Keep Calm and…Let Him Carry You On

work

“The difference between a hero and a coward is one step sideways.”

– Actor Gene Hackman –

Emblazoned on my favorite tea mug–a huge, fire-engine-red tea mug–are the words of the now almost-cliche phrase: “Keep calm and carry on.”

I guess it’s so effective because so many people need to hear.

I’m not sure how many really listen to advice written on a mug, though.

Because there are those little every-day mess-ups. The “that-was-sure-a-dumb-mistake” syndrome recurs on a daily—if not hourly—rotation in my life. How ‘bout yours?

And then there are the tragedies. Those mistakes that seemed so innocent, but you end up feeling like a 300 pound linebacker took a dive into your stomach. I know all about those too…the hard way.

Because all of a sudden I blink and that one bad choice down-spiraled into a colossal failure and I wonder if I’ve learned anything since graduating kindergarten….Make that preschool.

Everything crumbles—everything that feels so important right now.

And I crumble too—into tears and wishings that it had never happened and anger at myself for being so blind.

And—honest? I want to quit. I want to throw up my hands and scream a surrender and bury my head in the sand for the rest of the year….or the century.

The unnerving trickle of defeat seeps straight through me.

I collapse with streaking tears and scribble out my frustrations, or type them on stiff keys that don’t click-clack nearly loudly enough to soothe my dissatisfaction.

I linger on the edge of throwing everything away—but feel a pull back. I pause, wondering how far to let the frustration carry me. Knowing, somehow, that I’ll lose more than I know if I let the failure-weight carry me right over that mental cliff.

And then…the thought of soldiers.

Grimy, blood-stained. Crouching with a couple dozen other bodies that have the same dirt, the same backs that ache from trench-digging, the same eyes bloodshot with weariness.

In that mental image, I see myself, the recruit clutching the gun, huddled in the trenches with all the rest.

And I’m the only one that stands up and tosses the gun out to the enemy. I’m the only one who gets sick enough of the fight to scream surrender and flag a white cloth and throw up hands dirt-creased with despair.

I’m the only one, in the middle of heroes, who turns my back on the trench of blood and valor and muck and majesty and shouts over the fray. “It’s too hard, boys. Nobody said it would be this hard. I’m outta here!”

Nobody said it would be this hard?

“In this world you will have trouble….”

– John 16:33b –

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.

See, in that battle, I’m the coward. Walking out, I’m no hero.

Because the heroes stay.

Heroes always stay.

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”

– Proverbs 24:10, NKJV –

Some heroes are made in the instant, the teenager who pushes a child out of the path of a bus or the soldier that curls around a detonating grenade to save his comrades.

But other heroes are made in the trenches.

When the battle drags on and on and it doesn’t seem possible to make it out alive….

When the baby won’t stop screaming and the toddler is finger painting the wall with the pizza sauce left on the counter after lunch and the wide-eyed eight-year-old is desperately scrambling for a reason his baseball just crashed through the window when he was supposed to be taking out the trash….

When the piles of books look like mountains waiting to crumble on your head and you can’t get a breath around the pressure….

When everyone’s depending on you and you just can’t hold up under it….

Do not quit. Ever.

You see, I too get tired in the fight. And somewhere along the way, I decide that giving up doesn’t sound so bad. After all–it’s just this once. A grade I could improve, but let myself slack off studying. A relationship that needs my words–but sometimes words are so hard to find.

We need a Burden-Bearer just to make it one more day.

Guess what?

Jesus never said it would be easy…

He never promised that we’d always have energy or that the battle would never shred our resolve…

But He did promise to always be right here.

He did promise to carry those burdens.

“Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.”

– Psalm 55:22, ESV –

So, we are still going to have to press on through difficult situations, exhaustion, and some things that just aren’t so fun.

But we will never do it alone.

So next time you see a mug, or a t-shirt, or a poster encouraging you to “keep calm and carry on”….

Do yourself a favor and DON’T!

At least not by yourself.

Keep Calm and…Let Him Carry You On.

“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured….”

– Hebrews 12:2, NKJV –

Thank you to Lucy Toner and Public Domain Pictures for the use of the photo “Work.”

Advertisements

How Grace Gives without Sparing

big heart jewelry

“None but God would ever have thought of justifying me. I am a wonder to myself.”

Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace

I sprawled on the couch, making good use of the extendable leg rest. One by one, my family members took turns reading from Malachi 3, four or five verses a piece. I pitched in along the way, in my turn.

It’s sad how Scripture sometimes just flows off, like living water sliding off oil. Oil of distraction, sin, busyness, worry….

But sometimes, God’s Word is so clean, so piercing-sharp, that it strips off the oil and soaks right in, deep to my center. Words jumped out and spoke.

After my dad finished up the last five verses, I asked him to go back, to read verse 17 again:

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”

– Malachi 3:17, NKJV –

My church has been learning about how Jesus fulfills, embodies, so many Old Testament shadows. Here, in this verse, light seemed to fall, shadows deepened and I think I started to see.

To see how Christ’s coming invaded the relationship of God with Israel, changed the dynamic. It means so much more.

Because, in the verse, God is a Father who spares His people as He would spare a son.

But this love would go even deeper.

For He did not stop with loving us like this. He went beyond. Above our wildest dreams.

He did not spare His own Son.

 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

– Romans 8:32, NIV –

If a Father’s love can be measured by His love for His son, how much more is this love that will give His best treasure, His only Son, the Creator of the worlds, to ransom a people for Himself?

This ransom, this bride-price, to make something worthless into something far above rubies?

I think of diamonds.

What is a diamond?

A piece of carbon, rough, black. Coal.

Obviously, something would have to change to make a lump of coal into something priceless.

But what?

It had to be transformed, recreated.

In the heart of the earth, pressure and heat make a diamond.

In the heart of a sinner, the Spirit of God transforms a soul.

Makes a clod of coal into something brilliant, a jewel that soaks up Light and shines it out for all to see.

Reflecting the sun.

Reflecting the Son.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

– Matthew 5:16, NIV –

Just like his people Israel, we are God’s chosen. We are the bride He died to rescue.

“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed , and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine….”

– Exodus 19:5, KJV –

“Because you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God chose you to be his own treasured people beyond all others on the fertile land.It was not because you were greater than all other people that the Lord loved you and chose you. In fact, you were the smallest of peoples! No, it is because the Lord loved you….”

– Deuteronomy 7:6-8a, CEB, emphasis mine –

All these treasure-words, these shining jewels God holds dear–this is the same word King David used in 1 Chronicles 29:3 to describe his gold and silver. The treasure of kings–used to describe the precious ones of the King of all Kings.

We are His jewels.

Made to shine with His joy, His light.

Made to glisten in darkness.

Made to make others long for the Beauty of our Heavenly King.

 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

– 1 Peter 2:9, NIV, emphasis mine –

We walk in this wonderful light.

Have you thanked Him for His light today?

For the Grace that didn’t spare, not even His son?

Grace that gives and gives and gives and gives forever….

Thank you to Vera Kratochvil and Public Domain Pictures for the jeweled reminder of our God’s love!

Take Heart

Old alarm clock

Have you ever felt….

Like you’ve held your breath for months, years?

That you’re waiting for something that just won’t seem to hurry up? That the watched pot just sits around and simmers and those bead-bubbles don’t boil even when you crank up the heat?

High school or college graduation, that longed-for job, that latest book, that moment of saying “I do,” the day you drive home a car bought with your own savings, that day you cradle a child that’s yours, that day you finally figure out how to fit 28 hours into 24, someday when the eternal stack of books by your bed will be read, that one day when you don’t mess up?

Patience sounds like an awfully nice virtue—until you have to have some.

Waiting sounds like a nice, feminine, quiet thing to do—until you have to sit around and actually attempt it.

What is it about waiting that makes our skin crawl with angst?

I think I know.

That nasty little word.

Control.

I ache with frustration because—while I don’t usually admit it to myself—sometimes my emotions take over and want to shove God right out of the driver’s seat. Because I can’t see what’s coming up and I’d sure appreciate a chance to steer my life in the “right” direction.

But—do you ever find yourself here?—when I nudge my Savior out of the driver’s seat, I grasp the steering wheel between too-small, sweaty fists and look up to see what’s ahead….

And I’m too short to see the road. All I can see is the big, fat roundness of the steering wheel. My head doesn’t even clear the dashboard of this ride called life.

So what happens when you wrestle for the wheel only to find out that you can’t control the universe after all?

See, the reasoning is that if we control it all, it will be fine.

All the cards will stack up.

All the pieces of the puzzle will click into place.

The jobs will line up.

Happiness will be around every corner.

Everything will be just right, Pollyanna–style.

But that’s just not how life works.

And–you want the truth? If we could truly control it all, we’d mess this world up big time.

Tired of traffic–ah, clear it away with a flick of a finger. And while the economy fails because thousands of workers aren’t getting to their jobs, you can sip your Starbucks and get to your office on time.

Wish you could stop waiting for that new car–why not get it now? Of course, then that lesson in God’s goodness won’t be of any use. Then, of course, your pride might just swell out of proportion. Then, of course, you might miss something even better.

See what I mean? We’d mess this world up royally if we could make everything go our way.

So here’s the thing: My way is not the best way. Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone.

I have a confession. I’m selfish. I don’t like waiting. I like to have everything laid out, listed neatly in my best cursive on a floral day planner, perfectly categorized. I don’t like interruptions. I don’t like changes in the plans. I’m not so thrilled with the curve balls that God likes to throw. I like to see nice, neat checkmarks that tell me my life is counting for something.

Know why I’m okay with telling you this? Because you’re just like me.

Because we all have this bent back to the self-seeking, this from-birth craving to fill ourselves up with something–anything, really–that will satisfy.

So–maybe–when we’re so tired of waiting, we’re really having trouble believing that God will really fill us up?

Perhaps, when we try to wrestle control from an all-loving Father, it’s because we don’t really believe He’s good? Down deep, where our actions spring up?

Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, says this is Satan’s lie, the trap that our first parents fell into:

“I wake and put the feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent’s hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn’t good. It’s the cornerstone of his movement. that God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.

Doubting God’s goodness, distrusting His intent, discontented with what He’s given, we desire…I have desired…more” (page 14).

When we get tired of waiting for God’s good things, we’re saying that we’re not so sure that He’s really good. We’re not so sure that He really gives us everything we need for today. We’re not so sure that He is enough.

Elisabeth Elliot writes:

“‘My people have committed two sins,’ says the Lord in Jeremiah 2:13. ‘They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’

Discontent dries up the soul.” (Secure in the Everlasting Arms, pages 134-135)

In the waiting, is this not what parches us? This soul-drying that happens when we reject God’s gifts and abundance and go to hacking at the dirt with our own dented shovels, forming wells so broken that there’s no way to fill them?

This is how Satan fell–wanting more than the best there was, wanting to rip control right out from under his God.

This is how Adam and Eve fell–lusting for more than God with them.

This is how we every-day fall–rejecting the most glorious Gift, God with us again. No, we may not right-out reject Him. But in every-day living, we put on the brakes and jerk at the wheel and whine to God to let us take a spin at controlling this life.

So, now, we must fall again–only this time to our knees. Crying out for forgiveness, for grace for these hard hearts.

Again, Elisabeth Elliot says,

“And so it may be…God’s order is the reverse of what we expect. He is in each moment, in us , with us….Should we expect to see how things are working together for our good? No, not yet. We see not yet. We only know.

….In the barren places of my life I can be assured that God is there as He is when life is fruitful, and that the time is coming (give me patience, Lord, to wait!) when He will fulfill His word: ‘I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this’ (Isaiah 41:19-20).

Like little children on Christmas Eve, we know that lovely surprises are in the making. We can’t see them. We have simply been told, and we believe. Tomorrow we shall see. (from Secure in the Everlasting Arms, pages 176-177)

So, waiting isn’t just hard. It’s necessary.

It’s not just necessary. It’s what is best for us right now.

Absolutely best.

Don’t chafe against His call to wait. Some of the best things are coming up. But if you don’t wait, you might miss even better things now.

Waiting doesn’t mean standing still.

Sisters, let’s embrace our times of waiting–whatever we may be waiting for–as times to pour ourselves into knowing our Savior.

Because He is always enough.

And that Psalm 84:11 promise–that He will withhold no good thing from His upright ones?

That Isaiah 40:28-31 promise–that He will make us run without weariness if only we wait?

These God-breathed vows are rocks to build a life upon.

So, wait.

So, rest.

Today is given to us to live, not to pass the time until the next thing comes.

Let’s rejoice in His gifts for today–they are the best ones we could have at this time.

Lift up your chin and smile at the day–God’s made it just this way, crafted it just so, just for our good and His glory.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord  in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
  be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

– Psalm 27:13-14, NIV, emphasis mine –

In the movie Fireproof, John Waller’s lyrics come through strong:

“I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait.”

We worship here, girls. While we wait. We serve, here. We give all, here.

Our Jesus, precious Savior–give us grace. Grace for this day.

Thanks to Elbambolo Bambolina and Public Domain Pictures for the lovely photo!

Wishing for more encouragement to be content in this God-given time? Check out Ann Voskamp’s post about the only true happiness we can have!

Courage That’s Better

path-in-the-woods-13615460746I3

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

– John 14:27, NLT –

Part of me pulls toward the leaning sycamore tree, leaves filtering sun down on cropped grass outside the conference center.

Wind tickles my skirt around my ankles.

But my thoughts are too tumbled.

How part of me cringes because I don’t measure up.

And another piece of me wants You so much, so close, that it stills my depths.

And I’m a little empty. I feel inadequate.

I sense the problem and even the solution. Fear not. Is it You, dear Comforter, who I so much forget, Who whispers to me this way?

Fear.

Fear of man.

Fear of losing friends.

Fear of the future.

So many fears.

Whispers darting around my ears, bringing on winds of shaking. And I move away, nestle in a corner with people buzzing and speakers’ microphones piercing through chatter.

Stone wall against my back, stone-cold, chilling straight through to the back of my heart.

Like fear creeping in the back door.

And the speaker is Don Hart, talking about the morale of a soldier.

That we’ll never win if we walk defeated.

‘Cause we’re not.

Are not defeated.

Why am I fearing?

When my eyes come away from Your face.

My whole arm’s now chilled from the stone.

But I’m Yours.

Why–why on this earth of Yours–do I let fear infect my joy, my goals?

And a smile, heart-deep, springs up because joy is welling up and the what appeared to be the burden of others-centeredness is shifting into the glory of it. Can You use me here?

Can You make me smile in the corners and brave out front, and humble in the masses and deep-in heedless of others’ thoughts?

I want these deep-in, Psalm 1 roots.

And this Psalm 27 fearlessness.

And these words that Don-Hart spoke,  a Marine’s saying:

“Not dead. Can’t quit.”

And Psalm 27:4-5: His beauty drives out the fear. Abiding in His place of safety gives all the confidence I could long for. Beholding Him, looking into Love’s eyes.

My blinking, my knowing.

Parts of me that cringe at my inability.

But still the speaker pierces through, “Do you believe God?”

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord….”

– Psalm 27: 13 –

He says wait on Him.

He says be of good courage

(I wonder, how much stronger good courage is than just plain courage?)

And He promises the strength just when I’m in need.

So, Jesus, where do You want me to go?

Thanks to Larisa Koshkina and Public Domain Pictures for the lovely photo!

Grace Holds

tree in the light

Life sometimes presses down hard.

I feel this weight one morning, alone in my room. It seems that everything I am is being deconstructed, piece by piece. I feel alone.

And I sense my own failure and can’t see through it.

The pressure of expectations, of obedience, of the gap between what we want to do and what we end up actually doing.

It’s a mixture. Guilt when every caring person’s words stick in painful, a dart to the soul. Loneliness, when it feels like no one quite understands–and the people my heart longs to see just aren’t there. Anger–anger at myself for feeling down, for letting comments bother me when I know only love was behind them.

The weight stuck in my chest, closed off in my throat.

And for a little while, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

I began to write.

The feelings started to unkink in little jerks at first. Then my fingers flew faster as the tears spilled over.

And, almost before I knew it, each tear-washed phrase became a prayer.

I felt so lost in a mountain of pulling-down emotions that I knew only One who could dig me back out.

Was He there? Did He care?

I lay on my back and prayed, tears squeezing from my eyes and dripping down the sides of my face. “Hold me,” I told Him. “If there’s anything between us, please, please forgive me.”

More than anything, I just wanted to be held by Him. To know He was there and understood. To remember that He has washed me and the only One I must please is Him.

I could let go of the people-pleasing.

I could let go of the self-inflicted pressure for good grades.

I could let go of being anything other than what He made me to be.

I don’t have to do anything but what He wishes.

And–better still–He will carry me through that as well.

So there, in my room, swiping at the tears, I began to pray for strength.

Not for my whole life.

Not for the rest of my schooling.

Not for the month.

Not for the week.

But for that day. Just that one day.

So after those minutes of tears and whispered prayers and comforts that crept around me like Everlasting Arms, I plunged into the day.

And I survived.

The next day, a thought twinged.

“He helped me. I stayed focused better yesterday. I got more done. He actually was there! I was able to rest in His arms, and I was able to get past all those fears and guilt-bogs and pulling-down thoughts.”

Because I got so desperate that I knew I couldn’t do it anymore.

Because I cried and He saw.

Because I crawled up into the lap of my Abba Father.

That’s when I could go on.

That’s when I could start living.

That’s when others faded and He became my only Audience.

There’s a man who knew that power. Charles Colson, a criminal turned saint, had this to say:

“Only when I lost everything that I thought made Chuck Colson a great guy had I found the true self God intended me to be and the true purpose of my life.

It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.”

– Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, page 85

We often repeat the verse about God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness.

But do we believe it?

Do we live it, on those days when everything comes crashing down and we just want to cry forever?

Sisters, I’m on this road with you. You’re here with me.

It’s okay to be weak. Let’s remind each other of that.

He didn’t come so we could boast in how put-together we are.

Or so we could swagger around with our Super-Christianity t-shirts, thinking we have it all together on our own.

He came to lift the burden, ease the yoke.

Jesus came to walk with us, to lighten the load.

And He does, when we’re desperate enough to cry to Him and tell Him we just can’t do it ourselves.

So today, if the thought of doing it all again is making your bones ache and your heart fall and the tears start to well, just fall to your knees.

He’s here.

He’s here, just like when Peter took his eyes away from Jesus. That’s when Peter began to sink.

Isn’t that when we all start to sink?

But Jesus didn’t laugh and walk away from the sinking man.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”

– Matthew 14:29b-31a, NIV –

If you haven’t ever felt Him catching you in your free-fall, you’re missing out.

Because those tears, those running-over emotions, the frustration–all of it was worth it.

Because He caught me.

John Piper wrote on his website Desiring God:

“One of the reasons we don’t know God deeply is that we don’t venture much on his pledge to carry things for us. Knowing God with a sense of authentic personal reality, is not merely a matter of study. It is a matter of walking with him through fire and not being burned. It is a matter of not being crushed under a load because he carries it for you at your side.”

Sisters, I want to know Him, really know Him.

So, I don’t know about you, but today, I’m letting Him carry the load.

When I let go, Grace holds.

“Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

– Psalm 55:22, NKJV, emphasis mine-

Thank you to Petr Kratochvil and Public Domain Pictures for the lovely “Rays of Light” photo.