...running the course God sets before us, no matter the cost, no matter the task, to the end, for His glory

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I Am Thankful For

I love Thanksgiving. The most.

No presents.  Pretty colors. Family. And the best food of the year.


This is what our Thanksgiving buffet looked like. There were 42 of us: aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins. A friend looked at my daughter as she was describing the day and exclaimed, "You KNOW your SECOND cousins?!?!"  Yes, with great gratitude I can say, not only do my kids know their second cousins, they actually like them. A lot.

I am thankful for many things, and I thought it might be good to record exactly what some of those things are:

  • I am thankful to have a husband who continues to show up, to forgive me, to ask me for forgiveness, who laughs with me, and likes me, and takes me out for dates, and sees me at my worst and loves me anyway.
  • I am thankful for the privilege of being a Mom. A privilege that involves effecting hearts and bearing burdens. And it is also the privilege of being encouraged, challenged, and convicted by the boldness and faith of my own children who often surpass me in their passion for the Lord.
  • I am thankful for enough. Enough food. Enough clothing. Enough water. Enough gas. Enough. Enough. Enough. Of everything I need.
  • I am thankful for a country where I can vote and go to church and disagree and stand up for what I believe in.
  • I am thankful for the mercy, grace, power, loving-kindness, justice, forgiveness, and protection of my Lord.

That really just scratches the surface.

I have so much to be thankful for.  But I often forget to be thankful. To my shame.

So as I look forward to immersing myself in the joy of the Christmas season, I don't want to rush past the gratitude of the Thanksgiving season.  Because it is so easy to digress into the "stuff" of Christmas gift giving and it is so easy to lose sight of and dismiss the appreciation of my great blessings.

So this week I am holding off on Christmas. Just for a week. Cause I am just not done being Thankful.

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.  Ps. 111:1

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sowing in Tears...

Today I had to take out my garden....because it looked like this:
This is what tomato plants look after a freeze. Lovely...

And like this:
A lot of those shriveled up green things that look like
dead leaves are actually serrano peppers.

That, my friends, is what happens when a garden that has been ravaged by extreme heat and drought all summer long meets up with a surprise freeze.


When I walked out the morning after the cold snap I thought I might cry.

I have to honestly evaluate my first year of gardening and admit it was a bust. A failure. A bomb.  In the cost/benefit analysis equation, the cost far exceeded the benefit.

Although, there was this one benefit: I learned a lot about the Lord this summer. The garden was so chock-full of spiritual analogies I could hardly keep up.

I have always been intrigued by the verse in Psalm 126:5
"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joyful shouting."
The first part of the verse perfectly describes my summer. I did sow. And I did cry....well, at least on the inside. I could never seem to get ahead. I got my plants in late. And then there was a drought. If it wasn't the lack of water it was the heat. Or maybe my soil wasn't right. Or there was the time the deer ravaged my poor plants.

Yes, my sowing did involve tears. And then when the plants finally did grow there was no fruit.

And then finally, finally some rain came and the nights cooled off. And my tomato plants put on fruit. And....

And it froze.  Sigh.

Here is the fruit that fell off as I was yanking those dead plants out of the ground:

So if I am going to take God at His word (and yes I AM going to take Him His word!) then my "reaping with joyful shouting" must have meant something other than reaping tomatoes!

What I didn't reap in fruit, I think I more than made up for in lessons learned. What did I learn from my garden this year? Well...

  • That I don't want to be a Christian that looks good on the outside, but that has no fruit.
  • That a lack of water has the same effect on plants that the lack of Living Water has on my soul.
  • That the potential for fruit is not the same thing as fruit.
  • That difficult conditions might result in a season where there is no visible gain.
  • That life and fruitfulness and harvest are precious gifts and require tender care.
  • That neglect results in death.
  • That I am not in charge and I can't control all my variables and sometimes I have to be faithful and try to do the right thing and just leave the results up to God.
Something else I learned....sometimes the harvest doesn't look like we wanted it to or expected it to.

Can I trust God enough THEN to joyfully shout anyway?

Can I trust Him enough to wait through the difficult times and WAIT for Him to bring the harvest?

Or do I have to have it now?

Maybe this was my training-wheel year of gardening.  Maybe next year I can apply all I have learned this year and maybe the results will be different.

Maybe. But for now I need to soak in my lessons and apply them to some other "gardens" in my life- some that don't quite look like I want them to.

And maybe I need to trust God and shout joyfully and wait.

What is happening in your life that looks nothing like you wanted it to? Do you trust God enough to joyfully shout and then wait on Him to do what He will?

This is what my garden looks like now:
-laying fallow
-covered in ash to replenish the soil
-being quiet


Waiting through the winter.

Until the spring.

When I can plant again.

Does God have you waiting through a "winter" in your life?

Leave a comment and tell me about it- I would love to hear about it and pray for you.

Someday we WILL reap and when we do, we will bring in that harvest with joyful shouting together!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's Time To Get Up!

This weekend was my favorite night of the whole year: Fall Back!

The only time where I actually do get an extra hour to my day. I love that feeling- the feeling when I wake up, afraid maybe I slept in, and then worriedly looking at the clock only to see.....YAHOO! It isn't late! It is a WHOLE HOUR earlier than it feels! It. is. glorious.

I have never been a morning person. I now get up early because I am a grown-up and I have to. But that doesn't make me a morning person.

Here is the way to tell if someone you are with is a morning person or not.  When they are up early, speak to them.  Do they answer? If they do then it is possible they are a morning person.  But if all you get is a grunt? Then you most definitely are not with a morning person. And if they glare at you? Then you have a grumpy morning person.

Non-morning people do not want to talk in the morning. At least not out loud. I like to talk to Jesus in the morning. And I like to read my Bible. And I LOVE to drink coffee. And I like to write in my journal. In the quiet. But people? Even the ones I love?

I think they have learned that it is better to let me have a little Jesus and a little coffee and THEN talk to me!

The whole morning/non-morning person thing should really be discussed before marriage. It is way more important than finding out if you neatly roll the toothpaste tube up from the bottom or if you squeeze it right in the middle of the tube.  About a week into our marriage as my husband was whistling at a early AM hour, an hour where silence should reign, I had a crashing realization....I had married a morning person!

It is okay though. We have managed to navigate the morning waters for almost three decades, so I am here to tell you that the morning and non-morning people can peacefully co-exist!

The Problem
Why all this musings on mornings?

Well, I was thinking back this weekend to some mornings in my not too distant past. Maybe you have had these kind of mornings too. On these mornings it doesn't matter whether you were normally a morning person or not. Because these kinds of mornings are grey and wet and dreary---regardless of what the weather is outside. They are the kind where you don't want to get up, because when you do, you will have to face the day. And sometimes....

Sometimes life is like that. It is hard. It is arduous. It is painful.
Sometimes life just hauls off and punches you in the gut and you are totally unprepared.
Sometimes the rug is pulled out from underneath you and you find yourself sprawled on the floor.
Sometimes you go to sleep at night and hope that when you wake up tomorrow you will find out it was all just a bad dream.

But then you wake up.
And you realize it wasn't a bad dream.
And you have to get out of the bed and face it.
But you just don't want to.

Maybe you are waking up to:

  • shattered dreams
  • or a family in crisis
  • or a job you detest
  • or no money in the bank
  • or terminal illness
  • or just a life that has turned out so decidedly different than your dreams.
What do you do then?

The Cure

If I hadn't had any of those kinds of mornings I wouldn't have had to find the antidote.

But I have.
So I did.
Find the cure that is. And, what do you know. It was in the place all cures are.

The Word. First I will share the Scripture and then I will share the cure.

Lamentation 3:22: The Lord's loyal kindness never ceases; His compassions never end. They are fresh every morning; Your faithfulness is abundant!
Psalm 92:1-2:  It is fitting to thank the Lord, and to sing praises to your name, O sovereign One! It is fitting to proclaim Your loyal love in the morning, and your faithfulness during the night.
Psalm 5:3: Lord, in the morning you will hear me; in the morning I will present my case to you and then wait expectantly for an answer.

The Prescription?

  1. Realize as soon as I wake up that the Lord had fresh kindness and fresh compassion for me THIS VERY DAY.
  2. Thank the Lord out loud for this day and proclaim to myself His loyal love.
  3. Sing praises to my God.
  4. Present to God my case...my issue...my problem...or just the fact that I don't really want to rise and face the day.
  5. Get dressed (that one isn't in these Scriptures, but it is a very essential part of facing the day.)
  6. Get going. And wait. Get going with whatever I can do but wait expectantly for God's answer to the problem. 
  7. Praise God that I don't have to solve anything. I just have to wait on Him to do it for me!

The Result
The result is that I get out of the bed and find God's kindness and compassion enough. 
Enough to get me through the day.
Enough to enable me to thank Him and sing praises to Him.
Enough to empower me to walk through whatever the day brings.
Enough to wait. To wait on Him. To wait on Him for the answer- to whatever.

And that makes every morning a good morning.

Because it is a morning where, before I ever rise, I can receive my Lord's fresh kindness, put my hand in His Hand, and Get. Out. Of. Bed.

One may experience sorrow at night.
But joy arrives in the morning.
Ps. 30:5

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Life's a Stage"

In the play, "As You Like It", William Shakespeare famously writes, "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

But that quote is a rather sad and de-valuing explanation of our lives, don't you think? It takes the reality and life and sweat and blood out of our everyday existence and distills it down to us just flitting across a stage, acting our part, until the final curtain closes.


But I have been drawn up lately by the thought that really our lives ARE a stage. Now, don't worry, I don't mean that in any of the way ole' Bill Shakespeare did.

Here is an example of what I mean:
In Philippians, Paul is writing to exhort the converts who reside in Philippi, and he is writing from a Roman jail, a jail he remains in for two years!

You know he might have felt a little upset at being waylaid from his missions. After all, Paul had a divine commission from the Lord! He had work to do! He had places to be and people to meet! What was he doing sitting around in a Roman prison for over two years?

So does he complain? Just listen to this:
"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,"
Philippians 1: 12,13
You mean he isn't upset? He isn't complaining? He isn't asking them to start a letter writing campaign to get him released?

The answer is "NO!" No, he isn't.

Because he sees his circumstances as just the back drop....the scenery....the props, if you will. The circumstances are simply part of the stage, the stage from which can be proclaimed the reality, the power, the wisdom, and the supernatural character of God.

And if God gets proclaimed louder and better from inside a Roman prison, then by golly, Paul is willing to get thrown into that prison.

Can we look at our circumstances that way?
  • what if our children are rebelling?
  • what if our husband lost his job?
  • what if we have gained ten pounds?
  • what if we have terrible neighbors?
  • what if we have a difficult work environment?
  • what if the money is used up before the month is?
  • what if our car breaks down?
  • what if we get sick?
  • what if a loved one gets sick?
  • what if one thing after another, after another, after another rolls over us like waves crashing to the shore and we never have time to get to our feet and catch our breath? What about then?

Those are all bad circumstances, just like jail is a bad circumstance. But if those circumstances lead others to hear about the Lord or see His work in our lives....what then? Would they be worth it then?

For Paul his imprisonment meant several things, besides that he got to catch up on his letters and give us not only Philippians, but also Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Additionally, on top of writing all those letters, he also made sure that the "cause of Christ had become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else." (vs 13)

I mean, can you imagine being Paul's jailer? He would continually be telling you about Christ! How clever of God to put an evangelist right in the middle of Rome's governor's guard!

And then Paul says in verse 14 that many of the other brethren were having more courage to speak of God without fear! Maybe the Romans thought putting Paul in jail would make those other pesky Christians be quiet, but it seems to have had quite the opposite effect.

Our circumstances, just like Paul's, are just a stage. They are the backdrop against which God wants you to demonstrate HIS power, HIS sufficiency, HIS love and to reach into other's lives with His message.

Maybe God will use those difficult circumstances we find ourselves in to reach someone who would never have heard of Christ otherwise.
Maybe He will use them to encourage other believers to be courageous.
Maybe He will use them to loosen our grip on this world.
Maybe He will use them to show our children the reality of God in our lives.
Maybe He will use them to grow our love.
Maybe He will use them to grow our neighbor's love.
Maybe He will use them to save our marriage.
Maybe He will use them to enable us to minister to someone else's marriage.

Our lives are simply a stage where all those around us can see our dependence upon our God Who is sufficient and mighty and powerful and ready and willing to save. And the great news is, we just have to show up. God is ready, willing, and able to do the rest.

"For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."    ~II Chronicles 16:9