Waiting: What Do I Focus On?

Waiting.  Nobody really likes to wait. It’s hard to wait for the really exciting things that are going to happen in life. But waiting can be even harder when it is for something that could be bad – waiting for the inevitable.

When I am waiting for something it’s an ever present thought that I just can’t shake. I can be seemingly fully present in what I’m doing, but that thought of what is to come is right there in the back of my mind. Over the past few weeks there were test results that I was waiting for. They were looming reminders that life might change for the worse. I could engage with people, put a smile on my face, but as soon as my mind wasn’t focused on something else it would snap back to the reality that was unknown and hanging over my head.

The truth is, I couldn’t change what the results would be by thinking them over. They became a source of anxiety and sometimes fear. One day while I was getting ready for bed, Andrew asked me, “What is God teaching you at this point in the process?” That was the moment when the Lord met my heart in a deep and profound way.

The way that the reality of bad news kept coming to mind like a continual reminder on my cell phone, was the way that Jesus wanted my heart focused on something different. The way my mind so effortlessly focused on what was to come in this life is what Jesus wants me to focus on in the next. He longs for my heart to be stayed on the Truth that He loves me. He is planning eternity with me. God will eternally dwell with His people and this life will be but a wisp of air.

I was gifted the opportunity to not think of the awful things that could be on the other side of that phone call, but instead think of the glories that are on the other side of eternity. What a treasure that is. I have a pretty great imagination, but I think even that will pale in comparison to what is to come.

I can go through anything in this life. It’s momentary. It’s hard, but it’s only for a little while. What is to come will make anything here seem so much less. In those moments when my heart begins to dwell on fear, stew in the pity of life, or just get discouraged; Jesus is reminding me that I have a greater hope. I am not defined or limited by this life. I was made for something far greater.

“He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

-Revelation 21:6

I have no need to fear or focus my mind of the things that I can’t control in my life. I can give them over to Jesus and set my mind of the things that I can’t control, but are certain. Life is uncertain, but I do know that Jesus is who He says He is.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
-Revelation 22:1-5

 

 

Whose Glory?

Sometimes I take away God’s glory and glorify Satan. This is not a statement that I would have ever dreamed in my wildest imagination I would write. Through several conversations over the past few weeks I have come to this deeply unsettling realization.

More often than I would like to admit I choose to focus on the hard things in life. I see everything that’s challenging and see all the spiritual defeat in my life. I even do this when it comes to ministry. I see all the hard battles and focus on wanting God to “fix” the struggles and take away the pain. In the midst of all this, I miss all the beautiful, wonderful, life-giving things God is doing. I blind myself to the good things in life and throw away a chance for joy. I forget that He’s at work while I’m busy fretting about something He clearly knows about and has under control.

My perspective needs a slight major adjustment. Instead of focusing or dwelling on “the work of the devil” I need to choose to see the life-changing, gracious work of Christ. Instead of talking about communication issues I choose to talk about Christ saving lives. Instead of seeing where I failed, I am going to praise the Lord for the small victories I have over sin in my life. Instead of moaning over lack of internet for weeks on end, I will be grateful for countless refreshing hours with the Lord.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to recognize or even talk about the tough stuff. In fact we need to. There is a time and place to look at evil being done and to call it what it is, grieve over it, confront it, pray over it, aggressively fight it, etc. However, it is not ultimately best to dwell on it and neglect to see the incredible things of the Lord.

I don’t know that God will do bigger, more amazing things in my life if I focus on giving Him the glory, but I do know that I will be less likely to miss out on seeing Him. I have the opportunity to do what I am truly created to do. I can glorify God and enter into deeper relationship with Him. I can receive joy and marvel at His goodness and work. I so often choose not to. My challenge to myself is to shift the focus off of how I think things should look and see what God is displaying right in front of my eyes. It’s time for my to lift my eyes and see the beautiful reality of what God is up to. By choosing to see Him for who He is brings me into a closer, joy-filled, and exhilarating relationship. Why wouldn’t I choose that?

Where’s Hope?

I firmly believe that God uses themes in my life to teach me deep and meaningful truths about Himself. Over the past few years God has been gently trying to get me to look at one that frankly scared me. Hope is a word is thrown around so nonchalantly all the time, but I never really stopped to think about the depth of the word. I knew that I had a love/hate relationship with this elusive hope.

I grew up knowing that my hope was in Jesus and that I would eventually go to heaven someday to be with Him, but hope is so much deeper than that. Hope is not just a future thing, or something final. It is something that drives the depths of my heart to long for something greater than I am experiencing at the time. Hope is all about faith that there is something better for me now and in the future. It’s a walk of faithful expectancy, joy, and faith. If I am completely honest, hope scared me because there is so much risk involved in hope. What if I allow myself to hope for something and I am disappointed? What if I realize when I get what I wanted that it’s not fulfilling or satisfying and I want something else? What if God begins to see how fickle I am and He decides not to answer my prayers anymore? And the list goes on…

What I failed to realize is that my concept of hope was rather narrow. My hope was in things and in the desires themselves. My hope was not founded on anything solid and this is where the danger lies. Jesus gently moved into those wounded places in my heart the battled between wanting to hope and the paralyzing fear of letting myself hope. He used Scripture and gentle, loving friends to speak truth into those places of fear. It came to a point where I had to repent of that fear and realize the magnitude of the LOVE that Christ has for me. He was not going to allow me to stay blinded, believing that anything less than Him is going to satisfy my deepest longings. Not that I have a full understanding of what hope is, or plan to anytime soon, but it’s like I just had cataracts removed and I can see more clearly. I can truly and fully hope and desire things as long as my ultimate hope is in Christ. He fulfills every longing I have and He knows my heart far better than I do. H efully knows me, fully accepts me, fully loves me. This is a true act of grace.

The Truth is:

  • Christ can do exceedingly, abundantly more than I can even ask or imagine (and I have a pretty big imagination)
  • When I ask for things God is not a Father who gives gifts that harm. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father.
  • My soul was bought by the precious, powerful blood of Jesus Christ and I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. What should I fear?
  • Stifling desires that Christ gives me can cause resentment to build. Present all the things I want to Christ with thankfulness, confident that He will guard my heart and mind when I trust Him with my desires.
  • When I truly delight myself in God He will either change my desires or confirm that they are good and right and He’ll give me what is best for me.
  • I am never alone in this journey of hope and faith. I am abiding in Christ and He is in me. There is no greater hope in this life.

Thanks[giving in]

It’s that time of year when facebook is inundated with daily posts of what they are thankful for. I have toyed with the idea of doing the same thing (I just don’t have the dedication to share something each day).  So here I am giving in. Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I desire to live grateful for how wonderful my life really is. God is so good to me in ways that I struggle to express in words.  So I have decided that I want to write out 31 things that I am thankful for this year.  It will be set up as my remembrance point of the incredible things God has allowed me.

1.  A breathtaking place to live that screams the glory of it’s Creator every day.

2.  God’s endless grace that desires my heart and the option of repentance even when I feel like I’ve utterly blown it.

3.  Friends who speak truth to me, give me grace, and allow me time to grow.

4.  The people who faithfully offer to do grocery shopping for me just because they want to serve and support the ministry where God has placed me.

5.  Laughter – especially when we’re laughing so hard that we can’t remember what started it in the first place.

6.  God’s Word – For God seeing fit to reveal Himself through it, how it seems new every time I open it, and it’s deeply life changing power.

7.  Village Bible Church – my extended family there and the way that they individually and collectively support me in many ways.

8.  My parents – for raising me, loving the Lord, and quietly challenging me to follow Him.

9.  My two wonderful nephews who make me laugh, remind me how to love and just enjoy life.  (and for all the other children that I am privileged to be the aunt of, even though not biologically.)

10.  Snow! – it’s beauty, source of fun and adventure, and just all around greatness!

11.  God’s peace – I am so thankful for that peace that doesn’t make sense but calms my soul and reminds me that I am exactly where God wants me and that I should/can continue to trust Him.

12.  A warm bed to rest in every night. I am not sure what I would do without it!

13.  Handwritten notes that seem to arrive on the day that they’re most needed.

14.  The ability to travel – to see new places, experience different cultures, and make lasting memories with wonderful friends.

15.  Long hikes in the woods.

16.  Working internet so that I can keep in touch with friends and family that are miles (and even oceans) away.

17.  God’s provision – that God chose to use many generous people to meet my financial needs, and that is a reflection of all the other needs that He willingly meets every day just because He loves me.

18.  Music – because it just makes life a little better.

19.  The Routh family – their desire to make me a part of their family, teach me how to truly rest, and encourage me.  For the ways that Kayden makes me laugh even when I don’t want to, melts my heart, and his “nickname” for me.

20.  Ice cream – I don’t know who invented it, but they should receive an award.  That stuff is just amazing!

21.  Tanalian Leadership Center (& Tanalian Bible Camp)- I am humbled to be a part of this incredible program and I don’t even know how to praise God enough for it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see each of the students (who become very dear to my heart) and staff (who are pretty great too) grow as we seek the Lord together.  I am thankful for the way that SO MANY people see the value of this ministry and partner with us.  God has worked here in so many ways and it’s a tremendous blessing to see it first-hand.

22.  The Wardell Family – They really love me.  They mentor me, help take care of me, and just desire the best for me.  I am so thankful that they’ve been here to walk through this season of life with me and I look forward to continuing our friendship for years to come.

23.  Rest – even if I battle against it on a daily basis, I am thankful that God brings true rest and that I work with a group of people that values truly resting in the Lord.

24.  Lifelong friendships – the kind that pick up right where they left off even if I haven’t see  the other person in many years.  Those kind of friends are just good for my soul.

25.  Wool (and other winter gear) – I just really like being warm and it can get really cold.  I enjoy the simple pleasures in life 🙂

26.  Prayer – the ability to share my heart with God, thank Him for all He does in my life, intercede for others, seek His will, gain wisdom, confess my sin, and know that through all of it He hears and understands me.

27.  Hot beverages – I just love them. Tea. Good Coffee. Apple Cider. Hot Chocolate. Yum.

28.  Port Alsworth’s Community – I just love this quirky little village that has so much personality.  There’s always something interesting happening. I have grown to love the people here and what an example they are of love, joy, and trusting the Lord.

29. Planes, boats, snowmachines, & Hondas – they’re necessary sources of transportation, but also a source of fun.  I am just really grateful for the ways they make life easier.

30.  Jesus Christ  –  For His deep love, perfect life, demonstration of love & sacrifice, atoning work, resurrection, and hope of His return.  He is the reason that I live and have hope for the future.

31. Growth – I can’t praise the Lord enough that I am not who I was a year ago.  For the working of the Holy Spirit in my life and the ways He convicts me, fights for me, and reminds me I am never alone.  Thank you, Lord, for the work you are doing in me!

As I wrote this I realized that 31 is not very many.  I could keep going on and on, but I need to limit this.  God has done so much in my life and I hope that I never stop seeing what God has done.  It’s been encouraging to reflect on this year and see how truly blessed I am.

The Simple Things

There are times that I forget how much I enjoy certain things in life.  Here are some of things I have realized are little things that make life enjoyable.

  • Running through thick grass barefoot.
  • Backyard volleyball.
  • Playing speed Euchre and laughing until my stomach hurts.
  • Looking at stars.
  • Driving with the windows down on a sunny 70 degree day.
  • Eating guacamole.
  • Crossing things off my to do list.
  • Reminiscing with good friends.
  • Reading a passage in Scripture that I’ve read before and learning new things.

There are some things in life that never seem to get old.  I feel blessed to have the life I do.  Life is definitely an adventure and I am thankful to be walking with Christ through it.  This is just a sample of the things that God uses to bless my life.

Dare2Share

This past weekend I went to Dare2Share with the student ministries of Village Bible Church and I cannot express how wonderful it was.  I  danced & worshiped, laughed & cried, was challenged & convicted, amused & inspired.  It was just wonderful.  Shane & Shane led worship and every song expressed something I needed to hear.  They made a cd just for Dare2Share (so that I could get all the songs in one cd instead of debating over which to buy!) and it has been playing non-stop in my car.
I had a blast getting to know some incredible students better.  I was encouraged by their faith & maturity.  I was challenged through messages by Greg Stier, Zane Black, & Propaganda.  The skits were incredible this year and made me laugh REALLY hard, but also convicted me.  It was one of the best weekends I have had in a long time.
I want to share some of the lyrics that have been going through my head since Dare2Share and have become my prayer.

Forever Reign (originally by Hillsong)

You are good, You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life
In You death has lost it’s sting

Oh I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are LORD, You are LORD
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I’m made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I’m letting go

My heart will sing
No other Name
Jesus, Jesus