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.

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

When you can’t see the road, stay in your lane

Wichita doesn’t have traffic. We think we do, but we don’t. You haven’t experienced traffic until you’ve driven in Houston or Washington D.C. or any of the larger cities around the U.S. No, Wichita just has busier times than others….. until there’s a wreck.

And there was a wreck somewhere in front of me yesterday evening as I was in a hurry to get across town. Traffic backed up for about a mile, and we came to a standstill for about 20 minutes. And as I sat there and marveled at the crazy drivers switching lanes at every opportunity (running the risk that they would cause another wreck), I couldn’t help but think about how often we are in similar situations in our lives.

Something happens out in front of us–too far away for us to see the details–but we see the results. The results being the disruption of our carefully laid plans. So what do we do? We compensate. We switch lanes. We scurry and scramble and strategize in order to get ahead. And what happens?

That’s right. You realize that you jumped into the wrong lane too late. Or you realize Plan B isn’t as feasible in actual practice as you thought. Either way, you realize that you should have just stayed put. In all your shifting and scrambling, you ended up spending time and effort to get ahead when you didn’t even know which direction you’d end up needing to go.

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

The Bible has a lot to say about being patient, about waiting. And I’m not good at either one. I can do it, but I tend to grumble about it. But being patient and waiting for God to make the first move makes up a great deal of the Christian life. The Bible tells us to wait, wait, wait on God. Don’t rush ahead of Him. Wait for Him to move and then move with Him.

Now that doesn’t mean His actions should surprise us. More often than not, you can identify God working in your life. You just have to keep your eyes open. You have to be in a place in your relationship with Him where you recognize His fingerprints and respond to His voice. But even when you’re in that place, if you get ahead of Him, if you start thinking you know better than He does, you’re going to get yourself in trouble.

You’ll be like the people in the lanes around me in traffic yesterday. They couldn’t see what was ahead of them. They just wanted to do something. They weren’t happy staying where they were, waiting to see where they needed to go. They took it on themselves to forge their own path.

And, don’t get me wrong. Forging your own path is often a good idea. I’m all for it. But when you try to forge your own path and you go in a direction God hasn’t blessed, you run the risk of forging a path right off a cliff.

So what’s the point? Don’t get ahead of God. Don’t start thinking you have life all figured out and that you know which direction the compass is pointing.

It’s like runners lined up to start a race. They’re all waiting for that pistol to sound or for a horn to blow. That’s the signal that they can move, start running and run for all they’re worth. And that’s what we need to wait for from God before we jump into action.

Jump into action before He’s said go and you might crash and burn. But don’t hesitate once you’ve heard the starter pistol. Once the door is open and you have the chance to do what God has called you to do, don’t wait or you’ll fall behind.

God promised that He’d come back for us. And He’s promised a lot of things in between now and then, and He will keep every one according to His plans. But He doesn’t need us flailing around trying to make His plan work out ourselves. If anything, we’ll just make ourselves so busy trying to do God’s job that we’ll miss His signal to start running in the first place.

Be patient. Wait and watch for His signal. And when you see it, run like mad.

PS: The real moral of this story is just to stay off Kellogg…..

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Waiting on Cupcake

Everyone I know is having a baby. Not literally everyone I know, but some days it feels like it is. This time it’s my good friend and writing buddy who I met in Colorado. Her mom took to calling the baby “Cupcake” so lots of others have picked up on that too. Cupcake was due on January 8. Today is January 15. We finally got the text last night that they had gone to the hospital, but since there hasn’t been news this morning, I’m going to guess that we’re still waiting. I am exhausted for her just thinking about it.

What is it about waiting that tires you out so fast? Maybe that’s just me, but if I spend a whole day waiting on something to happen, I’m more nervous and twitchy and fidgety than if I went outside and chopped down trees. I hate waiting. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably picked up on that. I can’t stand it. I want to get up and go do stuff now. I don’t want to sit back and see what happens. I don’t want to sit around waiting for something exciting. I want to go do something exciting, or at least watch a movie about people who get to do exciting things.

But most of the time, waiting is necessary. It’s something everyone has to do, and if we don’t wait for what God’s doing, we’ll get ahead of Him. And getting ahead of God is never a place you want to be.

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I love the example of farmers waiting for their harvest to ripen. It’s so true. Farmers have to have so much patience, especially out where I live. When it comes to the wheat, they plant it just before winter really hits, so the wheat has time to sprout and take root before the snow comes down. Then, the little green bits hibernate (hopefully under the snow) for the winter until the freeze when they start growing again. And then, because it’s Kansas, it freezes again when it’s not supposed to, and everyone holds their breath to see if the wheat is going to survive until harvest.

Eventually the harvest comes. But it takes a long time from planting to reaping. You have to wait. Because if you don’t wait, you’ll harvest a crop that isn’t ripe, and all the time you’ve invested up until then will have been for nothing.

Like Cupcake. I’ve been waiting for months to meet Cupcake. So have her parents. So has everyone who’s known she was coming. But if she’d come earlier than this, that meeting would have been mixed with some concern. Waiting is an important part of being pregnant because the baby has to be ready to be born.

And if you’re being honest about it, life is the same way. There are no real get-rich-quick schemes. There are no free lunches, not really. If you want to be successful, you have to work at it. The Christian life is probably more like farming than real life. You plant seeds and you wait and you wait and you wait–and you probably wait out a freeze or two–and then as long as you’re faithful, the seed will sprout. And maybe eventually it will keep growing, and if you’re very fortunate, you’ll be the one who gets to harvest it. Usually it’s someone else who gets to harvest the seeds you’ve planted though.

But no matter who does the planting and who does the harvesting, following Christ is mostly made up of waiting. There are times when He wants you to take the initiative, yes, but mostly I’ve found that you just have to wait for His next instruction. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not. But He always tells us what He wants us to do, though He doesn’t always go into how. And He always makes sure that we have everything we need for what He’s called us to do, whether we realize it or not.

A big part of waiting, I think, is preparing for what God is calling us to do. I get frustrated by having to sit around waiting for God’s timetable to match up with mine, but if I look back over my life, the waiting periods I’ve experienced have been training periods. The in-between times have been the moments when God brings things along in my life to teach me what I need to know to ultimately move forward with His plan for my life.

So, if I look at the waiting periods like that, maybe I won’t despise them so much. Sometimes you have to wait, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around doing nothing. You can keep your brain turned on, and as long as you’re focused on God, you can learn something even in the silence.

Nothing in life happens without a reason, even waiting.

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Letting the toaster do its job

I just got back from eating breakfast in a hotel lobby. Some hotel breakfasts are really awful; this one wasn’t too bad. Lots of options. Hot and cold. Everything covered, which is nice because half the people in there were coughing.

There was a guy at the table across from me who was like a veritable chef, taking the different options at the breakfast counter and turning them into some crazy fancy meal. But it was funny. Because he didn’t seem to be able to stay seated for more than a minute. He kept getting up for one reason or another. And then I realized he was making toast. Maybe he didn’t trust the toaster (understandable). I don’t know. But I found it interesting because the way he was acting made me think he thought there was something he could do to make his bread toast faster.

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Exodus 14:13-14.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? You have a goal to accomplish, and you set things in motion but then you have to sit back and wait. And before long you find yourself getting involved again and sticking your hands back into the process because you need to make sure things are still moving along–when really all you’re doing is slowing things down.

I do that all the time because I’m a control freak. I don’t like letting go of things. I don’t like having to trust that other people will do their jobs, especially if the success of my whole project is riding on their perspective of responsibility.

Maybe that’s good in some cases, but when it comes to the big issues in life, it doesn’t work. Because those big moments in our lives are far larger than we are and there’s no way we could even begin to control them.

This passage today comes just before God parts the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape Pharoah’s army. Moses and the Israelites were backed into a corner, so to speak. There was no way they could have survived on their own, so God had to intervene. And there was nothing any of them could have done about it. They just had to sit back and wait.

I find myself in that position almost daily now, where events in my life have gotten so big and so overwhelming that even if I wanted to have control over them I couldn’t change anything. I’m not strong enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not resourceful enough, not powerful enough to do the things I need to do to achieve success in my life. Maybe I could have when I was younger, but I’m in over my head in so many different areas of my life now that I need God for every step I take.

It’s difficult, admitting you don’t have the skills or resources required to be completely independent. But let’s be honest. Who wants to be completely independent?

The trouble is we have to wait. And the more we fuss and fret and try to stick our noses where they don’t belong, the more trouble we’ll make for ourselves in the interim before God does what He was going to do all along.

The guy who wouldn’t leave the toaster alone this morning probably should have just let the toaster do its job. With all his fussing and poking and adjusting, he ended up with burned toast.

Are you facing struggles? Are you facing challenges? Are difficulties rushing at you in a tidal wave bigger than you think you can survive? God hasn’t left you, and He won’t. Trust Him. Follow Him. Believe Him. And He will make a way for you to get out. He’ll step in and save the day, just like He has done throughout history. But He’ll do it in His own time.

So be still. He’s God. He’s got it handled, and He doesn’t need our help.

Pretty yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God’s strength is enough

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that I hate waiting. I’m a doer, a performance-driven perfectionist, and I don’t like having to wait on anything, especially if it’s something I can do myself. But I’ve walked with God long enough to know that I can’t do everything, even though I often feel responsible for it anyway. And no matter how much I learn about following Christ, I still try to carry everyone else’s burdens on my own shoulders. If you’re that kind of person too, you know how exhausting it is, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. We weren’t made to carry such heavy loads, but we try anyway.

Pretty yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Pretty yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Isaiah 33:2.

But Lord, be merciful to us,
    for we have waited for you.
Be our strong arm each day
    and our salvation in times of trouble.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired. I’m already worn out, and the craziness that is the fall season hasn’t even started yet. Life is only going to get busier as the year spirals rapidly toward its conclusion, and as wild as the first three quarters of the year have been, I’m just moving forward with the assumption that the last quarter will be wilder. It usually is.

The ironic part is that most of the things that are wearing me down are things I have no control over. Why is that? Why is it that the things that sap the most of our strength are the things we can’t change or the things we can’t fix?

This post isn’t deep or revolutionary this morning. It’s probably not even going to be very long. I’m too tired for that. But I ran across this verse this morning, and I remembered something I already knew: God’s strength is enough.

How obvious is that? Why do we always forget the obvious things? I forget the obvious and stress over the the problems I can’t fix. That’s my human experience in a nutshell. But that’s not the way a Christ-follower is supposed to live. It’s not weakness to rely on God’s strength and His help; it’s what He expects.

We were never meant to struggle through life on our own, carrying our own burdens, carrying other people’s burdens, weary and worn out. We’re supposed to give our burdens to Him. God is meant to be our strength and our salvation when we hit those hard moments in life, when we cross those low valleys where it’s too dark to see and we’re too tired to walk any further. We’re not a disappointment when we lean on His strength; that’s what He wants. That’s what He’s there for. And His strength is greater than ours is any day.

So when you encounter those moments, don’t be afraid to draw on God’s strength. Ideally, if you can lean on God’s strength before your own wears out, you might get through the low points in life without being so exhausted. That’s my problem. I exhaust myself utterly before I start letting God take care of things, but I don’t think that’s the way we’re supposed to live. God is walking with us. He’s in our lives every moment, and He’s there waiting for us to let go of our pride and ask for His help.

We don’t need to be weary. We don’t need to reach the breaking point before we ask for Him to help us. Fortunately, He restores the weary and gives new strength to the weak. I’m counting on that as I forge ahead into the highs and lows that are coming. But I’m praying that I remember this time that I don’t need to hit the bottom before I ask for His help. I can walk into trouble with His strength instead of my own, and His strength doesn’t run out.