Friday, April 28, 2017

God Willing



This message is five years old. I'm reusing it because I believe that it is a very powerful and important lesson. I am so blessed to say that I'm still following Adam's example. He and his family have since moved away. I miss them! Thankfully I still get to see a few pictures and God willing I will see them again in person one day.


Now listen you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15


Children are often instructed to watch, listen and learn from those people with more experience. Surely parents are the earliest teachers of any child. Sadly, far too many children learn all the wrong things. The other day I was blessed not only to see the result of great parenting but to be taught a lesson by a five year old.

My little friend Adam was quite excited to tell me that he would most likely not see me at church on Sunday. After inquiring about my intentions toward church attendance he said, “I probably won’t be there. We’re going to Orlando this weekend, God willing.” Now, to make this even more precious, hear it spoken with a tiny speech impediment, one that he is outgrowing rapidly and that I will miss. The words “God willing” were sweet enough but hear it as, “God wiwwing” and it’s even more adorable. A few minutes after our first conversation Adam repeated the information again. His family was planning to go to Orlando, God willing. In the brief ten minutes we spent together I heard Adam tell at least three other people the same story with the same modifier. He had plans, God willing. Those words coming out of that child, with a face so absolutely beautiful, impish and precious that it defies an accurate description, just grabbed my heart.

This is a kid you want to hug every time you see him. He’s that adorable and on top of that, he was speaking with authority straight from the Scripture. For the rest of the weekend and on into the next week I thought about Adam’s words. “God willing.” It is how we all should view our plans. They are not written in stone. We need to keep our hearts and minds open. We will go here or there, do this or that, God willing. It’s a humbling, submissive statement and I am so grateful to Adam for shining such a tender spotlight on it.

Further, I’ve thought about the way Adam is being raised. I know his parents or better said, I’m acquainted with them. They are sweet young people and on meeting them you know why their children (I knew Adam’s older sister first) are so great. Jesus is clearly the center of their family.

A few years ago my granddaughter Faith told me that God speaks to people all the time but that grownups don’t always listen. I heard Him loud and clear through Adam and I’m grateful, and now God willing, I have to go to work.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

What Do You Want


 

The king said to me, “What is it that you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king,” Nehemiah 2:4-5a

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

For many years people have asked me to pray for or with them. This started many years into my walk with Jesus, many years after I made the decision, as an adult to follow the Lord and do His will. That seems like it would make it pretty simple for me to say yes to those requests, right? Truly it has become pretty easy but it didn't start out that way. I had no clue what to say or how to say it.

Abba has also given me the great gift of encouragement. He often calls on me to be an encourager, a Barnabas, to someone near to me. These aren't necessarily people I know well or even like. They are people God chooses and puts in my path.

Sometimes it is easy and natural to grab the hand of another and pray. God's grace is there before I even ask for it. Other times it's hard and awkward and I pray fervently for God's help. Sometimes the encouragement is as natural as breathing. God's grace again. Other times, at quite a loss, I pray for Abba to shine a light on what it is I'm supposed to be doing or saying.

God doesn't always say yes to my prayers. In fact I've been praying for so many years for one specific thing and currently the answer is still no. So it isn't like God is just waiting to do every little thing I ask of Him. His will is perfect, right and best and He answers my prayers accordingly. However, any time I pray, “Lord give me the words.” “Lord, help me know what is needed here.” Then, He always answers and answers immediately.

Many times I've sat in front of a blank page knowing that a card, an encouraging word, a Scripture needs to be sent but having no idea what to write and I pray, “Okay, Abba, I know you want this done so please use my hand.” And He does! Or when that person comes to me for prayer, face to face, no time to think or look up a Scripture, again I pray. “Lord, it's all you.”

Aren't those profound prayers? Can't you just see why the God of the universe is all over saying yes to those prayers? The fifty cent words, the eloquence, the length.... Oh wait, none of that is in those prayers.

I'm sure there were times that Nehemiah prayed in a way that was nothing but eloquence and beauty. I hope I do that sometimes too. The lesson here, what we see in Nehemiah, what I've learned in times of urgency, is that all we need is a sincere and open heart.

Then “pray to the God of heaven” and give your answer, say the prayer, write the note. God will guide you when you empty yourself of you, of expectations, and just follow His lead.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Gone



And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:50

Last night we went to church for a Good Friday service. The service was amazing. Our music director and pastor worked together perfectly to create the right mood, a very somber, dark mood. In our church that service culminates with a very loud boom which signifies the closing of the tomb. After that all is silent. Silent. People who normally greet each other, plan where to eat brunch or when to get together during the week are walking out in silence. Why? Because our reason for being, our hope is gone. Of course for us, in 2017, that is symbolic and not literal but believe me, in that moment it feels real.

Each year something stands out to me in the telling of Christ's final hours on Earth. Often it is the total betrayal from too many near and dear to Him. This year it was the fact that in those moments Jesus was gone. The service ended and our full of life pastor did not say a word. He did not say “Go in peace” as he does on Sunday because there is no peace to be shared in a world with no Jesus. A world with no Jesus.

Sitting there I knew that this was a reminder, that indeed there is very much a Jesus. He lives and reigns and He's coming back. I know this to be true but it felt awful, as it should, to hear that boom and sit in the aftermath of His suffering and death. It felt awful to me and I wondered at the intensity of loss the disciples must have felt. The Scripture says they scattered.

This morning I woke up and felt the weight of a few things that are happening in my life and in the lives of a couple of people I care for deeply. I sat up and thought how great, it's Saturday which means I have extra quiet time, more time to be with Jesus.... Oh! It hit me again, in the aftermath of the Crucifixion there was no Jesus. Today I could get up, get my Bible and be with my Savior but what of the eleven who were left after the betrayal of Judas and the torture of Jesus? Where was their hope?

Scripture says they scattered but then later it says that Jesus found them all together again. They were drawn to each other out of shared experiences, shared loss perhaps but I still wonder where and how they found the energy and ability to move, to seek each other. My husband thinks fear motivated them and maybe he's right. I know I felt an emptiness that had a bit of fear in it this morning when I thought, this is the day that we remember a world without a Savior.

Fortunately for me, for you, this is a day when we remember a world without a Savior. We look at how things were but we also know how things are now. We have a Savior and tomorrow we can all stand and say that Christ is Risen only to hear our fellow believers reply, He is risen indeed.

Thank you Jesus for the sacrifice that gives us new life and new hope every time we remember that Christ is risen, Christ is alive and Christ is coming back.

I

Friday, April 7, 2017

Water



Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. John 7:38

Just a few minutes ago I made a lovely pot of tea. This is not unusual. I do it almost every day, often more than once a day. This morning I emptied the water left from yesterday out of the tea kettle. Why? Excellent question. There was nothing wrong with that water. I could have just added to it.

While I was waiting for the train whistle sound, indicating the boiling point, I cleaned out a dish and ran my garbage disposal, more running water. Then I filled a large cup with water from my refrigerator. During these processes I also washed my hands and my counter. Water, water everywhere....

I was taken this morning, not for the first time and hopefully not for the last time, by how very grateful I am to have clean, plentiful, hot and cold running water. Today that led me to think of all the other “ordinary” things we take for granted.

While making my tea, I had lights on in my kitchen. I took milk from my refrigerator to make my husband's breakfast. I refilled his vitamin box and used my dryer. Now I'm in my well lit office, drinking the aforementioned tea, typing on my computer and still thinking of the women and children who walk miles to collect water for their families and the men who do the same in order to get their work done.

Just about everything we do requires water in some way. For those of us who are blessed to live in well developed countries, water is a given. We drink it, cook with it, bathe in it, clean with it, swim in it and on and on. Are you grateful for it? I am so grateful for it now, but that has not always been the case and there are still days that I just take it for granted.

For the past thirty years or so I've kept a gratitude journal. I write in it at night, thanking God for the gifts of the day. Just a few years ago I started keeping a blessings journal as well. That one is written in the morning, book ending my day with acknowledgments of all that God is doing and has done for me. A year or so ago I got an even deeper perspective on that when my daughter asked, “Mom, what would you have tomorrow if you only had what you gave thanks to God for today?”

What a great question! It led to a fairly lengthy conversation for us and now I pose the question to you. Given that we all often take some pretty important things for granted (ahem, water...) what will you have tomorrow if it is only the things for which you gave thanks today?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

In All Things


 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28


I had a little mishap this morning. Nothing major, just a time setback and a small moment of panic while I wondered if I had the wherewithal to fix the issue. A quick scan of my cabinets and yes, in that sense all was well. Seems fairly ordinary, right? Well, not for me.

The thing is, someone else was depending on me. The problem I encountered wasn't going to impact just my day, but the very important event of someone very dear to me. Normally this would be panic mode melt down time but it wasn't. I looked at the disaster, stopped and simply prayed, “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.” And He did! Right there, in the moment. Peace flowed in bringing with it the obvious solution to the problem.

Later as I was praying and could see Abba's hand all over my morning another larger issue came to mind. I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that even though right now I can't see the truth of Romans 8:28 in that area of my life, I know that it is true.

A few days ago a coworker of mine had a problem. She's not terribly forthcoming with details so I stood with two other coworkers as we tried to fashion different scenarios that might be occurring. When she did tell us what happened it was almost comical. We were so far off and so dramatic compared to her pretty pedestrian problem. Oh but we were so sure we had great ideas!

So it is with Abba and us. We look at our circumstances and try to find the whys. Why me? Why is God allowing this? And the whats... What good could come of this? What is the point?

I could have done that this morning. Why now Abba? What could possibly be good about this? What do I do now? How could you allow this? I didn't. Instead I chose trust. I asked for God's mercy and it came, swift and obvious. I still can't say why it happened or what all the results will be but I can tell you this, Romans 8:28 says “all things” and that means all things. I chose trust this morning and I pray to chose it in every and all situations because this I can say for sure, God is good and His will is right, good and best.