Fight

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A little while ago we were in a desperate sort of situation. It was not a life or death scenario, but it was something which felt overwhelming for us as a family.

The one morning as I was praying about what to do, I had worship music playing in the background, and songs of trust and surrender kept popping up on my Spotify playlist. You know the ones that call us to trust even when we don’t understand why something is happening or trust when things don’t go our way. There is nothing wrong with these songs, and God has used them to speak to me many times in the past. Yet, on this particular morning, I sensed God saying something different. It was not time to surrender or to give up,

instead it was time to fight.

In prayer.

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecc 3:1

The word “fight” is not really one of those words I use regularly in my vocabulary. I like to think of myself as more of a peacekeeper than a warrior. I grew up in the peace-focused Mennonite church. I really have no reference point on how to fight or fight in prayer. It is not just the fight part I struggle with. It is the prayer.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14,15

My struggle with prayer lie in the tension of “name it and claim it” prayers vs. “God’s will be done” prayers. The one type of prayer feels like it depends on my effort while the other one feels like I do not need to take responsibility at all.

How do I know when I should press in, fight in prayer and use faith to move mountains or when it is time to surrender, simply rest and trust, or simply stand and let God fight? There are examples of each in the Bible, so how do I know which one to use?

What stuck out to me as I was praying, was the part of the 1 John verses that says, “…that if we ask anything according to his will.”

As I heard God’s whisper that morning, “it was not time to give up or come up with a different plan, but it was time to fight for this one thing,” I had such a peace that this fight in prayer was his will for that moment. It was the nudge I needed to keep going and believing. In the back of my mind I still worried, what if our prayers were not answered? However in that moment, the call to fight was stronger than my doubt and fears.

God answered our desperate prayer. I know this is not always the case…to receive an answer hoped for. Yet for me in that moment, it was so much more than just an answered prayer, it was the encouragement and faith to keep going then and in the midst of future battles.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time for war and a time for peace…He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8, 11

I saw God today,

in the fight.

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“Noble” faith

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I watched a movie the other evening I had been wanting to see for some time. It is called,

“Noble”

after the main character’s last name. It is the inspiring story of Christina Noble. The movie weaves together Christina’s past as an orphaned child with her work later in life to help orphaned children in Vietnam. There were many parts of the movie which stirred me, and I knew they would. But because I knew little about Christina before watching this movie there was one aspect of the story I was not expecting.

It was one of faith.

I do not want to give pieces of the movie away, because I think you should watch it, but this much I do want to share. Christina did not have an easy life. Anything but. Time after time, she experienced pain, loss, hurt, and disappointment. And time after time the movie shows her walking into church, lighting a candle, and talking to God. She was honest about her pain, her doubts, and whether she could even follow him. But she did not walk away. In her honesty, she continued to go and look for God, and she continued to talk to him. In fact one of the last lines in the movie was…

“She still talks to God…”

And this made me stop and think, maybe the most incredible act of faith is not the kind which moves mountains, or raises the dead. Maybe it is simply the kind that will come back, time after time and talk to God, sharing each hurt and disappointment.

“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in him;” Job 13:15

I saw God today, in faith.

“She still talks to God…”

What does faith look like for you today?

Letting Go

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One of my favorite family movies is Finding Nemo. I love the way the dad lovingly chases after his son, and goes to the ends of the earth to find him and bring him home. There are many parts of the movie I can relate to, but one conversation in particular between Marlin and Dory has stuck with me. Lately I have been hearing these words over and over in my everyday. In this scene Marlin and Dory are stuck in the belly of a whale, and life is looking pretty miserable. Here is a short piece of their conversation…

Dory: “He says its time to let go. Everything is going to be all right.”

Marlin: “How do you know? How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?”

Dory: “I don’t.”

And those of you who have seen the movie know Dory and Marlin let go, and the whale spouts them out, and everything is okay. In fact, they end up exactly where they want to be, in Sydney.

Like Marlin, we as parents are given this little gift to take care of, and for most of our child’s life we are the ones calling the shots. For those of us moms especially, who like to have all our ducks in a row; this works out just fine…until that day when the duckling is ready to leave the pond. Or when things do not go as planned, and we do not get the happy ending Marlin and Nemo got.

This year as both my girls are in high school and the older one is in her senior year; I seem to keep banging my head up against this “letting go”. When the girls were younger, I would not have necessarily called myself controlling 😉 or felt like I was holding on too tightly. It was not until recently I began to see just how much I really do need to let go.

In wanting what is best for our children, we may try to influence their choices such as friends, where they go, what they study, etc. There is nothing wrong with this per say. It is our job as parents to influence and advise. Yet I am starting to see there has to be a point where we are listening more than talking. A place where our lives are not quite as intertwined, always suggesting this or questioning that. I am again reminded there is one who does this so much better – the Holy Spirit.

If we as parents need to trust God’s Spirit, don’t our children need to trust His leading as well? And if we are the ones always leading, how will our children learn to hear His guidance, His voice?

I am grateful this process happens slowly, in stages… first job, driver’s license, making their own decisions and choices, and eventually leaving home.

So… my challenge for myself (you can hold me accountable if you see me:) and for you today is to,

Talk less. Pray More. And Let go.

I saw God today, in letting go.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” – Luke 11:13

His way, not mine

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About once a year or so, I seem to journey down the same path. The “what is my purpose, and what am I doing with my life?” path. I am not sure why I never seem to find the answer, and these questions reoccur yearly. I often blame it on lack of a specific talent or calling, and sometimes I end up complaining to God, asking “Why couldn’t you have created me with a specific gift like the artist who I work for or my husband with his gift of teaching?”

Thankfully, I do not seem to be alone in my questioning. There are myriads of books and courses out there covering this exact topic, and many of them I have read. The words and thoughts at times were helpful. A thought or sentence stuck with me and I found peace and contentment for some time. Eventually though that nagging little question would make its way back into my head again.

The other week as these questions were once again swirling around in my thoughts, I read a verse in Proverbs, one I had read many times before.

“The Lord has made everything for His own purposes….” – Proverbs 16:4

His purposes vs. mine.

Maybe it is not a matter of finding my passion, narrowing it down, or even asking the question, “what is my purpose?”

God has not made me for my plans.

If I do insist on finding answers, I can instead ask the questions, “What are your purposes God, in general and for me personally?” What would you have me to today? How are your purposes for this day similar or different to mine?

These two views may not seem so different, but for me it is a shift from figuring out my life and what fulfills me to focusing on God and what is important to Him. This is where I find fulfillment, this is where I find rest.

I saw God today, in His way not mine.

What do His purposes look like for you today?

Winter trees

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The Sacrament of Letting Go
by Macrina Wiedekehr

Slowly
she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red.
finally she let go of her own brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky,
she began her vigil of trust.

Shedding her last leaf,
she watched it journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the colors of emptiness,
her branches wondering,
How do you give shade with so much gone?

And then,
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
that kept her hope alive.

They helped her to understand that
her vulnerability,
her dependence and need,
her emptiness, her readiness to receive,
were giving her a new kind of Beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence,
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.

Yesterday as I biked to work, I watched as colorful leaves danced and swirled, bidding their final goodbyes. The warmth of this season is slowly coming to an end. Despite my love of winter, there is always a bit of sadness as the last few leaves fall quietly to the ground.

The last couple of years though, I have come to appreciate this season of in-between. This time after color and before the quiet dusting of winter settles onto the tree. There is something incredibly beautiful in the simple skeleton of a tree.

At first glance, the tree void of its colorful leaves may seem to be empty of beauty. A  closer look however, reveals an underlying strength and elegance that would not have been visible were it not for the bareness of the tree.

No one likes to feel empty, to stand naked in a sense with nothing to show.   And even though we enter the world with nothing, and will leave it in the same way, we want the in-between to be filled with something.  We want lives filled with meaning, covered in beauty.  To this end, we try and fill our life with things that we think will make us more attractive, our merits and badges.  All the while, God is gently stripping us bare, revealing the beauty that is already there.

So today, I am learning from winter trees.

I am okay with empty.

I will rest, wait, and trust.

I will trust, that God is always turning our formless and empty into something beautiful.

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:2

 

 

Crazy joy

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I am not a dog person. I did not grow up with animals per say (except a short stint with a crazy cat). I was actually kind of scared of dogs. I remember a not so friendly meeting with a very large dog when I was small, which probably ignited this fear.

Our girls have also had a love – fear relationship with dogs.  Despite this fear, they have often campaigned for a puppy. One Saturday this past September their campaigning finally paid off. In a moment of weakness, their dad and I conceded.  Without telling the girls, we brought home Smokey, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. It was joy, pure joy.

Along with the joy, nothing has been the same since, the good and the difficult. My nice cushy life is suddenly not so cushy. It is true what everyone says, bringing home a puppy, is like bringing home a newborn. I forgot what that was like. The sacrifice, the lack of sleep, and the potty training. Wow! The first week I did not think I was going to make it.  Smokey was on his way back to his breeder numerous times.  It is a good thing neither he nor the kids realized this, or I would have taken home the UNpopular mom award. Now after almost two months, it is getting easier. Smokey has slowly found his way into the rhythm of our family, and we have found the rhythm of owning a dog.

One of the things I cannot get over is when we come home or in the morning when he greets us first thing, there is this incredible joy. His whole little body is one crazy wagging tail, so excited to be with us.  Every single time.  There is never a time he shows disapproval or apathy, a lack of interest that we just entered the room.  No, every time it is pure joy.

I cannot help but imagine that this is how God feels when we come home to him. I know some of you may find difficulty in me comparing God to a dog. This is not my intention. What is my intention, is the realization of God’s acceptance and joy every time we come to Him.  It is His love. This unconditional love that meets us every time. It is His interest in us, in the details of our lives. No matter what kind of day we have had, He meets us with incredible joy. He is waiting, listening, and attuned to us. He is here, and we find ourselves at home.

You dog owners know what I mean. I see it in Smokey when he hears the car pull in the driveway. He drops what he is doing and listens. And then in a second he is off and running to meet whoever is at the door. Isn’t this our God too? He stops what He is doing, lets go of the universe for one moment and holds on to me and to you.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

I saw God today, in crazy joy.

PS. If you do not own a dog, you might just want to try one on for size. And be prepared for joy, crazy joy.

 

Story

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I am never more aware of another person’s story as when they are a new acquaintance to me.  When I meet someone for the first time, it is as if there is this blank page standing in front of me.  There is no history, no preconceived ideas, no opinions, or thoughts about the person, until we spend time together, and the pages of their story start to fill.

A week or so ago, I attended a writer’s retreat at a wonderful little place in the hills of Virginia called God’s Whisper Farm.   I packed home with me many thoughts and ideas.  And the one part of the weekend that stretched me the most, being in a group of new people, was the part of the weekend I most enjoyed.  It was listening to new friends share, it was hearing their stories.

During one of the writing sessions where we wrote about what writing is to us, I was reminded there is no life that is not worth sharing.  As long we have breath, our life has a story to tell.  When we listen to or share in each others’ stories, we not only give our attention, we give each other a sense of validity.  Our story is important.  Our life really is worth telling.   This is one of the aspects I love about writing, about reading, and about art.  It is lifting out the good in people, It is seeing God in them.  This is what I saw that weekend, and what I am seeing today.

I Saw God today, in story.

What part of your story can you share today?  Or better yet help another tell theirs?