Risky

Sometimes, you just need to take a risk.  I’m not talking about reckless risks.  I’m talking about ones where God nudges you closer to a seemingly impossible situation and dares you to act in spite of the overwhelming odds.  I once heard those moments described as “divine impulses”.

A young guy named Jonathan had a divine impulse one day.  His father Saul, the once great King of Israel, was sitting defeated under a pomegranate tree, lamenting the fact that his army was pitiful, outnumbered , weaponless, and retreating.  He had started out with 3000 warriors, and was now down to 600.  And the enemy was quite aware of it.

Jonathan would have none of his father’s pity-party.  He knew this battle wasn’t theirs – it was God’s. So, upon a divine impulse, he snuck out of his father’s sad camp with only his armor bearer as a companion, and took on the Philistine army – with God on his side.  Fearless, he proclaimed, “Come on now, let’s go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe God will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when He sets his mind to it.” (1 Samuel 14:6  The Message)

And God did indeed deliver.  These two brave guys took the biggest risk of their lives and saw God work a miracle of epic proportions.  Their success against the enemy spurred Saul and the rest of Israel’s army to stop feeling sorry for themselves under that pomegranate tree, regroup and complete what the bold ones had started.  “And the LORD saved Israel that day” (1 Samuel 14:23)

I want to have the boldness of Jonathan.  I want to take on God-sized challenges that will inspire others by what He accomplishes through me.  I want to be acutely aware of divine impulses nudging me towards seemingly impossible situations, and be willing to take a risk that will give God all the glory.  Taking a risk can be a very good thing.

For with God, nothing is impossible.  Luke 1:37

Is there anything too hard for the LORD?  Genesis 18:14

But without faith it is impossible to please Him.  For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.   Hebrews 11:6

Today

Today is unique.  It has never occurred before, and it will never be repeated.  At midnight, it will end, quietly, suddenly, totally – forever.  But the hours in between now and then are opportunities with eternal possibilities.   Charles Swindoll

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:10

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.                      Colossians 4:5

Seize the day.

Surrender

Adelaide Addison Pol­lard be­lieved God want­ed her in Af­ri­ca as a mis­sion­a­ry.  She was all ready to embark on her journey, but was un­a­ble to raise funds to go and was forced to cancel the trip. Burdened and disappointed, she at­tend­ed a pray­er meet­ing, where she heard an el­der­ly wo­man pray, “It’s all right, Lord. It does­n’t mat­ter what You bring in­to our lives, just have Your own way with us.”  God used that prayer to encourage her, lift her burden and give her hope.  She went home and penned the words to this hymn.  And in God’s timing, she did indeed end up in Africa, just where she believed He had called her to go.

I know I’ve sung this hymn many times over the course of my life, but when I read it just now – as rich text instead of just as the closing hymn to a service, I was reminded again of my own need to surrender to God’s way and God’s timing, “while I am waiting, yielded and still”.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907

Dry

It looks like October on my porch.  I know, it’s April and I live in Florida.   But there are brown, dead leaves from my ficus tree blowing all over the porch.  The odd thing is, the tree itself doesn’t appear to be dying or unhealthy, just a few of the branches. And actually, it’s not whole branches. It’s just a lot of the leaves.   But there’s some new growth, too.  Strange.

I went out on my porch last night to watch the sunset and enjoy the pre-humidity, pre-summer Florida evening.  I went to talk to God.  To think, to pray, to open my heart.   I’ve needed that lately.  I asked God to show me something.  And He did. 

As I looked at the weird ficus tree with its oddly random leaf loss, I thought about some people close to me who have fallen away from God.  Friends who no longer seem connected to the branch – or the vine, as the scriptures put it.  We were all connected to the same branch and root at one time.  Some of us kept growing, kept drawing life from the root, kept close to the One who made the vine in the first place.  And others, for whatever reason, lost the connection and pulled away from the source of life.  It makes me sad.  It must make God sad, too.

As I looked at the sad parts of the tree, I noticed that there are signs of life on some of the dry parts.  It sounds like the typical thing that happens every year up north, but this seems odd down here in the tropics.  And maybe God allowed me to witness it so that I would understand that even when things seem dry and lifeless and hopeless, restored life is possible.   Maybe the outwardly visible signs of life in my old friends aren’t evident.  But God is still surging life through the vine close by.  And all they need is to drink from it – and a new leaf will grow.

God reminded me to keep praying for my friends last night.  If there is someone in your life who has seemed dry and distant and detached from God, don’t stop praying.  New life for them might be just about to start.

“I am the vine, you are the branches: He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing”  John 15:5

“We do not cease to pray for you…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bring fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”  Colossians 1:9-10

Disaster

I’ve written before about how much I love cooking, and love to watch the cooking shows on TV – especially the competition programs.   But I didn’t expect a recent episode of Top Chef Masters to give such a profound life lesson.

Renowned chef Carmen Gonzales had “disaster” written all over her attempt at competition cooking last week.  She cut her finger open with a knife.  She forgot her main dish on the other side of town during the competition event.  While she went back to retrieve the overlooked food, the other chefs (even though they were her competitors)  tried to help her by cooking another part of her dish for her in her absence.  Helpful in theory, yes.   Helpful in reality – though well meaning, they burned her yucca and she couldn’t use it.  When she finally got back with her lag-behind Oyster Stew, she didn’t even know if she could serve it.  She had lost valuable prep time, and had lost another essential component of her dish – the yucca.  She toyed with the idea of just dropping out of the competition.  But instead, she did the best she could with what she had left.  She threw her heart into it, made a much simpler dish than she had originally planned, and the result of her “disaster” was that she ended up winning the whole thing.  Needless to say, she was speechless. 

In real life, turning seeming disaster into victory is God’s specialty.  Bible characters such as Joseph and Ruth (just to name a few) could certainly attest to that.  And we can too.  When faced with what appears to be a “disaster”, we might just have to look around at what we have left,  stop grieving over the loss of Plan A, and move forward with a new one.  

And that new plan might just be the one that God meant for us all along.

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.               Genesis 50:20

“…who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end”   Deuteronomy 8:16

Friday

It was hard to get out of bed this morning.  It’s Friday.  It’s been a long week, and I’m tired and very much looking forward to a day that does not begin at 5:15am and does not involve waking up unnaturally to the jarring sound of an alarm clock.  The word weary came to mind.  And as I began my morning routine, a verse about weariness came to mind.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Galations 6:9

Of course that verse isn’t talking about Friday mornings, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not equating reaping with being able to sleep in on a Saturday.  But being weary on a Friday morning can sure have the same feeling as being weary in life.  Instead of being just a long week for us, we think about the fact that it’s been a long stretch of hanging on, a long stretch of unanswered prayer, a long stretch of waiting and hoping and believing.  We want so much to sink into our “due season” – the time when all things are made right, when answers come, when faith is rewarded.

But we don’t have to wonder if that day is coming.  It is.  God has promised that to us.  Read the verse again.  We shall reap – if we don’t lose heart.  It doesn’t say, “we might reap”.  It doesn’t say “most people reap”.  It says we shall reap

We need to shake off the “Friday-morning-like” weariness and continue to do the things God has called us to do.  Don’t lose heart.  Don’t let the weariness of life overwhelm you.  And like a Saturday, your due season may be just around the corner.

Specifically

I think it should have been pretty obvious.  There are these two blind men sitting by the side of a road.  Jesus comes by with a huge crowd following close behind.  OK, so here’s the omnipotent Miracle Worker and two sightless men.  Simple enough.  But Jesus doesn’t just jump right into the healing.  When He hears their cries for mercy,  He stops and asks them a question.   

“What do you want Me to do for you?”  

Really?  Couldn’t He  have figured it out?  Of course He could have.  But there was something about hearing directly from these men, in their own words, exactly what they needed. You kind of wonder if they thought He was kidding.  But they didn’t skip a beat.  They answered quickly, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened”.

So, if I was sitting by the side of the road and Jesus came by and asked me exactly what I wanted Him to do for me, what would I say?    Would I stumble over my words?  Would I stutter and avert my eyes and say something generic like, “Well, Lord, whatever You want”?  Would Jesus take my lowered chin in His hand, lift it up, look me in the eyes and say, “Really, Sharon, what do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus wants us to ASK.  No stuttering.  No shyness.  He has asked us a question.  And He lovingly waits for the answer we know we want to give, but are too hesitant to put into words.

Until now you have asked nothing in My name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  John 16:24

Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble.  You will prepare their heart.  You will cause Your ear to hear.  Psalm 10:17

Then you will call upon Me, and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  Jeremiah 29:12

Don’t just cry out.  Don’t be shy.  Be specific.  Tell God what you need, what you want.  And in case you were wondering about the end of the story,  the blind guys received their sight…and followed the One who gave it to them.  (Matthew 20:29-34)

Restore

I wanted to delete one file.  One file – not the entire flashdrive!  But it was too late.  I could only sit there in front of my computer with my mouth open as I watched the green line race across the screen which said, “Deleting 13 files”.  The green line got to the end, and the process was complete.  I had just erased my files of future blog posts, all my notes for the Bible study I lead on Wednesday nights, and a working document called “Things I need to do”.  Too bad “remember to transfer files from flashdrive to computer” wasn’t on that list.

There may be some tech-savvy folks out there who know how to get files back after deleting them from a flashdrive, but I sure couldn’t figure it out.  A lot of hard work was wiped out in a matter of seconds.  I can’t get them back, and the only thing left to do is start over.  But who knows?  Maybe the things I lost will be even better this time around.

Life files can feel deleted sometimes.  We lose a job.  We lose money. We lose relationships we cherished.  We lose out on opportunities that may never come again.   And sometimes all we can do is start over.  But we have promises about life that technology can’t promise about our computer files.  God restores things.  He works all things (even deleted things) together to make something good.

Some things can’t be restored in the way we’d like.  But they can be made new.

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth.  Isaiah 43:19

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten   Joel 2:25

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”   Rev. 21:5

 

 

Tides

The water looked weird.  I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening, but something odd was going on. 

One of the enormous benefits of living where I live is having access to the beautiful Intracoastal Waterway – on my lunch hour no less.  I had walked down to the water to get away in the middle of a workday for some solitude and thinking time.  There was a lot on my mind.  There were big decisions to make.  I felt restless.  And apparently, so did the water.

Usually the intracoastal is moving one way or the other, following the tides.  But on this day, it actually looked restless, like it didn’t know which direction it wanted to go in.  I wasn’t going in, it wasn’t going out.  Just swirling around in the middle.  And then it hit me.  I was witnessing the exact moment when the tide was about to change.  A few minutes later, the water started moving in one specific direction.  It seemed relieved.  And so was I. 

I realized that I had been feeling that way too, not knowing which way to go, which choice to make.  I was unsettled and frustrated.  But watching the water reminded me that restlessness can be OK, and that the change will come when the time is right.   Sometimes we can feel restless and have no idea what God is up to.  But it just may be that He’s about to turn the tide for us.  I had to be patient long enough to see the tide turn that day on the intracoastal waterway.  I need to be just as patient waiting for God to turn the tide in my own life. 

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.  Then they are glad because they are quiet;  So He guides them to their desired haven.  Psalm 107:29-30.