Posted in Faith, Personal Development

What Does Waiting Look Like?

waiting

I can be an impatient person, especially when I see in my mind the pieces needed to make a plan work, and then…for some reason…it takes time…for the pieces…to come together. More time than I want it to take. Waiting can put a huge strain on the fruit of the Spirit in my life. For example, we really need a nurse manager for the pregnancy center I direct. Last October I thought I had found the right person, someone that could move our mission forward with efficiency and expand the services we offer to our community. It seemed like a perfect fit. And at the last minute, the details fell apart. Now in February, there is still no nurse manager. I am waiting.

It’s not for lack of trying. We have posted the job everywhere we can think. It’s not for lack of praying. Hundreds of people have been praying for the Lord to bring His person to our ministry. And still…we wait. In the meantime, the Lord has graciously provided the medical staff coverage we need each week. Even at the last minute, when someone in charge mistakenly thought there was coverage and there really wasn’t. (Yes, it was my fault!) So I’m not complaining, but I just dislike waiting.

God’s Word talks a lot about waiting, though.

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD (Psalm 27:14).

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope (Psalm 130:5).

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

There are still more than 150 references to go. What the verses above have in common is the word “wait” means “to expect, hope, or be eager.” They also mention waiting “for the Lord.”

It isn’t passive. It isn’t sitting around, grumbling and complaining. It also isn’t allowing anxiety and fear to dominate. It is attending to the tasks at hand, while having an active expectation for what the Lord will do.

While I am waiting, I need to remember that this ministry is God’s ministry. I set aside my desire for control and trust the Lord to have His way with the organization that is dear to His heart. But then it gets even closer to home. My life is God’s life. When things take longer than I think they should, whether on an organizational level or in my personal/family life, I need to remember that it isn’t a reflection of me. Do I really trust that the Lord knows what is best for me? Do I really believe that He orchestrates the details of my life to build His Kingdom? Even more importantly, am I really convinced in the depths of my being that He loves me?

When I can answer “yes” to these questions, I wait in active expectation for the Lord. If I can’t answer “yes,” I need the Holy Spirit to reveal what I am believing and why, and to help me believe the truth. Then I can wait in a way that truly honors Him.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You know the situations I face that require waiting for You. May I be convinced of Your deep love for me. Teach me to trust in Your goodness and perfect timing. I believe. Please help my unbelief. Let me serve You faithfully with hopeful expectation for what You will do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Faith

When Our Best Isn’t Enough

chess

It can be hard to give our very best to do something we believe the Lord has called us to do, and have our efforts fall short. Sometimes our best simply isn’t enough. We don’t meet our organizational goals. Troubled relationships are not mended. Our exemplary work isn’t recognized. Living for Jesus doesn’t mean that we will always win or succeed. In the midst of disappointment or heartache, we can be grateful for the chance to shine for Him. Regardless of the outcome, we can rest assured that the Lord is pleased. I shared the following as a post in 2012 on Facebook as a note.

“It wasn’t supposed to end this way.” My aunt’s face was somber. As our eyes met, her disappointment coursed through me. She had driven an hour to watch me compete in the annual Klamath County Potato Festival. “You were, by far, the best contestant here. You had the best stage presence and the best talent. You were the best. You should have won.”

I thanked my aunt and gave her a hug. A stream of supporters cut through the auditorium. I pasted on the sincerest smile I could muster and listened to their condolences, “Sorry you didn’t win. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.”

It was the fall of 1984. Months earlier I had seen the announcement for the Potato Festival. It was a local competition, designed to honor the potato farmers in our region and recognize their important contributions. Every participant was given a $50 savings bond. The winner was awarded a $1,000 scholarship to the college of her choice, plus served as the Potato Festival Queen for the year at various community functions. Throughout high school I had imagined participating in the Miss Klamath County pageant and beyond, but I was not eligible because I was a Canadian citizen. The Potato Festival would be my opportunity.

I was thrilled to be chosen out of a group of girls to represent Henley High School, but I had a greater purpose in mind–to represent Jesus Christ and be His ambassador throughout all the Potato Festival festivities. “Lord, I don’t care if I win. Help me to show You to everyone around me.” I prayed that prayer often, and would immediately be filled with a renewed sense of purpose. The Potato Festival contestants, chaperones, and committee were my mission field. Wherever we went, I determined to show God’s love to others. I cheered on the girls, encouraged and expressed appreciation to the chaperones, and shared my faith in Christ every chance I got.

“Jesus loves you.”
“May I share with you how Christ has changed my life.”
“How may I pray for you today?”

The competition spanned two weeks, with a parade, multiple interviews, and two performances. The first performance showcased the girls’ poise on stage and their ability to answer a question on the spot. My question was about church discipline, and I excitedly and confidently shared what the Book of Matthew said on the subject. On the night of the second performance, the auditorium was charged with electricity. Two of the girls were crying backstage. Stage fright had gotten the best of them. I prayed with them and helped to calm their nerves.

The Master of Ceremony introduced me, and I glided onto the stage. As I sang, the Holy Spirit carried me along. “Go ahead, drive the nails in My hands. Laugh at Me where you stand…Go ahead, and say I’m dead and gone. But you will see that you were wrong.”

I captured the attention of my audience. “I’ll rise again. Ain’t no power on earth can tie Me down. I’ll rise again. Death can’t keep Me in the ground.”

The notes lilted through the air, and God’s love reached out to the people. As I scanned the crowd, some were contemplative, others had tears streaming down their faces. I finished the last syllable. A pause of silence. Then applause and cheers erupted. The message had been delivered and received by many.

During the finale, the runners up were announced and then the Potato Festival Queen. My name was called as the First Runner Up. Several gasps came from the crowd, followed by loud whispers. The audience had followed me for two weeks. They had watched me come in first in “poise,” first in “the interview,” and first in “talent.” They knew I had been selected by the chaperones as the one who best exemplified Potato Festival qualities. What the audience did not observe was my struggle to sell raffle tickets. The fourth category of the competition was ticket sales, and I had done poorly, coming in second to last place. When all the points were tallied, my wins were not enough to off set the fourth category. I had come in second place.

I lay in bed that night–after I had finished putting away the chairs, thanked the straggling crowd for their support, and congratulated the Potato Festival Queen a final time. I reflected on the Potato Festival with tears of disappointment and exhaustion. I had given everything and still had not emerged the winner. The loss overwhelmed me. The parting words of my supporters bombarded me. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”

And then I remembered all the opportunities to care for people and to share God’s love with them. I had tried to encourage everybody and had gotten to pray with some. I had done my very best to be Christ’s ambassador, making a positive impression, and many lives had been impacted. It wasn’t supposed to end like this? I settled my head into the pillow, wiped away the tears, and grinned. “Thank you, Lord. This is exactly the way it was supposed to end.”

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24, NIV).

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. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You know that I can be competitive and driven. You know how hard I work to do my best, and how hard it is when things don’t go the way I want. Help me to remember that when trying my best isn’t enough, I have done what is more important–to live for You and to shine Your light in this world. No matter what the results, encourage my heart with Your loving presence. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Focus on Today

clock

Happy New Year! Most of us approach January 1st with hope and expectation. The new year signifies a fresh start and new beginnings. Social media is filled with New Year’s resolutions and advice for goal setting. In the midst of the excitement for striving for greatness, I would like to offer a different perspective. Instead of looking ahead to conquer thirty pounds or set action steps to achieve a goal in the next twelve months, simply focus on today.

This may seem odd coming from someone who believes in goals. After all, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree in Strategic Planning. Sometimes, though, the quest for success can suck the life out of us. We get so fixated on the future that we lose sight of the present. Worry, anxiety, and stress rule our lives rather than the peace of God. If you can relate, this blog post is for you. (I am taking these words to heart, too.)

Here are suggestions to help narrow the focus to today.

View this day as a gift from God. There are no guarantees that you will be alive tomorrow. I’m not being morbid or fatalistic. Our days are numbered. Approach the tasks in front of you as a blessing and a chance to be a blessing to others.

Remember that each day is an opportunity for a fresh start. You do not need to be defined by the shortcomings or failures of the past (or even yesterday). Learn from mistakes, but do not be chained to them. This day is a new day.

Identify one thing you can do today to help you thrive. I know there are dozens of things clamoring for your attention. It is better to do one thing important to your well-being than to get pulled in so many directions that you end up doing nothing. It is also more manageable to make wise choices today instead of thinking long term. You can more easily give up sugar today than give it up for the next twelve months.

Open your heart to God’s presence. Don’t allow yourself to worry about possible outcomes in the future, whether at work, with your family, or in your personal life. Stop going down the road of potential worst case scenarios. Acknowledge the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Express your trust in Him to take care of challenges.

When we live today, taking opportunities to honor the Lord and love others, it reduces the pressure caused by straining to achieve goals.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never ceases. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this New Year. Help me to live it one day at a time, making the most of each opportunity to love You and love my neighbors. Remind me that You are always near every moment in the midst of every situation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Faith

Celebrating with the God of Joy

Joy

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Christmas time is a season of great joy. As followers of Jesus, we rejoice in the greatest gift given to humankind. We celebrate that God came to earth as the Baby who would be The Way to a relationship with Himself. We remember the glorious announcement made by angels, the excitement of the shepherds to find the Baby lying in a manger, and the determination of the wise men to follow the star and search for the Holy Child until they found Him. In the midst of all the splendor, we may lose sight that the God we serve is the God of Joy.

Yes, our Lord is all powerful and all knowing. He stands against sin and hates its consequences. He is also the God of perfect love, and the source of our joy.

Take a look at some Scriptures that illustrate God’s joy.

  • The first chapter of Genesis shows that God delighted in creation. The phrase “God saw that it was good” is repeated multiple times.
  • Nehemiah 8:10 says “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” This refers to the joy that He gives. It also refers to the joy that He experiences.
  • In John 15:11, Jesus states, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (NLT, bold emphasis mine).

I love the picture in Zephaniah 3:17. The Lord delights in us with gladness. He rejoices over us with joyful songs. This is not a stern and passively involved Savior. He is actively engaged in celebrating us.

As I understand that joy is part of God’s character, it changes the way I view the presence of joy in my life. Joy is available to me in the midst of difficult circumstances with family, ministry, or place of employment. No matter what challenging situation I face, I can walk in joy. But it goes beyond this. God’s presence is with me, and His Spirit dwells in me. In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11 NKJV). Joy is more than something God provides; joy is who He is.

This Christmas we celebrate the miracle of God’s love. Remember, too, that we are celebrating with the God of Joy.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving joy and being joy. Teach me that as I walk in Your presence, I walk in Your joy. During this Christmas season, may I rejoice with You and experience Your joy in deeper measure. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock.

Posted in Faith

God’s Promises–Greater Than I Can Imagine

Imagine

Has the Lord ever spoken a promise to your heart? A word of direction and encouragement that kept you going? The Lord has spoken to my heart at key times in my life. It inspired me for the days ahead. Looking back I misunderstood everyone of those promises. I interpreted His promises with my limited perspective.

For example, as a young woman I sensed the Lord speak to my heart that Jonathan (my wonderful husband of 32 years) was the one He had chosen for me, and that through our relationship I would learn more about His love. I was thrilled, because experiencing God’s love and being married to a man who loved me were my deepest desires. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family with multiple divorces, I longed for loyalty, stability, and love.

Looking back I understand now that my marriage, while being a blessing to my life, has been a learning place for how to love with His love.

Several years ago, I went through a bit of an identity crisis. The last of my five kids was in high school. The other four kids had already graduated and moved away. I felt lost in our quiet house. My husband and I decided we could honor the Lord by being foster parents. We took the classes, filled out the application, and passed the background checks. However, our in-ground pool in the back yard was not fenced according to the code and in disrepair. We were denied on the basis of failing the home inspection. I was devastated by the decision. While crying out to the Lord, I sensed Him speak to my heart. “I have more children for you to love.” His peace settled over my soul, and I wondered what He meant.

Looking back I now can see more clearly. As the Executive Director of a pregnancy center, I have the privilege of leading an organization that helps women facing unplanned pregnancy to consider alternatives to abortion and choose life for their unborn babies. I am a part of loving God’s children—women and their babies in the womb—almost every day. Since then I have also been blessed with grandchildren, three of them. And two more on the way. My husband and I are involved in their lives and spend as much time with them as possible. Today there are lots of children for me to love!

I have held onto other promises from God’s Word, some for decades, others for a few months. Experience has taught me to wait and trust the Lord to fulfill His promises. It’s not my job to make things happen. My job is to be faithful in the things that are in front of me, and allow Him to provide in His time and in His wisdom. I don’t live for myself. I live for the Lord. “So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20b).

Looking back I see God’s promises are greater than I can imagine. It helps to remember that as I look ahead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Your promises are amazing and true. I trust that You are at work in my life. Help me during times of struggle to keep my eyes on Your faithfulness. Because Your promises are greater than I can imagine, let me live by faith with great expectations. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Finding Strength in Suffering

desert-drought-dehydrated-clay-soil-60013

This year has been a year characterized by suffering. I’m not saying this to be negative, and I’m not trying to gain sympathy. It’s simply a fact. As I look back over the last ten months, I can see personal trauma and multiple heartbreaking situations for those closest to me.

I am not a stranger to suffering, and I have learned to draw close to the Lord in the midst of it. Lately I have been pondering a passage in 1 Peter 5:8-11 that deals with suffering.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen (NLT).

The first thing I notice is that suffering is attributed to the work of our great enemy, the devil. His job is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). As he does his dirty work, he seeks to weaken our faith, because it is our faith in the Lord that keeps us strong. If we place the blame on the Lord, we become angry and bitter. There is nowhere else to turn. We stand firm against the devil and his plans by placing blame where it belongs and remaining strong in faith.

Isolation is another ploy of the enemy. In the midst of suffering, we may begin to believe that we are the only ones struggling. Nobody else can really understand, and we are all alone. We remove ourselves from our family of faith, the ones who can rally around us with support and prayer. The reality is that believers all over the world are suffering. It might not be the same situation or to the same degree, but they are suffering nonetheless. We must draw strength from each other.

Suffering, no matter how terrible, is temporary. My intention is not to minimize the pain that others experience. However, it is natural to feel that suffering (while in the middle of it) will last forever. We need to remember that there will be an end to it. Our God extends kindness to us. The enemy won’t win, because after we have suffered a little while the Lord Himself will restore, support, and strengthen us. The All Powerful One is absolutely trustworthy.

I know that suffering doesn’t make sense. Sometimes there are more questions than answers. Sometimes tragedy is so great and the pain seems unbearable. But we can find strength in suffering if we depend on the Lord and trust His goodness.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, may I lean on You in times of trouble. Help me to stand firm against the enemy through faith in You. Remind me that I am never alone. You are always near, and there are others in my life to stand with me. Help me to realize that suffering is temporary, and that You will make me stronger as a result. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

Don’t Expect Too Much!

frustration

“Don’t expect more than they are capable of.”

On a road trip, a new friend verbalized something I had been pondering for several months. While taking her to a speaking engagement in a city a couple hours away, she shared what the Lord had spoken to her heart while praying about a difficult relationship. That simple statement helped her navigate some painful circumstances and experience peace in the midst of it.

That simple statement also shed light on what the Lord had been speaking to my own heart, to extend grace to the challenging relationships in my own life.

It’s good to have high standards for our personal and work relationships. There should be kindness when dealing with conflict. There should be respectful and safe behavior at all times. Abuse of any kind is unacceptable. However, many of my disappointments stem from expecting too much from others.

For example…

There are people in my life that are not detail oriented. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. They can come up with systems to help them become more organized and efficient, but they won’t become detail oriented.

There are people in my life that avoid dealing with emotional issues. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. Some people do not have emotional intelligence. They can learn listening skills and acknowledge the pain of others, but the emotional realm will not be a strong or comfortable area for them.

There are people in my life that seems to live in a completely different universe than I do. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. No matter how much I explain my perspective, it won’t help them to see things my way. A good friend recently shared why she thinks marriage can be so hard. “We only want our own way all the time.” I agree with her, and I believe this applies to all our relationship troubles on some level. My way is the right way. Your way is the right way to you. Different universes.

Acceptance of the way other people are wired or the way they see things allows me to extend grace to them. It helps me feel peace instead of disappointment, while adjusting my expectations.

All relationships are messy. Some more than others. Not expecting too much from others helps us thrive when relationships are less than smooth.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3).

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the people in my life. Help me to see them through Your eyes rather than my own. Teach me to get rid of the plank in my own eye before insisting on helping others with the speck in theirs. Help me not to expect too much from others. May I approach all my relationships with realistic expectations and grace.