As I was preparing to write this week’s blog post, I came across something I wrote several years ago, soon after we moved back to the US from London. This so spoke to me that I felt I should share it with you today. At the time I wrote this, we were living in the Central Oregon woods, about 30 miles south of Bend, Oregon. I hope this is as helpful and refreshing to you as I was to me when I read it this morning.
Here it is:
It started snowing again this morning about 7:30. It’s the 15th of March and I have been hoping and praying that the snow would be over soon. Since we returned from Uganda two weeks ago, much of the snow has melted and the two miles of dirt road has gone through the stages of deep water, ice, and soupy mud. With the warm days and cold nights we’ve been having, it looked as if we were about finished with the daily road adventures. Now it’s snowing and we are in a white world – all the bare spots on the drive and the roof are covered again and it looks like we’re back to square one.
I took a few minutes during my quiet time this morning to read some of the entries in my daily Journal from January and February this year. I was so interested in what I read that I got some earlier journals from 1999 and 2000 off the shelf and read some of the entries in them as well. I’d like to tell you some of what I found and what I learned about myself in the process.
By the way, my daily journal is not filled exclusively with page after page of great spiritual revelations and insights. Hopefully there is some of that, but my journal tends to be a sort of combination daily diary, an account of what’s happening. Then I write about significant events of the preceding day, things I expect, dread, or hope for today, ups and downs of how I’m feeling, and what I’m thinking about or struggling to understand or decide. Then I write prayers in which I give over my concerns to my Father and ask him a lot of questions that he sometimes answers and sometimes doesn’t.
There are several things that really stood out to me from my time of rereading my journals this morning:
First, I was appalled at how bad my hand writing is and how difficult it is to decipher some of what I wrote. Do you think it’s too late for me to improve my penmanship?
Second, I was surprised at how much I had put in my journal about how I was feeling about issues and situations. It was good to realize that many of those situations about which I expressed serious concern have responded to prayer, have worked themselves out, and are no longer matters for concern. Some haven’t changed and remain prayer concerns today. Some haven’t changed but I have found grace to accept them as they are.
I was also surprised that I don’t remember the intensity with which I was “feeling” about many of those situations. It is obvious from my journal entries that many of these seemed at the time to be earth-shaking situations and that I was certain I would never forget them because of their seriousness or intensity. Yet in reading about them from this distance, they don’t seem very serious at all. In some cases I’ve forgotten all about them.
Another thing that really got my attention is that on some of the issues I had prayed about – crisis issues that I felt had to be resolved immediately for life to continue – I find that months later, even a year later, they remain unanswered prayers and unresolved issues and life does go on in spite of that. Perhaps God is a better judge than I of what is major and what is minor and when action should be taken!
I also discovered that many prayers I had prayed / written to my Father in times of deep concern and uncertainty have been answered perfectly, but completely unpredictably! The answers that he has given are so much different and so much better than any scenario I could possibly have imagined. And my journal is evidence that I often attempted to sketch out for him how he should at least consider working these things out. I’m so glad he didn’t take my advice on every one of these matters!
There is an interesting recurring theme of asking him what comes next after our very busy and fruitful almost two decades of living and ministering outside the US in Jamaica and the UK and in travels to Africa and Central America. God graciously provided this mountain hideaway and place of rest and restoration for us. He directed us to a great church to attend for worship and God’s word. We had a great small group for fellowship and mutual encouragement. Our travel to minister in the UK and East Africa continued. Our relationships with people in our small group continued to grow. But what comes next, Lord?
In January 2000, only a few months after we left London and came to Central Oregon, during my daily Bible reading the Lord had quickened a scripture to me from Genesis 50:24 “God will surely come for you…He will bring you back to the land He vowed to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Gen 50:24 NLT). I was fully confident that God had spoken that to us and that this was his personal promise to us. I was praying for the fulfillment of his promise. I was trying to imagine the possible ways he could bring it to pass. I was trying to figure out whether we needed to be actively seeking ways “back to the land..” or whether we should be passively waiting for Him to “…come for us.”
In mid-October 2000, just one day after our return from one of our most fruitful times of ministry in Uganda, and just one year and one day since coming to Bend from London, God “came for us!” Ken Johnson, pastor of Westside Church in Bend, where we had been so refreshed and renewed for nearly a year phoned and asked me to consider becoming part of the pastoral team at Westside and to lead and serve the pastors of Adult Discipleship, Pastoral Care, and Small Group ministry. What a perfect fit for us! Being part of a team serving in the local church and being able to continue the development, translation, and distribution of the Foundation for Christian Service course in Africa and the training and equipping of pastors and leaders in East Africa with the FFCS course for Lay Leadership Training. Have you ever noticed how we usually think God’s answer to prayer has to be “either – or” and he often shows us an answer that is “both this and that?”
Looking back at my journal and seeing how small and limited my ideas often are and how faithless and sort of “whiney” some of my prayers were, I am again amazed at his Amazing Grace!
The most redeeming thing I find in my prayers and questions to my Father over the past year is a continuing pattern of submission to his will. I can’t seem to get to the point yet of leaving everything in His hands from the outset. I still have to try to plan and reason and suggest possible solutions or outcomes. But as I read through the entries in my journal, I find that I consistently (eventually) submit it all to him; to his wisdom, to his care; to his timing; to his power and love.
If there is anything I can recommend to you from my reading today in past volumes of my daily journal it would be this:
- Be consistent in your quiet time or daily devotional time.
- Be honest in your daily communication with God – how you feel, what you’re struggling with, what you’re hoping for.
- Keep a journal. Write your thoughts, concerns, prayers, hopes, and dreams. (Recording the daily temperature and snowfall is optional!)
- Make sure that your journal is representative of you and not simply patterned after someone else’s journal.
- Take a little time every few months to look back. Reread some of your journal entries.
- Look for answered prayers.
- Look for positive patterns to be reinforced.
- Look for negative patterns to be worked on for change.
- Look for the fingerprints of Grace where God’s hand has touched your life.
It’s still snowing. But this too will pass!
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.