Our God is able to re-build

There’s building.  And then there’s re-building.

My son is a builder-of-Legos.  They are the first item on any birthday or Christmas wishlist and they are his favorite presents to open and play with as soon as the celebration time is done.  In just six years, he’s amassed quite a collection of super-hero, Star Wars, and dinosaur Legos.

But.

(And this is what can drive me crazy).

He does not keep his Legos together, perfectly constructed,  high on a shelf, all the pieces still in the right places.  (How could we possibly have enough shelving to do that?)

No, as soon as the Legos are built, they are played with relentlessly.   Pieces come off.  Those pieces then become new creations with pieces from other sets, a mishmash of Lego bricks.

There are some of us (me) who like things to always look like the instruction manual, as if there is a “Right” way to build with these Legos.  When a piece comes loose, we pull out the picture and put it back exactly where it is supposed to go.

My son is not that person.  He swaps dinosaur legs and superhero bodies, and he combines kits relentlessly.  He is silly at times and innovative at other times.

Sometimes I envision having so much free time that we can spend days sorting the Legos back into sets and then following those instruction manuals once again to put them all together the right way once more.  This sounds like the ultimate project for me.  Get everything “right” and all will be right with the world.

That hasn’t happened yet.

It would take extensive time and great effort, of course, because I  truly think building is far, far easier than re-building.  Building starts with such a clean space.  The pieces are clearly sorted and separated.  Building does not begin with confusion.

But re-building starts with brokenness and mess and rubble and has to restore what’s broken and re-make or even re-design what is lost.

In the book of Nehemiah, God’s people rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by their enemies and had lain in ashes and mounds of rubble for years.

During the rebuild, they were taunted, mocked, and threatened by new enemies, and yet they kept working.  Some guarded while others built.  Some built with one hand holding a weapon and the other hand laying bricks.  They refused to be sidetracked, delayed, or stopped.

The rubble, however, almost defeated them.   Nehemiah 4:10 says:

In Judah, it was said:
The strength of the laborer fails,
since there is so much rubble.
We will never be able
to rebuild the wall.
” (Nehemiah 4:10 CSB).

That’s what almost broke them.

Kelly Minter writes in her study on Nehemiah:

It was that exhausting rubble that just about took them down.  What rubble in your life is presently the most discouraging and exhausting? (p. 56).

This year, it’s easy to be defeated by brokenness.  Ministries, jobs, finances, churches, school plans, friendships and connections with others… all may be in need of rebuilding, and such rebuilding is exhausting and hard.

We can’t just jump in with a brand new vision, a clean slate and build.  No, we need to  re-build.  There are hurts tangled up in this.  There is sadness over what is lost.  There is stuff we have to  let go of and get rid of.  There is letting go of the known. There is anger and frustration.  There is uncertainty.   There is a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness because we have no control.

There is a tremendous desire  to just get things back to the way they were before, the way they are “supposed” to  be—and then set those constructions high up on a shelf so  they can never be changed again.

That is not our reality.   So we need God to  equip us for the rebuilding, to strengthen us to face enemies and strengthen us to clear out the seemingly never-ending rubble and start raising the walls again.

Nehemiah said to the discouraged, worn-out, battle-weary people of Judah:

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14 CSB).

Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.

This is not too much for Him.  That is the reminder I need.  It may take time, it may take creativity, it may mean hard work and standing against the Enemy.

The truth remains, though:  Our God isn’t just able to build; He is able to rebuild.  He has done it before and He can do it again.

Bible Verses for when you feel discouraged

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV
    Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9 ESV
     Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • 2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV
    But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
  • Psalm 27:14 ESV
    Wait for the Lord;
        be strong, and let your heart take courage;
        wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 31:24 ESV
    Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
        all you who wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 42:11 ESV
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation and my God.
  • Psalm 55:22 ESV
    Cast your burden on the Lord,
        and he will sustain you;
    he will never permit
        the righteous to be moved
  • Psalm 94:14 ESV
    For the Lord will not forsake his people;
        he will not abandon his heritage;
  • Isaiah 40:31 ESV
    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Matthew 11:28 ESV
    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • John 16:33 ESV
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • Romans 12:12 ESV
    Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Romans 15:4 ESV
    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
    We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • Colossians 3:23-25 ESV
    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
  • Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
    Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Bible Verses for When You Are Overwhelmed

  • Exodus 33:14 NASB
    And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Psalm 18:1-2 NASB
    “I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
    The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
    My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
  • Psalm 28:7 NASB
    The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
    Therefore my heart exults,
    And with my song I shall thank Him.
  • Psalm 61:1-4 NASB
    Hear my cry, O God;
    Give heed to my prayer.
    From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
    Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
    For You have been a refuge for me,
    A tower of strength against the enemy.
    Let me [well in Your tent forever;
    Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. 
  • Psalm  91:1-2 NASB
    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
    I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    My God, in whom I trust!”
  • Psalm 118: 5-7 CSB
    I called to the Lord in distress;
    the Lord answered me
    and put me in a spacious place.
    The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid.
    What can a mere mortal do to me?
    The Lord is my helper,
    Therefore, I will look in triumph on those who hate me.
  • Psalm 121:1-2 NASB
    I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
    From where shall my help come?
    My help comes from the Lord,
    Who made heaven and earth.
  • Proverbs 18:10 NASB
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    The righteous runs into it and is [a]safe.
  • Isaiah 26:3-4 NASB
    “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
    Because he trusts in You.
    “Trust in the Lord forever,
    For in God the Lordwe have an everlasting Rock.
  • Isaiah 40:31 NASB
    Yet those who wait for the Lord
    Will gain new strength;
    They will mount up with wings like eagles,
    They will run and not get tired,
    They will walk and not become weary.
  • Isaiah 41:10 NASB
    ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
    Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
    Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
  • Isaiah 43:1-2 NASB
    But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
    And He who formed you, O Israel,
    “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are Mine!
    “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
    When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
    Nor will the flame burn you.
  • Nahum 1:7 NASB
    The Lord is good,
    A stronghold in the day of trouble,
    And He knows those who take refuge in Him.
  • Zechariah 4:6 NASB
     Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.
  • Matthew 11:28 NASB
    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NASB
    we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 CSB
    For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power,love, and sound judgment.
  • James 5:11 CSB
    See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome that the Lord brought about—the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Just Keep Walking

My daughter and I sat in our travel chairs, watching the soccer game.  We cheered on her teammates and told them “good work” and “way to go” when they ran over for water breaks.

Our coach cheered them on also, and she pushed them to persevere.  At one point she called out, “I don’t want to see any more walking out  there!”

We’ve heard her  say those same words at soccer practices all season.  There’s not much reason to walk around on a soccer field.  Pretty much anywhere you need to be, you need to get there fast.

My daughter, though, sat through the whole game, her crutches leaned against her chair.  She had hobbled onto the side of the field just to watch and cheer since running  (and even walking) was impossible.

She sprained her ankle in gym about a week  ago and she’s thankfully on the mend.  Today, she finally stepped onto the school bus without any crutches.

These past few days, she has moved slowly and depended on others for constant help.  Sweet friends have carried her backpack down the hallway and toted her binders from class to class.  Her kind teacher has carried her lunch tray for her.  Friends at play rehearsal have given her piggyback rides and actually carried her around as we ran through choreography.

She needed help and others have so generously given that help.

This  week  as we’ve sat on the soccer sidelines while  my daughter heals up, I’ve been thinking  about walking, running and hobbling around, and how sometimes the best we can do is a slow, painful crawl while others help us along.

Then there are times when we need to be in top form, running and running and running .  God equips us for the running seasons.  He trains and disciplines us for the sprint and He calls us out for the occasional marathon.

But that doesn’t mean we de-value the simple, faithful, daily act of walking or the seasons when walking alone takes perseverance.

“Run your own race.”  That little bit  of encouragement tells us not to give up when we’re on crutches and our best friend is zooming across finish lines.

We also remember what Isaiah said:

but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 CSB). 

We will have times that we soar.

We will have times that we run.

We will  have times that we walk.

Our pace doesn’t need to match anyone else’s, as long as we’re traveling with the Lord.

This same thought encourages me in another way.  Not just to keep going and not give up.  Not just to avoid comparing my speed with anyone else’s, choosing instead to be content with my own journey.

But also this–don’t criticize someone else’s pace.

One of my daughter’s teammates took a moment after the game to tell her, “Thanks for the support.  I hope you feel better soon.”

He thanked her—even though she had spent the game in a chair on the side of the field.

Sometimes the people around us who are limping along on crutches need us to say, “Keep it up!  You can make it!”  Sometimes, they need us to carry a binder or bookbag because they cannot do  that alone.

When we’re sprinting, it can be easy to judge others who aren’t.  But Jesus calls us to  grace.  Jesus calls us to compassion and encouragement, gentleness and kindness with our brothers and sisters.

Today, I read:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.
Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry,
for anger abides in the heart of fools (Eccles. 7:8-9)

God cultivates the patient spirit within us. 

He doesn’t say that a patient spirit is better than a “hasty” spirit or an “impatient” spirit.  He says it’s better than being proud.

That’s because it’s pride that drives haste and impatience and a rush into anger when others don’t meet our expectations or pass our judgment.

Matthew Poole’s commentary says this verse is partly “to correct the vulgar error of proud men, who think highly of themselves, and trample all others, especially such as are meek and patient, under their feet.”

May that not describe me.

In my haste, eagerness, devotion, or passion, may I never trample over others, especially the meek and patient around me.

May this also be true:  May I value the walking seasons instead of envying when others run.  May I be a cheerleader for  those around me.  May I be a help instead of a hurt to  those who might be wounded or weary.

 

Holding onto hope in hopeless places

Our new house has stairs and that means I’ve been practicing a new and heretofore undeveloped skill—yelling up those stairs to my kids.

My voice lacks the resonant quality needed to get their attention most of the time.  After all, I’m competing with earbuds, closed doors, radios, their own conversations, iTunes, and the like.  So, they don’t always hear me.

There are other culprits also.  Like the distance from the front of the minivan to the back of the minivan and all the ambient noise in said minivan while I’m trying to talk.

Or there’s simply my son’s natural talkativeness.  He can’t hear me very well when he’s trying to tell me a story at the same time.

Whatever the culprit, I spend a lot of time as a mom just trying to be heard.

All of this has been nudging my heart a little with a question:  What gets in the way of me hearing God?

Busyness, distraction, noise, inattentiveness, me not taking time to listen—all of them are to blame at times.

But there’s something else, too.  Sometimes heavy-heartedness, sadness, and discouragement throw us into a pit of darkness, and it’s so hard to hear God’s voice in that place.

There are times God speaks hope to his people and  even though hope is truly what we need, we can miss His message.

This is where Israel was in the beginning of Exodus.  Slavery trampled on more than their physical freedom.  Over time, it had beaten them into hopelessness.

That’s when God sent Moses with these words:

I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel….
I have remembered my covenant….
I will bring you  out from under the burdens of the Egyptians….
I will  deliver you from slavery.
I will redeem you…
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God…
I will bring you  into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Exodus 6:2-9).

The promises are stunning. The assurances are powerful.  These are the grandest, greatest, most extravagant declarations of God’s abiding love for His people and His determination to rescue them.

But they didn’t throw a block party when they heard Moses’s news, nor did they pack their bags and start planning for departure.

Instead, Exodus says:

“they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9 ESV).

They didn’t listen.

They didn’t listen because they couldn’t listen.  Their perspective had been damaged over time. God seemed distant and unreal, unhelpful and uncaring and words didn’t penetrate through  that wall of hurt and bitterness.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in places where hope is hard.

David had been there, too.  He wrote:

Look to the right and see; For there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; No one cares for my soul (Psalm 142:4 NASB).

What he needed was to know that someone cared for his soul.

Just like Israel, David felt abandoned, alone, and hopeless with no chance of rescue.  But there in the middle of that place of pain, he recalled the promise and the truth:

The righteous will surround me,
    for you (God) will deal bountifully with me. (Psalm 142:7b NASB). 

God’s people would  be there for him and God would come through for him.  That’s what David knew.

That’s what we need to  know, too, when we feel forgotten or abandoned, alone, or without hope.

God’s people  are there for us.  God will come  through. 

But we’re not just receivers of that message;  we’re messengers of hope to others.

How can we share about God’s love and keep sharing? Remind others of God’s promises and keep reminding them?  Speak truth in love and keep on speaking  that truth even when we’re ready to give up?

Some of us right now are loving  someone who is traveling through hard spaces: the valley, the wilderness, the pit, and that’s a messy kind of ministry.

We can be poured out and depleted when caring for the hurting. It requires deep compassion, supernatural patience, and near-constant trips into God’s presence for  our own renewal and refreshing.  Otherwise, we’ll be crushed underneath someone else’s burden.

Only the Holy Spirit can do that deep healing work in any of us.  Only the Holy Spirit can open blinded eyes and deaf ears.

So the pressure is off of us to make others hear or understand or change their minds.

Here’s what we can do: We be present with them in the pain.  We stick with them in prayer.  We keep holding onto hope, and we trust God do the greater work that He alone can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Verses for the Days You Feel Discouraged

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV
    Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lordyour God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9 ESV
     Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • 2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV
    But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
  • Psalm 27:14 ESV
    Wait for the Lord;
        be strong, and let your heart take courage;
        wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 31:24 ESV
    Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
        all you who wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 42:11 ESV
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation and my God.
  • Psalm 55:22 ESV
    Cast your burden on the Lord,
        and he will sustain you;
    he will never permit
        the righteous to be moved
  • Psalm 94:14 ESV
    For the Lord will not forsake his people;
        he will not abandon his heritage;
  • Isaiah 40:31 ESV
    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Matthew 11:28 ESV
    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • John 16:33 ESV
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • Romans 12:12 ESV
    Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Romans 15:4 ESV
    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
    We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • Colossians 3:23-25 ESV
    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
  • Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
    Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He is the endurance and encouragement we need

“Mom, I see the flowers we planted!”

We planted bulbs in November and by the very next day, my son started looking for signs of life, little green sprouts pushing up through the soil.  He’s been on the alert since then.

But I know how this works.  Those crocuses and tulips aren’t going to push their little green noses up through the dirt until about February.

He helped me dig each of the holes down and the dropped each bulb into its new earthy home.

He pushed the dirt over the seeds and he stepped down and we high-fived when it was all done.

So, now he wants results.  He wants to see the fruit of our labors.  Let’s have some flowers already!  Let’s see the growth now!

Maybe he’s like most of us, wanting things fast, impressive, instant, and now.

But James wrote in his epistle:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand….Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:7-8, 11).

The farmer is in this for the long-haul.  He isn’t in it for instant results or some overnight turnaround.

He knows what the plants need first.  They need early rains and they need late rains, all before the precious fruit of the earth is carried in at harvest.

We need this.  We’re not overnight bloomers.  We’re ripening fruit, needing the early rains, needing the late rains, needing Jesus to be at work all before we can be pulled off the vine.

Sometimes perhaps we just give up too soon.  Sometimes we just get too frustrated, too  discouraged, too shaken up by our plans tumbled into disarray.

Things break. Conflict occurs. People disappoint. I disappoint. I forget.  I mess up. I lose my temper. I make the wrong decision and I forget grace. The schedule suffocates. The expectations of others weigh heavy.

Whatever the form of brokenness we face, it is broken, and here we are with the same-old, same-old choice.

Give up on the fruit.

Or this:

Be patient.

Establish our heart.

Remain steadfast.

This speaks peace to me.  This says that even when the fruit delays, even when the ground seems interminably hard, even when the winter lasts and the rains don’t come, even then my heart is rooted deep down in Jesus.

So, the unexpected doesn’t distort my perspective.

I am at peace.

The interruptions and the disruptions don’t toss me into fear.

I am at peace.

The conflict doesn’t knot me up in a tangled mess.

I am at peace.

We have patience.  We shake off the mess and get back up and try again because that’s what it takes to be steadfast; that’s what it means to endure.

When James said, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast,” he reminds us that the blessing isn’t for those who ran fast, grew tired, and then gave up.

The blessing is for those who remain. 

God blesses steadfastnessthe stick-to-it, never-giving-up, endurance of day-after-day obedience and faithfulness and growth.

here’s the good news: we don’t do this alone.

James finishes that passage with the reminder we need that God “is compassionate and merciful ”

He helps us.  He loves us.  He doesn’t expect us to conquer and hold fast all on our own.

This is what Romans says:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6 ESV).

He is the God of endurance and encouragement.

What we need on those days when we just want to crawl under the covers and give up, on the days we’re overwhelmed by the mess we’re in or the mistakes we’ve made, on the days when we think it’s just not going to  get better and we’ll never see any fruit…what we need is Him.

He is the endurance and encouragement we need to obey and then obey and then obey again, one step of faithfulness after another step of faithfulness in a long line of faithfulness over time.

Take heart.  Be encouraged.  The fruit will come.  The life will break through the frozen dirt and there will be beauty and harvest if we remain, endure, have hope, and do not give up.

Bible Verses about Diligence (for the days you feel like giving up)

  • Deuteronomy 4:9 ESV
    Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—
  • Deuteronomy 6:17 ESV
    You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you.
  • Proverbs 10:4 ESV
    A slack hand causes poverty,
        but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
  • Proverbs 12:14 ESV
    From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
        and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
  • Proverbs 12:24 ESV
    The hand of the diligent will rule,
        while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
  • Proverbs 13:4 ESV
    The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
        while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
  • Proverbs 14:23 ESV
    In all toil there is profit,
        but mere talk tends only to poverty.
  • Proverbs 21:5 ESV
    The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
        but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
  • Jeremiah 31:16 ESV
    Thus says the Lord:
    “Keep your voice from weeping,
        and your eyes from tears,
    for there is a reward for your work,
    declares the Lord,
        and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
  • Romans 12:8 NIV
    if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV
    Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV
     For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
  • 1 Timothy 4:15-16 NIV
    Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
  • Hebrews 6:11 NIV
    We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.
  • 2 Peter 1:10 ESV
     Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
  • 2 Peter 3:14 ESV
    Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

These are the treasures to tuck away in your soul

There’s a couple in our church who’ve been married over 60 years.

They’re in a season of jet-setting, of cruises and spontaneous trips up to New England to see the fall leaves.  They drive all over to visit family and seem busier now than I am with my four kids.

They’ve known sadness too.  They’ve had cancer, lost family members to cancer, even lost a child to cancer.

About a year ago, I passed by my husband as he was chatting with the husband-half of this dynamic duo and I heard these words of wisdom:

These are the best days, when your kids are young.  I remember when all our kids were little and at home and it was crazy, but those were the best days. 

I didn’t catch any other part of that conversation, but oh how those words dug down deep within me.

The other day, I said to my husband as we drove home from church, “We’re super close to the time when we have a built-in babysitter in our home.  Aren’t you excited?  I’m excited!”

It’s so true.  Our kids are getting older, getting ready to stay home alone and even babysit younger siblings.  It won’t be long (dare I say it?) before my oldest daughter can drive herself to activities.  What a day that will be!

This is a new era for me.  And it’s just the beginning.  I’m living a life without strollers, diapers, wipes, and juice boxes.

I should be excited.  This is a new season, and it’s a beautiful season.

But I truly treasure the wisdom from this church-friend of ours because even on days when I’m rushing from activity to activity, breaking up sibling spats, or navigating a grocery store with the ‘help’ of my preschooler, even on the days when I’m most exhausted or most overwhelmed, I hold onto his truth.

These are the best days.  I will never have them again. 

I may get to go on weekend getaways with my husband. I may be less of a taxi driver and more of a world traveler.

BUT OH THE BEAUTY OF THE NOW.

Oh the beauty of making this family and loving this family through its most significant character-forming, faith-building, family-identity-forming era.

This gentleman isn’t the only one who has given such a gift of wisdom and perspective.

Last Easter, a dear friend in my church, a joy-bringer and encourager, gave me a little gift with a hummingbird on it.

She said the hummingbird made her think of me, flitting about, always moving, so beautiful.

This was another treasured gift.

I wage this constant battle for balance.  I’m a doer who is happy doing, and that’s something God created in me and what God creates is good.

But I have to choose and discipline myself for rest, for beauty breaks and for finding room to breathe.

I know this about myself.  I know my weakest weakness and how easy it is to call me out for doing too much.

But she chose to see the beauty.

And the funny thing is I’d never seen a hummingbird, not in my whole entire life, until about two years ago when we planted butterfly-attracting plants in our back garden.

Turns out hummingbirds like these flowers too, and they hover all summer long right next to the window where I write every day.

They have become God-gifts to me, sightings and reminders that God sees me and knows me, He made me and He loves me.  He helps me know when to do and when not to do.  He guides me ever so gently and cherishes me the way He made me.

These are the treasures I receive from God’s family, just two of many gifts I’ve been given, words of hope or encouragement, wisdom and perspective.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel with my kids recently and we discovered this verse:

Then Saul’s son Jonathan came to David in Horesh and encouraged him in his faith in God (1 Samuel 23:16 HCSB).

David was on the run once again from Saul’s envious wrath, and he discovered that the city he was hiding in planned to betray him and him over to Saul. So David escaped with his men into the wilderness.

If ever he needed a treasured friend, it was in his wilderness season.

And Jonathan was that friend.

Can we be a Jonathan for another today?

Can we give a treasure away, encouraging someone in her faith in God, share wisdom, see beauty, give hope?

Originally published June 1, 2016

We need lifting up

Today I received a mini-lecture from a random stranger in well-worn jeans and a baseball cap.

As I left the library with my three-year-old,my son danced over to the button for the automatic door and pressed it with a little bounce in his step and wiggle of his head.

He loves pressing these buttons.

When he was old enough to reach out of the stroller, he insisted on being the one to control the doors.

When he was two-years-old and leaving the library was always a fight, these buttons were a blessing.  He wanted to skip going home for lunch and naptime and just stay and play forever.  The massive terrible two’s tantrum hovered over us like a threatening storm cloud every single time we went to the library in those days.

So, I started giving him something to look forward to.  I’d say, “It’s time to go.  Would you like to be the one to press the button?”

Sometimes it failed.  He still had to be carried on out of there in a full-blown fit.

But on a lot of days, it worked.  He’d head out of the children’s section on a mission to be the one to open the doors on our way out.

Today was a good day at the library. We saw a friend.  My son played without fighting and even did some sharing, which is a new and still-developing skill.

When it was time to go, we grabbed our stuff and headed for the front without cajoling, threatening, or screaming.

So, when he pressed the button and did a little dance as the doors opened, I smiled.

Yes, this was a successful library day.  Thank goodness!

Then the stranger complained.

At first, I couldn’t tell he was picking at my son.  He said, “One day, those buttons might break.”

This was unexpected.  Mostly when people see my son so excited about pressing the buttons, they laugh or smile and it makes all of our days a little brighter.

Then this stranger said the mean words:  “Those buttons are for the handicapped.  Not for him.”

That’s when I realized he was complaining that my three-year-old likes to push these buttons—like probably every other three-year-old on the planet.

My son didn’t bang the button, hit the button, slam the button or in any way misuse the button.  He just pressed it.

He didn’t take up a handicap parking space without a handicap sticker or use a handicap bathroom when it wasn’t necessary and prevent others from using it as a result.

And I don’t ever use those automatic buttons myself since I can open the doors without difficulty.

But my son used this button to open a door that he can’t open any other way because it’s far too big and heavy for him.

And in the very moment he had joy,  we were criticized.

Sometimes this is exactly how it goes.

Just when you are having a good day, someone tries to bring you down.

Your child doesn’t have a tantrum, he uses the potty, and he doesn’t fight with the other kids, and you think, “Hurray!  Maybe I’m not failing completely as a mom.”  That’s when someone tells you how badly you’re doing.

Yesterday, I read something by Charles Spurgeon  that pinged again in my soul while standing a little tongue-tied in the library lobby:

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

I don’t really need a stranger to tell me I don’t measure up, made a bad choice, or in any way am failing at motherhood.

I am 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.

We need lifting up, above the tough circumstances, above the sin that weighs us down, above the criticism that tramples all over our joy.

And Jesus does this for us.

He is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).

David said,

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1).

And Psalm 146 tells us:

The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (Psalm 146:8 ESV).

In Psalm 28, it says God lifts us into His arms just as a shepherd cradles his sheep:

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever  (Psalm 28:9 ESV).

I don’t  know what might weigh you down at the moment or what might be dragging your soul into a pit of discouragement.

Whatever it is, we can lift it up to Jesus.

Lift your soul right up to Him.

He will carry you.