Just a thread in God’s great tapestry

Have you ever looked at the detail on a tapestry? It’s rare to find them in the United States, but in older parts of the world, tapestries play a role in history.

A quick Google search brought back some information on the longest tapestry in the world–the Apocalypse Tapestry, which originally stretched 459 feet. The richly detailed, colorfully woven panels feature scenes from the Book of The Revelation. Sources say it took five years to complete.

The Apocalypse Tapestry, the longest tapestry in the world

The Apocalypse Tapestry, the longest tapestry in the world

What amazes me about weaving–and weaving tapestries specifically–is that you need more than one color of thread. I mean, sure, you can weave with one color, but then you don’t have a tapestry. You have a rug. It takes colors and combinations of colors, twisting around each other, going over the top of and underneath each other to create the brilliant a beautiful designs that make it worth something.

A tapestry as a whole is an amazing thing, but what if you’re one thread in a tapestry. If you’re one thread in a massive tapestry, you don’t get to see the tapestry. All you see is the winding and twisting and inconvenience of having to deal with other threads. Some threads would be easier to manage. Other threads might be more difficult to get around. But you’d never be able to get away from other threads.

Have you ever considered that’s what our lives are like? Our life is one big tapestry, and we’re one thread.

tapestryToday’s verse is Genesis 50:20.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

This is what Joseph said to his brothers after he revealed himself to them. His brothers had betrayed him, sold him into slavery, told his father he was dead. Joseph meanwhile experienced every horrible thing you could imagine, but God worked everything out. God had a plan the whole time. Joseph was one thread in God’s incredible tapestry.

You and I are no different.

Today is my last day at my “real” job. It was the kind of job I never thought I’d get. It’s so strange to be old enough to look back on my life. When I was in high school, I didn’t understand what it meant to see God’s fingerprints all over your life. People talked about it, but I’d never experienced it.

After college, maybe I understood it a little better, but I didn’t grasp it fully until I started working at the job I have now. I couldn’t have gotten that job without what I learned at the job before it. The job before it? I couldn’t have gotten that one without what I’d learned as a college student. And so on and so forth.

Every job I’ve had, every position I’ve held, has been training grounds for the next job, and that’s not an accident. That’s me being a thread in God’s great tapestry. And I wasn’t alone. All through my life, I’ve been surrounded by other threads–some going the same direction as I was. Some were going opposite. Others were perpendicular to my path, but that didn’t make them wrong.

I didn’t always understand why I had to walk the same path with so many other people, but now I can look back and see the beautiful design and pattern that God has made from my life and my interactions with other people.

God puts people in your life for a reason. Sometimes it’s to challenge you. Other times, it’s to encourage you and uplift you. Either way, you can learn something.

My life is a beautiful tapestry because God is a beautiful weaver, and He chose amazing colors to weave together in my life. If it were just me, there wouldn’t be much to look at, but because I’ve gotten to share life with so many wonderful people, God has made something beautiful out of something that could have been barren.

People make life difficult, sure, but more often than not, the people you meet will teach you something about yourself. And it’s something you need to learn. I’ll promise you that.

As I shut down my company laptop for the last time tonight, clear out my cubicle, pull off my name plate, turn in my keycards, and walk to the parking garage, I’ll be sad. I might as well accept it. I’ll be a wreck.

I’m sad to leave behind the people I’ve come to love so dearly, but I know this is the right choice. And I’m more thankful than words can ever say for what they’ve taught me about life and living and myself. I’m ready for my next adventure thanks in no small part to them. And the tapestry of my life has been made all the more beautiful because my thread crossed paths with theirs.

No matter where life takes you, never forget the bigger picture. We’re all part of a larger story unfolding bit by bit every day, and all of us have roles to play in the pattern of God’s great design.

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What happens if God doesn’t keep His promises?

You’re at work and you know you’re a good employee. You’re always on time. You always encourage teamwork. You don’t cause drama. You’re the kind of employee you would want to hire if you were a manager.

Then, one day, your boss lets it slip that the company is going to do something really nice for its top performers. If you’ve ever been there, I bet you imagine what that “something nice” is going to be. You fantasize about it. A bonus? Or maybe an extra vacation day?

Have you ever gotten what you imagined? That’s never happened to me. I imagine “something nice” as something awesome. And usually it turns out to be something like a gift card. (Not knocking gift cards. Gift cards are the best, especially when they aren’t part of your salary.) But in those moments, are you ever disappointed that your company’s “something nice” didn’t match up to yours? Do you get upset at your boss because he or she didn’t meet your expectations?

Today’s verses are Ephesians 3:17-20.

Evergreen tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Evergreen tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

There’s a contingent of Bible thumpers out there who love to expound on how God will give you a car or how God will make all your dreams come true, and it’s not that God won’t do those things … it’s just that He doesn’t promise them.

I’ve known people over the years who have believed with their whole heart that God would give them something specific. A specific job. A specific boyfriend. A specific house. A specific outcome in their life. They’ve claimed it would happen and believed with everything they had that it would.

And it didn’t happen.

Ouch. What do you do when God doesn’t deliver on His promises?

Well, the first thing you need to do is make sure He actually promised it. Like the situation at work–my boss didn’t say the company was going to give me an extra day off. My boss didn’t say the company was going to give me a bonus check. That was my assumption. That was my definition of “something nice” and it didn’t match what the company had in mind.

So many Christ-followers end up discouraged in their walk with God because He hasn’t given them what they think He should. And I can understand their feelings. I’ve been there. Where I was sure God was leading me in a specific direction, where I was certain what He was doing in my life–and then He does a complete 180. And my life ends up looking nothing like what I expected.

And when that happens, it’s really easy to take it out on God. We can be so sure we know what He’s doing, can’t we? And in those moments, it’s so easy to get ahead of Him, to assume He’s going to do something in our life just because we feel a sense of peace about it. But just because you feel a sense of peace about a particular outcome in your life doesn’t make it a promise that God is bound to keep.

God’s promises are set down in the Bible. He’s promised to never leave us. He’s promised to save us. He’s promised to make us a part of His family, to forgive us our sins and remember them no more, to love us unconditionally, to help us when we need it. He has promised to do what we ask and to give us the desires of our heart, yes, but our hearts have to match His before that will happen. And we have to understand that if He doesn’t give us what we want, that doesn’t mean God is unfaithful. It just means it isn’t time yet.

The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically how our lives are going to work out. All God promises us is that He’s working things out for our good and His glory.

Don’t get caught in the trap of putting God in a box, because that’s what we do when we tell God He’s unfaithful or untrustworthy. Maybe you feel like God has betrayed you. Well, friend, He hasn’t. It’s you who doesn’t understand how He works. And if you give God a little space, let Him work in your life the way He wants, and keep trusting Him even when you don’t see how things will work out, one day you’ll realize that He has answered every promise He’s made to you and more.

So when something you want–something you think God has promised you–doesn’t work out, don’t get upset. And please, please don’t get angry at God. God doesn’t have to operate inside the box we build for Him, and I’m so thankful He doesn’t. Imagine how lackluster and mediocre life would be if God were limited to our expectations.

No. Our God is a big God, an all-powerful God, and a gracious, generous God, eager to shower blessings on His children. And if you expect Him to operate within the walls of your planning and your imagination, you’re going to live a disappointed life.

So let go. Let God be God. Stop trying to control Him. Stop trying to squeeze Him into a box with your own limitations. And then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Ripe peach on the tree, Entz Orchard, Newton, KS

God can restore what you’ve lost

Misdiagnosis. What does that word mean to you? Anyone have experience with that? When the doctors say you have something wrong and then it turns out you don’t?

Welcome to the last two years of my family’s life. After a two-year ordeal with my mom’s health in a somewhat precarious state, we’ve been told officially that her diagnosis of Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID) was incorrect.

On one hand, we’re overjoyed that she doesn’t have to go back to doing treatments and taking medications and being quarantined in her house. She can go back to living a normal life again.

But in my own mind, I’ll admit to a bit of irritation. What exactly have we been doing for two years then? What was the point of all this? I know there’s a point, because with God there’s always a point. But have the last two years seriously been in vain? The ridiculous amount of antibiotics, the vicious medications, the long and tiresome IV IG treatments–was it all for nothing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m overjoyed that she isn’t sick. But what was the purpose for having to go through the last two years?

Ripe peach on the tree, Entz Orchard, Newton, KS

Ripe peach on the tree, Entz Orchard, Newton, KS

Today’s verses are Joel 2:21-27.

Don’t be afraid, O land.
Be glad now and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things.
Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field,
for the wilderness pastures will soon be green.
The trees will again be filled with fruit;
fig trees and grapevines will be loaded down once more.
Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem!
Rejoice in the Lord your God!
For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness.
Once more the autumn rains will come,
as well as the rains of spring.
The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain,
and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil.
The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.
It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.
Once again you will have all the food you want,
and you will praise the Lord your God,
who does these miracles for you.
Never again will my people be disgraced.
Then you will know that I am among my people Israel,
that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other.
Never again will my people be disgraced.

One of the many things about God that always amazes me is His constant promise of restoration and redemption. There are many verses throughout the Bible that give dire warnings about disobeying God or about the consequences of turning against God. But for every one of those verses, I think you can probably find two or three about how God desires to restore us even after we’ve turned against Him.

God is in the business of restoration.

And I’ve come to the conclusion over the last few years that even when it feels like God is taking something away from you, He isn’t. Maybe that’s the way you interpret it. But if God ever withholds something from you or asks you to give up something you want for His sake, He won’t leave you that way.

He only asks us to give up what we’re holding on to so that He can hand us something better. After all, you can’t accept a gift from God when your hands are already full of something inferior.

Looking back over these two years, I can see many relationships that we’ve built that we didn’t have before. We’ve met so many people who we’ve been able to encourage. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know.

I can’t tell you I know what the point is. But what I can tell you is that God is good. He’s always good, whether you’re sick or healthy, rich or poor, employed or not. Wherever you are, God is good. That’s who He is. And maybe we have to experience things that aren’t good, but that doesn’t make Him bad. It doesn’t mean He’s not in control. It just means He sees the whole picture, and it means we have something we need to learn–or someone we need to help–or something we need to do that we wouldn’t do unless we struggled a bit.

Whatever you’ve lost, God can restore it. And if He doesn’t restore it, He’ll redeem it. Sometime in the future, maybe tomorrow, maybe ten years from now, maybe longer, God will show us what this season has been for. And we’ll understand why.

What are you holding on to today? What good thing are you clinging to that might prevent you from receiving a great thing? What have you lost? Just because you don’t have it anymore doesn’t mean it’s over.

What God doesn’t restore, He always redeems. But we have to let Him do it His way in His time.

WuShock playing drums with the band

Disappointment can make you stronger

I don’t do sports. I’ve never been into them. But then, I’d never had a team I cared about make it to a place where I could cheer them on until this year. I’m a proud alum of Wichita State University, so even though I don’t really care about sports, I still pay attention when our sports teams accomplish great things. And when our basketball team started their crazy undefeated rush to the NCAA tournament, I started getting excited.

I remember last year. For the first time in a long time, Wichita was getting noticed–and in a good way. Most people don’t even know where we are, let alone who we are. Last year, everyone made fun of our mascot–our beloved WuShock (he’s a shock of wheat, folks; not a stalk of celery or a pencil). This year, people were taking us seriously, and it was nice. Really nice. And this year I thought we could do it. I really thought we could go all the way. Especially when we won our 35th game in a row on Friday. No team ever made it to the tournament with a 35-0 record.

And then–last night happened. The Shockers faced off with Kentucky, and both sides played their hearts out. And the Shockers lost by 2. Just like that, we were done. Along with the other two Kansas teams. The tournament will go on without us.

Sports has disappointments like that all the time, and while it can be difficult to deal with, in the end, it’s still just a game. Life has bigger disappointments than sports ever does. So how do you deal with the disappointments that life hands you?

WuShock playing drums with the band

WuShock playing drums with the band

Today’s verses are Psalm 73:1-5.

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud
when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives;
their bodies are so healthy and strong.
They don’t have troubles like other people;
they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.

I love the honesty of the Psalms. That’s one of the reasons I think reading them on bad days helps me get my focus back. No matter who writes them, the Psalms generally start off with a genuine summary of how life just sucks, and then they end up with the writer coming back to his senses and realizing that God is good.

That’s how Psalm 73 works. If you have a chance, pop over and read the whole thing. It’s not long, and it’s totally worth it. But the basic idea is that the writer is getting frustrated with God because he’s living the way he’s supposed to, and all the people around him (the ones who don’t follow God) are better off.

At one point in the Psalm, the writer even asks God what the point of keeping his heart clean was? What’s the point of following God if all you’re going to get is trouble in return? But instead of giving up on God, the writer went to a quiet place and God revealed the truth to him.

You’re going to face disappointments in life. Just expect it. The world is broken, and nobody is perfect. People hurt people. Things you think will happen don’t. Dreams don’t always come true, and even though you work your butt off to accomplish something, you may not receive the reward for it right away.

Decide now how you’re going to deal with it. Make up your mind now about how you’re going to face disappointment, so when the time comes you aren’t swept away by the emotional letdown.

Am I disappointed that the Shockers lost? Absolutely. But I can tell you what they’re not going to do. They aren’t going to go home and give up playing basketball. They’re going to work twice as hard next year and try again.

I’ve got a couple of major projects in the works right now, projects that I’m counting on to be successful. Am I hoping that they’re going to work? That they’re going to be successful? You’d better believe it. But will I give up if they aren’t? Am I going to stop believing that God is good if my life doesn’t turn out the way I think it should?

No.

Seriously, go read Psalm 73. Life is all about perspective. You really do win some and lose some, and on the days that you lose, you have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Don’t give up. Don’t look back. And keep trying until you make it.

And whatever else you do, don’t blame God. He’s got a plan, and He’s working things out. The only thing blaming God does is turn you into someone you don’t want to be.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

Disappointment isn’t wrong. It isn’t even bad, if you can face it in a way that makes you better in the end. Disappointment makes us stronger if you look at it as a chance to improve yourself. Disappointment can increase our faith if we remember that God has a  better plan than what we concocted.

So when disappointment comes, grieve. Sure, it’s difficult to see a dream die. But dreams never stay dead. Don’t give up. Try again. Keep believing. If God isn’t going to give up, you shouldn’t either.

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God does amazing things

Late miracles are still miracles. That’s what I posted yesterday from the 15th floor waiting area at the Minnesota campus of the Mayo Clinic. My parents and I had been waiting for days for the impossible, and it was looking like we weren’t going to get in. We fully expected to have to wait until next Wednesday, using up vacation time so my mom could get in to see this specialist.

So that’s why I posted what I did yesterday, because I wanted to get my perspective straight. The moment I pushed the publish button on yesterday’s post, the nurse called us. We had an appointment the next day.

We are meeting with an allergy specialist at 9:45 this morning. It’s not the doctor we were expecting, who was both an allergy specialist and an immune system specialist. But we’re trusting there’s a reason a door opened with this one instead. I mean, if God has been faithful enough to get us in to see anyone at Mayo, He’s not going to get us in with a doctor for no reason.

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Chronicles 16:24.

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

Like I mentioned yesterday, how often do miracles go unnoticed? How often does God do something amazing in our life and we don’t take the time to recognize it? I’m afraid it happens more frequently in my life than I’m comfortable admitting.

Well, I want to recognize this one. We asked God to open a door for us, and He did. So now we’re going to sit back and see what God does today.

Don’t be shy about sharing what God has done in your life. You might come off like a crazy person, sure. But you also might catch somebody’s attention, someone who thinks God has given up on them or who believes that God doesn’t get involved in our lives.

Parents, tell your kids what God has done. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell anyone who will listen.  You never know how your story might help someone else.

God does great, amazing things. Yes, He does them in His time, and usually that’s better than our time anyway.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Late miracles are miracles still

I’ve posted about perspective before, but I’m really needing a good reminder about it this morning. Having the right perspective is vital to following God. Granted, it’s not necessarily required to follow Him, but it certainly helps your attitude because God doesn’t do things the way you want Him to.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 25:1.

O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them.

My parents and I arrived at the Mayo Clinic on Sunday morning this week. It’s now Thursday, and we still haven’t gotten to see the specialist we wanted to see. And it’s looking like we may have to wait until next Wednesday.

It’s easy to get discouraged about this, honestly, because God opened all sorts of doors for us to be able to come up here in the first place. So I had expected Him to keep opening doors. So what does it mean when He opens a door and then shuts it just before you walk through?

When you hit those moments, you need to take a step back and calm down, first of all. You can’t make wise decisions when you’re upset. And then you need to take some time and think about who God is.  I think that’s the key we forget often because we think God has to be bound to our schedule. We expect God to work the way we want Him to, and He doesn’t. He’s not bound to do what we want. God is sovereign. He works according to His plan, in His time, and He has the right to do what He wants, when He wants. Because He’s God.

But the Bible tells us something really important about God that we shouldn’t ever forget: God is good.

Over and over and over again. God is good. God is good. No one else is good but God. If there’s one thing you can know for sure about God, it’s the fact that God is good. So when He does work, even if it’s not according to what we want, we can still trust that what He’s doing is good.

I thought saving my vacation to use on myself would be good. I thought spending my time off with friends instead of my parents would be good. But do I know what’s good? Do I really know what’s good for me? I don’t. But God does.

It all comes down to trust. Do I trust God enough to turn over the tiny little things I’ve convinced myself I own? Like my vacation time?

Once you establish that you trust God with everything, your perspective changes too. Because there’s nothing you hold back from Him. He can do whatever He wants with everything you have and everything you are, and then you don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t control. You just enjoy being where you are, being around the people you’re with.

How many miracles does God have to do in our lives before we trust Him completely? Just because it’s not the miracle you wanted doesn’t make the impossible any less miraculous.

God does awesome things. He does amazing, impossible things every day. By all rights, we shouldn’t even be up here. We shouldn’t have gotten an appointment in the first place. That’s a miracle. And what we’ve learned so far has already been helpful.

So what if we have to stay another week? So what if we have to leave and come back? We’re here now. We have the opportunity to meet with a specialist. That’s more than we had two weeks ago.

Perspective. Don’t miss the miracles. God has planned great things in our lives, and He won’t stop working until they are all accomplished. No, He may not accomplish them when we want Him to, but He’ll still make it happen because He has promised. And we can trust Him because He’s good.

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

You never know … but God does

Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Sometimes, it goes the opposite direction. Sometimes you end up stuck in situations you would never have chosen, and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. You didn’t break the rules or do something stupid. Life just happened, and boom! You’re stuck.

When was the last time you thanked God because you were stuck? When was the last time you thanked God because something bad happened in your life? Those occasions don’t usually call for a praise service. It’s escaping those circumstances that normally bring on the adulations and exultations. But the Bible says over and over and over again throughout the Bible that we are to be thankful and that we are to thank God for our circumstances, good or bad, when we’re through them or when we’re in them.

Why is that? Is it just for the sake of our perspective? I do think that plays a role. When you wake up and you choose to be thankful no matter what, it does something to your attitude. But is there more to it than that?

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Isaiah 55:8-11.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

Who gets God? Who understands Him? Who can wrap their mind around the way He thinks? Anyone?

I don’t know anyone who can claim that. Granted, I know people who do claim it without really saying that they claim it. But no one really understands God in the same way that people understand people. Why? Well, there’s no one like God. No one else even comes close. So why do we think that we can think they same way He does? Why do we think we can put words in His mouth?

Now, I do believe Christ-followers have insight into why God does what He does, and maybe even a glimpse into His plan through the power of the Holy Spirit. But there’s a difference knowing God’s heart and knowing His thoughts.

Here’s the thing about bad circumstances or unhappy situations: they might just happen sometimes but they don’t ever happen in a vacuum. When something bad happens to you, the way you react to it will set the tone of the circumstance as a whole. You can treat it like a curse, like a problem, like a punishment. Or you can treat it like an opportunity to get to know God better. The way you tackle trials in your life makes all the difference in the world.

But I still think this concept goes deeper than just perspective. I honestly think there’s a very practical reason why God tells us to be thankful for every part of our lives, including the bad parts. Simply because we don’t always know what’s good for us and what’s bad for us. Sometimes we see things in our lives, and we think they’re bad. But God allowed those bad things to cross our paths because He planned to make something good out of it. Sometimes we look at a bad problem as a punishment, when it’s really just God preventing something worse from happening in our lives.

This is a corny example but how many times have I gotten on the road later than intended? For whatever reason. Cats underfoot. Garage door broken. Can’t find my pants. I could get upset in those moments and take my frustration out on God, but what would have happened that day if I had made it out the door on time? I might have run across a wreck, a wreck I missed because I was running late.

There have been so many other examples like this, but you get the point. It’s quite practical.

Bad things happen. Horrible things happen in life, things that tear you up inside and rip you apart and leave you a shell of who you were. But just because a situation looks bad now doesn’t mean that it will always be bad.

That’s what’s so amazing about God is that He can take those bad situations and turn them into something we’re thankful for down the road. In some instances that doesn’t seem possible. How can the dark, horrible parts of my life ever be something I’m happy for? I used to think that; now I’ve lived it.

What bad thing has happened to you? What terrible trouble is hovering over your head? Stop looking at it like it’s bad. Yes, it may be bad, but just because it’s bad now doesn’t mean it will always be bad. God has a habit of redeeming the bad and making it better than good. Who knows? The bad in your life right now might be what’s keeping you from running into something worse.

You never know, but God does.