Pregnant woman by title: "Might Be Today"

 

Rising from breakfast, I glanced at the small pile of dishes. I should wash them without delay because it might be today.

I reach for the measuring cup I use to water the houseplants. As I give each plant a drink I wonder, “Is this the last time before it happens?” Just in case, I give them extra.

As I hug my husband and tell him to have a good day at work, I remind him that it could be his last for a while because it might be today.

What might be today?

My baby might be born. Being past the due date now, I’m watching and hoping for signs that she might be coming.

In the meantime, we’re doing our best to keep everything ready.

We keep the dishes clean and the pantry stocked. We’ve already set out extra water for the cat and are at the ready to give her enough food to last longer.

The car seat is sitting by the door and the hospital bag is packed.

My husband’s co-workers have been informed and the truck has gas. We’ve even practiced driving to the hospital to be sure we know where to go.

Now we wait.

Will she come today? I don’t know, but I hope so.

Why do I share these thoughts? Because my baby is not the only one who might be coming today.

Jesus has told us that He is coming again. He might come today, or call me home.

Am I ready?

Is my heart prepared for His return?

Have I done the dishes and packed the hospital bag? Or have I let the dirty dishes pile into an unsightly heap?

Am I living as if this life is all there is or am I prepared for eternity?

In Matthew 24, Jesus is very clear. He is returning one day, but no one knows what day it will be. We must be ready for Him at any moment.

“This is why you are also to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44 CSB)

Likewise, I know my baby is coming, but I don’t know which day. Therefore, I must be prepared for her arrival at any moment.

There is a song that’s been on my mind as I think about Jesus’ near return. It reminds us that:

“It might be today I look into Your eyes. It might be today I see Your face…”  (https://www.worshipsong.com/music/songs/songdetails/it-might-be-today)

Am I ready for His return? 

Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8b CSB) 

Oh, that He would find faith in me and find me ready on the day He returns or calls me home.

 

Brown grass and an empty pond

 

I followed the familiar path, thankful for a chance to get outside. The air had a chill, but only the smallest patches of snow lay where the sun could not find them hidden beneath the shadows. Otherwise, the ground was dry.

In fact, everything was dry. The grass was brown and the trees stood bare. The leaves, the trees had dropped, crunched under my feet. There was little colour anywhere beyond brown, brown, and more brown.

I stepped through the fence and swept fallen leaves off the bench before sitting on it. I stared at the pond in front of me. It was empty. There was no water.

Our summer had been longer and more dry than most years. The pond that typically had at least a little water all year round – indeed, sometimes enough to skate on in the winter – now lay empty.

It was more than that, though. This fall, not only had the pond become empty, but the typically impassable gooey mud of the pond bed had dried out to the extent that the property owner was able to drive heavy machinery through the pond. I could still see the thick tread marks.

The heavy machinery had been used to push dirt around. A large mound lay to the side. Much of the pond bed was now raw exposed dirt.

Yet, as I sat there, I was not displeased at the sight of thick tread marks and mounds of dirt because I knew the purpose.

The property owner had dug the pond deeper. Why? To increase its capacity. When the winter snow melts and spring rains come, the pond will be able to hold even more water than before. This will make it less likely to dry out when the following summer turns to autumn.

This deepening of the pond bed was something the property owner could only do during the rare times when the pond dried up. Not only did the pond need to be empty for such work to be done, but the mud at the bottom of it needed to dry for long enough to support the weight of the heavy machinery without causing it to sink and get stuck.

I leaned back on the bench listening to the occasional bird call in the otherwise silent afternoon.

Surely there was something to be learned from this pond, a lesson I could learn.

A sober thought came to me.

It is only when I am empty that God can do the work of increasing capacity in me.

True, there are many ways God works in my life.

While the property owner could trim the bushes around the edge of the pond, or add stones to the path leading to it while it was full, there are some kinds of work he could not do until the pond was beyond empty.

Likewise, God can work in my life in many ways, but some kinds of deepening can only be done when I am empty – empty of myself.

So what is it that the Lord wants to increase my capacity for? Some things, such as His love, His joy, and abundant life, He wants to give everyone who believes. Not a problem-free life, but a life marked with the inexpressible joy and peace that only comes from Him.

In John 10:10b, Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (CSB)

Other translations say, “have it to the full.” (NIV2011)

Paul prayed that God would enable the Ephesians to “know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 CSB)

Next time I am feeling empty and surrounded by the browns of a winter not even brightened with snow, I hope I will remember not to panic. Instead, I ought to seek God and trust that this is the time when He can do His work of increasing capacity in me for more of Him.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 CSB)

Watering can behind title: You Don't Know What I'm Doing

 

A while back, I decided to do an experiment. With COVID-19 concerns circling around, I figured it would be nice to have a homegrown supply of fresh lettuce so that, if we did get quarantined, we could still have fresh vegetables to eat along with our non-perishable pantry items.

With this in mind, and since it was too cold to plant outside where I live, I found a planter, filled it with dirt, and planted some lettuce seeds.

For the following weeks, I kept an eye on the plants as I watered them. Sure enough, the seedlings came up, though not all of them. I’d known some of the seeds might not come up, so I wasn’t entirely surprised.

I kept watering and observing the plants as they sat in my kitchen window. A few weeks after the seedlings sprouted, however, I began to suspect a problem. They weren’t getting enough sun.

Once I realized this and began moving the planter to various windows throughout the day or leaving it outside when the afternoons were warm enough, the lettuce began to grow strong.

I tell you all this to set the backdrop of what I really want to focus on.

Because some of the seeds hadn’t sprouted, the planter had sections of dirt that were bare and not growing anything. I wanted to change that.

Having realized that the lettuce needed more sunlight than the window provided, I decided to plant something else in those empty spaces.

Radishes, I thought. They grow easily and quickly. Therefore, I found a few radish seeds and hid them in the dirt where nothing was growing.

A couple of days later, as I went to water the lettuce, I poured the water where the lettuce plants needed it, then I poured water on those blank empty spaces of dirt.

In my head (I don’t think I said it out loud, though I may have) I told the lettuce plants, “You don’t know what I’m doing, but I do.”

It seems like a silly statement, especially when addressed to plants. Yet, when I think about it, I believe I can learn something from it.

From the lettuce’s perspective, I’d just given them the water they needed. Then, for no apparent reason, I poured water where no visible plant was growing.

It’ll probably be a few more days until the radishes show their heads. Until then the lettuce will continue to wonder why I would water the lifeless dirt rather than just watering the plants.

I wonder how often God has used me to water what to me appeared to be empty lifeless dirt?

It could be a random conversation I had with someone at the bus stop, or a smile I gave the woman who was clearly having a hard day. Perhaps it’s even a Facebook post with a Bible verse. I don’t know.

Some of these moments seem small and insignificant to me. Some of them feel random and impulsive, but maybe, just maybe, God is using those moments to water the unseen seeds that will begin to sprout one day.

I might wonder at what God is doing, and why He pours the perfectly good water on the lifeless dirt. It might appear to be a waste, but with God, nothing is wasted.

God knows what He is doing.

My job is to trust and keep following Him.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 CSB

Painting of tree by S. J. Little in background of title

Have you done much art? I enjoy art, but with everything on my schedule, I rarely make it a priority. Recently, however, when Covid-19 restrictions were lifted enough that I could visit some relatives, we enjoyed having a paint night together.

I decided to do a landscape, since painting people is far more difficult.

We used acrylic paint. When using acrylic, the typical strategy is to start with the furthest back part of the picture. From there, each new layer can be added on top.

In my case, the furthest back thing was the sky.

I knew I planned to put a tree in the foreground. I hoped my tree would resemble an Elm. I knew the sky would be visible through the leaves and between the branches of the tree. Therefore, I wanted more than just a flat blue sky.

I took my time, trying several times until I was satisfied with the gradient from deep blue at the top of the sky, to light blue at the horizon. Then it was time for clouds. I added wispy white clouds.

That done, I moved on to the next layer – mountains. At first I made them flat, but that was too boring, so I added shadows and highlights. Much better.

Time for the grass. I spread plain green across the space. I added a little more variety to the green, then left it at that for the time being. Later I would add more details.

Stepping back, I examined my painting. The bright colours and my hard work had paid off. I was pleased with my background.

The next question: where to put the tree? I frowned. Did I even want to add the tree? The background had turned out so beautifully. Would adding a tree in the foreground harm the beauty of it? What if I did a poor job of the tree?

Despite my fears, I knew the picture would look empty and incomplete without something in the foreground.

I squeezed some brown paint onto my palate. Taking a deep breath, I added a tree trunk. Then I added branches and leaves. Finally I added texture to the grass.

Eyeing my painting, I considered adding something else to the foreground on the other side. Perhaps a road or a creek? Yet those same fears crept up again. What if I did a poor job adding it. All my work on the background would be negated.

This time I decided that my painting was complete.

As I considered the process of creating this painting, I marveled at the importance of background. Much of my time and effort had gone into forming the background with great detail. Had I neglected the background, it would have been an entirely different painting.

Indeed when watching a pro artist, it can be astounding how much detail they put into the background.

Is there a life lesson I can learn from this?

Yes, I believe there is.

Sometimes it seems as though so much of life is background stuff. Washing dishes, doing laundry, writing emails, buying groceries… the list could go on.

At times, I feel anxious to get on with the “big stuff.” I want to do things that feel important and belong in the foreground.

At moments like that, I have to stop and remind myself of the importance of the background stuff.

In Luke 16:10 (ESV) we read, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

I find it helpful to switch the words “faithful” and “dishonest” with other words to help drive home the point. Am I being diligent in the very little things? Am I being intentional and wise in how I handle those little things? Am I a good steward of what I’ve been given, no matter how small or background it feels?

In the Bible, I see lots of the “big” moments – David defeating Goliath, Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, Jesus’s time of ministry. If I pay close attention, though, I can also see snippets of the background stuff that enabled these “big” moments to be handled well.

David faithfully tended his father’s sheep, including fighting off bears and lions (1 Samuel 17:34-37).  Moses was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22 ESV). “Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23 ESV).

Each of these had years of little stuff that served as a background to the big moments of their lives which the Bible tells about.

Sometimes, I find the stuff that might seem big, is indeed a compilation of many small things that add up to a big thing. To be a pastor or Christian camp director, for example, is largely made up of doing lots and lots of little things well.Tree painting by S. J. Little

What about my life? Is all the daily background stuff going to one day culminate in an unmistakably big moment? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that God has called me to be faithful with what He has given me to do here and now, no matter how menial.

As I am faithful with the little things, He will unfold His plans for my life. Perhaps there will be a “big” moment in my life, but perhaps not. Regardless, may I seek to be faithful that one day I may say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)

Closed sign and the words: "Not Forgotten - God Has a Purpose"

Have you ever had a part of your life that seemed to sit unused and useless for a long time? Have you wondered if God has a purpose for it?

At a busy shopping centre I often drive by, there is a restaurant. For many years it was a pizza place. People came and went, enjoying the food and atmosphere. I ate there a couple of times. 

Then one day a sign appeared on the door. The lights went off, and eventually, they took their logo down. They were closed.

For quite some time, the building sat empty, even as other stores and restaurants around them stayed busy.

Then someone bought the place. Construction vehicles started showing up. From the outside, we couldn’t see much change, but inside things were being improved.

They put up a new sign, then announced their opening.

For a while, people came, but soon the parking lot looked empty again. One day a sign appeared on the door saying it was closed.Car parked in empty parking lot

Again it sat month after month with a closed sign. The lights were off and the parking lot abandoned.

Several years went by as the building sat empty. Countless people drove past it daily on the busy main roads, but no one stopped to go in.

True, the building was in the far corner of the shopping centre but it was very visible from the main roads. Why did it sit empty for so long?

Fast forward to March this year. With the coming of COVID-19, many businesses were temporarily closed. Shopping malls sat abandoned and restaurants empty.

One place, however, began to see action.

The parking lot of that long-abandoned building began filling.

First, some work crews showed up, then tents were erected outside.

Every time I saw it, I wondered who was moving in. Were they simply using the parking lot? Had another restaurant bought the place? I watched for clues.

Before long, I saw line-ups of vehicles outside. This particular building was surrounded on all four sides by a parking lot. The line-up of cars began at the tents and wound all the way around the building. What were they doing?

Then I found out. My city had set up several COVID-19 testing drive-through sites. This was one of them.

The long-abandoned building now had a purpose. Its parking lot was beautifully suited for the task.

Now, instead of sitting forgotten and unwanted, this building was helping save lives. 

I believe God sometimes works this way in our lives.

Sometimes He gives us skills and abilities or previous experiences that seem to sit idle and unused for a season. We wonder why they exist. Could it be that God has a purpose for them?

Perhaps one day God will point to that part of my life or your life and say “Now is the time. I want to use you this way.”

The Bible gives some examples along these lines. Examples of situations when something seemed random or worthless, only to later become evidence that God has a purpose in everything He does.

It was some time after Esther was made queen that the king passed the law against the Jews. Only then did Mordecai say to her “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b CSB)

Similarly, when David finally became king after fleeing from King Saul for years, I’m sure he found his experience from serving as Saul’s armour bearer useful. (1 Samuel 16:21)

Do you sometimes wonder what purpose God has for you?

Thankfully, we can trust that He knows what He is doing. God has a purpose. We don’t need to worry if there are talents or experiences in our lives that seem forgotten and unused right now. Just like the building, at the right time, God will use them as He sees fit.

As He said to Peter “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  (John 13:7 NIV)