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Archive for the ‘waiting’ Category

Still Remembering

I forget sometimes that it is ok to be quiet, to sit in quiet.  There is a baby softly crying right now, upstairs, and I’m waiting to see whether she’ll fall back asleep on her own.  But I have to listen for the next noise she will make, and she may not make any.  Meanwhile, it is mostly quiet.  I let the music end.  There is white noise coming from the baby monitor.  A clock ticks.  A train whistle sounds in the distance.  Cars go by, but a few streets over.  My fingernails click against the keyboard.  And I am quiet.  How much you can hear when you are willing to be still.

 

This week at the prayer meeting I attend we were talking about what it means to hear God’s voice.  When Philip heard the angel of the Lord, and the Spirit, speaking to him in Acts 8, what had he been doing?  Was he busy doing something else God had told him to do?  Or was he doing something he thought was not wicked, but not really directed by God?  Was he eager to be used by God and so praying for God to give him a direction?  And if you do something like that, how long should you wait?  What if you decided to be still until God spoke, and He took longer than you expected?  What if you gave up waiting on Him, went on to some good task, and missed Him telling you to randomly take the desert road?

 

Another thing we were talking about was how we can make our own noise, or dive into distractions, keeping us from hearing God.  If we never take the time to pray or sing praise songs, if we fill ourselves with TV and news and work and hobbies, we aren’t giving God much of a chance.  And He deserves more than a chance (even though He can break through without chances).

 

Waiting is hard, especially when God is quiet.  I, at least, start to doubt that He will ever speak, or that He has ever spoken.  Reminders come that there are things that I want God to do, and I start thinking that I could do them – if only He would give me orders.  Or maybe all I need is permission.  Or maybe I’ll just do them myself anyway.  And suddenly instead of God’s servant waiting, God’s servant is taking over.  And I realize that I had been waiting for God to be my servant, not for Him to be my Master.

 

There’s another side to patient waiting, though.  Rest.  Peace.  Presence.  When we are still, we are not busy.  (And I don’t think you can argue that God has called us to constant busyness.)  If we trust that He will work when His good time has arrived, we can have peace: confidence and hope and the absence of that tight anxiety that makes you feel as though you are straining even when you are not moving.  His presence is filling the silence when we draw near to Him.  Maybe He wants us to enjoy Him, instead of just running around trying to earn His love.  His love is a gift, His work in us is grace, and when He is not employing us, that is also grace.

 

Lately I’ve been learning to remember in the waiting.  Remember God’s prior faithfulness.  Remember that He has truly led me here.  Remember that He promises to hear me.  This remembering builds faith.  It brings thanks.  It intentionally focuses me so that I can have peace.  It directs my faith to true things, to God’s real ways.  And it lets me be aware of His nearness.

 

Most times it is hard to thank God for waiting.  Maybe it’s because I need to do it better.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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God’s Department

I happen to think that a great many things are God’s department.  I believe that nothing happens without Him ordaining it.  This isn’t to say that I don’t believe in personal responsibility, especially in obeying God.  It’s an interesting thing about obedience, though: you can’t obey an order that isn’t given, even if you feel urgently like the Master needs to get you moving.  A servant is still (or busy at the last assigned tasks) until another order comes.  This shows trust that the Master can make better decisions than the servant regarding how he should be serving.  It is a submissive dependence on the Master.  The Bible talks again and again about waiting on God.  I believe it is essential to faith and humility.

So many people encourage Christians to see a good direction and go for it.  One that I encounter a lot is marriage.  People think that a servant of God, if he or she desires marriage and a family, should not be sitting around waiting for God to bring them a spouse.  These people may be right, but only if God has told the Christian to be doing something – directly or indirectly acquiring a spouse.  If He has not moved in that direction in their lives yet, then they are not going to be obeying God – or finding the spouse He desires them to be united with – if they make efforts on their own.

Over the years waiting on God to direct me (and sometimes taking steps that He tells me to take – sometimes taking steps He doesn’t tell me to, and repenting), there have been several verses that have encouraged me to be patient, that God is in control and that His plan for marriages is good.

Proverbs 19:14, “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 18:22, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.”

Matthew 19:4-6, “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Psalms 37:3-5, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

It is popular among conservative Christians to assert that the headship of a man and the exclusion of women from authority over men applies to initiating romantic relationships.  This seems consistent with the patriarchal values taught in the Bible, though it is not specifically prescribed.  One verse that encourage me, as a woman, to let men take the lead, especially in this area, is Proverbs 30:18-19, “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.”

For a while I was strongly influenced by movements which taught that guarding one’s emotional heart from attachment, interest, or affection should be a single woman’s main goal.  I no longer believe this.  There are verses that speak of guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:23), but I believe that those verses refer to temptation, not to caring for others.  We should all be careful that our loves are guided by the description in 1 Corinthians 13, that our love for one another is not selfish or lustful, but patient and kind and humble and selfless and hopeful.  Another verse I have been known to use to argue for “guarding my heart” is from Song of Solomon, the refrain, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake [my] love, till he please.”  That is the KJV; in other versions it is translated in a way that sounds more like a warning against falling in love before it is time.  I am not convinced of that translation, or of its application.

Generally, I am opposed to flirting.  If it is sexually enticing (and not between a husband and wife), I think that it is wrong.  Other reasons why I don’t like flirting are that it makes one the aggressive center of attention.  It is not modest for a woman to demand that a man pay attention to her silliness.  Finally, I think that flirting often replaces more direct forms of communication and commitment that are too much neglected – leading to misunderstanding and discord.  However, I don’t think it is always wrong.  I believe that if a woman is so scared to show her interest in a man whom she favors that she doesn’t respond to him when he teases or jokes or compliments or questions or even just sits down next to her, she is being dishonest, and setting herself up to be passed over.  A man may deem that she would reject him if he pursued her.  Women ought to affirm our brothers in Christ, whether we are going to marry them or not.  This deceptive reserve cheats them of this natural edification.  If a woman really loves a man, she will want what is best for him, even at the risk that she will grow fonder of him.  She should trust God to guide her heart and hopes.  This trust is, of course, not done apart from investing heavily in her relationship with God.

Examples in the Bible are diverse: Eve was formed directly from Adam’s side while he slept.  Isaac received his wife because his father sent a faith-full servant to his relatives to find one, and she agreed.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel and acquired her sister also because of his deceptive brother-in-law.  Widow Ruth’s mother-in-law noted Boaz’s kindness, and his position to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth, and sent Ruth after Boaz in a very discreet yet appealing way.  Then Ruth had to sit and wait for the man to accomplish all the particulars.  David and Michal fell in love, but that didn’t turn out so well; she rescued David and lied for him and then her dad the king gave her to be someone else’s wife.  He also married Abigail after her first, wicked husband died.  And we know he married Bathsheba because the death penalty for his adultery with her was not enforced against them.  Not the recommended way of entering into marriage.  Esther became Ahasuerus’ wife because he made a decree to bring beautiful women into his harem.  God told Hosea to choose a wife of harlotry, thus his marriage to Gomer.

Then we have Paul’s confusing instructions in 1 Corinthians 7.  And we can look at the love stories between YHWH andIsrael, and between Jesus and the Church.  This last is no small thing and has encouraged me to wait well, and to take this time of deferred hope as a time to learn more about the Church that is awaiting her Bridegroom’s return from his Father’s house.

My point is that there are a multitude of very different stories, wound about with love and sacrifice betwixt sin and sorrow.  Fathers act, men act, women act, mothers-in-law act.  The moral of the story is to desire good things, wait on God to direct you, and walk confidently by faith.

Romans 14:23, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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All That Was Lost

By Michael Card

Why are you crying?

Who are you looking for?

This is a graveyard.

Were you expecting more?

 

You feel abandoned,

Like every hope has died,

The death of all your dreams –

This is the price of life:

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

There stands the Stranger

There on the flowering slope.

The Servant waits for you

In a garden of hope.

 

Do you perceive now?

And have your eyes been cleared?

Have they been opened?

Have they been washed by tears?

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

So run and tell all

Those who have longed to hear:

The wait is over;

The risen Savior’s here.

 

Jesus asked the question a few times.  “Who are you looking for?”  Or “What do you want?”  Even though He already knew, He asked because He wanted us to know why we were seeking.  And isn’t that exciting, that God sent angels to people at the tomb who weren’t seeking YHWH for that which they wanted?  He doesn’t always wait for us to come to Him; praise His mercy!

 

Who am I looking for?  I take a moment to remember what has awakened this longing in me that drives me to my tired knees, crying again, playing this song on repeat in my car’s stereo.  I don’t think we’d really cry unless we had hope.  Hope knows pain doesn’t have to be, doesn’t have to endure; but it is here anyway, and how do we reconcile the goodness of God with that pain?  I know it: I am looking for Jesus because there is no one else who has the words of life; no one else worthy of putting my hope in.  And I’m looking for Him because I have tasted of Him, but I am so aware that I just don’t understand what He’s up to.  I wish I knew Him better.

 

As I meditate on the lyrics, I change my mind about “this is the price of life.”  Does it mean there will be sadness in all of life so much as it means this tomb is the price of making us spiritually alive?  Jesus had to die.  We shouldn’t despair when God is accomplishing His purposes.  Our Hope had to die (and rise again) to give us life.  Like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground, it isn’t until it dies that it brings forth abundant and multiplying life.  Redemption wasn’t free.

 

Jesus purchased me for freedom.  I’m swimming in what it means to be redeemed to be free, but still to be His even in my liberty.  In the very least, it feels good to be claimed, to be bought at a price.  It reminds me of Hosea, who bought his wife back from self-imposed slavery.  He set her free.  Andrew Peterson’s song, Hosea, describes the scene when Israel saw that her abandoned wilderness was turned into a valley, a garden of hope.

 

He will find all that was lost.  Even though our old hopes have died, they were not in vain.  Whatever is sown will be reaped.  YHWH is Redeemer, who restores the years the locusts have eaten.  He keeps my every tear in a bottle – not one is unnoticed by Him.  In Him even lesser hopes are resurrected, but in His hands, His ways, His glory.

 

Having lived life in hope, having built expectations of our own about who God is and what He will do, the God after the death, after the resurrection, can be a Stranger to us.  I don’t understand Him.  I am surprised, maybe even hurt, by His ways.  But the grief, the letting go of my own hopes, has emptied me to meet this Stranger on His ground.  And His ground is flowering and good.

 

I am flattened that Jesus waits for me.  He is the Servant, delighting to serve and to give and to lay down His own life for my sake.  He wants me to know Him and experience His love.  In fact, this is the best love story ever.

 

The tears over my lost agenda, my way, my understanding, have given way to humility.  My God draws near to the humble – really, really near.  My eyes are opened to see Him as He is, to receive from Him His own good gifts.  Hope is resurrected into something that is not about me at all.  It’s about Him.

 

The chorus makes me rejoice for my Savior.  Titus 2:14 says that He has “redeemed us from every lawless deed and purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  He is the widow who celebrates finding her lost coin.  The desire of His heart is realized when He redeems us for Himself.

 

In the Gospels the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection hurried to tell others.  They’d been waiting for atonement and freedom their whole lives. Israelhad been waiting for Immanuel.  When Jesus was born, Anna hurried to tell those she knew who were looking for Messiah’s coming.  After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had been waiting the duration of the Sabbath, unable to work themselves, a picture of their complete dependence on God’s ability to cleanse them and make them alive.

 

For someone who has hungered and hoped and longed and persevered, are there any more refreshing words than “The wait is over”?

 

Over” doesn’t mean that life is over.  Consummation only begins the marriage.  Christians are the living Bride of the Living Christ.  Our life is hopeful.  It has to do with bearing fruit.  I am called to walk under the assurance of the Resurrection.  Faith and hope are limited only by the revelation of the all-good, all-mighty, death-conquering God.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend recently asked an interesting question on his Facebook status.  He said “Are spiritual gifts rewards?”  What followed was a discussion that went a certain way because of the things that his friends had been thinking about.  It wasn’t a simple, abstract, objective discussion.  I have been reading Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit, and it is frustrating me.  He teaches that we are utterly dependent on God, and that we ought to wait on His power and guidance instead of being self-directed.  But he also says that the reason many Christians have not received a Pentecostal manifestation and ongoing filling of the Holy Spirit is because they do not want it, have not surrendered to it.  I don’t like this because it puts the gifts of God out of the realm of grace, leaving people feeling anxious that though there is a gift they want and which God wants to give, they must do more to persuade God to give it to them.  They must be doing something wrong.  But are they under conviction about any sin?  Does God not hear their pleas for deliverance from sin, for power to be God’s vessels in the Church and the world?  Does He judge them as insincere who cry out for this gift?

 

But maybe God doesn’t always work in bursts like that.  Maybe He doesn’t want our goal to be the acquisition of some particular gift.  When I searched deeply for what really bothered me about Andrew Murray’s teaching, I found that I believe God wants daily faithfulness, that He sanctifies us as we follow Him.  And my Facebook friend pointed out that in this life the sanctification and maturing will not end.  We should not be content – Andrew Murray advocates discontent with our mediocre spiritual experiences.  But even if our experiences are not mediocre, we shouldn’t be content.  We shouldn’t ever feel that we’ve reached our own ideal of spiritual intimacy, so we need not desire or pursue any more.

 

This brings to mind Philippians 3:12-14, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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There is a movie called Leap Year, and I can’t recommend it because of a couple scenes that just aren’t beneficial for holding on to good morals.  But like some sort of hypocrite, I watch it occasionally.  It is thought-provoking, but then my brother says everything makes me think.  This in-control woman (whose control issues are a response to an out of control childhood) is tired of being disappointed and waiting on her boyfriend to propose.  They’re living together already, but she still dreams of commitment and forever-love.  So she decides to take advantage of an Irish tradition and propose to her boyfriend herself, on Leap Day, in Ireland where he is at a conference.  So she sets out to surprise him.

 

But there’s a detour of more than her travel plans.  Miss get-her-done responds to a series of difficult situations with great skill.  But when things keep going wrong, and she can’t do anything about it, she finds herself in need of being more reactionary but in a trusting way instead of a plan for every contingency sort of way.  This reveals some flaws in her relationship with her boyfriend, and also in her plan to deal with it.

 

Guiding her both geographically and psychologically is an Irish pub-owner with wounds and disappointments of his own, but with much more common sense.  He isn’t so good at trusting, either, but at least he knows it’s the way to go.  Sit down, pull out an apple, and wait.  There’s a castle near the bus stop.  Why not climb to the top?  You might have to put up with some rain, but the walk is worth it, right?

 

Being thrown together, forced to work together to accomplish their goals, the heroine and her guide start to fall for each other, despite her mission to propose.  (Yeah, it’s another one of those movies.)  For one thing, the guide has confidence that if the boyfriend wanted to get married, he would have asked, and that rather than chasing him down and trapping an unwilling husband, the girl should reconsider entirely.  But they also start to reach out in totally selfless ways, taking interest in each others’ lives and motives.  There is realistic resistance, but a persistent direction towards understanding and friendship.

 

Near the end, the beautiful American doesn’t have to propose because her boyfriend asks her to marry him himself.  Mr. Irish Guide has his bit of disappointment, but he’s benefited from the experience, from the friendship, from being forced – through her – to think about his own choices in life.  In a way, he’d been holding out just as much as she had.  Things are not quite as happy for the heroine, who finds out that the proposal was brought on not by real desire to get married, but by social pressure from people selling them an apartment together.  She stands in the middle of her dream home and realizes that she has everything she wants and nothing she needs.  So she flees.  What makes a person leave everything they know and have dreamed of?

 

This time our heroine, who feels she has learned something but still hasn’t really learned, flies to Ireland pursuing another man.  In the middle of his pub, she confesses the way the time she spent with him changed her life, and invites him to “not make plans” with her, just to see where this “thing” goes.  But Irishman, common-sense, slightly cynical, guide-guy pub proprietor rejects her proposal.

 

It’s the kind of movie that could have ended unhappily and still been meaningful.  The filmmakers timed the scenes well so that I got to imagine such endings, the implications, and how I still feel satisfied, like there was a message that was useful anyway, experiences not wasted even if the end wasn’t happily ever after.

 

But she’s standing on a beautiful cliff on the coast of Ireland and he comes after her, and tells her he doesn’t want to not make plans; he wants to make plans.  And he gets down on one knee.  In the end it isn’t the having a dream that’s to be rejected – it’s an empty dream, a selfish and shallow life, that doesn’t deserve all that effort and pursuit.  Make plans to deal with contingencies together, with more to guide you than a destination.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Worthiness

God, the One

who created

everything,

and who is mightier

than everyone,

and who knows

the end

from the beginning,

who is

all-righteous

and good –

is the God

who speaks,

who moved in my own little life

to save me,

who moves each day

to lead me,

who prepares the way

before me

and lights it

with His own presence,

who gives to me

tiny good gifts

and listens to my

trembling prayers.

And yet I doubt;

I fear:

one sentence

one moment

and I freeze,

imagining the worst,

forgetting my

pleadings have been heard

by He who is

worthy

of being trusted.

And even if

what I imagine

is true

this day,

God is not

bound for tomorrow

by what is today,

and His plans will

come to pass,

so that

those who know

their own plans

are no more

in control,

future-assured

than I am:

wondering,

worrying,

guessing.

I spend the

rest of the night

resisting and

trying to

trust

and know

and be still

and be quiet

and be good

and rejoice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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Maybe you’ve seen it.  One of your friends comes up to you on a summer’s day and his face is all red except for a raccoon-like mask around his eyes.  The day before he’d been out in the sun, wearing his sunglasses, and gotten a sunburn.

Why was he wearing sunglasses?  To protect his eyes from the sun.

Is there nothing to protect his skin from the sun?  There is, but he didn’t use it.

Why not?  I suppose he was uncomfortable with the brightness of the sun in his eyes, and sunglasses relieved that.  But the sun on his skin was less troublesome at the time – and sunblock wouldn’t relieve the discomfort from the heat.

So the friend took care to make sure that he was comfortable in the moment, but had no thought for the comfort of tomorrow.  He went on feelings.  The only good he would accept was immediate relief.

What can we learn from this?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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