Souvenirs for the Soul: When You Have to Stay Home

I wanted to go!

Oh, I wanted to go. But the Lord said, “No. Not yet. Not this year.”

It was the summer before my junior year of college. My church denomination offered a summer missions program for college juniors and seniors. I so wanted to sign up and see where I might find myself for ten weeks. I did get to go the next year, to Anchorage, Alaska. But for the summer of 1983, the Lord told me to stay home.

Really, God? What could you have for me in Des Moines, Iowa that would be better than serving you in a remote corner of the United States?

He pointed me to Psalm 37:3.

Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. (NASB)

July 31 Climatis

It would be years later that I’d come to understand the word “cultivate” means “feed on”. But at this point in time, I thought it meant that I needed to grow in my ability to be faithful to the Lord‘s direction. A good thing for me. And I did learn more deeply to trust the Lord, His timing, and His ways.

But the real meaning of this verse is that …

Sometimes the Lord wants us to sit still and feed on His faithfulness to us.

Today I’m concluding my Souvenir for the Soul series. I’ve talked about lessons the Lord has taught me in new and unfamiliar places. But you know what? He also has much for us to learn in those stuck-at-home, hot-and-sticky, droopy-eared days.

He wants us to take long, cool drinks from our own wells.

He knows the most nutritious food grows in our own gardens.

He wants us to embrace the joy from the wet gigglers that jump through our sprinklers.

He knows our richest treasures will be found sitting around our own kitchen tables.

July 31 God is Faithful When We Have to Stay

You know that verse I just mentioned, from Psalm 37? The very next verse is one we know well—and often misunderstand.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4, NASB)

Something in our brains (probably from our preschool days when we believed fairy tales) tells us that if we put God first, He’ll grant our every wish. As we’ve grown older, we’ve learned (probably in heart-wrenching ways) this is not true. That same part of our brain wants to think God’s not fair. Or, He must not love us. Or, we haven’t figured out how to truly delight in Him.

But I think our spirits understand that the truth is …

When God is our foremost pursuit, He will plant His desires inside us.

And as we trust Him, wait patiently, and watch expectantly, He will be faithful to fulfill those desires.

So for those of us who didn’t get to “go” this summer, God still has souvenirs for our souls.

Souvenir for the Soul: God’s most precious treasures aren’t discovered in the wow, but in the right here and now.

Lord, teach us to look hard in our own places and discover the riches you’ve set right in front of us. Help us savor that honey-sweet manna that arrives daily on our own plates—Your goodness.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
(Psalm 37:5-7a, NASB)

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
(Psalm 34:8, NASB)

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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)