As I catch up on some of my devotional reading today, I find myself once again so encouraged by Hannah Whitall Smith. She writes three things that strengthen my heart and I pray yours as well:
#1: God will manage everything concerning us. “Trusting, therefore, simply means that when we have yielded, or given, ourselves to the Lord, we then have perfect confidence that He will manage us and everything concerning us exactly right, and we consequently leave the whole care and managing in His hands.”
#2. If I knew what God knew, I would choose what He has chosen for me. “The deliverance may not always come in your own way, but it will surely come in God’s way; and God’s way is always the best way, the way we ourselves would choose if we knew all that He knows.”
#3. God can make even evil carry a blessing for us. “All things serve God. . . 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 things are yours not to trouble you and not you harm but to bless you and do you good.”
I’ve sprouted an apricot seed that’s now planted in a pot with soil.
I’m waiting, waiting, waiting for the first green shoot to emerge. I will then, after several months of growth, plant my apricot tree in the perfect spot in the backyard.
This whole journey began because a woman I met at the Boalsburg Memorial Day mentioned her amazing apricot jam filled Christmas cookies that she makes from the apricots from her backyard tree.
Apricots? In Pennsylvania? I smiled. I tented my fingers with a decision already made.
The seed had been planted.
A month passes and I find myself eating a delicious apricot whose dark, hard pit fell apart in my hands to reveal a tiny, fragile white seed. I wrapped the seed in a warm, damp paper towel and placed it in my sunny window. Days later, an inch long root emerged. Then, the top of the seed began to crack open to reveal the plant to come.
So I planted that seed!
Oh the joy of just watching it grow!
I think about the tiniest seeds planted in conversation. I think of the seeds of God’s word that fall into an open hand which, when carefully cultivated, sprout green in the heart. I think of the seeds of faith planted, too.
How I love seeds! How I love what they do and all they hold inside!
Maybe, in a decade, I’ll be the one with the apricot-filled Christmas cookies giving a hopeful project to a woman at a fair.
Last night my pastor friend, Josh, told me about an upcoming sermon in which he makes the wonderful and astonishing claim that obedience and joy are essentially the same. I stand there in my kitchen, overwhelmed with the truth of it. When I’m most joyful, I’m most surrendered. Josh says, “Yes! Because surrender and obedience are what we are made for. So that’s when we are most truly joyful.”
Surrender and obedience is what we are made for.
I look back on the most joyful times in my life. Yes: I was most surrendered and most obedient to all the Lord was asking of me. And the times of most despair? Could it be that something in my life wasn’t aligned and wasn’t surrendered?
I ask the Lord today: How might I surrender more? How might I obey more and more? What are you asking of me, Lord? And the answer is yes.
Today I began physical therapy for a knee that’s bothered me since 1994. 1994! As I learned various stretches to strengthen the ligaments, I felt foolish for never learning these before. We talked about how different and comfortable walking will feel now and how I’ll now protect my knee for years to come. I said, “I wish I had started this sooner, but it’s never too late, right?”
“It’s never too late!” the physical therapist confirmed.
It’s never too late to begin now to make positive life changes. Rather than giving up and saying that starting something like this in my older age wouldn’t make any real difference, I learned today that it’s never too late.
I believe the bunny in my backyard came for the berries, the basil, and the clover. We wonder, though. How? We’ve finally fenced in the backyard, and the gate stays tight to the ground. No bunnies could possibly enter.
But the bunny digs. He burrows under. No fence stops him. I watch him feasting with glee in the late afternoon. He’s now probably napping under my porch, so full of my herbs that he cannot move.
I must congratulate the persistent and clever bunny. And I admit that I love watching him hop around the garden like he owns the place. That little white tail! That little twitching nose!
Today I consider what it means to make decisions or to conduct any action with foresight.
Foresight: thinking of what you’ll need in the future and how this moment’s behavior affects that future
Consider this very moment: How will this behavior or decision influence the future? What impact will this have on tomorrow, on next month, on next year, in ten years?
Living with foresight changes how I think about today as an investment into tomorrow. It’s a mindset that keeps me out of impulsive, destructive, and aimless living. And it’s helpful. It changes how I eat (How will this effect me later?), what I watch (What fruit does this bear in my life?), how I spend my time (Is this activity helping my future?) While some might argue that this isn’t a fun way to live, I would offer that everything we do will and is impacting our future. It is. It’s happening now. To ignore this seems foolish to me, so I think about setting my mind on two dimensions: right now and tomorrow.
This morning in Colossians 4, I read about someone “wrestling in prayer.” Epaphras, one of Paul’s fellow servants of the Lord, was praying for the people of Colossae like this in verse 12: He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
I begin to see my role as wife, mother, friend, teacher (everywhere I go) as someone who now wrestles in prayer for you. And what a prayer! Can you imagine living your life as one standing firm, mature and fully assured? I pray that for you. I pray that for me.
I love that Greek verb that means to labor earnestly. It looks like “agonize” in the Greek and denotes a sense of zeal, of strenuous battling for something. Might I pray like this? Might I give my children and husband the assurance that someone in their life prays for them like this?
I often forget I’m in a battle. I’m in a war, and so are you. But I go about my Christian life, plodding along like I’m on vacation (not engaged in warfare), and then I find myself thrust into confusion or discouragement. I find more examples of calamity and distress. Everywhere I look, I suddenly see disaster. More accidents. More injuries. More sickness. More weariness. And I become so confused as to what’s happening.
But then I remember. I’m in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6), and I take up the armor of God once again. Stand your ground. Take up your defense. Move onward with the sword of the Spirit (God’s word). Proclaim victory in every space you enter. Replace lies with truth, despair with hope, confusion with clarity, and weariness with fresh energy and zeal.
This morning I read the astonishing words of the Lord in Jeremiah 33:3: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
I consider how we often simply and foolishly do not call upon the Lord. We ask Him nothing. We don’t go to Him with our questions or confusion. Instead, we stew and fuss and deliberate. We anxiously mull and worry. We apply our best philosophy and all the remedies we can imagine. But we do not go to Him.
What would you ask Him? What confusion do you wish He’d explain or soothe? I think about seeking God and listening as we read the Bible and pray. We call to Him, and He answers.