Always Receptive

Today I read a beautiful quote by AW Tozer about God. He writes:

In coming to Him at any time, we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive . . . He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when He will see no one.

I love thinking about the receptiveness of God. Tozer further notes that, as we come to God, infinite power will become instantly operative to us.

I remember God is always receptive, and I think of the infinite power available to the one who asks.

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All this Rain

Today I loved gathering with the Baker family in the living room for conversation, snacks, and a little television. It’s another day of rain, so we stay inside. I’m imagining a game of Spoons and maybe Shanghai Rummy.

The rain brings on the conversations and the games, and I’m thankful.

It’s a wonderful day so far. I folded laundry. I talked with my friend. When the rain slows, perhaps we’ll walk in the neighborhood.

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Building Oneness in Marriage

Today my husband and I celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Our gift to one another is a new landscaping plan for our garden that we can work on together over the years as the budget allows. It’s fun to learn together about native Pennsylvania plants and how to make a garden work well for a contemporary home. It’s just another thing we’re learning together.

I’ve been thinking about how thankful I am for my husband and how our lives have grown more together year after year. We’ve learned to fight what Sheldon Vanauken called “creeping separateness” in his love story A Severe Mercy. I remember when new opportunities unfolded in each of our lives. We learned to ask, “Will this build oneness or take us away from each other?” That question has kept us together instead of drifting apart into separate pursuits as the years go on.

I’m starting to think that building oneness matters most in marriage.

Sometimes, when an offer comes our way that doesn’t seem to build oneness–but it does seem like God’s plan for him or me–we have to work to build the oneness. When I started writing books (a solitary pursuit), Ashley would print out my manuscripts, go to the coffee shop, and read my books so we could talk about them. When I increased my teaching load, he would ask about my students and lesson plans over dinner.

Likewise, when new opportunities in ministry opened for Ashley, I had to choose oneness. I had to enter in and ask good questions. We both had to guard against creeping separateness with increasing travel. Mostly, it’s about communication, but it’s about the kind of passionate interest in someone else’s life journey. You realize it’s your journey, too. And you learn to put your marriage above your career and even your own children.

Early in our marriage, we had to choose activities that would build oneness. It might mean a television series we loved together, a weekly excursion to a new restaurant, or the summer we hiked as many Pennsylvania trails as we could. We have friends our age that joined a birding club together. I want to do that next.

Now, when one of us has an errand to run, we’ll go together just to enjoy each other’s company. Yesterday, we drove down country roads to the fruit farm to buy pies. I filled a bag with peaches, plums, and apricots. As we drove home, I ate plums with my feet up on the dashboard. We sang to the song on the radio, and it felt like we were young and dating again.

Later that night, I asked if he remembered the first time he ever held my hand.

He did. We’ve been together ever since.

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Even Then, Even There

I love Psalm 139 and the promise that no matter where I am, even then God’s “hand will guide me” and His “right hand will hold me fast.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that God’s hand guides us and holds us no matter where we are? He is here even then (when your worst fears come upon you) and even there (when you find yourself in a place you don’t want to be). The psalmist writes:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 

I cannot escape the presence of the Lord, and for that I am so thankful.

He is here! He is here! He is guiding and holding us fast!

I also read two things about this statement this morning that made my heart glad.

First, to know we are held by the right hand means we are in the place of honor, dignity, and importance. The most special person sat at the right hand of the king. Second, we have two hands in this verse: God’s hand and Christ’s hand. I learn that Jesus sits at the “right hand of the father” and that whenever we read of God’s right hand, that’s the position of Jesus. In fact, the “right hand” becomes another way of saying the Messiah. It’s a prophetic kind of psalm that points to the Savior at the right hand of God. In other words, it’s as if God guides us and Jesus holds us fast when considered in light of Jesus always being in the position at the right hand of God.

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All the Things You Couldn’t Tend

I discover that most of my raspberries never make it to my bowl. A collection of creatures–rabbits, chipmunks, birds, and probably a deer munching from over the fence–regularly consume every single berry the minute they ripen.

Mostly, it’s the rabbits. They have burrowed under our fence. Those rabbits with that adorable puff of a tail have trampled the berry patch and stolen every berry.

I admit I haven’t tended the berries well. With all our travel and all the rain that kept us away from the garden, I never secured a perimeter, warded off small creatures with predator scent, or protected the berries with netting.

Most years, I tend.

This summer, I left so much untended.

Sometimes, you just let things go. You’re tired. You couldn’t tend everything.

In a way, it’s good to know I’m feeding animals I suppose. And I do love the birds that love my berries. Perhaps my not tending the garden has encouraged the very nests I’ve so enjoyed.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the garden, something succeeds with little tending. My tomatoes glisten in the morning sun as they grow protected in their cage within the little chicken wire reinforced fence.

When they ripen, I’ll oven-dry these for the most delicious dried tomatoes to add to sauces, pizza, and sandwiches all winter. The tomatoes make the cut of what fits into my capacity.

But that’s it. When you direct your energy in one place, you lose everything else you had once planted with such resolve. But this is life: you endure the loss of what you couldn’t manage this time, forgive yourself, and understand your limits.

But what’s this? You find this unexpected joy in watching the happy, fat rabbits all summer long. You want to reach out and squeeze that little puffy tail or pat that twitching nose. You even encourage their journey right over to your raspberry patch.

You stand as still as you can. You hardly breathe as they hop around you.

You realize that even in your failures, God brings a gift.

 

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Encouraging People in Four Ways

As you know, I love to encourage people. Today I realized that it’s important to teach others how to encourage one another. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us, so I thought I’d provide this list that I’ve been teaching my children.

  1. Tell others you are glad to be with them and why. You can say, “I’m so glad to spend time with you because you always__________________.”
  2. Notice something unique they do that inspires you. You can say, “I noticed that you____________. That was inspiring!”
  3. Point out to people what you admire about their good character, or anything you see in them that reminds you of Jesus. You can say, “When you did that, it made me think of Jesus.”
  4. Announce when someone has done a great job on anything. Sometimes I’ll call out, “Well done! Well done!”
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Healing Comparison and Fear of Missing Out

I still remind myself of the truths of Seated with Christ every new morning. It’s not just for me; it’s because I’m raising teen girls. We need to know we’re seated at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King now more than ever. The lies of the culture abound: we need this vacation, this kind of house, this kind of wardrobe, this kind of career, and this kind of life in order to have that seat at the table we think brings life.

That table doesn’t bring life at all. It brings death of the worst kind. The only path to peace and fulfillment is the one that leads to Jesus–at His table in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6).

If you know someone who needs this message, Moody Publishers has a great discount until the end of July on Seated with Christ. For college students headed back to school or for anyone who fears they’re missing out, I pray that Seated helps heal that wound of comparison.

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What’s Best for the Team

This week, I’m volunteering as a “huddle coach” for our church’s MEGA Sports Camp. I learned a wonderful point about living in a way that’s “best for the team.” In other words, sometimes you sit out because that’s what’s best for the team. Sometimes, the coach puts you in the game because that’s best. Either way, your attitude centers around what’s best for the team.

I consider how whatever God’s doing in my own life–in seasons of sitting out or playing center field–I’m surrendering to Him and believing that what’s happening is best for the team. We don’t work alone in ministry; all over the world we together serve the Lord. And we do what’s best for the team.

I loved watching the children learn about sportsmanship and how a coach decides what’s best for the team. We trust that Coach and learn to work on our team.

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The Little Claws

I return from all my summer travels and settle into the home routine. I pause by the second robin’s nest that still catches me by surprise. It’s so late in the summer, and yet here they are.

I notice the little claws. And I realize I want to show you these claws.

I consider how this earth holds nearly 7.2 billion people, and only I observe these claws. Nobody else lives in this house, by this bush, in this way that I live. So I thought I’d show you what I saw and how I was feeling.

That’s it. That’s what I do as a writer, teacher, and speaker. I present a viewpoint unshared by others simply because I exist.

As do you.

It’s astonishing to think of how precious your ordinary observations become when considered truly unique in a world of billions. You will notice a thousand beautiful things that I will never see because I am not you in your space. No one in this world sees what you see in the way that you see it.

I suppose that’s why I love teaching writing and reading the thousands of essays I read. It’s because I’m reading a one-of-a-kind viewpoint.

And today, I offer you a viewpoint into a muddy nest where I saw the tiny claws of the robins.

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