Yesterday marked the beginning of a new Lenten season. For me, this represents a time to slow down and be more intentional in communing with God. I used to halfheartedly give up something, usually sweets, but it was always for the wrong reason. In my mind, if I gave up sugar for 40 days, naturally, I’d lose some weight . . . I’m certain that was my greatest motivation. As a result, I’m not sure that sacrifice (which never lasted for the duration of Lent) made a difference in my faith walk. So, this year, I’m not giving up food, in fact, I’m not giving up anything per se! I hope that doesn’t make me a bad Christian in your eyes. If it does, I’m sorry. Rather than giving up something, I’ve decided to commit to spending more time with God in study, prayer, and writing.
Last night’s message during Ash Wednesday service prompted this decision. The sermon was entitled, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”. In short, the text came from the book of Numbers where the men were sent to scope out Canaan and the majority returned with a report of defeat. According to them, the giants were too big to make possessing the land a possibility. They knew the land was plentiful and lush, but their fear caused them to shy away from possessing the land. That’s real—I can definitely relate to that perspective in life, but during this Lenten season, I hope to be more like Caleb. Yup, there are giants in my path, but that doesn’t mean I should stop making strides towards achieving my goals. So, during this 40 day period, I’m committing to writing at least one devotion per day. That’s going to be hard, but I think it will be far more meaningful and impactful for my spiritual walk and life in general than giving up chocolate or red meat or whatever other food I’ve given up in the past. I’m excited about what this 40 day journey holds! I’m believing that some good work will come from it.
How will you honor God during this season?
This Thanksgiving week has offered me lots of time to sit and reflect about the wonderful things unfolding in my life. From a genuine and sincere place, I can thank God for how He has orchestrated my life in the most interesting way. I’ve not always felt this—no, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve often been angry with God about the things He’s allowed to happen in my life. My first post
on this blog spoke of me emerging from a dark season and just hanging in there. Yes, things were challenging in that moment, but the disappointment I was feeling wasn’t as bad as it seemed. And the life hiccup that proceeded that post certainly didn’t equate to God’s absence or lack of protection. I was overreacting. When I look back on my attitude and behaviors, I sadly realize that I’ve been unnecessarily bitter about so many things for too long. Instead of seeing the good, I’ve seen the bad. Rather than seeing the blessing, I’ve focused on the momentary pain. In place of “thank you”, my mouth has uttered the words “why me,” “I don’t deserve this,” and “God must hate me”. I have been a really negative person, but I’m so thankful I am no longer!
What happened? I’m not sure. Maybe I got older … maybe I learned how to be a bit more patient … maybe I feel better about myself in general … I really don’t know. It may simply be that I’ve learned how to give thanks in all things. I’ve come to appreciate the work of God’s hand behind the scenes in my life. While I’ve often been willing to settle for mediocre, I now understand that God only wants the best for me, so He’s taken me through some things to strip me of those hindrances in my life. He thinks I deserve better even if I’m too foolish to realize it!
This past year has been a challenge, but I’m thankful for every aspect of it. I couldn’t understand what God was doing as He was breaking me, but it was for my good (and I don’t mean that in a cliché way, I truly understand and appreciate this truth)! If I knew the magnitude of the blessing that was in store for me, maybe I wouldn’t have been so angered, frustrated, disappointed, and hurt by the difficulty of the season! I’d like to believe I would’ve responded differently and done a better job of speaking life to me and my challenges. I know hindsight is 20/20, but I just believe if I had known where things would end up, I wouldn’t have fought God so hard. But I’m human, so maybe I still would have failed. Regardless, today I appreciate my struggles and how they forced me to grow to this place where I find myself today.
So … in all things, I choose to give thanks. The good, the bad, the challenging, and the confusing. The delays, the denials, the blessings, and the victories. All of these things are working together for my good and my response is “thank you”.
My church is embarking on an “I Dare You” campaign this month. We are challenging ourselves and others to be bold enough to trust God with the important things in our lives. For some, the important thing is personal finances and for others, it’s dealing with a wayward child or a terrifying health condition. As I pondered on the thing I’m trusting God for during this challenge, I couldn’t settle on just one—the truth is, I have to dare to trust God with everything in this moment of my life. I started 2017 feeling extremely hopeful and while my attitude remains the same, there are so many things that need to fall in place in my life! If I were left to figure it all out myself, my human frailties would quickly emerge and incredible doubt would cloud my mind. So daring to trust God in everything seems like the better option for my sanity and my forward movement in this moment. That’s really hard for me to do. Letting go of my desire to be in control of my life in both the present and the future is not consistent with my character. Gladly following Him as He leads me through unknown territory en route to my destiny feels a bit overwhelming to me. But, I’m going to dare to trust God because I know He can do the amazing and the impossible.
I invite each of you to trust God with something important in your life for the remainder of this year. I know I am trusting God for some big things, stuff that only He can allow to unfold. Things that feel uncertain and cause me to question my ability to succeed, but things that I know are possible for God.
Until next time, I double dog dare you to trust God with your life!
This afternoon I had the opportunity attend a Christian Writers’ Group at a church not too far from my current residence. I’ve been wanting to attend this group for some time now, but I’ve not made it for a variety of reasons – I’ve been too busy or I’m exhausted following Sunday morning worship or most often, I’ve been ridiculously nervous about going to a new place where everyone is a stranger to me! But, today I ventured out of my comfort zone and attended the group. I had a great time. I left feeling motivated to write a bit (hence this post) and confident that I can achieve one of my life goals of writing a book of devotions/meditative thoughts in the not too distant future.
As I was riding home from today’s group, I began to think of thunderstorms. I’m not quite sure why, there are definitely no thunderstorms on the horizon in Maryland today. Instead, the bitter cold of ol’ man winter rushed back into the area over these past few days and I’ve decided I’m absolutely ready for spring. But I digress…
While thinking about thunderstorms, I remembered something my two grandmothers always said during these events in my younger days, “Be still. The Lord is doing His work.” When thunderstorms hit and we were with our grandmothers, this meant sitting still, no talking, shoes on, and no television, at both of their homes. To me, this was always the craziest thing. I hated thunderstorms, so the thought of just sitting still and suffering through them in silence did a number on my psyche! But I survived, and now thunderstorms aren’t as traumatic for me.
As time has passed and life has unfolded, I’ve realized that my grandmothers told the absolute truth about how we should respond to storms…when the storms of life hit, we should learn to just be still, for it is in these moments that the Lord is doing His work! I’m learning that God can’t do His work when we’re busy attempting to find a solution to our problems. There are some things that we just cannot fix in our human strength, we must learn to trust God with all of our hearts and believe that the One who created us knows what is best for us. I think God does good work, so perhaps we should take a seat and let Him do His thing in our lives! Be still for the Lord is doing His work!