Creative Joy


I am seldom happier than when I have creative projects on the go, at least once they are taking shape and I can see the end in view. The joy of creating is only rivaled by the joy of beholding the finished product and realizing, “It is good”. Do you suppose this is a way we share God’s likeness? When we create, whether it be a quilt or a sketch, a clean window or a tasty meal… we are exhibiting that which sets us apart from all other creatures; we are displaying the image of God, the ultimate Creator and designer of every good thing. We are fulfilling our design, and it is good!

“And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Gen.1:31

I finished a long-standing project last night. The process was not fun, but it was needful. I had to pin myself down to a deadline to get it accomplished. I guess you could say it was a creative project, but the grist I had to work with was not of my own choosing. It was a tangle that needed sorting, defining, straightening—a messy mental project. Critiques are like that. Not only must you sort another’s thoughts and words, and weigh them against your perception of God’s thoughts, but you must capture your own voice in words and then order them in such a way as to present an honest but not caustic perspective—one that will bring clarity (and hopefully the mind of the Lord) to benefit the hearer, not merely generate dissension! It is a relief to have it finished. This was a creative task I’ve felt compelled to take on for months now, but have squirmed out from under till now. For creativity, even a critical book review, [“Face to Face with Bill Johnson”], makes one vulnerable to criticism and disapproval too. It reveals something of what’s inside its creator, for better or for worse. The fear of man can stifle it. A word aptly spoken is not always a welcome word. And yet there is this calling to create…and this deep satisfaction when it is finished….

So I woke this morning to my quiet interlude with joy. The robins were singing before the sun had fully risen. I reflected on the joy of creating and remembered God’s words to Job, hinting at the creative joy He knew as the foundations of the world were laid:

“…when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38:7

I read on down through Job 38 listening to the marvel of God reciting the glory of all His creative genius. Take a minute today to do the same. What an incredible chapter, a set of chapters actually…”things too wonderful for me, which I did not know”…awesome! And Job’s heart is transformed in the hearing and the yielding to His awesome Creator’s right to do what He wills…Glorious passage!

I was tugged away from my solitude to put the Red River cereal on to boil, and found rare sunshine streaming in my big kitchen windows. Residue from my last cleaning attempts was all too obvious. Can’t have that! Vinegar to the rescue! And then the outsides showed their dust and next thing you know I’d whisked outside to the fresh, song-filled air and hit them with Car Wash solution and a good hose down, while the Red River simmered on the stove. Water streaming, making rainbows. A perplexed but patient husband looking out through all the water on his happy wife creating beauty for the joy of it…

Back inside I put on my happy Saturday song (even though it’s only Friday!)—Fernando Ortega singing ‘This Good Day’:

”This good day
It is a gift from You.
The world is turning in its place
because You made it to.
I lift my voice
To sing a song of praise
On this good day.”

The day is just beginning. A quilt top lies wildly beautiful on the living room carpet, awaiting just its borders—hopefully today?! A piece of watercolor paper is at the ready in my new creative space—Joshua’s old room– begging for the pale yellows and pinks to flow to orange on its face…This new day with all its creative possibilities lies before me. What joy!

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Ps.126:2-6

For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. Ps.92:4

Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven!


“May the Lord rejoice in His works.” Ps. 104:31


From the archives…for more thoughts on joy, see: Fresh Joy


…it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. Ps.147:1

Morning. And with my feet landing on the floor came a nudge to remember to SING, to bless the Lord, to keep my focus there…I needed the reminder.

I find it easy to obsess over issues that need ‘fixing’ or problems big and small, ranging from family to church to my unruly sinus! And when problems loom big God begins to seem small. I may at first feel indispensable (as though I were God!) but soon the troubles become insurmountable beyond anything I’m capable of throwing at them…and I find my focus is way off track. So it was a fitting reminder to remember to sing. God hasn’t moved away, hasn’t lost track of local affairs, hasn’t turned a blind eye. He still reigns. And is still more than worthy of my praise. He is still building His church. He is still accomplishing His purposes. He is still working for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purposes…can’t really do much singing without these realities overtaking the troubles!

OK, this is going to sound like I’m preaching what I don’t practice but since it was still early morning and the household was asleep, (and I could add other excuses…), I went to my quiet spot with a hymnbook and read hymns…

There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still, In all of life’s ebb and flow.

Feasting on the riches of His grace, Resting ‘neath his sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face, That is why I shout and sing.
[Admittedly, my style is a bit more subtle than this]

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.

And I opened to the Psalms and was reminded again of what singing attests to: “Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory…his marvelous works…For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.”  (Ps.96)

Just reading psalms puts life in perspective pretty quickly…  “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Ps.96:10)  Not much room left for dismay that things are spiraling out of control, maybe out of mine, but not out of His! I may not see what He’s doing, but I can rest assured He is at work.

But why sing. Isn’t reading good enough? I read an interesting article today by worship leader/songwriter, Bob Kauflin in which he discusses ‘What Happens When We Sing?’* One practical benefit of singing is that it helps us remember words! And then he pointed to Deuteronomy 31,32 in which God instructs Moses to write a song and teach it to the children of Israel. Why? Because in the days to come when they rebel against God and troubles come upon them the song will confront them as a witness to all God has done for them in the past, including this warning not to rebel! The song “will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring”. (31:21) Can you picture it? Like some oldies hit or catchy commercial, God’s words will come back to them when they need most to hear them. Wow. And these are no empty words, God says, ‘but your very life.”(32:47)

Kauflin goes on to make the point that we should sing words that God wants us to remember. It matters what we sing. He suggests that the words we sing impact us far more than we may realize. Another scholar has said, “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.”** Interesting. The importance of music as an expression of our faith is borne out in passages like Colossians 3:16. Singing becomes a spiritual overflow of the Word of Christ that we are imbibing: ‘singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God’. When I was a lot younger, I would strum chords on my guitar and invent songs with Scripture. My mother did the same at the piano and we were often ‘called’ to breakfast with her catchy tunes. Maybe it’s time to revive this practice? I’m thankful for all the talented songwriters who are doing this.

Consider Psalm 84: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!…”  A quick You-Tube search brings up a wide variety of musical expressions of this psalm.  There’s a smooth meditative soloist version with choral backup here,  a mellow rendition of the whole psalm by a young male group, the “Sons of Korah”, here, and perhaps the most familiar—Matt Redmans, “Better is One Day in Your Courts”, here.


Or you can access an Anglican chant, a choir in the Canterbury Cathedral, or a Jewish reading/singing of the Psalm… there’s no want of opportunities to sing God’s Word.  You can even create you own song.  My selection of Psalm 84 as an example is not random.  An article in a series on “Good Grief” came to my Inbox this week and seemed so appropriate in light of last week’s blog featuring a counter-cultural view of death. In this article by T.M.Moore,  Psalm 84 was described as:

“… a song for the journey of life. Its purpose is to provide focus and bolstering for taking on the daily travails of our earthly existence. It teaches us how to turn all our sorrows to strength and joy by helping us keep our eyes on the Lord….

We are bound for an eternal dwelling place of glory, light, beauty, holiness, rejoicing, and wonder. That unseen destination is even now being prepared for us by our victorious Savior and King, and He will surely come again to receive us into His eternal glory. We must train our souls to long for that glory– to hope in the glory of God, then and there, so that we may live in it here and now as well (v. 2). The way to do this is to present ourselves each day as living sacrifices to God, like birds offered up on the altar for His pleasure (v. 3; cf. Rom. 12:1, 2). If we fill our journey with praise and thanksgiving, whatever we encounter along the way, we will be able to bear it up, because our true focus and joy lie beyond our temporal circumstances in the presence of the unchanging Lord of glory (vv. 4,5).In the midst of our trials, sufferings, disappointments, and losses, we do not compound our grief by separating from the Lord; instead, we seek Him earnestly in prayer and hide within Him as our Shield and Comfort (vv. 8, 9).” –T.M. Moore

This writer also talked about the value of putting good words to music so they can become companions on our life’s journey, to remind us of truth when we need it most. He in fact offered a version of Psalm 84 arranged to fit standard hymn meter and singable to tunes we already may know, such as “Brethren We have Met to Worship” (Tune: HOLY MANNA) or the one I prefer: Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken (Tune: AUSTRIA)

I reprint his singable version of Psalm 84 here:

Psalm 84

vv. 1-4
Lord of hosts, how sweet Your dwelling;
How my soul longs for Your courts!
Let my soul with joy keep telling
Of Your grace forever more.
Like a bird upon the altar
Let my life to You belong.
Blest are they who never falter
As they praise Your grace with song!
vv. 5-7
Blest are they whose strength is founded
In Your strength, O Lord above.
All whose hearts in You are grounded
Journey in Your strength and love.
Though they weep with tears of sadness,
Grace shall all their way sustain.
In Your presence, filled with gladness,
They shall conquer all their pain.
vv. 8-12
Lord of hosts, my prayer receiving,
Hear me, help me by Your grace!
In Your courts I stand believing;
Turn to me Your glorious face!
Lord, our sun, our shield, our glory,
No good thing will You deny
To those who proclaim Your story,
And who on Your grace rely.

Just call up the tune and try it!

In the beginning of the world there was song—“When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7)
And in the end there will be the song of the redeemed: “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth”. (Rev.5:9,10)

What will fill these in-between years?

Today I heard the robins. They’re returning to these climes with familiar songs, reminding us that spring has indeed arrived despite the somber weather most days. They sing because they’re made to sing. What does a little rain matter? Perhaps I ought to take their cue.


P.S. I’ve been enjoying Laura Story’s music lately. She sings from a life story of hard things but a good God. This one echoes what I’m trying to say:

Bless the Lord, O my soul
All that’s in me bless Your name
Forget not Your power un-told
Not Your glory or Your fame

Have a listen here: “Bless the Lord” by Laura Story

From the archives… This is not the first time I’ve been prompted to sing…looking in the archives I smiled to recall this one, where I was forced to sing to keep the bears at bay:  “Alive and Well”

*Piper, John and Justin Taylor, gen.ed. The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, Crossway,2009. pp.121-135.
**Gordon Fee, quoted p.126

Swallowed up by Life

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

Can you hear the tune of it… “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue… and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”  Hmm… Is that so? Seems to me I feel pretty at home. It’s only when life gets hard or someone dies that my perspective is shaken up a bit and re-focused…

A sister in Jesus died this week. She had not intended to. She was sure through all the treatments that the Lord would do a miracle, defy the doctors’ prognoses and heal her. We were kept updated week by week through the prayer bulletin on her ‘progress’ but never a word was said about the possibility (probability) of death. After all, we wanted her to live. We were to pray for healing, and that was that. She has been healed by the Lord now; it was not exactly the way many had hoped. Will their disillusionment fuel bitterness toward God, resistance to the Gospel, flight from church and prayer and all things ‘religious’? It won’t be the first time or the last. This is the third such death in recent days here…while others suffer stoically convinced they will be healed.

When is it ok to acknowledge: ‘She’s dying’ and to bring comfort and encouragement and remind ourselves of the hope of Heaven and cheer her on to enter the gates triumphant? When do we call a spade a spade—not till it’s turning the dirt we’ll rest beneath? I don’t mean to be callous but I have seen too much of this denial of sickness that is regarded as ‘faith’, and then when death comes unexpectedly, there is devastation, disillusionment, confusion, even blame-casting as we put the incident out of sight and mind as tidily as we can despite its inconsistencies with our belief system.

Is death really an indicator of failed faith? A shame? A tragedy? Has the Devil really scored a victory when a saint is ushered from this sin-sick world and forever removed from his reach?! Can God not raise up others to continue the forwarding of his Kingdom especially as it relates to the ones we love so much?

Those hearing the medical reports could see the signs of death’s approach. It was as though the demolition team were setting up camp at the landmark building next door. The signs were posted. ‘City Hall’ was petitioned—‘No please don’t tear down our cherished heritage home’—Petitions were denied. What value then in denying the inevitable, that this dear building is slated for destruction and its occupant will be moving on? Why not redeem the opportunity to affirm her citizenship and ours, to encourage and cheer on, to say our good-byes and learn from one so near to glory…We could certainly use the perspective! Does faith really necessitate denial of physical realities like cancer? Can faith not be evidenced in other ways, like going through suffering without demanding relief, confident in a Saviour who is with me to the end…

I’m all for praying for healing. God does intervene. He does miraculously heal and extend life. But where is the putting it in His hands and leaving it with Him to determine the extent of our days? Where is the peace and acceptance when the petitions are denied? Where is the teaching that to be ‘absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’(II Cor.5:8) —the eager expectation of better things? Why do we fight so hard to avoid the ‘far better’? (Phil.1:23)

Of course we are human. We instinctively fight to live. We are loathe to let go of the ones we have shared this lifetime with….We had a ‘dry run’ to the hospital ourselves two weeks back, summoned to my mom-in-law’s bedside just in case her situation didn’t improve. She was willing to think death might be imminent and she just wanted her children near. There was opportunity to talk, to listen, to cherish, which could have been lost had she refused to reckon with the possibility of death. The urgent crisis was resolved. She rallied with the attention of kids and grandkids from near and far. But her diagnosis is terminal… She is ready to die but busy loving and being loved in the meantime. I admire her matter-of-fact attitude toward death. It is not something to be avoided at all cost. She has never wanted to grow old and be a crotchety old woman dependent on other’s care. She has gone for prayer for healing but she would love best to see her Saviour. In the meantime she cares and prays for a multitude of offspring as she waits…

Paul talked like that: “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight…and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (II Cor.5:8) But he was busy investing in people’s lives, seeking the Kingdom, making it his aim to please the Lord and he left the matter of whether he lived or died to the Lord. He was intent only on honoring the Lord in his body, whether by life or by death (Phil.1:20). I like that.

Of course this is all pretty theoretical until my turn comes…but I like to think that there is value in reminding myself of a perspective that is alien to this world…we are not citizens here. This is not home. If I am completely comfortable and intent on maintaining perfect health and accruing resources to make the duration of my stay comfortable, what’s up with that? That’s our culture’s mindset isn’t it?! A ‘certain rich man’ did that and was designated a fool for laying up treasure for himself but failing to be ‘rich toward God’(Luke 12:15) He wasn’t thinking that this night would be his last. And what was he amassing all that stuff for anyway? How aptly the King James version puts it: “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” When I head home, I can’t take it with me.

So I’m thinking it’s a good thing to face the possibility of death squarely without squirming out of it with the ‘I’m going to be healed’ clause. Jim and I are always tossing around the idea of who will go first. He has volunteered. I assure him he’ll be fine without me and it would be better to let me go first. Yes, I’m just being selfish. The point is not pleasing myself, I suppose, but cultivating a Kingdom-seeking mentality, a desire to be with Jesus but at the same time an intent to please him with my life in the meantime.

Herein is a tension. He died for us so that ‘we might live with Him’ (I Thess.5:10) which is not ultimately a hope for this lifetime. But He has given us His Spirit as a foretaste of the real deal to come, as a comfort, as a living, breathing “God with us” reality. We know in our hearts as the modern chorus echoes: “There must be more than this.” And so there is. But no spiritual experience in this lifetime, no miraculous healing or soul salvage can fill the ache to truly be in His Presence as He has wired us to be from the beginning. If we get sidetracked staking our hopes in anything in this world or the benefits we can enjoy in this lifetime “we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Cor.15:19).

And every so often a window to Heaven is opened and our Home there seems nearer and dearer, usually through pain and loss. Once upon a time when we were young we stood over the casket of our own four-month- old on a rainy morning in a lonely cemetery singing “Jesus Loves Me” with a huddle of friends and family…It was a brush with death that forever changed the way we see life. It made Heaven a more familiar, welcome hope for us. We visited the grave this past weekend to scrub away the gathering moss and algae and to read again our second-born son’s name: Josiah John followed by the inscription: “He is healed by the Lord”. Only after he had died did we learn this was literally the meaning of the name Josiah. John adds to that: “the Lord is gracious”. Yes. Our God is gracious and our God heals. And we, the “people of His pasture” and “the flock of His Hand” (Ps.95:7) can entrust our lives to this One who is our Keeper in this lifetime and the next. We can trust Him who has pledged Himself to us ‘in sickness and in health’—this One who died to be our very life (Col.3:4) We do not grieve as those who have no hope beyond the grave (I Thess.4:13). And by His Spirit we have hope that the best is truly yet to come for it is not death to die…

Please take a minute to listen to this beautiful old song, newly rendered, which brings into perspective the hope that awaits us:

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears
Chorus: O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die
It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just

It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise
Come Weary Saints album.
(Sample/buy here. I own a copy; it’s good stuff!)

Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864). Translated by George Bethune (1847).
Music, Chorus and Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin.

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (II Cor.5:4,5)


…and a few more tidbits for thought…

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way… we are treated as dying, and behold we live, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing every thing! (II Cor. 6:4-10)

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable…For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” I Cor. 15:50,53,54

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then [cometh] the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death.I Cor.15:22-26

Quiet Confidence

HA! Do you ever feel like you’re going around in circles like a kid on a merry-go-round? I’m not referring to the hectic hamster-wheel of life where you run and run but never seem to get anywhere (though I suppose that’s related), but the cycling around of life lessons… Just when you think you’ve learned something, grasped some gem of truth, been propelled on into maturity, you find the same old lessons coming ‘round again…like a child on a merry-go-round.

I installed a dandy KEYWORD SEARCH on my blog yesterday (Check out the sidebar!) and did a little search of: ‘quiet confidence’, just to see what I’d already said on the subject. And surprise, surprise, last year at this time I was in a very similar place mentally, blogging about “Peace and Quiet”:  

“Is it really inevitable as long as we are living and breathing that we as mothers should bear the quiet strain of anxiety (legitimized as ‘concern’) for our children’s welfare”–Mar.4,2011

And a couple weeks later this quote:

The victory that overcomes the world is our faith. So of course it’s the target of all the zombies and vampires of the unseen realm.  And they obviously know my vulnerabilities, namely my tendency to feel responsible to control things I cannot and my wimpy tendency to conclude there’s nothing I can do that will make a difference. “Of Silver Bullets and Zombies”– Mar.18,2011

If you have read my ponderings for very long, you likely have seen this recurring theme of struggling to have faith in the face of factors outside my control, without simultaneously caving to helpless inadequacy. Sigh. I could stand to re-read these posts myself…

“the best growth happens in a context of restful faith”

“the necessity of faith as a starting point.  When I view myself (or my ‘charges’) as my responsibility to ‘fix’ through some application of ‘discipline’ it takes me right out of that ‘calmed and quieted’ state. I must do ‘something’, anything, at least keep anxious watch, sit on the alert growling…And suddenly the focus is all wrong.  Who am I watching? Who am I trusting?” Fresh Joy—Nov.5, 2010

And it keeps coming—I’ve been on this merry-go-round for a long time…

Calmed and Quieted—October 28,1010

An overzealous pursuit of character transformation can actually work against us rather than for us.” Our uneasiness and agitation “proceeds from an inordinate desire of being delivered from the evil which we feel, or of  acquiring the good which we desire: and yet there is nothing which tends more to increase evil, and toprevent the enjoyment of good, than an unquiet mind.”(Thomas,44 quoting Francis DeSales’ Introduction to the Devout Life,307)

Thomas concludes by saying:

“In general, our pursuit of holiness should be a patient pursuit.  We grow best living in a pool of spiritual serenity.  Instead of a frantic and desperate clutching, we should adopt a patient waiting and a hopeful expectation:”

OK, so all that was by way of saying, I seem to be on the merry-go-round of learning and relearning lessons in ‘spiritual serenity’… but just as a parent doesn’t abandon his child on the playground, God has stuck with me for the ride and maybe we’re gaining more ground than I can rightly perceive. Maybe that’s why He’s given us His Word and those verses that stick with us for life and just keep on being meaningful (and needful) no matter how old we’re getting. Isaiah 30:15 has risen to the surface again as one I need to hang onto:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”

Ah, for quiet confidence… I’ve been looking at a negative example of confidence this week in the life of King Saul. His story is a curious one to me and pertinent. Despite being tall, dark and handsome and coming from a wealthy family, he had a confidence deficit. (I Sam.9:1,2) When the time came to be officially sanctioned “King” he had to be ferreted out of hiding. “He [had] hidden himself among the baggage.” (I Sam.10:22) God had chosen this unlikely fellow to save His people from their Philistine enemies. (I Sam.9:16) But apparently lack of confidence in himself was no virtue…the inbuilt fear of man that came with it would be his downfall. Rather than transferring his deficit to explicit trust in God he relied on his own evaluations of good, better, and best sparing the wicked king he was to put to death and saving ‘the best of the sheep and …the fattened calves and the lambs and all that was good’. (I Sam.15:9) (Of course it was purportedly ‘the people’s’ fault). God’s indictment against him was that “he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” (I Sam.15:11)

Samuel confronted him with the situation:

Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” I Sam.15:17-19


I had always assumed Saul had gone from thinking too little of himself to thinking too much of himself, but this isn’t the main point as Samuel expounds it. Rather he failed to take seriously the importance of his position as head over the people by the Lord’s appointment. He had an important mission but failed to fulfill it because he was guided more by the fear of man than the fear of God. His ‘littleness in his own eyes’ predisposed him to be unduly influenced by people and not attentive enough to the Lord’s voice. His judgment was so impaired that what he thought ‘good’ the Lord saw as evil!

Somewhere here there’s a lesson for the faint of heart who find themselves called to a ‘mission’ bigger than they. There is cause for confidence as an appointee of the Lord of the universe—a position to be taken seriously, a position to walk confidently in, without apology, without fear—except the fear of God. To listen for His voice is enough. To follow where His instructions lead is all that’s needful. It is not my mission. I do not need to develop the game plan or use my best judgment when things don’t make sense.

It was said of Saul: “He has turned back from following me…” (I Sam.15:11)

What better resolution than ‘returning and rest’, quietness and confidence (Is.30:15)-–the verse that has come round to me again in this unfolding season of my life. (Both words in fact derive from the same root, shuwb, to return.) Return to what I know to be the Lord’s directives. Return to faith from fear and doubt. Return to rest in His sovereign purposes for my life. Yes!

As I type, a silly song lilts up from downstairs where the grandbabies play:

Shoo, fly, don’t bother me,
For I belong to somebody.

I think that’s a good piece of closing advice for Grandmom, when the ‘flies’ buzz about my head tempting me to unrest. I belong to Somebody! Shoo!


P.S.  Give the new KEYWORD SEARCH a try. Never have the archives been so accessible…

The Long Gestation

“until Christ be formed in you…”

Mary said ‘yes’ to the angel who announced she would give birth to God’s own Son, but there were still nine ordinary months of gestation before that baby would be born. Just as regeneration, being ‘born again’, is a work of the Spirit, so is growing in grace to become fully formed into the image of Christ. Why would I think the process should be short-circuited somehow in my life or my children’s lives? There is no ‘quick fix’ for Christlikeness, no matter how much ‘angst’ I work up.

The word that has dropped into my life for this new year is “WAIT”… Most of last year I had this verse above my kitchen sink:
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth…don’t grumble against one another.” (James 5:8,9)

Before that I had lived with this one for a long while:
“you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Heb.10:36)

And this year, the compelling instruction is: “WAIT”. I guess I’m a slow learner. Then again growth in grace is a gradual process—for me and for mine. I get to anticipating full-fledged fruit when the blossoms are just forming. I get impatient. And then I begin to doubt—something must be wrong. I must have made some mistake. Must be missing something… fertilizer? Bug spray? Compost? Rain? Warmth. Love. Sunshine!

It’s one thing to conceive a child, another to give birth to that fresh tiny replica of ‘the both of us’, and yet another to feed and clothe and love that little life into maturity. It’s a process punctuated by watershed moments, memorable highlights and perhaps crises, but mostly a lot of very ordinary days…all heading toward the grand finale when we shall see Him as He is and be transformed completely into His likeness and changed in the twinkling of an eye! It’s the moment for which all creation waits and groans. (Rom.8:21,22)
It’s the moment for which we wait, having the beginnings and waiting for the full harvest—and we groan (Rom.8:23). Wonderful thing is, there’s a companion with us in this long gestation process—and He too groans. But His groans are productive. He ‘intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.’ And though we are often clueless what to pray, He always knows the mind of God and prays God’s will into being in our lives.

And so I’m learning that when the process is out of my hands but the full product isn’t in yet, it’s ok to WAIT… to stop digging up seeds to see if they’ve sprouted, to lay down my tools, to put away the bug spray and to wait—maybe hum a hopeful tune in the process? Couldn’t hurt!

I’ve been looking at this word ‘wait’ in the Bible. It’s not a curled-up-in-a-ball-asleep passive dormancy—as though we had no hope of rescue and were resigned to our fate. That is honestly my natural tendency. (So maybe I can’t put my tools down after all, but hold them at the ready while I aWAIT further instruction?!)  In strategic crisis training (from long ago days in ‘missions’) they teach you that there are two types of reactions people take in hostage situations—one is to turn completely passive and let come what may. By so doing, these folk reduce their chances of survival. The other response is to stay actively engaged in seeking your release. How does this relate to the WAIT of faith? Ha! That’s seems to be what I’m sorting out this year! The ‘Wait’ of faith—what does it look like?

This is what I’ve found so far…

It’s a waiting closely tied to hope.

“For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Gal.5:6)

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Rom.8:25)

“…we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom.8:23)

There’s an eager expectation in it, a confidence that what we hope for is coming. But what about the things we hope for that aren’t guaranteed? They seem good to us. Ideal, really. We hope for our kids the good things we’ve had or maybe that the bad things we’ve known won’t overtake them. But can we guarantee it? Will our hopes prove vain, our waiting end in disappointment? These are questions that challenge me in my waiting. (When I major on them, I find my hope faltering and my waiting dissipating into a useless passivity.) I’ve had to refocus my hopes on those things that are guaranteed…we have the hope of righteousness, the hope of redemption for these bodies, the hope of our own bodily resurrection, the hope of Jesus soon return, the hope of heaven, the hope of glory.

But what of the details–the physical, this world, nitty-gritty? What hope is there for this life?

The wait of faith is tied to the trustworthy character of God.

It’s at the point of the nitty-gritty of life where trust in the character of God and His good heart toward us must come into play. We can trust His Word. We can trust His heart, even when we cannot see the how or why or when? There are bound to be both surprises and disappointments in the process of growing to be like Christ (and in the watching others do likewise!) We simply don’t see the whole picture. And it will entail a process. John White affirms: though “there may be breakthroughs, sudden insights, glorious experiences… the major work of transformation will be slow and often deeply painful.  Yet the pain is immeasurably reduced by trust and understanding.”(The Fight, 112,113)

I think Paul would have agreed. He’d given his life to planting churches where Christ had not been preached and to nurturing growth in these believers. He compared his own efforts to the labor of childbirth!
“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (Gal. 4:19)

This was no easy task accomplished by a momentary miraculous divine intervention, but a steady self-sacrificing, life-long commitment to pray and teach and spur on to love and good deeds in any way he could. But even in this very practical, day-do-day process there was a wait of faith, for Paul was dependent on the Spirit to energize and direct his efforts (Col.1:27-29). “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (I Tim.4:10) Likewise, unless the Spirit moves, my efforts are so much burnt toast!

The wait of faith submits itself to God’s sovereign purposes.

So what happens when our dearly held expectations come crashing down? When life doesn’t turn out the way we anticipated? When God hasn’t ‘come through’ the way we’d been sure He would? Or His timing is ‘way off’? We may reason that “if God is all-knowing, wise, and loving, then surely He will fix our situation or respond in a certain manner.  When life does not turn out as we hope or in our expected timeframe, we may question God’s love and even begin to doubt his Word.” (Danielle DuRant) but who is then in the judge’s seat, determining good and evil, passing rulings on what is and isn’t acceptable? Yes, the wait of faith must face its own essential submission to God’s sovereign hand. God is consistent and faithful to His Word, but He is not necessarily predictable. Where then would be room for mercy and grace? “No, God is never unfaithful or inconsistent.  Rather… our inability to predict how or when He might resolve something we have brought to Him in prayer can bring great unease and mistrust if we unconsciously perceive Him as an indulgent parent or unreliable one we must win over. God is not an unreliable or indulgent parent, nor is He a heartless judge, as Jesus reminds us in his parable on prayer and the persistent widow.” (DuRant) Still, His ways are not our ways. He is the Potter. We are the clay…

The above excerpt is from an excellent article titled “Inseparable Companions” , demonstrating how our lives must hold faith and hope in tandem as we grow in Christ if we are to avoid the pitfall of doubting God’s goodness or His faithfulness to His Word. It was very encouraging and certainly pertinent to my study of the ‘wait of faith’. I close with its concluding remarks:

“So might we always pray and not give up, for there is hope in the mirror of God’s Word: the one true and trustworthy reflection of who God is and who we are becoming.  Here we are comforted and challenged, chastened and assured by the One who loves us and can speak into our lives like no other.  Here we can “set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19b-20).  We can bring our expectations, fears, and questions before his throne of grace and let the light of Jesus’s presence shine into every dark and confusing place in our lives.  We can hope in Him and rest in Him because He promises to never leave us nor forsake us.  So let us give Him our expectations and ask Him to give us trustful expectancy. ‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for we who promised is faithful’ (Hebrews 10:23).  Then we may see signs of his faithful presence where we once did not and begin to find our way forward—with deeper hope.”(Danielle DuRant)

Waiting eagerly to see what God will do,


“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Ps.25:5

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lam.3:25,26

P.S. I brought back a book from Missions Fest last month titled Unshaken. It’s the story of Dan Woolley, a Haiti earthquake survivor, and is an excellent model of what it means to wait actively. He was trapped beneath whole stories of rubble, badly injured, and able to move about very little but he refused to curl up in a ball and let unconsciousness overtake him. In fact he used his plight to encourage others to hold on and to point them to the ultimate Saviour. Remarkable testimony to the very present help of God in times of trouble (and to the wait of faith!!). [See full review here]

Danielle DuRant is director of research and writing at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. “Inseparable companions” is available at in the “Just Thinking” archives.