Inspiration

Good Things, God Things, and GO Things

You’ve probably heard that there is a difference between “good things” and “God things.” That is, we may find ourselves very busy with sports, clubs, volunteer activities, civic duties, Bible studies, church services, and so on and so forth. But not all of these activities turn out to be God-honoring or God-glorifying, at least not for all of us. On the other hand, there are activities and commitments that do honor and glorify God, when situated within the context of our lives and our responsibilities.

But it seems to me that there is another distinction that bears mentioning—namely, there are some things that I would call GO things. For each of us, there are likely some hopes, dreams, and inclinations that we have considered. There may be some that we are deeply drawn to and feel called toward. That list looks different for each of us, and may include everything from becoming a mentor to becoming a missionary. My list has changed a bit over time, but has included things like adoption, foster to adopt, and living kidney donation.

I think that we tend to have one of two reactions to these leanings: 1) We put them on a bucket list and figure that maybe someday, we’ll have the opportunity to pursue them; or 2) We rush off to pursue them now, figuring that “if God didn’t want this for me, he wouldn’t have placed the desire in my heart.” But God may be telling us something different. You may be making someday plans when God wants you to act today. Maybe he’s trying to tell you that you’ve thought about it long enough, prayed about it long enough, put it off long enough. And he’s telling you to GO and to GO now. On the flipside, you may be anxious to get on with what you’ve determined to be God’s call on your life, and God is actually telling you something else. He may be saying, “Not now, not you, or not at all.” He may say that through Scripture, trusted sources of wise counsel, or the closed and open doors of opportunity that you come to.

Our job is to truly listen to what God is saying to us. When he says to go, GO. When he says to wait, WAIT. And when he says, “No,” accept that with all of the grace that God has given you through Christ Jesus. These responses are easier said than done, but we can find rest in the knowledge and promise that we can do and endure all things through Christ, in whom we find our strength (Philippians 4:13).

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Bucket Lists

Ephesians 3:20

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I don’t know about you, but my bucket list is CRAZY! There are the things I’ve already done—skydiving, bungee jumping, and shark diving, to name a few. And there are the things that I hope to do—lava diving in Hawaii, ice diving in Antarctica, performing in a flash mob (or at least being there when one breaks out), donating a kidney, adopting a baby, competing on Dancing with the Stars….and so many more. I don’t have any idea if any of these things will ever happen. But the fact that I can imagine them, and dream about them actually happening, says something to me. It gives new meaning to the fact that God’s plans for me—now and for eternity—are more ambitious, more exciting, more spectacular than any of the dreams I have for myself. You see, because of all of the outlandish things that I CAN imagine, the thought of the unimaginable and unfathomable is infinitely exciting to me.

The thought makes me want to dream big, for my future here on earth—the ways God might use me to help fulfil His purposes here; and for my eternal future—the ways that God is waiting to one day amaze me with how out-of-this-world heaven is. And He wants to amaze you, too. So be there!

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Favorite Promises of God

Thirty-six. That’s how old I am today. Although, the sweet young waitress at the restaurant last night announced to all the patrons that I was there celebrating my 21st birthday. A girl after my own heart, for sure. And, while my birthday celebrations over the last couple of days have been wonderful, I personally find birthdays to be somewhat bittersweet. I can say with the Apostle Paul that in many ways, I “would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). But of course, to live is also Christ (Philippians 1:21). So where do I turn for comfort in the waiting? To the many promises of God.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a women’s conference where the presenters posed this question for small-group discussion: “What is your favorite promise of God?” Promise. Singular! What?! One of the speakers commented that there are some 135 promises from God in the Bible—and I’m inclined to believe there MUST be more. So how in the world could I possibly narrow them down to one favorite? Instead, I started jotting down every promise that came to mind.

Now, the ladies with me concurred that, obviously, the promise of eternal life was paramount. And of course, that’s true. But let’s for a moment take that one as a given and think about some other potential favorites. These aren’t in any particular order, and they aren’t fleshed out at all. That’s something I’ll likely do in the future. But for today, I just want to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of the good things that God has promised me (and you, by the way).

  1. God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)
  2. God orders our steps (Proverbs 16:9; 20:24; 37:23)
  3. He has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
  4. Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
  5. God will remain faithful, He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13)
  6. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4)
  7. He who goes before you will fight for you (Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; 3:22; 20:4)
  8. He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Hebrews 13:5)
  9. God is sovereign (Deuteronomy 10:14 and 65 other verses)
  10. God is relational (Matthew 1:23)
  11. God offers grace, forgiveness, mercy, and unconditional love (Ephesians 2:8; 1 John 1:9; Lamentations 3:22-23)
  12. He is good, loving, kind, and fair (Psalm 136:1; John 3:16; Luke 6:35; Deuteronomy 32:4)
  13. I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
  14. He throws open the floodgates of blessing for those who are faithful (Malachi 3:10)
  15. He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6)
  16. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)
  17. He is willing and able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)

As you can probably deduce, this list is BY NO MEANS exhaustive. And there are probably some that you think I’ve errantly left out. So I invite you to leave a comment sharing YOUR favorite promise—or promises—of God.

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Higher Aspirations

There was a popular song that got a lot of attention last year. I heard it for the first, second, and third times on various morning shows on which the band (The Wanted) was performing. And it was catchy. It was. I bought it, I listen to it, and often I sing along. But if I really listen to the lyrics, I find myself challenged. They read:

 “When my time is over, lying in my grave
Written on my tombstone, I want it to say,
‘This man was a legend, a legend of his time.
When he was at a party, the party never died.’”

Really? You want that to be your legacy? That you were the life of the party? I feel like we can do better. We can hope for more. We can aspire to more. If I could choose what I would be remembered for, the list would look something like this:

 

  • Loving God
  • Loving my family
  • Serving others
  • Inspiring others
  • Caring for and giving to those in need
  • Forgiving those who have wronged me
  • Making a difference in people’s lives

 

I could go on, but it would take a long time for me to get far enough on the list that I would add “being the life of the party” to it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have a purpose on this earth. And I think that for each of us, that purpose is big and meaningful. It will look different for you than it will for me. And sometimes, each of us may feel unsure about what that purpose is. But I think that, if we are going to find that purpose, we need to have higher aspirations than the world has for us. We must refuse to settle for anything less than our life’s calling. With New Year’s upon us, now is a great time to reflect on what having higher aspirations might look like for YOU. And then make your resolutions accordingly. I know I will.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

Journey

I originally wrote this week’s entry back in February…yes, it’s another that I wrote before launching this blog. But I felt like it was appropriate for this time of year, with Christmas and New Year’s resolutions.

Jeremiah 29:11

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,
‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

For probably 15 years, I’ve been holding onto an empty picture frame. It quotes Jeremiah 29:11. I guess I’ve been waiting to fill it because I was waiting for that promised “future” to arrive. Never mind that, over that time period, I’ve earned two advanced degrees, met and married the man of my dreams, and welcomed two beautiful children into the world. I’m not sure what future I’ve been waiting for. I suppose the future just doesn’t feel complete yet. But it occurred to me recently that the “plans” God has for me unfold along the way to the future He’s promised. They’re snapshots, moments in time—and they are all designed to prosper and not to harm, and to someday transpire into the ultimate future and hope. And the part of the plan I am experiencing now is not the part of the plan that I will be experiencing five years, or even five months, from now. But that’s the beauty of picture frames—you can change out the photos!

So today, I climbed up into our dusty attic, dug around through my box of picture frames, and pulled that frame out. It now holds a photo of our family enjoying our Christmas vacation in snowy Michigan.

 

Winter Family Photo-Journey

 

As God’s plans for us change, so will the photo. Perhaps the background and scenery will change; or perhaps our family will grow. We pray, just as Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10) did, that God would expand our territory, in whatever way He chooses. But we also pray that God would make us content in our current circumstances, knowing that His plans are being fulfilled in His time. And, of all the ironies, I realized that—in the largest print on the frame—it actually reads, “JOURNEY.” How did it take me 15 years to figure out what was there in front of me from the beginning?

For Granted

Luke 12:19-21 

“And I will say to my soul,
‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come;
take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’”
But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you;
and now who will own what you have prepared?”
So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

 

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On Tuesday afternoon, it was 65 degrees and sunny here in central Texas—a perfect day for a walk. We took one of our regular routes and passed a car that is often parked outside of a house that we walk by. It reminded me of a similar walk past that same car that we took shortly after returning home from our summer visit to Minnesota.

“I want the top down on that convertible,” Tijge had declared. His comment made me think of how I can probably count on one finger the number of times I’ve seen a convertible with the top down in Texas. Not so in Minnesota. Even over a short visit, I would need many more hands than I have to count the number of convertibles with their tops down. Shoot, if it hits 50 degrees and it isn’t raining, you can pretty safely wager that my dad will have the top down.

So why is this? I mean, in Texas, we have arguably much better weather for a good bit of the year than they do up north. Sure, the summer sun gets a little too hot and a little too strong. But what about the fall, winter, and spring? In essence, it seems like people here take for granted the nearly ever-present option to put the top down. So they don’t need to do it today. They can put it off indefinitely, really. In Minnesota, they know that, in just a few short weeks, the top will go up and stay up for the next nine months. So they don’t take it for granted.

This same phenomenon helps to explain why people who live further from their families often spend more time with them than those who live nearby. It explains why, when we think to send a note of encouragement, we put it off until later. It explains why, when it occurs to us to do something nice for someone in need, we pawn it off on someone else. We figure, Hey, I can always do it some other time. But according to Luke 12, this isn’t the case. I’ll bet that Luke understood the parable of the rich fool better than most. As a physician, he must have often seen injuries and illnesses take lives quite unexpectedly. So we are never guaranteed tomorrow. Period.

In the traditional sense, to take something for granted means to use, accept, or treat it in a careless or indifferent manner. But what if we think about that phrase from another perspective? “Granted” can also mean bestowed, conferred, given, or granted as a privilege or a right. What if we started seeing those things that God has granted us for today as a priceless and treasured gift, or as a sacred trust to manage and care for? When I look at the phrase this way, there are a few things I want to start taking for granted. How about you?

Heaven Songs

November is Adoption Awareness Month! So over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series of entries related to adoption. And I can’t think of a better way to kick it off than by honoring the very first adopted person I ever knew, and on her birthday. So here’s to you, Mom, happy birthday! I love you!

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John 14:2-3

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

When I was growing up, the local Christian radio station had a request and dedication show that aired every Saturday morning. My mom must have sent in a request or dedication almost every week. Then she would listen for three hours every Saturday so that she could record her songs and dedications. She made lots of mixed tapes over the years (yes, those were the days of cassette tapes).

But I especially remember a period of what must have been 6 months to a year, when every week, she wrote in requesting a song about heaven. Not only that, but she recruited her four best friends to do the same. And by the end of it all, she had three volumes of nothing but “heaven songs.” I distinctly recall one particular dedication:

“So many believers seem afraid of death. But I pray that they won’t be afraid—that they will look forward to it. Heaven is a reward–a real reward. And death is the only way to get there, until Jesus comes back. And although I don’t know what heaven will be like, I know that it will be wonderful.”

Now, I firmly believe that it was God who impressed upon me the incredible (and maybe slightly inordinate) longing that I have for heaven. But I also recognize and greatly appreciate my mom’s role, in that she fostered and encouraged that desire within me. I think it’s probably her greatest legacy so far. And I hope that I, too, will be able to pass on to my children the “heaven song” within my heart.

Kids and Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Kids are funny. If you’ve been following my posts for very long, you already know that. But at the same time as they make you laugh, kids also make you think. It’s crazy to reflect on the profound nature of some of the things that kids say and do, even unwittingly.

The way they pray is a great example. We have some friends whose kids pray with an overarching theme of thanksgiving. “Thank you for Mommy and Daddy,” sure—but it doesn’t stop there. They continue with things like, “Thank you for allergies,” and so on. They don’t understand the difference between a praise and a petition. And it kind of makes sense, when you think about the way we teach them to pray.

Up until recently, Tijge had only learned enough about prayer to burst out, “God is great!” and to close with a “Yea!” and a round of applause. Lately, though, he’s started to pray, “God is great, God is good, thank you for our food, Amen.” Then just yesterday, I overheard him while playing in the tub, “God is great, God is good, thank you for bath time, Amen.”

I remember reciting that same prayer at mealtimes whenever we used to visit my grandmother as a kid. But somewhere along the line, I stopped doing it. I guess it was because I outgrew the need for such a “simple” prayer. But looking back at it now, and hearing Tijge say those words, I’ve realized that this seemingly simple prayer is actually quite profound. What I mean is, if we opened every prayer with the acknowledgement that God is great and God is good, could we then follow those words with a statement of gratitude, knowing that a good and great and loving God will ultimately do and allow only what is best for us?

Doesn’t the Bible say to give thanks in ALL circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? And to trust that God is in control of those circumstances? Might it change our outlook and our perspective if we, too, expressed gratitude in the midst of trials and challenges, as well as joys? Might that cause us to look beyond ourselves and our present circumstances, to see what God is doing on a larger scale? I think so.

So, we might think that our kids are really confused, when in fact they are wise beyond their years. Maybe, just maybe, they have it all figured out. Maybe we ought to let them teach us a thing or two about prayer.

God is great, God is good, let us thank Him. Period.

The Beauty around You

Psalm 19: 1-4

 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

One evening last spring, following the hustle and bustle of trying to get the kids ready for bed, I grabbed my camera and ran outside. The way the sun was setting, I just knew there must be some photo opportunities waiting. When I came back inside, I scrolled through the pictures I’d taken so I could show them to Chris. While there were a lot of nice shots, I paused on this one.

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Surprised, he asked me, “Where did you find that?!” I answered casually, “Oh, just out back.” You see, beauty is all around you. You just have to look for it. I believe that God is always looking for little ways to bless us and make us smile. But it’s up to us to keep our eyes open for them. Otherwise we won’t see them, and we won’t notice all of the beauty around us.

 So, whether it’s in a sunrise, a cloudy sky, a field full of wildflowers, or a fresh-fallen snow—or anything else that catches your attention—stop and notice it. Capture it, whether in a photo or in a memory. Rejoice in the moment, and thank God for all of the little gifts He sends your way.

Freckles

Psalm 139:14

“I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well.”

I’ve always loved freckles. While Jan Brady was trying her darndest to get rid of hers, I was wishing for a way to get more. Chris has one particular freckle beneath his eye that I’ve always really liked. And if I look closely at Tijge, I can see a number of faint freckles across the bridge of his nose. And I love those, too. Then, the other night, I was looking in the bathroom mirror, in j ust the right light, and what did I see? Freckles!

To be honest, they aren’t freckles at all—they’re age spots. But the point is that, for the first time, I saw them for their potential—not as a categorical deficiency to be hidden and covered up. Rather, perhaps they could add character. Maybe, like crows’ feet and laugh lines, they point to a life well lived and countless memories made. Maybe they are a part of who I am that calls for celebration—okay, that may be going a little far. But how about acceptance? That seems doable.

How about you? Are you ready to embrace your “freckles”?

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