Sky gazing often grips me with nostalgia. Like a spy peering into another world, I watch as clouds glide through the atmosphere and collide with each other, constantly morphing into different shapes.
The whole scene brings a soothing, child-like calm to my mind. Scanning from horizon to horizon, it always amazes me how different the same sky can look.
On one occasion, the sky to the left of my vision held white puffy clouds, to the right, no clouds at all, and the sky in front of me was laden with heavy dark formations. All happening at the same time. All in the same sky.
The heavy sky in the middle seemed oblivious to the light shining on either side. It’s constitution was all black and grey, except for the smallest, palest section of rainbow that stretched out from the tree line, faintly shining against the darkness only to be swallowed by the storm clouds.
The rainbow in this unusual sky made me think about other times I have seen rainbows appear. There usually is a blue patch of sky, and maybe a mist of fog betraying the end of a recent rain shower.
Sunday school coloring papers display a beautifully defined rainbow against a clear sky arcing over Noah’s Ark, just waiting to be freed of its monochromatic existence by an eager preschooler holding a crayon. This is the rainbow I’ve seen. The rainbow presented in the Bible as a reminder of God’s promise and presence. When the great storm ended, God sent His rainbow to shine clearly out of the calm sky.
Bright. Bold. Beautiful. Those adjectives do not describe the rainbow I saw that stormy evening. The sky was not clear. The storm was still raging and the heavens struggled under the heaviness of rain.
I almost missed it, the rainbow. Dense darkness and sheets of grey rain obscured most of my view, yet it was there. Fighting to be seen. Dimmed, but still shining.
As all of creation does when I open my eyes to truly see, this scene pointed me directly to God. I was overcome by how much He loves me. How much He loves us all.
His promises to us, all of them, shine true, always.
Sure, they are easier to see when the sky is calm, and the downpour has stopped, but make no mistake, just like the little rainbow, His promise is still present in the storm.
A promise of hope.
An assurance that although the sky is dark, we do not need to live in darkness. There is always light available for us, His children. Not just for when the storm passes, but right now in its midst.
Have you ever experienced a lion's roar up close and personal?
During a visit to the zoo, we had the good fortune to observe the big cats moving and being vocal. Even though we were separated by the thick observation glass, the lion's roar was frighteningly powerful. I was yards away from a fully grown, magnificent male lion mid roar. Everything about him was intimidating. His sharp teeth were displayed nicely by his huge open mouth; his posture, poised and ready; his roar, resounding.
Through the power of technology, I had a false familiarity with the sound of a lion roaring. Personal experience brought my understanding from black and white to full color. Even in the safety of the observation room, I was paralyzed. The rational part of my brain told me we were safe, but the emotional part of me knew danger was imminent. So, as soon as I could gather myself and my crew, we took some very large steps away from the glass.
A lion's roar is used as a simile often in scripture, and in light of my zoo experience, this one verse no longer made complete sense to me:
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The sight and sound of the roar I experienced was enough to make me momentarily question the safety provided by the observation glass and the wisdom of staying put. There is nothing subtle about the roar of a lion. It seems counter-intuitive then that the picture of a prowling lion would be a roaring one, so I decided to examine the vocabulary to see what I was missing.
"Be sober-minded" - be watchful, be constantly on the lookout for trouble as a watchman protecting a village.
"Your adversary the devil" - Satan, whose goal is to get back at God by hurting you and preventing you and anyone else from reconciling with Him.
"Prowls" - moving restlessly and stealthy looking for prey.
"like a roaring lion" - fear inducing, paralyzing.
"Devour" - consume destructively.
Reconstructing the verse helped me to grasp it's intensity and message on a new level. We have an urgent need to actively be on the lookout because Satan is undercover, on a covert mission, looking constantly for ways to paralyze us with fear and prevent us from moving forward into God's plan. He wants us to fix our eyes on our obstacles so we, afraid and doubting, are destructively consumed.
The enemy sneak attacks us with fear.
So what do we do? Even when we recognize the attack, there is still fear and doubt. Emotional responses are not wrong, but allowing them to guide our decisions plays directly into our enemy's schemes. When fear drives our decisions, we focus on escaping that fear which rarely, if ever, leads us to face it.
But what if what God has called us to is just on the other side of that roar?
What if changing course to avoid that imminent danger is exactly the opposite of what walking in obedience looks like?
What if obedience in following God means stepping towards, not running from the roar.
Honestly, that feels like a tall order, but, by taking emotional thoughts captive, removing our worrisome 'what ifs', we can then be guided by truth. The belt of truth is an important part of God's armor that we are told to put on so "that 'we' may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." Ephesians 6:12
Kind David, as a boy shepherd, tracked down a lion who stole one of his sheep and, by the divine providence of God, destroyed the lion and returned the sheep to the fold. God was with him as he pursued what was lost to the lion and granted him victory.
What has our roaring, devouring enemy stolen from you? What have you lost to fear? It's time to reclaim it. Don't listen to the lies. Don't let fear, in whatever form it has taken hold of your life, win.
God has the power to reclaim, restore and resurrect. If what we have lost is something we need to fulfill the future plans He has for us, then no weapon formed against us will prosper.
It's time to attack the roar. Admit and face those fears while clinging to God's spoken truths, and leave the battle you are afraid of facing to Him.
Don’t laugh. Odd vision confession time. During worship, I often envision God, in that moment, responding to our praise.
Sometimes he is smiling, nodding and tapping his hand. Other times, he is swirling his finger and spinning in a circle like an elderly gentleman on a swing dance floor.
Humorous, funny, laughable, but why not true? Okay. That may be a bit of a stretch, but I know that God enjoys our praise. Psalms 147:1 tells us that it is good to sing praises to our God. Also, Luke 19:40 states that if the crowd kept silent, even the stones would cry out.
Wow! God is deserving of and desires our praise to the point that if we fail to praise him, creation will fill the void.
Praise is powerful and positions us directly in God's presence by preparing our hearts and minds for fellowship with him. To see him. To hear him.
On one particular Sunday while our praise team was leading worship, instead of a joyful dance, I saw a different picture. One that brought me to tears. In the middle of a sermon series pointing out that there is often pain endured during our spiritual growing process, I saw my Abba Father.
The song was What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong Worship.
Everytime I hear this song something different ministers to me. On that Sunday it wasn’t just one of the lyrics as it normally is, it was the impact of a song praising the beauty, wonder and power of God’s love as it so meaningfully conveys God’s plan for our salvation.
In that moment, I saw God. He was reaching out as a father would with arms stretched to the limit, as if prepared to catch a small child standing on some stairs, poised to jump into his father’s arms.
Have you witnessed it? The child, crouched down, excited and unsure. He wants to take the jump, to leave what is safe and land where he is safest, but the space between is frightening.
Will he make it? What if he misjudged the distance? There is always that small fear that his father might not catch him and he will fall.
The security of his daddy’s arms, outstretched, reaching, longing to embrace his child is just a jump away. His daddy is encouraging, patiently building up the boy's confidence to take the leap.
I often feel like that child. Just a leap away from God’s provision, protection, and promises fulfilled. If I jump, then what? If I take that step of obedience, am I sure God will catch me? What if I misjudged the distance and run out of strength, money, time, resources?
Where I am is pretty safe, maybe I’ll just sit down. Am I really supposed to jump?
Sometimes, where we find ourselves is secure and it makes jumping even harder. But other times, even where we sit is uncertain.
What if the difficulties in our life are blessings in disguise? What if, at times, we experience challenges to give us added incentive to jump?
Imagine a nothing left to lose scenario, like in a video game where the surface you are standing on is disappearing and ready or not, you have to leap.
We all have or will experience challenges and journeys that require faith in the face of fear. Hope that encourages, inspires, and lends us strength to endurer those next steps we need to take while following God’s will.
The little boy finally jumps. He conquerors the uncertainty and butterflies in his stomach and leaps!
Then comes the split second in the air.
That moment of doubt. Did he jump high enough and far enough for his daddy to catch him? Is his daddy strong enough? Resourced enough to not be knocked over upon reception?
The time in the air is scary. Once he jumps toward his daddy, his fate is out of his hands and solely reliant on his father.
That's how it is with us too. We decide, like the boy, to jump. And now, we're in the air. And it's scary. Doubts arise. Why did I jump?
Why did the boy jump? He trusted his daddy. The boy knew that he wouldn't be dropped because his daddy had never dropped him before. He knew his father loved him too much to miss the catch. Without understanding it, the boy relied on his father's character.
When we need the courage to jump, or find ourselves stuck in the air, we need to remember the character of our Father. He is faithful, trustworthy and true. He is strong enough, resourced enough, and loves enough that his arms will not fail us.
Praise positions us, hope inspires us and faith in God's character gives us the courage to finish the flight.
The little boy is safely snuggled to his father's chest because he was obedient to jump. He didn't sit down on the step or flail in fear in the air.
His daddy's arms upheld their promise.
So will my Father's.
So will your's.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his Covenant of Love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9
“The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast forever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.”
Psalm 111: 7-8
Life in the Little
Anger. That was the appropriate emotion. More accurately though, my daughter resembled a dragon with whispers of smoke tendrils rising from its nostrils and fire in its eyes.
Someone had stolen a plush charm from her backpack during school. After she settled down enough to relay the story to me, we prayed over it, and continued with our day.
There wasn’t anything special about the charm except that it belonged to her. There was an injustice done, and it stole her joy.
Isn’t that how life can be? We are cruising along and bam! FOUL! Something goes wrong that derails us. Maybe it’s a string of somethings. Or, maybe instead of a little something, it’s a large something. What do we do when we feel like we are in a losing battle not just with the little things, but with a giant problem that is looming? A giant that is stealing our joy.
Have you been here before? Like me, are you here now? My giant is big, actually it’s got company. I have a few. Some larger than others but all for the same purpose. These giants step into my path and cast their shadow. A shadow that blocks my light, confuses my way and distracts my heart and mind.
I have been battling some giants for years. God has brought me to the point where I am experiencing victory during the battles, but the war continues despite my prayers for resolution and restoration. In weaker moments, the long suffering of it all makes me question where my prayers actually land. Does God really hear them?
Or do they get stuck somewhere? Caught up in the ceiling? Roof? Are they held captive by some cloud? Because, surely if God is some good, faithful, and loving God, a God who hears my cries, my struggles would have been defeated already.
Unfortunately for us all, we were promised to have trouble in this world ( John 16:33).
Also, we are told flat out in Isaiah 55:8 that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways. It may sound discouraging, but this is good news! Because we don’t understand his ways, thoughts, and plans in dealing with the trouble in our lives and in this world, we can quit striving too. Once we do that, what becomes available to us is to take heart because God is the conquering king.
I’m not suggesting inaction. Lack of understanding often leads us to a point where we allow fear to paralyze us into missing future promises. When God’s actions don’t match our if/then scenarios, we need to take heart and choose faith. By taking our fears to God, trusting his heart and laying them at his feet, our feet are freed for forward progress. His character and love have not changed, they can’t (Hebrews 13:8). The same God that was trustworthy yesterday is trustworthy today.
Another reason to take heart? This current season will not last (Ecclesiastes 3). There is a time for everything, even when we feel like time is standing still, God is working. The season will change. And, in all seasons God is good, faithful, and loving; and our prayers are valued, precious and heard.
Revelation 5:8 tells us, that our prayers are like incense to God. He holds each one in a gold bowl. How precious are our prayers that he keeps them in gold! Do you know what else? He has a record of every single tear that we have ever cried (Psalms 56:8). This is a picture of a loving God who intimately cares for his children. Won’t you trust him? Won’t I?
When my giants don’t seem to be falling as fast as I want them to fall, do you know what I’ve noticed? If I slow down to look, to pay full attention, I can still see God’s favor on my life.
When my big prayers seem to be hitting brick walls, I need to look to the little. Look for victories in the small battles. Remember back to the prayers that were muttered under my breath and hardly given a second thought.
Changing my perspective in this way allows for two things. 1.) I can see God’s hand in the ‘small’ miracles and my status changes from defeated to victor. 2.) It reassures me that he does, in fact, hear me and he does still love me.
Where do I see these small miracles? Everywhere.
After whispering a quick prayer for a parking space at a crowded Christmas event for both cars in our party and having two open up in close proximity to each other.
Having the campsites that I wanted but couldn’t reserve become available, the only two open that were next to each other.
When the scent of burning leaves threatened to ruin my beautiful fall walk and my sinuses, a quick prayer for ‘a fresh air bubble’ was answered as a clean breeze began to blow that stayed with me the rest of the way back to my home.
Having the fall leaves hanging on just long enough for me to get our fall photos taken.
Receiving an encouraging text from a friend, saying exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I was asking God to hear it.
Little miracles are all around us, but we have to look for them or else they go by unnoticed, chalked up to coincidence.
If your big problem isn’t moving and you are wondering if God is still working, if he really even still cares, if your prayers are actually reaching Heaven and not getting side swiped by some random obstacle, look again. My daughter’s charm was found and returned to her due to the detective work of one of her friends. God heard her, and he cared about her and that charm!
The season may be one of ginormous giants, but God is still with you. So, look to those small prayers whispered in a hurry. The ones lifted often times without a lot of effort or thought.
Look to the little and be encouraged. You may be surprised as to what you see.
I have a secret to share with you. But, first, a story.
Imagine a scene where two toddlers need to get dressed for the day. Neither one wants to do it. Toddler #1 whines and when presented with the option to make a good choice or throw a fit, chooses the fit. Toddler #2 cries and complains that he cannot get dress and eventually, reluctantly, asks for help.
A year ago, I did not have to imagine this scenario. I lived it out every day.
Every day they had to get dressed. There was no surprise in this instruction. I didn’t up the difficulty level or even throw in the wrinkle of dress clothes. I also let them pick what to wear (on most occasions.) And still, to my frustration, the fits and protests continued.
It begs the question why? Why was the instruction to get dressed such an insult to them? The only explanations I found were that it just wasn’t what they want to do or when they wanted to do it.
I shake my head at this behavior and become a hypocrite.
No, I don’t have trouble getting dressed in the morning (although let’s be real, PJs rule) But, how many necessary, mundane, repetitive tasks do I complain, verbally or mentally, about doing? How many do I refuse to do altogether?
Dishes. Laundry. Commute. Job hunting. Weeding through email in an inbox. Chauffeuring the kids around to after school activities. Exercise. Pick a daily dreaded chore and insert it here.
Maybe for you it’s your job? The volunteer activity that has you trapped? The role of a caregiver with no relief?
Or, is it a small act of obedience? One that will be a hassle to perform without significant promise of a payoff worth the discomfort, yet it's still calling.
If I am honest, I find myself acting like Toddler #1 all too often. When presented with a choice, I choose to throw an adult version of a fit. Watching TV instead of folding laundry. Sleeping in and being late to work/appointments or losing my quiet time. Getting my chores done while grumbling under my breath. (What’s the point? It will all be a mess again in 1.2 nanoseconds.)
Maybe the scenario in your life is more like Toddler #2. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to resisting change. Maybe you don’t want to make a change either. You know it is necessary, but you are not confident in your skills to complete the task or at least to complete it well.
Afraid to try and fail or ask for help, we sit still.
When my child chose to throw a fit, I turned my back and waited for him to finish it and come tell me he was ready to make a good choice. We hugged it out and approached the day dressed. For my stubborn son, I often had to sit patiently by and watch him fail or encourage him to try until he asked for my help.
It would be great if I could draw a direct parallel between my parenting and God’s and wrap everything up with a nice little bow, but, alas I can’t. I am not a perfect parent.
Unfortunately, the parallel that does exist is that of behavior. Mine and my toddlers’.
We both throw fits. We both refuse to perform unwanted or daunting tasks or choose to perform them in our own strength only to often fail.
Thankfully, God is a perfect Father. He waits patiently while I protest. He doesn’t turn his back on me, although I am sure it hurts him to watch. He gives me the freedom to throw a fit, to disobey, to try my own way first. And, lovingly, he is always there to help when I call on him. But, he doesn’t force himself. He waits.
Pause here. He waits. For us.
At times we feel like we are the ones waiting on God to move. And, reality is, sometimes we are. Alternatively, it is often that he is waiting on us.
Waiting for obedience and for a willingness to surrender completely. A willingness to walk according to his will, especially when it is contrary to our own. A willingness to ask for help and obey.
That’s great, but I don’t need help driving (hey now!). I don’t need help sorting email, folding laundry or zipping a zipper. I don’t need God’s help washing dishes. Right?
That’s true. I don't, but that’s not what is so often missing.
I don’t need God’s help to do the dishes, I need his joy.
I love this explanation of joy on Theopedia.com: “Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness.”
Okay, but how do I walk in this joy? Remember the secret? Here it comes.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17 NIV
Okay….. but how? And what does it have to do with joy? This verse is familiar and does not seem secretive.
Who is with me, here? For the longest time I missed part of this verse. I was able to find some success powering through and putting my perspective in its proper place. A near miss, but still a miss. What was I missing? What is the secret? How do we feel the joy?
Praise! The secret is praise.
Growing up, our house was filled with song. I would catch my mom humming while in the kitchen and my dad was always singing. If there wasn’t an appropriate song for the occasion, he made one up with a chuckle. One of my children asked him why he sings all the time. He answered with a smile that he “always has a song in ‘his’ heart.”
“Give thanks to God the Father.” One of the easiest ways for me to do this is to sing praise songs thanking God for who he is and rejoicing in his faithfulness. When I remember to praise, I am filled with joy. Every time. Whatever we are doing or saying we are to be praising God. Even when we are not in the mood, especially when we are not in the mood.
We are to praise him for his character and speak thankfully into remembrance what he has already done, because those are truths that our situations cannot change.
Praise not only is pleasing to God and an act of obedience, but it is a reminder to our hearts that what we do matters because we were created with love on purpose, for a purpose. That purpose may not be to wash dishes, but it does pertain to how we wash those dishes.
What if the tasks that I avoid, throw a fit over, or refuse help with are exactly what God is using to prepare my perspective for his purpose. What if he is waiting on me to stop pitching my fit and ask for help before he moves me forward into the next phase of his plan?
It’s my choice, though. It’s always my choice.
Today, I choose to praise. Even when my circumstances remain unchanged, I rejoice in his faithfulness. I choose to find joy in the monotony and trust that God is using my today to prepare me for my tomorrow.
It’s your choice too. Which do you choose?
“For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with Joy in his heart.”
Ecclesiastes 5:20 ESV
If only I could loose 20 pounds. Then I would be happy because of how I look and feel.
If only we had a secure source of income. Then I would not have to feel guilt about indulgences.
If only my son would take instruction. Then his life would be happier and easier. So would mine.
If only I could finish my writing, the laundry, a book! Then I would be happy. Productive!
How many minutes and thoughts have I wasted on the "if only's" of life? Those cunning little lies that promise happiness and fulfillment as a just out of my grasp prize.
"You can't be content in the here and now. Not until you have accomplished the task. But once it happens, then your life will mean something. Then you can rest. Then you can explore self worth. But ONLY once you have reached the goal. Only at the completion of life's current phase. "
The pressure was on. My daughter was turning 11. She wanted a dragon cake and her expectation was high. In the past, I have enjoyed making/crafting special birthday cakes for my kids. I love doing it, but as more kids were added to the already hectic pace of life, my time management skills became stressed trying to fit it all in. I pinned plenty of awesome dragon cakes hoping that miraculously I would have time to make one, but alas it was the day before and, needless to say, I wasn't ready. I had no plan and worst of all; I had no cake.
With stress piled high I gave in and went to a big box store bakery and asked them to screen print a dragon that she had drawn onto the cake. It was the best I could do.
And here came the thoughts. Those flaming arrows sent from Satan to derail me.
"If I only had a Pinterest worthy cake, then her birthday would be special." "She will be so disappointed." "I failed because I broke tradition."
Next up on the local news at 10: 'Mom ruins 11 year old's birthday as dreams of a custom made dragon cake go up in flames.'
Maybe for you it's not something as trivial as a cake. Maybe it's not having the budget to accommodate organic groceries. Did you miss the work out and now your fitness goals will disappear like dust in the wind? Maybe it's a relationship 'if only'. If only I was smarter, taller, shorter, kinder, an athlete, had pink hair with yellow polk-a-dots (you get the picture) then I would find my soul mate. Then I would feel complete.
That is how the lies work. They get us to question our worth because they tie our worth to our performance and tell us that happiness is just around the corner but unattainable in the present.
Those lies got me. Instead of being able to enjoy the time preparing for my daughter's birthday, I worried over it. I was not content, I was anxious. I convinced myself that what I was doing wasn't enough to get to the destination of 'Happy Birthday.' I missed out on the joy of that journey because I thought my destination had to be perfection.
Do you know something? She LOVED that cake. She was in awe that it was her drawing and had no concern what-so-ever that I did not make it.
I wasted all that time and effort on worry.
Isn't that the way of life? Striving for perfection is paralyzing and breeds discontent. It creates a scenario in which the only way to win at life is to arrive perfectly at a perfectly created destination.
Mother a perfectly behaved child.
Accomplish and keep a perfectly clean home.
The stress that overhangs perfection steals any joy from the process. In-between that baby and the fictional middle schooler who makes all the right choices is a whole lot of childhood. A childhood that will never live up to perfection, because it was not designed to meet our definition of perfect. A childhood that is efficient at creating a messy home. And, if not careful, a childhood that will be missed out on because focus and expectation were so firmly in the future that the present joy is missed.
It's not only a perfection problem but a perception problem. The perception that joy can only exist at the completion of perfection. The perception that contentment is complacency.
The Bible tells us of someone who learned how to experience joy in the process. His name was Saul changed to Paul. Throughout the process of his evangelism, God spread the message of the gospel and many were saved. The process, however, was at times very unpleasant. His journey was marked with highs and really low- lows. Regardless of the situation (before, during and after a trial) Paul lets us know that he has learned how to be content.
A quick Google search defines 'content' as being 'in a state of peaceful happiness."
This means that even in the midst of our struggles, in the middle of any phase of life, whether it's waiting on a season to change, striving for the promotion or wherever your in-between phase of life finds you, it is possible and even Biblical to adopt a state of happiness and joy.
It's a matter of perspective, of where our eyes are focused and who we turn to as our source. And, it's absolutely a matter of stopping those whimsical if/then notions that place happiness just out of reach and realizing that even though we may seem stationary, it doesn't mean that we have to be stagnant.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Hi! I'm a mom to four, wife, and Christ follower. Fueled by coffee and prayer, I write about family, lessons I have learned encountering what it means to live a joy-filled life, especially when stuck in between promise and resolution.