“Have you been waiting long?” I asked Molly when we picked her up from school a little late. She was standing under a tree, watching all the other parents who got their kids on time.
“No,” she answered. “Just 85 seconds.”
But who’s counting, right?
I hate waiting, and not just waiting in the doctor’s “waiting” room, where I can at least bring a book or get something done. I hate waiting when there’s nothing else to do but wait—when my only option is to stand under a tree and count the seconds.
Waiting is hard. My friend is waiting to hear big news that won’t come for a few days, and I wish I could speed up the clock for her. My family is waiting right now, too—waiting between jobs, between houses, between churches. We’re waiting in an RV to finish the school year. Waiting to begin our cross-country trek to Missouri. I even dreamt a few nights ago that we’d arrived at Ozark, but couldn’t go in yet. We kept circling our dorm, around and around, but it wasn’t time. Even in my sleep…I’m waiting!
There’s always a reason for God’s waiting season, like when Joseph had to wait in prison before the cupbearer finally remembered him, or when Israel waited in slavery until God brought them out of Egypt. Waiting, to God, is about preparing and perfecting, and He accomplishes His purpose at just the right time.
And, biblical waiting isn’t about impatience or anxiety. In scripture, waiting isn’t just standing under a tree, counting seconds. Often, to wait is to hope. The Hebrew word qavah means, “to wait, look for, hope, expect.” For example:
“Wait—look—for the Lord,” wrote David, “be strong and take heart and wait—hope, expect—in the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
Qavah is also “to bind together, to twist”—as the strands of a rope are twisted together to make a strong cord. Like if I cross my fingers when I really want something, I twist them up together in hopefulness. Waiting, then, is wrapping myself up in God, and attaching myself to Him. It’s this:
“Those who hope in the Lord—who bind themselves to Him and twist themselves up with Him—will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
Waiting, then, is a good thing. It’s a chance to experience the Lord like never before—to come to know Him in the stillness, and become deeply rooted in Him, like the tree where Molly counted.
God, let me not just count the seconds until You arrive. Let me rest, trust, expect…hope. Bind me to You so securely that the wait becomes for me an assurance of Your tight grip. “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5). Amen.
“Lord, we knew You were faithful,” Andy prayed the other day, “but now we know You’re faithful.”
Ever moved from knowing to knowing? Sometimes, do you just get washed over again with a sense of God’s faithfulness?–Of how He orchestrates every detail, and provides things before we even know we need them? We recently experienced one of those moments–an encounter that moved us from knowing to knowing–and it knocked us to our knees.
“My ears had heard of you,” said Job, “but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). Now I know.
At times like that, all you can do is praise.
But. Knowing doesn’t happen every day. Some days…months, years…are spent in the darkness, asking why God has left the building, and questioning if He really is who He says He is at all. It’s a place of wondering, not knowing, and I’ve lived there before, too, in the not-so-distant past.
“Why is this happening, God? Why won’t You intervene?” King David said it this way: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
And at times like that, all you can do…is praise. Praise, because He is good, even in bad circumstances. Praise, because He is at work whether we see Him or not. Praise, because recalling His faithfulness in the past reminds us that He’ll be faithful in the future, too. Praise, because sometimes praise is an act of faith, and faith always pleases God.
Where you are, dear reader? Today, do you wonder, or do you know? In the comments, maybe you can leave one of two words: wondering, or knowing. Wherever you are–whichever word describes you today–thank Him for it. Trust Him more deeply because of it. Worship Him through it. Because in wondering and in knowing, all you can do…is praise.
Over Christmas break, our family played a lot of Hedbanz. What a fun game!—Guess the word you wear on your forehead, with clues from everyone else who can read it.
We wore everything from “bottle” to “Barack Obama.” Turns out, though, that the words are hard to guess if the clue-givers don’t explain the right word. For example, when one wears “Pamela Anderson” on her forehead, and one’s husband confuses Ms. Anderson with Anna Nicole Smith…well, one can be sent down an unfortunate path of many wrong guesses.
Although, I suppose those ladies do have a few “attributes” in common.
Which reminds me, the highlight of the game for me was when Andy wore this:
“Can I fly?” he asked as we all rolled with laughter, and “Do I fit in a pocket?” But what question isn’t funny, really, with “bra” on your forehead?
In all seriousness, though, playing Hedbanz made me wonder what “words” I show to the world. What do I present to the people I encounter every day? Do I wear “gracious”? Or “kind”? More likely, I show “impatient” and “insecure.”
Maybe, as with the game, we don’t even know what words we wear. Maybe our words spring from such deep, unconscious roots within that we don’t even realize what we show. “Unloved” or “ashamed.” “Conceited” or “controlling.” Do we see in ourselves the words that others read so clearly?
King David wrote, “Before a word is on my tongue,”—or, in this case, on my forehead—“you know it completely, O Lord.” David prayed to the One who knows all, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:4, 23-24).
Or in other words…God, You read the words I display. You’re acquainted with every anxious, disquieting thought that doesn’t trust You, and every offensive, idolatrous thought that dethrones You. You see them all, so search me, and change my words. Be glorified by what’s on my mind. Amen.
Not shifty, as in, tricky or deceptive (like the word actually means). But shifty, as in, shaky. As though the earth beneath me wasn’t solid, and things were unstable and unsure. Shifty!
Poor Andy hated that word. “I feel shifty,” I’d complain, and his eyes would glaze over slightly as he tried to figure out what I meant, and even more, what he could do about it. Around the time we got married, I quit saying “shifty,” because really, what could be more unattractive to a man than a whiny, insecure woman? I stopped saying it because Andy disliked it…but inwardly…I still felt shifty.
And I still do. In many areas, I’m shiftier than ever! But, the shiftiness is leading me to a sure foundation. Peter, whose nickname, incidentally, meant “rock,” knew the importance of building life on the Rock, Jesus Christ. In one of Peter’s letters, he quoted the prophet Isaiah, who foretold the coming of the Rock this way:
Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes in me will be unshakable.” (Isaiah 28:16 HCSB)
This week, I printed that verse, framed it, and put it on my desk. I’m working to memorize it now, and more importantly to come to know Christ as my precious cornerstone. So if you see me, will you please ask me to say Isaiah 28:16? I need the practice. And, if you catch me acting a little shifty, please remind me of the Rock!
A prayer from a shifty woman: Lord, what if this is the year I trust You as a sure foundation? What a rich life that would be! Oh, find me among the ones who believe, God. Move me from shifty to unshakable, and be my very Rock. Amen.
Last summer, a few friends and I studied through Kelly Minter’s book, Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break. (I highly recommend it and all her studies, by the way. Not that you asked. But there you go.) Of the many insights Kelly taught, one was simply this: the name Nehemiah means “Yahweh has comforted.”
How great is that? To remember, every time you said your name, that the Lord comforts you!
So today, dear reader, let’s take a minute to swap stories. In the comments below (click on the word “Comments” just beneath the title of this post), tell about a time when the Lord has comforted you. Maybe in the middle of a heartache, He spoke to you through His word, or encouraged you through someone else. Maybe you faced a health scare or a problem at work, and He made His comforting presence known. Whatever it is–short story or long, recently or years ago–let’s hear it! Let’s comfort one another with the comfort we’ve received from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)
I’m not really sure when my kids stopped looking like this. Wasn’t it only yesterday that they were singing along with “Elmo’s World” on Sesame Street, and sticking their fingers under the door every time I went to the bathroom?
“Doin’ in dere, Mommy?”
But honestly, as sweet as the toddlerhood and preschool days were, I’m happy they’re over. That season, while precious, was also exhausting. Today, I’m grateful for kids who can stay home alone, and fix their own food, and walk down the street to Circle K to buy me a Snickers bar.
My friend’s son went away to college this fall, and even as she cried, she knew. She still said, “This is what is supposed to happen.” Sad for the loss, but happy for all they’ll gain as a result. It’s what I’ve heard Andy say more times than I can count: “We aren’t raising kids. We’re raising adults.” Meaning, the whole point of why we do what we do? Is so they’ll grow up, and go to college, and stop singing “Elmo’s World.”
Spiritually speaking, I’m in another season right now that’s ending, too. Or rather, a season that already ended, quite some time ago, and I’m still hanging on to it, pretending. It’s like I’m gluing leaves back on tree branches, not wanting the autumn to come. I sense God saying, “See, I am doing a NEW THING!…Do you not perceive it?”
To which I respond, in sad and scared tears, “Yes, Lord, I perceive it. I just don’t like it.”
But even as I cry, I know. I know He has my good in mind. I know I’ll love the new just as much if not more than the old. Sad for the loss, but happy for all I’ll gain.
Lord, grow my faith. The whole point of why You do what You do is so I’ll grow up…so I’ll trust You more and know You better. You’re making rivers in the desert! I can hear the water roaring just around the bend. Give me the courage to dive in.
One day as she rode her scooter through our neighborhood, Molly overheard a couple inside a house. Their windows were open, she told me later, and as she went by, she heard a woman cry, and a man say in exasperation, “I do love you, honey.”
Molly’s story prompted two thoughts: first, I should close my windows, because who knows what people hear when they ride their scooters by our place! Secondly, I wondered, “What is it in us that makes us doubt love?”
My heart hurt for the neighbor I didn’t know. Whether or not the man truly loves her–and I hope he’s a devoted, faithful husband!–the fact is, her Father loves her, deeply. Completely. Unconditionally. But something in her still isn’t sure she’s loved, so the man still tries to convince her.
And if she’s like me, she isn’t easily convinced. The truth is, I doubt love, too. Every day, Andy gives me dozens of reasons to know he loves me, and so do my family and friends. But too often, I still wonder. “Do you love me?”
Scripture talks about something else overheard. It’s one of my very favorite verses:
The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
A love song, overheard overhead, sung by God Himself! Steven Curtis Chapman talks about it in a song I added to my “run” playlist last week. I added it, not just because its upbeat tempo makes me run faster, but because I need to hear its convincing chorus, over and over again:
There’s a song being sung over you
by the One who breathes life into you:
You are being loved,
right now, at this very moment
Just like the woman in my neighborhood, I doubt love. I take convincing. But what if I didn’t? What if I listened, and finally overheard what’s overhead?
“I do love you, child.”
Lord, open my ears–and my heart. Let me hear Your love song. Don’t let me miss a note. You do love me, and I love You. Amen.
From “Be Loved” by Christy Nockels:
Have you ever let yourself be loved by the One who made you?
Have you ever told your soul to believe that His heart is on your side?
You could even try to run away, but there’s nothing You can do
So just be loved. Be loved. He loves you.
I’ve already written (here and here) about my love for Christy Nockels and her new album, Into the Glorious. But don’t worry, I won’t say anything more about it, because no one likes a broken record. Especially a broken record about a record.
But if I did…if I wanted to say anything else on the subject—which of course I don’t, because my goodness! The repetition!—then I’d tell you about my favorite song on the album, “For Your Splendor.” I’d tell you about one morning last September, when I asked God to show me what He wanted me to do. It was an honest prayer, not the kind I pray when I know His will and just don’t want to do it…but the humble, seeking, desperate kind of prayer to which He will always bend an ear. I said amen and turned to that morning’s Bible reading. Ezekiel 47.
The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was flowing from the south side.
As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds —like the fish of the Great Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47:1-12
“This is what I want for you, Amy,” the Lord spoke so gently to my soul that day. “I want you to be that tree. You keep asking what I want you to do, but it’s not about doing. It’s about being.” To be connected to Him, to be in Him, to be a tree, planted in the living water that flows from His presence. Be, not do, and then He will bring the fruit for food and healing. The fruit comes, not because I work hard for it or make it myself, but because God himself grows it from a life planted in Him.
Child, just be.
I knew that September morning that God had painted me a life-giving, life-changing picture, and when I first heard “For Your Splendor” last April, I felt as though He’d sung me a song, too.
I’d also tell you, if I were to write about this album again—which of course I won’t—that the Amy-tree is smack-dab in the middle of a huge pruning. Like, a colossal cutting—the kind where the branches are whacked back so far that you can hardly tell it’s a tree anymore, and you feel sorry for it because you know it must be embarrassed. Andy calls it dormant— “temporarily devoid of external activity.” I call it painful. Take it from this tree trunk: “It’s hard to grow while everybody’s watching, to have your heart pruned by the One who knows best.”
But. “…but I know my season’s coming, and I’ll spring up in your endless faithfulness.”
Lord, I won’t say these things again, because honestly, I’m tired of my own broken-record list of neediness and fears. My goodness! The repetition! But I will say this: I’m Your tree. Keep me planted in You—in Your Word, in Your presence. Remind me to be, not do. Make my roots deep in You, God, and whack away with the pruning—all for Your splendor. Amen.
For Your Splendor
by Christy Nockels
I’m so concerned with what I look like from the outside
Will I blossom into what You hope I’ll be?
Yet You’re so patient just to help me see
The blooms come from a deeper seed that You planted in me
Sometimes it’s hard to grow when everybody’s watching
To have your heart pruned by the One who knows best
And though I’m bare and cold, I know my season’s coming
And I’ll spring up in Your endless faithfulness
With my roots deep in You
I’ll grow the branch that bears the fruit
And though I’m small, I’ll still be standing in the storm
‘Cause I am planted by the river by Your streams of living water
And I’ll grow up strong and beautiful, all for Your splendor, Lord
So with my arms stretched out, I’m swaying to Your heartbeat
I’m growing with the sound of Your voice calling
You’re bringing out the beauty that You have put in me
For Your joy and for Your glory falling
A few years ago, a dear friend gave me an exercise DVD, along with a pretty gift bag overflowing with tissue paper. The bag was heavy and rectangular, and I honestly thought she was giving me a six-pack of Dr. Pepper, to sort of sweeten the gift of the exercise movie.
It wasn’t Dr. Pepper.
It was dumbbells.
It’s a good thing she’s a dear friend.
Lately, it seems everyone I encounter—including the girl in the mirror—is lifting weights, and I don’t mean dumbbells (or Dr. Pepper). We lift the weights of hardship and struggle. We carry around huge, crushing burdens, like addiction, and cancer, and foreclosure, and adultery, and shame. Some of us can barely stand up beneath it all. Some are completely flattened.
In Psalm 55, David faced attacks from his enemies, and even from his friends. He was overwhelmed and terrified. But under all the pressure, David told himself, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).
It wasn’t weight lifting, David said.
It was weight throwing.
David didn’t try to carry the weight; he cast it—threw it, flung it!—onto the Lord. And when David threw his burden onto God, God held him up, and kept him from falling.
What weights do we need to throw on God today? (Please tell me in the comments—anonymously, if you like—because I’d love to pray for you.) Weight throwing—casting our cares on the Lord—makes a shaky life solid. So enough weight lifting! Let’s throw the dumbbells.
“All we can hear is the birds,” my son whispered one morning. He was six at the time, and we had just moved from a condo by the freeway to a townhouse that backed up to hills and open space. That first day in our new home, Nathan couldn’t hear the morning commute right outside his bedroom window, and the silence was almost spooky.
“All we can hear is the birds.”
Lately, though, our quiet house has been anything but. Our hectic pace and crammed calendars have me feeling tired and irritable. I notice it the most in my eyes: I rub them a lot because I’m tired, and I roll them a lot because I’m irritable.
For two weeks now, I’ve carried around a book about Sabbath, but I haven’t opened it yet. The irony of being too busy to read about rest! Tonight, though, we have nothing on our calendar. No church, no life group, no meetings. No ballet class, no “on-call” at the hospital. We’re not even going out to eat! We’re going to sit here, just the five of us, and look at each other right in our red, rolling eyes.
We’re going to listen for the birds.
Lord, You’re our shepherd. Make us lie down in green pastures. Lead us beside quiet waters. Restore our souls. Exchange our tired irritability with Your refreshed joy, until all we can hear is the birds. Amen.