Audience of One

Performers take the stage and hope that when they look out across the theater every seat is filled. They love a sold-out event. A packed house means they’re well loved.

How would a rock star feel if he walked out on the stage and there was only one seat occupied? Would he continue the show as planned or walk off the stage in frustration? Would he question his talent, wonder if he was in the wrong career?

Sometimes we feel called to do a certain thing. We know we have been equipped by God to do it and we are excited to begin. We want to be faithful to the calling we have received. But what happens when we put out our very best effort and no one notices? How do we feel when we work so hard but see very little tangible evidence that what we are doing is making a difference?

This is when we must remember that we don’t need a full house to give it our all. All we need is an audience of One.

Colossians 3:23  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.

Ephesians 6:7  Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.

From backstage you can hear the crowd. The anticipation grows as you stand behind the curtain. As the curtain rises and you start to sing you see the crowd begin to thin. Groups of two and three begin to leave their seats until  it appears there will be no one left. Then you see Him sitting all by Himself and you remember His promise to never leave you. Your audience of One. Will you still keep singing?

Here and Now

Sometimes I look at times gone by and wonder what it would have been like to live in a different era. I especially love the Victorian age. I love the slower pace of life and the way people paid attention to details. Things weren’t so hurried and people took time to enjoy the simple things of life. I love the stories of quilting bees and church picnics; of sitting on the porch on a summer evening. I could really get wistful about it.

But it wasn’t up to me to choose when I would be born or where. God did the choosing. He decided exactly when I would be the most useful to his kingdom. he decided where I would be most effective for His purposes.

It’s like God had a huge map and timeline, stretched it out before Him and planned in great detail the way it would be. Of course He didn’t do it that way. He didn’t labor over it like we would. It wasn’t like us trying to arrange the furniture in a room: “If this goes here then that could go over there.” His plan was perfect from the beginning.

Psalm 139.16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knew where my life was headed before I was even born.

I Corinthians 12:18 says, “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” He knew exactly where I fit.

God has designed each of us to be right here, right now. He looked over the entire timeline of humanity and the giant globe he created and he pinned an exact spot and time for you! This is the appointed time. Now is the time to look around you and see where you can make a difference. You were meant to be right where you are. There are things you can do that bring glory to God and advance his kingdom.

Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage on another day after day, as long as it is still call ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Perhaps today there is someone whose encounter with you was ordained from the beginning of time. Maybe today is a day that you, by your obedience to live your life to the fullest for Christ, will help change a life for eternity. This is when we can say, “Seize the day!”

Live for Today, Aim for Tomorrow

I wonder how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Just take one day at a time.” I wonder how many times I’ve said it myself.

It’s a good saying to live by. Most of the time.

During the first week of my recovery from hip surgery I’ve been told this over and over. It’s good advice. But I have already learned that there is a danger in trying too hard to focus on just this one day.

Today was difficult. Yesterday was also difficult. If I only focus on one day at a time it starts to feel like they will all be difficult from here on out.

Here is where the next phase of this process has to begin: I can focus on just today and be glad I got through it only to wake up tomorrow to face another hard day. Or I can allow my focus to look beyond today—not to a string of equally difficult days, but to the days that will come after the difficult ones.  The days when I will be walking on both feet again. The days when I will again go to the farmers’ market or walk around the lake or take my grandchildren on a outing and be able walk holding their hands instead of a crutch or a walker.

While it is good advice to take this journey one day at a time, I will sap my strength if I stay there and never try to look beyond this trial. I can’t look only at today or only at the weeks that my doctor has projected for my recovery. I have to look past the recovery to the life I can anticipate when the healing is finally complete. That is where I find my joy and my strength.

What challenge are you facing today? Ask God to give you a glimpse of what lies beyond the struggles. And let that vision give you the joy and strength you need to keep moving one day at a time until you arrive at the day when you can look back at your journey and say it is finished. Jesus understood the concept well.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God is in the Details

As I prepare for hip surgery this morning I am reminded of another hospital visit when I saw how God was faithful in even the smallest details.

When I was expecting my seventh son I was awakened on the morning of my fortieth birthday to a surprise —  but not the birthday surprise anyone would ever want.

I went into labor seven and a half weeks early and would spend this birthday flat on my back on a gurney in the hallway of the maturity floor of the Ohio State University Medical Center. The floor was overflowing with patients and I was in a holding pattern waiting for a room. After about 3 hours in the hallway I was moved to a spot in the recovery room for mothers who just had a C-section. I remember thinking how unfair it was that I was already very afraid and then was left alone in this recovery room forced to listen to these mothers returning from surgery. I remember asking God, “Why?”

I ended up finally getting a room where I would spend the next week waiting for my baby’s lungs to develop. During that week of waiting I saw God come to me in such gentle and loving ways over and over.

One particular day stands out in my memory. I was feeling particularly sad this day as I was missing my older children and felt like the days were just dragging on and on. As I cried out to God for  His strength and comfort I happened to glance toward the window in my room. It was a very large window with wide vertical blinds. The window looked out on an indoor courtyard filled with plants and a variety of seating areas. The blinds were adjustable but since I was not allowed out of bed I had no way of reaching the cords to adjust them. The blinds were situated just so that I could see a small section of the courtyard. As I lay there I heard a man’s voice from outside being projected over a microphone.

It was through this tiny slice of vision that I witnessed a gift from the Lord. For at that moment, in the only place I could see in the entire courtyard, I watched a pastor serving communion to those who would step forward to receive it. If he had been standing even as much as a foot in any direction I would not have been able to see him but God set the stage that day. He set it for me. He allowed me to participate from afar but my heart was comforted just the same.

I was so blessed by this gift that I wept for joy. God hadn’t forgotten me. I would also find out the next day that my time in the recovery room for C-sections was no accident either. I was told I would be delivering my baby by C-section and God had already prepared me for what I would experience afterward.

God didn’t miss a single detail in my two week stay in the hospital and it’s a good reminder as I await surgery today that I serve a God who has every detail under control. He has already prepared the way before me. I have nothing to fear.

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (NLT)