Heading Into the Fog

I set out on Monday morning for the last day of the Bible study that I have been taking this winter. It was a very foggy morning. As I turned down 151st street, near my home, this is what I saw ahead.

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Later, as I sat with several other precious women around a table in a beautiful conference room, we shared with each other what we feel that God is laying on our hearts as our divine burden. It was a sweet time as we bared our hearts to each other, many times with tears, of what God has impressed upon us to be or to do. A common element among us was the fact that we have a burden…..perhaps a calling…..but we don’t know where it will lead.

“I don’t know what God will do with this.”

“I don’t know how God will use this.”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Make no mistake about it, when God calls a person to a task, He will lead the way. But He doesn’t often, if at all, open every door all at once. Our job is to obey, step by step and day by day. Just obey.

To obey when the way ahead is murky and uncertain.

Like Abraham…..called from Ur of the Chaldeas, of all places. Called because he was faithful to God. Not called because He was so amazing or gifted, but called because he was a man of faithful obedience to God. “You found his heart faithful before you,” Nehemiah said of Abraham.

So there we have our first directive. Be faithful in obedience to God.

That’s a big step in the right direction.

Finding God’s will for your life isn’t some huge, mysterious undertaking. It’s not getting up every day hoping that you do something that will somehow reveal God’s will for you.

“Finding” God’s will is simply doing God’s will for you, which means faithful obedience to the directives given to us in His Word, day by day.

So that’s what Abraham did, too. He set out to follow God from Ur to…..he had no idea where. He just knew that God said, “Come.” And so he did. He went with God, not knowing where.

Humanly speaking, that’s pretty scary stuff. We want to know where we’re going…..how we’re getting there….how long it will take…..will I be taken care of……what happens after I get there.

We set out on the path of obedience and we watch God open doors….shut doors….redirect…..

And sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s pure joy and peace. Sometimes it’s fearful and full of questions. But in the end we can be just like Abraham, who by the way wasn’t perfect and had tons of failures along this journey that God led him. Nehemiah also said, speaking of God calling Abraham, “And You have fulfilled Your promise, for You are righteous.”

God didn’t fulfill His promise to Abraham because of anything worthy that Abraham had done. God fulfilled His promise because HE is faithful to do what He has promised.

Often, God’s calling in our lives is to endure very hard trials. It’s not to be something or do something that will command great respect and attention. Instead, God may want me to endure suffering that will point me and hopefully others to Christ.

Whatever God wants me to do doesn’t depend on me at all, except for my obedience. I don’t need to feel worthy enough or important enough or smart enough or capable enough. God will be all those things for me.

As I head into the fog of the unknown, in obedience, I will begin to see some things clearly. One step at a time the way will be made known. And one day my view will be the same as my view on that road near my home later that afternoon.

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“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

 

My Faith Looks Up to Thee

 

While life’s dark maze I tread,

And griefs around me spread,

Be Thou my guide.

Bid darkness turn to day,

Wipe sorrow’s tears away,

Nor let me ever stray,

From Thee aside.

 

 

 

The Trumpet

This story is written by a dear friend from college, who gave me permission to share.  Her husband was a pilot, air traffic controller, and professor – among many other things – for years before a devastating stroke changed his life…THEIR lives…completely. 

 

The professor began learning to play the trumpet on a borrowed instrument when he was in the 4th grade.  His parents gave him a brand new trumpet, one that would be his very own, as a grade school graduation gift.  He played his way through middle school and high school, as well as some in college.  He must have studied some too though as he did manage to graduate.  😊

 

After college the trumpet rested on a closet shelf, only coming out occasionally.  Like the time the professor called the cows home with it.  And of course, it had to come out to play for that reunion with Old Green.  But it pretty much spent the last oh-however-many-years it has been tucked away.

 

Due to a number of factors, the professor has not been able to play it since his stroke.  We considered giving it away before making this latest move, but the professor wasn’t ready to part with it yet.  So, the traveling trumpet’s case was plastered with another sticker of places it has been. Figuratively speaking.

 

It took up residence in the back of the guest room closet, coming out last winter so a snowbird could use it to play in the Winter Orchestra.  When the snowbird went home the trumpet went back to the closet.

 

The Village has a cable channel for announcements, reminders, etc.  Village residents are able to advertise things for sale on the channel, as well as things they might be ISO.  We do not look at the channel as frequently as we should, sometimes even forgetting about it for weeks.  Shame on us.

 

But “for some reason” we decided to look at it prior to going to church on Sunday evening.  On one of the slides we saw that a friend who had arrived at the Village about the same time we did was looking for a used trumpet!  We about jumped out of our seats!  Looking at each other, we both knew this was why the trumpet was still hanging around.

 

On Monday afternoon the professor put the trumpet in his bike basket and happily pedaled over to deliver the horn.

 

Later that day the new owner came over to thank us again and shared the rest of the story . . .

 

That ad had been on the Village channel for some time and he had decided to remove it if he didn’t get a response soon. In the meantime, he had been looking at trumpets online.  He had given his trumpet to his grandson before moving down here.  It was going to cost him about $350 to get one to replace it.  He realized Sunday morning that he really hadn’t prayed much about it.  So, on Sunday morning he prayed, “Lord, if You want me to spend the $350 to get another trumpet, that’s okay, but if You want me to get one another way will You please show me?”

 

It was that day, after weeks of not looking at the Village channel, we “happened” to turn it on and see his ad. The professor was so happy and excited to be able to give the trumpet to his friend.

 

And would you believe the professor’s trumpet is exactly like the trumpet our friend used to have?  It even has the same mouthpiece.

 

God, You are so amazing.

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I love how God showed Himself to my friends, and to their friend, in this very personal way.  This is just a tiny snippet of their lives that our friends have shared over many years via her emailed stories, all full of God’s faithfulness and blessings, even in the very hard times.  Thank you for letting me share this, my friend!

Whose I Am

I read this once: “It’s not who am I but WHOSE I am.”

Honestly, in the past, I’ve gotten very caught up in the ‘who am I’ part of life. I could list all sorts of ‘who am I’ things in my life…all good things, but still my heart was often about ‘who am I.’ When those things were gone, God gently began to show me, through my pain, that what’s more important is ‘WHOSE I am.’ I belong to Christ, and He was the one who was washing the dirty feet of the disciples.

What God wants is our service, not our accomplishments. And service is usually low-key and humbling. Just some thoughts today. Oh, and if you think you’re not ‘doing’ enough, think again. Say a prayer, send a card, give a ride, share a hug…serve.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”                     (I Corinthians 10:31)

 

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What Am I Cultivating?

I sat on our patio one recent morning, enjoying coffee while watching birds and dragonflies flitting all around.  The mowed yard, the green trees, the blue sky…it was all so pretty and pleasant.  But then my eyes wandered over to our garden plot.  UGH!!  So much for looking at beauty!

Why?  Because for the second year in a row, Gary and I did not plant a vegetable garden.  Rain…two out-of-town trips…schedules – it all added up to once again, no garden.

Now our  small garden area is a huge mess, full of overgrown weeds and sad neglected old tomato cages.  What a difference to have gone from this:

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To this:

 

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Same ground, but different cultivating.

I read this verse around the time I was thinking about the comparison in our little piece of land from one year to the next.

 

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”  (Psalm 37:3)

 

God’s desire for Israel was for them to dwell in the land He had promised to them.  He told them over and over that dwelling in the land successfully and fully would require their total obedience to Him.  In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, God told Israel very clearly what their choice was:

 

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.”  (v. 15-16)

 

God told them that disobedience would bring death and a curse.  He urged them to choose life by loving the Lord, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him.  And not just life but life AND prosperity.

In other words, to cultivate faithfulness.

This same principle is very true for me today.  I have a choice to make.  God won’t force me to make the right one, but He has told me what the right choice is and how to make that choice.

It’s simple, really.  Choose to love God, choose to obey Him, and hold fast to Him.  Hold fast by hanging onto Him when life is crazy and tiring and disappointing.

I get really tired sometimes.  I know we all do.  Just as I began this blog, Aaron called me from his day group.  I knew he had been having a hard day, and his voice and manner on the phone confirmed it.  I ended up just picking him up early today to avoid any further meltdowns at his day group.  This change in my day was not in my plan.  His attitude today makes me angry and tired.

And guess what I saw before all this happened?  Beautiful beach vacation pictures.  When I hung up from talking to Aaron, I was wanting to just hang up this life with him too, quite honestly.  For a fleeting minute, I wanted to give in to my beach thoughts…have a pity party…and allow myself the “luxury” of wallowing in the wishes for a life I don’t have.

I just HAD to be writing a blog today on faithfulness, right?!

You see, God has put me right here where I am.  This life with Aaron is not what I had planned, but I must see and trust that this life with Aaron is what God planned…for me.

And in this life that He planned for me, I really do want to live it in victory and joy. I want to cultivate this:

 

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And not this:

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It truly is up to me which picture will be the picture of my life.  I choose what to cultivate by choosing whether to love God…obey Him…and hold fast to Him.

I love Him by praising Him even when I don’t like what’s going on around me.

I obey Him by reading His word and finding out what exactly it is He wants me to do each day…and then DO it!

And I hold fast to Him by not allowing my thoughts to digress into selfish wishful thinking and all those “what if’s?” and asking Him to give me grace to love and handle Aaron correctly.

I should know that when God burdens me with a blog, then He’s going to hammer it home to me in a very personal way!  😊

So, wherever you are today…on a public stage or stuck at home…reeling from an unexpected diagnosis…planning a funeral…facing life alone as a single…hurting from unfaithfulness…starting all over in a new life or new church or new friends…losing your job or needing a new one…raising your grandchildren…raising special needs children…

Whatever is your situation, just remember:

CULTIVATE FAITHFULNESS!

And just watch what God will grow in your life!

 

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Rising to the Occasion

Written three years ago, but not blogged…until today.  🙂

 

I had thumb surgery last week. It’s certainly not major surgery and I’m getting along very well. However, I’m wearing a bulky splint and I’m under strict instructions from the doctor about what I can and cannot do. I’m realizing how much I use my thumb in ways that I never even thought about. I can’t pick up small items very well with that hand; I can’t shuffle our Skip-Bo cards; can’t easily hold a Ziploc bag in order to open it with my good hand; can’t tie shoes; can’t keep from hitting the spacebar with that bulky thumb all wrapped up 🙂 – just to name a few.

 

Gary, as he has been so often in the past, is a wonderful help to me. For instance, just this morning he made sure to get ready for work a little early so that he had time to tape a plastic bag to my arm so that I could shower and still keep the splint dry. Gary rose to the occasion, as he always does for me.

 

Today I picked up some dog food for our big Jackson. The bag of food weighs over 27 pounds, far over the coffee cup weight limit I’m allowed to carry with that hand. Stacey, our vet’s wife and a dear friend, carried the bag of dog food to my van. Stacey rose to the occasion for me.

 

This morning I was reading Exodus 15, the deliverance song the Israelites sang after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. The song begins with these words:

 

“I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.”

 

The words “highly exalted” carry this meaning – that God rose to the occasion. I love that!!

 

I can point to so many times that God has risen to the occasion for me as I’ve faced some hard times, frustrating times (even today!), fearful times, and uncertain times. I know that many of you, my family and friends, are right now staring at very difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible situations. I’m praying for many of you!

 

So, I just wanted to share this little nugget of blessing with you today. God really will rise to the occasions in your life. He parted the sea for Israel. That mighty God of Israel is the same God we know today. His power hasn’t changed a bit. His desire for us is that we trust His timing to know just how to rise to the occasions that we face. Whether He dramatically hurls our problems into the sea, makes a way through them, or allows us to endure them as He gives us His peace and grace – we don’t know.

 

But we can know that He will rise to the occasion in the way that’s best for each of us. Then we can also sing with Israel: “This is my God, and I will praise Him!”

 

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Sidelined

Our daughter, Andrea, is a molecular biologist specializing in genetics.  A few years ago, she was hired by a health systems company to get their genetics lab started.  In addition to their pharmacogenetics testing, they have added a new venture called My Fit Key.  Andrea developed the testing for this program.  My Fit Key tests anyone, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, in order to determine what their DNA says about their bodies…heart, muscles, etc.  It’s very fascinating!

Recently, a well-known NFL quarterback decided to send his sample in to be tested.  One of the health system’s executives was very happy about this development.  He came into Andrea’s office one day, full of excitement.

“So, Andrea,” he asked, “do you know a little someone named ______?”

Andrea looked at him.  “Hmmmm,” she replied.  “I don’t believe I do.  Should I?”

Poor Mr. Executive wilted in disappointment.

“There are just TOO many scientists in this building!!” he exclaimed.

HaHaHa!!!  Oh, the frustration of all those non-sports enthusiast scientists!!

I think each of us has a tendency to be drawn to the big names, whether it’s in sports or movies or any other endeavor.  It’s just human nature.  I know when a certain movie star is here in Wichita, whole newspaper columns are written about people’s encounters with him.  I rode in the elevator with him!  I saw him at Best Buy, where I watched him buy a phone charger!  He came in the restaurant where I was eating!  And on and on it goes.  Folks have their pictures made with him, but his assistant is rarely seen in any of those pictures that are in the paper.  Only the famous seem to matter.

We all know the star players, but no one knows the name of the water boy.  We’re awestruck with the celebrity, but we ignore the person who cleans the bathrooms.  We’re wowed by the singer, but basically ignore the ones manning the concession stand.  We want to chair the committee, but not be the cook in the kitchen.

I have seen this attitude permeating Christ followers as well, unfortunately.  It’s an attitude that seeps in to our thinking and then our conversations all too easily.  We usually don’t even mean to do it, but how often have you heard someone say,  “Well, all I can do is pray.”

As if prayer, and praying, isn’t that much but at least it’s a little something that I can do.  A minor little insignificant thing, unlike the big things like preaching and teaching and singing.

There’s nothing wrong with being the quarterback, the main actor, the beautiful singer, the preacher or the teacher.  I’m certainly thankful for some of these individuals in many ways.

But there’s also nothing wrong with being the person who does the “only’s” in life.  We’ve all felt this way at one time or another.  We’ve all heard it said – or said it ourselves.

 

“I’m only a mom.”

“I’m only the cook.”

“I’m only sitting in the pew.”

“I’m only cleaning the building.”

“I’m only sending some cards in the mail.”

“I’m only one person.”

“I’m only praying.”

 

I am especially thinking of persons who get sidelined in life.  Being sidelined is not fun.  We all know that the quarterback is devastated when he’s sidelined with an injury.  He’s forced to watch the game go on without him while others take his place.  Sitting the game out is NOT what he signed up for!

Sometimes we’re sidelined in our lives…sidelined due to illness, moving, stress, age, being replaced, or any number of other reasons.  It’s such a difficult place to be, especially when you’ve grown to love being active in the mainstream.

I was recently talking to my sister, Kathryn.  What a turn her life took years ago due to numerous and debilitating health issues!  She went from working full time and being a very supportive and active pastor’s wife to being basically homebound, unable to even go to church.  As we talked, she casually mentioned to me that she prays.  The one thing that she can do all during her days, even if she’s lying in bed, is to pray.

But that ONE thing is a HUGE thing!!!

And I told her that!

How busy my days sometimes are…too busy to always pray like I should and like I want to.  My mind gets crowded with too many other issues and my calendar is full, and if I’m not careful, my busyness and my tiredness affect my prayer life.

But Kathryn prays, all through her day at home…she prays by individual name for family and friends and church and our nation and so much more, I’m sure.

I wasn’t just trying to make Kathryn feel good about her situation when I told her what a huge thing her prayer life is.  James said the same thing!

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV)

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Our power doesn’t come from our position.  Our power comes through our prayers.  It’s God Who hears us, answers us, and is delighted when we pray.

So, if today you’re sidelined, don’t see yourself as being “less than” or useless.  Grab your situation with joy and see it as a treasured time to pray.

Only in eternity will we know fully what God accomplished because of our secluded times of prayer!

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The Small Seeds

We have a large Golden Rain Tree in our front yard, just off our front porch and sidewalk.  We love how pretty this tree is, and we love the shade it provides.  Every spring the new growth is almost a Chartreuse Green that stands out against the dark green of the leaves on the older branches.  Then little seed pods start growing.  At first, they are a pretty mauve and soft green color, like little puffy pillows hanging all over the tree.    As autumn arrives, the seed pods turn a crunchy brown.  They fall off the tree in droves, covering our sidewalk and our flower beds, laying in the mulch under the tree, and generally becoming a nuisance.

Inside each seed pod are several little black, round seeds.  As the seed pod dries up and blows away, those small black seeds nestle down into the mulch around the tree or in the flower beds.  They fall into the cracks of our sidewalk.  They disappear under the Moneywort ground cover in one flower bed, or under the Salvia in another bed.  In other words, those pesky seeds go everywhere and there is no controlling them!

It’s easy to forget all about them during the cold days of winter when nothing is growing and when little attention is being paid to my flower beds.  But as always happens, winter ends and soon the warmer days of spring are upon us.  The rain falls; the sun is higher in the sky; the days grow longer; and plants are growing and blooming and coming to life.

Something else grows, too.  In the mulch under the trees; between the cracks in our sidewalk; along the edges of the landscape bricks; mixed in amongst the Moneywort ground cover…just everywhere…grow little tiny Golden Rain Trees.

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And so begins my spring and summer job of being vigilant to look for these new little growths, and when finding them, to immediately pull them up from where they are happily growing.  I can pick dozens of these beginnings of Golden Rain Trees one day, and literally the very next day find more popping through the moist soil.  They grow quickly and they grow abundantly.

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They also hide very well in my Moneywort ground cover, being nearly the same color and having very similar leaves.  It takes time to look carefully, to find them, and then to pull them out.

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These fragile miniature trees have an amazing root system from the very start of their growth.  If caught early, they are easy to pull up.  But the longer they are left, the harder they are to fully remove…root and all.  They take hold quickly in order to grow strong and to secure solid footing.

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It would be far easier to just leave them alone…to ignore them…or to even enjoy how fresh and cute they are when they are just small, harmless plants.  They won’t hurt anything, right?  Besides, who has time for all that searching and bending over and pulling and throwing away?

In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Israel to be His people…the nation through whom He would show His plan for redemption through the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.  As God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel was given commands from God…laws to be obeyed…wars to be won…plans to be fulfilled by God through His people.

But over and over the people of Israel tired of obeying God.  They forgot God’s abundant love and His steadfast promises…promises that hinged upon their obedience.  It didn’t seem like such a bad thing to them to intermarry among the heathen nations…to worship those nation’s false gods…to join in all sorts of pagan living and beliefs…and eventually to totally forget God.

Their sins were like our little Golden Rain seeds…small, and seemingly no big deal.  But oh, when left unchecked, how huge they became!  How far reaching their impact and destruction, both on a personal and a national level!

Listen as the Psalmist describes the result of unattended sin:

“…they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did.  They served their idols, which became a snare to them.  They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.”  (Psalm 106:35-39)

 

Sin and disobedience, either personal or national, that is left unchecked will grow deeply and dangerously into actions that could never have been dreamed possible.  I’m sure Israel never thought that falling in love with the heathen people and marrying them would one day result in offering their children in an idol’s fire.  But indeed it did, as what was once deemed wrong became acceptable and condoned and fully embraced.

It’s true for us today as well.  We rationalize…we explain away…we conveniently ignore…we refuse to speak truth.  We think that “small” sins are really no big deal.  God understands, right?

I mean, your truth might be different from my truth, but what does it matter?  As long as no one gets hurt, then it’s OK.   The world has changed, and we have to change with it.  We need to be tolerant.  And on and on we go, even Christians, turning a blind eye to the small dark seeds of sin that are growing unhindered in the hearts of individuals and in our nation.

Now we’re left reeling in the aftermath of sin left untended too long.  We’re left wondering what has happened to morals and decency and the fear of God.

It’s happened because of years of ignoring God.  Years of not obeying His clear commands.  Years of refusing to teach the absolute truth of God’s word and His ways.  In our own personal lives, and therefore in the life of our great nation, we are reaping the harvest of disobedience and disbelief.

Sin is relentless because Satan desires to destroy each one of us.  Sin may seem innocent enough…such a small matter here and another one there, falling into the cracks of our individual hearts.  But sins left alone to grow will do just that, becoming rooted in our lives and then in the lives of our family and finally in the life of our nation.

God is a God of mercy and forgiveness, yet He is also a God of justice and holiness.  Sin left to grow will show itself in so many ugly ways, and finally we will face its consequences…not because God is mean, but because God is just and He, as Holy God, cannot tolerate sin.

May our hearts be tender to God’s instruction.  May our eyes see with wisdom the sin that so easily besets us.  May we uproot those sins, constantly, and live in obedience to God…as individuals and as a nation.