Wednesday’s Word—A Day Late…Again

All right. I did it again. I feel a little like the Reese’s Cup guy: Sorry…not sorry.

There was no way I was going to get the weekly word posted yesterday. I thought maybe. I thought several times: I need to get to it. But I was glued to my TV all day. I needed to be.

I needed the return to decorum. I needed to feel the healing that comes from change. I needed ritual. I needed the ceremony. I needed to feel connected to something bigger than me…and something positive.

I went to bed thankful. And I woke up literally formulating this post. My first thoughts at 4:12AM were this post.

My prayer is that you can see and feel hopeful.

One of the highlights of the day was the reading by the Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. Her words bring me to tears…in the best kind of way.

Hope will make us brave enough to be it.

Selah: Still in the Darkness

079C8525-3D56-4202-9CDB-702BD0A9D500

In darkness we often find fear. Not seeing…not knowing. Where should we go? What lurks beyond our sight? Panic!

What if God is leading us to a new place of trust…in him?

What if instead of panic and fear that pushes us to run—a foolish choice at best since we cannot see where we are going—God wants us to sit still?

This morning I had a conversation with another believer who was describing how God pushed aside her daily To Do list and offerered her his instead.

And there was only one thing on it.

What if God is inviting us to set aside our busyness and multi-tasking ways and do his one thing?

What if we got still in the darkness—the unknown—believe God’s word and promise, and just wait until he showed us the next step to take?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)

954F3AE9-EB43-4E26-9199-43B03679DD11

 

Selah: Mercy for Sorrow

After recounting a gruesomely long list of horrible things that has happened to him, the writer of Lamentations pens these words:  “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: (Lamentations 3:19-21, NLT).”

Remembering the negative things which occurred in our lives is one thing, ruminating on them is completely different. Each has it’s own power. Ruminating, going over and over and over, leaves us feeling powerless and throws us into a state of hopelessness. We give up because we begin to believe things will never get better.

But we can use remembering in a different way resulting in a much better outcome. Notice in the verse above: the quote doesn’t end with a period—there’s more to this!

Here’s what the author adds after the colon: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’ The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord (Lamentations 3:22-26, NLT).”

God’s love goes deep and has no end. His mercies are new every morning.

What is my part in this? What do I need to do to receive this daily portion of mercy? Hope in him. Search for him. Wait on him.

Selah.

Tracing and Anticipating

I wrote this in 2009 and posted it as a note on Facebook–it came up as “memories” reminder. I’m reposting it and will edit it later. I needed the message.

wp-tracing-abc

Our three year old grandson, Asher, started pre-school this fall. From the get go, we knew he was a bright child. He even came on his due date. We watched Baby Einstein videos with him until we all knew them by heart. Very early, he knew his shapes, colors, letters, and numbers.

At Pre-school they are teaching the kids their letters and numbers and having them trace them. Asher walks around with his left hand in the air, at the ready for the next thing to trace. If he isn’t tracing the letters, he’s counting how many characters or letters are in the word or string of words. He traces letters on the TV, on boxes, on books, from the newspaper, or on the shirt someone has on. One day, I found him sitting on the floor in the dining room. We have a shelf there with accident/spare clothes for him. He had all his spare shirts lying out and his own shirt off. When I asked what he was doing he looked at me with that “isn’t it obvious, Mema” look. Then, as matter of factly as he could, he informed me that he was tracing. Every letter around him screams to be traced!

Reflecting on Asher’s tracing, I began to see three components that made Asher such a good tracer. First, he walked through his day, minute by minute and room by room, anticipating, no expecting, that there would be letters to trace or count. What do you eagerly anticipate? A quick read of Romans 8 paints a clear picture of what we need to be anticipating.

Anticipating that God is at work, that he has a plan and it includes us, drives us, spurs us, motivates us to be ready. Asher walks around expecting to find something to trace. His little hand is often in the air, making circles, like an airplane getting ready to land. The word tells us we are to be ready, to always have an answer when someone asks us what are hope is about.

Could you do that? I’m not asking if you know some specific plan or canned presentation. I don’t care if you have scripture memorized, but can you (from a sincere heart) tell someone, “This is where I was. This is what God in Christ did for me. And this is where I’m headed.” It’s your story, are you ready to tell it?

And finally, I have been so impressed by Asher’s focus. His questions reveal his passion to learn more. He listens to all our conversations. I know this because often my words come back to me through him. It has caused me to be more conscious of what I say and how I say it. We’ve even had to resort to spelling things we want to keep above his head. Everything he sees is an item to trace. If he’s not tracing letters, then his finger runs around the circumference or perimeter of an item. Some days he carries his step stool from room to room so that he can be sure to catch whatever you’re doing.

Right now Asher seems to be practicing the fine art of learning. It reminded me of Brother Lawrence’s continual practice of the awareness of God. And I started to wonder: what keeps me from anticipating God at every turn? Do I have preconceived and limiting notions about who God is and what he can do? What keeps me from being ready? Is it fear, or busyness, or ignorance of the urgency, or God help us: lack of love? What keeps me from being focused? The enemy is the expert at divide and conquer. If he can get us to thinking in terms of sacred and secular, he knows it’s just a short distance disconnecting our head and heart.

When I was in seminary the second time around, a Sunday School teacher asked our younger daughter, Beth (Asher’s mom), what she wanted to be when she grew up. Beth’s answer struck the teacher enough that she made sure to tell me. Beth’s answer was, “a student like my mom.” There is always a need for us to put into practice what we know, but oh, that God would rekindle in each of us the insatiable desire to learn.

Then we would, like Asher, be anticipating, ready, and focused.

wp-asher-scrabble-3

What are you waiting for?

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7, ESV

The world says: Don’t just stand there, do something.

The world warns that if we wait to act the future will be shorter.

The world’s pattern is typically: ready, shoot, aim.

God says, “Wait.”

Henry Blackaby encourages, “Don’t just do something. Stand there.”

Do you know what you’re waiting for?

Do you know who?

PRAYER: God, I don’t want to be doing something or anything just to fill up time. I will wait for you to tell me what I’m waiting for. For only in knowing that will I have any hope of finding my purpose.

Shhhhhh.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5, ESV)

When I have to wait, I am typically not silent about it.

I can find all kinds of ways to grumble and complain about the waiting. The line’s too long. The Musack is too annoying. I’m wasting time.

I am learning all the grumbling in the world will not make the wait shorter or more enjoyable.

Perhaps if I allow silence into my waiting…if I will quiet my mind, my heart, my spirit…I will hear another voice speaking and assuring me the process is the point.

PRAYER: God who dwells in silence and whispers, quiet me and speak so I can hear.

Book Review: Lost & Found–Sarah Jakes

I hadn’t even made it out of the introduction and I was already in tears and convinced I would probably need to purchase a whole case of this book. For sure, I wanted to share it with my grown daughters who had experienced many of the struggles Sarah describes…and grown up under the microscope of being a pastor’s daughter.

This story is so much more than just the recounting of a “PK” gone wild…it is the truth of the gospel: there is grace. A contemporary Christian artist puts it this way:
You can never fall too hard, so fast, so far
That you can’t get back when you’re lost,
Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much
That you can’t change who you are,
You can change who you are (Who You Are by Unspoken)

The level of courage that Sarah Jakes demonstrates as she shares the gritty details of her choices and how far she feels she moved away from what she knew and the grace that could save and sustain her seems to come from someone much older than just twenty-five.

This book is gift of hope. Hope for the one whose made devastating life choices, and hope for those who love them.

When I started reading I purchased a little pad of sticky notes and started writing down the points that stuck out to me. I gave up somewhere in the second chapter–there were just so many. This would make an excellent women’s study, broaching topics and examining feelings that often stay hidden and do so much damage.

Sarah makes this statement in her conclusion: The chapters of my life I’ve shared with you within these pages reveal some of my darkest hours and most painful disappointments. But as a broken window acts as a prism, filtering sunlight through its cracks I hope that you can see the many beautiful moments of color dancing within my rooms.

I recommend this book very highly and am proud to have it on my bookshelf.

I received a copy of this book to read from the publisher in return for my review.

Book Review: The Turning

Not what I expected…but exactly what I needed.

And yet, as fresh and captivating as this book was…it is exactly what I should have expected from Davis Bunn.

The invitation on the back cover is “take the turning and walk the unlikely road.” From cover to cover that is what this book is. It is a non-stop invitation to turn from the familiar, to turn from the comfortable, to turn toward the One who calling his people to himself and to his work.

The big irony in the story for me was how God infused and used those who should be without hope to rekindle hope in others while the one who tried to convince others hope was dead was hanging onto hope the tightest…or so he thought.

Hope is not a dream. It’s God’s reality for his people and this book hands you that truth, page after page turning page.

My favorite part of the whole book was Aaron’s sermon from Isaiah. It’s worth the price of the book all by itself.

My favorite quote comes from Ruth as John is facing a task that he doesn’t feel qualified for. She tells him, “No one is saying you don’t have reasons to refuse. But God is asking each of us to stretch beyond what we think we can do. That’s what it means to be called.”

The message is simple, the challenge is life-changing. I give all the stars possible because it calls to reach for those stars…and for God. Turn the pages for yourself and delight yourself in the journey.

Read chapters 1-3 of THE TURNING by Davis Bunn for free: http://statictab.com/fvrrsxz

Sweepstakes:

Davis Bunn is a four-time Christy Award-winning, best-selling author now serving as writer-in-residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

Defined by readers and reviewers as a “wise teacher,” “gentleman adventurer,” “consummate writer,” and “Renaissance man,” his work in business took him to over 40 countries around the world, and his books have sold more than seven million copies in sixteen languages.

Visit Davis at davisbunn.com or theturningbook.com/

I received a complimentary copy of The Turning from River North Fiction in exchange for my honest
review.

Advent 14: Christmas Cookies

I love Christmas cookies. I love cookie exchanges.

My mom never made Christmas cookies–any cookies, actually. It wasn’t until I was in Girl Scouts that I ever iced sugar cookies.

Did I mention I love cookies? I don’t think I ever met a problem a Doule Stuff Oreo (or whole bag) couldn’t solve. I have eaten way more than my fair share in my fifty-six years.

Last Christmas a friend invited me over to decorate cookies. It sounded like fun so I showed up. She had several bowls of homemade icing and trays and trays of cut-out cookies in all the traditional Christmas shapes.

I sat down at the table and very carefully and gingerly began to ice and decorate with sprinkles.

She laughed at me. Then she asked me what I was doing.

I looked at her rather shocked at first. I mean, what did it look like I was doing. Then it dawned on me that she had finished decorating a half dozen cookies to my one. I was so afraid to “mess up” that I was not enjoying the experience at all. My perfectionism was totally tying me up and shutting me down.

My friend then very quickly went to work assuring me that there was no wrong way to do this. She’s a very wise woman. I decided to believe her. The result was that we had a fun time. In the end there were plenty of iced cookies and neither of us were fretting about the icing or sprinkles on the table…I don’t think we were fretting at all.

And a truth seed was planted in my heart that brought a breath of freedom into my life.

Too often my perfectionistic roots strangle my creativity, my living, and living life to its fullest (See John 10:10). I have noticed that I’m not alone in this as I have listened to friends discuss their struggle with finding and doing God’s will…his perfect will.

Choices that I made in my life really messed things up for me. I was afraid life was over. Somehow I thought that life progressed in a straight line moving up. But it looked more like a jumbled mess.

What if the truth is that God loves us enough to let us make mistakes? What if there isn’t one plan/path and if we don’t find it and only walk down that one and instead meander a little? What if there isn’t one perfect job, but a series of jobs where we have the opportunity to touch many lives and make a difference in many places? What if there isn’t one perfect mate, but more than one…or none?

There are those who would consider such thinking blasphemous. I wonder what they do when the cords get jumbled up?

There is a verse that is often quoted from Jeremiah: For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

There is certainly comfort in that verse…but it’s also pretty vague. And when you put it in context it’s even more interesting. Go ahead read the whole chapter.

Life is not always neat and tidy. Sometimes it’s jumbled up. Sometimes it’s even messier than a table after preschoolers attempt to decorate Christmas cookies. But God is still there. He’s still planning for hope and a future. He can make something beautiful if you’ll ease up and let him.

He is after all, the one who promised to give us life…life to the fullest.

No Temporary Solutions

I must be related to Abram and Sarai.

Think Old Testament…flannel graph…cut out story characters glued onto Popsicle sticks.

Just that one dimensional, predictable, and powerless.


This morning I printed out my resume, dutifully created and printed out a list of three solid and varied references, then headed over to a local temp agency. The one main difference between this agency and all the rest is that they employ individuals who have felony convictions.

I went with a smidgen of hope.

I left feeling stupid and hopeless.

Dear Employer, why do you ask for a resume and then ask me to fill out a novel length application? Just wondering?

The application booklet I began filling out did that very thing. It’s a frustration to me. We weren’t starting well.


I turned to the third page and began answering questions. With each I was given three choices and asked to circle one. I didn’t like the options. I wanted to add my own answers. For example: Do you prefer a job that is fast paced, moderate, or slow. Well, that depends…am I chasing chocolates like Lucy? I don’t want to stand around waiting for the next step. I want to be occupied, productive, but not chasing my tail. There was no option for this answer.

There was a question about supervision, whether I like to be micromanaged or left to my own. Well, that sort of depends on the job, too. My frustration was building. If I have a problem I want to be able to access a supervisor who can assist me in learning the job and doing it well. I need a supervisor who checks in and is encouraging. An “ata girl” goes a long for me.

Then there was a question about whether I preferred a job that was complicated…I can’t even remember the other choices because they weren’t the ones I would have chosen. I want a job that is challenging and that I enjoy. I guess that doesn’t really matter. Perhaps that is why America leads the world in job dissatisfaction.

When I apply for a job I want to talk to a recruiter. I want to be interviewed. Don’t stick me in a sterile office and then lock me into only three choices. Let me fill in the blank; tell you what I really want; what I really mean.

I was screaming all things in my head. I laid down my pen…actually it was one I borrowed from my husband. He must have used it at work (he works with graphite). My thumb, index finger and middle finger tips of my writing hand were quite black.

It made me laugh. First because it looked ridiculous (I quickly prayed I hadn’t touched my face), and then because I could hear him scolding me.


Why was I there? He had told me not to even start looking until after Christmas. I have plans to go visit my mom in Arizona for a couple weeks and my daughter was going to need me to watch the Red-haired Wonder Child over Christmas break. We would be ok financially until then.

But I felt like I should do something.

Sure God has a plan, but he will want me to do my part. Right?

Sitting there, I flipped through the rest of the application—ten more pages.

Nope. I wasn’t going to do it. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I knew with that to-the-bone kind of certainty this was not the avenue God wanted me to go down.

I closed the book. Put my things away and my coat on. I walked into the young woman’s office and told her: “Thank you very much, but this is not for me. I find your application redundant and the questions impersonal. I’m not interested in applying.” And I walked out. She seemed quite shocked as she accepted the application back.


I started talking to God as soon as I got in my car. That’s when Abram and Sarai came to mind. God told them what he was going to do. They felt like He took his time getting around to it, so they jumped in with their own solution. All one has to do is look at the troubles in the Middle East and realize that they stem directly from Abe and Sarai’s attempt to help God along to know that God doesn’t generally need our help to get things accomplished.

I have made enough bad choices. I don’t need any more negative consequences. I apologized to God for coming way too close to helping him out with his plan for me


NOW HEAR THIS!!! I am in NO WAYS saying that temp agencies are wrong, bad, or evil. On the contrary, I have encouraged people to utilize the services of these agencies whenever possible. They are great ways to get your foot in the door, create positive references, and acquire experience. Hooking up with a reputable agency can create a relationship that keeps the jobs and therefore the cash rolling in.

What I am saying is I realized I was trying to rush God and that’s a HUGE mistake.

God is never in a hurry. God is working even when you can’t see it or don’t feel it. His timing is perfect—trust Him! Wait on Him!

Jesus came in the fullness of time. When the time was “rightest.” Several times he reminded the disciples to keep quiet becuase the time wasn’t right for him.

Many times I’ve been befuddled by God’s timing. Foolishly I have lamented that God’s ways don’t always make sense. What I tend to forget is God’s ways are not my ways…or your ways—so of course they probably won’t make sense. We are finite, linear, and limited in our perspective. God is infinite, sovereign, omniscient. He really does know it all.

So I need to trust Him. I can trust Him.

Hard as it will be, there will be no temporary solutions to this long term problem.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.