Why Waiting is Good News

ASHLEY HALES|GUEST As a family, we needed to see something grow, to learn to care for green and growing things, to get our hands in the dirt. We needed a small starting place: a project that wasn’t about what we could do but what we could watch. So my husband built a custom cedar planter for our patio. Then one Saturday we loaded up our four children into the minivan and headed to the nursery. While my children wanted berry bushes and fruit trees, we settled on things that would fit in our raised bed planter: a few starter vegetables and herbs, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, basil, dill, rosemary, cilantro, and mint. We put in rocks for drainage and fresh soil. We lined up our few small plants and made holes with our shovels. We patted down the earth. My daughter eagerly hoisted the green plastic watering can and watered each plant diligently. We told our children that growing things takes time. We’d learn to care for the plants together; we’d practice patience. Within days, the cucumber vines spilled over the edge and we noticed the popping yellow flowers. A few more days and little cucumbers dotted along the edges of vines. Each morning my daughter would head to the planter, water the vegetables, and run up the stairs excitedly showing me with her fingers how much her cucumber had grown. Some mornings when we discovered the leaves turning colors or a hole in a big green leaf, her joy would be stifled for a minute but then the refrain: “But Mama, we have more cucumbers, still!” We watched and waited, and something grew from nothing. Cucumbers were a miracle and waiting for them was magical. But as we grow older, waiting feels like an inconvenience or affront. We take out our phones when we’re waiting in the grocery store aisle for two minutes. We listen to podcasts on our commute. We leaf through magazines at the doctor’s office. Waiting leaves us with a silence we don’t know what to do with. Impatience with waiting is nothing new. Like the antsy Israelites who built a golden calf because they were tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, we don’t wait well. Waiting evidences our limited autonomy and knowledge. We are subject to time and to conditions beyond our control....

Why Waiting is Good News2022-05-04T23:25:06+00:00

When Loss Comes, Hold on to Jesus: Wisdom from the Sermon I Quote Most

I just have to give credit where credit’s due! Tim Keller’s sermon, The Vinedresser on John 15:1-2  is one that many have heard me quote. Keller’s sermon addresses the ministry God our Father has as the Master Gardener and how his “pruning” of us is essential for growth. Our Father examines us— the branches— looking for a few things. Are we abiding in Christ the true vine, drawing love and life from him, or from something else? Are we bearing supernatural fruit that gives testimony that we are vitally connected to Christ and his fragrant, fruitful life? Two verses into this beautiful chapter of Scripture, Jesus (the one speaking in John 15), says something startling: the Father wounds, cuts, prunes fruitful, abiding branches! To punish? Shame? Sideline from the good life? NO! The Father cuts things away from our lives so that we may bear more fruit, not less! Pain: When Loss Equals Gain Keller says that the Father never cuts/prunes something out of life unless there is a loving purpose behind it. “The skillful eye knows that there are no random strokes of the [Father’s] pruning shears; nothing is cut off that wasn’t a gain to lose because it would be a loss to keep.”[1] Let those words soak in. The Lord will take his pruning shears and cut things out of our lives, even leafy branches that are next to us, and clusters of tasty grapes we’ve grown fond of. God may take good things, remove not so great things, or outright cut off influences that are leading us to sin. The purpose in every situation is that we become more like Jesus through bearing more fruit as his life surges unhindered through us. It is often the good things that distract us from what is best, wouldn’t you agree? A relationship, job, ministry opportunity, bank account, house, and so much more can be good gifts. Good gifts, however, can become more important to us than the Giver. Ever so subtly our focus shifts from Christ to this person, this thing, this feeling and before we know it, we are attempting to abide (or draw life from, find our meaning in) that gift. Our Father loves us so much that he will tenderly draw near with his pruning shears to remove it for a time or maybe permanently. He may rearrange our life so that this gift returns to its right place “under the feet” of Jesus (see Ephesians 1:22-23). When his purposes are mysterious to us, we can find refuge in who he is: a loving, purposeful Father...

When Loss Comes, Hold on to Jesus: Wisdom from the Sermon I Quote Most2022-05-05T00:08:51+00:00

When a Tree Falls: God’s Faithfulness in Trials

In September of 2019 I embarked on a journey along with my husband. He walked 1,300 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Orlando, Florida; I biked 310 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC. My husband loves doing crazy things and for some reason, I typically come alongside him! An Unexpected Obstacle For the first 310 miles of his “walk” I biked “with” him, although 98% of the time I was alone on the trail. He would get up each morning and begin his day on the trail while I drove 20-25 miles ahead to a trailhead, where I would park my car unload my bike and all the gear, get on my bike and ride back toward him, typically about 11 or 12 miles. Then once we met up, I would bike ahead of him his last 11 or 12 miles for the day, waiting for him every 5 miles until we reached the car. We would then set up camp and sleep until morning. We repeated this daily until we reached Washington, DC. (At this point our friend supported him with an RV and I drove to Florida to await his arrival 55 days later.) I consider myself a “brave chicken.” I typically think of everything that could possibly go wrong with a plan, but I tell myself that if I don’t do “it” I will miss out, so I push through with my chicken heart and my brave soul! This usually consists of a lot of research, planning, and even more prayer. But sometimes, even with all the research, planning, and prayer, the unexpected arises. And on this journey, it came about on Day Two. I was about 6 miles into my morning ride heading toward my husband, when I encountered a huge tree that had fallen on the trail. There was no way around it, over it, or under it. My only option was to go through it, carrying my gear laden bike. I had to lift it over part of the tree while ducking under a huge branch. There was also a tangled mess of vines I had to precariously walk through while I was climbing, carrying, and ducking!! God’s Faithfulness Through Trials Once I got through this obstacle, I took a break to reflect a bit on the scene. I was instantly reminded of my life—a life that has been filled with many unexpected tragic events that can seem overwhelming if I dwell on them too much. It made me consider the truth that in each of these events, there was no way around, over, or under, only through them. And it was through those situations that God refined me. His plans for each of these tragedies in my life drew me closer to Him in ways that on my own I could never have handled. Even in the events that occurred prior to my salvation, He used to prepare me to trust Him....

When a Tree Falls: God’s Faithfulness in Trials2022-05-05T00:32:59+00:00

The Beautiful Surrender

I witnessed a beautiful surrender one afternoon while waiting for the bus to come up the road. In the center of our front yard stands a large October Glory maple tree. This tree is the last to change colors every fall, but once the leaves do change color, the tree is the brightest and most beautiful fall tree on our street. As I waited for the bus, I watched the beautiful surrender of one of those tiny orange leaves. The wind came and that little leaf could not hold on any longer. The wind carried the leaf off the branch and gently swirled the leaf to the ground. The leaf did what it was made to do—and the tree would continue to survive even after the surrendering of this leaf. The October Glory will be dormant for a season, but soon it would bear new blossoms and leaves in the spring. Beautiful Surrenders Sometimes on this side of heaven, faithful people face seasons of beautiful surrenders. In the surrendering, God grows His people into maturity. My family faced a season such as this last year. I am a PCA pastor’s wife and a mother to four elementary-aged children. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of thirty-three and passed away when she was forty. I was thirty-five at the time and I knew I carried a gene mutation which increased my risk for breast cancer. My doctors and genetic counselors strongly advised me to have a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. This was an emotionally and physically painful—but beautiful surrender of my physical body. It brought me back to the woundedness of my past and tugged on the heart strings of my story. But in the surrender of my physical self, God was faithful to our family and as we only had Him to cling to—He grew all of us in our faith and trust in Him. A Beautiful Surrender to an Eternal Perspective This life is an entire journey of letting go. Just like the October Glory in my front yard, we are always shedding pieces of the old self as we grow into Christlikeness....

The Beautiful Surrender2022-05-07T22:37:52+00:00

Now to Him Who is Able

KRISTEN HATTON|CONTRIBUTOR Everything in me wanted to attack. After how I had been mistreated—by a friend no less—no way did I want to absorb the pain. Quite the opposite; in my sinfulness, what I really wanted was for her to hurt too. I wanted her to pay for how she had wronged me. On the other hand, in my anger and hurt, I really did not want to sin. I wanted to be careful not to say or do anything that would be un-Christ like. I wanted to be forbearing, gracious, and forgiving. But I was afraid that because of how hurt and angry I felt, my contrary nature would win out. An Ongoing Struggle This internal conflict is the reality of being in the Spirit, and also living in a broken and fallen world. Through faith in Christ’s redeeming work for us at the cross, we’ve been set free from the power of sin, yet the presence of sin still remains. This means we will continue to deal with these dueling natures within us until we are glorified. Too often though, it seems there is no battle; the flesh just wins out. Like Paul in Romans 7, I identify with the desire to do what is right, but then going on to do what I don’t want to do instead. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:18-20)

Now to Him Who is Able2022-05-07T22:54:09+00:00
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