We are told not to worry about tomorrow. Remember your God is good. He is sovereign, mighty, merciful, and just.
He is love.
Once upon a time, there was a pastor who influenced me in ways I don’t think he was aware of. I considered him a model of one who walked with God as Enoch did. Naturally, this fellow was humble as well, and if he knew I was saying that about him, he’d sternly correct me.
Nevertheless, I saw him as an unofficial mentor.
Is there someone in your life who models a walk with Jesus? If so, what does that look like? Poetry isn’t my strong suit. Nevertheless, this is a small tribute to my friend and pastor.
You Walk With Jesus
I have watched you
walk with the winsomeness
possessed in you that
unknowingly also owns power.
There’s a place deep inside
where you don’t look–
having no need to–
that teaches your body
to follow the Spirit.
God’s Spirit guides your spirit
with a quiet, cherished purpose.
It seems that in each stride
you claim a mile.
copyright 2017 Paula Geister
In the U.S. we take a day to recognize our gratitude for what we have. We call that day ‘Thanksgiving.’ Traditions have been established based on what we believe happened when settlers from Europe first came to the continent. We didn’t even have a name for where we were yet. The land belonged to the natives. But we worked with them and showed gratitude for making it through a difficult time.
I don’t know the whole ‘thanksgiving’ story associated with our history. I’m sure my old school lessons had some focus on it. What I do know is every day there is something to be grateful for. Even when I feel frustrated and alone, I know what I see in front of me isn’t the whole story.
My vision is limited.
God has a plan for the days when that ‘abundant life’ seems a little too much. Despite my sometimes grumpy attitude, gratitude in an acknowledement of God prevails.
The Secrets in the Box
Scraps of paper with scribbling on them populated a lidded box which was a gift from a friend. Periodically, I would add another scrap of paper to the collection. Occasionally, I took the scraps out to read them. I should have been scribbling more often and reading even more often.
My scribblings were praises to God for answering prayer, for meeting a need just in time when I hadn’t even prayed for it, and for giving me the strength to get through a difficult time. I called it my God Box.
Last week, after submitting another scrap to the box, I realized it should be full and even overflowing. I was paying attention to God’s faithfulness, but not recording it as a visual reminder. That may not matter to some people, but since I’m someone who journals and likes a written record of what matters to me, it mattered to me.
A Solution in a Jar
I begin most days–or end the evening–by creating a list of things to do. Years ago I began the practice of writing in colored marker at the top of the list “Be Grateful.” The practice of constant praise also matters to me, but I’m weak and often selfish so I need a reminder.
Another way of reminder, which is solving the problem of too few scraps of paper, was to place the scribblings in a place where I was more apt to notice them. Now, on the windowsill near my desk sits a canning jar full of papers folded up with my scribblings on them. I can’t help but see that container. The open blinds let the sun in and the sun shines through the glass. I see the folded slips of colored paper and, voila, my gratitude and God’s faithfulness are in clear view.
Since placing the jar in the window, gratitude doesn’t seem to be so secret. For sure, no one else needs to know, but like I said, I’m weak. I need all the help I can get.
From the Little to the Large
Gratitude for what God gives and what he does in my life has slowly become a way of life. As I drive around town, I often say, “Thank you, Lord,” just for the joy of seeing wild turkeys or a deer standing in a patch of grass. Little things can make me smile and I thank God for the pleasure of seeing critters in the city. (You should have heard my squeal of delight the day I left church and saw a red-tailed hawk swoop over the parking lot grasping prey in its talons.)
I’m also convinced he’s at work behind the scene and aware of my needs. How else to explain the woman at the thrift store drop-off station asking me if I need a twin mattress? I’m not sure what the look on my face said when she asked me. I was simply watching her wrestle it to the door. But, yeah, I was long overdue for a new mattress. I answered in the affirmative and she and her son loaded a name brand mattress––one-year-old and in pristine condition––into the back of my van. Then a couple guys from my church wrangled it into my apartment and took the old one to the dumpster. I would never have been able to afford that mattress, nor do the lifting myself.
That was a big thing. I know I shouldn’t be amazed at this. But I suppose keeping a sense of wonder at God’s works reminds me that, yes, I’m weak. I can’t do it all myself and he’s taking care of me.
Any Time is a Good Time
The jar sits on the windowsill for me to see every day. God’s goodness and blessings stand for me to see daily as well. I just need to keep my eyes open. When I can’t see something tangible, all I need to do is remember his mercy, new every morning. I pray to not take for granted that every good and perfect gift comes from him. Not only the things I can touch and see but the abundant life that faith allows me to know exists even when I may not “feel” like I have it.
I strive for a practice of constant praise. To “Be Grateful” 24/7, and not just because it’s on my To Do List. After all, Thanksgiving time is
Occasionally, I ask God a question. It’s not a case of questioning God, which is entirely different. Sometimes I just feel the need to have a conversation in which he makes things clearer. I don’t always understand.
For instance, I sometimes ask, “What’s going on here, Lord?” Hoping he’ll give me insight to a situation or how another person is responding, I check in with him first. Another one I ask is “Will you please direct me here, Lord? I’m not sure which way to go.”
These, obviously, aren’t hard questions for God. He can answer any question. When he wants to. The thing I’ve learned about asking God a question is sometimes he answers in a way I wasn’t expecting. God’s answer to my question might be that I get another situation. When asking for direction, he more often than not leads me to some place I never even considered. Or someplace I thought of but didn’t want to go.
God is in the habit of asking me questions as well. In fact, I get more questions from God than he gets from me. To inspire me toward further spiritual maturity and to being conformed to the image of his Son, the questions are much harder for me than my questions are for him.
Some time ago, God asked me about my motivations and wanted me to be clear on something. Turnabout is fair play with him, for sure. This is what he asked me:
“What is the difference between your devotion to Jesus and devotion to your idea of what Jesus wants?”
This question is one I return to repeatedly. Because I tend to think I know what God wants, my actions will reflect that. If I don’t stop and consider first my relationship with Jesus and remember what his mission is, I create my own mission.
Heavenly Father, I’m so grateful that you’re always working and that your Son is as well. The questions you ask are sometimes difficult for me because I so often think I know the way you work and how you want to work in the world. Please keep reminding me that you are the one in charge, even when I don’t understand what’s going on. You’re the perfect parent and I trust you to raise me as a good Father would. For your glory, Amen.
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:16, 21, 22
What happens when there’s something we know for certain we need to do, but the action itself goes against what makes sense to us?
Do we ignore that nagging voice telling us to follow through?
God often gives instructions to act on what He says without explaining why. Perhaps you can relate to some of the stories in the Bible.
Joshua was a general. He followed Moses as leader of the Israelites when God led them to the Promised Land. It was now time for them to seize the property and take possession of it. The first city to be taken was Jericho.
God explained to Joshua that He had delivered Jericho into his hands. It implied that all the people had to do was follow God’s instructions. Imagine what some of the people must have thought when they were told the plan.
March around the city with all the armed men and the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant for six days. On the seventh day, as they marched, the priests were to blow the trumpets. When they heard the long blast from the trumpets, God told Joshua to have the people shout loudly. “The walls of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”
Yell at a huge fortified city after marching in silence for six days? That doesn’t make sense. But they did it. The city fell.
God chose Gideon as a judge of Israel to defeat the Midianites who were constantly harassing the people. Here’s another example of God commanding a plan that doesn’t make sense to mere mortals.
To prepare for the battle, God told Gideon to reduce his troops to 300 men. First, the ones who were afraid to fight went home excused. The rest of the army was tested to see if they lapped water like dogs or with their hands to their mouths. Only the men who drank water in a ready position were retained.
Fight the enemy with only 300 men?
Gideon had previously been wary of God’s message that he was a “mighty man of valor” and even went so far as to ask for signs from God that He meant what He said. When Gideon asked, God didn’t become angry; He answered Gideon in the way Gideon requested. (Judges 6:36-40; 7:1-8)
Naaman, commander of King Aram’s army “was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” He sought a way to be healed and one of his servants offered a solution. She suggested her master see the prophet Elisha. When Naaman arrived, Elisha sent a messenger to say that the commander should wash himself seven times in the Jordan River and his flesh would be restored.
Naaman went away angry. He had the idea that Elisha would intervene, calling on the name of the Lord for a miracle. When considering the solution given, he ranted that the Jordan was an unfit river and there were better ones in which he could dip himself.
Again, his servants seemed to grasp the situation better than he. They reasoned that if the prophet had told him to go and “do some great thing,” would he not have done it?
Washing in what Naaman thought was a dirty river didn’t make sense to him. But he went. He was cleansed. (2 Kings 5: 1-14)
The prophet Jeremiah had an inside track with God, continually receiving God’s word as a way to speak to the Israelites about His plans. The message that the people would be sent into exile wasn’t a pretty one. The message had been given by other prophets as well. Israel had plenty of warning about what was coming.
At one point, God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of land from his cousin. Surely buying property during a time of siege by the Babylonians must have seemed foolish to Jeremiah’s friends. Even to his enemies.
However, Jeremiah obeyed God when his cousin came to him in the courtyard of the guards. Despite the fact that he was a prisoner and the people would be exiled for seventy years, Jeremiah knew when God restored His people, “Houses, fields and vineyards (would) again be bought in (the) land.” (Jeremiah 32: 6-25)
Jesus’ chosen apostle, Peter, was a commercial fisherman. One day, after Jesus taught the people who gathered on the shore to hear Him, He told Peter to put his boat into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.
“Simon (Peter) answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’”
After fishing all night and not catching a thing? Why now? That doesn’t make sense.
Who are you most like? Naaman, who argues God’s instructions? Gideon who doubts he can be used by God and asks for signs to be sure? Jeremiah who has an inside track and trusts God will come through? Or Joshua and Peter, who obey immediately because God “says so”?
Maybe you’ve acted like any one of them at some time. That would be understandable because faith can be a tricky thing.
Sometimes, as in Naaman’s case, we need other people to help us see what God is trying to do in our lives. Or we need to ask God for further clarification like Gideon did with the fleece. Then we can move with a small “army” instead of surging ahead full force.
As we mature spiritually, God gives us an “inside track.” We may still pray for a clearer vision, or depend on others to help us see how God intends His instructions for our benefit. Ultimately, we’ll come to a point in which we simply obey because God says so.
Even when it doesn’t make sense.
Imagine what would have happened for the young man whom Jesus told to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Imagine the rewards he would have seen and the joy that could have been his if he’d decided to obey, despite the fact that losing his riches didn’t make sense.
What is God asking you to do today that doesn’t seem to make sense? God’s thoughts are greater than ours. His ultimate plan may be hidden even though He provides a way to see His revealed will. Maybe today is the day to trust God and put our lives completely in His hands.
“We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
I don’t go to church because I feel comfortable there. It’s true I’ve found a home with my congregation, often coming away feeling comforted. But God shows me in a variety of ways how complacent I can become. He’s not as concerned with my comfort as with my spiritual growth.
I don’t go to church so I can hang out with good people. Among my associations at church, there are people who’ve been following Christ for years; others who are new believers. I also know a few who are nonbelievers. And even in my large congregation, not one of us is totally good.
I don’t go to church to fulfill my duty. While scripture encourages us to keep in the habit of meeting together, I know there will be times when I can’t be present. On the days when I am able, I come from a God-given desire, not out of guilt.
I don’t go to church to hear the great music. My church, over the years, has offered a variety of musical styles. Whether or not I like the style, my concern isn’t with the music itself, but with the words accompanying it. Within this context, I want to exalt His name.
I don’t go to church to hear a fabulous speaker. I’m fortunate that the ones in charge of presenting the message at my church are articulate and able to hold my interest. They’re trained to do what they do. But I know God can use anyone to present Truth, regardless of eloquence or religious training.
I don’t go to church because I have nothing better to do. Some days when my mood or energy level is low, sleeping in seems the better thing to do. But I’ve learned that the better thing should never keep me from doing the best thing.
“Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path” Psalm 27:11
My Own Little Book
Were you to read my journal, you’d detect several years of my spiritual journey reflected in its pages.
Recently I took a look back to some journal entries and discovered that for nearly two years I’d been on a journey of prayer, perseverance and waiting on the Lord. God was leading me out of a ministry I’d been involved in for several years. As I spoke to him through my journal, asking questions and sorting out my feelings, my faith was being tested.
I knew I couldn’t make any moves without hearing from God first, and that required patience. If I hadn’t waited and prayed, things might have turned out badly. When the answers to my questions finally came, I was at peace. It took time, but I finally got to the point where my prayer changed from “I don’t know what to do, Lord,” to “What would you have me do?”
For me, there’s a big difference in those two attitudes. I have a tendency to go ahead without waiting for his guidance. And God sometimes isn’t in a hurry to give it.
That particular period of testing could be called a journey within a journey. I believe it can happen when God wants to move us from one level of spiritual maturity to another. Following him is very much like taking a trip in which the Expert Travel Guide determines the itinerary.
A Classic Book
In John Bunyan’s classic “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Christian and Hopeful meet four Shepherds on the Delectable Mountains. They’re not far from their final destination. Like me, the two had been through many experiences that tested their faith. Would they persevere? The Shepherds asked the pilgrims three pertinent questions because so few people who had set out on the journey made it that far. They asked,
“Where did you come from?”
“How did you get into the way?”
“By what means have you persevered?”
Christian and Hopeful tell their tale with all its trials and how they overcame them.
The Shepherds–Experience, Knowledge, Watchful and Sincere,–asked for basic facts about their pilgrimage: What it was like before they began their journey, what happened, and what it was like now.
We can carry this same message of life transformation; and our stories of redemption–even of the darkness before being set free–are of value.
Christian and Hopeful received a document instructing them what they should do, what they should avoid on their journey ahead, and exact directions to the Celestial City. Then, standing from the top of a hill called Clear, Christian and Hopeful got a peek at the gates of the City.
Sharing the Greatest Book
I can record my story in a journal and keep it in the chambers of my heart. But sharing my journey of faith and pointing people to Christ counts for something. God is revealed as a faithful and loving Lord. He’s faithful to guide us through those times when we don’t know what to do. Then, as the Shepherds did, I can express hope of eternity in heaven.
“I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven” (Philippians 3:14 NLT)
When Christ sets us free, we are free indeed.
However, just as the pilgrims in Bunyan’s book weren’t promised an easy way, neither are we. Fortunately, we’re promised the power of the indwelling Spirit for guidance and comfort. God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves and when we realize the measureless grace he’s offered, there’s no experience on our spiritual journey that’s wasted.
Oh, God of grace, who watches every step I take, guide me into your will. Keep me safe in my trials and give me the willingness to follow the voice of your Spirit instead of my own fickle emotions. May I always keep in mind the prize that awaits when I humbly wait for your best for me. Amen.
Why did you place me in a family with parents who, though imperfect, were devoted to one another for forty-seven years until death separated them?
Why did you give me a childhood in which I regularly ate three meals a day, had pure water to drink, a safe neighborhood to play in and clean clothes to wear? And God, why did you show your tender love to me through the example of one Sunday school teacher?
Why me, God?
When I walked away from you, why didn’t you walk away from me?
Then when I went away to college and my intellect became my god, why were you so patient?
Why did you give me two children who love and trust me even though I’ve failed them so many times?
Why did you spare my life when my foolishness or despair brought me so close to death?
Why me, God?
And why, after years of living my sinful lifestyle, did you welcome me back to the fold?
Why are you keeping all your promises to me?
Why do I have a roof over my head? Why do I get to walk with two feet, see with two eyes and hear with two ears?
Why do I have friends who stand by me?
When my pain is such a burden I can’t bear it, why do you take it onto yourself?
Why, when I’m so imperfect, do you allow me to serve this world in your name?
And why, oh why, God, when I was still an object of your wrath, did you die for me?
Oh, why, why me?
“For God so loved the world…” John 3:16