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.

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Sometimes we need the storms

Sometimes it feels like we’re living under a cloud, doesn’t it? Life just isn’t working out the way you want it to. Sure, there are days when the sun shines and life is bright. There are days when you feel invincible. But what about the days when it feels like the rain won’t stop falling?

It’s on those days when the bad news keeps coming. Minute after minute, hour after hour, the bad news doesn’t let up. You owe more on your taxes than you thought. Your car is broken. Your child is sick. The storm damage is extensive. Whatever situation you’re in, doesn’t it seem that bad news never shows up on the happy days? No, it all has to unload on us at once, on the days when we’re already feeling like we’ve fallen in the mud.

But one thing I’ve learned about God is that He never allows anything to happen in our lives that He won’t turn into something beautiful.

stormclouds_treeToday’s verse is Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

There are days when life feels random, like all the little bits and pieces of life are scattered around without meaning or purpose. And I’m not sure if that will ever change for us because we’re so limited in what we can see. But if you’ve lived long enough to look back over your life, you can start to see the picture forming from the fragments you thought were unrelated.

And then, sometimes, God gives you a glimpse of just how much He cares. I mean, we all know He cares. He’s God. That’s kind of what He does. But there’ s a difference between caring and being intimately involved in the intricate workings of your personal life. It’s one thing to call you a son or daughter, but God goes beyond that and treats us like His children too.

It’s one thing to recognize that God made the sunrise. It’s something else to understand that He arranged events in your life today to help you accomplish something. That’s two different levels of caring.

People know they’re meant for more than this life. That’s what the verse means. We all have this inborn understanding that there’s more to life than just what we can see. As we get older and let the darkness of our world cloud our perspective, we lose sight of it. Or we give into the lies of our culture that say God doesn’t care. But deep, deep down inside, we all know that we’re meant for something more. That’s what it means to have eternity in your heart.

It’s difficult to remember sometimes, especially in the dark moments of life, that God cares so much about us. Because if He cared, He wouldn’t let us go through dark times, right? But sometimes we need the storms.

We need to remember that we aren’t in control. We need to remember who sustains us. We need to remember who protects us. And we need to let go of our delusions that success comes from our own performance.

Maybe you’re in an ugly situation right now, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope. But you know what? God will make everything beautiful in His time. Not in our time, because we don’t understand time. Not like God does.

God is the only One in existence with the power to take the ugly and make it beautiful. He can transform anyone and anything, but we’ve got to get out of the way.

The hourglass from NewSpring Church's 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

What you learn when you wait for God’s answer

I finished my first “for real” novel before I hit high school. What do I call a “for real” novel? I mean one that has more than 50,000 words. I never thought I was a great writer, but I did think I was good enough to get published. So I started trying very early on, preparing myself for rejection after rejection because every author out there says that’s what you should do.

I don’t know how many rejections I finally had to get before I started thinking that maybe I needed to try something different. I just know that in 2001, my freshman year of college, I felt the need to try to write something different.

So I did. And that began a journey that lasted from 2001 to this year. December 1, 2014, my first novel hits the shelves. And I guarantee you that it looks nothing like it did when I finished the first draft in 2003 or so. This wasn’t an easy journey. If it were thirteen years of hard work, that’d be one thing. But this was thirteen years of hard work, full of dashed dreams, harsh criticisms, and one major philosophy change that turned my perspective on its head.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I remember the first time it was properly rejected. The manuscript request. The elevated hopes. The rejection letter itself. And the disappointment that followed. I thought I had prepared myself, and I really hadn’t.

It’s not wrong to get your hopes up, as long as you recognize that fact that what you hope for won’t always happen. But how do you live like that? How can you hope for anything with the knowledge that it may not happen? And how does that fit into a Christian lifestyle?

Today’s verse is Hebrews 4:16.

The hourglass from NewSpring Church's 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

The hourglass from NewSpring Church’s 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Why is it that when we don’t get our way, we instantly jump to the conclusion that someone is trying to prevent us from happiness? Does that happen to anyone else, or is it just me? That’s my default.

When someone tells me No, my first reaction is that they don’t like me or they’re trying to deny me something. And that’s rarely the case. Admitting it makes me sound childish, so I’m hoping others out there struggle with the same problem.

The plain truth is that our authorities sometimes have to tell us no for our own good.

If you’re a parent, do you let your child do whatever he or she wants? If you’re a manager, do you let your subordinates do whatever they want? No! That’s a horrible idea. Because most of the time people don’t know what they want. And as the appointed authority you are the one who has to make the decision as to what’s good for them and what isn’t, whether they like it or not.

This is true with my novel. More than anything, I wanted it to be published. More than anything, I wanted it to be in print. And I had my heart set on accomplishing that. But it wasn’t to be—at least not at that moment. And now I know why.

Because the manuscript as it was 10 years ago wasn’t ready. It wasn’t what God wanted it to be. And I didn’t know enough about writing, the industry, my book, or myself to be published.

I’ve learned so much in 10 years, I don’t think I could fit it in a book if I tried. And if I had run ahead of God and done things my way 13 years ago, I wouldn’t have learned any of it. Granted, I might have learned some of it in the school of hard knocks, but this way, I got to learn what God had for me and still get my book in print without having to overcome the consequences of bad decisions.

That’s what He does for everybody. Just because He says no now doesn’t mean the answer will always be no. It may just mean that you’re not ready. It may just mean the time isn’t right.

So before you give up on God, take a step back and try to see it from His perspective. How do you handle disappointment when you don’t get what your heart is set on? I’ve learned how to hope in God’s plan, knowing that if He doesn’t give me what I want, I still have a lot to learn. And if He does give me what I’ve asked for, it’s up to me to make the most of it right now.

Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, London, England, United Kingdom

Jet lag and God’s timetable

If you’ve never experienced real jet lag, I don’t know if I can adequately explain it. I thought I had prepared myself for it, but I don’t think you really know how you’re going to react to it until you go through it. My brother and I returned safely to the flatlands of Kansas from our week-and-a-half journey to Scotland and England Sunday late. Yesterday, I did nothing but rest and recover, and I managed six hours of good sleep plus a nap, which was great. I thought I’d do great today. Well, I barely slept at all last night. Not sure why. But the same thing happened over there. The first night, I slept fine. The second or third night, I didn’t sleep a wink. I’m very thankful I can work from home today.

So this morning as I was trying to get back into my routine of morning devotionals, I couldn’t help but think about God’s perspective on time. Six or seven hours of time difference or even twelve is nothing compared to the time difference we’re talking about with God.

Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, London, England, United Kingdom

Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, London, England, United Kingdom

Today’s verses are 2 Peter 3:8-9.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

A day is like a thousand years. Can you even imagine what that’s like? I can’t. To be able to know what’s going to happen a thousand years from now? To be able to know for sure what’s going to happen an hour from now is too much for me. I’m glad God is God and that He knows what He’s doing.

This is a good reminder for me because I like plans. I like outlines. I like knowing what’s coming before it gets here so I can get ready and think about how I’m going to respond. God doesn’t always allow us that opportunity; sometimes He expects us to jump when He says jump, even if we’re not sure where we’ll land, trusting that we will land on Him.

God’s thinking, His designs, His entire being, is so much bigger than we are. So I suppose this only makes sense. Would you want a God who was tied to time like we are? I wouldn’t. We can’t pick and choose what’s true about God and what’s not. God is who He is, and the trade-off for having a God bigger than time is surrendering to the idea that we’re not in control of our own lives.

God works on His own schedule. He works on His own time. He isn’t bound to our perspective of time. Maybe we think He’s being slow or dragging it out, but He’s not. Maybe we think He’s rushing it and pushing us too hard, but He’s not. He’s simply operating on a timetable that suits His plans, and it’s our job to keep up and hold on for the ride. He’s told us enough about Himself that we know His plans are best, but we aren’t always going to know the details. Part of me likes it that way because if I know the details, I’ll worry. But the other part of me–the planner, the scheduler, the thinker, the control freak–wants to be in on everything. But God knows me well enough to keep me in the dark, and for that I’m thankful.

So if you’re frustrated with God because He’s moving too fast for you or not moving fast enough, just take a deep breath and step back. Remember that God isn’t bound to your schedule; it should be the other way around.

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

He’ll answer when it’s time

I’m one of those people who runs around like a crazy person, doing everything I can think of to prepare for trouble or to take care of people who are in trouble, and then I pray. I rarely pray first, although I’m getting better about it. There’s something in my wiring that tells me praying is a last resort, when it really ought to be my first response.

This month, I’ve been doing a personal study of prayer, and in the last few days, I’ve experienced some pretty cool things about prayer that I really feel like I need to pass along.

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The Bible says in John 14:13-14,

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

That’s quite a promise. Have you ever put it to the test?

I’ve lived in the same general area since 1991. You can look at that as a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s been my life. And as a result of that, I’ve formed a lot of really awesome friendships. I’ve watched my peers grow up, get married, move away, move back, and have kids. I never liked kids very much, and I’m not a big fan of babies. But in recent years, I’ve had to start liking babies or I wouldn’t have any friends left!

I remember very vividly talking with four of my lady friends about how badly they wanted to have children. But they just couldn’t. It just didn’t happen.So we all started praying together that God would give them families.

Until one day when one of them got pregnant. And stayed pregnant until she had a healthy baby boy. Shortly after her, another one of the ladies got pregnant and also had a boy. And then another one of the ladies ended up with a girl. And it wasn’t just these ladies either. It was half my friends on Facebook. Everyone started having babies, except for this one friend of mine. She and her husband wanted a child. And they had tried everything for years, and nothing worked. We kept praying and praying and praying, but nothing changed.

Whenever we would talk about it, I just kept encouraging her to wait. And I hated that answer, because that was the answer I kept getting too. Not waiting for a baby but waiting for things I want out of life. I’ve been so frustrated with God at times because He doesn’t work on my timetable. I want Him to give me the things I want when I want them. And it’s in those moments that I forget who He is and treat Him like a genie in a lamp, my personal wish granter. And that’s not God.

I remember a particularly difficult day I had during that time. I was just so tired of waiting for what I wanted. And when I get down—really really down—I usually just grab my Bible and start reading Psalms. Psalms always cheer me up. But the Psalms weren’t doing the trick this one night. They just didn’t resonate like they usually did.

So I decided that because I was in such a mournful mood that maybe I should read Lamentations. After all, it doesn’t get much worse than Lamentations, right? I thought it in jest, but now I’m glad I did because I found a passage that changed the way I look at prayer and God’s timing.

Lamentations 3:21-26, 31-33

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. … For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

I don’t like waiting. I want what I want, and I want it now. I think I’m ready for it, but most of the time, I’m not. If God gave me my way and let me have what I wanted, the weight and responsibility of it would crush me like a bug. He knows how much I can handle. He knows what I can take. There’s a reason why He’s withholding the things I want, and it’s not to hurt me or cause me pain.

I don’t know better than He does.

Waiting stinks, but there’s always a reason for it. Maybe you need to grow. Maybe someone else needs to grow. Maybe circumstances or seasons need to change. Whatever it is, God knows, and He’s not going to interrupt His great plan to grant us our good request. But eventually, He will answer. And when He does, the fulfillment of that prayer will be better than you ever expected.

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

I spent my lunch break yesterday at the hospital with a 7-pound, 7-ounce little girl who most of us had given up hope would ever exist. She was born June 10 at 10pm. And if God had given into our requests and allowed her to be born four years ago, I don’t think the world would have been ready for this little miracle bundle of crazy.

So if you’ve asked God for something, if you’re waiting on God to answer you, don’t give up. He’s not ignoring you. He’s not trying to hurt you. He’s not testing your patience. He’s waiting for the right time to give you more than what you asked for.

He won’t answer when you want Him to. He’ll answer when it’s time.

When God doesn’t give us what we want

Why is it when we don’t get what we want when we want it we lose our patience with God? Why is that? Are we just impatient people? I know that’s the case with me. In my mind, if God has promised to give me something, there shouldn’t be a waiting period.

And when God doesn’t give us what we want when we want it, we start thinking that He doesn’t care. And that He’s a liar. Because there are so many verses all throughout the Bible that talk about how God provides and how God gives good gifts to His children.

Like today’s verse. Today’s verse is Romans 8:32.

32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

Well, if you read the entirety of Romans 8, you’ll see just what God has given us. He’s given us His Spirit to help us survive this broken, messed up world. He’s given us hope. He’s given us love. And He’s given us a family–a relationship with Him and with other people who believe in Him. And when the end comes, we will go to be with Him face-to-face.

Jesus is God’s most precious gift, and He gave us Jesus. It was God who sent Jesus to the cross for us. It was God who punished Him for our sins.

So if God was willing to sacrifice what was most precious to Him–why wouldn’t He give us anything else? Especially if we’re being careful to do what He’s asked us. Yet time and time again, when He calls us to go somewhere and we ask Him for something, many times He doesn’t give it to us.

So why?

And I’m not even talking about things that are bad for us. These are things that would help us. Financial support. Good health. Supportive friendships. Food to eat. Why wouldn’t He allow us to have those things if we are doing what He’s asked us to do?

It’s a good question.

But then, here’s another good question. Would you give a loaded gun to a three year old? Or would you give a child some powerful medication and expect him to know when to take it and how much to take? Would you let a five year old drive your car alone? 

Those are all facetious, of course. Any thinking adult wouldn’t put that kind of responsibility on a child. Guns and medication and cars can all be used for good, but you have to know how to use them. And children don’t necessarily understand that. And if you don’t know how to use those good things, they can cause bad things to happen.

And I personally believe that is the reason God doesn’t always give us what we ask for. He could definitely do it. But what would happen if He gave us the things we wanted when we wanted them? It would be too much. And we wouldn’t know how to use what He’s given, and it would overwhelm us.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve wanted some things that wouldn’t have been good for me. I’ve wanted some things that would have made me leave the path He put me on. I wanted some things that if He had given them to me, I might have left Him.

But I also want some things that would bring honor and glory to God. I want some things that definitely won’t make me rich but have the possibility to lead more people to Christ. So why is He waiting to give me these things?

The only explanation is that I’m not ready. Or the time isn’t right. Or He still has some work to do on what I want.

I don’t know why we weak, puny humans have the idea that we know what’s best for us. It’s probably pride. Maybe misguided spirituality. Usually religion. In any case, it comes down to whether or not was trust God to do what is best.

God didn’t spare even His own Son. So of cousre, He’s going to give us everything. But it will be in God’s timing and not our own. And isn’t that better? I mean, after all, His timing is perfect because time means nothing to Him. He knows what’s coming. He knows what’s been. He knows what is. So isn’t it better to trust He really does know what He’s doing?

So if you’re waiting for God to give you something, don’t lose hope. And don’t be impatient. Because when God does decide the time is right, you’ll get everything you’ve asked for and more. So much more than you can imagine. And it will mean so much more to you because ten years later you’ll be able to look back and see why God did things the way He did. And you’ll be thankful you didn’t give up.

Ask and you shall receive . . . but when?

Do you ever get upset because God doesn’t give you what you ask for? I do. There have been many times when I’ve asked Him for something specifically that He didn’t provide for me, whether it was financial or emotional or family-related or whatever. It just seemed entirely unfair because there are so many verses in the Bible that say that all we have to do is ask Him and He’ll give it to us.

So I have struggled with that sometimes because when I want something, I want it right away. But that’s usually not how God works. And, in all honesty, I’m glad. Getting older has given me some perspective, I think. And knowing what I know now, if God had given me the things I wanted when I was younger, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have learned anything about life.

A good example is my manuscript writing. I wanted to get my first real manuscript published so badly. I don’t even think I can explain how badly I wanted it to see print. The first conference I took it to–the first editor I took it to–was about five years ago, and I had a really good chance. I gave it to an editor. He loved it. He started pitching it to his company to publish. I was on top of the world.

But it fell through. It’s a long, complicated story, so let’s just say it didn’t happen.

And I was upset. Majorly.

Looking back on that now, if that manuscript had hit print five years ago? Wow. That would have been awful. Becuase that manuscript was terrible five years ago. I’ve had five years to refine it, chisel away the bad spots, and accentuate the true message behind the story. So now it’s actually ready to go to print, unlike five years ago when it was a shell of itself.

Another example is my job. I wanted to write. I’ve always wanted to write for a living, but when I graduated from college, there wasn’t a writing job in Wichita. Anywhere. I was extremely disappointed. I kept looking for months, working as a temporary secretary, working as a sign language interpreter, doing anything I could find until I finally landed at the WSU Libraries. I was way over qualified for what I was doing, but I loved the people and the work was fun (I got to work with books all day; it was extraordinary). But it wasn’t what I had wanted to do. I wanted to write.

But what I learned at WSU Libraries opened the door for me to get the job I have now — a writing job. And looking back now I know without any doubt that I couldn’t have made it at Viega without knowing what I learned at WSU.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I asked God for something, He really did give it to me. It just wasn’t in the time that I wanted it.

Today’s verse is 1 John 5:14-15

14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

 God hears us when we ask Him for things. And He doesn’t refuse to give us what we ask for out of spite or malice. But think about a parent with a child. Does a parent give a child something bad that will hurt the child? No. The child needs to ask for the things that will benefit him before the parent can even consider giving it to him.

I think that’s the first mistake we make. We ask God for things that don’t really help us, and they we get angry when He won’t give them to us.

But if we ask Him for things that are good, things that are eternal, things we can use to build our relationship with Him and with others, God will give them to us. But He may not give them to us exactly when we want them.

He may give us what we ask for right that instant when we would have preferred He wait ten years, when we’re not prepared for it, when we don’t know what to do with it. Or He may wait ten years when we would have preferred to have it right away. You never know what God is going to do, and that is the point of His being God.

But you can know that if you’ve asked God for something that pleases Him, you will receive it. And if you haven’t received it yet, it just means it isn’t time.

I have no doubt that my manuscript will be published someday. I didn’t write it for me. I wrote it for Him. So right now I’m just waiting for God to open the right door so that it will be possible. When He does, I’ll know it’s the perfect time for it.

So be careful what you ask for. What you ask for, you’ll receive. It just won’t be when you expect it.