Smooth Sailing?

sailboat on rough seas

(source)

I’ve been navigating choppy waters lately. Sometimes, when you try to help someone, you botch it. Sometimes people end up thinking badly of you. Your integrity comes under scrutiny. Sometimes you make mistakes. You fail. You lose at whatever you went after. You did your best and it didn’t work out.

It’s a little painful. It makes me want to run, to lash out, to defend myself and maybe retaliate. It also makes me want to tell God, “I’ll take it from here. You didn’t do so hot back there. I’m the captain now.”

Don’t worry: this matter, in the larger scheme of things, results in small potatoes. It just blindsided me, like a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. You know that saying “no good deed goes unpunished”? It fits here.

But God never leaves us. He never forsakes us. Hebrews 13:5 says so. The great thing about it all is that even when (not if) I deliberately rebel, God remains with me. I can repent and come back. He forgives and forgets. I can let Him have control, especially when the outcome looks uncertain. This safety net of love and care keeps me buoyed up on the rough seas of this life. I can stay the course, guided by the star of His eternal faithfulness.

What are you facing today that makes you want to go rogue?

 

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Cool of the Day

lego God

(source)

Keeping the running streak alive, I headed out into the early morning cool. I hit the streets this morning about 5:30 a.m. A couple of tanker-sized clouds tinged with pink drifted in the pale blue sky. A breeze blew, making the trees wave and the air redolent with the scent of growing things.

As I moved along, I thought about this scripture:

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.  Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you? – Genesis 3:8-9

Originally, I remembered it as the morning being the “cool of the day”. Because for where I live, it is cooler in the morning. I don’t know about you, but mornings refresh me. I love the bible verse that says God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). I take that to heart. I spend concentrated time with God in the mornings, and He with me.

Back to the Genesis account. Genesis 3 introduces the conflict. You’ll remember Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit offered up by the serpent. Adam and Eve now cringe at God’s approach, their perfect naked bodies now covered with fig leaves. They hid among the foliage. Perhaps they even climbed trees to escape God’s presence.

It sounds to me like God frequently walked with Adam in the cool of the evening, like it was their habit, their daily ritual. Maybe they had several millennia of contemplative walks together, the man and his Maker. What form did God take for these strolls? I wish I knew. We don’t really know the time lapse in the first book of the Bible. The 7 “days” of creation, including the Sabbath, could have been 7 literal days or thousands of years long. The point is, God and Adam had a relationship formed from their shared time. Adam’s disobedience must have broken God’s heart.

In the verses above, God calls out, looking for them. “Where are my people, the ones made in my image? Where are my free will creations?” Even more than that, I wonder if God felt lonely. He knew, of course, of his humans’ deception and sin. He knew the instant it happened, the downside of omniscience. The shout-out was for them to come to him and confess. He looked for their company even in their messed up state. God delighted in His creation and longed for fellowship with the people he made.

I don’t think it matters so much when you spend time with God. I’m a morning person; you may be a night person. Whether you do it in the morning or the evening, you can have your own “cool of the day” with the Lord. No fig leaves required.

 

 

 

 

God is Not Nice

big fish

Our pastors have been preaching out of the book of Jonah. It’s only four chapters long.  But it tells an interesting tale.

If you remember the Sunday school story, Jonah is a prophet.  He got a word from God to go to Nineveh, a heathen city, to tell them of God’s imminent judgment.

“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish. – Jonah 1:2-3

We get no background on Jonah. We don’t know if he’s married or registered on ChristianMingle.com. All we know is somehow, he doesn’t want to do what God asked him. He catches a boat to Tarshish. A huge storm blows up.  The sailors panic, which means it must have been really bad. They wake Jonah up.  “How can you sleep at a time like this?  Get up and pray to your God!” (Jonah 1:6)

They cast lots to figure out the storm culprit.  The lot lands on Jonah.

“Who are you? Where are you from?  What do you do?” they ask him.

Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” – Jonah 1:9

With that one statement, Jonah tells us the futility of his mission.  It just gets trippier from there. The sailors understand the consequences of what Jonah has done. They try to come up with a solution and fail. Fast forward a bit, and they toss Jonah overboard. Jonah gets swallowed by a big fish and spends 3 days and nights there, talking to God.

I’m summarizing here because I want to make a point.  God asked Jonah to do something.  Jonah disobeyed.  He ran instead. We run, too.  God asks us to do something particularly painful, like turn away from a favorite addiction or start budgeting for real. “Nooo!” we scream, running for the ice cream.

We in the western world have painted God in such pastel tones.  We’ve sanitized God for our protection. He is our friend.  He walks with us and he talks with us and He tells me I am His own. He will never leave us nor forsake us. God is love. All of these attributes prove true, yet only tell part of God’s character.

But God won’t change His mind.  His will is the issue. Don’t be fooled.  He isn’t a tame lion. He doesn’t stay on leash. We must come when He calls us, not the other way around. He has emotions, too. Take a look at Isaiah if you don’t believe it. Our disobedience has consequences, sometimes smelly ones. Jonah eventually did what God asked him to do at the start of the story. It took a short season up close and personal with fish guts to make it happen. I’ve had my own “belly of the beast” experiences, sans undersea travel but bad enough.

He is the Lord of the universe, not us. Will we do what He asks of us, or will we run? He always has the best in mind for us, if we will receive it.  We can’t hide from the one who made it all.

The Presence

It’s been a strange week.  I find myself leaning on the Lord more and more as events unfold around me. I need to stay in a place of prayer and speaking encouragement. Heck, I need to *stay* encouraged. I have to trust that God works all things together for good, even out of the mistakes I’ve made. Going back to the Source restores my soul.

This song came to mind this morning.  May you find Jesus to be the the cup that won’t run dry.

For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ – Acts 17:28

Embracing the Storms

A couple of weeks back, a guest speaker visited our church.  He spoke about the storms of life and how to embrace them.

“Every one of us is either going into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or just coming out of a storm,” he told us.

I’d never thought about it that way.  Some storms happen to us and some we bring on ourselves. He told us storms change us.  They become pivot points that change our direction and destiny.  When you enter a storm, know it will bring change somehow.

Yesterday, I found myself reliving some of my own personal storms.  Anyone who ever says Christians don’t experience regret is lying to you.  I’ve got plenty for things I’ve said and done. I’ve been brought to the end of myself more times than I can count.  What God brought to mind is that His plan has never been to destroy me or anyone else.  Not ever.  Storms reroute our lives.  They move us into a new direction and sometimes a new destiny.

Storm will pass…you’ll be ready for the next one…

The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 shows this.  The younger son takes his inheritance and squanders it on wild living.  When he runs out of friends and money – right about the same time – he finds himself humbled.  He returns home to a father who jumps up and runs to him.  All is forgiven.  Now, the young man deserved some kind of consequences for his selfish behavior, right?  He brought that storm of hunger and deprivation on himself.

But that’s not God’s heart.  Even if we bring the pain onto ourselves, He will restore.  He will continue to bring good out of bad circumstances.  He wants to be connected to us, simply because He loves us. He understands our limitations and like a good father, lets consequences teach.

I would encourage you to embrace the storms in your life.  Don’t be afraid of change.  Let it come.  Learn from it.  Let consequences teach, if necessary. Today, I can say I’m grateful for the storms of life – unemployment, broken relationships, loneliness, physical pain – because the Lord brings good out of it all.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

Ten Good Things

You know it's on the list.

         You know it’s on the list.

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps. – Psalm 121:3-4

I know it’s not fall or anything, but I felt like I needed to write some things down.  Ruby came in at 3:00 a.m. to tell me she couldn’t sleep.  I tucked her back into bed with an admonition and a prayer.  Then I couldn’t get back to sleep. I guess last night the Lord and I had something in common, albeit briefly (see above). I’m hoping this helps to get my mind going the right direction.

  1. I find myself grateful yet again for God’s mercy, and that it’s new every morning.
  2. My husband.  Who else would put up with me for more than 2 decades?!
  3. Our kids.  Funny, smart, unique, challenging, kind, adorable…the total package.
  4. Good friends.  You know who you are.
  5. Running.  Even the bad runs provide sweat therapy.
  6. Chocolate.  Nuff said.
  7. It’s Friday.  And I’m wearing jeans. It’s gonna be a good day.
  8. It’s May already.  We’ve had a darling spring so far with blossoms everywhere.
  9. My job.  I’m learning a lot and getting paid for it, too.  What great people.
  10. Our church.  None of us are perfect, yet God continues to grow us in fellowship.  What a gift.
  11. Payday.  Woot!

Bonus:  I’m grateful for you, dear readers.  You keep me writing.  Thank you!

Now, what are you most thankful for today?  Please feel free to comment.

Living on the Prayer

Image by www.wattpad.com

    Image by http://www.wattpad.com

I stepped out into the pearl-blue dawn.  The air, scented with fragrances of many flowers, flowed over me like a divine breath. Purple lilacs waved at me. Dogwoods fluttered their white blossoms in the early breeze. It felt like a prayer, one God was praying over me.

I knew my attitude needed help.  I was cranky.  This whole “being in pain” thing left me with a bit of a crusty demeanor.  Despite my shoulder feeling better, I still braced for the pain.  I’d iced it for 2 hours last night. Would it be enough?

Peace.  Be still.

I ran-stomped up the hillside.  I knew I would run out of time before I got too far. It frustrated me. Birds greeted the morning with glorious, spontaneous melodies.  I left my mp3 player at home in order to better hear them.  Not even birdsong cheered me.

Let it go.

I reached the turnaround and retied my shoe.  By this time, it was nearly full daylight.  I picked up speed.  On my right sat a stump.  I could’ve sworn it was flipping me off.

Attitude check.

After that, it was all downhill.  I found myself smirking at my own ridiculousness.  Really, Susan?!  The tree has it in for you?! The helmet of the negative mindset shattered around my feet like so much glass.  Who knew it was so fragile?

God did.

Thanks to all who prayed.  I visited the chiropractor today and he tortured me a bit in order to help speed the healing.  That is knightly, too.