Good Things to Think About

Heaven has been on my mind again. The bible verses we are learning on our drive to school have to do with Jesus going to prepare a place for us. When you say a passage of scripture every day, it starts to permeate your thoughts. 

 

I picked up C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle” which is all about heaven. Then I checked out Randy Alcorn’s book, “In Light of Eternity”. The main emphasis I came away with is heaven is an amazing place that we should be excited about going to. Like, Really Excited. Both Lewis and Alcorn talk about how heaven will have the best things of earth. It made me start thinking about things that I love about earth. Mountains. I love mountains. Forests. Rushing rivers. Waterfalls. In my imagination, heaven would be kind of like being in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park without all the tourists or paved roads, and I’d have all the energy to run and climb and hike without ever getting sore feet or sore muscles. And there would be more wildlife that weren’t scared of me. 

 

And then there would be the people. It really hit me that all the people at my church that I worship with every week…we’re going to be seeing each other throughout all eternity! In a place where all our superficialness will be stripped away. And all our sin will be gone. We will be ourselves in the way that Jesus originally intended us to be. And not just my church or my generation, but people from all over the world, all generations. 

 

Then of course, there is Jesus. The main event. The Reason. It’s hard to imagine being able to live by sight instead of by faith. While I hear Jesus’ voice quietly on occasion, while I see his hand working in my life, while I read his words in the Bible, while I speak to him all the time…it’s all by faith. Can you imagine seeing him Face to Face??

 

It reminds me of a vision I had once. It was over fifteen years ago. I was just pregnant with my third child, though I didn’t know it yet at the time. We had just left Chile after living there about a year and half. We had stopped in Tennessee for a month so that Andy could work and earn us enough money to continue our road trip North. We were very much in limbo at the moment, trying to figure out where we were going to settle. Our old friends allowed us to stay in their empty rental property, the house we had lived in when we first got married. The house was in a quiet neighborhood, lots of old trees hanging over the road, offering shade. It was summer. I was determined to get in shape and I had started jogging in the mornings. I was probably only jogging two miles max. If that. But, for my level of ability, that was a big deal. I didn’t have any way of listening to music, no walkmans, discmans, mp3s, iphones etc. It was just me. I was really missing music to help me keep a steady rhythm. So, I started singing in my head a song I had recently learned at church: Jesus, All for Jesus by Anna Warner and William Bradbury. These are the lyrics:

 

Jesus, all for Jesus

All I am and have and ever hope to be

Jesus, all for Jesus

All I am and have and ever hope to be

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans

I surrender these into your hands

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans

I surrender these into your hands

For it’s only in your will that I am free

For it’s only in your will that I am free

Jesus, all for Jesus

All I am and have and ever hope to be

 

As I was running the words became a rhythm to keep my feet moving forward. I made my way down one street and then another, trying to find the balance of making the run long enough to get a good workout but not making it so I killed myself. As I ran, my brain focused more and more on the words and I felt my hands opening in a gesture of worship as I purposefully sang the words in my head as a prayer. I started climbing up a hill and saw that I was in the last stretch before I got back to my own driveway. I picked up the pace a bit to try and end strong. And suddenly I wasn’t in a quiet little neighborhood, instead I was a on a race track and there were people lining both sides of the race track and they were cheering for me, and I looked more closely and I saw my Grandfather Rigby and my husbands’ Grandma Ivah and they were standing there waving and cheering, and I remember feeling surprise. Why were they cheering for me? I really didn’t know them that well. And then I looked up and at the finish line was Jesus and he had this big grin on his face and he was just waiting for me with his arms open wide. And I found myself running harder and faster, sprinting towards him and I could hear my ragged breaths and I could taste metal in my mouth as I ran as fast as I could. And then, the race was over. I was in my driveway. Collapsed on the ground as the vision slowly faded away. My face splotched not only from heat and running but from tears. 

 

Not the most original vision. I have heard the analogy of our life being a race many times in the scriptures. I remember there was an awesome song by Steve Taylor called “The Finish Line” that I listened to as a teen, all about running the race of life. Not an original vision. But, I was in it. I was living it. I was actually running it and I could feel the physical effort and exhaustion and exhilaration. 

 

It has stayed with me over the years. When I’m feeling weary and I have to start whispering to myself, “Just keep moving, just keep moving…” I sometimes remember that vision and the fact that people were cheering for me, rooting for me, and then also the fact that there is a prize at the end of the race. Jesus. Heaven. Paradise. 

 

These are good things to think about. 

 

This is your 5 Minute Reminder to Stop Worrying

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I saw this today and thought, yep, that about sums up where I am right now. 

 

Now, I’m not sure if my theology quite  puts me at the place where I think God is deliberately setting me up, but I definitely think he allows me to get into places where I am not in control and all I can do is trust him. 

 

I have to tell you, I don’t like this place. When a problem presents itself, I am one of those people that wants to come up with a plan right away and then implement that plan right away, whether I have given it enough thought, prayer, counsel etc…I just want to be moving…forward…sideways…any direction, as long as I’m moving and not in a standstill. 

 

I am fortunate to have married the man I did. He is a great balance to me. His inner rhythm is at about half my tempo. Where I rush and scurry, he slowly ambers along. Where I finish the job quickly, though a bit messily, and perhaps not quite the way it was supposed to be, But it’s done! He methodically takes one step at a time, takes a lot longer than me, but ends up with a perfectly finished product that doesn’t need any tweaking. We balance each other well, because he can come to a complete standstill and sometimes needs a bit of nudging, while I need someone to rein me back a bit, hold on, let’s think about this a bit longer.

 

Right now we have two major areas in our life that need some solutions. Right now. Like, maybe yesterday. Or last month. 

 

And I am very impatient to see these areas fixed. Very impatient. It interrupts my sleep. It messes with my peace. I feel like I am on edge, unable to relax because these things are looming. 

 

In both situations, we can do nothing. We are waiting on other people to do their part, and we have no way of hurrying up the process. Though I am tempted to suggest some ideas, maybe if we did this, this, and this it would hurry it up? But really, that’s just me fretting. 

 

This past week, everywhere I turn, whether it be my daily bible reading, a church service, memes on Facebook…everywhere…the message says, over and over again. Trust God. Have Faith. Don’t Worry. And so, I say, yes, I am just going to give this to God and stop worrying. And then five minutes later I find my mind stuck in the same rut. Oh, yeah. Wait. I’m giving this over to God. Ok. 

 

This has not been one of those sunbeam-through-the-clouds situations where I say, Oh! I get it! I just need to trust that God is taking care of this, now I am going to stop worrying! No. It’s been more of a daily, every hour, turning it back over to God. Forgetting. Worrying. Turning it back over to God. Forgetting. Worrying. Turning it back over to God. If you get what I’m saying. 

 

Does this make me an imperfect Christian? Lacking in Faith? I don’t think so. No, I have not been an example of calm, unshakeable faith…but I have consistently been calling on God for help. God and I have had a lot of conversations about this. I feel an urgency to stay close and connected to him right now as my worries try to overwhelm me. I feel his hand on me, I know that not only is he working in the physical realm, but he’s also working on my heart, wanting to grow me in this area of faith. And that’s a good place to be. 

 

Last night I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t picked out our new Bible Memory Passage for the new school semester. This last semester we covered some of the basics with Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve already done my two other favorite Bible passages, Psalm 139 and 1 Corinthians 13. What should we memorize now? I flipped through my Bible and hit on the book of John. I love John. Especially the passages where Jesus prays for his disciples, and talks about the vine. I scanned a couple chapters and decided, lets do John 14: 1-6. 

 

So, this morning, I quickly looked at the first verse again, so I could memorize it and teach it to the kids while we were driving to school. 

 

It says,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

 

And there you have it. My daily reminder to stop worrying, believe God is who he says he is, and he can do what he says he can do. 

 

I will continue to remind myself of this. Every five minutes if necessary.

 

Don’t Worry

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not worry? About anything? I know the Bible tells us not to worry, and we pay lip service to that. But deep down, if you are anything like me, you have a running list of things that you can drag up at a moments notice to worry about. I’ve been reading more about the sovereignty of God. And it strikes me really hard, how foolish worry is. Either God is in control or he isn’t. If he is, then why are we worrying? If he isn’t then yes, we should definitely live our lives in fear and trembling. My reading of the Bible seems to say that actually, Yes, he is in control. So, why the heck am I worrying about everything? 

 

Does he love me or not? We sing the song “Yes Jesus love me…” and smile at our children when they sing it so sweetly. But do we believe it? If Jesus loves me, and he is God, then what on earth do I have to worry about? 

 

I think what scares me, is that we don’t have any promises in the Bible that say we are going to live a life without pain, without hardship, without trials. God doesn’t promise that. He does promise that he will be with us always, that he works all things to good, that he will never leave us or forsake us. But I worry…I don’t want trials and hardships. And I have a hard time seeing how God can be in control and love me when I am suffering. 

 

What if God is using those hardships and trials to change me? What if it’s more important to him that I grow to be more like him than that I stay in a state of constant ease and comfort? That seems very un-American. The American dream is to pursue wealth and happiness. Going through suffering that changes our character and strengthens us and makes us more like Jesus, just doesn’t seem right. Not very loving. God’s must have lost control somewhere along the way.

 

My dream is to live a life without worry. To be able to confidently say, God’s got this. He’s in control. I can trust him. He loves me. 

 

No matter what the circumstances, I want to walk in his perfect peace. 

 

Lord may it be so. 

 

Though I am secretly worried about what trials and hardships I will have to overcome before I finally get it! I guess it comes down to faith. And the Bible says that we can ask God to strengthen our faith…:”Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” 

 

I guess that’s my prayer tonight as I write this. Lord I believe. Help my unbelief! 

 

 

My Brain is Too Small

I’ve had a couple thoughts this week that have merged into one idea. This week I picked up one of George MacDonalds’ novels. Old-fashioned. Sometimes a bit heavy-handed with the moralizing. But a lot of wisdom packed into a little book. I’m about half-way through, still not sure if I want to commit to reading the whole book as it’s not my typical style that I enjoy. It moves slowly. But, I also find it to be soothing. I am confident that I am not going to run into any themes that go against my conscience, and I am certain that I’m going to run into ideas that make me pause and think and ponder. The insights into humanity are deep and cut right to the heart of the matter.

There is a scene in the book that stayed with me. A young boy is talking to his tutor about God, trying to understand the omniscience of God and being frustrated because he can’t wrap his mind around the idea. His tutor laughs and says he is trying to understand something that is so big it won’t fit in his brain. It’s like trying to fit 20 horses into a stable that only fits 10. This made me stop. It seems very counter-culture to me. Nowadays we like to assure our children that they can Do Anything. Be Anything. Achieve Anything. We don’t like to put any limits on our abilities. If you want to pursue that challenge, then Pursue it! I’m Confident in you! You can do Anything!! And then here in the book there is a tutor laughing at his pupil for trying to comprehend a large idea, saying his brain is not big enough to take it all in, and he should just leave it as a mystery. Hmm. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of that.

Then this morning I sat and continued my Bible reading in the book of Revelation. There’s nothing like the book of Revelation to make you feel like your brain isn’t big enough to take in everything there is to know about God. I have read the book of Revelation several times over the years. I always get stuck. So many questions. What’s that? What does that mean? What’s going on? Why are they talking about that and then suddenly talking about this?? I’ve listened to different teachings and sermons on the book over the years and I can say that I have a couple good conclusions. God is in control. God wins in the end. God is Holy beyond my comprehension. Beyond that, everything is a little gray and fuzzy. And it occurred to me this morning, perhaps my brain is not really big enough to understand all of this fully. We’re talking about the nature of God and heaven and things in the spiritual realm. I live here on earth. My dealings are with people and the things of this world. While I am certainly supposed to grow in my knowledge of God and spiritual things, I think there is a limit to how far I can go in my understanding. How can I truly understand how heaven works until I go there? The Bible certainly drops many hints, but God never seems to think it’s important to try and spell out all the details carefully for us.

I find it a bit freeing to not have to understand everything. It’s kind of like laying down a heavy burden that I was never meant to carry. I am not saying that we should stop pursuing knowledge. I plan to continue to read Revelation and research and ask questions and understand as much of it as is possible, but it’s nice to know there are limits. Mystery is a Thing and faith makes that ok. I have faith that what the Bible says is true. I have faith that God is good. I have faith that He is in control. I will try to learn and understand everything I can, and the things I can’t understand, I can be at peace knowing that God’s got that too.