Learning to Be Still

As early as I can remember, I’ve sung. Didn’t really matter what it was. And then, as a young believer, I sang and sang in our church. I bought music and sang at home. I went to college to study voice and sang some more.

There have been seasons that I didn’t sing much for others, but I still sang. And for the last 7 years, I’ve been singing week after week as a co-leader for our worship team.

It’s just kinda part of who I am.

Do you have anything like that in your life? Something that has become part of your identity? Maybe you’ve always been an athlete. Maybe you’ve always taken care of people and by profession you’re a nurse or doctor. Or you’ve always been able to fix just about anything. You’ve always been the way you are. You figured that was just how God made you. It would always be that way.

Well, at the risk of begin more dramatic than usual, I tell you this story.

Last week I lost my voice. I mean GONE. Had to write on a white board. (Thank goodness my kids can read.) I know people get laryngitis all the time. But not me. Never like this. And the timing of it was just nuts. I was scheduled to sing a huge song for a worship/dance concert that my daughters were participating in. Tuesday I sang at the rehearsal. Thursday I couldn’t talk.

And Easter was coming.

All sorts of people were praying for me. Since I’d never been out of a voice for long before, I figured a couple of days would pass, I’d drink a ton of tea with honey and I’d be on the mend in time for all my commitments.

But a few days passed (I even went to the doc for some serious meds) and it became evident that God’s answer was “no.” I had to give up the solo (to another VERY capable worship leader in the area). I called on one of my team’s vocalists to lead our church’s Palm Sunday service.

I was on the bench.

It’s funny how God always uses the bench to teach us something. Or several somethings. Like my voice is not mine. It’s His. That sometimes I just need to stop and be still and listen. That I can still worship in my own personal silence.

That last rehearsal, when I wasn’t even allowed to try to whisper, they danced to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still.” I was reminded in that song, in a powerful way, that I didn’t need to sing that week. I needed to surrender. Submit. Be willing to sit on the sidelines and be ministered to by others.

I needed to just stand in awe. Consider who He is. What He has done. To remember He is faithful. To rest.

You may say, what’s the big deal? You were just sick for a little while. Everyone takes a sick day. And you’re right. But in this case, I think God was beginning something in me. Cause that theme of submission and internal rest has been relentlessly pursuing me every day since then.

No matter how tightly I want to cling to something, no matter how much I hinge my identity or worth or security on it, it’s not really mine in the first place. That’s a little scary. But it’s also freeing. Because then I’m free to put all my security, identity and trust in the right place. In my God.

 

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

 


Maybe, you can relate to where I’m coming from. Maybe you need to admit that the thing you think defines you, really doesn’t. It’s time to remember that it is God who made us. Everything we are good at, everything we do is from Him. Everything we are is found in Him.

It’s time to surrender. To be still.

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The Full Extent of His Love

This week I read these words…

Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.  (John 13:1)

…the full extent of His love. Can you imagine? I don’t think in our limited human understanding that we can really appreciate what that means.

The uttermost fullness of love of an infinitely loving Savior. More love than we’ve ever seen. More than we can comprehend.

The Apostle John wrote these words to introduce all the events that followed. Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The Last Supper. The Garden of Gethsemane. And the final hours leading to His crucifixion.

All for them. For you and me.

And on this Good Friday, all I can do is be grateful. A deep, soul filling gratitude that He would love me that much.

May I never lose the wonder…

 


Posts for Holy Week

One of the greatest times of year is upon us. A week to prepare, remember and soak up all that our Savior has done for us.

My family is taking it easy this week because a few of us are sick…again. But we’ll be reading the stories, opening our resurrection eggs, practicing choir songs (between coughing and popping meds) and eagerly anticipating our Good Friday and Easter services.

So since I’m trying to get my health back and take care of the others at the same time, I thought I’d give you a couple of links to last year’s thoughts as we celebrated the Easter season. Hopefully, I’ll kick this bug and have some otherwise coherent thoughts later on this week.

Celebrating Holy Week With Your Kids

From Good Friday to Easter

May you have a very blessed Passion Week!

 


Giving Credit Where It’s Due

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I gotta tell you a little about life around here the last couple weeks. Earlier, I wrote a post about all the ways that God has provided for us. Big and small. Ordinary and totally extraordinary.

They say sometimes to be careful when you put something out there. Because you just might have to prove what you believe. Like praying for patience and then having it seriously tested. I’m not sure I buy into that all the time, but it definitely happened this time.

The very same day I put up that post things started falling apart for my husband at work. In twelve years with the small family business, he had never had something like this happen to him. It all seemed totally out of his control, and yet his integrity was questioned, reputation at stake, money lost. It was the icing on the cake of a winter where things had been barely treading water anyway.

Needless to say we had quite a few anxious days.

And immediately my mind went back to that post. What on earth was going on? Not that writing about God’s provision means He’s obligated to reward us or something. I know that’s not how it goes. But it just came too close together. Reason told me it was a stretching of our faith. Growth as a believer rarely comes without a little (or a lot) of adversity. When things are perfect we just don’t feel the need to rely on our God as much. We are quick to forget where our strength comes from.

But that’s not the end of the story. A few days into the situation, my husband was working his tail off, trying to fix the situation the best he could, and work for another customer as well. And as Providence would have it, this customer would be the conduit for heaps of blessings–emotional, spiritual and physical.

While the guys were being berated and threatened on one side, the others were constantly praising their work. They kept pouring out appreciation and encouragement that whole week long. They helped us keep our perspective and reassure that not everyone out there was out to get us.

Then, in another out of the box way, God provided. Items we needed just fell into our laps. And then to cap it all off, we got an all wheel drive car for my husband and sold our van in the same day…when it wasn’t even a blip on the radar when the week started.

Unexpected provision. All clearly orchestrated by God.

And after all that I stumbled through a prayer of dumbfounded thanks. I was reminded that we too easily forget that He does not let us go. We resort to whining and complaining and even still He pours out blessings we do not deserve.

The desert season for the business is not over. Things are still rocky and somewhat discouraging here and there. All we can do is depend on new mercies every morning. Wait for the bread of that day and then get up the next and do it again.

But isn’t that what He wants from us anyway? Trusted dependence? Faithful reliance? Daily hope? Then, when it is all out of our control anyway, we notice so keenly all the moments, big and small, where He’s carried us and held us together.

And then with full hearts we give thanks and glory.

May the God of all HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.     –Romans 15:13


Keeping Your Head Above Water on the Difficult Days

There are those days…or months or seasons. You know, the kind where nothing seems to be going your way. Where no matter how many times you get back up there seems to be something right around the corner to knock you down again. Sometimes it seems like those waves keep breaking over your head with no end in sight and all you really want is a chance to take a breath.

It’s a fact of life. None of us escape difficult days. It’s all part of the Fall and how sin has messed up this whole world. I find it’s better to not be too surprised by it all. Not that I’m a pessimistic fatalist that expects trouble at every turn. But if we think we’re entitled to a life of rainbows and sunshine, we’re not living in reality.

The real measure of maturity is not whether we can skillfully avoid hardship, but in how we handle it.

Living moment by moment

When we’re in the middle of uncertain or difficult days, and we don’t want to get swallowed up by anxiety and worry, the secret is to live in the moment. Do the thing that God has put right in front of you, right now. It may do nothing to address the situation. But it can keep you from wallowing. It can be a needed distraction.

By doing so, I leave tomorrow in God’s hands and live the moment He’s given right now. No amount of fretting is going to make a dent in my problem. It’s wasted energy. Pointless.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day as enough trouble of it’s own.    Matthew 6:33-34

Keeping my sense of humor

Sometimes you just gotta laugh…or else you’ll cry. I can’t tell you how many times a little silliness has saved our family from letting ourselves soak in frustration, anger or despair.

If laughing is the LAST thing you want to do, enlist a friend. Schedule some goof off time. A break from your problems might be just the thing you need to see things clearly.

A cheerful heart is good medicine.   Proverbs 17:22

Remember WHO is on your side

The truth is sometimes it doesn’t really feel like God is on our side. Weak as we are, we are quick to feel abandoned and blame God when the hardships start stacking up. After all, if He really loves us…

And then we start to ask that most damaging question…why?

I hate that question. I’m not sure there is really ever an answer that’s going to be good enough for us when the suffering seems so severe. So do yourself a favor. Stop asking it. The question we should be asking isn’t why, it’s who?

Who is the source of my strength right now? Who is my help? Who is always bigger than my circumstances? Who’s understanding is way beyond mine? Who keeps me standing when I feel crushed? Who picks me up when I’m knocked down a hundred times? Who is the true source of all joy and everything I really need?

I like the answer to those questions much better.

That answer gives me hope. It resets my perspective. It reminds me of these verses…

For our light and momentary troubles [and Paul was being beaten and persecuted to near death…not what I’d call “light” troubles] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.     2 Corinthians 4:17

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.                      John 16:33

Once again, I write to remind myself. Lately, the days have been stacking up troubles. Not the worst road we’ve ever had to walk, by any stretch of the imagination. But still, after a while, it starts to wear you down.

(And please don’t think I’m trying to say I know all about how to handle hardship. God has to keep teaching us the same lessons over and over. We’re all in that boat, right?)

Praying for all of us, when the road is hard, that we’ll be able to lift our heads above the storm and get a glimpse of real hope. Just a peek at His love and glory.

Therein lies more than enough grace for the battle.


What My Faith Should Boil Down To

I think that Lent, perhaps more than any other season, holds the potential to narrow our focus to just one all important person. Jesus. If we let these days lead us inevitably to the cross, then there is nothing else to look to.

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And there I’m brought back to the days when I first became a believer. I was SO hungry to know the one who had lifted me out of darkness and who brought life to my soul. Every situation, every struggle, I took immediately to Jesus.

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve lost that focus as the modern church. There are so many causes, movements, programs, studies and personalities to follow. It’s easy to get caught up in some “new” way of doing Christianity. We jump on the bandwagon with other well meaning believers and cheer one another on. We expect others to adopt the same new vision that we have. And sometimes we even judge each other’s spirituality by it.

Somehow along the way, it becomes easy for our faith in Jesus to be replaced or added to by the pop culture of the church.

These things aren’t all bad. Usually, they are filled with good works and ideas. There’s nothing really un-Christian about them. Except when they replace our first love, and what should be our heart’s greatest passion.

But what if we had the singular focus of the Apostle Paul who said to the Corinthians…

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor 2:2

Because all these movements and trends and distractions aren’t anything new. They were there in Paul’s day, too. And he knew that when we fix our eyes on Jesus and Him alone, that everything else gets taken care of. All those other emotions, burdens and callings we try to conjure up in ourselves and others naturally come, in the right proportions and for the right reasons. So we will have compassion on the poor. We will seek to reach out to the lost. But it won’t be out of a feeling of obligation or social justice or righteous indignation. It will be because we love Jesus. And he will pour out into our hearts all the fullness of God and it will overflow.

That’s the kind of faith in action that I want. Anything else will fade away or burn us out.

Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus.


All the Ways that God Provides

god provides

Over the years of our marriage, I wouldn’t say that we’ve ever been well off. Not by American standards. Yet we’ve always had everything (and more) that we’ve needed. Certainly, compared to other parts of the world, we are most definitely rich.

I haven’t worked full time since my oldest was born (he’s 13). Right now, I’m employed part time at my church (and it’s awesome!). My husband has worked (hard) in a few different places, with varying income levels. But this isn’t about our careers or bankroll.

And I’m most certainly not complaining.

No, instead, I’m remembering all the unexpected and unconventional ways that God has blessed and provided. There’s something about those out-of-the-box moments when someone passes down clothes for your kids. When you find some cast off object that’s just what you needed. When the old van just keeps on running. The opportunity to leave a street of questionable safety and move into this amazing home built by my dad.

Sometimes I wish I had kept a little notebook of it all. Because just thinking back, it blows me away. The way the Father delights in caring for His children. The more unusual, the better.

Now, don’t assume it’s been a downpour of rainbows and lollipops. We’ve done our share of waiting, just like you. We’ve walked through the desert.

Just this week, my husband was facing quite a few disappointments at work after an already hard winter (not much business when the roads are covered with snow and ice for two months). I earnestly prayed that God would make good out of it all. That He would continue to provide for this little family business. And today I received text after text from my husband that things were looking better. That he just landed a good customer.

Sometimes the answers aren’t that quick to come. But this week, I think God saw that we could use a little encouragement. A little sign of His favor. And I’m grateful for so many undeserved mercies.

I write this as a reminder to myself. That when it feels like things are falling apart and the bills keep coming and the appliances are breaking, I HAVE to remember this…At the core, my God is my Father. A perfect Father who knows how to take care of his kids.

What unexpected ways has God provided for you?