Arise, Darling! Winter is Over!

We only have one that pops up in our garden each spring. But it only takes one to make me squeal like a three-year-old …

“Look! The daffodil has bloomed!”

Daffodils are one of my favorites. They are the first to bloom around here. With their perky heads and sunny faces, they trumpet promises of warmth and renewal.

2017 May 22 Daffodil

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden @ Unsplash

God’s promises are like that, too. They trumpet hope like water in the desert, color after a long grey winter, warmth after a bone-deep chill, the beginning of a new productive season. God’s promises are like that because like the flowers we count on to bloom every spring, so God is unchanging and faithful. We can count on His promises because we can count on Him.

Yes, His promises reveal much about His character:

He’s not slow—He’s patient.
He’s bigger than any giant—and He uses the subtlest weapons.
There’s hope beyond our current difficulties—He’s with us in our difficulties.
There’s always a bigger picture—an eternal purpose.

But did you know …

His promises also reveal much about our character?

May 22 God's promises are meaningless unless they've been tested.

For example:

His promise to never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) doesn’t much matter until we’re in a place where He seems to have vanished. We can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel Him. It’s at this point we have to discover if we trust Him even then. It’s at this point we have a choice: to let our trust grow or falter.

What about His promise to prosper us and not harm us, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)? Do we look at our future through the lens of our circumstances today or through His Word?

Then there’s His promise that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). How many times have we allowed death or life, principalities or powers, present circumstances or fear of the future, convince us otherwise?

Oh, and the one we all think we’ve passed when in truth we have failed over and over. Whoever believes in Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). How many times have we acted as if our salvation depended on our performance—as if it’s something to be earned?

And there’s other promises we often fail to believe when tested. I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And how about, He will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11)?

I find that it’s easy to perk up when we recite God’s promises—that is until those …

promises experience a hard freeze.

And for me, mothering unattached children frequently blew the door wide open to wintry blasts. But you know what? Though I doubted, I clung like crazy to God’s promises.

I’d like to say those promises have evolved over the years. The way they materialized in the end sure looked a lot differently than I expected at the beginning. But the truth is, the promises didn’t change. My understanding of them did. My mind—my heart—is what has been transformed. And I can tell you now, the scent of those promises is much sweeter than I ever imagined.

So what’s popped up in your garden this spring?

Have you considered

… the effort it took for that sprout to push through the soil? Have you pondered what it might be like to endure a long, cold winter, buried in darkness? Do you realize that near death had to happen for new life to grow?

Oh, but you’ve experienced these things haven’t you? Yes, me, too. And that’s why we take the time to stop, gaze, touch, inhale deeply, and praise the Creator as we see His promises blossom into new life before us.

Like Solomon,

Jesus invites us to enter His spring.

May we follow.

 

“Arise, my darling,
    my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
Flowers [daffodils?] appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

Song of Songs 2:10-13, NIV

Is God a Reneger?

Sometimes God promises, God fulfills, and then God asks us to give what was promised back. What? Would God do that? Yes. He has—several times. For example …

Abraham

Abraham was finally enjoying the start of the fulfillment of God’s promise that a great nation would birth from him. It took 25 years for God to even begin to fulfill that promise through the birth of Isaac (Genesis 12:1-4; 21:5). And then, maybe 10-12 years later, God told Abraham to sacrifice this only son back to Him (Genesis 22:1-2).

Scripture only records Abraham’s unflinching obedience to God’s directive. There is no mention of doubt, confusion, or hesitancy. Don’t you find that amazing? I sure do, especially after all the times Abraham tried to take matters into his own hands (Genesis 12:10-20; Genesis 20; Genesis 16:1-6).

What do you do when God fills a promise and then asks you to let it go?

May 15 Letting Go
{Photo courtesy of Averie Woodard @ Unsplash}

What if it appears God takes the gift back without even allowing you to choose?

Like, He promises you a husband, one finally shows up when you’re 30, and then it turns out this husband is far from the prince you thought your faithfulness deserved. Or you get your dream job and it turns out to be a nightmare. Or you are finally approved for adoption, your child arrives, and the child pushes you away.

I’m not saying we misunderstood God’s promise. No, it was very real and showed up as expected. But in time, the object of promise seems to crumble. Your spouse dies … or your house burns down … or your adopted child grows up, moves out, and refuses to speak to you.

These things happen. Quite frequently. In fact, we will probably all experience this sort of deal at least once in our lives.

Do we trust God enough to hold His promises with open hands?

May 15 Open Hands
{Photo courtesy of Mathias Reed @ Unsplash}

Do we believe His plans are perfect? Do we believe His love is enough? Can we, like Abraham and so many others mentioned in Hebrews 11, trust God to stay true to His word even if we don’t see it fulfilled in our lifetime?

Wow! Here I am, thinking my topic for May was going to be a little more lighthearted. And I certainly hope it turns that corner. And yet, that’s exactly …

What God’s promises are supposed to do.

They are meant to illumine the darkness that seems to hover close. They are meant to lighten the burdens that weigh us down. God gave them to ignite hope when we can find none anywhere else.

But maybe …

May 15 God's promises are more about increasing our faith, than brightening our day

Last week I wrote that we can place our confidence in God’s promises even when we have to wait an eternity to see them fulfilled. Today I want to underscore that …

We can trust God Himself when it appears He’s fulfilled a promise only to ask us to surrender it back to Him.

You see, when God asks us to surrender, it’s because He has something greater in mind.

A deeper trust to develop
A richer provision for everything He asks of us
A new understanding of His purposes
A fresh picture of His redemptive ways
A sweeter awareness of His love

In reality He’s not reneging on His promise at all. He’s refining our hearts, enriching our faith, and enhancing our stories. He’s taking His promises and exploding their impact.

“But as it is written:
‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'”
1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:20 NIV

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Psalm 136:1 NASB

When God Seems to Take His Sweet Little Ol’ Time

She was barren, this wife of his youth. Barren throughout her child-bearing years, and well beyond the cessation of her cycling. And THEN God tells him he will be father to a great nation (Genesis 12:2).

What would have gone through your mind if God had made such a promise to you?

May 8 Questions

{Photo courtesy of Evan Dennis @ Unsplash}

I think I would have looked around, trying to figure out who God was really talking to. And it would have been just like me to attempt to take responsibility for fulfilling this promise—and found another vessel to bear my seed. I certainly would have questioned my sanity—and maybe even God’s reliability—as year after year (twenty-five, actually) flew by, with me and the mother of this promised child quickly approaching the God-determined “ending of our years” age of 120.

But God’s promises are like that, aren’t they?

Given, and then left to marinate while we wait, and wait, and doubt, and fume. We question what we heard, or if we had done something to cause God to renege on His promise. We wonder if we’re supposed to DO something ourselves to make it happen. Over time, weariness of faith fogs our vision. In fact, this fog often prevents us from seeing the ways God is actually fulfilling His Word.

But promises from God require childlike faith from us. Trust that behind God’s promises is God’s character.

May 8 God's promisesare backedbyGod's character.

 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

Numbers 23:19, NASB

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23, NASB

What has God promised you?

If He is God, and He has promised, then He will be faithful.

“Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 27:14 NASB

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
… Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
… But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.”
Psalm 37:7-9 NASB

How to See the World More Clearly

Once again I have the privilege to introduce you to another dear mama blogger: Lea Turner. Once again I have to say I love her message! Lea is a mother of five—two of which are nonbio—and one of which is brand new. If anyone can address the topic here today, she can.

In the midst of busy, busy, busy, how do you see clear enough to make an impact on the future? You might be surprised at Lea’s answer. 


What would you want your life to look like in 20 years?

At the beginning of 2017, our pastor asked that question.

The challenge of this question is its demand to focus on what matters most. To scale back the fluff of life and ask what of today will matter tomorrow?

I take the challenge and write one evening what I want life to look like in twenty years:

Continue reading “How to See the World More Clearly”

Sometimes Love is Fierce

Lord, does your word support the idea of kicking our children out? How can I know if it’s the right thing to do?

We battled this decision with each of our children as we came to the point of feeling we were no longer helping them move forward into adulthood—and the cost of them remaining in our home was too high. That “tough love” part of parenting sure was heart-wrenching. Hard, but necessary. Never entered into quickly or thoughtlessly. Followed by hours … days … months of prayer, motivation questioning, and Scripture searching.

I suppose if we’d never second-guessed our boundaries, if we’d never wondered if we were too strict, then we’d probably been too weak—the lines drawn too softly.

As parents we should question ourselves at times. We do make mistakes, after all. Another look allows us to examine our child’s behaviors, objectively evaluate appropriate consequences, and review our own responses as well.

When in doubt, I found it helped to hold my discipline choices against God’s word.

Though a great example as a long-suffering father, God’s discipline wasn’t always pretty: pestilence, famine, sickness, and death. And, He did kick His children out, too. Several times. Starting with the Garden of Eden.

But this is what’s amazing to me. Sending His children into exile is part of God’s gospel story.

2017 Mar 20, Exile is part of the Gospel2

God knows we have to come to point of realizing that our sin is so wretched we do not deserve to even dream of His presence.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 24:3-4 (NASB)

There is none righteous, not even one.
Romans 3:10 (NASB)

It’s only when we reach a place of humility and awareness of our need, that we can turn to Him for salvation.

Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lip.
Isaiah 6:5 (NASB)

And only when we truly repent can we begin to experience the breadth and length and depth and height of His love.

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-29 (NASB)

Our children need this too. They need to come to understand that we love them so much we’re willing to do the tough stuff in order for them to grow and have a fulfilling life.

Sometimes drawing a child close and holding them while they hurt is necessary. Sometimes guiding them through a maze of tough decisions is. But sometimes we have to put away the smiles, stand firm, and mete out the discipline.

And, sometimes, our absence needs to be felt.

The nice thing is, when we do withdraw, God remains near.

He may be quiet—a gentleman who refuses to barge in uninvited. But He’s there. Always.

And that’s why we can sometimes take a step out of sight. Sometimes we need to retreat to a place of rest. Sometimes we need to shut our ears to complaints. And as we do, we can be assured God is always with our children. He always has been—even before we came into their lives. He always will be—long after we’re gone.

“Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:24 (NASB)

And you know what else? God is very, very patient. He’s not swayed by false pleas for reprieve. He’s not deceived by manipulative fake obedience. He will stand His ground and wait … and wait … and wait … until His child is truly repentant. And then He’s instantly there to scoop His children close, dry their tears, bandage their wounds, and lead them in His paths of righteousness.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Acts 3:19 (NIV)

Even though we had to tell each of our children they had to move out, we always kept a door open for repentance. None ever moved back in to our home, but in time they each moved back into a loving relationship with us.

You see, sometimes love must be firm, determined, even fierce. But love endures all things because love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7).

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

I Just Want to Hold You

I’m not a crier.

Or, at least, I didn’t used to be. But one day my quivering voice confessed to my mom the realization that I’d never hear an enthusiastic toddler sing “Mommy,” as he ran to me, his arms reaching wide. I was wading through grief after coming to the awareness that I’d never be my children’s first mom. My arms would not likely be the ones they’d long for.

Have you been here with your nonbiological child? When all you want to do is hold them tight and tell them how precious they are—and have them believe it. To see that belief reflected in their eyes; and hear it in their voice; and watch it as they walk through life.

This desire is one of the strongest for any mom. But some of us have become painfully aware it’s not a desire that will necessarily be fulfilled. And so we find our arms achingly empty.

2017-mar-13-hold

This desire. It’s innate. It’s a God-image part of us. It mirrors Father God’s base nature.

This I-long-to-hold-you characteristic of God is seen throughout Scripture.

The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
Deuteronomy 33:27a (NASB)

We see it depicted in God as our shepherd in Psalm 95:7 (NASB), For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 23 describes Shepherd-God as the provider for our every need: places of rest, nourishing food, refreshing drink, restoration for our souls, guidance toward righteousness, comfort in the darkest places of life, safety from our enemy, empowerment for our calling, abundance, goodness, mercy, and eternity with Him.

And can’t you just picture this from Psalm 116:1-2 (NASB)?

I love the Lord, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

And how about this image?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
… He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Psalm 91:1-4 (NASB)

In fact God delights in our presence so much, He is never far away.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
…You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
…Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Psalm 139:1-12 (NASB)

God is intimately aware of this longing in our hearts to draw our children close.

He smiles with us those moments we stand in moon-lit rooms, gazing at our sleeping cherubs. His heart swells with ours as we cheer from the bleachers and applaud from the auditorium. His heart aches alongside ours when a defiant one turns away from our instructions.

But one thing He does not do is embrace the emptiness that Satan’s lies have attempted to forge. Because this Father knows there is always hope. Always. Hope.

Why? Because when it comes down to it, He’s the first parent. He’s also the last parent. He is our Creator—He is our children’s creator. Author. And Finisher. The final say-so.

And whether our children want it or not—whether we believe it or not—His arms are eternally long. Our children are never out of His reach.

mar-13-no-one-is-everbeyondgods-reach

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1 (NASB).

Now What?

It was another Help, Lord! moment.

One of my children had just blindsided me with another, never-before-used, boundary-challenging technique. Dumbfounded, frustrated, and weary, I asked my heavenly Father, “Now what do I do with THIS?”

I once considered writing a book titled Now What? because it was a question I asked on a regular basis. Too frequently I felt thrown off kilter. The misbehaviors I faced—almost daily—required the wisdom of an experienced professional. I frequently felt like Tim Conway, in the Carol Burnett Show episode years ago, when he jabbed himself in the forehead with Novocain. But I knew I had to formulate some sort of immediate response to the inconceivable situation, so I typically used anger to fight through the stupor.

In one of those crying-out-to-the-Lord moments, I told Him, even if there are books out there to help me, I don’t have time to read them. And even if I read them all, they still wouldn’t have prepared me for this new issue. I needed divine insight, and I needed it right now.

Have you heard that phrase, “What would Jesus do?” Asking this question actually helped me. Jesus said anyone who had seen him, had seen the Father (John 14:9). I figured no professional insight could begin to compare to the wisdom of Father God. So if I took a good look at the way Jesus handled “out-of-the-blue” behaviors, I might get some clues about my current situation.

• Because He was confident in His identity, no surprise attack ever threatened Him.

• Because He never felt threatened, He could remain in control, think clearly, and respond appropriately.

• He used Scripture to guide His responses.

• Even when lied to, lied about, misunderstood, misrepresented, belittled, betrayed, crushed, and crucified, He remained confident Father God’s purposes would be accomplished.

• He was therefore free to patiently instruct, guide, provide for, heal, forgive, encourage, beckon, comfort, and even die for a fickle, unreliable, self-centered, wayward bunch of children.

When “what thens” fly in our face, it’s time to return to the most basic truths. We are God’s and He’s the One calling the shots.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1, NIV).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3, NASB).

The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,” (Is 14:24, NASB).

Time and time again, God took me back to the basic—yet earth-shifting—truth that He loved me. He delighted in me. My identity was based on who He declared I was an eternity ago, not on what my children did a moment ago. As long as I took regular time to remember this, I would find myself at peace and able to parent the tough stuff from a place of confidence.

mar-6-our-identity-is-based-on-what-god-declared

I’ve talked with many moms the past several years. I’ve heard stories of horrendous misbehaviors. But you know what? I rarely hear anything new. Crazy lying. Stealing. Feces smearing. Destruction of property (even brand-newly decorated rooms). Explosive episodes. Sexual acting out. Drug usage. Alcoholism. Debt-incurring financial choices. The list goes on and on.

No matter how horrible, none of these behaviors can ever change who God is. None change who we are. None threaten God. They don’t need to threaten us either. None steal God’s peace, or joy, or love, or decision to lay down His life. None thwart His eternal plans.

So, what then? Then is when we sit down, breathe belly-deep, and wait. Wait until the dust that clouds our thinking settles. Wait until we remember how deeply we’re loved. Wait until we’re confident in who God is, what He’s able to do. Wait until we have an answer from God.

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV).

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NASB).