Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Anticipation of Waiting

An old ketchup commercial used to depict people happily holding their ketchup bottle aloft as they watched it slowly (ever so slowly) make its way down the neck of the bottle. Eventually it would smoothe its way out the end to dollop onto their food with sweet tomatoey goodness. As we watched the ketchup’s slow progress a singer in the background crooned: “Anticipation, anticipation is making me wait. It’s keepin me way, ay, ay, ay, ay-atin.”

No one in these commercials was digging the ketchup out with their knife or holding the bottle at various angles to start the flow. They just waited. Have you noticed they don’t show that commercial anymore? Instead, they’ve changed to plastic squeeze bottles so we don’t have to wait for the ketchup to come out in its own time. Now we can make it come out when we want it.

Waiting for baby brother
I’ve been waiting this week for the birth of our fourth grandchild.  One week ago my daughter went into labor and I drove from Tillamook in a flurry of excitement. I wanted to get to Salem in time to greet baby Brooks and take care of 18 month old Kai while mom and dad stayed in the hospital. But after hours of labor, everything stopped. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday passed without incident. His due date Saturday came and went. It’s Tuesday night and still no baby.

My daughter is not blissfully singing the “anticipation” song; she wants her slender body back and a baby in her arms instead of the shadowboxing and yoga moves he’s performing in the confines of her womb. But he refuses to be rushed.

How many other waiting times have you experienced in life: waiting to get your braces off, to graduate, for that special person to call, to hear back after a job interview. We wait for test results, planes to land, letters in the mail, for someone to notice us. It’s a part of life we all struggle with and God understands this. Yet, instead of performing a cosmic squeeze to speed things up, the Spirit of God helps us learn to wait - to build character, increase our trust in Him, and better appreciate the arrival of our desire.

Night watchmen have to stay up all night, ready to protect those under their care. Even when they’re tired and can barely keep their eyes open, they stay at their post until morning. This is the anticipation of waiting:

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

God’s timing is worth the wait; He is never late. Only God knows when all the players are ready to participate, when circumstances are perfect, when the weather or the season or the day is ready to give birth to whoever or whatever we so eagerly anticipate. I don’t understand all this, but I trust the Lord to get it right. So I ask again for patience to resist trying to squeeze things out before it’s time. And to appreciate the waiting.

For all of you who are waiting, here are a few verses that have helped me as I wait for:
Better days: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psa. 27:13-14
Rescue:I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” Psa. 40:1-3
Compassion, Justice: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” Isa. 30:18
Heaven: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.Rom. 8:18-25
Jesus’ Return: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Heb. 9:27-28

We hope in God alone and wait for dawn, like watchmen wait for morning.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Moms Are Worthy of Praise (Mother's Day)

Many of you are thinking of your mom today. If she’s still living and close enough to visit, you’re probably planning to get together to celebrate her day and make her feel special tomorrow. My mind is swirling with childhood memories, my current relationship with my mom, my years as a mom, and watching my daughter and stepdaughter becoming mothers. It’s a grand and noble calling, but not always easy or appreciated.

Here’s a few, but certainly not a comprehensive list of things I love about my mom:

  • She made the Bible come alive to me through her knowledge and love of the Word. Nobody can tell the story of Ruth or Esther (with all the voices) like my mom.
  • She has always shown an interest in each person in the family (even as it grows to grandchildren and great- grandchildren). She prays, learns about, buys gifts, and sends cards that are encouraging and appropriate for each one.
  • Her love, compassion, and giving have reached beyond our immediate family to include co-workers, neighbors, friends, missionaries and people around the world.
  •  I love her laugh, her sense of humor, and the impish smile twinkle in her blue eyes that reveal she is up to mischief.
  •  My mom has an insatiable desire to learn and is always sharing articles, websites, blogs, and books that others might enjoy.
  •  She takes care of herself and always looks stylish.
  •  She is inviting. I love to hug my mom and breathe in her perfume and warm, clean scent.
  • She encourages us all – Dad, my sisters, me, and her granddaughters – to pursue God-given dreams, work, and ministry. She always believes in us.
  • I love the easy way she talks about the Lord and how He is teaching, maturing, and comforting her. She knows Him personally.
  •  I cherish my mother’s prayers. There is such comfort knowing she is praying over the things I’ve shared with her; she’s got me covered.

I could go on and on, but it’s time for you to think of your own list. Even if you’re estranged from your mom, or your relationship with her has not been the best, she’s fills a unique role in your life like no other.

God formed you in her womb and gave you life. I hope you will focus on her gifts, her qualities, her sacrifices, her successes, the way she’s kept on going even through tragedy or heartache. Let her know in some way this weekend that you value her, and if she is gone, treasure her in memory. We all hunger for that – even, and perhaps especially, when we haven’t been perfect.

Don’t forget all those wonderful women who have mothered and mentored and loved you through the years. They didn’t have to, but chose to give their time and resources to help you become the person that you are. Pass it on, enveloping children of all ages who need an extra mom.

Praise God for all tender, funny, adventurous, selfless, encouraging teachers and caregivers. Our first source of nourishment and comfort in stormy times, and later a friend and confidante. These moms are worthy of praise. Happy Mother’s Day to you all!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Why God Calls the Inadequate

Has God called you to a ministry that’s completely out of your comfort zone? Welcome to our world. At first the idea gave us a good laugh, then became the subject of fervent prayer, and finally tentative action. God made it clear to Kelly and I over a period of months, that He was calling us to purchase and remodel a house in Tillamook to become a men’s halfway house.
Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine doing such a thing, nor did we have the desire. We’re not experienced or knowledgeable in this area. Yet God chose us to pursue a venture that will only succeed if He is in charge of making it happen. It’s forcing us out on a limb, without a paddle, between a rock and a hard place, in over our heads, if you know what I mean.
We identify so strongly with Moses and Gideon’s stories that we might even change our names to Moseon and Gideous. When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt he laughed too. This former prince of Egypt turned shepherd, was insecure about his qualifications. He tried arguing with God. You can see how well that went by reading Exodus chapters three and four.
In a similar scenario, God called Gideon to lead an Israelite army against the Midianites. He was threshing his wheat in a wine press at the time, hiding from that very same enemy. He was a scared runt, from a no-account family, who needed God’s reassurance every step of the way. Ever been there? I find myself in his story in Judges chapters six and seven.  
So why does God call people who aren’t interested, prepared, or qualified, who try to argue their way out of doing big things for the kingdom of God? Wouldn’t it be better if He chose spiritual super-heroes to do His work? I found the answer in Judges 7:2. Gideon had an army of 32,000, but God told him to send home anyone who was scared. Then God weeded out 9,700 more until there were only 300 fighting men left. And He sent them into battle against an enormous army of trained Midianite soldiers with trumpets, jars, and torches! Why? So they couldn’t boast they had conquered the enemy through their own strength.

When I start to worry about our lack of knowledge, finances, experience, and more, I’m reminded the success of Redemption House is completely up to God.  He brought together a board of Spirit filled men whose experience, knowledge, and passion for this work keep us going. He has connected us with other ministries to learn from and model after. Volunteers are springing up to teach, befriend, and give to the men who come to Redemption House.  
  We are gaining confidence, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers…” (2 Cor. 3:5-6, NIV).
Today, if God is calling you to an impossible task and you find yourself arguing in a Moseon-Gideous sort of way, I want to encourage you to say yes. It will be scary and challenging and uncomfortable…and the most exciting ride of your life. It will force you to trust God for every decision and move you make. Then, when we see hearts changing and lives being transformed, we will know who deserves all the praise.