Straining to See


(This is another post by my amazing wife as she shares her thoughts on the journey we’re on.  Once again, I am so thankful for her willingness to step into this and open her heart up)

I’ve been in complete denial.

You see, just about eleven months ago I had one of those milestone birthdays.  Yep, the big 4-0!!!  Although, I think my denial started prior to that birthday, it only intensified once it rolled around.  At first, I blamed it on poor lighting, microscopic print or an eyelash in my eye, but no matter how hard I strained or squinted, the letters and words on the page would NOT snap into focus.

Even though I’ve worn contacts since high school my suspicions were confirmed after a recent  routine eye exam:  it was time for a pair of “readers”.  Blegh!  Already?  I thought I had at least a few more years to go!  So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been adjusting to this new accessory of sorts.  I’m armed and ready with several pair, stashed in various spots, I can pull out in a moments notice in order to see clearly!

This minor little thing has been only one of the many adjustments and changes over the last year.  Boy, there’s been so many!  Some big, some small.  Lots of ups and lots of downs.  It’s been a crazy ride!  And to be honest, I’m tired.  I’m ready for the ride to be over.  We all are.  I read it on the pages of my journal, I see it on Matt’s face and I hear it in my kiddo’s voices.

I told a dear friend the other day, as much as I’m grateful for God’s Word and the confirmation and encouragement it brings, I find myself feeling like it’s “all talk and no action”.  (And yes, I’ve taken that complaint to God, too!)  We continue to seek, pray and wait and nothing is happening.  Sure, it’s been all the right verses at all the right times but I want to SEE something!  Show… me… the ACTION!  I want something tangible.

We’ve taken steps of faith.  We’ve tried to follow His leading and obey His call.  We left when He said “go”.  So, now what?  “When, Lord?  When will all the pieces start to fall into place?  You do remember that there’s the matter of a job, a house, and a life to settle into, right?”

And then one day last week, He led me to Psalm 119, verses 81-82 (NLT):

“I’m worn out from waiting for Your rescue, 

but I have put my hope in Your word.  

My eyes are straining to see Your promises come true.

When will You comfort me?”

Oh My Goodness!!!  Yes, yes, yes!  I’m worn out.  I’m straining to see Your plans unfold, Lord!  The plans You have for me and my family.  Just as I strained to see those words on the page without my readers I’m desperately looking for the next step.  Left or right?  But I feel like everything is so out of focus right now.  No matter how hard I try to make sense of it all or will things into motion, everything continues to be hazy and fuzzy without a clear answer in sight.  And yet a couple days later, He reminded me in John 20 that in His timing all WILL be seen.

The passage tells us it was the Sunday after Jesus had been crucified and died a horrible, brutal death.  His disciples, undeniably, were confused, full of doubts, grieving, and striving to understand what they had just experienced.  It’s in the midst of all their emotions God allows them to see the tangible.

They saw… the stone rolled away.

They saw… the empty tomb.

They saw… the linen wrappings and the folded head cloth.

They saw… the two angels.

They saw… the one they thought was a gardener.

They… saw… JESUS!

Just a few days ago He was dead yet there He was living and breathing!  He had conquered death and escaped it’s grip to offer them a chance to see and believe!  He even made an appearance to doubting Thomas, the one who would not believe unless he saw the nail scarred hands and pierced side.  Jesus let Thomas see the tangible and urged him to be faithless no more.  Just believe!  In fact, in that moment He gave a promise to those of us who didn’t physically see that day.  “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20: 29).

It was then in my Thomas-like doubt and confusion He came renewing and filling me with a fresh hope.  Jesus reminded me in the midst of all my straining to see, He is my tangible!  He knows our needs and even our wants and His plan will be revealed in due time.  His time.

I’m not guaranteed an answer to every question I pose and I may not even understand it all this side of eternity, but I know The One who does, and I can trust Him.

As we prepared to take Communion at church on Sunday, I couldn’t help but smile as our pastor invited the congregation to “feast on the tangible”.  The bread and the wine representing His body and blood.  Ordinary elements so simple yet so profound.  Something right in front of my eyes to remind me/us what He did, giving strength and power to keep going on.  If He loves us so much to lay down His life and then raise it up again, surely He can light the path before us and set it all into motion at the right time.

And I think in my straining to see, He’s giving me the grace to begin to see clearly.

Some Coffee, Dr. Stanley, and the Goodness of God

“Charles Stanley…you know who he is, right?”

I smiled at the gentleman addressing my friend and me at Starbucks.  He was probably in his early 70s, had a large study Bible in his hand, and I guess he figured two “young” dudes like us might not know the legendary preacher from Georgia was.

“Yessir, I know who he is” my friend said, at which time the man turned and looked straight at me and said, “Charles Stanley said ‘When God’s says wait, it’s because He’s got something better coming.’ ”

I almost laughed out loud, as did my friend.  We had just been talking about the craziness of my life right now, and how God had been doing some crazy things to confirm He was in control.  This gentlemen had obviously seen my friend in the coffee shop before, and came by to say hello.  Then he dropped the Stanley-bomb on us.

“When God says wait, it’s because He’s got something better coming.”

I don’t know if those are Dr. Stanley’s exact words or not, and that’s not really the point.  What I do know is they were words the Lord meant for me that morning.  In many ways, and through many people, He has been quietly reassuring me that He has this, and us, and that I just need to trust Him.

If you’ve been following along with us on this adventure, you’re probably reading this and going “Matt…you haven’t learned THAT lesson by now?!!”

Well…evidently not.  I’m a tad hard headed.  And I’m thankful that when my hard-headedness rises up to full stature, Jesus has such a kind and loving way of meeting me where I am and reminding me, yet again, of His goodness.

Here is a snippet of some of the things the Lord has done the last few weeks:

  • I was sitting on the porch one morning, drinking my coffee (have you noticed the common denominator of coffee in most of these posts????) and praying.  Instead of communion with God and quietly trusting Him, my mind was filling with concerns, worries, and what jobs I need to be applying for today when a still, small voice whispers “Trust Me…I’ve got this.”  I stopped and sat for a moment…and then started to spout out my “but what about” when, again, that still, small voice whispers “Trust Me…I’ve got this.”
  • Three times in the last ten days, the Lord has drawn my attention to Isaiah 30:18-21.  Once, in my devotions.  Then the same day, a text from a good friend with a picture of those very verses.  Then this week, my sisters shared with me that she was reading through that chapter, and when she did,  thought of us.  What are those words, you ask?  “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.” 
  • Friday night, I received an email from a friend back in NC who wanted to share his own journey with us.  Reading his story brought tears to my eyes, as it is the same story as ours, when you get right down to it: waiting on the Lord.  In my friends words, as he was waiting on the Lord to guide his decisions about work and family, the Lord reassured him that, “When I step in, you will know it.”  He shared with me that “When He steps in, you, and all of us who have been waiting, are going to know it.”  That couldn’t have come at a better time.
  • And then there was the day that some of the leaders of our church here in OKC prayed over me, and for our family.  The Lord put words on their hearts and in their mouths that only He would know, things that only the Holy Spirit could reveal to them, and thus striking a deep chord within me that resonated on and on: “I’ve got this, Matt…trust me.”

And if that wasn’t enough, for the last three weeks we have prayed a prayer from Lamentations 3:21-26:

My soul still remembers and sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.

But one of the smallest, yet coolest ways the Lord reminded me that He has us this week was the morning He brought me back to Isaiah 41:10, and to a little note in my margin that reads “10-7-16  Thank You Lord“.  You see, that was the day last fall that I awoke early to find my wife’s side of the bed empty.  I went downstairs where she was sitting in “my” chair, curled up under a blanket, writing in her journal.  This was a week or so after “The Push“, but we hadn’t taken any steps yet.  I was afraid of what the “next step” would be, as I knew it would require my stepping down from ministry and from my job.

Amanda looked up at me that morning, tears in her eyes, and said “Matt, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”  Remember, this journey had started earlier in the year, and we had been through a LOT of waiting and praying by this point, coupled with a lot of clear signs that we were about to go through some major changes.  It was weighing on both of us, but especially my wife.

That morning, I knelt beside her, grabbed her hand, and prayed.  I pulled a Gideon, putting out a fleece, as it were, asking the Lord that, if I was supposed to go and talk to our senior pastor, I needed Him to make it absolutely clear.  Well, long story a little shorter:  I arrived at church for our staff meeting, and a few minutes in our pastor looks at all of us and says, “Listen, if the Lord is moving any of you in a different direction, please come and talk to me about it.  I want to help.”

Uhhhhhhhh…we got through the meeting, I called my wife and shared with her, and then I opened my Bible to read in Isaiah 41.  These words leapt off the page and into my heart:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  Yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

And from there, this journey began, and as I sat at my sister’s table this week and read those words again, I smiled.

 “Wait…I’ve got something better.”  

 “Trust me…I’ve got this.”

“When I move, you’ll know it.”

Ok, Lord…ok…my thick head is starting to get it.  You’ve got it.  I trust You, because I know You’re good, and I know You love us.  You’ve reminded me again and again, just this week.

Against the Wind


If you’ve ever visited Oklahoma, chances are one thing stood out above all the rest long beyond your time here:  the wind.  Forever memorialized in the title song from the play “Oklahoma”, the wind truly comes “whipping down the plains.” More than a quaint line in a play, the wind is your constant companion, or nemesis, depending on your point of view (or style of haircut).

This morning I went for a run, and the wind was blowing a breezy 25-35 mph.  I know that may not seem that fast to many, especially if your only comparison is the guy you got stuck behind on the way to work.  Let me assure you, when you’re trying to run against wind that strong, it becomes a formidable foe.

I noticed something as I navigated the “breeze” this morning:  when I was running south, into the wind, I had to work a lot harder than when I turned north, and the wind was suddenly at my back.  I was going the same speed, but my effort going into the wind was much greater than running with the wind.

The wind was the same; it didn’t change.  My perspective of it changed, but the wind was the same, constantly blowing, constantly pushing against me.  The only thing that changed was the direction I was going in.  I was appreciative of the wind when I headed north, but was pretty fed up with it when I turned south.

Which got me thinking about life, and specifically about this journey we’re on.  Amanda and I  shared last week the struggles we are going through on this journey, the ways in which we can be “up” one day and “down” the next.  Honestly,  at times we start to doubt and wonder where God is in all this, especially when things aren’t so clear and we seem to be running against the wind, as it were.

And yet, the same God Who so clearly called us out, told us to go, and brought us to Oklahoma is the same God who is, once again, telling us wait, trust, be patient.  When the way is clear and things are going well, I’m quick to praise God and trust, but when the wind shifts, the way is harder, and I can’t see the next step, that praise can quickly turn to grumbling, complaining, and doubting.

The tough times are in His hands just as much as the “easy” ones, yet we are so quick to forget it! How quick we are to question the Master’s intent when things become hard!  The same God that we love to praise when He does something awesome is the same God that we begin to doubt when things don’t turn out like we expect, or when the way doesn’t seem as clear as it once did.

Or worse yet, when times get tough, we chalk it up to Satan working against us.  We long for the way things once were, for things to be easier, for the wind to be at our backs,  when in reality the Lord is using the situation to strengthen and grow us.  Maybe, just maybe, the Lord is using a hard thing, a tough road, a time of waiting, a time where the wind is blowing right in our faces, to cause us to press into Him, to trust His provision, His leading, His plan.

Let me be clear, I’m not discounting the reality of spiritual warfare.  Satan wants to destroy us, to steal our joy in Christ, to harm everything we know and love, but what the enemy of our souls means for evil, God means for good (see Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28).  We need to remember the overarching point of the book of Job:  God is in sovereign control, even when we don’t understand what’s going on.

(Side note: let me be clear that I’m not equating the journey we’re on to what you may be facing.  I would never intend to do that!  I know that there are many reading this blog facing far tougher and far more daunting circumstances that we are.  My hope is that the words found here are as encouraging to you where you are as they have been to my soul)

The problem is not with God, the problem is with my perspective of God.  The reality is He doesn’t change.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He is love, and He proved that love in sending His Son to take the wrath that was rightly due to us.  In our place, Jesus stood condemned, for love of us!  He became our sin so we could become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).  This is the gospel truth, and I know it…but the trouble is I forget it.  I begin to doubt it, to doubt Him, to doubt His goodness, His love…to doubt if I really heard Him right in all this.

God is using this “wind”, this season, to lovingly remind me of the Gospel, and my deep need for it. He reminds me of His love, and asks why I doubt just because the wind suddenly got tough.  If He gave only His Son to make my dead self come alive, how will He not keep me upright in the storm.  If Jesus loved me enough to take my place, to become my sin, why do I think He will suddenly up and forsake me?  If the Holy Spirit stoops to dwell within me, fleshy and weak as I am, why do I doubt He is capable of guiding every detail of our lives? After all, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

There are parts of this story that we’ve shared openly, parts we’ve shared with only a few, and others that we keep to ourselves.  Suffice it to say that there have been times when an easier road was presented to us, at least an easier road from our perspective.  There have been opportunities that pulled at our heart strings, especially the desire to stay close to friends and family in NC, but to which the Lord clearly said “no.”  There have been places we’ve visited that ticked every box for us in terms of our personal desires and interests, standard of living, housing, etc.  And God has said “no.”

Sometimes, no is easier to take than others.  Sometimes, that “no” closes a road that would have, according to our hearts, been perfect.  There have been times when it would have seemed like the wind was at our backs, easy sailing ahead, and yet, we’ve known if we took those roads, we’d be ignoring the heart of the Father toward us.  In those moments, we had to lean back on the Gospel, lean on the truth’s of His Word, lean on His love and His understanding, because we don’t understand, and simply say, with Jesus, “Not my will, but Your’s be done.”

And here’s an even greater truth that is so very hard for my American, Westernized Christian self to grapple with:  He doesn’t promise that the sailing will always be easy.  In fact, He said the opposite (In this world, you WILL have trouble).  Yet in the next few words He gives us incredible hope and joy to lean on in the midst of trouble:

“Take heart…I have overcome the world.” 

This journey is far more about us being made like Jesus, of us allowing our lives to be used for His glory and purpose, than about our comfort, our desires, our ideas of how things should be.  It’s about realizing how the Gospel bears on all of our lives, not just our eternities.  Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This life isn’t mine to live.  It’s His, but all of Scripture and all of my life tell me I can trust Him with it, even when the wind is blowing hard in my face.

 

Bitter Tears…and a Foul Frozen Drink


(This is another wonderful post by my wife, giving her thoughts on the latest stage of this journey we’re on.  Every time she takes the leap to shares her heart, which is not an easy leap for her, my love and admiration for this amazing woman grows.  So thankful for her, and for her steadfast faithfulness on this journey)

Last Tuesday, they took away my driver’s license.  And it ALL went down hill from there.  Who  knew I’d be on the verge of a big ol’ ugly cry right there in the middle of the tag agency office?  But that’s exactly what happened when I asked to keep my North Carolina license for sentimental reasons.  Apparently they have to mail the license back to NC.  For what?  I have no earthly idea!  But since I could feel the lump swelling in my throat and the water pooling in my eyes I knew it would be best not to ask any questions, just take the Oklahoma license and get out as fast as I could!

As silly as it sounds it was just another stripping away of the old, more grieving over the way things were and the reality of still so much uncertainty.  As the week progressed it was much more of the same:  strip, grieve, uncertainty …. and repeat.  It was a tough, tough week.  I struggled to get out of bed (who am I kidding?  I struggle to get out of bed every morning.  I love my sleep!!!  But even more so last week).  I felt like all I could do was weep.  Ugly cries for days.  Therefore I “hibernated” quite a bit last week.  There seemed to be a never ending fountain of tears.  Bitter, bitter tears.  And as I cried out to The Lord through my doubts, anger and fears begging for some type of encouragement, relief, answers….He was there.  Even when it felt like He was gone.

Painfully, I struggled to keep trekking through my reading plan and my time in The Word each day but looking back over the last week I see how He graciously gave me examples of others who had “bitterly wept” before The Lord.  Letting me know I’m not alone in my weeping.  Isn’t that just like God?  Some of the similarities in these passages were certainty not lost on me.

  • Judges 20:18- 21:3  The Israelites are in the middle of a civil war with their family, the Benjaminites.  Time and time again they seek God for direction (in Bethel, mind you) “weeping loudly and bitterly” in the presence of The Lord over their defeat and loss.
  • Ruth 1:3-21 In this passage, Naomi is so bitter and discouraged that she’s asking to be called by another name.  “Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me” (vs. 20).  No, I’m not to the point of asking for a new name but it has been a long, hard year and I wonder with each passing day how much more can we take?
  • 1 Samuel 1:9-11 Hannah is in such “deep anguish crying bitterly” to The Lord for a baby.  She’s so distraught in her prayer that Eli, the priest, thinks she’s drunk!  I’ve certainty prayed my fair share of desperate prayers lately.  Praying for things we need and want, all the while, after so many months of waiting, doubts flood my mind and I start to question everything.

Funny enough, after He gave me all these “spiritual” examples He brought to mind an experience my daughter and I had a couple weeks prior.  She and I were some of the suckers who bought into the hype and tried the horrid, wretched Unicorn Frappuccino.  Yep.  Suckers.  It was dubbed as being “the flavor-changing, coloring-changing, totally not-made-up” magical drink.  We took one sip of the sour, bitter concoction and immediately needed something else to get the taste out of our mouths!  Ahhhh…..lightbulb!!!

After a week of tasting many bitter tears, through the recollection of something ordinary and normal He was inviting me to feast on Him and His goodness.  I needed to “cleanse my palette” so to speak.  The words of Psalm 34:8 kept echoing in my mind… “taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”.  How ironic is it that He’s called the “Bread of Life” and the “Living Water”?  He’s nourishment for our souls, strength for our bodies, and the only real thing that will truly satisfy.

There are still so many questions unanswered and so much uncertainty about this journey that we’re on, but one thing is for sure:  The Lord is using the ministry of Frontline Church in OKC to breathe life into our weary souls.   As we went to church Sunday morning, Matt and I were both still pretty beat up from our emotional week.   It was there, that morning, that Jesus came to us!  He met us right where we were – in our broken, weary, desperate state.   He was inviting us to enjoy the Bread and drink the Water.  From the beginning to the end of service, we both bawled like babies.  This time the tears weren’t bitter, instead they were cleansing, repentant, and peace-filled.

There is no one or nothing like Jesus!!!  Over the last year He’s stirred an even greater passion in my heart for His Word which I’m so thankful for!  It truly is living and breathing, sharper than any two edged sword.  But as precious and sweet as The Word is to me, Jesus is all the more sweeter!  He’s so faithful to come near when we ask.  He comes close, wraps His arms around us and invites us to bask in His goodness.

And that’s anything but bitter!

Try that One on for Size


“Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act.”  

Several years ago, a dear friend of ours, Pastor Jeff Rudd, was preaching on Psalm 37 our church in NC.  I wish I had my notes from that day, but seeing how my journals prior to last April are in storage 1200 miles away, I’ll have to rely on my not-so-reliable memory.

I remember Jeff said the word translated “commit” means “to roll off onto,” the idea being to take your burden off and give them to someone else to carry.  It’s like when you have a heavy pack on your back, and you have to let gravity pull it off your shoulders.  In this case, the clear picture being to give our way, our lives, to Jesus and let His more-than-able shoulders carry us.

(I know Jeff shared this, and I am also sure he shared what I’m about to say, but the discrepancy in my mind is whether or not he shared it the same day.  If I’m wrong, please forgive me, but I do believe it applies to this very verse)

I remember Jeff saying how he really liked that idea, how it spoke to him.  Then he said the Lord was like, “Really?  You like that do you?  How about you try that one on for size.”  I remember us all laughing at the notion while, just as I can remember Jeff smiling as he said it.  Yet, at the same time, there’s an unease in those words, cause while we all like the idea, the reality is a bit tougher than the concept.  For one, it means you have to let go of  your own ideas and desires to another, to truly give up your way in favor of Another’s.  It means we relinquish control, and there aren’t many folks I know who have done that.

On this journey we’re on, I’m finding that we’ve also had to “try that one on for size” and see how it works for us.  And not just this one.  I was talking to a good friend yesterday about how many of the things I’ve preached, shared, or blogged on over the years are now having to be fleshed out, lived out, put into practice in our lives…how I’ve had to try them on for size myself.

For example, in no particular order:

“The God that brought you this far is not going to leave you now.  You can trust Him.”

Don’t let your job define you.  Do whatever you do unto the Lord, trust that He has you where He wants you, and if He wants to do something else, He’ll make it clear. You can trust Him.”

“I don’t believe God will allow us to miss His will for our lives.  If we are truly seeking Him, He will bring us to the place He wants us to go.  It might be the long way around, but He’ll get you there.  You can trust Him.”

“Even in the hardest times, no matter what comes your way, if you have Jesus, He’s enough.  You can trust Him.”

“You always have a reason to sing, to praise God, no matter what you’re going through. Even in our hardest times,  Jesus is still worthy.”

“Stand still…be patient…wait and see the salvation of the Lord.”

I could go on, but you get the point.  I feel like we’ve been on a crash-course in trusting the Lord this year.  I believe that 19 years of marriage have all been preparation for right now, for this moment, as God is working out His good pleasure in us.  And while that all sounds well and good, it sounds so spiritual and such…it’s not easy.  There are many tears, many moments of “loud fellowship” with the Lord, many moments of doubt, of worry, of fear.

But then…peace.  He never leaves us.  Like a good, patient Father, I can see the Lord standing back while we throw our little pity parties, not too far away, just waiting for us to tire out, before coming in close, picking us up, dusting us off, and embracing us yet again.

Last week was one of those hard weeks.  I have often said how thankful I am that, through this whole journey, we’ve never had a day where we are both struggling at the same time, but when one of us is up, the other would be down.  Well, last week that didn’t happen.  Like a wave crashing on us, we both struggled mightily all week with our emotions, with worry and doubt.

And then yesterday morning, Sunday, we went to church.  I told my wife that I still don’t know why we’re in Oklahoma City, but I know one thing, God is using the ministry of Frontline Church in a powerful way to work in our hearts.  From the opening prayer in Lamentations:  “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the should who seeks Him.” 

The tears started flowing immediately…the Lord is good to those who wait for Him.  Wait.  Be patient.  Hope.

We began to sing together, “Before the throne of God above…” and I was reminded of who I am in Christ, the hope I have in the Gospel.  “My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Savior and my God.”  Secure.  Safe.  I belong to Him.

We sang about the surety of God’s promises in Jesus being “yes and amen.”  We sang how the Lord is good…how He will never fail.  Then we sang the amazing, mind-blowing truth that we are, because of Jesus Christ our brother, the sons and daughters of God.

Yeah…I was a wreck.  We opened the word together, and Ecclesiastes chapter 2 reminds us that our hope and joy lies not in anything found under the sun, but only in One who is beyond the sun, the Son of God.  And as we broke the bread and drank the wine in which the Gospel is proclaimed anew, I wept like a baby for the goodness of the Lord to me.

I may not have it all figured out.  I may be “trying on for size” a lot of things I might have sadly said flippantly over the years, I’m learning of the love and mercy of God through Jesus in ways I never have felt before.  I told Amanda I feel like I’ve been deconstructed, completely laid bare, and now the Holy Spirit can begin the work of rebuilding me from the inside out.

If you’re still tracking with us, if you’ve been following along and praying for us on this journey, we thank you.  We simply ask that you continue to pray for the Lord to reveal His will.  We ask that you pray He will provide the right job for me, and the right home for my family.

We know we’re just strangers and sojourners here, just passing through, no matter if we spend the rest of our days in OKC, or if He leads us on at some point.  It’s just another thing God is having us try on for size.  And as we wait for His leading in these next things, I’m learning that I can trust Him with it all and that, in His time, He will act.

More than You Think


A couple months ago, my wife wrote a great post about sharing our stories with our kids.  She wrote of how important it is to be honest and open with our kids about what God is doing in our lives, the blessings and the trials.  I know I’m biased, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever read on the subject.  You should read it, if you haven’t yet.  And if you have read it, read it again.

Sunday afternoon, we were blessed to get a glimpse of some of the fruit of “story sharing” in the life of our youngest daughter.  Late in the day, Amanda and I were sitting together talking through our emotions in this season, sharing our hearts with each other.  A few minutes in, Hannah appeared with her copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible and her little journal.  She stood there for a few minutes, politely waiting for us to finish our current line of thought, and then says, “Look at what God showed me.”

Do I have to even attempt to say what that does to the heart of a dad?  Of a mom?

First of all, if you haven’t picked up a copy of this wonderful little book, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, you need to.  The book tells the story, THE story of the Bible, the story of Jesus found in all the stories, beginning to end.  Even if you don’t have kids, get one!  If you’ve been a Christian for your whole life and think you have arrived, definitely get one and find the joy of a child as you discover that, truly, “every story whispers His name.”

She showed me what she was reading:  the story of David, the shepherd-king.  It contains a paraphrase of Psalm 23, that oh-so-familiar psalm of God’s loving care for His kids, His sheep.  She flipped the page over and pointed to a few lines:

“He is getting wonderful things ready for me, especially for me, everything I ever dreamed of!  He fills my heart so full of happiness I can’t hold it inside.  Wherever I go I know God’s Never Stopping Never Giving Up Unbreaking Always and Forever Love Will go, too!”

She looked at us both and said, “I think God’s getting us ready to do something big!”

She then showed me how she wrote these lines down in her little journal.

At this point, and I think I can speak for Amanda here, it got a bit dusty in there!  It’s not just the fact that this kid is an old soul and sweet enough to rot your teeth, or that she has a heart that has always been tender toward the things of God, or that she is genuinely kind and loving.  Those things are what make her who she is, and we see them in her and rejoice in them.

What got us was watching our daughter seeking God’s will in His Word, on her level, on her own.  We saw her reading the story of the Good Shepherd and then relating it to how God cares for her, how He loves her, how He’s working in her life, too.  This wasn’t just a kid along for the ride on her parent’s story…this was a kid seeking to know God’s part for her.

Is there anything better than watching your child’s faith bloom?

For me, as a husband and a father, there’s another part of it, too.   I see the faithful fulfillment of prayers my wife and I pray for our kids, that they would know Jesus and seek after Him on their own.  I see the fruit of Amanda pouring into these kids every day, giving of herself through home school, loving them on good days and on the days they’re not-so-lovable, and above all, trying to show them God’s love.

My daughter didn’t get that prayer journal idea from thin air…she saw her momma writing in hers, every day.  She didn’t wake up and think, “Oh, I need to read the Bible.”  She saw her momma reading her own Bible, seeking God’s will, often times through tears, every day.  She heard her momma sharing her story, our story, every day.  And she saw her momma continually returning to the hope of God’s “Never Stopping Never Giving Up Unbreaking Always and Forever Love” in Jesus.

Every.  Day.

For me, it was a beautiful reminder of something the Holy Spirit showed me last year, just as we were getting going on this journey.  He made it clear that this move, this change, was not just about a job or a location.  It was about what He was doing in my kids, and would do in their kids one day.

“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18

He’s working in these kids, just like He’s working in us.  He’s drawing them to Himself through circumstances, speaking to them in their trial, just like He is doing to Amanda and me.  I don’t know the plan He has for their lives beyond the fact that He wants them to know Him, to know His love for them, and to share that love with those who don’t know.

And that’s enough.

So in our frail, broken way, we’re trying to show them He’s in control, He’s good, and He loves us and them. We’re trying to show them that for all our feeble attempts to figure all this out, all our failures and doubts, in the end, only Jesus matters.  Only what Jesus asks matters.

He’s everything.

And you know what?  They pick up on more than you think.

Know what else?  Your kids do, too.

So what are we showing them?

 

 

 

Letting Patience Work


That’s my boy, camped out in front of my parent’s door, waiting for me to come home from visiting some friends before we left NC.  For a kid who repeatedly says, “But I don’t LIKE to be patient!” he sure seemed to exhibit it that day, waiting so long that he finally gave up and fell asleep.  I talk to him all the time about being patient, about waiting (Lord knows, we’ve had plenty of examples of it lately).  My little man is a mini-me in more ways that his looks, its seems.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, but let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

I’ll be honest…this is not one of my favorite group of verses in the Bible.  Truth?  I’d like to pretend it wasn’t there, but that’s like wishing the sky wasn’t blue or that water wasn’t wet.  It’s there, whether I like it or not.

This morning I told my wife that I must not have grasped the lesson I needed to learn over the past 6 months, because here were are again in a period of waiting.  As I’ve said before, waiting is not a passive thing, but it’s an active hope of what is to come.  Waiting, it seems, is part and parcel with faith, the substance of things hoped for, but not yet seen.  James’ words above serve to reinforce this idea.  The trial, whatever it may be for you and me, comes and tests our faith.  The testing of our faith, the examination of it’s quality, serves to help us learn to be patient, and patience works in us to make us perfect.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

For months, the journey involved waiting on the Lord to show us the where of this journey, the place He was sending us, and He has indeed led us out of North Carolina to, quite literally, a broad and spacious land (Psalm 118:5) in Oklahoma.  Yet now that we are here, we are waiting again, this time on the why.  Why move us from the home we loved?  Why take me out of a church and a ministry that I loved?  Why bring us here to, essentially, start over?

I’ve found that I’m in a place where it is very easy to rely on the flesh, to lean on my own understanding, to try to use my own means, instead of being patient and relying on the Holy Spirit to lead, as He has all along this journey.  As a man, providing for my family weighs heavily on me.  I’m putting in job applications, doing the “Linked In” thing for the first time (I seriously always thought it was just spam…you learn something new every day), putting out feelers, as they say.  Scouring job openings wondering how in the world I could fit into them.

In the midst of this, the still, small voice whispers, “Patience Matthew…patience.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

Letting patience work is not my strong suit, and yet James says I’m to count it all joy.  I struggle not to go crazy in the waiting, and I’m supposed to consider it joy?  The only way I know how to handle this is to continually remind myself of what God has already done.  I’m so thankful I’ve kept a journal through all this, because I am prone to forget.  I try to remember how far He has brought us, both in actual distances and spiritually.  I return to those little stones of remembrance that I set up in my mind, those little monuments of His faithfulness up, again and again.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

In the waiting, in the patience, God is teaching us to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us in the Word, and in the day-to-day circumstances of life.  To really stop…wait…and listen.  He is teaching us to trust Him, even when the way doesn’t make sense to our human minds.  He is teaching us to obey when He says “go”, and to…sigh…sit still when He says to stay.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

I’m not there yet, y’all.  I suspect you aren’t either.  I have to remind myself daily this journey we are on is not primarily about moving to a new city or finding a job, or about any of the myriad things we all deal with in our day-to-day lives.  Above all, it’s about Jesus.  It’s about His will, not mine.  It’s about how the Holy Spirit is doing the work of making us more like Jesus through the journey, through the trial.

And it’s also a reminder that we never really arrive in this life, but continue on a long journey that will only be complete when we see Jesus face to face.  As John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, wrote:

“…and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

I long to see Him, more and more with each year of life.  And one day, I will.  One day…but not yet.  One day, faith will be sight.  One day, the waiting will be over.  One day, I won’t struggle with doubts, with fear, with worry.  One day.  Until then, like my boy waiting on my return, we wait for Jesus to come and make all things new.

We go on letting patience do it’s work in us so one day we, too,  may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.