My times are in your hands… Psalm 31:15


Have you noticed how strategically God treats time throughout the Bible—and our lives? In the West, we tend to think of time as something we control and as a commodity we can save or dispense or use as we see fit. To the contrary, the psalmist says that God has time in his hands. Once again, we’re called to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things. Even time.
We’re often reminded at memorial services of that excellent writing by Solomon:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
Essentially, God has a schedule and time for everything that was, that is, and that will come. Throughout Scripture, God used prophets to speak promises of things to come according to his timing. Then, as now, he was working through the circumstances to prepare his people for fulfillment and for his coming. The role of his children has always been to be faithful during the intervening period; to walk in obedience; to do all to his glory; and to live in expectation.
What happens when we get out of sync with God and revert to our own timetables? (By the way, have you ever noticed the way we always use the possessive “my” when we talk of time—“my” time?) Look at Jacob who tricked Esau into surrendering his birthright rather than waiting on God’s timing (Genesis 26:37-27:45). Aaron tired of waiting on Moses and created a golden calf for the people to worship (Exodus 32:1-35). Saul got impatient waiting for the Prophet Samuel and offered the sacrifice that only the priest was commissioned to do (I Samuel 13:9). There are others, but I wonder if Judas was one of them? Was he tired of waiting for Jesus to reveal himself as the Messiah? We know the disasters that occurred when these men didn’t wait for God’s timing.
Apparently, God values waiting in the making of his saints. Being patient is not something that comes naturally. In fact, it seems that we are inherently impatient. Slipping through yellow lights; counting the minutes waiting in line; incessantly checking the clock… Perhaps that’s why God made provision for patience to grow in us as his Spirit becomes dominant. There’s no sense in trying to achieve patience without God’s help. We want what we want NOW. My African friends say, “You Americans have watches. We have time.”
God has time. He’s never too quick, and he’s never late. He makes things work together, and “in the fullness of time,” his time, his timetable, all things work together. When he sees that we are ready; when the world is ready; when the circumstances are just right.
At this Christmas time when all Christendom celebrates the coming of the Christ child, let us give ourselves anew to God’s sovereignty in our lives, to his complete control in all circumstances, and to trust in his unconditional, unchanging love. And let us give up the idea that time is “ours” so that God may go about his work in his way, in his time.


Father, do all things according to your wisdom. We trust, and we wait. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



Be still, and know that I am God… Psalms 46:10
During this time of Advent, a season for preparation and waiting, we are encouraged to be still, to meditate, and to ponder on Jesus’ birth and his second coming. Does this spiritual expectation seem oxymoronic when juxtaposed with our Western version of Christmas? How many people in our culture do you know who are quietly reflecting on and anticipating December 25?

Several weeks ago, I heard Dr. Gordon T. Smith talk about the vocational holiness to which God calls each of us in our pursuit of spiritual growth. He defined vocational holiness as “what God calls each of us to do” in our individual lives “without frenetic busy-ness.” Moving about our individual, daily calling peacefully instead of the feverish distraction that often characterizes our days.

I’ve often jokingly said that a discovery I made years ago radically changed my life, and that was that Christmas comes on December 25 EVERY YEAR. That allows me to begin planning weeks and months in advance of the holiday so that by the time of Advent I can begin to quietly reflect on Jesus and my journey with him.

It’s not just the Christmas season that finds us frenetic. Can you think of other times where you’re frantically pursuing your calling, always seeming to be behind the almighty schedule, always mastered by the unrelenting clock? (My African friends tell me that we have watches while they have time.)

A good resolution for the New Year might be to ponder what being still and living in peace would look like in our lives. How would that manifest itself in our holy vocations? Apparently, the reward for stillness is “knowing.”
Father, set us free from the stress and anxiety that is often the product of our own frenzy. Teach us to be quiet and to wait on you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

My friend Janie says that it takes God seven years to answer a prayer. I’m not sure how she’s come up with that number—perhaps that’s because it’s God’s number of completion. But Janie doesn’t get impatient when answers don’t happen right away. Unlike so many of us…

There are so many examples in the Bible of people praying and experiencing delays in their answers. Sarah and Abraham were well past their prime when God birthed their promised son. Joseph waited more than a decade to see God’s promise fulfilled in his life. The children of Israel waited about four hundred years before returning home. How long did the faithful wait for Messiah? And how long have we waited for his Second Coming?

Yet God is the one who is working. He gives a promise, and then he works to bring it to pass. When Sarah and Abraham tried to help God out, they only created enmity that has lasted to this present day. The pattern is: we pray and God works. He brings together the myriad details, all the connections, and every component that’s needed for what we call answered prayer.

And God works secretly, behind the scenes, and in our hearts. Trying to watch God work is somewhat like planting an acorn and expecting to see an oak tree appear overnight. “God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” (Cowper) and we need to get out of his way. Often, it takes time; other times he surprises us with his speed. But the underlying truth is that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9), and he’s always working.

So much is written about prayer—pray fervently, pray in faith, ask and seek and knock. I’ve spent countless days praying and praying and trying to see what God was doing. As if I could peek over his shoulder and be a spectator to the wonders of his ways. And when I didn’t feel I had prayed sufficiently or used the proper words, I’d begin again as if God didn’t understand the situation or hadn’t heard me initially.

I am beginning to learn that my job is to pray and then to simply trust and let go. I hand the matter to my Father and trust him to work. I try not to rush him or ask him to explain. I leave the matter totally to him. I walk away and move on to my next duty so that he can work without my interruption (or suggestions).

And then, to my wonder and great joy (sometimes when I’ve even forgotten what I’d asked him to do) in his timing he shows me what he has been up to. It’s always better than what I had prayed, what I had asked, or what I had imagined. God is ALWAYS working. And it’s always good. I’m trying to remember to back out and stop interfering.

Father, thank you for your mercy with my impatience. Let your will be done in your time. In Jesus, our Lord. AMEN.


The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.'”  I Kings 20:28


Have you ever awakened feeling glum?  And the day hasn’t even begun.  For no reason, it’s a “blue Monday.”

Oswald Chambers says that when we’re experiencing that sort of mood, we’re to kick it out.  That may be well and good for Mr. Chambers, but I’ve discovered I have more success when I wait it out.  Essentially, remembering that we can cast any care on our Father, praising and thanking him, his peace will surely fill our hearts in his time.  Rather than fretting, waiting in trust for him to appear always works.

In the story mentioned above, the Arameans had mistakenly thought that God only brought deliverance in the mountains.  Typically, we are already joyful in him when we’re on a mountaintop, but the Arameans didn’t realize that God is still there when we’re down in a valley.  In fact, he’s everywhere and waiting brings the peace that he’s promised.


Lord, remind us to keep our focus on you so that we’re not dominated by our emotions or moods.  You ARE the God of our ecstasies and even of our low moments.  Thank you.  AMEN.


But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)




I don’t know anyone who has flown like an eagle, but in times of euphoria, I almost think I could.  Note that this type of flight is for those who wait and depend on the Lord.  That almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it – wait in order to soar?  But God, the Creator, is the one who empowers, and he’s the one who renews for soaring, running, and walking.

I have a friend who dreamed for years and then trained for months and months to run in the Greek marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, much of it uphill. And another friend worked an incredibly long time with a trainer to run in the Boston marathon.  According to the reports of my friends, the excitement of just being part of those famous events was energizing, but the last parts of the races were absolutely grueling.  Sounds a lot like the races we are called to run.

I have observed, quite frankly, that most of our days are characterized by walking rather than flying and running.  Just putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes as we plod, the path becomes more restrictive and the way more treacherous while even the light seems to darken.  God brings us to those places, too, those dark nights of the soul.  He allows the plodding, but it’s only for a season, and he sustains us during those times.

That’s when waiting is essential.  Waiting for renewal.  Waiting for rest and peace.  Waiting for God to make himself known.  Waiting as he makes crooked places straight and rough places plain.  Strength comes in waiting, and when it’s time to move on, God gives the signal.  The light brightens the path, and sometimes, yes, sometimes, we even mount up with wings like eagles.

Just now, however, I’m waiting.



Father, knowing you and your Word brings rest during weary times.  You promise strength and every other thing we need on this journey.  We trust you, and we wait. Thank you.  AMEN.


…to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ…  Ephesians 3:8


My grandson Sam and I were en route to visit friends in Little Plumstead, a tiny village in northeastern England.  Rather than take the train, we decided on a leisurely bus tour through the glorious countryside.

We arrived at the station with minutes to spare, and Sam sought out the particular bus for our journey while I waited in the terminal for his signal.  And I waited.  And waited.  Finally, Sam came racing in, looking to see where I’d gone.

He had been on our bus, talking with the driver, explaining that his grandmother would appear momentarily.  And he waited.  And waited.  Finally, the driver said he had a schedule to meet and could delay no longer.  He ushered Sam off the bus and left while I quietly waited in the station for word of departure.

While I waited, the vehicle that would take us to our destination up and left us.  Instead of a relatively short nonstop drive, we had to purchase a new set of tickets and were put on a route where we stopped at every tiny hamlet (it seemed like dozens), prolonging and delaying our journey.  At last, we arrived and were sympathetically greeted by our hosts.  Yes, in Britain, you buy your ticket and get on the bus.  You do not wait for an announcement and for someone to escort you to your seat.  So, next time I will know.

I am wondering if we ever sit back waiting comfortably for God to tap us on the shoulder and remind us of all the provisions that are ours in Christ Jesus?  Do we ever puzzle over why he isn’t overwhelming us with his grace and bounty when all the while he’s made promises that are as good as tickets in our hands?

I must remember to claim what’s already been bought for me and to put myself on whatever vehicle God has provided.  If I don’t, I’ll miss the bus.


Lord, you are so merciful when I am sometimes so vague.  Poke me if I sit around waiting for you to act—when you’ve already given us everything we’ll ever need.  Help me to access all that is mine in Christ Jesus.  Humbly, I pray in Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.  Psalm 27:14


It doesn’t take long to discover that seriously pursuing the life of faith and its Author, Jesus Christ, is not for sissies.  God seems to delight in stretching us – far beyond what we think is comfortable.   You don’t have to consider yourself a spiritual giant to get stretched.  All it takes is determination to live as Jesus teaches us.

In my lifetime I have experienced the stretching of family crises, serious health issues, financial scarcity, and just about everything that everyone alive goes through.  But sometimes waiting for little things can push me to the tipping point.

Take my summer of home repairs, for instance.  After a coupling in a bathroom broke and flooded much of my house, I waited – for the insurance process (thank you, Lord), movers (ALL the furniture had to be removed), and repairs.  While I waited, I added a request for patience and every good spiritual fruit God can give so that my constant companions (the workmen) would see Jesus.

During the wait time, my faithful refrigerator decided to die after only twenty-seven years.  And then the dishwasher died at seventeen years.  Termites chewed through a front porch post holding up the balcony, and the exterminators disappeared.  Lord, I really need patience.  The upholsterer who was making cushions lost my fabric.  My phone died, and that cup of hot tea spilled all over my laptop.  Then the contractor came in with his proposal for additional repairs needed in the kitchen.  I almost cried.

In the night as I lay in bed talking to the Lord, my conversation took on an edge that let me know I was being tempted to worry (hysteria?).  I’ve already learned that’s totally counterproductive.  I asked the Lord to help me be still and then I “heard,” Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5, 6)I relinquished those cares and waited to see what he would do.

Within the next few weeks I got a new (improved) phone, repaired the laptop, forgave the exterminator, replaced the post, and ordered new appliances—with the funds that just happened to come in.  Rather than stress about the contractor’s proposal that was way over budget, I waited to see how God would lead.

Someone recommended this painter; then someone suggested I try that tile man; and someone else said he had a great cabinet maker for the ‘fridge and dishwasher front panels.  As I’ve waited, these everyday stressors are being addressed by a good Father who understands that little things can cause great angst and is sending the help I need, one day and one person at a time.

The work in my kitchen isn’t complete yet, but the work in my spirit astonishes me.  I’m still very much a work in progress, but I am finding that trusting, acknowledging, and listening is so much better than stressing.  And I am meeting some really lovely people as I wait.


Father, you’ve done it again.  You’ve appeared in the middle of my frustrating circumstances, and you’re doing something really good.  What you’ve done inside me has become so much more valuable that what I see in my house.  Thank you for allowing these annoying circumstances to be such an enrichment.  AMEN.


Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

So many people I know are waiting on God just now – waiting for him to direct, to provide, to heal, to confirm. And almost everyone I know wishes God would hurry and arrive on the scene.

I wonder if Joseph felt that way as he waited on God to intervene in his unjust predicaments – first as slave, then as prisoner. He was sold by his own brothers; imprisoned because of deception; and forgotten even as he served his fellow prisoners. Did he ever wonder when God would break through and deliver him?

Then Abraham was told by God that he would have an heir and be the father of many nations. But Abraham got tired of waiting on God’s timing and tried to help God. He took Hagar (his wife’s servant) as a secondary wife and produced a son, but Ishmael wasn’t the child of promise. The strife that was initiated by Abraham’s impatience is with us still today.

In contrast, Hannah prayed faithfully for a child, and after many years of waiting, God answered with one who became that great man of God, Samuel. Hannah’s trust in God resulted in a child who would become Israel’s leader for many years and who would anoint Saul and David as their kings.

We may trust God’s working and sense affirmation about a calling or direction, but we find ourselves struggling with his interminable delays. That’s what happened when Israel’s King Saul waited for Samuel to show up to offer a sacrifice before the army went into battle. Only the priests were to sacrifice to the Lord, but when Saul saw his army deserting, he took matters into his own hands. Just as the sacrifice was done, Samuel arrived. Saul’s disobedience and lack of waiting cost him a kingdom.

Being still, waiting on God requires spiritual discipline and trust that even when we do not sense God’s presence or working, he will be faithful and will act at the right time. Faith presupposes a relationship with God and a desire to see him glorified. Feeling prefers tangible evidence of spiritual activity and a desire to see ourselves gratified. Imagine what we might lose if, after God has clearly spoken, we do not wait. On the other hand, think of the joy we will be to our Father if we sit quietly, actively expecting his arrival.

God is faithful. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).

Teach us, Lord, to wait. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2 (NIV)

Several years ago, I participated in a pilgrimage to Israel where I saw the major sites of Christendom and rubbed shoulders with Jews, Muslims, Druze, and Kurds. In this complex smidgeon of real estate about the size of Rhode Island, one can drive from one side of the country to the other in less time than it takes to get from San Antonio to Austin. And yet, so much of our faith was birthed in this tiny land.

At Bethlehem I waited inside the crumbling Byzantine Church of the Nativity with throngs of pilgrims to see the spot where Jesus was welcomed into the world by his mother Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. There was a large group of Japanese faithful who waited with us for a glimpse of the holy site. Down the narrow stairway amid flickering candlelight, I spoke with Romanian Christians who had come thousands of miles to sing hymns and worship the One who had been born to take away the sins of the world. There were Orthodox believers who gathered in another corner to venerate a beautiful icon representing Mary and the Christ Child.

We were a potpourri of wayfarers at the same sacred spot at a unique moment in time.  We looked and dressed differently from one another and were a polyglot of persons, but we were united in our longing to ponder and be present at the place of his incarnation. And outside, a few of us lingered to visit with the radiant little Muslim schoolgirls who had come to greet visitors and to practice their English. “What is your name?” they asked and giggled at our responses.

What will it be like on the day when “a great multitude that no one [can] count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” gather together for worship?

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Father, at Advent our hearts wait in anticipation for the day you will bring your children together and when we all will be one in you. Let your love flow out of us to embrace those who do not yet know you, and may we gently invite them to join us in your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Emmanuel. AMEN.


But they that wait upon the Lord shall… Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

I’ve observed a curious thing this holiday season. Otherwise capable, level-headed, resilient people sometimes find themselves in holiday frenzies. It’s as if an announcement has just made that there will be a major family holiday in November and an even bigger one a few weeks later in December. I am hearing some folks say:

How do I maintain civility among my grown children over the dinner table?

Will someone invite me to dinner this holiday?

How will I survive the next few hours with…

I wish we could skip…

Could I just pull up the drawbridge until it’s all over?

Enough. Let’s put a stop to the self-orientation and change the focus. This is where waiting comes in. We flip the perspective from me to our Father. If we look up and wait for him,

• Our strength will be renewed. We can receive grace to deal with any unforeseen event (or person); we can filled with love that flows from the Holy Spirit; and we can be patient, kind, gentle, peaceful, self-controlled, and faithful as we draw from those characteristics that await summoning for the occasion.
• We will mount above testy circumstances in anticipation of opportunities to serve.
• Even in these busy times, we will be quick to run, reaching out of ourselves to the ones in front of us.
• And we will walk without fainting in the middle of it all.

Waiting on the Lord means expecting him to arrive; expecting his empowerment; believing that we are the very people he has chosen for this holiday occasion with these people. We must not refuse to lose opportunities to participate in God’s surprises of grace just because we’re too caught up in ourselves and our preferences. We cannot allow ourselves to be robbed of joy and blessing because our focus is on us rather than on our Father who has promised to provide every single thing we need at all times.

Instead, let us wait on the Lord to see what he has planned as we joyfully anticipate his surprise just around the corner…

Father, thank you for opportunities to experience your grace and to go out of ourselves so that your life is evident. Not us but you, Lord. Anytime and all the time. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.