I remember sitting on the beach, watching a man who owned the water. Unlike the lady I watched five minutes before, he ran up to the gigantic waves and dove straight into them. He didn’t inch forward with trepidation. He didn’t put his arms out to balance. He didn’t look back to his wife beach-bumming-it on the sand. He owned that water. He went in, looking far stronger than the waves. I couldn’t help but think his water-approach said much about our spiritual life approach.
When we walk out on the world with the confidence of God, we aren’t easily knocked over.
To say, “My heart is confident in you, O God” (Ps. 57:7) is the equivalent of saying, “I can run up to that 6-foot wave and dive right into the middle of it and be fine.” Why? Because God is greater than any force that wants to pummel me. Nothing can eat me alive.
To say, “This I know: God is on my side” (Ps. 57:9) is to silence opposition in just eight words. Distraction and irritations lose their effect. If God is for me, who or what can be against me?
To say, “God will fulfill his purpose for me.” (Ps 57:2) is to dismantle doubt. God will do what He purposes to do.
To say, “All the Lord’s promises prove true” is to walk fortified with the solid rock of Christ in you. All that God says is real and God really is good.
How will you approach the waves of your life? Ready to be tossed around or ready to thrust right through them?
“How blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.” Ps. 40:4
In winter, I spend an inordinate amount of time holed up in my home under a blanket, guzzling hot coffee, and longing for spring’s arrival. It’s not my favorite season, but favorite or not, winter is important. Despite what we see with our eyes, the earth in winter is busy creating life. We only know this is so because spring eventually comes, and then we marvel at what that life looks like.
Is it possible that God designed winter and the earthly cycle of life, death, and renewal in order to speak a deeper truth? I believe, because the Bible says it’s so, that everything in creation is designed speech about its Creator. Just as we find him on warm summer days, standing in the sand, listening to the waves crash against the shore, we find him in the stillness of winter.
Winter, however, often speaks of a barrenness we don’t want to hear about.
Annie Dillard writes, “All that summer conceals, winter reveals.” And so we need a life with winters, because we need our hearts revealed. Winter comes to strip us bare of our delusions, to make us face reality: we have imperfections that we can’t perfect. We are helpless to find a formula to reason or act our way out of our helplessness. We are human, and we, in our barrenness, must be acted upon if we’re to experience eternal life, joy, and the supernatural.
Winter then, after stripping us bare, points us to the invisible motion as if in invitation to these very things: life is happening. God is at work, acting upon us.
The harshness of our waiting winter tells us that this world has nothing for us and that we have nothing for ourselves. We have this hope–one, and only one–that there is life waiting for us beyond death.
Although we are not yet in that world, we have reasons for our hope: the words of God. With words, he formed the earth and its seasons and cycles. With words, he continues creating. We can trust his words. In our winter, we must draw ourselves under the warm blanket of God’s promises, a sure comfort in the darkest of hours.
This is what God did with the prophet Jeremiah:
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, ‘I see an almond branch.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.'” (1:11)
In Jerusalem, the almond tree, the first to bud in the spring, was said to “watch for spring.” God used the almond branch to comfort Jeremiah in his lamentable circumstances. The almond branch was a reminder that God is always in process of keeping his promises, that he is, at this very moment, hurtling all of us toward eternal spring. He pointed to the almond branch—the coming of spring—and told Jeremiah to watch and wait.
We too watch and wait, not in fear of this winter in which we live, nor in fear of our own spiritual poverty or even final death. We watch and wait, comforted, because all of this God is right now working for our true life, when winter will forever turn to spring.
Christine Hoover is a Bible teacher and the author of several books, including Messy Beautiful Friendship. Her latest book, Searching For Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, frames the life of faith according to the seasons and according to Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” Searching for spring is really a search for God’s redemptive work, where suffering and death become fruitful life. Christine invites readers like you, who may be weary and withering, to join her on a treasure hunt for beauty in both familiar and unexpected places.
Usually, as I lay my head down at night, it is love that I regret not having been full of. It is love that I desire more of. It is love that I desire to learn from God.
Jesus laid down His life.
Jesus gave up His life.
Jesus offered His life as a ransom for millions.
Love gives up what it has. Love counts no cost to putting others first. Love sees not its own way, but God’s.
So often, I lack it. I see my goals. I see my plans. I see prayer for myself, but not others. I see my dreams that I want accomplished. I see impatience bust out when the seams of my life are pulled. I see my world and my problems. Sometimes, it is hard to see love.
So where do I start? To be like Jesus, where do I start?
I used to think it started with me trying, working and striving harder.
“I really need to…”
“I’ve got to…”
“I have to…,” I’d say.
I still say those things sometimes. But, when I do, I forget it is God who works in me to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil. 2:13)
In the presence of my working harder, it is far harder to remember who I am in Christ.
“Yet now he has reconciled (me) to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought (me) into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” 1 Col. 1:22
When we remove shame, regret and self-hatred we can love far more easily. Without these self-focused love killers we find life as we realize Christ sees us not as we were, but as He is, with his image reflecting from us. This is the power of love.
Christ’s death and sacrifice, when we accept it, actively works through me so I can actively love others.
There’s this small activity I’d love you to join me in doing. I believe it will bring a huge smile to your face and your heart. Will you indulge me for a moment?
Think all the way back to the moment right before you were saved. Was it 10 years ago or 10 minutes ago?
Think of that old you visiting the new you today? What would she notice about you? About your life, attitudes, and perspective? About what God has done? What he has given you?
Note how far you’ve come. How faithful God is. All the small things you take for granted.
We usually can’t see what’s behind us. This means while we’ve run 10,000 miles, we usually keep our eyes stuck on the ten feet we’ve got to go, rather than the 9,990 miles we’ve come. We forget to celebrate the goodness, the providence and the wonderfulness of God.
I believe the Lord delights when we stop our race for just a moment, set down our plans and celebrate what He’s done. He’s done a lot, hasn’t He? In so many ways, He’s filled our cups, hasn’t He? Beyond measure, He’s done a good work, hasn’t He?
He’s carried us far.
He’s changed our minds.
He’s reshaped our worlds.
He’s increased joy.
He’s given us wisdom.
He’s gotten us out of trouble.
Take note of all that God has done.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Phil. 4:4
She dresses inappropriately. Seriously, you don’t wear those kind of clothes to church, nor do you move like that.
Every time I saw her, she seemed to raise the annoyance meter in my chest. Worse than that, she was distracting. I couldn’t take my eyes off her odd display during worship.
No one should act in a way that pulls your attention off of God, especially at church.
If I could have complained to a friend, I would have. She wasn’t honoring God. Plus, everywhere I went, she was pulling my eyes away from God with her inappropriate behavior. I explained to my husband that I didn’t like her.
And then it struck me: “Who’s the sinner here?”
She is worshipping; I am the one ready to gossip. She has eyes on God; I am the one distracted because I only see her. She is being herself; I am judging and whispering mean things about her to my husband after church.
I knew my heart was in the wrong place. I was acting like a Judas. One who said to the extravagant outpouring of Mary’s perfume on Jesus, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold? Why wasn’t the money given to poor people? It was worth a year’s pay.” (Jo. 12:5)
My heart sank. I knew, “I must get to the heart of her story, rather judge her outward appearance.”
So I did. And as I spent time with her, I uncovered her story. I learned of her hard-knock-life background, her years of tears, her hiding of her true self, and the shame that came with all her pain. Now, in Christ, she doesn’t hold back that she is a hundred percent free. She explained how she’s now an extravagant lover of Jesus’s heart.
Am I? Am I a lover or a scoffer?
Jesus replied to the naysayers of Mary’s generous outpouring. “Leave her alone, she has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mk. 14:6)
I want to do a beautiful thing to Jesus. Don’t you? Perhaps it begins at the place of letting go of others, so we can let ourselves go in new, surrendered ways to Christ.*
*I recently read the book, Unseen, by Sara Hagerty. So much in the book resonated with my heart, but especially her story of judging a person for their love of Christ. She told of Mary and the extravagant outpouring. This similar story was largely inspired by her story and her beautiful words about Mary. I highly recommend Sara’s book. If you are in an unseen place or a place of searching out God, her words will bring life and light to your soul.
I ignored my son’s complaints. Entirely. That is, until I joined him for lunch. It was at that point the three bullies attacked me. They came up and said, “Your son made a mess of himself at lunch yesterday.” The leader of the pack looked back at the other two with a grin on his face, while they all laughed and nearly pointed at us. A handful of minutes later, they approached and did it again.
Ouch! Pained, I realized that despite his complaints, I had not been a good defender of my son’s heart. Even more pained, I thought back to the million times when kids treated me the same way. I always hoped someone would come rescue me.
I wasn’t that person for my son, but God can be. God is always our rescuer.
Are you looking for a rescuer today?
This morning, I asked my little son for a number…just a simple random number to tend to his heart. I wanted to read to him out of the Psalms, with the hope that love would love him. What God delivered through the simple numbers 1 & 8 was soul recovering for that little boy’s small heart. I am pulling out bits and chunks and believing God will bless you the same today.
May God rescues your heart in unforeseen ways. May the Kings’ words of defense rise off the screen of your computer and take new life in your heart. And may you know you are more protected than any earthly person could ever keep you safe.
This is for you:
I love you, Lord;
you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies. (Ps. 18:1-3)
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears. (Ps. 18:6)
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. The Lord rewarded me for doing right;
he restored me because of my innocence.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I have not turned from my God to follow evil.
I have followed all his regulations;
I have never abandoned his decrees. I am blameless before God;
I have kept myself from sin. The Lord rewarded me for doing right.
He has seen my innocence. (Ps. 18:16-24)
To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity.
To the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.
You rescue the humble,
but you humiliate the proud.
You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall. (Ps. 18:25-29)
God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet
to keep them from slipping. (Ps. 18:32-36)
You have armed me with strength for the battle; (Ps. 18:39)
The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock!
May the God of my salvation be exalted!
He is the God who pays back those who harm me;
he subdues the nations under me
and rescues me from my enemies. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies;
you save me from violent opponents. (Ps. 18:46-48)
My friends, God cares for us, even when the world lets us down.
Look back and think of some miracles God has done in your life.
My miracle: He completely healed me from an eating disorder.
My miracle: He brought money into my mailbox on the very day I believed, many years ago when I couldn’t pay rent.
Your miracle: ____
Your miracle: ____
These past miraculous mile-markers serve as huge celebrations. Essentially, we said to God at that time, “Father, I want to ____. I need to ___. Only you can ___.” Then, Jesus did.
Times like this are recounted again and again in scripture. For example, a blind man said to Jesus, “I want to see!” (Lu. 18:41)
Jesus replied: “Receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” (Lu. 18:42)
It was this man’s faith that healed him. Faith permitted him to receive his healing versus doubting it and blocking it. He opened up his arms to a new idea, versus crossing them. Doing this was powerful, because look what happens. . .
We are told, “Instantly the man could see, and hefollowedJesus, praising God. And all who saw itpraised God, too.” (Lu.18:4e)
Notice the progression at work here…
Our faith leads to our receiving: This becomes our seeing.
Seeing leads to following Jesus.
Receiving and seeing creates a life of praising.
Our praising makes others start praising.
Where might your small mustard-seed-size faith start a wildfire of praise in this world? Don’t discount a small beginning of faith; God does not despise it. Instead, remember the wonders of old and recount the faithfulness of yesteryear. Re-establish that your God is able. And believe. Get ready to receive God’s new thing.
Lately, a lighter is flicking within me. A full-blown fire is brewing. I feel furious at some moments, then hate myself for these feelings the next. I keep getting inflamed, and frankly, I don’t know what to do about it.
Anger combusts in attempt to handle what we can’t control.
I can’t control a kid. I say, “Stay in your seat.”
He turns to his sister and says, “Nope, we’re not going to do that, are we sis?”
I aim to keep the car clean, but then he holds up a nut then drops it on the floor right in front of me. He won’t do what I want him to do, so I do the only thing that grabs attention: I get angry.
I snap, “You’re cleaning the whole car after school and your room.”
Gone is love, and present is the lonely feeling no one is for me. Gone is patience, and present is a pressing need to make him line up to my ways. Gone is a woman who connects with his heart, and present is the one who stomps on it.
Sometimes I hate myself. Grrr….I hate how I act. And this feeling is SO painful.
Do you feel it too? Do you hate how you do what you don’t mean to do? Do you hate how you get angry?
May I remind you and me? God is not angry at us for our anger.
-“is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Ps. 103:8
-is waiting and ready to help us change.
-is our answer when we feel out of control and don’t what to do.
With these truths, I am reminded I can:
1. Forgive the 7+ times I’m offended in a day.
2. Embrace 5 seconds of silence, while expecting God to show me my way.
3. Say sorry for my wrongs. I can admit the emotions that lay dormant under my anger.
(Example: I felt disregarded by my son when he dropped the nut on the ground)
4. Uncover the lie I am believing as it pertains to this unruly, anger-producing emotion.
(New truth as it pertains to my lie: Even if everyone else fails me, God will uphold me.)
5. Give thanks to God for the growth He is doing in me.
6. Pray for the people who hurt me and release them into His hands.
Wow. God amazes me. I can bring God nothing, but He still does everything for me. I can forget to do a very important thing and His work remains accomplished. I can walk away from Him for a moment, and yet, He waits. I can go build things on my own and next to me He still stands, longing for my return to prayer and the blessing of His hand. I can falter and get wildly disappointed, but His love still remains. I can see people as the enemy until He shows me He desires to heal me through their love. I can forget to do my quiet time with Him, but He still quietly protects, keeps and watches over me everywhere I go.
The God I serve is mighty, and the Christ who died is unparalleled. No blown-up life problem, stressed out moment, or hard-crushed feeling are too much for a conquering rescue from the King of Kings. He will come. He does come. He is coming.
Thank you Father! Here, to Him, I can open my heart up, more and more and more. I can give Him what I am afraid to give: my desire to perform, my inclination to prove myself, my need to be right, and my desire I to self-protect.
The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Ps. 121:7-8)
In these words I can trust. If God says He keeps me from harm, He does. If He says He will watch over my life, again He does. If He keeps an eye on my coming and going forever more, He does. What He does, He does, even if I don’t…even if I don’t acknowledge Him, stay near to Him, perfectly pray to Him, see Him through my day, completely trust Him in every moment or pray incessantly.
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. (2 Tim. 2:3).
God amazingly is who He is even when I am horribly who I am. And who Jesus is covers who I am not. The righteousness Jesus won becomes mine. The forgiveness that Jesus extended belongs to me. The Spirit now left behind is in me. Even when I look wretched, I am still in the club. I don’t get kicked out and God doesn’t hang a “No Kelly’s allowed” sign on the door.
God is kind when we are not. God still sticks around after we leave.
He’s ridiculously faithful. And all this? All this propels wild, fantastic, give-up-my-life kind of love for Jesus. If He’d do all this for me? If He’d go to these lengths to love me? I can trust Him. I can let go. I can give my all. Why? Because I am safe. God will keep me forever in His care, no matter what. The fears that I’ll mess up, not do things perfectly, or forget all the lines to His great show – they go out the window, because Jesus continues to do everything right. Even if I trip up and do it all wrong. Relief.
My love for an audience began with unexpected heartbreak at nine years old.
I sat on a piano bench in auditorium filled with people who watched with anticipation. Although nerves were palpable, I played the beginning of the piece with confidence. The practiced rhythm in my fingers was instinctual.
Until it wasn’t.
In a moment of confusion, I did the unthinkable. I thought about the next phrase of music. Rather than trust my fingers to remember the notes, my mind raced ahead.
My sigh was audible to everyone sitting in the audience. Hundreds of eyes stared and after what seemed like an eternity, I proceeded the only way I knew how. I played the next section I remembered, bowed, and hurried off the stage.
At the time, I wasn’t sure how I survived, but I was sure of this: it the worst day of my life.
Isn’t it funny how even when our experiences on stage leave scars, we often desire more? Whether it’s in front of hundreds of people or in a small group, we have this innate desire to be seen. We want to know our work is valued, and when we don’t receive affirmation we often become discouraged.
That night on the stage so many decades ago, I was recognized. It may not have been in the way I desired, but the hour following the performance was filled with affirmation from total strangers.
“You handled that situation so well,” one person said.
“It could happen to anyone. You should be proud of how you responded.”
With each word of encouragement, the sting of disappointment hurt a little less. And whether the performance went the way I anticipated or not, I was sure of this: these people saw me, flaws and all, and they applauded me for it.
This audience satisfied one of our deepest human desires: to be seen and valued.
The problem is, many of us spend our entire lives looking for this acknowledgement in the wrong places. We wonder why we are never satisfied, waiting for the next “like” on social media, nod of approval from a friend, or accolade from the workplace.
This is what I spent most of my life doing. When my friends and family complimented my strengths and work, I felt like a conqueror. But when I wasn’t acknowledged for my efforts, I sank into depression and questioned my worth.
Once I got married, had my first child and stopped working, I reached a crossroads. I could either spend my entire life on an endless ride of highs and lows, or I could discover who I truly was.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that we will never fully know who we are until we know who God is. I spent years trying to “find myself,” but I didn’t know my Savior.
When we begin with God, everything else falls into place. When we begin with ourselves, we roam in circles.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
Galatians 2:20 NIV
“I no longer live,” Paul says. His entire life was dedicated to glorifying the One who stopped him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever. Though we are still moved by his faith today, his mission was never about his glory. It was about magnifying the name of the one who saved him from a life of aimlessness.
I’ll never forget the evening in early November when I sat on the couch reading, The Purpose Driven Life with my husband. We were reading the opening chapter, which is aptly titled, “It’s Not About You.”
I realized my entire life had not been about my Creator, but about me. And in making everything about me, I had missed my purpose entirely.
There is freedom in knowing this life is not about us.
Do you know why? What the world gives, it can also take away. All of the praise, the fame and celebration can disappear faster than we can click “like” on Facebook.
But what God gives is eternal. And they way he sees us? It is complete. He sees beyond our insecurities and into our hearts.
Once we make Him the center of our lives, we gain purpose. His Word and character do not change like the trends on Twitter. We can trust Him and know if we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
1 Peter 5:6 NIV
When the Lord exalts us, he is exalting a reflection of himself and his Spirit in us. And friend, there is nothing more spectacular than that.
Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.