God Grieves With Us

When tragedy strikes, it is sometimes hard to see God. We wonder where He was when the terrible times transpired.

He knew.

He cried with us.

We are assured in the Psalms that He holds every tear we cry in His hand. He is not only catching and collecting our tears, He is catching and collecting us.

When we feel our hearts shattering and our faith falling; He’s there to comfort us with a peace than passes understanding.

When our minds can’t comprehend the countless calamities nor understand the world in which we live: He’s holding us.

We do not have a high priest who doesn’t know what we endure, how heavy our hearts feel, or how some days we really just want to give up, because He does.

He knows.

He loves us.

He wants to hold and comfort us.

He desires that our knee-jerk reaction to calamity is we come running, crying, even yelling to Him. We can be open and honest with our feelings. We can ask why. We can cry out to Him saying, “Please get me through this moment.”

And the next.

And the next.

We do not hold a faith dear to make an easy life. Instead we hold our faith dear because we could not possibly do life any other way.

This world is tough, torturous, and terrible at times. God can still be seen in the midst of even those moments too. He’s often quiet in the chaos, allowing us the opportunity to choose to seek Him, or be overwhelmed by the events.

He never pushes in. He allows us to choose when to break out.

As our hearts are breaking, allow yourself to feel the emotions. Choose how you will spend that pent-up energy those emotions elicit.

Sometimes I cry out in fear and anger.

Sometimes I pull myself together and go for a run.

Sometimes I collapse in a heap and allow the Holy Spirit to wash over me as I pour out my heart in incomplete sentences, mumbled words and scattered thoughts. And that’s OK. Because even when we don’t know exactly what to pray for, we are promised that the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with words and groans on our behalf.

It’s ok when we can’t comprehend what is happening. God doesn’t expect us to understand it all. We are human. We are not God.

But God is. And, in the words of Lysa TerKeurst, He is good at being God.

He wants to comfort us.

I pray wherever you are today, whatever your day holds, you feel His presence, His comfort, and His love.

And, if you can, would you please join me in praying for His peace which passes understanding to descend on our world, our hearts, and in our minds.

Lord God, Thank You for being God. You know more that we will ever know. You see Your plans. Plans which are good. You may not have authored current pain, but You promise to bring us through it. Please help me to trust You in the hard times. Carry me through waters which my heart balks at crossing. Please remind me of Your characteristics and of Your promises. Thank you for always being there. You know, even when I may never know nor understand. Please help me to see You in today and to reflect You to others how are so desperately hurting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Promised Acceptance

Sandra sank to the floor near her bed in exhausted desperation.

The irony of the spot hit her full on. Years ago, as a child, she would kneel here before bed, conversing with God, just as Mama taught her.

But Mama died. Sandra hadn’t spoken to God since. After years of silence, she cried out to Him but heard no reply.

She was seventeen.

She was pregnant.

She was utterly alone.

God, where did it all go wrong?

All her plans for the future were futile.

Her life would never be the same.

She would never be the same.

Mama would be so disappointed in her. “Don’t let your mistakes define you,” Mama’s words ran through her mind, “instead let the fulfillment of God’s promises define your life.”

As a child she couldn’t comprehend what Mama meant. But now, she pondered…

God, do You still have plans for me, even now? Do You still love me?”

Of course, my child.

“Lord, I’m so sorry for my disobedience, my sin. I want to turn things around, Oh Lord, help me turn things around.”

Six years later, that single mom was waving good-bye to a , blue-eyed, blond haired, excited kindergartener at the bus stop.

As that big yellow bus pulled away with her precious daughter she thought again of her mama’s wise words.

She had not’ let her mistakes define her. She had graduated high school, than beauty school. She had found her way back to God, into His word. She had allowed her heart to soften and grow her childhood faith.

She loved her little girl fiercely. She prayed with her, read the Children’s Bible with her, and took her to church. Her own faith grew as she shared God’s word with her daughter.

It had certainly not been easy, but she had not allowed her mistakes to define her or to rule what she did with her life.

Instead, broken-hearted, soul shattered, she’d held those tattered pieces of her presence in an open hand before the Lord, trusted Him, and relied on Him to carry her back to the good path He had for her.

And He had.

He had redeemed her. He didn’t look at her with contempt or resurrect her sin-stained past when she talked to Him. He saw her heart, a heart cleansed by Jesus and beating for her Heavenly Father.

Each of us has something, or maybe a few somethings, we are ashamed of.

But hiding it, not talking to God about it, pretending it’s not there isn’t the answer.

You see, those negative things we bury deep inside refuse to remain hidden.

Those fragments form a growing shape.

That shape festers until one day it can’t be contained any more, and like lit fireworks, those emotions come bursting forth in an explosion few are likely to forget, least of all the one who lived through the shameful exclamation demanding an explanation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter what we have done, we can approach God. Like Sandra, we can come before Him broken-hearted, soul shattered, and honestly admit, ‘I have no business being here, but here I am, in a huge mess and I don’t know how to get out. Please change me.’

He can, and if we ask, He will.

He certainly can move heaven and earth!

Dear Heavenly Father, You search me and know me. Please reveal to me anything I’m bottling up or pushing down. Please give me the courage I need to come to You and to find any help necessary. Thank You for the promise of Your faithful love, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

 

He’s Leading in the Wilderness

When was the last time you did everything right, but ended up lost?

I recently traveled into a city I don’t know well. Major road construction detoured me from the prescribed route and my GPS couldn’t find me.

I ended up in a residential neighborhood pulling up my maps app.

I was more than a tad frustrated. The purpose of a GPS was to safely navigate me. I was obediently following directions. I was carefully paying attention. Yet, I found myself in a new little section of the world.

Have you ever got stuck wandering around, declaring, “But it’s not my fault!”

Doesn’t matter, the end result is the wandering and the waiting.

Moses knew what it was like to be lost. Because of the Israelites disobedience, the original escapees would not see the promised land.

Moses was cast into that lot. He obeyed God, but he was sentenced to the wilderness wandering with the wayward Israelites. I wonder if he ever asked, “Why me?” or “God, how long?” or even, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”

When we feel trapped in the times of wandering, it is also easy to lose our spiritual path. The lies the enemy feeds us, like, “He doesn’t see me,” or “I don’t matter to Him” become palatable, even believable.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God does see, He does hear, and He does love, unabashedly.

Whatever wilderness you find yourself wandering, He will utilize for good. No matter how unbelievable it seems, His promise in Romans 8:28 will prove true: He will use everything for good.

Just as I consulted a map and then braved traffic once more, ask Him for how to navigate through the wilderness, He will bring you through.

He’s Got This!

Does the thought of 2018 fill you with excitement? Dread? Fear?

Staring at a blank calendar for next year, I began to fill in important dates. Birthdays, doctor appointments, end of school (!)

I wonder what the next year holds. Our family has experienced some challenging years recently and I sincerely pray for a year of rest. I recall the year I received a cancer diagnosis. I remember the year downsizing affected us personally. I recollect the year we were told our unborn baby probably had a severe illness.

When you have lived through enough New  Year’s you might approach another year with great uncertainty.

Yet, we know the One who holds that year in the palm of His hand. Nothing, nothing, happens to us outside His command.

He may not have originally authored our troubles, but for some reason He allows them.  He weaves challenging circumstances into good, as only God can do.

I survived cancer, with less than a ten percent chance, I am here almost ten years later. Another job and a different career was found and it turned out to be a true blessing for our family. That baby we prayed over constantly was born completely healthy and is our vibrant ten-year-old daughter today.

As I look at the new calendar I know many important dates are not yet known for me to fill them in. Yet God knows them right now. He knows what this year holds. He knows how He will grow us, stretch us and hold us.

He knows all the concerns, and stress-filled moments that will come. He also knows all the surprising joys and love-filled minutes that will be the highlights of our New Year.

He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a future with hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 is God’s promise to hold us and carry us through whatever life may throw at us. It is an often quoted verse, but if you have known it well for years, don’t the familiarity dilute the promise.

God does have plans for each one of us. Plans to help each one of us grow in Him. Plans of great gifts He wishes to bestow upon His children. Some gifts we may recognize immediately. Other we might not see the blessing in for quite some time.

But trust in His promise. Hold Him to it. He won’t let you down!

As you anticipate your upcoming year, rest in knowing whatever this year holds, God’s got this! And, He’s got you!

Missing the Mark

Instant replay caused him to instantly recoil.

Ah, the director’s right! In that scene, he’d missed his mark. The taped “X” seemed to suddenly glow as he felt his face flush.

How could this have happened?

He knew. Although he’d rehearsed it a dozen times, he’d taken his eyes off the mark. He’d assumed his mind knew where to lead his feet. He was so confident, he never even looked.

Now the director needed to reshoot the entire scene, all because the lead actor missed his mark. He knew that the end result of not being completely on his mark meant the cameras couldn’t catch him in complete focus. The strength of the story might be lost. Not only the story lines blur but the actors themselves are often unseen or distorted.

Living as a Christian can be difficult, especially when we take our eyes off the mark: Jesus.  Lines of right and wrong can become blurred or distorted when we take our eyes off Christ. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us how to live life, with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Thankfully God doesn’t record our errors so adamantly and rematch our actions so blatantly.  Unlike a TV director, He doesn’t often employ the instant replay either.

Instead of lashing out at His children He redeems what they’ve done.

Romans 8:28 promises us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to 
His purpose.” (NIV)

He doesn’t need us to redo decisions in life to make everything turn out right. While we need to carefully consider our choices and fully expect consequences when we choose folly, God promises to weave good into everything, even the not-so-good things.

He doesn’t highlight when we missed the mark. Instead, He extends mercy and grace, and yes, even blesses our mess. He uses our choices to create a marvelous testimony that He indeed is Lord of all.

No worries?

“Daddy, do we have enough money?” asked the sweet seven-year-old when she heard of her father’s job loss.

“You don’t need to worry about that; Daddy will take care of everything,” he replied, rubbing her shoulder. Giving him a quick hug, she bounded off to play with her dolls.

When was the last time your worries and  concerns were so easily relieved? Once anxiety grips us, it can be difficult to disentangle its claws from our minds and our hearts.

God tells us nothing should make us anxious. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6, NIV

Instead, He’s telling us what to do with our concerns: Pray about them. Bring them to God joyfully and with thanksgiving.

When a burden of the heart disturbs our sleep, disrupts our days and consumes our consciousness, we honestly don’t need to deal with it alone.

We should give it to God. Joyfully give it to Him. With thanksgiving give it to Him. Because He will take care of it and it does not need to burden us any longer.

Sometimes, we are like the little girl worrying about her family’s financial plight. Sometimes, we take on things that are just way beyond us. Our heavenly Father has it all worked out. Will we relinquish it to Him?

He wants us to allow Him to handle it, and for us to run off and do whatever He’s given us to do. He doesn’t want us burdened and consumed with His work.

When we allow Him to lift our burdens, we experience first-hand His promise of the next verse, “And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike what the world has offered us, we are promised peace.

Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety?

A Step Further: Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety? If you are like me, there are times it’s just hard to let go. I carry something to Him, then take it back seconds later. I bring it to Him again, and later my mind works overtime, trying to figure it out.

God knows us. He knows our minds are willing, yet our flesh is weak. He knows when we want to give something over to Him, yet, seemingly can’t.

He also provided for that.

When we feel like we can’t let go, He is willing to meet us there and supply what we need. Whatever it is we need, right there in that moment, He will supply it, if we ask. And, He’ll meet us in the next moment, and the next. Eventually it won’t be so difficult.

If you find Philippians 4:6-7 challenging to live, please feel free to ask for prayer in the comments below. My team and I will lift you in prayer.

Expecting Great Things

Do you expect great things from yourself?

Many of us don’t.

We might assume the great callings go to the super talented, super intelligent, and super positive people. Surely I don’t have a great calling on my life.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that idea is just plain wrong. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV

We are God’s masterpieces. He created us as beautiful beings with a precious purpose. And, He created us to do good works. He calls us to do good things.

We each have a distinct, unique purpose. God doesn’t need anything from us. But if we fulfill our calling, He will bless our work, and in turn, bless those around us.

The maker of the pacemaker, which keeps a human heart beating and working properly to prolong and preserve life, was probably super excited when he created the initial model. Imagine how he might have handled it ever so gently, turning it carefully in his hands.

Now imagine when he witnessed it working inside a patient. When that pacemaker did what it was created to do. It preserved life. It enhanced the quality of life for that patient and that patient’s family. Can you imagine the celebration?

I’m sure the excitement the pacemaker developer experienced is just a tip of the iceberg of the joy God expresses over His children who are using this gifts He planted inside each one of us. When we do whatever He created us to, we are glorifying the one who created the masterpiece of you and me.

Hundreds of thousands of patients each year receive a pacemaker – and they also receive a new lease on life. Countless families can enjoy more holidays, more everydays, because of the pacemaker doing what it was created to do.

What if you and I stopped assuming someone else could do our calling better? What if we stopped assuming ‘I am not talented enough?’ What if we simply did what we were created to do?

Imagine the beauty that would overtake the world. Maybe, just maybe, our headlines would be positive, pretty messages filled with hope and love. We would have much more to celebrate on holidays, on everyday. We would know that deep down satisfaction of doing what God created us to do. What if…?

You Are His Masterpiece, Part I

The above picture was painted by one of my daughters. I am the delighted and proud mother of several talented artists. One daughter in particular must paint to relieve stress and quiet her soul after a season of busyness.

Watching her take a blank canvas and deftly apply color to create a picture depicting beauty, depth of feeling and a sense of wonderment is truly inspiring. She seemingly adds a little of this, and some of that, and voila! She has created a masterpiece!

Do you think of yourself as God’s handiwork? I usually do not. Yet, God fearfully and wonderfully knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs, (Psalm 139:14 ) Just as an artist carefully considers which colors to combine; God also thoughtfully takes talents from His storehouse and doles them out generously to His children.

We are His created masterpieces.

Do you, like I, ever feel the need to demurely reject that title?

Ephesians 2:10 instructs us on how we ought to view ourselves,”we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Just as I am so awestruck and proud of what my daughters create, God looks at us the same way. Isn’t that fact just mind-blowing? God looks at us with pride!

That alone should boost our self-esteem!

When we downplay our gifts and talents we are downplaying God’s goodness. We are effectively telling Him, “It’s nothing.”

While we don’t wish to sound arrogant, we can politely say “Thank you.” At least in American culture that is socially acceptable. Then we can take the focus off us and our gifts and highlight the giver of that gift: God.

You are God’s masterpiece. He delights in His work, and He certainly delights in you! Relish in that revelation! Because He certainly treasures you and me!

I Can Do!

Once there were two Rottweiler puppies. The first, Tipper, was a fierce protector.

When she was all of twelve weeks old, she firmly planted herself between her human mom and a large 250 pound man who had the audacity to step into the yard. Her tiny stance spoke volumes, “To get to her, you gotta get through me first.”

We imagined her parents had repeatedly whispered in her ear, “You’re a big, strong Rottie. You never need to be afraid.”

The other puppy, Minna, was timid and shy, especially around other dogs. She once met a ten pound dog on the trail near our home and all fifty pounds of her quaked behind her people’s legs.

When she would visit the local doggie day care, we would see her on the screen of the ‘little dog’ play yard. Even through she was by then eighty pounds, she played with the “under forty” crowd!

We imagined her parents must have whispered, “It’s a big, scary world out there. Be very careful,  baby.”

Our Heavenly Father lovingly whispers something to us: His promise from Philippians 4:13. “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (NLT)

I.

I can do everything through Christ. Not just my pastor. Not just a spiritual mentor or someone whose past is pretty. I.

Can do. There’s no might in there. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.

Everything. Not just some things. Not just most things. Everything. Even the hard things. Even the things that look impossible. If He’s called us to it, He’ll provide exactly what we need to do it.

Through Christ. This power comes through Christ, not from me, through my abilities or through my talents. I can’t get there relying on me. I must rely on Christ.

We must listen for the promises of our Heavenly Father, even above the noise of this world. Even above the shouts inside our minds.

What does our Heavenly Father whisper to His beloved child? “You can do everything through Christ who gives you strength.”

Even in this big, scary world.

Am I Ready For Such a Time As This?

The orphan girl who became queen. The stuff fairy tales are made of, isn’t it? Esther is notorious for her story. Her infamous conversation with her uncle describes a common plight we all face at one time or another: fear.

While she could possibly save herself and her people from the King’s edict, she must do something, something that makes her very uncomfortable: something that may very well risk her life.

As she verbalizes her hesitation, Mordecai’s words touch her very soul: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Mordecai referenced God’s divinity; His plan for each of us.

We each have a divinely assigned plan. It may not always (or ever) make us royalty, but we can be sure it was indeed assigned to us by God.

Am I ready for such a time as this?

I wonder if Esther had dreams of her own? Dreams of a simpler life- maybe a poor family who adored her- instead of being crowned queen?

When God takes us down an unimagined route, sometimes, out of obedience, we go, certain God’s got us.

Then, like Esther, there comes another wrench in the plan. A bigger wrench. And suddenly, it’s just too much. Like me, do you ever want to stomp and throw a tantrum (at least mentally and verbally?)

God knows best. Yes we know that. But sometimes it’s really hard when we can’t see what He’s doing.

What happens when you’re called to step way beyond having a little faith? What happens when your path you NEVER wanted has you against the wall?

Esther may not have envisioned being queen. She may never have wanted the royal crown placed on her head. But she did it. It seemed God’s will.

But now, she has to risk it all, thanks to a situation she might believe she should never have been in, in the first place.

Maybe you can relate.

It’s just. Too. Much.

I’m done, you might think.

“Who knows but you have come to your (divinely planned) position for such a time as this?”

God led you this far. He’s still leading. Even better, He knows the destination. He has every direction, every step, every “roadblock” planned at each step.

And He has your’s and my miraculous deliverance awaiting our arrival. Just like He had Esther’s deliverance pre-planned, waiting for her to come to the end of herself.

All we need is faith.

Am I ready for such a time as this?