Who has time to wonder?

When was the last time you stopped and took a moment to marvel at who God is? No? How about the last time you stopped and took a moment to just be amazed at what He’s done for you in your life? Yeah, me neither. It’s been a while. Not because I’m ungrateful or because I’m overly self-centered. I’m just busy, and I think it’s better to spend my time wisely doing the things that God has told me to do with myself while I have the time and energy to do them.

But is our life supposed to be hustle and bustle all the time? Are we supposed to be constantly on the go? Never stopping to breathe, to think, to praise, or to just be?

I struggle with this. Even when I’m supposed to be doing something fun and relaxing, I’m still thinking about how I can leverage the situation so that I’m still time efficient. Like recently when I went to the zoo with my three Forever Sisters and the Unsinkable Hoochild. I was looking forward to hanging out with them, to catching up, to being together with them, but I was also using it to get my daily two miles into the schedule so that I could get straight to work when I got home later. Nothing wrong with multi-tasking, right?

Well, as per usual, the Hoochild taught me a very important lesson that day. This kid teaches me something every time I see her, and that day was no different. She was so excited to see the sheep. This kid loves sheep. She laughs and jumps and claps her hands whenever she sees them.

Do I like sheep? No freakin’ way. I’ve had way too many experiences with sheep in my life to ever go to the zoo to see them. But I love going to the zoo to watch Hoochild see them because she finds joy in things that my grown-up attitude no longer appreciates.

Hoochild wondering at the tigers at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Hoochild wondering at the tigers at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This is one of those passages that makes me cringe every time I read it. More often than not, I’m Martha. I’m the one running around trying to do too much all at once. And, please don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and place for that. We need the people who will work hard and get things done. But there’s also a time to sit still and wonder at Jesus, and as adults–especially Christian adults–I think we lose that.

Jesus Himself said it. There’s only one thing worth being concerned about, and Mary figured it out. Mary was sitting at His feet, listening to Jesus and marveling.

Hoochild turned two this week. Two whole years old, and I just can’t believe it. It was just yesterday that I saw her for the first time when she was less than 12 hours old. It was just yesterday her mama made me hold her while I was sitting in my cubicle at work, and I was terrified I would drop her. Wasn’t that just yesterday?

Hoochild's adorable uncle many, many moons ago

Hoochild’s adorable uncle many, many moons ago

But then yesterday Hoochild’s uncle was four years old, sitting on the plastic slide in the old church’s playroom, narrating Dave and the Giant Pickle verbatim while I minded him during a ministry banquet. That was yesterday too, right? Wrong. That was like 17 years ago, and today Hoochild’s uncle is getting married. He also graduated from college this year.

My goodness. Where does the time go?

When you’re young, you listen to your elders talk about the rapid passing of time, and you think it can’t possibly go that fast. You can’t go to bed one morning when you’re 14 and wake up and be 30. That just doesn’t happen. I can testify, friends, it really does happen. It’s happened to me. And I thought I was being careful about it too.

When I think back over my life, how much time have I spent on useless things? How many hours have I wasted worrying about people and relationships and events and things that God had already taken care of–things I ultimately had no control over anyway? Maybe I thought worrying and twiddling my thumbs would be productive, but it never was. Wouldn’t all that time have been better spent in wonder at Jesus? Wouldn’t those days of frustration and anger or irritation been better if instead of giving in to my anxieties, I spent them in amazement at God’s grace?

Hoochild marvels at sheep. And maybe I don’t like sheep much, but I can marvel at my first conscious breath in the morning. I can wonder at the stars in the sky and that even amidst all their numbers, God still knows my name. I can stand in awe of the fact that God is a God of brilliance and creativity and that He made a world of infinite complexity for me to enjoy. That’s time well spent, Christians. Because you can worry and fret and stew and sulk all you want, but you won’t gain anything. But if you spend your time in wonder at God, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of who He is and just how much He loves you.

Who has time to wonder? Maybe the better question is: Who has time for anything else?

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God’s timing is perfect, even though it means we have to wait

I was irritated at God last week.

Yeah, I don’t like admitting that, but I was. Not angry. Just put out. See, I’d known that this whole freelancing thing was 100% dependent on clients. Eventually I want to get to the place where my novels will support me, but I’m not even close to that yet. So it’s freelancing that’s putting food in my mouth. And my big main client’s workload was starting to diminish, just like I knew it would. But nobody was stepping up to take its place.

But every time I sat down to start beating the online streets for new clients, something would happen. My internet would crash. Some issue would blow up with the publishing company. Something crazy would happen that would take my attention away from the search for clients. Later, every time I would sit down to contact people, I just had this overwhelming sense of hesitation, and I only experience that when God is trying to tell me not to do something.

Really? He doesn’t want me to announce that I need clients? What difference could that possibly make to Him?

Well, we had a conversation, me and God, and it came back down to the very same issue we struggle with constantly. Trust. He wants me to trust Him. He wants me to believe that He has everything under control and that I’m not the one who’s in charge of my own wellbeing. It’s not the freelancing that’s putting food on my table, it’s His grace. And that’s hard.

It’s so hard to let go of that thing you think you need to do. And if you’re doing it because God says to? I mean, you can’t exactly talk about your reasons with other people because you’ll come off like a lunatic. So I came to my decision. I decided to trust Him. To not even ask for new clients. To just let Him bring them in His time.

I don’t like to wait for anything, generally. Patience is something I struggle with on a daily basis, but some things are worth waiting for. Waiting for your coffee to cool off is worth it. Waiting for the gasoline to finish pumping in your car is worth it. You get the idea. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand waiting for? It’s an answer.

Whether it’s from the doctor or a friend or a family member or a coworker or even God Himself, waiting for an answer drives me insane. So as a result, I often run ahead. I refuse to sit still while others think about the what if’s and the whyfores and the such-and-suches. I make up my mind, I figure out a way to do everything by myself, and I forge ahead, often alone. And while being a self-motivated, independent thinker is always a good strength, it can become a great weakness … especially when you start running ahead of God.

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Big yellow jungle flower at the Tropics Exhibit, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 14:25-28.

Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

Have you ever had to wait on an answer from God? Let me tell you, there’s very little else that runs my limited reservoir of patience dry than waiting on God to answer a question I’ve asked that I think is time sensitive.

Think about that. I’m irritated at God because my request is time sensitive. He’s the One who made time. Who do I think I am to be irritated at Him?

Anyway, God works in his own time, and what I’ve learned is that He never stops providing for His children. Everything He gives to His children is right on time. Not on their timetable but always on His, and that’s better … because He knows what we need and when we need it. And we just don’t. And if God cares for birds and flowers to the extent the verses describe, how much more does He care about you and me?

God won’t ever let us go it alone in the world. Yes, waiting is hard. Keeping the status quo is hard, especially if you’re one of those people who likes to improve things. But if God is calling you to stop for a while, you need to stop. If He’s calling you to stay still or go climb a mountain or read a book or bake a cake, you need to do it, and you need to do it now, whether it makes sense to you or not. Maybe you think it feels like a waste of time, but nothing God asks you to do will ever be wasted. Not ever.

And as for me and my client situation? No sooner had I told God I would stay put and let Him provide than two clients appeared. Is that an accident? No, it’s not. It’s just an example of how God takes care of us. Are you waiting on an answer from God? I think everybody is. But don’t be discouraged. He’ll answer when it’s time, and His timing is always perfect.

Trouble isn’t an inconvenience, it’s an opportunity

If you’ve ever traveled to another country, you understand what it’s like to be immersed in a culture that isn’t your own. Even if the common language is something similar to what you already speak, everything is still different. And we’re very fortunate to live in a very small world, where the major cultural differences are something you can research before you leave home. But in my experience, it’s not the major things that throw me. It’s the small things.

Take England, for example. I knew they drive on the other side of the road, and while that took a little getting used to, it didn’t affect my everyday life as much as trying to navigate the shower did. In the US, we have one knob for a shower, usually. You just turn it and water comes out. Well, in England (at least, where I stayed), there’s a knob for pressure and a knob for temperature, and if you get them mixed up, you’ll be in a lot of hot water–literally.

It’s kind of like life, if you think about it. The big troubles are easy to identify. You might even be able to prepare for them before they hit you, but the little, annoying, nit-picky, everyday problems can’t really be quantified. You can’t prepare for them. You just have to survive them.

step-forward-e1338890548766Today’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

We all run into trouble every day, no matter who we are or where we live. Sometimes it’s big trouble, but most of the time it’s small. Like little pebbles getting stuck in your shoes. And when those little troubles keep hitting like ocean waves pounding on a beach, it’s important not to focus on them.

Trouble is easy to focus on because it’s obvious. You can’t get away from it, and no matter how far you run, it always finds you. Trouble is everywhere because the world is broken and because none of us have a perfect life. But that doesn’t mean we have to live our lives focusing on our troubles.

If all you can see is the trouble you’re in and how it’s going to affect you tomorrow, you’re going to miss what’s happening today. See that’s the problem with focusing on little troubles. They feel huge when they hit, but they really aren’t that big of a deal.

When you get a rock in your shoe, it feels gigantic, doesn’t it? Or what about an eyelash in your eye? You have to stop everything. And it’s not wrong to stop, as long as you keep moving again.

What would happen if you’re walking across a parking lot and get a rock in your shoe. Sure, you stop to dig it out, but what would happen if you decide it’s too much trouble to keep walking? What if you turn around and go back because you’re afraid of the other rocks that might get in your shoe next?

That’s no way to live.

Big trouble you can often see coming from miles off, but the little trouble springs its traps on you at the most inopportune moments. But if you live your life worrying about those moments, you’ll only see them as inconveniences, instead of what they really are–opportunities for God to show how big He is.

Be ready for the future, yes, but don’t let the problems of tomorrow dictate your actions today. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Yeah, it’ll probably include some kind of trouble, but that’s life on Earth. And we can’t let it derail us from the path we know God has set us on.

Don’t be afraid to live life one step at a time. Focus on today, and don’t let the little troubles get you down. God is bigger than any trouble in your life, and He’s just waiting for you to let Him prove it.

 

Bearing each other’s burdens doesn’t mean we carry them

When someone shares a problem with you, how do you react? Do you nod and smile sympathetically? Do you jump in and try to tell them how to fix their problem? Do you care at all?

I wear other people’s problems like a pack across my shoulders. At least, I used to. I’m getting better about it. But it felt to me like the only way I could help others. Bearing burdens with them. That’s what it means to bear one another’s burdens, doesn’t it? If I can’t sleep because a friend is having a hard time or because a coworker lost a job or because a relative is sick, that means I’m a truly dedicated friend, right? I’m bearing their burden with them.

Not quite.

We are called to bear burdens for each other, but what if it’s a burden too big for you to carry in the first place? What do you do then? And what good will you possibly do anyone if you wear yourself out worrying about something you can’t change anyway?

carrying_burdenToday’s verse is 1 Peter 5:7.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

It doesn’t matter if your worries and cares are your own or if they belong to someone else. If it’s something you care about, if it’s something you’re worrying about, give it over to God.

But, no! If I’m not worrying about it, that means I don’t care. Isn’t that how we think? That’s how I’m wired. I have some issue in my mixed up head that tells me the more sleep I lose over someone else’s problems, the better a friend I am. The more anguished I am over a friend’s misfortune, the better a Christian I am. After all, if I’m suffering along with them, that must mean I’m a step above other people who don’t feel anything.

Isn’t that how we think? Or is it just me?

Now, of course, we’re called to care about each other. Of course, God intends for us to relate to each other with kindness and compassion (and compassion truly is something I struggle with, in the generic sense). We’re not supposed to be cruel or selfish, but by the same token, we’re not supposed to run ourselves into the ground worrying about something we can’t do anything about.

What’s the point? To make yourself feel better? That’s not a sufficient reason to wear yourself out. Just think, if you spent less time worrying, you’d have more time to actually encourage the people you’re worrying about.

Acknowledge your friends’ struggles. They’ll have many. Acknowledge your own struggles. You’ll have more than your fair share, and denying them won’t help you either. But once you acknowledge them, also recognize that God is bigger. He can help you sort through all the difficult situations you’re facing today. Maybe the answer you get won’t be the one you wanted, but God will give you the answer you need regardless.

But don’t just shoulder someone else’s worries. Don’t try to carry someone else’s problems. You aren’t strong enough, and your shoulders aren’t big enough. Friend, you aren’t strong enough to carry your own problems.

But God is.

So if you try to shoulder someone else’s worries, just let them roll off of you and onto Jesus. He’s got it. God’s got a plan, and it’s good. And your worrying about it won’t change the outcome one bit.

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Fight worry and anxiety by making a choice

 

Why is it so hard to let go of things you can’t control? Where does the desire to control everything come from anyway? Is it pride?

I couldn’t tell you. What I know for sure is that me trying to control everything is a bad idea for a lot of different reasons. To really be able to control everything, I’d need to know everything. I’d need to be everywhere at once. I’d need to be able to do several things at once. And I obviously can’t do either of those things, and that’s just the start.

I know I can’t do any of that. So why—why?—do I still keep trying to take over things? And why do I insist on worrying about stuff anyway? Why do I let my stomach knot up and my shoulders go tight? I don’t believe that worrying about things actually changes anything. So why do I do it?

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:6.

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Worry is one of the greatest deceivers in our lives. It masquerades as something useful, when it’s actually useless. It wears a mask to disguise itself as “something you can do” when more often than not worrying prevents you from actually doing anything at all.

Worry is the great time waster, the greatest distraction you’ll face in your everyday life. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered. I can be having a perfectly fine day until something crops up that I feel the need to worry about. Then good luck getting me focused again. If I’m worrying about something, I’ll run myself into the ground pacing. I’ll turn my own hair gray stressing, if I don’t pull it out by its roots.

So what do you do when you feel the need to worry? Is there some magic word you can say that makes the desire disappear? Is there something you can do that relieves you of the burning need to fuss and fret and pick yourself or others apart?

If there is, I haven’t found it.

The truth about worry is that it’s a choice. You make the choice to worry or not to worry. You choose to spend your time that way or not. Nobody comes up to you and forces you to worry about something, but our enemy is really good at whispering all the things that we should worry about in our ears.

Our enemy knows what we’re afraid of. He knows how to scare us. He knows how to unsettle us and distract us, and worry is one of the best tools to accomplish all of that. The best course of action when he starts whispering his lies is to recognize them for what they are. Lies. All lies. All of them.

And once you recognize them, take steps to neutralize them. Have someone you can talk to who will encourage you and remind you that our enemy is a liar. Have evidence for yourself to prove that you’re not a failure, that you aren’t generally disliked, that you’ve actually managed to accomplish something with your life.

You have the choice. You can either sit still and let worry turn you inside out. Or you can take steps to remind yourself that worrying doesn’t accomplish anything.

Will that make the worry go away? I wish I could tell you it did, but in my experience even recognizing that worrying is foolish doesn’t make it disappear. What it does accomplish, though, is that it keeps you from making spontaneous, foolish decisions while you’re emotionally distraught.

God says don’t worry. So don’t. When you feel yourself starting down that path, stop. Identify what it is that you’re worried about and give it to God. Tell Him you’re giving it to Him, and you’re not going to worry about it anymore. And ask Him—seriously—to help you remember that. So when you try to take it back, He’ll thump you on the nose.

He’ll do it. Figuratively, of course. But He will.

He’s got everything under control, and He CAN be everywhere and do everything and know everything all at once. So there’s no one better to control everything than God. And even if it doesn’t feel okay right now, trust me, He’s working it out. And eventually it will be okay.

***alwayspeachy***

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Does Jesus like bacon?

As I’ve gotten older I’ve started enjoying listening to talk radio on the drive into work. I used to get really frustrated because I wanted music. And I still want music. But sometimes it’s interesting to sit and listen to other people and their perspectives.

I heard on the radio yesterday morning that one of the hosts had encountered a question from his son about whether or not Jesus liked bacon. And coming from a child, I think that’s a perfectly adorable question. Culturally, it’s an intriguing question. But realistically, does it matter?

To me, a question like that is up there with asking if God can create a rock that’s too heavy for Him to lift. It’s just not important.

But was really surprised me was the response that some of the listeners had. Someone called in and started talking about how he was sure there would be steak in heaven because he can’t eat it now and he wants to be able to eat it in eternity. And he just didn’t think God would allow there not to be steak in heaven for that reason.

And—okay, let’s just be real here. I like food. Okay? I like food a lot. I like just about any kind of food too (except turnips, but they aren’t really food). Do I want steak in heaven? Well, sure. I like steak. But aren’t there more important things to be concerned about in eternity than what we’re going to be eating?

Today’s verses are Matthew 6:31-33.

A random pig (not my photo)

A random pig (not my photo)

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

I heard someone once talk about how much wealth people would have in heaven. That’s also an interesting topic. But honestly I think that the standards of wealth will be different in eternity. How do I know that? Well, I can point to an obvious answer (Revelation 21:21). On Earth, gold is precious and valuable. In heaven, gold is tantamount to concrete. It’s paving material. It’s what we will walk on.

Heaven’s perspective of riches is different than Earth’s. We put so much value on things that just don’t matter. We worry about things that don’t matter. We focus on things that don’t matter.

And if Jesus told us not to worry about what we’re going to eat when we’re living on earth, I really don’t think we’re going to need to worry about what we’re going to eat when we’re in heaven.

What we need to be focused on instead is who is going to be there.

I like steak as much as the next person. But whether there will be fruits that taste like steak or steak itself isn’t important. I’d much rather focus on who will be sitting across the table from me eating it with me.

When life shakes you, you aren’t alone

Kansas didn’t used to have earthquakes. Not that we have them frequently now, but in the last few years, we’ve had enough to notice. And it’s a little unsettling.

I don’t know if this is a sign of the times or what, earthquakes in weird places, but I do know I don’t really like it. A tornado you can get away from . An earthquake is everywhere.

The last one we had was Monday, I think. And I think it was down in Oklahoma, but we felt it in Wichita. I was up in my cubicle on the 9th floor. I’ve felt them on the ground level before. Being up in a tall building during one was completely different.

People in Kansas often marvel at the lack of severe weather preparedness in other states. But I’m sure people in earthquake-prone areas probably feel the same way about us.

In places where earthquakes happen a lot, the buildings and structures are designed to handle the shaking. Granted, sometimes the quakes are bad enough, design engineering doesn’t matter. But when you live with constant tremors, you have to know how to live. You have to know how to build houses so that even though there’s an earthquake rattling around outside, the house doesn’t fall in on itself.

Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Psalms 16:8.

I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

I was going to use a different verse this morning, but this one stuck out to me. I’ve had some pretty dark moments in the last few days. The Lord and I have been having a lot of conversations about life, the universe, and everything. And He helped me remember something that I already knew: I’m safe in His hands.

If you’re doing what God has called you to do, you’re safe. Even if you aren’t safe, as far as the world would call it. You’re safer in the deepest, darkest, most remote corner of the world if you’re there because God told you to be than if you were in a rich, suburban neighborhood refusing to obey.

And even if we aren’t doing exactly what He’s told us to do, He’s still walking with us, trying to get our attention.

When life blows up and goes crazy, when people you love pass away or get sick, when you don’t have the answers you need, it doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. It may just mean that you’re letting life get louder than His voice.

God doesn’t scream at us. I’m pretty sure He never has. He speaks quietly, softly, so we have to stop and pay attention. It doesn’t work to blast by and try to do what He wants while you’re trying to do what you want at the same time.

Peace is something we all long for. Imagine not having to worry, not having to fear. Well, you don’t have to. God has everything under control, and just because you don’t understand it or just because you don’t see how it can work out for the best doesn’t mean it won’t.

If we’ve got God in our lives, we have a solid foundation to build on. And no matter how many earthquakes hit us, nothing can shatter that foundation.

So stop worrying. Your worrying doesn’t help. It doesn’t make the situation better for you, and it puts a wall between you and God.

God designed us to live peacefully with Him. Life seems intent on screwing that up, truth be told, but God is bigger than the world. He’s bigger than our problems. He’s bigger than our fears.