Just. Wait.

Can we not wait for one hour?

Just yesterday I was thinking about the passage in Matthew 26 when Jesus told his disciples to wait and keep watch while he went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. There had been a lot going on. The time was nigh that Jesus would be arrested, suffer through a mock trial, be wrongfully convicted, abandoned, bruise and battered beyond recognition, and crucified. He needed a minute. He needed to go talk to his Father about what was coming. He needed his disciples to just pray and wait. It was a simple request. Just wait. Just pray. Jesus just needed an hour. But the disciples couldn’t do it. In this case, their waiting quickly turned to sleeping.

I am embarrassed because I am often not unlike these disciples. I may not fall asleep waiting, but there are times when I am going through a thing and I need God to come through for me. I need to see Him working all those things together for my good, and I really need Him to get a move on. But He asks me to wait. There are things about which I have no knowledge. The divine weaving of lives takes time, sometimes.

Waiting is hard.

daria-nepriakhina-194420-unsplash

I’m not so good at waiting. Often, time is not my friend, or so I think. Like these disciples, there’s a lot going on. Life is moving fast, and I really need Him to keep up. He wants me to watch and pray. Okay. Fine. I’ll try that. For a minute or two, anyway. (Insert crossed arms and toe tapping here)

For the last week or so I had been growing very impatient about a situation for which I needed resolution. I had prayed. I had asked my warriors to pray with me. I had waited. But I was growing impatient. I had all but resorted to just figuring out my own resolution. I was just going to make my own way. Who has time to wait?

I must look so silly to Him.

Because at the appointed time, His- not mine, the resolution came. It came unexpectedly, and in a way I could not have orchestrated if I had tried. How many times must this sort of thing happen before I learn? How many times must I grow weary of waiting on the Creator of the Universe, attempt my own pitiful resolution, only to have Him blow past me with a solution I could not have concocted on my best day?

In our world of instant rice, instant grits, and Instagram… we are not very good at waiting. It’s a lost art, really. I am one of the worst waiting offenders. Psalm 27 tell us to be strong… take heart… and WAIT on the Lord. It takes a good deal of strength to wait. The weak jump ahead. The weak rush in. The waiters? They appear to be the weak ones, holding back, biding their time. In our society the early bird gets the worm. The smart strike while the iron is hot. But for the waiters… the Bible says, “take heart”. Waiting on the Lord is quite often the strongest, bravest, and wisest choice of all.

I’m thinking one of you guys needed to hear this today. Just wait. He’s working on it. He is. Pray and wait. Wait on the Lord. He’s got this.

Sunday Best

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.” 1 Peter 3:3-4                                                                                                           

I doubt anyone who grew up in the South when I did would be confused by the term, “Sunday best”. Sunday best referred to the clothing that was acceptable to wear to church on Sunday mornings. For me, it meant my prettiest dress, panty hose (yes, panty hose), and nice shiny patent leather shoes. When I was little it also meant a matching hair bow. A big one. You see, church tradition back then included dressing up in fine clothes for church.

Why? Well I asked that question once and the answer I got was that we were supposed to offer up our best for God on Sunday. Even my young mind didn’t quite buy that. I mean, God cared that my bow matched my dress? He cared that what I put on my body for church was my absolute best? But the rest of the week, He didn’t care about so much? Some of the biggest struggles I had growing up were making sure I did, indeed, look my best on Sunday mornings.

matias-dubini-3869-unsplash

Now that I am a grown up, I know better. I understand now that while church is supposed to be a spiritual experience, it is also largely a social one. Our culture these days is decidedly casual, and if you were to use the term Sunday best on my kids, they’d look at you funny. They wear what they wear, and they understand that the Lord is more concerned over what they put on spiritually than any outer adornment they are sporting.

When my kids were little, I participated in the whole Easter clothes tradition. For a few years when my daughter was very small, my mother would make her the most adorable Easter dresses. And I would do my best to find the boys something a little extra special to wear on Easter. But there was no charade of presenting our stylish best for the Risen Savior. No, it was merely to participate in what was still, and is still to a great degree, a social tradition. And it made for cute pictures.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with church being a largely social experience. We are encouraged in the scriptures to not forsake the gathering together of the saints. We are created to live in community with other believers. If we convince ourselves that we can have a perfectly fine relationship with God apart from other believers, we have bought a line from the enemy. We are supposed to gather. We are supposed to see one another, talk to one another, and present ourselves to the group for the common purpose of loving God and loving one another. And we should wear clothes while we do that. To not wear clothes would be, well, disturbing. For the spring and summer months upcoming, for me and my friends, that usually means a pair of white jeans and a cute top.

When we cease to worry so much about church dress codes, we do open ourselves up for risk. Trust me, I’ve seen some pretty questionable outfits show up at church, and I’ve heard some pretty harsh comments from fellow believers about them. But people have to start somewhere. And what if we still required a Sunday best wardrobe for church? Well, frankly it closes the door on scores of people who think they can’t measure up in that area. Look, we already have issues of failure measuring up in plenty of areas, do we have to add wardrobe to that list? Are we going to throw them one more excuse?

Some may not believe that’s a thing, but it is. My mother’s parents never went to church. My grandfather was a farmer, and my grandmother raised the best strawberries in Blount County. They didn’t have a lot of finery for Sunday mornings. My grandfather wore overalls, and my grandmother wore house dresses she made on her pedal powered sewing machine. The only automobile they had was an old, unimpressive farm truck. The whole Sunday best was the best excuse they could come up with for staying home on Sundays and watching TV preachers on their black and white television. It was just easier to do that than to show up feeling immediately less than.

I had a friend in college back in the late 80s who intentionally wore blue jeans to church every Sunday. Trust me, that was a no-no back then. I accused him of simply being a rebel, but he told me the reason he did it was for the random visitor who didn’t know about the unspoken dress code. He said if they showed up in jeans, they could look around, see him wearing jeans and figure they were okay. See? Social experience. We can’t avoid comparison.

I went shopping yesterday for something to wear to my son’s wedding. I walked into a popular department store in the middle of their Easter dress sale. Scores of women and girls were frantically looking for that perfect dress to wear next Sunday. I just prayed they understood that it was that inner adornment that matters to Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with showing up in a pretty new dress next week, but if we show up without a real excitement for all that Jesus did and continues to do, then we’ve really missed the boat, haven’t we? I mean He did conquer death and the grave to give us an abundant life and an eternal life to come, after all.

We can still offer God our Sunday best, we’re just supposed to offer it to Him every day of the week. And we do that by loving Him and loving others. A big hair bow and patent leather shoes are completely optional.

Either Way, You’re Giving In

People say that if your marriage can survive building a house, then it can survive anything. Matthew and I are in the midst of building for the third time. I don’t know if that really speaks more to the strength of our marriage or to the hardness of our heads. Did we not learn from the first two times how difficult this is? Apparently we did not.

This time, the stakes are bigger. This time we are building our dream home. Our last home. The one from which I shall be carried feet first. This is it. The one where we will visit with our adult children, and play with our dozen grandchildren (A woman can hope… right?). The one from where we will watch the sun set on our sunset years. This house has been a long time in the making. We have plotted and planned, made and remade it over and over again in our minds and on paper. Exciting stuff. Get the picture?

While it’s fun and exciting… it is very stressful. There are so many things to consider. Lots of things on which he and I must be in agreement. Lots of things on which to concede, given in, and compromise. Many, MANY opportunities to disagree. Many points that cause stress (Like going over budget!). We both just assume that the home I have imagined for so long is the same home he has envisioned. How can it not be? We have discussed it at length and to death. But we are different people, he and I, and that means we have to constantly work to make sure we hold the same vision. And for that to happen, there must be compromise.

shutterstock_white_flag.jpeg

Not too long ago, our Highlands College President, Mark Pettus, gave us the third installment in a relationship series at church. He talked to us about how to fight fair in our marriages. (The principles will work in any relationship, though.) Most people think that having a relationship where there are no fights is the best kind. I tend to disagree. Who doesn’t love a good fight every now and again? But those fights have to have safe boundaries. We have to fight fair. We can’t get into cage matches where anything goes. It doesn’t honor God, and it does nothing to grow a marriage.

The best thing Mark said in his message was this,

“You are either going to give in to your spouse or you are going to give in to the devil. Either way, you’re giving in.”

Think about that. Most of us hold on to our mad because we don’t want to be the first one to give in. If you can hold out longer than they can, you win! But do you, really? Why wouldn’t we rush to be the one to give in first? Shouldn’t that be the win? Shouldn’t we want the relationship to win? Giving a cold shoulder, or throwing verbal barbs at our spouses still means we gave in, we just gave in to the devil.

God knew we would have disagreements, He just said to deal with them in love, and not let them go on too long (Ephesians 4:26). When we let the sun go down on our anger, the enemy can have us thinking all kinds of lies about our spouses. Crazy stupid thoughts. Didn’t you not ever wonder where those random thoughts come from? You know the ones… The he nevers and the he always thoughts. How quickly those can snowball. Before we know it we have completely vilified the person we love the most. I hate the devil.

So here’s the science behind those thoughts we have… the longer we allow ourselves to think those unhealthy thoughts about our spouses, the stronger those neural pathways become in our minds, and the stronger those thought patterns become. That’s why the Bible tells us to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Philippians 4:8). We are literally hard-wiring a network in our brains for good thinking.

Does it really matter who gave in first last time? Are we really going to keep score like that? Are we seven? Fight fair. Fight for your spouse, not with them. And if you do find yourself fighting with your spouse… give in first… making up is fun!

Oh, and in case you’re interested… Here’s a quick pic of the house so far!

IMG_0819

 

Growing Us… It’s Kind Of His Thing

“Trust the Lord and his mighty power.  Remember his miracles and all his wonders and his fair decisions. You belong to the family of Abraham, his servant; you are his chosen ones, the descendants of Jacob.”  Psalm 105:4-6

So for 2018, I wanted to choose an area of my life that needed some attention and work on it a bit… a place in my relationship with the Lord that could use some shoring up. The area the Lord showed me was in my ability to trust Him. It’s not that I don’t trust Him with things. I trust that He alone was able to redeem me. I completely trust Him with my salvation. He chose me. He adopted me into the family of Abraham. I trust Him for that. I trust Him with my eternity, hands down, without a doubt. But do I really trust Him with everything else, or do I think I am the better overseer of those things? If I am honest, really honest, sometimes I think I am better, or at least I think He needs my counsel. I bring Him these issues of concern, but then I want to advise Him on how to best meet my needs with those things. I mean, just in case He is unclear or unaware of my particular situation. You know… just in case. Because I know.

Here’s the thing, though. When you commit to growing in an area, the Lord is all too ready to offer up situations where you might actually do that. Grow, I mean. We’ve only just put a toe into February, and already I have had the opportunity to trust Him with some really BIG things this year. Three. Big. Things. All of which He resolved without my help. Each served to prove just how little I really do trust Him. Oh, I went immediately to Him with each of these things, knowing that the thing to do was to lay them at His feet and walk away. I did the first part. I laid each item right there. So close they could each have been touching His foot. But then I reminded Him what was at stake with each situation. I pointed out, with great clarity and sound argument, just what would happen if He did not choose to resolve these issues in the way I thought best. And then I sat right there next to the issues and waited for my next opportunity to advise my omnipotent, omniscient God.

jairo-alzate-45522

So picture it. There I sat, looking up at Him. Sitting at the ready to further advise the moment He needed a word from me. And there He sat looking at me, never once opening His mouth to ask for my help… just waiting for me to realize my mistake. My lack of trust. The absurdity that He would ever need counsel from me. He waited for me to get it. To realize that once again, I was not willing to fully trust in His ability to work together for good the loose strands of the situations I had brought to Him.

Eventually I got it. I did. As the fog lifted, the absurdity of what I was doing became apparent to me. I’d like to say that it became apparent before each situation resolved. I’d like to say that I was able to “Remember his miracles and all his wonders and his fair decisions.” At the time I didn’t allow that to influence my behavior. But hey, I still think I’m making progress. At least I am aware of my mistake. We are all about “raising awareness” these days, right? We can’t do something about an issue that we are not at least aware of, right? I’m counting this as a positive step.

How about you? When it comes to trusting in the Lord with those situations and people nearest and dearest to your heart… where are you? Maybe trust is not your issue. But you have an issue… Don’t kid yourself, we ALL have issues. Ask Him to show you yours. He will, and then He will work with you strengthen you in that area. Growing us. It’s kind of His thing.

I Am Inadequate

For the longest time after my mother died, the sound of an ambulance was like a kick to the chest. This was fairly problematic since I work at a hospital where ambulances and their sirens are a regular part of the scenery. But it wasn’t just that. Pictures of that night would just pop into my mind without any warning whatsoever.  My mom did not die quietly in her sleep. It was not a sweet goodbye with her family gathered quietly near. It was panicked and gut wrenching, and those pictures became a repeated reminder of how very inadequate I really am. For weeks and months those pictures just decided to appear at the most inopportune times.

Image result for ambulance

I didn’t know how long it would last… those terrible pictures. Those sirens. Oh, how I longed for the day when those pictures would fade from my memory. When the thoughts of my mom would be of better days when she was younger, healthier, happier. Because the only thoughts I had for so long were everything but that.

I don’t know the day when those sirens stopped messing with me. But they don’t anymore. I still remember every detail of the night my mom died, but the severity of it, the harsh edges are blurring a bit. Those pictures don’t visit me with such regularity now. There is a saying that tells us that time heals all wounds. It’s a lie. Time does nothing. It has no power to heal anything. It simply marches on, unwavering, without mercy or grace. But God… but God, who lives outside of time… holds the power to heal us. To soften those rough places and to bring us to a place of peace and rest.

The night my mom died, I realized just how completely inadequate I am. There I was… a nurse of nearly 30 years, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to save my own mother. Oh, the irony. How many people over the years had I been able to help and see them returned to health? But not my own mom. My nursing instincts kicked in well enough, but they were not enough. I was not enough. I stood in the room with my mom as paramedics worked on her. My feet were planted. Superman himself could not have moved me from that place. If my mom had to endure their attempts to save her, I was going to endure watching it.

I don’t know when the sirens stopped bothering me. But in His way and in His timing, God has brought me to a place of greater peace and rest. The truth is, I am inadequate. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why I need Him so much? Isn’t it in the face of our frailties that He becomes God Almighty? That He covers our insufficiency with His sufficiency?

Can you relate to any of this? Have you felt those sucker punches to the chest? Those feelings of inadequacy that mock you? You keep thinking, in time, things will get better. I hope that they do, but it won’t be because of anything time has done. That’s a sneak cheat of the enemy. If he can keep you putting your hope in time, then he’s got you forever. Our hope is in Christ. He’s the only one who delivers us from the pit and places us back on solid ground. He is the only one with the power to accomplish it. It gets better, but only because His promises are true (2 Corinthians 1:20). He is faithful (Psalm 36:5). He never leaves us. He never forsakes us (1 Deuteronomy 31:6). He is our Comforter and our Deliverer.  We really are inadequate, but praise be to God, He is not.

Three Honest Steps

One of my all-time favorite songs is a Loggins and Messina song called, The House at Pooh Corner.I’m partial to it because of my life long adoration of Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends in the 100 Acre Woods. The lyrics of the song take us back to simpler times, when the most difficult thing to deal with was how to get a honey jar loose from Pooh bear’s nose.

the-house-at-pooh-corner.jpg

Real life is much more complicated than the amusing trials and tribulations in the lives of sweet Pooh and his pals. Sometimes we wander so far from those simple times we fear we might never ever get back home again.

At one time or another, we have all gone off and done or said things we wish we could undo. In that way, we are all prodigals. Did you know that “prodigal” simply means: lacking restraint? I know I have lacked restraint in areas, and I am sure that you have, too. My husband might say I lack restraint when it comes to purchasing shoes. He might be right. Sometimes, though, our lack of restraint brings us real trouble we didn’t count on. We might not have gone so far as the son did in Jesus’s parable in Luke 15, but we have all decided to go our own way and found ourselves in a mess.

It’s during those times that we have a choice to make. We can continue down the path we have chosen, or we can return home to the Father. But how do we do that? Sometimes we come to believe that we have to stay on the path we’ve carved out for ourselves. This is the choice we made, and pride tells us to press on. That’s just bad information. Home is rarely as far away as we think it is. Returning home requires only one thing. Honesty.

The prodigal son in Jesus’s parable had to be honest. Initially, he had to be honest with himself. Luke 15:17 says, “…he came to himself”. Have you ever come to yourself? I have. Those moments are both trial and triumph. To strip away the lies we have told ourselves and embrace the bare truth about who we really are and what we are really doing, is big time. But it’s the first step in making our way home again.

The second step was all about the father. The son’s plan in verse 18 was to fall at his father’s feet, confess his sin, and beg forgiveness. The second step in the journey back is coming clean with the Father.

For the prodigal, going home and becoming as one of his father’s paid servants, meant he would have to come clean with others. I mean, it’s not like the servants wouldn’t know who he was, what he had done, and what was going on now. People talk. Going home meant getting honest with others, too. That would be the third step in the journey home.

The prodigal son had grown up with everything he ever needed provided for him. I’m sure those in his father’s employ would have traded places with the son in a heartbeat, but the son just could not see his own good fortune. For him, his fortune was out there somewhere, calling to him, and it was that voice that won out. We have all heard that voice before, and most of us have chased after it at least once. We have lacked the necessary restraint that would keep us on the path marked out for us. Some of us have chased that voice for quite a distance, but it really is just three honest steps back home.

The parable Jesus told doesn’t continue past that day of homecoming when the celebration was planned. I wish it did. We don’t know what day two or three or twenty looked like. I’m sure things were different. The son had learned some things, and likely the father had, too, in those days of waiting. I’m sure their relationship didn’t just pick up where it left off, but I’m pretty sure it was better. After all, it was honest and authentic.

Sometimes the very thing that keeps us following that voice of folly is the scenario we have written in our minds of what our homecoming might look like. How could it be okay? The Father couldn’t possibly be happy to see us after all that’s happened, could He? The son certainly didn’t expect the measure of grace his father showed him. How often do we, too, underestimate the love of our Father for us? Pretty often, I think.

We can’t go back to the house at Pooh corner. But there’s a real, merciful and gracious Father who waits without growing weary for our homecomings. No matter how long it’s been, or how far we’ve traveled. It’s just who He is.

Overwhelmed

If I were to list the challenges I have faced during 2017, you might find my list compares, in number and challenge, toe to toe with yours. How do I know this? Well, because of what James wrote in the New Testament. He said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2)

He didn’t say, “if” we face trials. He said “when”. And he said we are to count it all joy. All of it. Why?

“…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

We all face these temporary struggles. It’s just when they seem to pile on at the same time or seem to come at us down a conveyor like in the candy factory scene on the I Love Lucy show that things can get tricky.

200

Our youngest son was in a car accident recently. That is not the kind of call any mother wants to get about her kid. Feeling terribly thankful that no one was seriously injured, I was still a bit emotional about the whole affair… and feeling more than a little bit overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed. That was my word for the day that day. I tried it on several times and decided, yes, I was feeling overwhelmed.

It didn’t help that I began listing out the issues currently on my plate. As I played out this ridiculous scene in my head, I began to feel the crushing weight of it all. I began feeling that no one person should have to handle of this at once or in succession. There was no way I could be expected to handle all of this… stuff.

And then it hit me. While I FELT overwhelmed, I was not, in actuality, overwhelmed. I began to do a word search for the word “overwhelmed” in scripture, and found a situation where people were really, truly overwhelmed. When Moses had safely led the Hebrews on foot and on dry land across the Red Sea, God released the waters which then came cascading down upon the Egyptian army that was in full pursuit of them. The Bible says right there in Deuteronomy 11:4 that the soldiers were overwhelmed by the waters. They didn’t FEEL overwhelmed, they actually were overwhelmed.

What I understand about feelings is that they will lie to us. I may feel a certain way about a person or situation, but in my head, I know the truth is far different than what I feel. I have to take control of those false feelings and stand upon what I know.

Here is what I know.

  • I had a lot of tough things to deal with in 2017, but that is okay. God has created me to be a problem solver, and so I work each problem until I find a solution. And sometimes the solution is letting God handle that for which I have no clear solution.
  • I cannot afford the luxury of giving in to my feelings. I have to stand upon the truth in order to withstand the trials that come in this life. There are no trials that are unique to me, and I should not be surprised when they come. See? It says so right here: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
  • And finally, I am made of good stuff. I stand as a daughter of the Most High King. I do not wallow or whine (much). It does not mean that I won’t struggle, but even though I am hard pressed on every side, I am not crushed. I am often perplexed but I am not in despair. I may be persecuted, but I am never abandoned. I am struck down, but I am not destroyed. (Paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
  • I am NOT overwhelmed.

As I start 2018, my plan is to give up the word, “overwhelmed” for a much better word. Because as I look at all that is likely to come this year, it could seriously become a theme. Instead, I believe my word for 2018 is trust. I will trust Him in my uncertainty. I will trust Him with plans.  I will trust Him with my family. I will trust Him when it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to meet my obligations. I will trust Him when I cannot see the way. I will trust Him to make a way.

As you look to 2018, what word is the Lord leading you to stand in faith upon this year? Don’t know?

Ask Him.