Comfortable?

Sometimes words just come to me.  They come at the strangest times and they rattle around in my spirit  and get past my focus and just sit there…way back there…in this weird little place at the back of my mind and just on the edge of my periphery and then… they just sit there.

That happened the other day while I was doing my quiet time.  I was just doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  I was spending some time in the Word and trying to get to know my God better, when all of the sudden, it happened again.  A single word… then, a phrase…and then a quick rush of sentences while I scrambled for the pen and the beautiful pad of sticky notes that I inherited the last time my friend Patty decided to do a house purge.

I scribbled the quick barrage of words all down and wondered if I should get up and blog about it right then, but—since I was actually doing my quiet time—I decided that I’d better finish that first.  I thought about it again when I was through, but the timing didn’t see quite right then, either, so I just waited.  You see, I’ve been there before.  I knew God was about to make a point…to me and possibly, to someone else, as well, but timing is always the key thing on these issues and I’ve learned to take my cues from God…since He seems to know best about these things.

Apparently, the time is now.  Just after 2 AM…it is very AM and I was awakened out of a sound sleep with the overwhelming sense of urgency to get up and write about this word:  comfortable.  Yes, I know.  It’s really funny, isn’t it, that God woke me out of a sound sleep all snuggled in with my big pillows and soft cotton sheets—the very definition of the word “comfortable”—to put these words on a screen in the middle of a time when I’d really rather be doing something else entirely.

(Again, I stress to you the irony and the exhibition of humor that my God has when He’s trying to get through to us.  God can be downright hysterical at times.  Did you hear it, too?  Yes, there it is.  I just heard Him chuckle…again.)

Anyway, back to my story.  I was sitting in my keeping room in my nice green chair that God gave to me on sale right after we bought this place and all of the sudden, there was this word.  Comfortable.  Well, yes, I was comfortable, thank you very much.  Comfortable.  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing…unless…you’re being called to do or be something else at the moment.

I’ve asked God to help me be quiet enough to hear Him on these things and He does that, but the thing is, you see, that God’s quietness doesn’t mean inactivity.  It means that while He’s being quiet and you’re being quiet…well, He’s really most likely up to something that often isn’t very quiet at all.  It also means that when it is time to no longer be quiet… that He may begin nudging and pushing at the same time that you’re in the middle of something else.  It means that you may have to give up something comfortable to go do what He tells you to do…and it may not be comfortable for you…or someone else…at all.

Nothing about Jesus was comfortable.  He was never the center of easy living, but that doesn’t mean that He wasn’t full of peace.  His disciples weren’t living comfortable lives, either.  There were no regularly adoring crowds of people who lined up to invite Jesus and His crew to stay in their best guest room and send them away with a bunch of great leftovers.  No. To be near Him, to get to know Him, to participate in His work, they endured.  Just in case you were wondering?  It is still worth it to do so.

While you can find plenty of Bible verses that talk about comfort, you won’t find a single one that says we’re supposed to be comfortable.  In fact, it is just the opposite, and our problems can often increase when we decide to use comfort as our measure of what God is telling us to do.  That’s just plain wrong.  Never mistake comfort for God’s guidance.  There is no Scriptural basis for it.

To the contrary, God seems to delight in placing His people where the world can see them be uncomfortable.  Far from being sadistic, this actually results in us (His people) being drawn closer to Him because in the really uncomfortable times, we find our comfort in Him.  What happens next–when God shows up and uses us in and through our discomfort–may be the only way that those who see it happen know He is at work there because what shows up most in us then… is HIM.

Take for instance, my friends who are dealing with significant health issues right now.  While we pray for healing and hope for health, God is still at work there.  There are people praying and there are some of them that are seeing God up close and personal in a totally new way…all because some of God’s people are hurting and praying and praising Him anyway.  Lives are being changed…and I don’t just mean those who are in the center of the storm.

What about my missionary friends who gave up their lives and careers here in America—the land of ultimate comfort!—to minister in places far from family and friends because that’s just what God told them to do?  That doesn’t mean they’re not excited about it or even that they don’t like it.  To the contrary, I’ve been privileged to see their excitement and their passion for God and life in general increase because of the very changes that seemed so difficult in the beginning.  In fact, I’ve even got one friend who may have found that she’s actually more comfortable on the mission field abroad…and God sent her back home to America…at least for now.  Comfortable?  I don’t think so.

Those are bigger examples, so I’ll move it a little closer to home.  There are several people in my life who have recently (within the last two years) been called to radically different jobs than the ones they previously held.  It has meant changes in salary, odd schedules, longer drive times, relocations, learning totally different processes and people and, quite frankly, there have been times when each of them have wondered aloud—in my presence, so I know it to be true—if they actually made the right decision when they made these big changes.

Maybe none of this strikes a chord with you.  That’s ok.  Trust me, God will be making a point with you shortly.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you’ll pay close attention to the little things He brings to mind and I hope that you’ll take the time to be quiet before Him and really hear what He has to say just to you.  I hope you’re well and happy and yes, comfortable, wherever you are, but if not, don’t despair!  God is at work even in your difficulties and fortunately, His word does have something to say about that.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…”  2 Corinthians 1:3

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Still savoring the day

 “No distance of place or lapse of time can less the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” ~Robert Southey

I’m generally on the move for most of the day and the majority of my conversations are—since I typically work here alone at the house— usually just with God and the cats. While both God and the cats are really great listeners, the audible/verbal back and forth is typically a little different and not always readily understandable by other human ears. Yesterday was another story.

I spent most of yesterday sitting down and having a conversation…with a real, live person! (grin) We had a wonderful lunch at a local bistro and then retired to my keeping room where we talked and talked and talked for hours.   It was amazing to be able to look over and see this beloved face and hear her laugh without having to imagine the way her eyes crinkle and her smile lights up when she talks about her family or the way her eyes become serious when she talks about what God is asking her to do next.

I’ve learned not to take those things for granted, you see, because this was just the latest installment of a conversation that we started back in 1989. It was also the first time we’ve seen each other in almost 14 years. Yes, 14 years…of really regular contact through notes and phone calls and emails and texts, but no face-to-face time in all that time.

It didn’t slow us down a bit.

We hugged and laughed and ate and cooked and shared and prayed and it was absolutely wonderful. She stayed for supper and it was as normal as if she was always there…except that we actually ate at the table this time.

I loved every moment of our time together, but I think my favorite part was when we prayed together and she thanked God that this time we were able to actually hold hands while we did so. We’ve held hearts and secrets and prayer requests for so long now, that we are a part of each other whether we are near or far. We are bonded by our long-term friendship, our history and our faith in God and I am so grateful for the gift of yesterday. I am still savoring the time together even now.

Who do you need to touch base with again today? Pick up a phone, send a text or a card and let someone know that you value them. At the very least, say a prayer for them. Better yet? Pray with them, if you can!  It may be just what they need to make it through the rest of the week.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…” Philippians 1:3-5

So now what?

I wrote a blog post last week that got quite a response. It garnered such response because, at some point, every single person who read it has had one of those hard days. It’s a pretty universal experience.

The post was shared and passed around and commented on and several people who love me reached out to me asking how they could pray for me after they read it. I can’t tell you how much that touched me. Truly, the fact that they were praying was the most helpful thing they could have done at the time, but honestly, I couldn’t share many of the details that went into the need for writing that post. Why? Because a lot of it just wasn’t my story to tell…and that’s still the case today.  Here’s what I can tell you:

Those stories belong to the families of the four (yes, 4!) people who died within 48 hours of that posting and the six (yes, 6!) personal relatives who were dealing with painful, life-threatening or life-changing health issues…and the multitude of friends and family members who were joined in prayer across the globe for each of them. That’s a lot to deal with and although none of it happened in my house, the calls for prayer came in here and the needs were felt here because I love each and every one of those people who called or emailed or expressed their pain or loss in person.

So now what?

I’m a bit analytical (yes, I just heard the snorts of laughter from several friends) and I serve a God who does nothing without purpose (yes, I just heard that bunch of amens, too!), so I started looking for what I was supposed to learn in all of this world of hurt that happened. Here’s what I know for sure about why all of that pain and loss was necessary

 

(silence…lots of silence…crickets chirping in the background kind of silence…and then more silence…)

 

Nothing. Just like Sergeant Schultz, I know nothing. I have absolutely no clue why those lives were lost and why that kind of pain was necessary. God didn’t share any of that with me. So now what?

Here’s what I saw when I started looking at the lives that were lost:

I knew two of the people who died personally and had close relative or personal friend accounts of each of the other two lives and I found that they all shared two common bonds. They all loved Jesus and they all loved their families…passionately. Their loss was felt so keenly because that’s the way they had lived their lives. That’s pretty important. Each of these four people hadn’t done life perfectly, but they had managed to get the most important question—what are you going to do with this Savior, this God who loves you more than you can ever imagine?–answered correctly…and they had managed to live lives that reflected that answer as they shared His love with those closest to them.

By the way, those six relatives of mine who were dealing with those painful life issues…they’ve all made the same choice, as well.

So now what?

Those people who died last week? Those lives aren’t truly lost. God knows exactly where they are…because they’re with Him and they are reaping the rewards of their choice right now.

Those people who were in physical pain? Well, some of them are better, but most of them are still hurting. They’re healing, but they’re still hurting right now. The exact same thing can be said of those whose loved ones lives weren’t truly lost last week, as well.

So now what?

Those of us who are left still have questions to answer and lives to live. If you haven’t already decided what you’re going to do with this Savior, this Jesus the Christ, this God who loves you more than you can imagine and came to earth so you could be with Him forever, then today can be your day. Choose Him. He’s already chosen you.

If you’ve already made that decision, then you have a life to live well. Live it as passionately as Christ loves you. That’s going to look differently from person to person because God has such a creative streak, but make sure you tell those around you about Him and make sure they know that you love them…even more…because you know what it is to be loved by Him.

So now what? Jesus said it best:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The Hard Day

Today has been that day. It has been a day when each time the phone or the text message sound has rung I’ve almost cringed because the calls that have carried hard news have been more numerous than those that carried the good. A hard day…

  • Filled with loss and uncertainty, anger and what-ifs that can’t be answered.
  • Filled with bright yellow sunshine and just enough clouds to give you a break from the heat, breezes beneath the tall pines, and new daylilies blooming for the first time since we arrived here with the promise of more to come all around the house.
  • Filled with the asking of prayers to a God who knows it all and is not surprised.
  • Filled with tears and hurting spirits and love and yelps of happy surprise.
  • Filled with people of broken hearts who called…to ask for prayers of intercession and needs of healing in bodies and hearts and lives. Such honor for one who can’t do anything in each of these situations on her own, but knows the One Who CAN.
  • Filled with voices of family and friendship…is there ever a bad time to hear a loved one’s voice across the distance?
  • Filled with needs I feel in my soul even though they are borne most heavily by those who are far away.
  • Filled with memories of long ago years and the joys that we allowed to pass by so quickly feeling like we’d never be touched with such pain as is felt today.
  • Filled with the comfort found in ancient words written by those who struggled in desperately hard things before the same God Who was just the same then as He is today.
  • Filled with conversation to my Heavenly Father who knows what is needed…and all that is to come.
  • Filled with the celebration of lives and the remembrances of those I love so dearly.

God is good…even today. Especially today because He is near and because He IS.