Archive for the ‘Guidance’ Category

God’s Guidance

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Recently, the pastors at my church did a short sermon series on God’s Will. They made some wonderful points, but didn’t talk much about how these things fit with God’s guidance. This post is going to mull over what I think and believe about God’s guidance.

In the choir on the third week of the series, we sang “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” and “He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought” — so I expected that third sermon to touch on God’s guidance and God’s leading. God’s guidance does relate to “God’s plan.”

Now, what the pastor did talk about was very helpful. He mentioned that Time Travel movies have conditioned us to think that every little decision we make can drastically affect our futures. Combine that with talk of “God’s Perfect Plan,” and we put too much pressure on ourselves when we make decisions. He made the strong point that the idea of “God’s Perfect Plan” is not biblical.

God gives us agency! He allows us to make choices. Real choices that affect our lives and the lives of others. He doesn’t have One “Plan” for our lives — one that we can irrevocably mess up.

What we can do is align ourselves with God’s Will. We can make choices that align with loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

I like that message. Though my first thought is along the lines of What happens when other people around you are not aligned with God’s will and your life is affected? Okay, let’s get specific. Suppose your husband has an affair (clearly not aligned with God’s will) and divorces you.

Well, this message brings hope — Since God doesn’t have only One Plan for my life that I have to follow — my ex-husband can’t mess up my destiny. I already have seen that God has redeemed my single state and has filled my life with good things — some of which specifically came from my divorce. I would not have sought full-time work or become a librarian if I were still married, for example. And if I weren’t a librarian, I never would have gotten to serve on the 2019 Newbery Committee or received the 2019 Allie Beth Martin Award from the Public Library Association. Becoming a librarian has been a wonderful thing for me. Even though it wasn’t my personal Plan A for my life.

So let me receive the point loud and clear that someone else’s sin may affect your life dramatically, but it doesn’t pull you out of the possibility of aligning with God’s will. God can redeem the trials, and He promises in Romans 8:28 that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him. That doesn’t mean that “everything happens for the best.” God doesn’t promise us “the best” at all times, and people sinning against you can indeed do you terrible harm. But I do believe that God can bring good out of anything.

In fact, I believe that if God can’t bring good out of it, He won’t let it happen. Unfortunately, He is very good at bringing good out of bad things! (I personally would prefer it if He would just keep the bad things from happening.)

So, yes, God gives us agency to make choices. And yes, He is with us as we live through the consequences of those choices — our own and others.

But I still believe that God gives guidance when we ask.

I mainly base this on James 1:5:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

In the Bible, wisdom consistently refers to what you do, to making good choices. So if you lack wisdom to know what to do, God encourages you to ask.

The Psalms have several passages where the writer asks God to lead.

Psalm 31:3 — “Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name, lead and guide me.”

Psalm 25:5 — “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Psalm 23:3 — “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

Psalm 119:105 — “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Psalm 5:8 — “Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my oppressors — make straight your way before me.”

Psalm 143:8 — “Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

Yes, God gives us agency, but He is happy to help us figure out how to use that agency.

The pastor was urging us not to put so much pressure on our choices. If we have a big decision — whether to take a job in another state, whether to accept a marriage proposal, for example — we can’t mess up God’s will for our lives. Make the best decision we can, and God will be with us.

When faced with a big decision, though, is a good time to ask for wisdom.

One of the big good things that came out of my divorce was that I learned to ask God for wisdom. I was desperate, and I believe He answered.

But how does He answer? How does He give wisdom?

John Eldredge takes on this topic head-on in his book Walking with God. I’m going to copy here the same long quote I posted in my review of the book.

Now, I know, I know — the prevailing belief is that God speaks to his people only through the Bible.  And let me make this clear: he does speak to us first and foremost through the Bible.  That is the basis for our relationship.  The Bible is the eternal and unchanging Word of God to us.  It is such a gift, to have right there in black and white God’s thoughts toward us.  We know right off the bat that any other supposed revelation from God that contradicts the Bible is not to be trusted.  So I am not minimizing in any way the authority of the Scripture or the fact that God speaks to us through the Bible.

However, many Christians believe that God only speaks to us through the Bible.

The irony of that belief is that’s not what the Bible says.

The Bible is filled with stories of God talking to his people.  Abraham, who is called the friend of God, said, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me . . .’ (Genesis 24:7).  God spoke to Moses ‘as a man speaks with his friend’ (Exodus 33:11).  He spoke to Aaron too: ‘Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites’ (Exodus 6:13).  And David: ‘In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord.  “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.  The Lord said, “Go up.”  David asked, “Where shall I go?”  “To Hebron,” the Lord answered’ (2 Samuel 2:1).  The Lord spoke to Noah.  The Lord spoke to Gideon.  The Lord spoke to Samuel.  The list goes on and on.

I can hear the objections even now:  ‘But that was different.  Those were special people called to special tasks.’  And we are not special people called to special tasks?  I refuse to believe that.  And I doubt that you want to believe it either, in your heart of hearts.

But for the sake of argument, notice that God also speaks to ‘less important’ characters in the Bible.  God spoke to Hagar, the servant girl of Sarah, as she was running away. . . .  In the New Testament, God speaks to a man named Ananias who plays a small role in seven verses in Acts 9. . . .

Now, if God doesn’t also speak to us, why would he have given us all these stories of him speaking to others?  ‘Look — here are hundreds of inspiring and hopeful stories about how God spoke to his people in this and that situation.  Isn’t it amazing?  But you can’t have that.  He doesn’t speak like that anymore.’  That makes no sense at all.  Why would God give you a book of exceptions?  This is how I used to relate to my people, but I don’t do that anymore.  What good would a book of exceptions do you?  That’s like giving you the owner’s manual for a Dodge even though you drive a Mitsubishi.  No, the Bible is a book of examples of what it looks like to walk with God.

In my own life, a turning point happened soon after my husband had moved out, very much against my wishes. For months, very helpful books had been landing on my desk at the base library, books that helped me respond to my husband’s anger with compassion and that helped me more calmly work on my own attitude and gave me hope that he would come around.

But the turning point in my attitude came in a pastor’s sermon. He was talking about a very odd miracle that Jesus did in Mark 7, healing a man who was deaf and mute.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

I’ve always thought that story was a little strange. But this pastor pointed out something I’d never noticed but seems absolutely true once you think about it — Jesus was speaking to the man in sign language!

The man could not hear or speak. Jesus took him aside and got his attention. Then he dramatically pantomimed what he was going to do.

The pastor made this powerful point: “God speaks your language!”

It brought me to tears at the time. Because all those helpful books that had been showing up on my desk at just the right time? My language is books, and God was speaking to me that way. My language is also Scripture (I have memorized large portions of the Bible.), and throughout those divorce years, God continued to speak through Scripture as well. More than once, I’d think God was speaking to me through a verse. I’d ask for confirmation, and the next Sunday that verse would be mentioned in the sermon. (These were obscure verses, too.) That was enough for me.

Now, there’s a part of me that feels very presumptuous to think that God would pay enough attention to my life to speak to me. It’s that part that leads me to burst into tears most times when the coincidence is simply too big — I have to believe God is speaking.

Yes, God notices me. Yes, God cares about my life. Yes, God will give me wisdom and guidance. He will give that generously and without finding fault. He won’t be angry when I need confirmation.

So this is the flip side of putting so much pressure on a decision that we’re paralyzed. Yes, God gives us agency. But He’s generous to help us when we don’t know what to do.

And that flip side is what I want to say loud and clear: God loves you enough to be interested in your life and to give you guidance. He pays attention to you, yes, you!

I think a big part of why that hits me so hard is that I’m the third of thirteen children. It feels presumptuous to think that God would be concerned about the details of my life. But God notices even me!

Now, I have to add that as much as I learned to listen to God’s voice, to not be afraid to ask for guidance — all that was cast into doubt when things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would.

For a very long time during my conflict with my ex-husband, I really thought God was telling me that he would come back.

But about five years after he moved out, I did think it was the right thing to file for divorce.

I thought through what I believed God had told me. And the wisdom part, the part about knowing what to do was: “Wait on the Lord.”

And that was indeed wisdom. If I had filed for divorce or given up on my husband at the very beginning — I don’t think I would have believed that he had truly changed. I knew I’d given him ample opportunity to return. I still believe and hope that God was saying that my ex-husband will eventually have a change of heart and come back — to God. But he does not need to come back to me, and I finally figured out that wouldn’t be the best thing, anyway. (In fact, before I signed up for online dating, I made my friends promise to stop me if I was ever tempted to take my ex-husband back.)

So maybe I was wrong about what was going to happen. But I was not wrong about what God was telling me to do: Wait.

And there were other things God told me that turned out to be truly wise: “Do not go down to Egypt for help.” (Do not try to get him in trouble with his first sergeant for having an affair.) “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Got me not to send my initial answer to an abusive email.) After the divorce, when I was still obsessing over him: “Ephraim is joined with idols. Leave him alone!”

All of those things — and the many other ways God led me — helped so much!

But now, almost a decade after the divorce was final, it doesn’t seem like God is speaking as much any more. Is that because I don’t need it as much, not being in anywhere near as difficult a situation, or is that only because I’m not asking?

And what does it mean to walk with God, to align yourself with God’s will? I’m going to accept my new pastor’s reminder that we shouldn’t let our desire to follow God’s will be paralyzing.

I also think of a sermon my former pastor preached. He brought a chalkboard into the room and drew a long line that he said represented a continuum. On one end was “letting things happen.” He said that was living life like you’re on a raft, just going where the current takes you. This is often all in the name of “God’s will” and not exercising agency at all.

On the other end was “making things happen.” This is when you try to do everything yourself. It’s all about exercising your own agency to make sure your life goes the way you want it to go. Or trying, anyway. This is like living life on a motorboat, not relying on any power outside yourself.

But he said that where we want to be is somewhere in the middle, on the “Path of Trust.” This is more like living life on a sailboat, turning the sail to catch the wind and move with the power of the wind. It’s not trying to be in total control, but it’s also not just giving up any control at all. Walking on the Path of Trust is trickier than being on either of the ends of the spectrum.

It was when I heard that sermon that I realized that in my prayers, I wasn’t trusting God. I’d been insisting that God bring my then-husband back. I was telling God how things had to turn out. That wasn’t trust. That was me trying to be in control.

Walking with God when I’m not sure what I think God should do? That’s much trickier. To be honest, when I was praying so much, asking God for guidance about my failing marriage, in my heart I was asking God, What should I do to that will help my husband come back? I really thought it must obviously be God’s will for divorce not to happen.

God was faithful. And God answered the question, What should I do to walk with You as I live my life in this difficult space?

Now? I’m not in as difficult a daily space. I’m not asking for guidance out of desperation, but maybe I should still be asking for guidance. Because I do lack wisdom.

And then there’s the matter of what I want to happen in my life: I’d like to get married again. But how to find a man who loves the Lord and loves me?

And that’s where the Path of Trust seems like a good analogy. On the one hand, I could decide the Lord has to do it and not make any effort at all. On the other hand, I could throw myself into online dating and try to get the attention of any and every man I find there.

In practice, I’m tending to wobble between those two approaches, though leaning more toward the no effort extreme. But for the most part, I’m seeing the Path of Trust as having an online presence so that I’m not hiding under a rock, but still being very selective about what messages I answer, and not spending hours of time looking. I’m not sure if this is the best approach, but that’s the thing about the Path of Trust — I do think it can change.

But what if I let go of the outcome? What if I ask God for guidance today, but I don’t try to tell him how my life has to turn out? And what if I’m open to that guidance having nothing to do with finding a man, for example: Today, Sondy, you should try to get a lot more sleep, because you need to get well.

Hmm. The verse that came up in my Bible reading today was Psalm 127:3 —

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat —
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Now, it may be completely crazy to take that as a message from God to me. Why would God pay that much attention to my life?

Never mind that I’ve been sick for eight weeks and counting and have been asking my friends to pray for me. Never mind that I asked God what I should say Yes to for Lent. Wouldn’t it be presumptuous to take this passage as God speaking to me, giving me wisdom?

And that’s kind of how it works. This verse leaped out at me today. It seems like a wise thing for me to do at this time in my life.

So I’m going to dare to say that God put that verse in my life today. Because He loves me, and does care about my life.

So for Lent, I’m going to try to shut off my computer earlier, not make sure I do all the things I’d like to daily before I go to bed. I’m going to try to go to bed earlier, and say to myself, “Sondy, God’s giving you sleep tonight because He loves you.”

I’d better start now….

New Year’s Prayer Requests

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Happy New Year!

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I saw two swans swimming on my lake, so I’ll open with swans.

Swans

I don’t exactly do New Year’s Resolutions. But I do like to make New Year’s Goals — measurable, definite plans. I like to make seven.

Last year, I accomplished exactly half my goals. Exactly half because I’d split one into two parts and did one of the parts. And got three others done.

For example, this year I’m borrowing an earlier year’s goal. One year a few years ago, I really did work on a book for a half-hour per day every day of the year. This year, I want to focus on that again. I’m going to modify it slightly and set a goal of working on a book three hours per week.

I’m going to try to do it every week, but even if I miss a week or two, this sets my intention for what I want to do.

I also like to choose a Theme for the year and a Verse for the year.

This coming year will be my first tax year with no dependents other than myself (if all goes well). This brings up many issues about meaning and purpose. I wonder what God’s doing in my life and why He brought me down this path.

I had started feeling Anxious and I know the road to Peace from Philippians 4:6-7 — “Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds, in Christ Jesus.”

Thinking about that verse gave me an idea to come up with seven 2016 Prayer Requests.

Instead of me trying to do things, I’ll be asking God to do things!

When I say 2016 Prayer Requests — I’m not necessarily asking God to complete these things in 2016. But I’m planning to pray these requests every day of 2016. These are the desires of my heart. I plan to present them with thanksgiving. And be comforted to know that God is working on them.

Some of them are related to a goal. For example, one prayer request is that I get a book published. My part is to plan to work on a book for three hours per week every week this year. But I have no control over whether I get published or not. I’m going to ask God to work on that part!

And making the request will keep me going on my part. After all, it doesn’t make sense to pray to get a book published and never write or submit one.

Another example is related to my debt. I have way too much of it, and blame my divorce for most of that. But my divorce is long over, and I want to dig my way out. If I pray and ask God that I will get out of debt, it will help motivate me to meet the goals I’ve made to pay down that debt by a certain amount this year.

Four of the requests are that sort of thing. You might call them selfish, but I’m thinking of it as knowing the desires of my heart and bringing them before the Lord.

One request is that my two kids will find meaningful and well-paid work!

I thought I’d make the final two requests more general, trying to keep me where I want to be: First, I’m going to ask God to continue to guide me this year and that I will follow His leading. Second, I’m going to ask God to help me touch lives.

And the Theme and Verse this year? TRUST. I’m placing my requests before God, and now I want to trust Him.

Psalm 62:8

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge. Selah

Jeremiah 17:7-8

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

I like the idea, though, that I am looking forward to what God will do in the New Year.

Words of Comfort

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

This weekend, I’m doing Mother Reader‘s 48-Hour Book Challenge.  The Challenge is to spend as much time as possible in a 48-hour period reading and blogging.  Though the challenge is targeted to book bloggers, I didn’t see anything in the rules that declared you had to confine your blogging to blogging about books.  So I think this will be a good time to blog about my last eventful few weeks.

On Tuesday, May 11, what I feared happened — I got a RIF notice.  Due to the library budget cuts, they were having a “Reduction in Force.”  The people who got notices were determined by seniority.  I knew that I was right around the cut-off of who would get RIF’d.  And, sure enough, when they gave me the RIF packet, I was told that I was the most senior Librarian I to get RIF’d.  That’s actually rather a good thing — it gives me a better chance of getting placed somewhere else in the county, since placement is also done in order of seniority.

I half-expected it, but there was no denying that I was sad.  I loved my job as a youth services manager — a children’s librarian.  My co-workers at Herndon Fortnightly Library were wonderful.  I worked there more than two years, and it was a wonderful job.  I had a Mother Goose program with babies a few days later, and it dawned on me how much I will miss those sweet babies.

But God provided me with three most gracious things in the day after I got the notice.

First, on the morning of the day I got the notice, when I strongly suspected that my boss had gotten a call from Library Human Resources, and I was going to get a notice that day, a song I’d heard on the radio kept going through my head.  Here’s the song:

One of the primary emotions I was feeling was fear. How would I pay my rent? What if I didn’t find a job? Would I have to give up having work that was so meaningful to me, that did good for the community, that helped people, including small children and families?

When I was driving home from work after getting the RIF notice, I was listening to a book on CD. When the book finished, the radio came on — and they were playing that exact same song, right at the start.

With words like “Be strong in the Lord.  Don’t give up hope,” “Don’t live life in fear,” and “God’s got his hand on you,” “You’re gonna do great things,” and “Take your time and pray,” the song was just exactly what I needed to hear. God was still in control, I was still in His plan, and things were going to be okay.

The second comforting message from God was in a card from my boss, which showed up on my desk after she left work.  The Sunday before was Mother’s Day, and our pastor had three women from the church give the message.  One of them, a friend of mine, has gone through similar things to what God’s been bringing me through.  She talked about how her life fell completely apart, but God found a way to tell her:  Be still.  Listen to me.  That part of the message truly resonated for me.

Then, on the card from my boss, it said: 

“All the truth and beauty,
all the peace and strength you are seeking
are right there in your heart…
Be still and listen.
Be brave and believe.”

The “Be still and listen” resonated with Sunday’s message, and the next line, “Be brave and believe” reminded me that the reason I do not need to fear is that I truly believe that God can work even this out for good.

A third thing truly touched my heart and felt like it was coming straight to my heart from God.  That was in an e-mail from my friend Mabel who is in my Life Group (a small group from my church that meets weekly to share our lives together).

I read her e-mail the day after I got the RIF notice.  I had been having a low-grade headache since I got the news.  I hadn’t been able to sleep much at all that night, and I was feeling tired and sad and beaten down.

She gave me the verse Revelation 3:8 — “I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

She talked about the verse in the e-mail, and how encouraging that was!  Yes, I felt that I had absolutely no strength left.  I had applied to 18 different places, and hadn’t heard anything back except a few rejections.  I had a job that I felt was following God’s calling for me — but now I was losing it.

As God reminded me through Mabel — I am still in God’s hands.

I was a little proud that, after my husband left me, I got my Master’s in Library and Information Science and landed a good job as a librarian.  Now this RIF notice reminded me that this job, was a gift from God, coming exactly when I needed it.  Losing my job felt like a door closing, and I was applying for some jobs that simply didn’t sound as inspiring.  But God was going to open a door for me that no one can shut.  I am safe in His hands.

How good to be reminded of that!

So, God allowed me to go through a dark valley, but He sent me three special words of comfort at the same time.  He is good, and He is loving.

An Opportunity To See What God Will Do

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Today’s sermon resonated with me on several levels.  Our pastor spoke about giving and generosity and money — a very timely topic, since I expect to lose my job in a few months and don’t know what I will do.  I also have filed for divorce and don’t know how the settlement will turn out.  So lots of reasons to worry about money, right?

Pastor Ed spoke from I Timothy 6:6-19 to point out two big lies we believe about money, that hinder our generosity.

Lie #1: We think our provision depends on what we do.

If we depend on ourselves, we’re proud.  Even when we worry because we think we haven’t done enough, we’re showing pride, thinking it’s all up to us.

We shouldn’t be like antique collectors, but like a well-appointed distribution center, accepting gifts from God and passing them on to others.

Lie #2:  We believe that we would be happier if we had more resources.

We put our hope in wealth.  We think we aren’t doing so, but our actions say otherwise.  And that’s foolishness.  Wealth is so uncertain.

Here he talked about putting our hope in our own plans.  He talked about how God gave our church a wonderful piece of property, and we planned to pay for a building by selling two outparcels.  But then the real estate market tanked.  However much we were disappointed is however much we were putting our hope in our plans and not in God.  And then we forget to thank Him for His abundant provision — the gift of the land in the first place.

God’s will often is dynamic.  He often doesn’t show us the whole picture right at the start.  We need to walk with Him step by step.

That part of the message resonated beautifully with what God’s been telling me about my divorce.  As I said in my last post, I felt it was time to file for divorce.  But I still worried if I was lacking in faith, not trusting God enough.  Didn’t God tell me, and confirm and reconfirm, that He was making my husband a leader and a witness, and one day our marriage would be restored?  I prayed about it.  I thought this was the right step, but how could filing for divorce be following God’s leading?  Was I just lacking in faith?

Then one day, when I was reading in Hebrews 11, a phrase jumped out at me from the part talking about Abraham sacrificing Isaac.  He did that even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

If Abraham had been thinking like me, he could have said, “I’m really sure that God told me I’m going to have many descendants through Isaac, so I must be hearing Him wrong about this sacrificing Isaac.  How could that work?”

Hebrews 11 says that Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.  Abraham had to give up his own plan about how it should happen.

As Pastor Ed emphasized today, my hope should be in God, not in my own plan.  Surely God can resurrect my marriage, but if so it will be through His power, not because of any plans of mine, or any stubborn holding onto my marriage even though my husband has left.

As for my job search, all the rest of the sermon related to that.  I did not get the Assistant Branch Manager position I had applied for at my last posting.  I now have four applications out there for four very different positions.  I don’t know what my chances are for any of those positions.

But as I think about the future, I will not be afraid.  My last three jobs have been complete gifts from God.  (No, pretty much every job I’ve ever had has been that.)  It’s not like God’s going to abandon me now.

I’m bolstered up by two Truths Pastor Ed pointed out from the Timothy passage.

Truth #1:  Our provision comes from God, and that’s where we should place our hope.

Truth #2:  God richly provides for our enjoyment.

Don’t get so caught up in my own plans that I forget to enjoy and thank Him for the many gifts He’s already given!

And that kind of attitude enables me to be generous with what God has provided.  God asks us to be generous, because that’s who we truly are, that’s how we will live “the life that is truly life.”

So, it was a beautifully encouraging morning.  Instead of seeing my probable job loss as a tough trial I’m going through, the sermon reminded me to see it as a wonderful opportunity to see how God is going to provide.

Shining Like Stars

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

God did a beautiful thing for me today.

I was feeling down, shaken at the core of my being, who I am.  Let’s just say that some hurtful words in a letter, coming from someone I love, essentially accused me of being a bad mother and a bad person.  No matter how much my mind knows that’s not true, my heart was wounded, and I needed reassurance.  I was also tempted to answer the letter, but knew I probably shouldn’t.  Still, I asked God about it…

Anyway, Saturday night I was choosing clothes to wear to church.  I wanted to wear something pretty — I feel like God’s telling me He’s giving me beauty for ashes, and the truth is that He’s making me more beautiful during this trial, and I wanted to wear something to symbolize that.

My eye fell on a v-neck t-shirt with little stars embroidered across it, and I thought of the verse in Philippians 2, “… you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”  I thought I’d wear that shirt as a symbol of shining like a star through God’s light.  To go with the symbolism, I chose underwear with stars all over them, too!  🙂

As I put the clothes aside, I thought how neat it would be if God had that verse come up in the sermon in the morning.  I prayed and asked for it.  I knew that would be symbol from God that He is indeed making me shine like a star in the universe, by His grace. 

I had trouble getting to sleep that night, so I thought about the phrase, “you shine like stars in the universe…”

Well, the verse did not come up in the sermon.  It was a good sermon, about living your Christianity in your job.  I got to thinking, well, it was a silly little whim.  God certainly didn’t have to do that.  What are the chances that that particular verse would come up anyway?

Then they did the closing song:

We are the peple of God
The sons and daughters of love
Forgiven, restored and redeemed
Living our lives to the praise of our King
We are the ones who will shine
His light in the darkness of night
The hopeless, the broken, the poor
They will be hopeless and broken no more

You are the light
The light of the world
And we shine You, Lord
You are the light
The light of the world
And we shine You, Lord

Okay, that specific verse wasn’t there.  But I was getting the idea…

Then came the third verse:

We shine like stars in the universe
Proclaiming the hope of our God
And to the sons and daughters in all the earth
We shine You, Lord

Now there was no doubt — “shine like stars in the universe” is exactly quoting the verse.  By this time, my eyes were streaming with tears!

By doing that little thing for me, I felt that God was telling me He loves me.  He cares about the little things of my life.  He cares about my emotional pain.  And He is indeed making me shine like a star.

Wow!

Then came the punchline.  When I got home, I looked up the verse.  I had forgotten how the sentence begins, in the previous verse, Philippians 2:14 —

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. . .

I had asked God if I should defend myself and answer the letter that hurt me?  Well, in His loving and wonderful way (with His sense of humor), He gently led me to the answer:  “Do everything without. . . arguing”!  And, in fact, my answer is my life, in which God is making me shine like a star.

Praise Him.

Here’s a link to a site that plays the song:  http://www.imeem.com/mattxiong/music/FB9viSRq/steve-fee-you-are-the-light/

Long-term Visions

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Pastor Ed preached yesterday about the state of our church.  Some obstacles and discouragements are coming up, but he also talked about why he still believes God is and will be doing a mighty work at Gateway.

One thing he came back to is that many years ago, God gave him a vision about this church, a vision about lives changed through God’s power.  He acknowledged that for some time now, our circumstances aren’t seeming to fit with that vision.

That got me thinking about long-term vision.  I, too, feel that God has spoken to me about something in the future.  I believe God has told me He is making my husband “a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples.”  I believe that God has told me that our marriage will be healed and restored.

But for now, circumstances don’t match.  It looks like a divorce will happen soon.

I thought about long-term visions in the Bible.  We talk about the verse Psalm 119:105 — “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Invariably, commentary on that verse mentions that walking by lantern light does not give you the long view, just the next step.

And in the Bible, we humans don’t do too well with long-term visions.

Look at the Israelites heading for the Promised Land.  When the spies looked at the land, they looked at the circumstances — giants who were way too tough for them.  Only Joshua and Caleb remembered God’s promise and God’s vision.

Look at Abraham.  God told him that he would make his descendants like the stars of the sky.  Then nothing happened for years and years.  Abraham thought he’d better help God out with Hagar.

Then there’s Joseph.  God gave him a vision of his brothers bowing down to him.  Joseph didn’t give up on the vision that we know about.  But who knows what he went through waiting for it to happen while he was in prison?

In my marriage crisis, the first crystal-clear word I got from God was “Wait on the Lord.”  I had been praying earnestly and asked God, “Father, can’t you please end this NOW?”  For the next few weeks, every time I picked up a Bible or other Christian book, the words in the passage included “wait on the Lord.”  Our Sunday School lesson a few days later was where Jesus taught his disciples that they should “always pray and not give up.”

I recently heard a testimony about a restored marriage from a woman with my same name and her husband.  They were divorced for ten years before the husband came back to God and came back to his wife.  That’s a long, long time.  Along the way, God continued to speak to her and tell her not to give up, even when her husband married someone else.

Long-term vision is hard for us humans.  Sometimes God gives us the big picture.  Then the challenge is trusting that God can bring it about even when the little picture, from our perspective, doesn’t look like it can possibly fit into that big picture.

I liked what Pastor Ed said about the at least two and a half years we will have to wait before we can get into a new church building.  He said: This is our opportunity to be ready.

By the same token, however long I have to wait for the restoration of my marriage, this is my opportunity:  My opportunity to get rid of resentment, to practice forgiveness, to work on my own relationship with God, and even to work on personal pursuits like my writing.

Part of the challenge of a long-term vision is asking yourself:  What does God want me to do today to get ready for that vision to happen?  Sometimes, like with Abraham, it’s simply to wait.  Sometimes, as with Joshua and Caleb, it’s to go in and take the land.

But where God has provided the long-term vision, surely He will also provide a light for our feet, if we ask.  But be careful about looking at circumstances, like giants in the land or a barren womb, to conclude that God never really meant what He said in the original vision.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is simply to wait.

Guidance

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I am amazed by how, when we ask for wisdom, “God gives generously to all without finding fault.”

I had been again wondering if God was really telling me what I thought He was telling me.

Is God really telling me He will restore and renew my marriage?  What about my husband and his free will?  If he really wants out and is truly divorcing me, then shouldn’t I move on and look for a better relationship?  Aren’t I hoping for the impossible?  Living in denial?  Being unrealistic?

Yet God seems to be telling me that He is going to restore and rebuild our marriage, and that my husband will end up a leader and a witness and a man of God — NOT because of anything I do, but totally God’s work.  My job is to pray for it, wait for it, and believe that God will do what He has promised.  To “move on” by working on becoming a great children’s librarian and mother and writer, not by trying to find a new man for my life.

But there are times when it doesn’t seem possible.  I get some insights about what went wrong in our marriage, and then I get discouraged.  How can we possibly ever have a healthy relationship together, after all our mistakes in the past?

So I asked God again, “Lord, if You can really transform and rebuild our marriage, if You can really make Steve a leader and a witness and a man of God, if You can really make me a good wife for him — then I need confirmation again.  Just a reminder that I’m on the right track.  I need to know that I’m not just denying reality and going with false hopes after something that’s dead.”

And God answered.  Today’s sermon was all about transformation.  The opening and closing illustration was even about a marriage that was dead that God transformed.

Without going into details, God specifically answered what I was asking.

God CAN restore and heal — both our marriage, and our lives.

I believe that God is telling me that He WILL restore and heal.

But I also know that this is GOD’s work to do, not mine.  Time for me to think about it a lot less and focus on being the woman God created me to be.  God gave me many passions that I didn’t have as much time for when I was trying to be a good wife.  It’s time to take advantage of this opportunity!

I’ve been a children’s librarian for two full weeks now:  I want to be a good one!

And this is also my chance to write.  I have ALWAYS dreamed of being a published author.  I didn’t do any writing while my marriage was in such crisis, or while I was taking graduate classes.  Now it’s time to start up again.

And it’s my chance to write for Sonderbooks.  I have so enjoyed sharing books with people! 

And my blogs.  I like this way to connect with people.  I put my thoughts out there, and usually only those who are interested read it.  I connect with people in surprising ways.

I haven’t been writing so much in this blog lately–I’d like to do more of that.  I’m having fun with my other two.  Sonderquotes is the one I update most–I’m reading some great books!  And Sonderblessings is just to remind myself how MUCH I have to be thankful for.

So–even though this started with maybe too much thinking and worrying about my marriage, God has left me with a great sense of peace.  Some day, somehow He will restore our marriage.  It will be His work, not mine.  And it will happen in His timing, not mine.  Meanwhile, this is my chance to live a joyful life with God, striving to be the person He created me to be.

And He will be enough for me, reassuring me of His love, and His forgiveness.

God is good.  And God cares about my life.

He is not above giving reassurance.  And that’s reason to rejoice!