The Queen of Countdowns

 

A little reminder from a few years ago when my “baby” girl was 7.  A countdown to summer is on our minds again!

“Mom, I’m only about 9 years away from getting my driver’s license and when I do, Andrew will be 12.”

This is what my baby girl yelled up at me from the back of the minivan yesterday.

Yes, the baby girl who is celebrating her seventh birthday this morning is already calculating the countdown to her driver’s license.

Way to make your mom’s heart skip a few beats.

This week, while her older sisters were away at summer camp, she also calculated how long it might be before she got a job.

Then she decided she wants to head off to summer camp next year and counted off how many months it would be until she could register.

My Catherine is the queen of the countdown.  She is forever calculating the time between now and the next dream-come-true.

On the first day of summer vacation, we presented my daughters with a wrapped gift.  Inside, we included a picture frame displaying an image:  Mickey Mouse ears with the words:  “Days Until Disney:  ___.”

Everyone was excited, but it’s my baby girl who became the official keeper of the countdown.  She’s faithful and focused.  Every morning, she pads out of her room still yawning and heads straight for the Mickey Mouse picture.  She uses the dry erase marker to alter the numbers.  One more day down.  One less day to the dream-come-true.

This isn’t quite the same as my goal-setting older daughter, the girl who sets tasks and accomplishes them.  My older girl is all about pushing herself to personal achievement.  She makes schedules, checklists, and charts and sticks to them until she’s raced across another finish line.

But this is different. This isn’t self-discipline and it’s not about achieving or doing in any way.

My baby girl loves countdowns because they allow her to throw down anchors of hope in the midst of the everyday.

And she enjoys today completely because she knows that another good day is coming: The day when it’s her birthday.  The day when she has that playdate with her dear friend.  The day when we pack the minivan and head to Florida.  The day when her sisters come home from summer camp.

They’re all good days and they’re all coming.

So, today she can relax, kick back her feet and enjoy it all.  It’s all part of the journey from here to the promised land, and the view is just fine.

This is the natural inclination of her heart; she overflows with joy  and she bubbles up with gratitude for all the gifts of every day.

Maybe it’s not the natural leaning in my own soul, but I take it to heart and I pray I can be more like this seven-year-old girl—this daughter who was so excited to spend a week of “alone time” while her big sisters were away at camp and who is equally excited to see them come home again.  It’s all good with her.

I can learn, this too.

I can learn how to throw down anchors of hope in the middle of the beautiful, and the everyday, and the seemingly hopeless situations.  All of them.

In Acts 27, Paul was headed on a ship to Rome that was caught in a tempest in the Adriatic Sea.  The sailors and crew despaired and fretted.

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight (Acts 27:29 ESV).

Stormy seas.  Threatening rocks.  The possibility of shipwreck.  The appearance of disaster.

Surely we’ve all been there.  Maybe we are there.  Maybe we’ll be there someday.

And right in the middle of the season that seems forever or the situation that seems like it can’t possibly get better, not ever–right then is when we “drop anchor…and pray for daylight.”

Throw down the anchors, the truths we know that will clamp us to the rocky foundation of faith, and watch for God’s deliverance.

God is faithful. 

He will not abandon us.

He has a plan.

He will be glorified.

He is sovereign and He is able.

Scripture tells us:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain (Hebrews 6:19 ESV).

The Message paraphrase says it this way:

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God (Hebrews 6:18-20 MSG).

Grab on to hope with both of your hands and don’t let go.

That anchor that you toss down–that future promise, that assurance of deliverance–reaches right to the presence of God.

Bible Verses about The Lord as my Rock

  • Deuteronomy 32:4 CSB
    The Rock—his work is perfect;
    all his ways are just.
    A faithful God, without bias,
    he is righteous and true.
  • Deuteronomy 32:31 CSB
    But their “rock” is not like our Rock,
    as even our enemies concede.
  • 1 Samuel 2:2 CSB
    There is no one holy like the Lord.
    There is no one besides you!
    And there is no rock like our God.
  • 2 Samuel 22:2-3 CSB
    The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock where I seek refuge.
    My shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, my refuge,
    and my Savior, you save me from violence.
  • 2 Samuel 22:47 CSB
    The Lord lives—blessed be my rock!
    God, the rock of my salvation, is exalted.
  • Psalm 18:1-3 CSB
    The Lord is my rock,
    my fortress, and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock where I seek refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation,
    my stronghold.
    I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and I was saved from my enemies.
  • Psalm 18:31 CSB
    For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is a rock? Only our God.
  • Psalm 18:46 CSB
    The Lord lives—blessed be my rock!
    The God of my salvation is exalted.
  • Psalm 19:14 CSB
    May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable to you,
    Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
  • Psalm 28:1-2 CSB
    Lord, I call to you;
    my rock, do not be deaf to me.
    If you remain silent to me,
    I will be like those going down to the Pit.
    Listen to the sound of my pleading
    when I cry to you for help,
    when I lift up my hands
    toward your holy sanctuary.
  • Psalm 31:2-4 CSB
    Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
    Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a mountain fortress to save me.
    For you are my rock and my fortress;
    you lead and guide me
    for your name’s sake.
    You will free me from the net
    that is secretly set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
  • Psalm 62:5-8 CSB
    Rest in God alone, my soul,
    for my hope comes from him.
    He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
    My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
    My refuge is in God.
    Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts before him.
    God is our refuge.Selah
  • Psalm 71:3 CSB
    Be a rock of refuge for me,
    where I can always go.
    Give the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and fortress.
  • Psalm 89:26 CSB
    He will call to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the rock of my salvation.’
  • Psalm 144:1-2 CSB
    Blessed be the Lord, my rock
    who trains my hands for battle
    and my fingers for warfare.
    He is my faithful love and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer.
    He is my shield, and I take refuge in him;
    he subdues my people[a] under me.

Bible Verses about Rain

  • Leviticus 26:3-4 CSB
    “If you follow my statutes and faithfully observe my commands, I will give you rain at the right time, and the land will yield its produce, and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.
  • Deuteronomy 32:2 CSB
    Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my word settle like dew,
    like gentle rain on new grass
    and showers on tender plants.
  • 1 Kings 8:35-36 CSB
    When the skies are shut and there is no rain,
    because they have sinned against you,
    and they pray toward this place
    and praise your name,
    and they turn from their sins
    because you are afflicting them,
    36 may you hear in heaven
    and forgive the sin of your servants
    and your people Israel,
    so that you may teach them the good way
    they should walk in.
    May you send rain on your land
    that you gave your people for an inheritance.
  • Job 37:6-7 CSB
    For he says to the snow, “Fall to the earth,”
    and the torrential rains, his mighty torrential rains,
    serve as his sign to all mankind,
    so that all men may know his work.
  • Psalm 68:8 CSB
    the earth trembled and the skies poured rain
    before God, the God of Sinai,[a]
    before God, the God of Israel.
  • Psalm 72:6 CSB
    May the king be like rain that falls on the cut grass,
    like spring showers that water the earth.
  • Psalm 135:7 CSB
    He causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the earth.
    He makes lightning for the rain
    and brings the wind from his storehouses.
  • Psalm 147:8 CSB
    who covers the sky with clouds,
    prepares rain for the earth,
    and causes grass to grow on the hills.
  • Isaiah 45:8 CSB
    “Heavens, sprinkle from above,
    and let the skies shower righteousness.
    Let the earth open up
    so that salvation will sprout
    and righteousness will spring up with it.
    I, the Lord, have created it.
  • Isaiah 55:10-11 CSB
    For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
    and do not return there
    without saturating the earth
    and making it germinate and sprout,
    and providing seed to sow
    and food to eat,
    11 so my word that comes from my mouth
    will not return to me empty,
    but it will accomplish what I please
    and will prosper in what I send it to do.”
  • Jeremiah 14:22 CSB
    Can any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain?
    Or can the skies alone give showers?
    Are you not the Lord our God?
    We therefore put our hope in you,
    for you have done all these things.
  • Ezekiel 34:26 CSB
     I will make them and the area around my hill a blessing: I will send down showers in their season; they will be showers of blessing.
  • Hosea 10:12 CSB
    Sow righteousness for yourselves
    and reap faithful love;
    break up your unplowed ground.
    It is time to seek the Lord
    until he comes and sends righteousness
    on you like the rain.
  • Joel 2:23 CSB
    Children of Zion, rejoice and be glad
    in the Lord your God,
    because he gives you the autumn rain
    for your vindication.[a]
    He sends showers for you,
    both autumn and spring rain as before.
  • Zechariah 10:1 CSB
    Ask the Lord for rain
    in the season of spring rain.
    The Lord makes the rain clouds,
    and he will give them showers of rain
    and crops in the field for everyone.
  • Matthew 5:45 CSB
    so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
  • Acts 14:16-17 CSB
    In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own way,  although he did not leave himself without a witness, since he did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your[b] hearts with joy.”
  • James 5:17-18 CSB
    Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.

Full of questions in a season of change

My eighth-grader and I started having conversations with the high school guidance counselor in January.  Emails.  Phone calls.  Face-to-face meetings.  Then another round of all of the above.

She has filled out forms and answered questions, made requests and submitted papers, sent  emails and then replied to the replies.

We’ve been prayerful, deeply prayerful.  When her plans don’t work out exactly as she wants, we’ve gone back to our knees, prayed again, and tried something new.

While she’s been prepping for her first year of high school, my son is on his own transition to a new season.  Last week  we walked into the elementary school with a folder of paperwork,  I handed over the form and just like that–he’s registered for kindergarten.

We’re praying over that, too, over teacher decisions and classmates and friends he’ll make.

Seasons of transition are seasons that should draw us into prayer and that’s me right now.  Praying my way right on through!

I read in the book of Judges this morning about a familiar Biblical scenario:  the Angel of the Lord visited a barren woman and told her she would give birth to a son.

He then gave her some specific instructions: don’t drink alcohol or eat anything unclean while you’re pregnant.  Never cut his hair because he’ll be a Nazirite from birth and “he will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.”

The woman excitedly told her husband about the message from the Angel and her husband, Manoah, does something I’d probably do:

He asked for more information.

He said, “Let’s pray and maybe the visitor will come back and tell us more about how to take care of this child.”

The Bible says, “God listened.”  He heard their prayers and did indeed return.

I’ve had my own questions these past few months as I’ve prayed for my children, so I “get” Manoah.  I understand wanting to make sure we do this right., wanting all the answers to all the questions.

My daughter breaks down into tears a few times  in this process, and I realize she has this tremendous pressure to do it all exactly right, make every decision perfectly.  If she chooses one wrong class, if she makes one wrong course selection, then maybe it will mess up everything–college choices, career options, the timeline of her life.

I remind her  (and myself at the same time) that God is tenderly gracious.  He guides us and redirects us and when we seek His will, He helps us know what to do.

If she’s seeking Him, she’s not ruining her life.

And I think about what  this means for my own transition season.   At least a dozen people have asked me in the last few months, “What are you going to do when your youngest starts school in September?”

Maybe I’m feeling the same kind of pressure as my daughter.  To make every right decision so I don’t mess up the transition or waste the opportunity.  I have my own questions to  place before the Lord.

I realize today as I read, though, that Manoah didn’t ask the right questions.  When the angel of the Lord came back , Manoah didn’t ask the things he originally said he was going to ask.  He didn’t say, “What do we need  to do to parent our son well or help him follow the Lord or fulfill his calling?”

Instead, he said this:

 “When your words come true, what will be the boy’s responsibilities and work?” (Judges 13:12 CSB).

Oh, Manoah.  I totally get you.

He said he just wanted some details about what they should do as parents, but what he really wanted to know was the end of the whole big story.   Tell me the grand plan.  Tell me everything about what my son is going to do as an adult and what your mission and purpose is for him .

Lord, tell me everything. 

But the Angel of the Lord ignored that question as if it had never been asked and simply repeated what he said before: your wife shouldn’t eat anything unclean or drink any alcohol when she’s pregnant.

He didn’t tell Manoah what’s going to happen 20 years from now. when their son, Samson, became an adult.  Instead, he only told Manoah what needed to happen in the next 9 months.

I need this same redirection for my heart and I need it frequently–that when I need to know what the next step is, He will show me the next step.  For my children and for me.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track (Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG)

 

Bible Verses on Living Generously

  • Deuteronomy 15:7-8 ESV
    If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.
  • Psalm 37:21 ESV
    The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
        but the righteous is generous and gives
  • Psalm 37:26 ESV
    He is ever lending generously,
        and his children become a blessing.
  • Psalm 41:1 ESV
    Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
        In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him
  • Psalm 112:5 ESV
    It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
        who conducts his affairs with justice.
  • Proverbs 11:24 ESV
    One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
        another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
  • Proverbs 11:25 ESV
    Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
        and one who waters will himself be watered.
  • Proverbs 19:17 ESV
    Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
        and he will repay him for his deed.
  • Proverbs 21:13 ESV
    Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
        will himself call out and not be answered.
  • Proverbs 22:9 ESV
    Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
        for he shares his bread with the poor.
  • Matthew 6:21 ESV
    For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • Matthew 10:42 ESV
    And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
  • Luke 21:1-4 ESV
    Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
  • Acts 10:1-2 ESV
    At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.
  • Acts 20:35 ESV
    In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we musthelp the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
  • Acts 28:7 ESV
    Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days.
  • Romans 12:8 ESV
    the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
    Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11-13 ESV
     You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they[a]will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,
  • 1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV
    As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
  • Hebrews 13:2 ESV
    Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
  • 1 John 3:17 ESV
    But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yetcloses his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Bible Verses about Grace

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

  • Jeremiah 31:2-3 ESV
    Thus says the Lord:
    “The people who survived the sword
        found grace in the wilderness;
    when Israel sought for rest,
        the Lord appeared to him[a] from far away.
    I have loved you with an everlasting love;
        therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
  • John 1:14-17 ESV
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 4:33 ESV
    And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
  • Acts 15:11 NIV
    No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
  • Acts 20:32 ESV
    And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
  • Romans 3:23-24 NIV
     for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
  • Romans 4:16 ESV
    That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
  • Romans 5:1-2 ESV
    Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:8 NIV
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 5:20 ESV
    Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
  • Romans 6:1-2 NIV
    What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
  • Romans 6:14 NIV
    For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
  • Romans 11:6 NIV
    And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV
     But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV
     But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 HCSB
    Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
  • Galatians 2:19-21 NIV
    “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
  • Ephesians 1:1-3 ESV
    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
    To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
  • Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
    But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • Ephesians 4:7 NIV
    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
  • Colossians 2:13-14 ESV
     And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 NIV
    He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
  • 2 Timothy 2:1 NIV
    You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
  • 2 Timothy 4:22 NIV
    The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.
  • Titus 2:11 NIV
    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
  • Hebrews 4:6 NIV
     Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
  • Hebrews 12:15 ESV
    See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled
  • Hebrews 13:9 NIV
    Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.
  • James 4:6 NIV
    But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

    “God opposes the proud
        but shows favor to the humble.”

  • 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
  • 1 Peter 5:10 ESV
    And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
  • 2 Peter 1:2 NIV
    Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
  • 2 Peter 3:18 NIV
     But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Those Who Plan Peace Have Joy

My five-year-old son just finished his first season of soccer on Wednesday.  By Thursday,  he was asking me, “When does soccer start again?’

I guess that means the season was a success.

He headed out to his first practice in February and even the absolutely bitterly freezing cold didn’t dampen his soccer spirit. He was happy to practice and happy to  play (especially defense so he could chat with his other teammates and listen to them tell jokes).

My son is a pretty social guy.

After two weeks in the season, though, every time I said, “It’s almost time for soccer,” he always had one question to ask:

“Is it a practice or a game?”

He’d had a deep revelation about soccer, something he didn’t realize in advance and really hadn’t anticipated.

Games are hard.

Practices are super fun.  He could run across the field, touch his toes, do some toe taps on the ball, dribble to the goal, and all those practice activities.

The idea of a game even sounded fun at first:  All those kids on the field at the same time plus all the people on the sidelines watching, family cheering  you on, snacks at the end of the game.

What’s not to love?

My son says it best: “When there’s another team trying to take the ball away, soccer is just harder.”

I get that.

It’s the opposition he doesn’t like and who,  after all, wants an enemy?   Who would rather have conflict than peace?

I read about this contrast in Proverbs:

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy (Proverbs 12:20 CSB).

I posted this verse up on my fridge almost two years ago and I keep it up because I’m still mulling this over and meditating on what it really means to be a promoter of peace.  Or, as other translations say: A person of peace.  A planner of peace.  A counselor of peace.  A lover of peace.  

When you don’t have anyone needling your soul with conflict or judgment, disagreement or criticism it’s pretty easy to promote peace and to have joy.

But the Psalmist knew that even when we long for peace, we sometimes (maybe even often!) live among those who don’t.

In Psalm 120, the Psalmist mourns:

I have dwelt too long
with those who hate peace.
I am for peace; but when I speak,
they are for war (Psalm 120:6-7 CSB). 

And that’s where the Psalm ends.  This jars my heart a bit because most Psalms make a movement from despair to praise, from conflict to hope in the Lord.  But this Psalm lingers in a place of sadness.

The Psalmist wants peace but those around him want war.

The end.

Psalm over.

Most of us know what that feels like.  After a prolonged time of conflict or discouragement or even maybe just annoyance, we feel battle-weary, worn-out, emptied out, and plain out done-in.

Barnes’s Notes on the Bible say:

There are many trials in human life, but there are few which are more galling, or more hard to bear than this….It has been an injury to me; to my piety, to my comfort, to my salvation. it has vexed me, tried me, hindered me in my progress in the divine life.

So what hope is there for us peacemakers who live in a land of war?

We stumble on landmines of unexpected conflict and it tumbles us into pain, distraction, and wound recovery.  It’s hard to  serve Jesus when battle wounds are on our mind and the sadness of opposition is on our heart.

My son thought maybe he could practice and enjoy everything about soccer and just not go to the games.

But I realized as I read Psalm 120 again today that the Psalmist made another choice.

This Psalm is the first in a series of fifteen chapters called The  Psalms of  Ascent, which were sung by pilgrims on the trip up to Jerusalem during the three major feasts.

So, I turn to Psalm 121 and I continue the Psalmist’s thought. He lived too long among those who loved war….but:

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2 CSB).

We make the pilgrimage closer to Him–because HE is our peace.   We  don’t rush the process.  We look up rather than looking back at the sludge of conflict.  We press on with other pilgrims, traveling together, choosing not to abandon hope in others completely.  And we sing praises along the way because worship redirects our hearts back to the Prince of Peace Himself.

It’s a journey where we peace-loving pilgrims heal up one faithful forward -moving step at a time.

Bible Verses about Loving Our Neighbors

  • Leviticus 19:18 CSB
     Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
  • Proverbs 3:28-29 CSB

    Don’t say to your neighbor, “Go away! Come back later.
    I’ll give it tomorrow”—when it is there with you.
    29 Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor,
    for he trusts you and lives near you.

  • Psalm 15:1-3 CSB

    Lord, who can dwell in your tent?
    Who can live on your holy mountain?

    The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness,
    and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
    who does not slander with his tongue,
    who does not harm his friend
    or discredit his neighbor,

  • Matthew 22:37-40 CSB
    He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38 This is the greatest and most important[b] command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
  • Luke 10:36-37 CSB
    “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
    37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
    Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
  • Romans 13:10 CSB
    Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.
  • Romans 15:2 CSB
    Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
  • Ephesians 4:25 CSB
    Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor,[a] because we are members of one another.
  • Galatians 5:13-15 CSB
     For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
  • James 2:8 CSB
    Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.

He loved me and Gave Himself for me

“Use your self-control.”

This is one of my favorite takeaways from my son’s preschool teachers this year.  They are so gentle and measured when they say it.

He’s ready to lose it over a near-tragedy—not getting to sit next to his good friend or struggling with the zipper to his backpack because it’s extra full that day.

Their gentle reminder is the same: “Use your self-control.”

I love that it assumes he  has self-control and that he can access it, that somehow this little pause and this little reminder gives him the ability to breathe….reflect….choose.

Meltdown?  Or self-control?

He’s in progress.  He sometimes  chooses meltdown.

Me too.

Fruitfulness is part of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.  It means He is alive, and He is active, and we are yielded to Him.

Paul tells us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB). 

It’s not a list for me to tackle like some holy agenda.  It is not up to me to manufacture goodness or to self-concoct gentleness or peace.   It takes  a leaning in with the full weight of my fractured soul on the strength and the character of God in me.

May He be at work and may the work-in-progress be me.

May He be the one to cultivate love in me, to stir up joy, to  grow patience, to establish goodness.

May I be the one to learn, to long for the Spirit and to open myself up to the work that He does.  May I be the one to  focus my eyes on Jesus and His own fruitfulness because He is the perfect model of:

Love.
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-Control

And when I see this fruit in Jesus,  I love Him for it.  I long to be like Him, to let Him shine in my heart, to turn over hardened ground and to till up the soil and to plant the seeds.  Fruitfulness, Lord.  Abundant fruitfulness in my life. 

It seems fitting during Holy Week to consider Jesus and the fruit He bore out on the cross.

Some conflict, some uncertainty, some worry, some stress may bring out the uglies in me.  I’m not always loving, not always peaceful, not always gentle when my kids are picking at each other at the kitchen table and we’re rushing because we need  to be out the door in 8 minutes and I’m still  trying  to cook dinner and give a practice spelling test to  a child.

But Jesus endured all of the pain of the garden, the betrayal, the trial, the beating, the mocking, the condemnation, the cross, the sin and the separation.

And the fruitfulness is still there:  He showed love, joy, peace.  Despite the pain, He was gentle and kind, good and faithful.

He also “used His self-control” by choosing the cross for Himself so He could offer forgiveness to us.  It was, after all, His choice to make.

He wrestled in prayer and made the final declaration on His knees:   “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

That set His destination.   He would not give into fear or to  the flesh.  He would  choose the cross.

And He chose not to call down angels to rescue Him when the soldiers marched into the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 27:41-42).

With the very power of His voice there  in the Garden, He spoke the words:  I AM.  Then all of the military might fell to the ground, struck down by two  small words spoken by the Messiah.

What an embarrassing mess for them.  They were all geared up, swords and clubs at the ready, and a completely average-looking Jewish teacher said two little words and they landed on their backsides.

They walked out of the Garden with Jesus  as their captive because Jesus chose to be their captive.  Paul says it this way, Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 CSB).

The author, Selwyn Hughes, reminds me that Paul lists self-control last in the fruit of the Spirit.  It’s not first.  We don’t begin with self-control and then produce all  the other fruit, even though that’s likely what we try to do sometimes.

“I will be more holy. I will be more righteous. I will hate sin more.”

That’s self-righteousness at work.

Instead, Hughes writes that we begin with love—just as Paul lists it in Galatians 5– and “when you begin with love, you end up with self-control.”

Christ’s love covers us and compels us.

Because we are oh-so-loved by a Savior who is oh-so-good and who chose the cross for us,  we delight in Him and in what pleases Him and what pleases Him is the Spirit’s fruit in us.

Bible Verses about God’s Faithfulness

  • Exodus 34:6 NIV
    And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
  • Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV
    Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
  • Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV
    He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
        and all his ways are just.
    A faithful God who does no wrong,
        upright and just is he.
  • Psalm 36:5 ESV
    Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
        your faithfulness to the clouds.
  • Psalm 40:10 NIV
    I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
        I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
    I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
        from the great assembly.
  • Psalm 86:15 ESV
    But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
        slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
  • Psalm 89:1-2 NIV
    I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
        with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
        through all generations.
    I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
        that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
  • Psalm 91:4 NIV
    He will cover you with his feathers,
        and under his wings you will find refuge;
        his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
  • Psalm 100:4-5 NIV
    Enter his gates with thanksgiving
        and his courts with praise;
        give thanks to him and praise his name.
    For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
        his faithfulness continues through all generations.
  • Psalm 111:7-8 NIV
    The works of his hands are faithful and just;
        all his precepts are trustworthy.
    They are established for ever and ever,
        enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
  • Psalm 119:90 ESV
    Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
        you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
  • Psalm 89:8 ESV
    Lord God of hosts,
        who is mighty as you are, O Lord,
        with your faithfulness all around you?
  • Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
  • Romans 3:3 ESV
    What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
  • 1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
    God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
    No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful,and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV
    But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
  • 2 Timothy 2:13 NIV
    if we are faithless,
        he remains faithful,
        for he cannot disown himself.
  • Hebrews 10:23 ESV
    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
  • 1 John 1:9 NIV
    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins  and purify us from all unrighteousness.