Watcher of Mankind

As I read through Job, I paused at Job 7 and wrote in my margin, “And the whining drones on…” It irritated me a bit.

97980584_wideIsn’t mankind consigned to forced labor on earth?
Are not his days like those of a hired hand?
Like a slave he longs for shade; like a hired man he waits for his pay.
So I have been made to inherit months of futility, and troubled nights have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think: When will I get up?
But the evening drags on endlessly, and I toss and turn until dawn.
My flesh is clothed with maggots and encrusted with dirt. My skin forms scab and then oozes.

My days pass more swiftly than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is but a breath. My eye will never again see anything good.
The eye of anyone who looks on me will no longer see me.
Your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.
As a cloud fades away and vanishes, so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again.
He will never return to his house; his hometown will no longer remember him.

Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the sea or a sea monster, that You keep me under guard?
When I say: My bed will comfort me, and my couch will ease my complaint,
then You frighten me with dreams, and terrify me with visions,
so that I prefer strangling—death rather than life in this body.
I give up! I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that You think so highly of him
and pay so much attention to him?
You inspect him every morning, and put him to the test every moment.
Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow?
If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind?
Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
Why not forgive my sin and pardon my transgression?
For soon I will lie down in the grave. You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.

God is reduced to “watcher of mankind,” as if He is not interested or invested in us? Ugh.

Or so I thought.

As I read it again, it gave me a bit of comfort. Not that I want to justify my whining. In fact, it was so ingrained in me as I grew up that whining wasn’t acceptable or worth any time spent on it, whining doesn’t even stay in my mind for long, let alone escape from my mouth very often. But I’ve done my fair share of whining with God. I might not identify it as whining, but when I honestly take a look at myself and my conversations with Him, I can see it through the years. Hopefully, less and less, but still there.

And I’m not sorry, either for my own or for the inclusion of Job 7. I certainly don’t want to drone on and on with no forward movement of faith. I suppose there are two kinds of whining: productive and unproductive. Unproductive whining doesn’t get you anywhere but stuck. It’s “poor me” with little or no acknowledgement that anything, including ourselves, will change. It’s the kind of whining I don’t want to tolerate in myself or others for long, because it digs a pit for us to camp in and feel sorry for ourselves. Productive whining is different. Sometimes we need to talk through our “woe is me” as a reality check of the way things really are…with hope, a new sunrise, and a dependable God.

Maybe calling God “watcher of mankind” isn’t as bad as I thought. (In another translation, He is called “preserver of man.”) It is still acknowledging Him with some sort of authority. Maybe we all go through times when we can’t quite grasp who He is, not because He has changed but because of our circumstances. Maybe we need to work through where we are and where He is and how the two fit together, because we’re uncertain. Maybe there’s a bit of whiny involved, because we don’t like the uncertainty.

Maybe whining is the clue we need that we’re uncertain, need to wrestle a bit, and trust God enough to show us a glimpse of who He is for our tomorrows, not just our today.

“How long will you go on saying these things? Your words are a blast of wind.” (Job 8:1)

What If?

Today-is-Your-Best-FriendThat thing you think could happen later today, tomorrow, or somewhere down the road? Yes, it could happen. You might get the diagnosis, lose your job or life savings, move, mourn someone you love, deal with a debilitating disease, lose a good friend, and the list goes on and on. All your worst fears may come true…but playing the “what if” game isn’t going to help.

The possibilities of tomorrow might seem overwhelming today, because you are in…today.

Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

When you worry about tomorrow today, imagining how you’ll be able to deal with something, you don’t have the grace you’ll have if or when you actually have to face it. You’re ill-equipped. You imagine an event, but you can’t take into account how God leads up to and surrounds the event. God gives you what you need each step along the way, but you have to embrace what He offers today in order to prepare you for tomorrow. You might not understand how one thing can possibly prepare you for something else. It might not seem connected at all. But God knows.

Just because God prepares us doesn’t mean we feel prepared. Facing painful situations is still overwhelming. But can you imagine if you hadn’t had the preparations along the way? How much more daunting would it be?

Perhaps you live by the mantra, “Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.” You don’t want to be caught off guard. But you can’t fully plan for every single possibility. You are never going to take all the surprises, good and bad, out of life. God is much better at planning and preparing than you are. And you can trust Him.

Are you willing?

Living with Memories

memoriesMemories are important. Imagine if you had no memory. We often think of the special memories we’d lose—memories of family times, friendships, and accomplishments. But what about the basics? You wouldn’t be able to read the words on this page, because you wouldn’t know the letters forming each word. How would you apply anything you’ve learned? How would you connect with anyone?

Memories give us essential structure. Have you ever seen someone you know, but she is in a place that’s out of context of the usual place? You see a cashier of your local discount store or bank at the doctor’s office, or you see the woman you struck up a conversation with while waiting in the grocery store line at her new job at the library. If you don’t know the person well, it often takes a minute to remember why she looks familiar and where you previously met. You can almost feel gears turning as your mind puts the pieces together.

You need memories to give you clues to understanding the present. Whether it’s something you’ve learned or someone you’ve met, based on past experiences, you know how best to respond. You know what to avoid and what to pursue. The content of your today impacts your tomorrow. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you need every single piece of information you’ve ever processed. But the learning process, including memory, is essential to living an effective life, including an effective life of faith.

What you’re filling your mind with today becomes part of the structure with which you process and live tomorrow. In order to live out God’s Word, you have to become increasingly familiar with God’s Word. What’s most familiar is most easily recognized. The more your life is filled with truth, the more you will be able to discern between truth and distortions or falsehoods.

Dig Into God’s Word…

“Come to me and listen to this. From the beginning I have spoken openly. From the time it began, I was there.” Now, the Lord God has sent me with his Spirit. This is what the Lord, who saves you, the Holy One of Israel, says: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to do what is good, who leads you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:16-17)

I praise you because you remember me in everything, and you follow closely the teachings just as I gave them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2)

So faith comes from hearing the Good News, and people hear the Good News when someone tells them about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Then Jesus asked them, “And who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16)

Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus called us by his glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Live It Out Loud…

Carry a favorite photo with you throughout the day. Each time you look at it, consider the implications of having no memory. Give thanks to God for his many blessings. Ask him to guide you in remembering (and forgetting) the past. Ask him to challenge you to learn what he wants you to learn today to grow you in faith into your tomorrows.

I Want to Do What You Do!

whereyouare

“How do I do what you do?”

How many times have you asked the question, thought the question, or heard the question? Aspirations to grow into something else aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we often miss what God has for us right where we are when we focus on the “next, great thing.”

When people ask me how they can start traveling and speaking at women’s events, how they can publish a book, and so on, I can give them a few practical tips but the bottom line advice is “Do what God has planned for you today, because it’s your preparation for tomorrow.” God prepares us in ways we cannot imagine. None of us get to our today via a straight line series of our yesterdays. Of course, we know a common thread is woven through the twists and turns of our yesterdays, but we likely couldn’t have predicted where our experiences were taking us. I couldn’t have planned to do what I’m doing today. In fact, even when people ask how I got to where I am as I travel around, I can’t really give them a clear answer…except that God led me here.

And God is leading me somewhere else.

I don’t know where that somewhere else is. I don’t know what it entails. I don’t know if it will be similar to what I’m doing now or drastically different. But I’m certain that what is going on today will not be wasted. God uses it all. When I get to a tomorrow somewhere down the road, I might be able to look back at my current todays and make a bit of sense of them, but it certainly won’t all make sense.

It’s certainly okay to have goals, but if you become too focused on future goals, you will miss out on the experiences God has planned for you today. You will begin to look for those things that fit into your expectations and ignore or avoid others. Before long, your will might just eclipse God’s will in the way you approach your daily life.

If you believe God is calling you into something, doesn’t it make sense that he will provide the way, including the timing? And wouldn’t it make sense to trust his way instead of trying to make sense of it on your own?

You might look at someone else and what to do what they do, but remember her today isn’t your today. Her tomorrow isn’t your tomorrow. You can’t replicate someone’s journey. You have your own, and no one else can take your place. If you choose to focus on anything other than where you are and what you’re supposed to do right now, you’ll miss out. And when you miss out on something today, you’re not quite as prepared for tomorrow.

What is God prompting you to do where you are…today? Get started!

Being Resolute in Today

So God planned another day, called “today.” He spoke about that day through David a long time later in the same Scripture used before: “Today listen to what he says. Do not be stubborn.” — Psalm 95:7-8 (Hebrews 4:7)

Is the majority of your focus on yesterday, today, or tomorrow?

How much do you take today for granted?

What do you have planned for today?

We can easily become so consumed with the yesterdays and tomorrows of our lives that we miss out on the todays. Yesterdays are simply past todays that we can no longer change. However, we can change how we respond to yesterdays in our today. Tomorrows are simply future todays we cannot yet live. However, we can prepare for our tomorrows in our today. Yesterdays and tomorrows shape our todays; there’s no doubt about that. We can’t completely ignore yesterdays and tomorrows, yet they often consume our todays. Today is what we have to live fully right now. Why waste it?

There are possibilities in today. We can grasp the moment we have or resign ourselves to it. We can find purpose or meaninglessness, be encouraged or discouraged, and stand on a firm foundation or stumble across shaky ground. God gives us many choices, but he gives them to us one at a time. We often focus on the big opportunities of our days – or we turn something small into something big – and we’re soon so consumed with one thing that we miss out on many others. Or we focus so much on the way in which we reached our today, basically focused on yesterday, that we miss out on the opportunity to shape our tomorrows. You get only one today. As you read this, the moment is gone. You can’t grasp the moment and keep it. You can only choose well and live it fully. Will you?

Keep a small notebook with you and jot one word each time you experience the opportunities God is providing you through the day. As you experience God more, you’ll watch for, notice, and acknowledge him more.

Vacation Begins Today – Or Not.

As people began to chat on our early morning shuttle to the airport, Tim and I learned the couple next to us were leaving for Mexico for the second time in two days.

They lived 2 1/2 hours from the airport and woke up at 2:30 a.m. to being the journey to their 7 a.m. flight. They arrived at the parking garage with plenty of time remaining before their flight but soon made an unsettling discovery. They’d left their passports on the kitchen counter.

There would be no travelling to Mexico that day. They rearranged their travel plans, drove the five-hour round trip, and returned to the airport area the same day to stay at a hotel. They didn’t want a 2:30 a.m. alarm to wake them a second day in a row.

It wasn’t a great way to begin a vacation, but someone on the shuttle commented on how they seemed to be handling it. The wife replied, “We weren’t quite this calm yesterday morning.”

When has something been postponed for you, something you’ve been anticipating? A new job. Wedding. Surgery. Home improvement. Retirement. Children. Education.

What was your initial response? How did your response change over time? What did you experience and learn through the postponement process?

Our timing doesn’t usually match God’s timing. I’m a recovering control freak, so I like to imagine I have a bit of control and that I do a pretty good job of planning and preparing. But I’ve come to realize that even if I was the world’s best planner, my expert skills wouldn’t come close to God’s perfect timing. He has a perspective I don’t have. He knows every piece of the puzzle and how to best fit them together for a beautiful, seamless picture.

I’m not inactive in the process. I need to click some of those pieces in place as he reveals them to me, which means I need to pay attention and be sensitive to his leading. God wants me to be active, because he wants a relationship with me. He created me for relationship.

What does God have purposed for you today? I don’t know the specifics, but I know two things for sure.

    1. Be still and listen.
    2. Be active. Not just a hearer but a doer of his Word.

God knows your yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.

You can trust his timing, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

How’s Your Community?

“It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed.”

Walt Disney was referring to EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Disney’s vision was to create an ever-evolving community which would continually use the latest ideas and technologies. It’s not the use of latest and greatest technologies that caught my attention as I watched a television special featuring Walt Disney’s life. It was the idea of a “community of tomorrow that will never be completed.”

I’m won’t argue with the fact that Walt Disney was a visionary genius with creativity and energy of monumental proportions. But the concept of an ever-evolving community isn’t new.

It’s biblical.

The church everywhere in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a time of peace and became stronger. Respecting the Lord by the way they lived, and being encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the group of believers continued to grow. Acts 9:31

Continued to grow. How is the church doing at the “continued to grow” thing? I’m not talking about numbers. I’m not even talking about the specific church you attend (or don’t attend). We’ve skewed God’s meaning of the church – all believers and followers of Jesus – to our own meaning – a building and the people who are involved in the group within the building.

Oh, I know there’s been a huge push in recent years to break out of the four walls of the church building and reach people outside the walls, getting into the community more and even (gasp!) partnering with other churches. The church where I’m involved is soon beginning a churchwide study of The Hole in Our Gospel in hopes of stirring a passion within people to get outside their comfort zones, listen to how God wants to use their lives to impact others’, and then step out and do faith instead of just talking about it.

The truth is “the church” is made up of individuals. You. Me. Etc. And as a whole, we’re not doing a world-changing job at being “a community of tomorrow that will never be completed” in Jesus’ name.

(1) We can become complacent with the status quo. It doesn’t mean we’re not doing good things. We can be very effective in a program or ministry and celebrate with a longstanding tradition of repeating the same approach for years even after the effectiveness has died. I’m not suggesting change for change sake is the route to take. Some who have chosen the cutting-edge approach find that while they attract a lot of attention, they struggle with commitment. Drawing people in with entertainment and consumer-mentality frequently fosters increased consumer-mentality. Building relationships with people so they become invested and committed can be done, and there are churches who are doing it well, but if there’s not intention behind the process or program – whatever the process or program is – its effectiveness will be minimal and short-lived.

One size doesn’t fit all in ministry. It’s great to learn from others. God gifts us all, and his gifts are shared among his entire church, not just the one you attend. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to know what God’s calling your church to accomplish within his big picture and then continually assess – based on God’s standards – whether you’re being effective. You’re not going to complete the entirety of God’s will. That’s God’s job. Your job is to fulfill the purpose he’s planned for you.

(2) We can forget to give God all the credit. We’re involved in ministry in Jesus’ name, right? Has your church or ministry’s name been hoarding some of the credit? Do you personally take some of the credit? Make no excuses. It’s all about glorfying God. All credit-hoarding is going to do is slow down the growth of your relationship with him. God’s still going to get the glory. His creation, his community, his will = his glory.

I encourage you to stay (or get) involved in a community of believers in your area. No matter what your past hurts or negative experiences with the church is, it’s God’s will for you to do life with others. It’s messy, because people are messy (including you!), but God has no intention or desire of you living life in seclusion with him.

Let your challenge to impact and live in the “community of tomorrow that will never be completed” begin with you – not so that you can judge everyone else for how they’re falling short and not so you can judge yourself for falling short or excelling. But you need to evaluate how you’re doing because your passion and service will overflow onto others. People will believe what you say because they see what you do and who you are. 

Let God stir a passion within you to get out of your comfort zone. Listen to how God wants to use life to impact others’. Step out and do faith instead of just talking about it.

What will you put your whole heart into today for God?