Rain

Dagny cookies

It was raining as we drove to Charlie’s birthday party, but first birthday parties are a rare and beautiful thing, never to be missed on account of moisture. We ran through the puddles and up the walk to join a festive crowd feasting on loaded platters of goodies and snapping enough photographs to keep Facebook happy for days. The first thing I noticed was the cookie tray, because Charlie’s mom is an ace in that department (see above). Then I noticed the sign (see below).

dagny sign

I thought, “I should blog about that one day,” took a photo of those thought provoking words, filed it away, and never got back to it.

Then Harvey came, and I wondered if those same words sounded too light and trite, too “just smile and bear it and move on.” I don’t believe God ever means for us to plaster a fake smile on our hurting selves and pretend there is no pain in this life. There is pain. Why else would there be so many Bible verses about comfort? We wouldn’t need comfort if we didn’t have pain.

I do believe the words, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Don’t worry. Don’t look into the future and assume that all will be forever lost. God is on our side and has the power to do all things, to provide even beyond our asking. Be happy, or joyful if that makes you feel better about the word choice. Underneath all the present pain or rain, we know the One who makes the sun shine is still in charge.

Still we cry, we suffer, and we struggle to tap into the truth, to draw strength from that which we cannot yet see. Harvey wasn’t the only storm many of us will face this year. And when those storms come, it won’t work to hold our breath until they pass. We have to keep going, keep walking, keep working. And when we are truly trusting, maybe we can even allow our hearts to dance. 

           

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When Lightning Doesn’t Strike

clear pool dirty pool

Why am I in Austin? Just one month ago I owned a house in Houston. The pool there is under water now. As I write I am not certain about the house. Meanwhile, I spent yesterday playing with my grandson in a home that is high and dry. We moved here under unusual circumstances that played out very fast. It’s only by the grace of God that we are here instead of wondering whether or not to evacuate a house that was home for nearly three decades.

The grace of God left others in a place where floodwaters are rising. My heart hurts, and I do not understand why many have lost so much and are in the midst of such hardship while I am here. When I told Steve that I needed to replace the blog set to post today, he said, “Use that verse about seeing through a glass darkly.” Here it is in the KJV:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13).

A glass darkly. So, truth be told, God never promised that we would understand this side of heaven. It’s sometimes hard to trust in the dark, but that’s what we are called to do. Sometimes it’s harder still to trust through another’s hardships than through our own, but that’s still what we are called to do. One of these days, so says the verse, we’ll know what we do not know yet. But not now. Hard words, but truth.

This passage comes from what is widely known as the love chapter. So, when we are called to trust, we are also called to love. Love means prayer. It also, quite often, means action. I don’t know what my tasks will be when the Harvey waters recede. I don’t know what God may call you to do either. But He does call, and equip, praise God. So, as he shows us glimmers of understanding, may we have the courage and selflessness to love in whatever way he directs.

To God be the glory, even in this.

Old Testament Surprises

snake of moses

Each time I delve into the Old Testament I’m struck by its relevance, even when my reading falls within the historical accounts of kings and tribes. If we met for tea today, and you asked what I’ve been studying, I’d tell you 1 Chronicles. Would you yawn? Perhaps, but let me share what I’ve been learning.

1 Chronicles 22

In this chapter, David charges his son Solomon with the Herculean tasks of assuming kingship over Israel and building a temple for the Lord. His primary advice?

  • Be careful to observe the decrees given through Moses.
  • Be strong and courageous, unafraid and never discouraged.

And to the leaders of Israel, ordered to help Solomon, David says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

There it is, the essence of a believer’s walk once again: trust and obey!

Moving back a few chapters to 1 Chronicles 5:20-22, I find God working for his people in the heat of battle. He “delivered…all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him…The battle was God’s.”

All our battles belong to God. We may be called to fight, but he is the one who does the winning.

While the Old Testament is chock full of encouragement, it warns us as well. Moving back just one book to 2 Kings 18, I was surprised by the passage condensed below:

“Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)”

Wait, what? God used that bronze snake as a means of rescue for the Israelites. They turned it into an idol? Yes, they did. Anything can become an idol, even something that started out as an instrument of good. I asked myself, “Am I in danger of making something an idol?” The answer for all of us must surely be yes. 1 John 5:21 cautions, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” We must always be on our guard, asking God to keep our perspective and our loyalty in line with him.

What have you been learning? Whether from the New Testament or the Old, has God used his Word to surprise you lately?

Lovely Day

Levites siteThe sign at the corner said “Gospel Brunch.”

Steve’s take: “I wonder how much gospel vs. how much brunch. Maybe this is just an Austin start-up band looking for a place to play.”

My take: “I’ve been wanting to try Threadgill’s anyway, so let’s give it a try.”

And so, on a sunny Sunday during our month of “Let’s consider Austin,” we walked down the road to a vintage BBQ joint, wondering if we should have gone to church instead.

Oh, my goodness! (And I’m not talking about the omelets.) We were in for a treat.

The Levites ( http://www.levitelab.com/bio )sang their sermon with hearty helpings of encouragement, conviction, and just plain fun.

  • “Keep Your Mind on Jesus.”
  • “Lay Your Burdens Down.”
  • “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” (Because you trust the Lord).
  • “Lovely Day”

That last one surprised me. It’s clearly a romantic love song, yet it has become a worship tune for me  now. Its message is this:

Sometimes I wake up with my mind burdened by the seemingly impossible challenges ahead of me. Then, once I’ve looked at you, I know everything will be okay.

Doesn’t that pretty much cover how our best days begin? We rarely wake up to face a day free of all difficulties, but we always wake to a chance to remember Who is really in charge. We have a choice, each morning, as to what our focus will be. And when we make the right choice, many of our days can be lovely.

Because I take copyright laws seriously, you’ll have to go here  to read or here to listen to the full lyrics written and performed by Bill Withers in 1977. I hope you’ll take the time to do so. Then I hope you’ll take yet another moment and post an answer to this question: What “secular” song has become a song of worship for you? I would love to know!

Unsettled

cloud

After nearly 30 years in the same house, I am moving. I’m not sure precisely where or when just yet. I don’t know who will buy our present home, nor which furnishings and possessions will “make the cut” and come along with us. I could spend another paragraph detailing the myriad of other uncertainties in my life. But then, you have a list of your own, don’t you?

You may, like me, sometimes be tempted to say, “I will be at peace when _____.”  Perhaps you would fill that blank with, “when the doctor gives me a clean slate” or “when my baby is born” or “when my next job review is over.” Of course, that will never work. By the time today’s list of uncertainties have cleared, a whole new crop of them will be headed our way. Our only hope for pervasive peace is to maintain our trust in the Lord within uncertainty.

I was thinking about my uncertainties as I washed the dishes this morning. (That’s usually Steve’s job. I don’t remember where he was!) Somehow, my thoughts landed on the Israelites. As they traveled the wilderness, they never knew what the next day would bring, whether they would be traveling or staying put.  If the cloud of God’s presence moved, they moved. If it settled, they settled. (See Numbers 9: 17.) But what of it? Their hope, their peace, was not in knowing what tomorrow would bring. It was in believing, believing that God would lead, provide, and protect.

Should we be any different? Do we really need to know what’s coming next in order to be at peace? Surely not, as that would mean we could never really be at peace. Today, I am looking squarely at my uncertainties and proclaiming, “I do not need to know. God knows. And that is enough!” I pray that you will do the same.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

 

The Fretnotters’ Club by Beth Smith*

 

membership-685021_1280-card-pixabay

Are you a worrywart? Worrying is something most of us do even if we don’t want to do it. Barbara Johnson once wrote that, “Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.”[1] We’re not meant to go through life like that. There’s a better way.

Today I’m inviting you to join my club, The Fretnotters Club. It’s based on Psalm 37:1, “Do not fret because of those who are evil.” There’s no monetary investment required, but there are a few rules. (You knew that was coming.) I’ll summarize them, but the complete list of rules and bylaws is found in Psalm 37. That chapter doesn’t just tell us to stop fretting. It also tells us how to stop that nasty habit, and what will happen when we do.

Rules for Fretnotters:

  • Rule One: “Trust in the Lord (lean on Him; rely on Him) and do good” (Psalm 37:3 AMP).
  • Rule Two:Take delight in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4).
  • Rule Three: “Commit your ways to the Lord. Roll over and rest each care of your load on Him and be confident in him” (Psalm 37:5 AMP).
  • Rule Four: “Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon him” (Psalm 37:7 AMP).
  • Rule Five: “Refrain from anger. Turn from wrath. Don’t envy” (Psalm 37:8-9 author’s paraphrase.

Now about that last rule, sometimes we think, “Well, I’m not an angry person. There’s no wrath in me.” Ahh, but do we experience road rage? Can we read the newspaper without having our blood pressure rise? How many times do we raise our voices to loved ones or grit our teeth to keep from yelling? Maybe we all have a little more anger in us than we’d like to admit.

In verses 23-40, God lovingly the benefits he bestows on those who trust and obey him, on Fretnotters. It’s a great list. He will delight in us, make our steps firm, and direct our paths. When we stumble, we won’t fall because he’ll hold us up. (This is a very important promise, because we will stumble as we attempt to obey these club rules.) God says he won’t forsake us, and he’ll protect us. Instead of requiring a pledge from us, God makes one to us in the last two verses of Psalm 37. I’ve changed pronouns, but not the meaning. Here’s God’s pledge to Fretnotters. Imagine him saying this to you.

The salvation of the godly comes from me, your Lord. I am your stronghold in times of trouble. I help you and I deliver you and save you, because you take refuge in me.”

Because we are in his care, we need not worry or fret, ever. Go on – enjoy God. Become a full time member of the Fretnotters’ Club.

*This is 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.

 

 

 

[1] Johnson, Barbara. Splashes of Joy. New York: Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 332.