simplicity

After a week of upheaval and uncertainty I find myself feeling very tired.  Need-a-nap-and-can’t-find-a-place-to-lay-down-tired.  I realized today that I was carrying the weight of my what-ifs too much and not entrusting them enough to the God who is big enough to carry it all.

A dear co-worker and fellow believer heard the story of our house and how God has been moving and cheered for the way God answers prayer.  It reminded me of the simple truth that When I follow God I will be blessed, when I fight God it will be a mess.

I don’t mean blindly follow God and I don’t mean blessings like prosperity prayers, I mean the trusting that comes from knowing that God is faithful in His promises.  He has a bigger vision, a bigger plan than I will ever fully see or understand, but I trust Him.  Just like a child trusts a parent to lead them safely to their destination.

I don’t need every moment planned out, or every turn and stop on a map.  God has the controls of the vehicle and I am content to pay attention to the lessons He teaches me and enjoy the scenery out of the window. I started humming another old hymn this afternoon that seems to fit the reality and simplicity of trusting God for the future.

I hope these words fill the spots where worry has cracked your trust… there is simplicity in Faith and God is worth trusting.

Trust and Obey by John H. Sammis

  1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
    What a glory He sheds on our way!
    While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
    And with all who will trust and obey.

    • Refrain:
      Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
      To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
  2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
    But His smile quickly drives it away;
    Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
    Can abide while we trust and obey.
  3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
    But our toil He doth richly repay;
    Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
    But is blessed if we trust and obey.
  4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
    Until all on the altar we lay;
    For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
    Are for them who will trust and obey.
  5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
    Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
    What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
    Never fear, only trust and obey.

 

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clarity

For the past week we have been “on hold” in my house.  We were facing a time of uncertainty with some future plans.  We put these plans on the altar and trusted, prayed, and waited.

We even started looking for alternative answers.  I called my best friend to bring her up to date and ask for continued prayer about the situation.  She chose to pray with me right there on the phone.  It was so good to share that sweet moment together.  I admit the distance we have now means we don’t get to pray together like we did before.

An hour or so after she and I prayed, my husband and I received the answers we were waiting for to know where to go next.

We had clarity again.  God made clear the path we were to take; He took away all of our what-ifs and if-onlys and answered with a clear  this is the way– walk in it (Isaiah 30.21).

Admittedly, the answer wasn’t the one we were expecting.  But I learned long ago an answer is an answer– even when it is one we don’t expect.

So, onward we go.  God goes before us, just like the Israelites who followed the Spirit of God in the Pillar of Cloud during the day and the Pillar of Fire at night ( Exodus 13:21).  We know that God has a plan and we will always be blessed when we follow.

 

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pause buttons

Patience.  Waiting.  Yielding.  Holding.  All of these ideas are when a person is physically still but emotionally running in place.  Nothing can be done, yet everything seems to be ready to move.

Like the runner with his feet in the block, waiting for the gun to go off and the race to begin.  We as believers are called to be still and wait until God’s perfect timing.  Every time we wait for His direction we find blessing.  Every time we start before it is time we move out of cadence with the Holy Spirit.

I often think I am a patient person, I can wait, I can deny things I may want for something that is needed.  And yet I find myself like a lion pacing in a too-small-enclosure, back-and-forth, to-and-fro, energy pent up, waiting for the moment when I can see that wide open space and let loose and run with all of my strength and release all of my energy.

And then I am called to wait.  And wait some more.  And wait still longer.

I am so grateful for the Old Testament.  When I find myself pacing, wondering, playing the “What if” game in my head, I am gently prompted, Holy Spirit is that You prompting me, I wonder.  Prompted to remember Abraham when he was Abram, waiting for God’s promises to be unfolded for twenty-five years.  He was hopeful, he was frustrated, he was rash in some of his decisions, and yet, he waited still some more.

I think of Joseph who would become the second in command of all of Egypt, but first he had to spend years in prison– falsely accused, waiting, trusting, hoping, for God to not forget him there.

I think of the Prophets who were told that a Messiah would come.  They waited, they told others of God’s promise, they hoped, they prayed, they died –never knowing the fruition of the promise.

So I am in good company.  I am waiting for God to give some direction.  I am striving to find peace in the midst of the silence, and trusting God for His perfect timing and plan.  Trusting God to move us when it is time, and not one moment before.

 

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sing

Oh let your heart fill up with music,

let it fill up to the brim,

pour over the sides and splash down to the ground,

running,  running.

 

Oh let your soul be filled with songs–

songs that bring joy, songs to sing along,

Let your voice lift up the words of freedom,

let it rise and join the chorus of Heaven.

 

For God is in His throne room, 

seated high above the Heavens,

watching over all of us, 

loving us, 

correcting us, 

caring for us.

 

Oh let your heart cry out —

let it sing for the blessings you have, 

for the courage that Hope brings.

 

Oh let your Joy be contagious–

let the Joy your spirit feels spread–

out to others, 

changing their hearts,

growing their hope,

filling their hearts with music —

 

Oh let it fill up to the brim,

pour over the sides and splash down to the ground,

running,  running…

 

(Psalm 96)

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Expectations 

 I am the kind of person who likes to plan things out.  I want to know what to expect today, tomorrow, next week, two months from now, etc.  I married a man whose plans are more fluid.  He is able to adjust and adapt and roll with it when changes come.  

You can imagine how our marriage has evolved over the past seventeen years.  I have been challenged to let go of things, to loosen my grip, to release my plans to take hold of other plans, especially God’s plans. 

Before I said yes to my husband, I had been engaged to a young man from Texas.  Three weeks before the wedding he called it off.  It was my first “big” test from God.  Would I be willing to empty my hands of all of the plans I had for my future to trust the unknown plans of God?  I chose to trust my future to God.  It was hard in some ways and easy in others.  

I learned that holding tightly to what I wanted left very little room for the grand design of God.  My faith grew exponentially in the years afterward. I took trips, had adventures, and did things I never would have been able to do, had I married the Texan.  

Four years after my cancelled wedding, I said yes to my best friend, the one man who had stood by me and loved me, and waited for me.  We were married five months later.  As I have mentioned previously, our years together have been full of adventure, trial and error, laughter and tears.  Nothing I ever would have imagined God had planned for us.

And now we stand at the altar again, laying down something we thought was part of God’s plan to have empty hands…but only when our hands are empty are we able to take up the next thing God has in store for us.  

For the message series our church is doing now we have been singing Oceans by Hillsong United.  The chorus is our prayer for these next weeks, trusting God for where we will put our feet.  

OCEANS (Where feet may fail)

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand


And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine


Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand

Will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now


So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine

[6x]

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name

Keep my eyes above the waves

My soul will rest in Your embrace

I am yours and you are mine


The one lesson we know –without a doubt– is that God has the best planned for us… 

 

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altars

On our Journey of Faith we are often asked to trust God in situations that are scary and can cause us to wonder and doubt.  We are wired to want to know everything and when something in front of us is the shadows, half-hidden from us, we start to worry, Is it safe?  Do we need to fear? Maybe we did something wrong?  What if we didn’t do something we were supposed to do?  On and on the cycle goes if we don’t stop it.

Sometimes God calls to put something dear to us on the altar– He asks us to be willing to sacrifice one thing for something else we may not even know about yet.  Every time God has asked me to sacrifice something or someone I have wanted to balk.  I have worried that maybe He doesn’t know best after all.  In the end, after prayer, conversation with trusted counsel, and reflection on His faithfulness in the past I do choose to put the item/person on the proverbial altar.  Only rarely has God asked me to leave it there.

Every time I have left it there it has been to open my hands to something even better.  But still I struggle.

As the days come closer for us to officially own the house we have prayed for and wanted for years, we have had some hiccoughs with little things.  Nothing that screams “run away as fast as you can!!” but each time makes us pause.  Is this house something to put on the altar?

God knows best what He has planned for us.  We are called to obedience– not out of fear, but out of reverence– God has always proven that He knows best.  He will not fail us.  Just as He did not fail to provide for Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, He will provide all that we need and more than we could have ever imagined.

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footsteps

Nearly one year ago my husband and I sat down to discuss our future.  Things were coming to a close in Illinois and we needed to decide if we were going to fight to stay or recognize the signs and take a risk.

We took a risk.

Now on the other side of the risk, we see the reward.  As I have stated before, this trail we have been walking has not been easy.  It has been filled with laughter, tears, some battles, and some times of doubt– but we have faith that we are doing the right thing–according to the path God is leading us to take.

We see the fruition of this decision in our jobs, my husband and I work together every day. It helps us build our communication, deepen our relationship, and encourage other couples in the process. I love, truly, being with him and sharing our experiences together.

We see the fruition of our decision as our boys finish their school year– succeeding in academics, athletics, and friendships– things they were unsure of accomplishing when we first moved here.

Our church has been a blessing in ways I truly couldn’t have imagined.  We left a beautiful, thriving church in Illinois–filled with dear ones we miss every week.  And yet, God has blessed us with people who care about our sons; pouring time, energy, and prayers into them.  We serve with people who have extended their hands and time to us to help us prepare our new home.  It has been above and beyond what I could have ever thought or imagined would come from the decision to move.

As a young believer I faced my first crisis of Faith. In the end, I knew that God had a bigger and better plan–even if I couldn’t see it or understand it.  I found these verses to remind me that God was worth following, even if I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me.  It reminded me that God’s plan would be the best plan– and that was true then, just as it is true now.

Psalm 63:1-8

You, God, are my God,

   earnestly I seek you;

I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

 

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hope rises

One of the many parts of my faith journey includes seeing God move.  Sometimes the movement He makes is subtle, a slight change in the situation I am facing.  At other times He seems to move drastically to the right or left instead of going straight.  It is sudden, abrupt and seems like it is out of nowhere.

Each time it happens I find myself looking with hope to Heaven to see what God has planned. This same kind of event happened with Moses in Exodus 3.

Moses is out tending his father-in-law’s sheep and takes them up Mt. Horeb.  While he is going up the mountain he sees a bush on fire, but not being consumed by the fire.  He notices strange bush and decides to turn toward it, to investigate it.  Only when Moses turns toward the bush does God move.  God was waiting for Moses to notice the change.

Once Moses moves toward the bush God points out the situation from Heaven’s point of view.  The ground Moses is standing on is holy.  That’s why God tells him to remove his sandals (Exodus 3:5).  God is telling Moses to pay attention.

Moses paid attention and the opportunity for change came and hope rose from that change. God tells Moses that He has seen and heard the affliction of the Israelites, God’s people. Hope will come to them through the obedience of Moses and through God’s power.

There is hope that can be found, hope that can rise, hope that can grow– all through the eyes of someone who notices God is at work.

It just takes open eyes and open hearts, willing to see, willing to listen to God who is whispering to His children to look, to notice, to turn, and to act as He guides them toward the plans He has for them (Jeremiahs 29:11).

It only takes a moment– just be still, listen– God is speaking and He has an incredible plan– if only we will notice.

Lamentations 3:20-26

My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

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whirlwinds

Last night multiple tornadoes tore through parts of Illinois.  My family is fine, but many are not.  Towns were destroyed, lives have been lost, and my heart hurts.  I have been praying for comfort, holding out in hope, and praying for the grieving.

Living out in the farmlands means many times tornadoes will form and create havoc and destruction in their paths in moments.  How does a person deal with the loss of “normal” life in times like this?

I know the immediate response of towns nearby has been encouraging.  The blessing of humankind is our desire to assist those who are without hope to find hope– even if it’s a clean set of clothes and blanket to sleep under.

God designed us for community and when all seems lost, we are best able to come alongside someone, hold out our hand to them and pull them up.  I am grateful that God wired us with compassion– we were made to care for each other and it seems that times of trial and devastation bring out the best in so many.

The verses that have been rolling through my mind are from Romans 12, verses 12 and 15,   Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

So this is what I will do today and I ask you do the same.

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tough stuff

What is it about Grace that is so difficult?  Sure we want to receive it, we ask for it, we demand it of others, but when we are really honest, we don’t want to give it to others.

Why are we like that?

I have come to see that Grace is one of the hardest of the characteristics to live out as a believer.  I struggle, wrestle, and fight even, with how someone doesn’t deserve the Grace I have the ability to give.  Maybe that person has hurt me in the past and I don’t trust them or believe they are safe to be around anymore.  Or maybe that person doesn’t “measure up” to my standards.

I can come up with a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t have to extend Grace to someone who is not worthy of it.

On the other hand, I crave Grace.  I want it to be extended to me when I make foolish mistakes, when I completely blow it in a relationship, when my true “ugly” side comes out.

Do you hear the contradiction?

It is just proof we– I — are not finished yet.  God still has a lot of work to do in me.  I can believe in Grace, extend it most of the time, but when it comes to the difficult people, the ones who continue to challenge me and the way I live life I find it harder to extend it.

It is not my standards I am to grow up to meet, it is Christ’s standards. He gave Grace to His persecutors, His betrayer, those who deserved justice– “an eye for an eye” –Jesus gave them Grace anyway.  It was the sweet scent of Grace that drew people to Christ– not the Law that stood in the Old Testament.  Who could keep all 613 laws perfectly anyway? Only Jesus.

My prayer is that I will allow God to continue to work in me until my life shows that “Grace is given here.”

 

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