Every Day with God: Introducing Word-Snacks

I have a confession.

All the time I am telling people that the best thing they can do is spent time in the Word. Facing infertility? Read about God. Struggling with depression? Read about God. Afraid of the future? Read about God.

It’s my go-to answer because it is the single most important thing that I did to pull myself out of despair and back into the land-of-the-living as I walked through my deepest pain. In reading about God, I learned to know God, and consequently found God for real (not just the image I had created in my head of Him).

But I have to confess, even with all that I know, I still struggle to spend time daily in the Word. I fall for distractions and am hindered by the immediate and fail to keep my eyes on the Truth that lasts far beyond today.

In our family, we’ve gone through some pretty incredible changes over the past year. We’ve brought a beautiful daughter into our home, moved to a new home, traveled, worked, made plans… and I am caught in the knowledge that if I’m not careful, all the lessons I’ve learned in the past about spending time with my Savior each day, will morph into simple “should-haves” instead of “done”.

There is a group of bloggers online who take a 31 day challenge each October. I’ve never joined in, but I understand the rules are simple: post once a day for 31 days on any subject of your choice.

I’ve decided to take the challenge. Starting on October 1st, I will be posting 31 days with short “bite-sized” devotions– taken directly from my morning devotions each day.

They probably won’t be well-written. Nor will they be profound. But they will be real.

And I want you to join me.

Not to blog for 31 days (though you’re welcome to do that!) but to take a minute every day to share your own devotional journey. You can leave a comment with what you did that day, just a reference to what you read or sharing more about whatever spoke to you. I’d LOVE to have company as I go through the month!

Note to email readers: If you get my posts in your inbox, commenting is super simple and easy! Just hit “reply”, type in your response, and it will post automatically to the comment section! I’d love to hear from you all.

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Click on the button to find the landing page for October’s posts! 

Learning to Trust God’s Silence

Learning to Trust God's Silence

This year I finally received answers to questions I asked 9 long years ago. Questions I etched out into my journals with moans and tears.

I wondered why God was granting my sister-in-law the answers to her prayers, with the gift of beautiful twin girls, while I begged and pleaded for just one child. Why did He say no to me, and yes to her? Why did I have to suffer, while others rejoiced?

For years those questions remained unanswered. They sat dormant through a long winter season. Years and years of icy coldness.

But the moment when my daughter arrived, this amazing bubbly eight-year-old girl, who may not be born from our genes but is the spitting image of her Daddy (every last ornery, stubborn piece of him), winter thawed.

God’s silence on the subject of my infertility broke. His words echoed in thunders from the heavens. Continue reading

How to Survive God’s Silence

How to Survive God's Silence

I was drowning in a vast ocean of emptiness. Why was God silent while I, who had followed Him faithfully for so many years, was begging for answers?

I mourned the loss of a baby who never truly lived. I buried the dream of children under the ashes of infertility. I screamed at the heavens for answers. I sat crumbled on the floor for hours and forced myself to breathe. And silence echoed.

Questions filled my journals and tears filled my nights instead of sleep.

Where are you, God? Where? What have I done to deserve your indifference?

By the time I turned to Scripture, I was dying for oxygen. Continue reading

How to Prepare for God’s Silence

How to prepare for God's silence

All of life moves in seasons. Sometimes things are bright as a glorious summer day, and the next moment winter bleakness has settled in.

I’ve faced some long winters.

Between a childhood in Alaska and adulthood in Northern New York, there are a few things I’ve learned about winter. You can survive it. You can. It’s entirely possible. But you have to do the work. You have to cut the wood, or fill the oil tanks, or store the coal. You have to be wise about where you go and who you listen to. You have to plan ahead.

In Alaska, winters include hours of darkness—days when the skies remain a muted gray and fade into black. Day after day after day.

The honest-to-goodness truth is that God allows us to go through winters in our souls, where things freeze and struggles abound. And we have to be prepared. We can’t be caught unaware. We need to have our fuel stored ahead. Continue reading

The invisible qualities of God are clearly seen through His creation

Last evening our daughter came running into the house. “Mom, Dad! Come look!” We went outside to find thousands (it must have been!) of birds lining the electric wires for as far as we could see.

I watched my daughter’s face in between snapping pictures. There is something incredible about the way birds migrate, in the way they travel in huge flocks across miles and miles. Her eyes sparkled as she finished her chores, glancing over her shoulder to laugh at the chattering birds.

Birds on a Wire

Later we went for a walk through the back field. The sun was glittering off the edges of the grass, glowing the mustard into stalks of gold, shimmering through branches and swirling patterns into the edges of the sky. Continue reading

Three Things My Daughter Taught Me Today

3 Things My Daughter Taught Me

Parenting, I’ve decided, is God’s way of showing us His heart– we just have to listen.

Right now my daughter is outside, happily doing her chores. I can hear her singing snatches of her Bible verses accompanied by the squeal of the wagon tires as she loads up hay to feed to the cow. A few minutes ago she came inside and asked for a drink of water. “You know, Mom,” she told me, “usually I beg you for milk or juice or soda, but when I’m doing hard work– nothing sounds better than nice cool water.”

She’s adorable, isn’t she? I know.

Right this moment, everything is good. But this is the aftermath. This is the reason my husband and I spent all morning with our little girl. There are so many things we want her to learn, so many truths we want her to claim for her own. But these things don’t just automatically get transferred from parent to child. These things have to be instilled. And many times it’s a battle. Continue reading

Four Simple Alternatives to True Worship

4 Simple Alternatives to True Worship

Not sure how much of a Christian you are (or want to be)? Worried about giving God a little too much? Take some advice from Pharaoh (Yep, that Pharaoh, who had a showdown with Moses and lost), and use these four simple alternatives to keep yourself from true worship.

1. Stay where you are.

When Moses requested to leave to worship God, Pharaoh offered this priceless suggestion,

“Sacrifice to your God here in this land.”

In other words, stay right here where the idols and false gods fill up your life and just add worship to the Living God into the mix. Oh, did we mention that this is also where you’re a slave? But no worries, slavery is kind of fun. I mean, besides the way your mind is controlled by the enemy, your body broken by demonic forces, and your hope for a future crushed into pieces. But it’s fun, in a twisted sort of way, because there aren’t any commandments. You can sleep around, treat others inconsiderately, be demanding, gossip, lie, steal, covet… whatever you want. 

The alternative, of course, is to leave this place of sin. To pick yourself up and get out of there– racing into freedom where you can worship God with abandonment, without sin holding you down. But that takes self-control and the killing off of the sinful nature. It takes hard work and surrendering.

It’s much easier to just wallow right where you are.

2. Don’t go too far.

Okay, so you’re not sure about sitting around in the slimy pit of your sin. No worries. Pharaoh has another alternative,

“You can go, but not very far away.”

Go ahead and worship God… a little bit. Leave sin, but don’t go too far away. Then you can follow the commandments, sorta. But whatever you do, don’t get too radical. Don’t get too involved. By george, don’t become one of those religious people. 

Those who move too far away from sin, they’re hypocrites you know. They think they’re so good. Don’t they know they’re slaves too? Well, maybe they’re not *quite* so controlled by the enemy. I mean, they can’t be because the enemy can’t really get to them, but they were slaves too, so they should know how much fun sin is (and how much easier).

Who wants to have complete freedom? Who wants to be that far away from the enemy of their souls? Who wants to be able to see sin for the disgusting and controlling habit it is?

Exactly. Don’t go too far and you won’t have to worry about it.

3. Send a representative.

Okay, if you don’t want to stay, or even stay close, how about this charming option,

“Only the men can go.”

Since we’re in modern times (sorry, Pharaoh) you can even pick whoever you want. Just the women? Just the children? Just the grandparents? Send them off to learn about God and worship Him. Then the rest of you can stay right where you are and still get some benefits. Whenever it suits you can claim Christianity. “Oh, yeah,” you can say, “we follow God.”

“We” meaning whoever you chose to represent you.

It’s a perfect solution. You can “worship” while still doing whatever the heck you want. You can watch the movies, serve yourself, enjoy the pleasures of sin– all while being represented in God’s family.

Of course, I’m not so sure that God will count you as one of His, but eh, whatevs. It’s all good. And way easier than going yourself.

4. Leave your stuff behind. 

Even with all these solutions, I can understand if you’re feeling a bit uneasy. They don’t exactly create peace or freedom. Don’t be concerned! Pharaoh has one last option for you!

“Leave your flocks and herds.”

Go ahead and leave, be set free from slavery to sin, go far enough to get out of the enemy’s clutches, go yourself– but by golly, don’t allow your religion to affect your possessions. 

Keep your things separate. Keep your stuff there and waiting, just in case you need to fall back on it. Just in case this Living-God-Who-is-Actively-Present happens to fail you.

Besides, if you take it along, God might ask for it. He might demand your fancy car and ask you to walk. He might request that you leave your comfortable house for a hut in North Africa. He might ask for your bank account and you’ll be left to depend on Him for your daily bread. You might be left without stylish clothes and money to buy what you want. Maybe you won’t be able to get your hair done or take that vacation. And if He asked that of you– oh, horrors, you might not have time to play video games or watch the newest movies or get pizza for dinner.

You’re better off to make a deal with God. Tell Him that you’re willing to compromise. You’ll give Him your life, but not your stuff.

He should be satisfied with that, right? I mean, besides the fact that you’re showing Him that you trust your possessions more than you trust Him.

 

After all, the only other alternative is to actually worship Him for real. To get out of the world’s grip, get far away from sin’s enticement, to go yourself, and to give Him control of all your possessions along with your heart.

And if you did that, you might actually find freedom. You might actually learn to know God personally. You might actually find life and truth and grace and beauty and hope and peace.

And who wants that?

 

This post was inspired by a sermon by Elmer Lehman. 

The Ultimate Love Language

The Ultimate Love Language
image source


I was exhausted that night; so tired that the milking units seemed to weigh thirty pounds each. I grabbed a five gallon bucket and tipped it upside down in the alley, sitting on it between switching machines. I may have fallen asleep a few times.

Half the cows still had to be milked when his voice came across the tie-rail, “All done, Hon.”

Relief flooded through me. My husband’s chores were done. Now he could lift milkers for me.

Except he didn’t show up. I changed milkers, and then looked around. There he was, by a cow. But what was he doing? Clipping cow tails? Now? When all I wanted was for him to come and help me? Why in the world would he decide to do that when I had explicitly told him how tired I was?

I bit back frustration. For the next set of changes I rehearsed confronting him. I needed to explain that when I say I’m exhausted showing me love meant coming to me– not picking some random barn chore to accomplish.

I carefully constructed the conversation. How I would talk about The Five Love Languages. Maybe even offer to read it to him? How I would discuss the concept of the “love tank” and the fact that he was leaving mine dangerously low. I needed his presence and his help, not random acts of service.

It would be a good conversation. I would share my heart. I would be honest. I would be real.

Then the whisper came. What about giving thanks for what your husband is doing? I shrugged it off. Remnants of One Thousand Gifts and… Oh, right. The Bible.

I sighed. Okay, God. I understand. I need to give thanks even for the things that aren’t what I want. So, thanks that he is clipping the cow tails. They’ll probably look nice. Not getting a face-full of manure is beneficial. It’s not what I need right now- but it’s good.

There. I was thankful. Even in the middle of something hard.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Explaining to my husband about the love languages. Because, after all, this is a really important concept. And he really needs to know how to show me love in the language I speak.

The pin-pricks started about then. The voice that [some days] I am desperate to hear and beg to speak… and [other days] I want to shush.

Is it your husband that needs to change, or you?

Does he need to show love differently- or do you need to accept the love he is offering?

I looked over at him. He smiled brightly at me. “Don’t they look nice?”

I mumbled something that was affirmative and went back to milking. A few minutes later I was done and came out of the milk house to tell him I was going inside.

He said he was going to finish. I said okay. I went in. I sat on the sofa and read a novel.

A little while later he came in and went into the bathroom. I heard rustling around, and then, “Tash?”

I stifled a groan and went to see what he needed. My breath shortened. His hand was held out. It was blistered and bleeding. “I got them all done,” he said brightly, “it’ll be so nice for you. But the scissors were a little small.”

I carefully washed red welts and burst blisters and the cloth was streaked with blood. And my heart broke.

Oh, God. Oh, God. Why do you even bother with such a selfish sinner like me? You give me a husband who bleeds for me and I try to accuse him of not loving me?

But it’s nothing new. Isn’t this what people have been doing for generations? We look at the man whose hands bled, whose side was pierced, whose back was torn to shreds for us and say, “That’s nice but what I really needed from you was… [fill in the blank]…. and you didn’t do it so, probably, if you’re there at all, you don’t really care about mankind (and especially not me).”

 And it’s true and I’ve said it (Oh, God. Oh, God.) “What you’ve done is good, Lord, but what I really need from you is–stop my pain. Take some of the weight off me. Give me some relief here. Show me you’re there. Show me you love me.”

Give me relief? Show me love?

No. No. No!

 Teach me, God.  Teach me.

Teach me to feel the love you’ve given. Teach me to accept your bloody hands as the deepest offering of love.

And Lord? Teach me to accept whatever love my husband gives.

Teach me the languages of love. All of them. 

Let my kind of love be the kind that accepts what others offer- no matter the language. Let my kind of love be the kind that gives and gives and gives. Because the ultimate love language is the ability to see true and to accept what is before you with thanksgiving.

May we all learn to embrace this type of love. 

 

edited re-post // a version of this story was published in Proverbs 31 Woman in 2012

Hey, Lord, It feels like all I get is the hard stuff

Hey, Lord, it feels like all I get is the hard stuffThe day was hot, sticky. Like a film was in the air that rested on everything.

It was the first time I had seen her in almost a year. She called me over, right outside the grocery store, and told me all about the past months. About the new baby that filled her life and her arms, about the way her relationships were growing better, the way God was working in her life.

And I’ll be super honest with you all: I felt a bit perturbed.

See, I was the one who gave up time for her and cared for her son when she could not. I was the one who sacrificed and said the hard things and stared her right in the face and told her that God had a plan for her that didn’t involve getting beat up by a drunk boyfriend.

Then one day she disappeared from my life. I didn’t know what happened or where she was.

And for a year, my story didn’t intersect with hers.

When it did, on that humid summer day, I wanted to roll my eyes at God. “Why,” I wanted to say, “did I have to wade through the rough stuff without getting a chance to be part of the turn-around? Why did I get the crap and other friends get the joy?” Continue reading