The Certainty of May

3d629f051c3e26c9439d924319531411We toss around the word “may” with hope, uncertainty, or cynicism. We mention it as a qualifier. Yes, something is possible, but it may or may not happen.

Perhaps we get it wrong. “May” is less about us and more about the certainties of God. We can claim God’s provision and allowance as we approach Him.

May the Lord be praised! He has given rest to His people Israel according to all He has said. Not one of all the good promises He made through His servant Moses has failed. May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors. May He not abandon us or leave us so that He causes us to be devoted to Him, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, which He commanded our ancestors. May my words I have made my petition with before the Lord be near the Lord our God day and night, so that He may uphold His servant’s cause and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires. (1 Kings 8:56-59, emphasis added)

With God’s “may,” we always have hope and sometimes uncertainty, but never cynicism.

Are You Available to Help?

2015 PurePurpose.org
2015 PurePurpose.org

Yesterday, I shared my experience of grocery shopping in an unfamiliar store. Besides prompting an online search to find out more about jack fruit, the store spurred something else–a reminder to be available.

I don’t think I ever walked more than two aisles without finding a store employee, always willing to help. The majority spoke to me, asking me if I needed any help finding something or simply greeting me and asking how my day was going. I didn’t feel as if the employees were reciting a rehearsed script, although I’m certain they had been given a bank of possible interactions in their Customer Relations 101 course. Since I was just exploring up and down the aisles, I repeatedly told employees I was just meandering and didn’t need help right then. However, when I came to the end of the aisles and still had a couple necessities unfound and unchecked on my list, I approached someone. I felt completely comfortable walking up to the nearest employee, even though he hadn’t personally spoken with me yet, because of the ease with which the others had interacted with me. They weren’t bothersome. They weren’t sugary-sweet. They simply spoke to me, made eye contact, and let me get on my way if that’s what I chose to do.

How available are you to help others, and how do you respond when they prefer to get on their way? As Christians, do we work together even though we’re living separate lives, planting and nurturing seeds that we might never see mature? Are we responsive to noticing and helping people we have never met or poured into? How well do we do our part without trying to control the situation? How well do we stand our ground because it’s where God has placed us, not because it’s where we are most comfortable or because it’s our right to stand where we want to stand and say what we want to say? Are we authentic, or do we sound like a recording from our Christianity 101 training, complete with lingo from past decades?

We have a part to play, but we’re not the only ones working for and serving God. Be available. Be willing.

But don’t be annoying, robotic, or controlling.

Enjoying the Unfamiliar

Sometimes I enjoy exploring the unfamiliar store. Typically, I’m a mission shopper, especially when it comes to groceries. I have a list, organized by categories of food and other items in the order they’re placed in the store. I cruise up and down the aisles like a boss, grabbing what is on my list and avoiding everything else. I’ve avoided a lot of unnecessary purchases and wasted time because of my process.

But I also miss out on discoveries. I miss out on what others experience when they walk into an unfamiliar place. Instead of helping others, I have to ask for help more often. I notice more details, more choices, more people.

I was recently in a different town and decided to pick up my groceries (to save the time of an additional, out of the way stop at my regular store on the way home). I wasn’t concerned about time. I simply chose to enjoy the experience, try to get as much as I could on my list but also look around and see what other goodies I could discover.

I learned I could buy a jack fruit for $40. I have no idea what I would do with it, but I’m sure it would feed a small army.

2015 PurePurpose.org
2015 PurePurpose.org

I found a GuS (Grown-Up Soda)–in my favorite flavor, pomegranate–and sipped it all the way home.

I appreciated some of the prices I normally pay (especially for pecans and walnuts) but was thankful for a wider selection of natural options.

I walked up and down every single aisle.

I’m not going to leave my routine shopping behind, but I need to leave my comfort zone more often.

We all have routines that help us manage the to-do lists of our lives. But sometimes we need to let go of the to-do list long enough to appreciate the experience. It might be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but if we only stay in our comfort zones, we’ll miss out on a lot.

Go to a different grocery store, coffee shop, church, or restaurant. Take a different route on your walk or run. Meet someone new. Engage in conversation that might make you squirm a bit but teaches you something in the process.

And if you find a need for a giant jack fruit, I know where to find one.

 

Spiritual Couch Potato

1265045005_couch_potatoSo Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. (Daniel 3:26-27)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in big trouble with King Nebuchadnezzar. They refused to worship the king’s gods. They could have remained comfortable and avoided the conflict, but that would have meant compromising their faith. So they “replied” to the king (not yelled, screamed, or ranted): “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.” (Daniel 3:16)

They got thrown into a furnace. They were definitely out of their comfort zones then…or were they? There’s a difference between being comfortable in your own comfort and being comfortable in God’s comfort. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego rested in their faith and went through the furnace together.

The soldiers who took Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the furnace died from the heat, yet these three men who trusted God’s will and walked through it together, came out alive. Not only were they alive, but there was no smell of fire on them.

Don’t let your own discomfort get in the way of your spiritual growth. God will use refining fire to destroy the parts of you that are coming between you and Him. He’s purifying you, and while it’s a frightening process, it’s essential for your thriving relationship with Him.

You can rest in God’s will and find comfort through changes, challenges, and uncertainty. You can come through the fire with no smell of fire.

How much time do you spend on the spiritual couch and how much time do you feel the refining fire?

Lesson from Nature: Secure on the Edge

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

I looked for a quiet place to read my Bible. I stepped onto the ledge of rocks and could look to both sides and see the coastline for quite a distance. I heard the waves lapping the shoreline and felt the cool breeze and sunshine on my face. It was “my” spot. I sat down and settled in.

After reading for a while, I looked down and decided to snap a photo. It looked as if I was precariously sitting on a dangerous ledge, but I felt secure. I wasn’t uncertain, teetering on top of a slippery, unstable ledge. My feet dangled in air. They weren’t on solid ground, but that was okay.

I went back to reading God’s Word and thought about the security yet uncertainty of God’s Word. By uncertain, I don’t mean I’m not certain about it, or even more so, that God is uncertain in any way. It (and He) is unchangeable. However, I am changed every time I open it. It’s as if I feel secure as I settle into it, yet I don’t know where it’s going to take me. I don’t know exactly where God is going to guide me. With each word, God might guide me into exploring a new path, challenging me to change, weeding through my thoughts, changing my heart. I can certainly rely on Him…including relying on Him to guide my next steps.

I can be secure in God’s will without being certain about everything it entails. I don’t have to understand everything. My life might not be safe at times. God doesn’t promise me safety. He promises me security, and that doesn’t depend on my surroundings. Security is about my heart. It’s about eternity. I’m okay with my next steps being uncertain because of the certainty I have in eternity. I want my next steps to make a difference, inviting God to change my heart along the way. I don’t want to focus on the “someday” with Him. I want to live today, right now, for and with Him.

I don’t really mind that my feet are dangling over the edge, as long as I’m standing firmly on His Word.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

God Remembered

noahs-ark-in-the-stormBut God remembered Noah and all the wild and tame animals with him in the boat. He made a wind blow over the earth, and the water went down. Genesis 8:1

God allowed the flood waters to cover the earth. If you’ve ever been on open water or even looked beyond the shoreline across what seems to be the endless sea, you might be able to imagine what Noah and his family was experiencing. They saw nothing but water. They were on a floating zoo that they built themselves on faith. They trusted God to provide, but their trust and faith had to be a moment-after-moment decision. They could have easily become frustrated, scared and anxious. They continued to live the lives God had directed them to live. They continued to float.

The ark eventually rested on the top of a mountain as the waters began to recede. Noah and his family moved from a constant motion of swaying to an anchor of solid ground. The waters continued to recede, and they eventually saw dry land. They could leave the ark. What next?

Consider a season of your life when you felt a constant swaying. You were overwhelmed and felt your stomach churning with each passing moment. You didn’t know when or if the motion would cease. You felt as if you were on an amusement park ride that just wouldn’t stop. Perhaps when you finally stopped, the first few steps were so unsteady, you weren’t certain you had actually stopped. You could still feel the motion. You still felt queasy.

What have your experiences been through seasons of uncertainty?

How do you respond to uncertainty? Where do you run?

God’s timing is perfect, but because we don’t have his perspective, we don’t see the perfection in all situations. We define perfection by our own standards. When we’re uncomfortable, we’re likely to say something is far from perfect. We want everything to fit together. We want to understand. We want to be able to explain and accept all things.

That’s not the way of faith. When we trust God, we accept that we won’t always understand. We leave that to God. How difficult or easy is that process to you?

Live It. Find a puzzle piece and place it in an obvious location so you’ll see it throughout the day. Attach it to your cell phone case, wallet, bathroom mirror, or computer screen. Each time you see it remind yourself that God knows all things. He understands how your life is growing in a process to glorify him even when you can’t fit the pieces together.

Around the Corner

A friend recently encouraged me by reminding me the answer to something I’m anticipating is right around the corner. I wondered, “But where’s the corner?” Is the corner three steps ahead or three miles? Life isn’t built in neatly uniformed city blocks. We don’t know if we’ll be rounding a corner in the next few seconds or next few months. There’s uncertainty and transitions in life.

The reality is…I don’t want to know where the corner is. Sort of. I caught myself asking God if he could at least let me know when this particular time of transition would end, and then I added a condition: “Unless it’s going to be a couple months, because I don’t want to know I’ll have to wait that long.” I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I’m certainly difficult to live with at times! “Never mind, God. You’re right. I only want to know that something will work out and prefer you leave out all the sticky details. I withdraw my request. I’m just going to live today in obedience, and we’ll take tomorrow when it comes.”

What a relief. I don’t have to figure it out. I’m going to enjoy my walk to the corner. After all, if I stay on the sidewalk, I’ll come to a corner. Along the way…

  • I’ll stop to visit with a friend at an outside cafe.
  • I’ll help someone who spilled her purse contents all over the sidewalk.
  • I’ll listen to the street musician, who is talented enough to play in a concert hall.
  • I’ll pry the gum off my shoe.
  • I’ll be startled by the sudden honk of a passing car.
  • I’ll lift my face to feel the warmth of the sun.
  • I’ll get preoccupied with the bee buzzing around the flowers.
  • I’ll hear bits and pieces of passing conversations and wonder at the diversity of people.
  • I’ll see a couple walking hand in hand and appreciate the simple joy of relationships.
  • I’ll feel the achiness of my muscles.
  • I’ll appreciate my ability to continue walking.

When I’m too focused on the corner, I miss a lot along the way. I avoid some messes, but many joys as well. I can anticipate the corner, or I can anticipate the journey. Sure, I need to keep moving and stay on track; movement is essential to a journey. But I can certainly appreciate the details along the way.

God has a journey planned for me – today. I woke up this morning and started walking. I’ll stop this evening. Have I covered the territory and noticed the things he wanted for me today? In the obedience of today, I realize…I reached the corner. Perhaps not what I thought was the corner. Transitions look different from my perspective than God’s. I prefer his journey. It’s more manageable, less stressful, and much more beautiful.

Are you waiting to hear from God around the corner? Be sure to enjoy him – and all he’s surrounding you with – right where you are. Savor each step forward in obedience. It’s the best place you can be.

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6