Tag Archives: faith

A Prayer for Your Thursday Afternoon

Here’s why I love written prayers, poems, and stories: they often use words to explain the thoughts and emotions that we may not be able to fully articulate. As a visual, emotional, internal processor, putting how I’m doing or what I’m feeling into words is often a challenge. It’s not uncommon for me to voice something days or weeks after I initially felt it, after finally having worked it out in a way that can be expressed. Anytime I can borrow the words of someone else, I often find myself blessed and moved. It can make me feel less alone. It can put words to what I’m seeing or feeling. It can give a sense of eloquence and beauty to situations that often feel confusing and messy.

A friend shared this poem with me recently and as it’s been passed around our campus, I’ve realized more and more about how well it speaks to where so many of us are right now. Somewhere I will probably be for the rest of my life. A place of trust. A place of unknown. A place of waiting. A place of tension between the newness and oldness of what I see the Lord doing. A place of faith.

May you meet Jesus at the well today.

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Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Teilhard de Chardin

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When I Trust from the Stroller

It was the appropriately coined “solo day” on Wheaton Passage, the transition retreat for incoming Wheaton freshmen. This was our final stop after a day of fasting, prayer, and silence. Another park, this one a little less beautiful than the one before.

As I sat there on the patchy grass, trying to keep my thoughts off my rumbling stomach and lack of new thoughts to journal about, I rested my back against a less-than-comfortable tree. My wandering eyes roamed around the open Bible and journal on my lap and eventually fixed upon a woman with her son a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watch the young boy chase a squirrel in circles around the tree, his mom resting her arms against the back of the stroller.

And as I sat, content to watch the young boy’s joy and delight in the simple things of life, drawing parallels for my own need for delight in life, the moment was interrupted. Just as my my heart was settling into the sweetness of the moment, the mom came behind the boy, scooped him up, and proceed to strap him into the stroller. He began to kick and scream, protesting the abrupt end to his playtime. I watched as he pulled his shoes off, his patient mother picking them up and pushing the stroller away.

Flashbacks of babysitting flooded my mind. The boy has had his fun and now it’s time to go home. It’s what’s best for him. It’s about dinner time anyways. He’s probably hungry, although he was probably too distracted to realize it. In the young boys mind, nothing could be more wonderful than chasing the squirrel in the park. But he doesn’t know what’s best for him. He doesn’t see that the constraints of the stroller are bringing him to deeper places of care and necessity. He can’t see past his own little boy vision of what he wants and what he’s not getting.

And as I reflected on this reality, I began to write. . .

“Is that really how it is, God? I wander around this world, sometimes it leads me to discover something new about your world and sometimes it leads me to be a little too far away from You. I cry when you put me back in my spiritual stroller. I pitch a fit when I don’t get what I think I want. I feel hurt. I feel frustrated. I throw a temper tantrum at the God of heaven because you let me. But deep down I know it’s for my own good. I just don’t see what you are doing. Your delight is in watching me laugh and explore the world you are showing me. You love it when I delight in You. You correct me – always seeming to me, in the moment, harsher than it actually is. I don’t appreciate how much you love me. I don’t value that all you have is your glory and my good in view. I’m sorry. Increase my view of grace. Teach me what it means to trust you, in the things that make sense and in the things that don’t. Jesus, renew a steadfast spirit in me.” Friday, August 16, 2013

And two years later, I’m as convicted by this truth as I was sitting by the tree that day.

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On Waiting, Advent, and deja vu. . .

I don’t know what it is about Advent that seems to bring me back to the idea of waiting. There must just always be something in the air, because the things the Lord was speaking during my quiet time yesterday seemed incredibly familiar. After typing “waiting” in the search bar of this blog, I realized they were.

I wrote this post almost exactly a year ago, but it could have just as well been written yesterday:

On Waiting, the Incarnation, and 27 Drafts

Except the fact that I only have 14 drafts right now, everything else I wrote a year ago resounds in my heart today. Because I’m still waiting. And the point is that until the day I die, I will be waiting.

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I’ve reflected recently on the fact that I don’t know what the Lord is doing. And when we don’t know what the Lord is doing, we must learn to be good at waiting. That’s what life is. We will never stop waiting until we reach heaven. And how appropriate is it that that is the very thing Advent reminds us of. The paradox of waiting is that we are called to hope for the things that Christ does “far abundantly beyond we could ever ask or think,” but also within realistic expectations. We can’t idealize our future but we must be present and content where we are. And where we are is a place of waiting. And here’s the kicker: just because our hearts know that the Lord is trustworthy, doesn’t make it easy. It makes it easier, sure, but waiting is never easy. And so we’ll do anything to get away from the tension and frustration that is waiting. We develop patterns of thinking that say the waiting, or at least the big waiting is going to end when. . .when I get married, when I graduate college, when I have an established ministry, when I know the Lord’s plans for my future, when. . .

Waiting for the next step. The next season. The next thing. My dreams, the Lord’s dreams.

We try and escape the pain and frustrations of waiting because it’s uncomfortable. It takes away whatever sense of control we think we have. We want to reach the place where we feel we’ve arrived, where we aren’t waiting for the next thing – good or bad. The next diagnoses, the next phone call, the next date, the next bill, the next direction, the next conversation. It’s like the waiting place in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. We like to pretend we don’t live there, and sometimes we assume we don’t live there because we just choose not to focus on the things we are waiting for. We believe that waiting is inherently wrong, unbiblical, and displeasing to the Lord.

for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting. 

During my time with Jesus, I started humming the Toby Mac song “J Train.” We’ve got a ticket to ride to the other side, that is, heaven, and we’ll be in a constant state of waiting until the train drops us off on the shores of Eternity. The Lord designed it that way. We are waiting for unbroken intimacy with God; we were created to wait, to yearn, to long for Heaven. And so the things we think we are waiting for in this life are just a shadow of the greater, perpetual waiting of our hearts. When we are focused on the temporary things we wait for, it is only a problem because it often leads us to discontentment and causes us to miss what the Lord is doing in the present. The waiting itself is good. The Lord is with us on the “J Train,” empowering us in whatever car and with whatever people we may find ourselves around. He is also the conductor of the train and we aren’t entitled to information about the tracks He chooses to run it on. But, we can’t forget that God is also the final destination. The One we are ultimately waiting for. I think we are fighting something beautiful that the Lord gave us when we dismiss the tensions of waiting in our heart. We struggle to wait for the next thing, the next dream because we are ultimately waiting for the one thing our hearts were created for – Jesus.

But this isn’t an excuse to live focused on the future. The art of waiting is that the waiting we are called to, the waiting of the men and women in Scripture (like I’ve found in my recent reading of Ruth) isn’t passive – it’s an active waiting. Waiting often requires strength and grace because it is so dangerously easy to slip into distracted, discontent, temporal waiting. The kind of waiting that leads to the idolatry of earthly things and the dreams of my flesh.

As we are reminded through Advent of the waiting for the birth of Christ at Christmas and our continued waiting for the return of Jesus, let us rest in the beauty that is waiting. We were created to wait. To wait upon the Lord. To wait in the hope of Heaven. All the things we are waiting for in this Advent season of 2014 should be a timely, blessed reminder of how our hearts were created to wait in, upon, and for the One who is eternally worthy. Our waiting is not in vain because He has already come – as the squealing baby in Bethlehem. He lives in us now. And we wait for the completion of the love and joy we have in life now, in our broken, changing world.

The other thing that goes along with waiting is what we are waiting for. Are our dreams also God’s dreams – and what do we do when God’s dreams don’t come or go or look the way we expect? I’ve been wrestling through that with the Lord this semester. . .but that’s another post for another day.

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” Psalm 103:14-17

What’s He Up to?

“When an answer I did not expect comes to a prayer which I believed I truly meant, I shrink back from it; if the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden of my heart’s choice, and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Amy Carmichael

I’ve started 4 different drafts with ideas about what the Lord has been doing in my heart lately. Funny stories from the past few weeks at Wheaton. Pieces from my journals, quotes that I’ve found. Usually when I sit down with my journals and Bible notes from the past few weeks, a blog post flows naturally from the recorded thoughts. They click together; writing it here gives it clarity in my heart. But seriously, none of it is coming together in a blog post. I’ve started and given it a few days to process, and even coming back to it, nothing seems to fit. I don’t know what I want to say because at the root of it, I really don’t know what the Lord is doing.

So that’s what I’m going to write about. That’s what this first semester has been. Pieces, fragments, lessons, moments that don’t always seem to fit together. It’s like my heart and emotions and desires are doing summersaults – and as much as I’ve fought for consistency in them, it hasn’t come. I wake up thinking one thing, and I go to bed excited about another. I go from content to confused, frustrated to satisfied, excited to anxious, and back again.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s been a wonderful semester. But it’s been wonderful within the tension. . .I have been both incredibly challenged and blessed by the nearness of the Lord. I’ve never been more grateful for my family, friends, and Wheaton, while simultaneously being grown in ways I didn’t really choose. I’ve never been more excited and content, but also confused and unsettled about my future.

I just don’t know what He’s up to.

Here’s what I’ve got: seldom do we know the will of the Lord. Sometimes it bothers us and we find ourselves wide eyed and demanding answers, sometimes it doesn’t and we ride the waves of trust. Sometimes the Lord graciously increases our faith and decisions, like coming to Wheaton, ones that just don’t make sense, are filled with incredible peace. And sometimes, it just doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes He asks us to cling to Him in the silence and unrest.

I’ve found myself forced to cling to the daily bread of Jesus, because yesterdays is literally not enough. Because day to day, I really don’t know what He is doing. And it’s not like I ever really know, but lately I’ve been very aware of just how much I don’t know. It brings me to a place of living in the present, and I’m not always entirely comfortable with that. My pride likes to think I could handle knowing His plans for my future. . .but when it comes down to it, I’m not always at a place where I want to hear what the Lord has to say about something. Sometimes it’s because it is too hard or too much and sometimes because it would distract me from what He is doing today. It’s like Amy Carmichael said: He’s molding my heart to look more like His and I’m not always the biggest fan of the process, even though I can’t imagine anything greater.

We only ever see the “tip of the iceberg” (gotta put my new knowledge of Geology somewhere) of what Jesus is doing. So why am I often so obsessed with figuring the rest of it out?

I know that Jesus is sovereign; I trust that. Or at least, I want to. But how does that look practically when He’s being silent on the questions I am bringing to Him? And beyond trusting Jesus with my heart, why is it so hard to trust Him with my family and friend’s? I have to trust that others are walking in step with the Lord – that they are noticing, learning, and responding to His guidance. I have to trust that Jesus is bigger than the surface that I see.

The Love that conquered sin and death on Calvary is infinitely bigger than my circumstances and my wandering heart. The massive, metaphorical “tip of the iceberg” that I’m seeing is unfathomably bigger, and just because I can’t see it now, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s seen by the very Creator of real icebergs. And yet, our God chooses to know our hearts intimately. Jesus became man and chose finite understanding. He’s gets it, and He still did it perfectly.

Today, I rest in the fact that not only is He worthy of my trust because He is sovereign and loving and omniscient and good, but because He knows what it’s like to not always know what the Father is up to. He let’s me come wide eyed and searching for answers, drawing me into greater dependance and love when He knows it’s not time for them yet.

I have to choose daily bread. I have to choose trust. In choosing those things, I choose Jesus. And that’s the only thing I really know for sure.

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