Too many irons in the fire.

andy-beales-53407

Go! Go! Go!

Run upstairs to get the client specs. Run back downstairs to deliver specs to the factory floor. Run down the block to the print shop for a press check. Run to the car to catch a plane. Race to get home. Whip up a quick dinner while helping a kid practice music, checking email, and prepping tomorrow’s lunches.

Run! Run! Run!

Without warning, something goes wrong. The mailman shows up, and your crazy dog goes busting through the front door to greet him. As the dog runs by, she knocks over your kid. While you’re coping with this catastrophe, the dinner on the stove starts to burn and your critical email goes unsent.

Crash! Boom! Bang!

All at once, all your well-laid plans come to a screeching halt. Like a line of dominoes, the tipping of one is the downfall of all. Continue reading

Just a breath of wind…

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The glare of the sun bore down on the crew while the wind remained noticeably absent. Stagnant air hovered oppressively over the dispirited men.

The waiting was pure agony.

The object of their mission had eluded them for weeks. Now, in this pond of an ocean, it was nowhere to be seen, assuredly sailing farther and farther beyond reach. They could do nothing to move their massive vessel. It sat motionless in the calm water as though permanently affixed to the sea bed.

The sails of the ship sagged from the rigging while sailors paced aimlessly about ship or sulked in whatever shade could be had.

They had not been idle; they’d scrubbed the decks, caulked the cracks, cleaned the cannons, mended sails, run drills, polished every surface and tended every duty. There was little more to be done. At any moment they could set sail, if only the wind would appear!

They waited.

The steward had informed the captain only that morning of the dwindling rations. Only 3 days of food and 4 days of water. The nearest landmass was a 2 days journey. If they didn’t move soon… the captain quickly banished the unpleasant thought from his mind.

He absorbed his surroundings with mounting frustration.

The waiting would surely kill them.

When the doldrums had descended, he had done everything to keep the men distracted. There was always work to be done aboard ship. But now, ideas were becoming as scarce as tasks. He and his crew had been on half rations for several days. If they did not sail soon, those rations would be but a mere memory. Disease, death and mutiny would surely ensue.

This interminable, infernal wait!

He exhaled sharply.

The captain closed his eyes, breathed deeply, and prayed for the third time that day, lifting up the deep distress of his soul to the One who had never abandoned him.

At that very moment, he felt the gentlest caress of a breeze.

A mere breath of wind.

His eyes flew open and instinctively shot upward. The ivory sails undulated and slowly began to stiffen as the strength of the wind intensified. The men, stirred by the soft breeze rose hopefully and a cheer swelled from among them. The water wrinkled with ripples as the bulk of the ship slowly broke against it.

It was as though a skilled hand had brushed the strings of a harp. Hope revived. The captain nodded at his lieutenant and the young man began barking orders at the crew. The westerly wind gently pushed the ship forward as all hands eagerly made preparations to be underway once more.

The wait was over at last.

Now they had only to replenish their supplies and begin pursuit of the goal once more.


Have you ever felt like the captain of that ship?

Have you ever found yourself stuck, dead in the water, waiting for what seemed like an eternity?

There are storms and then there are doldrums.

Have you ever found yourself waiting in the middle of the storm? The wait can be terrifying as every power on earth seems poised to crush you. In those times, you have to focus on the One who is in the boat with you. You have to persist in your request for Him to “wake” and calm the storm, trusting in His power to save.

Then, there are the times of menacing stillness. These may be spans of time in which you can do nothing but mark time, and take care of the few things within your power.

Are you, even now, sitting on a boat that is fixed in place?

Are you caring for special needs children? Waiting for a response to a job application? Watching a loved one on hospice care grow closer to death?

Are you waiting?

What are you doing while you wait?

There is cooking and cleaning, kids to care for, job applications to be completed, paperwork to be filled out. Are you moving smartly about ship, trying to keep the oppressive stillness at bay?

Many years ago, author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot hosted a radio show called “Gateway to Joy.” She had a saying, “Do the next thing.” When your despair threatens to consume you, don’t just walk around wringing your hands—do somethingMop the floor, wipe those runny little noses, change the bed linens, read a story to your child, read the Word to your loved one as they approach death, organize a cabinet, prepare food for the next few days, and pray.

In the past week, I have been meditating on and praying aloud Psalm 25. I have a copy of the Psalm hanging on the refrigerator door at my eye level. Every time I open it, I see part of the Psalm. Here is a portion of it:

Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

O my God, I trust in Thee:
let me not be ashamed,
let not mine enemies triumph over me.

Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed:
let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.

Shew me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.

Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me:
for thou art the God of my salvation;
on Thee do I wait all the day.

Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies and Thy loving kindnesses;
for they have been ever of old.

Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions:
according to Thy mercy remember Thou me for Thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will He teach sinners in the way.

The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach his way.

All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth
unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Psalm 25.1-10

I used the King James Version primarily for the poetic factor. (Read the full text of the Psalm here at Bible Gateway. The link should take you to a side-by-side comparison of the King James Version and the English Standard Version.)

I learned a song of the same title a long time ago, and it was the remembrance of that song that lead me to the reading of the Psalm.

In my physical Bible (as opposed to my digital one) there was a footnote for verse 3 that says “wait for You in faith.” Perhaps one of my readers who have access to Bible reference materials can tell me what the original says; I have not been able to find anything else that indicates the presence of that phrase in the original. However, I do think the meaning is applicable: We have to wait on the Lord in faith, otherwise we will lose heart.

Notice verses 3 and 4: In verse 3 (using the ESV) it reads: “Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed.” In the next verse (verse 4), the writer asks for the Lord to reveal His ways. While we wait, are we only looking for the solution here on earth or do we ask the Lord to lead us in His ways? Are we seeking His purpose or are we solely focused on what is immediately in front of us? It’s natural during a period of great anxiety or grief to look inward. Take some time to look upward.

Lift up your soul to God. Lift up your requests, your burdens, your anxieties, your frustrations—lift them UP.

I would like you to notice something else about this Psalm. In the ESV version, the phrase “steadfast love” is used three times. I have always believed that if God repeats Himself, He is emphasizing something important. Steadfast love is a strong, steady and reliable love. Anyone who has lived long on the earth is well-acquainted with the failings of human love. Even the truest of loves will let you down at times, but God’s love never weakens.

Lift up your heart to the one who loves you with an unfailing (steadfast) love. He cares. He has orchestrated the perfect moment to supply the breath of wind to move you forward.

If you are slacking off and neglecting your ship, you won’t be ready to set sail when that wind comes. Prepare yourself for God’s purpose, even though you may not have an inkling of where it will take you. Take this time of stillness to make yourself ready.

Another well-loved passage about waiting is found in Isaiah 40:

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40.28-31, NKJV (Read full chapter here).

Are you waiting?

Wait on the Lord, my very dear friends. He will not allow you to be put to shame as you wait on Him in faith. Do not grow weary while waiting. Meditate on these scriptures while you wait. Commit them to your heart. Pray them to the Lord, reminding Him that you are waiting for His excellent timing.

Be still. Now.

If I could describe my life during college, racing from class to class, pulling all-nighters, working, performing, meeting up with friends, making it to worship and Bible classes, the picture below would be an excellent illustration—racing around like a roadrunner and loving every single minute:

roadrunner
Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner. Copyright Warner Bros.

The picture below more accurately illustrates what I have felt like (more times than I care to admit) since college—still running faster than the speed of the earth’s rotation and slightly rabid at times with a little humorous nuttiness:

hammy
Hammy the Squirrel Copyright DreamWorks Animation.

Most of the time, I feel like I’m racing to outrun a deadline or some other pressing danger. If I’m not running that way, I’m hopped up on adrenaline, getting slightly crazy to outrun the latest deadline or impending trouble. My hair might stick up strangely in a few spots…

My reaction when faced with trouble is either to be overwhelmed by it or spring into immediate action and reaction. This past week has been so crammed with surprises and major life changes that it honestly feels like a month has passed, rather than seven days.

Yesterday, while addressing the demands of the day and contemplating next steps for our immediate future, I got an email from my mother. She has been studying Nehemiah. I love the book of Nehemiah. There are abundant lessons to be learn and, Lord willing, I’ll be writing about them in the future.

She sent me a section of commentary that could not have come at a better time:

Nehemiah 2:1-3

1. He had the faith to wait. (Nehemiah 2:1-3)

Since the Jewish month of Nisan would be our mid-March to mid-April, it would indicate that four months have passed since Nehemiah received the bad news about the plight of Jerusalem. As every believer should, Nehemiah patiently waited on the Lord for directions; because it is “through faith and patience” that we inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12). “He that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16). True faith in God brings a calmness to the heart that keeps us from rushing about and trying to do in our own strength what only God can do. We must know not only how to weep and pray, but also how to wait and pray.

Three statements in Scripture have a calming effect on me whenever I get nervous and want to rush ahead of the Lord: “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13); “Sit still … until you know how the matter will turn out” (Ruth 3:18, NKJV); “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). When you wait on the Lord in prayer, you are not wasting your time; you are investing it. God is preparing both you and your circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished. However, when the right time arrives for us to act by faith, we dare not delay.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.)

I read it, smiled and went on with my day, not anticipating the torpedo that was about to land in our lives, creating additional shockwaves.

When my spouse called to tell me the latest surprise that work had delivered us, my instinctive reaction was to panic. If you have seen the movie Over the Hedge by DreamWorks Animation, picture in your mind the scene where Hammy the squirrel looks up at the ominous hedge, thinks for a split second and then races left and right to see what this hedge thing is all about. He comes back and says, “It never ends!” and “It never ends that way too!”

Almost immediately after that surge of rising panic, the words I had read that morning flashed into my mind.

“Stand Still… and see the salvation of the Lord.”

“Sit still… until you know how the matter will turn out”

“Be still, and know that I AM GOD.

Instead of jumping up and rushing around in a frenzy, I sat still.

Literally.

I prayed right then and there. I didn’t get up and go find a quiet place. I stopped right where I was and prayed silently. I suddenly understood fully what Amy Carmichael meant in this poem:

He said, “I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God to-morrow
Will to His son explain.”
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in acceptance lieth peace.

~Amy Carmichael
(for full text of the poem, click here.)

Whoa.

I sat still. I prayed.

The anxiety evaporated. Instantly.

The peace came. Instantly.

Timing is everything. That encouraging email from my mother could not have come at a more crucial moment in my life.

Are you rushing around trying to stay ahead of the game? Are you facing an overwhelming situation?

If you are there, then read, re-read and fix your mind on Psalm 46, where the oft used verse “Be still” comes from:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Listen to the Words of the Lord. He is like a father talking to a trembling child:

Be still.

Be calm.

I am in control.

And my friends, He really is.