This is where we are

 

I’ve been sending kids to preschool now for nine years.  That’s four kids, three girls and one boy, all with different personalities and obviously different birth order.

I’ll tell you what’s the same .

Being the line leader is a big deal.

A really big deal.

I haven’t ever given birth to a child who apparently finds the end of the line satisfactory.

It’s not just line-leading that my kids love.  It’s also often been about prime seating spots around classroom tables or for morning circle time.

One of my daughters refused to  wear her jacket well into November during her preschool days.  We had a big to-do each morning as we headed out the door to preschool.  I insisted that it  was too cold to go jacket-less; she broke down into hysterics over wearing a jacket.  It took me several weeks to  root out the cause—hanging up her jacket in the morning slowed her down and meant someone else usually sat next to  her best friend at calendar time.  She’d rather freeze or come down with pneumonia rather than give up a place next to  her buddy.

And then there was another daughter who declined to take dance classes for three months because one little girl  always insisted on sitting on the triangle spot instead of taking turns.  After all, sitting on the circle was unsatisfactory.

Prime place, favorite positions, the perfect spot–we want to be where we want to be.

And then, sometimes,  God puts us down in a place we don’t want to be and it’s a stretch to our souls.  Maybe we  feel we could snap with the tension and the pull of the longing versus the reality.

Over there is where we want to be, but this is where we are, and that is hard.

It’s when prayers are  answered with a “no” or the hoped-for doors close in front of us or the one thing we hoped would never ever happen does happen.  It’s loss and grief and brokenness with deep disappointment underneath it  all.

What then?

Today, I re-read Psalm 23 and I remember what my Good Shepherd does:

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake (Psalm 23:2-3 NASB).

The  Lord my Shepherd guides and leads me, but He isn’t always leading me where it’s cozy or comfy or always convenient.  Instead, He’s leading me in these paths of righteousness “for His name’s sake.”

He’s not working for my pleasure; He’s working for His glory, always for the glory of  His name.  And that means I might end up munching on some  lush grass and drinking down some  cool water. Or I could be walking on paths of righteousness  that are rockier than I’d like them to be or steep or shaded and deep in the valley.

I  have to trust Him, believe deeply and with full assurance that this path He has me on is for His glory and He will lead me where I need to go. He will restore me and refresh me with the meadows and the calm streams when I need them the most.

He will not abandon me.

But I also read this in Jennifer Rothschild’s study, Psalm 23:

I can be wrong even on the right path (p. 99).

It’s not just  trudging along that path of righteousness, begrudging, unhappy,  complaining,  maybe even bitter that makes me right with the Lord.   That may be obedience, but it’s not the obedience God desires—the yielded heart, the trust, the love.

My attitude matters.

Jennifer Rothschild says it this way:

We don’t control the path.  All we control is  our attitude and actions on the path.

So I grieve a little and Jesus understands.  He has compassion for me in the middle of the brokenness.  He is gracious and gentle as I lay down what I hoped for and what I prayed for.

I give it over to Him and I try to follow my Shepherd on this path of righteousness, this hard and rocky path, with a yielded and trusting heart instead of a begrudging or fearful one.

Because He is my Good Shepherd.  And He will  work out even the hardest seasons for the glory of His name.  And it  will be good.  And He will  refresh and renew.  That is who He is and this is what He does.

The desperate longing for something that doesn’t change

“I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

That’s my son talking.  He’s happy to be four.  Who wouldn’t  be?

Most of my kids have wanted to rush right on through childhood and into adult life.  They try to plan out their whole lives while they’re still in middle school.

I’ve had to reassure my 11-year–old repeatedly this year that she doesn’t have to  choose a career in sixth grade.

But my son gets it.  He gets all the beauty of being four years old.

Specifically, this week,  he’s been thinking about his “little, soft blue blanket” and how he’d rather not give it up.

It doesn’t cover his whole body any more.   He snuggles into his blanket as best he can, but his feet inevitably stick out, so he needs  a supplemental blanket to provide full coverage.

But this blue blanket is loved.  I  dare to suggest he might be too big for it soon, and his answer is quick and clear:  “I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

He’s my resident Peter Pan, not wanting to grow up, and the comfort of the blue blanket makes never-ending childhood oh so worth it to him for now.

I appreciate his happiness with the “now,” the willingness  to  just enjoy all that life offers in the present tense.  He’s not worrying about the future or even trying to escape to the past.  He’s four and he’s pleased to be four.  That’s a beautiful thing.

But I also see in his little heart this desire for permanency, to cling maybe a little too strongly to  what is good but what won’t last.

The truth is he’s going to keep growing out of this blanket.  That day will surely come.

I understand his struggle, though, because I’ve been longing myself for something permanent, some reassurance that I won’t wake up to a new day and find life all shaky and unsure or find my feet sticking out of my favorite blanket.

I have this longing for peace,  peace in all  the places.  Peace in work and ministry and home and friendship.  No relational conflict.  No disappointment in people.  No workplace surprises.  No undercurrent of trouble unexpectedly rising to the surface.

But “in this world you will have trouble,” that’s what Jesus told us, and just when peace settles into one place, it seems it shatters in another.

That’s bad news for a girl like me who longs for the comfort of a perfect plan and knowing all the details in advance.

But here’s the good news.

All that shakiness in the world around me and all those times I’m tumbled headlong into another season of change or uncertainty makes me desperately long for solid ground, for a permanent, unshakeable place to stand.

This longing drives me right to Jesus.

Scripture tells us that we can have that safe place.  We can have an unmoving,  never-changing, solid, trustworthy foundation that we can count on no matter what earthquake rattles the ground beneath us.

Even if we get the phone call, the email, or the bad news, we can always return to this safe place, this refuge.

We can be confident in God’s character.

Hebrews tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8 CSB) and James reminds us that our heavenly Father “does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17 CSB).  The Psalmist prayed, “But you are the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 CSB) and reminded us that God’s “faithful love will endure forever” (Psalm 138:8).

God has been strong in the past and He will be strong.  He has been able and He will be able.  He has been mighty  and He remains mighty.

No circumstance and no conflict changes His goodness or His compassion, His sovereignty or His power.  His love endures.  Right in the middle of whatever has tossed us into uncertainty or fear or fretting, God’s love remains steadfast and sure, and we can hide ourselves away in the shadow of that unfailing love.

 

We can be confident in God’s Word.

Jesus promised that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35 CSB) and the Psalmist declared, “Lord, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven” (Psalm 119:89 CSB). 

Peter said,

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever  (1 Peter 1:24-25 CSB). 

Forever. 

Forever is what I need on the days my feet stick out of the blanket and I realize change is in the air.  Forever is what I need when I long for peace, but it seems elusive.

I can hide myself away in God and His Word without fear.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Weddings can be confusing to a four-year-old.

My son is actively preparing for his role as ringbearer in a family wedding this weekend.  By actively preparing, I mean we periodically hand him a pillow to hold and ask him to walk it across the room slowly.

He’s been thinking about this a great deal.  Randomly as we drive about town, he’ll call out questions about all this wedding activity from his seat in the minivan.

“Mom, why do they want girls  to throw flowers?”

There is no context for this question. We’re just driving along.  We ‘re not in church and we haven’t been talking about the wedding.  So, it  takes me a few seconds to  place his question and then it takes me a few more seconds to figure out an answer.

Because—seriously—why does the flower girl drop flower petals to  the ground as she walks?

He also wants to know why he has to carry a pillow?  Why will there be rings on the pillow?  Why he has to look “handsome” in suspenders and a bowtie?  And whether or not he can “run-walk” up the aisle (which apparently is a steady paced walk with an occasional quick-step shuffle forward thrown in).

This is all before he’s even seen the rehearsal.  I can only  imagine the questions he’ll ask after he’ sees the full gamut of wedding traditions, including bouquet-tossing, candle-lighting, and more.

For now, my little guy still considers mom and dad the official source of all knowledge.  He brings us his questions about weddings and more in a fairly steady stream and he trusts us to know or to find out.

That’s something I’m considering because I’m a question-asker myself from way back. I’m always the girl asking the most questions in any meeting or gathering.

And that’s okay, because  I’m also the girl who knows I  can bring all those questions to Jesus.

That’s why I’m stunned as I read this in the gospel of Mark:

But they (the disciples) did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him (Mark 9:32 NASB).

Jesus declared that He would be “delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later” (Mark 9:31 NASB).

It makes sense to us in retrospect, but it didn’t make sense to the disciples at the time . He’ll be killed?  He’ll rise again?

They didn’t understand, but they were afraid to  ask.

Why?

Were they worried that Jesus would chastise them for not understanding?  Were they too embarrassed?  Did they fear the answer?

Whatever the reason, the disciples didn’t trust Jesus enough to ask Him the question they all had on their hearts.

That doesn’t have to be us.

In Judges 6 when God called Gideon to lead Israel to victory, Gideon answered the way I would have.

He answered with questions:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian…how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:13, 15 NIV).

So many questions might exhaust me as a parent, but God was always so gentle and patient with Gideon.  He didn’t berate, mock,  or condemn.

Instead, He redirected Gideon’s need for answers to seeing that God IS the answer for the overwhelming and the frightening.

God’s answer was this:

“….Am I not sending you?….I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:14, 16 NIV).

He sent Gideon.  He would be with Gideon.  And He promised Gideon victory.

The NLT Personal Worship Bible says this:

The God whom we worship is  not distressed by our questions. He knows that, like Gideon, we often feel weak, inadequate, or overwhelmed by life. He desires our honesty in worship  and wants us to bring to him those issues, questions, and doubts that are on our minds.

And here’s what’s true—the answers he gives might not always be what we’re looking for.  We might not get details we want.  We might not get the confirmation we’re looking for.

But we will receive the reassurance of His presence and His character.  He will be with us, just as He promised  to be with Gideon.

So, keep bringing your questions to Him and trust His answers.

Bending and not breaking

She’s my daughter, after all, a miniature me in many ways.

So, why didn’t I expect it?  Why did I treat her less gently than God treats me?

Such a simple parenting issue: Daughter colored instead of reading before bed.  She ran out of time. Lights out, no reading for the night.

But then there was the reaction, like dynamite-meets-fire because the routine was broken and she couldn’t be flexible, couldn’t bend, couldn’t change up what we always do .

She and I both struggle here.  We cling to routine for personal sanity and prefer the scheduled, the planned, the known, the normal, the everyday and the expected.

Every night, she reads before bed.  Every single night.  Even before she could read, she flipped through the pages and invented tales about the pictures.

That’s me.  Whether it’s 9:30 or midnight when I finally ease into my own bed, I must read also.  Not that I prefer it or casually enjoy it.  I must read, even if I only scan through one single page before I pass out on my pillow.

So, surely I should have expected that when I asked her to bend and skip the evening marathon reading session for one…single…..night, she wouldn’t bend at all.

She’d break.  And break she did.

I am brittle like this, too: Snapping or shattering into pieces of emotional disaster when God nudges me out of the comfortable beauty of a planned day, or week, or year, or season of life.

And it’s not that God allows me to live life so rigid and in-control.  He won’t let me stay in this place of “needing to know the details” and “always having a plan.”

No, He asks that I trust Him.

He asks for faith without seeing.

But He teaches me gently, nudging me with the unexpected–a phone call, an appointment, a sick child, traffic, a cancellation– and then cleaning up the mess of me as I fluster and stress, react and over-react.

Still He leads me out in faith and then comforts me when it’s hard, always taking me one step farther into the faith-life and the blind-walk and one more step away from my day planner and kitchen calendar.

I’m grateful for the grace.

Surely, I’m not the only one who hates the surprises and plain-out hyperventilates at the unexpected.

I consider the 72 followers, sent out by Jesus with instructions that would probably make me tremble:

 Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ (Luke 10:4-5 NASB). 

They had no travel agenda, no itinerary, no schedule, no advance contacts or fall-back positions.  No money for the hotel when hospitality failed.  No change of shoes for weather fluctuations or suitcases stuffed with extra underwear and layers of clothing “just in case.”

“Whatever” house they entered, is where they sought rest and provision.  Sometimes they received it.  Other times not.

Peter may have loved this unexpected lifestyle.  He was a speak-what-comes-to-mind, do-whatever-pops-into-your-head kind of fellow.  Eager to hop out of fishing boats and walk on water, willing to shout out promises and convictions at the slightest whim. He lived for the adventure not the agenda.

Peter mystifies me a bit.

But Thomas I understand, and what if Thomas was in the mix of 70?

He always wanted the facts and the proof.   Yes, Thomas and I would be the ones studying the maps and searching for hotels, phone numbers, restaurants, and recommendations on Google before we set out on any journey of “faith.”

And perhaps we’d be the ones laying awake at night because we liked our own bed with our own pillow and cup of tea and a book to read before sleep.

Jesus would send us out anyway.

We might struggle and maybe we’d even have a meltdown and need God to piece us back together with superglue, but Luke writes that in the end, “the Seventy returned with joy” (Luke 10:17 HCSB).

Maybe Jesus indulges me in my nighttime reading habits and doesn’t ask me to travel from town to town without a packed lunch or luggage.

But when He asks me to ease my death-grip on my daily schedule and my long-term plans and the way I’ve always done things, after the aftermath of my mess…. there is joy.

Because it’s when He shatters the confines of my expectations that I feel His peace, not the comfort of being in control, but true peace and the settled assurance that Yes, He can care for me.

That’s when I see His glory.

That’s when I’m finally bending and flexible, no longer too fragile for Him to use.

Originally published 5/3/2013

An invitation for those who thirst

Just when I needed it most, my friend invited me to “come have a cup of tea.”  It was fifteen years ago, but I still remember, and not because the tea was fancy or the venue impressive. Not at all.  She was a fellow teacher who saw me about to have a mega-meltdown in the school office one day.  I was a young newlywed making my first out-of-state move and just when everything seemed to fall apart with our moving plans, she asked me to tea.

She gently took my hand and led me to her classroom where she had a “peace corner” set up with a small electric kettle, pretty cups and saucers, a variety of tea choices and sugar all laid out on top of her filing cabinet.

The tiny cup of tea she poured for me helped me pause enough to breathe and breathe enough to remember God could handle my need.

Now, I’m the one pouring cups of tea.

When a friend messages me because she’s scared, this is what I ask: Can we meet for tea (or coffee if you choose, but tea for me!)?

When my tween daughter stresses over a bad day, I put the kettle on the stove and set out the teacups.

It’s not the tea, of course, that soothes the soul.  It’s the invitation to be still, to breathe and rest and refresh.  It’s drinking in slowly and sharing it with someone who cares, someone who will listen, pray, and just be there, fully present in the moment, not scattered, distracted, rushed, and busy.

The beauty is in the offer itself:   Come as you are.   Come weary and come thirsty.  Come overwhelmed and beaten down.  Come frightened and anxious.

Just come, rest here, and drink.

It’s an invitation that echoes God’s heart for us.  After all, our God is an inviting God. He beckons us and draws us in when we’re broken, emptyhanded, exhausted, and when we’re thirsty.

The prophet Isaiah shares God’s invitation:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

When we’re filled with fear that nothing is going to work out because all our plans have fallen apart and when it feels like perhaps God has forgotten or abandoned us, we might wonder if God is even listening.  It can feel as if we’re banging uselessly on heaven’s door with our prayers, shouting in desperation, “God, hear me!  See me!  Answer me!”

Right in that place of emptiness and need, we can take comfort because we don’t have to fight for God’s attention.  He has already invited us to come, to bring that parched, dry, and empty soul right to Him.  He is the One, the only One who could fill us anyway.

So we can stop frantically doing.  Stop searching for the perfect solution and attacking the problem with all our personal might and resources.  Stop trying to make it all work out on paper or Google-searching our way out of the mess we’re in.

Isaiah tells us the invitation is for those who have no resources of their own anyway.  It’s for those who “have no money” and it’s the same invitation in Revelation:

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17 ESV

Let the one who is thirsty come but also let us drink.

Max Lucado writes:

“You can stand waist deep in the Colorado River and still die of thirst. Until you scoop and swallow, the water does your system no good. Until we gulp Christ, the same is true” (Come Thirsty, p.  14).

So, when He invites us to come and drink, let His peace seep down into the cracked places in our heart.  Let it saturate our fearfulness and drench our worry with the reminder of His might, His goodness, and His salvation.

I’ll take a snow day if I don’t have to make it up

What I really want, what would make me really and truly thrilled with winter each year is snow days without makeup school days.

I’m not trying to be greedy or demanding, truly I’m not.

We love our snow days and all the joy of the unplanned day off, the surprise family day complete with play time and hot cocoa, homemade cookies and Crock Pot soup and canceled evening activities so  we can all stay home and warm and relaxed in the evening.

But then, we wait for the phone call, the one that tells us, “oh by the way, now you have to come to school on President’s Day.”

Or, “we’re now shortening your spring break and lengthening your school year.”

It’s the payback we dread, the consequence for the rest and the fun.  It’s the bad news that we expect hanging over our heads the whole time our kids are jumping around the kitchen for joy.

My sixth grader says her science teacher actually delivers an annual speech that goes something like this: “Oh sure, you THINK you love snow days and you all want to do your snow dances and hope they close school because of a few flakes, but do you want to be in school all summer?  There’s  a price to pay!  You have to make those days up, you know!”

He’s right,  of course.  There is a price.  There is the bad news mixed in with the good that taints it a bit.

So, it’s outrageously impractical of me to ever hope we just get those snow days free and clear.  I know there’s not going to  be a superintendent’s message on my phone that says something like, “Have fun, everybody.  Be safe.  Enjoy the day.  This one’s on us!”

But that’s what I long for, and even though it can’t happen in the practical, day-in-day-out details of all these ordinary days, maybe it’s something I can have spiritually .

I want mercy, not just the trickle of it or the drip-drip-drip of it, but the outpouring of mercy.

I want the abundant grace, the kind that drenches you so much you can wring out your shirt and more comes  pouring out on your feet.

I want the overwhelming flood of God’s goodness poured out, rivers of His goodness just dumped all over us.

But instead, I  start expecting less from God, asking for less, praying for less, settling for less.

Faith isn’t really faith because I’m not believing Him to be wonderful or to be able or to be mighty.  I’m believing Him to fit into practical, average boxes and do ordinary, reasonable things.

When God gives me the blessing of a “snow day,” sometimes I wait for the bad news mixed in there somewhere.  I treat Him like He’s stingy or demanding or skimpy.

But God is abundant.

He is abundant in power, in mercy, in goodness, in peace, in love, and faithfulness.  That’s what Scripture says.  (Click here to read Bible Verses on the Abundance  of God)

He fills us up and satisfies our souls and leaves leftovers.

That’s what Jesus did when He fed the crowd of over  5000 who lingered on a hillside to listen to His teaching.  He took such a meager gift: a few loaves and fish, just a little boy’s packed lunch—and then he fed the multitude. They didn’t have to hand out crumbs at the end either.

No, they had leftovers.

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12 ESV).

Not just that one time.  Jesus did it all again.  He fed the 5000 one day and then on another day when he was teaching another crowd, he performed miraculous multiplication yet again, feeding over 4000 people with another handful of bread and fish.

And this is what happened there, too:

They ate and were filled. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces (Mark 8:8).

Jesus didn’t just do the miracle that was necessary or practical; He fed those people and left baskets of abundance and then he did it all again.

So, why do I discount God’s bigness? Why do I worry over my need as if I have to be the one to fill it and I have to be the one to figure it out?

Why do I fret when God gives good things, superstitiously thinking that bad is coming next?

His abundance offers us rest.  His abundance means we can trust Him and we can let Him do the work and we can worship and rejoice because our God is full-to-overflowing with the very mercy, grace, love, and goodness that we need.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, (Psalm 31:19 ESV)

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power (Psalm 147:5 ESV).

 

Bible verses on Trusting God

  • 2 Samuel 7:28 NIV
     Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
  • Psalm 9:10 ESV
    And those who know your name put their trust in you,
        for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
  • Psalm 13:5 ESV
    But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
        my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
  • Psalm 20:7 ESVSome trust in chariots and some in horses,
        but we trust in the name of the Lordour God.
  • Psalm 22:4-5 NLT
    Our ancestors trusted in you,
        and you rescued them.
    They cried out to you and were saved.
        They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
  • Psalm 31:14 ESV
    But I trust in you, O Lord;
        I say, “You are my God.”
  • Psalm 33:21 NLT
    In him our hearts rejoice,
        for we trust in his holy name.
  • Psalm 37:3 NLT
    Trust in the Lord and do good.
        Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
  • Psalm 37:5 NLT
    Commit everything you do to the Lord.
        Trust him, and he will help you.
  • Psalm 40:3 NLT
    He has given me a new song to sing,
        a hymn of praise to our God.
    Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
        They will put their trust in the Lord.
  • Psalm 40:4 NLT
    Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
        who have no confidence in the proud
        or in those who worship idols.
  • Psalm 56:3 ESV
    When I am afraid,
        I put my trust in you.
  • Psalm 84:12 ESV
    O Lord of hosts,
        blessed is the one who trusts in you!
  • Psalm 91:1-2 NLT
    Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
        will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
    This I declare about the Lord:
    He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
        he is my God, and I trust him.
  • Psalm 112:7 NLT
    They do not fear bad news;
        they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
        and do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge him,
        and he will make straight your paths.
  • Proverbs 11:28 ESV
    Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
        but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
  • Proverbs 28:25 NLT
    Greed causes fighting;
        trusting the Lord leads to prosperity
  • Proverbs 28:26 ESV
    Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
        but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
  • Isaiah 12:2 NLT
    See, God has come to save me.
        I will trust in him and not be afraid.
    The Lord God is my strength and my song;
        he has given me victory.”
  • Isaiah 26:3-4 NLT
    You will keep in perfect peace
        all who trust in you,
        all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
    Trust in the Lord always,
        for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.
  • Daniel 6:23 ESV
    Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
  • John 14:1 NLT
    Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
  • Romans 15:13 NLT
    I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Revelation 21:5 NLT
     And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”

God isn’t too late, but He’s not early either

A deadline.

Few obstacles pound harder at my faith than a due date, a deadline, the tick-tocking down of time until God has to either come through or He doesn’t.

I know, I know.

God’s timing is perfect.  

He is never late.

I cling to the promises and repeat the reassuring phrases to myself, but God likes to push right up against time boundaries, doesn’t He?

He usually doesn’t show up early, that’s for sure.

Sometimes, He’ll let me pace nervously right up until the last second before He shows up in His glory.

To Him, one day is like a thousand years.  Time is fluid and free.

But it doesn’t work like that here on this physical planet.

Bills and meetings and due dates are a little less subjective here.

Besides that, I hate being late.  I like to be early.  I like to be the first one to arrive, the girl sitting in the parking lot for 5 minutes collecting her thoughts, not the one zooming in 5 minutes late and haphazardly throwing her minivan into park and jumping out the door.

I’m the opposite of a procrastinator (whatever you call that).  I like to have things settled two weeks in advance, not at 11:59 p.m. right before the midnight deadline.

But God knows this about me. So God helps me to cement this shaky faith onto some sturdier foundation.  And God, with His sense of humor and His infinite wisdom, does this by bringing me toe-to-toe with deadline after deadline and coming through for me at the last possible second.

Not because He likes to drive me crazy.

Because He loves me, of course.

Last week, though, I read about Jesus’ first miracle in a new way:  A wedding miracle, a miracle of substance:  Changing plain old water into the finest wine for a marriage feast on the verge of social disaster.

I think as I read that Jesus didn’t just change water into grape juice.

This wasn’t just miraculously altering the chemical makeup.

Jesus bypassed time. 

Quality wine like that would have required years to make–to ferment–, but Jesus simply told servants to fill jars with water and serve it up, and the wine simply was.

Margaret Feinberg writes in Scouting the Divine:

When it comes to making great wine, time is your friend. Yet Jesus didn’t need to wait.

In the past, I’ve tried to explain it all to Him, how some due dates are pretty set in stone and we people here on earth do actually have to follow them or bad stuff can happen.

But today, He explains it to me….

How when I tell Him something will take two weeks…

When I say there’s not enough time for Him to come through for me….

He tells me He can turn plain old water into aged wine in an instant.  Something that should take years is completed in less than a second.

GOD ISN’T JUST ABLE TO DO ANYTHING; HE’S ABLE TO DO ANYTHING AT ANY TIME.

Not only that, but even when circumstances and the world and your own eyes tell you that God is simply too late, even then He is not too late.

Jesus showed up at Lazarus’s home days after Lazarus had already died.

Jesus waited too long to come and heal His friend.

But even a deadline as firmly set as death wasn’t too much for Jesus to overcome.  After four days in the grave, Lazarus walked right out of the tomb when Jesus called him back to life.

And maybe after hundreds of years of waiting for the Messiah convinced many Jesus that God wasn’t able, wouldn’t fulfill His promises, couldn’t ever bring the miracle to pass.

Yet, Paul says,

BUT WHEN THE SET TIME HAD FULLY COME, GOD SENT HIS SON, BORN OF A WOMAN, BORN UNDER THE LAW… (GALATIANS 4:4).

The set time fully came and that’s precisely when God acted.

And the time wasn’t set by any man.  It wasn’t set by a government, by a bill collector, by a judge, by a teacher, or by any human rule or law.

GOD HIMSELF SET THE PERFECT TIME FOR THE PERFECT SALVATION, AND HE WAS NOT A SECOND TOO EARLY OR TOO LATE.

So, we’re human and in this world we have deadlines and due dates, we have words like ‘late’ and ‘overdue’ and ‘delinquent.’

Sometimes we think the clock and the calendar rule over us like arbitrary and cruel overseers, always demanding, always penalizing, always stressing us out.

But our God doesn’t need time to deliver you or time to save you.

He’s not working frantically, racing the clock, sweating with panic as the seconds tick down.

He’s not asking for extensions or inventing delay tactics while He scrambles to get things done.

GOD’S PERFECT PLAN INCLUDES HIS PERFECT TIMING.

Originally published 11/20/2015

How our hearts long for home

Way back in September, my son screamed and kicked as I carried him back into the house after his sisters climbed onto the big yellow school bus.

He still struggled some mornings well into the spring,  especially after spring break.

This morning, partway through June, he once again stomped around the house with his chin tucked down to his chest and his arms criss-crossed after the girls walked out the door.

All this morning I tried to explain summer break to him, painting it as vividly as I could.  This is the very last day in the school  year.  The girls will get to be with us more and we’ll  have adventures together and time at home with each other.

But he still grumped around for at least 30 minutes because that didn’t make sense to him.  The “Promised Land” of summer was closer than he ever realized, but still too far away to be real.

I  sympathize with him.  I know what it’s like to long for the promise fulfilled and to be oh so close, but not quite there yet.

On Monday, I  walked through our soon-to-be new house and signed off saying it’s fixed up the way we want.

Then I drove back home to our current house, dug out yet another item I had already packed in a box,  and continued the waiting for word of our closing date.

So, longing for what’s right around the corner but not being able to fully relax and celebrate?  I’m right there with you, son.

This insatiable longing for what is to come makes me wonder, though, why I don’t ache more often for “home.”

All of us should be longing for heaven.  It should be a deep stirring within us because absolutely nothing we achieve or receive on this planet will fill up that gnawing need for eternity with Jesus.

Before He died, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3 ESV).

Our heart’s truest desire should be this: to be with Christ in that place He’s prepared for us.

We can live like Abraham, who was willing to  abide in tents because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, who designer and builder is God”  (Hebrews 11:10 ESV).

He didn’t need a palace, a mansion, or a luxury condo.  Instead, he was satisfied with a tent because he had heaven in mind.

And those other ancestors of faith looked forward also.  The Bible says, “They desire a better country, that is,  a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:15).

Isn’t this what we desire, too?

When we  hear the news yet again:

Divorce.   Abuse.  Neglect.  Death.  Cancer.   Pain.  Injustice.  Starvation and famine.  Poverty.

Don’t we ache with the way this doesn’t fit?  It’s not right?  This isn’t God’s best?

And that’s when we remember to cry out:  Come, Lord Jesus!  We long for you so!

We long for heaven.  This yearning for the eternal is deep within us and it should drive who we are.

It should stir us to PATIENCE with the now when God asks us to wait because we keep looking forward to His promises fulfilled.

It stir us to  ACT.  Stand up for what is right.  Pursue righteousness.  Offer mercy.  Live justly.  Because the Kingdom of God is  something we can live now in anticipation of perfection in heaven.

Eternity doesn’t begin for Christians after we die.  Eternity begins the moment we accept Christ as Lord.  I’m already living in my “forever with the Lord” and that means pursuing Jesus’s presence here and now.

And it should stir us to PRAY:  To come before Him with hearts crushed and broken by sin and evil.  We seek the hope that only Jesus can bring: the assurance that this isn’t all  there is.

He is indeed preparing a place for us.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).

“This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.”

Finding peace when it’s hard to see

Here’s my primary job at the zoo as a mom.

Sure, I help break up fights over who will hold the map.

I plan our itinerary so we don’t bounce from the lions on the one end of the zoo, to the goats on the other end of the zoo, back to the giraffes way back where the lions are.  No, we take an orderly path.

I make sure no little hands slip into the fences and no children wander off in search of wild animals.

I decline to pay for every souvenir, snack, and photo booth that we see.

I take pictures of children giggling at the baby monkeys.

But mostly I do this—I point so that my youngest child at the time can actually find the animal in the tank or grass or exhibit or whatever.

I’ve been doing this for years for all four children at one time or another.

See the lizard? 

No.

See, right there.  Look where I’m pointing.  See?

No.

See that leaf?  The big one right there?  Look under that.  See the lizard?

No.

Every so often, we struggle to find the tiger or the bear, but mostly it’s these camouflaging reptiles and miniature frogs that have us standing at the cage for more than five minutes squinting our eyes, pointing our fingers, and eventually giving up.

But when I started taking my son to the zoo back when he was just learning to talk, I discovered he has super-sight.

He could spot a hidden reptile or amphibian the moment he walked up to the glass.

Snake. Lizard. Frog.  He pointed and said the name like this was the easiest exercise on the planet.

Hiding under foliage?  Didn’t matter.

Blending in with the pebbles?  Not a problem.

Hanging from a tree at the top of the cage?  Couldn’t fool him.

He sees what is hard to see and notices what is hard to notice.

I need vision like that.  I need spiritual super-sight.

Sometimes I’m searching through my circumstances and situations for the peace God promises.

Still, I can’t see it, not through the murky glass, not with my limited vision.

I need God to give me eyes that see His peace, even when it’s hidden, even when I don’t have answers, even when trouble looms, even when the waiting lingers and the uncertainty remains, even when I need the impossible.

Sheila Walsh writes:

In the last major conversation Jesus had with His closest friends, He spoke about peace–but not as we might have expected Him to (5 Minutes With Jesus).

We’d expect perhaps to find peace in the moments of calm or peace in the seasons of blessing.

We have peace when we’re at rest or peace when our relationships are happy and healthy, no one’s mad at us, we’re financially stable and physically well.

Isn’t that when peace comes?

Yet, Jesus told the disciples,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace (John 16:33a ESV).

What things had He said to them?  Had He been talking about heaven, miracles, salvation, grace?

Not at all.

In John 15 and 16, Jesus tells his dearest friends about sorrow and His imminent death, about persecution and martyrdom, and how the world will hate them and harm them.

Then He gives them hope.

Then He promises them peace.

We seek peace in answered prayers, resolved situations, the end of conflicts or the arrival of provision.

We seek it in chocolate, bubble baths, getaways, and running away.

But peace isn’t found there.  Peace is found in Jesus Himself right where are in the middle of the pain, before the answers and the fixes and the resolution.

He told the disciples “in me you may have peace.”

PEACE ISN’T FOUND IN A POSITION OR A PROVISION; IT’S FOUND IN A PERSON.

Jesus is constant, unchanging.

He is faithful.

He is able.

He is compassionate and abundant in His love.

We can rest in Him, deeply rest.  We can entrust our lives to Him, every care and concern, every worry that keeps our thoughts churning at night as the clock ticks down hour after hour.

Jesus finished the promise to the disciples that night:

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b ESV).

This is our courage.  Our reason to ‘take heart’ and have hope!  He has already overcome our every enemy and our every battle.

So, we look to Him and we ask for His vision right here when peace seems hidden and hope hard to see, when we’re staring at circumstances and not seeing the light for all the darkness.

Lord, help me see you!  Help me not lose sight of who you are.

Originally published March 11, 2016