Give God time to keep His promise

I try to control too many things. But I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember, so I’m not entirely sure when it started. I just have this driving urge to keep a handle on life so it won’t get away from me. Which is ridiculous, as any self-respecting Christ-follower knows (Luke 17:33). But, hey, I’m being honest here.

I try to control the silliest things too. When I go grocery shopping, I try to think of everything I need for about a month. Grocery stores aren’t exactly convenient to where I live, so it’s easier to make one big trip. But that means I have to plan ahead. That means I have to make meal plans. That means designing several different meals all at once and hoping that life doesn’t go crazy between shopping trips.

The trouble is, life always goes crazy. Life always screws up my plans, and usually I’m left with expired produce, questionable meat, or stale crackers. And none of that would have happened if I’d planned a week in advance rather than a month.

I’m not saying don’t plan. But what I am saying is don’t rush ahead too far, because you never know what curve balls are going to come at you.

Life will take crazy twists and turns. God will lead you down paths you never dreamed possible. He may take you down roads you never even thought you wanted to go down, and somewhere along the way you’ll realize you never belonged anywhere else. But that’s all part of His promise (Psalm 37:4). And God can be trusted to keep His promises (Hebrews 10:23).

But that means we have to wait.

I hate waiting. Maybe you didn’t know that about me. Unlikely if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time. Waiting is my least favorite thing.

At least, it used to be. God has been working on my old stubborn Scottish heart this past year, and I’ve begun to see the joy we can have when we release the things that scare us and trust God completely.

I had to go there several times in 2016. More than once, I had to pry my own hands off of my life and hand it over to God. And then I had to sit and wait and trust and pray, and that was literally all I could do.

No, I should clarify. It was all I did, but I could have done several other things.

I could have gone back to the corporate world and asked for my job back. I could have gone to my many loving and supportive friends and asked for a loan, just big enough so that I could afford groceries for the next month. I could have gone to a pawn shop and sold anything I had of value (I’m not joking, the thought did occur to me).

I could have done any of those things, but one question kept hovering at the back of my mind: “Do you trust God or not?”

I told Him at the beginning of this journey that I wanted to rely on faith rather than finances. I told Him I didn’t care what was coming, that I wanted to place my trust and my life and my future entirely in His hands. And if this was the life I was supposed to be living, I needed Him to provide for me, and if it wasn’t, I needed Him to stop.

Good gracious, friends, be careful what you ask for. Because God will hold you to declarations like that.

A few times throughout last year I thought God had stopped providing, but that was because I was planning too far ahead. So I started looking at life differently. I woke up every morning and thanked God for what I had that day, because every day I had what I needed for that day. And when tomorrow arrived, I would have what I needed then. God just wouldn’t always let me know ahead of time.

That is the recurring tale of my 2016. Until the end of December when God opened his storehouses and poured some major blessings on my silly head—blessings enough to provide over and above what I had expected for 2017.

While part of me is concerned He’s providing this much this quickly and telling me about it, the louder part of me is simply choosing to be thankful. I don’t want to forget what He’s taught me this year. Even if I have enough for months and months, it could still all be lost in an instant.

God has to be enough. Just God. Not money. Not possessions. Not power or influence or book sales or car maintenance or health insurance. All those things are wonderful blessings, but God is enough for me. He’s enough to provide what I need when I need it, and He doesn’t have to tell me what He’s doing or when He’s doing it. He’s God. He’s got a plan. He’s working everything out for my good. (Romans 8:28)

My part in this story is to be still. To trust. To wait. My responsibility is to give God time to keep the promises He’s made me, because He will. He always has, and He always blows me away with His goodness and generosity.

Are you trying to control your life? What about your finances or your health or people in your life? You can’t. You need to let go and give it to God and trust that He will work things out. And once you do that, you need to wait.

Even if it feels like you’re standing still. Even if it feels like you’re wasting time. Even when it feels like you should be doing something—anything. Just wait.

You’ll see the door when He opens it. There won’t be any doubt in your mind.

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Moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living quietly a moment at a time

Do you ever crave stillness? Where you have a moment to catch your breath without anyone’s expectations horning in on you? Where you can just enjoy the quiet without deadlines looming or people demanding things from you?

I didn’t used to. When I was younger, I loved being busy. And looking back, oh boy, was I busy! I can’t believe the schedule I kept when I was younger. I really have no idea how I did it without going crazy.

But now? Well, I still enjoy being busy. If I were bored, there would be something wrong. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to yearn for the quiet, alone moments of my younger years, where I didn’t have so many responsibilities and so many people didn’t rely on me.

Moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:5.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.

It’s hard to be quiet when life is so loud. I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it really is difficult to get focused when we have so many things screaming for our attention. But it’s important. It’s necessary.

If you live life in a constant flurry of activity, flitting from one crisis to the next, you never actually process the decisions you make. You can’t. You don’t have time. So you don’t learn from your mistakes. You don’t take time to enjoy your success.

So how do you wait quietly for God when life is spiraling out of control around you? How can you be quiet and still when that means you’ll fall behind?

What I’ve learned is that you can’t always be quiet and still. There’s too much to do. And if you are anything like me, you’ve probably gotten to the place in your life where you have so many people depending on you that if you changed directions suddenly, half a dozen ministries or projects would grind to a halt and fail utterly. If you back yourself into that kind of a corner, it’s my personal belief that you have a responsibility to see it through to the end.

That being said, you don’t have to eat, sleep, and breathe every project and ministry you’re involved in. If you can’t live your life quietly right now, learn to take advantage of the quiet moments when you have them.

When you get home from work, do you jump right into the next project on your list? Or do you take half an hour to decompress? When you finish one assignment, do you jump immediately into the next one, or do you take a walk and let your shoulders loosen up?

I’ve found that I’m actually more productive if I take a break between projects, than if I just power on through without stopping. If I take the time intentionally to breathe and rest and be quiet in between things, I can focus better and work faster.

People weren’t created to work all the time, to run crazy all the time, to kill ourselves on good things all the time. If we try to live that way, we’ll burn out.

So take the time to enjoy the quiet moments when they come. Don’t ignore them. Teach yourself to live quietly a bit at a time, and it won’t be long before you’ll find your whole life is a lot more quiet too.

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Letting the toaster do its job

I just got back from eating breakfast in a hotel lobby. Some hotel breakfasts are really awful; this one wasn’t too bad. Lots of options. Hot and cold. Everything covered, which is nice because half the people in there were coughing.

There was a guy at the table across from me who was like a veritable chef, taking the different options at the breakfast counter and turning them into some crazy fancy meal. But it was funny. Because he didn’t seem to be able to stay seated for more than a minute. He kept getting up for one reason or another. And then I realized he was making toast. Maybe he didn’t trust the toaster (understandable). I don’t know. But I found it interesting because the way he was acting made me think he thought there was something he could do to make his bread toast faster.

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Exodus 14:13-14.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? You have a goal to accomplish, and you set things in motion but then you have to sit back and wait. And before long you find yourself getting involved again and sticking your hands back into the process because you need to make sure things are still moving along–when really all you’re doing is slowing things down.

I do that all the time because I’m a control freak. I don’t like letting go of things. I don’t like having to trust that other people will do their jobs, especially if the success of my whole project is riding on their perspective of responsibility.

Maybe that’s good in some cases, but when it comes to the big issues in life, it doesn’t work. Because those big moments in our lives are far larger than we are and there’s no way we could even begin to control them.

This passage today comes just before God parts the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape Pharoah’s army. Moses and the Israelites were backed into a corner, so to speak. There was no way they could have survived on their own, so God had to intervene. And there was nothing any of them could have done about it. They just had to sit back and wait.

I find myself in that position almost daily now, where events in my life have gotten so big and so overwhelming that even if I wanted to have control over them I couldn’t change anything. I’m not strong enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not resourceful enough, not powerful enough to do the things I need to do to achieve success in my life. Maybe I could have when I was younger, but I’m in over my head in so many different areas of my life now that I need God for every step I take.

It’s difficult, admitting you don’t have the skills or resources required to be completely independent. But let’s be honest. Who wants to be completely independent?

The trouble is we have to wait. And the more we fuss and fret and try to stick our noses where they don’t belong, the more trouble we’ll make for ourselves in the interim before God does what He was going to do all along.

The guy who wouldn’t leave the toaster alone this morning probably should have just let the toaster do its job. With all his fussing and poking and adjusting, he ended up with burned toast.

Are you facing struggles? Are you facing challenges? Are difficulties rushing at you in a tidal wave bigger than you think you can survive? God hasn’t left you, and He won’t. Trust Him. Follow Him. Believe Him. And He will make a way for you to get out. He’ll step in and save the day, just like He has done throughout history. But He’ll do it in His own time.

So be still. He’s God. He’s got it handled, and He doesn’t need our help.

Baby orangutan chilling out at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Sometimes you have to wait

Many times we all end up in situations where we are powerless. I’m talking about those moments when you can thrash and flail all you want but it won’t accomplish anything or it won’t change the circumstances. Everyone encounters those moments where even though we can do something it won’t be of any use.

In those moments, the only action we can take that will make any difference is how we react. Your perspective in those moments will tell people what you really believe and what you’re really living for.

Baby orangutan chilling out at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Baby orangutan chilling out at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 37:7.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.

This is actually the first part of verse 7. Psalm 37 is probably one of my favorite Psalms; it always lifts me up. So if you have time to read the whole chapter, you really should, especially if you’re feeling down about something.

But verse 7 stood out to me this morning because I’m at the point in a lot of different places in my life where my part of the action is done. And now I’m just waiting.

Sometimes life feels like it’s full to the brim of waiting, until the brief moments when I get to act, and then I’m back to waiting again. And it’s probably God teaching me a lesson because I hate waiting. It feels like a waste of time. It feels unproductive and indolent.

But sometimes you have to wait. There’s no getting around it. Anything you do in those moments might result in a longer wait time.

Good example? Book publishing. You write your fingers off to produce the best manuscript possible. You agonize over every word, every sentence, every paragraph. You wait to submit it until it’s the very best it can be. … And then you wait to hear from the publisher. And when you hear from the publisher saying, “Yes! Send me all of it!” right away, you have to wait more. This time probably a year.

Waiting sucks. So what if I decide to nag the publisher? Surely I could send him an email asking him if he’s done with it yet. Surely I can call his office and demand that he finish reading quickly, after all I spent ten years on the manuscript and there can’t be anything wrong with it. And I can read it in a day. So what’s taking him so long?

Think that will help? Think that will convince Mr. Publisher that I can do this?

Probably not. One, that’s not how the industry works (so my impatience will only demonstrate what I don’t know) and two, it’s disrespectful of his time and three, it’s proud. Not only will that course of action jeopardize my relationship with a possible publisher … it may also result in the publisher dropping the manuscript. And since it’s the only publisher in 10 years who’s wanted to look at it, I might not ever get another chance.

See what I’m saying?

Yes, I can act. There are a lot of actions I can take that will prevent me from having to wait. But none of them are good actions. And none of them will help.

Sometimes you just have to wait.

And when those moments come, how will you look at them? What will your perspective be? Yeah, waiting sucks, but if you look at it from the perspective that you’re waiting for God to act, you can have confidence that whatever happens will be in His timing, according to His plan. He can see the whole picture. So if He steps in and moves people (and it’s nothing we’ve done), we can know that what is transpiring is part of His design.

And that’s true whether you’re talking about the publishing industry or looking for a job or working in a relationship. Sometimes you just have to wait, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening in someone else’s heart. And waiting for God to do something not only helps you grow stronger in your faith, it helps other people around you grow in their faith too. Because if they see you waiting on God to act, so will they.

And what would our world look like if all of us Type A Control Freaks stepped back and stopped trying to manipulate everything and let God take over?

Some things only God can do, but God doesn’t operate on our timeline. So sometimes we have to wait. But when we do, and we do it quietly and patiently, we get the opportunity to see miracles. And even though waiting isn’t fun, it’s worth it.

So if you’re at a place where you can’t act any more, if you’re in a position where action will only make matters worse, let it go. Give it to God, and wait for Him to do something with it. He will. And it will be beautiful.

Iris in bloom at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Being still is much different than doing nothing

Good morning from Miami, Florida. We made it in one piece, though not without a lot of frantic running through the Newark airport. Today was supposed to be our down day where we could catch up with office work, but that wasn’t to be. We’ve got an early shoot to make this morning, so yet again I’m running on five hours of sleep. So this will be brief and I beg your forgiveness for typos.

Iris in bloom at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Iris in bloom at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Psalm 46:10.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

This is a good verse for me to remember this week as I scramble to make flights and keep appointments. Some days you just need to be still.

Being still is a lot different than doing nothing. It’s way more difficult.

Being still is a choice we make in a frantic situation to wait and to trust that God will work it out. And while we’re waiting, we have to believe. Which means no anxiety. No panic attacks. No fussing and fretting. No wringing hands.

Stillness.

I struggle with this one because I’m a control freak. But if we know that God is God and we believe He will do as He says, we need to trust that He will. And that means giving Him our burdens and our problems and our troubles and stepping back. And not taking them back again.

Today is a good example. My stomach is in knots because I’m walking unprepared into an interview. I hate being unprepared. I study every contractor I interview so I know what questions to ask, but I have no idea what I’m walking into this morning. If it were a fault of my own, I could blame myself. But this job cropped up out of nowhere. I know nothing about it. I know nothing about the piping systems. All I know is that the VP who we’re talking to is one of the “most important” ones in the area.

So, I have to prepare what I can prepare and leave the rest to God, which means not worrying about it.

So that’s what I’m working on this morning. Being still. It’s harder than it sounds.