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
Faith, grace, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Love, Trust

God Knows

Nothing about me is hidden from you!
I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below, but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed.
Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do.

Psalm 139:15-16 CEV

Do you ever feel like God has stepped out for a minute and isn’t paying attention? Or, perhaps it seems like a long time since you’ve “heard” from Him. Could it be that the subtle messages He’s sending are hidden in plain sight? Sometimes life is so distracting and overwhelming that we miss those little icons of hope and guidance God leaves for us in the chaos.

Recently, just after New Year’s, we went to Disney World with our two adult sons. It was the first time we had all been together at Disney since they were teenagers. The Holiday crowds had not left. There was hardly enough air to breathe let alone space to walk. Lines were long, rides broke down and we were feeling, well, not as happy as the happiest place on earth should make you feel. We did have fun, even waiting in line, playing trivia games and laughing way too loud. We were the crazy, joyful family that people rolled their eyes at but secretly wanted to join. Still, after the third time of standing in line for an hour only to have the ride break down and have to leave, we were discouraged. Then, I found Mickey. All the times I had visited in the past I never noticed the little Mickey symbols embedded in the most unlikely places. It was a sign to slow down and enjoy the little things they had to offer.

Walt Disney is no match for God’s creativity. He too leaves us signs of His thoughtfulness and attention to detail. When I am looking for Him in the everyday, expecting Him to show up in unlikely places, I see Him so clearly. Just last week I had several God symbols placed strategically in my path at the “right” time. On three different occasions God led me to a scripture passage or topic and reinforced the message through odd encounters that no one could have planned but God.

First, after preparing to teach a women’s Bible study on sexual purity, I searched for an audio teaching on the topic for more insight. I was on my way to the gym and wanted something quick. No luck. So, I hopped in the car and turned on the Christian radio station. David Jeremiah was on, which was odd because his program should have ended fifteen minutes earlier. Also surprising was the topic. He was teaching from Proverbs on sexual purity using the very same verses I just studied! In the same way the Mickey on the manhole cover revealed Walt Disney’s genius, God was showing me He was the master of detail. God knew what I needed to hear. He also knew I would miss it if He didn’t change the timing. The programming was off by fifteen minutes but God wasn’t! Okay, it’s not quite like “making the sun stand still,” but can I get a “wow?” Yes, He could have ushered me out to the car earlier but He chose to make it obvious, like the Mickey symbol I had never noticed before. So clear. So cool.

The second “God symbol” was in Acts, chapter one. (I’m reading the Bible chronologically and this is where I happened to be that day.) Again, while driving, I turned on the radio and heard Chuck Swindoll reading from Acts, chapter one, preaching about Jesus’ ascension. His focus was on the joy the disciples felt after Jesus ascended, verses the depression they felt after His death. They understood the big picture. Their eyes were opened and they were filled with joy. They knew they had a job to do and they had a promise. None of this occurred to me that morning. I had failed to meditate on the word, even though I read it. But, God had more for me.

I discovered the last “God symbol” after having lunch with a friend who was navigating conflict with friends. She had been rejected by two friends in the same day. The two incidents were unrelated and not her fault. No grace, no love, just yuck. Ouch! After encouraging her and sharing what I knew from life and God’s Word about healthy, Godly friendships, I went home. As I was preparing dinner that night I decided to listen to the In Touch podcast by Charles Stanley. Guess what? The program was called Right Relationships! Stanley talked about how Jesus is our perfect friend but He made us for relationship. Then he went on to share what a healthy, Godly friendship looks like. He quoted Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” I quickly sent the link to my friend and thanked God for His ever-present help.

Imagine, everywhere you go and everything you do, God is a part of your journey. God revealed so many wonderful truths to me in a very short period of time but the over-arching truth–the aha moment– is that God is with me! He is my intimate friend. He guides me and loves me through His Word, His Spirit and through other people. He makes Himself known in miraculous ways, proving that He is real, loving and knows our name. My friend, God is Good. God loves His children. God is intimately involved in our lives. God is always with you. God’s timing is perfect. God knows…you.

But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

1 Corinthians 2:10
Confession, Depression, Faith, grace, Jesus, Trust

The Sea of Grace

Sea of Galilee, Tiberias

Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.

Matthew 15:29 NIV

We are back. Thirty hours of travel and several days rest have given me time to reflect on the trip and I am undone, overwhelmed, grateful and so much more. One of the highlights was sailing on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee people! The  same body of water Jesus walked on two-thousand years ago! This region of Israel was the most dear to my heart, not because it was greener than southern Israel but because so much of Jesus’ ministry happened around the shores of this beautiful lake. As we sailed, our guide stretched out his hands, one toward Tiberias and the other toward the setting sun, and said, “Two thirds of Jesus’ ministry happened in this region.” This was Jesus’ home.

Capernaum, Magdala and Tiberias still exist and their ancient beauty lingers. Magdala is a little town on the western shore where a first-century synagogue was recently uncovered. The Roman road next to the dig points south. When I stood beside the the synagogue and walked over the worn pavers I prayed with wet eyes and a soaring heart. “Jesus, you were here!” I know Jesus is everywhere but I was struck by the reality of the stories in the Bible. Not only did they really happen but they happened here.  After worship I wandered down the “road” toward the water. In ancient times it was a fishing village, a place of processing fish, on the Sea of Galilee. A place of sustenance. A place of grace.

This lake, called a sea, is still a place of grace. Just think about what happened here. The calling of several Apostles, the healing of the demon possessed and the restoration of Peter all took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. So Galilee is a place of grace not because it is beautiful, which it is, but because it is a place of restoration, reflection and rejuvenation. I can imagine Peter’s soul was as dark and pitted as the basalt rocks on the beach. Heavy with the memory of the denial of His Lord, his guilt would have felt like his water-logged fishing net. In the flesh Peter self-protected. His love for Jesus and passionate resolve evaporated in the heat of fear. Before this Peter was rebuked for “protecting” Jesus twice but now he was left only with the memory of his betrayal.

But Jesus is always waiting for us in the place of grace. And, to Peter’s credit, remembering Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:32, “But after I have been raised I will go ahead of you in Galilee,” Peter went home. Ahhh, Galilee! Right away this must have instilled hope. Before Peter ever denied Him Jesus planned to restore him. Not only was Peter’s home in Galilee but Jesus grew up in Galilee too. As an adult Jesus walked on the surface of this lake and its shores heard many of His sermons and the surrounding hills witnessed many miracles. Galilee is a symbol of the hope, dare I say it, of Heaven, where we too will be free of sin and we will be home with Jesus. 

However, we are not home yet. Jesus also used this lake as a classroom. It is where Peter’s faith was tested, as was the faith of the Apostles. During the storm Jesus challenged them to believe and trust in Him even when things looked dark. Even when the sea looked anything but merciful, Jesus made it so. We have Jesus in our boat. He is in our body traveling through the mountains and valleys and stormy seas of our lives. But look! He is the captain! It is not about us or about the journey. My life is about Jesus. My beautiful, stormy, rocky, amazing life is about Him. I think that’s why this body of water moved me so profoundly. My smallness and insignificance became obvious and His glory screamed through every cloud as the sun set over the water and I heard, “Do you love me? Then feed My sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:17 NIV
Control, Faith, grace, Insecurity, Restoration, Sanctification, Surrender, Trust

Neon Signs

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him and

He will make your paths straight.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Neon signs, although effective, annoy me because I can’t ignore them. They are the sign equivalent of yard gnomes. You don’t want to look at them but you can’t help yourself. Throughout my life I have encountered God placed, in your face, neon signs. It always means He’s leading me into some kind of change which is usually painful.

The most recent God placed neon sign I’ve noticed is Proverbs 3:5-6. First, I saw it during a Bible study on Proverbs. Then, I heard it during a message on the radio. Finally, I heard it again before a worship song at church. And, just this week, I read it in a friend’s blog. Unable to ignore the neon signs, I opened my Bible and read…

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Proverbs 3:5a

What came to mind was an incident that happened when I was eight years old. My father bought a small motorcycle and wanted me to ride it. He set me on the seat and then he hopped on the back and told me to take off.

Scared out of my little mind I shouted, “I can’t do it! You’re too heavy!”

He laughed confidently and said, “It’ll be fine. Let’s go!”

I took off but we immediately crashed (just like I knew we would). The motorcycle fell on my left leg so my father, worried that I would get burned, thrust his hand under the bike to free my tiny limb, slicing his palm in the process. I was fine but my dad wasn’t. I felt responsible.  When I went inside the house to check on him I saw my mom in full R.N. mode cleaning his wound. At the time I didn’t know how bad the wound was.

“What happened?” I asked.

Smiling he said, “Look what you did,” as he showed me the bloody flap of skin on the palm of his hand.

That hurt. I still cannot look at any bloody wound without feeling sick. In hindsight I know my dad was being sarcastic, perhaps trying to lighten the mood, but my little girl heart was broken. I felt betrayed. My father, who was supposed to protect me, was blaming me! What I learned that day made a life-long, therapy worthy, impact.  Because I listened to my dad I was physically and emotionally hurt. Therefore, I cannot trust my father.

I know many of you, if not all, have wounds too. It doesn’t matter what the intent was. What matters is the message we perceived. The neon signs at that time in my life said, “If bad things happen it’s all your fault” and “I can’t trust anyone to listen to me or take care of me so I have to protect myself.” Because of this, it is not natural for me to trust anyone. Of course, I trust God with all my head but not with all my heart. I naturally lean on my own understanding and acknowledge Him when I run out of ideas or hope. Then I get confused when His will or path is not clear.

Unfortunately, because of my experience, I still feel deep, deep, deep down inside that I have to protect myself above all else. At some point in my childhood this became my mission — self-preservation. I didn’t get it from the Bible. (Stop looking, it’s not there.) On the contrary, Jesus tells us that we are to die to ourselves. Matthew 10:39 says, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”

Ironically, loss is what I’m trying to avoid. I think of Churchill’s speech when he said, “We will never SURRENDER!” Surrender. The one word that came to mind when I read this verse along with Psalm 3:5-6. Trusting the Lord is giving yourself over to Him like a bride gives herself to her husband. It is a willing love offering that acknowledges His death on my behalf because He first loved me and “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

Have I surrendered my heart to God in a way that allows me to always be of one heart and mind with the only One who loves me perfectly? Hardly! But God is pursuing me to this end. I am so thankful for His persistence and faithfulness.

Have I unintentionally sent similar messages to my own children? Yes! I pray for God to heal their hearts and redeem the pain, using it to help others as they learn to trust God’s perfect love even though mine was far from perfect. I pray this prayer because that is what God has done for me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

Commitment, Faith, Obedience, Perseverance, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Chomp Chomp

“May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!” Psalm 20:5

Recently, my husband and I spent the weekend in Gainesville, Florida visiting our oldest son, Sean.  On Saturday we made our way to the UF football game. Traveling by foot through campus in the human current of orange and blue we passed some professional tail-“Gators” anticipating the sure victory over Colorado.  However, the majority of fans were, like us, eagerly speed-walking to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nick-named “The Swamp.” It was the second hottest (and I’m guessing the most humid) game-day on record for the Gators. Regardless, we all rose up the ramp in ant-like procession. Everyone was so excited — joyful even — as they took their seats.  Although fans (literal paper fans) were waving, no one complained about the heat. Apparently Gators don’t sweat.

Soon, the band played and everyone cheered as the team streamed onto the field. Then it happened. Thousands of arms lifted, right over left, elbows locked, and moved up and down, like an alligator’s mouth. At the same time ninety-thousand voices shouted,”Go Gators!” Go Gator’s is their battle cry but there is something about this chomp, chomp motion that motivates both fan and player. It gives them a sense of belonging — a confidence because they know they are part of a winning team. And (chomp, chomp) they wanted their opponents to know it.

Wow! This kind of community is inspiring! I’m not even a football fan and I enjoyed it. However, this experience made me question my own approach to the spiritual battle we find ourselves in as Christians. We too are a part of a winning team. However, we are not always excited to gather together. And even though we have the best quarterback, coach and manager in the universe we don’t always trust Their judgement. We may have a rag-tag team but because of Jesus – because he resides in us – we are victors! What is our intimidating war cry? “Jesus lives!” and our motto, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 8:37. What is our uniform? “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience Colossians 3:12.

Do I believe Jesus has secured the victory? Do I act like it? Do I confidently endure all things by faith? Struggles, like conflict, pain, heat and injury, are expected by the football player. But, he doesn’t overcome these obstacles alone. He stands on that battlefield as part of a unit. We too are part of an enormous community. The “great cloud of witnesses” cheer us on because they already know the outcome.  The individual Christian is encouraged while doing his part as the sure victory unfolds because God provides us with a team called the Church. Instead of The Swamp we have The Sanctuary and instead of a war cry we have praise. Instead of tailgating we have fellowship and instead of a winning season we have salvation by grace, through faith in our leader, Jesus Christ. So, this Sunday put on your game shirt and cheer on your “team” while raising your hands and shouting with joy! Chomp, chomp!

“For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.” Psalm 18:39

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Anxiety, Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Patience, Pride, Trust, Worry

Waiting

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.”  

Psalm 25:4-5

 

Although waiting is defined as “The act of remaining inactive or stationary it seems it takes more energy to wait upon the Lord than it does to jump ahead of Him and do what we think He wants us to do.  Right now, my husband and I are experiencing a time of waiting and it’s hard. At times I feel like a little kid holding my breath, about to burst with anticipation. It isn’t a matter of doubting God’s goodness or faithfulness but it is a matter of not trusting His timing. As we wait I feel restless and sometimes anxiety rises as I think about the options before us, including all the possible outcomes. I find myself wanting to do something, anything to make me feel like there is progress being made. But, the Bible says to wait upon the Lord. The problem comes when I focus on the next step rather than on the relationship. In all things God draws us to Himself. In waiting He is asking for us to trust His love. He is asking us, as our Heavenly Father, to believe His plans are for our good.

However, right now I feel like I’m warming a bench at a bus stop. I’m not sure of the bus schedule but know it will come eventually because my father told me it would. But it’s been awhile and I’m starting to wonder if I heard correctly, so I call Him.

“Hey, Dad, it’s me.”

“Hi sweetie! How are you?”

“I’m ok. Just sitting here waiting for the bus. It’s been twenty minutes. I was just wondering if I’m at the right stop.”

“Are you where I sent you?”

“Yessss!”

“Then you’re at the right stop. Is there anything else? You seem stressed.”

“No. I just think it’s taking too long. I was thinking of walking.”

“Just wait there. I’ll talk with you until the bus comes.”

“Ok. I’m kind of anxious about the trip anyway. I’ve never been there before. How do I know I’ll like it?”

“I understand. Doing something new is hard, but I wouldn’t send you someplace that wasn’t going to be good for you. And you can talk to me anytime. Just trust me.”

“I do. It’s just I don’t always feel good about it.”

“Just remember I love you. That’s it. I love you.”

“Okay Dad. I know. I love you too.”

Do you believe God is there, talking to you in the waiting? Many times, instead of talking to God I look for the next step. Something to “do” instead of spending time with Him in intimate conversation. Of course, sometimes it’s hard discerning between the vision and the timing. Like Abraham, God showed us a picture of what would glorify Him–what He wanted us to do by faith, and yet we do not have the green light. Instead of peacefully waiting on the bench God has provided, I feel like walking or hitch-hiking or maybe taking a scooter. I want to be set free to do what I want (for God of course) without any restraints. But God is not incompetent, nor does He procrastinate. The waiting period is a time of molding and testing and a time to cultivate intimacy with Him. Just like a wild horse is mastered in the coral, God pens us in for the refining process, keeping us close to Him as he works out the willful pride and self-reliance that I am so easily bent toward. I don’t like it–AT ALL! But, because of His love, I am willing.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3.

Anxiety, Faith, Trust, Unbelief

Irrevocable Trust

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3

My father stood across the living room in his purple, cotton shirt. The ceiling of the Quonset hut curved behind his wavy, black hair.  His bleary eyes stared at my mother who was dark with anger. Sitting upright on the Naugahyde couch, she cradled my sister and me on either side of her.  I could feel her thin build stiffen next to me as she narrowed her eyes. There was vomit on the green, shag carpet from a guest who had passed out – the catalyst of the argument. Earlier that evening, the house was full of laughter as colorful people drank and talked in our living room.  Cigarette smoke swirled overhead while ice clinked in glasses and the reel-to-reel boomed songs by Sinatra and Martin. I was young. Four or five. Alcoholism was not in my vocabulary.

“We’re leaving!” my mother announced as she ushered us into the bedroom.

My sister was older by two-and-a-half years.  Her taller frame stood next to mine on the bed as my mother briskly tied our puffy kimono-like robes around our thin, tan frames.  My mother’s short, black hair did not move. Everything about her was efficient, clean, crisp. She was an R.N. and worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on base.

“You’re not leaving! I won’t let you!” my father said as he entered our bedroom.  The gun was obvious, but my mother didn’t flinch.

I loved my father. When he was sober and wearing his Air Force blues he seemed safe. But, I couldn’t trust him.  He was unpredictable. Scary. In my heart that night I vowed that I would never trust a man.

“Go ahead. Shoot us!” my mother blurted as she scooped us up and walked briskly outside before plopping us in the car.  We drove away to the sound of locusts screaming in the trees.

For many years this event, and others like it, colored my relationships, even my relationship with God. To cope with the instability I withdrew, surviving through a world of fantasy.  Fear defined my inner life. Fortunately, many years later, God revealed the vow I made as a little girl, “I will never trust a man.”  This vow was like a seed that germinated behaviors like self-protection and distrust, enabling me to shut myself – my real self – off from the world. But, God rescued me at the age of twenty-eight and brought me into a love relationship with Him that forced me to question my normal. Intimate relationships were terrifying, painful and not worth the effort. Eventually, through prayer and counseling, God revealed several deep-rooted lies that had been hiding in my heart for years.  The lies, like weeds, choked out the roses of security, love, patience and trust that God longed for me to experience. He spoke these tender words to me from Isaiah 43:1-3…

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”  

An unstable childhood is a reality for many of us. Like me, you may have struggled with reconciling the truth of your past with God’s character. When I was a young believer God’s personality was morphed together with my father’s.  It was a distortion; a Holy God I couldn’t trust. A God that may not be there when I need Him most.  A God who loved me but wasn’t always delighted in me. A God who would abandon me…someday, just like my father.  It took many years for me to see how I was dishonoring God with these lies. Fear and anxiety took over as I tried to protect myself and failed.  The pain crept in and I felt…abandoned. Forsaken. Betrayed.  In a pit of self-pity God showed me my sin saying, “I am not a man that I should lie. I am not your father.”

He is not my earthly father. He is trustworthy and always patient. He will not love me one minute and dismiss the next. He will not abandon me. He is Love. I can trust Him…irrevocably. It has taken many years of walking with God to come to a place of owning these truths. I still struggle with trusting men in general and have lapses where I forget I have a Godly husband who loves me. The trust struggle also continues with God as I recognize the familiar feelings of fear and anxiety in situations where I feel helpless. However, I have learned to accept these moments as gifts of reflection. No one likes to have their faults exposed (ouch) but God gives us the gift of a holy mirror, allowing us to see the smudges of sin on our faces.  Only then will we allow Him to gently wipe them clean with His blood.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

Psalm 23:1-6, NIV