Seek and Find

Rather than pull the blanket over my head, I make myself get out of bed with dawn’s first light and meet with the Most High God.

I ignore my “to-do list,” the one scrawled in ink the night before, in favor of the one thing I can’t ignore: Intimacy with God.

The past week entailed church, women’s Bible study, jail ministry, and a Christian writers group. Wasn’t there enough of God in my week?

Never enough. Besides, serving the Lord and learning about Him doesn’t replace being alone in His presence. I need that one-on-one.

Unlike intercessory prayer or Bible study, I come before Him with no personal agenda. The pine trees outside my window are bathed in bronze light as the sun rays peer over my roof. Surely God is in this place. I am still and Know that He is God.

If only I could stretch the hour and worship Him on the mountain top without interruption, but duty calls. I leave my sweet spot, my space with God, and rouse my sleeping son for school.

 As I spread mayonnaise on wheat bread, I remember this morning’s verse, “Now to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit (the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Holy Spirit) for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)

Not my good, but the common good. Life isn’t all about me.

I bend my knee, and surrender the day to Him. You’re will, Lord. Not mine.

Drop my son off at school, drive to the local shopping center, and park. Just before I walk into the dry cleaners, my cell phone rings. I pause my agenda to greet the voice of a long-distance friend. We haven’t spoken in months, but I’m not surprised. I knew God would make Himself known. I knew He’d bring the unexpected. And I tell her so.

We talk, sharing words of encouragement and conviction. We share what His Spirit puts on our hearts, for the common good so the body of Christ is built up.

I stand outside; talking on the phone, stand between the dry cleaners and grocery store. And my skin tingles. Surely God is in this place too.

“To the degree that we seek Him, we will find Him.”  

Nothing but the toilets

My to-do list, written by morning’s first light, lies pristine on a kitchen counter. Nothing checked off or accomplished.

What happened to the day?

I roll back the hours when morning prayers brought to mind the faces of those I love, and prompted a flurry of emails, texts, and phone calls. Praise God for technology that shrinks the miles and unites hearts with instant communication.

Not one to sit idle, the taskmaster rises within me even though I’m on the phone. I scrub toilet bowls and wipe sinks while I talk with someone a thousand miles away.

Clock strikes noon, bringing me back to “my list.” I’m off like a racehorse to the county jail. More prayers rise heavenward for the women inmates who wait for me behind cement walls, desperate for God’s Word. But chapel time surrenders to jail maintenance and prevents me from going inside. Do I check jail ministry off my list if it doesn’t happen?

Check my watch, calculating the minutes until the repair man shows up to my house, must get the heater fixed. Rush home to discover he’s running late; probably won’t happen today. Minutes slip through my fingers like liquid soap as the twilight hour appears.

Hungry stomachs must be fed so I puree pumpkin soup and listen for my husband’s car in the driveway. He earned a paycheck for his labor. What do I have to show for my day? Seems like nothing but the toilets got done. 

Chris Tomlin sings from my IPOD speakers, “Your grace is enough…I’m covered in your blood. So remember your people, Oh, God.”

I sprinkle cinnamon in the soup and ponder, is God’s grace enough? Or do I try to earn His favor and find my value in the doing? I gladly receive God’s grace when I mess up, and extend grace to others who fail. So why is it hard to give myself grace when I don’t meet my own expectations?

And relax, knowing that sometimes…..

Seeking God and remembering His people in prayer may be the only thing I can muster. But in God’s Book, my relationship with Him and others is everything.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

A light rain descends and dances like reindeer hooves on my roof. I grate zucchini and crack eggs for homemade bread ~~ an offering to my husband for a job well done.

Set the oven timer and scan my list. Clean toilets aren’t on the list. Neither are the names of people I spoke with, or intercessory prayer, but I know God laid those people on my heart.

Garage door rumbles open, and my husband enters the kitchen bearing the weight of the world. He sniffs the air where the aroma of pumpkin soup mingles with oven-baked bread. Smiling, I walk into his arms. His shoulders relax, and the pleasure on his face assures me that “my only aim is to know Christ” and love others.

The rest is gravy.

What’s Taking Sooo Long? (rest of the story)

The rest of the story…….

The disappointment on my son’s face tugs my heartstrings. And I realize, its easier for me to pray “Thy will be done” in my life than watch “His will be done” in my children’s lives, particularly as they get older.

Unlike the years when I could dry their tears and kiss scraped knees, the needs of my adult children have also grown. Powerless to help them or show them the way, I get on my knees and pray. But when storm clouds linger and there’s no end in sight, I ask God, What’s taking so long?

Just say the word, the waters will part, the wind and the clouds will obey.

Remember the woman who begged for mercy,  “Oh Lord, my daughter’s demon-possessed.” And Jesus replied, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.”  (Matthew 15:22-28)

Is it wrong of me to wish You’d help my children? O Lord, why must they wait?

The question is raised, but my heart knows the answer; “trials are the testing of our faith.” We’re a work in progress and there’s more at stake, than the wishes of an earth-bound  Mother.

                                                                                                                   

Had I Been Joseph’s Mother

(by Ruth Bell Graham)

Had I been Joseph’s mother

I’d have prayed protection from his brothers

“God, keep him safe.

He is so young,

so different from the others.”

Mercifully, she never knew

there would be slavery

and prison, too.

Had I been Moses’ mother

I’d have wept to keep my little son:

Praying she might forget

the babe drawn from the water

of the Nile.

Had I not kept him for her

nursing him the while,

was he not mine?

And she, but Pharaoh’s daughter?

Had I been Daniel’s mother

I should have pled

“Give Victory!

This Babylonian horde

godless and cruel—

Don’t let him be a captive,

Better dead, Almighty Lord!”

Had I been Mary,

Oh, had I been she,

I would have cried

as never mother cried,

“Anything, O God, Anything…

but crucified.”

With such prayers importunate

My finite wisdom would assail

Infinite Wisdom.

God, how fortunate

Infinite Wisdom

should prevail.

Rainy days and Mondays

It’s Monday evening and my husband says, “You’re in a mood, today. You know that right?”

I nod, and take another bite of cold salad.

“Is it the rain?”

I pause to hear the drumbeat of water falling from the sky. This is not the patter of little feet dancing on my roof.

“We need the rain,” I sigh. “But I miss the sun.”

The sun: that giant, fireball that emanates warmth, and light, and draws my eyes upward to celestial heights.  I know the sun’s still there if I could just fly above the gray clouds that hang over me like a heavy tarp.

When I’m in a melancholy mood, I browse through my spiritual journals, hoping for previous insights or a spark to fan the embers. On this particular January day, several years ago, I’d written in my God Calling journal, “Today is gray and cold. I lack joy and feel indifferent towards the Lord.”

The enemy loves to use January weather to derail me.

In that same journal, I’d underlined a sentence, “You must say ‘Thank You’ on the grayest days. You must do it. All cannot be light unless you do. There is gray-day practice. It is absolutely necessary.”

There’s the formula to an improved mood. Did it work?

I turn the page where I’d written about an awesome worship time with the Lord, and the verse. “He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I scan scribbled words, written from a heart anchored to God in the storm, “We are on a life journey which consists of hills and valleys where our vision is limited. We can’t know what’s coming around the bend. So we take one step at a time, knowing He is with us, and “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NAS)

I close the journal, my scrapbook of heartaches and joy-filled God moments. I’m not sure what plagued my soul back then. Perhaps it was the rain. But I know how I escaped the pit of indifference and despair.

I sought the Lord even when I wasn’t in the mood. I praised His name and said ‘Thank you’ even when I didn’t feel grateful.

“I am your God. Your Great Reward. Yours to look up and say, ‘All is well.’”

And so He is, and my soul is well, even in this…..

Rainy days and Mondays.

Please Send Stamps

A belated Christmas card arrived in the mail this week. It was from a female inmate whom I’ve been corresponding with during the past year. Her handwriting was bold and neat. She wished me well, thanked me for sending her a package of Christmas cards with postage last month, and after her signature, she added a postscript:

“Could you please send stamps?”

“Why am I not surprised?”

As a volunteer jail chaplain, I teach Bible to women inmates, and on occasion, I correspond with some of them when they go away to prison. I understand their need for positive relationships and spiritual encouragement while they’re behind bars. It’s a mutual blessing.

But this woman never ends her letters without requesting something from me.

Sometimes I feel she’s taking advantage of me. Even Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

But on this particular day, her request for stamps struck a nerve.

 How often do I pray to my Heavenly Father, without adding my laundry list of needs and wants?

“I love you Lord, thank you Lord, but could you please send: a job, healing, financial aid, help, wisdom, success, new car….”

I KNOW God wants Christians to “devote ourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2). His Word says “pray without ceasing” for the details of our day including: our daily bread, to avoid temptation, forgiveness, when we’re suffering, for each other, for those who persecute us.

“Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

However, because God cares for me, shouldn’t I also seek God for Himself alone; with no personal agenda than being in His presence?

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:4, 5)

The Christmas card is now taped over my desk as a reminder:

Spend more time praising God and less time saying,

“Please send ….”

                

Lasso the Moon

 

     My cell phone beeps. There’s a text message from my twenty-something son.

“Look at the moon.”

     I hurry outside in my slippers and stand on my front porch, mesmerized. It’s

the kind of moon one sees in children’s picture books. Any second, “the cow will

jump over the moon.”

     On this clear, winter night, the moon appears closer to the earth just as my

son’s phone text shrank the miles between us. Is my grown

daughter, living on the opposite coast, enchanted by the moon tonight?

     I once thought loving my children meant giving them the moon. 

    When they were young, the moon was within my reach. A trip to the zoo brightened a cloudy day. A Happy Meal was like winning the lottery for a five year old.

     It was easy to lasso the moon.

     Now two of my children are adults and giving them the moon is like finding the end of a rainbow. Their trips to paradise are on the horizon beckoning them like a mythological siren. Their toys might as well be the Golden Fleece.  It’s no longer within my power to make their dreams come true.

     And I wonder. Would they be happier if I had shown them how to enjoy Earth rather than shoot for the moon?

     We didn’t live beyond our means, we enjoyed simple pleasures. But did my attempt to fulfill their every heart’s desire breed expectations that give birth to disappointment?  

     In contrast, when we looked beyond our own hedges and rang the Salvation Army bell, or walked for life, we learned the reality behind “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).    

      In pursuing dreams, we must remember the moon is cold and barren.

      We dance by the light of the moon which is a reflection of the sun.  Likewise, true joy comes when Christians reflect  “the LIGHT of the world.” 

     Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”        

           

    

A Spoonful of Sugar

Do you like swallowing pills?

When my two grown kids were children, they found it difficult to swallow pills regardless of the size. We’d try dissolving the pill in a spoonful of orange juice. We’d wrap the pill in a piece of deli turkey meat to disguise the taste. But more often than not, my child would gag and spit out the pill. Or the pill’s bitter taste would eventually dissolve in their mouth, contorting their faces like some horrific gargoyle.

Some days, life feels like a bitter pill we’re forced to swallow.  Unlike medicine which is intended to heal our bodies and ease our pain, we can’t see anything good resulting from our bitter circumstances.

But is that true?

Perhaps you’ve heard that song from the movie, Mary Poppins: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…in the most delightful way.”

That’s how I feel about life. With Jesus, I can handle life’s bitter pills when I choose to view life from a Biblical perspective and trust in His Word. Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” 

If we believe God’s Word, then we can swallow life’s bitter pills because “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Roman 8:28)

And what is our purpose according to Romans 8:29?

“to become conformed to the image of His Son”

That being the case, every circumstance … even the bitter ones in life … is an opportunity to be “conformed to the image of His Son.”

And that’s a pill I gladly will swallow.