Tuesday, April 29, 2008

That's How It Will Be

Several people have asked about my son being so far away from home next year when he goes off to college, inquiring about how I feel about this. I can tell you how I feel about it now: I feel grateful to God that my son has found a place that inspires him, that it has the programs in Media that he loves, that it has a campus setting where true hospitality and warmth and friendly relationships are evident . As to how I'll feel in the middle of next year, I'm not quite sure. It's uncertain what the ramifications of the great physical distance between us will be.

This morning I opened up to today's devotional reading in Oswald Chamber's book, My Utmost for His Highest, and this is what I read from April 29th's entry: "Our natural inclination is to be so precise- trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next- that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing." Oh yes, Mr. Chambers, I know what you're talking about here.

That's really the underlying issue when we talk about Surrender: what will happen when I surrender to God? If I give my life to Christ, will I be sent to some hut in the uttermost end of the earth? If I surrender the situation I'm in- to God- will He work the situation out or will He give me different feelings about it or the ability to cope with it? (and maybe you don't want the ability to cope with it- you want it solved!!).

I always come back to a little verse in Proverbs that I love: "The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath" (Prov 11:23 NASB). Another way of zeroing in on the parallel between what a God-loving person wants and feels and what a person who rejects God has in sight is that one word "expectation". My expectation is that God is good and He does only good, not evil. While His ways don't always appear good or easy, I am repeatedly told in Scripture that not only are His ways higher than mine, but His essence and His work is- and has always been- good. First thing in the garden of Eden we read that God does a work of creating things and they're GOOD. From the first command of "let there be light" we see that God immediately declares and summarizes his work and the result of His work as good. "God looked at the light and saw that it was good."(Gen 1:4).

Now of course there are many times that at the start of an ugly situation we might mistakenly call it good- and we shouldn't. Or we might wrongly conclude that God wants something out of us in a situation and that isn't what He is doing. But in spite of uncertainty as to the complexity of God's ways and His thoughts, I know they are GOOD. And ultimately I will see and experience this good. Ultimately, or perhaps in Heaven, I will "see" the good when I didn't see it before. But my gut belief has to be settled on this topic because it continually comes up over and over again. While I may be uncertain as to what God is doing, what He is trying to extract out of me (like getting wine out of grapes), I know that what He IS and what He DOES is only good.

So when we talk about Surrender, we have to address our underlying question about what happens when we surrender to God: our underlying question is "Will it be good?". We want to know what God will do- but we won't know His plan in total. We won't know the myriad of ways He is trying to reach us, get through to us, grow us, mature us. There is uncertainty about what He will do, yes. But there's no uncertainty about HOW IT WILL BE: IT WILL BE GOOD.

God does no evil or harm to your soul. Settle that once and for all and you will be a person who looks at the future, who looks at the unknown, and takes God's hand and declares: I serve a good God. May it be unto me according to Your will.

And then you smile and look forward.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Delighted to Know You

I don't just relish the sun and the warmth of a glorious, bright day. I also love dark, gray, rainy days- such as the one today. These are days for pondering and contemplating, for cups of hot tea and a homemade scone if you care to quickly throw the ingredients together (they're surprisingly simple to make).

This Thursday is the last Women's LIFE Workshop for the year. We're concluding our year with the topic of Surrender: "Successful Women Wave a White Flag". I prayerfully picked out these monthly topics almost a year ago, and its so amazing to see how each month I have been seeing the application of each topic for my own life.

The Free Dictionary defines Surrender this way:
sur·ren·der (s-rndr)

1. To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion.
2. To give up in favor of another.
3. To give up or give back (something that has been granted): surrender a contractual right.
4. To give up or abandon: surrender all hope.
5. To give over or resign (oneself) to something, as to an emotion: surrendered himself to grief.
6. Law To restore (an estate, for example), especially to give up (a lease) before expiration of the term.

Number 4 is one aspect of the word that we think of first: to give up or abandon. It's interesting how the example given for #4 is a rather negative one-to "surrender all hope". We first think of surrender when we think of the losing battle, the one who is about to collapse on the battle field and decides to wave the flag and admit defeat.

From the biblical perspective, it's almost the opposite, I think. When we surrender, we are giving ourselves to the One who ensures our victory, who redeems our life, who enhances our perspective with clarity and insight. We surrender because we TRUST Him- and He is the only One worthy of our complete and total trust.

There's so much more we can say about surrender, but we'll get to that Thursday night. For now, I'm thinking about this quote from My Utmost , April 20th's entry: "And once you do get to the point of total surrender to Him, you will be the most surprised and delighted person on earth."

Now, I love surprises- good surprises, I should say. And the idea that I can and should be so delighted with God, so surrendered to Him that my heart's desires are- of course- only the godly desires I should want, makes me want to get to this state of mind and heart. As Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart."

That command (that admonishment ) from Psalm 37:4 begins with a wonderful word- delight. And the complex subject of Surrender ends with this description of your state of being when you've surrendered all: that you are the most surprised and delighted of all people. Why? You're surprised because as agonizing as the process of surrender SEEMED to be, it was surprisingly simple- though hard- in laying it all down before Him. And you're delighted because everything about God is fresh and clear in your mind now that you are completely His, now that you're satisfied to be known as His child, redeemed, valued, encouraged, and bright with hope for all He is, and will do, in your life.

The minute we are endeavoring to release, let go, surrender- to God, something surprisingly delightful is about to happen!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Under the Sunlight

Yesterday Mu and I met for breakfast. We tried to not overstay our welcome at the restaurant, and after an hour or so, we took our conversation out into the parking lot. We stood there, talking, letting the sun warm us from the tips of our heads to our toes.

"Now I know why the Druids- was it the Druids?- worshipped the sun. I mean, isn't this sunlight incredible after a long winter?" she said.

I teased her about going pagan on me but I could laugh about this because my friend Mu is very sincere about digging into God's truth, asking good questions, searching for wisdom.

We were feeling light-hearted and happy yesterday. She celebrated the resolution our family had come to: our son, Alex, was going off to the college of his choice, far away, down south- and right where he should be. It all came together. God closed some doors and opened wide this door- and though this college is 13 hours away by car, it is dear to my heart already. When Alex and I visited in January we felt "at home" there, and the Media Communications program there is tops. My son is going to "go for it" and I'm whooping it up and celebrating this open road before him. I'll cry, later, when I miss him. But now it's time to anticipate how good it will be.

In the afternoon, I visited "Mother Joy"- a woman on our Women's LIFE Ministry Team. This lady is an older woman of faith, a bold explorer, a joy and a delight. She is recuperating after a fall. But this woman- though she is ...shall we say "advanced in years"?- is young at heart. I came to visit her and encourage her in her recovery, but she bolstered my spirits, my resolve to be a trooper for the Lord. I won't even list all the things she's been through, and yet she sits there, smiling, proclaiming how good God has been to her. Her joy is evidence that she has experienced the "goodness of God in the land of the living"- because this woman is alive in her faith, her expectation of good. And because she believes that she will receive good from God, she is quick to perceive it.

One of my favorite verses having to do with joy and fruitful living is Psalm 128:2 -
"You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you."

Obviously there are seasons in our life that we feel more well than at other times. There are times when we are reaping after years of sowing- such as parents who after 18 years are seeing their child go off to college, full of hope and expectation.

Then there are seasons in our life that we just want to get through. Sometimes I am about to rejoice over a victory and I remember a problem that I have. That's when I admonish myself, "Lauren- you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you." My part in the picture is to fully relish being a child of God who has no doubt that God can work it all out...in His timing...in His perfect plan.

My active faith sometimes requires me to spend time out in the sunshine, relishing the warmth and the joy I feel in that moment, knowing that it's part of God's plan for me to know how good I have it. I have a good God who loves me, is watching over me. I can trust Him. My responsibility is to perceive how His light makes the path before me become clear. I'm not supposed to live in darkness. And every chance I get to experience the sunlight, to lift my face to its warmth in gratitude, I'm supposed to remember the God who thought up the whole idea of light, of a shining sun that warms the earth. I'm supposed to remember that I haven't even begun to understand the warmth and the generosity of His loving heart toward me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Path Before You

Sometimes, in one single day, you can figure out a lifetime of problems. Oh, I don't mean that you suddenly have the answers to every problem you've ever had. I just mean that in one day, in one moment, you can have a revelation of something that gives you a new perspective of your past- of why you did certain things, of why you failed and why you succeeded in certain things. And this new perspective is one so enlightening that you now look forward to your future. It's not that you will never have another problem again. But now you realize that you will approach things differently.

This revelation I recently had came to me out of taking a deeper look at some of the parables Jesus taught on regarding open doors, closed doors. Maybe He didn't use that term exactly but that's what He was discussing. When He sent out the disciples, He was telling them what to do when they weren't accepted in a town (closed doors). When He taught on prayer, and the unspoken question was "What about prayers that don't get answered?" (closed doors), He answered by telling them to "Ask, and it shall be given unto you"- using the verb form of Ask meaning "KEEP ON Asking". When He spoke about the widow going to the unjust judge in search of justice, He spoke about why open doors sometimes occur- because you kept on, because you persisted, until your request was rightfully heard. I saw how many times Jesus was helping us to "get it right" and not falsely conclude or prematurely conclude that the doors were closed to us, permanently.

As our family has been dealing with important questions such as "What college is the right place for our son?" and "What work can we do that would be even more fruitful?", we have wanted to make sure that we heard the answers to these questions. We know God is not hesitant to guide us. Yet we all struggle with times that we feel we did not "get it right"- that we botched it up somehow because we misunderstood, or we over-spiritualized a situation. We felt we stumbled about- and yet we never intended to. We intended to pray, to ask God, to listen to Him, and therefore to be on our way, certain of our course.

Since I have been reading the Bible in this Contemporary English Version, I have been enjoying seeing certain favorite Scriptures come alive with new meaning. One of my favorite Proverbs in Proverbs 4:18,19. But here's how it looks in the CEV version:

"The lifestyle of good people is like sunlight at dawn
that keeps getting brighter until broad daylight.
The lifestyle of the wicked is like total darkness,
and they never know what makes them stumble."

I suddenly saw how much of a curse it is to keep stumbling about, keep making the same mistakes- and NOT know why! There's nothing worse than the situation of a person who is never progressing. Whether its constant self-sabotage, constant foolishness, or constant confusion, to not know why you are always failing and falling is a horrible curse!

The "lifestyle" (other versions use the word "path") of a godly person should be one where things are getting clearer and clearer. The internal lightbulb should be going on daily! You should be having so many "Ah-ha!" moments of discovery and revelation, that people will call you Einstein!

So if you're struggling with confusion, if you're constantly dealing with mistakes and failures or a constant internal sense that you don't know what you're doing- you first of all have to know that this is NOT supposed to be your lifestyle. Not if you're a believer in the the One who came to redeem your life from the pit! Not if you're "free" because "He who the Son sets free is free indeed".

Walking in this path of enlightenment, of ongoing revelation like that of sunlight making the shadows disappear, is your destiny. This is the heritage of the saints of God! To "never know what makes (you) stumble" is not your lot in life. No way, Jose'.

You and I are walking on a pathway where things are getting clearer and clearer. That's why, as Ps. 119:32 says " I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free."

And when we're free to progress, free to succeed in shaking off the restraints and the baggage and the old patterns, we are free to not only run onward, but to enjoy the Son shining down on us as we do so.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Tidbit of a Thought for Today

Just a real quick post today and then I'll try to catch up with you all after that. For now, in a nutshell, here's what I'm meditating on: what open doors and closed doors have to do with the principle of Surrender.

"With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you,
and He will clear the road for you to follow
Proverbs 3: 5,6 (CEV)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring Break

This week is Spring Break and we have had more than Spring-like weather here in New York. Today it felt like the middle of summer. The sun warmed my skin and eased my muscles so that I walked along, with my daughter, as though I was a kid again, carefree, smiling, and free. We spent the afternoon in a picturesque nearby town, ate gelatto, walked miles (it seemed) and came home with a riproaring appetite for tonight's supper of fajitas. My husband and son were thrilled when we laid out all the fixings on the table, and Harry waited hopefully by my feet in case anything was dropped. But nothing came his way. We ate it all.

Monday I am taking my son to visit one more college and then he is making his final decision. Spring is here, summer is on its way, then college starts in late August, and life is changing for us with this momentous event. I will be the mother of a college student- one who will most likely be hours away from home, in a whole new region of this country.

But for today, I still have both my chicks in the nest, my dog sprawled at my feet, my husband near by, and my heart full of gratitude. I feel very rich today. It's as if my eyes were opened wide- and I really saw all the blessings in living color.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Blessed Closed Door

If you had a chance between getting a "Yes" as an answer to your prayer request, or getting a "No", which would you choose? I used to think, Why of course I'd want the Yes. Now I'm not so sure that would be my answer.

Lately, I'm learning to love all the No's God has been sending my way. I'm appreciating the obvious closed doors that occur because I see how the doors that do open are so "of God" and not of my own doing. Now when a door closes in front of me, I'm not banging on it as long as I used to, not railing against it as though it were an insult to my character or my productivity. A closed door- a "No" - is simply God's way of saying "YES" to something else.

I went to a class last night. (I told the instructor, when I arrived, that I might have to leave early if I started coughing. This cold/allergy attack has had me spiraling into these coughing spells where I can barely catch my breath). I had signed up for this adult education class over a month ago. I'm not even going to tell you what the instructor was teaching on- because that isn't important. What's important is that I sat there with my mouth practically hanging open in wonder, perceiving all these realities she was discussing, and "seeing" some things clearly for the very first time.

Yesterday seemed to be a day when my eyes were opened to a lot of things. One person, in the afternoon, relayed a story to me about a friend who had finally gotten a job opportunity...in a different geographical location than where they had been looking. This friend of theirs had been getting a lot of No's for a long time and then they suddenly had some opened doors-but in a whole different place, setting, than they had thought to look.

I think God's loving No to us is meant to provoke us to search for His loving Yes elsewhere. But so often we think God says No to us with a stern look on His face and that He says Yes to us with a smile on His face. I see it so differently now. It just may be that God says No with more love for you than you could ever imagine. It isn't a No for the purpose of discouraging you, depressing you, disheartening you. It's a No so that you can get to His Yes. It's a No because it may not be good enough- what you're asking of Him. Or it may be that you have no idea of what God has in mind for you and He has to completely redirect your thoughts and your path.

I am welcoming these closed doors now. I see these "No's" as though they were the open door I'm longing for. After all, these closed doors are what God is using to get me into His place of abundance, His Yes for my heart's deepest desire. These are doors that He has closed out of love for me, out of planning for my good future. His "No" is still always a "Yes, I love you- and you haven't seen anything yet!!"

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.
Jer. 29:11

Monday, April 14, 2008

Notes to Self on Surrender

It's a lot easier to surrender when you're feeling weak. It's not a bad thing, really, to get in touch with how frail you really are- in comparison to God's magestic power. I've been sick with a bad chest cold these past couple days and its getting worse. I went from walking around, coughing and sounding like a sultry smoker, to lying in bed, coughing and sounding very old, very sick.

I spent most of yesterday in bed. Bill brought me chicken soup on a tray after I woke up from a nap. Because I sound so sick- and look unwell- everyone is letting me be. They're not expecting me to rush around like I normally do, commandeering the ship here, scheduling and ordering the day. No, I've been like that bruised reed barely standing in a strong wind- and its obvious that I am not going to be super mom right now.

On top of being sick, my lap top followed me into the same kind of languishing and powering down. The last couple weeks I kept having to jiggle the cord and keep the connection firm. But it was continually shutting off on me, flashing all these warnings about the battery being low. I was trying to get it recharged but the connection is faulty. The lap top has- I say this with no drama- died. Its kaput. And all my writing is locked inside it. All my passwords are secured in its dark vault. I'm using a computer that my son and my husband hastily put together out of all the computer parts my son has. But I'm a stranger to this system. I feel out of sorts and not sure of what I am doing, other than trying to remedy this situation by doing, basically, what I can. And that's all God expects of me.

So often we think God is asking us to do these herculean tasks using great physical exertion- but really He is asking us to remember we are weak, He is strong, and all can still be well. I'm surrendering to His capable plan that allows us to see that the show can still go on without you, and that its better if it does. Who needs all that pressure of feeling that everything rises and falls with your input and your help?

I'll be feeling better soon, I'm sure. But I actually feel pretty good right now, deep inside. I feel "safe and secure from all alarm" because I'm leaning on Him, relying on His strength to be sufficient for me. It is, most assuredly, the greatest relief to find out how much God wants to show up in all His power when we are weak and stumbling. When our efficient systems go gaput or when a strong wind comes in and all your fight goes seeping out, you can still be rock solid in His strength.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It Begins with S and it Ends with Letting Go

I've been teaching monthly Women's LIFE Workshops all year. We have only one workshop left this year, in May. The last workshop I'm teaching is called "Successful Women Wave a White flag". So these next couple of weeks, until we get to May 1st, this theme will be on my mind. But few people like to go around with the concept of surrender in the back of their mind. Here's why.

Nobody ever plans on waving a white flag in surrender...if they're winning. That's why we usually equate the word "Surrender" with something negative, with a losing scene, or a losing battle. We think to surrender is to lose.Surrender is not a popular word. But then, again, neither is despair, frustration, confusion and pain- and that's what happens, often, when we are in a situation and God is telling us to yield to His leading, His way of loving, His plan for how to find peace- and we don't want to surrender.

But bask for a moment in that melodious peace that comes when you sing that beautiful hymn- "I Surrender All" and get a glimpse of what God had in mind concerning the word "Surrender". Just the first verse alone gives us a clue as to why and how we can learn to surrender-

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust
In His presence daily live...

Do you see that word "trust" in there? When we really come to know who our living Lord and Savior is, we learn that we can definitely trust Him. We learn that to trust Him is to freely admit His plan and His design for living is the way to go. When we trust Him- and therefore surrender our right to think we know best- we wind up experiencing His incredible, magnificent presence. And in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

I love the way the Message version words this passage from Psalm 16:11:

Now you've got my feet on the life path,
all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
I'm on the right way.

Think of it this way: you raise your hand in surrender, clutching that white flag that symbolizes the end of the battle. God sees your lifted hand and reaches out. He takes the white flag of surrender out of your hand, and in replacement,He puts His own Hand in yours. You surrendered to His love- and He holds your hand firmly, and with the intention of directing you, leading you ... onward.

It's ironic how our intention in surrendering is to let go of control, of what we know "in part", and God's intention is to hold us securely, lead us victoriously, keep us safe eternally. I'd say that's an exchange made in Heaven.

Monday, April 07, 2008

What Happens When Women are Expecting

I'm not talking about swollen ankles and gestational diabetes and craving for chocolate. I'm talking about what happens when women are expecting God to move mightily in their midst. I'm talking about the retreat I was at this past weekend. I'm talking about how it's possible to pour yourself out to others- and yet leave filled to overflowing.

The ladies of Grace Chapel invited me to come and be their Speaker this past weekend at their annual retreat up in the quiet place of Speculator, NY. But really I was invited into the presence of God, the joy and feasting that God spreads out for His children who need Him...and know that they need Him.

Some of the things that occurred over the weekend were expected. I prepared four teachings and the women prepared their hearts prayerfully. The two Worship Leaders, Robyn and Diane, prepared- bringing their keyboard and guitar and their rich voices ready to sing out God's praises. (Listen to their inspiring song, God is here at their website.) The kitchen help prepared great meals. The prayer team prepared to intercede continually for the whole weekend.

But who could have prepared for all the joyous unexpected things such as the warm welcome they gave me and my "Whirling Dish Towel Worship Dance"? (All I can tell you ,blog readers, is that you had to be there- and that I'm not that shy about sharing what I do when I get desperate to connect with God!!) (See the first comment here for a more detailed account-against my better judgment!)

Who could have prepared for the close knit fellowship of so many women from all ages, different churches, and carrying different burdens when they came in?But nobody went home carrying those burdens.We cast them off- with laughter, with tears, with open sharing, with open hands that told God we were in need of a real big filling of our cup.

And boy did He fill us up.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


I just got back from teaching at a women's retreat this weekend and all I can say is....WOW. God always does "abundantly above what we can ask or imagine", doesn't He? He refills the empty cup. He splashes color on pale, dry ground. He energizes those who need to continue onward and upward, and who think that maybe they can't go another step. They find out, though, that they can.

You can always take a step further with God. Even if the miles stretch before you, you only have to think about a step at a time. You only have to rest your mind on the goodness of God displayed all around you; shown in the "land of the living".

I'll share more later. But for now, I have to unpack, hug my family, refill an empty fridge, and walk around with a big smile on my face because of all the wonderful things that God is up to. That He joyfully let me catch a glimpse of some of these things makes me just smile even more.

I'm physically exhausted, but I've never been more ready to go onward with Him.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Inquiring Hearts Want to Know...His Love

Remember that old 1980's TV ad, "Inquiring Minds want to know"? Well, they still do. This mind- mine- especially. I almost can see the Lord shaking His head and saying with wonder, "This child can't get enough of My answers." The problem is, the Lord isn't saying this with a smile, really. It's more of a pained look on His face because I'm after what He holds in His hands, rather than what He holds in His heart for me.

Yesterday was stressful. I won't go into everything, but the day ended with me deciding to take a prayer walk. I brought my daughter with me, and we walked vigorously up and down the street in front of the town library, talking, praying, walking. We had not quite finished when all of a sudden the skies opened and down came the rain. We raced to the car parked in the library parking lot where we had earlier returned a DVD. I drove out of the library on the curbed, winding road and managed to hit the curb,popping my tire. I parked the car in the library parking lot again, called my husband, and watched as the rain gushed down even more.

Bill arrived, jacked up the car, put on the spare tire- all in the pouring rain. Then, within minutes, he was done, and we both drove home. He's a good man. It was a long day. And that flat tire was the easiest part of my day. It was fixable. (At least for my husband, it was). There are other big issues in my life that cannot be remedied that quickly.

That flat tire let me know that some things can be taken care of rather quickly. Some problems end within minutes of occurring. And some problems are with us a long time. But longer than that is His grace for us, His love and compassion. It's higher than the heavens, deeper than the ocean. And God is inviting me to explore this vast realm of His love. He says its far better for me to explore the wonders of His love for me than for my inquiring mind to seek out answers.