I have always believed we can learn so much by watching children. In fact, it is one of the reasons I became a teacher. I just never realized how great a lesson one could teach you, until today. Now that I work from home, my son only goes to child care a few days a week but we always make that drive time special. Each morning we pray and sing songs and each afternoon we talk about his day. Today was no different. We started out by thanking God for the sunshine and the great time we had on vacation this week. We remembered to pray for Grandmas and Grandpas, cousins and our dog and to thank Him for things like trucks and tractors. But my three-year old does something else each time we pray that today touched my heart in a distinct way. He thanks God for his biggest fears. This kid is fearless when it comes to heights, heavy equipment or airplanes but is terrified of the hand dryers in public restrooms, hates elevators and is not a fan of escalators or using the potty. About a month ago, I noticed he would thank God for these very things as he prayed. “And sank you God for elevators and escalators and hand dwyers and the potty”. At first I just thought it was really sweet, but as he prayed it today my eyes filled with tears and God spoke to me in a very real way. Thanking God for our current circumstances creates a cord of hope that connects us to His ultimate desires for us. Sometimes God changes our situation and other times he offers the strength to endure it. Either way, our current struggles have been lovingly planned by a Father who will never let us bend so far we break. I spent years going back and forth in this constant struggle of viewing every problem as an attack or at the very least an obstacle. Life became me versus the world and at times even felt like God versus me. There were times I even began to look at problems as punishment. When my son was born, anxiety issues I had dealt with my whole life were suddenly magnified and on many days I found it hard to breathe. I knew God was big enough to take that feeling away and my prayer was that he would, in an instant. I kept praying and waiting for the magical moment when God would just say “storm be still” and all that was raging within me would be no more. That was not the way he chose to deliver me. From that dark and frightening place, God chose to draw me near to his side; to come to know him in a new and more personal way. He became my very breath, my strength to rise and my song. The cord of hope was extended and the journey to the me he created me to be began. My struggle did not end in an instant and my circumstances were not suddenly changed; I was. I began looking at things differently and learning from the trials in my life. As my perspective changed, my situation changed. Years later, I can look back on times of trial and realize God was doing something there. For some situations, I still have no answers but I trust in the One who does. As my son thanked God for his four biggest problems in life, I began thanking God for mine. I started visualizing what blessings might be born from brokenness and started speaking those blessings out loud. I thanked Him for the things that irritate me and the things I still wish I could change about myself. That act opened the door for God to begin working in those areas. The cord of hope grew. What if one day, I looked at everything as one more love knot in the tapestry God is weaving in my life? This journey to our ultimate home in eternity could be so much more vibrant if we only let love win. If we learned to be grateful for our faults, fears and failures and let God use them for his glory what an impact we could make with our time here on earth. This one step, this one lesson from a three year old will be my starting point. “Sank you God…”
I went for a run (okay, a walk/jog) this morning at my favorite little walking trail. It was cool but one of those perfectly crisp late fall mornings. As I rounded the last turn, panting because I had upped my jog just slightly, I noticed a worker pruning away all the dried dead flowers in the butterfly garden. The butterfly garden is the most beautiful place of the trail. It’s a small serene sitting area surrounded by flowers and trees that attract hundreds of butterflies in vast variety. But today, it was desolate. As the worker clipped and snapped, he formed massive piles of stems, leaves and dried petals. He carefully snipped each one until the garden was barren.
It was a somber sight, the impending winter looming in the chill of the morning air. I love this garden. It’s where I have summer picnics with my son and sunny day chats with my best friends. Yet today it was vacant and void. For a moment I had that empty feeling. The one you got as a kid on the last day of summer break; that feeling of loss that comes at the end of a season.
Then I remembered. In order for the spring to come, the winter must stake its claim. In order for new growth to occur, the pruning must take place. Plants must be pruned for a season, in order to return more healthy and vibrant. This garden will flourish again in the right season, at the right time. Yet, if not properly cared for, it would cease to thrive.
Oh but if we could remember this truth in our days of pruning! As God shapes and molds us, cuts back and snips away at the dead places within us it is painful. Yes painful but, “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
After all, as I’ve heard it said before, the meantime is called the “mean time” for a reason. Life comes in seasons and though the winter can be long and cold and at times seem unending, the spring is coming. It is coming.
Let us look forward to the spring but remember the winter has its place for a purpose. If rooted well, a plant survives the winter, coming back stronger and heartier in the spring. My mom always said about planting Hosta, “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap”. If properly cared for and rooted in good soil, given the necessary protection, these plants will grow in great abundance.
We, if rooted in good soil, will survive even the harshest winter to come forth blooming in great abundance in the spring!
Hebrews 12:11, Ecclesiastes 3:1
Sometimes it is easier to pour out my fears, weaknesses, sins and shortcomings to the Lord than it is to place my hopes and dreams in His hands. It is easier to believe God forgives, heals and rescues than it is to believe he blesses, accomplishes and favors.
It is hard to believe these desires of my heart will come to fruition. After all, what have I done to deserve them? Yet His words says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This passage isn’t directing us to dream up any want we can think of and expect the Lord to grant it like a genie in a bottle. What it is saying is the Lord actually places His desires for you within your heart. When your eyes are fixed on Him and you are walking this life journey with Him, you will begin to desire the things that are pleasing to the Lord. And because you desire the things that please Him, he will surely bring them to pass.
What are the deepest longings of your heart? What is your heart cry? What do you desire above all else? Sometimes these deep desires are difficult to even put into words. Maybe it is for a loved one to know the Lord, a child to find grace, or to find that special one to share your life with. Perhaps it is a goal, a vision for ministry or a dream for your family. Whatever it is, give it to God. If he gave you the desire, give the outcome of it back to Him and allow him to work it out to completion in your life.
How do we know if the desire we have is from the Lord? Does it bless him? Honor him? Bring life, hope and joy to others? If it is something other than for selfish gain, it is likely from the Lord. After all, He created you. He gave you your talents, gifts, likes and dislikes. He gave you a unique personality that would long after the path he planned for your life. Think back to when you were a child, innocent and uninfluenced by the world. What did you want to be? What brought you the most joy? So many times, those desires get washed away by the harsh reality of the world we live in. This broken land robs joy and steals dreams. It tells us we’re unworthy, unlikely, and undesirable. But God says we are chosen, holy and dearly loved.
God says he will carry out his plans in our lives. We only must believe God has the power to do what he has promised. When God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations, Abraham had a choice to make; trust God’s word or believe what was his current reality. He chose not to consider his own weaknesses; “his own body, already dead or the deadness of Sarah’s womb”, rather he chose to be strengthened in his faith. “He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” That is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Abraham chose not to look at the obvious; his old body, his old ways, his current circumstances. He chose to look to the One who made the promise and was able to accomplish anything. The deep beauty of Abraham’s example is grace. Abraham did not work for God’s blessing. He didn’t earn merit badges by being a good church member or going door to door. He was highly favored because he believed God. For “to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt”. “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace.”
Let us look then at the desires God has placed in our hearts and look only unto Him as the one able to accomplish them through us. For we know that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given us”.
Psalm 37:4, Philippians 1:6, Colossians 3:12, Romans 4:20-22, Genesis 17:5, Romans 4:4, Romans 4:16, Romans 5:5
Fear. This filthy little monster creeps in unexpectedly to rob joy, steal hope and stifle dreams. Fear causes immobility because it whispers the “what ifs” that lead to deception. Fear is the one lie that offers a bounty of lies in its wake. It creeps in slowly, unknowingly and often disguised as reason, logic or reality. It takes the fragile flower of hope and crushes it with doubt. It leaves confusion where there was peace and fog where there was vision. Fear breeds rapidly if not recognized and removed. It gives life to deception which leads to discouragement. Discouragement causes defeat and defeat leads to despair.
Despair; “the complete loss or absence of hope”.
God does not give us the spirit fear. He “gives not a spirit of fear but one of love, power and a sound-mind”. Fear comes from the “enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour”. Fear is one of the enemy’s most powerful tools and it comes so often in disguise that recognizing the root of our rot as fear, can be difficult. Yet, nothing is impossible for our God! “For we know all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose”. All things. Our God is mighty, strong, a consuming fire. “He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it”. For “all the days ordained for us were written in God’s book before one of them came to be and we are God’s masterpiece”. He has “created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”.
Fear says, “its impossible”, God says, “I’ve already made the way”.
“Let us then strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us”.
Let us run. Not from fear, but without it. Let us drop our chains, the ones God never intended for us and let us run. Run in hope. Run with vision. Run with purpose. Run in the direction of the dreams God has placed in your heart. Run in freedom.
2 Timothy 1:7, 1 Peter 5:8, Romans 8:28, Deuteronomy 4:24, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Psalm 139:16, Ephesians 2:10, Hebrews 12:1
There are days in this business where I feel as if I’m standing in a crowd, hands open, offering an incredible gift and people don’t notice. They walk by with blinders on. They assume it’s too good to be true. They’re too busy to notice. They just can’t believe it’s for them. Some are curious but too afraid to even take a closer look.
Fear. It holds us back so many times. Fear whispers doubt, pulls us back into the mold and keeps us living with only a small portion of what God has in store. Fear tells us not to move. Doubt tells us it’s not possible. Shame tells us we’re not worthy.
God. God tells us to go. He tells us to move forward because He has already made a way and redeemed us. He makes us worthy.
Imagine what Christ must have felt on the cross. Can we even begin to glimpse a small portion of what he experienced? He was the most perfect gift given by God. God himself, opening His hands to offer his only Son.
Yet, in that moment and still today, people don’t notice. They walk by with blinders on. They turn away. They assume it’s too good to be true. They just can’t believe it’s for them. Some are curious but too afraid to even take a closer look.
God still waits for so many. With open hands and a storehouse of blessings, He waits to give away the most precious of all gifts; Himself.
2 Corinthians 9:15, James 1:17, Romans 8:32
It’s just the two of us. His greatness and my frailty are mingling together. We are one in this place, though the thought is almost unbearable and nearly unimaginable. My facades are removed. Every mask is taken off and dropped at His feet.
I am Bare.
Shame attempts to intrude but He gently pushes it away. My heart exposed, He begins to mend, restore and tend to each need. This is a process. Each time I come, more work is accomplished. Often, there are new wounds. This broken world easily produces more brokenness.
No matter to Him. It is as if He doesn’t notice. He is unshaken by anything I could bring. My worst, He makes his best. This process, so tender and so gentle, brings waves of peace and undertones of tranquility.
I know all will be well. In this place, more than any other, I can truly say it is well with my soul. It is here I am made alive and anew. What is not complete is held in his hands, reserved for another meeting. It needs time; a process of healing. This rests well with me as He knows better than I.
In hopeful, joyful expectance I wait. He breathes life in my lungs while the warmth of peace and the cool rush of anticipation fill my soul. There is more, much more. There is a promise; a sweet hope. For here, I see dimly. This is only a portion, just a small glimpse, of what awaits. It is but a foretaste of what He has prepared.
My hope is placed fully and only in Him. It is well. It is well.
Lamentations 3:22-23, James 1:2-4, Psalm 23:6, John 14:3