The Weight of Waiting

Imagine Hannah’s heart (1 Samuel 1) as she trudged up the hill to the temple yet again without a child. Imagine her inner struggle as to whether she should continue to believe God.

We’ve all been there: times when we were ready to go but God was ready for us to wait. It’s a unique kind of burden.

It usually requires years of experience in petitionary prayer to get the perspective necessary to see some of the reasons for God’s timing. In some cases we realize that we needed to change before we were able to receive the request rightly or without harming ourselves. In other cases it becomes clear that the waiting brought us the thing we wanted and also developed in us a far more patient, calm, and strong temperament. There are other nuances and beauties to God’s wise schedule that we can just barely glimpse.  -Tim Keller Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (2014, pg. 236)

This month on Pastor’s Wives, I reflect on waiting and how God expects us to act in the meantime. Continue reading

Walls and Weapons (part 2)

swiss army knife
I cut myself taking this photo of my 20-year-old, dull pocket knife! (c) Carole Sparks

You wouldn’t attack the Great Wall of China with a Swiss army knife…or would you?

Back to our study of 1 Corinthians 10:3-5. Are you ready to “finish the imagery and find our success,” as I said last week? I’m working to memorize these verses as part of my demolition plan! Continue reading

Walls and Weapons (part 1)

You wouldn’t attack the Great Wall of China with a swiss army knife, would you?

I’m not much for war movies. Braveheart grossed me out, Saving Private Ryan made me motion sick, and I probably won’t see Dunkirk. I’m also not inspired by battle imagery. If you dig any deeper into Scripture than the Armor of God (Ephesians 6), I kinda zone out. I don’t like to talk about Satan either. You can skim back through my posts and see that.

If we’re not actively
resisting the advances of
Satan, we’re helping him.

It’s time to face reality, though, in my personal life and in the world. The spiritual battle is surging and victimizing. I wish it was fought solely by spiritual beings (like when Daniel had to wait on an answer because the angel was busy in hand-to-hand combat—Daniel 10), but it’s not. We participate in the battle, usually not by choice. Because if we’re not actively resisting the advances of Satan, then we’re helping him.

One of Satan’s tactics involves building walls between us and God—walls around our hearts. Continue reading

Three Paths We “Walk”

Last week, I wrote about becoming more Christlike as we go through life.

The New Testament often uses the word walk to talk about the process of living. (In fact, the NIV uses “live a life” in place of walk in Colossians 1:10.) There wasn’t space, however, to unpack walk. Today, let’s revisit those verses and consider three paths in which we walk (because in follows walk all three times). Continue reading

Are We There Yet?

Some of us like to finish things. By “some of us,” I mean Type-A personalities like myself! We like to mark things off lists, close back covers of books, follow schedules, and meet goals before deadlines. We get impatient when the drive takes longer than planned; we like to arrive.

Because of my Type-A personality, certain gospel scenes challenge me. Like when Jesus and the disciples are heading off for some much-needed downtime but end up serving a big meal to a huge crowd (Mark 6:30-44). Or when a couple of disciples Continue reading

Stay in Your Lane!

Shortly after I turned fifteen, my Dad sat me behind the wheel of his big Ford truck, with its manual transmission and this lowest gear he called “bulldog gear.” It was almost impossible to kill the engine on that thing. Even though I’d driven a go-cart for years and the riding lawnmower for even longer (that’s another story altogether), nothing had prepared me for the frightening power of this truck. It took me a long time to learn how to control the truck rather than the truck controlling me.

One problem in driving plagued me for months, a problem unique to drivers of manual transmissions. Continue reading

One Man’s Treasure

11-24 children's Bible (1)
my first “real” Bible  (c) Carole Sparks

Jesus had just spent an hour or so with some kids. He hugged them, patted their heads, and blessed them (Mark 10:16). How do you picture that scene? I think he probably stooped down to be on their level or pulled them up to sit on his lap. I think he chatted with each one, smiled at them, comforted them, and just generally enjoyed himself. I think he learned their names, their pets’ names, their favorite activities, and anything else they wanted to share. I think he was patient when they stuttered and laughed at their silly jokes. After all, the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” This is one of my favorite images of Jesus, and not just because it was on the front of my very first Bible as a child.

Mark 10:17-22.

As Jesus stood to go from that happy, relaxing time, a man ran up and fell onto his knees in front of Jesus. Did he push some children out of the way? Did he see that Jesus was Continue reading

On Worship

A lifestyle of worship has been on my mind for awhile. It arises partly out of my study in Psalms and partly out of…well, a bunch of stuff. Anyway, I am glad to share some thoughts on worship this week with my blogging friend, Vanessa. Read the first bit here or click straight over to her blog and start from the beginning there.

As much as I am tempted to sleep in on Sunday mornings, I love worship time with my church. You see, we lived in a place without churches or church services for more than six years. Our corporate worship time involved gathering in the living room with some praise choruses pulled up on a computer screen. I think God was honored in those moments, but it was nothing like adding your voice to a few dozen (or a few hundred) other believers, singing out in praise and accompanied by talented musicians. Corporate worship and preaching fuel me for the week ahead.

But Sunday mornings are not the only time I worship.

I have learned that worship shouldn’t be a noun. It’s not a person, place, or thing; it’s an action. Sometimes it’s an active verb, like on Sunday mornings when we worship together. And sometimes it’s more like a state-of-being verb, a mindset that pervades everything else.

Dig into God’s call to worship–including some gleanings from Romans–at Vanessa’s blog. Otherwise, what do you think of as worship and when does it occur? Share your thoughts there or in the comments below.

What I write when I have nothing to write

I’m spiritually dry. I feel like there’s a vacuum cleaner above my head, and every time I begin to sense the Lord’s presence, that vacuum whirs into action and immediately sucks the feeling out of my reach.

This often happens to me around Christmas. Maybe it’s the extra obligations and travel. Maybe it’s the overblown expectation of some sweet spiritual experience. Maybe it’s the disruption of my regular schedule with kids home and husband off work and late nights which lead to late-rising mornings. Maybe it’s a new plan for my daily quiet time, and I haven’t adjusted yet. Maybe it’s the cold weather that makes it hard to go for a run and compels me to cook warm things instead.

What I’m trying to say is that I have nothing fresh and unique to offer you today. Even as I look back through my journals and find these great spiritual insights, I feel no conviction to write about them.

Faith is a choice founded
in conviction and ratified
in experience. (click to tweet)

But my faith is not a feeling. Faith is a choice founded in conviction and ratified in experience. It is an ever-present rock which cannot be shifted (Psalm 62:2).

God told Isaiah that people are like grass, and their faithfulness is like wildflowers in a field. The grass (which is the people) dries up and turns brown. The flowers (which is the people’s faithfulness) fall off their stems, but neither He nor His Word are like that; on the contrary, “the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

So I will do what I do what I do when there’s no doing left in my muscles.

I will sing what I sing when there’s no song left in my heart.

I will think what I think when there’s no thought left in my mind.

It’s the same thing so many before me have done.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior. -Habakkuk 3:17-18

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. -Psalm 71:14-16

I can always praise Him.

I can always declare His faithfulness back to Him even when my own faithfulness falters.

I can always remind myself of His sovereignty, His presence, His goodness.

What about you? What do you do when the well of spiritual nourishment goes dry? Let’s refresh each other with your comments below!

What to do when it’s not just your skin that’s dry in winter. (click to tweet)

When in Doubt…

When in doubt, just don’t leave.

I love to push into the Gospel stories, to take the people who populate them—the ones we’ve flattened into two-dimensional adjectives—and refold them like origami so we can see more of their personalities, more of their faithfulness.

Recently, Thomas has been on my mind. You know, “Doubting Thomas.” All we seem to remember about him is that he questioned Jesus’ resurrection. But tradition has it that Thomas travelled all the way to India and died there for his faith. That’s not the legacy of a skeptic.

John 20:24-29.

Thomas drew a metaphorical
line in the sand.

The first time Jesus appeared among the disciples, it was Sunday evening, the same day He arose. Thomas wasn’t there. We don’t know where he was. When he caught up with the rest of the disciples later, he just couldn’t believe what they said about Jesus being alive! He knew these guys; he’d spent the last three years with them; still, he couldn’t trust them enough to believe that. Thomas drew a metaphorical line in the sand: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were…I will not believe” (John 20:25).

We cast Thomas in a bad light here, but he wasn’t any different from the other disciples. Peter and John hadn’t believed Mary on that first morning. Remember? They had to run to the tomb and see for themselves (John 20:1-10). This resurrection thing was brand new. Even the night before Jesus’ death, no one understood what was going to happen. I don’t think Thomas was doubting Jesus so much as he was doubting his fellow disciples.

Thomas may have been a doubter,
but he wasn’t a deserter.

Thomas dug his feet into the sand behind his metaphorical line for a week. He didn’t go away, but neither did he believe. Don’t miss this: Thomas didn’t leave! He may have been a doubter, but he wasn’t a deserter.

The next Sunday night, all the disciples gathered in that same room—including Thomas—and Jesus appeared again. He was just there.

One second, no Jesus.

The next second, Jesus.

He greeted everyone perfunctorily, then turned straight to Thomas. He didn’t scold Thomas or withhold anything from him. He simply stretched out his hand and asked Thomas to touch Him. He gave Thomas what he needed in order to believe. With His actions, He answered Thomas’ doubt, then He commanded Thomas to believe.

Thomas immediately confessed his faith: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). There’s no greater acclamation.

I don’t know about you, but I have doubted. Sometimes, I still doubt. Maybe you should call me “Doubting Carole.” That’s why Thomas’ story encourages me so much. Like him, there’s more to me than my doubts. Like him, I can live with those doubts for a little while, until Jesus answers them.

In doubt, stay close…
stay where Jesus can
reach out to you.

As believers, the key for you and me when we doubt is that we don’t leave. Like Thomas, we stick around. We continue meeting with other believers. We keep searching our Bibles for answers. We persist in prayer (even when we think, “Umm, I don’t know if you’re even there, God.”). Like Thomas, we simply stay close, stay where He can reach out to us. The day will come—I know it will because I’ve been there—when He removes the doubt and our belief resurfaces. Then we, like Thomas, can exclaim without reservation, “My Lord and my God!”

Got doubts about faith issues? Just don’t leave. Wait on Jesus to reach out to you. via @Carole_Sparks #NotAboutMe (click to tweet)

Can you recall a time when you experienced serious doubts about God? I can, and my faith is stronger from having experienced that! Let me know how you persevered through doubts or how this post affects you…or anything else you want to say in response. That’s what the comment section is for!