A dear girlfriend in Poland sends me Bible references a couple times each week. They’re always exactly what I need at the time. Don’t you love it when God directs things like that?
This week she sent these:
Isaiah 41:10 – “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
Psalm 23:4 – “Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
1 John 4:18 – “Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us.”
Do you see the common thread woven throughout these verses? It’s the theme of overcoming fear because God is with us.
My human nature tends to migrate towards fear especially as we transition to the boat and my Bible study manuscript deadline looms. Here are several particulars.
Our big-ticket possessions haven’t sold yet even though we’ve listed them and then re-listed at lower prices. Why aren’t they selling? We need the funds from those sales to help pay for sailboat-related expenses, and the clock is ticking.
I’m doing the best I know at writing this Bible study, but a little inner voice whispers, What if it’s not good enough? What if people think it’s not worth their time?
The deadline for this manuscript is March 1 – same day as we finalize our move aboard the boat. However, the marina of choice now has a slip for us and we need to move in on February 28. Doing so will require a full day. That means I just lost a day of writing time for the Bible study.
Our ministry office is in the basement of the house we’re presently renting. We’d hoped to find renters to take our place—missions-minded people who won’t mind our staff coming and going (there’s an outside entrance to the ministry office, but the bathroom is located near the bottom of the staircase that leads to the upstairs and there’s no door separating those spaces). Our living upstairs was perfect—I enjoy having our staff around the place, but people unrelated to the ministry might not feel the same way. So—we’ve asked several people we thought would be interested, but none feel God’s go-ahead.
My wellness journey has involved a routine of working out at the local gym several mornings each week. Because we’re moving, my membership ends on February 27. We head overseas from mid-March until mid-April, and then I’ll be home only three days a week until early May. Part of me is a little nervous about maintaining regular exercise over that two-month span. In my wellness journey, I’ve never gone that long without working out. Will falling from routine cause me to lapse back into unhealthy habits?
Each time my thoughts begin focusing on these fears, I turn them back to the Truth. What is that truth?
God is with me. He will uphold me with His victorious right hand. He will strengthen me. He loves me and has every detail already figured out. My job is to hold His hand and follow His lead.
Turning my thoughts to God’s unshakeable Truth brings calm amidst the sea of uncertainty. Peace envelops me as I continue to pack and sort my belongings and write the Bible study. God is up to something far bigger than I can imagine; I will trust and not be afraid because He is with me.
God is with you too. How do these verses minister to you in your current situation?
Remember the worship song, “As the Deer Pants for the Water?” It’s based on Psalm 42:1-2a – “As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.” Purging my house in preparation to move aboard a sailboat has brought this song to mind.
I pack pictures of my kids and grandkids, and I realize that being a mom and grandma is fulfilling, but those relationships will never satisfy my soul’s deepest needs.
I sell furniture that’s been with me for nearly 40 years. I salvaged, stripped, sanded, and stained it. I beautified my home with it. I so enjoyed these pieces, but they never satisfied my soul.
I donate clothes and shoes. They made me feel good when I wore them, but they never satisfied my soul’s yearnings.
I purge my kitchen cupboards and find cake mixes that expired three years ago. What was I thinking when I bought them? I must have gone grocery shopping when I was hungry. They didn’t satisfy my appetite let alone my soul.
I dig into my hall closet and discover a plastic bin filled with fabric scraps, ribbon, lace, and cross-stitch patterns. I find three Zip-loc bags containing pretty rocks I’ve collected on family holidays. Good intentions for hobbies I hoped to pursue someday, but not soul-satisfying.
Last May we bought a patio set. It drew me outside for months to write. It enabled me to enjoy the squirrels and raccoons in our yard and smell the alyssum I’d planted months prior. It became our dining room. The patio set was a highlight of the summer for me, but it didn’t satisfy my soul.
Purging my house has become a spiritual exercise. I’m realizing how easy it is to fall into wrong thinking, to assume that relationships, material possessions, hobbies, and food can fill the empty places of one’s heart.
As I let these things go, I realize afresh that there’s only one thing that satisfies our deepest needs—our relationship with our Creator. He is what our soul longs for, and we’re designed for intimacy with Him. We might try to fill that hole with any number of things but it’ll never work.
I thirst for God, the living God. He quenches my soul’s thirst. Nothing else comes close.
With what might you be trying to satisfy your soul’s thirst?
I’m hunkered down at home working on a Bible study that’s due March 1. It identifies the lies we believe about topics to which we can all relate, and then it delves into the truth about these things. The topics include obedience, forgiveness, prayer, who God is, what He thinks about us, and more.
Thinking the truth about these topics is vital to our well-being. Why? Because our thoughts determine our beliefs, and those beliefs ultimately influence our behaviors. Here’s an example: For several years, I put my writing career ahead of my health. I sat for hours at my computer every day. I knew I should get up and walk or stretch, but I mistakenly thought, I’m on a roll with this article, so I’ll exercise later. But later never came.
I subconsciously believed that the need for exercise didn’t apply to me. Somehow I could stay healthy without taking the time to walk or go to the gym. That belief resulted in a sedentary lifestyle, and I paid the consequences. Stiff muscles led to leg injuries and loss of mobility. It also resulted in my becoming obese.
I’d look in the mirror and think, You’re a wreck, but this is all part of aging, so get used to it. Wrong thinking again.
God had to take hold of my mind and do a complete makeover. That involved giving me a new appreciation for the truth found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20—“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
Understanding that I’m a steward of my body and that God desires me to honor Him with it did a complete torque in my thinking. The change in my thought patterns changed the way I treat my body. Now I’m intentional about wise food choices and I exercise regularly. I want to live long and strong for Jesus, and my ability to do so won’t happen by itself.
I’m loving this assignment and learning so much as I study the Word. My challenge is to develop questions and anecdotes that will lead others into life-changing truth.
Here’s a gem I’m mulling: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace” (Romans 8:5,6 NLT).
If the sinful nature controls our thoughts about food and exercise, we’ll end up in rough shape. I know this from personal experience, and I never want to return to that place. If the Holy Spirit controls our mind in this context, then our appetite will no longer keep us in bondage. Instead, we’ll develop a healthy view of food and will experience God’s empowerment to get our bodies moving. The result? Life and peace.
If the sinful nature controls our thoughts about a hard-to-love person in our life, we’ll end up becoming bitter and resentful. But if the Spirit controls our thoughts, we’ll learn how to establish healthy boundaries and extend agape love. We’ll experience the freedom of forgiveness and the joy of life and peace.
Share an example from your own life, okay? How did changing your mind change your life?
The topic of obedience has been on my mind alot recently. Perhaps that’s because I just spent more than a week addressing it in the Bible study I’m writing. Or perhaps it’s because of the faith journey Gene and I are walking now as we prepare to live aboard a sailboat. Regardless, it’s a topic that deserves much more than a short blog post or even a week-long Bible study. The more I read about it in the Word, the more I realize how vital it is to those who follow Jesus.
Paul was addressing believers in Philippi when he wrote, “Dearest friends, you were always so careful to follow my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away you must be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT).
I fear that sometimes we fall short of obeying God with deep reverence and fear. Sometimes we obey half-heartedly, like a child who’s been told to eat his veggies. “Aw, do I have to?”
We might play a game of pick-and-choose. We read God’s commands in the Word, or we sense His Holy Spirit nudging us to change a behavior, speak a word of encouragement to a neighbor, or demonstrate love to a prickly person. Some of those commands resonate with us; others not so much. Obeying them might prove inconvenient, or humbling, or scary. And so we pick-and-choose the ones that fit our schedule or suit our fancy.
We may even turn a deaf ear. You know—selective hearing.
But God being who He is—all-wise, all-powerful, ever-present, holy, loving, and more—deserves our enthusiastic obedience in all things. He’s worthy of our unconditional, “Yes, Sir!”
I find huge encouragement in knowing that God not only tells us what to do, but He also gives us the desire to obey Him. Then He takes it a step further and empowers us to do it. If we have no desire to do what He says, or we say that His commands are too difficult, then we need to invite the Holy Spirit to do a makeover in our thinking. God has our best interest in mind, so anything He asks us to do is for our good. Not doing what He says would be to invite personal hurt.
Elisabeth Elliot said, “God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.”
I couldn’t agree more. Obeying the Lord might feel really difficult at times, but He deserves our reverent, immediate, and wholehearted yes because of who He is.
What has God been speaking to you that requires your obedience?
Moving onto a sailboat means minimalistic living. Every day I spend several hours sorting personal belongings.
Some things I’ll keep and store for when we return to land living. I haven’t a clue when that will be and don’t want to pay a fortune for storage, so these things are few. Some stuff I’m throwing away. I’m taking boxfuls to local thrift stores such as Bibles for Missions or MCC where the proceeds will go to a good cause. We’ll sell our furniture and put those funds toward work that needs to be done on the boat and supplies needed to live aboard.
Some stuff, like the fabric left over from Christmas crafts I made ten years ago, is easy to release. Other things, like meaningful books, my silk bridal bouquet, the dresses I wore to my kids’ weddings, and our super-comfortable nearly-new queen-size mattress, not so much.
Yesterday I sold my piano. Today I sold our soft tub—the portable hot tub in which my husband and I relax and enjoy our best conversations. In the next few weeks I’ll have to say goodbye to the doll bed that my grandfather built for me when I was a little girl. I’ll also part with my dining room table and hutch and my favorite leather loveseat recliner—it’s where I enjoy my quiet time and I do a lot of my writing. It’s comfortable, and I can write for hours without my back or neck getting sore. That goodbye will be a tough one.
So will saying bye to our Gold Wing motorcycle. We’ve enjoyed using it as our getaway on days when we needed to escape the pressures of ministry, but we realize that riding motorbikes is risky. There’s no way we could manage on a sailboat if we were to have an accident that left us on crutches. Better safe than sorry in this case.
Letting go of my stuff is freeing in some ways, but it’s also an emotional endeavor. When my heartstrings tug, I console myself with Matthew 6:19-21: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will be also.”
One by one, my earthly possessions are being stripped away. I feel as though the Lord is testing my heart. How much have I depended on stuff to bring contentment? How much have I relied on material goods to make me happy? How much money have I spent on things I thought I couldn’t live without?
Saying yes to God about living on a sailboat means letting go of nearly everything I own. It also means learning to be content with little, and trusting God to provide for our needs in new ways.
So many of you have expressed excitement in this venture, and I’m grateful for your enthusiastic support and encouragement. I’m also grateful for your prayers as we continue this transition. The peace I have in the process is proof of your prayers. Wow—how’s that for alliteration?
Here’s a question for discussion: If you had to downsize significantly at this season of your life, what’s one material possession you’d find difficult to part with? As I mentioned earlier, mine is the leather loveseat.
What enables us to approach life with confidence when facing challenges and change? I’m convinced that one of the keys is knowing and trusting God’s promises.
Psalm 12:6 says, “The LORD’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.” When God makes a promise, He keeps it because He is holy and cannot lie. Granted, He might bring it to pass in a way that looks different from what we imagine, and we might not see its fulfillment in our lifetime. But the fact remains—His promises come true. Of that we can be certain.
Now let’s combine verse 6 with Psalm 12:7. “The LORD’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. Therefore, LORD, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation.” (emphasis mine)
These words—“Therefore, LORD, we know you will”—fairly leapt off the page when I read them. Our hope and confidence lies in trusting God’s promises which can never fail. No matter what we face, we know He will always bring them to fruition.
Here’s a prayer I’m praying these days as my hubby and make our transition onto a sailboat. “Father, thank You for promising to provide all my needs. All Your promises are pure, therefore, I know You will provide me with the physical energy and mental clarity needed to make this move and the numerous details associated with it.”
Here’s a prayer I pray for friends and family who are making important decisions—“Father, You promise to grant wisdom beyond measure. All Your promises are pure, therefore, I know You’ll help my loved ones know what to do as they seek Your will in this situation.”
For all who feel worried or anxious—“Father God, You promise to sustain those who cast their burdens on You. All Your promises are pure, therefore, I know You will strengthen my friends who are feeling anxious today as they give their concerns to You.”
No matter what our needs are, we can find a biblical promise that applies to it. Based on the certainty of that promise, we can find courage and confidence to face it and to expect God to move on our behalf.
Consider your circumstances today. What promise applies to them? Write a 2-3 sentence prayer covering your specifics using my prayers above as examples.
A week ago I blogged these words: “God’s purposes may sometimes appear blurry, but He is always at work quietly behind-the-scenes. At some point He says, ‘Now.’ He takes action, and details begin falling into place in an orderly progression.”
I shared with you two personal examples of when God’s “now” thrust me into a significant life transition. Today I want to share a third. This one is present tense. But first, I’ll give you some history.
I grew up on the Alberta prairies. A landlubber, I was. And then I married a man who grew up on the Washington coast. Boating has always been his passion. Water-skiing and sailing are part of his make-up.
In 1996 we moved to Camp Homewood. A year later, Gene and I made a trip to Vancouver, BC. While there, we randomly decided to visit Granville Island, a place we’d only heard about until then. We walked up and down the wharf admiring the sailboats. “Wouldn’t it be fun to live on a sailboat someday?” he said. “Sure, why not?” I replied. We tucked that thought into our back pocket.
In 1998, we sold the lakefront house we’d left behind in Washington and used some of those funds to buy a 27’ sailboat. We moored it at Camp Homewood’s dock. Gene developed a sailing program for teens and adults, and our boat blessed countless campers for nine years. We sold it to the camp when we moved to Abbotsford in 2007. My hubby felt like he’d lost his right arm, but we had no option.
Fast-forward to August 2017. A few days after we returned from a ministry trip to Poland, we headed to Vancouver Island to meet our newest grandbaby. We had a couple hours to spare after reaching the island so we decided to relax by visiting a nearby marina. There happened to be four sailboats for sale. A lady at the brokerage office unlocked them for us and invited us to take a look inside.
That’s when God said, “Now.”
“Well, Gene,” I said as we stood inside a 44’ vessel. “What do you think? We started this conversation twenty years ago. We’re healthier and stronger now than we’ve been for years. If we don’t do it now, we may never do it.”
My words shocked my husband. They shocked me too. Nonetheless, both of us felt an undeniable peace about pursuing this. We discussed our future and how retirement will come in a few years. We also discussed the importance of wise financial stewardship. Everyone needs to practice this, but as missionaries living on faith support—never sure of what a month’s salary will be—we need to be all the more careful.
Three years ago our ministry office moved into the basement of a large unoccupied home. At that time, it seemed logical for us to move into the upstairs and make it a ministry center of sorts. Doing that meant renting our little townhouse so that we could, in turn, rent the house. God worked out every detail of that transition, for which we were grateful. We have a good renter, and the townhouse has been paying for itself.
Now, as we discussed financial stewardship, we both felt that putting monthly payments toward something we will own seemed a wiser investment than continuing to rent. Some people, when they downsize, purchase a small apartment. We could buy a good, used boat and live in 600 square feet for a fraction of the cost of a small apartment, we reasoned. And so, we began searching for a suitable home. We looked at boats from Campbell River (mid Vancouver Island) to Portland, Oregon.
One of the first sailboats was in—you guessed it—Granville Island. We saw it twice within a couple of weeks at the broker’s insistence. Both times I felt like we were wasting our time. It was far beyond our budget. We didn’t even consider it an option.
Meanwhile, Gene spoke with a banker. “For what size loan can we pre-qualify?” he asked. The answer came back within a few days: “Your loan is such-and-such.” We were shocked again. “We didn’t ask for a loan,” said Gene. “We just wanted to know how much we could pre-qualify for.”
The banker answered, “I’ve combined the remaining mortgage of your townhouse with a loan for a sailboat. You’ll have one monthly payment at a lower interest rate than you’ve been paying for the past ten years for your townhouse. This offer is good until January 4th. Use the money by then or you’ll have to re-apply, and I guarantee that the interest rate will be higher.”
We made offers on two vessels but both were refused. The second offer was rejected at the end of November. The news came one day after we’d returned from Romania. We were tired, and I was sick with a sinus cold. “Oh well,” I said. “So much for that idea. Maybe we can pick it up at the end of summer next year.” Gene agreed. We felt badly that the bank loan with its appealing interest rate would be lost, but what could we do? We felt we’d run out of time to search further, but Gene didn’t tell the banker to cancel the deal in case there was a slight chance of finding a sailboat anyway.
Jetlag sucked our energy after this trip, so a few days after our return we decided to take an afternoon off. “Let’s get away for an afternoon,” I suggested. “Let’s go to Granville Island and just walk around the docks.” On a whim, I googled the sailboat we’d seen in August and September. To my surprise, the price had been reduced by $20,000. The new price put it within reason.
We made an appointment with a broker and spent a couple hours aboard, scrutinizing every nook and cranny. We made an offer the following week. It was significantly less than the new asking price, but it was what we could afford. Acceptance would take a miracle.
We got our miracle. Timing was everything. The end of the year had come, and the broker wanted to move it out of the marina to make room for the 2018 stock.
God said, ”Now.” He took action, and details began falling into place one-by-one in an orderly progression. Guess when the deal closed? January 4th—the banker’s deadline.
Funny thing—we visited our eldest daughter and her husband in Washington the weekend prior to making the offer on the sailboat. In church that Sunday, the pastor preached about God’s agape love. He said, “I want to talk about four characteristics of God’s love.” I waited for him to use the letters L-O-V-E, sharing one characteristic per letter. He totally took me by surprise when he used the letters S-A-I-L instead. God’s sense of humor delights me!
One more thing—every boat broker in our area told us we’d never find liveaboard moorage space in the Vancouver area. They were mistaken. We found one available space, and it’s the right size for our 48’ vessel. Gene moved it to its new home last Friday.
Our plan is to move aboard by March 1. Gene and I suspect that God is up to something far bigger than we can imagine. He’s asking us to walk in obedience, and we’ve said, “Yes, Lord.”
Obedience means downsizing in a huge way. I’m parting with stuff that represents seasons of my life. I’m saying goodbye to items I’ve regarded as treasures and to which I’m emotionally attached. I’m sorting and tossing and giving away stuff I once thought I needed. I’m donating many things to the local faith-based thrift stores because I don’t have a free weekend to host a garage sale between now and moving day.
I’ve been in Texas for the past week for a wellness conference. I’m flying home as I write this, and my whole focus now changes to moving and writing the Bible study for which I’m under contract. It’s due March 1—our moving day. No kidding. It looks like I’ll write by day and prepare for the move by night for the next six weeks.
Like I said earlier, God is up to something much bigger than I can possibly fathom. I suspect I’m about to experience His strength and provisions in new ways. In the midst of this, I need your prayers. Can I count on them, please?
This is a significant transition, a faith-stretching endeavor. No doubt it’ll give me lots to blog about in the days ahead. Stay tuned as I share my faith story with you.
On New Year’s Day I opened my Bible to Genesis 1. There, in the margin, I read the words I’d written sometime in the past: “God’s purposes may sometimes appear blurry, but He is always at work quietly behind-the-scenes. At some point He says, ‘Now.’ He takes action, and details begin falling into place in an orderly progression.”
How appropriate for Genesis 1, when the universe as we know it did not exist. It appeared formless and void. Blurry, perhaps. But God was present. His Spirit hovered over the nothingness awaiting the moment to act, to set a grand purpose into play.
At last the moment came, and God said, “Now.”
“Let there be light,” He commanded. And light appeared, and God saw that it was good. Next He separated light from darkness and created space that He called “sky” to separate the waters above from the waters below. One by one creation’s details fell into place in an orderly progression until He’d completed His work.
As 2018 begins, it’s possible that the future appears a bit blurry to you. You’ve prayed and waited and watched for a relationship to heal, a better-paying job to present itself, a heart’s desire to be fulfilled. But nothing’s happened. All appears formless and void.
Do not despair, my friend.
God is present. He’s quietly at work behind-the-scenes. Perhaps He’s only a breath away from saying, “Now.” The moment for Him to take action will come, and you’ll see details fall into place in an orderly progression.
I’ve experienced this truth many times. Here are a couple of simplified examples:
My husband and I returned from Nepal in 1985. Although he was thankful for his job as a civil engineer for the next eleven years, he always longed to be involved in a year-round Christian camping ministry instead. We prayed about this heart’s desire for nine years. Suddenly God said, “Now.”
One day in April 1996, Gene came home from work and said, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s time to quit.” He contacted a friend who worked as Executive Director at a Christian camp and asked his opinion about whether or not he should pursue schooling to prepare for this ministry. That’s when he learned that the camp’s Program Director had left his position two years prior. Our Executive Director friend had been praying for the right person to fill that position.
The rest is history. God had been quietly at work behind-the-scenes. When He took action, every detail necessary for our transition fell into place in an orderly progression.
For several years I entertained the possibility of learning how to write for publication. I prayed, “If You want me to do this, then tell me when the time’s right to start.” One day God said, “Now.”
I stumbled onto a website about a Christian writers conference in Florida. A few weeks later, I bumped into a friend from my Bible school days. We hadn’t seen each other for about 25 years. She just happened to work as a travel agent. A month later, I stumbled onto the same website and a little voice inside said, “You must attend.”
My husband gave me his blessing to go. God provided the necessary funds by selling our waterfront home (it had been for sale for two years without so much as a nibble until then). I phoned my Bible school friend and asked her to find me a cheap ticket from Seattle or Vancouver to Orlando. She found one for about $150. Why that cheap? Because God caused a 30-minute glitch in an airline’s ticketing process. “I’ve never seen such a thing,” said my friend. “God’s handprints are all over this.” Every detail necessary to launch my writing ministry fell into place in an orderly progression.
Whatever Your situation is, know that God’s quietly at work behind-the-scenes. When the time is right for His grand purpose to be fulfilled, He will take action. Every detail will fall into an orderly progression, and the outcome will be good.
How have you seen this truth prove true in your life? Share your story here. I’d love to hear it.
Hi, friends! How was your Christmas? Ours was memorable as we drove through the Rockies to Alberta to visit my mother and brother and his family. The weather in the mountains, and on the prairies, can change in minutes. And it did. I’m grateful for safe travels on icy roads, and I’m thankful to be back home safe and sound.
Our area is now experiencing freezing rain. Here’s a picture from our yard. Tree branches are bowed low, some even touching the ground or snapping from the weight of the ice that coats them. The good news is—the temperatures are hovering around zero, so that means the roads are only wet, not a skating rink. The bad news is—our power is out.
Moving on from weather talk…
Last week I wrote a blog called “I Wish I May, I Wish I Might Never Tell a Lie” based on Proverbs 30:7-9—“O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”
I promised to address the writer’s second wish—that God would give him neither poverty nor riches but “just enough to satisfy my needs.” To me, that phrase speaks of learning contentment.
As North Americans, we live in an affluent society. That comes with handy-dandy conveniences, pleasures, and privileges, but it often comes with putting too much emphasis on money and possessions. We fall into thinking that a healthy bank account and personal belongings bring happiness so we work harder to earn more money to buy more things, take more vacations, enjoy more experiences, or acquire bigger houses or newer cars. It seems the more we have, the more we want or think we need.
In reality, we need very little. When I was in my early 20s, I learned a valuable lesson about this. A mission agency had sent me and my hubby to Nepal. Our home was a teeny mud hut with no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. We ate rice and lentils every day, sometimes twice a day. On occasion, the only vegetable available was pumpkin leaves. Our kitchen “sink” was a plastic basin. Our “bathtub” was a larger plastic basin that we’d place in the middle of the floor and fill with water heated over a kerosene camping stove.
This girl, who grew up in middle class North America, cried many tears for the first year. Admittedly, I threw a few “spiritual” temper tantrums—“God, this is too hard. I just wanna go home!” But I stayed, and I grew as a result. I also developed contentment despite the lack of modern conveniences and abundance of things such as food choices, comfy furniture, and even the ability to get a decent haircut. That lesson made a lifelong impact, for which I’m grateful.
In a society saturated by affluence, how do we respond if God gives us only enough to meet our needs? Do we compare our lot with others who have more and become envious? Do we allow our wants to overrule and work, work, work so we can have more? Or do we say “Thank You” and choose to be content with His provision?
Food for thought.
And now, speaking of food—I have company coming for supper. The meal is half prepared. Looks like I’ll be cooking the rest—rice and vegetables—on the BBQ element. Should be interesting! Oh my. Another opportunity to practice contentment.
Christmas is almost here! In a few hours my husband and I, together with our eldest daughter and son-in-law, will begin the long drive to southern Alberta to celebrate Jesus’s birthday with my 85-year-old mom and my brother’s family. It’s been 16 years since we made that trek through the Rockies—the lapse due mostly to a few too many incidents in times past with black ice and frozen motors.
One year we drove a Volkswagen van. The diesel motor froze, and we had no block heater to help cope with sub-zero temperatures. Before we could head back to the west coast, my dad thawed the motor by placing a Hibachi barbecue under the van for several hours.
We spent New Year’s Eve in a hotel in the mountains. We had to idle the motor all night so we could complete the trip home in the morning.
Ice covered the van windows—on the inside. We wrapped our three little kids in their winter coats and sleeping bags to stay warm. Gene drove while I scraped ice so we could see out the windows. Oh my, the stuff of which memories are made! We’re hoping this year’s trip will be boring in comparison.
Anyway, this Christmas season has been an unusual one for us. In past years we’ve participated in Christmas-related events for weeks prior to December 25. We attended dramas at local churches, driven through the community at night to see the lights and live nativity scenes, watched the grandkids participate in their Sunday school program, and more.
This year’s been quiet on that front. Perhaps that’s because we spent the majority of the fall traveling for ministry and we just needed to stay home and recharge. Last weekend I wrapped a few gifts while listening to Christmas carols, and that was enough to feed my soul.
The quiet has been good. It’s given me opportunity to reflect on Christmas without clutter. It’s helped me refocus on the reality of Emmanuel—God with us—and what that really means on a day-to-day basis. It’s given me time to ponder God’s love—a love so compelling, so passionate, so unfailing that it motivated Him to clothe Himself in humanity and take up residence on earth.
Yes, God became man and moved into the neighborhood. He became like us in every way, excluding the sinful part, because He values us and yearns for relationship with us. His actions cut the chains of sin and its destructive, deadly influence in our lives.
We’re forgiven and free! We need no longer fear death—now it’s merely the portal through which we must pass to reach home. We need no longer be held captive to addictions or shame or insecurity or fear. We need no longer struggle with those lousy attitudes and behaviors that complicate our lives. Instead, we’re free to embrace life as fully as God intended and to aspire to His highest purposes and plans.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle that accompanies this season, let’s remember what Christmas celebrates: Emmanuel—God with us. God reaching out to us by becoming one of us. God stooping to show us love that surpasses anything we could ever imagine. God bringing hope and victory and freedom not because we deserve it but because He cherishes us.
As you celebrate the season, take a moment to think about these words, found in Zephaniah 3:17: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Emmanuel – God with us. Amazing.
Ponder what God’s presence means to you this season, my friend. And celebrate with joy! And–oh yeah–check back here next Friday for part 2 of Monday’s blog based on Proverbs 30:7-9. I’d planned to write that for today’s post but completely forgot in light of this being Christmas weekend and packing for the trip to Alberta.
#bgbg2 #ChristmasDevotion #GodWithUs
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