Rules About Pumpkins and How God is Enough

We have this long-standing family rule. My husband tells my daughters every year at the pumpkin patch before we scramble onto the tractor for the hayride out to the fields:

“You have to pick a pumpkin you can carry….yourself.…as in Mom and Dad aren’t carrying your pumpkin for you.”

They nod their little blond heads in understanding, but when my kids hop off the back of that hay-covered wagon, their eyes scan the fields for the site of the perfect pumpkin.

And perfect typically means more than just deep orange (not green) and no rot (if they could find one without dirt on it, that’s a bonus).

Perfect usually means “big,” too.

Sometimes, like this year, one unique child will search for half an hour in that field only to pick the tiniest of all miniature orange pumpkins.

Inevitably, though, another child combines rolling, scooting, dragging, and bent-knee carrying complete with huffing, puffing, grunting and groaning to transfer her chosen pumpkin onto the tractor.

Or they’ll blink large, beautiful blue eyes in my direction and ask, “Mommy, can you help me carry this?,” hoping that somehow Mom missed hearing Dad’s speech this year.

Bigger is better.  That’s what they think sometimes.

I need more, more than I can truly carry, more than enough, more than can fit, more than is comfortable…..

As our kids grow,  their chosen pumpkins often grow, too.

Perhaps it’s time to amend the rule because “what you can carry” seems like a dare to choose the largest pumpkin they can maneuver out of the field and onto the tractor.

I take this dare at times, too.

Because I feel needy at times, that’s why.

In need of energy, of supply, of vision, of joy, of inspiration, of affection, of deliverance, of encouragement, of peace….and yes, of even more and more than that.

Scripture promises us this—The Lord is our Chelqi—-our Portion.  It’s one of His names, part of His character, the implicit promise dependent not on what He does or has done, but on who He is at the very core of His being.

That’s what it says in Lamentations 3:24:

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him”  (NASB)

and Psalm 73:26:

My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (NASB)

and again in Psalm 16:5:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot (NASB).

He is our Portion.  He is Enough.  He is exactly what we need, how much we need, at the exact moment we need Him.

We needn’t try to fill our arms with more than we can carry, fearful that He’ll give us what we need today, but not tomorrow.

In the wilderness outside of Egypt, God rained down supernatural manna for the Israelites six days a week, enough for each day with extra to set aside for the Sabbath once a week.  And He told them this: Gather enough for today.

Just for today.  Trust me for tomorrow.  I’ll provide again.

Some of them tried to stockpile and store, thinking their own personal planning and feelings of security trumped God’s instruction.

But He meant it…daily bread.  This much, and no more, is perfect.  Trying to live off yesterday’s harvest leaves us with rotten manna, worm-filled bread, starvation for sure.

So, tomorrow and every single day we return for fresh filling and fresh provision, a perpetual looking to the Lord our Portion for all that we need.

And He is ALL we need.  We trust that He isn’t stingy or absent or moody and inclined to provide one day, but not the next.

We don’t gorge ourselves in the fields of life, choosing other methods of filling our void and our emptiness, lumbering back to the tractor with our arms filled with everything that looks so perfect, but never fully satisfies.

He is enough.  His provision is perfect in our seasons of fatigue and sorrow and desperate need .

Charles Spurgeon said it this way:

It is not “The Lord is partly my portion,”nor “The Lord is in my portion”; but he himself makes up the sum total of my soul’s inheritance.  Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire.  The Lord is my portion.  Not his grace merely, nor his love, nor his covenant, but Jehovah himself.”

Oh yes, sometimes I think what I need is rest.  I need peace, Lord bring me peace.  God, give me joy.  Father, provide for this need.

But it’s not that He gives me a portion; He is my portion.

It is God Himself that I need, all that I need, everything that I need, and He is enough for me.

Originally posted September 27, 2013

Stop and Watch and Wait

“Look!”

This is what I shout out in my minivan while my kids were a captive audience.

“Wow!  Look!  Look!  Look!”

I point out the front window at the massive rainbow stretched from one side of the road in a perfect arc all the way to the other side.

Its colors are deeply defined and easy to spot in the curious sky—deep gray, light mist, bright sunbeams shooting through dimples in the clouds.

The week had been long and busy and I had been weary as in weary-in-the-soul.

And then this, this glistening reminder, this flash of hope, this tangible presence of God-at-work. God created something beautiful THIS DAY.

All  the beauty isn’t in the past.  His glory is here and it’s now, not just been there, done that, and nevermore to come.

So, it’s not just the beauty of the sky, (though it was beautiful), it was the beauty of  God bursting through the gray and the overcast; this is what caught my attention.

My kids, however, weren’t so impressed.  Most  of them ignored me.  One child gave a halfhearted attempt at interest and asked, “Where?”

I’m not confident she even bothered to look.  I think she was just trying to  make me happy because she’s nice that way.

But I didn’t let this one go, not easily anyway.  I told them to LOOK.  Really LOOK.  I’ve seen rainbows before in my life, but this was astonishing and breathtaking and they were MISSING IT!

At this point, I was on a tiny country road with no other car in sight.  I slowed to just below the speed limit and urged my kids to please look at the sky.

It still didn’t matter.  They listened to their music.  They flipped another page in the book.  They didn’t see because they were busy,  busy with their  own noise and their own agenda.

A few minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot and stopped the van.  We unloaded lawn chairs and jackets and gathered with friends around a bonfire.

“Did you see?” others asked.  Many had missed  it, but some of us were in on this divine secret, this magnificent rainbow caught in the early evening sky.  We shared that moment of awe with each other.

This time, I was one of those who had seen.  But maybe other times, maybe lots of the time, maybe even most of the time, I miss seeing.

Maybe God has been painting rainbows in the sky and I’ve been too busy with my own noise and my own agenda to  notice.

What about you?

Frederick Buechner writes:

Listen for God, stop and watch and wait for  him. To love God means to pay attention, be mindful, be open to the possibility that God is with you in ways that, unless you have your eyes open, you may never glimpse.  He speaks words that, unless you have your ears open, you may never hear.  Draw near to him as best you can” (The Remarkable Ordinary).

Pay attention.  Be mindful.

Stop and watch and wait.

God said it this way to the prophet Habakkuk:

“Look among the nations, and see;
    wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
    that you would not believe if told.” (Habakkuk 1:5 ESV).

How often do we do this?

How often do we:

Look

See

Wonder

and Be Astounded?

Maybe today is the day to begin, to  renew our determination, not to look for signs or miracles, but to wait expectantly for God Himself with eyes wide and ears open.

Of course, my life is loud.  My son is no longer napping and he likes to talk to me.  A lot.  My older girls come home from school and they want to review their day and maybe fight with each other and practice the flute, the piano, the drums and ask for homework help.  Maybe they are doing all this at the same time.

I’ve been considering the discipline of silence, though, how choosing quiet whenever possible heightens my senses to God at work around me.

I try to keep my words few.  I walk in  quiet.  I drive in quiet.  I listen more with friends and try to talk, talk, talk less.

I can’t be silent all the time.  I can’t be quiet all the time.  But there are times when it’s possible and I step into those possibilities and choose the discipline of quiet and silence.

Somehow quieting the noise helps me not only hear God better, but see Him better, too, and hearing Him and seeing Him…well, that’s what we really want.

Maybe the No is really just Not Yet

This week, we are teetering on a seesaw, trying to balance two things:

Squeezing out every last drop of summer fun

and

Getting ourselves prepared for school to restart.

That means letting the kids sleep in and finalizing reading logs one day.

It means final trips to  the water park  and the beach and getting back-to-school hair cuts.

Today, my son hopped up into the chair for his trim and the lady cutting his hair asked, “Are you going to preschool soon?”

He said, “No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

This is not  a good sign since he is in fact going to preschool for the first time ever and it starts in just two weeks.

At first, when  we had conversations with him about preschool, he seemed pretty excited.

We bought him a Lego Batman backpack and, after all, what more could you need when heading to school for the first time?  A favorite superhero on a backpack pretty much guarantees academic success.

But when we talked about school, I’d say, “You get to go to preschool this year! Yay!

He’d nod his head knowingly and say, “Yes.  I am.   I’m going to ride on the bus with Catherine.”

At which point, I would backpedal for some clarification.

His heart has been longing to get on that big yellow bus with his sisters for all his little life.   He’d sit on the front porch and cry and cry after his sisters left for the day.

Not just on the first day of school.

Not just for the month of September.

But months and months into the school year our mornings would still be a little sad.

And now, it’s finally his turn to go to school.  Hurray!

Only, not with the girls on the bus.  No, Catherine will go on the bus to  her school and Andrew will ride in mom’s minivan to his school.

After a few weeks of repeatedly having this exact same back-and-forth conversation, he finally came up with a new answer.

“Are you ready for preschool?”

“No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

He thinks that’s the end of the whole deal.   There’s no preschool, which means he doesn’t have to  go  anywhere different from where his big sisters get to go.

What this really about, of course, is timing.

To him, it feels like he’s waited an eternity for his chance to  ride on that bus and two more years of waiting is just too  long.

For  me, it feels like he should still be sleeping in a crib and drinking  a bottle.

How in the world is my baby going to preschool?

The truth is that his time will  come.  The season of bus rides and elementary classrooms, homework and  reading logs will be here.

It’s just not yet. 

And we all can probably relate to feeling oh so ready for the future promise that will indeed come, but is frustratingly not yet. 

We can strive and work our hardest to make the “not yet” happen right now.

We can do everything right.  Do what the “successful” people do.  We can check every checkbox and fulfill every requirement.

But:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV).

There is a season for rides to  preschool in the minivan and there is a season for bus trips to the elementary school.

It takes so  much pressure off of us when we accept our “now” and stop pushing for the “not yet.”

We don’t stress in prayer or nudge God repeatedly trying to get what we want.   We don’t have to feel inadequate, like we’re  not measuring up or accomplishing enough for our families or for our faith.

 

Even Jesus always walked carefully in God’s will and also in God’s timing.

When pushed to minister ahead of schedule, he’d say,

My time has not yet come (John 7:6) or “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4)

Jesus knew that the when of God’s will is as important  as the what.

Maybe God has indeed told us “no.”

Or perhaps what He is saying is simply “not yet.”

Knowing the difference can change our heart.  We needn’t mourn or grieve.  We needn’t stress or grow weary fighting.

Instead, we  can rest and relax and allow God to give us the beauty of “now” while trusting Him with what is still  yet to come.

 

How my prayers shifted and why that’s a good thing

We started praying on Sunday.   In our round-robin family prayers at night, many of us chimed in with the same prayer:

“Lord Jesus, please help everyone who is sick feel better quickly and please, please, please, please do not let Lauren get sick this week.  Amen.”

The stomach virus rampaged through our family last week, making mockery of our schedule and activities.

But we prayed it would miss Lauren by leapfrogging over this middle daughter.

 

Not that we wanted anyone to get sick, of course, but Lauren had a big week.

Class picture day on Tuesday.

Field trip on Wednesday.

Math Bowl competition on Thursday.

Karate belt test on Saturday.

One upset stomach could sabotage any of these activities, so we prayed she would just stay well.

And then my prayers changed, shifted in one gigantic, mountainous move.

Because she got sick.  She woke me up in the middle of the night and we ultimately retreated to the couches in the living room until she felt she could sleep.

That’s when I started praying for something different, not “Lord, help her avoid this tough situation.  Help her not to be uncomfortable, disappointed, or hurt.”

Now I prayed,  “Lord, help her right in the middle of what’s hard.  This is disappointing.  Help her to overcome.  Work on her character and teach her how to handle it when life doesn’t go the way we want.”

She missed the Math Bowl competition after working hard for weeks to prepare, and she felt like she let her team down.

But at the end of the night when she was feeling totally back to normal and it was all over and done with, I leaned down and cupped my hand under her chin,  I told her I couldn’t have been more proud of how she handled the hard, more proud than I could have been about any math medal.

God answered my prayers.

He didn’t give me what I wanted.  He didn’t help my child avoid something I would have preferred to skip altogether.

But He did a work in her heart, matured her right before my eyes, and taught her deeply meaningful lessons that matter far more in the end.

We’re still a little sad, but we found ourselves surprisingly okay.  We walked through the one thing we didn’t want to happen, and we made it.

God is good.

It’s a little nudge to my Mom-heart this week that maybe my prayers should remain shifted.

Maybe I’ll always pray for my kids to be protected from hurt and that everything would work out all the time.  I am, after all, their mom and I love them.

And a life with no pain or heartache, no disappointment or difficulty sounds pretty great.

But it also sounds spoiled and easy.  It sounds too sweet, like eating a bowlful of candy and ending up sick and with a mouth full of cavities.

God knows best for my kids and I can trust Him.  I can pray that He helps them through, gives them strength, teaches them to turn to Him, bringing their hurts and needs to Jesus.

And God knows best for me, too, and for the friends I pray for, the family I love, and the missionaries and the persecuted church I want to cover in prayer.

I read Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus:

 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might (Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV).

He could have prayed  so many things for this beloved church, that they escape persecution, that they prosper financially, that their businesses were successful and their families strong.

But He didn’t focus on their physical needs or wants.  He prayed that they know Jesus, know the hope they had in him  and know his power.

What if I started praying that for myself and for others?

Lord, may they know you.  

In anything they face, anything they go through, when they are facing the worst or receiving the best, may they know Jesus more and find Him so very faithful and so very strong.

May we always make knowing Him our deepest desire and our greatest pursuit.

Weakness can be flour and oil or it can be cake

psalm-28-7

On New Year’s Eve, we used our fireplace for the very first time.

We’ve lived in our home 12-1/2 years.

We didn’t even use our fireplace on December 20th, 2004–the night of a huge winter storm when we lost power and running water.

I remember that night and that storm because I was in labor with my first baby and I huddled on the couch with blankets and a flashlight because the contractions kept me awake all night long.

It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I even realized my mistake. I had a fireplace available and didn’t use it.

What was I thinking?  Why did I choose cold and dark when warmth and light were so nearby?

How I have missed out.

How I still sometimes miss out because I have access to all that God gives and offers and simply IS, but still struggle along in my own strength.

I’ve read this verse so often these last two weeks:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV).

It’s a familiar promise, but one I return to now because I’ve been startlingly aware of my weaknesses.

It’s in the days when I want to give up or the moments when I mess up (again).

It’s in the way I try to avoid the difficult and the hard and hide my head in the sand instead of facing what might be.

I remember the widow of Zarephath who only had a little flour and oil to feed herself and her son. It was enough for one final, insufficient meal before resigning to starvation.

That’s the moment Elijah showed up asking for some bread.

Even after she told him how little she had, he boldly asked her to feed him first.  Then he promised this:

 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” (1 Kings 17:14 ESV).

I don’t know what struggle she might have experienced then.  I can’t imagine the choice–feed this stranger and hope God comes through–or feed my son at least one more guaranteed meal before we starve.

The Bible simply says, “She went and did as Elijah said” (verse 15).

And God came through.

If she kept the flour and oil for herself, she’d have had one small meal.

By giving it up,  though, she had miraculous abundance.

She gave God her weakness, her insufficiency, her smallest supply .  She gave out of her poverty, and He provided.  He refilled the flour and the oil.

God fills the empty when we’re poured out for Him.

Maybe I’ve been living on flour and oil when I could give it over to God and let Him make so much more.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote this about Elijah’s words:

’Make me a cake.’ In other words, Elijah said: There is one thing you can do. Even from your poverty, you can give me something.  It may not seem like much, but it is the very thing I need. If you will give it to me I can do something I could not do without it” (Loneliness).

We can fret over our insufficiency, we can hide away our weakness out of embarrassment and shame, we can run away from challenges, we can give up when it gets too hard.

Or maybe we can try to make do with the little we have.  “I have a little flour and a little oil. It’s not enough, but I’m on my own here.”

But weakness simply remains weakness when we avoid anything difficult and only live within our own abilities.  It’s just flour and oil.

So instead we can learn how to “make a cake” for Him with anything we have, no matter how small or how meager:

Here is everything, Lord.  It’s not enough.  Please be strong in my weakness.

We don’t need to be stronger ourselves; we need God’s strength.

We need more Jesus.

We need Holy Spirit fruit and comfort and anointing.

His strength is a promise.  It’s available!  It’s an unlit fireplace waiting to be filled with flame when we bring Him our needs  and ask Him to be powerfully sufficient in our insufficiency.

In every place we feel weak, we can make a cake, offer it up, and leave everything else to Him:  our future, our provision, our “success,” our salvation.  It is all in His hands.

Our strength begins when we rely on His strength alone.

Packing for Camp 101 (and the essential truth we all need to know)

1 chronicles 28

The first time we sent our older girls away to summer camp, it was just for a weekend.  For younger kids, it was a “get your feet wet” kind of experience, stay two nights at camp, have lots of fun, and then plan on coming back for the full week the next time.

So, for a two-night camp, we packed three shirts and three pairs of shorts so they’d have a spare plus a pair of jeans and a skirt and top they could use for a chapel service if they needed to look nice.

I picked them up at the end of the weekend and they were dressed in some crazy outfit : Skirt and camp t-shirt or jeans (in 100+degree weather).

Why the fashion mish-mash?

Simple. They ran out of clothes.

At home, I opened up their duffel bags and discovered their clothes were wet.  All of them.

This year, our packing strategy was simple.  Pack pretty much every piece of clothing they own.

Well, that might be a bit exaggerated.  But seriously.  I packed a lot of extra clothes plus two beach towels and two bath towels and two different swimming outfits.

We packed a lot.

Then, for the entire week before camp, I gave them great words of wisdom.

I said things like, “Make good choices.  Listen to your counselors.  Don’t be afraid.  Try new things.  Be kind and make new friends.  Sleep.  Don’t spend all your money at the camp store in one day.”

Oh, and this little treasure, “If you buy soda at the camp store, do NOT buy Mountain Dew.  Sprite has no caffeine–fine.  Coke has some caffeine, not the best, but I won’t freak out.  But please do NOT buy Mountain Dew.”

Those words came from experience.  Last time I picked them up, they’d discovered Mountain Dew for the first time.

But I also gave them this little tidbit of advice over and over and over again: “Hang up your wet clothes.  Seriously.  Towels get hung up to dry.  Do not toss your wet swimsuit and towel into your suitcase with your other clothes.”

These are some of the last words I said to them before we waved goodbye at drop-off.

“I love you” and “Hang up wet things.”

My husband, on the other hand, had his own wisdom to share over and over before camp. And when we said goodbye, he said it again. He leaned over to kiss their heads, told them, “I love you,” and then give instruction:

“Wear sunscreen.  At all times.  All over your face.  Use your bug spray.  Wear your hat every single time you go outside.”

This is the what we worry over because we’re not with them to make sure they are safe, taking care of themselves, and keeping their clothes dry.

Or that they aren’t drinking Mountain Dew, are eating reasonable meals, and are being respectful to their camp counselors.

They will be making choices every day and we have to trust that after all our training, these choices will be good ones.

So, we said goodbye for the week.  We met their counselors, dropped off their luggage, watched as they picked out bunks, and then left.

And now, I’m praying and praying and praying.

This independence-training has been gradual: a few hours of preschool a few days a week.  School days.  Middle school starts in just a few weeks for my oldest girl with more decisions, bigger ones, and more independence.

Do they know what really matters?

Today, I read how David commissioned his son, Solomon.  What were those essential things David said before he died and Solomon took over the kingdom?

He said,

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.  If you seek him, he will be found by you…Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it (1 Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV).

I’m sure David trained Solomon in other ways.  He gathered the supplies Solomon would need to build the temple so that his son would be fully equipped for his calling.

But this is the essential truth:

Seek the Lord.

Serve Him wholeheartedly.

Be strong and do the work He has called you to do.

And when it comes down to it, this is the essential truth for us and the essential truth I want my kids to remember when I’m not with them.

Of course, wearing sunscreen and hanging up your towels doesn’t hurt!

But in the middle of a thousand messages and overwhelming choices, here’s what God tells us:

Seek me.
Serve me.
Be strong and fulfill your calling.

This is what really matters.

 

The Place You Don’t Want to Be

deuteronomy 31-8

One little dog was shaking, just trembling all over while her owner held her tight.

Another larger dog tugged and tugged on his leash back towards the exit. When the veterinary assistant came to walk the fella to the back, he shuffled backwards trying to escape.

Our own cat was settled in his carrier where he had tucked himself into a ball in the farthest back corner.

Every time I glanced inside the cat carrier, he darted his eyes around nervously and then mewed at me.

I think he was saying, “I don’t want to be here.”

Welcome to the crowd, buddy.  Nobody wanted to be there that day.

Of course, our vet’s office staff is wonderfully friendly and everyone there is gentle and considerate.  They patiently waited with animals and carried little trembling puppies back cooing at them all the way, “It’s all right, little guy.  This will be over in no time.”

And, of course, the vet is where these animals all needed to be that day.  It was for their own good and their own benefit.

Still, none of them came bounding into the waiting room all excited to hang out with the doctor.

The staff called my cat’s name and I toted him into the clinic and set him on the exam table.   The vet checked him all over and the whole time, my cat kept trying to climb back into the safety of the carrier.  He was persistent.  I’ve never seen him want to get in there before, but right at that moment, it’s the one place he wanted to be.

He wanted to feel safe.  He wanted the known.

I felt like saying, “I hear ya, buddy.”

Maybe we all know exactly what it’s like to be where we don’t want to be.

We can philosophize and speak truth to ourselves, knowing that God only sends us where He goes with us.

And He only takes us places that are for our own good.

That’s true, of course, but it’s nonetheless bewildering to end up where you don’t want to be and never intended to go.

When the apostle Paul boarded a ship headed for Rome in Acts 27, he knew the sailing would be difficult.

The timing was bad.  The crew had delayed too long.  The winds were against them.  The port was unfavorable for a winter stay, but continuing on their journey could be disastrous.

Paul tried to tell them not to sail ahead, but they didn’t listen to him.

So, where’d the ship end up?

Not in Rome. Not right away at least.

Instead, just as Paul predicted, they ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta with the total loss of their vessel and cargo.

This wasn’t Paul’s destination or plan. He knew God wanted him in Rome.  He planned to head to Rome.

But here he was in Malta instead.

We’ve likely been to Malta before also.

Not the physical place, of course, but in Find Your Brave, author Holly Wagner describes Malta as the place you didn’t plan on being and that wasn’t on your map or itinerary or agenda.

It’s still being single long after you thought you’d be married or mourning a miscarriage after the joy of a positive pregnancy test.

It’s unexpected unemployment or a failed business or a rejection letter.

It’s a prodigal child or a broken marriage or a job you just hate instead of the one you wanted.

It’s cancer.

It’s that place of waiting, still waiting, always waiting even though you thought the promise would be fulfilled long ago.

For Paul, Malta was the place where people ended up because they didn’t listen to wise advice and made poor decisions.

Even there, though, when it was their own fault, God was at work, allowing Paul to perform miracles and be a witness to the natives and the ship’s crew.

God redeemed the disaster and restored the journey.

And ultimately, Paul still ended up in Rome, but his time in Malta wasn’t a waste.

That’s the key for me: When I find myself in Malta, I can engage right there.  I don’t need to fret about getting to Rome.  God can take me where He wants me to go in His perfect timing.

For now, I can be fully present in Malta.

Wherever God has brought you, you can be all there.

God is never surprised by our location or unable to use our circumstances.

Even if we don’t know how we got here, God knows.
Even if we don’t want to be here, God can use it.
Even if we don’t know how to get out of here, God does.

And even if we feel abandoned in this place, God is always with us and always at work.

 

 

 

 

We are not forgotten

psalm 20-6

For the record, I’ve never forgotten one of my kids at a store or anything.

But there was the time I left a child in the minivan.

When my youngest daughter was about four, she used to run into the house as soon as we got home and then hide behind the curtains.

She always hid in the same place.

She always thought she was both hilarious and amazingly creative for hiding in that same exact place.

And then when we’d all load out of the minivan and step into the kitchen, she’d jump out and ‘surprise’ us.

Only that night, I shut the minivan door and trudged into the house with my arms loaded down with stuff, stuff and more stuff after an evening at church.

A few minutes later, my husband asks, “Where’s Catherine?”

Well, isn’t she hiding behind the curtains like she always is?  Why hasn’t she jumped out to surprise us yet?

Actually, no, she was still in the minivan.

She never climbed out and never made any noise about it, so we’d left her locked inside alone and in the dark.

Not one of my prize Mom moments, I’ll admit.

My husband carried our baby girl in and she cried for a bit over feeling lost and forgotten and even a little afraid.  She wasn’t traumatized, though, (God’s grace right there!) and I’m not even sure if she remembers it ever happened.

I do, of course.

We’re slow to forget mistakes and easily traumatized by our own failures.

But I can still see her now, arms wrapped around Daddy’s neck, face buried in his shoulder, leaning into him in gratitude and relief because he had remembered her and he had come for her in the dark and carried her out of loneliness into a place of safety.

He saved her.

This week I read in my Bible:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided (Genesis 8:1 ESV).

God remembered Noah.

All those nights shut up in the smelly ark, rocked about by the ever-present water, Noah may have felt forgotten, abandoned, trapped, and left to rot away from mildew and a bad case of cabin fever.

And maybe we know what that’s like.

Maybe we’ve felt like God didn’t hear us, wasn’t aware of what we’re going through, wasn’t paying attention, and had simply forgotten us right in the moment of our greatest need.

The Israelites probably felt that same way, sweating and groaning their way through hundreds of years in Egyptian slavery.

It’s clear that they weren’t silent sufferers, either.  Instead, “the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help” (Exodus 2:23).

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.   (Exodus 2:24-25, ESV).

God remembered them, too.

I love how the Message breaks this down:

God listened to their groanings.
God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
God saw what was going on with Israel.
God understood (Exodus 2:24-25, MSG).

God listened.  God remembered.  God saw.  God understood.

There’s something else, though.  Something true for Noah.  Something true for Israel.  Something true for us even now.

When Scripture tells us God remembers, it doesn’t mean He ever truly forgot us.  It’s not like He had a case of temporary amnesia or couldn’t recall our name or lost track of our plight.

Or left us behind in the minivan.

When God remembers, it’s a sign in Scripture that this is the moment He’ll reveal His activity.  It’s the moment when everything God had been doing in the hidden places is clear and revealed and brought to the light.

No more waiting.

Now it’s time for God to be on the move.

He orders the waters on the earth to recede so Noah and his family could step out of that ark onto dry ground.

He calls Moses from a burning bush and tells him to go lead Israel out of Egypt.

So, we can hold fast to this same truth as we groan in our own need, whether it be the annoyance of a daily stress, the repentance over a habitual sin, or the hardest of life’s challenges.

God hears us.  God remembers His promises to us.  God sees us.  God understands.

And then He rescues.

Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6, ESV).

 

 

The holy longing for something more than right now

ecclesiastes3-11

“I’ll do that when I’m seven.”

“Or maybe when I’m ten.”

That’s the standard reply my five-year-old gives me.

Would you like to take ballet again in the fall?  

Do you think you would want to try this?

It’s never “yes” or “now” or even “soon.”

She has this timeline of plans, this plotted course, and she’s not really in a  hurry to jam-pack activity into this very moment right here.  Seven is soon enough. Ten is fine.  Why try to do everything when you’re five?

Part of me marvels at the wisdom.

What is it about me that tries to cram what feels like a life-time of living into every single day?

Something about me that cannot…..can….not…..leave the dirty dishes in the sink for the next morning.

I’m the anti-Scarlett O’Hara.  None of this, “I’ll think about that tomorrow” nonsense.  Today.  Today.  It has to be today.

I have to slip into bed every night, to-do list cleared out, dishes clean, laundry put away, nothing holding over for the next morning.

But my tiny girl lives out today and is content to let some things linger until tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now.

Today, she’ll do this.  And then one day she’ll do that.  Simple as that.

Part of me, though, worries:  What if I leave that for another day and that other day never comes?  Our lives are short.  Our future uncertain.  Our tomorrow is never guaranteed.

And if you leave too much left undone today, it just spills over on top of tomorrow and then the next day until it’s a 10-car pile-up of trauma and disaster.

I need to handle this and do this now, now, now!

In Lazarus Awakening, Joanna Weaver writes:

“Someone once asked, ‘Why do we tend to live like eternity lasts eighty years, but this life lasts forever?”

We are a mixed-up bunch: Our priorities, our timetables, all jumbled and topsy-turvy.

We think what we’re doing right now, this moment, this day, this season, this year, this project, this commitment, this ministry…is the end-all be-all.

It’s what keeps us up at night and what forces us out of bed in the mornings.

And yet, as Christians, the moment we choose for Christ to be our personal Savior, eternity with God begins.

It doesn’t start the day we die here and walk through heaven’s gates.

It begins that moment we bow our heads and our lives to His Lordship.

This very issue that leaves me sleepless and fretting or over-stuffing each day is a tiny speck in the grand timeline of eternity with Jesus.

And all those five-year-plans and ten-year-plans and budgets and agendas, hardly matter in the big picture of forever.

Our hearts long for this.  Truly.

God has created us for an eternal longing, a hope for something more:

He has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11 b NIV).

We struggle to keep it all in balance and yet God breathes that refreshing breath into us, the reminder that THIS is not all there is.

The way the days sometimes stretch out in endless frustration or rushing or stress…that’s not forever.  That’s nothing more than a blip on the radar screen of the eternal.

Or the way one trial, a season of loss or pain or want, overtakes our life, and yet it’s here for this moment, and then it will be gone.

I read the reminder in Experiencing God:

God did not create you for time; He created you for eternity. Time- your lifetime on earth- provides the opportunity for you to become acquainted with Him. It provides occasions for Him to develop your character into His likeness. Then eternity will hold its fullest dimensions for you.

Every moment feels a little more sacred.

Not more rushed.

Not more stressed.

Not more important even.

But holy.

Because the life we’re living in the here and now is just part of that eternity with Jesus.  We can love Him, know Him and worship Him, spend each day in His presence, and that forever-life shifts our perspective.

This situation.  The to-do list.  The appointments.  The schedule.  The annoyance.  The personal hurt.  The betrayal.

Those are so temporary.

What matters most is yielding to Him.  It is listening to His Spirit.  It’s sharing a laugh with God or marveling over the beauty of His creation. It’s rejoicing over the salvation of another.  It is dumping the sin out of the trash-bin in my heart.  It is allowing God to construct peace or patience or joy in my life.

What matters?  What doesn’t?  It’s all a little clearer in the light of heaven.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

VBS for Grown-Ups: Prayer Helps Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Prayer Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything (Philippians 4:6)
Originally published as “Run to the Throne,” May 6, 2011

“Teach me to run to you like they run to me for every little thing.”  That’s what Caedmon’s Call sings in their song, Sacred.

Yes, that’s true in my house.  I button buttons and zip zippers, diffuse arguments and mediate disputes, kiss bumps and supply Band-Aids for nearly invisible scratches, refill juice cups and find lost toys, help with homework and hard-to-sound-out words.

I answer to “Mom” all day, every day.  And, while at times I would like to sit still for more than five minutes at a time, I love that they turn to me for help.  At some point I know they will feel too grown up to bring all their problems to me.  Or maybe they’ll still come, but their problems will be so big that my supply of Band-Aids and apple juice won’t fix them anymore.

God must love when we turn to Him for help with all of the hopeful innocence that I see in my daughters’ eyes.  We could struggle to solve our troubles in our own strength or we could offer them up to Him—both the life crises and the daily concerns—-giving them over to a God both big enough to handle them and compassionate enough to care about them.

And as we do, we confess belief.  We say, “God I believe that You are Lord over all things, that no situation is too much for Your strength or too small for Your compassion.  I believe that You have saved me and will continue to save me.  I believe that You are Love.”

Years ago, a godly woman gave me this advice: “run to the throne before you run to the phone.”  Before we call on our friends and our own mommas with a problem, we should bring it to the God who can actually solve the problem we’re facing.

Too often we don’t.  We worry, we fret, we gossip, we chatter with others and seek solutions of our own making.

And all along, God’s waiting for us to just bring it all to Him.

Philippians 4:6 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

and Ephesians 6:18 says:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

We are to pray “in everything,” and “on all occasions.”  We should drop to our knees over a health concern or a family in crisis or a daughter’s lost toy.  It’s all too much for us anyway.

That’s what men like Daniel and Nehemiah did.

When King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream no one could interpret, Daniel and his friends plead “for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” (Daniel 2:18).  When the decree was signed saying no one could pray to any god but the king, Daniel went home in front of an open window and “three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

Nehemiah prayed when he heard about the horrible state of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. When the king asked him what he wanted, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of heaven” before giving an answer.  Enemies threatened the work of Nehemiah and his crew, “but we prayed to our God” (Nehemiah 4:9) and when the enemies tried to frighten the Israelite construction team into quitting, Nehemiah prayed to God: “now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

They went to God with every annoyance, difficulty, burden, sadness, disaster,  enemy, and worry.Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_5902698_mature-woman-sits-on-the-beach-with-her-head-bowed-and-praying-as-the-sun-sets-on-the-water.html'>sframe / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

At times, I’m overwhelmed by the weight of the requests I’m carrying to the throne.  I’ve been duped by impossible-appearing circumstances into thinking that it’s fruitless to pray any longer.  That there is no hope.  That the marriage is truly dead.  That the housing situation will not be solved.  That the cancer statistics are too certain.  That the job market is too sparse.  That I’ve prayed for so long with no answer, nothing could possibly change now.

A friend confessed this in a whisper to me this week:  “I’m just tired of praying about it.”

I knew exactly what she meant.  Fighting and fighting to have faith for so long, to pray and pray with no evident answer, no release, no deliverance, it makes a body tired.

But we are to “always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  And God, who is so gracious and compassionate, knows the exact moment when we need to see a glimmer of His light in the dark places and when we need the smallest reminder that He is active and alive where we only see death.

And He does this.  He gives us these glimmers of hope and hints of His glory and it becomes prayer that helps us stand a while longer, stand no matter what, and even stand strong.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King