The irony and beauty of rainbows and God’s promises

We spent last night around the television, watching the severe storms blow through the area. It’s spring in Kansas, which means that the weather is always exciting. But last night was the first of the really major storms to blow through Kansas.

But just before the storm hit, Dad and I looked out the windows and saw a GIANT rainbow outside. So I threw on my new rain jacket, grabbed my phone, and ran outside in the rain and lightning to take as many pictures as I could.

I love rainbows. I always have, ever since I was a little girl. But I don’t love them because they’re pretty or because they’re mysterious. I love them for what they symbolize.

wpid-0408151940a.jpgToday’s verses are Genesis 9:12-13.

Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”

Did you realize that the original purpose of a rainbow was as a symbol of a promise God made to all creation? I’m not sure a lot of people remember that.

That’s what I think of whenever I see a rainbow. God’s promises.

God made a promise to Noah and his family before the Flood, and He kept His promise. Just like He’d kept every promise before then, just like He’ll keep every promise He’s made since then.

As a child, we learned that God’s promise was never to destroy the Earth by floods again. That was the original covenant that God made with Noah and his descendants. But a rainbow stands for more than that.

A rainbow means that God has made a promise, and that He hasn’t forgotten it. Maybe life is rough for you right now. Maybe things are difficult in your life today. But that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten His promises to you.

What I love so much about the photo that I managed to snap is that the rainbow showed up just before the storm hit. Usually I don’t see them until after a storm is over. But this time I got to see it before the trouble began.

And sometimes God does that for us. He gives us little reminders in a day or in a week to give us something to hold on to. He lets a rainbow show up in our lives to help us remember that He’s still around.

Maybe it’s a smile from a stranger. Maybe it’s a few extra bucks left in a jeans pocket. Maybe it’s a kind email from a friend. Those are your rainbows, friend. Don’t ignore them. Don’t dismiss them. That’s God using bits and pieces of life to reach out to you and remind you that He’s still got it covered.

That doesn’t mean you won’t have to go through the storm. No, that’s the irony about rainbows. You have to have a storm before a rainbow will show up. But we can remember that God will be there before the storm hits and after it’s over.

Bearing each other’s burdens doesn’t mean we carry them

When someone shares a problem with you, how do you react? Do you nod and smile sympathetically? Do you jump in and try to tell them how to fix their problem? Do you care at all?

I wear other people’s problems like a pack across my shoulders. At least, I used to. I’m getting better about it. But it felt to me like the only way I could help others. Bearing burdens with them. That’s what it means to bear one another’s burdens, doesn’t it? If I can’t sleep because a friend is having a hard time or because a coworker lost a job or because a relative is sick, that means I’m a truly dedicated friend, right? I’m bearing their burden with them.

Not quite.

We are called to bear burdens for each other, but what if it’s a burden too big for you to carry in the first place? What do you do then? And what good will you possibly do anyone if you wear yourself out worrying about something you can’t change anyway?

carrying_burdenToday’s verse is 1 Peter 5:7.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

It doesn’t matter if your worries and cares are your own or if they belong to someone else. If it’s something you care about, if it’s something you’re worrying about, give it over to God.

But, no! If I’m not worrying about it, that means I don’t care. Isn’t that how we think? That’s how I’m wired. I have some issue in my mixed up head that tells me the more sleep I lose over someone else’s problems, the better a friend I am. The more anguished I am over a friend’s misfortune, the better a Christian I am. After all, if I’m suffering along with them, that must mean I’m a step above other people who don’t feel anything.

Isn’t that how we think? Or is it just me?

Now, of course, we’re called to care about each other. Of course, God intends for us to relate to each other with kindness and compassion (and compassion truly is something I struggle with, in the generic sense). We’re not supposed to be cruel or selfish, but by the same token, we’re not supposed to run ourselves into the ground worrying about something we can’t do anything about.

What’s the point? To make yourself feel better? That’s not a sufficient reason to wear yourself out. Just think, if you spent less time worrying, you’d have more time to actually encourage the people you’re worrying about.

Acknowledge your friends’ struggles. They’ll have many. Acknowledge your own struggles. You’ll have more than your fair share, and denying them won’t help you either. But once you acknowledge them, also recognize that God is bigger. He can help you sort through all the difficult situations you’re facing today. Maybe the answer you get won’t be the one you wanted, but God will give you the answer you need regardless.

But don’t just shoulder someone else’s worries. Don’t try to carry someone else’s problems. You aren’t strong enough, and your shoulders aren’t big enough. Friend, you aren’t strong enough to carry your own problems.

But God is.

So if you try to shoulder someone else’s worries, just let them roll off of you and onto Jesus. He’s got it. God’s got a plan, and it’s good. And your worrying about it won’t change the outcome one bit.

Getting ahead of God only makes more trouble in the end

Last Friday didn’t go the way I expected. And I mean, in a major way. I’d spent all day Wednesday and all day Thursday helping a friend get ready for a Seder Meal, and it was so much fun! But it was time consuming. But I knew I’d have all of Friday to catch up on work stuff.

I got home from the Seder Meal around 11pm, and I’d just gotten into bed and was almost asleep when a gust of wind hit the house so hard that I thought my bedroom windows would shatter.

I laid still for a moment, because usually with wind gusts, they die down a second after they hit. But this one didn’t. It kept blowing–and blowing–and blowing, and the windows were in danger of shaking apart in their sills. That’s when I realized it wasn’t going to stop.

So I jumped out of bed and scrambled down to the main floor of the house where my parents were also up, and that’s when we heard this massive crash outside. And then the power went out.

No big deal. Power outages are fairly common in the country, but it wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my sleeping hours on Thursday/Friday. When it became clear that the power wasn’t going to come back on, we settled back in to sleep. We got a few hours in, and when we climbed out of bed, the power was still off. When the sun was up, we tried to assess damage (which was minor), except for the machine shed across the drive that had lost its roof (it ended up in the yard).

We waited. And waited. And waited, and still the power didn’t come back on. Wichita had been hit severely too. Lots of folks had damage. Lots of folks were without power. But my grandparents in Wichita? They still had power. That meant they had running water and internet access. And I desperately needed to get some work done.

So by 2pm Friday afternoon, my folks and I decided to go into Wichita. It worked great. Went in. Got a little bit of work done. Got an okay night’s sleep, and we came back out to the farm Saturday morning. And guess what we found?

Yup. The power was back on! Hooray! It was great news! … and then we discovered that the power had come back on 3pm Friday. It had come back on an hour after we left.

Figures, right?

Shabbat candle at the 2015 Seder Meal, Andover, KS

Shabbat candle at the 2015 Seder Meal, Andover, KS

Today’s verse is Micah 7:7.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.

Too often I run ahead of God. I want what I want, and I won’t wait for Him to tell me what He wants me to do. I’ve followed the Lord long enough to know how He reacts to my stubborn heart. He lets me go my own way for a little while until I’ve worn myself out, and then He gently leads me back to where I started.

That’s how He does it sometimes. Other times, He smacks me on the back of the head, and I can almost hear Him say, “Really? Again?”

It’s not easy to take our plans to God. You have to stop what you’re doing and turn them over and then stand still while you wait for Him to show you what He wants you to do. Granted, sometimes you don’t have time to wait, and you have to make a decision immediately. It’s in those times you need to make sure your heart is in the right place and that you’re seeking God with everything you have.

But in the moments in life where you have a choice to make and you have time to think about it, it’s really tempting to just run ahead of God. It’s easy to base your decisions on what’s right for you instead of what God says is right.

It’s so much easier to just pack up and go into town where you can have an internet connection. But is it really easier? Or is it just busy work so you can feel like you’re accomplishing something? If we’d have stayed put, we would have had power without having to pack everything up and carry it into Wichita.

In the end, it probably cost us more money, and I know it cost us extra time and frustration and logistical issues. How many times has that same scenario played out in my life? I run into an unexpected obstacle, and I face a choice–to do what I want to do or to wait until God tells me.

It’s not easy to wait. Even if you’re actively waiting, you still feel like you’re not doing anything (that’s a lie, by the way).

Now, in this instance, I did get to visit with my grandparents, and that was great. But what about the next time I run into some inconvenience in my life? Will I remember to ask God what He wants me to do? Or will I just do what I want because it seems to be the easiest option at the time?

Think about it now. Decide where you’ll go for help now before you need it. And don’t be afraid to wait on God.

Someone who has walked in your shoes understands how you feel

I’m planning a trip to England. I will be crossing the pond in May to visit my best friend and see some sights. I’ve been once before in summer 2013, and while that trip was a riot, I’m more excited for this return trip.

Why? Because I’ve experienced London already. I know what it’s like to ride the tube and to look the “wrong” direction for oncoming traffic. I know that the first floor of the British Museum is really all that’s there worth seeing and that the Museum of London is better overall. A lot of the peculiar little quirks of British culture won’t be such a shock this time around.

But what’s interesting is explaining it to my dad, who is coming with me. You can’t really explain London or any of the surrounding areas until you’ve actually been there. It’s one thing to talk about it. It’s something else to visit. That’s what I learned the last time I was there. It was something my best friend could describe, but I couldn’t really understand it until I’d lived it.

in-mums-shoesToday’s verses are Hebrews 2:17-18.

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Life is hard sometimes. Everybody knows that. But there’s something really comforting in talking to someone who’s walked a mile in your shoes.

If you’ve lost someone you love, friends can tell you they understand, but they don’t really. If they haven’t experienced the same loss you have, they can’t. It’s like someone with a full-time, paying job with benefits trying to console a part-time, minimum wage earner that rising grocery costs are a part of life. They mean well, certainly, but they can’t actually comprehend the terror of an empty cupboard and a failing bank balance.

Having a friend in your life who has been where you’ve been, who’s walked where you walked and felt the same hurt you have is priceless. If you can talk about how you’re feeling and your friend truly does understand the same emotions, there’s comfort you can’t really quantify. Especially if that friend experienced the same hurts you have and they’ve come out shining on the other side. You walk away from the conversation with hope. If they survived, so might I.

You realize that Jesus went through the same struggles we have, right? Maybe not specifically. I mean, there’s no evidence in Scripture that Jesus was ever laid off, but He most certainly struggled to make a living. He wasn’t a property owner, and He wasn’t always sure where His next meal would come from. Maybe the circumstances in His life are different from yours, but I guarantee He experienced the same emotions you have.

That’s why He came. Jesus chose to become human so that He could be made like us in every way, suffer in every way, struggle in every way, so He could understand. So that He could bridge the chasm between us and God the Father.

When someone knows what you’ve been through, they can speak for you. They can explain how it feels to stand where you stand, to live how you live, what the world looks like from your eyes. They can speak to it because they’ve lived it too, and that’s what Jesus does for us.

Jesus experienced fear and loss. He knew what betrayal felt like. He knew what failure felt like. He knew what it was like to lose friends and family–and to have friends and family turn their backs on Him. Everything we struggle with on a daily basis, Jesus experienced Himself. Maybe the circumstances weren’t identical, but the emotions were.

And you know what? He came out shining on the other side. He lived through all of that pain and abandonment and hurt and frustration and didn’t once turn against God. He still lived a life that was pleasing to the Lord, and because He did it, so can we. And when we struggle, we can turn to Him and ask for help.

When you’re on the edge of making a really stupid decision, ask Jesus for help. Tell Him about what you’re going through. He’s listening, and He’s been there. He had the strength not to go down the road to stupid, regardless of how much He was hurting, and He’s still there to help us make the wise choice too.

Jesus experienced life before we did, and He survived. He actually did more than survive. He thrived. And we can too. We just have to be willing to talk to Him about it and ask Him for help.

Getting gifts is awesome, but giving them is better

I spent most of the day yesterday doing something I’ve never done before–helping a friend prepare for a Passover meal she’s hosting at her house for more than 20 people.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a Seder Meal, I seriously recommend it. It’s honestly one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I love how it connects the Old Testament to the New Testament.

For years and years, my friend has held a Seder at her home, but because I was working, I couldn’t help get everything ready. Well this year, thanks to my new working situation, I was free to help all day yesterday and all day today too! And, let me tell you, if you think getting a Seder Meal together sounds easy, you’re wrong. Stand and mince 15 pounds of apples and see if you still feel the same way.

With all the sweeping, mopping, shopping, chopping, stirring, baking, cleaning, etc., it was a full exhausting day–and it was an absolute blast. I wore myself out yesterday, and I can’t wait to jump back into it today. And maybe that sounds insane. Maybe that makes me sound like a glutton for punishment. Or maybe that just illustrates the truth of a principle Jesus established 2,000 years ago.

give_receiveToday’s verse is Acts 20:35.

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

This is actually Paul talking to the leaders of the Church at Ephesus, and he’s reference something Jesus said in Luke 6:38. It’s one of those Jesus principles that doesn’t make sense at first glance.

How can it be more blessed to give than to receive? If you get something, that’s a blessing. If someone gives you something, that’s a great thing. Gifts are among some of life’s greatest joys. That’s why we have birthdays and Christmas and anniversaries and other celebrations where we give gifts to each other, right?

But what abut the person who gives that gift? You’ve been that person, haven’t you? The one who buys a gift carefully and wraps it painstakingly and waits impatiently to be able to give it to the person you love? Isn’t it a tremendous thrill to watch them open it and get so excited? Wouldn’t you call that a blessing?

See, when you get a gift, it’s awesome. But don’t overlook the joy you feel when you are the gift giver. And that applies to everyday situations in life.

When you do something kind for someone, you’re giving them a gift. When you sacrifice your time or resources to help someone, you’re giving them a gift. And maybe it doesn’t sound like it should work, but trust me, when you drop everything and give all you have to someone just because you can? Friends, there’s no joy like that.

When you stumble across someone who needs help and God tells you to help, don’t ignore it. Don’t shove it away. Do it. I promise, the greatest joy you’ve ever known is waiting on the other side. And they’ll thank you. They’ll thank you over and over, and you’ll almost be embarrassed to say “you’re welcome.” Why? Because you will be so grateful for the opportunity to do something in Jesus’ name that you will feel like the one who got the blessing.

That’s been my experience. Whether it’s time or money or talent or whatever, when I give it to help someone else, I get more out of it than I give.

That’s how giving to God works. He always, always gives back more than you let go of. He always, always pays you back more than you sacrifice. And He pays you back in ways you can’t quantify–in ways you can’t put a price on.

Take that time you don’t think you have to do something kind for someone else. Buy a friend’s groceries. Mow a neighbor’s lawn. Make popsicles for someone’s kids (maybe that’s creepy, but we had a neighbor do that when I was little, and it was the highlight of my life at the time).

Just give.

You’ll get more back than you expect. More than you can contain, actually. And somewhere mixed up in all of it, you’ll also have a great time.

So what are you waiting on? Permission? You’ve got it. So get out there and start helping people.