Saturday, July 23, 2016

Behind the Scenes

Several weeks ago, my fiance and I entered into what we call "super save mode," meaning we don't buy anything we don't absolutely need. What pushed us into "super save mode" was simply life. With a wedding and honeymoon to pay for all our own, him still in school, and me about to start cosmetology school in a couple months, we knew we couldn't afford to throw our money on things we didn't need.
We were doing great with our new saving plans, and even found ways to do stuff with friends that wouldn't cost much, if anything. Then we were hit with some pretty rough news.
The VA was cutting John's funding early. That meant no monthly housing allowance that he had been using for rent, bills, and food for the last year and a half. It also meant that the last five weeks of his schooling would not be paid for. We were both very grateful that his school is allowing him to put off paying the remainder until he graduates, but with all the saving we already needed to do, that extra blow really hurt.

Knowing I would have to help with his rent and bills on top of my own. it was easy for my mind to jump straight to thoughts of desperation we all have when something big or scar is thrust into our laps unexpectedly. I'm sure you know the thoughts I'm talking about. They often come in the form of "why" questions.
Why is this happening to me?
Why me?
Why didn't God do something to stop this?

But as quickly as those questions crossed my mind, they blew away. Because I remembered ways God had provided in the past and I knew His nature hadn't changed since then. I knew He would provide again. So, following the advice of my mother (as moms always give the best advice), I began to pray. I didn't pray that He would provide, for I already was sure of this fact. Instead I began thanking Him for what I already knew He would do, but had not yet happened.
While I already had peace about the situation, something about putting my faith into action in this way seemed to solidify my surety that it would be taken care of even more so.

Then, as He often likes to do, God surprised me. The very evening the new hit, I came home to find a piece of mail sitting on the table, addressed to me, from my school. I opened it to find a response to a scholarship I had applied for--one I had been told was for $500. Upon reading the letter, I found that I had not been awarded 500, but $1000!
Already His provision was showing up.
While I may not know how the rest of this mess will be sorted out, my heart cannot help but rejoice in what I know He is doing behind the scenes.

In times like these, I often let the holy Spirit speak to me through music, as He is so good at doing. This time around, he keeps drawing my mind back to The Day That I Found God, off Switchfoot's new album, Where the Light Shines Through.

This noose ain't getting any looser.
I get so fearful about the future.
I feel the shame of my accuser,
But that ain't you.

The accuser, the father of lies, wants nothing more than to distract us from what the Lord is doing in our lives. Do not buy into the lies he throws your was in an attempt to blind you with shame over things you cannot help.

Where is Go out in the darkness?
'Cause the voices in my head ain't talking honest,
Saying maybe you made us then forgot us,
But that ain't you. That ain't you, no!
And all I know is that I still don't know a lot.
I don't know how it ends, I'm in the middle of this plot.
Yeah, I found grace for the man that I am not.
I found out the day I lost myself was the day that I found God. 

God didn't forget you. He is working right now, whether we can see it right now or not. We are still in the middle of this story, by the end it will all make sense and we will see all he's done for us along the way. One crisis doesn't mean it's over. For God likes to show up in the place where we've lost everything. Especially ourselves.
I hope that my experience may encourage you to have faith that whatever may be going on in your life or whatever is going on in the world that makes you wonder where God is or what He is doing, that He is working for you constantly, behind the scenes.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Praying With Humility

Earlier this week, my bible study found me in 1 Kings 3, the story in which King Solomon asks for wisdom. Many know this story in only that brief description, but reading it this time around, something stuck out to me that I hadn't noticed before. Verses 1-15 tell of how God came to Solomon in a dream, offering him to have anything he desires. Solomon, however, did not answer the way one might expect the twenty-year-old king to respond. He didn't ask for wealth or power or the most beautiful woman in the country. No, Solomon didn't ask for any of these things; instead he asked for discernment so that he might rule well. In return, God granted him not only the discernment he asked for, but also so much wisdom, that he will forever be known as the wisest man who ever lived.
This is the story that most of us know, but what stuck out to me was not what he asked, but how he asked it. Take a look with me at verses 7-9:

“Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give Your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of Yours?”

It was common during biblical times in the Middle East to refer to yourself as “your servant” when addressing someone of higher political/social standing or someone who, at least in this moment, has the authority to accomplish something with which you are incapable of. So this sign of reverence and respect was not unique.
What is unique about Solomon's request was how he humbled himself further by calling himself a “little child” and recognizing that he is nothing more than a steward of what God has given him by referring to Israel as not his people, but the Lord's. In this way he removed himself from the place of control and put God in control of the situation instead. He basically said, “Look, You put me over these people, but they are not mine; they are Yours. Now guide me in what I must do so that I might lead these people in a way that is pleasing to You.”

Between moving to a new apartment, starting a new job, getting engaged, and adopting a puppy, I have spent a lot of time recently not only thanking God for what he has given me but also turning over my life circumstances into His hands. This is big part of the reason I noticed this frequently overlooked aspect of Solomon's request.

But just as with anything in the scriptures, noticing something like this isn't what is important; applying what you've learned to your life is what is important. Here, we should follow Solomon's lead and not only recognize ways God has acted in our lives in the past (having the opportunity to become king, in Solomon's case), but also putting our current circumstances in His hands with humility and reverence. Maybe that will be with your job, as it was for Solomon, or some other big responsibility or blessing such as school, or family, or an important relationship. Whatever it is, we must do as Solomon did and say, “Lord, I did not get here on my own, You had Your hand in it the whole time. I only have what I have because You allow me to be a steward of it for this time—it is not mine, only borrowed. Not my job, my home, my kids, my significant other, or even my life. All of it has been given to me. You are allowing me the opportunity to have influence with these people and in these areas, so please grant me the wisdom to act in each of them with grace so that I may bring glory to Your Name and bring others closer to You.”

(For more of a look into times I have turned over circumstances to God even though it was difficult, read Losing Control.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Our Brother Redeemer

It's been a while since I've written any posts, and for that I apologize, especially to my random readers from outside the country (I don't know who you are or how you found me, but you guys are awesome!). And by "a while," I mean about nine weeks. Between editing my first book for a third time, starting its sequel, getting engaged, and going with my fiance to multiple different doctor's appointments, life was just so busy I didn't have time to think of what I would blog about, let alone do my research and write the blog.
But today I am here to put that to an end! For now, that is.

That being said, last week my daily bible study found me in the book of Ruth. This tiny book, sandwiched between Judges and 1 Samuel, is often overlooked because of its size. Despite that, the story of Ruth is an amazing one. For those who don't know the story, allow me to summarize.

There was once a woman named Naomi who had two sons. She and her husband and sons moved to Moab, where the sons married two Moabite women. Within ten years, both Naomi's husband and her two sons had died, leaving her with her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi, wanting now to return to her own people, urged the girls to stay with their own and find new husbands. While Orpah took the offer, Ruth refused to let her dear mother-in-law return home alone. In an act of loyalty, Ruth proclaimed, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."
When they got back to Judah, Naomi remembered her husband's relative, Boaz, who owned many fields. She instructed Ruth to follow his workers and gather what they left behind in their harvesting. Boaz took kindness on her and told her to gather only in his field, where she would be safe from those who wished to take advantage of her. Meanwhile, he told his workers to leave extra behind so she and Naomi would have plenty to eat.
Now, in biblical times, if a woman was widowed, it was the job of the nearest relative on the husband's side to redeem her in marriage so she would not be left husbandless. Knowing that Boaz was related to her husband, Naomi sent Ruth to appeal to him. When Ruth found Boaz, he was working on his threshing floor, and she waited until he stopped to eat supper and rest before she made her appeal. Then Boaz, wanting to be fair, told Ruth that there was someone nearer of kin than he, who he would seek out and see if the other man was willing to marry Ruth. He also said that if the kinsman-redeemer was unwilling that he would, "as surely as the Lord lives," do it himself. He then, invited Ruth to sleep at his feet that night so she would not have to walk home in the dark and be vulnerable to predators of the night.

For a while, I thought the main point of Ruth's story in the bible narrative was simple because it is the story of King David's great-grandparents. But this time, something struck me that was so much deeper, especially when reading verse 13 of chapter 3 where Boaz says, "Stay the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning."
Boaz and Ruth's story is so much more than just a story of David's lineage, it is also an excellent parallel of God and us. Boaz took in Ruth as a protector when she was dirty, homeless, and rejected, sending her away with the food she needed to survive. God in the same way protects us from the forces of darkness and provides us with what we need to survive in this sin battered world. He pursues us further by instructing us to turn to no one else for protection and provision, knowing none else could satisfy our hearts like He could in the same way Boaz told Ruth to work only in his fields where even his workers would protect her from harm. And in the same way Boaz stepped in to fulfill a law that Ruth could not fulfill by herself, God came down to our level to show us His love by fulfilling the Law which we could not keep on our own so that we may live the life he designed for us to live--one where we are not vulnerable, alone, or unloved.