The Daily Grind

 

keys-525732_960_720 unsplash stevepbHave you ever experienced inexplicable peace in the midst of a crisis? Probably. Indeed, I hope you can say “yes.”

Next question: Have you ever experienced inordinate strife in the midst of a minor inconvenience? Even more probable. Like you, I have to answer, “Yes, many times.”

Tish Harrison Warren says this in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary.*

“The call to contentment is a call amidst the concrete circumstances I find myself in today.” A few lines later she writes, “I’d developed the habit of ignoring God in the midst of the daily grind.”

Those somewhat heady thoughts are offered within the tale of a typical morning in which the author awakened with joy, headed out with happy anticipation and then crumbled into frustrated despair when she couldn’t find her car keys. (Don’t judge. You know you’ve been there!)

She goes on to say that she maintained a more consistent peace when living for a short while in the tension and danger of a war-torn part of the world than she often does during a typical week in Average America. I can relate. Can you? Have you learned to abandon yourself to Almighty God when the stakes are clearly too high for you to manage, yet somehow forgotten who is in charge when life’s little irritants and inconveniences assail you? (Too often, perhaps, we still hold on to the silly notion that, in some smaller things, we are actually in control.)

I suspect our Enemy knows where to find our weak spots, sometimes better than we do. Fortunately for us, we are created by the same God who is also known as the Comforter. We can run to him even when we are brought down by something as petty as a lost set of keys. So run! Right away! Whenever anything brings us down, may it bring us all the way down to our knees, to a reminder that we serve the Mighty One. And then, may we rest content in the middle of the daily grind. (“Tune in” next week for a rubber-meets-the-road follow up, a tale of when I had to take my own advice!)

*Warren, Tish Harrison, and Andy Crouch. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. IVP Books, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2016, p. 55. And thanks, Madeline, for recommending this excellent book!

Photo by stevepb via Unsplash.com

 

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I Forgot!

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I had a tough day. Not tough by global standards, mind you. I still had clean water and plenty to eat. Not even tough by normal standards. I wasn’t sick. My husband still loved me. My kids were doing well…But it was one of those days when the world overwhelmed me. A busy week had worn me out. I had a few hard issues to face, and business conflicts, and, by golly, my printer wouldn’t even work! By mid-afternoon, I was in bed weeping, then slept for a good long while. I had forgotten—

  • That, while it really is okay to cry, and to be sad on occasion, there’s an infinite Source of joy and support standing right beside me, available if I’ll just stop to notice.
  • That our troubles really belong to Him, and he’s able to handle them all the time.
  • That prayer truly does change things, within and without.
  • That sometimes all we need is rest, and quiet, and a moment to remember…

They say, whoever “they” are, that the best way to learn something is to teach it. In a way, I teach when I write. I have learned these lessons before, but on that difficult day, for a few painful hours, I forgot them. Perhaps you forget them now and then as well. So, here are a few reminders, for both of us, blogs I wrote long ago based on the words of writers I respect:

‘Hope you’ll take these reminders to heart, both today and on the next day that life threatens to overwhelm you. We serve a mighty God, and he can handle whatever comes our way. We may have pain or hardship or even just plain old irritation, but even then we can take a breath and let our spirits rest in him.

While on a Treadmill…

white-male-1856182_1280On a recent rainy Saturday, I headed to the gym and slipped on my headphones. Sometimes, to distract myself from the boredom of the treadmill (just being honest here!), I watch Netflix. Sometimes, I watch a sermon. I chose a sermon that day and started streaming one by Francis Chan It was a great talk on obedience and sacrifice, delivered in his usual way—disarmingly casual, surprisingly funny and always in-your-face challenging. But on that Saturday, it wasn’t a sermon by Francis Chan that renewed my resolve to trust in our loving lord. It was, of all things, an ad for the movie “Hellboy.”

Since I’m not an aficionado of those movies, I can’t tell you which sequel Hollywood is offering this month. What I can tell you is that, as I began to jog along on a noisy sweat machine, the flat screen TV in the corner of the room caught my eye. There in poster-like fashion, bold against a brightly colored background, was this announcement:

ON APRIL 12, OUR FATE IS IN HIS HANDS.

I had to laugh. I was about to spend 30 minutes listening to what would unquestionably be a fantastic sermon by a well-known pastor, but nothing was going to stick in my mind that day like those few words. Because, of course, on April 12th, and every other day as well, our fate IS in his hands. (I hope you’ve figured out by now that I don’t mean the hands of Hellboy!)

Those words are one of the keys to our walk of faith, the reason we can be at peace no matter what is going on around us. Our fate is in the hands of the Lord who loves us. Not in our hands. Not in the hands of any enemy or even in the hands of a loved one. In HIS hands. Ultimately, at all times, whether we see it or not, our Lord is at the helm. And isn’t that the most wonderful news?

So, on April 12th, and on every day thereafter, I hope you will join me in remembering—perhaps with a bit of a chuckle over the source of these words—

OUR FATE IS IN HIS HANDS!! Care to comment? Just click here.

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The Best Things in Life…

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The best things in life are almost never the ones we plan. Maybe that’s because then we can’t even be tempted to take the credit. I’ve been looking through an old journal lately. It’s filled with descriptions of the bumps and surprises of life. If I look closely between the lines, I can see God’s hand in both the ups and the downs.

•           August, 2015: Steve and I headed to Colorado for a mountain retreat. (And to attend the Palisade Peach Festival!) Somehow, Steve’s backpack was left behind on the kitchen floor, its absence discovered far too late for us to go back and retrieve it before our flight. But our discussions were better, our rest deeper, because the stack of papers and the work they represented were replaced by an open ended freedom made possible only by our having forgotten that bag. 

•           During that same trip, I discovered that Elizabeth was sick and at home alone. My mother’s heart yearned to go and care for her. My loving husband made it happen. She recovered quickly. Steve experienced an unexpected but much needed silent retreat and spent hours praying and meditating on God’s plans for our family for the following several years.

•           As we travel, we often wind up at an odd but charming little hotel or “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant because of an inner leading to stop. How we delight in those surprises!

I seem so much better at letting go of my control habit when we are on the road. Perhaps that’s because, away from home, I finally come to terms with how little is within my influence anyway. And when I relinquish control, I become much more consistent in my prayer for God to guide me, a prayer I believe he delights to answer.

Where are you on the control continuum? We can’t be on vacation all the time, but we can travel with a great degree of abandonment on this road of life. Do I mean that all preparation and organization should be thrown to the wind? Heavens, no! But there is a place in my heart where I need to be reminded every day that my loving Lord has things well in hand. My greatest responsibility and desire is to seek his plan each day and to turn my worry into trust and all my anxious moments into times of praise.

Join me! Hand over the reins. I think you will find that adventure awaits.

Click here to comment and to join in the conversation!

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Father Knows Best by Beth Smith

 
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John had been out of work for nearly a year, and times were tough. One day, though, he decided to take his little daughter Sarah out for a rare treat—candy from a convenience store. Sarah, being much smaller than her very tall father, began to look with great delight at the brightly colored, cheap candy displayed on the lower shelves, candy was so cheap it didn’t even qualify as a splurge.

John said, “No, Sarah, look up here. There’s the really good candy. You can choose anything, not just what’s down there.” But, sure of what she wanted, Sarah picked some bright red balls of candy. Loving father that he is, John said, “Sarah, those are sour balls, very sour. I know you, and you won’t like them. Look, here’s a Snickers, a Nestle Crunch bar.” But Sarah would have nothing to do with that. She saw only what was right in front of her, at her own eye level. It wasn’t the best she could have, and was nowhere near what her father wanted to give her.

John told me he was disappointed that his desire to give Sarah something special, something big, went unfulfilled. He went on to say that God used the experience to reveal to him that he, John, often made the same mistake that Sarah did. He was making some poor choices because he could see the situation only at his eye level, while his heavenly Father saw the whole picture. Don’t we all do that?

Our Father sees what’s best for us better than we can. We’re limited by our own “short sightedness.”  Unable to see the top shelf, we choose a lollipop over a king sized Snickers bar.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

Our Father knows what will fulfill us, because he created us. He knows what will really make us happy, better than we know ourselves. We might choose red sourballs because they look good, instead of letting God give us the desires he has created in our hearts. He puts his desires there. Note our part in this scripture:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4 NIV).

Do we take away God’s joy in giving to us because we want to do it ourselves, our own way?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT).

What if, today, Jesus asked us the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” We’re human. We’d say we want a job, healing, the return of a wayward child, a house or maybe a new way of life.

Wait. Stop. Think. Jesus knows our needs. We can tell him what we think we need, but then we ought to tell him, “Whatever you think is best. Your will be done.”

We can let God choose for us only if we trust his love and his wisdom, and believe in his power. If we want God’s best, we must let him choose.

 

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Because Today We need to Trust–original post by Lucinda Secrest McDowell*

LucindaI looked up at Daddy with wide-eyed, ten-year-old amazement, “I can’t believe you burned down ‘Brookside.’”

The fire had left its devastation — everything around us was black and charred. There were no tall grasses left, no bushes, no wildflowers. ‘Brookside’ was our family’s small farm just outside town, a place where we fished, hunted, played, rode horses, and spent campouts at the cabin dubbed by my parents as “The Last Resort.”

“Oh, Cindygirl, I didn’t burn down ‘Brookside’,” Daddy replied with a grin. “This is what is called ‘controlled burning’ – setting carefully guarded fires to clean out the underbrush and make way for new spring growth. Remember, I’m a forester. This is what we do every year.”

I wanted to trust Daddy, to believe that what he said was indeed the truth.

But the blackened ground didn’t look like it would ever see green again. It seemed more reasonable to trust what my eyes saw instead of what my ears heard. Tentatively I sought to grasp what he had said. “So, it only looks like you destroyed ‘Brookside,’ but what you were really doing is preparing it for growing?”

“Exactly, “Daddy explained. “Those weeds and tall grasses would have choked back the new plants and flowers coming this spring, so we clear that away, and before you know it, this whole area will once again be covered in beautiful green.”

For another moment I experienced an internal battle between what the person I trusted was saying and what I was actually seeing.

I knew that my daddy loved this farm – that he enjoyed walking through the trails and boating on the two ponds and driving the jeep from the brooks that bordered each side of the vast acreage. I also knew that he always replenished the lands that provided wood for his pulpwood business.

Most of all, I knew that he was a person I could believe with all my heart. I chose to trust him because I knew him so well.

And my trust was rewarded with visible evidence — by the very next weekend there were tiny shoots of green peeking up all over the farm!

The psalmist encourages us to “Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8).

When we are young children, our parents should embody the same kind of safety, refuge and trustworthiness as our heavenly Father. In my life, I was privileged to make an easy transition from trusting a trustworthy father to trusting my heavenly Father. But sadly, we know that is not always the case.

How can we live out the word ‘trust’ when others have betrayed our trust so many times that we have become wary?

 In this verse, the word trust is translated from the Hebrew word chacah, a verb which means to seek refuge or put trust in God. Its noun form, machacah, is actually interchangeable with our English word ‘refuge.’ So when we speak of trust, we are also speaking of a safe place to dwell – actually living in a refuge of trust.

As my childhood story suggests, one of the stumbling blocks in trusting is that trust involves saying no to our natural tendencies and yes to what sometimes appears impossible. That’s where faith comes in.

My father was a worthy object of my trust and so I chose to believe what he said instead of what I mistakenly deduced from my surroundings. I could wholeheartedly put my trust in him because I knew his heart.

What do you see when you look at your life today? Is there devastation? Have dreams been shattered? Are resources depleted? It’s pretty easy to trust that what you see must be the final reality.

But you might be wrong.

The burnt-out brush of your life right now might very well be a carefully ‘controlled burning’ orchestrated by your heavenly Father to provide ideal conditions for new growth. Maybe something in your life has to go so that God can replace it with something even better.

Will you trust Him to do that in His way and His time?

 

Originally posted at http://www.encouragingwords.net/

*Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she delights in “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.”  A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 13 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling Places (2017 Christian Retailing BEST Award for Devotional), Ordinary Graces (2018 SELAH finalist), Live These Words,  Refresh! and Role of a Lifetime.  A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), Lucinda received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs monthly for The Write Conversation and Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog. Whether co-directing  “reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,”  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/