Something to look forward to

My husband and I have been noticing a common denominator in the majority of our friends and family lately:  they’ve been going on trips and taking significant time off to enjoy themselves. We’ve been pleased to see photos of people loving life as they traipse across Europe, screaming with joy while rafting down white-watered rivers, and enjoying their time at concerts, beaches, and theme parks. Good for them! It’s summertime in the South and lots of people wait all year for those kinds of things.

We are not those kind of people.

SONY DSCWe are much more inclined to head to the top of a mountain or go wandering through the country-side in search of beautiful scenery and enjoying each other’s company. We tend to do these things in the middle of a week if he can get a half-day off early or whenever we can be pretty sure that most other people will be doing something else. We enjoy the solitude and the quiet of the uninhabited. We get excited about things like actually having blueberries in our own yard this year! (Finally!) We talked about it the other night, though, and decided that we’re ready to start planning our next big trip. We’re trying to decide if it will be one of our typical adventures with an eye toward the restful or if we’re ready to head back to New York City, Washington, Boston, or some other place we’ve loved and have an actual “doing” vacation–or even an actual vacation instead of just a long weekend. It’s been a long time since we did one of those. As my husband said, we’re ready to have something to look forward to.

We’re really big fans of that. Planning ahead for something special gives us the joy of anticipation that pays off way before the actual trip. It helps keep us focused financially and actually eliminates quite a bit of wasteful spending because we have a goal in mind…a target, if you will. Speaking of targets, my husband just walked into the house with a new toy. He’s been talking about it for a little bit and, after much deliberation, decided that today was the day and this was the prize. He asked me if it made me happy. (He’s sweet like that; always wanting to make sure I’m happy.) My response was that what really made me happy was seeing him be happy.

Despite the appearance of so many smiles in those vacation photos we’ve been seeing, the whole world isn’t really filled with a lot of happiness right now…or at least that’s what you’re probably thinking if you watch the news every day (which is why I do not!). What I do watch for everyday is to see where God is going to show up next. I look for Him to show up in the beauty of nature and in the faces of friends. I see Him at work in the jobs (both paid and unpaid!) that we’re doing right now and in the provision of beautiful/fun things that might otherwise go unnoticed…like that barred owl that has taken to hunting in our back yard every night for the past few weeks, or that stray black-eyed Susan plant coming up between the bricks in the back walkway and that blueberry that is actually PINK!–or the way our friends and neighbors rushed to our rescue in a time of crisis a few weeks ago. I even see Him in the multiple prayer requests that have been coming my way lately because each one is an opportunity to talk with Him and, in turn, encourage others around me.

This morning, my own encouragement came in the form of an email from my Sunday School teacher, Althea. She’s a powerhouse packed in miniature and she is absolutely fabulous. She’s got more energy than I may have had in my entire life. She wears me out with her serving and her loving of everyone around her…but I’m ever so glad I’m one of the ones around her. Today she sent us this on the heels of another difficult request for prayer:

“When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all the wickedness shuts its mouth.”  Psalm 107:39-42 (ESV)

It’s easy to look at that and think it reads like the news right now: depressing and hard to get through, but look at that last part! “…and all the wickedness shuts its mouth.”

Wow.

Wouldn’t we all love to see that? Just imagine how quiet it would get! Imagine how much room there would be to hear all of the good things that are happening then! Imagine how much room there would be for people to see what God is doing and hear from those He is blessing!

So what’s stopping us from sharing that now?! Shouldn’t we–the upright ones, the blessed ones, the loved ones, the saved ones, get busy sharing all of that makes us those things despite the noise created by all of the wickedness in the world?! Shouldn’t we battle that cacophony of evil with the truth about God’s grace and His mercy and the difference it makes in and for each of us?

I’d like to see us do that. I’d love to see us overcome the din of negativity with praise and adoration of the One who can raise the needy out of affliction and make their families like flocks (unified, cared for, multiplying and at peace) and, as a bonus, shut the mouth of wickedness.

Now, THAT is something to look forward to!

How will you help make it a reality where you live today? What praises will you sing? What prayers will you pray? What hand will you hold for comfort or reach out to give an upward boost? That’s something to look forward to, as well–and it’s something we can actually do right now wherever we are.

Grace & Peace!

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Go ahead and yell!

As I started my study on “being quiet” yesterday, I found it hugely entertaining that the first Scripture verse that I looked up was Mark 10:48, which says:

Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The ‘he’ here refers to blind Bartimaus, who sat on the road near Jericho trying to earn his living by begging.  This is the story of someone whose life had been full of disappointment.  How do I know?  Well let’s just be realistic.  We’re not told whether or not he was born blind or lost his sight later in life.  I’m not sure it matters, actually.  Either way, he’d have to know that he wasn’t like most of the people around him.  Imagine being unable to see those you love, the colors of nature, the chair in your way or knowing if someone was nearby to cause you harm.  Imagine having to ask for every penny and knowing that whatever you have to live on was the result of whether or not others were feeling charitable that day.  I’d say that disappointment would be a mild term for what I might feel in his situation.

Then there’s ‘the label’:  blind Bartimaus.  Perhaps its just a descriptor, but I’m curious to see how we would react to having our physical or mental struggles/differences attached to our names in such a way. 

What I love about this story:

  • It is about someone who is doing what he can where he is.  Some of us get so bogged down in our struggles that we choose to host our own extended pity parties instead of finding ways to manage through them. 
  • He used his other senses as compensators:  his ears to hear the crowd and find out who was coming his way, his mouth to cry out for help.  
  • He refused to be silenced–if there was even the slightest chance that he would be heard, he was determined that this would be the day that would happen.  No “poor me”/martyr syndrome for this man!
  • He understood WHO could help him and he called out to get His attention!
  • He didn’t listen to all those around him who didn’t believe it could happen.
  • He was succint in his request.  He didn’t labor over the point or take the time to tell Jesus how hard it had been on him.  He simply made his request and then stopped.

This is a faith lesson. This is about knowing when you’ve been quiet long enough and knowing when to call out for help.  This is about knowing Who can always help you.  This is about being quiet…until it’s time not to be quiet.  This is a lesson we all need.

No matter what you’re facing today, God will listen.  No matter what you need, you can ask Him.  No matter what you want, you can count on Him to give you what you really need to get through it.  So if you’ve done all you can do and it’s not enough, go ahead and yell!  I promise you, God’s just waiting to hear from you.

While you’re waiting…

“The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t.” ~ Phillips Brooks

 If ever there was a truth written down, this is it!  I’m not the only one, either.  It happens in your house, too, and at your work…and at your church, as well.

 There are some things that we’re content to wait for, to work toward or live in expectation of fulfillment.  I think that list is a lot shorter than the one containing the things about which we are impatient.  I’ve noticed, however, that my impatience doesn’t seem to hurry God along at all.

 For example, I’m really tired of being ill.  I realize that this illness won’t require hospitalization.  It isn’t a monumental catastrophe and it isn’t fatal.  I’m just tired of it.  I further realize that there are lots of people out there who are facing illnesses that are all those things and more.  I’ll bet they’re tired of them, too.

 We’ve been there, actually, and I found out something really interesting.  The seriously ill people don’t complain.  They’re grateful for any assistance they receive.  They’re patient in waiting rooms because they know their turn is coming and they may need some extra time in there, too.  They make the most of the time they have and, although they may be grumpy from pain, it is really rare for them to just be in a foul mood about their illness.  I think it’s because they realize that there’s really no point to wasting what time is available to them.

It’s a lesson we could all use.  It’s one I’ve reminded my husband of many times in waiting rooms over the past 15 years as he fumed about missing work and having to sit and wait.  I’ve generally just laughed and told him that this was further proof that he was really well—he had the energy to complain.  He hasn’t always been appreciative of my humor in those situations even though I know he has recognized the truth of them.

 I guess it’s a lesson I’ve needed for myself this week.  I’ve been trying to hurry my recovery along using everything I can.  I’m taking it slow and eating well, doing what I can and then resting.  My part’s done.  I’ve done everything I can.  I’m waiting on God now.  Whether He chooses to hurry this along or not, I’ve begun to ask Him what He’s trying to teach me in this time of waiting.  I also realize that I am still the most blessed person I know. 

I guess it’s time I started reminding myself of that more often, make the most of the day I have and tell God “THANK YOU!” for all the grace He’s sent in my direction. 

No matter what it is that you’re waiting on, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you sure that your plan is also God’s plan?
  • Have you prayed about it? (and listened, not just told God what you wanted?)
  • Have you done all YOU can do to make it happen?
  • Have you looked for additional lessons God may be trying to teach you in the wait?
  • Is there something you need to thank God for while you wait, as well?