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So much of life is waiting. . .

As a Christian, I am waiting for a lot--for God to do His refining work in me, for Jesus to return, for me to GET how much God loves me and for me to see what He is doing . . .

What to do in the meantime? I have learned much about what the Lord is trying to teach me, tell me and show me through the discipline of daily time spent reading the Bible. So often we make this time harder than it has to be.

This blog was born out of wanting to share what God is showing me and wanting to be an example that daily time with God is not a deep or mysterious thing (well, every once in a while it can be), but simply a time to read scripture and note what jumps out at you that day. We don't have to be scholars or super-holy or ministry leaders to do this. Some days I hit the jackpot and others I come up empty--but only by persevering do I give God the space in which to speak and myself the stillness in which to hear and obey.

As of June of 2017, I've now decided to include parts of our adoption journey, which is, so far, yet another chapter of waiting.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Detours

Finished The Land Between, by Jeff Manion today. I recommend it highly. I got the book for Christmas but just "happened" to get it out a few weeks ago and finally start reading it. God's timing is perfect (which is another fact more easily seen in hindsight). The author was talking about detours in our lives, when the road that we thought we were going to follow or the road that we thought we were on suddenly changes. His example is my good buddy Joseph. Over and over in Joseph's experience in Egypt (including while he was in prison), the Bible states that God was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2), and that Joseph prospered. Here are some of Jeff Manion's thoughts (p. 182):
"The reality here can be unsettling. Often God chooses to meet us with his blessing in a place we do not choose to be. He will bless us on the detour. He will bless us in the Land Between. Often the place of blessing is not our place of preference."

I'm single. I've always been single. I never wanted to be single. My vision of my life when I was younger was probably a lot like most people's: Finish college, get married, have children. I remember walking through my college town and seeing the families in their houses and thinking "Someday that will be me." Someday still isn't here. Singleness has been an unplanned and very long detour. Yet, reflecting today, I have been blessed in so many ways: Opportunity, travel, some of the world's best friends. The blessings are deeper than that, however. On page 185, Manion writes:
"What if God desires to be present and faithful on your detour? What if he chooses to make his presence powerfully available when you are in the space you least desire to be--the Land Between?. . .Our longing [to prosper in the place of OUR choosing], however deep, may not change the reality. Sometimes we don't get to choose. But will we open our hearts to God? Will we open our lives to his work and his blessing while we are not where we want to be?"

Joseph never got to go home. God was with him, he prospered, and his family eventually was returned to him, but he never got to return to Canaan. The Israelites took his bones there, but that's the closest he came. I don't control very much of my life at all. I cannot conjure a husband and children out of the dust (I have tried. Doesn't work). It is a painful thing to know that some detours may be permanent. Yet, even with that pain, I can see that the Lord has used this season of singleness to deepen His relationship with me and to grow (slowly) my faith and trust in Him. The biggest blessing that I have in my life is my relationship with Jesus, and much of that was born from the seeking, crying, and wrestling which came about because of the trial of singleness. There are days when my flesh isn't sure that the trade off is worth it. I STILL don't want to be here. However, my choice remains: Will I work with God? Will I open my heart to receive blessings in a place that I never wanted to be? Will I relinquish my dreams and accept the ones the Lord has for me? Some days I choose the right choice, and others I don't. I am thankful that the Lord is patient with me, and that His will is perfect, even when I see it as a detour.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Walking in Confidence or Complaint?

Last summer I got to sit in on the second day of the Willowcreek Leadership Summit, and one of the speakers was Jeff Manion, pastor of Ada Bible Church, who spoke on "The Land Between." The "land between" refers to the time the Israelites spent in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. As a result of hearing Manion's message, I am now reading his book titled The Land Between. The subject of the book addresses why God allows the transitional in-between times in our lives and about how we should handle these times.

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, God purposefully did not lead them home a direct way (Exodus 13:17-18):
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, "Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt." But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
I have had my own times of wilderness and of traveling the land between. Some journeys seem to take so much longer than I ever thought they would. I wonder a lot why God allows some trials to last for years.

One of Manion's premises in his book is that God was trying to teach the Israelites to trust Him. They needed water, He gave it to them. They needed food, He gave it to them. However, the people didn't learn to trust. Every new need was met not by asking the Lord to provide, but by complaints which assumed that the Lord was not going to meet their needs. There is a quote on p. 141 that I have been thinking about this morning: "Hardship intended to build trust results instead in contemptuous complaint."

Part of hardships, big or small, is to show me that God's love and provision can be trusted, and to beckon me to go to the Lord and ask for what I need. Like the Israelites, I often complain first, assuming that God will not help me. Sometimes I don't trust the Lord to meet the need, and sometimes I cravenly reject the provision the Lord gives, wanting something else instead, like the Israelites who grew sick of manna and asked for quail (which they received, and along with it a plague that killed many of them). When I react in such a way, I am rejecting the Lord--I am saying that my way is better, and that He is not enough.

The idea of trusting God in hardships sounds so holy, yet works itself out with much blood, sweat, and tears. I have to trust God when someone I love dies after I have begged and begged for healing? I have to go to God believing in His goodness when, yet again, the answer is "No."? I have to believe there is a purpose to the pain when my brothers and sisters in Christ sin and hurt me and I don't even know why? I think the Lord wants us to come to Him and cry out with our honest feelings. Moses did, Elijah did, Jesus did. He wants to give us what we need. My choice is believing that what God gives IS what I need, even when my heart disagrees, and believing that a trusting and loving relationship with Him is worth more than whatever good thing I want.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You Can't Go Over It. . .

A story/song/chant that I used to do with my first grade students was "Going on a Bear Hunt". The premise is that you are looking for a bear, but you keep coming to obstacles. The recurring chant is: "Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Can't go around it. I guess I'll go through it."

Today in church, the speaker was talking about Joseph's life. When Joseph was a boy of seventeen, he had some dreams (Genesis 37:5-11):
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, "Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf." His brothers said to him, "Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me." But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?" And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

Long story short, Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery, Joseph ends up in Egypt, serving an important Egyptian official, Potiphar. Unfortunately, Potiphar's wife had set her sights upon Joseph as her conquest, but Joseph was too honorable. She accuses Joseph of rape and he ends up in prison for about two years. Finally, Joseph gets out of prison, successfully interprets the Pharoah's dreams (with the Lord's help) and becomes the second-in-command of all of Egypt, helping to save Egypt and Israel from famine.

Today I realized that Joseph started with a dream that was given to him by God. It was a good dream, a true dream, and an honorable dream. His brothers were jealous of the dream. Yet, like in the bear hunt, the only way that Joseph would end up in the position of command, leading as God's instrument of preservation, was to go THROUGH the trial of being sold, imprisoned, and neglected.

I'm beginning to see that there are many times in my life where I may have a good goal in mind, but there is no way to go over it, under it, or around it--I have to go THROUGH it to get there. The "it" that I must endure varies, but there is usually an element of risk, the possibility (or certainty) of hurt, and the frustration of waiting. Though I don't like it, there is a freedom that comes from ceasing to try to go over/under/around and just surrendering to the "through", and moving forward in faith.