"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 NIV

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

     My husband patiently waited for his opportunity to provide for our family while deer hunting last fall. He enjoyed the opportunity to think and pray, immersed in nature and relative silence.  One prayer centered around reassurance that God would provide what we need as a family.  My husband shared with me, "I told God that if he brought a deer over the ridge just then, I would know that he was going to provide for us, and I would not have to worry."  Instead of a deer, more than a dozen turkeys descended from the hill.  Both our minds came to the same conclusion. Perhaps God was saying, "I will provide for your family, just not in the way you expect."
     God has a habit of surprising me.  He changes my plans, brings people into my life, and orchestrates "coincidences" more often than I can recount.  I have learned to expect the unexpected and to keep an open mind to his solutions to problems.  When I do, I am less frustrated that things do not go my way and more able to give God credit for getting my attention creatively.

     "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

     Now when problems are solved in ways my husband and I do not anticipate or blessings come unexpectedly, we turn to each other and comment, "Must be the turkeys!"

     I thank you, Lord, that your ways are so much higher than my own. I confess I do not always enjoy not knowing how you will provide.  Help me to rest in your promises and trust that you never let go of me. Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Flexible To-Do List

     Cleaning the refrigerator was at the top of my list for the day, mainly because I had run out of Tupperware and knew many containers were hiding on the bottom shelf. A bit further down the list was making sure each household member has clean underwear available for the next day and planing a nutritious evening meal young children will consume. Check. Check. And, partial check. On to the next item.

      Most mornings I wake with a general idea of what my day will look like and what needs are most pressing. I know how I want them to do done, but circumstances beyond my control often step in to undermine my strategy. A phone call that requires immediate action, a forgotten ingredient for a meal to run after, a red light when all seven on the street should have been green for me, all disrupt my day.

     I find myself battling against time, wondering why it is so hard to get everything done. Or, get everything done with the right attitude by the time I fall into bed at night.

     Perhaps I have misunderstood the whole purpose of my day.  Maybe the point of my day is not to get things done, but to be content while being the hands and feet of God in whatever I am doing.

     "I found satisfaction in the doing of life, not in the getting done of it," Jerry Sittser explains in A Grace Disguised. His clarity came while mourning the loss of three family members to an accident in one night. To-do lists were no longer as important to him as what he called "the wonder of the present moment."

     In Waking the Dead, John Eldridge comments, "Either we wake to tackle our 'to do' list, get things done, guided by our morals and whatever clarity we may at the moment have. Or we wake in the midst of a dangerous story, as God's intimate ally, following him into the unknown."

     If my leftovers lurk on dark shelves for another day because a friend needs to talk to me, so what? If dinner for the night is hot dogs (again) because I would rather read a book with my toddler than go out in the snow for a forgotten ingredient, fine. I choose to enjoy the moments.  I choose to put my agenda on hold when God's becomes obvious to me. After all, I really do not know how many moments my life will hold.

      As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”     
     “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.  (Luke 10:39-42 NIV)

     Jesus, I want your list to be my list. I want to be open to what you have planned for my day. Give me wisdom and a content heart as I face the challenges placed before me. Thank you for a new-found perspective on my purpose. Amen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Consider it Pure Joy

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials 
of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  
(James 1:2-3 NIV)

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 
You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open 
and shows its true colors." (James 1:2-3 The Message)

     I have read this verse hundreds of times. I try to keep it in mind when those "trials" come up in my life. Most often the last thing I do is consider it a joyful experience or see it as a gift. This week when I deliberately decided to put this verse into practice, I was surprised at the blessing that followed.

     My vacuum cleaner decided (prematurely) to retire. I was cleaning, anticipating orderliness, when plans suddenly changed. I knew that we did not have room in the budget for a new, dependable vacuum. I had a choice to make.  I could either worry about how to pay for a new one, or, I could give my need, my "trial", over to God and see what happens.  I decided to go for the latter option.

     My prayer went something like this: "God, I cannot wait to see how you are going to provide a vacuum for us." Simple. Hopeful. Trusting. He knew we needed one. I simply put the ball of providing it for us in his court - joyfully. Then, I waited.

     A few days later I was telling my brother-in-law about the new plastic, upright statue I have in my house. He said that a friend had just returned an extra one to him that he had borrowed for over a year. He had been wondering what to do with the extra one. Both of us felt blessed by the exchange. Coincidence? Some people might think so. I know better.  God orchestrated the timing just right and showed once again that he cares about even the smallest trials in my life.

     The following day I was able to bless a friend with an extra baby gate that I was not using anymore.  God provided for me and gave me an opportunity to do the same for someone else. I love when prayers are answered in such a tangible way, and what a joy to be the answer to someone's prayer as well.

     God does not always step in to save the day in this way.  Then again, I do not always turn to him the way I did for this need either. I wonder what would happen if I considered it pure joy more often?

     Giver of all good and perfect gifts, thank you. When trials come my way, please help me to consider them pure joy and look for the good that will come out of them. You know all of my needs before I even ask. Yet, asking you to provide reminds me who owns everything in the first place. I love seeing your creativity in situations. Continue to open my eyes to your hand at work.  Amen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Only Resolution I Need

      I do not enjoy making resolutions for the new year. Rather, I have not been inclined to make them because I know I will not keep them. I try. I fail. Discouragement sets in as another year goes by. I struggle with most of the same issues I did before. There has to be a better way, I hope.
     From a quiet place inside I hear, "What if it is not about you doing anything, but about you allowing something?"

     What would happen if this year I simply allow my heart to be filled with love for Jesus and accept his love for me? One resolution - all I need. If I focus on this alone for the new year, more and more of my life will fall into place, the place where he wants it to be: immersed in him.

     I am not sure entirely what this looks like. I know it starts with acknowledging his presence from the moment I wake up in the morning. It continues with seeking guidance in my decisions throughout the day. It concludes with thankfulness for what he has done for me. And all the moments in between? They revolve around seeing his hand at work everywhere, delighting in his love for me through the things that stir my heart.

     Wake up again. Repeat.

     Could it possibly be that simple? Allow my heart to be filled with love for Jesus and accept his love for me. Yes, I feel the weight of doing more, being different, and changing behavior lifted

     Allow. Accept. I think I will try that this year.

     "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those
      whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chron. 16:9 NIV)

     "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matt. 5:8 NIV)

     Jesus. Jesus! Fill my heart with your love.  Open my eyes to see your love for me. Strengthen my heart as I walk boldly into a new year with you. Help me to keep my gaze focused on you instead of on my circumstances. You know what this year holds for me. Prepare my heart for the trials that are around the corner and out of sight. Amen.