The Journey Home

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It’s been a while since I took the time to sit and write. We traveled to visit family this summer and returned with only one week before beginning the new school year. I’ve missed my time praying, pondering and waiting for the Lord to speak to my heart. I’ve been thinking of this post for a couple of weeks though. I hope you enjoy it.

Our journey to return home was not as we had anticipated. We hoped for light traffic. We wished for dry weather. Unfortunately, our expectations were shattered with the heaviest traffic we had ever experienced on a trip. When the traffic cleared, we were met with torrential downpours. It was slow going for much of the journey home but we stayed the course. We finished, even if it was a few hours later than we had planned.

God doesn’t always answer our prayers in our time. Sometimes, His answer comes later. A few years ago I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It was a book challenging readers to step out of comfort to work diligently for the Lord. At the time I prayed. I asked God to show me. I continued to serve where I was but I wanted more. The thing is, it’s now three years later and I finally see what God wants me to do. I’m joining a ministry that brings the gospel into public schools. Several months ago, my church asked for volunteers and I knew this was where God wanted me. But why did God wait three years to answer?

You see, four years ago, I put two of my children into public school. I had home schooled them but they wanted to go to school. I knew the Lord had been prompting me to send them but I didn’t want to obey. I reluctantly gave in and it has proven to be one of the biggest blessings of our lives. When they first started, I went and had lunch with them at school. They were allowed to invite two friends to join us. They became popular and I became the “Cool Mom”. But that wasn’t what God had in mind. He was working in my heart developing a love for the children. As I sat and listened to their stories, I saw how precious they were. I never expected God to use this situation to grow a burden to share Jesus.

At the time of my prayer, I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t use me if I was so willing. Now I see that He was preparing me. Thinking back on our journey home, it reminded me there is a purpose in the slow traffic. There is a reason for the torrential downpours. If there is a delay, it is because God ordained it. And we will get to our destination precisely when the Lord determines.

I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. (Lev. 26:4 NIV)

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He Never Gives Up

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When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. (Acts 27:20 NIV)

This verse is tucked away in Acts. Paul, a prisoner, was being transported when the storm hit. It wasn’t just a little storm, the Bible says, “a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster” came upon them. They couldn’t sail into the storm. Instead, the storm pushed them around. It was relentless and eventually, after many days, the crew lost hope.

Hope is an interesting concept. If you have it, your outlook is bright. You can withstand anything knowing whatever circumstances you are in will end. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you can just hold on, everything will be alright, eventually. But the men on this ship had lost hope. They gave in to the fear of death. They assumed all was lost, until Paul spoke up.

Paul stood before them reminding them of his previous admonition to stay put. He told them not to sail but they didn’t listen. They sailed for a living. They knew what to look for. They had no idea the storm was coming and if they did, they didn’t expect it to be so severe. Now Paul stood again to speak, and they listened.

Time and time again, God speaks to His people and they don’t listen. Their arrogance keeps them from hearing and obeying. They finally had ears to hear once they were out of options. I have found myself doing the same thing in life. I am presented with a circumstance and rather than ask God for direction, I exhaust every other avenue. I come up with option after option to solve this problem. It isn’t until I realize I’ve done everything I can think of, do I seek wisdom from God.

Certainly, God gave us a brain to use. He gave us intelligence. But ultimately, He wants us to allow Him into every area of our lives. He wants to be involved but we forget to listen. I’m thankful He never loses hope in us. He keeps at it teaching and guiding and blessing. He never gives up!

What Comforts You?

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May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. (Psalm 119:76 NIV)

When Jonah was a baby, he used a pacifier. When it was time to take it away, the doctor suggested I cut the tip off. Every couple of days, cut a little more until Jonah decided it wasn’t comforting him anymore. This was a great tip for Karoline. After one snip, she looked at it and threw it away. But Jonah sucked on that thing until he couldn’t hold on to it anymore. It took him longer than his sister, but eventually he gave it up. It never occurred to me he had found another form of comfort.

Last night Jonah didn’t want to sleep in his room. I thought this was odd. When we asked him, he said he misses his brother’s breathing. Nathan and Jonah have separate rooms joined by a common window. They talk to each other through it and apparently, Jonah can hear Nathan breathing while he sleeps. Nathan is away at camp this week leaving Jonah with nothing to comfort him.

It’s funny how we look for things, other than God to comfort us. It can be any number of things. Some people look for comfort in another person. They want someone to love them, care for them and be there for them. Others use food as a source for comfort. It just feels good to eat food that produces a calming effect on the body. For me, I find myself most comfortable when there’s money in the bank. I like to have money there, just in case something happens. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with having a savings account. We should be saving money for a rainy day or unexpected expense. But what I’ve found is my contentment comes from being able to handle any situation with what I already have.

Our prayers can reveal a lot about what we hold dear. We should always be open with God. We should ask. But I think we should be honest about our motives for those requests. Dig deep. Ask God to reveal the true purpose for that prayer. Are we seeking something to draw closer to God or take the place of Him? Are we seeking comfort from something other than Him? If life were to remain as it is today, are we content?

Lord, may we find comfort in you alone!

Confessions of a Judgmental Christian

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You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. (Romans 14:10 NIV)

The other day, one of the kids made a comment about a homeless man sitting at the bus stop. They talked about the fact they see him there a lot. He was dirty. His clothes were torn. We see him on the same bench most days.

The kids started putting him down. They talked about how dirty he was. Why doesn’t he get a job? Why is he always there? When was the last time he bathed? After listening for a few minutes I asked, “What if I told you that guy is a Christian? He dresses like that and hangs out on that bench all day sharing the gospel with anyone he meets.” They got quiet. Then their attitudes changed. Suddenly, he was a hero, not someone to be condemned.

I share this story because I find, as Christians we can become judgmental. My kids made a rash decision about a man they had never met. They assumed he was a low-life when he may be a former soldier. Perhaps he lost his home when the economy went sour. Maybe he lost his whole family in a horrible accident and can’t seem to pull himself together. Or possibly, he’s just a guy sitting on a bench bothering no one. The point is, he’s a man God created and loves. We have no right to pass judgment.

This whole conversation started me thinking Christians. Lately, it seems (and I’m sure it’s always been this way) we separate ourselves from the world. Rather than be ministers of the gospel, we pass judgment. We have almost become cliquish requiring anyone who wants to join to be like us. We think if we mingle with others, they will corrupt us. We will start thinking and acting like them. Or maybe, we are entirely too comfortable.

Jesus had his disciples. He spent time eating and praying and teaching them. But it was always for the purpose of ministering to the people they would come in contact with. He wanted his disciples to love the people as he did. He never pushed them away, only invited them in love. Jesus didn’t require the people to change before they came to him. He only required change after they chose to follow.

I found myself honestly checking my heart after this incident. I want to have eyes to see others as beloved creations of God. Each person has so much potential to make a difference in this world. I have no right to suggest they are anything less because they don’t fit my perception.

Lord, open my eyes to see others as you do. Open my heart to love them as you do. Amen!

Everything’s Going to be Alright!

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The other day, I was driving down the road and started channel surfing on the radio. Sometimes I get tired of the same music being played over and over, so I search around. I found myself listening to Country Music. Now, I grew up being forced to listen to Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, so my tolerance for Country Music doesn’t last. But there was one song that caught my attention.

I don’t know the name of the song, but one of the lyrics said, “We just want to know everything’s going to be alright.” I don’t know who sings the song but isn’t that the mantra of our lives? We want everything to go just right. We want our kids to grow into respectable, responsible adults. We want our marriages to last a lifetime. We don’t ever want to be sick or without. We want life to go according to our version of alright. But what happens when it doesn’t? Does that mean we have fallen away from God’s grace? Is He mad at us?

I think our version of “alright” may be different from God’s. Certainly, God doesn’t enjoy our suffering, but at times, we will suffer. We will be disappointed. We will do everything right and still have to deal with difficult circumstances. We live in an imperfect world. But that doesn’t mean everything isn’t alright. I think we get so caught up in how we envision our lives, we forget God has a plan. We compare ourselves to others thinking we deserve more. But in the end, regardless of what happens God is there. And doesn’t that make everything alright?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)

Because nothing can separate us from the love of God, everything’s going to be alright!

Parenting ~ Summer Reading

Our summer began a month ago. We all looked forward to a rest from our busy schedule. One of my goals for the summer was to have us all rejuvenate spiritually. I wanted us to work on something together but I didn’t want to do a Bible study. I didn’t want to do scripture memorization or workbooks. My desire was to have my children think, learn and understand God and how He works without it seeming like schoolwork. I was inspired to have a book club. I would choose a book written about a Christian. We would read and discuss the happenings of the book.

The first book I chose was Rebel with a Cause. For years we have filled shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse and sent them off to places unknown. I thought it would be interesting for them to read about the President of a ministry they were familiar with. In the beginning, my kids complained. They didn’t want to read the book. It was boring unlike the adventure books they normally read. But we pushed through and quickly their attitudes changed. The stories of Franklin’s youth were humorous and engaging. They learned he was normal kid, just like any other.

I finished the book this past weekend and loved it. I loved how he showed the progression of where he was as a boy and God’s gentle movement in his life. He took Franklin’s loves and gifts and uses them in his ministry. I think the thing I like most about the book is Ruth Graham. She was a mom who prayed. She didn’t lecture him or expect him to be anything other than what God wanted. She prayed for him and let God work in his heart. She maintained a good relationship with him working to understand God’s plan rather than encouraging her own. Ultimately, it wasn’t the punishments or restrictions that changed Franklin’s heart; it was the mighty hand of God. He used godly people as inspiration even though Franklin wasn’t looking for any.

I chose this book as a teaching tool for my kids but I am also learning valuable lessons. If I don’t allow my kids to struggle, they will never learn to rely on God. He loves them more than I do. I have to step back and allow Him in to mold and make them. Even if it looks like the battle is lost, I know God is fighting for them. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He made them. And He will lead them.

Prayer ~ Does it Really Matter?

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The woman walked over and asked if her name was Jane. Jane hesitantly affirmed the woman’s hunch. She proceeded to tell her she had prayed for her. A couple of years prior to this exchange, Jane had lost a child. Her teen-aged child had passed away because of cancer. Jane was still struggling with the heaviness of the sorrow she felt. But the woman, not even knowing who she was, had prayed. She had been prompted by the Holy Spirit to lift up a sister in Christ she had never met. Here they were, two years later speaking.

Recently, I ran into Jane. She was a different woman. It was obvious she had healed. She was joyful. Her once heavy heart had new life. She was living life again.

I love this story because it shows the vastness of God’s love for us. The woman had never met Jane. At the time she prayed, she had no idea their paths would ever cross and yet she was faithful. Jane, filled with excruciating grief needed the comfort of the Savior.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9 ESV)

We are surrounded by struggling people each and every day. Some have chosen their path while others have been thrust into a journey only nightmares are made of. In all of it, God is there. His work continues when He invites us to participate with Him in another life. What a privilege. We can be assured in our darkest hour, He calls upon the faithful to pray for us.

Keep praying especially when you think your prayers are meaningless. There is a battle raging and your prayer is the ammunition against the enemy!