The Unexpectedness of God | Advent

I bought the gift online and the box arrived on my porch yesterday.

It was quite a large box , much larger than I expected.  I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be inside since nothing I’d ordered would be that bulky.

I dropped the load I had in my hands inside the front door and hauled the package inside,  cutting it open quickly with scissors.  That’s when I found the surprise.

My son has two things topping his Christmas wish list:  Lego sets and dinosaur toys.  So, when this particular T-Rex toy went on super-sale on Black Friday online, I snatched  it up, knowing he’d love it.  The T-Rex is  his favorite  dinosaur and he always loves this brand o f toys.  I expected it to be a few inches tall like all the other toys we have by this same toymaker.

But this was beyond all expectation.  This T-Rex stands at least 5 times larger than all  the other action figures and is so big that he can “eat” the other toys and swallow them down into his expansive belly.

My son is going to love this.

I would never, ever have bought this toy knowingly, but this accident and this surprise will  probably be the hit of his Christmas morning.  I can’t wait.

Sometimes it can be so hard to “work up” anticipation, expectation and joy during the Advent season.  Calendars bog us down.  “Must-do’s”  and “have-to’s” can stifle our spirit.  Grief and even just disappointment at how the year turned out can weary us.

I need the reminder (maybe others do also?) about the unexpectedness of God.  How He breaks down the boxes we cram Him into.   We package Him up,  and He surprises us.   He is bigger and grander and far more unexpected than our wildest expectations.

I think I know how situations will unfold and sometimes I settle into thinking that “this will never change.” I see the problem.  I see the complications.  I see the mess.

But God.

I want to  see Him, who is able to do more and to do it in the most wildly creative way.  I cannot trust in my plans or my solutions and fixes, but I can trust in our Mighty God.

I remember Paul’s song of praise in Ephesians:

Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 CSB).

God is the defier expectations.  He is our Above-and-Beyond God.

In my Advent devotional this week, the readings began in Genesis, telling why we need a Savior, how because of our sin we needed a Rescuer and Deliverer who could restore our relationship with God.

And Adam and Eve knew this.  They heard God’s curse on the serpent:

I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15 CSB).  

They knew that Another—a Deliverer—would come to defeat the serpent once and for all.

But what would this look like?  How would the Deliverer come?   How long would they have to wait?

Surely they could not have imagined as they headed out of the Garden of Eden how Jesus would come, how He would be born, how His rescue would come through His perfect life and sacrificial death.  Surely they could not have known the long line of generations who would wait for the coming of the Messiah.

My devotional reading says this:

“Scholar James Boice says Adam and Eve likely thought Cain was the deliverer who would defeat the serpent that God  promised in Genesis 3:15.  It’s even reflected in the name they gave him…In view of the promise of a  deliverer, [Cain’s] name probably means, ‘Here he is’ or ‘I’ve gotten him.’ Eve called her son ‘Here he is’ because she thought the deliverer had been sent by God.” (Advent, Lifeway Women, p. 14)

In Genesis 3, God says there will be a Deliverer.  In Genesis 4, Eve is pregnant and gives birth to Cain, the first human baby ever.

Maybe Adam and Eve truly thought this baby was the one who would rescue and restore them.  Cain would be the promised one.

But God.

They could have grown disappointed and discouraged with Cain’s failure and how nothing turned out the way they expected.

Still, God had a plan they could never have imagined, the perfect Savior who would come at the perfect time:

When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5 CSB).

 

Bible Verses and a Prayer about Waiting

  • Psalm 25:4-5 ESV
    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 27:13-14
    I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
  • Psalm 33:20-22
    We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,   even as we put our hope in you.
  • Psalm 37:7 ESV
    Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!
  • Psalm 37:9 ESV
    For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
  • Psalm 40:1-3 ESV
    I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
    He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
    and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
    He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
    Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.
  • Psalm 62:5 ESV
    For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
  • Psalm 130:5-6 NIV
    I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
    I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
  • Isaiah 30:18 ESV
    Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
    For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.
  • Isaiah 40:29-31 HCSB
    He gives strength to the weary

    and strengthens the powerless.
    Youths may faint and grow weary,
    and young men stumble and fall,
    but those who trust in the Lord
    will renew their strength;
    they will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary;
    they will walk and not faint.

  • Isaiah 64:4 NIV
    Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
    no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
  • Lamentations 3:25 ESV
    The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
  • Micah 7:7 NIV
    But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.
  • James 5:7-8 HCSB
    Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.

Bible Verses about Harvest

  • Genesis 8:22 CSB
    As long as the earth endures,
    seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
    summer and winter, and day and night
    will not cease.”
  • Exodus 22:29 CSB
    You must not hold back offerings from your harvest or your vats. Give me the firstborn of your sons.
  • Exodus 34:21-22 CSB
     “You are to labor six days but you must rest on the seventh day; you must even rest during plowing and harvesting times. “Observe the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the agricultural year.
  • Deuteronomy 24:19 CSB
    “When you reap the harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to get it. It is to be left for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
  • Leviticus 19:9-10 CSB
     “When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the resident alien; I am the Lord your God.
  • Leviticus 23:10-11 CSB
    “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you and reap its harvest, you are to bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He will present the sheaf before the Lord so that you may be accepted; the priest is to present it on the day after the Sabbath.
  • Psalm 107:36-38 CSB
    He causes the hungry to settle there,
    and they establish a city where they can live.
    37 They sow fields and plant vineyards
    that yield a fruitful harvest.
    38 He blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
    he does not let their livestock decrease.
  • Proverbs 6:6-8 CSB
    Go to the ant, you slacker!
    Observe its ways and become wise.
    Without leader, administrator, or ruler,
    it prepares its provisions in summer;
    it gathers its food during harvest.
  • Proverbs 25:13 CSB
    To those who send him, a trustworthy envoy
    is like the coolness of snow on a harvest day;
    he refreshes the life of his masters.
  • Proverbs 26:1 CSB
    Like snow in summer and rain at harvest,
    honor is inappropriate for a fool.
  • Isaiah 9:3 CSB
    You have enlarged the nation
    and increased its joy.[a]
    The people have rejoiced before you
    as they rejoice at harvest time
    and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.
  • Jeremiah 5:24 CSB
    They have not said to themselves,
    ‘Let’s fear the Lord our God,
    who gives the seasonal rains, both autumn and spring,
    who guarantees to us the fixed weeks of the harvest.’
  • Hosea 6:11  CSB
    A harvest is also appointed for you, Judah.
    When I[a] return my people from captivity,
  • Matthew 9:37-38 CSB
    Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:10 CSB
    Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will also provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
  • Galatians 6:9 CSB
     Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.
  • James 5:7 CSB
    Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
  • Revelation 14:15 CSB
    Another angel came out of the temple, crying out in a loud voice to the one who was seated on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap, for the time to reap has come, since the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

Operation Christmas Child 2019

 

Over 12 years ago, I sat in church at the end of October.  That year,  I had decided not to pack any shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Sure, I loved it.   I love kids.  I love sharing the Gospel  with kids.

So, it was a perfect match.  You fill a shoebox with school supplies, toys, and hygiene items and Operation Christmas Child sends it around the world to a child who may never have had a Christmas present before.

Plus,  it opens up opportunities share the news about Jesus in communities where shoeboxes are distributed.

But that year, money was tight and it felt like I gave to  so many different things at the holidays.  Time to  narrow things down,  I had reasoned.

Then, they showed a video  during our church service with kids jumping up and down with joy just for getting a shoebox.  They celebrated over some matchbox cars and toothbrushes or a doll and some soap.

I cried.  Doing such a simple thing has such a big impact.  Pack a shoebox….bless a child…bless their family….bless their community….bless the world.

No way was I going to miss out on being a part of that!

This year, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to  send 12 million shoeboxes to children in need around the world and we can all participate.

NATIONAL COLLECTION WEEK THIS YEAR IS NOVEMBER 18-24.

That’s soon!

Our family likes to work all year long to collect crayons, pencils, soap, toothbrushes, and more so that we’re ready to pack those boxes each fall.

Some of you have also helped us gather supplies in order  to make some homemade items for our boxes.  I love making homemade items because they add a little  extra love to each box and I pray over every project as I make it, which helps to keep my focus on serving others.

HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITE PROJECTS FROM THE PAST FEW YEARS:

Here’s one of the things I love the most.   When we do these  projects with our kids, when we carry in bags full of crayons and stuffed animals to church for our packing party, when we gather around our kitchen table to pack a box, when we finish up those boxes and pause to pray for the kids who will receive them….we aren’t just blessing kids around the world.

We’re blessing our own children.

We’re teaching our kids that this world is so much bigger than us and there are people out there with overwhelming need.  We need  to be praying for them and we need to be rolling up our sleeves and reaching out to  help them in practical ways.

Some of the children who receive these boxes have never owned their own toothbrush; they’ve shared with all the kids in their orphanage.  They’ve never had their own toy.  They don’t have the pencils they need to go to school so they simply don’t go.  Or they might be wearing raggedy, ripped apart shoes that barely hold together.

We can bless them with a shoebox of gifts.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER PACKING SOME SHOEBOXES THIS YEAR FOR OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD?  HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN ORDER TO GET STARTED:

YOU CAN BEGIN BY LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION HERE, LIKE:

If you make a $9 donation online to cover the shipping for your box, you can even print off a label that lets you track it here!!  A few weeks after delivery, they’ll send you an email telling you what country your box was delivered to and some general information about the needs in that area.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T FORGET TO PRAY OVER EACH SHOEBOX YOU PACK!  PRAYER IS SO POWERFUL!

HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE OCC VIDEOS TO ENCOURAGE YOU AS YOU PACK.

Matthew West shows the Great Lengths OCC goes to bring shoeboxes to kids around the world.

Scotty McCreery shows how to pack a shoebox.

TobyMac’s Christmas This Year OCC Video

Check out how excited this boy from Angola is to receive his shoebox!  This is my most favorite OCC video ever!

Bible Verses about Home

  • Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV
     You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
  • 2 Samuel 7:10 ESV
    And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly
  • Psalm 90:1 ESV
    Lord, you have been our dwelling place[a]
        in all generations.
  • Psalm 127:1-2 ESV
    Unless the Lord builds the house,
        those who build it labor in vain.
    Unless the Lord watches over the city,
        the watchman stays awake in vain.
    It is in vain that you rise up early
        and go late to rest,
    eating the bread of anxious toil;
        for he gives to his beloved sleep.
  • Proverbs 3:23 ESV
    The Lord‘s curse is on the house of the wicked,
        but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
  • Proverbs 12:7 ESV
    The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
        but the house of the righteous will stand.
  • Proverbs 14:1 ESV
    The wisest of women builds her house,
        but folly with her own hands tears it down.
  • Proverbs 14:11 ESV
    The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
        but the tent of the upright will flourish.
  • Proverbs 24:3-4 ESV
    By wisdom a house is built,
        and by understanding it is established;
    by knowledge the rooms are filled
        with all precious and pleasant riches.
  • Isaiah 32:18 ESV
    My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
        in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
  • Zephaniah 3:20 ESV
    At that time I will bring you in,
        at the time when I gather you together;
    for I will make you renowned and praised
        among all the peoples of the earth,
    when I restore your fortunes
        before your eyes,” says the Lord.
  • John 14:2 ESV
    In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
  • John 14:23 ESV
    Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV
    Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1 ESV
    For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Say to those with fearful hearts

At the amusement park, after we’ve parked  the minivan and handed over our passes to be scanned and our bags to be checked, we head for the measuring station .

Only one of my kids still needs to be measured.  My girls have long since passed the point where they can ride anything in the park because of their height.

My son, though, is still tracking his growth progress through wrist band colors.  Each color tells him what he can ride based on how tall he is.

Somehow between the start of summer to the early fall, he shot up through three different colors on the ride chart.   That means technically he can ride his first big roller coaster.

This is thrilling to him.  He announces to each member of the family what color he’s on now.

But when I ask him if he really wants to ride any of the bigger rides—any of them at all—-he says, “I’ll do that when I’m 7.”

He’s taller than he is brave.

I remind him that the colors don’t really matter if we’re not going to ride any of the higher, faster rides, but he’s thrilled just the same.  He celebrates physical growth and that’s enough for him.

Not all of my kids have been like this, but most of them have (three out of the four).  We are timid about these things,  more likely to enjoy the small swings,  the bumper cars and the kiddie roller coaster long after others have moved on to bigger thrills.

We’re not born brave.  We’re  not naturally bold.  Courage isn’t part of our DNA.

(I’m still not a thrill-seeker.  At almost 40 years old, I’d rather not ride any rides at all . Even the spinning teacups aren’t my favorite.)

I can have fun at an amusement park without the speed and the rush and the drops that I hate so much.

But in life, fear can be so  much more crippling than this:  stealing joy, stealing peace, stealing boldness for the gospel and courage for Christ, stealing sleep.   It’s not about preference—rides or no rides.  It’s about fear holding me back from obeying Christ or keeping me from fully entrusting myself, my family, my kids to God.

Sometimes, all the anxiety over taking a next step can be utterly paralyzing.  What I really need to  do is just do  it.  Just take the step.   Just have  the conversation.  Just sign up or just step down.  Whatever God is asking me to  do, I need to do in obedience.   Faith over fear.  Trust over timidity.

Still I waiver so often.

Still I feel that paralysis of indecision and anxiety.

Still I try so hard to keep control over the many things I cannot control.

In the Everyday with Jesus Bible, Selwyn Hughes reminds me of what fear does and why it’s our enemy:

Fear sinks us:  When Peter stepped out of the boat, he “saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord,  save me!'” (Matthew 14:30 CSB).

Fear knocks us down:  When the disciples saw the glory of the Lord at the Mount  of Transfiguration, their fear sent them to their knees.  But, “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid.'” (Matthes 17:7 CSB).

Fear hides our treasures and gifts:  The man with one talent in the parable said, “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.”  His talent was wasted, buried in the earth and shoved into a hole in the ground because of fear.(Matthew 25:25 CSB).

Fear puts us behind closed doors:  After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples gathered in secret, “with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19 CSB). 

“Fear drives us underground:” Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38 CSB).

I wonder how often I let fears from my past hold me back in the here and now.  Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve gone up a few colors on the growth chart, and yet I’m still sticking to the same-old same-old, the easiest and the most comfortable things before me instead of moving on.

Isaiah the prophet said:

Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Maybe these are words we can speak to fearful hearts around us.

Or  maybe this is the reminder our own fearful heart needs:  “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming….”

It’s because of his presence, His strength, His might, His mercy that we fearful ones can take the next courageous step.

 

Bible Verses and a Prayer for the Thirsty Soul

  • Nehemiah 9:15 ESV
     You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.
  • Psalm 23:1-2 ESV
    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
        He makes me lie down in green pastures.
    He leads me beside still waters.
  • Psalm 42:1-2 ESV
    As a deer pants for flowing streams,
        so pants my soul for you, O God.
    My soul thirsts for God,
        for the living God.
    When shall I come and appear before God?
  • Psalm 63:1 ESV
    O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
        my soul thirsts for you;
    my flesh faints for you,
        as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
  • Psalm 78:15-16 ESV
    He split rocks in the wilderness
    and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
    16 He made streams come out of the rock
        and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
  • Psalm 105:41 ESV
    He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
        it flowed through the desert like a river.
    He split rocks in the wilderness
        and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
    16 He made streams come out of the rock
        and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
  • Psalm 107:4-6 ESV
    Some wandered in desert wastes,
        finding no way to a city to dwell in;
    hungry and thirsty,
        their soul fainted within them.
    Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
        and he delivered them from their distress.
  • Psalm 114:8 ESV
    who turns the rock into a pool of water,
        the flint into a spring of water.
  • Psalm 143:6 ESV
    I stretch out my hands to you;
        my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
  • Isaiah 12:2-3 ESV
    Behold, God is my salvation;
        I will trust, and will not be afraid;
    for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
        and he has become my salvation.”
    3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
  • Isaiah 32:2 ESV
    Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
        a shelter from the storm,
    like streams of water in a dry place,
        like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
  • Isaiah 35:6-7 ESV
    then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
        and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
    For waters break forth in the wilderness,
        and streams in the desert;
    the burning sand shall become a pool,
        and the thirsty ground springs of water;
    in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
        the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
  • Isaiah 41:17-18 ESV
    When the poor and needy seek water,
        and there is none,
        and their tongue is parched with thirst,
    I the Lord will answer them;
        I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
    18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
        and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
    I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
        and the dry land springs of water.
  • Isaiah 43:19 ESV
    Behold, I am doing a new thing;
        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
        and rivers in the desert.
  • Isaiah 48:21 ESV
    They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
        he made water flow for them from the rock;
        he split the rock and the water gushed out.
  • Isaiah 55:1 ESV
    Come, everyone who thirsts,
        come to the waters;
    and he who has no money,
        come, buy and eat!
    Come, buy wine and milk
        without money and without price.
  • Isaiah 58:11 ESV
    And the Lord will guide you continually
        and satisfy your desire in scorched places
        and make your bones strong;
    and you shall be like a watered garden,
        like a spring of water,
        whose waters do not fail.
  • Jeremiah 2:13 ESV
    for my people have committed two evils:
    they have forsaken me,
        the fountain of living waters,
    and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
        broken cisterns that can hold no water.
  • Zechariah 14:8-9 ESV
    On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them tothe eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.
    And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will beone and his name one.
  • Matthew 5:6 ESV
    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • John 4:7-14 ESV
    Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
  • John 6:35 ESV
    Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
  • John 7:38-39 ESV
    Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
  • Revelation 7:16-17 ESV
    They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
        the sun shall not strike them,
        nor any scorching heat.
    17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
        and he will guide them to springs of living water,
    and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
  • Revelation 22:17 ESV
    The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

prayerthirsty

Bible Verses and a Prayer about Gentleness

  • Deuteronomy 32:2 ESV
    May my teaching drop as the rain,
        my speech distill as the dew,
    like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
        and like showers upon the herb.
  • Psalm 18:35 ESV
    You have given me the shield of your salvation,
        and your right hand supported me,
        and your gentleness made me great.
  • Proverbs 15:1 ESV
    A soft answer turns away wrath,
        but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:4 ESV
    A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
        but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
  • Isaiah 40:11 ESV
    He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
        he will gather the lambs in his arms;
    he will carry them in his bosom,
        and gently lead those that are with young.
  • Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
     Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  • 2  Corinthians 10:1 ESV
    I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—
  • Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
  • Galatians 6:1 ESV
    Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
  • Ephesians 4:2 ESV
    with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
  • Ephesians 4:15 ESV
    Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
  • Philippians 4:5 NIV
    Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:7 ESV
    But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
  • 1 Timothy 6:11 ESV
    But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV
     And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone,able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth
  • Titus 3:2 NIV
    to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
  • Hebrews 5:1-2 ESV
    For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
  • James 3:17 ESV
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV
    Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
  • 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

prayergentleness

Snack attack and a lesson in grace

Last week, we finished up soccer practice–kids running all over the field, parents lined up in travel chairs along the sidelines.

Somehow, our team had been double-booked, so we couldn’t practice on our normal field.  We shifted to the side into an open area and used cones instead of goals while a younger team practiced in our normal place.  They were a group of tiny, enthusiastic and sweet four-year-olds whose team shirts mostly hung down to their knees.

While our team took a water break, their team finished up for the night and headed off the field.  Their little arms were full of goodies–Gatorade bottles, Oreo snack packs, little bags of Goldfish.

I thought to myself, “Wow!  That is a bit much, all that snack after practice.  It’s not even a game or anything!”

One of our kids noticed the other players leaving with their armloads of snacky goodness.   (How could you not notice?!)

He wanted to know where our snack was?  Were we getting snack after practice?  How come we never got snack after practices?

Coach reminded him that we don’t get snacks after practice, just games.

Again, I had that silent little thought:  “Well, yeah!  Snacks after games is reasonable.  Snack at every practice is over the top.”

But then the coach filled in the blanks.  He said, “We did snacks at practice when you were that young because you didn’t have any games.  So, that way you still got a little celebration when you finished up playing.  But now you’re older and you have regular games, so we save the snacks for those days instead.”

Oh.

It all made sense really and I felt that check to my heart to be less quick to assume I know everything, to assume I ever know enough to judge something as “foolish” or “silly” or “a bit much.”

I am not always careful with my tongue or my words; they have a way of escaping me in moments maybe of stress, anger, pressure or frustration.  But, even so, I have grown in this.  I am more gracious and gentle now with my words than I have ever been.

And yet,  there is  still that aptness in my spirit to criticize.  Even if I don’t speak the words aloud, my heart still sometimes sits in silent judgment.  The Bible uses words like “scoffer” and “mocker” and I don’t want that to be me.   I don’t want my attitude, my thoughts, my heart to be bent towards judgment and assumed negativity instead of grace, love, mercy, gentleness, kindness, and goodness.

And,  while I do need to be wise and discerning about what is evil  or wrong, in most of these cases I simply need to be more apt to consider the other side of the story.

Maybe there’s a reason a team of cute four-year-olds leaves soccer practice with some snack bags.

Charles Spurgeon  wrote:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

We are indeed heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.  All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

But we can choose whether to join in the all the noise of negativity or to  tame our own critically inclined spirits.

We can open ourselves up to the possibility that there’s more to this person’s story than we know or see.

We can take Paul’s challenge to  heart to:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

James also says:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law (James 4:11 ESV).

I feel like I tumble into this lesson repeatedly: that there is a difference between being spiritually discerning and having a critical spirit.

Help me, Lord, to clearly hear your voice, to yield to your wisdom, to be discerning about right and wrong, truth, holiness, and righteousness, but help me also not to add  to that my own voice of criticism or hurtful thoughts or prideful judgment.  May my heart be humble and may my thoughts be rooted in grace.

 

 

Bible Verses about Praying Together

  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
    if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
  • Matthew 18:19-20 ESV
    Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
  • Acts 1:14 ESV
     All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
  • Acts 2:42 ESV
    And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
  • Acts 12:5 ESV
    So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
  • Acts 12:12 ESV
    When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
  • Acts 16:25 ESV
    About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
  • Romans 15:30 ESV
    I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,
  • 2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV
    You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
  • Ephesians 6:18 ESV
    praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
  • James 5:14 ESV
     Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
  • James 5:16 ESV
     Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.