How a blanket reminded me that God’s way is always better

We’re getting ready for a new resident at Safe Haven Farm. I haven’t really said too much about it because I wasn’t sure how everything was going to work out, but because of some visa issues, my best friend who has been living in England for 2.5 years is coming back to Kansas. And we’re super excited that she’s going to be moving in here at the farm! But I can’t give her back her old room from the six months she lived here during her last furlough. That room has since been converted into an office and shipping area for my crazy book business, so the only room I’ve got for her is–get ready for it–my old closet.

Now, truth be told, the closets here at the farm are pretty massive. I’ve had a guest room in one for the last few months, and it works just fine. So she’ll have plenty of room. My only concern is the fact that the second floor of the farm still has no heat or air conditioning, and the winter months are coming. It gets freakin’ cold up here. I acclimate really fast, and I’m super hot blooded, so it doesn’t bother me. But I wanted to make sure that my friend wouldn’t freeze to death.

My plan was to buy a little infrared heater and an electric blanket for her room, but there was just a tiny little problem. I don’t have a steady paycheck anymore, and I don’t just have $50 laying around that I can invest in heaters or electric blankets. And, good grief, electric blankets are pricey!

But God’s been teaching me a lot about trusting him over the past 10 months or so. In the past, I would have just rushed out and purchased what I needed, but this time, I wanted to leave it up to Him. So that’s what I did.

Shortly thereafter, I found a cute little electric heater on sale for $10 at Wal-Mart, and it’s perfect. And yesterday as I was cleaning out another closet that my friend can use for storage and clothing, you’ll never guess what I found. That’s right–a practically new twin-size electric blanket. We didn’t even know we had it. It’s just been sitting in a pile of plastic bags in this old closet upstairs for who knows how long.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a miracle of provision to anyone else, and that’s fine. But it’s exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And I walked around all day long yesterday just grinning ear to ear because God took care of a need, and I didn’t have to do anything about it. And that, Christians, is exactly how we’re supposed to live.

The second floor guest bedroom (aka my old closet) at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The second floor guest bedroom (aka my old closet) at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:19.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Over and over and over again, the Bible tells us that God will provide for us. Over and over and over again, I experience His blessings on a daily basis, but there’s something in my brain that keeps me from grasping that He isn’t going to stop providing for me. There’s this idea in my head that tells me one day He won’t come through, one day He’ll realize that I’m not worth His time.

I’ve given God every reason to give up on me. He knows my heart. He knows how screwed up I get sometimes. He knows that I struggle to trust Him. And if He hasn’t given up on me yet, He isn’t going to.

But I think we look at God’s provision with a skewed perspective. It’s not wrong to ask God for what we need. It’s not even wrong to ask God for what we want. But where is your heart when you ask Him for something? If you ask God for something and He doesn’t deliver, do you get upset? Do you take it out on Him? Do you walk away from Him because you think He’s a liar or a trickster?

If that’s your response when God doesn’t give you your way, your heart isn’t in the right place about what you’re asking for.

God has promised to provide everything we need, and He always keeps His promises. I needed a heater and an electric blanket, and I decided to sit back and let Him provide them instead of rushing out ahead of Him to get them myself. And He came through. And if He can come through so perfectly on something like this, He’ll absolutely come through on the bigger things. I just have to have the same faith and patience about the big issues in life as I do about the small issues.

What are you asking God for today? Or have you asked Him for something and then turned away from Him because He didn’t give you what you wanted? Don’t walk away because you didn’t get your way. His way is always better.

This world isn’t supposed to work

Most days, living is a privilege. Being alive is a gift. But I’m fully aware how blessed I am, and that not everyone can agree on whether life is a blessing or a curse. At least, as far as this life is concerned. A lot of it depends on your perspective.

But something I’ve learned through the years of following Christ is that we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Whether life is fun or not, whether it’s joyous or not, life here isn’t permanent. None of us are staying. I’m not home yet, and neither are you.

dawn-landscape-sky-sunset_1540x1004Today’s verses are Hebrews 11:13-18.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

How many millions and billions of people have died before us? How many people went into eternity before we were even born? The world may have 6 or 7 billion people living on it now, but other people pre-dated us. And the Bible says none of them have ceased to exist. They’ve continued to “live” but their mailing address has changed to one of two places.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is a beautiful tribute to many of the Bible legends we’ve grown up with. It’s a fast, awesome read, and I highly recommend it. And it points out a number of really important facts about the Christ-followers who preceded us.

None of them got to see the answer to God’s promises while they were alive on Earth. They lived their lives for Him, and He took care of them. He guided them. He was their friend. But in this life, they didn’t get to experience what God has promised.

Hebrews 11 is a tribute to Old Testament heroes. We could write a similar tribute to the heroes of the New Testament, and their story would be the same. They followed God with everything they had. Some gave their lives. But they didn’t get to experience all that God promised while they were walking on the Earth.

The same is true for heroes in other time periods too. And if the Lord continues to be patient with our world, it’s the story others will tell about Christ-followers of my generation. We followed Christ, but we didn’t get to see all of His promises fulfilled.

So here’s the question: Do you only do something right because you’ll be reward for it? Do you only maintain a relationship for what you can get out of it? Or is it enough to know what what you’re doing is right and that you get to play a role in a bigger story?

Don’t be frustrated when life doesn’t work out the way you want. Things in this world aren’t supposed to work. It’s broken, remember? And don’t even be frustrated when God’s plan doesn’t go the way you expect. He knows what He’s doing.

God has made promises. And, make no mistake, He’ll keep them all. But as a Christ-follower, we have to willing to accept that we may not see them while we’re alive on Earth. What’s great, though, is that we will see them. We just need to remember that this life isn’t about us and what we want. This life is about Jesus. Sort of like how eternity is about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. So make your life about Him and watch what happens.

Your actions speak louder than your promises

You’ve seen the character in movies and television–that overworked parent who makes a promise to be at a child’s sports event and then isn’t able to make it for some reason. In that situation, we feel bad for the child because that horrible grownup broke his or her promise. How dare they make a promise they couldn’t keep to that poor child?

Right? That’s usually the way that type of character is portrayed. But if you’re the adult watching that, you tend to identify with the parent. I mean, you’re busy working, trying to make ends meet in a financial environment that seems dead set against your success. And a kid isn’t going to understand that.

So grownups understand. Sometimes you have to break your promises. It’s part of being an adult.

Close up of crossed fingers behind a woman's back

Close up of crossed fingers behind a woman’s back

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:33-37.

“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

God takes promises seriously, and so does Jesus. That’s one thing we should always remember about them. When God–and by extension, Jesus–makes a promise, He will always always keep it. He may not keep it in the time we want Him to, but He will always honor His word, regardless of whether we deserve it or not (and we never deserve it, by the way).

But what about promises we make to God?

This passage was talking about a group of people during that time who would make sacred vows and then treat them casually. They would make a somber promise to God and then treat it as though it didn’t matter. They’d break their word at the drop of a hat, and Jesus wanted them to know that it wasn’t acceptable. A promise to God should never be treated lightly, just like a promise in general should never be easy to dismiss.

People are good at rationalizing, remember? We can talk ourselves into and out of just about anything, and we can come up with dozens of reasons that explain why it’s okay to break our promises. But just because we can explain why doesn’t excuse it.

Why are promises so important? Well, they’re a measure of the kind of person you are. When the going gets tough and life gets hard, do you change your mind about honoring your word? See, making promises is easy; keeping them is the hard part. And it’s the choices we make when life gets difficult that show others who we truly are.

Jesus lived a life that didn’t need vows. If He said He would do something, He did it. And that’s the life we need to live. Our word alone should be sufficient that we’ll do what we’ve said (James 5:12).

So the next time you’re trying to impress someone, don’t make idle promises that don’t mean anything to you. Just say yes or no and stick to it. Let your actions speak louder than your words.

Relying on our insecurities will never make us strong

Everyone in insecure about something. Some people are insecure about getting up in front of people. Other people are insecure when they deal with numbers. Others are insecure about dealing with people.

You can be the most talented person in the world, but when you are faced with the one topic you are insecure about, you’ll shut down.

Regardless of what you’re insecure about, when you’re thinking about it calmly, you recognize that your insecurity is a weakness. It’s an area where you need to be stronger. You know that. But in the heat of the moment, when you are faced with a situation that frightens you or when you have to make a snap decision, it’s easy to fall back on what we know, and the one thing we all know is our own insecurities.

But insecurities make us feel not secure. That’s why they’re called insecurities! And maybe it’s comfortable to fall back on them, but what if you had something stronger to hold on to instead? Wouldn’t that be a better idea?

InsecureTurtleToday’s verses are 2 Peter 1:3-4.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

God has given us all a list of promises miles and miles long. God has made so many promises that we don’t have time to talk about them all. And, what’s awesome, is that He’s kept all of the promises that He’s made.

He always keeps His promises. That’s who He is.

So instead of falling back on your insecurities, what about trying to fall back on God’s promises instead? It sounds like it should be easy to do, but it’s a difficult habit to get into, especially when you’re accustomed to relying on your own strength.

How do you live by God’s promises? Or, as the Bible says in the next verse after these, respond to God’s promises? That part is easy in theory. It means you put weight to what God’s said. It means you put your money where your mouth is. It means you take God at His Word.

Example? God has promised that if you give to His work (i.e. tithe) that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings so numerous you won’t be able to contain them all (Malachi 3:10). This is a promise. And to take God at His Word, that would mean you would start giving to God, whether you think you have the finances to give or not. And then you just trust that God will provide for you.

That’s all there is to it. You live life trusting that God will do what He says He’ll do. You make decisions based on what God has promised to do for you.

I don’t like speaking in front of people. I despise getting up and talking in front of crowds. But it’s part of this career path God has me on right now. I don’t like it because I can’t always think of the right things to say, and I’m terrified that I will come off looking like a fool. I get so scared that I will be a poor representation of Christ because I babble like an idiot. But God has promised before that He will give His children the words they need to say when they need them.

So when it comes down to the choice of speaking in front of a group or not, what do I do? If I’m going to fall back on what’s familiar, I’ll lean on my insecurities. Those insecurities tell me I’m a horrible speaker, that I’ll say stupid things, that I’ll make mistakes and confuse people. Those are my insecurities. And they’re not helpful.

But if I choose to believe God’s promise, I’ll get up in front of people and God will help me. He’ll give me the strength to face my fears, and He’ll give me the words to speak when I need them.

See the difference?

So what decision are you facing today? Are you leaning on what your insecurities are telling you about yourself? Or are you thinking about what God has promised you instead? If you’re cowering in fear, I guarantee, it’s not God you’re listening to.

Hold on to God’s promises. He always keeps them. Trusting your insecurities will only leave you insecure and unfulfilled. Which choice do you think is better?

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.

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.

Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

It’s not about the carrot

When I was very young, I started playing a computer game with my dad and my brother called King’s Quest. Amazing game. It required thinking skills and reasoning skills and the ability to type fairly fast. You moved your character with the arrow keys and typed instructions. Anything you wanted your character to do, you had to type it. Move rock. Pick up dagger. Swim. Jump. Play fiddle.

And there was one part in the first King’s Quest where you had to convince a goat to butt a troll off a bridge so you could answer Rumpelstiltskin’s riddle and get the beans to grow a beanstalk. (Nope. Not making it up.) The thing about the goat was that it wouldn’t follow you just because. You had to give it a reason to leave its pen, and that reason was a carrot you pluck out of the king’s garden.

So what on earth does that have to do with anything?

Well, if your Christian experience is anything like mine, then you’ve probably encountered some disappointments along the way. Am I wrong? You’ve chosen a path and walked down it faithfully, fully expecting God to turn up and work miracles as you go, and He doesn’t. Or you sacrifice and give up your dreams to pursue a course you think God has laid out for you, and you encounter nothing but difficulty every day until you finally have to turn around and go back to where you started.

What is that? Why is that? Does that mean God is unreliable? Does that mean God just lures us along and is waiting for the opportunity to pounce on us or use us? Are we just the goats and God’s promises are the carrots?

Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Screenshot from King’s Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

It’s not wrong to ask questions. Let’s get that straight before we go any farther. God wants us to ask questions. He wants us to be wise about our choices, and you can’t really be wise until you are brave enough to question what everyone tells you is true. Wisdom begins by understanding who God is and learning that it’s His opinion and His Word that matters. No one else’s.

But my goodness, it gets frustrating sometimes. I’m just being honest here. Sometimes I wish God would just tell me what He wants me to do. Or if He won’t do that, I want some kind of confirmation that I’m doing the right thing–a confirmation that sticks around instead of popping up momentarily and then vanishing without a trace.

But that’s what happens when you rely on signs and symbols. That’s what happens when you go looking for carrots.

Now it’s not wrong to look for signs. It’s not wrong to look for incentives. There are many times throughout Scripture where God says that He’ll bless us if we do something. But there seems to be an idea among Christians that faith is generally incentivized. We’re supposed to take great leaps of faith because God will reward us financially or in some other quantifiable, measurable return. And I’m not saying that’s not true. But should we be doing God’s work for the sole purpose of a return on our investment? Should we obey God merely because we want to get something out of the deal? Or should we do what God tells us to do because He told us to do it?

Hey, Christian, did you know that if you give to God, He’ll give back to you? Hey, Christian, did you know that if you live by what the Bible says, God will bless you? Maybe it starts with incentive, but it doesn’t end there. Maybe God does offer us incentives, but following Christ isn’t about what we can get out of it. It’s not about the incentives. Just like the game. It’s not about the carrot; it’s about who’s offering the carrot. It’s about getting the goat to fulfill a greater purpose than just hanging around in a pen for the rest of its life.

The irony of the game is that after the goat beats the troll, it wanders off on its own. The goat gets to go roam free and find new adventures of its own. It doesn’t care about the carrot anymore. The carrot doesn’t matter anymore because it was never about the carrot anyway. The carrot was just an opportunity.

The incentives God offers us aren’t the point. God is the point, and God can be trusted. His promises aren’t flights of fancy or caprice that He forgets whenever it suits Him. No, when He makes a promise, we can trust that He will keep it.

So what incentive are you grasping at today? Are you sure you’re focusing on the right thing? Are you obeying God just so you can get something out of it? Not saying that’s bad or even wrong, but have you considered maybe forgetting the incentive and just doing it because God asked you to do it? Stop worrying about what you’re going to get out of it and just walk with God.

Get out of the pen, whether there’s a carrot involved or not. You won’t regret it.