The Storm Before the Calm

Sufficient Grace Ministries hosted our first big volunteer/informational meeting yesterday morning at SGM headquarters. Prior to the meeting, I went through the usual gamut of spiritual attacks, this time with a specific twist. Usually, I am overwhelmed with anxiety that presents itself in various forms, even affecting bodily functions. I am a whole lotta small, people….a whole lotta small. Sometimes fear grips me in the shower before I have to speak or sing or host an event. The tears mix with the shower droplets, as I cry out to the One who delivers.

Why, why, why did I say yes to this, God. I don’t wanna do it. I don’t wanna do it…more than I ever didn’t want to do anything before. Please help me. I crumble in the face of “not enough” and “what-if”, the accuser standing dark and loud whispering crippling lies in my ear. I will run to the Word for comfort…knowing the only way to fight lies is with the truth. But, oh the thick struggle it is to make my way to the bible. Sometimes I sing praise songs. Sometimes I go out of my ever-lovin’ mind and Mr. Gerken has to speak some reason into my crazy.

God whispers back to me, “Remember when I asked you if you would say yes? You said yes.”

Really, does that count? It was the tiniest yes, years ago. I barely squeaked it out. You said, “I don’t want you to sit it out anymore. I want you to dance. If I ask you to go, will you say yes?” And I choked out a yes. A barely yes. And, I had no idea what you were planning.

And, don’t I always meet you there?

Yes. (whispered small)

I know it. I know the truth. I know He wants me to dance. I know He won’t make me walk into the lion’s den…er…ahem…the stage alone. I know He will meet me there and bring beauty from my mess. I know it. But, in the panic before I get to the place where He swoops in with all-sufficient grace, all mighty and big, I stand quivering and small…wondering.

Are you sure? What if this time He doesn’t come? What if I’m such a mess, He can’t fix it this time? Not really. In truth…I’m too scared to even ask that question. But it’s there, in the recesses of my mind, prompting panic.

Usually, that’s how it goes. But, yesterday was a little different. You see, the grace we get from our loving Father is specifically designed just for us. And, so are the attacks the enemy fashions for us.

The week prior to the meeting, Lynette and I were praying that God would be the one “building the house” of Sufficient Grace Ministries. (Psalm 127) And, we also prayed for unity among those serving.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,  that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Romans 15:5-6

The enemy hates it when you pray scripture. And, I should’ve seen it coming. You know, every time, we do this song and dance. Every time, the enemy attacks before I go out to speak and I cower and cling to the Lord the best I can. He shows Himself mighty and faithful, and afterwards, I stand in awe of His grace, feeling humbled that I would ever doubt His faithfulness. This time, the attack was specific. Divide and conquer….the enemy’s response to our prayer for unity. About 10 people canceled for various reasons at the last minute. There was nothing that could be done in many of the situations. Legitimate issues came up for several individuals that hindered them from coming. A few just didn’t come. It was an important meeting, the first time we were gathering all the volunteer groups at once to answer questions. I started to wonder if anyone was coming. Would I be wasting the volunteer group leaders’ time if no one showed up? I felt the weight settle heavy. Overwhelmed and discouraged.

I vented. Prayed. And, scurried to prepare. We had worked hard to ready our conference room all week. Nancy, Lynette, and I…with some help from Jamie the floor buffer and Tim, the floor fixer. Now, we just needed people to fill our empty room.

conference room

And, when I walked into the room to begin the meeting…


Close to 40 beautiful faces with willing hearts staring back at me.

And, He gently whispered….Oh ye of little faith. When will you learn? I will always meet you there.

His answer to my “not enough”.


Sometimes humble pie tastes good, when it’s covered with love and grace.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
 The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Psalm 126:2-3



- to look forward to as certain: expect

A couple of years ago, I began embracing the tradition of choosing a word for the year. Rather, I would ask God to send me a word. A word to focus on in the coming year. A word He could use to teach me some hidden truth, to reveal some precious treasure…another piece of Who He is. More evidence of my desperate need for Him. In 2011, He whispered to my heart…instructing me to cling. It was a very good word for that year, as we spent most of it waiting without concrete answers as He built faith in us and prepared the way for the next steps in our journey. Last year, He reminded of His promise to restore. Last year, He sent abundant answers to years of prayers, restoring so many broken places longing for healing in our hearts. We are still reeling and in awe of the restoration He has sent in our family, our work lives, so many things. Eternal things, earthly things, relationships. This year, He is impressing on my heart the word anticipate. I have been juggling anticipate and trust back and forth, as they seem to go hand in hand. And, both are relevant lessons for me. Our lives have become a walk of blind faith and trusting in Him since I left my full-time job to serve in ministry at SGM. He has proven faithful each time our needs weigh heavy on the heart, even when doubt creeps in and my eyes get to looking at what lays before me, rather than trusting in what I know of His faithfulness.

So, He wants me to trust Him.

But, not just an idle trust. I sense He wants something deeper. There is a place we can walk where do not merely go, as He drags us reluctantly along. Not a tentative trusting. A bold embracing of what lies before us unseen. Pastor James spoke this morning of the fearfulness we often experience when our great and majestic God, the same God who appeared to Moses on the Mount and Peter in Luke 9…the powerful God in a dark cloud, with the booming voice. The One saying to trust what He says and follow where He leads…no matter where that path takes us. Trust is quite a thing for those of us who know that trusting doesn’t always mean we are safe…from pain or loss, or stripping devastation. Those of us who know that people we love sometimes walk away or die horrible deaths. Those of us who have watched tiny caskets lowered into the cold earth. Trust doesn’t come easy for hearts that have been so broken.

But, then again. Those of us who have been so broken, and have seen His gentle restoration…those of us, dwelling for a season in hopelessness… for days, weeks, months, or years in the pits of despair, hair hanging in our eyes, pale, undernourished spirits, eyes sunk in from the grief and faces permanently stained with the salty tears, beaten by life. Some grief we choose for ourselves with our wayward walk. Some comes upon us simply because of the fallen world in which we live. And, yet…even while we willingly wallowed in the pits of despair and hopelessness, He stood patiently outside the pit, waiting with a hand strong enough to lift us out of the mire. Again. And again. No matter how many times we found ourselves there. When we see how He lovingly restores…making beauty from ashes. So much beauty from our ugly. When we watch Him say, “Trust Me” to provide what we need…and He does it again and again…making something appear from nothing. Moving generous hearts to give. Making a little last like the oil that never ran out, but kept burning with the light. Well, then…it isn’t so hard to trust.


Deuteronony 1:29-33 (from The Message)
I tried to relieve your fears: “Don’t be terrified of them. GOD, your God, is leading the way; he’s fighting for you. You saw with your own eyes what he did for you in Egypt; you saw what he did in the wilderness, how GOD, your God, carried you as a father carries his child, carried you the whole way until you arrived here. But now that you’re here, you won’t trust GOD, your God—this same GOD who goes ahead of you in your travels to scout out a place to pitch camp, a fire by night and a cloud by day to show you the way to go.”

Or maybe it is…for weak sheep. No different am I than the Israelites in the wilderness, being led by the Lord…a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, being fed with manna from heaven. And, yet, when I see the needs growing and the provisions dwindling, I doubt for a moment…as if He will not be faithful this time…as He has been so many times before. He seems to have to show me again and again. The same lesson. He is Who He says He is and He is faithful to provide. Faithful to complete the good work He began in us. Faithful to lead us on the path He chooses.

The verses below encompass His message, whispered to my heart the last several years. The words in parentheses are mine.

Psalm 91:14-16 (from The Message)
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” (cling) says GOD,  “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care  if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;  I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party (restore). I’ll give you a long life,  give you a long drink of salvation!”(anticipate)

Ephesians 2:7-10 (from The Message)
Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

We have to get out of the way, and trust God enough to let Him do it! He is able…and it’s a gift to dwell safely in the arms of the One willing and able to carry us. Which brings us to anticipate. I believe that God wants more than the ginger steps of faith I’ve taken. He’ll allow ginger steps and He still calls that faith. But, He wants us to boldly go…trusting and expecting the good plans He has for us. Like an adventure. A child-like expectation. The kind of anticipation we see in a child at Christmas, excitedly awaiting the good gifts we will receive. Not fearful of the “what-ifs” or held back with “if onlys”.

Will life be perfect on this earth? No, of course not. I’m not saying that everything we face is as easy as Christmas morning. There are times when we stand in the valley of the shadow of death, and little seems like a light, happy adventure. But, we can anticipate, even in the darkest valley. I remember standing beside my mother’s ailing body as she gasped for her last ragged breaths in the waning weeks of her life. Someone asked me then, if I was afraid, because death was so close to where we stood, and the next world…eternity…seemed almost a tangible, thick presence in the room.

Without thinking, I responded, “No. I wasn’t afraid. I was excited for her. Prayerful that she would be with Jesus soon. And, I looked forward to feeling the presence of Jesus so near, like I did when He came to take my Thomas home.”

It wasn’t so easy and tied up in a neat bow. There were dark parts, lonely parts, parts when her suffering was so intense I wondered if He would ever come. And, I never did feel Him the way I felt Him with Thomas. Sometimes trusting means “believing without seeing…or feeling it”. But, still…even in the darkness, we can anticipate because of the promise in the scripture below. Even if we don’t see the answers on this earth, we can anticipate good gifts in eternity.

Isaiah 65:17-25
[ New Heavens and a New Earth ]   “Pay close attention now:  I’m creating new heavens and a new earth. All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain  are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy.  Anticipate what I’m creating: I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,  create my people as pure delight. I’ll take joy in Jerusalem,  take delight in my people: No more sounds of weeping in the city,  no cries of anguish; No more babies dying in the cradle,  or old people who don’t enjoy a full lifetime; One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal—  anything less will seem like a cheat. They’ll build houses  and move in. They’ll plant fields  and eat what they grow. No more building a house  that some outsider takes over, No more planting fields  that some enemy confiscates, For my people will be as long-lived as trees,  my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work. They won’t work and have nothing come of it,  they won’t have children snatched out from under them. For they themselves are plantings blessed by GOD,  with their children and grandchildren likewise GOD-blessed. Before they call out, I’ll answer.  Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard. Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,  lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,  but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt! Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill  anywhere on my Holy Mountain,” says GOD.

So, here’s to looking forward with certainty to His promises and provision for our family and Sufficient Grace Ministries in 2013. Anticipating more of Him…more grace, more love, more truth, more adventure, more growth, more faith, more comfort, more hope… anticipating.

Has He impressed a word on your heart for the coming year?