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When Your (Good) Plans Get Ruined

Couple romantic dinner plans

I had my plans. But here I was again as they fell apart, getting bent out of shape, buzzing like the bee,

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers

My laden flowers? A few quiet hours alone with my man on Friday night. That was my plan.

How My Friday Night Plans Fell Through

6:15 pm– I plopped the groceries on the counter, set the oven and kicked off my shoes. I’d gone straight from work to fetch the boys and a friend, then to settle them in at the waterpark. Now came the sigh.

And the ringtone.

Mom, you have to come get us! Sam’s really sick. He’s just sitting here with his down and I don’t feel so good either.

Weary Mama rolled her eyes. Why don’t you get some fresh air and take it easy and we’ll come get you in 2 hours. Good-bye.

6:23 pm– Undeterred, I rubbed the salmon, poked the potatoes and set them baking. I was tearing greens when the phone rang again.

Hi Mom. He’s really sick. You need to come get us now. Please. 

This wasn’t my plan. I hadn’t even sat down. You can last an hour. Besides, $50 is a lot a money for one hour of fun. 

Hanging up sounds heartless, I know. But that son can be Chicken Little, and the caring adults were all around.

6:35 pm– Jim got home and the salmon was done and my phone dinged again. My sister, also at the waterpark,

Can I bring the boys home? Sam looks pretty sick.

Jim called back. I filled our plates, lit a candle and sat down.

And Why I’m Glad

I wasn’t glad. I was grumpy and mad and starved for a quiet dinner alone with Jim, who was calm on the phone as I sat stabbed at my salmon.

They’re on their way. Your sister’s bringing them home.

We were eating our last bites as in they walked in smiling. All better. Their friend Andy wanted to stay and play games. So we cleared the plates and set out Codenames. And in between obscure teen-ager clues, they introduced us to their music and soon Andy had Sam at the piano plunking out tunes.

I wasn’t so blind to miss those. Those answers to prayers I pray almost every day. That the boys would enjoy using the gifts they’ve been given, make and be good friends, and that we’d have more fun as a family.

Then this: Do you trust my plans are better than yours?  I ruined your plan to answer your prayers. I nixed your quiet night to give you this. 

Trust His Better Plans

It all boils down to trust issues, again. I need a consistent trust. I trust God to wake me each morning and bring me safely to heaven, but I can’t trust him with my dinner plans?

This is not to say we shouldn’t make plans. Only  that we should hold them loosely. James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). So sit loose. As we make our plans for tonight remember that God may have different and better plans than ours.

My plans have come crashing down before. And I’m starting to understand that when, in infinite wisdom and matchless love, God ruins my plans, he’s really wanting me to trust him. Because, 

God knows infinitely more than we do, and can do infinitely more than we can — should we be surprised in the least when he has planned differently than we have? Plan on it. He has, and he will…Disruptions become welcome reminders that God is real, that he is almighty, and that his plans always prove wiser than ours. 

Marshall Segal, “Few Are the Plans of Many

The disruption of my Friday night was God’s kind reminder that he is wiser than me. If I’d have had my quiet night, I’d have missed His better plan.

 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

James 4:13-15

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When Your Taste Is Gone: 5 Takeaways From Tasteless Days

Woman looking at cup no taste

Don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Taste didn’t come back easy. It took so long. 

Two weeks with a bad cold was long enough to remind me again of God’s fine sense of timing. My congested head had been dulling my sense of smell. But it was the exact day the 40 day sugar fast ended that my taste went away.

Poof. Gone. Taste no more.  Cravings for chocolate and ice cream suddenly melted away.

I was my own science experiment last week.

No taste was new to me. So new, and strange, I felt I needed to prove it was really gone. 

An onion may as well have been an apple or potato. I couldn’t taste- or smell- a thing. Fresh brewed, French roast coffee could have been weak breakfast tea. Nothing. Deep, clean minty fresh could have been baking soda Crest. Nada. But on a positive note, sweaty boys, bathroom smells, stinky feet also left no trace. 

Besides increased gratitude for a range of flavors and greater compassion for those with colds, my tasteless days got me thinking about spiritual tastebuds.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  We know that verse. Some of us sing that verse. We love Psalm 34:18.  We might even fast to rouse our spiritual tastebuds.

But if we’re honest, sometimes the Lord and his Word do not taste good. We consume countless other things that dull our hunger for God.  Snacks, screens, and Facebook feeds can all take the edge off our hunger for the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

But that’s not the point. 

Many of our tastes for nourishing foods- salads not Skittles- are acquired. It might take 15 exposures to accept the new food. Like the time goes into a prepping a good meal, getting spiritual nutrition takes work too. We’ve got to grind the wheat, and cultivate our spiritual tastes.  

But that’s not the point either. 

5 Takeaways From Tasteless Days

1. Dangerous

I drank sour half-and-half last week. But my tongue didn’t tell me. My husband did, after I put it in his. Our senses warn of dangers like fire, poisonous fumes, or rotten food. Spiritual tastebuds alert us to soul dangers. We need God’s Word warns us about sin’s dangers (Psalm 19:11). A Puritan named Thomas Brooks wrote, “O God, put my tongue out of taste for the bait of the devil.” 

Oh that my tongue was as “put out of taste” for my own harshness and impatience with my sons as as my it was chocolate and ice cream last week. 

2. A Sign of Sickness

Families taste Raclette cheese around table
A liesurely Raclette dinner with family. The love was strong, the flavor was not.

Losing our sense of taste is a sign that we’re sick. If nachos were bland and even my brother-in-law’s storied  Raclette cheese tasted tame, it’s no fault of theirs. If God’s word tastes bland and seeking him seems dull, our souls are sick or injured. It might just be a little head cold like I had last week, or more serious, like the head injury that stole tastebuds from my friend Bob.

But the same God that gave us tastebuds can heal our sick ones. So feed the cold.

 3. Keep Eating

Jonathan Edwards sad, “We must endeavor to increase spiritual appetites by meditating on spiritual objects.” Appetite comes with eating.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). That’s not just at conversion. It’s true every day of our lives. When you get up in the morning, my guess is… you must get faith again. And you get it from the Bible. That from John Piper. My mind said soup and tea were good when I couldn’t taste them. So I sipped them until I could.

Faith comes from the Word of Christ. So even when we don’t desire God, we keep eating.

4. Gradual Return

Taste is not all or nothing. There were those in-between, lukewarm days when coffee tasted like coffee more than tea or water, but blonde could have been bold. When I could tell an orange from a lemon but not from a grapefruit. Don’t despise the day of small things. Rejoice in little changes. And keep eating. Spiritually too: Eat when you feel like it. Eat when you don’t feel like it. Eat the Word until you feel like it. 

Trust the process. Wait for the Lord to restore your taste, your joy (Psalm 51:12).

5. Restored By God

How are spiritual taste buds restored? Jon Bloom writes, The more you cultivate the habit of looking to and listening to Jesus, the more your spiritual taste buds…will be restored. We are transformed into people with  healthy spiritual tastebuds- who love good and spit out evil-when we behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). And  so we pray like Jeremiah prayed, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”

And God may be gracious to you and restore your taste like he did for me last week. Now l give him praise.

That, actually, was the point. 

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became a joy and the delight of my heart for I am called by your name.

Jeremiah 15:16

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Dissatisfied and Content: A Place for Discontent

Smiling content woman marathon runner

I’m not content with my discontent. In fact, I’m downright discontent when my soul is not at rest.

Which is, I think, as it ought to be.

Easy To Please

I’ve always been drawn to “low maintenance” types. The friends who take a 30 minutes to fix their hair and another 20 for makeup aren’t *naturally my type. Out of bed and off in 10 is more my style.

Christians ought to be the most easy to please people on the planet. We ought to be the most sit-loose people around, with our joy independent of our circumstances. I ought to be as as happy in my house in the woods as in a sunny mansion on the hilltop, as thankful with a can of Campbell’s tomato as with gourmet lobster bisque.

We ought to be. Because in Christ all things are ours (1 Cor. 3:22).

Paul penned these staggering words to the Philippians from his prison cell: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 

Contentment is not natural. It must be learned. The good news is, it can be learned. It can be or we wouldn’t be called to be content (Heb. 13:5).

I have stilled and quieted my soul, the Psalmist wrote. Contentment is the goal. I agree, I aspire, I press on. Joyfully often. Woefully sometimes. But I want contentment to mark me. I don’t want to be the high maintenance one who needs this food or that praise or those props to put my soul at rest. I want to be easily pleased.

Because God is my portion. And because I want to grow.  But contentment doesn’t have to mean I’m always satisfied. 

Hard To Satisfy

Because self- dissatisfaction promotes spiritual growth. It does for me and I think Paul might agree. Growth starts with realizing that I am not yet what I want to be. Philippians 3:12 is about that, Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Paul was content with his outward circumstances. Yet he wanted to know Christ more.

While we are to be content physically– with our circumstances and possessions (Phil. 2:12, Heb. 13:5), we don’t want to be satisfied spiritually. Because blessed discontent often begins spiritual growth.

It’s when we feel satisfied spiritually, that we can get proud and complacent and that is dangerous. Paul told Timothy (1 Tim. 4:15), Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. In other words, don’t loiter.

Oh, that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey.

Have you heard of David Brainerd? He said that. That quote appears weekly on my iPhone reminders. Because I need it.

David Brainerd  lived his short life this way. He was a missionary to the native and died in 1747 at the age of 29. His drive for more holiness and more usefulness,  while enduring all manner of physical hardship, was a dissatisfied contentment. His love for Christ and the native people drove him.

Brainerd wrote, “When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable . . . Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! And oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God . . .  Oh, that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey.”

John Piper says of Brainer,

He was gripped with by the apostolic admonition: “Redeem the time for the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) He embodied the counsel: “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we shall reap if we do not faint” (Galatians 6:9). He strove to be, as Paul says, “abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).”

We press on. We thirst for Christ and grow thirstier still. With Paul we forget what is behind and press on for the prize. We fight the good fight.

Learned to be Content

C.H. Spurgeon cautioned, Do not indulge, any of you, the silly notion that you can be contented without learning, or learn without discipline. We grow strong in the Lord and the strength of his might.

How does one learn to be content? Dr. D.A. Carson answers,

You cannot learn contentment merely by living in difficult places. But you cannot learn contentment merely by living in happy places. You learn contentment by living in both places. And by discounting your joy as being dependent on either place.

So the formula for contentment for us as it was for Paul: look through the circumstances to the God who’s using them to shape me for good. Expect if you’re on top of the world today, he may drop you low tomorrow. I know what it is to abound and I know what it is brought low. Trust that he’ll keep us going from high to low to keep us depending on him. So we don’t get smug when all goes as planned or despair when nothing does.

I’ll share this to keep it real: this week, after 5 weeks of a sugar fast, my scale went up. That was not the plan. Weight-loss wasn’t the goal, but neither was gaining weight. So I’m at the end of myself today. In his strength, trusting God with that. My weight going up is my being brought low. It’s my proving ground for contentment. 

When we are truly content, and enduring all in God’s strength, we neither grow proud in success, nor are we crushed by failure. It’s a freeing place to be. 

But there are two places we should not be content.

When We Should Be Discontent

You’ve already heard about the first.

1. Complacency about my own spiritual condition. It’s not: I am what I am what I am, but I am what I am and his grace was not without effect to me. No, I worked harder than the rest (1 Cor. 15:10). One James McIntosh said, It is right to be contented with what we have, never with what we are. Paul was not content to stand still in his faith. He struggled with all Christ’s energy.

2. Apathy over others’ suffering. John Piper calls that “dissatisfied contentment.” He explains, “When Paul writes in Romans 12:15Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, he shows that the contentment of the believer is not a static, Buddha-like serenity unmovable by the hurts of others. When Christian joy perceives grief, it becomes “dissatisfied contentment.” It senses a lack and a need… Thus, Christian joy starts to expand in love to fill that lack.

But we turn these upside down. We get content with the state of our souls and stand off from the hurting people in our circles. At the same time we grow discontent with our circumstances and possessions, which are precisely where we’re told to rest content.

We’re like senseless beasts when we get these reversed. When we ignore those those hurting around us and our spiritual growth as we hunger for better food and a cozier den, we’re reduced. We’re like animals.

But there is another reason why we must get this right.

Content and Dissatisfied

Because, in a word, our contentment adorns our Lord. But so does pressing on to know him, eager to grow.

When my life isn’t marked by staggering success at work or ministry or children excelling at school or on the court and I still smile– well, that shines on a satisfying Savior. A gracious quiet spirit reflects the good Giver who supplies all our needs (Ph. 4:19).

And when we ignore our phones and create sacred space to know Christ more, that makes him look good too. Because, Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition (Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment).

We do have a good Father- the very best. So we both rest content with the things of this world and press on discontent, until we see him face to face.

Burroughs can close. 

My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them. That is not the reason. But the reason is because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God Himself.

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

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Spare Me, Or Not: Because Suffering ≠ Unloving

If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.  

-Teresa of Avila

Even if you’ve never said it, you’ve probably felt it. St. Teresa’s words can stab us when we’re suffering. After all, aren’t we friends of Christ and Children of God? (Ps. 25:14, John 15:15, 1 John 3:1)

Because, is this how friends treat friends? Or how good parents love their kids? 

We desperately need truth to counterattack the lie that a loving God wouldn’t let his children suffer. Because Satan would love to sift the faith right out of us. And he does a lot of sifting with just that lie.

He even tried it on Jesus. 

If You Are The Son Of God…

Those sneaky words are bookends: If you are the Son of God. Christ’s ministry begins and ends with those words being hurled at him.

Bookend 1: After 40 days of fasting Jesus was hungry. And the tempter came and said, If you are the Son of God, turn these stones to bread.  (Matt. 4:1-4)

Bookend 2: Fast forward three years to the cross. Hear the crowds abuse the Christ on the cross. They use the same exact words: If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross… (Matt. 27:40)

Between the bookends (Matt. 16:21-23), Peter does it too. Jesus had just explained how that he must,

…suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed.” At that, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Mtt. 16:21-22)

I probably would have said the same: Assert your beloved son status. You shouldn’t have to hunger or suffer like this. Maybe God won’t really provide.

Because being a beloved son or daughter of the King seems like it ought to bring some big perks. Like, say, not having to suffer this way. 

Away From Me, Satan!

Suffer many things and be killed doesn’t sound the least bit loving. But Jesus stood on truth. 

He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matt. 16:23)

To bypass that suffering would have been nothing short of satanic. Because God’s interests demanded that His beloved Son suffer (Mtt. 3:17). For us and for our salvation he suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. All of God’s interests are good (Ps. 119:68). 

But that can be pretty hard to hear when life gets hard.

So the first and last temptations of Christ and Peter’s words in the middle have this lie at the core: If you suffer, God must not love you. End your hunger pangs: Turn these stones to bread. End your suffering: Come down off the cross. Satan loves to plant this seed of doubt that: suffering = unloved.

But Jesus would have none if it. To Peter, he said: “Get behind me Satan.” Which sounds an awful lot like what he said at the end of his wilderness temptation (Matt. 4:10), “Away from me Satan.”

Spare Me, Or Not

Kill that doubt! Don’t buy the lie that God spares his children suffering. Kill the doubt by looking first to Christ. In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered (Heb. 2:10).

If for the Firstborn, so for the other sons and daughters. If for the Shepherd, so for the sheep. 

There was a fitness of suffering for the Author of our faith and there is a fitness for the faithful. Jesus knew this. Thank God he knew this. But Satan got it too, so he twisted and abused it. Peter didn’t get it and the crowds at the cross didn’t either.

Do you get it? Do I?

Suffering takes countless forms. What’s hard for me, might not be for you. Lately my “trials” -if I can even call them that- have been mental, taking the form of dashed hopes. This week, one son’s first semester grades brought my little dream of a four generation, top-of-the-class, streak to a screeching halt. High hopes from 13 years ago of another sort are also grinding down.  

This suffering is meager and weak. It’s just layers of selfish dragon skin being peeled off bit by bit. It has to come off before heaven anyway. And it’s not worth comparing to heartache, cancer, and decades of pain that friends of mine face. But that little stuff, when I’m feeling weak, is enough to give a twinge of doubt.

Because we just don’t get it. Try as we might, we just don’t. We think:

good=comfortable

We don’t think: 

 good=suffering

We misunderstand his love.

Don’t Misunderstand Suffering

It was misunderstood then- by Peter, the rulers, the soldiers, and a criminal on the cross: He trusts in God; let God deliver him, if he delights in him. For he said, ‘I am the son of God,’ (Matt. 17:43). In other words, If God really loved you, he’d spare you from this.

In our heart of hearts, we misunderstand too. If he delighted in me, he’d spare me this_____________ (Insert your loneliness, illness, loss, heartache, temptation, or pain). If God really loved me, he’d see that my mama longings are all fulfilled. 

Really? 

If we are children of God, glory awaits. We are heirs of eternal life. But guess what comes before glory?

Suffering With Him

Paul tells us in Romans 8:16-17. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

Provided we suffer with him. Suffer. With. Him. He did. We do. He does with us.  For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

Our Lord Jesus was tempted. And his response to the If you are a son temptations show that Jesus knew. Pain does not mean forsaken and suffering ≠ unloved. In fact, for the child of God, suffering prepares glory.

But be ready. Because the same taunt that was hurled at Jesus tempts us today: If you are a child of God, you wouldn’t have to deal with this. If you were loved, he’d spare you. But we know that’s a lie from the pit of you know where.

Because Jesus Christ suffered and died and was raised to life to prove God’s love. Because God did not spare his beloved Son. 

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:32