EXPECTANT WAITING

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.

PHONING HEAVEN

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV)

I’ve had the opportunity recently of dealing with several large corporations by phone, and the experience has been less than joyful. Rarely have I reached a real person on my initial call, and I get handed from person to person after I’ve explained in detail my need. You know the drill as well as I do.

Now, can you imagine this scenario: You have a specific need, and you need to talk to the Lord, so you punch in the speed dial for heaven.

“Hello, you’ve reached heaven. Due to the large volume of calls this morning, your wait may be longer than usual, but your call is important to us. Please stay on the line.”

As you wait, Amazing Grace is played through the heavenly connection.

Finally, after an inordinately long amount of time, a recorded voice says, “If you want to speak to a lesser saint, press 1; to speak to your last preacher, press 2; to speak with Peter, press 3…to speak to God, press 7.” You press 7, and a voice says, “God is busy with the crisis in … and cannot come to the phone just now, but he does want to talk to you. Just leave your name, number, time you called, and your concern. Be assured that the Great Cloud of Witnesses will be discussing your situation in the meantime. Bless you.”

Thanks be to God, this IS NOT what happens. Jeremiah tells us that God answers when we call him (Jer. 33:3). The Psalmist says that when we call, God saves us and hears our voices (Psa. 55:16-17). Isaiah tells us, remarkably, that God sometimes answers before we call and hears while we are speaking (65:24). And Micah (7:7) also reminds us that God hears us.

God ALWAYS hears us. He ALWAYS answers us. Sometimes we keep calling because we don’t manage to get connected. The trouble is not with God; it’s with us. We’re halfhearted in our efforts or unbelieving in our attempts. But God has told us that IF WE CALL, HE WILL ANSWER. It may take us a while to still ourselves to get into his presence, but he is there WAITING.

Father, you invite us to call in Jeremiah, and in Song of Solomon, you tell us you want to hear our voices. Strengthen our faith and help us to persist in reaching out in confidence to you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

JUST ASK

…you do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2 (NIV)

Coming back from my first trip to Uganda after three hard weeks on pock-marked dusty roads in a glorious, yet unfamiliar setting, I was exhausted. We reached at the airport only to be told that our flight would be delayed by about 15 hours because of mechanical problems. We again boarded our mutatu (van) for a return trip to the Namirembe Guest House in Kampala.

Upon arrival, the two guys on the team said they were going to the airlines office to see what sort of compensation they might offer for causing us to miss our connecting flights in London and Detroit. Since this was my first trip and being the newbie on the team, I naively asked if they would see if we could get bumped up to better seats for our 18-hour-plus flights. All five of my companions laughed as if I’d asked for a private jet to take us home. I was determined. “You have not for you ask not,” I reminded the team.

An hour later, the fellows returned, and I asked—expectantly—“Did we get bumped up?”
With barely disguised smirks they responded negatively but allowed that we would all be treated to lunch in a London hotel and our own day rooms. Of course, that was lovely but not what I’d requested.

It was gratifying to have familiar food in London and a hot shower with a nap before preparing to board our transatlantic flight. An airlines vehicle delivered us back to the airport, and we were courteously escorted to our point of departure. Since our connecting flights had all been scrambled, our team was seated in various places throughout the coach section. I sat down with one of my team members, buckled up, and prepared my nest for the next leg of the trip.

As is my custom, I turned on the monitor to watch the progress of the flight as we crossed the ocean – but nothing happened. My companion tried to work the monitor. And then the steward did his best to make the contraption work. “Just wait until we’re airborne,” he assured me, “and I’ll reboot this from our controls.”

However many miles later and after many buttons were pushed unsuccessfully, the steward asked if I minded if he relocated me. “Oh, but I have to bring my friend,” I replied. “Of course,” he said.

A short time later, he reported. “I’ve looked all over the economy seating and can’t find a vacant seat. Would you mind if I put you in business class?” he queried. “Of course, not,” I responded with a huge smile.

As we were being ushered down the aisle, I couldn’t resist reminding my friends in passing, “You have not for you ask not.” It’s a lesson I haven’t forgotten.

Lord, I wonder how many blessings, large and small, we miss because we’re afraid to ask? Help us to remember that you’re a good Father who loves to give good gifts to your undeserving children, and we honor you by asking. Thank you again. AMEN.

FRUITY PEOPLE

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
Have you looked lately at the list of fruit we’ll be bearing when we’re allowing the Holy Spirit to work freely in us? Let me remind you: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control, faithfulness. We don’t have to stress about producing fruit. I’ve never seen a fruit tree straining to produce apples or oranges or pears.

Just down the street my neighbor has a gorgeous pear tree. I love seeing the fragrant blooms that never fail to cover the tree in the spring time. I walk by that tree frequently, and I have not one time seen it demonstrating the least bit of anxiety as it blooms prolifically and later is covered with pears.

That tree stands silently rooted deep in the soil, absorbing the moisture of the rain and its faithful owner, and reaching up to enjoy the predictable Texas sunshine. The tree IS. And the tree ABIDES. When the proper season arrives, fruit grows.

If we stay rooted in the Word, drink in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, live in the light of Truth and transparency, we, too, will effortlessly be loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, meek, self-controlled, and faithful. No effort. God’s Spirit will flow out of us for his glory and the blessing of others.

Father, help us to stop striving and start obeying you by reading your Word, by being constantly refilled with your Spirit, and by walking in your Light. When we do this, we can’t help bearing fruit. AMEN.

DISCOVERING JOY

And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord… Isaiah 54:13

When my daughter left for college, she went with two admonitions: “Remember Whose you are” and “Get a job.” Coming from a single parent family, work was nothing new to Tish, but we realized finding a job in a small college town might be a challenge. We prayed.

The first week of school Tish was recruited by a student whose boss was looking for help. From semester to semester, she found work and learned to pray through school and job problems. When work was scarce in her senior year, Tish went into the school placement office and was hired on the spot by the manager who needed a babysitter. One evening Tish called to chat and tell me an experience with her new job.

“There’s been so much to do around here with the children and both the parents so busy, I’ve started helping out with the house and laundry. Mom, there was so much ironing, I knew it would take hours. And then I remembered how we always used to sing while we worked. I pulled out the ironing board and sang one song after another as I ironed, and the work seemed so much easier and was finished before I knew it.

“And you know what, Mom? I felt happy that I could do it. Singing really works. And you should’ve seen their faces when they came home,” Tish concluded.

She should’ve seen my face. (How many times have I been reminded that Tish’s name means joyous Christian?)

Father, your promise is so true: when we train our children and grandchildren in the ways of the Lord, they don’t depart from that. It may take a while, but you are always faithful. Thank you.

GO FORTH AND CONQUER

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 (KJV)
We were en route to the Alamo this past summer reviewing the events surrounding the fateful battle that is part of our Texas lore. Suddenly, my five-year-old granddaughter Caroline made a dramatic plea to her seven-year-old brother, “William, I don’t want you to go into the Army and be killed.” “Can’t you just be a doctor?” Caroline begged. “All right,” William consented, “I’ll be a Marine.”

That made me think of how we Christians mistake our calling. We forget that we are part of a mighty army whose battle is not against flesh and blood (people) but against powers and principalities, against spiritual wickedness in high places (supernatural powers) (Ephesians 6:12). And there’s no way we will escape the fight – even if we join the Marines. When we mistakenly identify people as the source of our difficulties, we overlook the real enemy that strategically uses and manipulates people to do his bidding.

But we’re not to be distressed or fearful. We have everything we need for the battle: a full set of armor (the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, truth for a belt, shoes of peace, a shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit – Ephesians 6:14-17), empowerment by the Spirit, more fighting with us than with our enemy (II Kings 6:16), and a promise of victory (II Corinthians 2:14). And, of course, we know what happens at the end of the Book.

The battle is the Lord’s (II Chronicles 20:15). Let us daily go out fully equipped to overcome whatever foe that threatens to destroy our peace, our joy, our relationships, or our confidence in him and his promises. We are mighty through Christ Jesus to pull down strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4) and anything that would defeat us. Let us go forth and conquer in his name.

Heavenly Father, strengthen me and my faith to defeat those small and large things that every day attempt to rob and harm me. Remind me that you have already won the battle. All I need to do is access your victory for your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

SOMETHING HIDDEN

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12
“There’s no sense in going further — it’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said, and I believed it — broke my land and sowed my crop —
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
In one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated — so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges —
Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”
Anybody might have found it — but His Whisper came to Me!

I have always been intrigued by Kipling’s poem that speaks to me of God’s wonders in the natural world and in the Spirit. There are so many hidden treasures of God’s Kingdom that are only discovered by abandoned and radical pursuit of him. And once that wanderlust is awakened in us we will not be satisfied with anything less.

Father, awaken us to boldly launch out in faith to see what you have for us beyond the known. Help us to move to higher heights in you so that we may glorify you in the journey. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

THAT THREE-LETTER WORD

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. II Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)

Sid is an amazing person. In her nineties, she toodles around in her car wherever her fancy takes her; learned to knit so she could be part of the church’s knitting/prayer ministry; and lunches with her friends once a week (the rule being meals can’t cost over $7.00). I met Sid by virtue of the lavender prayer shawl she made for me while I was recuperating from surgery.

“O-l-d” is a three-letter word that’s become a pejorative term. But old is not a matter of years or time. Sid is not old. My thirty-something friend was old. He was always the first one to leave any gathering because he was tired. Old is an attitude, not a birth-date.

The Psalmist said in chapter 92, verse 14 that some of these mature folks “will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…” Yep. That’s Sid.

Father, you are eternal, and you are making us into the image of your timeless Son. We receive from you renewing day by day, and we thank you that through your empowerment we can mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint. AMEN.