Tag: trust (page 1 of 2)

The Question Fear Asks

This weekend I had the privilege of preaching on Matthew 14:22-32 – the super familiar story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. I LOVE this story and I felt like God had so much to teach me as I prepared.

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One of the most important things I learned as I was studying the passage of Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee and sinking, was that it was about more than Peter’s faith. It was about Jesus’ greater grace.

Jesus reaches out when we’re sinking and lifts us up. 

This morning I was thinking about a related story I heard a million years ago about a little boy trapped in the bedroom of his home which was on fire.

He was at the window, the home swallowed up in flames, no way out.  Smoke everywhere.

Below, a fireman called up to him, “Jump son!  I’ll catch you!  I’m here!”

The little boy screamed “No!  I can’t SEE you!!!”

“I know,” yelled the fireman, “but I can see YOU!  Jump!”

Cheesy story?  Maybe.  But it makes me think about the question fear asks of God.

The underlying question in the little boy’s heart was the question that fear asks:

What if…?

What if you don’t see me?

What if you miss?

What if you’re not strong enough?

What if I get hurt?

What if I look silly?

Sometimes I can’t see God.  And I’m afraid to jump. (or step out of my boat)

 

What does Love ask of you today that’s scary?

To go someplace uncomfortable?  Talk to someone uncomfortable?  Serve in way that’s uncomfortable?

Quit a job, or stay in a job that’s hard?  Give something away?  Build a bridge, or shake the dust off your feet?

Are you afraid to jump?  I am.  And I’m thinking about the lyrics from this Nicole Nordeman song:

But what if you’re wrong?
What if there’s more?
What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?
What if it’s love?

Jumping, or taking a step outside our boat of comfort. There are different things that God may use to prompt us.

Invitation to go on an advocacy trip with World Vision when that’s not “my thing” prompted me to step out this summer.

Frustration over the lack of sanitary equipment for girls in northern Uganda, causing them to miss school, prompted our daughter Maggie to step outside her “boat” and solve the problem.

Fear of the overwhelming emotions around returning to church after her husband died, prompted my sister-in-law to cling to Jesus and take the hard step back.

Loss of her beloved son Brett, who had Downs Syndrome, prompted my friend Nan to start ministries to kids with special needs.

What are you afraid of?

What might God be using to prompt you to jump, or step out, trusting Him? 

If we step out and sink, we can be assured that God’s grace is greater than our faith.

Some Notes on Anniversaries We Just Don’t Want to Celebrate

Anniversaries.

You may remember marking moments like the day you started a new job, a first kiss, college graduation, the day you accepted Jesus. You remember the date of your wedding, when babies were born, your Mom’s birthday…

These are life-giving, joy-filled moments we savor.

But what about the anniversary of a death?

A year ago today, just after midnight, my brother David died. This morning I’ve been re-reading the passage of Scripture my other brother, Cris read at the memorial service. He was struck by the fact that David lived the verse:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

I’ve been meditating on it, praying it.

Psalm 34

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

I “will” – it’s a choice, a discipline, a commitment. I will glory “in the Lord” – not in my circumstances. He is good and unchanging.

“Everyone worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” Timothy Keller

David lived this. When cancer came, yes, he prayed for healing, but he worshipped God, not his own desires.

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

Together. We choose, especially in times of pain, to draw together. Though our voices may falter, we invite each other to join us in a broken hallelujah.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

I look at all the verbs in this Psalm that refer to our action – “sought”, “look”, “called”, “fear” “taste”, “take refuge”.  We can cry out to the Lord with all that is in us. We look to Him to bring Life in the midst of death.

He “delivers”, “hears”, “saves”, “blesses”, “encamps” around us.

 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  

To be blessed is to will Life for someone, to flourish. With the Lord we will experience blessing – Life even in the midst of death.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.

Other versions translate “fear” as “reverence” or “worship”.

“All shall work together for good; everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.” John Newton

And then verse 18… The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Lord, we praise You that though the darkness of grief can threaten to eclipse everything else, You are a good God and your Light will not allow the darkness to overcome. We have felt confused, comforted, crushed, and carried this year… But we choose to trust You no matter what. “You are a good, good Father. It’s who You are.” We praise You for your faithfulness and compassion. We praise You that though we miss David terribly, You have overcome death and that we will live forever with You and him.

Tonight, family and close friends will gather at Susan’s for one of the grilling dinners that David loved so much to host. As we come together we look forward to laughing and sharing “Dave stories” which are really “Yay God!” stories. Once again, we will “Taste and see that God is good.”

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Living a Plan B Life

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past. Hope you’re soaking up God’s goodness and catching glimpses of His everyday grace!

Ice cubes.  6 small potatoes.  A get-well card.

Sometimes in line at the grocery store don’t you feel like the check-out folks are wondering, “What’s she really up to??”

In this case, each item represented “Plan B” on a day that screamed “I live a PLAN B LIFE!” in big and small ways.

  • The ice cubes were for our broken ice maker. (first world problems, right??)
  • The potatoes for a recipe gone wrong.
  • The card for a friend having a double mastectomy.

But this was just a small glimpse of bigger realities of disappointments and losses that got me asking questions like:

  • Lord, why is everyone else always in control and why do I never get my way?  (Clearly no Theresa of Avila here!)
  • Where are You in this and what are You trying to teach me?  Submission?  Humility?  Trust in your redemptive power? (Could I have Door 2 instead please?)
  • Is there anyone not living a “Plan B” life?  (Hard for me to think of anyone, but then I didn’t really want to think about anyone else cuz this was all about ME!)
  • How did Your Bible guys handle Plan B’s?  (Moses, David, Abraham, Paul…wow, a lot of Plan B’s)

Somehow, the most important Plan B discipline for the Bible guys seemed to be leaning in.  Not understanding necessarily.  Not having 1-2-3 answers.  But having the faith to say, “I choose to believe in you, God, more than this disappointment.”

Perhaps the spiritual discipline of Plan B involves giving up the illusion of control…giving up trying to write our own story and letting God write His story through us.

Or this…One line stood out in my Bible reading yesterday morning…

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?…How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” (Mt.7)

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I wonder how often God’s bread just looks like a stone to me because I think I know better than Him how my good gift should appear.  Part of the discipline of Plan B seems to be trusting in God’s goodness...His identity even when we can’t see or understand His activity.

Clearly I don’t have this figured out.  This is just me, wrestling with God after a Plan B day in a Plan B life.

I like to have a plan for everything.  And like all people, I like the plan to go my way.  Plan B is not my strong suit, but maybe it is actually my sweet spot (and yours), because it puts me where God wants me, needing to lean into Him.  For His grace.  His presence.  His power.  His understanding.

What’s your Plan B situation?  What are you learning in it about spiritual discipline?

Mamas in Pajamas Who Wannabe Wave-Walkers

“Adventurously expectant”  is my “one” word for 2016. As I sit here in my pajamas I don’t look or feel it.

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I wrote earlier that this year I am going putting some practices into my life to help me pay better attention to what God might want to teach me through this “one word”.

One practice is looking at places in Scripture where these words are fleshed out. Peter is certainly one I think of as “adventurously expectant”. i can’t picture him sitting around in his pajamas, so I decided to look at one of his “moments”.

When I look at a passage, I always try to look for (at least) 2 things: Continue reading

Road Trip – Perspective

Adventure starts where plans end.-3

This is the last post in our “Road Trip” series of the summer. I’m sorry I’ve been less consistent than I planned. Thanks for your grace! I’d love to hear about your summer road trips – physical, or spiritual – and what you’ve learned!

A few weeks ago I sat in seat 19C waiting to take off when the pilot came on over the P.A.

He said, “For those of you on the left side of the plane, if you’ve looked out your window you may have noticed part of the wing is missing. Don’t worry. we know about it.”

What the what??

“We’ve made adjustments.” he added, seemingly as an afterthought.

Well okey dokey then! I’m putting my life in your hands Mr. Voice on the P.A., but if you – a person I’ve never met before in my entire life, a person whose age, credentials, and performance record are unknown to me, says you’ve “made adjustments” for the absence of a major part of equipment that is necessary to get us off the ground and safely to our destination, I’ll just trust you. No sweat.

You can’t make this stuff up.

This experience on a plane (yes,  we took off and landed without incident) made me think of Paul’s experience on a “road trip” that is actually a “boat trip”.

In Acts 27, Luke writes of being taken with Paul by boat as a prisoner, to Rome. They get behind on their schedule and winter is coming. Paul warns the guy in charge, that they shouldn’t continue because the weather will be disastrous, but his captors ignore him and they sail.

13-15 When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm…

18-20 Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.

I know this feeling of losing “all control of the ship”.

I felt out of control on the plane.

I felt out of control when our daughter got sick in the slums of Nairobi, thousands of miles away from us.

I felt out of control when I was told I couldn’t have a job I wanted.

I felt out of control when my brother died.

You? Where do you feel out of control? In what area of life have you “lost all hope of rescue”?

21-22 With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, “Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete (Read: “I told you so”). We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there’s no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there’ll not be a single drowning among us, although I can’t say as much for the ship—the ship itself is doomed.

23-26 “Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.”

I love the phrase “stood at my side” because it reminds me that we have a 360 degree God. He goes behind, before, and beside us! He’s not limited by time or space. (Ps. 139:5)

And the bottom line? God doesn’t need a boat to rescue you. He walked on water.  If your hope is in the boat, when the boat goes down, your hope goes down.

On my trip, my hope couldn’t be in our defective plane. Instead I had to trust the pilot, and well…God.

Our hope isn’t in the boat. Our hope is in the One who made the wind and the waves. 

The storm continues, but…

33-34 With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: “This is the fourteenth day we’ve gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You’ll need strength for the rescue ahead. You’re going to come out of this without even a scratch!”

35-38 He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily—276 of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard…

44 Everyone made it to shore safely.

Do I want to do my best to make sure my boat is strong and safe? Absolutely. That’s just wise and responsible. But what are the signs that I’m trusting the boat more than the Maker?

  • When I am so busy “doing” – taking care of boat maintenance that I can’t take time to be still and rest or thank God.
  • When I fret instead of pray.
  • When I act quickly on what I can see, instead of asking God what I might be missing.

So, this morning I’m delighted to be put in my place as a passenger, remembering what God asked Job:

Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place? Job 38:12

Nope. But I’m trying to trust the One who does.

Have you had an experience of God reassuring you when you felt overwhelmed by the storms battering you and out of control?

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What Are You Hoping For?

“Hope” is a weird word. I’ve always felt like it’s used a lot, but it’s kind of fluffy and fuzzy, often without substance, like pink cotton candy.  We’re drawn to it cuz it’s pretty, like a wish, but I think maybe we don’t really understand it in a way that’s helpful in our “with God” life.

We mistakenly think that hope is positive thinking, or the tingly good feels, or confidence that things are going to turn out the way we want them to.

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John started preaching a series on hope a couple weeks ago.  It’s caused me to reflect a lot about this word.  I think where we get off track is in the object of our hope.  I know so many people who are longing, wishing, hoping for something deeply important to them – healing from cancer, a baby, reconciliation in a relationship, marriage, a job…

And that’s good and natural to ask God for what we hope for.  Jesus says “Come to me…” and “What do you want me to do for you?” and “Pour out your hearts…”

But when I put my hope in my specific picture of a future, that’s where I get in trouble. I’m trusting in circumstances and feelings and myself more than putting hope in my God.  If I cling to my specific picture of hope I make an idol out of it instead of offering it with open hands to God who knows better than I, and who can, even in this broken world, bring good that I can’t imagine out of despair.  It may not be the good that I conjured up, or the perfection I would experience in an unbroken world, but like this quote says: Continue reading

How to Have a Crucial Conversation

Recently we met for dinner with a young couple we love whose marriage is in crisis.

Another friend’s teenage son entered rehab.

Two had to fire employees.

One needs to break up with her boyfriend.

AAAAARRRGGGHHH!  For the love of world peace!

In each of these situations a crucial conversation (or series of them) was called for.  Conversations where emotions ran high.  Sometimes there was a difference of opinion.   Perhaps there was hard truth that needed to be clearly, but gently communicated.

John and I often repeat something our friend Nancy Beach once said: “Leadership is a series of hard conversations.”  I think that might as well be “LIFE is a series of hard conversations.”

In August we took a large group from our church to the annual Leadership Summit at Willow Creek.  The most pertinent talk for many of us was called “Crucial Conversations” by Joseph Grenny.

He said, any time you find yourself stuck, there are crucial conversations you’re not having, or not having well. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Infertility

IMG_0002Happy 4th of July!  As you read this, chances are I’ll be with my friend Cathy Wood, watching the parade, or fireworks or laughing about how we both could have been great spies.  There is so much I admire about Cathy.  Her ability to forgive hard things.  Her indomitable positive spirit. Her kindness, and listening ear.  We’ve been in a couples small group for about 25 years and she’s also one of the “7” girls, so I’ve been privileged to walk through a lot of life with her!  All of us either know someone or are someone who has wrestled with a dream to have kids, but an inability to make it happen.  I always benefit from her wisdom, so I’m thankful she agreed to share today!

1. What has been your experience with infertility?
We struggled with infertility and trying to create a family over about a decade.  Although this time is in the rearview mirror of my life, I can readily recall the cycle of doctor appointments, shots, temperature taking and miscarriages…periods of great hope and equally great despair. Thankfully, by the grace of God He brought us thru it all.  He has graciously put our family together thru primary/secondary infertility, adoption and natural birth.

2. What was the hardest thing for you while you struggled with infertility?
I think for me the hardest thing was believing that God was trustworthy and that I could trust him with the outcome. I could pray “ah yes this is a light and momentary trouble” but my heart was breaking. My borders defining God needed to be blown wide open. What did it mean to follow him? My current view wasn’t holding up. I kept thinking that God wanted me to do that “one thing” and then I’d get pregnant. Not sure what that one thing was but I kept trying to guess.

I spent lots of time staring at what I thought was a road block with blinking lights, razor wire and a sign that said ”keep out”. I could see others beyond the gate with children but I couldn’t get there. A turn away from this road to another path was dark and unknown. I had no idea what it would mean or require. I DIDN’T WANT TO GO! The decision really became do I go alone or with God? Slowly and gently (as I am stubborn), God turned my heart towards Him and then the road He had for us.

3. You have had children now, but what would you say to women who maybe are never able to conceive?                                                                                                  “I am so sorry” feels like the only one for me because no feeble attempt by me could make sense this side of heaven. God needs to handle that one. My sincere hope for them would be that they come to know and believe that God loves them and has not lost sight of them.

4. What advice would you give to those who are walking alongside women experiencing infertility?                                                                                                   It is a privilege and holy ground to be let into a person’s life at any time but especially when it is a painful season. Being a safe place to share deep emotions and process is a gift to another. I think it’s a way God redeems our own experiences. Pray, trust God and show up. He’ll do the rest.

5. What did you learn about God and yourself during your season of infertility?
Ha!  Well I would love to say I never doubted… that I have the gift of unshakeable faith but I don’t want to be struck by lightning! I tend to be a bit more of a rebel. What I learned was that God is gracious and merciful. When I began to seek Him, stumble after him and look for Him in the everyday, not just answering this big prayer, I discovered He was there and had been there all the time with small surprises of Himself, the love of friends, reminders of His grace and answered prayer in his time.

Additional Resources Cathy found helpful:

Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey

If you liked this post, you might also like The Spiritual Discipline of Plan B.

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Fear, Small Things, and a Big God

One of the ways God reassures me is to say “do not despise the day of small things.”*  He uses the ordinary, and the overlooked, and the seemingly inconsequential.  And even the things He does with these can go overlooked.  Unnoticed.

I used to think that if it was “of God” it had to be big and bold and dramatic and flashy.  Like a super hero.  But then I learned that if he can use flour and oil, and widows, and dropouts, there’s hope for me.  I’m thankful for that, because my life is mostly a life of “small things”.

But lately I’ve been convicted that I’ve gone too far.  I’m settling for too little. I’m settling for a small god, instead of the real thing.   It’s not me who’s flashy and dramatic, but I can trust in God to do amazing things through me, beyond my ability.

Sometimes He wants to do big things.

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Mind the Gap

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Ephesians 3:20 says, “To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory…”

This past weekend I experienced the joy of Ephesians 3:20 as our daughter, Maggie, married a young man who was more than I could ask for or imagine for her.

As a mom, I’ve prayed all her life for the man she might one day marry.  And it is a sign of my small faith that Austin surprised even me.  He is a godly partner who compliments her beautifully.

Once upon a time, I thought that was how God was  – always predictable in the way I thought He should be.  “Immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” was in my way (Read: fun, exciting, and comfortable) and in my time (Read: NOW).

Immeasurably more seems…well, fantastic!  A delightful combo of Candyland and a beach on Maui.

But what do we do when God doesn’t live up to our expectations?  What do we do when we’re disappointed in God?

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