Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Wait by Ann Wayne

Job Losses. Foreclosures. Debt. Divorce. Death. Broken Relationships. Illnesses. Addictions. Look at our world today. Sin and the economy are setting the pace for record high stress levels. Any of us could be front page news at a moments notice.

You have likely experienced several of the above mentioned trials and may be experiencing one in the present. I have friends who have had job losses this past year. Family who have had lay-offs and cut-backs with their paychecks. This only adds to debts that continue to mount up. It becomes a domino effect. No job, no pay, possible foreclosures. You know the story.

I have another friend who is having marriage problems. Thank goodness, Christian counselors are guiding them. Friends and family are lifting them up in prayer. We read heart breaking stories of people who can’t handle the pressures of life and turn to drugs, alcohol or unhealthy relationships to temporarily relieve the pain that life dishes out.

Then we get a phone call in the night that death has knocked on someone’s door, unexpectedly and abruptly. Or a terminal illness that changes your path in life.

What are we supposed to do while we WAIT on answers?

In Isaiah 43:2, the Lord tells us “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.”

The word “will” here means determined. The Lord is saying that He is determined to be with us, no matter what we go through. When we walk or crawl through adversity, we won’t be burned or even scorched. Now some of us might think differently about the trials that we have experienced. But if we look at the outcome and have called on the Lord; I think we can honestly say that He brought us through stronger and better off than before the journey. I certainly can attest to this.

In Psalm 27:14 (NIV) the passage reads, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Easier said than done. I know this because I feel as though I am in a waiting season for God’s best. Waiting for direction in ministry work, waiting for a spouse, waiting to make other decisions about life goals. The list goes on. But he emphasizes three key things. We are supposed to (1) wait, (2) be strong, and (3) take heart.

(1) Webster’s definition of wait is to anticipate; to pause.
(2) While we wait, we should be strengthened to bear up under our burdens.
(3) We must look unto the sufferings of Jesus, and pray in faith, not to be delivered into the hands of our enemies. Let us encourage each other to wait on the Lord, with patient expectation, and fervent prayer.

In Psalm 130:6 (NIV), the psalmist says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” There is no better place than putting our hope in the word of God. It is described as a “double-edged sword.” Jesus intensely states this in Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing souls and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” There is nothing like the hope of eternal life that comes from the word of God to keep us from fainting under all calamities.

So we ask again, what are we supposed to do during the wait?

Look at what we can experience if we trust God during this season. I have always wanted to fly, literally, with my own wings. When I was a little girl, I tried the Mary Poppins thing and tried to go up the chimney with my umbrella. And of course, it did not work. In Isaiah 40:31(The Message), we are promised to be strengthened and soar like eagles. “But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.” Read the poem below.

From an Eagle's View

Have you ever wondered what it's like to fly free,
To see the world as far as the eye can see,
To view the surroundings from high and from low,
To hear only the sound of a distant echo,
To float in the air with the wind being your guide,
To admire many rainbows that the trees tend to hide,
To see the misty mornings over a beautiful mountaintop,
To glide over a flowing river that never seems to stop,
To watch the animals from over a mile away,
Or to rise above the treetops that glisten in the day?
If you were an eagle you would wonder no more,
For it can see things you have never seen before.
Next time you look into the sky of blue,
Think of what it's like from an eagle's view.
© Stacy Smith

We are supposed to wait with expectant anticipation and continue our daily lives, trusting our heavenly Father. The answers will come in God’s perfect timing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guard Your Heart by Tami Gilman

This week a friend of mine, Brad B. was in the library at a seminary in Dallas when his laptop was stolen. He left it for a moment to look at a resource in another section. When he returned, the laptop was gone. I can only imagine how angry and violated he must have felt. To make matters worse, he and his wife are raising financial support to serve in the mission field full time and they don’t have the resources to just go out and buy another computer on a whim.

There is a lesson to be learned from this incident; perhaps a lesson in forgiveness. To be honest, however, I didn't focus on forgiveness. The first thing I thought of was “guard your heart”. Brad innocently left his belongings because he didn’t expect anyone to pass by and take them. Look at how easy it was for the opportunity to present itself, though. Isn’t Satan doing the same to us? He is prowling, lurking and waiting for us to let our guard down. Sometimes I believe we may even unintentionally invite him in. We make excuses for the content in the television shows or movies we watch. Innocence is stolen. We tell ourselves that premarital sex is okay because we are in love. Purity is stolen. We will be satisfied when we lose a few more pounds. Self confidence is stolen. We don’t have time to spend with God because our schedules are too hectic. Relationship is stolen. We don’t give of our resources because the budget is tight. Generosity is stolen. Pretty soon we don’t know what we have become and we rob ourselves of who we are supposed to be.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. (NIV) This command should be taken seriously. Brad walked away from his computer for a brief moment and was caught off guard when he returned. He likely didn’t give much thought that anything of his would have been stolen.

To be clear, the fault is that of the thief. The thief took something that was not his. The thief is the criminal and he should face the consequences of his actions. Brad just gave him an opportunity. The computer was vulnerable because it was left unattended. We learn from our circumstances and I assure you this was a valuable lesson for Brad. It can be a valuable lesson for us too. Our hearts are vulnerable when we are complacent about the spiritual warfare that exists in the unseen.

I am not suggesting that we never trust anyone else or we become suspicious of everyone around us. I simply believe that we must guard ourselves against the schemes of the enemy; an enemy who is real and has an army of people who work on his behalf.

Be aware of the areas of your life that you may be innocently letting your guard down because that is how Satan finds his way into your heart where his only objective is to destroy it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Have You Folded Any Socks Lately? by Gail Purath

Several weeks ago we had lunch with our daughter and two of her little girls. When my husband and I left the restaurant to run errands, four-year-old Gracie begged to come with us. It’s hard to say no to her, but we remained strong. We had too much to do that day to let the disappointment in her little freckled face persuade us.

An hour later while we were standing in the plumbing department of Lowes, I got a call on my cell phone. It was from Gracie, and she was so excited that she was slurring her words. All I could make out was that she had learned to do something new.

“Well, I must have one of the smartest granddaughters around!” I told Gracie even though I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Next I asked if I could speak to her mom. Our daughter got on the phone and explained that they’d been doing laundry and she’d taught Gracie how to roll a pair of socks into a little bundle. As soon as Gracie mastered this task, she said, “Where’s the phone! I have to tell Grammy!”

I can’t tell you how honored it made me feel to know that Gracie wanted to share this event with me. The fact that sock folding is somewhat insignificant actually made Gracie’s call more meaningful. It means she understands how much I love her, and how pleased I am to hear about everything that’s going on in her life. If it’s important to her, she knows it’s important to me.

As I thought through this incident, I couldn’t help but relate it to my relationship with God. God knows everything; I don’t really need to share anything with Him. But knowing something is not the same as hearing it from one of your children. God actually enjoys hearing my thoughts, questions, sorrows, disappointments, joys, and requests, no matter how insignificant they are to everyone else.

1 Thessalonians 6:16-18 tells us to pray continually, but what does this really mean? I’ve heard it described several ways:

It means that prayer is automatic, almost like breathing; our first response in every situation.

It means God is our “default mode” so whenever we are not speaking to someone else, our thoughts turn to Him.

It means living in a state of constant and complete dependence upon God.

It means praying whether we feel like it or not, any time, any place, with or without speaking aloud.

We have to learn to pray continually—it doesn’t come naturally. I’ve known people who actually set the hourly alarm on their watch so they can remember God every hour they are awake.

The thing Gracie showed me about praying continually is the way it must bless God. When I include Him in the ordinary things of life, I imagine He feels like I felt when Gracie called—like a loved and respected friend, not just a faithful caregiver.

I’ll ask you the same question that I’ve been asking myself the last few weeks: “Have you folded any socks lately?”

God is eager to hear about it!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Metamorphosis by JoAnn Lampe

I was recently asked, “How do you picture the current status of your creative life?” As I sat in class with a blank screen in my head, I suddenly had the image of a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. It occurred to me that I was like that butterfly – emerging from the cocoon, the beginning of a new creation. I’ve spent so many years in “survival” mode that I haven’t emerged from the protective shell I built around myself.

Curious about the process of metamorphosis, I looked up the word online and found this definition at

Metamorphosis: The name for rapid transformation of a larva into an adult that occurs in some insects.

The Butterfly goes through four stages to become adult butterfly.

1. Egg: Female butterflies lay their eggs on plants.

2. Larva: Also called caterpillar. It emerges from the egg after a few days. The caterpillar spends most of its time eating.

3. Pupa: The caterpillar forms a protection shield called pupa when it has finished growing. Most of the transformation takes place inside pupa.

4. Butterfly: When the pupa has finished transformation, the butterfly emerges from the pupa.

A cocoon is a protective shell used by the insect as protection from a harsh or unfriendly environment. It has a hard protective coating that is often camouflaged so that predators can’t see it. Some insects stay within the cocoon for a few weeks, others stay in for an entire season: winter to spring. During this time, the juvenile parts break down and the adult structures form.

The insect has to work to extricate itself from its old skin, stretching, bending, and twisting from side to side. As the skin comes towards the rear of the body, it comes to a breaking point and stress points begin to appear. Sounds awful doesn’t it? However this skin shedding is an important part of the adult formation; if the process is left incomplete, the development also will be incomplete.

To come out of the cocoon, some insects bite their way through, while others use “spit” so they can soften the ends and push themselves through.

Wow! Did God give me a picture or what?! To protect myself from any more hurt, disappointment, and betrayal, I wrapped that cocoon tight around me. I didn’t stay there a short time, but for a long season. But in that season, I shed my old skin – my juvenile self – and grew wings. It’s time now for me to come out of the cocoon, the winter season is over and spring is almost here. I can feel the warmth of God’s breath as He breathes new life into me. I hear Him as He whispers, “It’s time to come out of your shell, to break free of the confines you’ve built around yourself – discover the beauty so long hidden and fly out into the world.”


PS: “The rest of the story….” A week or so after I started to write this story, I was asked what skills and talents did I have a deep longing to awaken or further develop. I chose writing and counseling as areas I’d like to develop. As I prayed, I asked God to show me what I could do in the area of counseling; the thought of going back to school and starting an entire new career is not appealing to me, but I have such a heart ache to help women who have been through tough times.

“JoAnn”, God said, “your writing can be used to counsel and help those who have been through trying times.” Hmmm….what a great idea! So, I presented that in class, thinking wasn’t God so good to plant that idea in my head? But here’s where the rest of the story comes in. That same day, MaryAnn Mitchner preached about “wrestling with God.” She asked us to contemplate what in our lives we were wrestling with. Well, I was wrestling with emerging from that cocoon; what kind of butterfly was I going to be? Who am I? So, I wrestled with God, went up to the altar and randomly grabbed a Scripture verse, and tucked it in my Bible to read later…. This is what it said:

“Lord, You have called me Your ambassador, Your message carrier, the one You entrust with the secret things of Your heart to bring hope to people who live in darkness.” 1 Corinthians 4:1

So I ask, “Are you willing to wiggle out of your old skin, out of the immature stage, break free of the binding cocoon and soar into the beauty that God created in you?” Don’t wait, work free of the confines. They say the most beautiful butterflies come out of the ugliest cocoons! Fly, fly fly!