A Little Less, A Little More

“A little more kindness, a little less speed, a little more giving, a little less greed, a little more smile, a little less frown, a little less kicking, a man while he’s down, a little more “we”, a little less “i”, a little more laugh, a little less cry, a little more flowers, on the pathway of life, and fewer on graves, at the end of the strife.”

Mark Twain

As I was driving into work, I noted that the misfiring/coughing sound my car had been making was a little less annoying. It wasn’t gone, but it was a little better. When I poured the golden elixir into my empty gas tank and filled up with fresh gas, I had hoped for an instant cure. No such luck. So, it was day five and over half a tank later, and it was still hesitating, but a little less every day.

I feel the same way about the yoga exercises I have been doing. It’s a 30-day back strengthening set of videos that are 6-16 minutes long, depending on the day. I am on day 26 today. All week my legs have been complaining because there were a lot of squats in the last few videos. The same day I noticed the car was a little better, I noticed my legs were a little less tight and sore.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

1 Peter 5:10

There is a song we used to sing in church, especially the children, titled God’s Still Working on Me. However, it is not just for children. God is still working on all of us, and as much as we would like it to be an instant cure, it is not. Our salvation is instant the moment that we accept Christ as Lord, but our salvation is also being worked out in us as we go day to day.

12 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. 13 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, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14

It’s a process that gets a little better every day. Like the apostle Paul and Mark Twain, I hope to do a little better every day as I aim toward a higher goal. Many days I want to roll over in bed and go back to sleep, but as Proverbs warns us:

10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

Proverbs 6:10-11

Not to mention those muscles won’t get any better if I don’t work out the soreness. So, on my day off, I am up and writing this post before my coffee has finished brewing. It’s a testament to God’s grace that He made this one flow quickly this morning when He knows I have to work on my day off. Maybe I will be a little less sore today and my car a little less cranky, and maybe we will all be a little more Christ like today.

Not Alone

Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.

Gandalf – Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers J.R.R. Tolkien

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the battle of Helms Deep looked grim as the enemy surrounded the only entrance and there seemed no hope for victory. It was a long night, but at dawn, Gandalf arrives with reinforcements just as he promised. The Bible is full of God’s promises to His children, but sometimes we have to wait for it to be fulfilled. The waiting time can see like an eternity, but if we keep our eyes focused on God, we will always have hope.

When we are waiting, it is easy to get distracted by the world around us. For example, in 1 Kings we find the story of Elijah who has just prayed down fire from Heaven and wiped out the prophets of Baal. When he hears of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah feels like he is alone in a battle he cannot win and he hides in despair.

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away…18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

1 Kings 19:14, 18

After some rest and nourishment, God tells Elijah that he has seven thousand who are still loyal to Him and that he is not alone in the fight. From our vantage point, we might wonder how Elijah could go from boldly confronting the prophets of Baal to hiding and whining, but it is often after great victories that the enemy will attack us with doubts. Winning a tough victory takes a lot of energy: physical, spiritual and mental. We need to remember that like Elijah we are not alone.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

Psalm 68:11

Being a writer is often solitary work, but I am not the only one writing the word God has given. He has many other writers, each with their own message to share. Writing groups allow writers to share and encourage one another so that we know that there other people who have been through some of the same issues and some who have had success. By sharing our stories, we build each other up. The trick is to find the right community for you.

Besides finding a like-minded community to offer support and accountability, we also need to ensure that we also take care of ourselves. First, we need to rest because we are more vulnerable if we are tired. Also, we need to make sure we have proper nourishment because hunger is another point of attack. Finally, or maybe firstly, we need to pray so that we are connected to our true source of energy.

Once you have strengthened yourself, then it is time to get back to work. If we sit idle too long, we are subject to remaining idle, which can lend itself to wallowing. This weekend I battled another round with those pesky fleas, which included wrangling two angry cats into carriers and to the vet followed by a thorough cleaning of the house. I took Friday and Saturday off from writing this blog as a result, but I rested, I ate, and I went to church. Now, I am finishing my assignment. So eat, rest, and pray, but don’t wallow. If you lay down with dogs, or cats, and wallow you just wake up with fleas. So, get up and get back to work. It’ll make you feel better.

Stretching While You Wait

 “He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

C.S. Lewis

I have often heard that God answers prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, and wait. I get the answer “wait”… a lot. There are times that I wish those answers came in an 8-ball so that I could just keep shaking it until I got the answer I wanted. God, however, is not an 8-ball, so when He says wait, it is best to obey.

For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him… And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Genesis 21:2, 9

Sarah had to wait 25 years for the promised son. She grew a little impatient, so she took it upon herself to make it happen by giving her handmaid to her husband so that she could gain a child through Hagar. Now that Sarah finally had what God had promised her, she had to deal with the consequences of her actions: Hagar and Ishmael. She should have waited, but it is hard to sit idly by while the world moves on. So,what do you do while you are waiting?

When God says wait on Him, he doesn’t mean to just sit in front of the television binge watching or endlessly scrolling through social media. Maybe what you are waiting on requires a little preparation. So, maybe it’s time to get up off the couch and stretch.

13 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, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

I recently bought a copy of The Joy Box Journal by Adria Wilkins. I ordered the book online and it took the scenic route to get to my house, so I was waiting [not so patiently] on it. Then, I was busy dealing with the flea incident [see earlier posts], causing me to wait another week to actually open it. I was excited to finally sit down and open the book. The first entry was about how the author had to wait a while to adopt a child, referencing Luke 1 about Elizabeth and Zechariah waiting for a child. It caught my attention because the Sunday before the pastor preached a sermon on the Genesis 21 text I referenced above. I had been praying about a couple of things, so the book had actually come at the right time to confirm God’s answer to wait.

A couple of days later, an entry referenced Philippians 3 and the idea of stretching yourself. I had been planning to start a 21-day plan to help me focus on discerning God’s will for my writing, and part of that plan is a focus on eating and exercising in a more mindful way. Maybe I needed to stretch my mind, body, and spirit while I wait.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

1 Corinthians 9:24

If you want to finish the race and win the prize, you have to grow. As Christians we grow by renewing our minds in the scriptures, praying, and obeying God’s known will. Take the waiting time to study to show yourself approved. Digging into the Word of God prepares our hearts and minds. Then, pray for guidance, but also purpose to pray for others. It is easy to get caught up in our own little world, but when we focus on the needs of others, it gives us a clearer perspective. Finally, If you want to be considered for bigger jobs, then you should do your current job to the best of your ability. If God tells you to mop the floor, then make that floor shine. None of these things is easy, but stretching isn’t about easy; it’s about growth. Usually growing has its share of pain, but it’s worth the end results. I will keep telling myself that every time I pass the ice cream shop. Maybe I’ll just change my route to work.

A Word Fitly Spoken

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Proverbs 25:11

For the last couple of weeks I have been debating about what to do about transportation. My car hit 300,000 miles, so I was faced with the dilemma of keep it going or get another car. I found a couple of cars that might work, but the price was a little more than I really wanted to pay. I also was just at the point in my budget where I actually could cover my current bills and set up payments to take care of an outstanding bill. A car payment would just put me into the same old mess. When the credit union wouldn’t loan me the money, I decided that I should just keep my old car running by making a few repairs, pay off the bill, and try to start saving for at least a down payment. On Monday the car broke down on the way home, leaving me stranded on the side of the road despite having repairs done. I was beginning to think I had made the wrong decision.

As I contemplated trying to get a loan through the dealership, I was praying for guidance. All day long I kept running into the same idea: Trust God. First, my devotional reading two days in a row were as follows:

He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

Psalms 112:7

The writer was talking about if we had confidence in God’s provision, then our lives would be so different. When we get bad news, we shouldn’t be afraid if we trust in God to handle the situation. The next day the scripture reading was as follows:

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Hebrews 13:5-6

The author wrote about a warning light on her car and a repair that didn’t fit into her budget. She noted that earlier that same week God had turned a mistake into a perfectly timed solution. It was so on point to my situation that it stunned me although we should never be surprised when God answers us so clearly.

Another book I was reading talked about how they had prayed for this piece of equipment for 18 months with no way to pay for it. Then, God had it donated to them, and the person said he had put the item in storage 18 months ago. God had prepared the answer for the perfect time without them having to worry about cost. They just had to be patient and wait on God’s timing.

Then, I saw a Dave Ramsey Instagram post about no car payment being the best thing.

Then, I scrolled through and saw this:

I decided to wait 6 months to a year to save up money for another car and to pay off the other bill. Since then, through a couple of circumstances, a couple of things were taken off my budget and a couple of opportunities for extra work have popped up.  God will provide a way for us, but sometimes we have to be willing to wait and deal with minor inconveniences in order to grow our faith.

Since I made the decision to wait, God sent me some small blessings as a reminder that He has not forgotten me. I was blessed with a replacement for a 2nd monitor that went out, which makes my writing tasks easier. I also had waited to buy some hand lettering supplies that finally came today. He even sent a funny turkey running across a side road to give me a laugh this morning. God will show us the answers to our questions if we are open to receiving it and wait with patience on the answer.

What are you waiting on? Look around because the answer may be closer than you realized, and it may come from unusual sources, possibly a turkey. You just never know.

While You Wait…

Boat Dock

I was putting the finishing touches on an article about waiting on the Lord when my own words came back to haunt me. I was discussing Psalms 27:13-14, and one of my points was that God often has us wait for an answer to prayer because we need to prepare to receive it. I once read a saying that if you want your ship to come in, then you better build a dock. If you pray for God to do big things, then you should prepare so that you are ready when He does it.

Look at King David, for example. In Psalms 27 he is probably still running from Saul, hiding in caves and rocks. He was chosen at the age of 16 to replace Saul as king, but he didn’t take the throne until he was 30. However, I doubt the 16-year-old David was truly ready to lead Israel as their king. Being out in the wilderness, leading a group of men, gave him practice in leadership, taught him to rely on God’s leadership in his own life, and taught him humility. He became one of the greatest kings in history and a man after God’s own heart, partially due to what he learned in the wilderness.

Another example is Joseph (Genesis 37-41). At 17 years of age, he had a vision that one day his brothers and even his father would bow down to him. Before he saw the vision come to pass, he was sold into slavery by his brothers, thrown into prison by Potiphar, and forgotten by fellow servant for 2 years before Pharaoh promoted him as his second in command. In those chapters, we see that Joseph was busy doing his best at each job he was given. He learned how to run a household under Potiphar and was even given command inside of prison. When he finally came before Pharaoh, he had the skills he would need to lead the people through the coming famine and save his own people in the process.

As I pondered these stories, I wondered what I should be doing while I waited. I looked around and realized there were several projects of varying kinds that needed my attention. Some of the preparation involved studying and writing, which I was already doing, but God pointed out some spiritual muscles as well as physical muscles that needed stretching. Even on a practical level, I saw some projects that needed finishing, tasks I had procrastinated doing, and general cleaning out and de-cluttering.

That all sounds overwhelming, but in the same week that I was contemplating what needed doing, I ran across several different posts that spoke to that very subject:

Rick Barry – Encouragement (click link for full post)

Image may contain: text that says 'No matter how slow you progress, you're still way ahead of everyone who isn't trying.'

Denise George posted this tidbit of wisdom:

But I’ve discovered that writing steadily, bit by bit every day, also produces an abundance of good material. It’s “tortoise writing”—one tiny focused step at a time in the right direction, instead of “hurry-up-hare writing” in all directions. To win the race, the secret is to write steadily, consistently, and orderly, bit by bit by little bit. It also helps to immerse yourself in prayer as you write. One of my favorite people, Desmond Tutu, recommends: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Image may contain: text that says '"know your limits and do a little each and EVERY DAY. before you know it YOUR HOME WILL BE DE-CLUTTERED and you will have your life BACK. ~FLYLADY UNUN flyladynet'

The FlyLady (Check out her page if you need help with clutter.)

So, while I wait, I still have things to do besides whine. I have a dock to build.

 

Advent: The Discipline of Waiting

Advent Candles

Waiting…it seems to be a theme lately. At the moment, I am waiting on a FedEx delivery that should have been here on Monday and it is now Friday. I have a text saying it is out for delivery, but I got one saying the same thing yesterday, which was redYoung Manacted later saying it was rescheduled. Young Man is also waiting on this particular delivery since it contains his food and his food bowl is currently empty. He doesn’t like waiting any more than I do and has been very vocal about the situation. I can only imagine what it was like for Elizabeth and Zacharias who had been waiting their whole lives for a child, and the children of Israel who had been waiting for The Messiah for centuries. My wait time is substantially shorter, but some things really are worth the wait.

Growing up, my church didn’t participate in advent, so I don’t know much about it. However, this year I wanted to find out the purpose behind the practice, so I did a little research. One article discussed the discipline of waiting and why advent has been pushed aside by many Christians (Read Article). The gist of it is that we don’t like waiting, so we start talking about Christmas the day after Halloween and some people start even before Halloween is over. You have probably heard the expression “killing time,” which is what most people think waiting is: a waste of time. Yet, there is something to be learned in any situation, including waiting.  In a previous blog (Postponed) I talked about the benefits of looking forward to something, and while the wait for The Messiah is long past, the wait for His return is not and there is something to be gained from the waiting process. God often speaks more clearly in the waiting than He does in the answer to our prayers.

Advent is observed during the four weeks prior to Christmas with a candle being lit on each Sunday. The first candle, which is purple, represents hope. It is also called the prophecy candle in remembrance of the prophets, like Isaiah, who foretold of The Messiah’s coming. Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” The Messiah was to be a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope. He still is today. Even now we wait for His return so that He can shed light in a world of darkness and renew all of creation. In the meantime, we can be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) by letting Christ shine through us while we wait for His return.

Even if you don’t have an advent wreath with candles to light, take a moment from the hectic bustle to remember what we are waiting for…The Messiah. Because of Him we have hope, hope for a better future. So, be a candle that shines the light of hope in a dark world this Christmas season and all year long.