I know I am in trouble when I hear God speaking about obedience. God’s knows that I can be a stubborn person. When it comes to ignoring God, you can find my name next to Biblical professionals like Jonah who ran the other way and Moses who quickly asked if Aaron could be the hero instead of Moses. Like the professionals, I tend to believe that my plans are better than God’s plans. Or my calendar reflects that I am too busy for God.
This week, God’s message has been about obedience. The word just keeps popping up. I am reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson and chapter seven talks about obedience. A close friend recently told me to embrace a situation…obedience. We received our tax documents from the CPA today…we will obediently (and painfully) pay our taxes another year. But the clearest message came from Rabbi Marty.
Rabbi Marty is a Messianic Jew. I gave him a call recently to invite him to host a Passover Seder meal for a college ministry. Near the beginning of the conversation he said, “Tell me the perfect day and the perfect time that you want this meal to happen?” When I told him, he quickly responded by saying, “I’ll be there.” No questions, no negotiations. Just a solid yes. When I thanked him for driving an hour to be with us and he said, “No need to thank me. I serve God, I do not serve you.” This statement was factual, clear and confident.
Rabbi Marty is an example of how obedience leads to confidence. Sometimes God asks us to do something we just don’t want to do. But when we go, out of obedience, we have confidence that God goes with us. Jonah walked into Nineveh with confidence. Moses walked up to Pharaoh with confidence. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane met the soldiers with confidence. They all knew that they served God and they were obedient to God’s call on their lives.
During this season of personal reflection, is God asking you to be obedient? Are you embracing the opportunity or resisting it? Why?
Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8
From our happy obedient tent to yours,
I started fishing in the early 1980’s around the age of three or four. My first memory of fishing is riding with my father in a fishing trawler. (It is just an inner tube with a fancy cover and a small motor.) With me on his lap, we would slowly cruise around and try to catch fish in the lake. I am not a big fan of fishing. It is a little bit boring to me (it was then and it is now). But I love the image of fishing. Solitude, simplicity and peaceful fishing.
This week, I was blessed to read Psalm 37:5. It says, “Commit everything you do to the Lord, TRUST him, and he will help you.” All week long the word TRUST has been my focus word. I had to TRUST God that a project would be completed on time. I had to TRUST that my idea for others was the right decision. I had to TRUST that my children would be cared for in their new school. TRUST has always been a challenge for me. I think this is because I usually don’t TRUST like I fish.
When I fish, I have one pole, one hook and one worm. I drop the hook under the surface of the water and wait. I may or may not catch a fish. I may or may not catch the fish that I was trying to catch. But whatever happens, all I can do is show up prepared, bait my hook and TRUST that the fish will eat the hook. TRUSTing also means I will be at peace with the results because I am giving up control. When I try to be in control instead of TRUSTing, it is as if I am fishing with a net instead of a hook. With a net, I can throw it out wide knowing that I will catch at least one fish and probably a whole lot more than I even tried to catch. But then I have to deal with everything else I catch including somethings that I didn’t want.
Our God is a one hook, one fish kind of God. God desires us to TRUST God and God will help us. (Who does’t need a little help?) It’s simple (and yet we make it sooooo complicated). One minute at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. One week at a time. God wants us to TRUST God. We are called to focus on one hook and one fish at a time instead getting caught up in murky water full of the mistakes of our past or our unknown futures.
As children are going back to school and teachers are heading back into the classrooms. As college students are packing their cars to start a new semester. As projects are approaching their deadlines. As bills are due. As marriages are trying to grow deeper. As life changes…let’s ask God to help us and TRUST in each moment that God will. We serve a God who gives us just enough manna for one day. We serve a God who is the bread of life and satisfies us each day. If we deeply believe in our God as our provider, then our lives and actions need to reflect the TRUST that we say we have in our God.
Waiting for Me to work, with your eyes on Me, is evidence that you really do trust Me. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling
I hope you catch some God-filled moments this week!
When I was growing up, Memorial Day weekend began our annual pilgrimage to the Lake House. My mother would pick us up on Friday (the last day of school) with the car packed to the brim. We would drive to the grocery store and buy more than enough food for our family of six. (“Lake food” was real junk food…Little Debbies, fruit roll-ups, moon-pies and more). For twenty minutes, we traveled from our town to the Lake House. That drive felt like a cleansing. For the next 3 months, we were free. Free from school, free from schedules, free from problems and responsibilities. The recitals were over. The last spelling test was history. Life was good. My wardrobe at the lake included swimsuits and a lifejacket. I remember even sleeping in my swimsuit on some nights.
More than anything, those months and years spent on the lake taught me that I am a part of nature. I am part of something bigger than myself. I spent many more hours outside than inside. Watching rain come over the lake let me know it was a good time to take a nap. Stepping on a sticker taught me to walk more carefully. Watching waves crash against my favorite rocks showed me that somethings in life never stop. They were there before I was born and they will be there afterwards. Watching the stars twinkle outside my bedroom from my bunk bed gave me deep peace. I was connected to the world around me.
So many of our problems these days come from the idea that we are not connected to anyone or anything. We feel autonomous. Even more, we feel that the purpose of the world is to serve us. This is a slippery slope to travel. Before too long our consumerism creates more waste than our Earth can handle. Our schedules are unachievable and cause more stress in ourselves and our families. Our relationship with our spiritual lives is strained simply because it is difficult to hear God speak when our life is so busy and loud. Maybe it is time to remember who we are in relationship to nature. Nature has the ability to teach us just how connected we are to creation. In fact, each one of us is a little creation made to care for the Earth around us.
Memorial Day weekend is a great time to remember. We remember those who gave their lives for us so that we may live out our days in freedom. We remember how precious life is. We remember that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. It is also a great time to stop all the hustle and bustle of our lives and decide how we want to spend our summer days. Do we want them filled with memories or schedules? Do we plan to stay in the house or get outside? Are there people we want to connect with because we have time to do it?
Imagine packing up your car for your summer pilgrimage (“Lake food” included!!). Who’s going with you and where are you going? What needs to be on your itinerary so that you have time with nature and with God? How can you make this summer less about you and more about nature? Let’s pack up the car, the backpacks, the water bottles and get outdoors. Even a walk around your neighborhood is a big step in the right direction. And if you need a little reminder about how connected we are to God’s creation and nature, take a look at this talk by Louie Giglio. It’s amazing!
There is one God, the Father,
by whom all things were created,
and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things were created,
and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6
Happy Memorial Day!
We went for a walk today, down a sidewalk right after lunch. The temperature was perfect and the sky was blue like Caribbean water. It was a day that feels like God is showing off. The plan was to walk a little bit before we headed back to the car to go home. And then one daughter stepped off the sidewalk and shared that she was just going to walk in the grass…off the path and into open space. I kept walking until daughter number two said, “Let’s go with her.” Before I knew it, we were sitting in the middle of the grass in the park.
That in itself would have been fun enough, but our day turned into an adventure when we started to notice all the creepy crawly things around us in the grass. It was as if we had just sat down in the middle of a city of bugs all very busy with their tasks for the day. The spiders scurried, the black things climbed over and under blades of grass, the ants quickly moved about and the ladybugs found their way into our hands with grace.
We were having a LADYBUG MOMENT. A moment in our day when we just stop doing what we planned to do and take notice of what is going on around us. It was a moment we would have missed if we would have stayed on the path trying to get more steps on our fitbit. It was a moment where we sat together and just enjoyed each others company and the company of the creepy crawly things.
Over lunch we enjoyed a LADYBUG CONVERSATION. A conversation that invited all of us to think more deeply and share. We asked questions that mattered. We asked things like, “If you were in my shoes, how would you handle the situation.” “Where do you see God in this?” “What would you like for dessert?”
And how did we do all of this in the middle of the week? Well….we had a LADYBUG DAY! We played hookie from all those things that we were suppose to be doing and we did something else. Something life giving! We took all the should of’s and could of’s in our day and just put them away so their friend guilt would go away too. Gardeners and farmers love the ladybug because it helps control pests. It controlled the pests in our life today very well.
As the sun sets on this day, I know it will be a day that I will remember. God was all around us this day because we took time to notice. When was your last LADYBUG MOMENT, CONVERSATION or DAY? It’s time to step off the path and experience an adventure. Your backyard is a great place to start!
Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34
The power of pigs. Last week, I drove from my home straight to my first appointment each day. This week, I had to leave early from my house so I would have time to stop by the barn, pull on my pig boots and feed the pigs, Pickle and Donut. Last week, after a long day of working, my husband would come home and relax a little before working some more. This week, he comes home to pick up the pig owner and he takes her to the barn to feed the pigs, Pickle and Donut. These pigs have changed our lives. Things are different around our tent. My car already smells different. Every conversation we seem to have includes information about the pigs, Pickle and Donut.
There is something else the pigs have done. They have brought smiles to our faces. The way my mother pulled them out of the delivery crate and put them in their new pen gave me a great big smile. The 10-year-old pig owner has had a permeant smile on her face all week. When one pig ate out of the 7-year-old assistant- pig-owner’s hand…there was a big smile looking up. These pigs have delivered a lot of smiles this week to our family.
One year ago, if you would have asked me if we would be in the pig business, I would have quickly said, “When pigs fly…no way.” One hour ago my family was feeding our new pigs. My “no way”, in one year, has turn into an “OK.” What does all of this mean??
There are pigs in everyone’s future! There are so many big and small events in our lives that are just waiting to knock on our door and take up residence in our lives. We just do not know what they are going to be until they arrive. For us, it is two pigs, Pickle and Donut. It may be a new job, another child, a fantastic trip, a new pet, a new friend or a new chance. Or it may be a broken relationship, financial troubles, unexpected news, grief or poor health. Some things in our future will bring us smiles and some things will bring us tears.
There is a lot that we do not know about our future. There is one thing that we do know and it will carry us through all the “pigs” that life can bring us. Jesus walks with us in our dark times as well as in our times of joy. Because we know Christ, we will have the light of life.
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12
This week, make some time to have a date with Jesus. Grow your relationship, smile and listen. The same Jesus that you know today is the same Jesus you will need during the days to come. Your relationship with Jesus is life giving. Jesus will know exactly how to guide you when your “pigs” show up in your life.
This week, my prayer has been for Jesus to send me people who know more about pigs than the Bell clan. My prayers are working. All week, we have met new, wonderful people who have a lot of pig knowledge! I’m thankful!
Just this week I found myself in the middle a modern “fishes and loaves” story. I did not wear any thing special that day because I did not know I was going to walk into the story as a main character. I did not know how my ordinary day would end.
School is winding down for us (in fact today was the last day for one daughter) which means our afternoons are less busy. Routine has been thrown out the window…hello world! We even met friends for a snow cone after school this week… spontaneously. (Oh how sad that even a spontaneous, unscheduled, and unplanned snow cone date can feed my adventurous side. Next week I may spontaneously take on the Appalachian Trail!)
After we cooled off with our snow cones, we headed to the park. What we found there took me by surprise. Our neighbor. She is a teenager and she was with her friends. School was out and she was just hanging out before walking home. We chatted. Then I remembered that after her parents divorced, she is often home alone with her brother in the afternoons until her father gets home from work. Then I remembered this has been going on for a while, but I had forgotten.
Once we returned home, my daughters invited our neighbors over to play. I made after school snacks and started on dinner. For dinner I was preparing a salmon dish. (The fish in the story. But I doubt Jesus served salmon.) I knew the meal would feed my family of 4. But I was not sure about company. Before long, the dinner question arrived in my kitchen, “Can they stay for dinner?” I looked at my fish and it looked back at me as I muttered something like, “Sure”. (God’s response…ABSOLUTELY)
This is when my dinner plans were hijacked by God. God had other plans for my fish…hospitality and love. As I was finishing up the meal, God and I had a chat. My meal prep and serving suddenly turned spiritual. Our neighbors had a place at our table that night. They weren’t alone on the playground or in their own home. They were with us, their friends. Because they were with us, our circle became wider as we simply became aware that they needed us on that day. Our tent grew, our table grew and our love for them grew. And by the way…somehow the salmon (fish) and loaf (well…really Jasmine rice) grew. We all had enough and we were all filled with much more than food when we left the table.
Simply aware. Simply Available.
I love this passage from Proverbs 16:9. It gives me comfort and peace when life is uncertain – when things are a bit out of control. Right now our family is in the process of moving. We are transitioning out of an area where we have lived for 13 years. My prayer every day is, “Lord, direct our steps.” And I truly believe God is doing just that.
Back in the Fall I was outside raking leaves in our front yard when I felt a presence. Something was walking towards me – some things! I quickly looked up to from my perfect pile of Southern Red Oak leaves to see the vile villains with whom I was about to engage in battle, but all I saw were three ducks who had taken notice of my labors (it feels good to be noticed). I thought they were coming for a friendly visit, but they had ulterior motives. They were walking up my street in front of my home for only one reason – smushed acorns! You see, a street runs right in front of our home, and as I raked, acorns rolled into the street. Then cars drove by (some way too fast – so slow down!) and smushed the acorns. Then the ducks waddled into action to nibble the deliciously smushed acorn tid-bits. These ducks knew exactly what to do (eat smushed acorns) and when to do it (right after the acorns I’d raked into the street had been smushed by my neighbor’s fast-moving car).
The question is, “Do we?”. Do we know what to do and when to do it? I believe we can, but it’s neither easy nor normal. We all have plans and agendas (and pursuing these plans and agendas is how we spend much of our time and energy), but there is One who directs our steps. Our plans and agendas may or may not come to pass, but can we trust the One who directs our steps? It seems we have a lot to learn from ducks!