The Waiting Game

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As I write this, I am in the middle of a rough month. Multiple friends and loved ones are facing deeply painful circumstances, and I am hurting with them. I’m praying for healing, wisdom, provision, direction… I’m also asking the Lord for encouragement, for them, primarily, but for myself as well. I don’t know yet how our Loving (but sometimes hard to understand) Lord is answering those prayers in the lives of my friends, but here are three ways he has encouraged me in just the last 24 hours.

A text: It read, “Thank you for praying for us. We will be fine!” That hurting friend’s proclamation of faith lifted my spirits.

A reunion: We went out for breakfast while out of town. The manager roamed among the tables, making sure her customers were satisfied. She paused at my table, and our eyes locked. We both froze for a moment, silent, thinking. Then we burst into hugs and tears, finally recognizing one another as dear friends who had lost touch for a decade. She gave Steve and me a brief recap of her life, ending with these words, “The last year was very difficult, but now I know why. It got me here (to a good place and a great job).”

A quote: I opened my web browser, and these words, saved in an old search, popped up, “Nothing touches the child of God without first passing through the will of God.” While I’ve been unable to find a reliable source for that quote, it’s very close to this one by Hannah Whitall Smith, “Not a trial comes except by His permission.” In other words, I believe, if we have heartache, our Lord has allowed that heartache. And if he has allowed it, surely he will see us through it.

And so, I have cried tears of both pain and of hope today. I’ve heard his still small voice say yet again, “Trust me.”

Matthew Kelly

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Who were the first people who didn’t read the Apple agreement?

Adam and Eve 

A neighbor invited me to a Matthew Kelly conference, and that was one of his opening jokes. I don’t know him well enough to endorse all he says and does, but I want to share a bit of wisdom, gleaned from that conference, with you. (My notes are not perfect, so these quotes are actually paraphrases. The italicized comments are mine.)

“Four signs of a dynamic Christian are prayer, study, generosity, and evangelism.” (Well, that’s enough to work on for a while, don’t you think?)

“Be hungry for best practices.” (So back we go to the Manufacturer’s Handbook to learn how to live.)

“Our lives change when our habits change.”

“Get good at saying no. The only way to say no to anything is to have a deeper yes.”

“God speaks to you daily through three ordinary voices: Your legitimate needs, your talents and abilities, and your deepest desire.”

“Often times God does his greatest work in the midst of our darkness.” (Actually, the credit for that one goes to the conference worship leader, Eliot Morris.)

“If I lived out just one Gospel reading 100%, my life would change radically. We need to work on the gap between that life and the lives we are living now.” (More on this later.)

“There are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Matthew was quoting Albert Einstein here. I want to live the second way!)

“Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” (That’s from Winston Churchill. Do we live according to the eternal truths we have?)

“When we walk humbly with God, he leads us to exactly who and what we need, to those people, things, and experiences he has designed and intended for us.”

I’d love to hear what you think of Matthew Kelly’s thoughts. Feel free to use the comment box below!

 

Bugs Bunny: A Two Part Tale

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Part One: If you were to survey the artwork in my home, two pieces would strike you right away. One is a giclee of Bugs Bunny playing the piano, a work by Chuck Jones appropriately entitled “Bugs at Piano.” It was a gift to us from Elizabeth when she graduated from college. The other is “Café Terrace at Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. (Of course, it’s just a copy, one we ordered on the internet.)

Part Two: My sister Rebekah was only 7 when I left for college. She lives in Burbank now, and I live in Houston. Despite the distance, we are still close. We had those few short years of living together, and now we keep in touch by phone and text. Earlier this summer, though, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at her house. I was surprised to discover that she has one very prominent piece of artwork displayed on her entryway wall—“Café Terrace at Night.”

Rebekah and I have never discussed art. We rarely see one another’s homes, yet of all the options in all the world, we chose the same painting for our walls. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I submit that we are simply of the same mind.

  • We’ve spent a great deal of time together.
  • We converse.
  • We keep each other in mind.

The second chapter of 1 Corinthians talks about having the mind of Christ. I want to be of the same mind as Christ, don’t you? I want to have his perspective, especially when things aren’t going the way I would choose. I want to emulate his love for others and be led by his wisdom. How do we get that?

  • We spend a great deal of time together—sometimes reading scripture, sometimes fellowshipping with other believers in his company, and sometimes just being still with him.
  • We converse—pouring out our hearts in prayer and praise and seeking to hear his still small voice.
  • We keep each other in mind. Well, I already know the Lord has me in mind all the time. Practicing his presence, keeping him first in my thoughts, is another thing altogether, but an important discipline to develop.

I don’t think these three habits should simply be another list of resolutions. Rather, they are items of prayer, choices we can only make and maintain by the power of the Holy Spirit. They will not always be easy, but imagine the joy and comfort that awaits those of us who truly begin to have the mind of Christ!

Yellow Ribbons (by Beth Smith)

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”Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” hit number one on the music charts in April 1973. (Perhaps you were just a baby at the time. Maybe you weren’t even born yet. Consider this a history lesson.) The song told the tale of a man who served a three-year prison sentence. When he was about to be released, he wrote a letter to his wife and explained that he would be taking a particular bus through their hometown. If she wanted him to get off the bus and come home, she was to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in the city square.

Imagine the man’s anxiety as the bus got closer and closer. He asked the bus driver to be on the lookout in order to tell him what he saw. When the town came into view, there were yellow ribbons on every branch. He was forgiven. What a wonderful feeling!

We can all have that joy, that release from sin and regret, because God forgives us. We can come home to him, no matter what we’ve done.

  • In Matthew 26:28 (NIV), Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
  • Peter said of Christ in Acts 10:43 (NIV), “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

This is not an exclusive promise. It’s for everyone! We may be tempted to think, “Yeah, right. Sure it is. But nobody knows how bad I am, what evil thoughts I have, what terrible things I do. No way can I be forgiven.”

My answer is a wholehearted, “Yes. Way.” We are promised in 1 John that if we confess our sins, admitting them to God, he will forgive us. Then, we are to forgive others.

Forgiveness isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we think, “I can’t do that. What they did was too horrible.” The truth is, if God tells us in his Word to forgive, then we can forgive. He never tells us to do something without giving us the power to do it. Forgiving isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.

This very day, if there’s someone we haven’t forgiven, it’s time to get alone with God and do it, perhaps praying, “God, I don’t feel like I want to do this, but as an act of my will, by choice, I obey you. I choose to forgive this person. You can change my feelings. I will no longer rehearse the grievances and bitterness I have. I forgive them as you have forgiven me.”

The next step? When those old bitter feelings rise up, we have to say, “No Way! I have forgiven that person as I have been forgiven.” And when can we stop forgiving others? Never. Because God never stops forgiving us. Jesus has yellow ribbon tied around everything. He tells us, “All is forgiven. I’m waiting for you with open arms.”

A Stake in the Ground*

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Once upon a time a farmer accepted Christ as his Savior. Whenever he had a mean thought, though, or argued with his wife, or was tempted to lie about something, he wondered if he really was a Christian. One day, as he plowed a field near his house, old doubts returned. Determined to put an end to his spiritual waffling, the farmer stopped his tractor, picked up a fence post, walked to the center of the field and drove that stake into the ground. “There!” he said. “I have accepted Christ. I am a Christian here and now and forever more.” Then he climbed back on the tractor and continued his work. Thereafter, whenever a doubt came into his mind, he’d point at the stake and say, “I am a Christian. There’s my stake. I have already made that decision.”

Many of us need a stake of remembrance, one that reminds us that we are being renewed day to day by the power of God. ‘Ever heard comments like these?

  • “Well, our family always has been stubborn.”
  • “He’s just mean spirited like his daddy was.”
  • “You know alcoholism runs in her family.”

That kind of thing is over according to this verse: “If any person is in Christ, he is a new creation (a new creature altogether), the old (moral and spiritual condition) has passed away. Behold the fresh and the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP).

Why don’t those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior act fresh and new (and sweet and angelic) all the time? Perhaps it is because we need daily renewal. Even though our spirits are right with God, we have minds, wills, and emotions that have to be brought in line with God’s Spirit in us over and over again. We need to be “constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind, having a fresh mental and spiritual attitudes, and put on the new nature created in God’s image in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4: 23-25 AMP).

This daily renewal involves:

  • Looking to Jesus for help.
  • Asking for forgiveness and forgiving others.
  • Loving others every day.
  • Reading God’s Word.
  • Doing our best to be more like Jesus.

Will we fail to do all that? Certainly! But God always gives us the opportunity and the power to start afresh. Don’t get discouraged. God’s grace is enough. We can each drive a stake somewhere as a reminder that we can be and are being renewed every day by God’s grace and power.

*For the month of December, each post will be an abridged excerpt from Every Wednesday Morning, written by my mom, Beth Smith. If you want to read all 64 devotional essays in their full length form, you can grab a copy of her book at etsy.com.

Love Kindness Part 2

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Last week, I promised you more great quotes from Barry H. Corey’s new book. Here they are, with corresponding page numbers listed. I’d like to know how they hit you. Agree? Disagree? Challenged? Encouraged? Let’s dialog. The comment box awaits!

 

 

  • Christians often bypass kindness to begin a shouting match, or we just talk among ourselves about how awful the other side is. We have ranted before we’ve related, deeming the latter too soft on sin. (xii)
  • Kindness is not incompatible with courage. (xiv).
  • It’s time for followers of Jesus to rediscover the power of kindness. (xv)
  • As my home church pastor said, “God is totally reliable but hardly predictable.” (30)
  • The challenge accompanying the life of kindness is that it calls us to the way of the meek and not the way of the proud. Pride gives us a shield to hide behind. Meekness exposes our weaknesses. It is the difficult but healthier road to follow. (37)
  • May the proportions of Christ in me wax as my ego wanes. When civility and humility stop being marks of a Christian, the salt has lost its savor and the light has been hidden under a bushel. (46)
  • Listening is a dimension of loving. (69)
  • One of the beautiful dimensions of kindness is presence. It is the quiet gift of being there. (84)
  • Kindness sometimes shows up more powerfully in silence than it does in words. Kindness is sometimes seen in selfless acts of presence. (99)
  • Presence is more eye contact than it is saying something profound. (100)
  • When we cease to proclaim Christ in how we live, we profane Christ in those who watch. (132)
  • And when we mess up, which we inevitably will, defaulting to denial only pours kerosene on the flames of hypocrisy. (133)
  • Mentoring is a gracious act of kindness. (144)
  • Hospitality is inviting someone into our space where life happens, and it’s intimate and healing. Opening our table to those who wouldn’t typically be invited is among the most radical acts of kindness…Hospitality is a Christian imperative, not an option. See Hebrews 13:2 (163)
  • If we are kind simply to receive kindness back, then our kindness will wither when it gets the stiff arm or even the fist. If our kindness goes in just one direction and does not expect to be returned, then our kindness won’t recoil at rejection. Then we are obeying Christ, who called us to be receivable and never promised us we’d be received. (173)
  • Pride more than anything else gets in the way of kindness, and it shows up in our aversion to being scorned. (192)
  • Those outside the church will never be won over by watching evangelicals clad in razor wire lobbing accusations at each other or at the secular culture. (196)
  • Life in Christ is less about our results and more about our character. (198)
  • If we are not opening our homes for others to come, and if we are not accepting offers when others open theirs, we will be increasingly isolated without much opportunity to be the aroma of Christ. (205)

Thanks for reading! Your thoughts?