Ready and waiting

“I can’t serve anyone who isn’t sitting down.”

That’s what I say in my teacher’s voice when I’m dishing up snack to a group of  kids.

Something about snack brings out the jittery excitement in most of us.  We want to stand up to see what we’re having, what flavor, how much, is one serving bigger than the others and could we possibly have the  biggest one?

Snack time protocols can be pretty basic, but we cover them almost every single time the goldfish crackers and apple juice come out:

Wash your hands.  Sit in your seat.  Wait quietly.  No, you can’t have seconds until everyone else gets their first serving.

We’re just so eager.

I am so eager.

When I feel hungry…  When I feel need… When I think that maybe provision will come and I wonder if I will get my share or if maybe I’ll be overlooked and remain empty. .. When I am anxious because I just don’t know and I feel like the answer won’t come.

That’s when I want to leap out of my seat and take some control.  I want to make my need known, just in case God missed seeing it.   I want to be sure He didn’t forget me or abandon me and He won’t leave me behind.

Maybe I even worry too often about getting my own “fair share,” too concerned with the sizes of others’ portions to be content with my own overflowing cup.

I read today an oh-so-familiar story, about how Jesus looked out over a hillside teeming with people.  They had followed Him out when He sought rest.  No one planned this extended teaching  time.  It just happened.

They looked for Jesus and when they found Him, He loved them enough to  teach and teach and teach until the hour was late, and they were far from their homes.  No one had packed any food except one little boy with a simple fish-and-bread lunch.  (John 6:1-15)

This story reminds me that Jesus is able.  That small numbers and meager circumstances cannot hinder Him from miraculous provision.  I am reminded that He is an abundant, exponentially multiplying God, and that none of us could imagine in advance how He could feed over 5000 people with a boy’s packed lunch and still have baskets full of leftovers.

And this story reminds me to give Jesus what I have even though it could never ever be enough.   I am the simple boy who can choose to offer what I have to Christ—meager as it is.  I don’t selfishly hoard it. I don’t hide it away in embarrassment.  I give it to Him because He is forever sufficient in my insufficiency.

But today, I read the story again and there is a new reminder.

In her book, “Living Beyond Yourself,” Beth Moore  shares the step Jesus took that day on the hillside:

  • He made them aware of their need.
  • He took what little they had.
  • He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11)
  • He gave them “immeasurably more” than they could “ask or imagine.” Eph. 3:20

This is the question I ask myself all day today:

How can I—in the  midst of all of the everyday messes and the overwhelming worries—posture my heart in a place of rest?

Today, I struggled with a parenting decision, with a ministry decision, with a scheduling decision, with an organizing of my day decision and I was tangled up  in my own need for clear answers, for assurances, and for provision.

My heart paces.  I position myself to fix and control and make everything right all on my own limited strength.

Mostly, I fight this feeling of urgency, this pushiness I have to get answers now and see the results yesterday and have the blessings in hand already.

When can I see the abundance in place of the need?

But what if Jesus is poised with baskets in His hand, provision at the ready, abundance in waiting, and He simply asks that I sit?

Am I sitting down?  Am I ready to receive?

The little boy with the lunch box gave everything over to Jesus, his tiny lunch, his small offering, but then he sat and waited to see what the Lord would do.

Oh, the sitting and the waiting, they don’t come naturally to me.  So, I think it through today when the worries come—how can I sit in this situation, how can I posture myself to rest in Him, how can I wait and see what the Lord will do?

“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7a NASB)

 

When Jesus Sees How Long We’ve Waited

My son hopped in the minivan at 8:20 a.m. with his sneakers on, his jacket zipped up, and his backpack next  to him.

He was ready for school.  Ready to go . Ready to leave right this minute and not wait another second before getting on the road, Mom!

The thing is, we don’t need to leave for school until around 8:50.  So he was a tad early, as in half an hour early.

But I’d already been putting him off for 20 minutes,  so I finally just gave up and drove to school.  While we waited, I ran errands around the church building and answered his questions every few minutes:  “Mom, what time is it?  Mom, how many minutes?”

Waiting was just….so…..hard.

Part of me loves that he’s so excited about school, of course.

And part of me feels for him.  I connect with all that desire to get going already instead of lingering relentlessly.  Can we just drive? Can we just move?  Can we just start?  Why all the waiting, waiting, waiting?

The Bible talks about waiting patiently and waiting silently, and I can do that happily for maybe a few days or weeks.  But after a few months of persisting in prayer and standing on the promises, I’m about ready to get a little real with Jesus in my quiet time:

Lord, you know we can’t wait forever, right?  Have you forgotten about little ol’ me?  We have these things called deadlines and due dates on earth.   Please just do something already!”

I know I’m not alone in this because I can read my own increasingly desperate prayers echoed in the Psalms:

“But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me” (Psalm 22:19 ESV).

“Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior” (Psalm 38:22 NIV).

“Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me” (Psalm 40:13 NIV).

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; LORD, do not delay” (Psalm 70:5 NIV).

Reading through those verses helps somehow.  It helps to know we’re not crazy and we’re not the only ones asking God not just to save us, but to do it “quickly!”

Of course, that doesn’t really  mean God puts a rush-job on answering our prayers.

He is a perfect time God, waiting for the appointed moment and the appropriate season to come through and fulfill promises.  He isn’t spurred into action by our cries or somehow nudged awake by our persistence as if He’s forgotten about us until just that moment.

God has us in mind all along and He has a plan all along.

That’s what really helps in the waiting season, more so even then reading those Psalms.

It  helps to know that God Himself understands how hard this is.

Sometimes I can get tricked into thinking that His divinity disconnects Him from my perspective.

The Bible says:

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)

That can feel a little disheartening because if time is so fluid for God, then how could He even begin to understand what  it feels like to pray and pray and pray and wait and wait and wait without result?

Then I read this:

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  (John 5:6 ESV).

Jesus saw the man who had been paralyzed and waiting for healing for 38 years, and He didn’t just shrug that off and overlook how hard that must have been.

Before healing the man, Jesus  did this first; He acknowledged that it had indeed been a long time.

THE UNDERSTANDING AND COMPASSION OF THAT MOMENT IS WHAT DRAWS ME IN.
JESUS GETS IT.

The waiting seasons aren’t because of God’s forgetfulness or His lack of concern for us or needing to maintain some arbitrary timeline.

GOD SEES US IN THE WAITING ROOM.

He knows we’re impatient creatures.  He understands how hard it is to keep perspective and to persevere in faith without giving up.

He knows what it feels like to wait “a long time.”

Because of that, because He gets it, because He loves us, because He cares about us, I find a little comfort and a little release from all the tension and frustration.  I can strain against the waiting a little less and rest in knowing His love for me a little more.

As Max Lucado writes:

God is God. He knows what he is doing. When you can’t trace his handtrust his heart” (Grace for the moment).

Originally posted November 2017

What matters more than age

My son says he is “five-ish.”

He’s actually four and his birthday  is in October, so it’s not that his birthday is coming soon.

He’s simply feeling five, so  this is his new token answer.

“How old are you?”

“I’m five-ish.  I actually look five.  Actually.”

It’s because of a little playground encounter a few weeks ago  with two little boys who became his insta-best-playground  buddies.  They climbed all over the pirate ship together, took turns on the zip line, and then spun in the tire.

Finally, they exchanged names and ages.

That’s when my son realized these other guys were five and they were shorter than he was.  So, therefore, he must look five, or at least “five-ish.”

Maybe it’s the  fact that my baby is trying to age himself or the fact that my girls all finished off another  school year and are off to bigger, higher grade levels, like finishing up middle school of all things–maybe it’s me nearing 40 and feeling all the weight of what that means and how that  looks on me….

Whatever the reason, age is on my mind.

I’ve been thinking how age is inevitable.   Growing older just happens, even if we’d rather it didn’t.

Maturity, on the other hand, is not guaranteed.

In her book Unseen, Sara Hagerty says it this way

We’ll mature without effort into  wrinkles  and gray hair, but our hearts won’t mature deep  into God by default.

But what is this maturing, this  growing up  in Jesus?

It doesn’t come by default, so then it must take discipline.  Yes.  Spiritual disciplines.  Digging into  prayer and digging into His Word and serving and listening to the Lord and worshiping.   Yes and yes and yes and again.

It’s not all so  concrete and straightforward, though.  It  isn’t just about studying and reading and knowing what God’s  Word says.

There’s the discipline of repentance and humility.  It’s stumbling our way through living out faith.  It’s getting it  wrong, humbly confessing that and asking Jesus to  renew, revive, refresh and redeem.

There’s the discipline of weakness, maybe that’s the hardest for me.  When I  am feeling most  dependent on Jesus because I’m not strong enough or capable enough on my own,  I  have to lean.  Leaning can feel like so much brokenness and that’s hard, but it’s also sweet because that is exactly when I know Jesus more.

Failing, messing up, making mistakes, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed:  It’s all my weakness on display, but  I cannot pull away from the hard season, from the difficult or the wearying or the unknown or even what I just haven’t mastered yet.

Christianity isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being transformed.

Then there are the quiet seasons, when life seems to just roll  along day after day, seemingly stagnant, same-old, same-old.

Restless.  I can be so restless.

I want to see big results.  Big change.  Big impact.

Then I read the reminder in Isaiah of how to grow in the discipline of waiting:

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).

I love  this verse in all of the nuances in each translation.

“Those who TRUST in the Lord”  (CSB).

The NIV says “Those who HOPE” and the ESV says “those who WAIT.”

We trust Him.  We hope.  We wait.

The discipline of waiting tucks itself into seasons of quiet and of hiddenness and of not knowing.  It’s about lingering for direction and looking forward to  seeing God at work, but not seeing that work just yet.

When we trust and we hope in Jesus even in the discipline of waiting, we can soar and we can run,  but oh friend,  we can also walk.

Somehow that walking seems  like the greatest feat to me.  Soaring can be exhilarating, running shows great power,  endurance and strength.

But walking takes unique courage.  Walking takes persevering hope.   We’re not seeing leaps of progress, but  we will  not give up.  We aren’t quitting and setting up camp in a land of complacency or dormancy.

We’re being steady,  daily, consistent, steadfast, and faithful.

When the soaring is done and the running is finished and we’re feeling  bone-tired, still  we walk with the Lord today.   Then the next day, we get up and we walk with Him again, and we will not faint nor fail.

I remember that it takes discipline to repent humbly, to fail graciously,  and to wait patiently.   That means I can buck less against what feels uncomfortable or hard and instead embrace what God is doing in me right here and now.   I’m not just arbitrarily aging; I’m maturing in Christ.  Lord, be at work in me.

Moving out, moving on, moving forward

Preschool is done for the year.

My son had been looking forward to all of the end-of-the-year things.  The program.  The last day.  The picnic.

But as we headed out on the final morning of preschool activities, sadness hit him hard:   I want to stay. 

This is his first experience with finishing the year and really enjoying his own summer break, so it’s the first time he’s truly said goodbye to his classroom buddies and considered what it’d be like not to see them a few times every week for  a few months or so.

And that’s a bit sad indeed.

We can look forward to what’s ahead, of course.  His older sisters chime  in with their own reminders that summer is, in fact, awesome.

Then, I remind him that preschool will begin again in the fall and there will be familiar faces and new faces.  It will be worth anticipating.

This works for a moment, but then he remembers again that in order to  move on to the new, he has to  say some goodbyes.  There are some things he has to leave behind.

And saying goodbye….stepping into new places…that’s not always easy.

Sometimes there are assignments and places we make permanent that God intended to be temporary.  We cement our hearts right down and God asks us to be more movable than that.

It’s okay.  It’s good.  It’s necessary.  It’s beautiful even at times to step out of the old, maybe even before we know what new land God has called us to.

We trust Him to show us what that might be.  A land of rest, perhaps.  A land of labor maybe.  A place of new beginnings or maybe one more forward step in this long, connected journey we’ve been on.

The key is remebering that what we’re doing here in this very place is God-led. He could tell us to stay or He could  encourage us to move on. Either way, we lean into His leading.  The blessing is in the obedience.

Me?  I tend to be a permanent foundation builder, in it for the long-haul, committed to hang in and hang on even when God has hinted it’s time to let go.

In the book of Ruth, I find someone else who struggled with making the temporary assignment a permanent destination:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there (Ruth 1:1-2 CSB). 

Elimelek left Bethlehem for Moab “for a while.”  Another translation said he “went to sojourn in the country of Moab.”

Maybe he shouldn’t have gone in the first place, trusting  God instead to  provide right there instead of hightailing it  to foreign destinations.  But, he left, and  at first it was supposed to be a temporary trip.

But then “he lived there.”  The ESV says “he remained there.”

The temporary became permanent for him.  He put down roots.  His sons married Moabite women.  They didn’t seem to have any intention of returning to Bethlehem until death changed everything.  Elimelek and his two sons died, leaving their widows, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, with some significant decisions.

Elimelek settled and stayed.

But Ruth was willing to move.

She moved to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law despite her own grief.

She moved into the fields to glean and to  provide.

She moved onto a threshing floor in the middle of the night to seek a redeemer.

In her book, “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit,” Nicki Koziarz says Ruth “stays open to the movement of God.”

This is where I’ve been growing.  I’ve been stepping down and then waiting.  Saying goodbye and not turning around and jumping back into the same-old, same-old.   I’ve been listening more.  I’ve been taking my time and refusing to be rushed  into decisions that others seem to feel have to be made right away.

I’ve been leaning into  God and asking for Him to speak the “no” and speak the “yes” so I will know when to stay or go, put down or pick up, relinquish or fight on, say farewell or begin anew.

It starts with this:  Making sure I’m not turning temporary trips into permanent residences, trusting that God can always move me on and being willing indeed to go.

Bible Verses about Times of Quiet

  • Exodus 14:14 ESV
    The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
  • Job 6:24 ESV
    “Teach me, and I will be silent;
        make me understand how I have gone astray.
  • Psalm 4:4 ESV
    Be angry, and do not sin;
        ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
  • 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 46:10 ESV
    “Be still, and know that I am God.
        I will be exalted among the nations,
        I will be exalted in the earth!”
  • Proverbs 11:12 ESV
    Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
        but a man of understanding remains silent.
  • Proverbs 17:28 ESV
    Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
        when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
  • Proverbs 29:11 ESV
    A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
        but a wise man quietly holds it back.
  • Ecclesiastes 3:7 ESV
    a time to tear, and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
  • Isaiah 26: 3 ESV
    You keep him in perfect peace
        whose mind is stayed on you,
        because he trusts in you.
  • Isaiah 30:15 ESV
    For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
    “In returning[ and rest you shall be saved;
        in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
    But you were unwilling,
  • Lamentations 3:26 ESV
    It is good that one should wait quietly
        for the salvation of the Lord.
  • Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
    The Lord your God is in your midst,
        a mighty one who will save;
    he will rejoice over you with gladness;
        he will quiet you by his love;
    he will exult over you with loud singing.
  • James 1:19 ESV
    Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV
    Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

The Remarkable Exploits of Flash the Snail (and how I need to have more patience)

We have  named our pet snail: “Flash.”

I know what you’re wondering.

You have a pet snail?

Yes, yes we do.   On our last trip to the pet store to pick out some more fish for our aquarium, we spotted snails.

“How cool is that?” I thought.  They keep your tank clean and their shells are pretty.

Nice.

So, my daughter picked out a yellow snail to add to our tank.   His original name was “Sunny,” aptly named by my eight-year-old.

But then I discovered that this little guy was actually a superhero in disguise.  Certainly, he is no ordinary snail.

Snails are, after all, slow.

Our snail, on the other hand, has near-teleportation ability.   I wake up in the morning, pad out to the fish tank with my eyes still full of sleep.  I flick on the tank light and do the same thing I do every morning:  I find the snail.

Then, having found him in the bottom  left corner of the tank hanging out on some pebbles, I slip into the kitchen and make my tea.

By the time I return to  the tank, our snail is gone.  I play Find-the-Snail again and discover he is now at the top right corner of the tank attached to the heater.

This. Is. Amazing.

That’s what I think as I stand there with my tea.  We have a super snail.  Definitely.

So, after about a week of discovering the extraordinary speed of our pet snail, I finally explain to  my daughter that “Sunny” is a cute name, but our snail is something super and that merits a superhero name.

Hence, Sunny the Snail became Flash the Snail that day.

Here’s the wondrous thing about our amazing snail:  We almost never see him move.

In fact, I’ve only caught him in motion once when I flicked on the tank light in the morning and he was zooming across the bottom of our tank.

But most of the time, his motion in our little fish tank is unseen.   He is here one second and somewhere else after you blink.

We don’t see the progress or the actual moving.  We don’t see him slip out of his shell and scoot around.

We see big change.  Big moves.  Big progress.  That’s what shows up on our radar.

That’s what most of us want, after all.

BIG change.  BIG moves.  BIG progress.  We want all that and we want it fast, right away,  now, now,  now.

God, though, doesn’t get caught up in our forever-rushing or in our frenetic pushing to arrive already and be done with the journey.

God does slow progress.

He does stillness.

He does quiet and rest and the kind of change that lasts because it’s so deep and that takes time.

He doesn’t want us to have the facade of goodness.  He wants us to have goodness within.

He doesn’t want us to appear productive.  He wants us to mature and bear abundant, fully-ripe fruit.

Lysa TerKeurst wrote:

“In all of this remember, bearing fruit takes time.  Fruit doesn’t just pop up overnight.  Fruit comes in seasons.  Just because we don’t see tangible fruit in an area of our lives right now doesn’t e mean that God isn’t working.  Our job is to abide.  Remain.  Let’s keep doing that and watch to see how God might work in our lives” (Finding I AM).

While I want to be Flash the Snail most of the time, what I’m forgetting is that he is only fast for a a snail.  He doesn’t actually  teleport across my tank and appear in random places.  He pushes and pulls and meanders his way along, exerting energy and persevering without quitting until he arrives at his chosen destination (usually my tank heater).

So, let’s keep going, too.

Let’s not give up too soon or throw it all in because we just want to see the fruit already!  No more waiting! No more slow baby steps forward and a few falls back!  No more feeling like others are passing us along the way!  No more frustration with the process of bearing fruit.

The Psalmist tells us:

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

We yield our fruit in season when we worry less about the fruit itself and focus more on God  Himself, meditating on His word, delighting in His presence.

The fruit will  come, and it will be ripe, abundant, God-tended fruit if we let God work in our hearts over time instead of rushing impatiently to the harvest.

 

 

For the waiting, we need a little courage

I was five minutes early and already nervous.

A friend and I were meeting up so we could drive together to an event.

The plan was simple.  Meet in the parking lot at 5:00.

At 4:55, I started worrying.

Did we say 5:00 or 5:30?  Did I have the time right?  What if we had miscommunicated?  What if I told her the wrong day?  The wrong place?  The wrong time?

This could be a disaster.

By 4:57, I pulled out my phone to double-check our messages.

Okay, I’m safe.  This was the right day and time and place.

But what if she couldn’t see my car where I was parked?  What if she pulls in the other side of the parking lot and misses me completely?

I crane my neck around, glancing from side to side.  Then I actually drive through the parking lot to make sure she wasn’t already there waiting for me and I’m just being ridiculous.

It’s 4:59 now, and yes, I am absolutely being ridiculous, but it’s taken on a humongous snowball life of its own and I feel powerless to stop it.

I am worrying about being late and about traffic and maybe we should have said we should meet earlier.

I am worrying about miscommunication and how I should have called her that day to verify the details one last time.

Then I start worrying about my friend.  What if she is hurt and in a car accident somewhere and she can’t call to tell me because she’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital?

And then, just as I’ve worked myself up into frantic worry….my friend pulls in.

It’s 5:01.

She’s fine.  I’m fine.  We’re completely on time.

I really am ridiculous.

Every single day, I tell my son to ‘be patient’ about 20 times.  Maybe 50 times.

He wants juice.  He wants snack.  He wants Bob the Builder on the TV.   He wants to play a game.  He needs help with a toy.  He wants me to read a book.

What do I say?

Okay, in just a moment.  Be patient.

And, I act like he should just accept that.  I act like it’s a perfectly reasonable request for him to just snap on some patience.

But today, I’m recognizing that it’s hard.

I ‘m supposed to teach him patience, of course.  I still need to keep asking him to wait sometimes.  This doesn’t mean I need to answer his every whim and will immediately and turn him into a tiny tyrant.

No, I teach him to ‘be patient,’ but I do it with some understanding that what I’m asking him to do takes oh such a long time to learn.

Some days he’ll get it just right.

And some days he’ll fall to pieces just like his crazy mom does when she’s waiting for a friend in a parking lot at 4:55 p.m. and they’re supposed to meet at 5:00.

There’s something more, too: All these years, I’ve recognized how waiting takes patience (and who likes learning about patience?) and it takes trust (and who finds trusting without controlling easy?).

BUT IT ALSO TAKES COURAGE.

David wrote:

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14 ESV).

and again:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24 ESV).

I’ve missed it a million times.  I’ve read those Psalms and sang them and written them in my journal over and over again, but today it hits me in a new way.

GOD SAYS THAT IN THE WAITING, I NEED TO TAKE HEART.

I NEED TO BE COURAGEOUS.

I NEED TO BE STRONG.

And, that’s exactly what I need to hear in seasons of waiting because when I’m waiting, I’m full of doubt and questions and worry.

I think maybe I heard God wrong.  Maybe this is going to take forever and He’s never going to bring me through this situation.  Maybe the deliverance won’t come after all.  Maybe I’m in the wrong place.  Maybe there was miscommunication.  Maybe I missed God and He was already here and gone and now I’m outside of His will!  Maybe God is done with me and now He’s just left me here in this place.

I’m being ridiculous, I know it.

But it’s in the moments of waiting that I feel most abandoned and most afraid.

AND IT’S IN THE MOMENTS OF WAITING THAT GOD SAYS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED TO HEAR THE MOST:

Don’t believe the lies.  Don’t fret over the future.  Don’t question the calling.  Don’t doubt God’s ability or willingness to care for you.  Don’t think you’re alone.

BE STRONG, AND LET YOUR HEART TAKE COURAGE.

Originally posted February 12, 2016

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

Lessons from Living Among the Boxes

We are living among boxes.

Just  days after our home inspection was done and everything was set to move ahead with selling our house,  I started packing little by little as strategically as possible.

But that strategy didn’t matter in the end, because our move was delayed about 2-1/2 weeks,  so all those things I put in those boxes didn’t necessarily stay there.

For one thing, I didn’t expect to still be in this house when my daughter went off  to camp.   So, I had packed all  the extra flashlights.  And the sleeping bag.  And the extra bug spray.

At first,  it was a bit funny.

I packed up the extra school supplies one day and threw into the box a pink plastic protractor that I last used when I took geometry, oh about 23 years ago.

No one in  this entire house has used this protractor in over two decades.

That very afternoon, though, my fifth grader came home from school, pulled out her math homework and asked, “Mom, do you have a protractor I can use?”

For real.

So,  I did what I have become  an expert at doing.  I found the box, opened it back up, slipped my hand in and pulled out what she needed.

Box fishing.

I’ve been “box fishing” for two months.

Most of the time, I can find an item in just one try.  Every once in a while,  I need to open two boxes to find the one I want.

But one day, after being at peace through this whole process, my son wanted a particular toy from a box.  And I hunted.  And searched.  I opened box after box.

That’s what did me in.  That’s the day I cried.  That’s the day I told God, “This is hard and I’ve been beaten down.”

I  did finally find those micro-machine tanks and airplanes he was looking for,  but the emotional battle was a way bigger deal than any effort to  find the right box.

That was about the time I wondered if we’d have to open all these boxes back up and put everything back where it came from without moving at all.

But today we got the phone call saying it’s all  set.   Papers will be signed.  Money wired.  More papers signed.  Keys handed over.

This is it!

“Living among the boxes” is something I’ve done before just in different ways.

It’s about waiting rooms and transitions, about not knowing the outcome and not knowing the date on the calendar when a promise will be fulfilled.

It’s about leaving what you do know and stepping out into the unknown,  maybe stumbling along the way.

Living among the boxes is a daily lesson in needing Jesus.

How easily I can be toppled into a pit of worry from a place  of peace.

How easily discouragement and disappointment can wear a body right down.

But I think Jesus  knows that.  He knows how hard it is to hold  onto hope when everything looks hopeless.

He knows what it’s like when God asks us to travel  a road we’d rather not be on.

So when I cry for “mercy” and when I tell Him how another round of bad news has me reeling, I’m so thankful for His compassion.

He doesn’t always snap His fingers and fix everything perfectly in that second, but He does minister to my hurt with the encouragement I desperately need.

He did this for Jairus, too.  When Jairus asked Jesus to  please come and heal his daughter, Jesus followed him right away.  But there was a delay.

So, Jairus’s daughter died.

 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”36 But overhearing] what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe. (Mark 5:35-36 ESV).

Jairus received the worst possible news, but Jesus’ words were what he needed  to  hold  onto hope even in the impossible:

Do not fear, only believe.

We all have hard days.  We have worn-out days and sad days and I-just-want-to-give-up-days.

Jesus told the disciples what to do on those days and it echoes with familiarity:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 ESV).

Do not fear, only believe.

I don’t think Jesus meant this as a “buck up and just have some faith kind of speech.”

I think He knew what Jairus needed, what the disciples needed, and what we truly need: Comfort. Reassurance.  Hope.

Don’t be afraid. 

Yes, this is scary, but do not fear.

Just keep your eyes on me and believe.

Well friends, with the move finally here I’m signing off for  a bit until after we’re in our new place.  I’ll get back to posting in a week or two!  ~Heather~

The Legend of the Missing Pizza Slice

It was a few summers ago when the legend of the missing pizza slice began.

On one of those summer nights when we arrived home late from an all-day activity, my husband stopped for pizza and brought it home for us.

But when he opened up the pizza box, he gasped in mock-horror and surprise.

“Hey,” he said, “there’s a missing slice!”

My girls jumped right in with theories and finally settled on this:  Someone at the Papa John’s had eaten a slice of our pizza.

We played along.  My husband said maybe they were just testing it to see how it tasted or maybe we should get our pizza elsewhere.

The girls all nodded as we happily ate the remaining pizza slices.

So then, we just kept up the tradition and the joke.  Every time my husband brought pizza home that summer, he ate one slice in the car before he brought it to us for  dinner.

And the girls marveled that every single time there was this missing  piece.

What was wrong with the people making our pizzas?

After a year or so of this, my husband really pushed the limits.  Instead of Papa John’s, we got Pizza Hut…..and he ate a slice before bringing it home to see what our kids would say.

One of my kids announced that maybe the Papa John’s worker had quit and gone over to Pizza Hut and was now sampling our pizzas there, too!!!

It’s my youngest daughter who eyed her dad suspiciously and then started interrogating him to see if maybe, just maybe, he was the culprit.

Really, I think she knows the truth.  She knows that her dad has been secretly eating one slice out of each of our pizzas before bringing them home for at least two years now.

But she doesn’t want to let the joke go.  Or maybe she doesn’t want to accuse her dad of pizza slice-sneaking.  So she pushes right up to the point where she almost announces the truth and then backs off and lets everyone keep the mystery going.

She dismisses what’s true because she’s distracted by the noise around her.

And that can be me. That can be us.

 

I’ve been feeling this longing lately, this deep desire to believe, really and truly believe God and His love for me, to grip hard onto this truth.

But then I get distracted.  I get worn down.  I get forgetful.  I get weary.   Life is noisy, after all.

And then I let go, slipping right down into the waters of unbelief and nigh-on drowning in all the stress I carry around when I don’t trust God to care for me instead of doing everything on my own.

I don’t  want to wrestle with my puny faith or trample down my nagging worries all the time.

When Jesus says, “I Am,” I want to rest in that.

When He says, “I Will,” I want to trust Him.

Instead, even though He’s always been faithful, I foolishly fret that  maybe this one time, maybe in this one situation, maybe in this one seemingly impossible instance, He’ll fail me.

Maybe He provides for others, but not for me.

Maybe He came through in the past, but not this time.

So I’ve been praying the same thing as the father in Mark 9:24

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

The moment that worry creeps in, the moment I hear that first nagging cynicism, the moment I start running through possible scenarios in my mind and I feel the crushing weight of “what if,” I go back to Jesus.

Help me believe.

This week, I once again read in Romans what it says about Abraham:

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21 ESV).

No unbelief?  No wavering?  He was fully convinced that God was able.

Not only that he grew strong in his faith.

Waiting wears me down.  I grow doubtful over time.  But Abraham grew stronger instead.

So, what’s the secret?

Maybe it’s that he was giving glory to God (verse 20).  Maybe if I just keep  returning to praise, I’ll become less forgetful, less prone to wander, question, and doubt.

This is where the faith-building happens, with our hands raised in worship, with our mouths singing His praise, giving Him glory for who He is and all that He’s done, tuning our hearts to trust Him with our future and believe He is able to care for us through it all.

You can click here to listen to Audrey Assad sing, “Help My Unbelief.”  This is a song I’ve been singing often lately.