Protasso

Now here’s a new word for you.  No, it’s not some new high-tech coffee maker.  It’s not a new Italian restaurant – but it sort of sounds Italian, doesn’t it?  Italian, no.  Greek, yes. 

I’ve been thinking about my life – how I ended up where I am, doing what I’m doing, not doing what I thought I’d be doing at this point.  And while a whole lot of questions still swirl around in my mind, I do know one thing.  God knows what He’s doing.  He had my whole life planned out before I was even that proverbial glimmer in my parent’s eyes. 

So, back to protasso.  It comes from Acts 17:26-27. “He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us”. (NIV)

That word “determined” is “protasso” in the original New Testament Greek.  It means, “to define beforehand, to put in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place”.   God arranged the events and the places in my life a long time ago.  Sure, I had choices along the way, but God knew all along where I’d end up.   And He has me here, in this place, in this circumstance for a reason – so that I would seek Him, and find Him.  He’s “findable” in every situation, whether it’s where I thought I’d be or not.  He promises me that.  And sometimes I just need to pull back from looking for all the answers to my questions, and look for Him instead.  THAT is why He has me here, today, in this place, at this time. 

Protasso.  A very good word.

Tried

Faith by its very nature must be tried, and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven trustworthy in our own minds. Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive. Faith as the Bible teaches is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him – a faith that says, “I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.” “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” – this is the highest and greatest expression of faith in the whole of the Bible.

My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers)

Perseverance

Things weren’t going well.  I was hiking with some friends at Arches National Park in Utah.  “Hiking” might be the wrong word.  In truth, I was struggling to breathe.  Here was this Florida girl, quite unused to elevations of any sort, and quite unused to using the muscles required to “hike”.   The heat coming off the red sandstone was oppressive.  Professional hikers with their cool boots and backpacks were practically running past me.  Like I said, things weren’t going well.  But my friend (who is quite the hiker) told me to keep pressing on, that the trip would be so worth it.  And he was so right.  We got to the top, rounded a bend, and there before me stood the most magnificent natural creation I’d ever seen.  There was Delicate Arch, formed by thousands of years of hot winds blowing across the sandstone.  Hikers standing at its base were dwarfed by its size.  Snow-capped Colorado mountains set the backdrop behind it.  And this time my breath was taken away, not because of the hike, but because of the amazing and dramatic beauty. 

I realized that if I had given up at any point during that hike, or if I had decided to turn around, I never would have had that experience.  Life is like that, too.  God has amazing things for us to see and experience, but sometimes we have to press on through roadblocks and discouragements before we get there.  And yet, God is right there next to us whispering, “Keep going!  You won’t believe what I have waiting for you up around the bend!”

Romans 5:3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.” (NLT)

Hang in there.  Keep hiking.  You won’t believe what God has around the bend for you.

(adapted from my book, “Anticipatience – A New Word of Hope for Single Women”)

Unwavering

Abraham is one of my favorite Bible characters.  And here is one of my favorite verses about him:

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

Romans 4:20-21

Unwavering.  Strengthened in faith.  Fully convinced.

Now THOSE are words to start my day with.

Awhile

I think using a GPS is a pretty cool thing.  It never ceases to amaze me that this little device can know exactly where your car is, tell you exactly where to go and exactly how far it is to your destination. Well, most of the time, anyway.

We borrowed a GPS to use on a recent jaunt to a flower show while I was visiting family.  We had played around with it the night before, laughing as we programmed it to speak in different languages.  Apparently, we played with it a little too much.  As we swung onto the highway en route to Springfest, the friendly GPS lady said, “Stay on this road…for awhile”.  Huh?  Wasn’t she supposed to be telling us to stay on the highway for 4.2 miles or something like that?  Awhile?  What kind of GPS says to stay on the road for awhile?

We got a good laugh out of it, but it did reflect yet another life lesson.  We knew we were on the right road, but the GPS lady wasn’t about to tell us how long we’d be on it.  We just had to wait until she decided to speak again.  And she did.  When our exit came up, she very nicely said, “Exit in one mile”.  We got to the flower show and had a delightful time.

God is like that sometimes.  He’s told us to get on the road, but sometimes He’s not too quick to tell us how long we’ll be on it.  He may just say “Stay on this road…for awhile.”  We want details.  We want timelines.  We want to know just how long this particular scenery is going to last.  But we just need to trust Him.  For awhile.  When it’s time to get off this road, He’ll speak.  And we’ll arrive at the destination He had planned for us all along. 

The destination is His choice, of course, but I wouldn’t mind if it included a few tulips and other smile-producing signs of Spring.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.    Isaiah 30:21  NKJV

Timing

There are signs of Spring in New Jersey.  Crocuses are popping up, buds are showing at the ends of branches and the grass seems just a little bit greener.  I drank it all in when I was up for a visit last week.  I love Spring!  Every time I came in and out the side door of my parent’s house, I noticed the bright green leaves of some daffodil plants celebrating the warmth and moving ever closer to exploding out into those delightful sunny yellow flowers. 

But I found out they had a story.

Seems there was an odd warm spell in North Jersey sometime in late January.  The daffodils sensed that warmth and thought it was time to break through the winter dirt.  But just a day later, a surprise snowstorm ruined their party.  It snowed on them two more times after that – one storm that covered them in ten inches of snow, and then a blizzard that buried them in over a foot.  A weaker, more delicate flower would have succumbed.  But these hardy daffodils stood their ground, took a break from growing and waited out the cold.  And now, they are healthy and green and ready to show the world what they are made of.

There are times in our lives when we feel like it’s the right time to move forward, the right time to take a risk.  All the signs point to perfect conditions and God’s approving nod.  And then suddenly, the climate can change and we find ourselves cold and clueless.  And we wonder if we were the ones that ran ahead, or if God did tell us to move forward even though He knew there were difficult times in the forecast.  We might not get our questions answered, but we can be like the daffodils – brace ourselves, stay strong and wait out the storms.  And in God’s timing, the warm sun will shine again and we’ll be grateful for the days of waiting and grateful that God’s hand never left us even when the weather tried to convince us otherwise.

Something tells me those daffodils might just be a little more glorious this year.  Hang on.  Spring is coming.

1 Corinthians 15:58  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”                                           

Toasted

I love to cook.   I watch the cooking shows on TV and read the cooking blogs, but most of all I just love to cook. Cooking  touches all  five of the senses: you can taste the food, of course, but you can feel dough between your hands as you knead it, you can hear the sizzle of something in a hot pan, you can see the bright colors of  fresh vegetables and you can smell a roast chicken in the oven.

I got thinking about the sense of smell and cooking the other day.  I had a recipe that called for toasting the spices before adding them to the other ingredients in the dish.   The spices smelled good right out of the jar, but putting them in a pan and turning up the heat  released this fragrance that was incredible.  The smell was so much more intense.  The essential oils were broken down enough to release something that wouldn’t have been possible without adding the heat.

I think that our prayers are like the spices.  They can be good and effective, but when the heat is turned up in our lives, our prayers become more intense.  God tells us that our prayers are like incense rising up before Him.  You can’t burn incense without heat – something I knew, of course, but when thinking about it in terms of lifes challenges, it takes on a new meaning.  Add heat, and prayers get stronger. Add heat, and the result can be something that wouldn’t have happened without it.  We need to remember this when things get heated in our daily life.  It can make us more aware of how we pray.  God loves strong, fragrant prayers.   He takes notice.  And He responds.  

Let my prayer be set before You as incense.  Psalm 141:2

And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.  Revelation 8:4

Simple

Sometimes great, sweeping theological truths can be whittled down to a few simple words – words that stick with you for a very long time.  I can’t remember the last time I heard this hymn.  I can’t remember the last time I read the words.  But I do have childhood memories of singing the chorus in Sunday School and Bible clubs.  Two words, simple truth.   Trust…and obey.

Trust and Obey  John Henry Sammis 1846-1919

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Refrain

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.   Proverbs 3:5-6  NKJV

 

 

Morning person

I admit it.  I’m a morning person.  Always have been. 

I’m told by my mother that even as a child, I would wake up with a smile on my face.  Now honestly, that doesn’t happen too frequently anymore, unless I’m coming out of a great dream and haven’t quite realized yet that it was a dream.  But there is still something about getting up while it’s dark and then watching the sky gradually go from black, to cobalt, and then to lighter and lighter shades of blue as dawn nears.   My absolute hands-down favorite moment is when I see the first golden sun rays hit the top of the tallest pine trees outside my porch.  It’s like God is saying, “Ta-da! I present to you – SUNRISE!!!!”   God knows that after a long, dark night, the morning brings the hope of not only a new day, but of a fresh start.   If there were hurts or disappointments or challenges the day before, a sunrise reminds us that God is giving us another chance to see His faithfulness and provision and mercy.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  Ps. 30:5

Then your light shall break forth  like the morning.  Ps. 159:8

Your mercies are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.         Lamentations 3:23

And in case you’re wondering, yes, the picture at the top of the page is indeed a sunrise.  It’s God’s  early morning “ta-da” moment  over Three Mile Bay in upstate New York – one of my favorite places in the world.