The In Between


Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah – Psalms 61:1-4 (NIV)

It is hard to be in between.  Feeling unsettled, un-rooted, unfamiliar.  Being in that place that fills in the space from where you’ve been and where you are going.  Between now and then, here and there and what is and what shall be we find ourselves realizing how much we need God.  David was a man who understood the time and place in between.

David learned the hard way that the only thing that could fill the in between was God.  It was God alone who made sense of the in between, revealing it as the connective tissue in a life of purpose and meaning.  Instead of the in between being a place of isolation and disorientation, God uses it to reconnect and reorient.  But it is easy for us to get lost in the in between.

If we are not ready for the in between, it can overwhelm us and leave us wandering, hovering in a holding pattern with no place to land in sight.  God uses everything to transform His children, even the in between.  I need to show my children how valuable the in between is before they become professionals at distraction busyness.

It is a common habit to keep children occupied, but I think the better discipline – and the harder to teach – is to teach our children to be content when they are not occupied.  Our society has made whole industries based on distraction for the in between.  We don’t enjoy the quiet of a drive on mountain roads; we pop in a CD or show a movie to keep the kids from tearing each other apart.  But maybe we are missing something.  Maybe our kids will benefit more from seeking what is profitable during their in betweens rather than finding ways to waste time.

Will our children run to the Wii or to the Word?  Do they seek comfort in the still small voice or the next track on the CD?  Are they following friends on Facebook or following Jesus?  Are they filling the empty space of in between with distractions or with the things of God?  What do my children see me do with the in between? (That one stings!)

I want the in between in my life and lives of my children to be rich and meaningful and time well spent.  I want to look back and see how the in between connected the crisis and celebrations and calms of our life together into a storyline of purpose and power and meaning.  I want to see what the time of longing for God’s refuge and being securely in the midst of His refuge looks like.

Lord, help me to live fully in the in between.   May I lead my children well in making use of the time instead of wasting it.  Show our family how You move in the in between and let us linger as long as You need us to. Amen.

Patience


Waiting for berries.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalms 40:1-3 (NIV)

Patience.  It sounds like such a nice word.  It has a calm cadence to it and they even named a flower after it, but as most of us know, patience is hard.  Patience can be torturous and even painful, especially in a slimy pit.  However, it is always rewarded when it is rooted in God.

When we wait for the Lord, He turns His attention to us like a parent waiting for their child to sit still before they can get up from the table.  God could give us everything we wanted, when we wanted it and how we wanted, but He wants us to have our attention on Him not on what we want.

We have a garden with tomatoes, squash, onions, sunflowers, cantaloupe and berries.  Some were just planted and some have been there for a year or so.  Every day we look for signs of growth and health.  We tend each plant, watching for signs of bugs, lack of nutrients, water and anything else that will help us grow a good harvest.  And we wait.  We do a lot of waiting.  Gardening takes patience.

The garden has been a good way for my daughters to learn patience.  They are beginning to understand that not everything they want comes without time and effort.  They are learning that anticipation has to be married to preparation.  By learning about patience in the garden now they are preparing to be patient in their relationship with God.  Berries do not ripen at our whim and God does not answer our wants and desires at our whim either.

So tend the garden of your fellowship with the Father with patience.  It is a blessing for all of us.

Lord, help me to be patient.  Amen.

Waiting for the Lord


I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. – Psalms 27:13-14 (NIV)

Heaven is going to be beyond anything we can hope or comprehend.  To be perfectly at peace with God in His presence, joining together with all the saints in praising His name is amazing to think about.  However, heaven is someplace we end up and there is a long road between now and then.  The Psalmist has confidence that life in this broken world is not something we muddle through without hope or happiness.

I don’t want to be one of those people who are just waiting for heaven.  I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and I have faith that I will see it again.  My arrival in heaven doesn’t really require anything more from me than the step I made at 9 years of age to surrender my life to Christ.  However, the life of Christ in this world requires intention on my part.  It is possible to get to heaven and miss the times that heaven touches down on earth.

The prescription laid forth in the psalm has three parts: be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.  If we want to see the goodness of the Lord in the here and now, we need to grab a hold of these three disciplines.  To be strong is to be unshakeable and unbending.  It is strength in our beliefs and standards that take us through the wilderness to the land of promise.  But strength only comes with exercise, with increasing weight to bear.  To be strong one must bearing the weight of waiting for God’s goodness to break through.

Taking heart is what keeps our attitude in a place so we can be strong.  If we lose heart we lose our motivation for gaining and keeping the strength we need in this world.  Taking heart is about gaining courage from the truth of who God is and knowing how that changes everything in our lives.

If we can be strong and take heart it will help us to wait for the Lord.  We do not know God’s timing, but we do know His timing is right.  Strength, courage and patient trust in God’s timing – these are the disciplines that give us eyes to see His goodness and be His instruments of goodness in a broken world.

As a parent, there is comfort in the reality of a heaven to come.  The joy and wholeness we will experience in the place and time are beyond words, but I want my children to have those heavenly moments today. I am confident of this:  they can know the strength that comes from knowing the truth, take heart from experiencing the mercy and grace of a loving God and learn patient expectation for the goodness of God in this world.

Lord, help me to be strong, take heart and wait for Your goodness.  Help me lead my children into these disciplines so that they can see heavenly moments in this world. Help us wait for You.  Amen.

Close To the Vest


I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do forJerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. – Nehemiah 2:11-12

There is something very comforting in the privacy we have with God.  There is someone who knows us completely, but will never break that trust.  Whatever we share with Him is sacred and safe.  Nehemiah uses that safety to give him confidence in his mission and to plan his steps.  The truth Nehemiah shared with God and God alone was the restoration of Israel’s security.  By inspecting the wall with that truth between him and God, Nehemiah didn’t open the door to argument or anxiety from those he was with.

This is a great lesson for us to keep in mind as parents.  As we are leading our children in their life with God, we don’t always have to let them know when we are parenting and discipling.  Sometimes we need to keep the truths that God has given us close to the vest so we don’t incite argument or anxiety.  Our children don’t always need to know what God has put in our hearts.  Nehemiah shows great wisdom in his restraint.

This is the kind of wisdom I want God to grow in me.  I want to know when to keep those works and words He gives me to do and say to myself until the time is ripe.  I want to know how to lead my children without them always knowing they are being led.

Lord, help me to have the wisdom of privacy with You.  Help me to know when the work you are doing in me or through me is for my eyes only.  Build in me the inner boldness to act on Your will in my life without fear. Amen.

Honoring the Word


Then the king called together all the elders ofJudahandJerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people ofJerusalem, the priests and the prophets–all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. – 2 Kings 23:1-3 (NIV)

The cycle ofIsrael’s history is a reflection of man’s history and even the lifecycle of many individuals: realization of God’s existence, walking in God’s protection and will, growing apathetic and worldly, open disobedience toward God, suffering the consequences of bad choices, repentance and revival.  The passage today is part of the repentance and revival movement in the cycle and is tied to the discovery of God’s Word and a revelation of their history as a people of God.  While this cycle does not reflect God’s desire for His people it does reveal some important things about His character.

First, God is merciful.  After initially introducing Himself to the people ofIsraelthrough Moses, God runs into rebellion upon rebellion from a stubborn and cowardly element in the ranks.  Instead of abandoning the Israelites and starting over with another group of people, He is merciful.  He relents in His anger.  He withholds His wrath.  God is merciful.

Second, God is patient.  With miracle upon miracle and sign after sign, God revealed Himself toIsraelas powerful and true to His promises.  And yet His power is forgotten quickly when things don’t go the wayIsraelwants them to go.  They fall easily into fear and worry and begin finding solutions of their own, which inevitably gets them into trouble.  Despite the overwhelming evidence of God’s providence and power, the people ofIsraelput their trust in other things. But God gives them opportunity to find redemption.  He sends His messengers to bring truth and warning.  He sends signs and wonders to show His power.  He waits for them to turn to Him in repentance and humility.  God is patient.

Last, God is unchanging.  Each time the Israelites go through their broken cycle, God is still the same when they come around to obedience.  He never did change throughout their cycle, whether they were following Him or in the midst of rebellion, but they did not know it until repentance brought them back to wisdom and truth.  He was merciful and loving and patient and kind every step the Israelites took through their checkered history.  God is unchanging.

DoesIsraelremind you of anyone?  I seeIsrael’s painful cycle every time I look in the mirror.  I know first hand the insipid weakness of my human condition and have cried out to a merciful God to raise me from my rebellious mess.  Gratefully, I have learned from my own failures and the cycle is less often repeated in less severe fashion.  God is merciful, He is patient and He is unchanging and He asks us to pass that along to our children.  As He has done to us, He wants us to do to others, especially our children.

This is something I am working on.  It was one thing to accept God’s mercy, patience and unchanging presence, but trying to emulate that for my children is a challenge.  The question arises, “How can I reflect the mercy, patience and constancy of God to my children?”  Good question and I think the life of God’s people gives us the answer: honor His Word.  Every time the people ofIsraelfell out of good graces, it was because they ignored the Word of God or at least became apathetic toward it.  If we want to help our children avoid the broken cycle, we need to be people who honor the Word of God.

This is more than reading the Bible everyday and more than being involved in a Bible study, although those things can inform what is important.  To honor the Word of God requires that the Word is more important than us; more important than what we think or feel, more important than what is popular, more important than our fears and worries.  To be people who honor the Word of God, we must place it as something more than a reference on how to fix our lives.  It is the living and active Word of God.  It is not a tool in our hands, it is a sword in the hand of the Holy Spirit to divide truth from untruth and set us right.  But we cannot expect it to keep us from the broken cycle if we only see it as something that gets us out of trouble.

The Word is what keeps us from trouble, but we must be in and it must be in us.  There should be less and less difference between what the Word says and the way we think.  In this way we honor the Word and if we honor the Word we will honor the God who gave it to us.

Lord, help me be a man who honors Your Word.  Keep me from the broken cycle that leads to shame and hurt and pain.  Help me lead my children into a right relationship with Your Word that they might follow you all the days of their lives. Amen.

The In Between


Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah – Psalms 61:1-4 (NIV)

It is hard to be in between.  Feeling unsettled, un-rooted, unfamiliar.  Being in that place that fills in the space from where you’ve been and where you are going.  Between now and then, here and there and what is and what shall be we find ourselves realizing how much we need God.  David was a man who understood the time and place in between.

David learned the hard way that the only thing that could fill the in between was God.  It was God alone who made sense of the in between, revealing it as the connective tissue in a life of purpose and meaning.  Instead of the in between being a place of isolation and disorientation, God uses it to reconnect and reorient.  But it is easy for us to get lost in the in between.

If we are not ready for the in between, it can overwhelm us and leave us wandering, hovering in a holding pattern with no place to land in sight.  God uses everything to transform His children, even the in between.  I need to show my children how valuable the in between is before they become professionals at distraction busyness.

It is a common habit to keep children occupied, but I think the better discipline – and the harder to teach – is to teach our children to be content when they are not occupied.  Our society has made whole industries based on distraction for the in between.  We don’t enjoy the quiet of a drive on mountain roads; we pop in a CD or show a movie to keep the kids from tearing each other apart.  But maybe we are missing something.  Maybe our kids will benefit more from seeking what is profitable during their in betweens rather than finding ways to waste time.

Will our children run to the Wii or to the Word?  Do they seek comfort in the still small voice or the next track on the CD?  Are they following friends on Facebook or following Jesus?  Are they filling the empty space of in between with distractions or with the things of God?  What do my children see me do with the in between? (That one stings!)

I want the in between in my life and lives of my children to be rich and meaningful and time well spent.  I want to look back and see how the in between connected the crisis and celebrations and calms of our life together into a storyline of purpose and power and meaning.  I want to see what the time of longing for God’s refuge and being securely in the midst of His refuge looks like.

Lord, help me to live fully in the in between.   May I lead my children well in making use of the time instead of wasting it.  Show our family how You move in the in between and let us linger as long as You need us to. Amen.

Patience


Waiting for berries.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalms 40:1-3 (NIV)

Patience.  It sounds like such a nice word.  It has a calm cadence to it and they even named a flower after it, but as most of us know, patience is hard.  Patience can be torturous and even painful, especially in a slimy pit.  However, it is always rewarded when it is rooted in God.

When we wait for the Lord, He turns His attention to us like a parent waiting for their child to sit still before they can get up from the table.  God could give us everything we wanted, when we wanted it and how we wanted, but He wants us to have our attention on Him not on what we want.

We have a garden with tomatoes, squash, onions, sunflowers, cantaloupe and berries.  Some were just planted and some have been there for a year or so.  Every day we look for signs of growth and health.  We tend each plant, watching for signs of bugs, lack of nutrients, water and anything else that will help us grow a good harvest.  And we wait.  We do a lot of waiting.  Gardening takes patience.

The garden has been a good way for my daughters to learn patience.  They are beginning to understand that not everything they want comes without time and effort.  They are learning that anticipation has to be married to preparation.  By learning about patience in the garden now they are preparing to be patient in their relationship with God.  Berries do not ripen at our whim and God does not answer our wants and desires at our whim either.

So tend the garden of your fellowship with the Father with patience.  It is a blessing for all of us.

Lord, help me to be patient.  Amen.