My Tombstone

I think I know what I want on my tombstone – if I have a tombstone.

Don’t be alarmed.  I don’t have a death wish and I don’t have a terminal diagnosis, but I do know how I would like to be remembered.

Let me try to explain.

I was in high school WAAAYYY back in the day of hippies and micro-mini skirts.  I had a desire to fit in and be popular like most kids my age.  But I also had parents who were very firm in holding our feet to the fire of God’s Word and not bending to the current fads if they felt like those fads were “worldly.”  We five King children didn’t always agree with our parent’s rules, however, no matter how many Bible verses we memorized.

Don’t get the wrong picture.  We were a very happy, close family and had lots of fun growing up.  What I didn’t have were micro-mini skirts, so of course what I didn’t have became what I wanted.  Unfortunately…at least that’s how I saw it…mom was an excellent seamstress.  That meant that we didn’t need to buy store-bought clothes, so our skirts and dresses were made to come down to our knees.

Here’s an old picture of me wearing one of those pretty outfits that Mom made, and even though you can’t see my knees, you can definitely tell that this was NOT a micro-mini skirt.  😊

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I remember that on some days, when I would get to school, my first stop would be the girl’s restroom.  There, I would roll up the waist of my skirt so that it would be shorter.  Not micro-mini short, mind you, but at least not SOOOO long!

However, there was a problem.  My mother directed all the school’s food service programs, and in that position, she would visit the school cafeterias.  I knew that on any given day I might walk into the lunchroom only to find my mother there.  I knew that her eyes would immediately see me wearing a skirt that was shorter than allowed.  I also knew that I did not want to be found walking outside of my parent’s restrictions.  I soon quit my rolled-up rebellion, deciding that it was wiser to walk in obedience than to risk punishment.

I’ve been studying through the book of Genesis in my morning quiet time.  I came to chapter five and found myself in the midst of a huge family tree.  You know how those Biblical family trees go.  So-and-so begat so-and-so and he lived this many years and he died.  But there in the middle of all those boring begats, there was a pause.  The wording changed totally for the man named Enoch.  Why?  Because the author wanted to tell us something very important about Enoch…something that made Enoch stand out more than I stood out in my knee length skirt.

Enoch walked with God.

That’s it – but that’s everything.

In fact, Enoch walked so closely with God that we’re told in those verses that God took him up.  Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch didn’t die.  He just walked with God right up to heaven.

Enoch’s walk with God must have been very unusual for that day.  That’s why he was mentioned in a clear way as a stand-out among the boring begats.

Noah was the same.  In the very next chapter of Genesis, we’re told about how horrible the sin on earth had become.  It was so bad that God regretted making man.  But then we meet Noah.  God showed Noah unmerited favor and Noah  walked with God.  There it is again…he walked with God.

We don’t know exactly how Enoch stood out in his world, but we do know that Noah must have stood out like a sore thumb…which he probably had plenty of as he hammered the boards in that HUGE ark God told him to make.  Can you imagine how people made fun of Noah?  Think of the names he was probably called.  The earth had never seen rain, for crying out loud, but Noah is building an ark?!  Yet Noah knew that obeying God was better than being popular.  I’m sure it was tough on him for all those many years to be such a laughing-stock…to be so different and weird…so out of step with the world around him.

So exactly how does one walk with God?

Psalm 1 tells us how to walk with God, all of us who follow Him.

  1. Don’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. That means to not follow the advice of the wicked.  Be careful about where you seek advice, no matter how alluring the lenient advice of the world may be.

 

  1. Don’t stand in the path of sinners. Sinners miss God’s mark, and they want us to do the same…to join them in their sin.  The path is their manner of life.  If you stand too long in the sinner’s manner of life, it’s bound to affect you.

 

 

  1. Don’t sit in the seat of scoffers. Scoffers are those who have no regard for God.  We shouldn’t make it a habit to sit with them, to be their best friends.

 

Those are the negatives – the Don’ts.  Now for the positives – the Do’s.

  1. Do delight in the law of the Lord. Make God’s Word and His instructions your chief desire in life.

 

  1. Do meditate on God’s law – His Word – day and night. Meditate means to mutter – to say it over and over.  It means to respond to life with God’s Word, not the world’s word.

 

 

You know, there was another…a bigger…reason that I quit hitting the school bathroom and rolling up my skirts.  I knew, yes, that to do this was to disobey my parents.  But more importantly, disobedience to my parents meant that I was living in disobedience to God.  And disobeying God is not a good place to be.

Life is still full of these choices for me, and for you, today.  As followers of God, am I truly walking with God?  Walking with God like Enoch?  Like Noah?

It’s getting more and more uncomfortable to walk with God in our culture today.  As believers, we don’t want to cause a scene.  We don’t want to be called haters, or intolerant, or racist, or any of the other names that are being lobbed at us more and more.  We don’t want to be yelled at, bullied, shunned, or to lose friends.  We want harmony in our families.

But Jesus told us that these very things would happen as times go on, as the end draws near.  He told us that knowing and following God would even split apart families and cause us to be hated.  I’ve lost some friends due to my stands, but that’s minor compared to what may be yet to come.

There is one thing I firmly believe with all my heart, and this is it:

 

FOLLOWERS OF GOD TODAY CANNOT BE BOTH CULTURALLY

 APPROPRIATE AND BIBLICALLY ACCURATE.

 

If you believe what God says about Biblical marriage, sexuality, life, the way to heaven, and a host of other topics – then you will be out of step with this culture.  Being out of step with this current culture is not looked upon kindly in many arenas.

The decision to be an Enoch or a Noah today, I do believe, will come at greater and greater cost.  It’s a decision, though, that must be made – whether it’s on a personal level like my skirt situation was, or on a public level in this upset world in which we live.

When it’s all over for me, and people are reading about my life, I want my testimony on my tombstone to be this:

SHE WALKED WITH GOD

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It’s a tall order, but I have a great God Who promises to be with me each step!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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.

 

A Lone Christmas

Early yesterday morning, before the rush of the day started…and despite the fact that Aaron was up early and had already interrupted me a few times…my thoughts turned to Mary and Joseph.  I tried to brush away the typical nativity scenes that are so much a part of this season.  I tried to imagine what the reality was for this very young teenaged couple on the night that their special baby was born. 

The word that kept coming to mind was the word “alone.”  I do believe that God’s presence was with them…that they truly knew they were a part of God’s miracle in bringing His Son into the world…and that they were fully committed to His plan for their lives.  But as far as we know, on that night during the birth of Jesus, they were alone.  There may have been a midwife called, but there is no record that any of Mary or Joseph’s family was with them. 

A normal birth in their small town of Nazareth would certainly have involved several women who would stand watch with Mary, helping her through the birthing process and calming her fears.  The first birthing experience for any woman is often full of questions and an element of fear.  Older women, especially her mother, would have been a great comfort to Mary.  And a midwife would have assisted in the birth in many ways and would have allayed fears with her expertise about unexpected complications. 

But God had brought Mary and Joseph far from their hometown of Nazareth during this most important time.  And there they were, in a cave, far from family and familiarity, giving birth to a tiny baby…God’s Son.  Alone.

Then I remembered something.  I remembered our little snowmen perched on the ledge between our kitchen and family room, where they sit every Christmas.  Each snowman holds a letter, and when put together they spell the word “Noel.”  But a couple weeks ago, Aaron rushed to find me.  He bent over, laughing while he rubbed his hands together…a sure sign of great delight. 

“MOM!!!” he burst out.  “Come look at what I did!!”

So, I followed him to that little ledge, where he pointed out with huge excitement the fact that he had rearranged the little snowmen.  Here is what they now spelled:

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Lone. 

I haven’t even changed the snowmen back to “Noel.”  I honestly keep forgetting to do that, or to have Aaron fix them.  But now I’m glad I didn’t change them.  I’m glad for this reminder of where God often takes us when He puts us on the paths He has chosen for us.

We don’t always consider the price that Mary and Joseph probably paid for their obedience to God.  Imagine the hushed whispers when word got out that Mary was pregnant.  Unmarried Mary.  Imagine the looks she and Joseph got…the insinuations…the assumptions.  The suspicion surrounding them, and their story, probably lasted their entire lives. 

I wonder how their situation…their obedience to God…affected their relationships to both their parents and siblings?  Then Jesus was born, while they were alone and far from home, and history shows that Mary and Joseph must have stayed in Bethlehem.  Several years later God sent them to Egypt for protection from Herod.  Did it look to some like they were running from their secret? 

When they returned to Nazareth some years later, did they fit in to their families again?  Were relationships strained?  Did the rumors continue? 

We don’t know for sure, but we can imagine…in that culture…that life wasn’t easy for Mary and Joseph. 

When the angel first told Mary that she would become pregnant with God’s Son, I wonder if these thoughts crowded into her mind?  The cost to her reputation and her dignity would be huge.  But Mary’s response was: “Behold, the bond slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

I look at this story, and the nativity scene, in a very different way when I really stop to ponder these things…ponder to some degree as Mary did in her heart. 

Each of us who follow Christ are on the path of His choosing for us.  Often the way that He leads us is unpleasant and troubling, full of fears.  But those very circumstances are what grow us and cause us to fall on God in faith. 

The reality of our various situations isn’t all sunshine and roses.  It’s the daily pain and sadness and worry, though, that draw us to God like nothing else does.  In the hard times may we be like Mary and Joseph. 

“May it be done to me according to Your word.”

Then just watch God’s peace fill your heart and His grace give you all you need to face the particular plan God has for you. 

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Weary

I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post, so I’m just going to start this post by telling you that I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post. 

I’m still sitting here, wondering.

So I’ll just launch into it.  Gary and I had a disagreement on Saturday about Aaron. 

There.  I said it. 

It’s not the first and it won’t be the last.  😊

Aaron may be nearing 34 years of age, but Gary and I are still in the thick of parenting, believe me.  Like all parents, we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue.  And just when Gary and I think we have some situation all figured out, Aaron not only changes the rules, he changes the entire game!!

Not to sound like a whiner but parenting a special needs adult – or child – is challenging even on a good day.  Gary and I both get tired, on many levels.  What may not be a big deal can easily turn into a huge deal when we’re tired.  And trust me, Aaron can wear us totally out.

For instance, Aaron has just finished watching all four of the Jaws movies.  It’s taken him some time to watch all four of those movies.  Aaron’s current movie becomes his obsession, so lately we have heard more about sharks than we ever, ever, EVER wanted to hear.  Shark teeth, shark gills, shark size, shark color, shark location, shark diet, shark movies, and will there be a FIFTH Jaws??!!

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Please tell me no on that last one!

It’s like I told Gary on Saturday during our discussion about our disagreement…there are some days, many days, that by the end of the day, I am SO done.  Just really, completely done. 

Not done with having Aaron live here.  Not done with loving Aaron, by any means.  But just done, as in deep down bone tired. 

And so is Gary.

We talked and came to an agreement, and we still love each other.  We even still LIKE each other! 

But being tired…not just physically tired, but soul tired…isn’t resolved as quickly.  I don’t know about you, but when I get like this I tend to magnify everything.  Small issues become much larger than they really are.  I mentally bounce all over the place, making mountains out of mole hills, even when I know better. 

I sat down on the patio with my cup of coffee, enjoying the birds and the breeze, and I talked to the Lord.  I told Him I was tired, as if He didn’t know that.  And I told Him, as I am prone to do, that I sure would love to hear from Him.

As clear as day, this day that was just starting, this verse went through my mind:  “Be not weary in well doing…”

And I felt a real peace.

I got on my phone to look up the verse because I’m terrible at remembering references.  It’s Galatians 6:9 (one of the verses), and so I continued to scroll down on my phone to look at other translations and notes. 

One of the references was Malachi 1:13.  I hope you’re going to love this as much as I did.  Without going into tons of detail, God was talking to Israel about how they were neglecting to truly worship Him.  They were bringing defiled food and sickly animals for their sacrifices. 

God told Israel, “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’  And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts.” 

Israel was tired of doing the right thing.  They were tired of obeying God.  In fact, they sniffed at God’s instruction to them.  That means that they blew through their nose.  Much like I did on Saturday morning.  You know…that sniff through the nose when you’re frustrated with something. 

Don’t tell me you’ve never done it!

Sniff!!

OK, so I live with Aaron and I do get tired.  But when God says to not weary in well doing, He’s not saying I should never get tired and if I do then I’m sinning.  The “weary” in that verse means “to fail in heart.” 

It’s my heart…my heart issues…I need to guard. 

How do I do that?  By being careful not to offer God a sacrifice unworthy of Who He is.  God wants me to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and trust.  And I can only do this when I stop and realize that He is sovereign over my life…my whole life…even all the Aaron moments.  And anything else that weighs me down and causes me to sniff disdainfully.

To lay at God’s feet my worries, my anger, my sadness, my regrets…whatever else there may be…and then to replace all those things with praise and thankfulness and trust in Him.

Then I am better equipped to consciously continue in well doing…to do right even when I don’t feel like doing right…to not be weary in well doing. 

It’s a tall order for sure.  But I have a tall God who really will…and does…give me what I need, when I need it. 

There’s a promise at the end of Galatians 6:9:  “…for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” 

Our reaping will take various forms, but a big one is a harvest of peace.  My situation may not change, but God will give peace as I obey Him. 

What’s got you tired today?  Our lists get long, don’t they?  Health…finances…children…jobs…moving…rejection…hurts…church…

But through and in it all, don’t let your heart fail.  Don’t fail to thank God for so many things, and for WHO He is! 

Don’t sniff at your life but sacrifice your life to the One Who loves you so much!

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What Is

It happened to me again several weeks ago.  An innocent conversation…a random comment…and I found myself having to corral my thoughts into line with some principles that God has hammered home to me over and over again for years. 

I want to be honest about what happened, but I also don’t want to alienate family or friends.  I don’t want anyone to think they can’t share their life with me.  So here goes.

This person was talking to me about his upcoming retirement, and then the plans that he and his wife had.  Later, as Gary and I drove away, I shared with Gary how I had that twinge of longing as our friend talked.  And how I knew better than to dwell on it and to therefore give Satan that opportunity he always looks for, the opportunity to push that door fully open that I have allowed to crack open, even just a little bit. 

You see, our life with Aaron is a life far different from typical couples our age.  Gary and I are not fully free to do many of the things that our peers are able to do.  And that’s OK…truly OK.  But sometimes the comparisons come, and if I am not careful then I can wallow in misery, and therefore open myself to sin and defeat.

The very next day…literally…after this conversation, I was at my desk as usual in the early morning.  I opened my Bible and my study book to the section of I Samuel that I was reading and was soon amazed at how God spoke to me in those quiet moments.

I read about Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his deep friendship with David.  Saul was the king of Israel, but because of his sin and disobedience, God had told him that his reign would end with him.  His family would not inherit the kingship.  This meant that Jonathan would never be the king.  But who would be the next king?  David…Jonathan’s dear friend.

Jonathan knew this.  He knew that he would never be king.  In fact, in I Samuel 18, Jonathan gave his robe, along with his armor and his sword, his bow and his belt, to his friend David.  This act was a symbol of the fact that Jonathan was surrendering any right he had to the throne…surrendering it to David.  And not only that, but Jonathan continued to be an even better soldier and leader than his father, the king.  Jonathan certainly behaved in a godly, kingly fashion, even though he knew he would never assume the throne. 

As Dale Davis says in his book, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart: “For Jonathan, then, the kingdom was not his to seize, not his to rule, but his to serve.”

And then this, which impacted me so greatly: “Maybe a tragic life isn’t tragic if it’s lived in fidelity to what Christ asks of us in the circumstances he gives us.”

Did you catch that?  Living in loyalty to Christ IN the circumstances He gives us! 

That’s what Jonathan did.  He lived royally even though he would never in reality BE a royal.  He lived in covenant relationship to God, faithfully, IN his circumstances.

This is exactly what I am supposed to do, every day.  I thought that morning of I Timothy 6:6, of what Paul told Timothy.  Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”  The note in my study Bible says that this is “an inner satisfaction with the situation that God has ordained for him.”

But how on earth is that possible, day after day…that inner satisfaction with situations in life that are so often very UNsatisfactory?!

This satisfaction is only possible when I realize that it doesn’t come from ME.  I can’t manufacture this deep peace.  Only God can do that in my heart as I surrender all my rights to Him and then obey Him by trusting Him. 

It’s realizing that God Himself loves me, and He is the One that has given me what I have in this life, hard as some of it may be.

My circumstances are not the hand I have been dealt.  My circumstances are not bad luck…or good luck.  They are not the luck of the draw.  Nor are my circumstances due to karma, or any other such nonsense that we sometimes are inclined to believe. 

God chose me and He saved me, and as His child I know that each occurrence in my life…every situation…is entirely under His authority and in His plan for me.  I know He loves me and I know that I can trust Him, totally, to do what’s best for me and what will cause me to give Him glory.  What a waste if I don’t!!

So when the pain comes to my heart and my life…when I’m inclined to settle in the negative thoughts and desires and questions that pop up so unexpectedly…I have the responsibility to do one thing right away.  That one thing is to talk to my Father and let His loving arms surround me with His peace.  And then obey, like Jonathan did.  Just live in obedience, step by step, and know that God will honor that obedience in my life.

He may not honor my obedience by taking away my situations, but that’s not why I am to obey. 

So the bottom line in all of this is just this: 

May my circumstances not dictate my response, but may my response be dictated by God’s character.

What is…is…because God is the One in charge.

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And He is a very, very good God.

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From the Carrot Patch

Gary and I were doing lots of outdoor work one autumn weekend, partly because it was our neighborhood clean-up time and partly because the coming winter was urging us to ready our gardens before the cold weather hit. On Saturday I had been clipping and yanking out the dead growth in the flower beds. There was plenty to do and the piles were filling up our big outdoor trash can quickly. I had decided that if I had time I should visit the vegetable garden to see what I could pull up there. It was certainly time to be done with it, tidy it up for winter, and begin dreaming of a hopefully better vegetable season next year.

 
For several days I had been thinking about what I would try to clean up over the weekend and it hit me that I hadn’t even checked the status of our carrot patch. I had walked by our dying garden several times lately and had seen the sparse, stunted growth of the carrot plants. They were very unimpressive and hardly merited a second thought from me. The familiar lacy growth did remind me of the time several years ago that we first planted carrots. I was so excited about pulling up carrots that I became very impatient and was checking every few days to see if any had grown underground. One evening Gary, the kids, and I were outside when I stepped once again in the garden to bend over and do a little digging in the carrots. I gasped when I saw a large, orange protrusion in the dirt. A huge carrot!! I scooped back more dirt, reached down to pull it out, and discovered a very large and very fake plastic carrot. And out in the yard was some very loud laughing from my very amused family! They got me!

 
I grabbed my garden bucket from the garage, stepped over our little used-to-be electric wire fence into the garden, and walked over to the small carrot patch. We had planted quite a few carrots this year but many of them had died in the brutal heat and the awful drought of that past summer. I wasn’t at all hopeful that these measly few plants would produce anything of significance. They were hardly worth the effort, I assumed. Plus I remembered the beautiful, lush potato patch from earlier in the summer and how its yield was laughable and disappointing. Surely I could expect no more from this puny little row of struggling carrots.

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I bent over and gave a pull – and was surprised to see a pretty orange carrot slip out of the dirt. Well! After several more pulls and several more carrots, I was greatly encouraged. Certainly these were not state-fair-worthy carrots, but they were far better than what I had expected to find. Gary helped finish out the row with a pitchfork and we ended up with a healthy little pile of carrots. Despite their small size and their dirty exteriors, they were a delight to us – an unexpected gift at the end of our difficult growing season. And guess what I had just bought the day before when I shopped for groceries? Yes – a bag of carrots! O ye of little faith, I thought.

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I must admit that I am so often attracted to what is outwardly appealing, like the lush growth of our potatoes that fooled us into believing we had a bumper crop of delicious spuds. In reality they were only showy to the eye but had no substance and no real growth. It can be so tempting to participate in the ministries that are evident to all but to neglect the ones that are considered menial or boring. Or to not give much time or attention to people who are marginal to us – who maybe even annoy us. Can we lend a helping hand; make a phone call; fix a meal; send a card; clean a toilet? Sometimes God takes away the up-front, public ministries to put us in a place where we struggle; where our efforts seem puny and small, unnoticed and unimportant. Everyone gathers around the public persona but the unimpressive one is rarely given a second thought. Who wants to be a little dirty carrot when we could be a big, beautiful tomato that everyone looks at with pleasure?

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But God knows the work that is being done away from the public eye, the glory that is being given to Him through the efforts of those that He is using to quietly further His kingdom work. Paul talked to the Corinthians about this in I Corinthians 1:26-29: “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

 
All ministry with pure motives is valuable to God, but if our lives are changed for whatever reason and we find ourselves feeling like our work is sparse and we struggle with insignificance, may we be faithful to grow and serve where God has placed us. Remember that the work God is doing underground will one day shine for His glory and praise.