For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. Romans 10:3-4
I wish I was one of those people that love washing. Any kind of washing really: dishes, clothes, self...it’s a wet/dry thing; trust me. Vehicles are the worst. The blowing dust, dirt roads and winter ice melt all make for a nice hazy sheen that regularly adorns my van. Summer is great because I recruit the boys to soak it down and scrub, but otherwise it’s too cold and I can’t trust them to not soak each other.
So now it’s really bad. After months of procrastination, I head to an automatic car wash, pay, pull thru the line and am stopped by the attendant. Sitting at the starting block watching the corridor of swirling motion ahead feels like waiting to walk into Pee Wee’s playhouse. Enough of that; focus on the guy waving his hands at me.
This man is an excellent candidate for a charades competition. Pointing and directing, he silently guides me forward. A little left, turn that wheel, up some more...now stop. Then he points to the list of rules: arms inside, windows up, mirrors folded, antenna down, van in neutral. Check, check, ready to go. Not quite. He knocks on my window and points again to the bottom: hands off the steering wheel. Now I can go.
As I sit still in my moving car, I’m reminded of Jesus. I drove up to this car wash, paid my dues, listened to the attendant and followed all the rules knowing that the outcome would be a clean van. However, until I took my hands off the wheel and trusted the tire catch to pull me through, nothing changed.
Same with faith, I can go to church, pay my dues, listen to the pastor and follow all the rules, but that only gets me to the right starting place. I have to let go and give my life over to Jesus to pull me through the wash. What a blessing to come out clean on the other side.
Are you still trying to make yourself clean?
What is hindering you from letting go and turning your life completely over to Jesus?
Father, thank you that you do all the dirty work. When I let go and give you control,
you take my filthy sin and wash it away. Your payment for my sin on the cross was enough.
Help me to rest secure knowing you are in the driver's seat and I am clean.
A few years after we had our twins, a dear friend offered to teach Chris and I how to scuba dive. Living in the middle of the country, a day’s drive from the nearest ocean, it seemed a strange opportunity but we had learned to not kick gift horses in the mouth. Words don’t even begin to describe how that experience changed us and we began planning a grand celebration for our fifteenth wedding anniversary: diving the Great Barrier Reef. We have dear friends who have moved back to Australia, so making the trip held advantages in more ways than one. After years of planning, saving and seeking God for timing, we found ourselves waiting to board the Tusa6 dive boat headed out to the Great Barrier Reef...on Chris’s birthday no less.
Excitement coursed through my body as I suited up and took that giant step off the boat into the ocean. Chris never has any trouble jumping in and heading down, but every time I dive, I panic...just for a minute. (You know it’s not natural to breathe underwater.) Encouraged by my husband, I regained composure and began sinking deep below the surface. Five meters, ten meters, twenty meters. The beautiful expanse of the sea floor unfolded before us like a giant tapestry. We kept an eye on the local guides as blue sea stars, giant clams that I could fit inside, exotic fish and a green sea turtle swam circles around us. For an entire morning we explored ridges and valleys, crevices and coral shelves, yet upon surfacing each time, we found ourselves within earshot of the boat. What we had explored was truly just a drop in the ocean compared to what remained. Drying off on deck during the hour ride back, we saw glimmers of innumerable coral reefs just below the surface. Announcing their presence yet hiding the truth of the beauty and extravagance that lies within.
Our creator God is even more extravagant. Revealing his presence yet containing unimaginable beauty below the surface. A world of adventure that would take innumerable lifetimes to explore. He beckons us to jump in, sink deep and trust him to be our breath as we explore the small drop of our life in the ocean of His plan. He is our ultimate guide, showing how each new turn opens up a world of intricate beauty we could never have found on our own. For half a day, I got to explore one of the seven wonders of the world, but I get to explore the wonders of my God every day for the rest of my lifetime.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” Romans 11:33
“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.” Psalms 30:5
“The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.” Psalms 19:6
“Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.”
In the midst of the silence I hear a shuffle around my bed followed by ‘mommy, I need you.’ Groggily I stir and get up to take his hand back to bed. ‘What’s wrong?’ I question. ‘I had a mean dream and was scared,’ his small voice quivers. We stop to pray and ask Jesus to restore peace and rest over his heart and mind. Usually he hops straight back to bed but tonight he lingers and turns for a long hug. ‘I love you a whole bunch, mommy....I can’t wait for the sun to come up.’ ‘Oh buddy, when night is over the sun always comes up.’
His mind at ease, he bounds back to bed as I shuffle back to mine, my mind racing with God's truth spoken right to the midst of my soul. Darkness hides so much stuff. It pretends things it’s not, grows fear and feels ongoing. It often drags on and tries to occupy my mind for longer than necessary. Praise be to the Lord of hope, the son of God, who never sleeps or grows weary. He sets the heavens in order and reveals his hand as the sun rises on a new day. I’m always in awe of the sunrise, with the first break of light the memory of night is gone. A new day awaits, the promise of life, and I can’t help but smile and take a deep breath. The night might be scary but joy is coming with the sun in the morning.
“But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
“And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Job 28:28
Beginning on our honeymoon, Chris and I decided to dream big, save and plan for our special anniversaries. Every five years completed in marriage is a huge, miracle worth celebrating we thought. Year 5 was Disney World (no kids yet and wonderful...minus a small fight over the dropped camera.) Year 10 was Cozumel for a Scuba trip and on the ride home, Chris leaned over and said ‘15, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.’ Little did I know we were currently adding a new man to our mix and another would come along as well. With 4 kids underfoot and life responsibilities, would that trip ever happen now? God is faithful and our diligence was rewarded with just one change order... bring the big boys along.
We have a small pond at home and we’ve boated on lakes. I’ve even taken the boys to the Gulf coast near my home town, but standing where the wild ocean meets land just takes your breath away. The boys were terrified of the roar.
We stayed with dear friends who have intimate knowledge of that oceanfront so Miles and his boys take over as teachers. They showed them how to jump and duck under waves, body surf and boogie board, but most importantly taught them about riptides and what the surf safety flags meant. After a week they were all in, to say the least. Saltwater now part of their DNA.
As I stood on the beach that final evening making sure the boys stayed between the flags, Luke came towards me with a huge smile on his face. ‘I love the ocean, it is so much fun!’ he exclaims running by. ‘Yes, but it is also dangerous,’ I remind him. His small frame stops and turns toward me, ‘just like God,’ he replies. And with that I’m reminded of truth. When I stay within the safety of His boundary flags, my God is love and fun and fills my soul with excitement. Outside of that protection, he is extremely dangerous, powerful and fierce. My strength against his current will fail every time, yet he longs for me to wade into the deep and laugh with all that is within me as I allow his love to wash over me.
Do you remember the first time you noticed your shadow? Or even better, have you been around a child that finally notices their shadow? It's awe and confusion all at the same time. Jumping around, stepping high, turning circles and almost always trying to run away from it. All to try and make that strange gray thing disappear or do something different. Shadows can be fun or shadows can be scary. Outside it's fun to try to make our shadows longer or shorter, wavy or straight. Inside a dark room however, a shadow may incite fear. What I like to remind myself is that a shadow cannot exist on its own. It must have 2 things. An object and a light. The light is key because without light, even the object can't make its own shadow. The Bible says Jesus is the light of the world, He is the Son of God. As He shines on me and the objects around me, we all cast shadows. Some experiences are fun and exciting, some are uncertain and scary. My life is a running storybook with daily (sometimes multi-daily) opportunities to see Jesus working in all the little details, both good and not so good because I know Jesus is always around. He will never leave me or forsake me. I want to live my life noticing the shadows, not trying to run away from them, because the shadow is proof of the Sonshine.
This weekend, my neighbor called and said he had a few stacks of extra wood that he wanted to give me. Being a bona fide wood hoarder, I rushed right over. When I saw the stack of landscape timbers, I couldn’t help the happy dance that escaped. I knew exactly where they were going.
Transferring the timbers to their new home in my front yard, I immediately began cutting, nailing and lengthening my beloved raised garden bed. It is rustic but wonderful! Thrilled, I walked inside and scratched ‘garden add-on’ off my prayer want list. Thank you, Lord, for this blessing.
Last night, God’s blessing still very fresh on my mind, my family curled up together to watch Fixer Upper. Now there are few things I enjoy more than ice cream, but gardening and the Gaines family are close rivals. (I hear your sigh) The television screen filled with a plan for a garden. Not just any garden but the most elaborate, beautiful, exquisite garden complete with chickens and picnic table and garden house. It was breathtaking and I soaked in every minute before heading to bed.
As I’m here in the kitchen this morning making waffles for my crew, the white index card clipped to the fridge door catches my attention. Each week we post our chores and a character trait on that card. This week it is contentment: being satisfied because God is working everything together for my good and his glory. The scene from last night flashes thru my mind and I’m acutely aware of how sneaky the enemy is, able to use a simple show to steal my joy and excitement over God’s evident blessings. He throws such a small seed of discontent into the mix that often I don’t realize that it even got planted.
Of course, it’s not magazine worthy but my garden is a gift. It feeds my family and provides lots of one-on-one dirt bonding time with my boys. Each moment I spend tending plants, I can’t help but think of the tender way God tends to me. Picking out weeds, pruning off diseased areas and fertilizing places that are blooming.
As I return to waffles, I recognize the weed and when I pull it out, contentment settles in my soul. It is possible to truly enjoy others’ blessings while embracing my own, though they may look very different. In a few weeks the ice will be gone and the memory of that show will fade away, replaced with a new episode or two of some great renovation. The sun will come out and I’ll put twice as many seeds in the ground thanks to that scrap pile of wood. God is good and He gets the glory...all because I planted contentment.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
1 Timothy 6:6
The Shadow of My Porch Swing
You will usually find me on my porch swing or trying to get there at least. Warm drink in hand and the best view in the world...4 boys digging a hole. Seriously tho, I enjoy the chance to sit and rest but mostly ponder the life that happens in between each of those sways of that swing. As the sun rises and sets, the shadow of that swing moves across my porch reminding me that Jesus is always shining on each moment. May you find hope and rest in Jesus here.
Partnering with YouVersion and The Bible App, The Shadow of My Porch Swing - 7 day devotional is now available in the Plans section of the Bible app. Click link above or search by title or 'God's Presence.'