The plaza fountain at Bradley Fair, Wichita, KS

Following God’s lead even if you think you know better

I’d like to think I’m a fairly organized person, but the truth is my life is pretty chaotic. I go at it with the best of intentions, but as Robert Burns once wrote: “the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.” And that’s what happens to me. I plan and I scheme and I prepare, and when the event I’m getting ready for arrives, I end up winging it anyway. And that’s okay, but sometimes I get tired of flying by the seat of my pants.

I had a moment yesterday to just sit and think. Those moments don’t come as often as I’d like, and I don’t make time for them like I should. Everyone needs a moment (or two moments) to think about what they’re doing, where they’re going, how they’re living and how their choices today may affect their life tomorrow. And as I was thinking about preparing for 2014, making budgets, planning for trips, getting ready for my parents’ possible upcoming retirement, I was tempted to start worrying. Because there’s a lot to do in a year, and usually all my time is consumed by taking care of the unforeseen events in life, not even counting the ones I wanted to accomplish.

But as I was thinking today, I had to stop and just marvel at God’s provision. At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t have told you that everything that’s happened to me would have happened. As I look back on 2013, I’m stunned speechless at what I’ve been able to do, where I’ve been able to go, all the things God’s let me accomplish, and how He has miraculously provided for me in every situation.

The plaza fountain at Bradley Fair, Wichita, KS

The plaza fountain at Bradley Fair, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 58:11.

The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.

Sometimes I feel like I’m wandering through life without a plan, and that frustrates the dickens out of me because I like plans. I like maps. I like knowing the big picture so I know how badly I can screw up before I ruin everything. And I feel like I’m constantly in that phase of life where I have a basic idea of where I’m going and what I’m doing, but I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

So when I read a verse like this that says God is continuously guiding me, it makes me laugh a little. I’m being honest here, okay? Because is He really? If He is, sometimes I think He’s being awfully subtle about it, and subtle doesn’t work with me. I’m like a guy in that regard. I follow directions much better if you just come out and tell me instead of hedging around the subject. Subtext and subtlety to me are kind of like uncomfortable shoes; they serve no useful purpose.

But the moment I start questioning whether or not God is guiding me, I immediately start thinking of all the things I’ve done and places I’ve gone and people I’ve met that I should never have had the opportunity to experience. I think of everything that’s happened in my life that I can’t take credit for, and in all of those miracles, His hand is obvious. But a lot of that is because hindsight is truly 20/20. It’s difficult to see His hand moving when you’re in the valleys, and sometimes you have to get to the mountain top before you can see the trail He was leading you on.

But more than just guiding me, looking back over my life, even in the moments where I felt like I was wandering, I never lacked anything I needed. True, I didn’t have some things I wanted, but wants and needs are very different. Even in college when I was living from paycheck to paycheck on ramen noodles and dollar-store spaghetti, God still provided people in my life who helped me. God put me in the places I needed to be, and He gave me the opportunities to step up and be faithful with what He gave me. And He proved Himself to me big time over and over and over again.

So where are you today? Are you sure you know where you’re going, or are you wandering around feeling listless? Take a moment and read Isaiah 58. The whole thing. It’s not long, and it’s worth it. Walking with God isn’t about rules and regulations and rituals that only have symbolic meaning and no real life application. Following God isn’t about being good or following the rules or putting on a good Christian show. It’s about living life with Him. It’s about living and loving the way He does.

God never stops guiding us. He never stops leading us. If we get turned around, it’s because we took someone else’s directions. But God’s still on the path. He’s still waiting for us to turn around and go back to where He is.

So if you’ve gotten off the path, go back. If you haven’t left, don’t leave. Just keep following where He’s leading you, and along the way, you won’t lack anything you need. In fact, he’ll continuously provide, not just basic needs but strength too. He’s promised, so He’ll do it. You may feel like He’s leading you in circles, but that’s part of trusting His sense of direction more than your own.

Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Joy can be contagious

I like being happy. And I like being around happy people. There’s just something about happy people that brightens everything up. Even if it’s been the worst day ever, hanging out with someone who laughs and smiles from a genuinely happy heart is refreshing. Even if you’ve had a good day, a person like that can make it better.

But not everyone in life is happy. Have you noticed that? Do you know people who don’t like being happy? Unfortunately, I do. You know who I’m talking about. They’re those people who suck the joy out of the room just by walking into it. They’re the people who open their mouths and drain the sunlight of its warmth and the flowers of their brightness. They prefer dank, gray misery, and they aren’t satisfied until they’ve dragged everyone else around them down into the depths with them.

Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:4.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Yesterday I got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event: Baby Hoo in her first Halloween costume (Mickey Mouse, who else?). I don’t know much of anything about babies. I’ve learned more about babies in the last four months than I ever expected. But there is one truth about infants: bring a cute one into a professional office and instantly every responsible, intelligent adult becomes a babbling idiot.

The Hoo Child’s mama (one of my best friends) brought her by my office yesterday afternoon, and I got the opportunity to introduce my coworkers to the little bundle of awesome I’ve been talking up since June. She didn’t disappoint. As usual, she was her adorable, alert, flirtatious self, batting her big blue eyes at everyone and grinning just because she could. I think I had the cheesiest grin ever plastered across my face, but it didn’t bother me. This crazy kid just makes me happy. And a lot of that comes from the fact that she’s just so happy all the time.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say all the time, because I know she can throw a major fit when she’s unhappy. But generally speaking, she’s a truly laid-back kid, and it doesn’t take much to make her grin. I hope she holds on to that as she grows up because happy people are fun to be around.

I’d had a pretty good day yesterday, in spite of still being exhausted. But all it took was a few minutes with my friend and her beautiful daughter, and I was flying higher than a kite. Just coming to my office to smile at me made my day better. And that got me thinking about being happy in general.

Joy is a choice, and it’s a choice that’s rooted in our perspective. If our perspective is wrong, joy can be hard to find, but if we remember the things that matter in our lives and why we’re here, joy isn’t that hard to grasp.

This crazy kid just grins all the time. It’s not hard to make her happy. And that’s the kind of person I want to be. I don’t want to be one of those joy-suckers, those people who refuse to be happy even when they have every reason. I want to be the person who chooses to rejoice over and over again, in the good times and the bad times. I want to be that person who makes other people happy because I’m happy.

The Bible tells us to be full of joy. That word there, the one translated rejoice, is a verb. It’s an action word. That means it’s something you do. That means it’s something you choose. Joy doesn’t just happen; you have to choose it.

So whatever you’re facing today, choose joy. Remember that God has it under control. He knows what He’s doing, and He’s not going to ask you to face life’s challenges alone. And if you’re having a hard time being joyful, go find someone who is. Joy is contagious after all.

Baby Hoo, a.k.a. Cowgirl Hoo

Baby Hoo, a.k.a. Cowgirl Hoo

And because I can and because it’s just the cutest picture in the whole world, here’s Baby Hoo in her western wear:

Yes, I’m one of those people. I might be a little biased, though….

Storm clouds in Guatemala, Peten, Guatemala

Confessions of a worry wart in a thunderstorm

I have a confession to make.

Why is it so hard to let go of the things you worry about? Does anybody else have that problem? Sometimes my brain races at night, and I can’t get it to shut off. I just can’t stop thinking. And before you know it, I’m lying in bed wide awake when I should be sleeping.

I had a monster rainstorm at my house last night. By all accounts, my basement should have flooded. Judging by the amount of rain that came down and how long it came down, a basement full of water this morning wouldn’t have surprised me. But my basement is dry. In one little place water is starting to seep in through the concrete, but that’s not a problem. And it’s not something I need to clean up. So I’m immensely thankful this morning, and I’m wondering why I stubbornly cling to things that don’t matter.

Storm clouds in Guatemala, Peten, Guatemala

Storm clouds in Guatemala, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s Bible verse is Isaiah 26:4.

Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

I trust God. I do. I have no problem turning things over to Him, but then my brain keeps bringing them back up again. Last night is a great example. I knew the basement hadn’t leaked in months, and even if it had, it’s not like it would have destroyed a bunch of valuable things. The biggest issue would be clean up. But my brain wouldn’t stop thinking about it. Do I have enough towels? Is the shopvac here? What if the power goes out and I can’t use the shopvac? Is the sump pump working? I don’t hear it running. Why isn’t it running?

And on and on and on it went, circling my brain until the rain outside finally slowed around 3:00 a.m. I’m glad I took a nap yesterday.

Does worry like that mean I don’t trust God? That’s what I’m concerned about. Because I want to trust Him completely. I want to know that I’ve given everything I have over to Him and that He can do whatever He likes with it. Granted, He can do whatever He likes with it without my permission or not, but my attitude about His sovereignty in my life is essential.

For every worry that popped up in my head, I answered it with truth. God is sovereign. All I have is His. Things are things and can be replaced. Until I got to the point of wondering what I was even worrying about. But even then, I couldn’t stop it.

So what does that mean? Does that mean I don’t trust God like I should? Well, I’m not sure any of us can claim that we’ve accomplished that level of trust. Maybe a handful of people have, but I’m not sure they would go around talking about how tight they are with God even if they were. I want to trust God more than I do, but I trust Him already too. I’ve seen Him do miracles. I’ve seen Him do extraordinary things in my life.

Today’s verse calls Him the Eternal Rock, and that’s true. He hasn’t changed at all from the beginning of time. He’s the same God who provided for the founders of our faith, the same God who protected believers in the past. I know that. I believe that. So why do I worry? And not just worry–allow my brain to run wild to the wee hours of early morning over something that doesn’t matter, something that won’t even turn out to be a problem?

It’s frustrating.

Not once in the night did I doubt that everything would be okay. Even if the house flooded, even if everything was destroyed, I knew it would be okay. God has taken care of me before; certainly, He’d do it again. But it’s one thing to know it; it’s something else to believe it. And living it takes the whole concept to another level.

So what’s the solution for worry? I wish I knew, but I don’t. If I knew, I wouldn’t be staying up to 3:00 a.m. worrying about a flood that never came. I tell you what, I never felt more like Elijah in the cave after Jezebel threatened his life.

For me, I think it’s focus and discipline. Part of having faith is acting like you believe even if you don’t feel like it. If you think about it, that’s a definition of faith. And the rest of it is remembering. Remember what God has done for you–not necessarily for other people. It’s easy to remember how God has helped others. That’s because it’s a lot easier to focus on others in general. But when it comes to remembering what God has done for you personally, that’s more difficult. Remind yourself how God has helped you in the past and focus on that. Your perspective will change, and maybe the urge to worry will go away.

It’s supposed to rain again tonight, so if it works, I’ll let you know. Either way, giving in to worry is a waste of time, and losing sleep over something you can’t change or can’t stop is silly. It’s one thing to want to be prepared to face trouble. That’s wisdom. But get prepared and then don’t worry about it. And when your brain starts to worry anyway, point out all the ways that God has helped you personally in the past. You’ll probably have to remind it more than once.

The key to facing worry down is remembering who is in charge. If what you are worrying about happens, God has you covered and has something for you to learn. If what you are worrying about doesn’t happen, God still has you covered and has something for you to learn. Either way, God still has you covered.


Linda Reazin's wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Look for the chance to do good

Why is it so much easier to criticize someone than it is to praise them? Have you noticed that? It’s a lot easier to find fault with someone than it is to recognize them for something they did right. Maybe that’s because I’m a perfectionist.

But then how does that explain the strange urge people seem to get when they sit around in groups—to point out anything and everything that’s wrong in their personal situation or in the world in general? Am I alone in noticing that the negativity in our culture seems to be spiraling out of control?

So how do we, as Christ followers, deal with that?

Linda Reazin's wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Linda Reazin’s wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:10.

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have the opportunity to do something nice for somebody else? I think we all have. But how many of us have done it? How many of us have seized that opportunity?

It’s easy to talk about being nice to others. It’s not as easy to actually do it. Being nice to other people takes effort, especially if you’ve had a bad day. But the Bible clearly says in more than one place that we need to be kind to each other, and it’s not just talking about Christians being kind to Christians. Christians need to be kind to nonbelievers. Christians, we need to be kind to everyone.

As followers of Christ, we are called to do good. What does that mean? Do good. If it will help someone, if it will make someone smile, if it will show God’s love to someone, do it. And when are we supposed to do this? Well, if you take Scripture literally, right up there it says whenever you have the opportunity.

Whenever you have the chance to do good for someone, do it. And I love how Paul emphasizes the part about doing good to other believers. Sometimes other believers are the most difficult to be kind to. But the way Christians treat each other is supposed to show the world that we’re different.

So be on the lookout for someone you can be kind to. Keep your eyes peeled for someone you can help. You can hold doors for people. You can help people carry groceries or take their cart to the return bin. You can smile at someone in line. You can speak kindly to the stressed-out college student in the drive-thru. You can watch for the opportunity to be an encouragement to someone else.

If you do that, if you spend your time looking for the opportunities to do good, you’ll find you don’t have time to give into the negativity. And soon you’ll find that you don’t want to. And the more time you spend being an encouragement, the more likely people around you will pick up on it too.

Negativity may be contagious, but the best way to fight it is to look for opportunities to brighten people’s lives.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Sometimes the body needs a break

I have a sore on my tongue. Yes, that’s probably TMI, but it’s true. In fact, I’ve had a sore on my tongue for about a month. It’s one of those obnoxious sores that just nags the devil out of you, and nothing you do to it really seems to help it. And it doesn’t really hurt. It’s just annoying. And it makes talking less fluid than I normally prefer it to be. People probably haven’t noticed because I’m good at hiding things, especially since I’ve had to be talking nonstop for the last month it feels like.

What amazes me is how something so small can cause so much irritation. Like a splinter. You can get a splinter in your finger or in your foot, and it can feel like a whole tree is lodged in there. And then it turns out that it’s just a teeny tiny microscopic shard, and you feel like the world’s biggest wuss. Or a speck in your eye? Gosh, there’s no pain like that. And most of the time it’s an eyelash. An eyelash! Yeah, that’s really dangerous.

But isn’t it amazing how one tiny problem with one tiny part of your body can cause the rest of your whole body to stop functioning the way it’s supposed to? I mean, your body still functions. But it’s really really difficult to focus on doing the things you’re supposed to be doing when you have an eyelash stabbing your cornea to death…or an elm lodged in your little toe…or a sore on your tongue.

The Body of Christ (that is to say, the Church) is the same way.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Little yellow bug on a big yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 12:27.

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

You see, there are two definitions of church. A church can be a building, yes, and that’s the general definition I think most people apply. But the Church (capital C) refers to those people who have chosen to follow Christ. The Church, our fellow brothers and sisters in faith around the world, is more than a building–it’s a family. And the Bible calls it a Body. The Church has been compared to the Body of Christ, with each part having a specific purpose, meaning that each member of the Church has a reason for existing.

Some people are the hands. Some are the feet. Some are the mouth. You get the idea.

I’ve posted previously that my church (talking about the collection of folks at NewSpring Wichita) is in the midst of a massive outreach called Judgement House. There’s no other time at NewSpring where you get to see the concept of the Body of Christ played out so literally. It’s amazing to see how a body functions.

But if one part of the Body stops working, the other parts have a hard time getting the job done the way it’s supposed to be done. Like a splinter or a sore or a homicidal eyelash in a “real” body, the Body of Christ can have issues too. After all, even though we’re redeemed, none of us are perfect. And those issues can sometimes cause difficulty for other parts of the body. But what’s truly amazing is watching how the other parts take up the slack.

If you have a lash in your eye, you have another eye that can still see, and your hand is there to seek out the offending lash and make it go away. Similarly with a splinter, you can shift your weight to your other foot or gesture with your other hand. And if your tongue stops wagging, you can still communicate with your hands (at least I can).

I’m rambling at this point because I’m exhausted from all these nights of Judgement House, so I’d better get to the point. Basically last night I just got to thinking about how sometimes body parts need a break.

I really don’t sit down the whole time I’m at Judgement House. I could. But my brain wanders if I sit still so long, and I want to stay focused. So I pace. And a few hours of pacing isn’t that big of a deal, but we’re talking eight hours of pacing. By the end of the night, my feet are killing me.

Well, the other night–after a night of pacing–I came out to my car to find it frosted over. It’s starting to get cold here. And honestly the last thing I really wanted to do was stand out in the cold and scrape the icy frost off my windows. But I wanted to go home. So I started working on it. And that’s when a young man I’ve known for ages popped over to my car and helped me. I later found out that other folks all over the parking lot had the ice cleaned off their windows too. I’m not sure if it were the same guy, but whoever it was made me think about how awesome the Body of Christ truly is. He didn’t need recognition. I didn’t even ask him for help. He just saw a need, and he jumped in. That’s how the Body of Christ is supposed to function.

So what does that mean for us today? Well, if you follow Christ, you’re part of His Body, so that means you need to keep your eyes open for a way to help another part of the Body out today. I can’t tell you how or what or where, but I can tell you that there are needs everywhere. And you don’t run across needs by accident. A lot of the time, God has put you where you are “for such a time as this.”

So don’t be crazy but don’t be lazy either. If the Body is struggling, step in. We’re all in this together.