My granddaughter texted me to tell me she loved me. You can't buy that! "Where are you, Nana?" she asked. "I'm on the way to Brazil," I replied. "Pray that I find it!" She thought that was funny! But the family knows, as my husband often says, "My wife is like Christopher Columbus. She sets out not knowing where she's going. When she arrives — and she usually does — she doesn't know where she is. When she gets back — and she usually does — she doesn't know where she's been!"
It had been hard packing up one more time and getting away after just returning from a wonderful, but hard long haul in China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, UK, Scotland, Ireland and Romania! Packing is a nightmare. There are so many climates and so many talks to give in so many cultures, all needing thought to suitable attire and suitable messages. But I have my "to do" lists to help me. As soon as I get back, I begin a new one for the next trip.
"To don't" list
Someone gave me a "to don't" list for Christmas, and I had been trying to use both. So, as you can imagine, I was in a total mess the day before leaving! I was fighting for a time on the steps of my soul the night before I left (it was on my "to do" list). I arrived frazzled and frantic clutching all sorts of papers and tried to organize all the lists I had just collected from all over the house. (I have them in most of the rooms.) Perhaps if I could get them organized, I could talk through them with Him more quickly, and then I would be strengthened to get working on it all and get everything done.
These lists are not organized. Yes, they have packing stuff on them, but they also have everything else that appears in my busy world, like calling a new widow, trying to talk to a wayward wife planning on leaving her husband, and finishing an email to places I would be heading to in three months with details and titles for all seven talks!
And then there are the lists of prayer requests with everything from missionaries in hard places facing persecution to churches in trouble. There's also getting my flowers in the ground before I take off and what to do about the deer eating our hostas. There are usually deep sorrows and great joys to talk to Him about. There are always prodigals to pray for, people in hospitals, worries to worry about, and hurts to heal. There is always a sorry that needs saying, encouragement to give, tears to shed, and articles to write.
The lists get longer, and things get repeated more often. I find myself making lists of many of the same things over and over!
He came near.
Arriving on the steps of my soul in the deep place where nobody goes, I tried to shuffle all the papers into some sort of order. It was impossible. He came near. He always does, you know. He sat down beside me and looked at me kindly. He didn’t say anything and after glancing at Him to see if He wanted to go first, I started in.
He stopped me with a look. Wonderingly, I watched Him take a piece of heavenly paper (it was sort of translucent) and a heavenly permanent marker — what else would He use? He said, "Jill, read me the list." I began to read and watched in wonder as He carefully wrote it all down on HIS list! His heavenly TO DO LIST! When I'd finished, He said, "Now it's on mine. When you are tempted to pray for the tenth time about one of these items, remember that I have it in hand.
"I'm working on it for you.
Now you can concentrate on what I've given you to do today. It doesn't mean you won't pray about some of this again, but next time you'll pray something new about the situation and not just read me the same things over and over."
I looked at Him in awe! Then I left my earthly papers and all those things to do and to worry about on the steps, wrote on each "to don't list!" and left the Garden of Grace with lightened step. As I went, I felt the breath of God.
A soft breeze blowing
On this trip to Brazil, when my mind has run back to Wisconsin, Bangladesh or the UK; or to my grandchildren; or to a difficult relational situation, I've been tempted to start making the same lists all over again. Then a soft breeze blows through my soul, and a quiet whisper of Grace says: "I told you, I'm working on it. Peace!"
I've found myself free to focus on the task at hand. Free to look into the faces of beautiful Brazilian women and begin a whole new list of needs, heartbreaks and dilemmas to ask Him about. I can't wait to get to the steps and watch Him write down every one.
So much safer
Back from the Deep place into the Shallow place where everyone lives, I can get to work doing my new "to do's," secure in my heart and expecting to see the evidence of His work in the lives of men and women and boys and girls. I can be strong in the belief all things are so much safer on His "to do" list than on mine!
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
P.S. Guess what lists I'm making on the way home from Brazil. Look at our itinerary!
Fear is not only a human response we all share as human beings, but an essential one that needs recognizing, accepting, and managing. Effectively managed fear ceases to control our actions. But if unacknowledged, fear takes control, and we find ourselves caught up in varying degrees of destructive behavior.All Sermons by Stuart, Jill & Pete Briscoe