The Gifts

It’s closing in on 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning. April in Tennessee has decided to be a snowy/rainy/wind-chill freezing kind of thing. It resembles more February than it does spring time in bloom. I haven’t showered and I have consumed two very large cups of coffee and one slice of toast. I am in my favorite winter pajamas.

I was thinking about how my singleness looks, about the contrast of life with my friends who text me photos of their kiddos or the friends I see posting about their babies sleeping through the night or husbands whisking them off to fun birthday weekend surprises. There are days, moments, times where I get that sinking jealous feeling of it all. I love seeing their lives, but there’s a small ache within of coveting, of wondering and of doubt that it will happen for me too.

But then there are moments like these, where I find the freedoms of my life to be quite nice. Where there aren’t plans for the day, or worries over planning around nap times. Singleness looks different for each person living it, just like marriage and parenting and pretty much every single thing about living life. One thing is sure though, is that this life and the time we are given for it is a gift.

This morning as I was choosing my time in the Bible I found the words of Paul to a fellow believer to be something I needed reminding of as well. Timothy was around my age as well, called to minister at the church at Ephesus at the time we read Paul’s words to him in 1 Timothy. And some of the people had taken to legalism in the church, things that were good and created by God were being used as a form of legalistic religion instead by the church to set themselves apart as more holy or more devout.

Paul works through identifying the issue and encouraging Timothy in the fourth chapter of his letter. There nestled in between how to treat church members and the mystery of godliness is a small paragraph on ministry, and this phrase: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you…” It reminded me that I too neglect the spiritual gifts given me by God, those that are specifically designed just for me by the Creator of the universe. He knew I would be the only one that could use them in such a way for His kingdom and His purpose in such a time as this.

He knew that the still-in-her-pajamas, unshowered single gal on a Saturday morning would use the gift given her for Him in the way He designed her to use it. Just as He did the friends who are married, who are parents, who are divorced, who are single too. He has given gifts that reside in each of us that I often forget and neglect, letting doubt fuel the misuse or nonuse of the gifts, letting the words of others cause my gifts to look like obligations or ones I wish I could return. But then I remember the words of James just a few pages over from Paul’s letter to Timothy:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

In the Details

Often I skim read to get to the crux of a paragraph, chapter, article, etc. I don’t much care for details unless they are pertinent to a story, a character, a situation directly. The indirect stuff? You can keep it.

But in the details is where most of the story is in actuality. It’s where the plotlines develop, the characters come from the page and into being. It’s where most of the story is actually.

And it’s most often where I’d like a bit more involvement from God in my own life-the details of the every day, the situation, the cause and effect. We tell ourselves that a big God wouldn’t care about the details of our day, of our work, that relationship or that conflict. That He’s got better, more important stuff to handle like poverty, genocide, creating life.

But He does.

The details do matter to Him because I matter to Him. You matter to Him. What we are doing every day, in the big and the small-and especially the small, they matter.

The worshiping, confessing, ministering and cleansing of the Israelites in their day to day lives was so important God detailed how it should happen, what they should do, where it should be done because it all pointed back to Him. Every single detail pointed to a God who cared about the work of the people, how they worshiped, the responsibilities of the every day. He cared so much about the details that He gifted them the resources by which to build it far before they knew what they’d need it for. He set into the hearts of some to be gifted weavers to make the robes that pointed to the gospel before the very mention of Christ.

I like to point to God saying I’d like more details about why this matters, or that task has significance. I cry out for the bigger picture, when He has invited me into the details already. He’s asked for obedience in this task, right in front of me, gifting me with this particular set of skills in order to accomplish it for His good and glory, to point to Him and even to the gospel.

He is in the details of my life, and in yours, but I think I have gotten too accustomed to skimming through life in this perpetual state of hustle and bustle that I don’t see Him in the details. Because He is there, in the threads weaving a story if I but take time to listen, heed and obey.

The Wilderness Way

“So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea.”
Exodus 13:18

Blink and you miss it in that verse nestled right before the crossing of the Red Sea in the Exodus of the Israelites. Right there, God led them out into the wilderness. It’s where John the Baptist would be called from before birth. It’s where Christ would spend 40 days. It wasn’t new for Moses to be in the wilderness, it’s where he met God.

God was intentional in leading His chosen people out of bondage and directly into the wilderness. There was another route, a more direct one along a road. But they would have encountered the Egyptians’ fortification for defensive purposes there, done long before the Exodus. God knew this, and He knew the Israelites were not prepared for battle…yet.

He knows this about us too. Knowing that the route we see as easier and exactly what we would plan out for our escape from slavery and bondage within this world isn’t for us. That route has a battle on it that we just aren’t ready for, so He leads us out into the wilderness just like Moses and His chosen people.

A few verses later we see exactly what was in store for the people of Israel on the wilderness way:

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.”

He led them out to safety, to security, as a safe place and trusting guidance on their journey. He would part the sea through Moses’ hand. He would provide a way of escape for them. This wilderness way would point directly to depending upon God fully in the journey, for provision, for light…for all of it. This wilderness way was so the Israelites would focus on Him, His Presence with them in the entirety of each step, each moment, each day. In everything.

How often do I even recognize His Presence with me in my own life? In my wilderness, do I see it as a way to be prepared by Him? To be led by Him? To fully acknowledge and depend fully upon His Presence with me in every moment? Do I stop to consider He goes before me, leading my way into and through the wilderness because that’s exactly what He wants for me, and knows this is the absolute best for me?

Your Burning Bush

Ever feel like God is calling out to you, in the middle of your daily life? 

I don’t mean on like the David Koresh level y’all (I have been catching up on the new mini-series Waco obviously) But in a way that only you would recognize? Maybe to get your attention or to remind you that you are noticed?

I was thinking on this as I read through Exodus 3 and 4 this week. Granted Moses got a burning bush and that would be pretty hard to miss, but it was done in the midst of Moses’ daily work. He was in the back of the desert, tending to his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. He wasn’t just in the middle of a desert, he was at the back of it. Doing the day in and day out of work, laboring for his family when God met him there.

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But Moses had to take notice first. I love how intentional Scripture is in pointing this out, that Moses stated he would turn aside and see this great sight. He was able to take notice of God revealing Himself to him. But it came at a time that was pretty mundane-doing his work in the field, 40 years into his stay in Midian as an alien resident. He’d fled there as I wrote about earlier.

God is so intentional with us if we are willing and open to hear Him, to seek Him even in the desert, even in our every day lives. The things which we think are mundane? Well He will use us for. I often hear people talk about wanting their “burning bush” moments with God, where He acts in these large ways…but that moment was Moses taking notice of God in the middle of his day, doing his work as he had done for years upon years.

How do we take notice of God speaking to us in specific ways about what He would have us do? How do open our eyes, our hearts, our ears to Him speaking in our day-to-day lives? As we tend our own flocks? As we live out years upon years in a foreign land? As we find ourselves at the back of a desert?

He calls to us when we take notice of Him, His pursuit, His work in and through our lives. We have to be willing to turn aside and see the great sight of Him appearing to us in each moment, day, and way.

Where is it that God has lit a bush on fire specifically for you? Have you missed it? Would you turn aside to see it?

From a Resident of Midian

I acted rashly. Out of emotion. Feeling that I was right and seeking to address the injustice rather than my own feelings. I was in what you would call a personal crisis, reflecting on something that had been stewing under the surface for a while but unwilling to address it head on. Until it came bubbling up in a single moment.

So now I find myself here. In this wilderness land. In a desert of my own making as I fled the consequences of my own sin. Of my rashness of judgement and severity of words. Of emotions and feelings that I allowed to be the controller of my thoughts and life. I didn’t realize how well I’d gotten at running until I took off outside the borders and the walls that I thought were trapping me in. That were attempting to confine me, rather than define the work I would be doing to bust them down.

I ran until I felt I was furthest away from the situations, the people, my emotions and sin, and the consequences of my words. Here I am at a well. In my moment of flight, in seeking to not be known for what has been done by me and to me, I find myself thirsting to be known. Thirsting for water that can wash over what I have dirtied. What others have cast upon me too. Not for just a moment’s satisfaction of quenching this thirst, like I felt my actions were…like my emotions led me to believe would satisfy the thirst for justice.

This desert has left me desperate for water that can only come from a well found in Him. Found in my desperate attempt to cling to everything but Him. To flee and hide, only to be found content in my desperate need for only Him. I came with nothing, only myself, and that’s all He has wanted of me from the beginning-just me. Now I am an alien in a foreign land, feeling as if I don’t belong and yet knowing to be content in exactly that. That wilderness is preparing me for the next season, the next step. Preparing my heart and my mind, quieting the voices of doubt and lies and letting me hear Him speak deeply to me.

I don’t know how long He would have me be here, in this land of Midian, but I know it’s not for me to question why I am here but to only present myself over to what He would have me see, prepare for, work out and understand…to be silent and content before Him alone. He meets me here, in the place of Midian. In the daily. To live out my life in pursuit of a desperate need for Him and not myself, not others, not my plan, my emotions, or my sense of justice.

Current Midianite

 

 

 

Inconveniences

“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 (NKJV)

In the aftermath of traveling (by foot and ship), preaching to hardened hearts and skeptics, converting those whose hearts were opened to the gospel, and casting out demons in Christ’s power and authority. Even just one of those exhausts me in reading about it. In the midst of all this, Paul and Silas were met with opposition which took a violent turn into floggings and imprisonment. All of this after being directly guided by the Holy Spirit to go to this exact place.

And what are Paul and Silas found doing at midnight, of all times, in prison ? They are praising God and singing hymns. And the prisoners are listening to them, as one would a beautiful piece of music, with delight and intent.

I don’t know about you all but I whine and complain about minor inconveniences in my daily life. Like a busted water pipe, missing a workout, a car not starting, traffic, stress at work. I don’t automatically and with voice raised sing hymns and praise God in the midst. I admit that freely because it’s not my natural tendency.

But it should be as a child of God. Just like Paul and Silas.

They were specifically and unjustly being punished for their faith. For preaching the gospel we know today and Christ which we call Savior and King. They were experiencing true persecution, and not just inconveniences we too often feel in our every day life. And yet, they were rejoicing in the God who had led them there by His Spirit. More than that, those in the jail were listening y’all.

People are listening, watching as those of us who are believers react and respond to life, circumstances, situations and inconveniences. They see what it is we truly place our hope and faith in when we face the dark of midnight.

Paul and Silas were living testimonies that circumstances don’t define our hope, our joy, our faith, the gospel, Christ Himself. Not a bit of it weighed them down as they were bleeding and chained in that prison. They knew where God intended to have them, to use them, to spread His truth and His word at just the right time, that no one else would be fit for that time and those men in prison.

Maybe you’re not called out to international missions, but you are called as a believer to carry the gospel with you each day, in each interaction and circumstance. And how you respond to the stressors of this life could be the only glimpse of Christ a person might have, and that you were called to be in that place at that time, even if it’s an inconvenience to you, it could mean eternity to someone else.

Because when you continue to read in chapter 16 you see a jailer and his family believing and receiving Christ as their hope and redemption. That is worth the inconvenience of your time and your life.

Beauty in the Small

Recently I had a large group of photos printed to frame, which led me to combing through hundreds of photos from the last two years. I haven’t done a really great job of getting them printed from adventures during that time. That’s when I stumbled across this photo I took at Biltmore Gardens.

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That beauty nestled inside the beauty of a blossoming flower? Well it made me feel like I’d discovered a little secret God wanted to share with me. And remind me of yet again as I was rummaging for photos to print.

That secret?

Well it’s that He is cultivating work in the smallest places, in the most unassuming and unexpected places. He is growing beauty from within and we might miss it looking at the bigger picture, at the sweeping grandeur blossoming we will let the smaller inner work just bypass us completely.

I know for me I have been so focused and intent on the work I see Him doing in everyone else and forgetting the work He’s been growing and refining in me. There is beauty within the bigger, but there is breathtaking wonder at the inner working going on. I love to see how He works in others but I am so reluctant to take that moment to observe where it is He’s been in what I call the small of my life. Because frankly, I’d rather have the big in my life too. I’d rather select the sweeping beauty of the field rather than the intimate quiet of the one flower above.

But He’s in both. He works in both for our very good. The big sweeping beauty comes from hours of toil, just as the seemingly minute does the same. They both require work, both by His hand and my submission. It’s not a one or the other, but a both and if I’ll just stop focusing on what I deem as unimportant and small in my world. Instead taking a moment to admire the beauty held within that I too easily think isn’t His handiwork.