God’s Handiwork

This gallery contains 16 photos.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I thought for today’s post I’d share some photos from outings I’ve taken with friends during the last eight weeks. One thing struck me as I was going through the photos: The God who spoke all of nature into existence, took time to form each of us by hand […]

When Surrender Means Holding On…

I’ve been thinking lately about surrender. There have been some hopes and dreams on my mind and in my heart for a while now that I felt like God put there, but recently I’ve been feeling the need to surrender those things back to Him again.

It is easy to get discouraged when what I see doesn’t seem to match what I believe He has spoken. Disappointment sets in, and I begin to feel like I must have heard wrong. My eyes and heart and mind tell me to bury the dreams, grieve, and move on. My mind says that this is surrender, letting go of what I’ve been holding onto so tightly and handing it back to the One Who I thought gave it to me in the first place. Surrender even means to give up, yield, or relinquish.

So, last week I decided to surrender some of my dreams and hopes back to God. I held open my hands, hoping that He would take them back and let me move on to other things I’ve been working toward and praying for. Instead of taking them away, He began to close my fingers back around those hopes. He is not ready to let me walk away from them yet. For now, surrendering to Him means continuing to hold tightly to the promises He’s spoken, trusting Him more than I trust my eyes, walking in faith that He is faithful and trustworthy and worth the risk of disappointment.

As I walked to church on Sunday, I was thinking about this topic and asking God to confirm whether He really was asking me to hold onto this hope. Sometimes it can be difficult to discern His voice from my own thoughts. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to give up; perhaps I was convincing myself that God wanted me to keep holding onto something that He really was asking me to give back to Him. Then again, maybe I was trying to give it back because I’m scared of the potential to get hurt and be disappointed if I keep holding on. (Isn’t it amazing how difficult it can be to figure out what’s going on even inside ourselves?)

The sermon at church on Sunday was focused on Abraham, and Romans 4:17-22 was one of the texts used. “In hope he believed against hope… No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” Abraham believed in the God who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

Sometimes surrender means letting go. I’m learning this week that sometimes it also means holding on – not just to the hope or promises, but to the Giver of them, the only One who can speak things that are not as though they are… and be right. Faith isn’t blind. It sees the difficulties, the ‘impossibilities’ and chooses to still believe in the God with whom all things are possible (Luke 1:37).

A Day for Thanks

In two days, millions of people around the globe will celebrate the day known in the USA as Thanksgiving. I’m not in the States for the celebrations, but that isn’t stopping me from making 10 kg of mashed potatoes and some gravy to share with nearly 60 friends… 🙂 (The first on my list of things to be thankful for this year is that the rest of the feast will be provided by other cooks!) 🙂

Instead of actually giving thanks, Thanksgiving is so often just equated with eating way too much, napping, “American” football, and plotting the route to various stores for Black Friday deals. I must admit that I am not sad to be missing out on those things this year… Well, okay, maybe just the nap. I will miss being with my family, but I will be surrounded by friends that have become like family during the year and a half I’ve called Ireland home.

I thought, as Thanksgiving Day is coming so quickly, I would be rather unoriginal this week and make a list of a few of the things I am most thankful for. This will be only a small sample because trying to list all, or even most, of the things  I’m grateful for would take far too much of my time and yours…

  1. My infinitely powerful God who loves me intimately enough to care about the details of my life. He is a God who creates new realities with a few spoken words, and yet He cares enough to speak to me daily. That is something to be truly grateful for!
  2. My family. We are spread across the globe, and I miss them all! I am so grateful for the part they have each played in shaping who I am, and that I can count them as not only family but friends as well!
  3. My friends. I have friends on nearly every continent, and I am thankful for all of them. God has blessed me so much with the people I get to do life with on a daily basis!
  4. My life. It doesn’t look anything like I thought it would by the time I reached this age, but I wouldn’t trade it. The opportunities I’ve been given, places I’ve visited and lived, people I’ve met, and things I’ve learned have brought me to a place in my relationship with God I never dreamed of and given me a story to tell that can change lives.
  5. My hopes and dreams. Perhaps more than ever before, God is pouring hope into me for the days that are still to come. Dreams that have seemed far away for so long suddenly seem closer than ever, and the hope that accompanies the anticipation of fulfillment is something that I cannot put into words, nor can I adequately say thank you to the Author of that hope and the Giver of the dreams.

That is just a fraction of what I am thankful for this year. I don’t believe that once a year is often enough to say “Thank You” to the Giver of all good things, but I’m glad for the reminder to stop and count my blessings. May you have much to thank God for on this Thanksgiving Day (whether it is a holiday in your home country or not), and may we all remember to recognize and be grateful for all the good things in our lives more than just once a year.

Distinguishing “the Undead”…

One of my favorite musicians, Andrew Peterson, has just released a new album. An early frontrunner for my favorite song is “The Rain Keeps Falling.” It has a verse that talks about planting seeds and waiting for the death to bring forth new life.

I think this speaks to me because I have been thinking lately about what happens to dreams when they are buried. Sometimes they end up in a crypt, dead forever, mourned and moved beyond. Some become seeds, buried and left to grow, and one day, break the surface again with new life.

Lately I have been wondering though, are all dreams that come back to “life” again meant to live? As I pondered this question recently, I realized that my brain is odd because I very quickly came up with three options for the reanimation of buried dreams. I find this very odd because I’m not interested in the current fascination with zombies or anything of the kind. In fact, I’m not even sure the following descriptions would fit with what the dictionary or traditional definitions are. Nevertheless, these are the options that came to mind:

1. Resurrection – Something is fully alive again. The only true resurrections to take place are brought about by the power of God. He is the One who breathed life into our very being, and He is the only One who can still bring life into the deepest parts of us. Physical death was not the only death over which Jesus was victorious.

2. Zombie – Based on the tiny bit I understand from the stories that have been so popular lately, zombies are the victims of a virus or bacteria that spreads from one person to another. In other words, it is a “natural” phenomenon that makes these “undead.”  It is possible that our own natural desires can bring dreams to the surface again.

3. Necromancy – In an episode of BBC’s Merlin, the villain reanimated someone who had died in a previous episode. The process was called necromancy, and the purpose of bringing this character back to “life” was to wreak havoc in the lives of the show’s heroes. The man brought “back from the dead” did not have his true life back. He didn’t have his memories, and he was totally under the control of the one who brought him back. It occurred to me as I suddenly remembered this episode that sometimes our buried dreams might break the surface again, appearing to be raised to life. In reality, however, they are simply reanimated by our Enemy as a distraction or disruption to what God is doing in us.

Those are the options that came to mind for how my dreams, once buried and mourned were suddenly back. Now the trick is to distinguish which is the one that has brought the dreams to the surface once again… Are they truly alive? Or are they “zombies” that will just eat away at me until I am able to banish them to the crypt once again? Have they grown from a seed that God planted in my heart? Or are they merely empty shells reanimated by my own mind or even the Enemy of my heart? In some cases, they aren’t even solid hopes but simply ghosts that haunt my mind and heart.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet know which is the case in my current situation. I don’t have a definite answer for how to distinguish between the “undead” options. It isn’t always obvious when you’re in the middle of warring emotions – hope for resurrected dreams versus fear of having to bury and mourn for them yet again…

What I do know is that until I figure it out, my heart is safe as long as it is surrendered to the One who loves me and can breathe life into those places in me that I am not even aware of yet. He will bring the growth and the increase of the things that He has planted, and He will sustain me through the process of pruning and even through the burial of those things that are not meant to live. He knows what is best for me, and I am thankful that I don’t have to settle for less than His very best.