Sunday, January 24, 2010

Even Better

Last summer my oldest daughter asked for a specific ring for her birthday. We thought a ring was a good idea, but thought the one she was asking for was a bit much for a girl her age. We shopped a bit and found one we thought was just right. On her birthday we woke her in the morning with the sweetest little ribboned mauve box--sure to delight a feminine heart. As wakefulness dawned, her face lit up with joy and she seized the box and opened it. She paused and I knew she was feeling a moment of disappointment as she realized it wasn't the exact ring for which she had asked. Then she smiled and burst out, "I like it!! It's even better than what I thought I wanted!"

"It's even better than what I thought I wanted."

That phrase captured something in my heart. I knew as soon as she said it that I've discovered the very same thing so many times with gifts from my heavenly Papa. As finite humans, we're all acquainted with longing and impatience in waiting. We're probably all equally well-acquainted with attempting to gain what God has promised through our own conniving rather than waiting for His timing. We quickly learn as Abraham did (Genesis 16) that this never works out quite as well as waiting for Him to do things in His time and His way.

Psalm 37:4-5 & 7a says,
"Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you... Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait for him to act."

How do we take delight in the Lord? I'm pretty sure it's impossible to do if you view Him as a stern judge or an angry father. King David, who wrote this Psalm, had a friendship with God. In fact, when you read David's psalms you find out exactly how to delight in Him. "To delight in" means to "take pleasure in". David writes about God's attributes and all the amazing things He has done. It's obvious when he (David) does this that he's delighting in who God is and that it lifts his spirits when he is discouraged. When we focus on God like this it becomes easier to wait for Him to give us the desires of our heart because our minds are filled with His greatness and we are reminded that we don't need to worry about whether or not He has things under control.

I'd like to encourage you to put God to the challenge in this. Do you have a heart's desire whose fulfillment seems distant? Delight yourself in Him...commit it to still...and wait. I put this challenge to my Sunday school class one year and at the end of the year we had some amazing testimonies. In fact, a lot of them sounded like, "It's even better than what I thought I wanted!"

If you don't know where to begin in delighting yourself in the Lord, just borrow some of David's psalms--that's why they're recorded for us. Consistent worship like this will be the seed for your own private psalms of delight as you worship God for all his good gifts and confess (speak of) your confidence in His ability to take care of the things you've committed to Him.

"Don't worry about anything; instead,
pray about everything.
Tell God what you need and
thank Him for all He has done.
If you do this, you will experience God's peace,
which is far more wonderful
than the human mind can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds
as you live in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6&7

Sunday, January 17, 2010


One day last week I was getting ready to face my day. I'd just put the kids on the bus and had cranked my music. I was in the bathroom, bopping away and fixing my hair when I heard someone yelling, "Woo, hoo!!" Scared the living daylights out of me!

It was a friend who knew I'd never hear her knock over my music and knew how to break into my house. She just needed a few minutes of encouragement. Life that week had been a bit uphill and she thought a few minutes with a friend would give her the boost she needed for another day. I knew just what she meant. I love those moments when I meet "Jesus with skin on" and my day is brightened by just a few moments of contact with someone who cheers you.

It also made me think of some words that have been rolling around in my head. It's a phrase out of Ephesians 5, right in the middle of a passage about the relationship between husbands and wives and Christ and the church. It talks about Christ sanctifying (making holy) and cleansing us through "washing of water by the word". Those words are like poetry to me. I've heard many profound things explained from this passage, but somehow these words speak to me of something very simple and wonderful.

In life I don't very often get filthy dirty--it happens, but not often. Yet, I still need showers and I love them. There's something so refreshing about being cleansed of the "dust" of a day. This happens to our spirits too. As we go through our day we may not encounter anything that's metaphorically filthy, but there's just a bit of sweat and grime that can build up from life. "Washing of water by the word" can be just as refreshing to my spirit as a shower is to my body. It can be as simple as reading a Psalm before going to sleep and a calm will seep into my spirit that washes away a lingering "yuck" from something I encountered in my day.

There can be all kinds of things that keep us from reading God's word. Sometimes it's a sense of condemnation or failure because we feel like we haven't made it a habit like we should have. Some have experienced it more like a disciplinary stick than a love letter. Sometimes it's just plain old inertia. There was a time in my life when I avoided it because I knew it would bring conviction that I wasn't ready to hear. At another time, I avoided it because I'd been exposed to a long period of legalistic teaching and it was discouraging to me. Out of desperation, knowing it contained my only hope, I went out and bought a completely different translation so I could hear it in a different voice (I chose The Message at this time).

Whatever it is, if you face a hurdle in this area, bust through and be refreshed! The Psalms are a wonderful place to start if you feel like you need something and don't know where to begin. I love King David. He messed up big time and more than once, but he loved God passionately and God described him as a "man after my heart". He was so honest and un-religious--he knew how to rant when he was frustrated and discouraged and felt overwhelmed and he always came back to remembering the goodness of the Lord and encouraging himself with reminders of God's faithfulness in the past and His promises for the future.

Don't be afraid to dive in and be washed by the water of His Word. It'll feel good!

"When I discovered your words I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven's Armies." Jeremiah 15:16

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The God Who Runs to Meet Us

My husband's been practicing a song that he'll soon sing in church called When God Ran. Every time I listen to it I get choked up. The song is inspired by the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and it talks about how the Father ran to embrace His runaway son when the son returned to Him. I've become overwhelmed with the message of love in that action.

The son left his Father's house and spent all that his Father had given to him for his own pleasure. Eventually, he squandered everything he had and was living in the most pitiful condition. The son was in dire straights, but waited until he was completely out of options before returning to his Father. I can only imagine his sense of shame. If I was in his shoes, I would have been dreading the (deserved) anger of the Father. In fact, I have been in his shoes and that's exactly how I felt.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that the son "came to his senses" (hurray for coming to our senses!!) and decided to return to his Father's house. Prior to returning, he carefully rehearses an apology. He heads for home and before he has a chance to apologize, his Father sees him coming and "filled with love and compassion, He ran to His son, embraced him, and kissed him." The Father didn't wait for for the son to crawl into His presence. The son didn't have to do penance or prove the sincerity of his repentance. He moved in the direction of the Father and the Father ran to meet him!

That's how your Papa feels about you. His longing for connection with you is so great that when you turn to Him, He runs to meet you. He's filled with love and compassion. He wants to embrace you.

It's really hard for us in our humanness to comprehend such a love. I've recently learned that this misconception starts early in our human experience. One of my children was telling me about something that happened to them. It was a really special thing and it was obvious to me right away that it was a gift from their heavenly Daddy. I told them that I thought God was telling them how much He loves them. The first response was awe and wonder, but almost immediately doubt popped in. I questioned this and the response was, "I don't think so." I was genuinely surprised and confused. I had to press a bit for an explanation and then came the whispered confession, "I don't think He'd tell me He loves me because I have a bad word stuck in my head." I wanted to weep.

I was also really mad. Stinkin' mad. It's so obvious that this lie of being unloved is just that--a stinkin', rotten lie. Our Father loves us. He loved us before we ever did one thing right. And there is nothing that can separate us from His love. Nothing. Does He desire repentance? Absolutely. Whenever we break His laws, we bring pain into our lives and, being a good Papa, He doesn't want to see us hurt. He wants us to surrender our lives to Him because it will bring us joy and peace.

We don't have to "journey to a far country" or "live wildly" as the prodigal son did to believe this lie. Little lies can creep in that we've disappointed our Father. It can be any number of things. After all, there is an enemy who is actively trying to steal our joy.

If you're not feeling the love, ask your Papa to show you the lie you've been believing. He will. In fact, He'll run to meet you!

"I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you."
Isaiah 46:4

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Calendar

Happy New Year!

I like seasons for the way they give us an opportunity to measure our lives. This morning I measured my kids and we ooohed and ahhhhed over how much they've grown since last New Years'. In the same way, I like to take a few quiet moments every New Years' Day and remember/evaluate the last year and consider the new year.

Like my children, I hope that I've grown in the last year--the more the better! I know I've "grown" over the holidays, but hopefully that's not permanent. What I want to know is if I've grown through life experiences. Have they made me bitter or better? Each year brings surprises--both good and bad. Last year held unexpected losses and disappointments. We were also surprised by unanticipated delights and answers to prayer.

Today I hang up a new calendar. Believe it or not, this used to cause me quite a bit of anxiety. All those blank pages and who knew what they held? There were a lot of "what ifs" for me on all those pages. I like to plan out my life, in fact, if my husband would let me, I'm pretty sure I'd plan the next five or ten years, complete with charts, graphs, and maps! (If this seems completely bizarre to you, you can just pray for me and skip this post!) However, one of the benefits of getting older is that you can get a little wiser too and I'm starting to see a pattern in my life. With all those blank calendars I've hung and all the unexpected things that filled in those blank spots, I've learned that God has been good and He has watched over me and helped me with all the really tough stuff and heaped a bunch of other blessings on me too!

I've learned that there are no "what ifs" in God's vocabulary. The closest thing I can find is Jesus asking, "What if you gained the whole world and lost your soul?" (John 8:36) A thought-provoking question, but not an expression of uncertainty. Clearly, "what if" is a result of being human and unable to know the future. Thankfully, we have a Father whom we can trust with the future. God knows that His plans for us are good (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows that when we place the heartbreaking stuff in His hands He will give us joy in the place of mourning (Isaiah 61:3). He knows that when we surrender to Him all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). He knows that all His promises are true (2 Corinthians 1:20).

With all of this in mind, it's a little easier to hang that blank calendar with a childlike sense of anticipation. My Poppa is with me! He has good plans for me! He will help me with the tough stuff!

Go ahead and plan your holidays and your next oil change. And don't forget to look with wide-eyed expectation for the good plans that He has for you. He loves you!

"What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love?
Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ,
who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from
God's love.
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."
Romans 8: 31, 35 & 38