Contentment, Faith, Overwhelmed, Patience, Rest, Righteousness, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust

What Are You Waiting For?

For we, through the Spirit, by faith are waiting [patiently; with care and perseverance] for the hope of righteousness.

Galatians 5:5
Our property – 2017
Preparing for our 25th Wedding Anniversary
Lorden Photography

Have you ever dropped a seed into the dirt and watched it slowly grow into a plant? If so, you understand waiting. You understand faith. You have experienced the miracle. This kind of waiting (patiently, with care and perseverance) is part of our faith walk. Through it we demonstrate our love for God and exercise our trust in Him. Like the seed, as we wait, we too are changed. The Living Water touches the hard seed of our heart and the root sneaks out for more. Pressed into the dirt, like an umbilical cord, it sucks in the life-giving nutrients.

Likewise, our spiritual roots are made in the waiting.  As we pray, surrender and listen, the Holy Spirit draws life from the divine and bears fruit in our hearts and minds. The changes are minute. So small we cannot see them until the green stem pops above the surface. It may be a flower of kindness or forgiveness or love—a flower that bloomed while we waited.

I am expecting. Four years ago, we purchased three acres of land that sits at the end of a cul-de-sac nestled up to the Cocheco River. We planned to build right away, but we’re still waiting. The stakes are in the ground marking the footprint of the home. The architects and the engineers have finished their work. Still, we wait. We wait because the appraised value of the home does not match the cost to build. In reality, we are waiting on God. You see, this land wasn’t bought on a whim. We prayed for God to provide a home where we could host missionaries who need a place to stay while on furlough. We prayed for a home where pastors and ministry leaders could find rest. We prayed for a place where we could gather with our church family and do life together. Yet, the door remains closed.

Admittedly, there are times when I get discouraged. I lean toward skepticism and sometimes think, maybe it wasn’t a vision from God. Maybe it’s just what we want. I contemplate selling the property and giving up. Other times I want to push ahead without God’s leading, giving time a little shove. But maybe the gift isn’t the house at all. Maybe the gift is found in the waiting.

Don’t get me wrong. As of today, Marty and I still expect God to provide a way for us to build this home. But it’s in the joyful expectation that we see beyond this life. We not only wait for a forever home here in New Hampshire, we also wait for Heaven—A place where Jesus is building us a forever home. Every day He works at it, bit by bit, removing walls and letting more light into our living-heart. This waiting defines our faith journey. Like Abraham, we walk with God, believing His promises, expecting God to deliver. But, sometimes, like Abraham, we take things into our own hands and end up with Hagars and Ishmaels. Fortunately, none of that deters God. His promises are certain, like they’ve already happened. We will, for certain, have our Isaac. It may not be a house on the river, but we will have eternal life with Him.

—————

Marty and I drive to the property often to pray. Yes, we pray for the house but, more so, we pray for God to be glorified in the waiting. He is the Master Builder, after all. There is a joyful expectation. The waiting is a gift. I imagine living in this house the same way I try to imagine living in Heaven. The doors are open for those looking for a place to rest, only, He is waiting.

God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

Hebrews 6:13-15 NLT
Contentment, Faith, Freedom, grace, Hope, Jesus, Joy, Love, Trust, Victory

Skip to My Lou

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7
Cheerleading – 1973

Skipping. That’s what came to mind while reading A Standard of Grace by Emily Ley. It was an answer to the question, “What would it take to bring back the type of heart-bursting joy you may have felt as a child?” Why skipping? Because, when I skipped I was completely oblivious to others’ opinions and my own negative self-talk. But skipping wasn’t the only thing that made me forget. I would also run for no reason, had pretend-tea-parties at the bottom of the pool, rolled down grassy hills, swung till my toes touched the sky and cheered for Pee Wee football. “First in ten, do it again! Alright! Uh-huh!” All of these things brought me heart-bursting joy because I wasn’t self-conscious. I was free!

That is until I wasn’t. Somewhere between eleven and twelve, I stopped being free–at least free enough to skip in public! Of course, in my defense, most adults don’t do these things. Instead, they opt to walk politely across the parking lot, push the swing for others or stay on the surface of the water to protect their hair (You know what I’m saying, ladies). Sometimes, though, when I walk from the grocery store to my car, I’m tempted to hoist myself up onto the shopping cart and ride across the lot! But I don’t. Why? Because of self-awareness. Most adults have it. It keeps us confined to ourselves, reserved and fearful of what others might think.

On the other hand, have you ever met an adult that seemed free of self-consciousness? Most likely they were full of joy and grace, loved others without hesitation and freely gave of themselves. They probably jumped into the deep end of the pool, hair and all, skipped to the swing set and pushed and pulled till their toes touched the sky. I want to be that kind of person — that kind of adult. I want to forget myself to the point of experiencing heart-bursting joy in the LORD…like David.

When David wrote Psalm 28 he was beyond stressed, but he chose to worship God and his heart was bursting with joy! David set an example by dancing for God without shame, and he didn’t stop when his wife rolled her eyes (2 Samuel 6:16). David was as free as a child. Perhaps, as adults, we forget God. We forget we are His joy; He delights in us. Or perhaps, Instead of Jesus’ love for us, we think of our failures, those humbling times when we’ve blown it and others saw, or worse, were hurt by us. These kinds of thoughts steal joy. But, If we did remember, would we would be transformed into “child-like” adults, free of self-consciousness? Would we be full of joy and grace, loving others without hesitation and freely giving? I want to be that kind of person — that kind of Christian. I want to forget myself to the point of experiencing heart-bursting joy in the Lord.

This year, I am determined to express joy without fear of disapproval. I want to be a cheerleader for others who are struggling. I want to dance before the LORD with all my might, no matter who sees. I want to be free–free to love and be loved, forgive and accept forgiveness, show grace and receive it. The only way to do this, however, is to forget “me” and focus on the LORD. Like David, I need to be so consumed with God’s love that I just don’t care if others think I’m crazy or stupid or delusional. God’s Word says, “The joy of the LORD is my strength” Nehemiah 8:10. This gives me the courage to run the race of life without fear, rolling down the hills when I trip and skipping all the way home.

And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment.So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.

2 Samuel 6:14-15

What about you? What brings you joy?

Commitment, Contentment, Faith, Gospel, grace, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Redemption, Restoration, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Waco’s Redemption

Washington Avenue Bridge, Brazos River, Waco, TX
Photo by Marlene McKenna

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

Ephesians 1:7, ESV

What does Waco, Texas have to do with redemption? If you’ve visited this small city in the hill country, made famous by the television show Fixer Upper, you’d know. After attending a women’s retreat in Seguin, a friend and I journeyed to Waco for some shopping therapy at Magnolia Market. What I found, however, was much more than great shopping. Waco is a city defined by the word redemption.

Not only are there several homes that have been brought back to life, there is also a thriving economic upturn because of the popularity of Fixer Upper. In fact, thirty-thousand tourists visit the city per week! But it wasn’t until we took a tour from Waco Tours (https://www.waco-tours.com/) that we discovered other organizations that were working to revitalize the poorer parts of the city.

For example, the library in East Waco was refurbished and a mural was designed to encourage education for the underprivileged who live there. There is also a non-profit grocery store called Jubilee Food Market created by Mission Waco that was placed in a “food desert” so that those without transportation would have access to healthy, low-cost food. Finally, we were told about a church that gathers the homeless who live in Waco for a church service every week under the bridge where most of them live. During construction, when many were displaced, Chip and Joanna Gaines opened the common grounds at Magnolia Market for their services on Sunday morning.

When you arrive, you realize very quickly that this is not a wealthy city even though there are very nice areas with rolling hills, green grasses, and a beautiful river. But God is moving mightily, meeting the needs of the poor through His people. Moreover, He is bringing people from all classes and races together in love. For instance, Jubilee Market offers jobs to convicts who are transitioning from jail to living in the world. At Jubilee, they find a place to belong when others turn them away. As one employee put it, “I now have hope for the future.”

In short, Waco is a place where you can see the Gospel lived out every day. It is an uncomfortable place where you are challenged to look at your own heart, beliefs, and motivations. It is a place of glory where Baylor University shines and a place of poverty where a homeless man bathes in the fountain at Baylor’s entrance near the Hilton hotel and the Brazos River.

Similarly, our hearts are complicated too. We love the Lord and yet do not always love Him with all our hearts or love others as Jesus loved us. Nonetheless, like Waco, we are being redeemed. Every day we walk in newness of life and have hope for the future. To me, Waco is a metaphor for spiritual sanctification. As we allow God to search our hearts, He chooses to cleanse us. Then, little by little, we are made more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

As we allow God to reveal the deprived and impoverished parts of our lives we can surrender to the process of redemption. Remember, there is a river as powerful as the Brazos in your own heart cleansing you from all unrighteousness. Remember, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Remember, there is a Jubilee Market where we can belong, no matter what we have done, and get fed by the One who paid the price. Remember, there is a place for us to gather as a Church and praise His glorious name for all He has done, is doing, and will do for His glory. Remember the Cross!

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

Romans 3:21-22
Contentment, Faith, Hope, Jesus, Life, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Trust, Victory, Worry

Circus Circus

  …be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”

Hebrews 13:5-7

He picked us up outside a little church in Sarasota. “Hello!” His accent was unique.

“Where are you from?” I asked as we drove away.

“I live here but I’m originally from Morocco.”

“What brought you to Sarasota?”

“Oh, the Circus!”

“Really? We’d love to hear your story…”

The Uber driver shared how he provided for his family when he was a child growing up in Morocco. He performed acrobatics on the boardwalk for tourists and, he said, “I made more money than my father.” His Uncle had been in the Circus and taught him how to perform. Eventually he was able to get an internship at Disney World working at EPCOT. Afterward he worked with the Ringling Bros. Circus for almost two decades, traveling all over the country until they shut down in 2017.

This colorful story reminded me of God’s faithfulness and the power of contentment. When I first heard it, I was transported to the Moroccan seaside and felt the joy and pride that he had as patrons would pass him money and applaud. God gave him a gift that eventually carried him to the United States where he continued his dream and lived in relative luxury. Even as an Uber driver he was satisfied and happy with the memories of his nineteen-year circus career. His Pooh Bear like attitude impacted me. If I were him, I would have told the story of my rough childhood in a poverty-stricken country where my labor enabled my family to eat. But he didn’t mention the obvious difficulties, only the blessings.

Even now as I reflect on this encounter I am convicted. You see, I am a pessimist. Naturally, when I wake up in the morning I’m usually grumpy. My sunrise countenance aligns more with Eeyore’s than Pooh’s and I am definitely NOT a Tigger—those energetic people who are always cheerful and kind from dawn to dusk. There is a weight to my flesh that is attached to childhood memories telling me that “bad things always follow anything good.” It’s not until I sit at Jesus’ feet that I start to feel and act joy-filled and content. Because of this I have to purpose to listen to God’s promises first thing in the morning or the heaviness follows me throughout the day. For example, when I am tempted to worry about loss, fear can grip me and keep from being productive. However, if I listen to my Heavenly Father, He whispers, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Or, when I fear criticism because I think I’ve done something wrong I will isolate myself and “hide” from God and others. But, if I run to Him, He says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

God, like the Uber driver, always looks on the bright side and wants His children to remember what He has done and to be content. That’s why God wants us in His Word. It truly is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It illuminates the dark places so we can see the work God has done through the suffering. Only then do I realize that the heaviness I feel in the morning is an illusion. My reality is amazing! I am free from the poverty of sin and death and so are you. Regardless of our past or current circumstances we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We just need to be reminded often.

Ironically, whenever I tell my story, including the trials, others are encouraged because God’s redeeming love is all over my past. Like an acrobat’s trapeze act, it is the hard and dangerous feats that impress us. We are amazed at what God has done, if not without suffering. My story, like the Uber driver’s, includes suffering too, but God masterfully choreographed every step. I am grateful for the journey God has brought me through and desire to be satisfied with wherever God leads. I want to reflect on God’s goodness in my story and to have a contentment and optimism that is reflective of God’s faithfulness. I want to be a Circus Pooh.

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”

Matthew 6:25-26