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.

Buckingham Palace just before the changing of the guard, London, England, UK

God’s never late, we’re just impatient

I want things done when I want them done. When I’m ready for something to happen, I want it now. I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to be patient. And the last thing I want to do is to sit back and let God take care of it. Why? Because His timetable absolutely runs too slow for me.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned–or maybe relearned–in the last six months it’s that God’s timing is truly perfect. I know I’ve posted about it before. It seems to be a reminder I get frequently, but maybe that’s because I need it frequently.

Buckingham Palace just before the changing of the guard, London, England, UK

Buckingham Palace just before the changing of the guard, London, England, UK

Today’s verses are Habakkuk 2:2-3.

Then the Lord said to me,
“Write my answer plainly on tablets,
    so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.
This vision is for a future time.
    It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
    for it will surely take place.
    It will not be delayed.

Yesterday morning I watched my best friend hike up the ramp to the security line at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport where she would board a flight that would ultimately end in Manchester, England around 2:30 a.m. this morning (US Central time). It was the day I’d been anticipating (with equal parts dread and excitement) since January. I knew she was leaving, but neither of us were really sure when. We were both waiting to see when God would give the go-ahead.

He did. And Katie jumped.

I don’t know why she couldn’t go in June, which is when she had originally planned. I know I was thankful for the extra time with her, but it wasn’t what she had expected.

There are so many things in life that don’t happen the way we plan for, and sometimes that can be really frustrating. I’m a planner. I like things to work out the way I expect. And then when God turns my plans on their head and things turn out better than I could have ever dreamed, I know He’s up there shaking His head at me. Maybe someday I’ll learn. I’m still working on it.

I guess I just felt the need to remind myself that God really does know what He’s doing. I know that. And I believe it with all my heart.

He’s not late.

His plan is progressing exactly the way it’s supposed to, in the time it’s supposed to, with the people it’s supposed to. No accidents. No coincidences. And when everything is ready, He’ll say jump–and that’s when we need to be ready to spring into action.

Waiting can make you weary after a while. I know that better than most. But you just have to remember that if God’s answer seems slow in coming, it’s because He’s still setting up the pieces. If it seems to you that He’s not moving, just be patient. Just keep waiting. And you’ll see. He’ll come through. He always does.

It just doesn’t always look like you expect it.

You may leave in July instead of June. You may invest your life in other people instead of your own children. You may switch careers. You may leave everything you know behind.

Everything happens for a reason. Even waiting.

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

Do we need to ask God’s permission?

Have you ever felt like you’ve been weighed down with responsibilities but don’t have the tools at your disposal to actually make anything happen? I’ve been there before, and it’s a really frustrating place.

Well, I learned something yesterday. And I’m sure it’s something I’ve always known, but it never really clicked with me before. Definitely there are some exceptions, but generally speaking the people in your life who you are subject to aren’t unreasonable. Yes, there may be some people who have it out for you, or there may be some people who are just jerks. But generally speaking, everybody’s boss wants to be a good boss. And that means it’s their job to provide you with the resources you need to do your job. Anything else is unreasonable.

Sometimes it’s tempting to think that your boss is just demanding results without trying to understand your limitations. That’s probably rarely the case.

The trouble comes when we start looking at God the same way. There are lots of examples in life where it feels like He has commanded us to do something but He hasn’t given us anything to do it with. And that’s not true. That’s our fear and our insecurity talking.

God has given us everything we need to accomplish the tasks God has set out for us to do, and that includes the authority to do it.

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 10:18-20.

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”  “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

Did you know Jesus did this? He picked 72 more disciples and sent them out to spread the word about Him? And obviously these people got an opportunity to see God work through them in miraculous ways. These guys came back after seeing everything God did through them and were so excited that evil spirits obeyed them.

Does anyone out there remember the really funny Bill Engvall/Travis Tritt song, “Here’s Your Sign”? I kind of feel like this is what Jesus is saying to these 72 disciples. Of course, God worked through them. Jesus had given them authority over all the enemy’s power. He wouldn’t have sent them out if He hadn’t.

I get stuck in a very traditional, hierarchical view of life. In work, in church, everywhere, if someone is older than me, I automatically assume he or she knows more than I do and I bow to their opinion. And that’s not wrong. No, in many instances, that’s right. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize that just because someone is older than me or has a higher position than I do doesn’t automatically make them better qualified to answer some questions.

And I think it’s good and beneficial for us to be subject to those kinds of people throughout our lives. It’s a good way to learn patience and submission and compassion, to learn how God can bless us when we submit to authority that really doesn’t have a clue.

But when it comes to doing what God has called us to do, do you realize that we don’t have to ask permission? We don’t have to wait for a sign? All we need to do is do it.

So what desire has God put in your heart? What path has God set you on? Are you waiting for His permission before you embark?

There are many reasons to wait, and if God is telling you to wait, then for heaven’s sake stay where you are. But is He really saying to wait? Or are you just waiting because you’re afraid?

If what you want to do matches up with Scripture, if it’s not going to compromise your faith or your testimony, if you believe it’s the direction God is calling you to go, you don’t have to wait for permission. God’s standing on the sidelines with a checkered flag screaming at you to floor the accelerator, cheering you on.

Don’t sit still. Don’t accept the status quo. Don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again. You were meant for more than this. You have all the authority you need, and you have God on your side. So what are you waiting for?

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

How do I rest when life is too busy?

I could stand a little peace and quiet. How about you? I just came off a ridiculous weekend. Awesome and fun and exciting. But I’m tired. Even though so many exciting things are happening right now, there are still days when I just wish I could tell everyone and everything to be quiet and leave me alone so I can rest.

But even then, as much as I need rest, I usually don’t allow myself to take it. Because there are so many things going on, if I’m not involved surely something isn’t going to be done right. Can anyone else identify with that feeling? It’s okay if you can.

We can’t just run at top speed all the time. Well, you can. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it anymore. I’m not an expert, but I can speak from experience. And if you’re one of my performance-driven perfectionist brothers and sisters, I just want to ask you one question: What is the foundation for your hopes?

Everybody has hopes and dreams, expectations of what life is going to be like. I haven’t talked to anyone who didn’t have a hope of some kind. So take a long, hard look at what you hope for and figure out what you’re basing that hope on.

Is it something solid? Something proven? Something trustworthy? Or just some vague, general feeling?

Personally? I’ve got a lot of things I’m hoping for. I’m hoping that my mom’s re-evaluation at the Mayo Clinic in September comes back saying that she’s okay. I’m hoping that this crazy business venture I helped start in January really does manage to work. I’m hoping that two years from July 6 I’ll get to hug my best friend again. And those are just the top of the list.

Those are all great things to hope for, but it’s one thing to hope that all those things will happen. It’s something else to know that even if they don’t, everything will still be okay anyway.

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:5.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.

Hope is one of those fuzzy conceptual ideas (it floats, it has feathers, etc.) that it seems few people have a practical idea of how to implement. I’d crack an Emily Dickinson joke here, but I’m not sure if anyone would get it.

What does it look like to live a life where your hope is in God and not just some of it–all of it? We sang an old song at church this weekend that got me thinking about this.

I haven’t got it figured out yet, but God has taught me a lot about hope in the last few years. And I can tell you that if my hope is truly in God, I can let go.

Yes, I hope my mom’s test results will come back good. But you know what? They haven’t come back good since March 2013 and everything is still all right. We still have everything we need. He’s taking care of us. And He’s still obvious in our lives.

Yes, I hope that this crazy small press we started is going to work. I would love to see it flourish and grow. And I’d love for my novels to make it big. But if they don’t, I’m okay with that. If the business doesn’t work, I’ve learned so much, and it’s already been a fantastic adventure with three of my close friends.

Yes, I hope my best friend makes it across the pond safely and that God protects her in all her global wanderings in the next two years. But if that doesn’t work out the way I want it to, you know what? She’ll still be okay.

Because she belongs to Him. Because my business belongs to Him. Because my mom belongs to Him. Because I belong to Him. And God never treats His creation carelessly.

Remember that when life doesn’t go the way you want it to. Remember Who God is. Hope is less about the promise itself and more about who made it and whether or not that person can be trusted.

No matter what happens, if you put your hope in God, that means you aren’t relying on your own strength to make something happen. You aren’t depending on other people for an outcome. You aren’t building your foundation on unstable ground. And if you aren’t spending your time and energy and resources trying to make something happen or worrying about whether or not someone will come through, you can spend that time doing what you need to do–rest.

God can be trusted. Not only that, but God is the only one big enough to take the broken pieces of life and fit them back together again in a way that’s better than they were before.

So rest easy. Put your hope in God, and if your confidence falters, read up on how God has come through for other people throughout history.

Be honest with yourself. You aren’t big enough or strong enough to change anything. You don’t have as much control as you’ve convinced yourself you have. That doesn’t mean you sit back on your blessed assurance and do nothing. But it does mean you can let go of the things that are to big for you anyway–those giant things you couldn’t control anyway? You know what I’m talking about.

Stop trying to make them happen on your own. Have confidence in God and rest easy.

Northern England / Southern Scotland on the way to Hadrian's Wall

The wait is worth it

Anyone who tells you life isn’t about waiting is lying. Some days, it feels like that’s all life is. Waiting. When you’re a kid, you are waiting for the day you can drive a car. When you’re old enough to drive, you’re waiting for the day you’re “grown up enough” to live on your own. When you’re out on your own, you’re waiting for the right person so you don’t have to be alone. You get the idea. But it seems to work that way in our walk with Christ too.

He leads. We follow. But He doesn’t always lead where we expect Him to, and He never moves on our timetable. Never. It’s either too slow for us or too fast, and we have to learn to wait. We have to learn that waiting is worth it.

Northern England / Southern Scotland on the way to Hadrian's Wall

Northern England / Southern Scotland on the way to Hadrian’s Wall

Today’s verses are Hebrews 6:11-15.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

What’s one thing you’re waiting on right now? I bet you have more than one. But I know you’re waiting on something. You’ve probably been waiting on it for a while too. And, if you’re anything like me, you’re wondering why you have to wait so stinkin’ long. It’s just a simple yes or no, isn’t it?

In those moments when you get tired of waiting, on those days when you’re ready to give up because it just doesn’t feel like God is going to do anything, think about the stories in Scripture. The example today is Abraham, and he’s a great example. But he’s not the only one.

God made promises to Abraham. Ridiculous, impossible promises. And Abraham had to live a good deal of life before he even got to see some of those promises kept. And–just being brutally honest here–he didn’t actually live ( on Earth) to see all of God’s promises realized.

Even so, Abraham lived believing that God would keep His promises. He endured all sorts of trouble, holding on to God’s Word. And I know that when we meet him in eternity, Abraham will still believe it was worth it. All the pain, all the doubt, all the fear, all the uncertainty and unknowns–don’t think it’s only in today’s modern world that we face such things. People haven’t changed that much in 8,000 years.

God kept every promise He made to Abraham, even though Abraham didn’t always hold up his end of the bargain. And aren’t we thankful? Because all of us are in the exact same boat.

God has made so many promises to us, and He will keep them. Because He’s God. That’s what He does. And we need to remember that even when it doesn’t feel like He’s keeping up His end. He is. It just isn’t going to look like we think it should look.

What are you waiting on today? Don’t despair. You may have to sit still, but God is never still. He’s always working on something. And there are no better hands to leave your problems in. He has unlimited resources, unlimited time, and unlimited love, and He wants what’s best for you.

So what’s a few weeks? What’s a few years in the face of that kind of opportunity? Enjoy the downtime. Soak up the quiet. Use the time you’ve got in the interim to get to know Him better, because I promise, when He’s ready for you to stop waiting, you’re going to hit the ground running, and you won’t slow down.

He’s got it. Stop worrying. He knows what He’s doing, and He is good. Truly, truly good.