Last week, Andy stopped by the R.V. park office (yes, we still live in an R.V.) to pay for our stay here. He told the attendant that we’re leaving for Missouri—by way of a vacation in Colorado—on Wednesday.
“Let’s see,” she said, adding up our bill. “When you leave, you’ll have been here exactly 40 days.”
40! Honestly, it gave me chills. In scripture, the number 40 represents God’s perfect timing before a major change or transformation. It’s often about a period of testing, too, like Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days, or Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years before the promised land.
Not that Missouri will flow with milk and honey, necessarily. And even if 40 isn’t meant to be taken literally—even if 40 in scripture just means, as some scholars say, “a lot of”—well, let me tell you, we’ve had “a lot of a lot” in the R.V. We’ve grilled a lot of hamburgers, and we’ve eaten a lot of snacks purchased on a lot of trips to the camp market. We’ve had a lot of neighbors, too: people from all over the country, a family headed to Six Flags, a couple married for 56 or 57 years (they couldn’t agree which), a little boy who proudly showed off his bucketful of frogs, and more.
We’ve also had a lot of—a LOT of—talks about toilets. Toilets, it seems, are a hot topic in the R.V. community. I’ve discussed toilets enough in the last 40 days to last me the next 40 years.
“Are both valves open?” “It’s best to use paper that’s R.V. friendly.” “Make sure you keep enough water in the gray line to rinse the….” Never mind.
The toilet tip we’ve heard most goes like this:
“More water. Less paper.”
Catchy! Maybe I’ll cross stitch it and hang it in my new bathroom. Andy said something yesterday, too, that may be plaque-worthy: “When the line is clogged, it bubbles when you flush. But if it’s clear, bugs fly out.”
I’m not positive, but I think that’s in Proverbs. “A clog bubbles, but a clear line means bugs.”
Indeed, 40 days of a lot. A lot of “trailer bowling” with plastic cups and tennis balls, and a lot of goodbye meals with precious friends. Really, our family has had a lot of fun in this little house on wheels. Our “period of testing” is almost done, and we’re looking forward to the “major change” the Lord has in store. In the end, we’ll realize that, more than anything else, we’ve had a lot of God’s faithfulness, a lot of His presence, and a lot of His mercy. We’ve had a lot of Him, and that’s a lot of a lot.
“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.
Pardon my colorful language—blinkin’ cursor! I’m speaking of the cursor on my computer screen. The one that mocks me, judges me, BLINKS at me every time I begin a new piece.
“Say. Something. Blink. Blink.”
“Can’t. You. Write? Blink. Blink. Blink.”
Curse you, cursor!
Lately I’m writing something that I hope will someday be a book. It’s about contentment and Philippians, it’s born out of my own ongoing struggle, and as my friend said, it’s the “fire in my bones.”
I know God wants me to write it. I know that like I know my daughter’s hair is red. And yet…I hesitate. I hesitate to even call the project a “book” because, well, it isn’t! Blink. Books require agents and publishers—blink, blink—which require “platforms” and people to actually read them—blink. And really, isn’t it vain to call myself a writer? I have nothing new to say, and after all, “blogs are by people who just want to hear themselves talk.”—Someone said that to me years ago, and don’t think it doesn’t blink in my face every time I write.
So, I sit at my computer, wanting to write the story, but staring instead at the blink, blink, blink.
It’s so hard to begin!
Really, though, I don’t have to. The story is already underway. The Book of Hebrews says that Jesus is the “author of salvation” (2:10)…that everything originates with Him, and He founded it all. So in a sense, my “story” isn’t relying on me to begin it. The Author is already hard at work, crafting every detail.
Hebrews says that Jesus will finish it all, too, because He’s the “perfecter of our faith” (12:2). He starts the story and completes it. He writes the beginning and the end.
No blinks about it! The Author writes it all.
Lord, You’ve got this. My book that may or may not become a book, my marriage, my future…You write the story. All of it. Because of this, I can be “confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in me will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Amen.
I read once about an experiment on lab rats: At Johns Hopkins Medical School, Dr. Richter placed several rats in cylinders of water. The little guys paddled and treaded and stayed afloat as best they could. Every so often, half the rats were lifted out of the water just for a few seconds, and then put back in to tread some more. The other rats weren’t lifted out at all.
Here’s what happened: the rats that stayed in the water drowned almost immediately. But those that were lifted out—even for only a few seconds!—swam for more than three days.
Three days! That’s the power of hope, the scientists concluded. The rats could keep going because they had the hope of rescue. Or maybe, all they needed was a little breather. Either way, a little encouragement went a long way.
I thought of this experiment a few days ago, when someone encouraged Andy. They lifted him out of the water just a bit, and I saw firsthand the difference it made in his spirit and even on his face. So much of life, it seems, is about simply staying afloat, and some people have been treading deep water for a long time.
I’m not very good at encouragement, really. I say unhelpful things like, “Have you tried paddling faster?” or “Maybe you should’ve stayed out of the water.” But what if, instead of being an observer-commenter, I became a lifter-outer? What if I determined to encourage, and lift someone from their struggles—even for only a few seconds?
It may mean the difference between life and death—between thriving…and drowning.
Take it from the rats: a little encouragement goes a long way.
“Oh, no, Belle! Get inside before the birds attack you!”
My new suet birdfeeder—the one I’d hung so happily because it promised to save me the mess of sweeping birdseed off the back patio—had melted in the 100-degree temperature. It dripped, quite disgustingly, all over the unsuspecting basset hound napping just beneath it.
I’m not sure why it never occurred to me that suet plus sunshine equals liquid fat. It was rather like David in Psalm 23. I anointed my dog’s head with oil. And birdseed.
Some days are like that. One minute, you’re snoozing in the sunshine, and the next, you’re covered in fat, waiting for birds to peck your face.
Such days shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Jesus himself promised they’d come. “In this world, you will have trouble,” he told his disciples. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Days like this will come…but take heart! Or take courage, be of good cheer, be courageous, other versions say. In Greek, “take heart” is “tharseite,” which means, “be bolstered within.” It’s the same word that Jesus used when he took a late night stroll across the lake, and his friends took him for a ghost. “Be bolstered within!” he said. “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:50)
Lord, how comforting that you tie the command to “be bolstered within” directly to Yourself! I can take heart, because You have overcome. I can have courage, because it is You. Thank You that, on days like this, I can be bolstered within, because You are in me. Amen.
Scripture for Days Like This (Click to download.)
Previous Lessons from a Basset Hound:
- Lesson 1: Obedience
- Lesson 2: Perseverance
- Lesson 3: Love
- Lesson 4: Hope
- Lesson 5: Smelling Like Poo
- Lesson 6: Tweet!
- Lesson 7: Reward
- Lesson 8: Wisdom
- Lesson 9: New
- Lesson 10: Friendship
- Lesson 11: Being Stung
- Lesson 12: Acceptance
- Lesson 13: Rest
- Lesson 14: Joy
- Lesson 15: Compassion
- Lesson 16: Sabbath
- Lesson 17: Eye Contact
- Lesson 18: Imagination
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:1-9)
Growing up, my least favorite two letters together were, without a doubt, P and E.
As in, P.E., as in Physical Education class. As in, “Time to awkwardly wear shorts under your skirts, girls, because we’re going to force you to kick a ball and climb a rope, and then we’ll tell you that it’s good for you!”
I hated P.E.
More than once (or more than 50 times), I lied to avoid P.E. I twisted my ankle, I felt the flu coming on, I forgot to wear shorts under my skirt and couldn’t possibly risk showing the boys my underpants…anything to get out of physical education. I knew the P.E. teachers were on to my tricks, but I didn’t care. I just didn’t want to exercise.
Similarly (sort of), I once heard a marriage counselor say that he can tell within just a few minutes of meeting a couple whether or not their marriage will improve—or even make it at all.
“It’s obvious from the very beginning,” he said, “if they intend to try or not.”
He’s like a P.E. teacher, leading husbands and wives to something that’s “good” for them. But all the tips, books, and Bible teaching in the world won’t help some marriages, because they just don’t want to try.
In John 5, Jesus met a man who hadn’t been able to walk for 38 years. Jesus asked one of his right-to-the-point questions.
“Do you want to get well?”
Do you want to stand on your own two feet, or are you honestly happier here by the pool? After all, this water is all you’ve known for 38 years….
Do you want to have a better marriage? Or are you honestly happier being right, and stubborn, and resentful? After all, a better marriage requires service, submission, and forgiveness….
Do you want to exercise in P.E. class? Or are you honestly happier lying about injury and illness? After all, exercise means kicking a ball, climbing a rope, and wearing shorts under your skirt….
Jesus knew that sometimes, we don’t want to get well. We are happier in our pain, addiction, or anger. After all, healing means stopping our lies, and changing our lives.
Healing is a Choice: Ten Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and Ten Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them is for anyone who wants to get well. Stephen Arterburn first released Healing is a Choice in 2005, but it was recently revised, updated, and re-released by Thomas Nelson. Today’s version includes a full workbook, with application questions to facilitate healthy change. Throughout, Arterburn balances compassion with truth. He offers ten decisions for people who want to get well: the choice to feel your life, the choice to heal your future, the choice to forgive, the choice to persevere, and more—and his insights are all grounded in scripture.
From the book:
- “The power to heal—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually—is in God’s hands. But the choice to be healed is yours.”
- “I don’t know how long you have struggled, but I know this: it is time to pick up your mat and walk, or pick up your mat and cry, or pick up your mat and drive to a meeting, or pick up your mat and take your medicine, or pick up your mat and help someone else, or pick up your mat and utter a simple prayer of surrender to taking the path toward healing. It is time to pick up your life and experience all that God has for you.”
- “This very second is the beginning of the future you choose. You can choose a future that is burdened by an unresolved past that clouds every day with sickness and confusion….Or you can choose to live to please God and not yourself. You can choose to live in His promises for healing rather than your history of brokenness. Your future is your choice.”
“Do you want to get well?” the Lord asked the man. Perhaps he asks us, too. Healing isn’t easy, but it is a choice. Ready to stop the lies and start the transformation? Ready for the healing that only God can give? Then don’t miss Stephen Arterburn’s Healing is a Choice.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers' BookSneeze program.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
When I was a little girl, my dad had Philippians 3:14 on a figurine on his office desk. It showed a runner, pressing on toward the goal. The runner was formed out of nails, and he ran toward two poles to mark the finish line. I remember flicking my finger on the sharp, twisted metal nails every time I was in his office. That plaque was there as far back as I can remember.
Philippians is one of my dad’s favorite Bible books. He can recite long portions of it from memory, and I’ve heard him preach on it many times. He often quoted Philippians 4:13 to me when I was afraid: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians is one of my favorite books, too. God has spoken to me through it time and time again. But I wonder…would I have been so interested in this little book, were it not for my dad? First, I loved Philippians because my dad loved it. And then, I loved it because it spoke to me.
My point is this: our personal “run for the prize” influences those around us. My dad didn’t memorize Philippians or keep a plaque of Philippians on his desk to teach me anything. He did it because God was speaking to him in his own faith journey. And yet, like a spectator in the grandstands, I watched him run. First, I watched my dad press on toward the goal, and then, I began to chase after the prize myself.
The question is, who is watching me run? My children, yes, and my husband. Maybe a friend or neighbor is watching my faith. Maybe I don’t even realize it, but my race is influencing theirs.
So, I’ll press on. I’ll press on so I can win the prize. I’ll press on because God has called me heavenward. And, I’ll press on because someone is watching me run.
Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?
This poor blog has been neglected for so long that I imagine you’ve moved on to other writers who actually, you know, write. I don’t blame you. But it isn’t that I haven’t been writing. I just haven’t been blogging. I’ve been writing for a women’s event at our church…writing and writing and writing for it, actually.
But alas, it’s over now, and here I am.
I have so very much to say, which is not a surprise, but I still can’t quite get it all into words, which is. For now, let me say that God has shown Himself to me in some powerful and palpable ways. For a year now, I’ve battled fear and insecurity more than ever before…oh! I wish I had the words to tell you all about it! At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ve felt completely oppressed. But by Christ’s grace and power, I wrote through the struggle for Real Life’s women’s event, and in the end, God somehow used the very things that oppressed me to set me free, and “to bear much fruit for His glory,” as John would say.
I feel as though I’ve been in a battle and come out on the other side, limping a little and nursing my wounds, but victorious.
Victorious, not because I accomplished anything, but because “God worked in me according to his good purpose.” Victorious, not by my own power, but by the “Christ who gives me strength.” Victorious for one reason alone: He is faithful.
He is so faithful.
I’ve found myself repeating that sentence over and over again lately, and it never fails to amaze or bring a tear. Actually, Sunday night, that sentence brought more than a tear. It brought a full-on ugly cry. At church, just after the “victorious” women’s event, we sang “Never Once,” and I was a puddle. A year’s worth of struggle melted into a heart full of praise.
Hear Matt Redman’s song below. I can’t quite put my whole story into words yet, but I can tell you the only three words that matter: You are faithful.
“Well, you can’t worry about that,” she said, in answer to someone’s question. “You just have to munch away on your caterpillar leaf, every day.”
I laughed, first of all, because I couldn’t help but picture everyone in the room munching on leaves. But I also laughed because her simple words were very wise. Too often, I get bothered by other people’s business. “Why did she say that?” “What was he thinking?” Or, I get upset over my own “bang-ups and hang-ups,” as Dr. Seuss would say. Fear, doubt, hardships—all things that distract me from obedience. From simply doing the things that God instructs.
A caterpillar munches away on his leaf, every day, until he enters his chrysalis and emerges a beautiful butterfly. Transformed! Changed because he simply did his thing.
“You need to persevere,” the Hebrew writer says, “so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)
Or, in other words? “You just have to munch away on your caterpillar leaf, every day.”
My poor kids are three-for-three on illness this Christmas season. Anne started it all with a virus a few weeks ago, then Molly woke up sick on the weekend of her Nutcracker ballet performances. Her cough, sore throat, and fever turned out to be bronchitis and “suspicious” pneumonia.
(I think that just means the beginning of pneumonia, or possible pneumonia, but I prefer “suspicious.” You know how untrusting pneumonia can be!)
To top it off, Nathan started to run a fever on Christmas eve, and we’re currently in that “wait and see” stage of his illness. Wait and see if he’ll get better in a day or so. Wait and see if he has Anne’s virus, Molly’s bronchitis, or something all his own. And most of all, wait and see if we have enough money leftover from his sisters’ illnesses to afford a copay for him.
“Wait and see” annoys me, and not just with regard to health. I don’t like to wait. I don’t like to wonder. I like to know—to have the whole course charted and the details planned and the questions answered. I’m rather suspicious, like pneumonia. This wait and see? Not for me.
And yet…over and over again, God says, “Child, I want you to wait and see. Wait on Me. Hope in Me. And just watch what I unfold! Not all at once, not today. But over time, little by little, as you continue to abide in Me…you’ll see.”
“Wait for the Lord,” wrote David. “Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) And Isaiah said, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.” (Isaiah 8:17)
Oh, Lord, how I wish You wouldn’t hide Your face! It makes me suspicious, and You know how untrusting I can be! But God, You are faithful and good and always at work, for Your glory. I will put my trust in You, even as I wait and see. Amen.