Why are you so sad today?

Last night, my six-year-old son was ready for a bedtime story, but I told him the truth:

“I’m feeling a little sad about the day and it’s okay to be sad.  I just need  a minute before I’m ready to read.”

I think most of us had some hard days this week.

Some of us needed some time (maybe still need time) to mourn before moving on.

My son looked  a little surprise because I’m not really a sad person.  I’m mostly an even-keel kind of girl. So mom being sad probably felt unexpected.

Also, for his little kindergarten self, the world hasn’t been rocked too greatly. Sure, he’s aware that he’s missing  out on his soccer season,  time with his friends and time with his awesome-sauce teachers who we love so very much.

But he’s still happy.  He reads his books, plays with his Legos, matchbox cars and dinosaurs, swings on the swingset.  He doesn’t rush out the door in the morning or rush to activities in the evening.  He’s excited about soccer again in the fall.

For now, he’s just enjoying being together with the whole family.

That’s the sweetness for us in the middle of  sorrow.  It’s sweet to have time to rest and enjoy being together even while we mourn over losses and grieve on behalf of others who have lost  more.

It’s March.  Because of the impact  of the coronavirus, our governor closed schools for the rest of the school year.  We get it.  We know it’s needed and we know that the lives of people around us matter far more than graduation ceremonies, concerts, math bowl competitions, field trips to  Kings Dominion and band trips to Disney.

So, we feel sad and then we remember perspective.  We feel sad again and we regain perspective.  It’s just part of the upheaval we’re all handling in our own ways.

We’re not good “wait-and-see” people over here at our house, but that’s life right now.  What about high school credits?  What about an April birthday?  What about grades?  What about graduation?   What about vacation Bible school?

We’re all in this together.  We’re all mourning a loss.  We’re all having to be “wait-and-see” folks at the moment.

Maybe that’s one of my first reminders in the middle of the mess.

Paul said this:

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

I need so much grace right now.  Grace for my foggy-brain because I can’t quite think straight.  Grace for feeling a lack of energy or passion—like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me.  Grace for the fact that I’m a super-planner-extraordinaire who is living in a world that cannot be planned right now.  I need grace as a mom and grace as a teacher and grace in ministry and just so very much grace.  I need grace for my anxious self and grace for my sorrowful self and grace when I just need to  take a walk and be quiet.

So, when I most need grace, I am reminded of all the grace Jesus has given me and how much others around me need grace, too.

Have mercy on us, Lord.

When my heart is most broken, I see the brokenhearted.   When my heart  is most tender, I am more tender to others who are hurting.

This is precious to Jesus, who was moved by compassion whenever he encountered the sick, the grieving, the crowds of lost people, the hungry.  Even from the cross, Jesus prayed that God would forgive the mob who crucified him.

In her study on Joseph, “Finding God Faithful ,” Kelly Minter teaches that this is indeed the very thing that changed everything in Joseph’s life.

He had been sold into slavery by his brothers, taken far away from his home and the father he loved, then wrongly accused by the wife of his master and thrown into an Egyptian prison and left to rot there.

Joseph had sorrow.  He mourned losses we hopefully will never experience.  If anyone in the world had a reason to be sad, it was Joseph.

But in the middle of all his own mess, Joseph cared about the sadness of others.  He saw Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer in the prison and noticed they looked particularly troubled one morning.

He took the time to ask them:

“Why do you look so sad today?” (Genesis 40:7 CSB).

He listened to their stories–strange dreams that had them worried.  And it was those dreams and Joseph’s interpretation of them that God ultimately used for Joseph’s deliverance….and the deliverance  of his family…and the deliverance of Israel….and the deliverance of the entire world from famine.

How can compassion, sacrificial love, kindness, and loving like Jesus change us, change others, change the world?

Bible Verses about Peace

  • Numbers 6:24-26 (NASB)
    The Lord bless you, and keep you;The Lord make His face shine on you,
    And be gracious to you;
    The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
    And give you peace.
  • Psalm 29:11 (NASB)
    The Lord will give strength to His people;
    The Lord will bless His people with peace.
  • Psalm 119:165 (NASB)
    Those who love Your law have great peace,
    And nothing causes them to stumble.
  • Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)
    For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
    And the government will rest on His shoulders;
    And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
  • Isaiah 26:3
    You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
  • John 14:27 (HCSB)
    Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (HCSB)
  • John 16:33 (NASB)
     These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
  • Romans 5:1 (NASB)
    Therefore, having been justified by faith, [awe have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • Romans 8:6
    The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
  • Romans 14:17-19 (NASB)
     for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
  • Romans 15:13 (NASB)
    Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law
  • Philippians 4:6-7
    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:15 (NASB)
     Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NASB)
    Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

Bible Verses about the Lord our Helper

  • Psalm 10:14 CSB
    But you yourself have seen trouble and grief,
    observing it in order to take the matter into your hands.
    The helpless one entrusts himself to you;
    you are a helper of the fatherless.
  • Psalm 27:9 CSB
    Do not hide your face from me;
    do not turn your servant away in anger.
    You have been my helper;
    do not leave me or abandon me,
    God of my salvation.
  • Psalm 30:10 CSB
    Lord, listen and be gracious to me;
    Lord, be my helper.”
  • Psalm 37:40 CSB
    The Lord helps and delivers them;
    he will deliver them from the wicked and will save them
    because they take refuge in him.
  • Psalm 40:17 CSB
    I am oppressed and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
    You are my helper and my deliverer;
    my God, do not delay.
  • Psalm 46:1 CSB
    God is our refuge and strength,
    a helper who is always found
    in times of trouble.
  • Psalm 60:11 CSB
    Give us aid against the foe,
    for human help is worthless.
  • Psalm 63:7 CSB
    because you are my helper;
    I will rejoice in the shadow of your wings.
  • Psalm 70:5 CSB
    I am oppressed and needy;
    hurry to me, God.
    You are my help and my deliverer;
    Lord, do not delay.
  • Psalm 94:17 CSB
    If the Lord had not been my helper,
    I would soon rest in the silence of death.
  • Psalm  115:11 CSB
    You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and shield.
  • Psalm 118:7 CSB
     The Lord is my helper,
    Therefore, I will look in triumph on those who hate me.
  • Psalm 118:13 CSB
    They pushed me hard to make me fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
  • Psalm 121:2 CSB
    My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
  • Psalm 146:5 CSB
    Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
  • Isaiah 41:10 CSB
    Do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be afraid, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you; I will help you;
    I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
  • Isaiah 41:13 CSB
    For I am the Lord your God,
    who holds your right hand,
    who says to you, ‘Do not fear,
    I will help you.
  • Isaiah 50:7 CSB
    The Lord God will help me;
    therefore I have not been humiliated;
    therefore I have set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.
  • John 14:26 NASB
    But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
  • John 15:26 NASB
    When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,
  • John 16:7 NASB
    But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
  • Hebrews 13:5-6 CSB

    Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.[a] Therefore, we may boldly say,

    The Lord is my helper;
    I will not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?

Bible Verses about Faith

  • Matthew 17:20 ESV
    He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
  • Mark 5:36 ESV
    But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
  • Luke 1:45 ESV
    And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
  • Romans 1:17 ESV
    For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV
    for we walk by faith, not by sight.
  • Ephesians 2:8 ESV
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
  • Ephesians 3:16-17a ESV
     that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith
  • All of Hebrews 11, commonly known as “the Faith Chapter”
  • Hebrews 11:1 ESV
    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
  • Hebrews 11:6 ESV
    And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
  • Hebrews 11:11 ESV
    By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
  • James 1:3 ESV
    for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
  • James 1:6 ESV
    But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
  • 1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV
    Though you have not seen him, you love him.Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
  • 1 John 5:4 ESV
    For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

 

Stepping off the ark

My fifth grader has begun quizzing me about “backpack rules” in  middle school.  Will  she need to use her regular backpack? Will the teachers require a string bag instead?  Will she have binders for her classes and, if so, could they possibly fit into a string bag or  will she need a brand new extra-large string bag, perhaps?

She entertains new thoughts daily about whether to choose band or chorus.  Yesterday, it was definitely band but maybe chorus.  How could she decide and how will this decision impact future high school and career decisions?

A season of new.   That  is where we are.  This school year,  my oldest started high school  and  my baby started kindergarten.   Next year, I  have another daughter heading to high school for the first time and this girl starting middle school.

From a year of new to another year of new.

Fresh starts and new beginnings are exhilarating and terrifying.  But there’s a whole added layer of making decisions in the midst of that .  I’ve been coaching my kids  to pray personally because I can’t choose for them and I don’t know the perfect  answer or how to chart their course for every decision in the future.

I can pray for them, but I can’t pray instead of them.  They have to begin to  “take it to the Lord in prayer.”

We all tremble a bit on the edges of these new things,  and I wonder how it is that Noah walked off of that ark into an absolutely brand new, completely fresh start of a world.

I’ve always imagined Noah and his family sprinting out of the ark  like they were five-year-olds coming downstairs on Christmas morning.

Hurray!  No more feeding and cleaning animals.   No more  confinement.   No more lack of fresh air and limited sunlight.   No more stench and no more noise and no more confined space without anywhere to breathe and to be alone.

Who wouldn’t want off the ark?

This year, for the first time ever, I’ve wondered if it was perhaps hard to leave.

Noah took decades to build the ark, and then he and his family lived on the ark for about another year.

That’s maybe around 80 years of his life fully invested in the ark—the preparation of the ark, the moving onto the ark and all  of the day-to-day grind of living on the ark.

The ark wasn’t just confining, it was also salvation.  The ark was refuge, protection, assurance of God’s promises and His mighty hand.  The ark was safe and it was an ever-present reminder of God’s holinesss and His mercy.

Everything they knew about the pre-flood world would be different when they stepped off that ship.  All the people  they knew,  all the cities they had seen, all the geography and landscape and weather gone or changed.

They had to leave the ark they knew to step into a world they no longer knew.

How exactly did Noah do it?  How did he keep sending out the raven and the doves in hopes they’d find dry land,  knowing that that ark was a temporary stopping place?

Me—I’m not a  fan of temporary.  And I’m not one to eagerly anticipate a revolutionary life change.

But Noah kept moving forward, obedient to the call to build, obedient to the call to move in, obedient to the call to move out.

God said to Noah:

“Come out of the ark…” (Genesis 8:15-16 NIV).

This is what Noah did:

So Noah came out…Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it” (Genesis 8:18&20 NIV).

Noah obeyed and Noah worshiped.  He didn’t know what this new life in this new world would be like.  He simply exited the old ark and immediately built the altar of praise.

Maybe Noah’s willingness to keep moving forward with the Lord came from his long testimony of  God being faithful.  What God said, He did.  What God promised, came to be.

Noah could recall the Word of the Lord, the moment those firsts animals showed up in pairs to enter the ark, how God shut the door with His own mighty hand, how the rains came just as God said, and how the flood waters rose—and how God saved them.

God was faithful.  God would always be faithful.

Isn’t this true for me?  Isn’t this true for us?  We have the testimony of God’s faithfulness to help us be brave, to help us obey with courage, to help us take one more step forward and then another.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 86:15 ESV

Bible Verses about God’s Presence

  • Exodus 33:14 NASB
    And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Joshua 1:9 NASB
    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Psalm 16:11 NASB
    You will make known to me the path of life;
    In Your presence is fullness of joy;
    In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
  • Psalm 23:4 NASB
    Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
    I fear no evil, for You are with me;
  • Psalm 27:4 NASB
    One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
    That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    To behold the beauty of the Lord
    And to meditate in His temple.
  • Psalm 41:12 NASB
    As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
    And You set me in Your presence forever.
  • Psalm 51:10-11 NASB
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
    And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
  • Psalm 73:28 NASB
    But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    That I may tell of all Your works.
  • Psalm 100:2 ESV
      Serve the Lord with gladness!
        Come into his presence with singing!
  • Psalm 139:7-10 NASB
    Where can I go from Your Spirit?
    Or where can I flee from Your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
    If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
    If I take the wings of the dawn,
    If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
    10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
    And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
  • Psalm 140:13 NASB
    Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name;
    The upright will dwell in Your presence.
  • Isaiah 57:15 NASB
    For thus says the high and exalted One
    Who [a]lives forever, whose name is Holy,
    “I dwell on a high and holy place,
    And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
    In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
    And to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • Jeremiah 29:13 NASB
    You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
  • Matthew 18:20 NASB
    For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
  • Matthew 28:20b NASB
    and lo, I am with you ]always, even to the end of the age.”
  • John 1:14 NASB
    And the Word became flesh, and [a]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [b]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 14:16 NASB
    I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [a]Helper, that He may be with you forever
  • John 14:23 NASB
    Jesus answered and said to 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 abode with him.
  • Hebrews 4:16 NASB
    Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
  • Hebrews 10:19-22 NASB
    Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a [h]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
  • Hebrews 13:5 NASB
    Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
  • James 4:8 NASB
     Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
  • Revelation 21:3 NASB
     And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them[

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.

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.

 

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.