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The Strength of Living Open-Handed

August 31, 2017

“What are you doing out here, Gray?” Dunn said, stepping up to the stairs and sending a confused look in Ronald Gray’s direction.

Gray jumped at the man’s voice. “Boss! You like to scare the snot outta me. Where’d you come from?”

“I’ve been watching you from the barn. You just keep standing here, like you’re waiting on something. What are you doing?”

Embarrassment rose in the man’s eyes. “I was…well…I was listening to Miss Jess sing. She’s been singin’ for ten minutes, hardly a break, even though she’s working.”

Dunn raised an eyebrow. “You mean you’re sitting here being entertained while the rest of us are working?”

Gray laughed. “No. I was just thinkin’. I was going in for some coffee, and then I heard her, and I stopped to listen. How does she do it, Boss? How does she sing? I saw how tore up she was the other day. I know she’s still hurting over the man she lost and worrying about those other men. I don’t understand how she can still sing in the midst of that.”

Dunn considered the man. A rather pat answer sat on his tongue, but he didn’t feel it would be the right thing to say at the moment. At the same time, he wasn’t sure what to say.

“Probably seems dumb, me wondering about it.”

“No. Not really. But why are you wondering about it?”

Gray shrugged. “Cause I never could’ve done it. After my wife died,” …The man looked down and shoved the toe of his boot up against a clump of ice that clung to the stairs. “…I went off and drank till I woke up in jail in a town I’d never even heard of before. And I just kept running after that.”

“Have you asked her how she can sing?”

“What?” he said, jerking his gaze up to Dunn’s. “Why would I do that?”

“Because you want to know.”

“Yeah, well maybe I don’t want her to know that I want to know.”

Dunn shrugged, turning to go inside. “Suit yourself.”

“Boss, don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?”

“Leave me hanging like that. You know what it is. I know you do.”

“Let me ask you this. What do you think she would say if you asked her?”

Gray leaned back against the wall and thought for a moment. “She told me a while back about how she used to run. Said she’d stopped runnin’ from God and given Him everything. I suppose she’d say it had somethin’ to do with that.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Dunn shoved his cold hands into his pockets. “She can’t change anything that has happened. And she can’t prevent anything that might happen. So, she’s put it in God’s hand.”

— Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens, Book 3 (Coming Soon!)

Photo by Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Can You Sing in the Shadows?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog called The Freedom of Living Open-Handed. After posting it, my friend Naomi sent me a private message. She’d been spending some quiet time with the Lord when she came across the blog. It went right along with the Psalm she was studying.

My friend pointed out the opening words of Psalm 107, “O give thanks.” The phrase comes from one Hebrew word, Yada, which is used 5 times in this psalm. It carries the idea of open hands, extended in confession and surrender, which reflects that original blog. As I studied it further, I saw something else. This opening of the hands allows us to sing in the shadows!

 

Hands Open in Thanksgiving

November isn’t the only month when we’re to give thanks. In fact, giving thanks appears in the psalms over and over. But sometimes, when we’re opening our hands to let God remove something, we feel the sting of loss or disappointment, and thanksgiving is the furthest thing from our minds.

But what if it wasn’t? What if every time we saw God allowing something to be removed from our open palm, we found something to thank Him for? How would it change our responses? How would it change our perspective? That’s exactly what yada is talking about.

 

Hands Open in Praise

Have you ever seen a happy mama raise her hands with fingers wiggling in excitement as she praises her child for some new accomplishment? “You colored a picture of a tree? That’s wonderful! You tied your own shoe? That’s wonderful!”

Why don’t we praise God with the same excitement? “You created the UNIVERSE? That’s amazing! You put eyelashes on my eyelids to protect me from microscopic grains of dust? How did you ever think of that! You are good! Your mercies endure for ever!”

What if as we allow Him to remove from our open hand those dreams, plans, possessions, or even people, we then lifted our hands in thanksgiving and praised Him for what He has done in our lives?

Hands Open in Worship

Gulp. I come from a very conservative background when it comes to worship. Sunday morning services are quiet with traditional hymns and a GOOD dose of solid preaching. No one raises their hands. If they do, everyone knows “they’re not from here.”

But yada raises its hands in worship. Yada takes time to see Who God is and verbalizes God’s attributes. His holiness, righteous judgments, goodness, mercy, wonderful works, and salvation are just a few of the attributes, which are paired with this word in Scripture.

And here’s something more, this word yada implies public worship. (Pastor, if you are reading this, DON’T PANIC! I’m not going to get up and stand at the front of the church, raising my arms and swaying to How Firm A Foundation.)

I haven’t done an exhaustive study on this word, but it doesn’t take long to see that it often comes along with the idea of opening our mouths and making His works known to the people around us. A lot like the idea of the mom praising her child, except here, we’re running into the market or the city gate or the church, and we’re saying, “WOW! Look. Who. GOD. IS.”

What if we responded this way? How would our lives and our relationship with God be different?

 

The Wringing of the Hands.

Yada has another meaning associated with our hands—”bemoaning” something, seen by the wringing of the hands. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance) Exactly opposite of everything we’ve just seen, this answers part of our “what if?” questions. If we don’t respond with thanksgiving, praise, and worship, the result will be dismal.

Worry.

Fretting.

Fear.

All three of these sap away our strength. They steal our joy. They nurture the feelings of disappointment, resentment, discontent, and even bitterness that comes from living tight-fisted.

Living with an open hand and then wringing them when you’ve lost what you wanted is little different than if you had held onto it in the first place.

 

The Strength of Living Open-Handed

Living open-handed, in full surrender to the Lord, brings freedom. Raising those empty hands in thanksgiving, praise, and worship brings the strength of joy that is centered on the Lord Himself.

Nehemiah told the people of Israel, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) This is the fuller answer to the “what ifs” above. What if we give Him thanks, what if we praise Him, what if we worship Him in those moments—in the shadows, the frustrations, the fears, and the loss? He will give us joy, and that joy in the Lord will give us strength.

 

The Glad Game

Remember the story of Pollyanna, the little girl who comes to live with her grumpy aunt and annoys everyone by playing the ”glad game”? She was onto something. Oh, I think most of her community thought she was ON something, but she had something they were missing. Something most of us are missing. She had learned to intentionally find joy by finding things she could be glad about. Replace the word glad with thanks, praise, and/or worship, and you’ve got the very thing we’re talking about.

A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I went picking chokecherries. (Had to get them before the birds, you know.) The following two days, I spent about eight hours cooking them, turning them into syrup, and hot-bathing the jars.

Nothing could ever go wrong in that process, right! Nothing like nearly spilling a pot of boiling juice on my mother and her laptop because I didn’t know she was behind me, and she didn’t know I was pulling it off of the stove. Nothing like realizing at 10 p.m. that you didn’t have enough lids for your jars, making a trip to Walmart, and finding the checkout lines ten people deep. Nothing like coming home from the store only to discover an hour later that you’re going to run out of sugar before you run out of juice. The list could go on.

But this was right about the time I received Naomi’s message and had started studying the word yada. I purposed that next morning—after dropping into bed at 2 a.m. and knowing I still had to go back to Walmart for more sugar—to do what this word yada suggests we should do. Every time something went wrong, I purposed to find something to be thankful for. The result was one of the most joy filled days I have experienced in a long time. It was full of peace even in the chaos of canning. It wasn’t thanksgiving alone that made the difference. First, that hand had to be opened and the purpose or desire let go. Then thanksgiving could begin to do its work.

I want to challenge you today to take a risk. Purpose to live open-handed. Purpose, even in the little frustrations, to find a way to thank Him, praise Him, and worship Him. Think of it as your own version of the glad game! Let me know how it goes!

 

How has gratitude, praise, or worship in difficult times made a difference in your life? Let me know in the comments!

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