Being a Christ-follower is becoming increasingly difficult. It used to be that Christians were respected in our country. Then, we were merely accepted (“Aw, you’re a Christian. That’s great…for you.”) Now, however, it seems that we are becoming quite unpopular.
As a people pleaser, this terrifies me! But as a student of the Bible, it doesn’t surprise me.
I’ve been studying the book of Daniel in my devotions, lately. Yesterday, I read about Daniel’s three friends refusing to bow down to the idol the king had built. This King was the great ruler of the then-known world, the Head of Gold in Daniel 2. What he said was law. Literally. And refusing was not an option.
But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego submitted to a Higher authority. The law may have said that all people must bow down to the king’s idol. But the Word of God clearly states that believers are to serve no other Gods. These men counted the cost — “Bow down or die” — and chose to die rather than to live in disobedience.
They chose to die rather than to live in disobedience.
We know the end of their story, but they didn’t. They even said, “Our God is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire…but even if he does not, let it be known to you, O king, we are not going to serve your gods…” Daniel 3:17-18
These man were thrown into the furnace not knowing whether God would save them in this life, or whether He would promote them to the next. Simply living was not their main objective. Living in obedience was their main objective.
The result of their obedience? It wasn’t just that their lives were spared in a miraculous way – though that was pretty amazing!! The greatest result was that the king recognized the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was the Most High God. God was glorified, His name was made known throughout the kingdom, His power was demonstrated to everyone.
Lots of changes have taken place in the world since the time of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-nego. But God has not changed, nor has His purpose for his followers: we are to love Him, to obey Him, and to make Him known. No matter what.
May we be bold and uncompromising in our obedience. The rewards for that, my friends, are out of this world!
I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s holiness, lately. I’ve been convicted that I don’t think about it enough. Like most people, I think about myself and my issues and my desires far more than I think about who God is and what He desires.
My husband teaches that, too often, Christians see God as a Divine Butler — we ask Him for things we want, and He gives them to us, or we “fire” him and look for another.
That thought may seem offensive to us, but as I examine my prayer life, I have to acknowledge that is far too often true. I pray for things I want, things my friends want — not “bad” things, but just very creation-centered. I pray the way I live – as if this life is all I have, as if I am Deity and should be worshiped and should have my way all the time.
But the truth is, this life is short, fleeting. And I am not God. I have the opportunity in this short life to seek God and know Him, worship Him and surrender everything to Him, or to reject Him. He gives all of us that choice. Because He is God, He doesn’t have to force Himself on us, He doesn’t have to justify His opinions, He doesn’t have to change so He will fit what we believe God should be. That idea is ludicrous!
God is God – whether we acknowledge it or not. God is in complete control – even when it appears that the world is in chaos. God is holy – deserving of our worship and adoration and reverence. Not believing that, not living in light of that, not liking it, doesn’t change it.
Rather than spending so much time praying for what I want, I need to spend time worshiping this holy God – a God who created the universe, and yet desires to know us. A God who sent his son to this chaotic earth to die on our behalf so we can live with Him forever. A holy, amazing God who is in complete control of everything.
The God of the Bible is not a Divine Butler. He is King of Kings, and He should be worshiped as such.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty who was, and is, and is to come.” Rev. 4:8b
What a week. My muscles are screaming, but my heart is soaring. We have a house! And not just any house, a house that is absolutely perfect for our family. For the first time ever, my daughters have their own rooms. And for my kids, this is the first time ever having a two story house. We’re in a great neighborhood – close to lots of stores and just three miles from our new school.
As with everything else associated with this move, God directed us to this house. We looked everywhere, and nothing in our price range was appealing. We really wanted a 4 bedroom, and all the homes we saw were 3 bedrooms (First World Problems, I know…). As the days went by, God convicted me that, rather than praying for what I wanted, I need to focus on what HE wants — what house does He want us in? what neighbors does He want us to love? I was asking for help dying to my dreams and accepting whatever – and wherever – He wanted us.
Then, our new friend, Gail, came to me with a print-out from Craigslist. Craigslist?!? No one finds rentals on Craigslist, right?? She assured me, though, that is how it is often done in San Diego. Realtors, we learned, get very little commission from rentals, so they are reluctant to help. That leaves landlords and renters-to-be needing other options. Craigslist is that option.
We called the owner, looked at the house, and loved it right away. 4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths!! Perfect. This was the owner’s previous home – he moved a couple blocks away a few years back, and has rented this home since. The terms of the lease were fantastic, and he and his wife are incredibly kind. When we moved in, several men from the church/school came to help us. They got the entire truck unpacked in an hour. Kind and efficient!
God didn’t have to give us a great house. I have been reminded all week that plenty of believers live in far smaller, far less functional homes. Brothers and sisters in other countries are forced to live in places where there is no running water and barely enough food for everyone. God promises to meet our needs. But, so often, he meets our wants as well. Maybe not exactly the way we planned, but in the way He wants. He is good. He is merciful. He is extravagant in His love for us.
And though we aren’t entirely unpacked, we do have the office done (we have an office!). This is where I am sitting right now, where I will write this blog – and maybe more books. Who knows? This is where Dave spends a lot of time, working on the classes he teaches for Liberty University online and on other projects.
There’s still a lot to do – learning how to get around town, preparing for school (it’s year-round here, so teachers go back July 7!), finishing up the unpacking, getting CA driver’s licenses, preparing for school…the list is long. And, honestly, there are times when I just want to go back “home” – to Florida. I don’t do Change well. I have been irritable and snappy and impatient. I like the routine and familiar. I enjoy being spontaneous – but just in little things, like “Hey, let’s check out Mission Beach today!” not “Hey, let’s move across the country this summer!” Eventually, this will be routine and familiar. But that takes a while.
But I get to wait for that routine and familiar in this great house! And I get to adjust with four others – a husband and kids I love and for whom I am so grateful. We are being stretched and strengthened as a family. My kids are seeing that, though they may not have friends here, yet, they have each other, and they are reconnecting in ways they wouldn’t have, had we stayed in Florida. God is so gracious, so good, and so present.
I plan to get back to the “regular” blog posts next week. Thanks for hanging in while I vented and processed this move. Thanks for all the prayers. We felt every one of them!
I was going to wait and post an update when everything was all worked out. But I decided I might as well do what I’ve been doing — write in the Waiting. And that’s what we’re doing…waiting.
Because our original housing in San Diego fell through, and because we had to be out of our home in Largo by June 14, we moved out here with no house and no prospects for a house. A scary thought, with three kids! But we believe this is where God wants us, and we know, if He wants us here, He will provide us a place to live.
So the kids and I left Florida for San Diego over a week ago. We stopped for a few days in Tennessee to visit my grandmother, my sister, my niece and nephew. Dave left last Monday and started driving straight across the country on I-10 (the thought of driving a moving van with the car on a trailer behind it through the GA/TN mountains did not sound appealing to him!). I stopped off in Ft. Worth last Tuesday to visit my other sister and niece, and Dave stopped off in Houston to visit a friend. We met up in Van Horn, TX Wednesday night. From there, we planned to drive to Yuma, AZ, but some terrific friends in Holtville, CA offered us carne asada and comfy beds. It was SO worth the extra 60 miles to accept their hospitality. And, as they warned us, being in the Imperial Valley – where the temp hit 120! – made us very thankful to just be passing through.
We pulled into San Diego Friday around 11:00am. We met our new boss and his wife – who not only offered us lunch, but are also housing us as we search for a place to live. We already feel blessed by our coworkers, and we haven’t even started working yet!
We looked at some houses Friday and yesterday, and we found one we really like. We are waiting to hear from the owner to know if our lease application is accepted. Prayerfully, it will be, and we will move in on Tuesday or Wednesday. But for now, we wait…
I HATE waiting. But God is teaching me to trust Him as we wait, to appreciate and learn from the incredible hospitality we have been shown by so many on our trip out here. He is teaching me that I don’t need a home to have security – my security comes from Him. He has shown me that our family can thrive and grow, even – or because of – the waiting. And He has shown me that being temporarily homeless isn’t that bad — many people have it much worse, and I need to choose thankfulness over complaining.
We appreciate your prayers, and we ask that they keep coming! I hope the next post is the “We’re in!” post — but we recognize God’s plans are better than ours, and we will seek to trust Him, no matter what.
I was talking to my youngest daughter about Daniel the other day. She is struggling with the move – understandably. Florida is home. It’s where her friends and family live, where she has made memories, where she has grown from a child into a beautiful young teenager. It’s where she thought she’d go to high school and college. She doesn’t want to leave Florida, where she is known and loved, to go to California, where everyone will be a stranger.
So we talked about Daniel. He, too, was forced – against his will – to leave home and go to a foreign land. He, too, was likely a young , good-looking teenager, who had to leave behind great friends and family, special places, and all the comforts of the “known”. He was human, just like us, so I’m sure Daniel shed tears, got angry, asked “why me??” Like my daughter, he might have said, “Why can’t I just stay in one place like normal people?”
But God had a plan for Daniel – just like He has a plan for my daughter, and for all of us. Daniel didn’t know, when he was taken away, that he would rise to great power in Babylon. He didn’t know that his friends would be thrown in a fiery furnace or that he would be trapped in a lions’ den. He didn’t know God would give him prophetic ability that would point this pagan country to the true, living God. He didn’t know the words he wrote would be read thousands of years later, that they’d be quoted by the mom of a heartbroken teen who is having to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. Daniel just obeyed – maybe reluctantly, at first. We don’t know. But we do know he took the faith of his fathers and made it his own. We know he was so sold out for God that he willingly risked his life to keep worshiping Him.
I love reading about men like Daniel and being reminded that the God who moved Daniel from Judah to Babylon is the same God who moving us from Florida to California. He is with us – His Holy Spirit is IN us! – and He has a purpose in this move. God used Daniel to make His name known in Babylon. He used Daniel in great – though sometimes uncomfortable – ways to glorify Him. And that, my friends, is why we are here: to glorify God – however, wherever, He chooses.
Maybe you’re not moving across the country. But, maybe, like my daughter, you are facing a difficult situation – one you didn’t ask for, don’t want, but that is thrust upon you, anyway. Dare to be a Daniel! Cling to God, trust Him, worship Him. He has great plans for you! They may not be “comfortable”, but they are good. Because He is good. And He is with you every single step of your journey.
I HATE saying goodbye. I’m talking about long-term goodbyes, not the conversational ones we throw out at the end of a dinner or after church on Sunday. Those are fine. Easy. It’s the “I don’t know the next time I’ll see you again” goodbyes that I hate. We say these goodbyes when we move away (which we’re doing in 2 weeks — read this if that is news to you), or when people we love move away. Sometimes we say them when we move churches or schools. The saddest goodbyes are when a loved one dies. Even though, if they are believer, you know you will see them again, the temporary separation is painful.
But as much as I hate goodbyes, I know they’re necessary. We learned, in a missionary training session over a decade ago, a truth that has stuck with me:
“Good goodbyes allow for good hellos.”
When we acknowledge the beauty of our friendships, the pain involved in leaving people and places we love, we are able to say goodbye in a healthy way. We don’t leave words unspoken. We are sad – very sad – but we don’t compound that sadness with misplaced bitterness or regrets. So we just deal with the sadness. We verbalize what we’re really feeling. That helps us feel the freedom to establish new friendships in our new places.
When we are honest with others – and ourselves – we can take the root issues to the Lord, and He will help us through them. When we refuse to recognize the real problem – whatever it is – we feed into the lie that it is something else, someone else, that is the problem. This leads to depression and heartache. We pull away from the Lord instead of drawing near to Him.
Right now, I have a couple issues that I need to daily bring before the Lord: 1) I don’t want to leave special people and places! I don’t want to make my kids leave best friends, churches, and schools they love 2) I am scared I won’t make new friends in my new place. I’m scared my kids will be miserable and will look back on this and hate us for making them move.
When I focus on those issues, I live in fear. I am stressed and miserable and overwhelmed. I need to seek the Lord to help me replace those thoughts with truth. Truth is found in God’s word.
Right now, I am memorizing and meditating on Isaiah 26:3-2 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” I also recall Prov. 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Dave and I have sought the Lord, and He has led us to San Diego. I can trust God’s guidance. I can lean on Him. And I can follow him – no matter the cost – because He is worth it.
If you’re dealing with some “goodbyes” right now, let me encourage you to be honest about how painful they are. Tell people you love how much you love them. Drive by your favorite spots in town and recall the good times you had there. Cry. And, most importantly, let Jesus bear your burden. Cry to Him, lean on Him, listen to Him. Change is HARD. There’s no way to make it easy. But change can be good because it can draw us closer to the Savior, mold us more into his image, make us better equipped to serve others.
Saturday, as we were headed to a graduation party, we drove right into a Florida Storm. If you don’t live here, let me fill you in: our storms come in fast and heavy; the sky can go from beautiful blue to midnight gray in minutes. Lightning flashes, thunder roars, the skies open, and tourists panic.
We happened to be driving across a major bridge at the time. We saw several cars pulled over to the side, hazards on, refusing to drive across. Understandable – the rain was so heavy the windshield wipers barely helped at all. But we knew something they didn’t: the storm was localized. We checked the radar and saw that if we kept driving, we’d be out of it in minutes. So we slowed down (only fools drive the speed limit in a storm!) and drove across the bridge. By the time we got to the other side, we saw blue sky. A few miles later, we were at the party, having a wonderful time with great friends. Dry and happy.
I thought of how like the Christian life that is. God tells us there will be storms. But He also tells us that those storms are followed by joy. We learn more about Him through the storms. We are strengthened through them. As we walk through storms, we become better equipped to help others navigate their way through storms.
Yet, many people “pull over to the side of the road” spiritually during the difficult times. They refuse to check the radar, to keep driving, to believe that the storm is passing. So instead of pressing on through what could be a short drive, they simply stop. For them, the storm lasts much longer and the only lesson they learn is to avoid storms the next time. And worse – they miss out on the party!
In Psalm 57:1, David says, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”
Storms WILL come. But they will also go. Take refuge in Truth – God is with you through them. Go to Him! Seek His word. Don’t let go, don’t stop, don’t give up.
“One may experience sorrow during the night,
but joy arrives in the morning.” Ps. 30:5b
Those of you regular readers and friends (and regular reader friends!) know we have been looking for a job this year. Our position here in Largo was just for one year, and that year is just about up. Where we will go next?
We had our plans, but we have been walking with the Lord long enough to know our plans are rarely the same as God’s plans.
That was certainly true in this case!
We have followed God’s leading to a lot of places – Texas, Costa Rica, Spain, back to Florida. Each time was a step of faith and a time of growth and blessing as we were obedient to His direction. This next step is pretty big – and pretty exciting. We are moving to…..
San Diego, California! Yep, just about as far from Largo FL as we could get: 2,470 miles to be exact.
Dave will teaching Bible, and I’ll be teaching English at Calvary Christian Academy San Diego.
Last summer, we moved across the bay, from Tampa to Largo, and that stretched us as a family. Moving across the country will certainly be a challenge. We have wonderful friends – and lots of beloved family – here and, between our two “tours” in the Tampa Bay area, over a decade of treasured memories. There’s no easy way to leave “home”.
It certainly helps that we are moving to one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Beaches on one side, mountains on the other, and a climate that is practically perfect all year long! Not too shabby.
But we would appreciate your prayers – saying goodbye is never easy. Neither is adjusting to the new, making friends, finding where we fit in a new school, new church, and new location.
We know, however, that God never leaves us or forsakes us, and we have seen how He has guided us to San Diego. Moves always remind me that comfort and “stability” are not – nor should they be – my primary focus on this earth. Following Jesus should be my focus and my joy. The Christ-life is not easy, but it is rewarding and full.
I’m sure you’ll be reading – and seeing – a lot more about this move in the coming weeks. We’d appreciate your prayers. If you’re reading this from the west coast, we’d love your words of advice! And my east coast friends — we expect lots of visitors ;)….Please!!
I am dealing with a HUGE pain in the neck right now. And I’m not talking about that kid in first period who never listens to a word I say. I mean a literal pain in the neck….I have a pinched nerve. It hurts.
But I have noticed something: the pain is worse when I’m thinking about it. When I’m sitting at home, icing it, medicating it, massaging it, it hurts MORE. When I’m at school, teaching, talking, grading, not being listened to, it hurts LESS.
The pain is still there, at home and at school. The difference?
Specifically – my mind. When my mind is occupied on something other than the pain, it seems less awful.
This, I have found, is true of the metaphorical pains in the neck, too. When troubles come – and they come to us all! – we have to make a choice. Will we focus all our energy on that “pain”? Or will focus on something else?
Pain-in-the-neck situations and people can sometimes mess me up far more than any physical pain can. I can stew in anger, dwell on hurts or offenses, plan ways to “pay them back”. This, of course, serves no purpose other than to make the pain even more aggravating.
What I need to do is to occupy my mind on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…” (Phil. 4:8). Focusing on those things will bring more than distraction – they bring freedom!
So the cure to a pain in the neck? A change in the mind.
There’s a popular worship song that many of you probably know by heart: “Always”.
I like it. I close my eyes and pray the words: “I will not fear/His promise is true/my God will come through/Always”.
There are four words in that song that open my eyes and close my mouth. Four words that don’t fit with who God has revealed Himself to be. Those four words?
“He will not delay.”
Um, hang on a second. What about Joseph being wrongly imprisoned by Potiphar, praying and waiting for YEARS to be freed? How about David being anointed as king but waiting years – while being chased by a homicidal Saul – to actually ascend the throne? How about the Jewish people being told a Messiah would deliver them, but waiting CENTURIES for His arrival? What about Paul – longing to see fellow brothers in Christ, but prevented because he was imprisoned OVER and OVER again??
I could go on!
God DOES delay. He delays to strengthen our character, to teach us endurance. He delays to draw us closer to Him, seeking His strength in our weakness. He delays because HE IS GOD, and He knows best.
I have experienced delays throughout my Christian life. I am in a period of delay right now. While I don’t love it, I am grateful for it. God is working in me in ways I would never have experienced if I had just gotten what I wanted right away. God’s word is sweeter, more necessary as I wait. I feel His grace and strength and peace as I wait. My husband and I are growing closer as we wait together, our kids are seeing the “walk by faith” command fleshed out as we wait.
My God DOES delay. He WILL delay. But, as the song rightly teaches, “My God will come through/ALWAYS.”
We don’t need to fear delay. But we do need to expect it. If you haven’t experienced a delay from God, yet, you will! He is not punishing you or ignoring you. He is loving you and shaping you into who He wants you to be. Cling to Him. Trust Him. He is good, and He is GOD. So praise Him in the delay and know that God is FOR you!