I read in Proverbs 30:7-9 another great passage about life’s pleasant boundaries. The wisdom reads as follows as a request to God:
Two things I asked of You,
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I may not be full and deny You and say
“Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal
And profane the name of my God.
I love that we can ask God for our portion–and not another’s–because God appoints what we have in a way that keeps us close to Him. Can I really request that God not give me too much? Because it would risk forgetting Him? Can I humbly ask for just what I need?
Who would ask to not be full? It seems strange to request just enough, but not too much, so the longing for God remains in that empty place.
In a world often set upon riches, I love reading a Proverb where someone asks to be saved from riches. Anything that might cause us to forget our need for God is something I, too, can pray God removes.
And I rejoice if life brings an empty place in my heart that’s reserved for my longing for Jesus.
I make the weekly plans to clean the house and organize some closets. Normally, I clean in a frenzy. But I feel tired today. So I consider:
There’s no rush. Why rush? A little here, a little there. One room here, one room there.
I used to clean frantically and race car driver fast because it set me free to do what I really wanted to do, whatever that was.
I lived many parts of my life like this: frantic and fast to make time. For what, I still am not always sure.
But today? I enjoy the slow and steady pace of the day’s work. I pray in child-scented rooms, over rumpled beds, and as I carefully fold pool towels. I dust objects of childhood like clay figurines and favorite books.
I ponder. I use lavender oil here and there. I listen to birds. I view the vegetable garden.
I make toast and spread thick peanut butter on it because this slowness takes new energy. I chew. I think about peanut butter sandwiches. I’ve always loved them, but I needed milk to go with them always.
I write a few lines. I look at the Weeping Cherry.
I’ve never been slow at work, so I’ve missed the particular pleasure of what I’m doing. Instead of getting through it, I stay in it slowly, and I even marvel over this ordinary housekeeping.
I’m working on an article for a women’s ministry site to address the profound fear of the future in young adults especially.
I encounter many students, for example, who arrive to my office in tears, overwhelmed with decisions and possible outcomes. One student said, “I want the life my parents have, but I have no idea how to get there. I have no idea!” Or “What’s going to happen to me? What do I do?”
So I’ve been thinking about wisdom and how to soothe fear. What will I tell my daughters as they face the future? I turn to Psalm 142:3 when an overwhelmed and desperate David writes, “When my spirit is overwhelmed, it is you who know my way.”
I also think of the little verse that brought great comfort when my life began to change with writing and public speaking. Psalm 32:8 says:
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
Oh, so simply true and wonderful!
I also love thinking about Psalm 138:8 and having the faith to say, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”
As we cling to the wisdom of God’s word and ask God to direct our paths, we experience increasing peace and certainty that God will lead us to the “good works He has prepared in advance” for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Finally, we take great comfort in Phillipians 2:13 that God is working within us to give us the desire and ability to “act according to his good purpose” for our lives.
We don’t need to fear the future; He is already there.
Today I remember both the leadership advice and parenting tip to say “yes” as much as possible. Instead of “no, because,” I’m challenged to say, “yes, if.”
Yes, if changes the environment of the meeting or home to possibility, encouragement, hope, and innovation. It opens up conversation. Yes, if makes things happen.
The onslaught comes with requests and new possibilities, and I’m in a “no” mindset all morning. I see my child deflate with every “no.”
So I try “yes, if.”
Yes, we can do that when this or that is finished or if this or that can happen, too. Yes, let’s try that if we do it like this.
It harkens back to when my daughters were very little and we lived in “no” and discipline all day long. So one day, I said, “We need a Yes! Day.”
That day, we had dessert for breakfast. And they remember a decade later and smile.
I read in Psalm 119 six great prayer requests from verses 33-38.
- Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees. . .
- Give me understanding. . .
- Direct me in the path of your commands. . .
- Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain
- Turn my eyes from worthless things. . .
- Fulfill your promise. . .
I pray that God teaches us, gives us understanding, directs our lives, turns our hearts away from what doesn’t please Him, and fulfills His promises to us.
These requests shape the day and focus us on what we need. They are great prayers for our children especially.
Perhaps the greatest mystery in life is the problem of pain and suffering. Today I read Hannah Whitall Smith’s reminder from scripture that all things serve God. This sentence astounded me with hope:
“While the Lord does not inaugurate the evil, when that evil is directed against His children, He makes it His ‘servant’ to carry them a blessing.”
All of our circumstances, under God’s divine order, serve His purposes and become servants carrying a blessing.
Can I believe it? Will I? How marvelous life might become if I lived under the truth of Psalm 119:91 and how all things serve God!
I think of the great hand of suffering that holds within its grasp a blessing, a gift. The best gift, I have found, is how pain draws us to our inner being, where Jesus dwells by the Holy Spirit. That blessing far exceeds anything I can hope for in this life.
Today I came across Jean Vanier’s statement that to love someone “is to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves.”
I expand the quote to include revealing the value, intelligence, or talent to them.
Once a woman asked me how I handled criticism and praise.
Praise or critique once mattered so much to me that it could paralyze me with pride and self-importance on the one hand, and shame and fear of rejection on the other. Over time on this journey of public speaking, writing, and teaching, I’ve learned the difference between offering these as acts of love–as gifts and blessings–and not as a way to certify identity, importance, or value.
Removed from the need to receive constant affirmation, you then write, speak, and teach because you’re overflowing, not because you need filling.
Praise and criticism become instructive and less personal. You can say to a harsh critic, “What I offer isn’t for everyone.” Your work may not have enriched or delighted that one reader, but it doesn’t mean another won’t find it life-changing.
Six years ago, I received terrible hate mail about my blog, my faith, and my personality. It nearly silenced me.
I pressed on and learned to say, “This isn’t for everyone.” And I moved on to bless others who need it.
You send your work out as an offering, a gift, a blessing. Someone needs it. Not everyone will love you, and that’s OK.