Waiting Rightly

Waiting on the team news - Mayo GAA Blog

I started this blog nearly thirteen years ago, after I had a miscarriage. In many ways, naming it Together for Good was an act of faith, something I was choosing to believe at that time. Three years later, when I had a second miscarriage, it felt impossible to believe, and I faced doubt in my walk with God that I had never before experienced. In mercy, God did not let me fall away. 

For all these years God has been faithfully teaching me what it means that He works all things together for my good. He has taught me that my actual good and what feels good to me in the moment are very seldom the same thing. He has taught me that discipline is for my good, that humiliation is for my good, that hardships and struggles and brokenness are for my good. God is always working toward a goal of holiness and Christlike beauty in my life. He will not settle for anything less.

What does this have to do with waiting? 

This week I’m talking about what we should do while we wait, and today I want to bring home the importance of getting right with God if you’re in a season of waiting. I mentioned this yesterday, but I think it’s absolutely crucial that we deal with sin in our lives. Here’s the thing. God is going to work in your life no matter what. He’s going to work to bring you to Himself and to make you more holy. He’s going to put exactly the circumstances that are required to make you more like Jesus. And if you’re living in active sin,  He’s going to prioritize that. 

It’s pretty much impossible to hear God’s still, small voice of direction and answered prayer over the sound of His thundering voice of conviction. 

God will do whatever it takes for our good, and that includes keeping us in a time of waiting so that He can deal with sin and rebellion. So keep short accounts with God. This is good advice in every season, but I think it’s so important during times of waiting. Confess your sin. Repent of rebellious heart attitudes. Seek accountability if you need it (and you probably do). Speak truth to the voices of guilt and shame that drown out what is right.

Tune your ear to hear the quiet voice of God’s Spirit leading you, strengthening you, and giving you exactly what you need as you wait. 

Father, help us to recognize sin in our lives and deal with it promptly. You are always working for our good. Give us the strength to wait, to be holy, to hear You speak to us. Amen.

Waiting and Working

Does the Bible Promote Racism? | United Church of God

Let’s talk today about what we’re supposed to do during times of waiting. First of all, I want to be clear that there are definitely times when we really just need to be still. I think that if we don’t make times in our routines for stillness with God, He will force stillness into our lives. That has been an effect of covid in my life this year– forced stillness, forced rest. However, when God places us in long seasons of waiting, it’s fairly likely that He isn’t wanting us to just sit around all day hoping that stuff starts to happen. 

The passage we looked at briefly yesterday in Titus 2 makes it clear that while we wait for Christ’s appearance we are to pursue godliness. And I think that’s just as true for seasons of waiting– we need to keep on pursuing God and seeking to do His work while we wait for Him to guide us, to answer prayers, to relieve a burden, to heal us, even to take us home to glory. God always has good works for us to do. 

So what should you do while you wait? Here’s my first suggestion– do what you know you should be doing. Get busy. There are lots of ways to apply this, but it starts with God’s Word, prayer, and simple obedience.

If you are waiting for direction or answered prayer but aren’t spending time in Scripture, you’re not even putting yourself in a place to hear from God. I feel like every time I lead a Bible study or teach a lesson I come back to this very basic thing, but I feel very passionate that God’s people need to be spending daily time with God in His Word and in prayer. Just do it. Make time. Seek and you will find. Don’t seek the skies or your tea leaves or your horoscope or for some kind of sign. Seek for answers in the Book that contains the very words of the God who created you and knows every step you should take.

I think Christians tend to really neglect some of the most basic spiritual disciplines. I know I did for a very long time. Scripture reading is one. Prayer is another. I have been guilty of asking people to pray for something and never once praying for it myself. I have been guilty of telling others I would pray for them and failing to do so. Prayer is such a gift! We have direct access through Christ to the very throne room of God! If you’re waiting, spend some of that time in worship, in confessing your sins, in giving thanks, and in bringing your requests to God.

I have had several times in my life when I have cried out to God that I could not see the path before me. I will tell you that almost every one of those times the answer was not some fresh revelation or understanding of God’s Word. The reason I could not see is because I was not walking in obedience. Sin blinds us. If I harbor sin in my life, I will be blind to where God wants to lead me. 

James tells us that if we know what we’re supposed to do but don’t do it, it’s sin. Times of waiting provide us with the opportunity to deal with that sin. If you’re in a season of waiting, maybe God has you here so that you can get serious about your relationship with God, share Christ with a friend, face that alcohol problem, or whatever it is you know God has called you to do. And as we walk in obedience to what we know to do, we make ourselves more in tune with where God may be leading us. 

I am a procrastinator, an excuse-maker, and a generally lazy person by nature. One of the things I have to tell myself pretty often is to just do the work. Do the thing. Do the hard thing, the boring thing, the scary thing. Read the Bible every day, even if it feels like you aren’t getting anything out of it. Talk to God every day, even if it feels like your prayers aren’t making it past the ceiling. Obey what you know to do. Do the work and see what God does next. We can let our waiting become an excuse to not do anything, but I believe that as you do the work God has given you to do, He will keep on leading you to the next good thing. 

He is faithful. Wait patiently. Do the work. 

Waiting With Purpose

Created for God's Glory (Isaiah 43:7) – Endofthematter.com

Waiting for Christmas is a small-scale picture for us of what we are waiting for– the “glorious appearing” of our Savior. The first time, Jesus came in humility, but when He comes again He will come in victory. Titus 2 gives us God’s expectations for us as we wait for that wonderful day. 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

There’s so much here to unpack, and I really want to keep this short because it’s late and I’m tired. But here’s what these verses tell us:

  1. God’s grace was given to us through Jesus our Savior, who gave Himself for us. 
  2. God’s purpose in salvation was both to redeem us and purify us to be His own possession. 
  3. God wants us to live a certain way– holy and zealous for good works. 
  4. God’s grace trains us to do what is right as we wait for our blessed hope. 

I love the idea that it is God’s grace that trains us, not His judgment. I love the idea seen throughout the New Testament that God has specific works prepared for each one of His people– that we have been saved to do these works while we wait for the day when we see His face.

This week I want to talk about how we act while we wait. Because God desires for His people to be busy doing His work, to be learning and growing even during the times of waiting.

Perhaps even especially during those times. 

As we wait for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, we are given the gift of living meaningful, godly, purpose-filled lives that show a glimpse of that glory to the world around us. 

We have a good thing to wait for and good works to do while we wait. My friends, this world is full of sorrow and broken people. Let’s be zealous to reach out, to show the goodness of God that they are waiting for. 

Father, help us to accurately look at our lives, to see ourselves as You see us this week. Help us to be holy, zealous for good works, full of hope as we wait for You, our hope.

You might be in a season of waiting right now, but that doesn’t mean you are meant to be doing nothing. What good work has God put before you? How can you show His glory and goodness to a wounded world?

Waiting for the Right Season

Magnolia tree in bloom covered in snow - Geauga News

Early last week, my husband said he thought the tree in the neighbor’s yard was budding. We’ve had unseasonably warm weather, and sure enough, a couple days later it was clear that the magnolia tree had put out buds in a mid-December burst of hopefulness. 

That very day the weather changed, and overnight the temperature dropped and it snowed. And the next morning, the magnolia blossoms on the tree had turned black. Magnolias aren’t meant to bloom in December, especially in Iowa. And because I’ve been thinking so much about seasons and waiting, I couldn’t help but draw a connection between those ill-fated blossoms and our own lives. 

Magnolia trees are beautiful, and the burst of loveliness every spring in our neighbor’s yard is one of my favorite things. I absolutely love flowering trees and am always sad that the blooms last for such a short time, but that’s the way they are supposed to be. The life cycle of a tree isn’t all flowers and beauty. And in December, that magnolia tree is meant to be dormant, bare and leafless and waiting for sunshine and returning warmth in the spring. 

Friends, we are the same way. As much as we wish we could rush our own seasons of winter, the times when it feels like nothing is happening and we are failing to thrive and live fruitfully, those seasons are important to our growth. And when we try to rush the blossoming and the fruit, we end up with blackened, dead buds because the season is wrong. I don’t know much about trees, but I do know that there was a year when that same tree budded too early and then never blossomed in the spring because the buds all died. Fighting against the seasons that God has ordained doesn’t work in nature, and it doesn’t work in our lives. Fruit comes forth in God’s time. 

Psalm 1 tells us that the person who delights in and meditates on God’s Word will be like a tree that brings forth its fruit in season. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything. And again and again Scripture reminds us of the importance of waiting. Waiting, even in seasons where everything seems dormant, is necessary for the growth of God’s people. 

After Christ’s resurrection, Acts 1:4 tells us that He instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem. Can you imagine? They had just witnessed the most miraculous event ever, the eternal victory of life over death, the promises fulfilled, and Jesus told them to wait. They must have been bursting with the news, anxious to go out and tell everyone. This was life-altering, foundation-shaking good news. 

And Jesus told them to wait. 

On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon them and empowered them to preach and teach and do miracles, it became clear why they had to wait. The season was close . . . but it wasn’t quite there yet. And once the Spirit came, nothing could stop them. The message went out with power to the ends of the earth. Their obedience is why I’m sitting here today. They waited for the right season, and then they burst forth with joy and power and bore fruit that is still seen 2000 years later.

Waiting is hard. We can be tempted to try to do things in our own time, our own power, to rush the work of God. We get impatient like Abraham and Sarah and make a mess of things. But if we can hold on, if we can trust that God knows exactly what He is doing and that He creates dormant, empty seasons of waiting for us just like He creates seasons of wild growth and vibrant fruit, we will always find that God is faithful. Faithful, good, wise, and always, always worth waiting for.

Lord, have we mentioned to You that waiting is hard? Because it is. And sometimes we fight against the seasons of waiting You bring into our lives. Help us to trust You and to learn to sit still in the waiting, that we may be all the more fruitful when the season comes. 

Are you in a season that feels bare, dormant, and empty right now? What can you do to dig your roots down deeper into the promises of God? 

Waiting When It’s Hard

Life is a Journey...and Sometimes it's a &$!#% - Moms 'N Charge®

Waiting is hard. 

Anybody who has ever been near a child who had to stand in line or wait her turn knows this; it’s not exactly a revelation. And truthfully, anyone who’s ever had to wait (which I assume is every single one of us) knows that waiting is not easy or particularly fun. Whether you’re in a long line at the grocery store two weeks before Christmas, in the doctor’s office waiting for your turn, or sitting at home waiting for news, chances are you want to be done waiting. 

When my daughter was a toddler we were all sitting at dinner one night while my husband prayed before the meal. His prayer must have been longer than usual, or at least longer than her little one-year-old self could handle, because in the middle of his prayer my daughter yelled, “AMEN, DADDY! AMEN!” It’s possible most of us have felt that way during an abnormally long blessing. It’s hard to wait when you’re hungry and the food is right there! Hopefully we’ve outgrown the yelling, though. 

My point is, waiting is hard. It’s something we try to get through, something we try to hurry along. We look for the shortest line and pick the two-day shipping. We map the fastest route and get cranky at the red lights, and we are impatient when our Big Mac takes more than 30 seconds to get into our hands. This is why Advent can be a really challenging season. 

During Advent, we choose to sit in the waiting, to live here, to not rush the moments away or try to find the shortest route to our destination. We know the destination is good. We’ve been down this road to Bethlehem before and knelt at the manger and celebrated the wondrous birth of our Savior. But instead of speeding down that road with the music up, we’re walking. We’re taking in the scenery, sitting often to rest, talking with the people we meet along the way. 

Maybe we are stopping occasionally to grieve or to shout at the sky. 

I was listening to a podcast this morning that was talking about healing, and one of the things they talked about was how we often rush through the mourning process because we want to get to the healing. But without lament we cannot fully heal. It is natural to reach a place in this waiting season at the end of a really hard year and just want to rush ahead to the celebration and the Baby and the glory to God in the highest, to skip the lines and the waiting and the journey. But it might not be what we really need right now. 

There is a reason that waiting is such a prevalent theme in the Bible. Waiting is a part of life. Mourning, sorrow, unmet expectations, questions– these are all a normal part of the life of a believer. The Psalms are full of the anguish of hearts that could not understand what they were experiencing or seeing around them. 

I said, “I will guard my ways,
    that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
    so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
I was mute and silent;
    I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
    My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
    then I spoke with my tongue:

“O Lord, make me know my end
    and what is the measure of my days;
    let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
    and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
    Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
    man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

In Psalm 39, David has reached the point where he feels like he can’t wait silently anymore. He is so tired of waiting, so tired of not understanding or knowing what God is doing, that the words burst out of him– what is the point of all this? And you know what? David doesn’t wrap up this prayer with a neat little Christmas bow: 

“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
    and give ear to my cry;
    hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
    a guest, like all my fathers.
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
    before I depart and am no more!”

I don’t know, but to me it sounds like David is telling God to leave him alone. Those are some pretty gutsy words from the man after God’s own heart. But I think they can give us hope when we are waiting. There are times when life doesn’t get tied up with a neat little bow. There are days when we truly are just yelling at the sky, when our hearts cry with anguish, O Lord, how long? 

And yet still, with David, we wait. 

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
    My hope is in you.

Here we are, in the middle of Advent, and my writing threatens to become stale, and my waiting seems a lot less sweet and lovely than it did when I started all this two weeks ago. But still, my hope is in God. Your hope is in God. Don’t try to find the shortcut. Sit here with me and wait. I believe there is something here on the journey for us. 

Lord, our hope is in You. Even when waiting is the last thing we want to do, when we just want answers and relief and celebration, you call us to wait. Give us patient hearts to keep waiting and to find what you have for us in this season. All you do is for our good. Amen.

Are you tired of waiting yet? How can you embrace this time, this place in the journey of Advent?

Wonder in the Waiting

Everything you can imagine is real: Time Is Now | Night skies, Stargazing,  Sky

Eighteen years ago today, I was waiting on the very edge of the biggest change of my whole life. My belly was round, my ankles swollen, my blood pressure all over the place; and I was one day away from pushing out my firstborn.

We went to bed on December 11, 2002, knowing that the next day our son would be born. I couldn’t sleep. Who could? I was uncomfortable, nervous, and excited, and when morning finally dawned we were already on the way to the hospital, an empty car seat hooked into the back of our Kia Spectra. We left our apartment that morning a couple, knowing we would come back a family. 

I think there’s something really unique about waiting for your first child. There’s so much unknown. So much hope and fear. And when my son was born, swaddled in my arms, I held him with the wonder of a new mother at Christmastime and I thought of Mary, giving birth in such different circumstances, waiting for not just the gift of a child but for the hope of the whole world. 

That little boy who filled me with so much unspeakable love and joy eighteen years ago is a senior in high school now. He is taller than I am, and smarter too, but don’t tell him I said so. He is a great kid on the cusp of adulthood, and I’m proud to be his mom. 

I am supposed to be writing about waiting, and all day I’ve just been thinking of those long, uncomfortable days waiting for my son to be born, waiting to go home from the hospital, waiting through midnight feedings, waiting for that first smile, first tooth, first word. I fear I spent too much of my firstborn’s babyhood waiting for what would come next instead of enjoying who he was in each moment. And I think there’s a lesson to be learned from this. 

We spend Advent waiting for the celebration that comes on Christmas, but I hope we don’t wish away the waiting and miss what God has for us here, on December 11th, in the middle of the season. Today, as we wait, God wants to teach us and meet our needs. So many passages that talk about waiting also talk about taking refuge in God, about trusting Him. Faith sees more in waiting than just a blank space. Faith knows that God has a plan, that He is always at work. Faith finds wonder in the midst of waiting. 

It’s so easy to become impatient when we are in a season of waiting, but if we can endure and keep our eyes on God, finding our refuge and hope in Him, I think we will discover that there is so much in the waiting and not just at the end of it. That’s why we take these moments during Advent to reflect, to quiet our souls before God, because in the deliberate stillness we learn again that He is God. 

My son waits eagerly for his future– graduation, college, and whatever else lies ahead. But I am waiting in wonder still as I look at this tall young man who has brought so much joy and laughter and blessing to our home in the last eighteen years. 

There are treasures to be found in the waiting. 

Lord God, help us not to wish away the waiting. Show us what You want us to know, and teach us to be still and to keep on seeking You. We can’t wait to see You face to face on day, O God. Creation groans, and we do too. But we know that all You do has a purpose. Teach us to find the wonder in the waiting. 

What wonders do you see today as you look around you? What gifts has God given you during seasons of waiting?

Poem for Waiting

Winter Robin - Imgur

In the middle of a season
At the end of a year
When the world is dark and life is hard,
When all we want is relief and answers and hope,
We come to a time
Of waiting. 

And though waiting seems
Like the most ridiculous, impossible thing,
We steel ourselves for the long, expectant month
Of Advent.

Creation groans,
But we hold our breath. 

The world yells,
But we find a place to be still.

While everyone rushes madly,
We choose to  wait. 

And in this waiting, we find strength renewed,
Hope kindled,
Life given.

With expectation we lift weary eyes
To stars that declare Your glory,
And we know that You have come,
That You are here,
That Emanuel is not just a name, but a promise. 

O God of promises kept,
God of morning joy and morning mercies,
God of angel song over Bethlehem hills;

Teach us to wait.

Waiting Faithfully

Daily Bible Reading for Dec. 1-15 - The Christian Index

I’m sitting here in my recliner, “Christmastime Is Here” in my earbuds, the tree alight in front of me. It’s been a long and busy day, and I’m feeling pretty productive, because I’ve checked nearly everything off my to-do list. As our family gets back into the swing of things after covid, these normal, unexciting days feel like a gift. 

I have to confess that I don’t really want to write this post right now. I’m tired and relaxed and would be perfectly content to just sit here staring into space and daydreaming. At the same time there’s been this undercurrent of sadness running through me all day, especially when I sit still. There’s nothing really wrong. Some days are just like that. So maybe what I really want to do is read a book and ignore the responsibilities and the feelings. 

Instead I’m going to write about waiting. 

Yesterday I talked about how waiting for God means putting ourselves where God is likely to show up. I don’t want anyone to think I don’t believe in the omnipresence of God. But I think all of us understand this idea that there are some places where we’re more likely to find evidence of His presence than others. When I talk about putting ourselves in places where God is, that’s what I mean. Here’s the thing. I’m super foolish, and I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one. I ask God to reveal Himself and His will to me, but then I spend my time on social media, listening to audiobooks, and doing my own thing. And all the time God has given me this amazing resource where I can find more of Him and who He made me to be. 

That resource is Scripture. 

So today I’m going a bit off script from what I’ve been doing to just remind you of how very important daily, consistent time in the Word is. Folks, there is no substitute for an open Bible and an open heart. None. No devotional book, no Christian podcast, no inspirational radio station can fill the role in our lives that the simple, perfect Word of God is meant to fill. This used to be such a huge struggle for me, and I admit that it has gotten a million times easier as my kids have gotten older. But I would suggest that time in the Bible should be your number one priority each day. Even just a few moments– a few verses– faithfully every day will over time make a huge difference in your life. 

I’ve talked about what I do in my personal devotional time in past blog entries, but I’d like to briefly talk about a couple disciplines that I really feel have given me a much deeper knowledge of the Bible and a closer relationship with God. These are the places where God most consistently shows up for me with comfort, conviction, encouragement, and inspiration. 

First, years ago I started copying the book of Psalms. When that was done, I wrote out Ruth and then Esther. Before I really knew what had happened, I had decided I was going to transcribe the entire Bible. I finished it a couple months ago. It’s not in order, and it’s spread throughout years of journals in between prayers, sermon notes, and the occasional poem. But what a blessing it has been to me to look at every single word of Scripture and let it pass through my pen and my mind. So many things I had never noticed really stood out when I wasn’t just scanning verses so I could say I had read the chapter. I am finishing out 2020 by re-transcribing Romans, and in the new year I will start copying from a different translation. 

Second, praising through the Psalms is a beautiful habit I got into years ago. I’m not sure where the idea originated but I’m sure it wasn’t with me. Basically, I just start in Psalm 1 and write out prayers of adoration based on what each Psalm says. It takes me about six months to go through the whole book, so I’ve gone through it many times, and the pages of my Bible are filled with reminders of what God has taught me. I cannot say how many times God has met me in the Psalms with exactly what I needed in that moment. This is a discipline I highly recommend. It has been life-changing for me and really been the thing that turned my walk with God into an intimate relationship with Him. 

Waiting is hard, but it’s so worth it, because as we wait for Him by spending time in His Word He reveals Himself to us in ways we never could have imagined. Friend, someday we are all going to stand before God, and I pray that for all of us we will find before us the face of a beloved Father and Friend. 

It will be said on that day,
    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 

Keep waiting faithfully. Open your Bible and wait before God and expect great things. 

Father, help us to make the time to faithfully read and study Your Word. Show us Yourself in the pages of Scripture, and help us to be transformed by what we see there. You are our salvation, our hope, and the joy of our lives. Keep us faithful before You. Amen.

Is the Bible a daily part of your life? What could you do to be more faithful in this area?

Waiting for the Everlasting God

8 Signs Proving You Are A Desperate Person & Need To Change Yourself -  Iscream Sundae

They who wait for 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.

I expect that most of us think of this verse when we think of waiting on the Lord. It’s one of those verses that you find woven into afghans and printed on inspirational posters, usually with a bald eagle soaring majestically through breathtaking mountain vistas. 

Sometimes I think that we sit and wait to soar. We wait for our difficult circumstances to sink away below us as we are lifted effortlessly on bracing winds. We wait for simplicity, ease, and physical comfort. We don’t really wait for God. 

Waiting for God is far more than just sitting around hoping our problems will go away, but because we seem to think that’s what it means, we end up sad, angry, and disillusioned when He does not meet our expectations. How many people have turned their backs on God because He didn’t bring them the thing they were waiting for? In our flesh we fail to understand that waiting for healing, waiting for beauty, waiting for resolution, waiting for answers are not the same thing as waiting for God. 

One day God promises that His people will experience healing and beauty for ashes. He promises that He will take away our pain and wipe away our tears. But that is a hope for the future. If that is all we are waiting for in this dark world, we will not be able to face the daily difficulties, the traumatic events, the horrors of a sin-cursed world. We need something that will meet our needs in the here and now. Actually, we don’t need something. We need Someone.

We don’t wait for God by hoping for relief and help. We wait for God by waiting for Him to show up. And we do that by putting ourselves in the places where He is to be found. We open His Word and faithfully spend time reading and studying it. We gather with His people whenever we can because Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them. We serve others, recognizing that whatever we do for the least of these we are doing for Christ. 

We wait for God by showing up where He is and looking for Him there. And as we do this, even on the days when things are hard, broken, and scary, even on the days when we fear we will never find what we are looking for, God promises that He will renew our strength. 

The God who is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the God who does not grow weary, whose understanding is unsearchable, gives us strength to deal with the waiting, strength when we do find ourselves soaring like eagles, but also strength to walk on, step by step, day by day, wherever He leads. 

We are waiting for more than just relief, more than just answers to impossible questions. We are waiting for the God who made the universe and holds it all in His hands, the God who forsook all that power and glory and became flesh. Show up where He is. Tenaciously seek Him. 

He will renew your strength for the flying, the running, the walking, and even for the days when you’re barely crawling. He is worth waiting for. 

Lord, help us to stop placing our hope in anything other than You. Help us to believe that You are enough, to show up where You are, and to faithfully seek Your face. You are faithful, and You will strengthen us day by day. 

What are you waiting for? How could you wait for God instead?