Tag Archives: Faith

Fresh Eyes: Another Lesson from Puzzles

I hope you are all healthy, calm, and have plenty of toilet paper. What a surreal couple of weeks we’ve had.

Like many of you, my workplace is closed. I’m staying home, working on things I can do from a distance, and keeping myself busy around the house. My husband is moving our son home from college, so for a few days I’m social distancing with just the dog and the internet for company. Naturally, I decided to pull out a puzzle – the wide, rectangular puzzle that doesn’t fit on my card table.

You know about my puzzle habit; I’ve written about it before. I like the quiet, orderly, accomplishment of a jigsaw puzzle. You can work on them while doing other things, like watching television or talking. You can spend five minutes at the table, or lose hours.

Yesterday I was working on my difficult new puzzle, and the later it got, the harder it was to find the pieces that fit. I thought it was because I did the easier part first. There are a lot of tiny details in this puzzle. I eventually called it a night.

This morning I wandered up to the kitchen and sat down with my coffee. Immediately, I started to see pieces that filled the holes in my puzzle. Pieces were flying into place. I was baffled – I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet!

In that moment I felt like God was speaking to me. “Sometimes you need to step back and take a break to see things clearly.”

In light of current events, that resonated with me deeply!

We suddenly have time on our hands, and we’re inundated with information and misinformation about this virus. People’s lives and livelihoods are in danger. Supplies are hard to find. The future is uncertain. How do we sort through it all, find the truth, and act on it? How do we find peace in the chaos?

The answer is right there in my puzzle lesson – step back, take a break.

Rest on these words:
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

1 Peter 5:17 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Stay healthy and sane, everyone!

Broken Stones

Wow, wow, wow! The second half of February involved about three million things, and it lasted about thirty seconds. Crazy. But I’m here now – thanks for sticking with me!

 

We sang a new song in church recently. It’s called Hallelujah Here Below by Elevation Worship, and the first verse goes like this.

We are an altar of broken stones
But You delight in the offering
You have the heavens to call Your home
But You abide in the song we sing
Ten thousand angels surround Your throne
To bring You praise that will never cease
But hallelujah from here below
Is still Your favorite melody
My first thought when we sang that song was that it reminded me of one of my most prized possessions. Not jewelry, or money, or my favorite shoes, but a drawing my son made when he was about five or six years old. It features his then-favorite football player, LaDainian Tomlinson, and the words “Go LT!”
When Jacob drew that for me, I was impressed, though the drawing itself is not what one would call “impressive.” But it was the first time he put words and pictures together in a drawing. The figure is human-looking, and the colors were chosen to match reality. Jacob knew that I loved football, just as he did, and he chose the subject of his picture thoughtfully. (For some interesting reading about child development as seen through artistic development, click here)
The drawing will never hang in a museum, but it hung on my fridge for a while, and has hung inside one of my kitchen cabinets for over a decade (even through a remodel). Every time I see it, I think of the round-faced little boy who so proudly drew it for me. I remember how he went through a phase where he called me “Honey.” I remember the way he smelled as a baby, and how he would smile at me with his whole chubby face. Now that he’s in college on the other side of the country, those memories are more valuable than ever.
I love that drawing because it was a sincere gift and a sign of development from someone I love.
God feels the same way about us.
God owns everything. He created the universe. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere at once. He is far beyond what we can even understand. Yet He chooses to inhabit the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). He chooses to use us even though we are weak, fragile, and imperfect (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
The song above says “We are an altar of broken stones.” That comes from a passage in Exodus 20, where God is instructing the Israelites about building the altar. Verses 24 and 25 read:
“An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.”
What the Lord is saying to Israel is that He isn’t looking for perfect. He’s satisfied to have us use earth and raw stone as the tools we use to worship Him. He’s looking for willing. He’s looking for that sincere gift that shows our development, and our love for Him.
Rest in that today. You don’t have to have it all figured out. God isn’t keeping His distance until you’re good enough. He delights in you, His child. (Psalm 149:4)

The Lost Wallet: Pursuing God

43157226_10215898189221025_4163176722738446336_o.jpgNo offense to my dad or my pastor, but I have a new favorite preacher. This Wednesday I had the privilege of listening to my son preach at his youth group. As a parent there is nothing better than watching your child live for God and hunger to share his faith with others. This wasn’t J’s first sermon, but it was our first time hearing him. With a few under his belt he didn’t think we would make him nervous any more.

With his permission I want to share with you what he taught on Wednesday.

One day last year, while at school, Jacob reached into his pocket at lunch and realized that he didn’t have his wallet. Logically, he began retracing his steps. He asked his teacher if it was found in the classroom. He dug through every nook and cranny of his car. When he got home he looked all over the house. No wallet. We all know this feeling, don’t we? The only thing Jacob could think about all day is where his wallet was.

On the second day, J filed a report at school. In the report he had to list the contents of the missing wallet. It held his driver’s license, school IDs, a (frozen) debit card, his library card, and a whopping $12 in cash. As he put it, “twelve dollars is just twelve dollars, and a couple pieces of replaceable plastic,” yet the perceived value of IDs, bank access, and a little cash stayed on his mind. Like a pebble in his shoe, he just couldn’t think about anything else.

Jacob challenged his youth group to think about God the way we think about a lost wallet. If our faith was on the forefront of our thoughts every day, how amazing would our relationship with God be!?! And God is so much infinitely more valuable than a couple pieces of plastic and some cash. He is worth our pursuit!

  • God commands us to seek after Him – See Deuteronomy 6:5-9
  • Pursuing God will help you overcome temptation. – See Matthew 4:1-11
  • Staying close to God makes it easier to see the things he wants to show us. – See Proverbs 3:5-6

Jacob eventually found his wallet. It was in his backpack, crammed into the pages of his calculus book. When he found it, he rejoiced; he cheered and ran around the room! Finding his missing wallet brought so much joy and a sense that all was restored in his world. Imagine how much greater we’ll feel when we find closeness with God!

God is not a Sunday only God. He’s not an Easter and Christmas God. He’s not a Wednesday night youth service or bible camp God. He is an every day, every hour, every minute, there for you God who wants to have that kind of intimate relationship with you!

The pursuit of God is never in vain. Consider Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Go after Him, He’s waiting for you!

 

Run Your Race

I am NOT a runner. I used to make jokes about it, like calling Proverbs 28:1 (“A fool runs when no one is chasing him”) my “life verse,” or saying that if you ever see me running you should run too, because it means that something bad is chasing me. But my husband is a runner (3 marathons and counting, #ProudWife), and now so is our son. So as I recovered from knee surgery and started making progress on my personal fitness journey, I had a nagging thought that I wanted to know if I could run.

The short answer is no. The long answer starts with “well, kind of…” Back in February, in a burst of carb- and coffee-fueled enthusiasm, I registered for my first 5k. Then I jumped on a treadmill and told it to do a 5k. I took 54 minutes. So I set a goal to finish my first race in 45 minutes, and started training. I started a couch to 5k program and got sick with a nasty and lingering cold. Then we did some traveling. Then the weather turned full-on winter again. But I had paid for this race and committed to doing it, and I was going to do it come hell or high snowbanks…

In a last-minute attempt to derail we had a little “adventure” finding parking on race day. My husband hadn’t brought his wallet along, and after he dropped us off near the starting line, we realized that he was going to need me to pay for parking. My son and I walked well over a mile to where my husband was, paid for and found a parking spot, and walked back to the start line with only moments to spare. It was tense. I was more than a little crabby about walking a 5k before the race even began. You see, I had worked for this. I had trained in spite of everything. I studied the race map. I carefully planned my outfit. I created a custom playlist for the race. I had visualized myself crossing the finish line in under 45 minutes as I tried to fall asleep each night.

I was stubborn.

My sweet, contrite husband, experienced runner and veteran of many many races turned to me and said, “Do you want me to stay with you?”

Insert record scratch sound

Stay with me? No way. My training prepared me to do this at my pace, not at his pace. And even though I’m sure he would have dialed back to my level, I would have been so self-conscious the entire time. I would have pushed myself too hard in the beginning and run out of steam before the end. I would have spent every step agonizing over what my husband thought of my form when I ran and my lack of stamina when I walked (I’m still speed walking over half of my “runs”). The only way this was going to work was if I could lose myself in my music and do this my way. So I thanked him for his thoughtful offer but suggested that it would be best if we each ran our own race.

That’s a familiar phrase – run your own race. I always thought it meant that we should do what is set before us and not get caught up in comparison and trying to do what God intended others to do. But running the 5k, I realized that trying to run someone else’s race doesn’t just mess with you, it messes with them as well!

Hebrews 12:1-2 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • Throw off those unexpected setbacks. The enemy wants you to fail. You will face challenges. But hold true. Stay firm. Persevere.
  • Stay in your lane. Don’t get in the way of the person God called to a certain role, and don’t get caught up comparing your role to anothers’. He needs us all, but He doesn’t need us tripping each other (or ourselves) up!
  • Fix your eyes on the goal, not the other runners.

At about mile two of my 5k, I was passed by the tuba section of the University marching band, instruments and all. At about 2 and a half miles I passed a toddler in a Spiderman costume (passing a toddler is obviously not the story here, the story is that he stayed in front of me for most of the race!). I rounded the corner and headed into the final stretch, crossing the finish line in 45 minutes and 6 seconds. My husband was at the finish line, waiting with his camera ready.

I threw off the setbacks. I ran my own race. I finished strong. And though I still don’t consider myself a runner, I’ve registered for a few more opportunities to get that time under 45 minutes…

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Filling up on Cotton Candy

Last week we went on the mother of all road trips. We were away from home for six days, and four of those days we spent driving at least 11 hours per day. The other two days we spent on a college visit and playing tourist in Seattle. It was exhausting, and I still feel off my schedule and behind on everything after four days back at home.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’ve been revamping my eating and exercise habits lately. But eating healthy and getting enough exercise when you’re sitting in the car all day, feasting on gas station snacks and fast food meals, is nearly impossible. One thing I noticed during this trip is that the more junk food was available to me, the less and less it satisfied me. At home, eating a clean diet and getting regular exercise, a rest day feels restful, and a treat is, well, a real treat. But a steady supply of laziness and junk stops satisfying.

On the way home I found myself standing in a truck stop in Montana, looking for a snack to tide me over so we could keep moving without a lunch break. I looked at the candy and chips, but nothing appealed to me. I looked at the beverages, but I just didn’t want another soda (or the ensuing potty break it would necessitate). I could have anything I wanted, and I just didn’t want any of it.

Since we’ve gotten home I have felt the same way about my behavior. I have so much that I need to do to get caught up – laundry, grocery shopping, getting back to the gym, etc., but as soon as I get a spare minute, I waste it playing games on my phone, drawing/coloring, or reading. The whole thing came to a head yesterday when I was praying about what to post this week. I confessed to the Lord that I just felt sluggish and out of touch with writing and with His heart. As soon as I confessed that, I began thinking of the ways I’ve wasted time lately. No wonder I’m unsatisfied, I’ve been filling up on cotton candy.

I’m not saying that you should strictly schedule every second of your day full of practical and efficient busyness. Down time and rest are imperative, and hobbies are wonderful and fulfilling. But it’s just like the treats I ate on the road. When it’s truly a treat, it’s fun and special. When you fill your life with fluff and junk, it stops satisfying.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Rest when you need rest. Engage in hobbies that allow you to have a creative outlet, physical exercise, or just a good laugh. But don’t fill up on the cotton candy. Fill your days with things that bring glory to God and bless others so your treats can be a treat.