Life on the Bumpy Road #1

It always amazes me how full our lives get. We live in a culture frantic to keep up with “The List,” the Joneses, our needs, the kids, the high expectations. After a mission trip to a very laid back culture in 2008, I became even more aware of how my personality and culture repeatedly drives me toward my calendar and steady doses of urgent matters.

I feel justified but frequently frustrated to find myself staying up late into the evenings because there are so many “worthy” and urgent things on my plate. You know what I mean. Your list looks different than mine but we all have one that challenges us. I have a child with severe disabilities, three teenagers and a graduation coming up, a husband prone to life-threatening infection due to a chronic health condition, a vulnerable back that requires me to make a simple work-out regimen a regular part of most days, a non-profit ministry to run, and our family is now into eight months of unemployment. For Larry and I, it’s a crazy pace to keep up.

I stumbled onto this verse the other day and it brought me, once again, a good reminder about where I place my priorities — and TRUST.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. PSALM 127:2

To me, this verse begs the question: “How much do you trust God, Lisa?”

It is good to be continually evaluating priorities and pruning out of my life anything that keeps me from bearing the best possible fruit. John 15 has been a great guide for me. Jesus said (with my emphasis):

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit….the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

First and foremost, I must take time to remain firmly rooted in the relationship that anchors and nourishes me. Then I have to periodically cut some things loose or life just keeps adding more and more. A life without regular pruning is an unreasonable and undoable way to live.

God created the whole universe and life itself and then He RESTED. God provided enough manna for the Israelites in the desert each day for six days of the week but commanded them not to try to save any for the next day. He expected them to trust Him to supply enough, one day at a time. But on the last day of the week, he would give them enough for two days so that they could rest for a day. On every other day of the week, if they tried to save any manna, it would spoil by morning. But at the end of the week, God kept the manna fresh overnight so that they could stop gathering and just enjoy His provision and each other.

I suggest here that we’re all being stretched to consider how much we trust our God who repeatedly urges us to rest in Him and to take breaks from our toil. If we have our priorities straight and are working on them in a focused manner while plugged into a relationship with our Savior, has He not promised to honor our best effort and make that enough?

There will always be more work to be done, more time to be given to a worthy cause, more people to help, more emails to read and more great stuff to plug the kids into. I see marriages and families being ripped apart every day and the slow, subtle deterioration started, at least in part, because folks were so stretched doing good and valuable things like ministry and community service and countless activities for their kids while their marriages were getting the last dregs of their energy and passion. You know what? Satan LOVES that!

Let us receive the gift of rest from a holy God who is always sufficient — and we are not. He doesn’t allow us to be entirely self-sufficient because if we were, we wouldn’t need to trust in Him.

Do you trust Him enough to let some things go?

Are You Tired of Waiting?

I am a driven and impatient person who has been stretched in recent years to surrender my desires about the timing of things to God’s ever-wise timing. This does not come easily for me. I don’t like it when God seems mysterious or slow to respond — well, except for when He’s slow to get impatient with me.

Here’s are just a few of those things for which I’m waiting:

  • Waiting for Carly to hit a new developmental milestone (she is our 12 year old daughter who has Angelman Syndrome)
  • Waiting for educators in this country to awaken to more effective ways of teaching children with special needs
  • Waiting for churches to respond more generously and Biblically to the needs of families facing disability
  • Waiting for God to open doors for Larry to a new job (my husband has been laid off since 9/7/10)
  • Waiting for a business goal to be accomplished and new ministry doors to open
  • Waiting for resolution to a contract issue
  • Waiting for an opportunity to do more writing and finish new books
  • Waiting for clear answers to a prayer about an area of my life where I’m confused

Last night I spoke with about 30 women at a nearby correctional facility, each waiting out a lengthy incarceration for things like drug convictions and drunk driving arrests. This week I spoke with others who are waiting for things too.

  • Waiting for healing
  • Waiting for a spouse to come to his/her senses
  • Waiting for a wayward child to come back home
  • Waiting to lose more weight
  • Waiting for encouragement amidst overwhelming circumstances

There are several reasons why waiting for God to reveal answers to my prayers is getting easier. One very gratifying reason is that I’m starting to see how profoundly God uses waiting times for HUGE things. Instead of waiting being a tedious, frustrating or worrisome experience, I’ve been noticing that God squeezes critical things out of those times. Sometimes those things are for me (lessons learned, character stretching, faith bolstering, etc.) but often there are important things coming out of my waiting times that are for the benefit of someone else entirely.

Like it or not, it’s not always about me. Actually, there’s a great freedom in knowing that when God doesn’t answer right away, it’s not always because I’m failing Him in some way. Often, God is carefully putting numerous things into place so that the answer is ultimately much more, better, or amazing than I could ever have imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21). Sometimes it even means that I might have to endure some hardship so that someone else can benefit in some way (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Colossians 1:24). After all, Jesus endured a whole lot more. God will most certainly empower and sustain me because there are always Kingdom purposes at work (Colossians 1:11-12)!

When I look at waiting on God for answers as an adventure — a time of anticipating what incredible things God will do next — it’s more exciting and not so grueling. While none of us aspires for our life to follow the plot line of a mystery novel, I’m growing to appreciate that the best stories are complex, take time to unfold, build our confidence that adversity can be overcome and show us that the wait is worth it!

LORD, help us to catch Your vision for the value of our story in the broader Kingdom perspective. When we get impatient for Your answers or actions, help us to be confident that You are always at work in the midst of every situation — always near, forever faithful, completely sufficient to bring our stories to the best conclusions. Show us how to live so that every chapter declares Your greatness and captures the best of intimacy with You for us AND for others. AMEN

If you can take 5 minutes to prayerfully listen to this song, I believe God will have something very special for you!

“While I’m Waiting” by John Waller

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb7TSGptd3Y

Our Constant in the Chaos

I smiled knowingly as I read a friend’s Facebook status recently. I’ve changed the names but this is how it read:

“Needs a break from the chaos, aka my life…Husband missing in action, Cindy chasing dog around and around in circles, then dog chasing Cindy, Jan acting like she has never had a friend over in her life, Marcia texting how she isn’t getting enough time with Matt (awww, young love) and then there is me watching it all happen in slow mo…I am exhausted.”

Each of our lives tends to ebb and flow through seasons and degrees of chaos. Some days it’s easier to smile through it than others. Sometimes the chaos is largely external, other times it’s a chaos of the soul that leaves a feeling like life is falling apart at the seams. Having a child with severe disabilities has certainly brought external chaos into my life but I’m grateful for what it is teaching me about how to experience internal rest.

Chaos can have one of two effects on us. It can draw us deeper into our understanding of God and our relationship with Him or it can distract us from exploring the truth about who God is. Any response but drawing nearer to God will ultimately have the affect of increasing and perpetuating the chaos.

We tend to live on a treadmill of effort trying to discover the latest and greatest tips, tools and techniques that will help us. We try to learn better parenting methods, explore tips for better cooking or household management, seek out marriage strengthening techniques, study money management strategies, and develop new career skills. While there are many good resources available, we are prone to becoming overwhelmed and distracted in the details trying to keep up, buck up, and measure up.

I don’t believe that God intends for us to get caught up in learning a myriad of tips and techniques. The Bible keeps pointing us back to core principles and shows us that by living according to certain basics, we will thrive because the Holy Spirit empowers us!

REST IN GOD’S NEARNESS Psalm 139 reminds us that there is nowhere we can go to get away from God’s Spirit (Psalm 139:7-10) and He will fill us with joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11). God promises that if we draw near to Him, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). He is our ever-present help (Psalm 46:1)!

REST IN GOD’S FAITHFULNESS Throughout the Bible we find encouragement that God responds favorably to our trust in Him. For example, when the Israelites stepped into the Jordan River in obedience to God’s prompting, He piled the flood-stage waters into a heap and made a way for millions of people to cross over to the Promised Land. Even when sin has brought chaos that seems un-calmable, God is faithful and just to bring cleansing, healing and freedom when it is confessed (1 John 1:9 and James 5:16).

REST IN GOD’S SUFFICIENCY Despite our best efforts to do enough, be good enough, afford enough and say the right things, God alone holds the power to equip us and make us fruitful (2 Corinthians 3:4-5). God alone is able to fill us (John 7:37-38, Ephesians 1:22-23) and to make more of things than we ever can (Ephesians 3:20-21).

REST IN GOD’S PERSPECTIVE — All of our circumstances, relationships, and attitudes take on a different meaning when viewed through the perspective of an all-knowing and all-powerful God who always has a bigger picture in mind (Colossians 3:1-4 and Romans 8:18). Christ himself endured the cross because He trusted that there was something much bigger than His own comfort at stake (Hebrews 12:2-3).

If we truly make it a priority to seek the Living God FIRST and embrace the truths of God’s nearness, faithfulness, sufficiency and perspective, we will experience a kind of “rest” in life that goes far beyond comprehension and this world’s understanding of rest. God will bear in us the fruit of a thriving life and a restful soul.

Reprinted with permission from the women’s retreat titled Our Constant in the Chaos by Lisa Jamieson, author of Finding Glory in the Thorns and Executive Director of Walk Right In Ministries. Copyright © 2009 Lisa Jamieson. All rights reserved.

They Inquired of the Lord

I’m on Day 53 in a 90-day Bible reading plan and the process continues to fascinate me. Reading so quickly allows me to see certain details, make interesting connections, and recognize themes while things are fresh in my mind. Here are some examples that are re-inspiring me to be direct and specific with questions of God.

King David asked God for specific direction and God answered.

2 Samuel 2:1 “Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” So David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.””

King Solomon asked God for wisdom and it pleased God.

1 Kings 3:9-10 “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.”

Before Queen Esther stepped out in a risky act of faith, she inquired of the Lord and asked her kinsmen to stand with her in prayer for God’s favor.

Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

In contrast, King Asa sought professional help while ignoring God.

2 Chronicles 16:12 “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.”

The other day, Larry and I were muddling through a handful of decisions we were generally prayerful about but had not stopped to inquire of the Lord in a very specific way. In the midst of our discussion, we finally stopped to ask a very targeted, “Should we do this or that, God?” We didn’t hear an audible answer but a solution and direction did become clear within just a couple of minutes after that prayer.

Coincidence? NO WAY!

Lord, we are both challenged and inspired by these accounts from the Bible. We want to be people who don’t hesitate to inquire of You at every crossroads. We want to be people who walk so intimately with You that we recognize Your “voice” and promptings — not just in the big issues but also in the moment-by-moment details of our lives. We want to effectively use the resources You have placed around us without becoming so distracted by them that we forget about going to the One who gave those good gifts in the first place. Help us, Lord! AMEN

WHAT ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF?

A woman in a very strained marriage once shared with me an important insight she had unpacked. For years she had been in an emotionally abusive relationship. Although she had grown to fear her husband, she also feared losing him. The idea of surrendering her hopes and dreams for her family was, understandably, so overwhelming that she had become stuck and unable to make decisions or take steps that God wanted her to make.

Then God prompted her with a newsflash: “You are more afraid of man and your circumstances than you are of ME.” It was as if God was asking, “How much do you really trust me? How much do you even KNOW me? Do you believe that obeying me will be worth surrendering every other fear? ”

I appreciated her humble, teachable spirit. In such extreme circumstances of suffering, it can be very tempting to justify our own comfortable and preferable strategies.

Her perspective challenged me to consider what I fear. Do my worldly concerns exceed my concern for walking according to God’s best for me?

  • Am I so afraid of having children who like me…that I fail to provide them with godly discipline and boundaries?
  • Am I so afraid of being able to pay bills…that I dwell on anxious thoughts and chase man’s wisdom without waiting on the Lord for answers and trusting Him to provide?
  • Am I so afraid that things won’t turn out the way I want them to…that I fail to consider that there will be holy consequences for my rebellion?
  • Am I so afraid of being misunderstood or rejected…that I try to keep others satisfied rather than being who God made me to be?
  • Am I so afraid of what establishing boundaries might cost…that I am unwilling to trust how God may use them for healing in my relationships?
  • Am I so afraid that following God will rob me of “fun”…that I am willing to cheapen His grace for me by taking advantage of the fact that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love?
  • Am I so afraid of the “what ifs”…that I fail to walk in faith and risk offending God?

My list could go on and on.

My heart is divided. I waffle my way through so much of life weighing every command of the Lord like a cost-benefit analysis. I want an undivided heart! I want the Lord to be able to depend on me as someone whose obedience to His ways is swift and unwavering.
“Here I am, send me!”

HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY TRUST HIM?

PSALM 86:11 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.


UNEMPLOYED? …or now fully in ministry?

Last Wednesday around noon, as I was making final preparations to speak at a Women’s Retreat this weekend, Larry came home. In the first seconds after he rounded the corner of our basement office, I hoped he was just home for lunch but, since he’s been in the banking industry for 9 years and the last 3 years have been very challenging, my heart tends to skip a beat whenever he comes home unexpectedly during the day. On this day, one look at his pale face said it all. His job as Vice President of Consumer Lending had been eliminated. For bank security reasons, an employee was required to watch him pack his belongings, clean personal things off of his computer and then leave.

Grief. Fear. Anger. Relief. Anticipation. Disappointment. Shame. Confusion. Hope. Exhaustion.

We were both feeling a range of emotions. And, I’ll admit, we looked at each other in those first moments as the news was sinking in and said, “Really, Lord? You’re going to do this too?” Honestly, we were laughing and crying. With heads shaking and tears streaming, we both found it almost comical that this would come at such a time. The last 9 months have been unusually difficult for us as a couple and family. From health issues and depression challenges not typical for us to decreased earnings and the increasing weight of old debts, this has been a long year already. It seemed we could only hold each other and wonder what delightful things the Lord was going to do next. Yes, I say delightful with some sarcasm. But I can honestly say that we really do have a certain excitement about what new thing(s) may be in store.

Several years ago, a study of Joshua 3 and 4 powerfully illustrated for us that God is FAITHFUL. The Israelites were, once again, arriving at the Promised Land. This time, however, after 40 years of wandering around in the consequences of their rebellion, they would actually enter that awesome place they had longed for. But first, God required they step into a raging river at floodstage. In fact, they were to walk right in to that river carrying the Ark of the Covenant! God was faithful to provide a way to cross. As their feet hit the water’s edge, it parted and He showed them which way to go to a new life in freedom. This is a story Larry and I delight in over and over again. Our ministry — WALK RIGHT IN Ministries — is inspired from it.

The first time the Israelites’ experience touched our hearts was when the Lord was prompting us to take a step of faith and begin a new therapy program with Carly. God quickly showed us a sort of “Promised Land” in that experience and we are continuing to live in the joy and progress and abundance of that yet today. But on another level, especially financially, we have yet to experience the healing and progress and joy that we have hoped for. It is very hard to believe that God has a “Promised Land” for us in that way also.

We feel at a crossroads. I want to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garments and have all of this go away. I want to step into the proverbial “river” and see God “fix” it all. I want a JUBILEE year! I crave the opportunity to be free from the bondage of ANYTHING that could hold Larry and I back from doing exactly what He is calling us to do, whether that is full time ministry or corporate jobs. Certainly, our heart’s desires are to do as much ministry as possible. I have to say, as I stood among over 100 women this weekend sharing Christ with them, I felt BORN for that very moment. I felt the overwhelming privilege to be standing there alongside my husband having all of our talents, experience, skills as well as our relationship colliding together in an way that was being used beautifully for God’s glory. I want more of that. It feels impossible.

I know many of you reading know all too well what it feels like to be in place of financial and vocational stress or confusion. We share your burden and anticipate with you that God is ready to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:16-20)!

Larry and I desperately want to be responsible stewards of all the resources God has given us. We are prayerfully trying to understand what to do with this closed door because our hearts and minds get caught in the tug-of-war between what seems practical or responsible and what seems like it could be God’s prompting to take what sometimes seems like one of the most absurd steps of faith we have ever pondered taking.

Is it no coincidence that we are within just a few weeks of releasing the Group Discussion Guide which is a companion to Finding Glory in the Thorns? Also, the original book, Finding Glory in the Thorns, will be available in Apple’s iBookstore and Amazon’s Kindle in October. Last night Larry wondered, are products like these and speaking engagements going to be like the “tentmaking” part of our vocations — the part that provides foundational financial support so that we can continue in ministry without being so dependent on charitable giving (which has been virtually non-existent)?

Please understand, this is NOT a guilt letter or a plea for money. Yes, we WILL be asking people for contributions towards our ministry but this “blog” is not about that. Today, it is just about sharing from the raw truth of my thoughts. It is about sharing our life vulnerably with you in hopes that you will both pray for us and be inspired by us to draw nearer to Jesus in your own needs for strength and comfort.

Would you please pray this prayer for us from Colossians 1:9-14 (NLT)?

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. THANK YOU, JESUS! —AMEN