Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 9)

It’s been nearly 10 days since President Trump released guidelines asking Americans to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.”

For me, one of the hardest things about staying home is not knowing how long all of this will last. I’m a planner, and my type-A brain can’t help but fixate on the timeline. I’m like a kid in the backseat on a long road trip whining, “How much longer?”

The children of Israel must’ve had the same question while wandering through the wilderness for 40 years, waiting for their Promised Land. The journey from Egypt to Canaan by foot, could’ve taken as little as 11 days. So, why the 40 year journey? The answer comes in two parts:

1) Initially, God took them the long way around on purpose. The shortest distance between two points is a line, yet when God led Israel out of Egypt, He led them away from Canaan and toward the Red Sea.

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea …” –Exodus 13:17‭-‬18 (NLT)

Because of the detour, Israel got to see miracles they might’ve missed out on otherwise. They passed through the middle of the Red Sea–walls of water on each side–and saw God deliver them from Pharaoh’s army. They knelt with cupped hands at the Oasis of Marah to quench their parched lips, knowing it was only possible because God had turned the bitter waters sweet. They filled their hungry bellies with bread rained down from heaven and encountered the presence and power of the living God at Mount Sinai.

By taking an indirect route, God revealed Himself and His care for Israel in a way that should’ve caused them to trust Him without reserve. He knew that they would need to trust Him deeply in order to face the enemies ahead and take possession of the Promised Land.

2) While the first (and shorter) delay was the result of God’s wisdom and grace, the second (much longer) one was the consequence of fear and doubt. God prepared Israel for the battles ahead, and then He instructed them to begin the process of taking the territory of the Promised Land.

“The Lord now said to Moses, ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.’

(Moses sends out 12 spies to explore Canaan. They all come back with reports of an amazing land “flowing with milk and honey,” but ten of the spies start to scare people with reports of giants and fortified cities.)

… Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. ‘Let’s go at once to take the land,’ he said. ‘We can certainly conquer it!’ But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. ‘We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!’ … ‘We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!’”
Numbers 13:2‭, ‬30‭-‬31‭, ‬33 (NLT)

On the first leg of the journey, God had gone to great lengths to prove both his power and provision to Israel. They were primed and positioned to claim what God had promised. But Twelve spies were sent to scout the land, and all but two came back with reports full of fear and doubt. These two–Joshua and Caleb–were the only people from the first generation that left Egypt who actually got to experience the Promised Land.

I don’t believe that God sent COVID-19, but I do believe He is working in the middle of this situation to prove His power, provision and care for you and me.

In this season, I want to embrace whole-heartedly any detours that are God’s doing so that when it’s time to receive His promises for my life, I will respond with faith and not fear.

Oh God, I believe that You are at work in the middle of this crazy situation. I believe that Your power and Your love are on display, even now. Open my eyes to see what You are doing. Teach me to trust You. May the roots of my faith grow deep into the foundation of Your faithfulness. I don’t want to wander needlessly because of fear and doubt. Help me be like Joshua and Caleb, who received Your promises, because they trusted You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 9: Commit to faith over fear today. Decide to trust God, regardless of what you see or how much time passes. Ask God to open your eyes to anything He may be trying to show you in this season.

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 8)


#18 Free Bubble Bonanza tickets
#19 No school on Monday
#20 Get to speak at church on Sunday
#22 A friend paid for my cute shirt
#23 Sappy Christmas movies

I fell off the grateful wagon sometime after #23.

A few months ago, a speaker at a local women’s retreat inspired me to make an ongoing list of reasons why I am grateful. It was a great idea! Gratefulness has a way of quieting a restless spirit, of teaching us to be content no matter the circumstances.

I remember starting out with the best of intentions. I’m not even sure when or why I stopped adding to my list. It just got pushed to the back burner of a busy life, I suppose.

I wouldn’t categorize my life over the past several months as ungrateful (at least I hope not), but edgy and unsettled probably aren’t too far from the truth. I certainly haven’t been going out of my way to find things to be thankful for.

Now, my life–like that of most Americans–is totally different than it was a couple of weeks ago. Sudden shifts in the status quo have a way of shifting perspectives too. It’s funny how things change.

If I were to pick up where I left off, my list might look like this:

(Mental note to reconsider #19. Ha!)

#24 Fresh air and good weather
#25 Walmart restocked AJ’s formula
#26 Facebook is hilarious right now
#27 Jesus isn’t scared of COVID-19
#28 My kids’ teachers care enough to plan well for online learning

“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”–Psalm 9:1 (ESV)

God, I have so many reasons to be grateful. In my busyness and distraction, I forgot, and I’m sorry. Thank You for the forgiveness that I find in You. I come to You now, thankful for the many ways You have blessed my life. I see the fingerprints of Your grace and mercy all around. You have been so patient with me and are always faithful to provide what I need in every area of life, even surprising me with unexpected gifts, just to say, “I love you.” You are so very good to me. I pray that my heart and life will be reshaped by gratitude. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 8: Today, find a creative way to document your gratitude. Write a letter or make a photo collage. Record a video or paint “grateful” rocks to scatter in your flower beds.

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Unquarantined:  Draw Near (Day 7)

Parents all over the world have been homeschooling their kids–some for years, some more recently due to COVID-19. Today was my first day, and it didn’t go at all how I planned.

It’s going to take some work and flexibility to figure out how best to homeschool my own kids while teaching 80 something 4th and 5th graders online. (I should pause and say that I’m so thankful to have a job I love and that it’s one I can continue to do while keeping my kids at home. I know not everyone has that luxury right now.)

Having said that … there are days that just make you feel like you come up short. Today was one of those for me. I needed more hours or more patience–probably the latter, honestly.

But there’s something that has always amazed me about God, and it gives me great hope in this time:

Whatever good thing is lacking in me is abundant in Him.

I was short on patience today, but my God is a deep well of patience. He’s offering me a big bucket, ready to draw up load after load.

Maybe I’m the only one feeling frustrated after a long day, hoping tomorrow I’ll find a way to get it together. Just in case you need to hear it, though:

Our God never runs out of patience, wisdom, or unconditional love. He’s got enough strength and peace to supply the whole world, and then some. There will never be a need to settle for lesser quality self-control. We won’t have to manufacture our own joy, simply because the storehouse “ran out.” His supply chain will never break down, and His deliveries will never be late.

Do you need hope? How about the grace to be gentle and kind toward your family? Jesus on the inside of you IS hope. He IS gentleness and kindness and every good thing you need.

So tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. Wake up with an empty bucket–ready to draw water from the well of all that God is. He will live His goodness and mercy out through you and me. We just need to lay down our own attempts, which fall short anyway, and depend on Him instead.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”–Galatians 5:22‭-‬23 (NLT)

God, there’s no way that I can do everything that I need to do right now without Your help. I need wisdom to discern what’s important in this season and what is not. Holy Spirit, I need Your fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control to flow out of me–especially in this time of uncertainty. Please help me to lay down my own efforts and allow everything You are to overwhelm my weakness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 7: Choose a characteristic of God that is needed in your life today. (You could look at the words in the image attached to this post or do a Google search on the “attributes of God.”) Once you’ve chosen a characteristic, find one or two Bible verses that relate to your choice. (Another Google search or the reference section in the back of your Bible might be helpful.) Now, pray, “Lord You are abounding in _________. Please fill my bucket full of Your _________ today.”

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 6)

This post will be short.

I’ve heard and read much about the current situation being a golden opportunity to step back from the chaos, still the busyness, and turn our attention back to God and family. I totally agree.

It’s amazing how hard it can be to actually do that. I’ve been in my house with my family, writing daily blog posts about drawing near to God, and still, I’m finding it so difficult to pull my mind away from the influx of information coming my way. Even when I purposely turn off the TV and put down my phone, my mind keeps spinning.

So, today my prayer is for the grace to be still.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”–Psalms 46:10 (NKJV)

God, I sense You drawing me to a quiet place, away from the noise, where I can hear Your voice unhindered. Please give me the courage, the discipline and the grace to follow You there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 6: To the best of your ability, put away and turn off all distractions and sit in silence for 30 minutes. Have a cup of coffee or a Dr. Pepper, and ask God to quiet your soul. Expect Him to speak to Your heart.

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 5)

  • Do something kind and unexpected.
  • Ask, “What three things do I do that annoy you?” Then, work on the answers.
  • Buy a meaningful gift.
  • Call for no reason other than to check in.
  • Write a sweet note.
  • Choose to say nothing negative for 24 hours.

Robert and I have only just started reading, “The Love Dare”–a book inspired by the movie “Fireproof.” Every chapter ends with a dare meant to grow our marriage. (That second one was tough. Ha!)

Some of the dares have really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I think relationships–growing ones at least–tend to do that from time to time. One of my favorite things about my husband is that he inspires me to want to grow in every area of my life.

God is that way too. To walk in relationship with Him is inevitably going to mean a gentle nudge toward something bigger than yourself and beyond your own abilities. He is a faith-filled God, and He calls us to do things that we could never accomplish on our own.

On one hand, that is super exciting! Getting to partner with the King of Heaven in ways that further His Kingdom? Incredible.

On the other hand, words like insecure, unsure, and “Whoa Nellie!” come to mind. Still, God is … well, God, and sitting on the sidelines has never been part of having a relationship with Him.

We’re talking about the One who used Moses to split the Red Sea, Peter and John to minister healing to a lame man, and Paul to write two thirds of the New Testament. It is hard to imagine Him saying, “Yeah, just sit this one out if you’re not up to it.”

We are believers in Jesus. Believers believe! Not in ourselves but in our God who is so very capable of taking the smallness of what we have to offer Him and making it count big for all of eternity.

“Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men …”–Colossians 3:23 (BSB)

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”–Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

God, I’m so thankful that life with You is adventurous and that You are always leading me to the next step of faith. Help me to respond quickly and wholeheartedly to Your call, knowing that You will be there holding my hand every moment. I trust that You can accomplish infinitely more than I could ever think to ask. In Jesus name, Amen.

Day 5: Ask God how you can partner with Him in this season of your life to make an impact on the world He loves. Is He leading you to do something that intimidates you? Awesome! That’s what faith is for! God is only asking for simple, humble obedience. The results are up to Him.

It’s sometimes hard for me to put myself out there–especially in new ways. My step of faith for today was to make this video. Thankfully, my husband and mom joined me so I didn’t have to do it alone! I was also inspired by several friends who’ve stepped out of their comfort zones–using social media to connect during a time when so many people are stuck in their homes.

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 4)

*This post is part of a 14-day series. Click here to start from day
one, or join in whenever you’d like.

“Should I hold this roll of toilet paper?”

Yes! You definitely should!”

The above is some stranger-than-normal dialogue that I had with one of my teacher friends at school today while a group of us (quite hilariously) tried to make a TikTok video for the enjoyment of our students, who are now learning from home.

During a more regular school day, I probably have a dozen quick conversations with my friend (she’s in the classroom next door). Sometimes it’s a clarifying question about what we’re supposed to be doing. Other times, it is to ask for advice or bounce ideas around. Often, we’re pausing to laugh at something funny a kid said or did. In any case, it’s just nice to be able converse with someone who is “walking the same hallways,” so to speak.

When I left school on this no-so-typical day, I stopped pick up AJ from another sweet friend who takes care of him during the week. I lingered in her living room, knowing that our face-to-face talks will probably be few and far between for awhile. Conversation over coffee is going to be hard to come by for the time being, I’m afraid. (Robert doesn’t drink coffee, and I’m not about to give it to any of my kids right now!)

When I started this 14-day blog series, it was out of a desire to deepen my relationship with God and also to do more than just survive COVID-19 inside the four walls of my house. I did not go into it knowing what the topic for each day would be, so I’ve just been taking things one day at a time. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I guess I assumed that I’d be writing about prayer eventually–after all, what better way is there to get to know someone than to talk with Him? That’s what prayer is. Talking with God.

To be honest, I’m not that great at conversational prayer. I feel way more comfortable praising and thanking God or praying His Word. Both of these are important aspects of prayer, but neither is quite as intimate as talking with God like you’d talk to a friend. You know, that relaxed chatter that effortlessly flows when you’re with someone you’ve known for what seems like forever.

I’m not sure why I struggle with this; it’s something God is walking me through. I’m starting to see that as much as I am a follower and a worshiper and a believer, God also wants to call me friend. The Bible gives us several examples of friendship between God and the people He’s created:

  • ” … the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”–Exodus 33:11 (NLT)
  • ” … ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God.”–James 2:23 (NLT)
  • “I [Jesus] no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”–John 15:15 (NLT)

I think that when I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing” it is speaking about the kind of prayer that engages our heart throughout the day–like close friends who constantly find a way to connect. Even when they can’t talk, they’re making mental notes like “I’ll tell her that later” or “she’ll think that’s funny!

Communication isn’t always verbal, it isn’t even always language-based, but it is always cognizant of the presence of another. Energetic or still, audible or silent, speaking or listening–whatever its form, a good conversation places value on relationship. It says, “I want to know you and be known by you. I want to share all the parts of my life with you.”

How different would my life (and yours) be if the next time we got good news, we shared it with God first? Sure, He already knows, but good news is best celebrated with the ones we love most. Doesn’t our God fit into that category? Shouldn’t He be at the top of our contact list? How about those nagging thoughts that have previously seemed too inconsequential to bother God with? Does He care? Yes! King David wrote:

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”–Psalm 56:8 (ESV)

If only my heart could be convinced that God truly cares about the biggest and smallest things in my life, the sorrowful and the funny, the spiritual and the mundane. If I could just remember how well He knows me–better than my oldest friend.

God, You are holy and You are my King. My mind can’t comprehend how You can be those things and also desire friendship with me. Still, Your Word says it is so, and I believe what You have said. I want us to have an un-guarded, walls down, tell You any and everything kind of relationship. I want You to be my first call when I have something to say and the One whose input I value the most. Will You show me the way?

Day 4: Today, make an effort to dialogue with God throughout the day about all things, big and small. Trust that He cares about the details of your life. As you reach for the phone to call, text, or e-mail, consider talking to God about it first.

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 3)

My students got to come to school this morning, if only for a day. We talked about online learning from home and why it is necessary. They are 4th and 5th graders–smart enough to understand a lot of what is going on and definitely old enough to feel the emotion of it all.

Today, the thing that stuck out to me most was how so many people–from the youngest students to the most seasoned teachers–are just looking for something normal, something stable to hang on to. I could see it in the eyes of kids, hear it in the voices of my peers, and sense it in my own heart.

Our elementary school is a home away from home for students and staff too. It is easy to take that kind of community for granted until you know you’re not going to have it for awhile.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is aching some on the inside for all the connection I know I’ll miss in the next couple of weeks. It’s strange how you can feel a little homeless even while confined to your house. Home is more than just immediate family. It is pushing tables together to accommodate aunts and uncles, cousins, and gammies. It is spontaneous trips with friends to the zoo and piling into the car for a Sonic run. It is circling up to pray or sitting with an open Bible, shoulder to shoulder with precious people of like faith.

These last few days, I’ve found my home again in worship. Looking back, every difficult season of my life has brought me here. To praise. To less of me and more of Him. I sing sometimes, but it’s more than just singing. Like pouring out yesterday’s coffee, it is emptying myself to be filled with something fresh. Like sinking into the most comfortable chair in the house, it is settling into the role I was created to fill. It is remembering and responding to and reciting the faithfulness of God.

Worship can look like a million different things, but it is marked by a heart turned toward Heaven, focused on Jesus. For me, right now, worship looks like crawling into bed with YouTube streaming on the TV. Robert is a night owl, so it’s just me and a playlist full of worship music. I’m singing sometimes and praying sometimes and sometimes just sitting still. After awhile, I realize it’s not just me, because God meant it when He said He would come to us.

Make me an earthen Altar. Sacrifice your Whole-Burnt-Offerings, your Peace-Offerings, your sheep, and your cattle on it. Every place where I cause my name to be honored in your worship, I’ll be there myself and bless you.”–Exodus 20:24 (MSG, emphasis mine)

Our God doesn’t require animal sacrifices any more. Jesus took care of that at the cross. What He asks for now is a living sacrifice–a life totally surrendered to Him (Roman’s 12:1). Worship prepares us to freely lay down all that we have and everything we are before our trustworthy King.

And when we build an altar–a place of offering–in our own hearts, God promises to meet us there. Oh, how I need God’s presence, with all of the peace and calm and steadiness He brings. It is worth whatever it may cost me in the way of personal surrender.

Worship feels like connection and community. Like stability. Like home.

Day 3: Create some space to worship God today, however that looks for you. Come to Him prepared to release whatever you’ve been holding onto in exchange for all that He offers. Expect to experience His presence and His peace.

God, You are so worthy of my worship. I choose to honor You today with my praise. And even though worship is not about me–You are so good to meet with me in the place of my offering. I want to experience Your peace and Your love more than ever before. Steady me with your presence. Thank you for being my home.

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 2)

I used to watch a show called “House.” It was a sitcom titled for its main character, Dr. Gregory House. Despite having an awful bedside manner, House was a genius diagnostician and always solved the medical puzzle by the end of the episode.

While flipping aimlessly through channels one day, I did a double take at an interview with Hugh Laurie, the actor who plays House. You see, Gregory House is a cranky American doctor, and Hugh Laurie was speaking with a British accent. I’d watched season after season of the show and never would’ve guessed that the actor wasn’t born and raised in the United States.

More than once, I’ve found myself wandering aimlessly through life, whole seasons passing me by, before I realized that my relationship with God needed a double take. I was hearing plenty of what others had to say about Jesus but lately, hadn’t taken the time to get to know Him firsthand.

Having a relationship with God that is based mostly on what others say about Him is a lot like relating to a fictional character. You’re familiar with the stories but hardly know the person behind them.

How do we get to know a God we cannot see? Through His Word.

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”–John 1:14 (NLT)

This passage reveals that Jesus IS the Word of God. From “Let there be light” in the first chapter of Genesis to “Surely I am coming soon” at the close of Revelation, the Bible is alive with the breath of God.

God’s Word is more than an autobiography. That alone would be incredible, but the Author invites us into His Great Story and we are changed as we encounter Him there.

Self described, the Bible is a lamp to guide us. It is bread for the hungry, water that cleanses, and a mirror to reveal the truth. The Word of God is a fire that ignites and purifies the soul. It is the mightiest of swords.

To delve into God’s Word is to search His heart.

Day 2: Along with refusing to dwell on anything negative today, find a Bible verse that speaks to you in this season. Feel free to use the one I chose (below), or better yet, ask God to lead you to the scripture that He has for you right now. He is faithful to answer! Write your verse on a notecard, the bathroom mirror, your phone’s lockscreen, or somewhere else you will see it often.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”–Psalms 27:13‭-‬14 (NKJV)

God,

You could have kept me at a distance, but instead You sent Your Son Jesus into my world to make a way for me to come to You. You could have held me at arms length, but instead You revealed who You are through Your Word and invited me into Your Story. As I meditate on Your Word today, I invite You to deal with the misconceptions that I have about who You really are. I want to know You firsthand.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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