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.

Do Not Fret


Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. – Psalms 37:1-6 (NIV)

There is a lot in this world to get frustrated and angry about.  We see injustice, greed, meanness and a general sense of selfishness that can get us down. All of these have influences on how we perceive life.  We can get cynical and pessimistic about the world, but it can bleed over into how we see everything.  We can turn into sour and surly saints.

This keeps us from shining the light of God.  If we lose sight of God’s goodness, we become more defined by our surroundings instead of God transforming our surroundings through us.  We cannot look to the world for our happiness and contentment; we will be disappointed.  We must look to God, always God.

The Psalmist puts forth a great argument here: live life on God’s terms and let others live life on their terms and God will deal with us accordingly.  This less about worrying who is being bad and more about how we can be good.  If we keep our eyes on the Lord, we won’t have the time or inclination to monitor the fairness of life.

It leaves us with a choice between being fretting frowners or faithful followers.  Will we live life moving toward the love, light and beauty of God or will we wallow in the misperception of thinking we don’t have all we deserve?  God is all we really need, so I know what the answer should be, but there are days where I act like a wallower.  I want something better for myself and my children.

Lord, help me not to wallow in my self-made misery.  Give me the wisdom and opportunity to teach my children the importance of following after You alone.  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.

Security


I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. – Psalms 18:1-2 (NIV)

We live in a time of insecurity and uncertainty.  Many have come on difficult circumstances through no fault of their own, and most of us are wondering what changes we will need to make to make ends meet.  It can be easy to look for our comfort and security in all the wrong places during a season such as this.

God grants us security that fluctuating markets and political turmoil cannot affect.  This security is rooted in who He is, not what happens to us in this life.  God loves us when we are poor and when we are rich.  God cares for us when we are wounded and when we are healed.  God is unchanging.  He is the rock and the fortress that holds our hope.

I want to face this life without fear or faltering because of what is happening around or to me.  It takes a daily reminder that the rock that can hold me safe above the stormy waves will not fail; that the fortress that shields me from a wayward heart and mind will persist forever.  This gives me the strength to face each day with hope and perseverance and be a fortress and shield to my children.

Lord, help me rest in Your in the safety and security of Your presence.  Shield and protect me from the ways of the world, even if they are in me.  Give me the strength to watch over my children and guard them for Your sake. Amen.

Courageous for the Truth


Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life–this is my petition. And spare my people–this is my request.  For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.” – Esther 7:3-4 (NIV)

Sometimes telling the truth is easy.  When you are asked if the meal is good and it is good, that is easy.  When you are trying to uncover a conspiracy to eliminate a race of people – a race to which you belong – that is not easy.  There are times that truth telling requires courage because the telling may cost more.  Esther did not know how the king would react to the truth she had to tell.  She needed to be courageous.

But courage is not a skill that is developed; it is a character trait built on the foundation of our beliefs.  We are courageous because of what we believe in and what we love.  If what we believe in is transitory or false, then our bravery will be just as transitory and false.  If we want our children to be brave for the sake of the truth – God’s truth – then they need to believe firmly in God.

Courage doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it doesn’t just pop up like a magic genie.  I need to help my daughters be courageous by encouraging them; encouraging their faith, encouraging their service to God, encouraging their public witness of the Gospel.  The questions rise in my heart, “Do I exhibit courage?  Is my foundation firm enough to help me overcome fear?  Am I standing for the truth despite the possible cost?”  The only answer I can give with confidence is that I am trying.

And that is what I will keep asking my daughters to do; try.  Try to speak up when fear clenches at your words.  Try to live for Christ when others live for themselves.  Try to live according to His word and not according to your fears.  This is what I will try to do in my life and what I will try to instill in my children.

Lord, help me to be courageous. Amen.

Pagan Kings and the Will of God


“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.  Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.  And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'” – Ezra 1:2-4 (NIV)

I think there is an assumption among Christians that the only place our kids can get shaped by God is in and by the church.  We can work towards insulating them in a cocoon of church activities and groups because we think that will protect them from sin.  This view, however, makes God less powerful and providential than His omnipotence would suggest.  God used numerous situations to shape His people that were outside the community of faith.  In the passage above, God is using a pagan king to replant His people in the promised land.  A pagan king.

The world is a scary, treacherous and sometimes dangerous place, but it is small compared to God.  If He chooses to work through a pagan king to bring His children home, who are we to question?  When I consider the different choices that face our family, I have to remind myself that fear is not a factor.  We are His children and He will bring us safely to His side, but we don’t get to decide who or what He uses to get us there.

I want my children to be safe.  I want them to be protected, but more than that, I want them to walk the road that God has set before them.  This is going to be a challenge, because I may have to trust people and situations that seem “unsafe” for my children.  I don’t relish those moments of decision where God is calling my child to be in a worldly place under worldly people.  I pray that I will be ready when those moments come.  I hope that I will see God’s hand at work in those situations and trust in His will and wisdom rather than my own.

Lord, help me to trust You with my children.  Give me the strength to let them go into the world, trusting that you can use even the things of this world to shape them for Your glory and honor.  Remind me of Your faithfulness and mercy when those moments arise.  Amen.