Tomorrow will be better if you wait

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] like coffee. Any kind of coffee. Hot or cold, blended or iced, black or with cream, Americano or latte, plain or flavored. Whatever. I like it all. In the heat of summertime in Kansas, there’s almost nothing better than a big Frappucino from Starbucks (yes, I like Starbucks coffee).

I didn’t used to like them, though, because they didn’t last very long. And once I finished, I was left with a cup full of partially melted ice mixed with watered-down coffee and slightly chocolate-flavored foamy stuff. Bleck! It was so much better to get hot coffee and sip it slowly.

But during the summer in Kansas where we had more than 30 days over 100 degrees, I broke down and bought a Frappucino. But something happened, and I had to let it sit for a moment before I could come back to it. And guess what? When I was done, I didn’t have ice left.

At first, I thought it was a fluke. But the next time I got a Frappucino, I let it sit for a little while, and the same thing happened. I let the ice get started melting, and I sipped it slowly. It lasted much longer, and it tasted much better than it did when I drank it all quickly.

It was better to wait

But waiting is hard. It takes effort and discipline. It takes concentration because you have to constantly remind yourself why you’re choosing to wait. You have to force your brain to remember that the end result will be better if you just hold your horses.

I’m not good at waiting. I see a path that looks promising, and I want to run down it at full speed, barefoot, hair loose, no bags packed or itinerary planned. And I don’t care if I skin my knees or break my toes or have to turn around seven times. At least I’m moving forward, right?

But sometimes moving forward only causes more trouble.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued.[/su_pullquote]

Think about quicksand. Your instinct is to fight to escape, to kick and thrash and flail, but that only makes you sink faster. But you don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued. And your best hope to survive is to hold still and wait.

Life’s like that too. But if you think that waiting is the same as doing nothing, you’re wrong.

Waiting is hardest job you’ll ever work. It’s the most challenging class in the school of hard knocks. It’s the most impossible obstacle course you’ll ever run.

Our culture has forgotten how to wait. We live in a world of instant gratification. We’re ruled by our watches and our calendars, and we’ve learned to settle for what’s passable and immediate rather than what’s excellent and inconvenient.

I’m so guilty of this, but I learned the hard way that I can’t rush God.

lam3-26He’s got plans for me, just like He has plans for you. But no matter how badly I want to achieve His goal for my life, I don’t get to decide when it happens. I can strive and fight and push and run as hard as I can, but I can’t move Him. God does what He wants. I can’t change that. And if I really understood His plans, I wouldn’t want to change it.

The Bible says it’s good to wait on God (Lamentations 3:26). I struggle with that. Nothing about waiting is good. It turns your stomach upside down. It turns your hair gray. It makes you cranky and irritable.

Or does it? Does waiting really do all that? Or do we do that to ourselves because we refuse to relinquish control of our lives, our dreams, our plans to the Person who already owns them?

Stuck in summer

I wake up in the morning, and I stare down a beautiful curving path into an autumn forest. Line with golden-leafed trees, blazing red maples and shimmering, white-barked aspens, and it smells like cinnamon and nutmeg and joy. There’s a giant pile of leaves just ready for me to dive into, and pumpkin-flavored everything is waiting just out of reach.

But I can’t get there because I’m stuck in summer. In the heat and the deadness of post-harvest dirt. There’s no end in sight. And I want that world so badly I can taste it, and I can see exactly how I’m supposed to get there. So why shouldn’t I run? Why shouldn’t I just leap forward and reach for that dream? It’s right there.

[su_pullquote] While I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is.[/su_pullquote]

But it isn’t just right there. I can’t see the twists and turns. I can’t see the distance or the effort or the disappointments or the successes that I’ll need to experience before I get there. But God can. And that’s why I have to wait.

That’s why waiting matters. That’s why waiting is good. Just like a Frappucino is better once the ice has started melting, tomorrow will be better if I wait until God says it’s time to run.

lam3-22-23Choosing to wait is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Making the conscious decision to set aside what I want right now in favor of what God wants right now has taken more faith than I thought I had. But I’m still here. I’m still waiting. And I’m not going to stop, because while I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is and who He wants me to be.

Every morning, I get to start over fresh (Lamentations 3:22-24). New day, new mercy, same God. He doesn’t change. He won’t be rushed. And His timing really is perfect.

On the privilege of being poor

I heard a statement once that true wealth is never having to say no to guacamole at Chipotle. I hear that, because I really love guacamole, but wow–it’s pricey.

It’s easy to be wealthy in America. Granted, the definition of wealth varies from culture to culture, neighborhood to neighborhood, family to family. Wealth can either mean that you have a lot of financial assets at your disposal, or it can mean that you have been blessed with the intangibles of life–health, family, friends, faith, etc.

In my experience, most “good Christians” will say they’re wealthy because of all the blessings God has given them, and that is absolutely true. But for a moment, let’s just get real about this. Because money is real, and the struggles we all face with money are real. So shouldn’t we talk about it?

Little white flower in a Colorado field, Happy Meadows Campground, west of Colorado Springs, CO

Little white flower in a Colorado field, Happy Meadows Campground, west of Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are James 1:9-10.

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.

I read this passage over and over again the other night, mainly because it just made me smile. The way God sees things is so different from the way we see things. And this passage isn’t talking about being rich in blessings. This is unashamedly talking about finances.

If you don’t have as much money as someone else, be happy. I’m not sure the phrase “boast about” is the best translation. According to the Amplified Version, someone who is in “humble circumstances” should “glory in his high position.” That doesn’t mean you go around bragging about being poor. That’s just silly. But what you are supposed to do is to recognize that God’s trusted you with an awful lot.

It’s hard to even say that you’re poor when God’s given you so much already, but when you don’t have as much money as other people, you have to have more faith. And, honestly, faith isn’t something that everybody has in equal measure. So if you’ve got more faith than finances, you should understand that it’s an honor to live that lifestyle.

But likewise, if you are one of those folks who have a lot of money, you’re not wrong. It’s not bad to have money. It only becomes a problem when you love your money more than you fear God. If you’ve got a lot of money, you should be thankful at how God is humbling you. Because even if you’ve worked your tail off to earn your wealth, you have to be humble enough to accept that it all belongs to God anyway.

In my life, as well as in the lives of most people I know, the part about glorying in my high position in spite of humble circumstances bit is more relevant. I am not wealthy, financially speaking, and–yes–I do sometimes say no to guacamole at Chipotle. But I was okay with that because I’m rich in other ways. I have eternal life guaranteed. I have friends and family who love me unconditionally (which is priceless, because I’m so not worthy of love). I have free, open access to the throne room of God, who created the Universe, and He’s given me permission to ask Him for the desires of my heart. That’s huge!

But I’d never thought of a lack of finances as an honor. That’s what this verse is saying. Isn’t it funny how we silly little humans twist God’s perfect plans all up until they’re unrecognizable?

Don’t misunderstand. We shouldn’t aspire to be poor. That’s not the point. If we aspire to anything, it should be to glorify God. That’s the one thing both poor and rich have in common–recognizing God as the source of true wealth.

So don’t be discouraged if you’re poor. God doesn’t have it out for you. It’s actually the other way around. Being poor is a privilege. Not having the same financial status as others gives you an opportunity to show your faith and share your faith with others.

It’s not easy. But faith never is.

Q'eqchi woman - Peten, Guatemala

Life is a mission’s trip

The fastest way for me to remember how much Spanish I actually know is to drop me off somewhere in some Spanish-speaking country and leave me there alone for a week. By the end of the week, I’ll be practically conversant. But if you were to ask me something in Spanish just off the cuff now? Yeah, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

It’s so easy to adopt the culture of the world you live in. Well, maybe easy isn’t the right word, but the longer you live in a different culture than the one you were born in, the easier I think it becomes to fit in. In some cases, that’s what needs to happen, especially with missionaries who leave America and go to foreign lands. The best thing they can do is to leave American culture in America because other countries don’t need us; they need Christ. America can’t take care of America, so why should a missionary take anything American with them to another country? America needs Christ, just like everyone else. So in that case, forsaking the culture you were born into is a good idea, within reason, of course.

But what if the culture you’re moving into rejects God completely? So how do you live in it without following it? How do you eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds?

Q'eqchi woman - Peten, Guatemala

Q’eqchi woman – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Colossians 2:8.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

The verse this morning caught my eye because I don’t think of philosophies as something that can capture you. But they do. The world and people in the world who have good intentions try to rationalize their existence, try to make sense of things that can’t make sense, and the result is a belief system without hope and without purpose. Because the world clings to the idea that there is no God — or if there is a God, He doesn’t care.

That’s what they believe. So that’s how they live. And once you step into that sort of culture, once you begin to adopt those kinds of precepts in your life, they become like a prison. You’d think embracing the concept that you have no rules would be freeing. But that’s not the case. Living a life with no rules just makes you a slave to sin.

I’ve been on many mission’s trips, as a high school student and as an adult. And part of me sort of feels like life is one big mission’s trip. After all, this world isn’t our home. We all may have been born here, but we were born again in the culture of Heaven. That’s our real home. That’s where our family is. So every day we live down here is a mission’s experience where we are supposed to tell others about Christ, to support each other as we go through life and to portray an example of who Christ really is.

As an American, I can tell you that the culture I live in right now isn’t healthy. Granted, there are some aspects that are good, the concept of freedom and free will and the idea of personal responsibility, but those aspects of American culture are slowly disappearing. American culture in the 21st century isn’t something any Christian should aspire to adopt. How can you exist in this culture and stay on target? How can we live here and keep believing in the things that matter when all the things that don’t matter scream so loud it’s hard to hear anything else?

The key is in the verse. Empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense comes from the world. And if it comes from the world, it will be damaging. So stay away from them. Don’t let them into your life. Instead, know what Christ says. Know how Christ lived. Know His perspective on life. And adopt that.

It sounds easy. But it’s not.

We are surrounded every moment by faith system of our world. And while we are surrounded by them constantly — on television and radio and the internet and even our closest friends — it’s easy to adopt their perspective. But the moment you agree to see things their way, you’re opening the door to let the culture take over.

I blogged yesterday about a filter verse we should run our thoughts through; that verse is sufficient for today too. Don’t just switch off your brain and accept everything you hear on television or on the radio or on the internet. Don’t just accept everything you hear at church. Don’t just accept everything your good Christian friends tell you.

If you belong to Christ, this world isn’t our home. So this culture isn’t our home either. Question everything. And if the answers contradict Scripture, if the answers you find go against what Christ has said, don’t believe it. And if you can’t understand it, trust God to work it out.