David writes powerful words in the midst of Saul hunting him. Imagine how terrified David must have been. Imagine how uncertain of his future. And imagine how tired and frustrated. And now, consider the comfort. David writes:
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.
To end my semester today, I ask students to tell the class about the writing they were most proud of during the semester.
It’s a great question for closure and to invite students to feel a sense of accomplishment.
I like this question as a dinner conversation for us all. What were we most proud of today or this month or even this year? The question reveals what we valued, what we invested our time in, and what goals we had for ourselves.
Today I spread some good cheer by bringing Christmas cookies to students and colleagues. If you remember, these don’t look particularly beautiful. But they taste like an ode to butter and almond. I love baking these cookies, and by the end of the season, I’ll have iced nearly 600 candy canes and Christmas trees. I love listening to Christmas music as I roll out the dough. I love the way the house smells like sugar cookies for days. I love how I find sprinkles everywhere in the kitchen. And I love when my daughters come around me with their creative ideas for decorating the cookies.
Certain contributions I’ll never make to the Christmas season. I’m a terrible gift-giver and present-wrapper. I cannot sing any Christmas carols on key. I fail at Gingerbread houses. I don’t have time to volunteer in the community or organize events the way others can.
They keep track of how much food they eat to avoid overeating. They keep track of how much money they spend to avoid overspending. They keep track of how many miles they run to keep accountable to exercise goals.
They keep track.
During the holiday season, I commit to keeping track–for financial, physical, and spiritual reasons. It’s easy to start a food journal, a budget, and an exercise log. It’s much harder to struggle when you’ve gone over budget in any area whether food, money, or even relationally. So today, I keep track.
The most important part of the recipe? You make the cookies for eating. They will not be works of art. Save that task for the experts. Save that for the Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest talent. Save that for the people who God gave a special gift of cookie decorating.
Google “Christmas Cookie Designs” and marvel at the talent. You don’t have that talent. Do not try.
Your cookies? Nobody wants to display these cookies. They will eat them. They won’t have time to take a picture anyway because they are too busy eating. You sit so secure in your life that you don’t need to impress anyone. You just spread on the icing with a knife, sprinkle those sprinkles on, and pass a bunch around to neighbors and coworkers.
So if your terrible artistic skills keep you from making decorated Christmas cookies, remember the story of the woman who made horribly decorated Christmas cookies that everyone loved and begged for each year.
This week I remembered something a wise woman told me. She talked about the Lord’s work in our lives as being “little by little.” God often doesn’t heal or deliver us all at once. He may work “little by little” in our lives. In Exodus 23:29-30, we read this about God’s settling of the Israelites into the promised land. When God talks about defeating the enemies around them, He says, “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you.Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”
Little by little.
God couldn’t defeat the enemies all at once. The Israelites had to grow first. They had to mature slowly until they were ready for their promised land. Timing and preparation were everything.
We see this account repeated in Deuteronomy 7:22: “The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.”
I think of the “wild animals” that might multiply if we experience deliverance all at once. I think of pride and foolishness. I think of inexperience in spiritual battle. I think of a lack of dependence on the Lord. How thankful I am that God grew me little by little and not all at once.
I take great comfort in God’s promise to work little by little, especially as a parent. I also see the principle at work in good teaching and good discipleship. We work little by little.
If we’re discouraged that God is too slow or not thorough in our deliverance, consider the principle of little by little. And consider how God trains us for what will come. We grow little by little to train us for bigger things. In Psalm 144:1 we read, “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” Or think about Psalm 18:34: “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”
I couldn’t bend a bow of bronze last year, but maybe now I can because of God’s training that happened little by little.
This morning, I listen to my acquisitions editor, Judy Dunagan, on her interview on the podcast Living with Power. The episode contains so many nuggets of wisdom, but I especially love when Judy talks about prayer. In one part, she mentions a “Dangerous Prayer.”
The Dangerous Prayer: “God, do whatever it takes to fully capture my heart.”
I pray this for my family because I know how great God is. I know how important this is. I know the vital truth that a fully surrendered heart is what we’re made for.
The simplicity of the image amazes me: a candle cannot light itself. The pastor speaks this line on Sunday, and the image won’t leave me for days. I love exploring light in the Bible. Most notably, we hear this around Christmastime from Isaiah 9:2, in reference to the coming savior: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
The reality stands: Isaiah proclaims that “justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.”
We need this light.
We want to be like David in Psalm 27:1 who cries, “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
The Hebrew translation of “light” expands to include everything from life to happiness; it means everything we need to truly live. Light is truth, wisdom, and meaning. It is salvation. When Jesus now says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” in John 8:12, we understand this was the light we’ve been waiting for.
We cannot light ourselves.
During this beautiful season, we look at the lights twinkling on trees and outlining homes. We know they testify to the Light of the World.
Today the Italian Mama reminded me of a great verb and a precious gift: to blather.
To blather means to talk in a long-winded way nonsensical way. You’ll normally hear the verb in an apology, as in, “I’m so sorry I blathered on.”
I love how close the verb approximates “lather” as in talking so much that you work the conversation into a fluffy lather. I picture frothy bubbles rising up around someone who blathers.
It’s not a bad thing. Blathering is a precious gift to both give and receive. When you allow someone to blather on, you give them the freedom to speak whatever they need to talk about. You let them empty their mind. It doesn’t have to make sense. In fact, someone listening to a blatherer might simply pick up the golden threads of conversation left here and there; they can help the other person organize their thoughts. What a gift. Already today, I’ve blathered on to two friends. I just talked and talked.
But when I’m on the receiving end of blathering, I feel so honored that a person would want to share their unfiltered, unprocessed, raw thoughts with me. Can you imagine being the kind of friend who sits down, looks intently at your friend and say, “Blather on! I’m here to listen! I will help make sense of it all.”
When you blather or listen to blather, it’s a place of blessing. It’s a gift to pour out words, and it’s a gift to sit as the listener. But either way, blather on.