I recently saw a bumper sticker that made me laugh out loud.

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Genius.

Yes, I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.  I like the idea of running…the cool shoes, the fancy workout clothes, the amazing body that probably comes with it, and the sticker you can put on the back of your car announcing the courageous distances you have conquered.

But I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  I have some pretty decent flip-flops and a new shirt that says, “namaste in bed.”  I am slowly beginning to accept the extra 15 lb. around my middle and now I can have a sticker on my car…0.0…and proud.

I am realizing this morning, that I also don’t like to run spiritual races.  I have a hard time with it.

This morning’s verse hit a nerve in my soul, like most morning verses these days:

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

run

Bleh.  Run.  With endurance.

“With endurance” implies that the race will necessitate endurance.  Which means I probably will have a hard time with it.  This is not a promise for an easy, uplifting Sunday jog.  We are promised vigorous races that we have to “endure”.

Again.  Bleh.

My current house buying experience is asking me to endure changes, instability, lots of waiting, and unending unknowns.  As soon I think I see the finish line ahead of me, I realize I’m only entering a hillside and my vision has been deceived.  As the horizon line swells, the optical illusion is revealed and I watch the finish line disappear behind the mountain.  This race has tricked me, pricked me, and left me exhausted, barely able to catch my breath.

Do you remember the first time your mom or dad stood in the swimming pool and asked you, a trusting child, to jump off the edge into their arms?

As a mom, I now realize what was really happening in that water.  Often, my parent, or older sibling, slowly stepped back forcing me to swim further and longer than I ever expected.  And usually, I ended up a little upset, even if I just doggie-paddled half the length of the pool.

This is me and God right now.  I jumped.  He’s backing up.  And I’m finding my water-legs.  And I’m a little ticked off that now I’ve no option but to learn to swim.  I feel like the whole world is watching, (though I know this is the farthest thing from the truth).  And I feel like God is playing some kind of mean prank…just for laughs.

This season of “homelessness”, living with another family of 6, (two of which are toddlers who have made it their passion to NOT share and to tattle-tale on each other)…this season of multiple closing dates that come and go, all while storing our stuff in 4 places across the city…this season of school supply lists and uniform orders that have no place to be stored except for the front passenger’s seat of my car…this season of suitcases and the same two outfits for over 3 weeks now…this season has tossed me into the race without water, into the pool without a floaty.

I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.

But last night, the couple who has been so generous with us, sharing their home with us, “crazies”, sat down across from us and shared much more.  They shared encouragement from God’s word.  They talked through the decisions that lay before us.  They gave perspective, hope, and most precious of all, witness to God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Today’s verse hit a nerve in my soul.

I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and therefore, I can lay aside all my weight and all my fear and all the doubts that are entangling me.  I am not alone.  And now, the word “endurance” doesn’t stick out and prick my heart quite as much.  It’s a little two letter-word that now catches my eye: “us“.

Let “us” run with endurance.  I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  But my wobbly legs and flailing arms are being supported and encouraged and I don’t feel alone.  We run.  We don’t have to have as hard a time with it.

And God stands at the finish line, encouraging me to push through, telling me, “look, you’re doing it!” And, though I’m still a little miffed at the process, I realize I’m finding my legs, my breath, my stroke, and my pace.  I don’t know when I will reach the finish line.  But I do know that struggling along the way will only produce good things, if I allow it.

There are benefits to running.  Cool outfits, slimmer waistlines, and stickers that bear witness to the lengths that have been endured.  Spiritual running is no different.

romans 5

 (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

hiatus: a pause or a gap in a sequence, series, or process.

As this new year begins, I’m going on hiatus.

It’s not unusual during this time of year, to pause and reflect on the goals and resolutions we’ve set before us.  Many of us have made a routine of reestablishing priorities and healthy habits.  We’ve set aside time to make lists and action plans.

This break, however, takes pausing to a whole new level.  A hiatus takes a full leave of absence.  One disappears from the face of the planet while on hiatus, and the intention to plan forward to future goals isn’t necessarily reason for the departure.  In fact, by definition, a hiatus takes pause in the midst of something happening…It potentially stops something: a plan or a process.  Rather than planning for something, I’m taking a hiatus to pause something.

Social media gurus and bloggers would tell me that now is the worst time ever to hit the pause button on blogging.  I’ve received good traffic due to an article recently published in the winter issue of a magazine.  Recent speaking engagements and worship leading have brought interested ears to read and hear more.  Retreats are on the calendar and they will likely generate more online followers.  I’m waiting and hoping that a publishing company, one which has been passing my book around the office, will come to this site, be interested, and ultimately decide to pick me up as an author.

While on hiatus, visitors to the blog will see nothing new.  They will potentially stop following.  They will eventually forget about the blog’s existence.  Their interest will not be sustained.  (This plan is opposed to every Michael Hyatt article ever written.)

Now is a horrible time to take a hiatus.

Well…it’s horrible only if media traffic, publicity, and strategic online plans control my fate.

I have fallen victim to the lies that elevate these methods and strategies above God’s sovereignty.  In and of themselves, these aren’t bad things.  God has and will continue to use them for His purposes.  But, when all hope is set in them, it’s time to take control out of human hands, and back into the Father’s.  He has told me to let go, yet my fists clench a little tighter.  My trust in His provision and plan for me has been rocky at best, so this is not an easy leave.

Therefore, I am forcing a self-imposed hiatus.  If God has plans for me, He will have to work…not my computer screen, the words on the tips of my fingers, or masterful networking.  Quippy analogies and post series’ schedules won’t be able to contribute to His purpose.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

Proverbs 19:21

I will take myself out, so that He can be credited with anything and everything that happens, whether following my desires or not.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  I need to pause, create a gap, so that He can establish my next steps.  See, I have been busy creating my own dance moves…and apparently, they are only spinning me in circles.

He is greater.  Greater than the number of followers, retweets, or shares.  This is a terrifying act of trust.

In the time spent away from the blog, I will be praying, meditating on His word, and loving my family and home.  I will focus on all that has already been given to me–all the ways that He has already been faithful.  I will spend time praying for friends and family.  I will put dreams and goals for 2016 into Jesus’ hands, freeing mine up for service.  And all of this will remind me that God’s main concern is not my success or how He will use me…but rather His chief resolution is for my heart.  He wants my affection above all else.

And when I hear Him say, “return”,  I will.

I appreciate the encouragement and kind words many of you have shared regarding my writing and music.  I look forward to returning with a renewed heart and mind, excited to magnify the Lord with you.

 “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” 

Psalm 34:3

BLEH…I’ve been putting off this next Noah post.  I wish I could say that my procrastination has been a well thought-out plan to impose a period of waiting on those following.  But, 1) I’m not that brilliant, and 2) I doubt anyone out there has been losing sleep because the next Noah post hasn’t appeared in their inbox.

It’s been plain procrastination…and honestly, I’m simply tired talking about waiting.  It is super uncomfortable to suppose that the Lord of all creation wants me to wait…not just once, but over and over again.  He is continually putting me through various seasons of waiting and the story of Noah only confirms that this is sometimes how God works.

It really is plain and simple.  His timing is nothing like mine.  There is really no point in trying to explain it, because it’s inexplainable.  There’s no purpose in comprehending it, because it’s incomprehensible.

This morning, as I sat down to write, a little two-year-old entered the room with a Thomas the Tank Engine book asking for a “choo-choo movie.”

“Okay,” I said, “Let Mommy finish this one sentence.”

Tears.  Lots and lots of tears.

“Just wait…”, I said.

He has no concept of the word, ‘wait’.  To him, the word is synonymous with ‘no’.

Being the observant and understanding parent that I am, (I wish you could see my sarcastic smirk on your screen), I led him through some questions of logic to teach him:

“Do you want to watch a train movie?”

He nodded his head.

“Okay.  Mommy says, ‘yes, you can watch a train movie.'”

He smiled.

“Now, did Mommy say, ‘yes’?”

He nodded.

“Okay, just wait a bit and Mommy will help start it.”

TEARS.

Obviously, I wasn’t connecting.  He could not understand or comprehend my timing or my request for him to wait…for literally a matter of seconds.  What was seconds for me, was an indescribable, apparently body-convulsing, life-shattering, traumatic amount of time for him.

Am I the same way with my Father?  What is seconds for Him, is an excruciating amount of torturous time for me?Tweet: Am I the same way with my Father? What is seconds for Him, is an excruciating amount of torturous time for me? #NOAH #waiting #BLEH

As I look once again at the story of Noah, especially Genesis 7 and 8, where I left off in the last post, there are many references to time.  So many in fact, that I had to get out two sheets of paper and map a timeline to wrap my mind around the account.

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The timing must be important, because dates are mentioned down to the month and day.  For instance, the rain started when Noah was 600 years, 2 months, and 17 days old.  That’s extremely specific.

We easily remember that it rained for 40 days and nights. (Probably because we’ve set that information to a tune.)  But my timeline uncovers that the earth was waterlogged for 150 days, roughly 5 months!  After those 5 months, the waters only started to recede.  Then the ark rested on Mount Ararat…for approximately 3 more months before other mountains were visible.  Another 40 days pass before Noah sent out the raven and the dove.  Another week passed before the dove returned with the olive branch.  Then another week before the dove was sent and didn’t return.  Noah waited yet another week after that before it was determined that the surface of the earth was completely dry.

Altogether, from the first day of rain until complete dryness, the whole ordeal on the boat lasted about 1 year and 10 days.  The bible is specific about this.  When the rain started to fall and Noah boarded the ark, he was 600 years, 2 months, and 17 days old.  When the land was completely dry, he climbed out at the age of 601 years, 2 months, and 27 days.

Noah had to wait over and over again.

Can you imagine?

Feeling the wind pick up, watching the clouds roll in…that first ominous roll of thunder on Day 1? Shoveling goat poo, yet again, listening to the rain fall outside on Day 19?  (Not even halfway through the storm yet?)  On Day 90, after the rain had stopped, to have not even yet seen a glimpse of the waters receding?  Then after 5 months of being on the boat, finally resting on a mountain…the rocking finally ceasing and the subsequent struggle for land-legs and equilibrium to return…only to sit for almost another 3 months on a peak surrounded by water?

Then more and more waiting…waiting on birds.  How seemingly small and powerless.  When that first dove was released, can you imagine the excitement and hope Noah and his family must have felt, feeling so close to getting off that stinkin’ boat…only to be disappointed and told to wait, yet again.

Noah had to wait over and over again.

I sit speechless…

All the waiting experienced by Noah forces me to realize that I, like a toddler, don’t understand waiting.  I often mistake it for a “no”.

I often labor and complain over long periods of waiting, that in the grand scheme of things, are mere nanoseconds of His intentionality.Tweet: I often labor & complain over long periods of waiting, that in the grand scheme of things, are mere nanoseconds of His intentionality. #wait

I have to rest on my own mountains surrounded by water to realize my dependency on God and His timing.  He ordains the rain. He tells the sun when to rise and set.  My job is to sit on the boat, look out at the water, and wait.  (BLEH)  Tweet: My job is to sit on the boat, look out at the water, and wait. #BLEH #NOAH #waiting

Job 37:4-6 says, “After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.  God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend.  For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.”

I imagine the thunder and the lightening during those first 40 days and nights of rain.  “He does great things we cannot comprehend”…

great things like forcing us to wait in His downpour. His mighty downpour.Tweet: He does great things we cannot comprehend. Great things like forcing us to wait in His downpour. His mighty downpour. #NOAH #waiting #BLEH

I’ve been reading through the life of Noah repeatedly over the past week or so.  As I’ve been reviewing the account found in Genesis 6-9, the finer details are unsettling to me.  They’ve been messing with me.  There are so many lessons in the life of this one man.  Honestly, it makes me a little frustrated with him.  Noah’s rocking my world.

I thought I’d share some of these lessons with you in today’s post.  But as I began to type, I uncovered more and more golden bits hidden in these 3 chapters.  So it looks like I’m writing a multiple post series on the man, Noah.  Through this one story, my heart is not only being convicted, but also being led to a new richness found in God’s character.

Most of us, whether Jesus-follower or not, have heard the main details of this story:

God told Noah to build an ark.

He obeyed.

He put lots of animals aboard.

It rained…like forever.

He got stuck on a mountain.

God invented the rainbow.

Or something like that…


LESSON ONE: Invisible isn’t ineffective.

Genesis 5:28-6:9

First of all, let’s just look at how old this guy was when he fathered his first child:

“After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Gen. 5:32).

500 YEARS!

I realize that the human lifespan was dramatically longer back then, but that is a ridiculously long time in the world of family planning.  This is the first we hear of Noah, except that his father was comparatively a spring chicken at 182 years old when he was born.  Therefore, we can only assume that those first 500 years of Noah’s life were not noteworthy.

This is where Noah begins to rock my boat.  I can hardly last 20 minutes feeling I’ve no purpose or significance.  If I’m “wasting” time, not getting something done, or not working towards a goal of some sort, I feel lost.  I feel slothful.  I feel irresponsible.  I feel without purpose.  I feel invisible.

Noah was invisible for 500 years.

Sometime during Noah’s invisible life, the world went crazy…like Spring-Break-Nephilim-(giants)-Gone-Wild type of crazy.

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

Yet, in the midst of that, Noah remained righteous and faithful.  Genesis 6:9 says,

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”

While he didn’t do anything noteworthy, he remained faithful in very difficult circumstances…blameless.

Noah’s blameless invisibility had great purpose.

God doesn’t keep Noah out of the pages of Scripture forever.

God is so disappointed in the evil ways of the people, that He’s willing to blot out mankind and hit the restart button.  But, Noah, through his blamelessness finds favor with God.  He has remained invisible, yet faithful.  God shows his compassion to the world through Noah.  This is a foreshadowing of Jesus, who saves mankind from sin and death because of His righteousness.  Jesus, the only man to walk the earth and be completely blameless, saved the human race from annihilation by dying on the cross in our stead.

Noah’s invisible years spent in faithfulness effectively preach the Gospel.

Noah needs to sit down. He’s rocking my canoe while I’m at the bow trying to navigate my dreams and desires with a splintered paddle.  I don’t want to be invisible.  I am daily flapping my arms in all directions to gain some momentum, or at the very least, just make a splash.  Whether I’m organizing a closet or serving on a grander scale, the evil motivations of my heart creep in.  I want to be seen.  I want to be appreciated.  I want to have importance and purpose far greater than my current standing or situation.

And if I have to be invisible, do I really have to remain faithful?  That’s no fun.  That’s too hard.  That’s not fair.

Others around me are “sleeping” with social media giants, propelling their platforms and selling their message to the highest bidders, regardless of motive or heart.  It’s very tempting to abandon faithfulness to God’s timing, and turn allegiance to the world’s fast-paced self-promotion.

I firmly believe that God works through His people, building networks of varying talents, to accomplish His work.  I undoubtedly believe that He uses social media to do this. However, I also believe there is a fine line between God-orchestrated opportunities, and man-orchestrated promotion.  Simply remaining faithful, at the risk of being invisible for a really long time, is a challenge.  Noah forces me to ask myself the question:

“Could the Gospel be demonstrated more effectively through my invisible faithfulness, than through a visible stage or amplified microphone? 

Now I get that platforms and promotions don’t apply to everyone.  That’s just my jacked up reality right now.  But invisibility and purpose applies to us all.

Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom who feels hidden under 500 years worth of laundry and dishes.  You are struggling with thoughts of value and purpose.  You are sacrificing big dreams for seemingly little insignificant daily chores.  Could the Gospel be demonstrated effectively through your invisible faithfulness?

Let me encourage you, sister:  Your invisibility is not ineffective.  He is working His message of sacrifice through your daily grind.  That purpose far outweighs current standing or situation.  That is a holy calling.  Remain faithful.

Maybe you are a hard worker climbing the ladder of success.  You’re daily laboring to be noticed and appreciated by producing the next big idea, close the next big deal, or impress the big-time boss.  Perhaps you come home at the end of a long day and wonder, “What did I just do for the past 8-10 hours?”  You are exhausted and feel like every day valuable time is lost with nothing gained.

Ponder on this:  How many fields did Noah likely plow in those 500 years?  500 seasons he had to sow, nurture, and harvest. 500 years worth of toiling and laboring he spent in the heat of the sun.  500 winters worth of wood he gathered.  Through it all, he simply remained faithful.  His faithfulness was more effective than yielding the greatest crop of 2348 BC.  Could the Gospel be demonstrated effectively through your invisible faithfulness?

My fellow tired friend, hear what Noah’s father said as he was naming his son:

“Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” Genesis 5:29

Noah would do just that, but 500 years later.  Be faithful in your labor, and know that God will bring you relief…in His time.  Don’t give up on His trusted timing or on doing good.

Maybe you have retired after years of parenting or holding a career and you find yourself lost.  With more time and freedom than ever, you struggle to know if you are spending it wisely.  Perhaps without the children at home, to-do lists to complete, or business reports to write, you struggle to know who you are anymore.  The majority of your life has been devoted to a career or to raising children.  Now that those activities don’t fill your schedule, you find your identity, value, and worth being challenged.  Perhaps your health has begun to limit your physical abilities.  Could the Gospel be demonstrated effectively through your invisible faithfulness?

You, wise friend, have spent a lifetime being faithful with what God put before you.  While your daily work load has changed, Your call to remain faithful has not.  Be faithful with the people He has placed before you.  Be faithful with the message of His love and grace.  While you may feel invisible, you are not ineffective.

This past weekend, my husband shared a message based on the following verse.  (I think God wants us to hear it if He placed it on multiple hearts this week.)

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

While Noah was invisible for 500 years, God was using his faithfulness to point to Jesus.  Don’t grow weary of doing good, my friend.  In the midst of tempting escapes and fast-tracks, let us be content to trust His timing and His plan.  Let us remember our greatest purpose in life is to make Him visible, not ourselves.  In due season, we will reap, if we do not give up.

Just before Easter, I found out that CrossBooks, the self-publishing arm of Lifeway, is closing it’s doors at the end of the month.  It was a shocker, seeing as I had just arranged with them to have a book-signing at the Southern Baptist Convention later this summer.  Now, that opportunity is cancelled and the printing of my book will be put on hold while all the ins-and-outs are transferred over to another publishing company.

I didn’t see this little bump coming.  In fact, just the week before, I was so encouraged by multiple chance-meetings, conversations, and opportunities, that I felt as though I was reaching the summit of a new peak.  Little did I know, that I was merely rounding the foothills of a great chain of mountains that lie ahead.

What do we do in these moments–when all seems to be rapidly advancing forward, only to abruptly stop at a standstill?  If we are on the highway, we might have a few choice words for the situation.  If we are distracted, maybe texting while driving, we might find ourselves up the rear bumper of those in front of us.  If we are alert and aware that the highway is an unpredictable environment, then we allow time to avoid collision and can bluetooth Siri for an alternate route.

This past week, I was excited about getting to the final destination.  I was looking at the horizon, dreaming of the Dairy Queen that lay just beyond…

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…and I was aggressively driving to get there.  I wasn’t noticing the Bluebonnets or the Indian Paintbrush.  I wasn’t aware of the other drivers or the chance of construction on the future 5-mile stretch.  So when traffic came to a halt, I reacted with a few choice words and a little bit of panic.

Have you ever thought about the highway journeys found in Scripture?  Consider Moses:  From birth, he was removed from the solid arms of his mother and put into a wobbly river-born basket.  He grew up in a palace, rapidly advancing in the Egyptian hierarchy.  He was unaware, however, that the fast-paced, golden overpass he was traveling was about to run out of asphalt.  He ended up in the desert, running as a former adopted child to a king, reeling from the reveal of his true biological make-up and the guilt of his actions.  He was not who he thought he was.  He was taken in by tent-living nomads who tended to sheep.  It would appear Moses was on a completely different route, living a new life, perhaps even happy to seek a new dream.  Then he found himself literally on a mountain.  It was there that a burning bush smart-phone redirected him back to Egypt, back to the palace, but with a completely new role.

How awkward that first reuniting with his adoptive brother, Pharaoh, must have been.   How awkward getting to know his biological brother, Aaron, as they took on a seemingly impossible adventure together.  None of it was the path that Moses envisioned for himself.  He was in an unpredictable environment.  None of it was comfortable or ideal.  His 10-year plan, likely drafted within advanced Egyptian architecture, probably didn’t include a Midian wife, a shepherd’s/farmer’s-tan, and a plague-ridden squabble of “LET GO!” with his older childhood brother.

I am amazed when I think about the lifespan of Moses…all that he went through, all the different roles he filled, and all the things he must have seen.  Even more awe-inspiring to me is how God used a man who lorded over His own people to later free His people.  Just like Saul, God used a man who was an enemy to become the greatest advocate.

My road has been bumpy…and not just with publishers and book stuff.  I’ve been the worst of enemies with those who God is calling me to advocate for–my husband, my children, …my self.  The lies that I believe about my identity tell me that I belong to a worldly dynasty, entitled to riches and authority.  I have lorded over my own people.  I have not been kind.  We all do this, right?  We all believe the lies of entitlement.  We all abuse those closest and dearest.

But we are not destined to this…

There is hope.

God has a plan to remove us off the interstate leading to creamy soft-serve, where we are likely weak to over-indulge and cut in line.  He sits us in a desert and gives us sheep to watch.  He leads us to green pastures.  He calls us by new names and reminds us of our true identity.

Then…

He sends us to a mountain.

He asks us to recall where we’ve been and redirects us to a path that is a divine mashup of all we have ever been with all that we are to become.  He takes the stuff that shames us and pushes us forward with wisdom gained and connections built.  Rather than a fancy headdress and a royal polished crook and flail, He adorns us with humble sandals and a shepherd’s knotty staff in hand.

I don’t know where I am headed, or at what pace I am supposed to walk.  However, I have been reminded of who I am.  I have been retaught of where I have been and where I currently pause.  I stand, waiting in the cleft of a mountain, for the still small voice or the burning bush…whatever He has for me.  And when He says whatever He has to say to me, I pray I move with confident hustle, even though awkwardness and discomfort are inevitable.  I ask that He continue to remind me that every place I’ve been and have yet to  go is preparing and shaping me for one purpose and one goal…to bring news of freedom to those who are enslaved.  He is grooming me with all that I need to reach those to whom He has called me.

Moses didn’t go to Dairy Queen…right away.  He was first diverted off the path, given all that was necessary to get him there for more than just ice-cream…for the milk and honey sweetness of freedom for God’s people.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”   

Psalm 25:5