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Joy is a gift from God

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http://www.klove.com/ministry/encouraging-word/

Today’s Encouraging Word from K-Love Radio caught my attention:

“You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for you because of what you have done.” – Psalm 92:4 NLT

My fiance, Bill, and I are getting married one week from today, and I thank the Lord for bringing us together. Yet, at the same time, people all around us face fears or sorrows equal in measure to my own great happiness. At times I feel as though my celebration should be a trivial event in the presence of such despair. But our joy is a gift from God. He is our faithful father, who “doesn’t withhold any good thing from those who live righteously” (Psalm 84:11), and who, when we are in distress, not understanding the trouble in our lives, is “a shield about us, and the lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3).

In joy, I sing for what He has done for me. And I trust that He will guide Bill and me and over each hill and through each valley in our lives together.

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Out of the minds of babes

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Today was my day to run children’s church. The children are all between five and eight years old, and most are pretty well-versed in the child-friendly bible stories. I usually start the lesson by recalling a particular bible story, or talking about why we celebrate a certain holiday. Then we color and make crafts based on the story.

The topic for the day often comes as an insight gained from prayer. As an overworked and underslept college student (now grad student and teacher), I have little time to plan well for children’s church, though I do try to give it some thought at least 24 or 48 hours ahead of Sunday. Today though, as often happens, I did not come prepared with a lesson at all. Today, I did not even come prepared with construction paper for coloring and crafts. Again, as I often do, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me to a topic or activity.

As I sat in the pew this morning, while the pastor made her opening announcements, I received the answer: add-a-line poem. I have done these before in poetry workshops. They are fun to do, and usually turn out surprisingly interesting. The method is that one person starts by writing a line, then passes the paper to the next person, who writes a line, and so on. 

But they are little children, I thought. Can they write poetry?

I was guided to the presence of a notepad and pen in my purse. I clearly heard the words repeated in my head: add-a-line poem. The Holy Spirit was firm on the matter. God wanted me to try something new.

I led seven children downstairs, and we all gathered around our big table. After everyone had settled down, I told them how King David had been a great poet and songwriter, and that he had written almost all of the psalms. We recited part of the 23rd Psalm to get an idea of what a psalm was all about, and then I had them complete their own add-a-line psalm. One of the children didn’t know how to write yet, and three of them were a bit more prolific than the others, so the effort was not evenly spaced, but five of the seven children eagerly added lines to the work. Here is their psalm:

**********************************************

I am happy because God gave me the stars.

God is amazing – he made all the planets, even mars.

God is cool because he made trees and grass.

I thank God for creating the Earth.

I thank God for making everyone.

Jesus is the Alpha, the Son, and the stars.

I love Jesus because he made me and he gave me the things for me to survive.

He also made beehives.

He is so creative.

**********************************************

I was grateful to the Holy Spirit for guiding me to such a fun and productive activity. But just now, as I write this post, I can see the deeper significance of what happened today. I entitled the post “Out of the minds of babes,” which is a play on the familiar idiom “out of the mouths of babes.” As I reflected on that idiom, I thought I recalled it originating in the New Testament. Indeed, I looked it up and found it in Matthew 21:16, where Jesus has just overturned the tables of the moneylenders in the temple.

In the passage, Matthew tells us that, upon hearing the children in the temple courts shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the “chief priests and teachers of the law… were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

     ‘From the lips of children and infants
       you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?””

Jesus often quoted scripture from the Hebrew Bible as he spoke to people. A footnote in the text of Matthew informs me that Jesus is quoting here from Psalm 8. After looking up the psalm, I am astounded again at the nature of our loving, dependable, nurturing God.

I will reproduce the entire psalm here, because it so elegantly ties the circle of my story together in the resemblance that the innocent work of the children in church today has shown to the words of King David.

I believe that God revealed His presence today, as He often does, in a beautiful tapestry woven of human need, the endless faithfulness of God toward those who trust His will, and the mind and hands of human deeds.

Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Going to the chapel…

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Joyful news!

I thought that I might include this happy news in my last, recapping, post. But I felt that such a wonderful announcement deserved its own space on the digital shelf.

I’m getting married!

Now, my friends and family already know this. My fiance proposed back in February — on Groundhog day (presumably so he could, like in the movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, get a do-over if he flubbed the delivery). We had spent the day tiling a wall in the basement we are finishing at his house. I have no idea how he managed to keep the secret all day long, but there is a tell-tale wiggle in the hoizontalness of the subway tiles near the top of the stack. A snowstorm had been  approaching. He told me later that he had feared I would want to leave early to get home before the weather hit. I wondered why he started working so quickly toward the end! I thought he had just grown tired of tiling.

We set the date for October 12th this year.

I will be working and in graduate school then, so we will have a small, quiet service at his church, followed by a reception at my church. We are thankful to the Lord for arranging this marriage! We know it was His guidance that made it possible because the union between us doesn’t come without complications — the greatest of which might be our different traditions of worship.  My fiancé is Catholic. I am a member of the United Methodist Church. And we are both deeply embedded in our respective churches.

We fretted at first over what to do. Although neither of us wants to change the other’s worship, we also don’t want to budge from our own churches. But compromise comes easily to us, often in unexpected ways. In the end we decided that we would just keep doing what we’ve been doing: he at his church and I at mine, attending one another’s together every so often and on holidays. In reality, I am so involved in ministries at my church that there is probably only one Sunday a month when I am able to just sit in the pew and enjoy the worship. Between managing the video crew, singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School, and manning children’s church, I’m usually fully booked. Most Sundays, he’ll enjoy a leisurely breakfast and read the newspaper while I am immersed in my wonderful, hectic, worshipful, prayerful, family time. We’ll both think it is a fine arrangement, and I will gracefully deflect the occasional curious inquiry into why my husband “doesn’t attend worship” (an assumption, I am afraid to admit, I have made before about other lone, married women in the congregation — a lesson on judging for me!).

With God at the center, and with one another’s best interests always at heart, everything works out to the good.

Hello the blogosphere

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I feel the need, after a long absence from writing, to return with an explanation for why I have been away. To simply jump in on topic without any sort of revealing would feel awkward to me – a sort of lie of omission. And since this blog is all about how it feels/looks/sounds to live a life spent seeking first the kingdom of God, I feel an ethical obligation to ‘fess up my reasons for being away.

Transparency, I believe, enables encouragement – both yours, dear readers, and mine.

Not knowing what my readers might know of my story thus far from previous posts, I’ll give a brief recap.

This past December (2012), I reached a four-year milestone along the rather amorphous journey I started 10 years ago to rebuild my life after a painful divorce. Along the way, I quit a 17-year career in travel, moved back in with my parents, tried and rejected a new career in insurance, and then fell in love with Christ.

(I also fell in love of another kind, but more on that in a future post)

When the Lord took me under His wing, it was as if the needle to my internal space/time compass swung true for the first time in my life. After an initial time of great euphoria and discovery, I began to pray for God’s will alone to direct my life. Doors that I thought open to me professionally closed shut tight, others opened, and I found myself enrolling in college. An interest in graphic design quickly changed to the pursuit of an A.S. in computer science (which I obtained in 2010), which in turn morphed, after near-constant prayer, into a B.S. in mathematics and English (obtained in December of 2012). Each time the plan evolved, I went through a period of crisis. Since I tend to tie my identity and self-worth in with my accomplishments (in a way I should not), during the time just after accomplishing a milestone but before God reveals a new direction for me, I panic. While maintaining productivity and appearing to others as my normal, well-functioning self, another story is going on inside. Uncertainty grabs hold of me and I plummet like Peter in the stormy sea when he took his eyes off Jesus. I feel as though I’ve lost all anchors to meaning or significance. I flounder. During such a time, I question every motive I have ever held, and am unable to draw conclusions, and hence am unwilling to write. I spend hours out of each day trying to discern God’s intention for my life before He is ready to reveal it to me.

That is where I have been since January, dear readers: trying to second-guess God.

Believe me, trying to foretell God’s will in order to get a leg up on it is like hitting a soap-bubble with a baseball bat, expecting to get a home run.

I don’t know why I am impatient with God. I feel like I need to know now exactly what the future holds. But the Lord has been generous with His support. He has sent people all along the way to encourage and challenge me, and to exhort me to perform my best. I have listened and responded with enthusiasm, and thus have enjoyed a deep satisfaction with everything I have done. Awards, honors, and achievements grew from many cycles of planting, sowing, and reaping, during which I kept saying to God over and over again: Lord, just let me do Your will. And God is ever faithful. His perfect love allows me to build a supporting body of experience as a Christian that will support me through future periods of doubt and uncertainty.

Finally, though, this most recent fog of uncertainty is lifting, and I am beginning to feel my feet back upon the path. I am feeling less buffeted by the storm, more able to hear the still, small voice telling me to have patience, to trust in the Lord to make my path straight.

I should be making some decisions soon regarding graduate school and job (if not yet regarding an ultimate career – I know, I know, patience) that will occupy me for the next season of growth and training.

I hope this settling of my anxious spirit means that I have returned to this journal with some regularity. Please pray with me, dear readers, that it does.

Ask, Seek, Knock

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Sometimes I think I sound like a broken record: have faith, trust in God, God provides, seek Him in all you do and He will make your path straight — I just go on and on about these.

There is a reason for that. It is Truth.

Proverbs 3:6

New Living Translation (NLT)

Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

I have felt greatly convicted of my sin lately. I feel that my biggest error lies in arrogance and my failure to first reach out to others. I live too often in a bubble of Self, perceiving everything around me only as it pertains to me. I see compassion in others, great compassion that seems to just well up inside them unbidden. I want to exhibit that kind of compassion, and I feel now an overwhelming urge to seek it from God.

Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit works within us to urge us to goodly behavior without our realizing we have a need for it. At least with me, I have no idea why I have this sudden longing for a great dose of compassion. I am sure that just a week ago I would have said I was a pretty good person. Lately, though, every sentence I utter seems to undergo an immediate post-spoken critique in my thoughts. I look for how I might have failed to lift someone up with my words, and how I might have actively been spiteful, arrogant, or dismissive.

I often find that my words have fallen far short of the power for goodness that they could have been.

So, I’ve been praying for compassion. I’ve been asking the Lord to convict me of the sin of arrogance, and to help me see others as Jesus would see them.

Something interesting has happened.

I seem to be seeing more deeply into situations and have even felt that I could sense the gratitude of people with whom I interact while consciously bearing in mind their best interest, in other words treating them as I would wish I were being treated. Now, I have misunderstood plenty of times before what I imagine someone else is thinking. But this glimmer of delight I see when I look into another person’s eyes while actively holding the love of Christ in my heart seems very real.

Following Christ’s commandment to love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself is addictive: the more I do those, the more I want to do those.

But it isn’t always easy.

This active, deliberate intention to emulate Christ in my interactions with others sometimes drains my energy. I sometimes feel like dropping back into my self-centered view of the world like falling back into a soft couch after a hard workout. But as I know a hard workout is good for my body, so I know that continued deliberate emulation of Christ is good for my soul. And so I pray: for courage, for greater faith, for greater trust, and for compassion.

Matthew 7:7

New Living Translation (NLT)

Effective Prayer

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Just in Time

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Time is relentless. It moves forward of its own accord. We plan against it, rail against it, and wish for more of it. But if there is one thing I have learned in 2012, it is that God is more powerful than time. When we are living in God’s will (as close to that as we are capable of doing, that is), His will is done in our lives exactly when He wills it—not a moment before, nor a moment after.  Our choice then is whether or not to trust God that His best for us will happen as it should at exactly the best time.

God doesn’t supply us with a five-year plan. He won’t tell us that, if we are patient, He will open the door to a great job by this time next year. What He does is open doors nonetheless – in His time. And close them—at His will. We have no warning. One minute we are struggling with worry about the future, and the next we have an unexpected solution. One minute we are wishing for something we think we need in order to achieve our goal, and the next we are dashed when our plan doesn’t pan out. Then later we are elated to discover that God had something better in mind for us. If we pay careful attention to each of those moments, we quickly begin to realize that God does indeed provide us with a method for dealing with time and with our uncertain futures. He offers us the peace and comfort of faith.

We can know in our hearts that God will work in our lives in our best interests when He wants to. And He will. Yet, we still struggle with worry about when He will act and what will happen to us when He does. Or we can understand with faith that no matter when or what His will proves to be, it will be better than anything we could have imagined. God will take care of us.

Does that mean we shouldn’t work, save, educate ourselves, or make ToDo lists? Not necessarily. Because if we didn’t do any of those things, but lived each moment doing only God’s work on earth by caring for others and spreading the Good News, I have no doubt that He would provide food and shelter enough to keep us sustained. But if our calling is to do His work through education, or management, or by digging wells in the desert, we need to undertake processes that take time. God does provide us with exactly the tools we need to move about in the world of academia, business, or theology while obeying Him, and they are found exactly in His Holy Word. But faith is what I am talking about here today—the Faith that as we move about, following His Word, doing His work, always listening for His voice, constantly keeping the channel of communication with Him open through prayer, we need not ache with worry about what the future will bring. God will provide exactly what we need, and exactly what we need will be far better than what we might think we need—and all of this will happen at just the right time.

I saw this happen time after time throughout my past four years with Christ. This past year, I came to believe it, and to anticipate God’s faithfulness to provide. I stepped off the ledge of worry and endless lists and spreadsheets onto the thin air of Faith—and God placed firm ground beneath my feet.  I know in my heart, mind, and soul that God will close every door not fruitful to me, and open just the right ones at just the right time. I live for Him first. I am in love with God, and pray every day for that love to flow through me into the world. And I don’t worry about the future. God’s strength will get me through bad times. God’s faithfulness will provide in lean times. God’s abundant love will fill me with the riches of living for Him.

Indeed, Jesus tells us nothing less than this, time after time, over and over again:

Matthew 16:7-10

New Living Translation (NLT)

At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? 10 Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up?

Mark 4:35-41

New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Luke 12:28

New Living Translation (NLT)

28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

Mark 11:22

New Living Translation (NLT)

22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God.”

Happy New Year, dear friends and readers. I wish you a faith-filled year in the faithfulness of God!

Good Tidings of Great Joy

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I have always loved the King James Version of Luke’s telling of Jesus’s birth. It brings back childhood memories of hearing it told in school, on television, and in movies. The words solidified the story in my imagination as vivid images that gave me hope in the face of troubles: no matter how dark and cold the night might have seemed from time to time, especially in the cold-war era of my youth, always underlying my fear was the certain truth that a savior had been born to save the world from ruin. Because I had been told the story of Jesus’s birth in every venue of my life, the struggle between my intellectual self and my spiritual self was eased by a comfort that had been built into the foundation of my personality. I wonder what the children of today’s world have to comfort them in the dark of night. What story of peace and love for mankind do they have to help balance their intellectual understanding of the world? What good tidings of great joy have our children to proclaim against the cold specter of a post-modern, materialistic, technological society? We people are not formidable enough to rely only upon ourselves, or even upon the words of the wisest among us. We need the power of God, the love of His Son, and the spiritual energy of the Holy Spirit within us to be able to tackle each day upon the earth. We need theses stories in the public Christian arena of our lives. We must not fear the consequences of placing them there. Indeed, we should anticipate the long-term good that results from our children being brought up with a message of hope for mankind.

Luke 2:7-14

King James Version (KJV)

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

God’s Love is Greater

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

New Living Translation (NLT)

5 Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.

But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

I have seen quotes today attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, and John Wesley supposedly answering the question: what would you do if you knew the world would end tomorrow. Each of these men of great faith supposedly answered in one way or another that they would continue to do exactly as they had been doing. Saint Francis, hoeing his garden when asked, would continue to hoe. Martin Luther would plant a tree. Wesley would keep his preaching and visiting schedule before gladly commending his life to the Lord and waking up the next day in glory. Regardless of the veracity of the quotes (and I have not followed them to any textual source), they touch truth. In times of uncertainty and disempowerment, when people can be easily swayed by a cloying combination of pseudo-logic and spiritual misrepresentation, it is more important than ever for Christians to rely first  upon God’s power to provide for our needs.

We need not rely just on Paul’s words, as in the epistle to the Thessalonians above. We have the words of our Lord Himself. In His infinite love for His creation, He has provided, does provide, and will always provide exactly what we need. To believe anything else, anything less, or to hedge our bets against the off-chance that 2000 years of faith in God’s scripture was a misplaced trust is to defy His love. Defiance of God’s gift of grace to us is a dangerous stance to take. This is what Jesus Christ tells us about the end of our known, material world: even Jesus himself does not know when it will be.

Matthew 24:36-44

New International Version (NIV)

The Day and Hour Unknown

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Mark 13:32

New Living Translation (NLT)

32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

Though we cannot know when God will choose to call an end to our human world and establish His eternal kingdom, we can know one thing with absolute certainty. When we allow Him to take the place in our heart that was always intended for Him, when we permit our God to indwell us in the Holy Spirit, when we accept Jesus into our lives and beg Him to take control, then we are destined for eternity, and then it does not matter when the world will end. It could end five minutes or five thousand years from now. We could be beset with natural disaster or great war, disease, or famine. Either way, we will just go on about our normal day, unbiased by the fallen world, steadfast in our faith that God will provide–that He is in control, and we who are in His employ can serve ourselves no better than to serve Him first, above all personal security or gain. Then the worst possible thing that could happen is that we are used as His vessel, as His hands and feet, and that eventually we will be reborn into His holy, eternal city. Which is, of course, also the best possible thing that could happen. It always seems that God loves a paradox.

So, until such a time as that, Jesus tells us exactly how to behave and what to do:

Mark 13:35

New Living Translation (NLT)

35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak.

Matthew 24:42-44

New Living Translation (NLT)

4“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

In other words, we should hold God first and foremost in our thoughts, desires, and actions. When we fail to do that (we will all fall short of that mark. Repeatedly.) we should refocus as quickly as possible. We should encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus. And we should tell others of the awesome way that God works in our lives so that they may have a chance to share the joy and certainty we enjoy from being followers of Christ and children of God.

Aside

Giving Thanks

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear readers and friends,

On this day of thanksgiving, let us be thankful to God for all that we have, all that we are, and all that He calls us to do. Give thanks for the small things, for they, summed together, make up the greater part of our lives. And for the great things, with which we publicly give testament to His glory and His grace.

Let us be peacemakers on this and every day, as our Lord Jesus has called us to be. Let us honor our guests and our hosts. Let us take a moment to pray, silently or together, to our Father from whom all blessings flow. Let us remember that there are people suffering, soldiers in the field, and nations at war and in strife in the world.

Have a safe, joyful, and happy Thanksgiving Day, my fellow Americans. And I pray that the spirit of the day may spill over to my readers and friends in other lands, rest in your hearts and give you pause to thank our Lord today, too, for the many blessings He bestows.

In Christ,
Debbie

Psalm 106:1

New International Version (NIV)

Praise the Lord.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Psalm 100:4

New International Version (NIV)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.

2 Corinthians 4:15

New International Version (NIV)

15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

I Shall Not Want

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Today, after about three hours sleep last night, I was feeling like I should be feeling put out that I had to work all day rather than prepare for a huge math test this afternoon. But I wasn’t feeling that way. In fact, what I was feeling was a lack of want. I felt like God was going to take care of the day for me. Somehow, I was going to find some time to study for the test regardless of having to work right up until the starting time.

The tutoring center I in which I work started filling fast this morning, though. As students moved in and took seats with the other tutors, I felt my possibilities for study time slipping away. One of my regular students came in and sat down next to me. I was glad to see him because I’d been wondering how he was doing. We worked steadily for an hour or two, graphing parabolas and ellipses. I enjoy ellipses. There was even going to be some material on elliptic integrals on my upcoming test. But I wasn’t getting any closer to reviewing for it.

Then I realized that I actually had lots of time in between problems while my student did his work. I brought out my own flashcards and notes and added them to the pile on the table. Over the next few hours, I was able to review and help my student at the same time. Later, traffic from the college to the university was easy, I found a parking spot right away, and there was no line at the coffee shop. I was early for the class I teach so I got in another good hour of study.

My boyfriend likes to tell me, when I joyfully proclaim that God has taken care of me yet again, that he is pretty sure God requires a certain amount of preparation on my part in order for things to work out in my favor. Certainly, I spent hours last night studying, which is why I only got a few hours of sleep. God has me walking firmly on His path right now. He’s got my back. He takes care of the part that I am not strong enough to do on my own.

I was thinking earlier that many people have deeper struggles than my own. I wondered briefly whether or not it was appropriate of me to feel great thanks for what I’m sure are inconsequential events to people in dire situations. After all, how would it sound to someone who lost a home to Hurricane Sandy to hear me praise God for a math test? But then I realized that God is big enough for all of us — and deserves all the praise for caring for each of us, from extreme circumstances to comfortable but anxious ones, all at the same time.

The 23rd Psalm has been playing in my head ever since that thought earlier today. I was very sleepy during the test and may have only achieved an average score, but it was certainly better than it would have been without God’s hand supplying me an extra few minutes to study. Besides, regardless of my score on that test, I was able to do some real good by helping others today. The Lord is my Shepherd. Indeed, I shall not want.

Psalm 23

King James Version (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Amen!