Today was the day I had originally slated to begin a juice fast. With the advent of the new year I had decided to set aside some special time to fast and pray. However, winter blew in a ferocious snowstorm which landed my younger daughter, her husband and their dog at our doorstep. So I made chicken and dumplings instead.
Oh, and I also may have baked a loaf of molasses wheat bread, too.
And about four dozen chocolate chip cookies.
Not exactly what I had planned, but you seriously can’t expect a household of people which includes a pregnant woman (my daughter, not me) to exist on a diet of juice and water when it is -17 degrees outside. We’re used to cold winter weather in the Midwest, but yesterday the temperature was actually warmer in Alaska than it was in Indiana. The land of igloos and sled dogs would have been balmy compared to what it felt like outside my front door.
So instead of fasting, I feasted. There’s something about a houseful of family that beckons me to the kitchen. A homemaker at heart, I love to cook from scratch and serve up heaping portions to whomever gathers around our big dining room table. I can’t help it. It’s like it’s programmed into my DNA.
But then, of course, I know that I was designed by an awesome God who put me together just the way He wanted. He is the One who placed the desire in my heart to love and care for others. And He is the one who taught me that by serving others I can show His love for them. So I’m not going to guilt trip myself into feeling bad about not beginning my fast today. The year is still young and there will be another day soon to devote to fasting.
Just as soon as those cookies are gone.
I have begun taking early morning walks again. Popping out of bed, putting on my shoes and heading toward the park before the general population rises is about the only sure way for me to get in my exercise for the day. If I wait until my foggy brain clears, it would surely come up with a legitimate excuse not to go!
A beautiful park near my house has a winding trail that takes me along a shallow creek through the forest. It is a peaceful place where the early morning fog hovers above the grass like the spirit of morning rising. It is the perfect setting for a conversation with God.
This particular morning as I put one foot in front of the other along the trail I cried out to God for clarity. The past few weeks had been for me like a spiritual wandering in the wilderness. Everything was changing in my life’s ministry and nothing seemed clear. I was grieving the ending of one phase without knowing for certain what lay ahead of me. Obedience was becoming a challenge in a way that I had not expected.
So now as I was striding down the trail this summer morning I cried out to God, “What is it that You want from me?” At that moment two beautiful sun speckled deer walked across the path. They paused, gazed at me for an instant and then sprang into the trees on the other side.
Psalms 42 resonated in my spirit.
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
And then I knew what God wanted from me.
He just wanted me. All of me.
Sometimes He allows me to walk in the wilderness. Not because He has forsaken me, but because He knows that when I am free from the distraction of knowing what is to come, I develop a thirst. A thirst so strong that can only be quenched by the Living Water of the Most Holy God.
I am waiting in the wilderness for You, Lord.
Come, fill my cup.
This week my daughter Rachel sent me an audio recording of my toddler grandson singing. She had recorded Isaiah’s song as it echoed through the baby monitor. He’d awakened in his crib that morning greeting the day with his cherub warbling, “Glo-wee a God! Glo-wee a God!” (“Glory to God!” in two-year-old-speak.) On hearing his three note serenade I praised God that the same Holy Spirit who lives in me also lives in this little one Jesus loves.
As I listened intently to his sweet praises, the scenario recorded in Matthew 21:16 came to mind. Jesus had driven the money changers from the temple and had begun healing the sick. The little children gathered around calling out praise, while the chief priests and teachers of the law grumbled against him. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
How often have I as an “all-grown-up-card-carrying-adult” missed opportunities to praise Jesus because I have been distracted by the lesser things of this world? Sadly, there have been times when I have woken to grumpy thoughts that included only a lengthy and tiresome to-do list. Meetings and plans pop up in my mind like little text windows beckoning my attention even before I open my eyes. How much better would it be to subdue the day’s earthly agenda and instead christen each morning by following after the example of a child’s adoring praise?
“Lord forgive me for the times when I have failed to praise you with the enthusiasm and whole-hearted devotion You deserve! I am sorry for my self-centeredness. Each day, Lord, before my feet touch the floor beside my bed, before I open my mouth to speak a word, let me sing out Your praises as Your grateful child because You are worthy. “Glory to God! Glory to God!”
On any given day if you happen to be outside my classroom door you are likely to hear, “Please use your time wisely.” Multiple reminders to stay on task are just part of the daily routine when you are teaching seven and eight-year olds. It’s no wonder, of course. Potential diversions are everywhere. My classroom itself is an explosion of color, numbers and words begging, “Look at me!” The playground beckons through the window, “Over here!” Classmates are only inches away whispering, “Listen to me.”
I can’t blame my students for being distracted. In fact there are times when I feel that my own attention span resembles that of a seven-year old. Even when I begin the day with a definite purpose in mind, the distracting deluge begins as soon as I enter the school building. Phone calls to be returned, emails to be answered, meetings to attend, reports to be written, papers to be graded – and this all before a single child enters through the classroom door. Everywhere I turn someone or something is saying, “Look at me! Over here! Listen to me!”
It causes me to stop and wonder whether I am “using my time wisely.” Am I being true to the path that God has set before me? If I am not careful, the chaotic world around me can quickly wear me down into a frazzled mess. I waste time worrying about things that I cannot change instead of focusing on what I can do to change my reaction to the situation.
When I feel pulled in every direction, it is my Father’s voice alone that calms my weary spirit and helps me focus on the important things in life. Spending time in God’s presence gives me the power and direction to stay on course that He has set for me. Isaiah 40:31 gives me the promise that, “Those who wait upon 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.”
Oh Lord, on those days when I am distracted by the lesser things that clamour for my attention, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You. Do not let me waste my time pursuing things that do not bring You glory.