His Call. His Time.

In my trek to read through the Bible again, I have (after over a year) reached the book of Jeremiah this morning. I love Jeremiah chapter 1: God’s call on a man’s life. The verses simply ebb and flow with the substantive strength and undergirding of the Lord God. Truly, Jeremiah must have felt encouraged and emboldened as God spoke His part into Jeremiah’s life.

“…I formed you…”

“…I knew you…”

“…I consecrated you…”

“…I appointed you…”

“…I send you…”

“…I command you…”

“…I am with you to deliver you…”

“…I have put my words in your mouth…”

“…I have set you this day over nations…”

“…I make you this day…”

“…I am with you…”

Wow!

According to His words of commission, God has placed Himself as the driving force over Jeremiah’s call. Granted, God intends for Jeremiah to speak out when commanded, but He does not expect–nor does He even attempt to imply–that Jeremiah should feel compelled to speak or act on anything outside of those commands.

God created him for a purpose. God called him to that purpose. God desires for him to fulfill that purpose. That is enough for God.

And Jeremiah’s purpose? God gets to use him as a megaphone to speak judgment over the evil actions of His people. (Hint: Jeremiah’s life will get very, very uncomfortable.)

But here’s the pivotal verse that stuck out to me regarding this call: “And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land” (verse 18).

Hmmm…I can’t help but wonder how many times Jeremiah had to speak back to himself and encourage himself yet again in his call. “I am ‘a fortified city…an iron pillar…bronze walls…’ God made me thus.” I wonder how many times he didn’t feel like any of those things. (Say, when he was in stocks, or in the dungeon, or in the cistern.) How many times did Jeremiah have to remind himself of whom God made him…regardless of circumstances.

Sometimes the call of God places us in situations that don’t seem to match up with the vision. Those positions require a deeper determination to hold on to His words–to choose to allow His words, and not what we see or feel, to direct our course and steady our thoughts.

This aspect feels quite personal to me this morning. Having arrived in our new home near Little Rock, fresh and eager to start a new church, we find ourselves still settling in–wondering if we’re doing enough toward that end–pondering whether we should stop settling in and start to make that church happen. And yet God has not given my husband clear direction on the particulars. Ideas. Thoughts. But not clear and distinct direction. So we pray. So we wait. So we settle.

And yet the call on my husband’s life to be a pastor remains. He has been created, consecrated and appointed to be a pastor. He simply is one. And a pastor without people can feel a little at sea–just like a shepherd with no sheep. Ministering to people throbs within his heart and soul.

Therefore, keeping our vision focused, we remind ourselves of the call. The story of its inception. The steps God worked out so clearly to get us here. The verses and words of encouragement others have spoken into our lives. We recollect God’s faithfulness and His character to always, always fulfill His Word.

We choose to walk in His word and wait on His ways.

We choose not to run ahead of God, trusting that–like with Jeremiah–the One who called us will be the same One who will command us.

Our God.

His word. His call. His purpose. His time.

“…I am watching over My word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12b).

Praying for our people in our city from our porch.

Praying for our people in our city from our porch.

Mercy and Goodness for Every Day

I awakened this morning before dawn, my heart brimming with anticipation. After an hour of laying in bed, I determined that to be awake and with coffee sounded much, much better than simply being awake. So I got up.

Despite the very overcast sky, one thought purposed itself to rise above the rest: “God is good.”

God is good.

He is good on sunny days. He is good on stormy days. And, just like today, he is good on overcast days.

God is simply good. Everyday.

And like His goodness rings out across all manner of days, His mercies are also new…regardless of weather.

And circumstances.

You see, today my husband and I begin a new journey to start a church in Little Rock, Arkansas. In but a short time, we will get in our car, take our final look around, and drive away from our home, our church, and our dear ones.

And because I’m excited to my innermost being over this next stage in our journey, I want my weather to reflect the excitement of my new adventure. Sunny!!!

But it’s not.

It’s thickly overcast.

Thankfully, though, the weather does not determine God’s goodness. He’s still good. His gift of this morning is good. And His call for this journey is good.

Much like the daily weather does not alter God’s goodness, neither do circumstances alter God’s mercies. Each day awakens with the promise of new mercies, which overflow onto my life regardless of health or wealth. They simply abound each morning.

Isn’t that grand?

In short, God does not need my circumstances to determine who He is.

Merciful.

Good.

Faithful.

Loving.

When I can acknowledge that despite my circumstances–despite my weather–He is good–He is merciful–I can embrace each new day with the gratitude He deserves.

I’m thankful for this day. This heavily overcast day.

I’m thankful because the power of the sun exists beyond the clouds.

I’m thankful because the power of the Son exists beyond my circumstances.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

My Quiet Place of Strength

In God’s hand, a yielded weakness has greater power than an unyielded strength.

Because of my daily struggle with ME/CFS, I often live out my life in baby steps. Take tonight’s taco dinner, for example. Yesterday I browned and spiced the meat. This afternoon I prepped the cauliflower to steam for my “rice”. Finally this evening, I will pull it all together to serve buffet-style as a tasty meal for my family. (And they will do the dishes. Bonus!)

Managing a lifestyle around a frequently debilitating health issue requires loads of thought and planning. Absolutely everything I do comes with a trade-off. If I do “A” I cannot count on doing “B”. My life gets plotted and lived out in segments of days rather than just today. What I hope to accomplish tomorrow must get accounted for in today’s activity as well as the day following.

Can you imagine how discouraging and small my life must seem at times?

I’ve thought about this several times lately as our home has become a bedlam of activity. First came the demanding renovations, followed this past week by the stop-everything-and-pick-up-the-house-and-quickly-vacate mode of open houses and private showings, all while tackling some packing.

Or rather…Brad tackles the packing.

I rest and regenerate between activities.

We’ve discussed this–my beloved and I.

God has given to each of us our strengths and weaknesses–and then He paired us with each other in the most wonderful and remarkable of ways. My husband, thankfully, just happens to have enough energy for the both of us–God’s gift to him (and me!).

The odd thing about strengths and weakness and human behavior is that we tend to do one of two things: 1) evaluate others on their strengths while we evaluate ourselves on our weaknesses, or 2) the other way around.

I tend to view my husband through his assets (probably best for the marriage that way!). I see the energy he brings into the required busyness of renovating, selling and packing a home. And then I see myself on my comfy brown couch. He hustles and bustles. I sit. He takes care of business. I lounge.

Quite the discouraging disparity, don’t you think?

Well, I suppose it would be if God didn’t have a say in the whole thing.

But His word speaks. And, boy!, did it encourage my heart this morning! “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning (repentance) and rest you shall be saved (delivered, set free!); in quietness and in trust shall be your strength‘” (Isaiah 30:15a).

God has greatly used ME/CFS to cause me to “walk humbly before my God.” I literally can place “no confidence in the flesh.” After years of striving against what was happening to my body, I have learned to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, follow Him in quiet trust and rest in His plan to set me free (either on earth or in heaven–she said with a grin!).

This is my “in the pocket” place.

This quiet nook of a restful, trusting heart is my strength–God’s gift to me.

“I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only” (Psalm 71:16).

Pensive Ponderings of a Church-Planter’s Wife: His Helpmate Suitable

Several years ago, just before Brad went on staff at our church, I experienced an “oh.my.what.have.I.gotten.myself.into” moment. Also known as a moment of unexpected panic.

Prior to that instant, I had trotted along–simply content that the man I respected and honored would soon serve our church body as an associate pastor with the gifts God had given him. Content, that is, until that one moment in time when a dear man grinningly proclaimed, “So! You’re going to be a pastor’s wife!”

What?

I am?

I totally understood God’s call on Brad to become a pastor; after all, I knew how he lived. But, me? A pastor’s wife??

Goodness gracious! When did that happen??!!

With images of perfect women now running amok in my brain, I stuttered out a rather nebulous reply and wandered off to the lobby, where I gratefully ran into a sweet and no-nonsense older woman, who had stood with and supported her dear husband–another associate pastor on staff–for many a ministerial year. After explaining to her my confused state of mind, she offered me the lifeline of sage advice and joyful hope, all wrapped up in one short and practical conversation.

Me: “J. just said I’m going to be a pastor’s wife! I’m not sure I can do that! I understand Brad as a pastor! I just don’t think I’m a pastor’s wife!”

She: “Well, who did you marry?”

Me: “Brad.”

She: “Well, just keep being Brad’s wife! You didn’t walk down the aisle and say your vows to someone named “Pastor.” You said them to Brad. You just keep being Brad’s wife, and the rest will take care of itself.”

That fleeting yoke I had strapped on fell right off with those words. I only had to be Brad’s wife. Easy-peasy! I had been Brad’s wife for years, and simply loved my role.

Brad’s wife.

His “helpmate suitable.”

Let the joy of the journey resume!

As we embark on this new adventure, I couldn’t help but recall this conversation which brought such relief to my soul a decade ago. For in a vulnerable moment a couple of weeks back, another random comment caused all those feelings of inadequacy to rush forth and challenge my impending role as Senior Pastor’s Wife. With an “Oh, dear! How can I do all those ‘church planter’s wife’ kind of things?” and a “What if I can’t meet expectations?,” I felt my heart sink within me.

Cue the images of a pastor’s wife overseeing children’s ministries while trying to initiate a women’s ministries program. Not to mention making coffee and playing hostess at Bible studies.

Um…did God happen to remember that I’ve spent the past three years trying to figure out how to even get to church, let alone try to oversee or initiate any ministry?

And the answer is, “Yes.” God did indeed remember.

I had forgotten.

Through a brief conversation with my match-made-in-heaven, God reminded me that my primary role had never changed: I was still his “helpmate suitable.” Despite my health issues, I alone gave to Brad the three things he valued most in a wife:

  1. Someone who prayed intimately for him and our body.
  2. Someone who encouraged the call God had placed on his life.
  3. Someone who stood “all-in” with him.

God knows my shortcomings, just as He knows the shortcomings of every other single person in history whom He has chosen to use…including church planter’s wives.

And He has a plan. A plan that either includes a “strengthened” me or offers another dear child the opportunity to grow.

And He has abundant love for me. A love that remains mindful that I am “but dust,” and yet delights to show His glory through such a weak vessel.

You know what? I can hardly wait to see how my God gets the glory through my humble offerings. All I have to do is surrender myself to God and trust Him to do the work.

And joyfully remain Brad’s “helpmate suitable.”

“O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (Isaiah 26:12).