Monthly Archives: March 2014

Waiting in Expectation

 

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” – Psalm 5:3

Our life is a journey filled with expectations.

Expectations of where we’re headed…what’s around the corner…how God will provide along the way.

While we can’t know exactly what lies ahead, the very act of moving forward compels us to wonder what we will face.

Each day, we have our schedules and make our plans. Woven into those plans are expectations for the outcome. We run ideas through our minds of how things will go, hoping for the best.

But what happens when those things don’t turn out according to our plan?

One such time happened last year. After my husband awoke from a coma, the muscles in his throat were too weak to swallow. The only way he could get food was through a tube in his nose. Following a week of therapy, he was to have another test. Oh, how I had been praying that God would give him the ability to swallow again! The Lord had blessed him over and over, and I expected this time to be no different. I was so confident that God’s glory would be seen in David’s ability to swallow and eat again that very day.

But instead, David had failed the test. No food, no water, no ice chips for at least another four to six weeks! It was a hard blow, as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I was devastated. And my spirit was crushed.

I was so sure. What happened? Why did it turn out this way? Where did I go wrong in my thinking?

Bottom line? My expectations were misguided. My focus was on my desired outcome, my timing, and my wisdom. Instead, my focus should have been on the Lord’s sovereign will, His perfect timing, and His infinite wisdom. I should have trusted in His love and grace and His promise to work out everything for our good and for His glory. I should not have determined in my mind what the outcome was to be.

Psalm 5:3 says we are to lay our requests before the Lord and “wait in expectation.” But how and what we expect makes all the difference.

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If we follow our own expectation, the result will be discouragement, fear, grumbling, and questioning God.

If we follow biblical expectation, the result will be peace, security, thankfulness, and honoring God.

Biblical expectation is birthed in prayerIt begins as we lay our requests before the Lord, asking for His help and provision.

       Expectation is a product of prayer.

Biblical expectation grows from a heart that seeks to know GOD. It comes from remembering that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are so much greater than ours. God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20-21). God is sovereign, and there are facets and unknowns that our minds cannot comprehend.

       A heart that seeks God is an expectant heart.

Biblical expectation embraces waiting. God is working in our times of waiting. We may not see what He is doing, but He is working behind-the-scenes to bring about His plan and will. We must trust in His perfect timing and embrace the waiting.

       Waiting in expectation is easier when we expect the waiting.

Biblical expectation requires trusting in God. We must trust His unfailing love and mercy. We must trust His power and desire to work everything out for our good and for His glory.

       We rest in God when we trust in God.

Biblical expectation leaves the outcome up to the Lord. Our expectation should not include determining in our minds what the outcome will be. That is for God alone to know.

       God answers His way…in His will…in His time…for His glory.

Four weeks following that swallow test, my husband was back for another one. This time, however, my heart was focused on God’s will and His purposes. While I once again prayed that David would pass the test and be able to eat normally, I didn’t have any preconceived outcome in mind this time. I simply went with hope in my heart and trust in the Lord. I was full of peace, knowing that whatever the test would show, God was at work and His glory would be seen. (By God’s sweet grace, David passed this test and began eating again.)

Dearest Father, when we are faced with challenges and difficulties on this road of life, help us to remember to seek You with all our hearts. And as we lay our requests before You, may we trust You and wait in biblical expectation for Your answer, Your guidance, and Your deliverance…for Your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.
Photo by Sabra Penley.

 

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Filed under Attitude, Expectation, God's Purpose, God's Timing, God's Works, Hope, Peace, Prayer, Thankfulness, Waiting

When Your Buttons Get Pushed…

Proverbs 14:17 – A quick-tempered man does foolish things.

Has anyone ever pushed your buttons? You know, those proverbial internal controls that can set you off on a course that you never intended to take?

This happened to me just this morning…

I was enjoying the peaceful early hours to write. Quiet. Still. Lovely.

Then I heard it–that sound that pierces the peace and shatters the rest in my soul… Whining!

Jerry, our very vocal Border Collie, was up. And I wasn’t ready. I should have had another 15 minutes at least. But his ever-increasing insistence to bring him some food was invading my train of thought. Determined to finish what I was working on, I snapped at him to go lay down and wait… But his whines just became more insistent, louder, and mixed with not-so-happy growling.

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“Oh, FINE!”

I tossed my laptop aside a little too forcefully and stormed into the kitchen. Throwing some food into his bowl, I plopped it down on the floor and waited impatiently the whole 30 seconds it took for him to scarf it down.  “Come here!” I barked at him, and harshly hooked his leash to his collar before I yanked him out the door. It was, to say the least, not a pleasant walk.

The morning that began so peacefully had suddenly turned pathetic.

Oh, how quickly these moments can come!

We all have these internal buttons that can trigger ungodly responses. And, almost daily, these buttons get pushed.

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Unfortunately, too often the result is lashing out at those around us.

A quick temper is ugly. It ruins a nice morning. It ruins everything.

As Proverbs 14:17 says, a quick temper causes us to do foolish things.

When my quiet, peaceful morning was abruptly interrupted, the desire to have my way and finish what I was doing consumed me.  And when it became evident that wouldn’t happen, stress and resentment filled my soul. I started my day in a bad way, and that is NEVER a good thing.

What SHOULD I have done?

I should have gently put down the computer, taken care of the dog, enjoyed the outdoors and some quiet moments with the Lord, and finished writing when I returned.

How WOULD my morning have been different?

I would have lovingly taken care of my dog, maintained the peace, treated everyone and everything around me with gentleness and kindness, and eventually finished my writing with a calm spirit instead of giving in to a quick-temper and acting foolishly.

So what CAN we do when we feel our buttons getting pushed?

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STOP… BREATHE… PRAY… and then RESPOND in love and kindness.

This takes letting go of our own desires and choosing to control ourselves.

For in all truth, we are the guardians of the buttons on our control panel, and no one can push our buttons unless we let go of the controls.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. The key to self-control is to make sure the Holy Spirit is the only one pushing our buttons! Then He will fill our days with peace, love, and joy.

A day ruined by irritation, unkindess, and stress OR a day blessed with peace, love, and joy. The choice is ours.

So…who’s in control of your buttons?

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Pushing Buttons photo by Michael Monello via flickr,CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, 
cropped, black/white filter added.

Other photos by Sabra Penley.

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Filed under Anger, Holy Spirit, Joy, Love, Peace, Prayer, Self, Self-control

Where Was Love?

“…Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39

I just stood there.

I overheard the conversation. She had given him money for gas to get to work, yet he still needed money for food. He hadn’t eaten and wouldn’t be paid until tomorrow.

And I just stood there!

Didn’t I have money in my purse?  Yes.

Didn’t I hear…see…the need? Yes.

Then, what stopped me?

My cold heart…full of Me.

My cold heart stopped me from being compassionate…kind…giving…from sharing what God had given me…from loving my neighbor.

Did he go hungry last night?

Did I care?

My actions declared it. Shouted it! Screamed it! — NO! I DIDN’T CARE!

How could I be so callous…so selfish?

I saw him…noticed him…heard him.  It was obvious he was living a life of hardship. His gaunt frame declared his lack of food.

Where was my compassion…my kindness…my heart of love?

Gone. It was obviously gone.

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My heart of love had become a heart of stone. A big old ugly stone.

My heart was not devoted to the Lord. My heart was devoted to Me…to Self.

What would I have really given up to share some money for a meal? A few dollars?

What stopped me from doing good to this young man?

The Lord’s conviction to my soul revealed a few things:

Ugly Judgment!

Somehow I had judged him as unworthy. (Unworthy of my help?!)

I should have turned my finger back on myself—for being so hard-hearted.

HE NEEDED TO EAT.

Ugly Greed!

Wow. Did money—that tiny amount of money—mean more to me than filling the empty stomach of a hungry young man?

HE NEEDED TO EAT.

Ugly Pride!

Pride. Thinking of myself more highly than I ought. Once again—putting myself before someone else.

HE. NEEDED. TO. EAT.

Guilt and shame are pouring down upon my sorry soul.

“…love is kind…it is not proud…it is not self-seeking…Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

HeartBible

I was unkind. I was too full of pride. I was self-seeking. I failed.

(Silence.)

Where is he now, Lord?

Will he have to face working today weakened from a stomach left empty all night?

Because I was too callous to care?

How do I make this right, Lord? CAN I make this right, Lord?

I don’t have his phone number. I don’t know where he lives. I don’t know where he works.

The opportunity to help him last night has come and gone.

And with all this ugly, I failed.

Failed to love.

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Oh my precious Father, please forgive me. One. More. Time. I have sinned against You with a callous, selfish, and prideful heart. I have hurt this man. I let him go hungry when I could have filled his stomach. I’m ashamed, Lord. I cannot undo what I have done. The hurt remains. But I can move forward, even today, to show love…to remember not to judge, to be generous with the blessings you have given me, and to be humble before You and others. Soften this stony heart of mine and remove all the ugly, O Lord! Please help me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Stone Heart photo by Janet Ramsden via flickr, license: CC BY 2.0

Other photos by Sabra Penley

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Filed under Compassion, Doing Good, Humility, Love, Pride, Self

My Crowded Heart

My dear friends, the post below is an exercise in free writing, in conjunction with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Fridays (see link below). Each week Lisa-Jo presents a word prompt. This week, it is CROWD. The idea is to write for five minutes about this one word, whatever is on my heart. It’s an exercise in quickly putting thoughts into words. No editing, no revising. Just writing.
 
This week’s word prompt is CROWD. (I don’t think there is a time limit on thinking about writing. But today, I barely took a minute before I started. Maybe next time I’ll take a little longer with the prep.) Anyway, here we go…
 
 

BEGIN…

There’s a crowd in my heart.

A crowd of longing. Longing for the things of God. Longing to be more like Him. Longing to glorify Him with my every thought, word, and deed.

A crowd of hope. Hope that I can be used by God for His purposes to bring light and joy and comfort to others. Hope that I will be found faithful in the eyes of the Lord. Hope that everything I do will shout His love to others.

A crowd of joy. Joy that my heavenly Father loves me…is working in me and on me and through me. Joy that Jesus has saved me from all that is ugly and cold and dark in my soul. Joy that this life is not all there is…there’s an eternity in heaven.

There’s a  crowd in my heart—longing for all that God is, for the hope He brings, for the joy He gives.

END.

Thanks for taking the time to read this little writing exercise. As a new writer, I need all the practice I can get.

Five Minute Friday

I'm linking up with other bloggers on LisaJo Baker's website:
http://lisajobaker.com/. And if you're interested in reading what 
others have written, please click on the button. You'll find Lisa Jo's 
own post and, below it, links to many other blogs. Thanks for reading!

4 Comments

Filed under Five Minute Friday, Hope, Joy

Thoughts Are Not Enough

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” – Titus 3:14

Do you ever make plans to do something and somehow it just doesn’t get done?

In certain parts of the South, we have this saying: “I’m fixin’ to…”

It means we are getting ready to do something. Or at least we’re thinking about getting ready to do something.

“I’m fixin’ to make dinner.”

“I’m fixin’ to go to the grocery store.”

“I’m fixin’ to take the dog for a walk.”

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You get the idea.

The problem is “fixin’ to” just might be as far as we get.

We may have a good intention of completing the task. But often we get sidetracked by other things needing our attention or we procrastinate or something we’d rather do comes along. And our “fixin’ to” doesn’t get done.

I might be intending to exercise right after the morning dishes are washed, but I don’t.

I might be planning to tackle that pile of bills when I get home, but go to bed without getting it done.

I might think I’ll read my Bible right before I go to sleep, but my eyes won’t stay open.

Oh, I’m so guilty of this!

It’s often my fixin’ to doesn’t quite make it to doin’.

This happens with things I need to accomplish for my family and our household. But even more so it happens in doing things for other people.

I can come up with many good ideas for showing kindness to another person. But somewhere between the thought in my mind and the doing with my hands and feet there’s a disconnect.

I think it would be nice to take a meal to a sick friend, but it never gets delivered.

I plan to take cookies to a new neighbor and a month later it hasn’t been done.

I tell myself to write a note of encouragement to a hurting friend and it never gets written.

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There’s an epidemic in me of fixin’ to and not enough follow-through.

Good intentions won’t get things done. They never have. They never will.

And in this regard, the thought just doesn’t count.

Good intentions are a good start. But there has to be a plan to put those thoughts into action. Discipline and determination are necessary to carry out these steps for the idea to become a reality.

Think about it like making supper for your family. You start with an idea of what you want to serve them for dinner. And, if you’re like me, you have a recipe to follow. That recipe will list out everything you need to make the dish— ingredients, items needed for preparation, and step-by-step directions.

The recipe is great. But you have to follow each step in order to have a wonderful meal to serve.

The same is true of good intentions. Once we have the idea of what we want to accomplish, we also need a plan to follow and the perseverance to see it through to completion.

With such busy schedules, we need guidance in order to achieve what is important for each day. It is often difficult to fit in doing good for others when there is so much we need to do at home. But God calls us to do both.

Titus 3:14 says we should “…learn to devote [ourselves] to doing what is good, in order that [we] may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.”

In order follow this biblical wisdom, we need a plan to follow—a recipe.

Here’s one we should try:

Recipe for Doing Good

The Lord wants our good intentions to become reality—to make the thoughts count by putting them into action.

Galatians 6:9 says: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If I’m going to reap a harvest, I need to get busy following this recipe for doing good.

I’m fixin’ to. How ‘bout you?

Dearest Lord, we need Your help. Our schedules are so busy, it’s hard to get everything done we need to do. Father, help us to be determined to do what is good…to be faithful in each task you set before us. Help us move beyond the thought of doing good to putting it into action. May You be glorified, O Lord, in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Recipe card edited from “Printable Recipe Cards for Your Fall Food Gifts,” a free printable from www.liagriffith.com. Used by permission. (If you like crafts, decor, and entertaining, check out Lia’s website. She has lots of great ideas.)
 
 

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Photos by Sabra Penley.

6 Comments

Filed under Busyness, Doing Good, God's Purpose, Love

Lord, am I willing?

Lord, am I willing?

Willing to follow You wherever you lead? Willing to do those things that I REALLY don’t want to do? Willing to say yes, no matter what?

This is the message You have been sending me these past months. This willingness to let go of SELF and live in beautiful freedom of following YOU!

But it has been a struggle, Lord. You know it has. You have watched as I have chosen to indulge myself on my desires and my “wisdom.” You have heard my internal dialogue go back and forth between what I know in my heart I should do and what my heart would rather do—give in to its deceitful desires.

Deceitful. Oh, yes. My heart is deceitful.

I know this. I have even put to memory Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” And yet I forget.

I can justify an action so quickly it’s frightening. Those conversations that play out in my mind—the debates about what to do—happen with lightning speed.

I need a warning siren…an internal noisy blast that says, “STOP! You are about to enter a danger zone!” Something so piercingly obnoxious that I cannot ignore. Like a signal from heaven that I am heading in the wrong direction.

Of course, Lord, Your Holy Spirit is my warning siren. But somehow I have turned down the volume until, at times, He is almost muted to my heart.

Forgive me, Lord! I want to be willing to follow Your every step for my life. Help me remove my hand from the controls and allow me to hear Your Holy Spirit’s voice and warnings and heed Your desires for my life.

Help me, Father, to deny myself and be willing—to desire and act on that desire—to follow You, fully and completely. Silence those internal conversations. Let the only words spoken in my heart be, “Yes, Lord.” In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

My dear friends, the above post is an exercise in free writing, in conjunction with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Fridays. Each week Lisa-Jo presents a word prompt. This week, it is willing. The idea is to write for five minutes (well, maybe mine is a little more for now) about this one word, whatever is on my heart. It’s an exercise in quickly putting thoughts into words. And, oh, how I need this! I don’t know if I’ll post one every Friday, but when I do, you will see the button below:

Five Minute Friday

I’m linking up with other bloggers on LisaJo Baker’s website: http://lisajobaker.com/. And if you’re interested in reading what others have written, please click on the button. You’ll find Lisa Jo’s own post and below it links to many other blogs. Thanks for reading! My regular weekly post will be up tomorrow.

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Filed under Five Minute Friday, Sacrifice, Self

Zap Worry!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:4-7

Nothing can zap joy and peace like worry.

I could become an Olympic champion if there were an event for worry! So I know what I’m talking about.

Worry comes in all shapes and sizes.

Take, for instance, the worry that creeps in when all is well…

Like a beautiful sunny day. Everyone at home is in a good mood and healthy. The bed is made, the house is clean, all the chores are done. Time with family. Time to breathe. Enjoying the sweet life.

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And then I start to sense it–that little nagging thought. The one that says, “This is too good to last. Things are going well now, but what’s around the corner?” Suddenly my mind peers ahead into the dark unknown future and wonders what disturbing things might be coming our way. ZAP! The joy is gone.

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Then there is the worry that consumes at the other end of the spectrum, when life is just plain hard…

Like last year when my husband spent seven weeks in the hospital. I can’t tell you how many worried thoughts filled my mind (it would take more time than you want to spend reading this post). But let’s just say that it ranged from “Will he live?” to “Will he ever again look at me with eyes of recognition and love?” to “Will he be able to work?” Thoughts of “What if…” and “What will we do?” penetrated my mind with all kinds of scary scenarios for what might lie ahead. ZAP! Where’s the peace?

Worry and anxiety…in pleasant times and in difficult times.

We’ve all been there, right?

Worry zaps the joy and peace right out of life and robs us of the sweet blessings God desires for us to embrace.

But fear not, my friends! The Lord God, the Great Physician, has handed us a prescription for a heart and mind filled with worry.

It is found in Philippians 4:4-7 – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When anxious thoughts steal our joy and peace, here are the Doctor’s orders:

1.  Rejoice in the Lord—always.

Seems like an easy thing, right? But we can quickly forget how amazing God is when we allow troubling thoughts to settle in our minds. We can push them out by saturating our minds instead with the magnificence of the Lord Jesus. Rejoice in Him—who He is and what He has done!

2.  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

I have to admit, this part had me a little stumped. I mean, here between rejoicing always and taking all our worries to God, it instructs us to show gentleness?

So, I took some time for a little research.  This verse, taken as a whole, seems to point to our purpose of bringing glory to the Lord—to be His witness in this world. Time is passing by and the Lord’s return is coming soon. Our gentleness—our graciousness—is a testimony to God’s work in our lives. When filled with worry, our focus turns inward. We can quickly become irritable, demanding, and unpleasant to be around. Not exactly the light of the world we are called to be.

We must remember Whose we are and Who we represent, letting the fruit of the Spirit be evident to everyone around us.

3.  Present your requests to God by prayer and petition.

Did you ever wonder about the difference in prayer and petition? I wondered if they were the same. But if so, why would they both be listed? Again…research.

It appears there is a difference. The word in the original language translated prayer in this verse indicates a desire. But the word for petition indicates something much more heart-felt—a need, a desperate plea.

God wants us to bring ALL of our requests to Him–desires and needs. “…in EVERYTHING…present your requests to God.”

4.  Give thanks.

This command to give thanks is seen everywhere in Scripture. We can only receive joy when we recognize the many blessings God has given us. Every request to God should be surrounded with thanksgiving.

When we faithfully follow God’s prescription by rejoicing in the Lord, living in the Spirit, and praying with grateful hearts, what can we expect?

ZAP! Worry will be gone! And it will be replaced with joy and peace.

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That sweet peace of God, which transcends all understanding. The Lord says this peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and keep us right where we are supposed to be…rejoicing in Him and living for His glory.

Peace and joy…instead of worry and anxiety.

I think I’ll strive to faithfully follow the Great Physician’s orders. I would much rather receive joy and peace than to win a gold medal for being the champion of worry.

Dearest Lord, thank you for showing us how to zap worry and bring back joy and peace. Help us to faithfully turn over every anxious thought and live according to Your instruction, that we might live our lives to glorify You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All Scripture from the New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Sunny Day photo by Phlashing Vole, licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0, via flickr.com/creativecommons.

Dark Woods photo by Ingolf, licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0, via flickr.com/creativecommons.

Peaceful photo by Queen Sunshine, licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0, via flickr.com/creativecommons.

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Filed under Joy, Peace, Prayer, Thankfulness, Worry