Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Eternal Hope

I love teaching kindergartners. Children always give me a feeling of hope. Whenever I talk with them or spend time with them, I see a world of possibilities and energy and imagination and ideas. They think nothing is impossible. They are ready to try anything. They are curious and eager to explore. And, if they encounter difficulty, they keep on trying. They are always hoping and pressing on.

As an adult I often venture into the world with a hopeful attitude. But often that hope is in my own ability or the circumstances or my knowledge or just strength of will. That kind of hope is situational. It depends on what I can do or what others can do for me.

Today we face a world full of reasons not to hope. Challenges to our families, our children, our own selves seem to come at us from every side. It’s a time “rational” thought would say is hopeless. Situational hope evaporates. But God is a God of eternal hope.

In Romans, Paul wrote that Abraham believed, hoping against hope, that he would become the father of man nations. “Rational” thought would say this was impossible. Nothing in the situation gave hope. Abraham and Sarah were too old to become parents. But Abraham put his hope in God and God’s promise; God fulfilled His Word.

Mary faced a similar situation when the angel came to her. “Rational” thought would drive out earthly hope; a virgin cannot have a baby. But Mary believed God, put her hope in God to fulfill His Word. And He did.

The baby that God sent is a child of hope. The hope of a Messiah. The hope of rescue from a life of bondage to sin. Hope that life is more than this earthly existence. Hope that conquers any situation or circumstance. Our Sovereign God, our God of grace, give eternal hope through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Journey vs Destination

We like to drive. In fact, most of our past vacations have been about driving around and not necessarily getting to a certain place to do something. Even now, when I'm feeling restless, we will just drive around for a while. The enjoyment, the important part, is the traveling together and enjoying what we see along the way. The journey is more than just marking time until we reach a certain place.

This week I suddenly realized something. I've been thinking about this "middle" time as just a means to an end. This time of waiting and trusting is more than just an in-between. It is not just marking time until the next important thing.

This is the next important thing.

So often in the past months, I've been doing what I need to do. But when any opportunity shows up, I think, "This is the one that will get me moving again. This will be the next important thing."

I've not been enjoying the journey. I've not been paying attention to what is happening right now. Or at least I've not been seeing what's happening now as my "real life." It's just been a way-station until I get to the next part of my real life (in my view).

But that's not true. This is my real life now. I've had great time to think and write. I've had opportunities I wouldn't have been able to experience. I've enjoyed those experiences but not relished them as an important part of who I am and what I do. I haven't seen those as part of what God has called me to do overall - they've just been part of what's happening now.

I've been too quick to say, "I'm not teaching now but ...." I feel apologetic about what I'm doing now. And I shouldn't. God has led us to this exciting and challenging journey.

But this is my life now. My real life. The position God has called me to right now. It may last a few more weeks or a few more months or longer. We don't know when things will change or when God will call us to something new. This is our journey and destination at the moment.

We will enjoy the journey as we live it. And relish each moment along the way.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Room for Doubt?

I wonder. Did Mary ever doubt? Did Joseph wonder about things in the midst of Mary's pregnancy? After all, they faced some pressures from their culture - Mary pregnant before marriage; Joseph marrying her instead of putting her away in disgrace.

I know that God called Mary and Joseph for their specific purposes and they willingly obeyed and submitted to His call. But they were people, too. I wonder if they had moments when they were really unsure about this path they were on.

Sometimes I wonder if I have blundered into a wrong path. If where I am is God's leading or my own wanderings. I wonder how things will come together. I wonder if I'm foolish to subject my wife to uncertainty. I sometimes feel doubtful that we're being recklessly obedience and are just being reckless.

Is there room for doubt in a life of reckless obedience?

I think that we should continually listen and reflect. We should evaluate what we are doing in light of God's leading through His Word and His people.

I worry that doubt is showing a lack of faith. But I'm learning that perhaps doubt can be an avenue to strengthen my faith. When I wonder about my path and pray and listen and read and pray again, I am continuing to try and align myself with God. If my wondering leads to more focus on Him, then that "doubt" can renew my commitment and faith.

Paul wrote:
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6).

I never doubt God. I do doubt my understanding of His will sometimes. But He will continue to work to complete in me what He purposes. I must listen and pray and trust.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

God has blessed us this year. I'm so thankful. We are so blessed.

I have a wonderful wife - who laughs at my jokes (every time) and encourages me. She listens to my whining and then tells me to get over it (sometimes in a loving way, sometimes in a tough way, but always in the way I need it).

I am more thankful this year because she is still here. She had a bad car accident in April but has recovered very well. She's back to basically where she was before. I am so thankful to God for that.

I have a dependable truck. It's our only vehicle now. But I am so thankful for it, even when it seems a little cramped with my backpack, Cindy's work, and the two of us. And, since we only have one vehicle, I get to spend lots more time with Cindy as I drive her to the places she needs to go. I am so thankful that I get to spend so much time with her.

We have food on our table. More than we need usually. Because of the accident, I became the designated grocery shopper - and I like it (most weeks). I learned how to cook more things. Now I can help with that task, either doing it myself or helping Cindy as she does it. 

We have a wonderful church family. So many people have given time or gift cards or prayers. So many encouraging words and offers of help. We are so blessed. We are so grateful.

Who knew that so many blessings were hidden in an auto accident?

I do not have a full-time job right now. But, if I did have a job, transportation would be an issue. I would have less time to spend on helping out with errands and other stuff. I would have less time to travel around town with Cindy. I would have less time to spend on my college courses.  I am thankful that I am freelancing at the moment and not working full time. 

Who knew that blessings were hidden in the lack of a job?

Counting blessing is so much better than nursing hurts. Things have been a little unsettled for me lately. The middle of something new can be a little discouraging. 

But when I look back at this year...when I see what God has done...when I see how much I need to do to honor Him in the ways I should...I am so grateful.

Who knew all the blessing we would see this year in so many unexpected ways? God did. 

He is the God who knows. He is the God who leads. He is the God who rules.

We are so blessed. We are so thankful.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lesson of the Handrail

The other day I was talking to a friend. We were talking about my university classes and my writing assignments, among other things. He asked, "Are you doing all right?"

I nodded quickly. "Oh, yes. We are doing just fine."

Then he said something that I don't think I'll soon forget. "If you need help, just ask us. I know you won't. But we want to help if you need it."

I know you won't.

Four words that so often sum up our approach to asking for help. We don't ask.

If someone came to us and said he needed help, with anything, we would do whatever we could to give the help he needed. Or work to find someone to help him out. We would not hesitate.

But when we are the ones that may need a little help, we hesitate. We think of ways to deal with the situation on our own. We don't ask someone else to give us a hand.

For Cindy and me, the wreck changed that somewhat. We had to have some help. I still hesitated asking when I needed it. But I now have a tangible reminder of the importance of asking for help. Our handrail.

Cindy had to have a handrail on our front steps to get into the house. We didn't have a rail. Cindy (not I) asked for help. Now we have a solid, expert-built handrail that we will continue to use for many years to come.

Cindy asked. People helped. And it's so much better than if I had tried to put something up. (Construction is not my gift.)

We need to ask others when we need help. We need to allow others to have the blessing of giving us, of using what God has given them to minister to us. We need to have the blessing of receiving. A valuable lesson that I'm still learning.

My friend's words about not asking for help also clicked for me on a deeper level. So often I try to face things alone or try to survive alone - without asking God for help. God's strength and power are so much more than ours. He will answer when we call. But often we try to do it alone.

When we take things on ourselves, we fail. Oh, we might scrape by, this time. But we do not live victoriously. And, more often, we fall down hard and miss the blessing that God has for us.

I cannot do everything myself - no matter what competent front I put up. I cannot do everything. God has gifted people in many different ways and some of those are just waiting for someone to need their expert help.

And our God will help, if we stop trying to be self-sufficient. I cannot do it. He can.

Maybe if I use the handrail enough times, I'll remember this lesson.

Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. Romans 12:4-5
I raise my eyes to toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Friday, October 24, 2014

I Don’t Want to Be an Israelite

This is Cindy posting on the blog today. I have been thinking about the Israelites a lot lately. The Lord God led the people from slavery out of Egypt. Every day the Israelites saw God’s mighty power. He led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. He provided manna and quail for the people to eat. He rescued them from the pursuing Egyptians. But every day the people complained. “We’re tired of manna!” “We’re thirsty! Give us water!” “Why did you lead us out in this Wilderness to die? We should have stayed in Egypt!” All I can say is, “Really, people? What is your problem?”

I feel that we are in our own wilderness, now. And like the Israelites, we see God’s mighty power every day. God’s protection and healing was evident after my accident. God’s provision after the accident was evidenced in a generous church family and work friends. God continues to provide work opportunities for us to have the money we need to pay for food and housing. We have everything we need. No need to complain. So far so good. I am not an Israelite.

After 40 years, God’s people finally were able to enter the land He had promised them. God led them into the land and conquered for them. (Read about Jericho in Joshua 6.) They had everything they needed. What did God ask of them? He asked for their obedience and worship. But the Israelites forgot everything God had done for them. They began to worship idols. They had it too good. They left God behind.

This is where I do not want to land. When we are through this wilderness time, I don’t want to be an Israelite and forget all that God has done for us. I want to still feel the wonder that the God who created the Universe chose me. I want to be in awe that God sent His only Son to die for my sin. I want to feel the thankfulness for the grace of God I don’t deserve. I don’t want to be an Israelite.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Living in the Middle

Starting on a new adventure is exciting and a little scary. The rush of adrenaline and the anticipation fuel your start. Ending the adventure or seeing things come together is exciting and scary. The maturing of hopes and dreams makes all the journey seem worthwhile. 

But the middle...well, the middle is not so exciting and maybe not very scary. Lots of other emotions and feelings, ups and downs. Lots of questions and wondering if, somehow, a turn was missed or a call ignored.

Right now, that's where I feel we are. Trudging through the middle. Following possibilities that lead nowhere. Watching for signposts that are really dead ends.

But through all that, we know that God is faithful. God is always faithful. Recently I read this verse:
Praise the Lord, all nations! Glorify Him, all peoples! For His faithful love to us is great; the Lord ’s faithfulness endures forever. Hallelujah! (Psalms 117:1-2)

The unexpected email from someone who thought I may be interested in writing for an education Web site. More writing assignments that I could ever expect to get. A message for a interim teaching position. These have all been signposts that God is still working, messages of His continued faithfulness. 

Even if most of these don't bear out exactly as I hope. It's hard not to get excited or to see possibilities when talking about new ventures with someone. And then when nothing seems to happen because of it, it's easy to feel rejected and dejected. Especially when you spend most days alone at home, typing on a computer. 

The thoughts can swirl in your head, thoughts that tell you of dead ends and missed calls. 

But God is faithful. Trusting and praising that faithfulness gets us through the middle. 

We're learning more about God and our relationships to Him. That's the truth of the middle. It's a time of learning and growing. Praising and trusting. The excitement of the beginning and the joy of the end are sweetened by the long middle. That's where we see the faithfulness of God and learn how to live in that faithfulness.

His faithfulness endures forever! Hallelujah!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Backup Plan

Driving alone is a great time for me to think. I set off yesterday to drive to my class at Belmont University. As I started out, my thoughts turned to the fact that we haven't purchased a replacement car yet. I began to wonder what we would do if something happened to the truck. What was our backup plan? My mind spun into a lot of different mini-worries, just like always happens. And then I put the thought away.

Not a full minute later, it happened. I was sitting at an intersection, waiting to turn right. BAM! The woman behind me hit me. I got out of the truck and walked to the back, really irritated but trying not to look too menacing to an older woman. I looked at the back of the truck, looked at the bumper, and saw what had happened. She had knocked some dirt off of the chrome. Not much else. (Later I did see that it looks a little wonky but not much.)

We both got back in our vehicles and I went on my way. As I drove on to class, I stewed a little about the woman’s inattention and how thankful I was that it was only a low-speed bump. My “backup plan” thoughts drifted back into my head. Wow, something could have really happened and what would we have done? But my thoughts were different than before. God has the backup plan. If something had happened to the truck, we would have dealt with it and moved on. A peaceful feeling and a convicting feeling both came over me. Do I trust Him to handle whatever comes?

I thought about Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21. The man had a very productive farming season and thought: “I’ll build bigger barns to store all this abundance. Then I will be set for many years. I can rely on this to enjoy myself for years to come.” But God told the man that he would die that very night. The wealth he had accumulated would benefit someone else.

Jesus’ parable warns of storing up earthly treasures and ignoring the spiritual treasures that God provides. How does that relate to my own thoughts? I was thinking of how I could secure my own future rather than thinking about what God wants me to do. And trusting Him for that future.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to have a savings account or plan for emergencies. We do need to care for ourselves and our families. But I should not get so caught up in preparing backup plans for every contingency that I forget God. I must be reckless in my obedience and trust and faith in Him.

I find it interesting that the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 is followed by Jesus’ teaching on anxiety.
Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. (Luke 12:29-31)

Will we get a replacement car? Of course. But it will be when our lives change so that it is needed. And not because I need to orchestrate backup plans to deal with the future. God has all that in His hands; I just need to rest in Him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blessing or Burden?

Do you grumble? I think of myself as a person who can roll with the punches, who takes things as they come and works to deal with them.

But I'm not. At least not always.

Recently we've had a few large "walls" loom up. One in particular has been weighing on my mind. (No regular job, no health insurance.)

We've been dealing with things and praying about things. Last week, a solution appeared. A solution that is fairly seamless with our past insurance. One that is probably the best solution I could ask for. But it cost more than I really was planning on spending. Now, the cost wasn't out of line with other options that I've looked at - those were more than I really wanted, too.

So I began to grumble - at least to myself. And then I woke up to what I was doing. Here was an answer to my prayer; here was a great solution that means we don't start over at 0 this late in the year. And the part I was complaining about? God has already shown to us His ability to provide what we need.

A Christian song from a few years ago includes the line "bearing gifts as if they're burdens." So many times I'm guilty of this. God gives me a wonderful gift or blessing - and I look at it as something to bear, as a punishment or a liability.

When I think about grumbling, and seeing blessings as burdens, I think about the Israelites journeying through the wilderness. They had not been out of Egypt and across the Red Sea for long before they began to complain. "We should have died in Egypt, where we sat beside pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Now we'll die here of hunger!" So God sent manna, bread from heaven that appeared each morning. (See Exodus 16.)

Later they complained about this food. "We ate fish and cucumbers, melons, leeks, and onions when we were in Egypt. Now all we have is this manna! Give us meat." Moses even began to complain about the people to God. God sent quail for the people to eat. (See Numbers 11.)

They complained about what God sent them to sustain them. They grumbled and wanted something different. They even longed to go back to where they had it so good - Egypt. ( really wasn't so good; they were slaves who were being systematically killed.)

That's what I was doing, too. Looking at the answer God provided - that would be covered by the resources He provided - and grumbled that I had to use those resources for that answer. Hmm. Not really a burden, huh? More like seeing God's hand continuing to work - giving resources and answering prayers in ways only He can. Sustaining us through a time that could be very trying and yet isn't. Being the God who leads, the God who provides, the God who sustains.

I'm thankful for a God who hears whatever grumbles (or "concerns") we have and provides a way for us. I am thankful for the answer - the blessing - He has sent to us. And we will lean on Him to continue to provide for our needs.

I pray that I see each blessing that God gives with a truly thankful heart.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Sometimes I wonder why things take time. Why sometimes we need to wait. God is sovereign and powerful. God is able to accomplish it all. Why do we need to wait for an answer or for something to happen?

This makes me think about the Israelites and Jericho (Joshua 6). Jericho was a heavily fortified city, with high walls and soldiers. Since the Israelites had moved into the land, the city was closed up, no one entering or leaving.

Joshua and the Israelites knew that God had promised the land to them. God had already been leading them into the land and giving them victories. Now here was Jericho. The people were probably ready to defeat it and move on.

What did God say to do? He told Joshua to march around the city once. And do this each day for six days. Joshua told the people to walk around the city without speaking. (See Joshua 6:10.) So the people marched around the city, silently. They walked around those tall and thick walls, saying and doing nothing.

On the seventh day, they marched around seven times. After the seventh time, the trumpets were blown and Joshua told the people to shout. They shouted and the walls collapsed. The people moved into the city and conquered it.

As I think about this story, I wonder about the people. I wonder what they were thinking as they marched around each day. Why did God tell them to do it this way? Why didn't God collapse the walls when they first arrived?

I think maybe the people looked at those walls, seeing the formidable city for what it was. They could see how difficult conquering this city would be. By walking around silently, they could think...think about how little they could do to defeat Jericho. They could also focus on God, who He is and what He does.

When they shouted, they saw God at work. They knew that they could do nothing to take down the walls. They realized that only God could fight for them. When the walls fell, they knew that, as Joshua said, God had given them the city.

Now maybe I'm reading a lot into this story. That's a risk when you start thinking about biblical stories beyond what's written on the pages. But this makes me think about us, too.

Our faith and trust needs to be completely on God. When I see formidable tasks (and we've run into a few lately), we must not rely on our own way and our own strength. God will accomplish His will in ways He sees fit, in His time. Also, this "marching around" time helps us defeat our pride and self-reliance. It helps us to remember to whom the glory belongs (and it's not us).

Are you walking around some formidable walls? Focus on God's strength and His leadership. The walls may fall down. They may not. But God's will must be our focus.

This past week, one of my favorite verses keeps coming to mind:
I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me? (Jeremiah 32:27)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Glory for Whom?

By its very nature, a blog is self-promotion. The author writes his thoughts. People comment about the ideas or the writing or the insight - giving attention back to the author. Pride and focus on self lurk underneath the very idea of writing a blog about anything.

This past week our pastor preached about humility. He said that humility is one of the defining marks of a true Christian. Our world, our society, our country focuses on the individual and the advancement of self. We as Christians should seek to bring out the best in others, live and act in ways that help others grow and shine. We live to reflect and magnify God. We should not bring the attention back to ourselves.

Earlier last week I saw something that made me think about these things. I saw a video of Victoria Osteen speaking to her church. You may have seen it, too. (I'm not going to link to it; search for it and you can find it.) She said, in part: "Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God, really. You're doing it for yourself because that's what makes God happy." I was astounded when I saw that clip.

We worship God because He is God. He is worthy of worship. Worshiping God, and "doing good," may benefit me; I may feel happy or fulfilled. But that should not be the reason I do it. The things we do, the worship we give, are to bring glory to God. Because He is God.

As I thought about that clip (and later heard that sermon), I kept thinking about our current life adventure. And this blog. It's easy to say, "Look at what we're doing. Aren't we 'spiritual'? What great people we are." And that's the last thing I want to do. Nothing that has happened in the past months or years can be attributed to me. It's all about God.

All glory goes to God. Any success or insight or triumph or praise goes to God. We want to glorify Him. The main thing that has been emphasized in our lives through our current experiences - God is Sovereign. God is great. God is faithful. God is worthy of praise and glory, no matter what happens. It's about Him not about us.

As I reflected this past week, John 3:30 kept coming to mind.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
If this blog ever becomes more about us and less about Him, you must tell me. God, we praise You.
Our Lord and God,
You are worthy to receive
glory and honor and power,
because You have created all things,
and because of Your will
they exist and were created. (Revelation 3:11)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

But Really, What's the Answer

Have you ever gotten an answer to a question but refused to accept it?

Have you ever asked a question over and over again, hoping the answer would change? (I've run into this technique as a teacher.)

I think we do this with God all the time. (Well, maybe I do this all the time. I'll just speak for myself.)

I pray and pray. God gives me an answer. But I keep praying about the same thing.

Why do Christians do this? Maybe we want the answer to change - we don't like the one we got so if we keep praying it will change. We don't want to do (or stop doing) what we've heard so we keep praying, thinking if we pretend we don't understand, we will get a different answer.

Sometimes we keep praying because we want to make sure it's the answer and not just our wishful thinking. It's good to verify whatever we think we hear, but to just keep asking to avoid action isn't good.

I think about Gideon. He asked God for a sign. (See Judges 6:36-40) He put out a wool fleece and asked God to make the fleece wet with dew and the ground around it dry. If God did that, Gideon would know that God wanted to use him to deliver Israel from the Midianites. God did what Gideon asked. Then Gideon said, "If you really want me to do this, make the ground wet and the fleece dry." God did that the next night.

I don't know if Gideon doubted his call or was just reluctant to do it. (Judges 6:16 does show some reluctance when God first came to him.) But Gideon asked and God answered. God kept telling Gideon to go. At last he did.

Sometimes it's not about doubting or reluctance. Sometimes, I think we don't recognize that the answer is the answer. We're expecting an answer that is completely different from what comes.

I've been praying a version of "God please show me what you want me to do" for the past couple of months. Last week I had hit a few snags in following what I felt were appropriate leads. I prayed that prayer again. "Show me what you want me to do."

Within a couple of hours of voicing that prayer, my phone rang. An editor called to offer me another writing opportunity. More of God's provision is what I was thinking.

Then a new thought appeared as I hung up the phone. "Why do you ignore the answer you keep getting?"

I pondered this. In several different instances, after I had prayed my "Show me what to do" prayer, I had received an email or call about a writing job. Since I wasn't looking for that to be the answer to my prayer, I kept missing it. Or maybe didn't want to accept it since I had a different answer in mind.

I read recently on a blog* that, when God seems silent and you are waiting, do the last thing that you clearly remember Him telling you to do. Every time I pray specifically about a teaching job, I feel that God is saying to wait. When I pray more generally ("show me what to do"), writing is the answer. Every time. So, how many fleeces must be wet or dry before I get/accept the answer?

So I'm praying something different now. "Keep me faithful in this task. And keep my ears open for whatever other paths You are leading me to travel."

And isn't that what I should have been praying all along? Keep me faithful to what You are doing now. And make me ready and willing for what is to come.

*I don't remember where I read this. If it's your blog or you know where I saw it, please let me know and I'll add a link and credit.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Replenishing Flour

I pulled up our bank account online the other day. I needed to transfer some funds; I wasn't just checking on it. I looked at the balance. It shouldn't have been that. There was much more than I expected in the account.

This isn't the first time that's happened. When I took my first teaching job two years ago, our income...well...was reduced.

And we always had enough (more than enough) to take care of our expenses. We had what we needed when we needed it.

Now, I keep getting freelance writing jobs. Cindy keeps working on her contract assignments (or new contract assignments). And we have (more than) enough to meet our needs.

The flour jar did not become empty and the oil jug did not run dry. (1 Kings 17:16)

The land was suffering a famine. Elijah traveled to Zarephath as God told him. He met a widow there. She was gathering sticks for her oven.

Elijah asked for water. As she went to get it, he said, "And bring me a piece of bread."

The widow said, "I don't have any bread. I only have a little flour and oil left. I was getting ready to make the last bit of bread for my son and me. Then we will die."

Elijah told her, "Make me a small loaf first. Then do as you planned. God says that the flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until rain comes."

The woman did as Elijah asked. And they ate for many days.

The flour jar did not become empty and the oil jug did not run dry, according to the word of the LORD He had spoken through Elijah.

As a man concerned about his family, I want to make sure we have what we need. As a worrier by nature, I want to plan and secure necessary funds. As a follower of God, I want to have faith.

We've learned that God will provide. Cindy had an accident this spring. The hospital bills (our portion) has been much less than we thought. Unexpected opportunities appear in the mail. The account does not become empty or run dry.

Trust. A calm mind. Putting off worry and putting on faith. These are things I'm learning or re-learning.

And the jar and the jug do not become empty.

Does that mean that we just sit around, spend what we want, and just hope that the money is there?

No, we try to be wise about our spending. We give to ministries at our church and elsewhere. We pursue whatever appears that seems to be the way He is leading.

But we trust in Him for the future.

God is faithful. He provides.

Monday, August 11, 2014

This Way?

Did you ever stop and wonder, "How did I get here?"

I have when driving or walking through an unfamiliar space. I've ended up in a place different from what I expected. I thought I knew the way to go but ended up in a completely different spot. The path or hallway or street didn't go where I thought it would.

Two years ago I began a new career in classroom teaching. I knew how the path would go. I walked into a classroom and began to teach young kids. It was hard, harder in some ways than I expected. That year I kept thinking, "This is different than I expected." But I knew that things would settle and become more like I thought.

One year ago, the year began smoothly and I was happy at how things were developing. Then I was unexpectedly moved to a new school and a new grade level. And it was rough. For many different reasons, much rougher than I really thought it would be.

I thought, "It wasn't supposed to be like this. I'm working as hard as I know, doing the best I know. And it doesn't seem enough. I made this change, giving up salary and security. It should be better than this." (Yes, my pride seems to keep showing up in the middle of this journey.)

But I kept working, knowing that things would be different as time progressed.

Now it's now. School started here last week. All the kids and teachers began their new year. Without me in a classroom. This isn't the way it should have happened. This is not the direction I planned or expected. I had a moment last week when I was really, really sad. My dream wasn't going to happen. It is over.

Or is it?

Yes, we're heading through this in a way different from what I expected. But that doesn't mean I made a mistake or my dream has evaporated.

I think about Joseph...the Old Testament Joseph. (Read his story in Genesis 37–50).

Joseph also had a dream. He dreamt that the sun, moon, and stars would bow to him. He was the favored son of his father, the heir apparent. But he ended up as a slave in Egypt, sold by his own brothers. Then he was thrown in jail, for trumped-up offenses. He helped men who were troubled, and through that, he sought a way out of jail with a man who had the pharaoh's confidence. It didn't happen.

I wonder if Joseph ever thought, "How did I get here? This wasn't the way it should have been."

Then...after years...he was remembered, he assisted a troubled pharaoh, and he was elevated to leader of the kingdom. Many bowed to him. Even his own brothers. He had opportunity to avenge himself for the brothers' actions. But what did Joseph say?

"You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result--the survival of many people." (Genesis 50:20)

We are certainly not facing the hardships and evil that Joseph did. We are facing some challenges but those are challenges to our expectations. My carefully designed route is gone. We are in a new place, a route that I certainly didn't expect. But God is planning and leading for our good - to bring about His result. In the past any "detour" we encountered led to greater, better places. Will this be any different? I don't think so.

I don't want to ask, "Why this way?" I should ask, "What unexpected lessons are waiting on this way?"

That sounds so easy, so mature, so holy. I'm not there. But I want to be.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Unfamiliar Territory

I have been reading about Joshua and the Israelites. In Joshua 3, they are preparing to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

As they were preparing to leave, Joshua told the people to wait until they saw the ark of the covenant leave the camp. Then they should pack up and move, following it. He says to keep a distance from the ark as they go.

"Don't go near it," Joshua says, "so that you can see the way to go, for you haven't traveled this way before." (Joshua 3:4)

The people had to focus on the ark, the presence of God. They were moving into unfamiliar territory and the only way to stay on track was to focus on God.

Right now we are on a way we haven't traveled before. Some of our journey has been similar. But we are traveling new territory. How do we stay on track? Focus on God.

Unfamiliar territory can be unsettling, scary. Focus on God. He never changes. He leads and He protects.

At times, unfamiliar territory seems wrong. The circumstances make little logical sense. The path is overgrown, faded, or just plain missing. Focus on God. His ways are not our ways. But He doesn't abandon us; He leads in His own way.

We've laced up our boots and are ready to hit the trail. Focusing on God.

Monday, July 28, 2014


My great adventure with God has arrived at a familiar place. I'm waiting. It's happened before. And God's timing is always right. This blog will be about that time of waiting and what happens after.

It's hard to wait and not try to "fix it." Every time I decide to wait (as if I had a choice), my mind begins to list things I need to do. Ways I can move the waiting time along.

I listen and analyze those thoughts, looking for His leading. But most often it's me trying to get things done.

When I get in that mode, the example that comes to mind is the patriarchal couple Abraham and Sarah. You can read about the core of their story in Genesis 15-21. God made a covenant that Abraham would be the father of many nations, his offspring would be a numerous as the stars. Just one problem. Abraham had no children. Sarah was barren. They were both well-past childbearing years.

But God promised it and they believed it. Then they looked at the circumstances and decided to move along the promise, to cut short the waiting. Sarah told Abraham to have a child with her slave. That would be the way to fulfill God’s promise. They followed the plan; Hagar, the slave, had a son. And the trouble started.

Later, when God fulfilled His promise through His power, the trouble intensified. Trouble continues today through Hagar’s descendants (Arabs) and Sarah’s descendants (Jews).

I do not want to “fix” the waiting time. I will listen. I will work at what I know I should do. I will wait.