Who’s in Control?

I woke in the middle of the night and starred into the darkness. Would I be all right while traveling half way across the country and navigating huge, unfamiliar airports on my way to a writers’ conference? Would our son and daughter-in-law snag a low-interest mortgage to purchase their first home? Had I measured and ordered accurately so that my husband would have little trouble installing our new kitchen cabinets? Had I …?

Worries whirled in my head, tumbling over one another and gaining speed. At this rate, I would win the Olympic God Medal for worry and finish well ahead of any competitor. Not good!

In his Word, God repeatedly urges us not to worry, not to be afraid.

By worrying, can we change anything?

  • Would worry turn my cross country trip into a trouble-free journey? No, but trusting the details to God and thanking him for his goodness would ensure a trip filled with his good will.
  • Would worry about my son’s first house mortgage make a difference? No. For Pete’s sake, it wasn’t even my business! But I could ask God  to give him and his wife wisdom and the right opportunity. I could give the situation to God and thank him that he loved them and would see them safely through their newest family adventure.
  • Would worry about the kitchen remodeling project make any problems go away? No, but asking God to guide us and thanking him for his gift of wisdom to overcome each challenge would take us safely through to completion.

The bottom line: If we want success and peace, God says we can have it. First, by remembering who’s in control–not us but our God Almighty who loves us. Second, by following his instructions (see below).

Focus: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” ~ Philippians 4:67, New Living Translation.

How about you? In what situations have you overcome worry and experienced God’s peace by turning to God in prayer?

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Plucked from the Storm

Dark clouds boiled up on the far side of lake Winnebago. From a crowded public diving raft, Mary and I watched them head our way. On shore, speakers mounted on the bathhouse crackled, “All swimmers come ashore immediately!”

As lifeguards launched rowboats into the choppy waters and a distressed voice repeated the command through the bathhouse speakers, the waters near the raft teemed with swimmers trying to outrace the fast -approaching storm. Mary and I jumped in with them.

Never a strong swimmer, I came within four feet of the boat dock. Powerful waves kept pulling me back, sapping my strength as I struggled. “I can’t make it, Mary.”

“Yes, you can!” she shouted above the confusion around us.

“Go on without me,” I sputtered. I could no longer fight the waves repeatedly washing over my face and began to sink.

Mary caught me. “Look!”

From a boat only a few feet away, a lifeguard searched the waters around him. Mary waved to catch his attention. “Over here! Help!”

Moments later, he reached over the side of the boat and plucked me from the dangerous waters.

Like  that lifeguard, the Lord stands ready to rescue us from the dangerous waters of our lives.

Do overwhelming problems threaten us? He reminds us, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” Deuteronomy 33:27, New International Version.

Have we strayed from the Lord God who longs to gather us back to himself? He assures us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” Jeremiah 31:3, NIV.

Do we need to be freed from the sin that grips us? He promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Acts 2:21, NIV.

Whatever the storms of our lives, when we call out to Jesus, we find that his Word is true.

Focus: “The Lord will hear when I call to him” ~ Psalm 4:3, NIV.

How about you? On what occasion have you called out to the Lord and found him faithful to pluck you from the storms of your life?

Mother’s Day Tears

“I love you, Mom.”

Her thirty-five-year-old daughter’s words entered Sara’s heart in the midst of a pleasant phone conversation. Then the two returned to the subject they had been discussing. Later, before they hung up, her daughter again uttered those words, and Sara knew her child had turned a life-changing corner. A soft joy spread its light through her heart.

In years past, their relationship had gone through hard times. Her daughter entered those teen years, determined to run her own life though obviously not ready. Like many mothers, Sara shed oceans of tears and knew endless nights of anguished prayer as she repeatedly failed in her attempts at mothering her daughter.

Blaming herself, Sara dreaded Mother’s Day and the church service with its inevitable reading of Proverbs 31. The wonderful passage that paints a portrait of the perfect woman in God’s eyes seemed to mock her, especially verse 28: “Her children arise and call her blessed” (NIV). Mother’s Day became a time of deep sorrow.

Nevertheless, she continued to love her daughter and pray for her. In Sara’s heart, she felt the Lord urging her not to abandon her child even as He did not abandon His children. So, she put her faith in God to accomplish what only He could do in her daughter’s life.

Sadly, it’s true. Mother’s Day is not a joy to all. Some endure this day with broken hearts for children–even grown children–who have not yet come to love God and enjoy the wonder of His healing in their lives. Many grieve over broken relationships with their children who make destructive life choices. But for those mothers who choose to stand steadfastly with the Lord on behalf of their children, God has a promise …

Focus: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” ~ Psalm 126:5 (New International Version).

How about you? As a parent, can you relate to Sara’s story and her mother’s heart?

(This blog post adapted from a may 2002 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

A Prayer Not Forgotten

“Beth, you’re going blind.”

My optometrist’s words sank like a stone in my seventeen-year-old heart. He must have caught my utter dismay because he quickly went on. “Don’t worry. We may be able to stop, even reverse your condition a little, with something new.”

The “something new” he referred to were contact lenses. My heart sank further. How could a high school senior afford anything that cost the equivalent of a college semester’s tuition? My parents couldn’t afford them either.

“I know that,” the doctor said, “but, Beth, I can’t just let this happen. I will pay for the lenses. When you graduate and get a job, you can pay me back a little each month.”

I left the doctor’s office, overwhelmed by his kindness and shaken by the news. I squeezed back my tears and prayed. Lord, you can do anything. Please heal my eyes so that I can see without glasses!

The contact lenses arrived and did stop the loss of my sight. I was so thrilled, I forget all about my prayer, but God did not.

Thirty-seven years later, I raced into the waiting room to share the good news with my husband. “I can see! I can see!”

Back in the examining room, Jim and I learned that the new Lasik surgery had taken the vision in my right eye from 20-400 (legally blind) to 20-25.  A year later, surgery on my left eye had similar results.

As we left the doctor’s office, we marveled at all God had brought together to deliver my miracle. Someone discovered the laser beam. Another invented a machine to harness it for eye surgery. Doctors had to be trained, and I was sure it was no coincidence that my eye doctor was one of eight in the United States currently performing the new surgery.

How precious our prayers are in God’s sight. He responds to them all. To some he quickly says, “Yes!” To others, and for good reason, he must say, “No.” To still others, he says, “Wait.” However, when that right time arrives–it might be years later–he delivers the perfect answer.

Focus: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers” Philippians 4:6 (The Living Bible).

How different our world would be if, instead of worrying, we brought our needs to God and trusted him to deliver the right answer at the right time.

How about You? Do you agree? Why or why not?

(This blog post adapted from a March 2000 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)