Heroic Virtue

     “The godly people in the land are my true heroes!” Psalm 16:3 NLT

I read this verse in the Psalms and I wonder, who do I esteem and why?  Who are the godly people in my land and what are they doing that is heroic?

I thought of my friends Mike and Sherry, missionaries, who are returning to an Asian city where they have spent years faithfully doing small, unexciting, and unglamorous things to love the Asian people and tell them about God.  I am sure they have felt at times like they are digging a spiritual inroad with a tool the size of a tablespoon.  Their kind and humble work is heroic.

I thought of my husband rising each day, to study and pray.  I thought of all the messages he has prepared week after week, come what may- aching tooth, bad back, ill mother.  The biggest thing I notice is how he keeps on going, even if things get sticky or hard.  He always presses on.  He loves what he does.  And his silent preparation and patient endurance is heroic.

I thought of my friend Martha who was bedfast for 6 months, because of a surgeon’s error.  She was mad and angry and chewed him out.  Then one day she went back to him to say, “I forgive you and I love you.  Will you fix it?”  Her courageous forgiveness is heroic.  (He did fix it.)

I think of my brother, a stay-at-home dad.  I’ve witnessed first-hand the challenges of his day.  With four kids ages 1-10 he tackles everything from bottles and diapers, to meals and laundry, crying and vomiting.  His days are chaotic, a whirlwind of activity.  He’s a servant to the young.  A man you can trust with the vulnerable.  Heroic.

These people probably won’t like that I’ve written about them this way.  But it has been good for me to take a moment to think about their lives and esteem these Christ-like qualities in their hearts.  I worship God as I value what their faith is depositing in the lives of others.  When I think of them, I’m inspired to dig with a spoon if I have to, to share the love and truth about God, to persevere in what I am called to do day after day come what may, to forgive when it’s hard and to serve the vulnerable.

There are many other people I could write about, but these few came to mind today.  So know this, all you who love the Lord, as I saw and esteemed them, so God sees and esteems you.

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

 

Faith Training

bigstock-131917565The movie Miracle tells the story of how our 1980 US hockey team won an Olympic gold medal against all odds.  Coach Herb Brooks, knowing both his team and the opponent well, led his players into a season of difficult training.  He wearied them with long hours and demanding drills.  At one point he subjected his players to such a grueling workout that those watching questioned his methods.  Even his own players doubted his affection and were tempted to quit.  Though no one understood it at the time, Herb knew what He was doing.  He was training his players to hang tough with their opponent, preparing them for ultimate victory.  Herb’s team chose to trust and persevere.  And when it was time for the big game against an enemy that had long ruled the ice, Herb’s players beat the odds, got the gold, and gained honor for their country.

Being on God’s team is not always easy.  In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to understand the hardships we suffer.  But, it is through these very hardships that God is working to form in us what is most precious and valuable to him and his kingdom- real and tested faith.  With this faith we overcome the world.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold… may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.     1Peter 1:6-7 NIV

The Most Beautiful Thing in the Room

IMG_7884 (2)

It’s a scene I won’t forget.  The party is winding down and I look across the table.  My dad and his 93 year old sister, my aunt, are sitting face to face and knee to knee.  My aunt’s eyes are shining and she is smiling.  She has never looked more beautiful as she listens to what my dad is telling her.  She is hanging on his every word.  I can’t hear much of the conversation, but I hear enough to understand what’s happening.  My dad is orienting her.  My aunt is forgetting a lot these days and he’s reminding her of things.  Things like their shared history and who they are to each other.  “I’m your younger brother” and “We used to….”  What strikes me is my dad’s kindness.  He’s done this for his sister before, yet he patiently does it again.  He’s fully present.  His efforts are wholehearted.  And most notably, his actions show that he doesn’t believe he’s missing out on “bigger” or “better” talks with others.  Beautiful.

The party ended.  And while there were many special moments that night, the one I can’t shake from my mind’s eye is that one I witnessed with my dad and my aunt.  I wonder why I keep coming back to it.  Then it hits me, and I know.  My dad is like Jesus.  And I am my aunt.  I get so easily disoriented, confused and agitated by things that happen in my world, unable to make sense of emotions and struggles inside my soul…  Then Jesus comes near.  And he patiently and kindly orients me.  He reminds me of our shared history.  Of who he is to me and who I am to him.  “I am the way” and “You are my child…”  He has the clarity I lack.  He speaks the truth I need.  And, the fact that Jesus could be involved in far more exciting discussions with much more interesting, influential and “on top of it” people, well… it melts me.  What other god acts like this?  Bends down and sits, face to face and knee to knee, with humanity?  Beautiful.

                 “Come… and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

                                                                                            Matthew 11:28 NIV

 

A Big Lesson From a Little Horse

The girl near to a horse standing in front of a beautiful sunset. Silhouette of a woman and a horse's head.

Seabiscuit had none of the marks of a thoroughbred racehorse.  First of all he was small.  And though he was half the size of other colts he often ate twice as much.  He slept for huge chunks of the day.  And, he threw his foot out when he ran.  Seabiscuit was judged a failure and a disappointment.  “Get rid of him,” his original owner said.

Later in Seabiscuit’s life a remarkable thing happened.  Someone, who truly knew and loved horses, saw something in him.  They saw what he could be.  And they arranged for his purchase.  They took him home and guided him to become what he was born to be– a champion racehorse, and a national inspiration.  Seabiscuit became a symbol of hope to down and out Americans during the Great Depression.  Awesome timing, huh?  Divine destiny.

Do you lack the qualities necessary to be a winner in the eyes of this world?  Have you been labeled, the wrong size?  Too plain, or too slow?  Have you been judged lazy, low performing, or worse… a disappointment?

God sees you through different eyes, eyes of love.  He sees who you are meant to be.  And He has a plan.  In Christ, God has purchased you out of judgment, and into His care, where, He guides you to become the person he intended you to be.  A champion in something.  A hope giver to the washed up and weary.  Witness God’s awesome timing.  Accept your Divine destiny.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ.          1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV           

 

 

Sowing in Tears

Old farmer woman sowing seeds mixed with fertilizer from a bucket

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”   Psalm 126:5 NIV

What breaks your heart?  And brings you to tears?  It’s a deeply personal question, but I ask it because God’s word tells us that right there, right at that point of sorrow, there’s an amazing field of opportunity.  An opportunity to sow in tears, and reap joy.

So how do we go from heartbroken to happy harvest?  How do we plant, and grow, this rare and wonderful crop?  We start by understanding that tears alone produce nothing.  So, as much as we’d like to sit around with our tissue boxes, we can’t.  There must come a day when we get up from our bed of sorrow, walk into that field of opportunity, and take God at His word– turn our faces heavenward, and find out what God wants us to do in light of (or in spite of) what we’re going through.  Sowing in tears means just that, we can’t wait until we feel positively sunny before we start.  That’s key to farming a field of joy.  And, you can begin today.

What’s your pain?  Pour it out to the Lord.  And ask Him what to do.  Then, take His seed of instruction and sow it by acting on what He says.  Is God telling you to wait?  Then wait, don’t push.  Is God telling you to trust?  Then trust, don’t manipulate or strategize.  Is God telling you to go somewhere and do something?  Then go.  Do it.  Don’t wait for a prettier day.  Don’t wait until you are in a better mood.  Do what God says, no matter how strange, or impossible, it seems.

God’s kingdom is made up of many glorious fields planted in this way.  His mercy pours down like rain upon them.  His face shines radiantly on the people who work in them.  So take heart little farmer.  Take that step of faith.  And plow ahead.

Several years ago I quit my teaching job to write a novel.  I worked on a manuscript, took it to a writer’s conference and was told that no one would be interested in a story like mine.  I was heartbroken.  I came home and cried.  Now what, I wondered?  For days I sat around on a bed of tears.  Then I prayed and asked God what to do.  I started writing devotionals for the local paper and bible studies for a jail ministry and a Sunday school class.  I even wrote a few speeches for our church women’s events.  I did my best to sow seeds of God’s love and encouragement into the lives of the people around me.  I never dreamed I could be truly happy working in those little fields, but I was.  I gained some dear friends.  And reaped joy.  Joy I never would have known, if I hadn’t cried and sown.  Looking back now I see that God was teaching me something very important.  He was teaching me to love His story, more than my own.  And I do.

Don’t let your tears fall to the ground without a seed.  Weep if you must, but sow as you weep.  The harvest will come when the time is just right.  Don’t worry, you will reap joy.  It’s a promise.

        He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.    Psalm 126:6 NIV

“Not Yet”

Girl Reading A Book At School

I will never forget when my little niece Logan was going through her “not yet” phase.  No matter what we were doing “not yet” was a constant refrain.  One afternoon I was reading her a story and as I began to turn the page she shot her little hand down upon it.  “Not yet,” she said.  What was the problem I wondered?  I thought I had given her plenty of time to take in that part of the story and to look at the pictures.  What did she mean, “Not yet”?

It was many months later I found myself stuck.  And angry.  Not one to lose my temper I was literally clenching my fists in frustration over something I had hoped to accomplish more quickly.  I had worked and waited a long time and I was ready to cross the finish line on that thing.  I was on a walk thinking and praying when I remembered Logan and her “not yet” phase.  I thought about the day I read her that story, and about how she laid her little hand down on the page.  I was puzzling over the memory when I heard a whisper to my heart.

Slow down.  You’re rushing the story.”

What?”  I thought as I slowed my pace.  “What story?”  I asked almost out loud.

The story of your life,” came the reply.

I was bewildered.  And exasperated.  “Lord, how on earth can I possibly rush the story of my life?  I am the slowest person I know!  Don’t you see what I am trying to do?  I know this scene.  I’ve been stuck in it for months.  I am well acquainted with this page and I am more than ready to turn it.”

Gently, so gently, it was as if the Lord laid his hand down.  Laid it over my restless heart.  Laid it over the scene before me.  And with great kindness said, “Not yet.”

I felt myself calming.  And I felt God’s love for me even though I wished He had said something different.  I didn’t understand, but I wanted to trust.  I walked on.  I kept thinking.  And as I did I started getting the feeling that there was something very valuable on this particular page of my life, something… I just hadn’t seen yet.

I let go of my frustration.  And a new response began forming in me.  A response like this:

Lord, you are the author of my life.  If you say it’s not time to turn the page, it’s not time to turn the page.  I will look for what I have not yet seen.  I will find beauty in the unfolding.  I will cherish your hand upon my life.  And I will wait.  I will wait for the day when you say, “Okay.  Now.”

               I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5 NIV

 

 

The High Ways of God

Daisy Flower In The Desert

He…

Asks a man to build a boat in the middle of the desert.

Chooses an old, infertile couple to be the birth parents of a nation.

Saves a baby’s life by giving it to the enemy’s daughter.

Calls someone who stutters to be His speaker.

Uses a prostitute to protect religious men.

Tells a commander that he has too many warriors for battle.

Turns a whale’s belly into a prayer chapel.

Uses a boy with a sling shot to kill a giant enemy.

Picks a bunch of fishermen to deliver the most important message of all time.

Turns a place of execution into a doorway for new life.

 

                         “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

                          so are my ways higher than your ways and

                         my thoughts than your thoughts.”  — God