, I treasure the memory of that beautiful scene and better understand my mother’s ecstasy as she drank it in.
This fear popped up again and again in my life. My first trip to Mexico was a frightening experience for me. Mother obviously had a love for adventure and decided to take a little-traveled road through the mountains. She heard about it from a physician friend who had been there and highly recommended it. My father was driving and I cried with fear that the brakes would fail on those unpaved mountain passes with only one lane and no guard rails. I had looked forward to this family trip but, because of my fear, could not enjoy the beautiful scenery. To make matters worse, I was not a child. I was twenty-four years old and at one time had considered a missionary assignment in Mexico. Would this mountain experience discourage me from making other such trips in the future? I knew I had to overcome this fear.
Like the Psalmist, “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4 KJV). Since then I’ve been back to Mexico with my husband and thoroughly delighted in the land and the people. I’ve traveled throughout North America, Europe and Africa and encountered some frightful situations, but was not fearful.
In the summer of 1999, a ministry friend met me at the Cape Town, South Africa airport. We were within a couple of miles of her residence when a car ran a stop sign and totaled her station wagon. I knew we were both injured and was softly calling out to Jesus. We dared not go to the hospital since they had no medical staff in the emergency room. Some locals took us to Ruth’s house, and she phoned a Christian physician friend of hers who came right away. Ruth had whiplash and a nasty knot on her forehead. I had a broken wrist and broken ribs. There was nothing the doctor could do for the ribs, but was able to purchase a metal wrist brace to protect my wrist. We rejoiced that we were alive and completed our three-week schedule as if nothing had happened (although I had to do everything with one hand and experienced pain every time I stood up or sat down or turned over in the bed at night). Three weeks later when I arrived back home to Detroit, x-rays confirmed five broken ribs and a fractured wrist—but all were healing as they should. All praise to Jesus.
Some have said to me, “Did that accident discourage you from traveling?” My answer is, No! Since that time, I have traveled through many other countries. My fear is gone. I commit myself into the hands of the Lord who is able to keep me and accomplish His purpose through my life. After all, “ whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8, KJV).
In the year 2000, I had the opportunity to visit the Alps on the border of Germany and Austria. I traveled to the top of one mountain via a narrow road in the only transportation allowed, an authorized tour bus. Since there was no room for two vehicles to pass, all traffic was controlled by radio. Each bus had to wait until the other one had arrived at the peak before the next one could begin the trip. Once we arrived at a parking place, we walked through a 400 foot long tunnel to an elevator which took us to the top of the mountain. There we saw the famous Kehlsteinhaus sitting all alone overlooking Salzburg and Bavaria. A short hike on foot took us higher yet to the foot of a cross perched on a rock atop the mountain. The view was worth all the emotional ups and downs and the perceived dangers we experienced on the way. A number of people in our entourage opted not to make the trip. “I just can’t do it,” they said of the mountain looming above them. But those of us who chose to go will always marvel at the beauty of God’s creation seen from the heights: heaven and earth, clouds and sea, mountains and valleys, all giving praise to their Creator. The old fear attempted to invade my consciousness, but I denied it entrance. “…but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images” (Exodus 23:24, KJV).
Israel was commanded to defeat the various tribes, one of which was the Amorites whose name means mountains. We, too can conquer the mountains in our life—the situations that seem too big to overcome. Comparing our impossible circumstances with mountains is a common metaphor. We often say, “I just can’t get over it!” We don’t feel we have the physical strength or emotional stamina to rout them. They make us feel so small. We succumb to this image concocted in our mind and readily disclose we never were mountain climbers—in fact, we can’t even get up a flight of steps without being worn out. Thus we approach the mountains in our life in the same way—with physical and spiritual energy depleted.
Remember Deborah? What if she had said, “Lord, I’m just a woman. I’ll sit here and counsel these people; but why do I have to ride with Barak into battle? Isn’t that asking too much? Isn’t war for men only?” Of course, no such words came from Deborah’s lips. No situation would prevent her from doing whatever necessary to win the victory. When faced with the magnanimous task of leading the troops into battle, she said, “I will surely go with thee…” (Judges 4:9). Because of her obedience to God, Israel won the battle. Deborah didn’t look to the bigness of the task but to the greatness of her God who would go before her and bring the victory.
Remember David? What if he had said, “Lord, I’m just a teenager. Look at all these brave men dressed in their armor. If they can’t defeat the giant Goliath, why should I even try?” Of course, no such words came from David’s lips. No mountain giant would intimidate him. He said to the giant Goliath: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD…(1 Samuel 17:45, KJV). David didn’t fear the giant or his dagger because he had confidence in God. Likewise, when we put our trust completely in God Almighty, we shake off intimidations from mental images and sharp tongues while we implement a plan of attack.
In the Name of the Lord, we not only can, but we will get over every situation in life that otherwise might paralyze us from moving on to enjoy the abundant life that Jesus came to give (John 10:10, KJV). “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” (Mark 11:23).
Get over it!
(c) C. Yvonne Karl – firstname.lastname@example.org
Published by UPCI in The Vision, April 26, 2009
At the home of artist Patti in Somerset West (Cape Town) South Africa. L-R: Patti, Yvonne, Ruth. Note bandage on Yvonne’s wrist and Ruth’s black eyes from the accident.
In 1972, I was counselor at a school in Indiana. Our young and dearly loved principal had gone out of state to a conference and left the school in the care of the two counselors—one of which was I, Yvonne; the other was Jim. We laughed a lot. Then I got the idea to write the principal a letter and send it to him at the conference. It didn’t get there in time, but it was forwarded to him and he received it a few days after he returned to the school. Had he received it while at the conference, he would likely have been apprehensive after reading the first couple of paragraphs. However, after reading further, he would have understood that it was to induce laughter; nothing more. I haven’t pulled this writing trick on any of my superiors since that time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t participate in a few comedies in the following years.
Not long ago, I ran across the letter and sent it to my boss. Unfortunately, I now live a few hundred miles away so I didn’t get to see his reaction. By the way, of those named in the letter Whitey and Paul were custodians. Phyllis and Joy ran the office.
Click on the link to read the unedited letter (I really wanted to correct the mistakes!)… and remember only the names are real.
Now you know about my humorous side. I really enjoyed my 5.5 years at this school: Fall 1968 – November 30, 1973. I resigned two weeks before my first child was born.
Recently, my boss’s wife sent this picture of me in my counselor’s office in 1972, about the time the letter was written.
published private 02/14/2016; made public 02/14/2019