I’m like a little child who doesn’t know the way

I have to be creative when I work. It’s in my job description. Part of being a writer (some people would call it being an artist) is making stuff up. You have to be really good at creating imaginary scenarios with imaginary people, which is all just in your head but real enough that others would believe it’s true if you told them.

The downside at being really good at making stuff up is that sometimes people think you really know what you’re doing. And to a certain extent, it’s true. You use experiences you’ve learned from other people and other situations, and you apply it to your current circumstance. It’s not rocket science. But what happens when you run into a situation that you can’t fabricate an answer for? What happens when you barrel headlong into something you don’t know how to get out of? What happens when you’re so buried in life’s troubles that you can’t even pretend you know what to do anymore?

It can be nice to be the person in the room with the answers, sure. But there’s a certain amount of freedom in being able to admit that you haven’t got a clue.

C52A64EA10_1505x1004Today’s verses are 1 Kings 3:7-9.

Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?

Solomon, the son of David, is one of the best-known kings of Israel. Israel experienced an unprecedented time of wealth and prosperity during Solomon’s reign. But that didn’t happen because Solomon was a great businessman. No, early on in his kingship, Solomon and God had a chat, and God gave Solomon the choice between material possessions and wisdom. And this was Solomon’s response.

We lose something from the original language. There’s always something lost in translation. That phrase, “I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around” is what I want to key into this morning.

This was Solomon. The King of Israel. The Son of David. He was rich and powerful and successful, yet in speaking to God, Solomon had no problem admitting he didn’t know jack. That’s what that means, you understand. Solomon was calling himself a baby. In some translations, it says Solomon compared himself to an infant that didn’t even know how to enter a room.

Compared to God, Solomon knew he knew nothing. And by demonstrating this kind of humility, God blessed him immeasurably.

When life get tough and surrounds me with trouble, my first response is to shake it off. I don’t want people worrying about me or fussing over me. I usually just want to be left alone so that I can puzzle through the situation on my own. I’ve heard enough stories, I know enough Scripture, and I’ve had enough wise council in my life to get me through just about anything–or so I thought.

God likes to keep me humble. So He’ll let things come at me that I have no idea how to handle. And I flail around ridiculously for a while until I finally break down and ask for help, like I should have done first. But I don’t like admitting I have no answers. I don’t like being the person who stares blankly at a hurting friend’s face and has nothing helpful to say. I may not like it, but it’s the truth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t always know what to say.

You’d think that by now, after all these years following the Lord, I wouldn’t need Him as much. You’d think I could stand on my own by now. But that’s not the case. I need Him more now than I did as a child, because I’ve come to understand just how big the world is and just how little I really know about any of it.

Are you feeling lost today, trapped in a situation you can’t find answers for? Are you flailing around trying to fix an impossible circumstance, doing the best you can with what you have and utterly failing? Have you hurt someone else? Have you screwed up big time? Join the club.

Just know you aren’t supposed to have all the answers. That’s God’s job. Your job is to ask God for help, to listen to His answers, and put them into practice.

You don’t have to know everything. Isn’t that a relief? Isn’t that a weight off your shoulders? You simply can’t have the answers to all of life’s problems. It’s too big for you. But it’s not too big for God, and if you believe in Jesus, you have free access to God’s ear, to God’s wisdom, and to God’s strength.

Don’t be afraid, even if you can’t see what’s coming

We’ve got a new batch of kittens at Safe Haven Farm–seven of them! And other than several of them having some issues with runny eyes, they’re all healthy and hilarious. Yesterday I went out to play with them, and I had to laugh. It was a particularly windy day, and every time a gust of wind would come along, all seven would scurry into the shadows of the garage again. When the wind would stop blowing, they’d creep out to play some more, until the wind gusted again. Then they’d scatter.

Being afraid of the wind in Kansas is going to limit their experiences, because it’s always windy here. Eventually they’ll learn not to run in fear when the wind blows, but I couldn’t help but think about how strange it must be. If you’d never felt wind before, it would be pretty scary. You can’t see it, but it can knock you clean over if you aren’t paying attention.

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 3:22.

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

When the children of Israel were preparing to go into the land God had promised them, after they’d been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God turned command of the army over to Joshua. Moses had done his job. And this was one of the messages God left with him: that the people shouldn’t be afraid of what they would encounter on the other side of the Jordan River because God would be there fighting for them.

And that’s a promise God kept over and over again.

We all face moments in our lives when we’re uncertain about what’s coming. In those moments, I always feel like I have some invisible enemy that’s going to sneak up on me when I least expect it. None of us knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s difficult to face a day sometimes when you don’t know where you’ll be at the end of it. Some people don’t know if they’ll still have a bed to sleep in. Some people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.

None of us know what’s coming. Like the Children of Israel who’d never seen the land they were going into, we face troubles and frustrations on a daily basis that go above our heads. There are circumstances and situations that we’re not prepared for. There are confrontations and accusations we have to face that we don’t know how to respond to.

It’s all unknown and uncertain, and there’s nothing more terrifying than the unknown. But what God told the Children of Israel back then is the same thing He’s saying to us know. You may not know what’s coming, but He does. And He isn’t passively sitting on the sidelines judging our performance. God is actively involved in our lives and in our world, and He will fight for us.

Granted, if you want God to fight for you, you need to be on His side, which means you need to be doing what He says is right. If you’re there, then you have nothing to fear. If you’re not there? You might want to think about getting there.

Just because I can’t see what’s coming doesn’t mean I should fear it. Most of my future is completely uncertain, but I will choose not to be afraid for one reason and one reason alone–my God is certain. I belong to Him, and He will fight my battles for me.

The size of your trouble doesn’t matter

A few days ago, the lightning woke me up. It was a storm of epic proportions bearing down on my house, driving rain, ferocious wind, and the storm system on the map was all sorts of red and yellow. But because of the crazy winds, the storm was moving fast. No warnings had been issued. No alarms were going off. As near as anyone could tell, it was just a thunderstorm. And moving as quickly as it was, it would blow itself out soon enough. So what did I do? I went back upstairs and went back to sleep.

You learn to read a weather map at a young age in Kansas. You figure out really quickly where your city is on the map too, so when you watch the riotous march of primary colors that represent a storm system on the television screen, you know just where your house is in relation to the storm. You know how bad it’s going to be. And you know if you have time to run out and take photos before the hail tries to give you a concussion (then you decide whether or not the concussion is worth it).

I’ve ridden out crazy storms in this old house of mine, alone and with family. I’ve experienced the scary storms, and I knew just by looking that the most recent storm wouldn’t be much trouble. And it’s that kind of perspective that we need arm ourselves with as we face the trouble in our lives every morning.

DC6TBI9X7JToday’s verses are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Life is full of trouble, but if you can keep it in perspective, it won’t feel so overwhelming. The thing about trouble, though, is that is tends to gang up on you. It’s not just one problem. It’s usually three or four or maybe more, all at once in varying levels of trauma or frustration. But when you run into trouble (or when it finds you), give yourself permission to stop for a moment and think.

I guarantee this isn’t the first trouble you’ve experienced in your life, and it won’t be the last either. But it may not be the worst.

Either way, the size of your trouble doesn’t really matter. If you get right down to it, your trouble is too much for you anyway. Like the storm, it’s not how big it is. It’s how fast it’s moving.

Time is a tough concept to understand sometimes, especially as a Christ-follower. We’re going to live forever. Forever. That’s longer than a long time. That’s forever! Do we get that? I don’t think I do. My soul may be wired for eternity, but my brain isn’t. My brain is still in the here and now, but who I am as a person will live long past the expiration date on this old asthmatic tent I’m living in right now.

So what’s a day or two of trouble? Heck, what’s a year or two? Maybe you’re not comfortable right now. Maybe you’re going through a storm. And believe me, I know that’s not fun. Storms are wet and windy. Sometimes you get hailed on. There are scary moments. And there are moments when you think it’s going to get better and then all of a sudden it just gets worse. But that’s the nature of a storm, and storms don’t last very long.

Life’s no different. And neither is following Jesus.

So what trouble are you facing today that’s got you down? What difficulty is in your path that you’re afraid you can’t overcome? Don’t you know who’s on your side? The God of the Universe. The Creator of All Things. Better known as Abba Father, who is reaching out to offer you His personal help.

Storms get worse often before they get better, but that just means they’re moving. So just be still and let them blow around you. God will give you the strength to stand your ground until it’s over, and then He’ll give you the wisdom you need to move forward.

Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commons

That I might not be silent

 

Life is one big balancing act sometimes, where you have to figure out how to take the good and the bad. And sometimes you run into situations where you’re powerless to help. There are some things in life that you can’t fix. Eventually, we all have to face the reality that life is more than we can handle alone.

And that’s where God comes in. With God, we can face any challenge, conquer any enemy, and win any battle. Maybe some days it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s the truth. And when we know we have God on our side, we can stand up to the troubles of the world with our head held high, and we can laugh–genuinely laugh and honestly rejoice–in the face of darkness. Because we have faith that God will bring us through.

So throw off that robe of mourning. Yes, there’s a time for it, but that time will eventually pass. Abandon that hiding place where you’ve taken refuge to recover from your wounds. There’s a time to rest, but that time passes too.

It’s time to get back to what we were made for. Forget the quiet. Let’s get loud. Let’s remind the world who Jesus is and what He’s done for us–and what He will do.

Psalm 30

Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commonsI will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.

You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Remember the God who’s on your side

I don’t do this very often, but this morning I just needed to be reminded who God is and what He has promised to those who follow Him. And all I could think about was Psalm 91. I know I posted on it earlier this week, but reading the whole thing this morning really lifted my spirits.

I hope that if you’re in a place right now where you’re facing fear or challenges or a situation that seems hopeless, that you’ll remember the God who’s on your side. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Psalm 91

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

The kitchen counter at Safe Haven Farm after a week (or two or three), Haven, KS

Facing anxieties like ripping off a band-aid

I am a procrastinator, at least when it comes to things I don’t want to do. If it’s something I’m passionate about, I’ll jump up and do it right away, with zeal! But if it’s something I don’t really have interest in doing anyway? Well, it can wait until later. After all, I don’t really need it right now, do I? It’s not important, right?

Wrong. It may not be important now, but it will be important later. And later, when you have run out of time to do a good job on it, you’ll be wishing for the time you wasted back again.

Why is it so easy to procrastinate? I know I’m not the only one out there, and it confuses me. Because I’m a rational person. Some might even call me a wise person. But still–even though I know the consequences–I would often rather face the consequences and do what I want instead of doing what I should do.

It irritates me. But I guess it doesn’t irritate me enough to change. Take my dishes for example (please, take them). If you’ve been reading my posts for a long time, you’ll remember a few other times that I’ve posted about my amazing, alarming stacks of dishes that pile up. It’s not that I don’t like doing dishes. It’s just that there are other more important things to spend my time on. Dirty dishes don’t bother me. They only bother me when I know people are coming over and I know a countertop overflowing with dirty dishes will make me look irresponsible. Then I care about my dishes, and then I spring into action. Of course, it takes ten times longer than it would have if I just did them earlier.

The kitchen counter at Safe Haven Farm after a week (or two or three), Haven, KS

The kitchen counter at Safe Haven Farm after a week (or two or three), Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 12:11.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Living a disciplined life isn’t easy, and there never seems to be an end to it. Because the moment you conquer one aspect of your life and bring it under control, another area seems to let go. Living a disciplined life feels like trying to hold on to sand. The more you grab, the more keeps slipping through your fingers. You bring one area of your life under control, but when you let go of it to seize another area, you lose your grip.

The trick is finding the balancing point, where you are able to live and live well according to how God would want. But you won’t get there overnight. And the journey isn’t easy. And I can guarantee you’ll never get there if you procrastinate.

For me, it’s convincing myself that acting immediately is better than acting later. That requires a change of thinking. But how do you do that? I’m still trying to work it out, but I can tell you that my main reason for procrastination is anxiety.

When I’m facing a challenge that seems completely out of my control, the last thing I want to do is jump in with both feet, especially if I’m on my own. No, I back off and let everything settle. I let myself calm down, first, because jumping in unprepared rattles me, and I can’t recover when I’m challenged. But once I’ve backed off, it’s much easier to keep backing off. It’s much easier to find something more important (or more urgent) to focus on instead of doing what I should be doing, and I rationalize it telling myself that I’m not ready or that I’m not qualified enough.

Lies. Lies that spring from anxiety and insecurity. None of which comes from God .

Facing challenges is so much better if you treat them like a band-aid. Don’t just pick at it. Rip it off. Get it over with. The sooner you get over the pain, the sooner you can get on with life. And if we could look at our uncomfortable life situations that way too, I think we’d all be a lot happier and a lot less stressed. Because that’s ultimately what procrastination leads to. Stress, stress, and more stress, and eventually a poor job done because you didn’t give yourself enough time to do a good job.

Learn to be disciplined enough to shut out those anxious lying whispers when you’re faced with a challenge that scares you. No, don’t be foolish. Don’t just jump into something that you can’t handle. But don’t run away from it either, especially if it’s something you have to do, for work or for ministry or whatever.

Discipline is hard work, but if you can learn it, if you can live with it, if you can figure out a way to integrate it into your life, life itself will get a lot better, and you’ll reap the rewards of it.

So how do you do it? Well, it starts with knowing what the right thing to do is. Know what you’re supposed to do and then choose to do it. It’s that simple.

No. Not easy. It will take time and sacrifice and dedication and commitment. But the choice to act is ultimately simple, and the satisfaction you’ll feel once you’re finished will be worth it.

So why are you wavering between choosing to act or choosing to retreat? You know what you’re supposed to do. So do it.

Now.

A boat on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Galveston, TX

God’s truth is our anchor in life

Why do ships need anchors? I’m not a boating expert at all, but I would assume everyone knows why. When a ship wants to stop and not move any further along its course, it has to drop its anchor so the water won’t carry it away.

Water never stops moving, and it’s teeming with all sorts of invisible currents. The water you touch at one moment is completely different from the water you touch the next. It’s always moving and shifting, and it carries everything that isn’t weighed down along for the ride. So if a ship doesn’t want to move, it has to drop an anchor that will keep it in place.

Have you ever thought that life is a little like that? Life never stops moving. It’s full of invisible forces you don’t always understand that are pulling you along whether you want to go or not, and if you don’t have something to hold you down, you’ll be swept away.

A boat on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Galveston, TX

A boat on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Hebrews 2:1.

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.

I don’t know why people struggle with truth so much. Maybe it’s because we really can’t wrap our minds around the concept of an absolute. We really can’t. We are eternal beings, but since we haven’t experienced an absolute eternity yet, we can’t understand what it will be like. So when it comes to absolutes like truth, we can try our hardest but I’m not sure we’ll actually understand it like we understand other things. Like the way language works or like the way an engine works.

But even if we can’t understand truth on the same level that God does, we can still recognize it. You know the truth when you hear it, especially if you are a Christ-follower and you have the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart. The Bible is true, and God gave it to us so we’d know how to live.

So why is it so difficult?

Well, how good a listener are you? I’m not as good as I could be. Did you ever take those standardized tests that measured your listening as a child? I don’t remember what my score was, but those tests were hard. You couldn’t necessarily trust what you saw on the page, and you had to listen to what the teacher said if you wanted a passing grade.

Funny how similar life can be to tests, isn’t it?

Just because you see something or hear something that you think is a good idea doesn’t make it right or true. You have to compare it to what God says, because what God says is always right and true. We have to remember. We have to pay attention. We have to listen.

God’s way, the right and true way, will act like an anchor in our lives. When this broken world and all its problems try to sweep us away, the truth will help us stand.

So know what God says. Listen to what He says. And do it. If you don’t, the storms of life will blow you down. Sure, the storms of life may still beat you up a bit, but when they blow themselves out you’ll still be standing.