The Heart of Prayer

(Note: These principles were adapted from a class I taught at church a few years ago.)

Prayer heart

When it comes to prayer, it’s all about the “heart.”  Here are three ways you can connect your heart to His when you pray…

1–SHARE your heart.

A common question when approaching prayer is: “What do I pray for?”

The amazing answer is:  “Anything and Everything!”

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! (John 15:7, NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6, NLT)

He cares about it all! Come to Him as a little child, running to a strong and loving father. Just like that child, you can talk to your Father about whatever  is on your heart…

O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8, NLT)

2–REFLECT His heart.

But as you spend time with your Heavenly Father in prayer, a funny thing happens. He begins to change your heart.  You will start to want what He wants and care about the things He cares about. Here are some great questions, right out of God’s Word, to help you align your heart with His as you pray:

1)  Am I in a right relationship with Him?  Is this request consistent with His Word?

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, NAS)

God is not a “vending machine,” where you insert a prayer and out pops your selection. In this verse we see two conditions to answered prayer: abiding in Him and allowing His words to abide in us.  “Abiding” implies connection, relationship. This should be your first priority in prayer.

2)  Will it bring glory to God?

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! (John 14:13-14, NLT)

It’s not about me! It’s all about Him, His fame, His glory. Keep this in mind as you pray.

3)  Will it help further His purposes?

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. (John 15:16, NLT)

We are here on this earth to have an eternal influence. Surrendering to God’s purposes for your life is essential to experiencing answered prayer.

4)  Is my faith in God or in a certain outcome?

But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. (James 1:6a, NLT)

Look to the Giver, not to the gifts you desire from Him. Mature faith focuses on WHO God is rather than on WHAT we want.

5)  Are my motives pure?

Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:2b-3, NLT) 

If you’re not seeing answers to your prayers, perhaps you need to pause and ask God to purify your motives and cleanse your heart. Then your prayers will more clearly reflect His heart.

3–TRUST His heart.

Prayer is always answered.  But a good father doesn’t say “Yes” to everything.

A parent will not always confer the “very thing” which a child asks, but he will seek the welfare of the child, and give what he thinks will be most for its good.”*

God answers prayer in one of three ways:

  1.  No, I love you too much.
  2.  I love you, but you’ll have to wait.
  3.  Yes! I thought you’d never ask!  (And I love you!)**

LOVE is ALWAYS the reason behind His answers! You can trust His heart, even when He says “No.” Remember that He loves you, even in the disappointment, even in the waiting.

Come to Him in prayer. As a dearly loved child. Welcomed by a good and perfect Father.

Pour out your heart to Him. Then ask Him to change your heart. Above all, trust His heart of love.

He will answer you.

And you will learn to love Him all the more.

 

*Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

**Ron Rimby, from “There’s an App for That!” (Italics mine.)

Share on Facebook

Spirit Boost

There are soccer moms. And hockey dads. And then there are the “Spirit Boosters.”

That’s right.

It’s what you become when you have three daughters who prefer pom poms to push-ups.

Chris once had a red nylon polo shirt with that very title embroidered in black. Because real men can handle wearing that kind of shirt. (He wore it once.)

This past week we both took the day off to go “boost some spirit” at the WY State Spirit Competition in Casper. Rachel and her boyfriend Alex also joined us as we cheered for the cheerleaders.

This was Alex’s first “spirit” rodeo, so Rachel explained the terminology–things like “basket tosses,” “libs,” and “full outs.” We yelled for our favorite little cheerleader and Rachel’s former team as they competed in three events:  Non-Stunt, All-Girl Stunt, and Coed Stunt. Alex was a good sport, and seemed genuinely interested in the performances. (Score a parent point for him!)

After the competition, we all commented on the athleticism of a couple of the other teams’ male cheerleaders. They each held a petite female cheerleader high above their heads–with one hand.

It was sheer strength. Combined with total trust.

Cheer Base

I saw this quote on a cheer t-shirt a few years ago:

Any man can hold her hand. But it takes an elite to hold her feet.”

Indeed.

I can still picture those burly boys at the state competition, gripping two small feet with one large hand, while the cheerleader above them just smiled and waved at the crowd. They made it look so easy.

And what about the “flyer,” as the girl in the air is called? How long did it take her to develop that kind of confidence in her “base?” How many times did they practice that lift before she could set aside her fear? And do it with a smile on her face?

All of this reminded me of the verse our Bible study group focused on a few weeks ago, where the Lord says:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)

As we studied this verse I was struck by the fact that it begins with two commands, each followed by two promises:

Don’t be afraid…for I am with you.

Don’t be discouraged (or “anxiously look about you,” NAS)…for I am your God.

The promises support the commands. Instead of being anxious and afraid, the Lord wants us to remember that He is Godour God…our God-with-us.

And as if that were not enough assurance, He goes on to make three more empowering promises:

I will strengthen you.

I will help you.

I will hold you up.

I love the way Pastor John Piper explains it:

…when God calls you to be free from fear (to overcome this natural emotion and have peace), he does not leave the command hanging in the air. He puts pillars under it. Five of them. That’s the nature of all biblical commands. They come with divine support.”

His promises are the basis for our confidence. They teach us to trust Him. Our fears begin to settle down. We learn to relax in His strong grip.

He’s got us.

We can have faith to fly, because the Almighty God is underneath us. He lifts us up with His victorious right hand. He could do it with the little pinkie on His right hand if He wanted to.

We will not fall.

Listen to what the Lord says to you through “The Message” translation of this verse:

“You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you. Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

So, chin up. He won’t let you down.

Hold your head high. He’s holding onto you.

Put your total trust in His sheer strength! He will carry you through!

Let His promises cheer your heart and lift your spirits today!

Share on Facebook

10-Day Forecast

ThundercloudI fearfully checked the 10-day weather forecast yesterday morning. Our daughter’s outdoor wedding was just ten (count them, ten!) days away! Ten (count them, TEN!) little gray thundercloud icons greeted me. One unhappy Mother-of-the-Bride’s face greeted them back.

I immediately went into Prayer Combat Mode. Pray for sun! That’s what we’ll do! Pray every day! Get everyone we know to pray!

Pray, pray, PRAY!

Until I heard God’s voice in my spirit, clear and unmistakable:

Will you let ME choose the weather for the wedding?

Uh, excuse me, Lord?

I must admit that this question made me nervous. Very nervous. And while we’re being honest, can I also admit that sometimes God Himself makes me nervous?

Because, like the Narnian creature stated in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, while He may be good, He is not safe.

Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “…who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

But I want safe!

What if He picks rain? Or a flood? Or, heaven forbid, a tornado?

I want SUN!

As I wrestled with the uncontrollable and unpredictable nature of God, I realized there was another, more important question I must answer:

Do I trust His heart? Do I really believe that He is good?

Could I surrender my idea of a “perfect” wedding day? Could I rest in my Father’s loving care and sovereign control?

For the Lord is good… (Psalm 100:5a, NIV)

Yes, the Lord will give what is good… (Psalm 85:12a, ESV)

No, He may not be safe. But He is most certainly good, and He will give what is good.

And I will trust Him.

I will not frantically follow the forecast. I will not pray and panic. I will not wring my hands in worry.

What relief clears our minds when we cease striving, demanding and working for what we want. What peace floods our souls when we rest as dearly loved children in a Father’s perfect plan. What joy invigorates our hearts when we let HIM define what is best and beautiful.

I have no idea what the wedding weather will look like.

But I know Who will be shining His favor and glory on a very special couple that day.

The King. Our Father.

Wild and wonderful is He.

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Psalm 84:11, NLT)

Share on Facebook

Wedding Worrier

 

Wedding centerpiece ii

In a reoccurring dream I am arranging and rearranging wedding reception centerpieces. Flowers here, candles there. No, that’s not right. Try again.

And again.

And again…

I wake up exhausted. And anxious.

I am, after all, the Mother-of-the-Bride.

But you can call me the “Wedding Worrier.”

Most of you probably know that our oldest daughter Emily is engaged to be married. We honestly couldn’t be happier. We love Morgan, and his family, and look forward to celebrating their Big Day the end of May. (To see a sweet video of his proposal, you can follow this link:  http://vimeo.com/112763976 )

My thoughtful friend Cathy recently gave me a book called It’s Her Wedding But I’ll Cry If I Want To: A Survival Guide for the Mother of the Bride. (She understands. Her daughter got married a little over a year ago.) I need this book. I definitely struggle in new situations like this, where I’m unsure of my role and its perimeters. Enter anxiety and frustration.

Yesterday I picked up another book and read these familiar words of Jesus in the fresh translation of The Message:

Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more. (Luke 12:24)
 

How this spoke to me! I tend to find security in the checklists and safety in the job descriptions. But God wants us to live free of all that, carefree in His care! And He does care!

Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?…If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
(Luke 12:27a, 28)
 

Another talented friend had agreed to purchase and arrange the wedding flowers for us, but unfortunately had to bow out last week due to circumstances beyond her control. Emily and I were disappointed, to say the least. But reading this passage yesterday reminded me that our Creator God cares about little things like flowers, their colors and design. We don’t need to worry. We can trust Him to provide His beautiful best.

People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Luke 12:30-31)
 

I DO know God. I HAVE seen what He can do. So why do I fret and fuss as if He were not completely capable and in control? Like the loose tea in my morning pot, I need to “steep” myself in the reality of who He is. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God Who Provides. He will take the initiative to provide for every detail of this wedding, along with every other thing that concerns us.

Last night I meandered through a few stores, killing time while Laurel was at her youth worship team practice at church. I’ve been searching without success for an uncommon item we need for something we have planned as part of the wedding festivities. (Sorry to be so vague, but I risk the wrath of Emily if I reveal too much!) And there, perched alone on a shelf, was The Exact Item I had been looking for! It was as if God Himself had set it there for me to find!

But whether or not He actually placed it there, I knew in my heart it was a message from Him that Yes, He IS in the details and Yes, He cares. (Even about obscure, hard-to-find objects that I cannot at this time safely mention!)

So. Chances are you are most likely NOT currently neck-deep in Wedding Planning. But I wonder. What worries keep you up at night? What concerns preoccupy you during the day?

A line from a new favorite song on my WOW Worship CD goes like this:

I believe everything that You say You are. I believe and I have seen Your unchanging heart.”*

Putting our faith in WHO God is and WHAT He has done for us in the past will help us trust Him with the future and the things yet to be done.

He is aware. He cares. He will provide.

Join me in believing that the One who turned water into wedding wine can also turn worriers into…warriors.

 

 

*Lyrics are from “I Will Follow” by Jon Guerra. You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OezS0Gzml10

Share on Facebook

Into the Storm

Gray clouds

There’s a new tornado disaster movie in theaters called “Into the Storm.”  I’m not sure I want to go see it.  I’m still recovering from my own brief, but traumatizing tornado “encounter.”  No pun intended, but here’s how it went down…

I was out shopping on a Sunday afternoon last month when, for the second time this summer, my cell phone vibrated with this ominous message:

“Emergency Alert. Tornado Warning in this area til 2:00 PM MDT. Take shelter now.”

Yikes.

I hastily abandoned my cart with its contents and hurried to a neighboring store to collect Laurel and her two friends.  Outside in the parking lot, we scanned the horizon in search of a funnel cloud.  Seeing nothing but dark clouds and gray skies, I decided to make a run for home, reasoning that our full basement was a safer location than a one-story strip mall.

I was fairly confident I could make it there in time.

Within moments I was fairly confident I was wrong.

Warning sirens began blaring as our van rounded the back of the building.  The girls continued to monitor the clouds through the back seat windows.  The wind picked up.  Rain, mixed with hail, started to pelt.  My pounding heart echoed the staccato sound.

Soon we were engulfed in Gray.  For all I knew we were driving straight into the tornado.  And believe me when I say I’m no storm chaser.

At this point I instructed Laurel to call home to see if we could get some idea of where the funnel cloud had been spotted and which direction it was moving.  Emily answered and informed us that “it” was “by the church.”  “We” were several blocks directly east of the church.

Gulp.

This was beginning to get real.

My heart now kept time with the windshield wipers set to their highest speed.  I pressed harder on the accelerator, my leg trembling involuntarily as we sped north towards the house.  At times visibility became so poor I feared I would drive right off the road.  Seeing no other cars around, it seemed that everyone had gotten the memo about the tornado’s location but me.

I began to pray.  Nonstop.  Out loud.  I’m not sure if my prayers were a welcome comfort to my three wide-eyed passengers, or an unsettling sign that a meeting with our Maker was imminent.  (I’m guessing the latter.)

Seconds felt like minutes felt like hours.  I just kept driving (read: speeding).  And praying (read: crying out to my Maker).

We finally skidded around the corner onto the dirt road that leads up the steep hill to our home.  I scaled that hill in record time, fishtailing as I floored it down (read: up) the homestretch.  We lurched to a stop in our driveway, flung open the car doors and bolted through the heavy rain into the house.  We were breathless and drenched.

But we were safe.

We later learned that a tornado did touch down east of town not long after our crazy storm chase.  Emily had witnessed some scary looking cloud rotation in the church parking lot.  It was all part of the same strong storm system that cut diagonally across the city that afternoon.  But as far as we know there never was an actual funnel cloud bearing down on us, despite how frighteningly real it felt at the time.

After the fact, a friend jokingly remarked that those moments of sheer terror were a great time to make sure one was “good with God.”

“Oh, I’m good,” I replied without hesitation.

You see, that’s the thing.  A tornado could have swept us up and into eternity that afternoon.  All of our days are numbered.  As Christian author and teacher Beth Moore once said:

“You gotta get home somehow.” *

Be it via tornado or illness or accident.  One day we will depart from this place we now call home.

It is vital to know that we are “good with God.”

I am.  I don’t base my confidence upon my own performance, but upon the perfection of the One I call Savior.  I love how Tullian Tchividjian put this in his excellent book One Way Love:

In other words, the older I get, the more smitten I become by the fact that God’s love for me, His approval and commitment to me, does not ride on my transformation but on Jesus’ substitution.  Jesus is infallibly devoted to us in spite of our inconsistent devotion to him.  The Gospel is not a command to hang on to Jesus.  It’s a promise that no matter how weak your faith and how unsuccessful your efforts may be, God is always holding on to you.”

Amen.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus, then as far as He’s concerned, you’re good with Him.  Not because you are good or even just good enough.  But because HE was!

Storms will come.  They are unpredictable, unavoidable, and inevitable.

In those moments of fear and uncertainty, you can be completely sure of this:

He is with you.

He will hold on to you.

He will deliver you safely Home.

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” –Jesus (John 6:39-40, NIV)

*From her teaching on Daniel 3.

 

Share on Facebook

The Very First Verse

TrustInTheLord

I was a sophomore in college.  Without a major.  Lacking direction.

Desperate for guidance, I opened my Bible and stumbled upon Proverbs 3:5-6.  As a relatively new believer, this was the first verse I ever really believed and took to heart.  I even put it to music on my guitar.  Although the tune and chords have faded from my memory, His words remain:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.*

In times of uncertainty we seek comfort in the familiar.  So today I returned to Proverbs 3 to enjoy the company of this old friend.  Bible commentators guided me, verse by verse, as I meditated upon its meaning.  I’ll let their words–and His words–speak for themselves.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

The Hebrew word for “trust,” batakh, means “to cling to…to confide in, to set one’s hope and confidence upon.” (Pulpit Commentary)

“We must trust in the Lord with all our hearts, believing he is able and wise to do what is best.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

And do not lean on your own understanding…

“Those who know themselves, find their own understandings a broken reed, which, if they lean upon, will fail.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

“The admonition does not mean that we are not to use our own understanding…i.e. form plans with discretion, and employ legitimate means in the pursuit of our ends; but that, when we use it, we are to depend upon God and his directing and overruling providence.” (Pulpit Commentary)

In all your ways acknowledge Him…

“The Hebrew verb yada signifies “to know, recognize.”  To acknowledge God is, therefore, to recognize, in all our dealings and undertakings, God’s overruling providence…” (Pulpit Commentary)

“Begin, continue, and end every work, purpose, and device, with God.  Earnestly pray for his direction at the commencement; look for his continual support in the progress; and so begin and continue that all may terminate in his glory…” (Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible)

And He will make your paths straight…

“The pronoun v’hu is emphatic, “he himself”  God here binds himself by a covenant.” (Pulpit Commentary)  (Wow.)

The New King James Version puts it like this:  “And He shall direct your paths.”  The word “direct” literally means to “make plain.” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)

I love the simplicity of the New Living Translation:  “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Such rich insights!  Like time spent with a treasured friend, I left my study of Proverbs 3:5-6 feeling refreshed, encouraged, and inspired.

I can still picture that young college girl, guitar in hand, as she clung to this promise, and to the Lord, for the very first time.  He was faithful to guide her then.  He can be trusted to guide us now.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, The Amplified Version)

*The New American Standard Version

Share on Facebook

Prone to Panic

“A southeastern Idaho ranch lost 176 sheep as the animals ran in fear from two wolves…”

This story on my Facebook newsfeed the other day caught my attention.  Curious, I clicked on the link to read more.

According to the owner of the sheep ranch, 119 lambs and 57 ewes were lost in the early morning ambush.  But less than a dozen sheep actually perished from injuries inflicted by the wolves.   The vast majority died from…asphyxiation.  What?  Reporter Mike Koshmrl of the Jackson Hole Daily explains:  “Running downhill in a panic, about 165 sheep from the (herd) were killed, trampled and smothered in their terror.”

The panic attack was more deadly than the wolf attack.

I did some research.  Apparently for skittish sheep, this is not that unusual.  “Even if sheep are not directly bitten or survive an attack, they may die from panic…” (Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep)  How needless.  How sad.

I’m reminded that I too am a sheep prone to panic.

This is especially true for me in the wee hours of the morning, when a bad dream or a full bladder disrupt peaceful slumber.  In the dark, semi-conscious, I’m more vulnerable to cries of wolf.  Within minutes, “…my anxious thoughts multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19a, NAS).  And once spooked, fears, doubts and insecurities can stampede into a suffocating pileup at the base of a hill called Reason.

Carrying me right along with them.

What’s a sheep to do?

I have learned over the years to try not to put too much stock into thoughts that intrude in the middle of the night.  Darkness has a way of distorting reality and magnifying problems.  The light of day mercifully illumines Truth.

A definition of faith that I’ve always liked and remembered is this:

“Faith is a refusal to panic.” (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Now if I could just remember to apply it!  For once runaway fears take off, they can be next to impossible to corral.  That’s when I bleat out a plaintive cry for help…

Shepherds and ranchers will go to great lengths to protect their flock from wolves and other predators.  Realistically, they can’t be out in the fields with their animals 24/7.  I was intrigued to learn that some ranch owners have implemented a creative solution known as “livestock guardians.”   Sheep specialist Susan Schoenian describes their function:  “A livestock guardian generally stays with the sheep without harming them and aggressively repels predators.”  Certain breeds of dogs, llamas, and donkeys have proven to be very effective in this role.

I love the beauty and serenity in this picture of a faithful livestock guardian on the job:

Livestock guardian dog

And I realize…God is not only our Shepherd.  He is also our Guardian.

“Once you were like sheep who wandered away.  But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.”  (1 Peter 2:25, NLT)

This Shepherd is not distant or detached.  He is an ever-present Guardian, right smack dab in the middle of the flock.  He is alert and attentive to His timid sheep’s cries for help.  He instantly knows when they’re under attack from doubts within or threats without, whether real or imagined.  There’s no need to push the panic button with Him on the scene.  Sheep in His care can rest, secure in His love, safe in His protection.

I’m His sheep.  He is with me.

As a result I can confidently declare:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shalt not…panic!”

Let’s Keep Calm and Trust On!

(Note:  “Guardian” is another great song we sing in church!  You can listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiRH8Hc8VQI )

Share on Facebook

Recipes

Rachel and her friend Katy had just worked out at the gym.  They were starving.  They wanted enchiladas.  They wanted them NOW.

I offered to share my tried and true chicken enchilada recipe with them.  Recipe?  Nah.  Recipes take TIME.  Who needs a recipe?

“We got this,” they said.  So I got out of the way.

They combined corn tortillas, leftover grilled chicken, Mexican cheese and enchilada sauce.  LOTS of sauce.  Into the oven it went.

Thirty minutes later, out came something that resembled soup more than enchiladas.  They called it “dip.”  I called it grounds for a nomination to “Worst Cooks in America.”

Still, it was food for thought.

Because I think this is how many of us well-meaning folks approach Life.  We want to be happy.  We long to be loved.  We hope to make a difference in this world.  All good and desirable things.

We set out to assemble what we believe to be the essential ingredients:  friends, education, job, spouse, house, kids.  We throw them together, in no particular order or quantity, anticipating something a-mazing.  Or at least satisfying.

What we end up with is often less than appetizing.

As I stood idly by while Rachel and Katy took over my kitchen, I wondered if this might be a taste of how God feels as He sits back and watches us try to tackle life.  He is more than willing to share His recipe for abundant living with us.  He was even kind enough to write it down for our easy access and quick reference.  But impatience (“We want it now.”) and pride (“We got this.”) get in the way.  We disregard His instructions, and He steps aside.

And the result can be a gloppy mess.

The good news is that He is still standing by, patiently waiting for an invitation to step in.  He knows just the right timing, ingredients, proportions and seasoning to make life work.  His recipe has been tested over time and proven to be superior to anything we could concoct on our own.  He’ll gladly help us mop up our messes and start over, His way.

The question is:  Will we let Him?

“Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:2b, NAS)

Share on Facebook

Sometimes Spring Comes Early

Spring has come early to Wyoming this year.  And I honestly haven’t known what on earth to do with it.

I can still vividly recall our first Wyoming spring 16 years ago.  The one I longed for and thought would never arrive.  It was May, and the trees were still leafless silhouettes, the kids’ small frames still padded with winter coats.

I inoculated myself against Spring Fever that year.

When newcomers to this part of the country express their desire for spring in February, I just shake my head knowingly.  Winters are long in Wyoming.  April IS the snowiest month here, after all.  Give them a year or two of disappointment and they’ll learn.

Too many early winters and late springs can make one a bit jaded.

Spring can be quite the tease.  When she sauntered into town the first week of March, I stoically ignored her flirtations, keeping my snow boots and sweaters close at hand.  But for once she actually stuck around.  After nearly a month of disbelief, I’ve finally been coaxed out of hibernation, reluctantly persuaded by her persistent peace offerings of greening grass, budding trees, and glorious sunshine.

I’m wearing sandals today.

Life can be disappointing.  We try to shield ourselves from hurt, wrapping our hearts in bulky layers to protect them from the bitter chill of unfulfilled desires.  “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” becomes our unspoken mantra of distrust.  But what we sacrifice in the process is a sense of expectancy and hope.  The heart that suppresses its longings, to guard itself from disappointment, becomes deadened, cold.  Like the winter snow pack, it, too, needs to thaw.

Let’s not become so jaded by past disappointments that we are numb to life’s surprises.  Let’s not become so distrustful that we are unable to embrace God’s unexpected gifts.  Let’s fling the door open, venture outside and experience the new things that He has for us.

Because sometimes…spring comes early.  Even in Wyoming.

The trees by our porch!

Share on Facebook

Freedom and Fences

I let up on the accelerator when I spotted the two young antelope out the left window of my mini van this afternoon.  Now antelope are not an unusual sight on the Wyoming prairie.  Hundreds of pronghorn antelope roam freely on the gated community we currently call home.  But these two had wandered outside the gate and were grazing on the grass median between the on-ramp and the highway, oblivious to the danger speeding past them at 65 mph.

I breathed a silent prayer, wishing there was some way to shoo them back under the overpass and into the safe confines behind the gate.  Didn’t their mama warn them not to play near the highway?  Weren’t they free to move about wherever they wished as long as they stayed within their boundaries?  Didn’t they understand that the fences were there to protect them?

I don’t suppose we humans are all that different when it comes to boundaries.  We truly have been given “a spacious place” (Psalm 18:19) in which to graze and roam.  But the grass always looks so much greener on the other side of that fence.  Surely a quick trip to check it out won’t hurt anything.  And next thing you know we’re dodging semis out on a four-lane highway.

Here are a few things our Father God has been trying to teach His prone-to-wander children since the beginning of time:

1)  His desire is that we experience freedom and provision under His loving care.  “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…”

2)  In His wisdom He has established certain boundaries.  “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”

3)  These perimeters are for our good and for our protection.  “For when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  (Genesis 2:16-17)

We mistakenly equate freedom with a complete lack of restrictions.  But the fences are the very things that guarantee our continued ability to enjoy our freedom.  To live contentedly within the perimeters God has laid out for us in His Word, we must trust His heart towards us.  If He says “No” to something, it is only because He wants to protect us and provide for us.

Temptation will call out to you from across the fence.  Our culture will try to convince you that following God is too restrictive and that you will miss out on all the fun.  The enemy will put his own spin on God’s instructions:  “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1)

Don’t be fooled.  An interstate is no place for antelope.  Or people.  True freedom is found in listening to God’s voice, and remaining within the protective confines of His love and care.

“Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”  (Proverbs 1:33)

Share on Facebook