Monday, January 26, 2009

The Waiting Room

When was the last time you found yourself in a waiting mode? Everyday life presents it’s ever so common challenges of waiting such as the grocery store line or the doctor’s office or rush hour traffic or even trying to get family members out the door. But there are bigger challenges to our patience as well – waiting for a house to sell, or to get pregnant or for a circumstance to change or for a person to get their act together. These can become opportunities for despair if we let them.

Hope is the flip side of despair and fear. When we are in Life’s Waiting Room, it is easy to begin to fear that God doesn’t care, that He isn’t listening, or that He isn’t able to help. Yet the God of the Bible knows the plans He has for us, and sometimes it may mean waiting instead of getting what we want. Why? What possible benefit could there be in waiting? Sometimes God uses waiting periods to strengthen our faith, to help us grow in character or to turn us in a new direction. Our viewpoint in life often changes through waiting. We become more compassionate of others, we lean on God and not our own understanding, and we begin to realize that God knows what is best for us.

So how do we wait graciously? Several practical points come to mind.
1. Pray for God’s strength and help in times of waiting. Give Him your cares and fears. Ask for His direction as to what you are supposed to do.
2. Meditate on the promise found in God’s Word. Read the stories in scripture which remind you of His great faithfulness even in the midst of waiting (Exodus 15-17,I Samuel 1 – 2, Isaiah 40, Jeremiah 29:4 – 14, The book of Habakkuk, John 11).
3. Turn your focus toward what is good and right in your life. Thank the Lord each day for the blessings you enjoy and the provisions He has given you. Choose joy and hope over grumbling and despair.
4. Open your eyes to how you can be a blessing to others in this period of waiting. Live in a continual state of love and forgiveness toward the people around you, especially those who are closest to you. Love never fails.
5. Follow God’s leading. Be open to new possibilities. Be flexible and allow God to change the way you see things. Consider if there is anything you need to do differently.
As we grow stronger through waiting, may we say along with Habakkuk (3:17 – 19):
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Content of Character

Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. This week we are witnessing an historic and monumental event in the life of our country. We begin this week by celebrating the life of Martin Luther King and continue by watching the inauguration of our first black president.

We are reminded in I Samuel 16 that the Lord doesn’t make decisions the way we do. “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions.” In other words – God looks at a person’s heart. As Christians, we want to see people as God sees them, looking past the outside and looking at the type of person they are on the inside. We all have a tendency to judge by outward appearances, so we must seek God’s heart continually in order to have a heart like His.

It is difficult to see a person’s heart, but scripture says “by their fruit you will know them.” We are not to go around judging and condemning people on what we assume are their intentions, but we are to be discerning. Good trees produce good fruit and bad trees, bad fruit. This week, let’s be reminded that what is important to God is not on the surface, but what is in the heart. Let’s check our own hearts and make sure we are humbly walking in obedience to Him. And then let’s consider how we look at others. Are we judging others by their outward appearance or are we considering the content of their character?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Life is a Ride

This weekend I did something kinda crazy. Picture a 40-something year old woman flying down giant waterslides, screaming the whole way. Now that’s kinda crazy, don’t you agree? Well that’s what I did this weekend when I stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas. Have you ever been to one of the Great Wolf Lodges around the nation? Well it’s a giant hotel with an indoor waterpark. The reason I was staying at the lodge was for convenience sake. I had several speaking engagements in the general area near the hotel and realized it made sense to stay there, plus I had always wanted to see the place. I also had another bigger reason. My daughter’s boyfriend Adam came in town, and we thought this would be something fun and different for them to do while he was here.

My favorite activity was the lazy river. I just sat in my tube and gently floated along the slow moving flow of water. Ahhhh….I thought to myself. This is the life! Then I began to think, I wish life was like this lazy river, relaxing, no surprises and not real fast. But to be quite honest, life is much more like the giant waterslide with unexpected twists and turns and surprises all along the way, and sometimes they come at you fast!

As we were being wisked down the water slides I realized I had a choice. I could be gripped with fear the entire ride, or I could joyfully embrace the thrill of the unexpected. I chose joy and laughter (but I still screamed the entire way!). I found it exhilarating, freeing and strengthening all at the same time. Yes I felt strengthened because I faced my fears and stepped out of the norm of my life (picture me speaking to a group of adults in a dignified way and then hours later screaming as I went down the water slide).

As we soared down the giant water tubes, I knew I ultimately everything would be okay and we would get to the splash-landing pool eventually. There were lifeguards everywhere, watching and protecting us. In the flow of life’s unexpected journeys we can trust in our Heavenly Father’s love and care for us. We are not promised a “lazy-river” type of life. If we were, we probably wouldn’t lean on the Lord; we lean on the comfort of our own abilities to control and manipulate. Not one of us is immune to the twists and turns which life brings, but we do have a wonderful and gracious God who holds us by the hand. God is not surprise by the turn our life may take, but we can be encouraged by his loving care.

Psalm 37:23, 24 says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Let’s choose joy in the unexpected flow of life, and let’s remember God is caring for us all along the way. Now, next time you go to a water park with your kids – you can use this as a teachable moment lesson while you are there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Seeking the Divine in 2009

Happy New Year! This year I decided to go through a book entitled Praying the Names of God (by Ann Spangler). I use it during my prayer time in the mornings. It is an excellent way to focus on who God is and what the Bible has to say about Him. I recommend it highly.

Today’s reading focused on Elohim which is the ancient name for God expressing His creative power as well as his authority and sovereignty. I was reminded of God’s glorious power in the very beginning and the description of His creative work in Genesis. I am reminded that all of nature is His wondrous work bringing order from chaos. I am also filled with awe in knowing that all people are designed by Him and are a reflection of His image.

How does that effect you? I know for me, I recognize the respect and care I want to show His creation. I want to look at each person as intentionally made by God and a reflection of His image. I recognize the need to truly see people as His gift and sincerely love them as a part of His creative work. Knowing we are fashioned and designed by Him also makes me realize my own value and that God created me for a purpose.

Talk with your kids today about the creation story found in the first chapter of Genesis. Remind them that each person is a treasure designed by God. Ask them how that impacts the way they treat others. Use words like “care,” “love” and “respect.” Then remind your kids that each one of them is a unique creation of God and God has a purpose for their lives. Ultimately our purpose is to glorify God with our lives.

As we seek Him and abide in Him we reflect His love and grace toward others. What a great way to start off the new year – seeking the divine! This year let’s seek to know God better and to love people as a beautiful display of His creative work.