Waiting: The Result Is Winning

“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.

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Why Me?

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:4

Dear God:
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?

Why me?

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

 

Gratitude Breeds Contentment

Oy! My body aches. I had surgery six days ago and have two incisions in my back. Swelling in my feet and legs has stretched the skin so badly I can’t wiggle my toes without pain. Because of the pain associated with the incisions, sometimes I tense up. Then my shoulder and back muscles ache.

Not only that, but when I sit in my chair, I must take a deep breath and slowly lean back until I’m in the right position. Then, because I’m now monitoring my blood pressure every day, I must take some deep belly breaths and relax before I push the button on the cuff. It all hurts.

But–

The surgery I had has proven already to be a success. I know the incisions will eventually heal and won’t hurt anymore. I have medicine now to relieve the swelling in my lower limbs. I’m beginning to relax more when I move to avoid aggravating the site of the staples and stitches.

I can breathe. I’m able to cook for myself. I can climb the few stairs to get mail from the mailbox. I don’t need help getting dressed or bathing.

I’m grateful for those things that I might often take for granted.

During November I’ve been posting each day on Facebook and Twitter something for which I’m thankful. It would be easy to say I’m grateful for that parking space I got close to the grocery store yesterday. I could say I’m glad I have a good book to curl up with. The list of simple things like that could go on and on. I am grateful for those things.

However, I’m trying to post things I’m grateful for that are true promises of God or things which I know come from the truth of scripture. In fact, I’ve been including scripture in each post or tweet.

This time of year, people are thinking about Thanksgiving (yes, Christmas already too) and they’ll be more apt to look at a gratitude list. My practice is to include thankfulness in every day. At the top of my daily To Do list the words “Be Grateful” appear in a thick blue line written with a Sharpie.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God. (James 1:17) My breath, my healing, the ability to dress and cook for myself are only because God provides. I also know the pain and inconvenience I’ve experienced are allowed by him.

Knowing this, I’ve learned to be more content over the years. Of course, I don’t like pain and inconvenience. But nothing that happens to me is a surprise to him. He uses it to perfect me. How could I not be grateful, knowing this?

My prayer for you is a Thanksgiving Day spent in a way that you see all the goodness in your life. Praise God for it. Then look at the trials and inconveniences and praise God for those too. You know why. (James 1:2-4) Because through them you’ll realize you’re growing. One hopes to also be more content each day.

Be grateful for a good meal, friends and family if you celebrate with them, a warm home to live in and, most of all, for every promise God has made to you.

Mom Was Mission Minded

Prior to the estate sale, Dad told each of his eight children to select one thing we wanted. He’d also selected one thing for us that he wanted us to have. The rest was up for auction.

My “one thing” was my Mother’s entire written materials. I had no idea what would be in that package, but I remembered Mom writing, always writing.

The package contained calendar type diaries, notes from stories she wanted to write and letters from our distant cousin, Mr. Lehman. This cousin’s letters offered a great deal about past generations and members of the family still alive. I remember Mom finding encouragement from the stories of relatives who emigrated from Germany. These were missionaries who’d been persecuted for their faith. He’d even been able to find their name, Christophel, which means “Christ carrier.”

Mom had a mission mindset and it was in her thick three-ring binder full of poetry where I discovered how serious missions was to her. There I found evidence that she’d hoped God would send she and Dad somewhere faraway to work as missionaries.

It wasn’t to be. God’s plan for her was to spread the gospel closer to home. As I remember it, and as the evidence shows, that’s what she did.

While I was growing up, my friends would come over to play and of course, she’d bring up her favorite topic: Jesus. Asking my friends if they were saved came as naturally to her as doling out cookies. She’d talk about the importance of having a relationship with Him. As long as they wanted the treats, she had a captive audience.

Once outside, my friends chided me. I was embarrassed, but I shouldn’t have been. After all, they were my friends. If I cared about them, I should have been telling them about Jesus.

Mom had opportunities to make an impact on children in other ways too. She always taught Sunday school; all grade levels. In the box of papers I also found a summer camp brochure where she’d been a counselor for a week.

As well as being a homemaker, Mom chose nursing as a career. She worked until she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when my youngest siblings (twins) were almost two years old. I still lived in my hometown at that time and it wasn’t unusual for someone to approach me and reminisce about my mother’s bedside manner.

They’d say things like, “You know, when I was in the hospital, your mother was the best nurse I had.” These comments pleased me, but didn’t surprise me. She loved taking care of people. That was another way God chose to use her and though people never said so, I’m guessing Mom prayed with a few of her patients. She was a prayer warrior. Her favorite phrase was “Prayer changes things.”

It’s impossible to tell how many lives Mom touched as a “Christ-carrier.” Most of the clues came from observing her over the years and then making discoveries in that packet containing her papers and journals.

She kept track of her witnessing efforts with one person in particular–her oncologist. Notes made in the margins of her cancer journal revealed that she had witnessed to him and given him a “smiley face tract.” I suppose it was a last ditch effort to plant some seeds, because Mom had decided to stop having treatments.

While at a party a couple years ago, I was introduced to a woman who had known my mother. “What a striking resemblance,” she said. “And when I saw you go across the room just a few minutes ago, I noticed you even walk like her.”

I laughed at that. But thinking of it now, I realize my spiritual walk isn’t much like hers. I get a little hard of hearing when it comes to heeding the Lord’s instructions for me.

Not Mom; she heard the call of God on her life and got in step with the Holy Spirit immediately. Though her desire was to travel to distant lands, she was satisfied with a small town and the people God placed in her path. She focused on what mattered and wasn’t ashamed of the gospel.

I can hear the Savior saying to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”