Tag Archives: God’s wisdom

You Have Messages Waiting

So I’m thinking of something I learned yesterday from my phone (of all things). While waiting for cycle class at the Y, I tried to check my email. I’ve only had a smart phone for a few months, and the constant accessibility is something that I see as both blessing and curse. (Anyone with me?)

Sometimes I’m amused by my feeble attempts to wrap my mind around the ways of God when I cannot understand all of the features of this phone. It’s very likely that the settings aren’t set correctly. I had 3 new email notifications, but none of them were showing up in my inbox. So I refreshed and refreshed and refreshed again. No new messages.

Now something like this drives me crazy. I mean, I need to know immediately what those 3 messages are. What if I am missing something life-changing?

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I tell you, the Holy Spirit is sharp (duh) and does not miss an opportunity. Because while I was fretting about my unread email, He whispered to my spirit that I had rushed away from home, leaving fresh messages from His Word unread . 

God had messages for me yesterday. Life-changing messages. Words that could refresh, renew, and transform me if I would take time to open and read.

 Oh, that my heart, mind, and soul would be constantly accessible to the Words of the Spirit. God wired us for connection. When my phone alerts me to a new message, I enjoy the thought that someone wants to communicate with me. I’m disappointed when it turns out to be some lame, impersonal notice like my library book is overdue.

But God is eager to communicate with me. And you. Every day. Every moment. His Word is living, active, relevant, and always personal.

Lately my heart is heavy just thinking about my birthday next week. Yes, my birthday. Not because of my age, but because of the memories. On my last birthday, my Daddy and I sat together for hours on end while my Mom was in emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm. It was a grueling day. Daddy taught me how to play Free Cell on my tablet to pass the time. We watched the breaking news about the Boston Marathon bombing until Daddy said, “I can’t watch anymore.” We ate lunch and dinner and sat and waited and said nothing and said everything. When we finally saw Mom, looking in very grave condition, I remember how Daddy said, “What will I do without her?”

Oh, Daddy, I can barely believe that a year later, here we are, doing life without you. How I long just to sit in your presence. I didn’t know then.

How desperately I need to be in a Father’s presence and say nothing and say everything. And the Founder of the universe allows me to come to Him as child comes to a Father. What extraordinary mercy! What an incomprehensible gift! He has messages that my heart needs to hear. How can I leave them unread?

Today, I have a choice. I can rehearse my problems or I can refresh myself in Jesus’ presence. My problems tell me that life is stressful. Jesus’ presence tells me that He is sufficient. Which message will I choose to receive?

As I walked from the hallway into my cycle class, I checked my phone again. 3 new messages in my inbox! All it took was a change in my position (and yeah, the messages weren’t all that important).

Sometimes my soul requires a change in position. When my heart and my mind and my willfulness are rushing ahead, I must pause and make a u-turn. And wait. And admit my needfulness. When I open God’s Word and allow it to permeate my soul, the Holy Spirit can send the notification that the message is there – whatever the need is and whenever it arises.

  • Humility helps me to hear.
  • Dependence draws me to His Word.
  • Obedience opens my eyes to His vision.

Life-changing messages are waiting.

May we pause and position ourselves so that the Holy Spirit will refresh us to receive them.

Psalm 119: 35 – 37.

Direct me in the path of Your commands,
    for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward Your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to Your Word.

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Important – A Letter to My Daughter

Dear C:

Do you remember that conversation we had the other night, right before you went to sleep? It went something like this:

You (in a sleepy little whisper): “Mommy has a new job – Mommy is important!”

Me (trying to sound casually curious): “So … I’m important now that I have a job?”

You: “Well … yeah.”

Me: “Honey, it’s not a job that makes a person important.”

You: “Oh, okay …” zzzzz

I know you were only half-awake and I think I know what you meant. But I haven’t been able to let this conversation go. I want to know what you really think about this. But more importantly, you need to know for yourself –

What makes a person important? Is it a job? Your parents? Friends? Talents? Accomplishments? Possessions?

Who decides whether a person is important – or not?

Because I like words and I like to know where words come from, I looked up the word “important” in the dictionary.

Important(adjective): of great significance or value; likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being

This adjective stems from the verb “import” which was first recorded around the early 15th century. Materials that a country could not produce with its own resources were “imported” (brought into port) from another country. Because these imported goods typically became vital to a country’s well-being, they were considered “important.”

Interesting, huh? The underlying concept of importance comes from one’s ability to produce something for someone else. If you are able to bring happiness, success, security, or value to someone else, you are important.

In my head I hear “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” (oh, it’s one of those classic 80’s songs). But the question is widespread in various forms –

Can you make this company more profitable?
Can you help this team win?
If I hang out with you, can you make me popular?
Can you cook, do laundry, keep the house clean?
Can you get a scholarship?

In today’s language, the word “important” has synonyms like “valuable” and “worthy.” We tend to think of these words in the context of what our world considers to be significant.

BUT, as followers of Jesus, we must live in the context of the WORD and not the world.

The world says “What you are worth (your importance) is based upon what you do (your performance).”

The WORD says “What you are worth (your importance) is based upon what Jesus did (His peace, achieved for you).” (Romans 5:1).

Sweetheart, the WORD says that you are valuable and significant.

Who you are is based upon what Jesus did. You don’t have to do anything else.

Ultimately, our worth doesn’t come from our ability to bring security or happiness to other people. Our worth comes from what Jesus has brought to us. He has brought us peace with God and freedom from self-righteousness, from the performance-trap, and from the opinions of this world.

But if being important originates from bringing something, that’s okay. Because you bring something to your Heavenly Father. It doesn’t come from your “doing;” it comes from your “being.”

Your being His –

As the object of His love, you bring Him tremendous delight and joy – Zephaniah 3:17.

As someone who is chosen and adopted into His family, you bring Him great pleasure – Ephesians 1:4.

As a child who is being transformed into your Father’s image, you bring Him glory – 2 Corinthians 3:18.

My child, You ARE important. And as the Father’s child you always will be.
I love you,
Mommy

A Time to …

(Sigh…) The lights lay in a pile on the floor, as it’s that necessary day in January – the day the Christmas tree leaves the house.  Although I don’t look forward to this annual chore, it always triggers a favorite memory of my sweet girl.

Caroline, a kindergartener, had just finished learning about all of the December holidays in school. A wonderful Christmas had past. My husband and I were relieved that Caroline was too busy playing outside to notice that we were dismantling the tree. After we hauled it to the curb, I went inside to deal with the stray needles. But from the front window, I suddenly noticed Caroline standing over the tree. Alarmed that she was so close to the street, I hurried outside to see what was going on.

As I suspected, my girl was crying, but she caught me completely off guard with what she said.

Tears streaming, Caroline wailed – “We forgot to do Hanukkah!!

Oh, how I tried not to laugh.

Caroline is the sort who rises early every day, even when she doesn’t need to. There are new things to learn, new books to read, new pictures to paint. Caroline is the type of person who decorates for Christmas without muttering about how long it will take to pack the stuff back up (ahem, isn’t that what mom is for?)

Caroline has the innocent, unburdened perspective of a child. I’m grateful that she’s had the kind of childhood that allows her to expect a good day everyday. She sees life through the lens of anticipation.

Over the past few days, I’ve heard several references to the well-known Scripture found in Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.  A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.  A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end (verses 1 – 11).

This passage offers the wise perspective that a young girl like Caroline does not yet fully possess.  But in small ways, she’s learning. Today will help her understand that there is a time to keep and a time to throw away. The sadness of saying goodbye to this tree will eventually turn into anticipation and appreciation for the next trip to the tree farm.

Ecclesiastes 3 was fittingly read at a funeral that I attended yesterday. The family grieves this dear lady, but they are comforted by knowing that she had peace with her Lord and Savior and she accepted that it was her time to die. While I didn’t know this sweet woman personally, I came to appreciate, through the lovely words said of her, all the ways that she made life beautiful for her loved ones. According to her son-in-law’s heartfelt tribute, “She lived life fully and with purpose.” Most importantly, she understood that God had made her heart for eternity, and she lived in view of an unending season of fellowship with Him.

Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of closures but also beginnings. In Christ, a passing away is a promise coming.

In the bleakness of January we anticipate the beauty of April. But sometimes new seasons, with their closures and beginnings, are messy. Often, when we think of “new” we think of things shiny, orderly, and efficient. But “new” in life is not like a new appliance. “New” is not necessarily easy. Usually it means an end to something that may have been beautiful or, at least, comfortable.

Daffodils are a spring favorite until they droop, and the messy leaves have to remain in order to feed the bulb and strengthen it for next year’s bloom. Where I live, autumn creates a big, beautiful mess. But throughout winter months, the decomposing leaves provide essential nutrients to the soil.

The cyclical nature of seasons, even in the bleak midwinter, serves a preparatory purpose. Growth awaits. New life. Hope.

Duke Cancer Center, where I’ll be spending the day tomorrow with Daddy, is newly refurbished. It’s pretty and shiny, and no one wants to be there. Painful procedures and painful discussions happen behind the fancy exterior. The pain is meant to serve healing purposes. If not healing in the body, perhaps healing in the spirit. It’s the kind of pain that triggers a shift in perspective. You go there and realize that while the seasons of climate are relatively predictable, the seasons of physical life are sometimes not.

And so, when we think we know what to expect, we really don’t. In a mortal world, we see through lenses that are scratched and dulled by the jagged edges of sin, brokenness, and grief.

Even still, in seasons we couldn’t and didn’t predict, there are preparatory purposes. Even here, growth awaits. New life. And Hope. The truth, as told in Ecclesiastes, is that we were created for an eternal world. A different set of eyes are needed.

The season of Hope is not contained to Christmas or even Easter. It’s not boxed in the attic or hauled to the curb.

Because ultimately each of us needs Someone who created the seasons and knows the scope of time from beginning to end. We need His eyes to see beyond the exterior and into the eternal. To see beyond the mess and into the meaning of it all.

The eternal cannot be boxed or packed or managed. One day everything that once looked messy will have meaning. We will see. For now – in whatever season we find ourselves – let us live with anticipation, fully and with purpose.

The seasons, those present or those that have passed away, hold for us purposes unfolding and promises coming.

At Just the Right Time

My gerbera daisy is blooming with glorious golden blossoms. Although it’s October 25, it’s going to be close to 80 degrees here in North Carolina today. Perhaps it’s not that odd that my plant is enjoying an Indian summer.  What’s curious to me is that this is the first time this daisy has bloomed all year.  I haven’t seen any color (other than green) on it since last summer (2011). For me, gardening is not an area of expertise, but I think gerbera daisies are usually treated as annuals where I live. But this one held onto its green leaves throughout the mild winter, and I left it alone to do its thing come spring. But spring came, and the daisy didn’t do its thing. Bloom, I mean.  It survived but didn’t thrive. Until October. Until an unexpected season.

I know there’s probably a horticultural explanation…like maybe I was supposed to fertilize it or something.  But now as I look at these beautiful blossoms, I prefer to see God’s perfect timing on display.

Ecclesiastes 3: 11 says that God has made everything beautiful in its time.

Leading up to the fall, 2012 had not been an especially challenging year for me personally, though I observed a great deal of grief and loss around me. Dear friends lost their spouses and parents.  I grieved alongside, but it’s different, I know.  Except for the painful loss of a beloved friend and pastor, my mourning has been at a distance.

Spiritually speaking, I’ve been healthy and green, as in: spending time with God in the Bible and in prayer; leading women’s Bible studies; and serving with my church community.

One day in the late summer, I felt an inner prompting to sign up for a Bible study: When Life is Hard (written by James MacDonald).  I thought this a little odd because I couldn’t necessarily say that I was experiencing anything hard. But I studied counseling in seminary, so I reasoned that God must have in mind for me to take a refresher course.  You know, to help someone else.

Like my daisy, I am a late bloomer.

Earlier this year I was surviving. Now I am thriving. Not in a cheerful, carefree, outward kind of way. Rather, I am thriving in an unexpected season. A season that has brought uncertainty and sadness and fear.

In a new way, I’m experiencing the most fruitful dependence upon the Lord. I need Him to nourish my joy, peace, and faith and I find that His presence and hope are increasingly real.

While I was still in the “summer” phase of this year, I also signed up for a Bible study on Romans 5. The first eight verses were already pretty familiar to me, but now I feel as if I am reading them through new lenses. Perspective is a gift, even when it’s packaged in pain.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Believe me, in these verses, I have come to appreciate more fully the part about trials producing endurance, character, and hope. But you know what has meant more to me than anything? The little phrase I never noticed before: “at just the right time” (verse 6).

If Jesus met my greatest need at just the right time, I can trust Him to take care of everything else.

At just the right time.

In an unexpected season, trust Him to give you what you need, not just to survive but blossom and thrive.

Surprise!

“Freeze!”

“Sweetie, I feel like a hostage in my own kitchen.”

“Sshhh!”

Now normally my girl wouldn’t get away shushing an adult, especially a parent! But this had been my idea, and she was enthusiastically running with it. Yesterday, Caroline was perched on top of the sink, her body leaning outside the kitchen window and wobbly hands clutching the camera. She was desperately trying to capture a shot of a hummingbird in flight.

We have a hummingbird feeder in front of our kitchen window, and every summer we enjoy our temporary “pets.” Yesterday afternoon, there were cupcakes to bake, but my every move threatened to frighten the skittish creatures away. Yesterday, for Caroline, was one of the rare restless days that we’ve had around here, so I suggested that she try a little nature photography (as in go-outside-and-take-outside-pictures). The stay-inside-and-take-outside-pictures was not the strategy I had in mind, but I had to agree that Caroline’s perch on the kitchen sink offered the best spot for capturing a hummingbird at the feeder.

So we waited. And waited.

Why aren’t they coming, Mommy? I’m tired of waiting, Mommy.

Caroline’s impatience took my thoughts back 11 years to the first summer that I put out a hummingbird feeder. I did everything right for attracting hummingbirds where I live. I planted the red plants that they enjoy, hung the feeder in the spring, and supplied fresh feeder water every few days. I prayed. Yes, I prayed for something so small, so insignificant.

No hummingbirds in sight, even well into July. I grew tired of watching for them and mixing up the sugar water. Eventually the fresh water grew as sour as my hope, and I gave up.

I stood at the sink, the same afternoon as I had tossed the feeder aside, and watched as dark clouds entered upon strong winds. Suddenly a hummingbird appeared and hovered in front of the window for what seemed like the longest time while I stood motionless. If hummingbirds could demonstrate expression, this little one was particularly annoyed!

Of course I sprang into action. With freshly-filled feeder, I rushed out into the driving rain and wobbled up the stepladder. I remember thinking, “I probably shouldn’t do this, being pregnant and all,” but for some reason that little hummingbird meant the world to me in that moment.

During a video recorded live at a Deeper Still conference in Orlando (and incorporated into the Bible study series, Faithful, Abundant, and True by Arthur, Shirer, and Moore: Lifeway, 2010), Priscilla Shirer says that our God IS able and He is able to SURPRISE.

That summer, 11 years ago, I could not get over the surprise of expecting a child. After so much waiting and hoping and praying, the baby meant the world to me. And with such a long-awaited pregnancy, I was a very nervous pregnant person. Of course I knew that God was able. And deep inside I knew His character enough to believe that He was able and willing to meet the greatest and smallest desires of my heart. Somehow my answered prayer over the smallest desire gave me enormous comfort for my greatest desire. He knows. He sees. He hears. And, Oh, how He loves!

In Faithful, Abundant, and True, Priscilla Shirer shares: “Whether God moves is a question of His sovereignty, not His ability. What He does is His business. Believing that He can is our business….”

Speaking of kitchen windows, I keep a tiny slip of paper on the sill that came to me out of a fortune cookie. It simply says “Wait.” Who receives fortune-cookie forecasts like that? For me, it’s perfect. Another reminder of His faithfulness.

I still have big dreams. And like Caroline was yesterday, I’m still watching and waiting. Eleven years later, and I still believe. Not every prayer has been answered so evidently, nor has every prayer been answered with “yes.” I learned that oftentimes “no” and “wait” are the wisest of answers from my wise Father.

Priscilla Shirer continues, “I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve been asking the Lord about some things for years now. While I’m tempted to be discouraged as time continues to pass, I’m encouraged when I consider (that) God cares for us and is, right now, factoring in divine purposes and plans in relation to our requests. Let’s keep trusting and keep pressing in to Him.”

God is able and is able to surprise!

She got it :)

“Wait”

A straight path

What I remember most from the conversation was the skepticism in his voice.

“I think you’ll find in the years to come that your dream will change.”

What? I half-smiled and nodded respectfully but surely my eyes couldn’t hide my inner indignation. Who was he to know what God would do in my life 5 – 10 – years from now? It was MY dream, not my professor’s.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5 – 6

I had just poured out to my professor the passion that had brought me to seminary. It was a giant leap of faith, but I felt called and eager. God had done a beautiful thing in my life, and He wanted me to share it with women facing fear and shame. Women who were struggling with eating disorders, as I had for years before God opened the door for me to work with a Christian counselor. Through Christian counseling God delivered me from anorexia, and surely I thought this was the next step – to study Christian counseling in seminary and share the healing. But here was a man with years of counseling and ministry experience behind him telling me that he expected a different plan to unfold.

Irritably I left his office wondering why in the world would he confuse and deflate me like that?

Fast-forward nine (yes, nine) years.

“A nursing home? My next internship position will be in a nursing home?”

It didn’t make sense. I hadn’t applied to a counseling internship at a nursing home. Yes, I had applied to a very large healthcare system that included nursing homes, but surely I wouldn’t be placed there, I reasoned. Wouldn’t it make more sense to do something more in line with my calling? Internship positions were hard to come by, however, and eventually I accepted the offer with the thought that I just should graduate and then get on the right ministry path.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5 – 6

The room was warm, and she was covered in blankets from head to toe, lying on the small bed of the last room she would ever occupy on this earth. Her hand, with its almost-transparent skin, touched mine. She whispered, “I really like to hear Proverbs 3: 5 and 6.” “Again?”I wondered. Every day that I had visited Mrs. Smith (her real name) in the nursing home, she wanted me to read Proverbs 3: 5 – 6. And now she lay dying, and I thought that I should read something in keeping with hope or heaven. But I read “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight,” and she nodded and smiled peacefully. God was leading her straight into the hope of heaven.

I thought about my professor everyday, I think, while I worked in the nursing home. He was right, I had to admit it. God had given me new dreams. Dreams that included moments like those I shared with Mrs. Smith. All along I had thought that God making my paths straight meant me progressing from point A to point B to point C in neat, timely fashion to my appointed destination. But my seminary journey turned out to be far from an undeviating progression, with all its delays and surprises.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5 – 6

So, “straight,” in God’s eyes, must look different than my linear perspective. Let’s look at another use of the word “straight” in Scripture:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in” (Psalm 107: 6 – 7).

According to the Reformation Study Bible, “a straight way” is the opposite of what God’s people had been doing; that is, wandering in the wilderness. When the Israelites finally stopped leaning on their own understanding and followed in faith, God led them to the land of promise.

My passion remains walking alongside women who are suffering fear and shame. But God has expanded and developed that passion in unexpected, sometimes uncomfortable, ways. But I find myself in a land of promise. Promise of His presence, His guidance, His greatest good. If I had realized that day talking with my professor that God would give me a heart for the sick and aged, I would have thought that surely I had wandered off course somewhere. However, I can look back now and say that He has lead me all the way.

In his commentary on Proverbs 3, Matthew Henry spoke of verses 5 and 6:
“Those who know themselves cannot but find their own understanding to be a broken reed, which, if they lean to, will certainly fail them. In all our conduct we must be confident of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, and therefore must follow Providence and not force it. That often proves best which was least our own doing.”

How are you trusting Him today?