Those Who Wait

A year ago ago this decade-old geranium was near death. I didn’t have the heart to dispose of it, so I nursed it instead, giving it a new pot and fresh soil, proper watering, and the prime sunny spot in the garage for the winter.

It’s been on my porch all summer, but today I looked up from my reading and actually saw it. It has more blooms than ever before. Half facetiously, I anthropomorphized my geranium. I was happy for it in a way that a parent is glad to see their child who has struggled so terribly finally flourish.

But this isn’t about my awesome, resilient, over-achieving child geranium. Look closely at the picture above, and see what I finally noticed as I crouched with my camera, centering and getting the light just right. That’s my dog photo bombing my geranium’s fifteen seconds of fame.

She was waiting for me to throw a toy, as I frequently do from the advantaged, elevated level of the porch. She’s a border collie, a herding dog, bred to stay with livestock for hours and days on end. Patience is her virtue. Even her slinky posture as she waits is due to her breed: often cat-like, poised for speedy reaction.

I guess she was there in the yard, waiting in that position, for up to thirty minutes before I spotted her through my camera’s viewfinder. When I’d first noticed the geranium and stood to take its photo, at my feet was another of her Frisbees. She had obviously deposited it there before assuming her post in the yard.

She does this “waiting” both outdoors and in, anticipating my propulsion of any number of gnawed balls or discs. I oblige for awhile, then inevitably busy myself with chores or projects. An hour later when I finish my task, she is still there. Waiting. Focussed. Expectant.

Ponder this:  She’s waiting for me, not another person. So I respond to her. I throw the Frisbee, kick the ball, let her in, let her out, take her for a run when she’s fidgety from inactivity. If she took up her post at the periphery of our yard for passersby to notice, to come play, to engage with her, I would respond differently. I wouldn’t stop to attend to her, I’d keep on keeping on with my own thing.

If she put distance between us and had her back to me, searching for someone other than me to respond to her, it would be futile for me to attempt interaction. If she were oblivious to my existence, it would be pointless for me to attempt engagement; I would be throwing my efforts to the wind. She would be heedless to my affection, devotion, love, direction, caution, discipline, or teaching. If she was looking anywhere and to anyone besides me, I would have no reasonable choice but to continue my day independent of her.

But she doesn’t do that. She waits for me.

Because she waits for me, I take notice of her expectations. What does she want from me? What does she need? She’s looking to me to engage with her, meet her desires and needs … so it is I who responds.

It is I who studies her face and body language. It is I who learns her idiosyncrasies, her behaviors, the constants about who she is. It is I who steps in to keep her safe, to redirect her bad habits, to train her. It is I who has a plan in place to guide her to her potential.

It would be a shame for her, and a shame for those who will share her life with her, if I were to turn away when she looked to me.

I have “the sky’s the limit” in mind for her potential. She’s only a year old, so she’s far, far from that now, but I don’t expect her to be there yet. She can’t be there yet. She still has much developmental maturation ahead. I only expect her to progress, at the pace she can, toward her full potential.

I also don’t expect her to get there by herself. She can’t get there by herself. She needs my commitment to her, my patience, direction, repetition and consistent expectations. She needs me to provide opportunities to challenge her. She needs me to set her up for success. She needs me to understand that incremental successes rejuvenate, encourage, and motivate to take on the next challenge. She needs me to understand that too many failures will convince her “the ground is the limit” instead of “the sky is the limit”.

I am pleased to act on behalf of my dog who looks to me, who waits for me. I am committed to her for the long haul, for her lifetime.

How much more, then, would our Father commit to people? I include every person on Earth — we are all his if we look to him, if we turn from having our backs to him to having our faces to him.

If we have all our lives thought him “fictional”, but one day decide to consider him as “real”, and if we genuinely look to him to respond, he will. He may require us to wait a bit, to separate those who are sincere from those who are disingenuous, but he will respond at least in proportion to our degree of expectation.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV):  13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

If we give him more and more of our concerns and issues to address, he’ll respond even more — he is there to help as much as we expect him to.

If we give him all of ourselves to love, direct, caution, discipline, teach, transform, heal, rejuvenate, motivate, and fulfill, then he will respond beyond what we ask or imagine. With God, his hope and expectation for each of us is, “the sky’s the limit.” But we need him to get us there.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV):  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Isaiah 64:4 (NIV):  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

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The Road

“Life is difficult for those who have the daring to first set out on an unknown road. The avant-garde always has a bad time of it.” – Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, 1889

Those who trust enough to travel unknown roads sacrifice much. The road never-before-traveled is often isolating, desolate, and ensconced in darkness. Commitment to the road requires every ounce of available courage, perseverance, grit, restraint, fortitude, and faithfulness.

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On the seemingly endless, trial-filled journey, depletion is inevitable. There comes a day when you find yourself flat on your face in the dirt, aware of the ruins of your life because of the road.

One more step is impossible. It’s then that you look up and see … light? aid? rest? No, a mountain where the path had been level.

And always, always there comes from nowhere a reason to peel yourself off the hard, cold ground and begrudgingly, resentfully, tearfully resolve to climb that damned mountain.

And so it goes on the unknown road until, finally, one day a flash of light reaches through the dense canopy. A few more steps puts the valley of darkness behind, and there before you … a destination not possible had you chosen the easy road.
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Sun. Hope. A river of life. An endless sky. A spacious horizon. Unobstructed footing.
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It is peacetime. Harvest time. Stake your claim on this, your promised land. Your capacity to cherish it is uncanny. Because of the terrible journey behind, you are well-equipped to manage your abundance. With gratitude. Patience. Tenderness. Generosity. Forthrightness. And wisdom.
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All because you dared to first set out on an unknown road.

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On This Rock

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A building needs to be strong enough to withstand all that comes against it. It needs a foundation that distributes and withstands the loads above ground: dead load; wind, live and seismic loads.  A building’s height above ground must be balanced by an adequate underground foundation. Each part of the building needs to be strong.

YOU need to be strong. Could it be that God has exposed you to challenging conditions to reinforce your foundation? In the blustery conditions of your life, are you deepening your purposefulness? Are you becoming more committed, determined, unwavering; more dependent on Him, more consistent—is your foundation being made secure?

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In the midst of suffering, do you exercise your free will to consistently please God? If you haven’t yet, you can start today. If you have been faithful, as Job was faithful to God in successive losses, God is no doubt at work converting your grit and resolve, your daily grind of faithfulness, to the laying of a steadfast foundation. He does so in order to build above ground in your life ahead. The greater the depth of your foundation, the higher He can build your future.

Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” 

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“…I will build my church…” He is the one who will build it; the pressure is off you. Wait to see what He does. Wait to be driven by the desires He puts within you. Don’t guess what He wants done, ask Him. Wait to know from Him each step of the way. You can’t imagine what He has in store for you, or how and when it will transpire.

It’s possible to bypass God and fabricate your own building—many people do it and some even claim it’s of God. There are plenty of existing buildings to model after—they don’t even need Him to oversee construction. Those buildings may even be well-built. The greater challenge, though, and the far greater outcome, is to be built by God.

In the process, He may do the unexpected: He may address religious styles and exclusivity by removing insider Christian lingo from your vocabulary; He might keep you from your past influences until you are strong enough to not be reabsorbed into the style, theologies, religiosity, or social demands He wants to change; He may reduce your life to a simple relationship—just you and Him; He may grant you the privilege of extensive access to His opinions, personality, teaching, and insights.

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You are being prepared for your future. Don’t be intimidated—it will be a new thing but it need not be a difficult thing. You may fear being inadequate, imagining that you’ll be judged for lack of knowledge, influence, or formal training, but don’t worry; it won’t be like that. It will be comfortable and natural for you, because your relationship with God is comfortable and natural; that will go forward.  You’re the same person, moving from underground foundation building to an above-ground structure, from relative seclusion and isolation to the public eye.

When viewed from this perspective, your past traumas, pain, injustices, and miseries are changed from regret to gratitude. Without your past you’d be incapable of what God has ahead. The building, YOU, has the capacity to be bigger and higher because your past suffering produced a solid foundation.

Amid your painful past, you may also have bittersweet memories you cherish. You may never again have the voluminous time of solitude you’ve had with God. In your suffering, you had His warm embrace and comfort, His coddling, His soothing words of assurance and hope—don’t hold them so tightly that you refuse to move forward.

You may be apprehensive too, as the future is full of unknowns. You may be asked to take a leap into that unknown and into a changed life. Do it despite your apprehension. It will be different ahead, but better ahead.

Trust Him. His buildings don’t topple; they don’t harm others. His are fortresses, an aid to those in need. Be patient. He is making you capable of withstanding daunting loads. Let Him build you. Let Him train you, mold you, gift you, prepare you, and lead you. When your building begins to be constructed above ground in public, it will be evident to passersby who the builder was.

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Understand that your suffering is not wasted and is useful for God’s purposes. There will be a day when you’ll see all that you gained from the pain. Stay faithful to God. Like Job, an abundance of good things ahead resonates logically, in direct correlation to the abundance of injustices you’ve endured. Though it can be difficult to imagine your life changing to good and the concept of being blessed is foreign, you must accept His blessings just as you accepted His challenges.

Watch as He builds you. Let Him change the pain to joy, the ashes to beauty, and lack to abundance. Accept His finishing touches on your building and remember: it will be evident to passersby who the builder was.

Salt and Light

Cindi Gale

Matthew 5:13-16 New International Version (NIV)

Salt and Light, the Words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. 

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


Music and video credit:  “Salt & Light” by Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury, & Leslie Jordan.
From Lauren’s debut album, “How Can It Be” (2015 – Centricity Music)…

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Religious Law Versus The People

Cindi Gale

I am a Christian, so naturally I know a lot of believers. For the first four decades of my life, the vast majority of Christians I knew were faithful attendees of churches where quiet faith was mixed with heaping portions of helping others. If they engaged in political discourse, it was apart from religion. If I compared them to people of the Bible, they were Marys and Marthas, Pauls and Peters, Sarahs and Abrahams. Sometimes, especially in times of grief and tragedy, they strongly resembled Jesus.

Over the last ten to fifteen years, the face of Christianity has changed dramatically. While many continue as they always were, a growing number are more reminiscent of pontificates or angry political commentators than followers of Christ. Declarations of condemnation are no longer disproved by many congregations, they are encouraged, expected, and applauded. Promoting very specific social and political beliefs have become synonymous with right-standing…

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When People Show You Who They Are

“When people show you who they are, believe them.” … When a person let’s you know … they say, “I told you I was unkind. So now why are you angry?”

I suppose Maya Angelo’s question is a rhetorical once, but I’m going to answer it anyway, because God knows I’ve spent countless hours over decades trying to understand how twisted relationships happen.

“Why don’t you believe them the first time they show you, or tell you, who they are?”

Because…

  • You very much want them to be better than they are at any given point in time.
  • You are optimistic they can be.
  • You are committed to the relationship, and don’t give up on your commitments that easily.
  • You aren’t ready to give up on what COULD be, if only some crucial corrections are made.
  • You know this person CAN be good, you’ve seen them act the part with ease when they’re around people they want to impress.
  • You hold onto hope that they may one day choose to be that good person behind closed doors too, they may never again turn cruel or abusive when alone with you.
  • You think of a particular type of “subtle diminisher”: if only they choose to be decent, instead of provoking under the radar; if only they stop slandering or mocking or shaming you in front of people, giving you no chance to react. If only they stopped playing innocent while leaving you with two crappy options: take it in order to be polite, or object and appear the b—, or fool.
  • You think of another type of “fine-upstanding-public-image-person”: they may eventually feel shame that they are the opposite of their finely-tuned act; if they are smart enough to craft such a persona, they should be smart enough to want to be on the inside what they portray on the outside.

THERE IS A POINT though, with some people, when …

  • You are pushed to your limit.
  • You know you’ll be selling your own soul if you continue on with them.
  • The trend of their behavior toward you isn’t improving, it is in fact worsening.
  • You are certain the person has dug in their heels and has no intention of considering the good of the relationship. They do not want to give up their ways, their selfishness, their abusiveness, their ugly methods of disarming or manipulating you  — they value their tactics, they prefer their ways.
  • They don’t mind at all if you end up destroyed in varied little ways.
  • They will not change in time — they will certainly delay or prevent you from a good life if you continue in their trap, their sick dynamic.
  • They have never, and you know they will never be accountable for their ways.

THAT IS THE TIME you know you must …

  • Withdraw your trust.
  • Limit the relationship.
  • Remark your boundaries.
  • And in some cases … WALK.

It’s after all that “living and learning” that YOU LOOK BACK and think … “Why didn’t I believe them the first time they showed me and told me who they were?” …

You didn’t know. You simply didn’t know.

But NEXT TIME …

  • You will be vigilant.
  • You will be discerning.
  • You will not prematurely and naively trust.
  • You will be a wise manager of your own life.
  • You will know to keep the optimal distance.
  • You will never again SUBMIT and COMMIT your life to a scoundrel, a user, an abuser, a manipulator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a Cruella de Vil …

 

Galatians 6:7.  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

Job 34:30.  That the hypocrite reign not, lest the people be ensnared.