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A Snippet from Luke 12

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Dear Readers, Friends, Family, People Who’ve Just Stumbled onto This Blog and Who are Just So Welcome to Do So—

I realize my posts this summer have been a little more scarce than usual. Sometimes life gets crazy and steals all the words away. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking of you. I just had to give myself a bit of space through a busy, and sometimes emotional, summer break.

But now we’re all moved into our new home. We’re done travelling for a bit—a little bit. Our cantankerously sweet, little dog has travelled to his final resting place. (Sniffle. Tear up.) Our home-from-college son has returned to his studies. (Choke back tears and smile for his joy–which is our own. We miss them, but we’re so proud of our boys!) Now I’m ready to reclaim the order of my quiet, little world and write again!

I know, I know. Experts say that real writers write through chaos. That may be so for some. Me—I journal through chaos, process experiences, then write, really write, when everything settles down. That’s how I roll. I’m pretty sure I’m still real.

But I’m not really reclaiming the order of my quiet, little world. Instead I’m going to have to learn how to write through chaos. I raised three boys while writing my first book, so I’m sure it can be done. Stay with me as I get around to telling you what’s going on . . .

When my husband and I first became empty-nesters, I thought I’d have hours and hours and hours of time to write. (When the established empty-nesters stop laughing their silly heads off, I’ll continue . . . any time now . . . we’re waiting . . . okay, that’s enough!)

My first clue that those hours of time weren’t going to materialize came when our family scattered. Seriously, my immediate family, i.e. children, parents, siblings, are a whole new diaspora, currently dwelling in seven states, covering three, almost four, corners of the US. This may not be as unusual as I think. But there just aren’t enough hours to spend with them all, so when we find time we visit because we love our people!!! And we savor every moment with them.

Which brings me to the new reason those hours of time aren’t going to materialize:

Soon, we hope and pray, we’ll have another person to savor moments with!

Yesterday we turned in our applications and other paperwork in order to adopt. That means we’re officially expecting another child now! An older child; not a baby. A daughter! And I’m just as nervous about making this announcement as I was about announcing the expected arrival of our biological children. I know a lot will be different, but I’m amazed at how much is the same.

  • We can’t even begin to imagine what life with this new person will be like.
  • We know she’ll turn our lives upside-down.
  • We know we’ll cherish her no matter what because love is a choice and family is precious and each child is a hand-picked gift from God.
  • We cannot wait!

We’ve wanted to do this for a long time. We actually started the process back in Colorado in 2005. But God slammed all the doors shut back then. He knew there was a storm coming, that our energy was needed elsewhere, that maybe we weren’t as ready for this new adventure as we thought we were. We thought those doors were closed forever, but . . .

Now, we feel as if we’re waking up and finding ourselves in the waiting room we didn’t even realize we were still in. We’re noticing that the doors are all wide open now, and we’re peeking through with anticipation, almost disbelief. Can this be real? After all this time, we can proceed and prepare to bring our daughter home!

Of course, we’ve only just started the process, so we’re still in the waiting room. But soon, hopefully very soon, we’ll have a new child! Please keep our family in your prayers.

Sometimes when we’re watchful and ready, it seems the doors will never open, the Master will never come. But how amazing it will always be when He finally does, whether He’s bringing the answer to a prayer, fulfilling a dream, assigning a task, or taking us home.

Father, thank You for sweet surprises. Please keep us watchful and alert, ready to act. Show us Your way—in Your time. Amen.

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We Follow the One We Choose to Trust

We Follow Who We TrustA few years ago I did a series at Wildflower Thinking called The New Spice Rack Recipes. My brother had learned that salt was my seasoning of choice and decided to correct that by buying me a new spice rack for my birthday. I decided to take the hint and determined to find at least one new recipe every month that featured one of the spices from my new spice rack. The series ran until I’d used each spice at least once.

The series came to an end, but my cooking adventures did not. Since then, our family has had to give up soy and gluten, and I’ve had to learn a whole new way to cook. But the spice rack project prepared me for this adventure. I’m not a great chef, but I can no longer say I’m not a good cook. I’ve been practicing and learning to enjoy the process, too. In fact, I suspect my earlier cooking issues came from being impatient, from trying to hurry the science up. (And if you don’t believe that cooking is a science, then you haven’t really learned to cook.)

For Christmas this past year, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a new cookbook called The Gluten-Free Table by Jilly Lagasse and Jessie Lagasse Swanson, aka Emeril’s daughters. I’ll confess, it intimidates me. I’ve only tried one of the recipes so far—but it was so good! Pan-fried Flounder with Lemon Garlic Butter. It totally takes the healthy out of gluten-free! That’s probably why it’s such a hit in our house.

I made this recipe the other day. The sisters excel at step-by-step instructions. (Something I’ll need to remember as I boldly attempt some more of their creations.) But as I was following these instructions, I found myself revising them. I’d see a simpler way to get from one step to another—less mess, fewer dishes. I’d wonder why they included the extra steps. Then I’d figure there probably was a perfectly good reason, but since I couldn’t ask them, I’d do things my way. The recipe came out fine, but I can’t help but wonder if following the recipe exactly would have made a difference—would have made it even better! What do these sisters know that I don’t? (Probably, quite a lot!) I may never know, however, because the fish turned out really good, and I had less mess to clean up. (Remember that theory of my earlier cooking issues? Evidently I’m still a work in progress.)


Mark 8:34 says, “Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Earlier Jesus had called Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-20). They did. He called Matthew to follow Him (Matthew 9:9). He did. He told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). This man did not. Finally, Jesus called anyone who wants to to follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23). The choice is ours.

This decision to follow Jesus, however, isn’t just a one-time choice. We choose to follow Jesus, then we choose to keep following Him. Just as I had to choose to follow the Lagasse sisters’ step-by-step instructions or not as I worked my way through their recipe, we have to choose to follow Jesus’ leading moment-by-moment, every day, as we work our way through life. Some people in the Bible followed Jesus, then turned back when the journey got rough (John 6:66). There will be times when our journey gets rough, when our journey gets messy, when we think we see a simpler way. In these times, we’ll choose to follow—or not. And life may become easier for a time if we do not, but, unlike with the flounder recipe, in the end we won’t get the desired result unless we follow Jesus and do everything His way.

Earlier I mentioned that as I was preparing the pan-fried flounder, I often wondered why the Lagasse sisters told me to do some things. I don’t know them personally, so I couldn’t ask. It’s similar with Jesus. I do have a personal relationship with Him, and He doesn’t mind if I ask why. But He doesn’t always choose to answer this question. I think this is because He is teaching us to trust. We show our trust, we practice our trust, when we choose to follow Him no matter what. And in the end, this is healthy for us.

Jesus loves us. He wants what’s best for us. He’s continuing the work He has begun in our lives. Let’s cooperate. Let’s follow. Let’s trust.

Jesus, thank You for being perfectly trustworthy. Please help us to follow You faithfully each day.

Disclosure

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A Step Beyond Wondering

A Step Beyond Wondering“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?” –Deuteronomy 4:32

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” –Matthew 7:7

My husband and I got to visit our oldest son, Justin, and his wife, Bridget, a few weeks ago. While we were there, Justin took me flying over their town and the surrounding area. From the air in about forty minutes, he showed me every point of interest we had visited in that whole past week by car or on foot. And because the sun was setting, everything was coated in a gorgeous pink glow. I couldn’t take enough pictures, and those I took couldn’t capture the beauty we saw.

Before our flight, Justin had watched the weather carefully over several days to choose a time when there wouldn’t be much wind. (Turbulence can be distressing for moms not used to flying in small planes.) After the flight, Justin told me he likes flying at dawn or sunset best because the air is usually calmest then.

“I wonder why,” I said.

Justin told me; I was stunned.

I wasn’t stunned that he knew the answer. That there was an answer was the shock. I’d thought Justin was simply sharing an observation he’d made through his experience as a pilot. But there really is a scientific explanation for these times of calmer weather, and Justin put it in terms that a non-flying-nor-scientific sort of person could kind of/sort of understand. (Which led me to ask him a question that revealed to me just how small people really are compared to this great, big world our God has created for us—I feel tiny whenever I think of it. I would attempt to explain but it’s beyond what I can put into words. Let’s just say we don’t make as much of an impact on this planet as we like to believe we do. We’re ants on Mount Everest in God’s hands.)

Back to my wonderings. I didn’t ask Justin the question because I didn’t know there was a question to ask, but I wondered aloud and learned there was an answer available. So now I’m wondering: how often do we wonder about something about God or His Kingdom but fail to ask Him about it because we assume there’s no answer to receive?

Are you following me?

My point: God wants us to ask. He wants to teach us. He wants to help us grasp truth. He wants to reveal Himself at work in our lives, in this world, in eternity! But we have to stop wondering and ask. Once we do, He can surprise us with answers we didn’t even know were out there. He can show us how big He is in comparison to our lives that we tend to think are the most important thing of all. And in showing us His bigness, He will earn our trust—and our fear, our awe, our respect. We’ll know that we can put our confidence in Him no matter what comes our way, whether it’s dawn or sunset or the most turbulent time of the day.

When we catch ourselves wondering, let’s talk to God. Then let’s make note of the answers He sends our way. Better yet, let’s make time to wonder when we pray. Let’s spend time in His Presence just talking about whatever makes us curious. As we do, let’s formulate questions and write them in our journals. Then let’s go from there anticipating answers that will come.

Father, You’ve told us to ask, to seek, to knock. Please remind us to do so! It’s a privilege to be able to talk with You. It’s a joy when You respond. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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Habakkuk’s Honesty

The Book of Habakkuk is only three chapters long. It’s one we can read quickly, yet it contains a powerful message. This makes it one of my favorite Bible books. In a sense, it’s the journal of a man frustrated with God. It includes God’s response to him, and his response, in turn, to God. As this man wrestles his way through his issues, the journal shows him choosing to trust and to submit. It shows him finding peace in the midst of turmoil. It shows him claiming God’s strength for his role in it.

Don’t we all wrestle with God this way sometimes?

Let me highlight a few verses that especially speak to me:

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” –Habakkuk 1:2

Wow! David’s psalms are often used to show us how honest we can be with God. But listen to Habakkuk! He’s throwing a temper tantrum! “Lord, I’ve waited long enough! It’s time for you to act! I demand justice now! Where are you and why haven’t you done something about this intolerable situation?” While we do need to fear God, we don’t have to fear turning our honest emotions and questions over to Him. As we initiate the conversation, God can help us see Truth and trust in Him.

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” –Habakkuk 2:14

This is a promise! Someday, the whole earth will know God and His glory. He will saturate our world completely, covering it as water covers the sea. For this reason, we must pray now that unbelievers will allow God to open their eyes to His Presence before this awesome day. Once God reveals Himself to the world, it will be too late for those who refused to see Him before He came.

“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” –Habakkuk 2:20

This verse takes my very breath away—every time I read it. Can’t you just picture that glorious, holy Temple with the whole world around it, frozen, waiting, knowing that God is preparing to act, anticipating His appearance and the sudden transformation that will come with it? Pause for a moment. Reflect on that.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” –Habakkuk 3:2

Two chapters ago, Habakkuk was demanding action and justice, but here he recognizes God’s wrath and asks for mercy. We must do the same. Though we’re anxious for God to return and set everything right that’s gone wrong with this world, once He does, there’s no mercy for those who don’t believe. God’s patience equals salvation for some. Though He hates sin and longs to pour His wrath out on it, His waiting is an act of mercy.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” –Habakkuk 3:17-18

What a perfect statement of trust! Habakkuk has come back to a place of patience, trusting in God though times are hard. We see a similar statement in Job 13:15: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” When we become impatient for God to act on our behalf, praying these verses helps us stand in confidence.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” –Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk not only learns to wait patiently, trusting in God’s timing, that God is doing what’s best for all, but Habakkuk also learns to claim God’s strength to help him endure and to help him accomplish whatever God has for him to do, to go on the heights, enjoying fellowship with God and doing great things for Him.

To summarize, Habakkuk communicates honestly, sees purpose in God’s patience, prays that that purpose will be accomplished, submits to God’s timing (even if it means Habakkuk’s suffering), and claims strength to endure to eventually enjoy the ultimate victory—to go on the heights with God.

Lord, please help us to do the same—to endure while we wait that you can show mercy to others. Give us Your strength that we can serve You faithfully through all the trials that come our way. You are in Your holy Temple—the whole world waits. We long to join You there on the heights some glorious day—when You say it’s time. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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A New Way to Pray for Family and Close Friends

Teach Us to IntercedePrayer is having a conversation with God.

Intercessory prayer is one kind of prayer: praying for other people.

When we intercede, we usually present to God a list of concerns for others that we have been made aware of: they’ve asked us to pray, another person has asked us to pray for them, we’ve observed their struggles and decided to pray. We collect these requests then choose a time to present them to God in prayer.

But if prayer really is having a conversation with God, then intercession can be so much more than presenting a list of concerns. I believe that we can learn to pray with God about people instead of simply praying to God for people. I also believe that as we do so, we’ll be allowing Him, if He so chooses, to use us more effectively in the process of answering those prayers.

This is how it works:

1. Begin by telling God all the things you love about the person you are praying for. This will allow God to go to work on your heart. If there are hidden resentments or other problems, God will reveal these as you attempt to focus on the positive. You’ll be having a conversation with God about this person, and as you do, God will prepare your heart to intercede by helping you go into it with the right attitude.

2. Take some time to thank God for that person’s presence in your life. Officially recognize and recount ways God has used that person to positively influence you. Let God show you how this person is one of His gifts to you. Thank Him for the gift.

3. Ask God to show you how you can love that person in His name. Ask Him to give you specific ideas. Determine to be alert to His promptings throughout the day—and ask Him to help you with this. When you follow through, that will be your opportunity to work with God, allowing Him to use you however He chooses to answer your prayers. If you don’t see an opportunity or feel prompted to do anything out of the ordinary, trust God with this. He may use you without your knowledge. He may use someone else to meet a need. He may have something else in mind. His ways are always best.

4. Finally, present any known requests on that person’s behalf. Present them one at a time, thoughtfully. Again, be open and alert to anything God’s Spirit may suggest to you. Thank God for all He plans to do in this person’s life.

Praying this way for everyone we love every day is probably too much to ask. If ever we’re aware of something serious, that can be a prompt to take the time to do this. And, of course, we can whisper Parachute Prayers on the spot whenever we learn of a need. Here’s a fun suggestion, though, for scheduling time to pray for those in our close circles regularly:

  • Make a list of the people you consider family and close friends, people you want to pray for regularly just because you love them.
  • Write the number of their birthday beside their name. For example, if your mother was born on May 4, write a four beside her name.
  • When a person’s number rolls around every month, pray for that person on that day. Using the above example, on the fourth of every month, you’d pray for your mom.
  • Because some people have birthdays at the end of long months, pray for those people on the last day of the month, so you’ll still get to focus on them twelve times (at the very least – always be open to pray more often if God calls you to).

Caution: please don’t ever let a suggestion such as this one, simply a useful tool, become a burden. Talking with God about the people we love is meant to be a joyful privilege—never something we have to do on this day-at that time-no matter what-or else.

Father, please teach us to pray with You about the people You’ve placed in our lives. However You lead us to do so, help us to enjoy our visit with you and to learn if and how we can help as You work in their lives. Teach us to love. Teach us to encourage. Teach us to obey. We love you, Lord. Amen.

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Confronting Others God’s Way

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” –Matthew 18:15, NLT

Purple PansyConfronting someone we care about is hard. In fact, the closer we are to a person, the harder a confrontation may be because we fear rejection, hard feelings, even loss of relationship if the discussion is not well-received. That’s why we must carefully consider how we’ll handle confrontation when it’s necessary.

When someone we care about offends us, we have options to consider—lots of options! Sadly, not all of these are healthy, but all of them are hard. In fact, the healthiest choice may actually be the hardest one of all.

Let’s consider some of the ways we may choose to deal with an offense:

1. Retaliation. At first, this probably feels like the easiest option—if not the most tempting. An eye for and eye—a tooth for a tooth. Exact justice so all’s fair. Revenge is sweet, isn’t it?

Not really. Especially if we care about the person we’re getting vengeance on. Now we’ll not only have to suffer with the pain of having been offended but also with the guilt of having offended someone else and, possibly, the end of a relationship. At the least, damage on both sides will have to be repaired. Retaliation may feel good for a moment, but once that moment passes, we’ll have a bigger mess to clean up.

2. Avoidance. This may seem like an easy option, too—unless we live with the one who has caused us pain. Even then, it’s possible to go about our business pretending that what happened didn’t really bother us. Denial can become our happy place! But only for a time.

The trouble is, when we choose avoidance or live in denial, we’re actually waiting for the one who hurt us to come to his or her senses, apologize, and make things right. But how can another do this if he or she doesn’t even know we are hurt? Eventually, we’ll become frustrated and impatient or the unknowing offender will repeat the offense, pushing us to confront in anger or to make our withdrawal from the relationship permanent. If we care about the person who has offended us, we’ll want to avoid this.

3. Gossip. This one disguises itself as asking for help. We go to a disinterested (or overly-interested) third party with the story of our wound, inviting that party to give us advice or intervene on our behalf. At the very least, this newcomer will give us sympathy . . . we believe.

Unfortunately, this only burdens the third party in an unfair way. The matter to be resolved is between the offender and the offended (unless, according to Matthew 18:16, we’ve already confronted our offender, who then refused to acknowledge any wrong-doing). Once we tell our side of the story to a third party, that person will feel obligated to act—to confront for or with us, to talk to the offender to hear his or her side of the story, or to confront us with the offense that we are now guilty of. Worse than that, if the one who offended us learns we’ve talked about the situation to someone else, the offender will feel offended, too. We’ll find ourselves owing two people an apology instead of receiving the apology we believe we deserve. I don’t think any of us wants this.

4. Direct Confrontation. I’ve already said that this may be the hardest option, but it’s the only one that keeps us from committing a wrong ourselves, from taking bitterness or malice inside of ourselves. And, like pulling a bandage off, it will hurt for a moment, but then it will be over. We’ll be able to see healing—even if the offender responds negatively! Just telling someone they’ve hurt us, getting it off our chest, begins to free us of the pain inside and allows us to move forward in a Christ-like way—so long as we’ve confronted in a Christ-like way.

Before we confront, we pray for wisdom. We ask God for the timing and the words and the love we’ll need. We also choose to forgive. We decide to offer grace before we know how the offender will respond. In doing so, we put the value of the person and the relationship above the hurt of the offense. Once we know that our heart is in the right place, we find a convenient time to meet with the one who hurt us and gently and respectfully state our case. Our goal in doing so is understanding, reconciliation, and peace. If the one we are confronting cares about the relationship, he or she will work with us toward that goal. If not, we go back to God for direction from there, knowing we’ve treated our offender as Christ would.

Jesus loved us, forgave us, and offered reconciliation before we even knew we’d done wrong. He gently confronts us by His Spirit and through His Word. Then He leaves the response up to us. When someone we care about hurts us, we can follow His example, asking for His Spirit’s help as we confront . . . in love . . . gently . . . for peace that’s real.

Father, when we need to confront, help us to do so boldly for the sake of the relationship and the good of everyone involved. Amen.

Other verses to consider: Hebrews 12:15, Romans 12:18 (The links will take you to the verses at BibleGateway.)

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When Life Changes Your Plans

Life Happens When You Plan“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” –John Lennon

I found this quote in a book I was reading last week. It made me laugh because it’s just so true. Just the other night, my husband and I were marveling over all we’ve encountered so far in our 27 years of marriage:

“How’d we get here, Janet?” Mike asked.

I smirked. “Well, we started in San Diego . . .”

He laughed. But we did start in San Diego, then we moved to Kansas City for school, then we were offered a pastorate in Maine . . . who could resist that adventure? . . . and life has offered one surprise after another since then. Starting out, we never could have imagined even half of it – and might have been tempted to bypass some of the adventures had God warned us in advance. It’s a good thing He didn’t do that.

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” –Proverbs 16:33, NLT

We keep trying to figure out what will be next, well, after this coming assignment . . . that we know . . . maybe . . . we’re in the military, after all. More significantly, we’re following God. I don’t think with either you really know where you’re going until you get there. And then you might be needed somewhere else. We make our plans using the information we have, but circumstances tend to change. We’ve learned, or maybe we’re still learning, to roll with that.

Proverbs 16-9As Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

Or, in King Solomon’s words, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” –Proverbs 16:9

God is the One in control when it comes to life.

I recently stumbled upon a translation of Philippians 4:11-14 that helped me understand this idea of rolling with life in a new way:

“I have learned how to manage on whatever I have. I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:11-14, The Jerusalem Bible

The translation I’m most familiar with says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (NIV). Another translation says, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (NLT). These put the focus on learning to be content in any situation which prompts the question, “How do I do that?”

The Jerusalem Bible tells us. In this translation, Paul says, “I have learned how to manage on whatever I have.” This tells me that being content is managing to do what you need to do with whatever you have, whatever God has provided, for whatever situation. And it’s not a matter of deciding to be content. Instead, it’s a matter of trust.

Which is why we have to learn it. Trust comes with experience.

When I look back on each circumstance of my life: each home, each state, each country, each financial state, each stage of marriage, of parenting, each new ministry or career— I can see God’s hand at work. There were times when we didn’t know how we would manage.

But we always did. God always provided enough. He always helped us to manage on what we had.

Therefore . . .

As I face new unknowns, as life happens to me while I make other plans, I can trust my God. He’s proven Himself faithful. All will eventually be well. I can be content knowing that.

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness and wisdom. Thank You for this life and all of its adventures, for meaningful work, for family, for surprises around every bend. Thank You for providing all we need to manage in whatever circumstance and for making us ready for it. Thank You most of all for Your presence. You are with us. That is all we really need. We love You, Lord. Amen.

If you struggle to find contentment in changing circumstances, my first book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway, may encourage you. Available at Amazon.com.

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Jacob’s Confident Prayer

White Flowers“I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps.”Genesis 32:10

Jacob was nervous on the night before he encountered his brother Esau for the first time in twenty years. He had reason to be. The last time he’d seen Esau, Jacob had just stolen his blessing. Esau was angry enough to kill, so Jacob ran away from home in order to stay alive.

But Jacob learned some things in twenty years away. As he prepared to renew his acquaintance with his brother, he prayed.

As I read his prayer this morning, I noted Jacob’s approach. First, he tells God that he is returning to his people, including Esau, because God told him to and because God promised to take care of him. In other words, “Lord, You led me to this place. I’m trusting You to keep Your promise.” (See Genesis 32:9.) When we’re acting in obedience, remembering that God is control of the outcome is a good thing to do. God never forgets this, but our verbal affirmation of His role in the operation is significant. It shows our submission to His will, and our decision to trust.

Next, Jacob remembers where he came from and compares it to where he now is, giving God all the credit for the changes in his life. This was the part of the prayer that most caught my attention. Instead of starting out by presenting his urgent request for safety, Jacob praises God for what He’s already done. What’s more, he notes that God chose to bless Jacob not because of anything Jacob had done to make himself worthy of God’s favor, but just because God wanted to.

I wonder if that part of the prayer was more for Jacob’s good than for God. Jacob stated the facts beautifully, and God surely deserved to hear those words from Jacob’s mouth, but Jacob needed to acknowledge those facts, to own up to his shortcomings and to express gratitude for God’s grace. That done, Jacob could present his urgent request for safety with confidence. (See Genesis 32:11.) God had already done so much for Jacob just because He wanted to. Jacob could move forward in trust that God would continue the work He had begun.

  • What are you concerned about today?
  • What has God already done for you?
  • Where have you come from and where are you now?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • What work in you has God begun?
  • Where is He leading now?
  • How can you show God that you trust Him with your life?

Father, help us to recall where we’ve been, to trace the path You’ve brought us on so far, and to recognize where we are. We are thankful for all You have done. As You lead us into the future, we have the confidence in You we need to trust. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Cover RevealAnnouncement: I’m giving away two copies of my new book, Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually, one for the winner and one extra for the winner’s friend. To enter this giveaway, click here. To learn more about the book, click here.

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Do You Trust Him?

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’” –Genesis 12:1

“So Abram went.” –Genesis 12:4

Because we move so often, I’ve come to love these verses. I wrote some of my thoughts about them in my book, Home Is Where God Sends You. Abram knew that, that home was wherever God sent him. God said, “Go.” Abram went. And he took his family, though he had no idea where God was leading them.

WindsorOver Christmas vacation, when much of our family was together, we played a silly game with our dog. He has a limited understanding of the English language, you know. But certain words just fill him with joy and make him wag his whole body all over the place. One such phrase is, “Do you wanna . . .” This phrase prompted our game. You see, it doesn’t matter what words follow that phrase. Windsor wants to! We asked him:

  • Do you wanna sleep outside in the cold?
  • Do you wanna skip dinner?
  • Do you wanna new kitty to keep you company?

Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Windsor wanted it all!!! He worked himself into such a frenzy, he was practically doing back flips!

Don’t feel too sorry for him, though. When he’d worn himself out with all that wagging and running around to show us just how much he wanted whatever we said, we gave him several dog treats, patted his head, and told him what a good dog he is—which was what he had expected all along. He didn’t mind our silly game at all.

I realized later that the reason Windsor got so excited, without even understanding the words that followed the phrase, “Do you wanna,” was because he trusts us. He knows that we only ever offer him (in seriousness) things that are good. That phrase is usually followed by words like treat, go for a walk, go for a ride in the car, eat, or go outside. Sometimes that car ride leads to the vet, but Windsor enjoys socializing with the people he meets there even if he has to get a shot or two. Perhaps he even understands, on some level, that those shots are for his own good. I may be overestimating him there, but he still trusts us. He doesn’t fear the words that follow “Do you wanna” because he knows we’ll always take care of him.

That’s the kind of trust that Abraham showed in God. It’s the way we can trust God, too. When He says, “Go,” we can move forward with confidence.

Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” He leads. We follow. We keep taking steps to keep up. We do the next thing, whatever it is, whether we know where it will lead or not. We take one step at a time in trust.

Father, yes. We wanna trust You. Point us in the right direction. Lead us step by step. Because we know You love us, we choose to follow where You lead. Amen.

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You Are Here

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.” –Ecclesiastes 7:14

Christmas TreeI don’t think anything tests my trust issues more than traveling by airplane. It’s not that I don’t enjoy flying; even turbulence usually feels more like fun than fear. My problem is trusting the airplane to take off and land when and where it’s supposed to. (And for the record, I have much experience with airplanes not taking off or landing when they’re supposed to and even with them landing where they’re not supposed to. Seeing Welcome to New York when you expect to be walking off the plane into Boston is a memorable experience.)

So I knew before we left for it that our recent trip to Northern California would provide an exercise in trust. Thankfully, our flights were great! No problems other than turbulence going over the Rockies. We were so excited when our plane touched down on time in San Francisco on Christmas morning. Only a three hour drive separated us from our loved ones . . . or so we thought.

Then we got to the rental car counter. Though we had reserved a car well in advance, the company we were counting on did not have one available for us—or for many other families beginning to gather rather grumpily. (If they could have found pitchforks, they would have used them. I have no doubt.) Things got worse when people started figuring out that none of the rental car companies on-site at the airport had any cars available for anyone. We’d all made reservations, but the companies failed to provide what they’d promised. I don’t know how many families were stranded at the San Francisco Airport on Christmas Day by rental car renege, but it was not pretty.

Thankfully, my husband found an off-site rental car company that claimed to still have cars available. We hopped on their shuttle with three other families, and prayed they’d really have cars for us all.

This is where the trust lesson comes in. They had said they had cars, but so had the company we’d made reservations with. My mind went into overdrive imagining all that could go wrong. Not only were we alone in a city where we didn’t know anyone, we were also leaving the place (the airport) I held responsible to fix our plight. What if this new company didn’t have any cars? What if their shuttle wouldn’t take us back to the airport? What if all the hotels in the city were booked, too? What if we had to spend the night in a strange rental car company waiting room with only stale coffee creamer for food?

You Are HereGod stopped my thoughts right there. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t cause a wave of peace to gently swaddle my soul. No. He simply put an image of a map in my head, the kind that you might see on a hiking trail or in a mall directory. The clearest thing I saw was the red dot with an arrow saying, “You are here.”

And I understood! I wasn’t looking for a hotel or sleeping in a waiting room with nothing to eat. I was on a shuttle headed for hope! Even better, though I was stuck in the present moment, God was in my future—whatever it held.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

Suddenly, I was thankful. I was thankful for God’s presence and comfort, for my husband’s quick-thinking and resourcefulness, for a safe beginning to our journey, and for the possibility of a car to rent to take us on to our Christmas celebration with the family we’d traveled to see.

That picture stayed with me for the rest of the trip, too. Whenever we went somewhere new and scary or had to make a quick decision, I’d see that “You are here” sign. Then I’d remember God’s faithfulness, let go of worries about the future, and enjoy the day’s event.

Our rental car adventure ended well. The new company upgraded us to a Toyota Sienna mini-van on the other company’s dime. The extra space allowed us to shuttle everyone around in one car instead of us always needing to take two. Togetherness on a family vacation is a happy thing!

Even so, I knew (and I know) that even when I trust God, sometimes He allows things to go wrong. These things teach me to trust Him—no matter what. God loves me. God has a good plan for my life. God is building Christ’s character into me. I can trust Him all the time.

I am here. With Him. Right now.

That is very good.