Little Tokens of Love
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)
It wasn’t my preference, but the middle seat was the only option available to me for my flight to North Carolina to visit my son and daughter-in-law. The flight was full in spite of the fact that the COVID-19 virus was beginning to spread. I was fortunate. I couldn’t have picked better seatmates. The man to my left plugged in his headphones and promptly went to sleep. An American Airlines pilot sat on my right. The awkward first moments of conversation with my pilot flying companion began just before takeoff. As the stressed out passengers haggled over overhead storage space and seat swapping so they wouldn’t have to sit by the window, we both shook our heads. “It’s a one hour flight people” she chuckled. I nodded and I told her I taught high school and was often amazed at how adults were often just overgrown adolescents.
A few moments later, I asked her about the Charlotte airport and my connection time. I had under an hour to make my connecting flight to Raleigh and I had never navigated the Charlotte airport before. I wasn’t worried, but I wanted to be reassured that I had enough time to make my next flight.
She asked about the gates for my flights. She said if they were both in the main terminal it wouldn’t be a problem but all I had at the moment were the flight numbers. She extrapolated from the numbers that more than likely my next flight was on a large plane, not a commuter, and the flight would be out of the main terminal. She reassured me that it shouldn’t be a problem. A ten minute walk max.
Shortly after take-off, I found the gate numbers and showed her. She nodded. Main terminal. No problem. You might even have time to grab a quick drink or bite to eat. I plugged in my audio book and left her alone after that.
When we landed in Charlotte, she looked out the window, turned to me, and before I could say anything gave me directions to get to my gate. Then she graciously offered to move out of my way so I could get off the plane in front of her.
Her directions were perfect.
When I reached my destination I wanted to turn and thank her, but it wasn’t possible. She was no longer sitting next to me. The best I could do was to pray for her as she continued to do her job flying planes.
You could say I was lucky or that it was a coincidence I sat by a pilot that day, but I choose to believe it was God meeting a small unspoken not fully realized need in my life.
I could have found my way through the airport. It wasn’t hard. The Charlotte airport is not that big. But, it was nice stepping off the plane and knowing exactly where I was going. Nothing I saw took me by surprise. It was exactly how she described it.
Friend, God loves us. God cares for us. God meets all our needs, even ones we don’t recognize we have. He makes a way for us even before we get to the starting line. Life is a struggle sometimes. It requires navigating a lot of unknown territory. And the unknown tends to make most of us a little nervous at best, panicked at worst.
My airline encounter gave me a glimpse of God’s intimate love for me. He cared enough to give me a guide for the next leg of my journey. A guide I didn’t really need, but one that nevertheless made my trip so much easier.
I don’t know what journey you are on today, but I do know you can trust God with whatever burden you are carrying. He loves you and is providing for you in ways you don’t even see yet. Just like I didn’t know how nice an airport guide would be, He provided one in the seat next to me anyways.
So, in the uncertainties you face today, when you are unsure of so many things; trust Him. Trust His love. Trust His heart. God is constantly sprinkling little tokens of His love all around us. He is doing far more than we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). It could even be something as simple as placing a pilot in the seat next to you.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
I turned to the dawdling teenager behind me, “Hurry up!” I admonished.
“I am hurrying.” Came the reply.
I observed the shuffling feet, loafing stride, and couldn’t stop myself from spouting back, “Well, could you at least look like you’re hurrying?”
My three lumbering men drove me nuts when we were trying to get somewhere on time. None of them had a fast twitch fiber to their name when it came to getting somewhere quickly on foot. I felt like a sheep dog constantly circling and nipping at their heels trying get them to hurry along. But no matter how many “hurry ups” I quipped, they never seemed to move any faster.
I am not much different in my dealings with God when I think He is dawdling in my life.
How many times do I whisper in my heart telling the Lord to hurry up? I look at my circumstances and I think that God is moving too slowly. I feel like He is taking way too long to answer my prayers, heal my heart, or cure my ailments. I quickly begin to hound Him.
“How long, Lord?”
“Hurry up, Lord.”
Or even, “Could you at least look like your hurrying.”
God is not pressured by my perception of time. He is not fazed by my frazzled frenzy. His will does not bend to accommodate my desired time table. God is sovereign and in His sovereignty He moves at the rate of speed that is required to achieve His purposes, not mine. What I perceive as slow, God sees as patient. His timing is perfect and in the perfect time He fulfills His promises.
When I ask, “How long?” God responds, “As long as it takes.” You see, God will take as long as He needs in order to complete the restorative work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6) and in the world (2 Peter 3:9).
So what are you waiting for today? What request is on hold while you wait for God to answer? What are you wanting God to accomplish in your life? Take heart from 2 Peter 3:8-10 and know that what we perceive as dawdling is actually God’s perfect patience as He orchestrates the fulfillment of His promises.
…give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food that is needful for me…Proverbs 30:8b
Do you remember Goldilocks? The young lady who broke into the Bears’ house and found things to be either too big or too small, too hot or too cold, too hard or too soft. She struggled with finding her “just right” things. She muttered and mumbled because things weren’t just right (never mind the part they weren’t her things, to begin with), but finally fell asleep after eating perfect porridge and resting in a perfect bed.
We all have a little Goldilocks in us. We are constantly searching for our “just right” stuff. We crave more thinking having more will stop us wanting more.
Contentment is the elusive sweet spot between having too much and not having enough. If we have too much we become self-sufficient and forget about God. If we have too little, we become resentful and blame God.
Proverbs 30:8-9 wisely tells us that the key to contentment is the fear of the Lord. Satisfaction only comes when we rest in Him. We can tell ourselves all the lies we want about how “if only I… then…“but the truth is there should be no “if” to begin with. Our lives begin and end with God. He is our provider. He is our source. He is our strength. All that we have comes from Him.
Goldilocks could have saved herself some angst by staying at home, eating her own food, and sleeping in her own bed instead of searching in someone else’s house for something better. The quest for better doesn’t lead us to the best.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He didn’t start with “if you… then you…” he started with:
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10.
Our “just right” starts with our Father in Heaven, not with the Bears’ house next door.
Where are You Planted?
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7
When we moved into our house twenty years ago, there were two live oak trees growing in our backyard. Now, there is only one. Within the first few years, one of the trees stopped thriving. It slowly began turning into a tree of bare branches dropping shriveled gray leaves to the ground. Its failure to thrive was contrasted by its brother tree who was growing taller and wider each year.
After several weeks of observing the emancipated tree, I finally decided to take a closer look. When I walked around the skinny trunk, I noticed my foot sank into the ground around it. The trunk yielded easily to the slight amount of pressure from my hand; a little more pressure tipped the tree over. A tangle of roots popped up through the soil. I grabbed a shovel and began to dig around the toppled tree. My digging revealed the root of the problem of my dying tree. The life-giving support system of tree roots was still in a nestled circle of untangled tiny tendrils. My tree’s roots had never branched out, grown wider, deeper or stronger. They had stayed small, malnourished, and weak, resulting in the death of my tree.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 paints a picture of a different tree. A tree that is strong and flourishing. A tree that reached out to a water source and grew healthy and resilient. A tree more like my second live oak than my first. The other tree in my yard has grown tall and wide with a thick trunk. It has survived being struck by lightning and being ripped open by a hurricane. It’s the home to birds, acorns and countless leaves. It is firmly planted in our backyard. It is firmly planted because its thick, strong roots have grown deep into the soil. Roots that have reached out to the pond just beyond our yard for the nourishment it needs to grow into the oak tree it is meant to be.
Same yard. Two similar trees. Two different outcomes. What’s the difference? The roots. One tree was planted just far enough away from the reliable life-giving water source and its roots never grew. The tree died. The other tree was planted close to the water. Its roots grew and it lived.
So, what about us? Where are we planted today? Are we setting ourselves near the life-giving water source of God through His word or are we staying too far away to receive the nourishment we need to face the struggles life brings us? Are we letting our roots of faith grow deep so we are resilient when the storms of life swirl around us? Or, will we topple over when we feel pressure because we haven’t untangled our roots and grounded ourselves in truth?
Jeremiah 17:7 tells us, blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord…he is like a tree planted by the water…and does not fear. Sweet sisters, like a tree rooted and grounded by the water, let’s plant our lives in the Lord. Let's grow strong and healthy because our trust is in Him. Let's let our roots reach out and draw nourishment from His life giving word. Let's not be afraid of what life may bring because we are firmly rooted in the One who supplies all that we need, no matter what.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on our own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Proverbs 3:5-6 is probably one of the easiest verses to quote when someone is struggling with a life decision. “Trust God. He’ll show you the way.” Memorized when we were young, these verses are our quick to quotes quips. Not sure what to do? Trust God.
So easy to say, yet so hard to do.
Many times when facing a new challenge have I caught myself thinking, “Just give me a little more time to think it through; I’ll figure it out. I've got this.” Or, “I’m not sure it’s going to be okay. If I don’t act now, things aren’t going to work out right.” In both situations I am leaning on my own understanding and not trusting God with all my heart.
It’s so easy to say, but so hard to do.
But, the beauty in the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6 is I don’t have to worry about the decisions I make when I am walking closely with the Lord. I don’t have to fret if my choices are the right choices or not. God promises me in these verses that if I am yielding my heart and will to Him, any direction I go will be the right way. My path will be His path because my heart is aligned to Him. When a car is properly aligned it steers straight. When the wheels are out of alignment, a car pulls in one direction or another forcing the driver to tug on the steering wheel in order to keep the car going straight. The same is true for us. When we are in right alignment with God, our actions flow smoothly in the direction God wants them to go. If we are not in right alignment we drift bouncing back and forth between the ruts in the road. Improper spiritual alignment lead us to drift off course and forces God to tug us back on track.
So, how do we stay in right alignment?
First, we have to trust God with all our heart. That means every crevice of our hearts’ desires needs to be entrusted to Him. We need to turn all of our desires and agendas over to God. We need to search our hearts and honestly ask God to reveal to us what we are holding back from him.
Second, we can’t rely on ourselves. We need to stop trying to figure everything out, and trust instead. We need to give up control and wait on God. We need to seek Him by reading his Word and praying, regularly. We need to develop an intimacy with God.
Lastly, we need to acknowledge Him. We need to recognize His authority. We need to stop being the back seat driver telling Him which way to go, and let Him drive. God knows where He is going and where He is taking us. We need to acknowledge that and sit back and let Him lead. We need to trust him enough to be in charge.
Consequently, if your life feels like it is drifting off course, check your alignment. Take the issue to God, the best mechanic in the world, get it fixed, and trust Him to keep you on track.
“And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground…” Exodus 14:22
I don’t know what overwhelming obstacle you face today, but the Israelites were facing a totally terrifying and impossible situation. A vast sea lay endlessly before them and a well-armed gigantic army was rumbling behind them. From where they stood, death was inevitable. No matter which direction they went, they were not going to get out alive. It was a matter of playing “would you rather die drowning in the sea or by the sword of your enemy?” Pick one.
To make matters worse, the guiding cloud of God was no longer in front of them. It now glowed in the dark behind them. The choice was clearly being made for them. Move forward, not backward. But forward was water. Endless, deep, non-breathable water. Forward was just as deadly as backward. Escape, even just survival, appeared to be impossible.
I’m sure they wondered. Why God? Why are you forcing us into a place you know we won’t survive? Why did you take us out of Egypt to drown us in the Red Sea? They may have even muttered, “Can’t we go back now?” Or even simply, “I just don’t understand.”
How often do we face situations that seem impossible to us? How many times have we followed God only to be stopped in our tracks by obstacles we didn’t expect? How often have we wondered if we were truly doing the right thing after we had left everything that was familiar behind?
The people had been faithful and now they were stuck between a rock and a hard place. The only thing they had done to be in this situation was to follow God’s directions.
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22).
The miracle in this story to me isn’t so much that God parted the sea, but the fact that the people stepped into the sea that God parted. God’s power and glory aren’t hard to find. Just look at a sunrise or a sunset. Visit the Rocky Mountains or Grand Tetons. Gaze at a newborn baby.
God’s miracles are around us every day. I know God has the ability to divide the sea, the hard part for me is trusting His miracles enough to walk in them. I believe God can make a way through any of my difficult circumstances, I’m just not always sure He will do it for me. I tend to stand still, not moving, waiting until the path is safe and clear before I do something. I want to see what He is doing. I want a well-lit trail to follow before I step out. I crave continual reassurance that what I am doing is the right thing. For the people of Israel, the seas parted during the night when it was dark. God does some of His best, most powerful work when we can’t see it happening.
God not only parted the sea for them while they waited in the dark, but He also called them to walk through the path He miraculously made for them. The ground beneath them was dry, but the walls beside them were still high and wet. To walk between those walls of water must have been knee-shaking, fist-clenching, teeth-rattling terrifying. But they did it. They walked through that insurmountable water to safety. That my friends is what gives me courage. It’s not God doing great things (I know He can do that), it’s me walking in the great things He is doing in spite of the difficulties, hardships, and wet walls that surround me.
Yes, God will make a way for us when there doesn’t seem to be way, but we have to trust Him enough to step out and walk in the direction He is leading us- no matter what.
The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. John 4: 53
I couldn’t fix it. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t make it better. I was helpless. I was powerless. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t help my child.
Parenting books never tell you about the gut wrenching pain of watching your children struggle. The how to books can give you a list of things to do or not to do, but the lists can’t prepare you for the emotional desperation that comes when you realize you can’t fix a difficult situation surrounding your child. It’s as if he is drowning just outside of your grasp and you can’t reach him to save him.
The father in our passage today was in this position. He was desperate, out of options, helpless, and heartbroken. His son was dying and he couldn’t do anything about it. With nowhere else to go, he went to Cana where the man who had turned water to wine was staying. Maybe, just maybe, he could help. It was a 16.5 mile journey. The trek was inconvenient, difficult, and humbling. The father was a man of power and position, but his wealth and status could not save his sick son. He was out of options. He was at the end of himself. So, he made the journey with the last ounce of hope he had in his heart.
I don’t know about you, but nothing drives me to my knees faster than the pain of my children. The helplessness I feel causes me to earnestly seek the Lord on their behalf because there is nothing else I can do. I can’t heal them or mend their broken hearts. The struggle is theirs not mine. It’s as if my hands are bound at my side and I can only watch as they fight against adversity. As I stand on the sidelines watching, my heart is twisted and squeezed leaving me emotionally drained and desperate to rescue them.
The sickness of the son caused the father to seek out the Healer. In his desperation, the father poured out his last drop of hope, “’Sir, come down before my child dies.’” He left his last residue of hope to rescue his child at the feet of Jesus. “Jesus said to him. ‘Go, your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way” (John 4: 49-50). In this moment an exchange occurred. Faith for healing. Healing for faith. The man’s faith brought the son healing and the son’s healing brought the man faith. In taking the only steps he could, the father brought healing to his son. His faith was rewarded and strengthened by a struggle that was not his own.
God often uses the struggles my children face to challenge and strengthen my faith. Their struggles place me in a position of powerlessness which forces me to trust in God alone. And, just like the father in the story my faith grows as I watch God work miracles in the lives of my children.
When You Feel Lost in the Crowd
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalms 145:17-18
In sea of unfamiliar faces surrounding me, the room begins to close in pushing feelings of panic up into my throat. Just as the feeling of being overwhelmed and lost begins to rise in my chest and drown me, I hear it. The distinct familiar sound of her voice. I would know it anywhere. Its tone. Its pitch. Its volume. Its familiarity. Its comfort. Its security. The voice belongs to my closest friend and at the sound of it I know I’m not going to drown lost in the sea of unfamiliar people. At the sound of her voice, I know I am safe. I know I am known. I know I am not alone.
No matter how big the crowd is there are certain voices in our life we can pick out no matter what. Our mothers. Our fathers. Our best friends. Our spouses. Our children. Psalms 145:17-18 tells us God is the same way with our voice. In spite of being in charge of the universe and hearing billions of voices a day, He knows our voice. God knows my voice. Did you catch that? My voice. He hears ME in the middle of a crowd. He hears ME in the midst of his busy. He hears ME no matter how many people are talking to him. He can find ME in a crowd. And what’s even more important? He hears Me. He listens to Me. He is never far from ME. The same is true for you. God knows your voice and hears you when you call.
I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in this truth. As a true introvert, my world is easily rocked by new places with unknown people. The presence of one familiar person is all I need to keep from feeling like I am drowning. Just like hearing the voice of a friend brings me peace in the midst of a crowd of unfamiliar people, knowing that God is close by and will hear me when I call, is all I need sometimes to step out into the unknown challenges that each day brings to me.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
I’m not going to lie, tornadoes terrify me. My years of living in Arkansas filled me with tornado season dread. The changing of seasons with their capricious air temperatures brought about the evil time of tornadoes. I am a western girl. I grew up in the hot, dry desert of Arizona. I had no clue when I moved across the country at nineteen what “taking shelter in the bathtub” meant. I soon learned that the ominous dark clouds with their dripping tails hanging down into the yellow tinged sky below were a sign of dangerous weather to come. If the signs in the sky were coupled with the sounds of sirens, we were to take shelter in the safest, most interior, windowless place in the house. For us, in a house without a basement, safe shelter meant a closet or the bathroom.
Having a safe place to hide in a times of trouble is not a modern concept. Throughout history settled societies have built places where they can take refuge in times of trouble. In ancient days, walls provided protection for the inhabitants of the city. The middle ages ushered in castles and keeps as places of protection. Outdated city walls and castles have been replaced by modern building designs and materials made to withstand a host of apocalyptic events to keep us safe. Although the means of fortification have changed, the purpose has remained the same-to provide a safe and secure place to take refuge when storms come or enemies attack.
Proverbs 18:10 tells us that the Lord is our place of refuge. He is our strong tower. He is our refuge. He is our safe place. When storms come or enemies attack, we are to run and seek refuge in Him. Does this mean that nothing bad will ever happen to me? That no one will ever hurt me?
But, it does mean that no matter what I face, I am not alone. The God who made the universe is on my side. He is with me wherever I go. He is my shelter in times of trouble. He is my source of strength and courage. He is the One I should run to first, when I need help.
Sometimes, my list of worries can be long and I feel overwhelmed by life pressing in on me. In those moments, I often find myself taking my concerns to everyone but God. It’s like I’m standing in an open field when a tornado is coming and I have taken shelter behind a blade of grass when a storm shelter is right in front of me.
God doesn’t promise us a life free of pain or struggles, but he does promise us a safe place to hide when we need it.
I challenge you today to trust God with whatever tornado you face today. Seek shelter in the strong tower of our Savior instead of the flimsy fortresses the world has to offer. He promises to keep us safe.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6
She doubles over, slaps her knee and laughs “How’s that BOLD coming?” Her eyes twinkle as she chides me about the need to make my one word for the year, bold. Not having a hesitant bone in her body, my friend shakes her head back and forth as I describe how hard it was for me to venture outside my comfort zone in order to take on a new bold adventure. “That’s it? That’s what you were so scared to do?” Her head shakes in disbelief. “That was easy.”
I love having a big, bold, bossy friend. She forces me to do things I wouldn’t normally considering doing. For example, she makes me ride roller coasters. She even tries to coax me into the front row. “It’s a smoother ride.” She purrs hoping to con me into it (It doesn’t work), but at least I get on the ride.
Regardless of whether or not I ride in the front row of a coaster, her sense of adventure and ability to laugh at life emboldens me. She makes me more daring. Her brave makes me braver. Her confidence strengthens my confidence.
Psalms 118:6 is a challenge for me. It is hard for me to state, “I will not fear.” I think I was born afraid. In fact, I have spent most of my life living under the shadow of fear. Fear of failing. Fear of disappointing someone. Fear of being rejected. Fear of looking stupid in front of others. My fears have kept me tethered to things I felt were safe and that I could control. Bold was not a word in my vocabulary; timid was.
But, timid is not the truth that God has for my life. God doesn’t want me to be afraid. God’s truth tells me to be brave. To be bold. To not be afraid. God’s truth tells me to not fear. God’s truth tells me that He is at my side. And, in truth, with God at my side, what do I have to fear? Because honestly, with God at my side, what can man do to me?
Just as my bold friend empowers me to be brave, the presence of God at my side, allows me to not be afraid. He enables me to step out and take risks for Him. He makes me brave enough to be bold in-spite of my fear.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.