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.

 

 

Lost Love

Do you get nervous meeting new people?

What will he think?

What if I inadvertently offend her?

First impressions matter, we’re told. Some claim employers have a good idea just 7 seconds into an interview if a candidate is a good fit.

In our feeble attempt to get the job, keep the job, give a great impression, or keep someone’s attention, we often attempt to show only a part of ourselves.

The best part.

The pretty part.

The pleasing part.

We hide who we are because we’re afraid we won’t measure up.

Maybe who I am won’t be enough.

Yet Psalm 139 reassures us, relieves us, reasons with us that One does exist who truly knows us. Truly knows our hopes and fears. Knows our bad habits and bad attitudes. Knows our not-so-nice qualities and the percolating questions we are too afraid to ask.

And, He loves us. All of us: the Good, the Bad, and yes, even the Ugly. He even loves the people who hide parts they think should never be seen.

The part which would banish us from the world if the world only knew…

He knows every thought, especially the runaways we fail to take captive.

He knows every word which escaped from an angry tongue.

He knows a hurting heart, hidden from a world we fear might mock, or much worse, not even care.

He knows how desperate we are for love, true love, because HE placed that desire inside each and every one of us.

HE knows us. Every part of us. Guess what? He loves us still!

HE doesn’t break up with us. HE doesn’t fire us. HE doesn’t gossip about us.

He imply, yet profoundly loves us.

You see, He understands.

For we do not have a high priest who doesn’t know our suffering.

Read Psalm 139. Let His words wash your wounds. Let them soak into your soul. Then allow yourself to feel love. Unconditional love. Love that never ends.

Don’t let the enemy try to tell you all the reasons you aren’t worthy. Don’t let him list your faults or indiscretions, or mistakes.

You see, God already knows. HE’s asking you to ask forgiveness, and then He is asking you to forgive yourself.

HE wants to embrace you, yes you! HE wants to whisper “you are forgiven.”

We just need to be honest with Him.

Allow yourself to be loved, truly loved.

 

 

A Time For Rest

Living in the Midwest, we experience all four seasons. Spring is my favorite season, with everything “greening up”, and buds bursting forth into bloom with a wide array of color following the stark black and white of winter.

Each season has its own work, and own perks. In spring, many people, including myself, plant gardens and test a hand for a “green thumb.” We relish in the warming rays of afternoon sun, and start venturing outside a bit on the weekends.

Summer is filled with barbecuing, picnics, bike rides, and hiking.  School’s out and busy afternoon activities are in. I often find myself  chauffeuring and chaperoning our daughters and their friends.

Autumn is harvest time which means our annual apple-picking trip and an afternoon of making homemade applesauce. It also means back-to-school and back to studying. The colors of autumn are a vibrant promise that winter won’t last forever and that we will see God’s creation grow and bloom again.

Winter has its perks with the anticipation of the celebration of Christmas. The days are shorter here in the Northern Hemisphere, and after the holidays, I find myself sitting quite a bit more that usual. I have learned to enjoy this season of rest.

While the snowflakes fall lazily from the sky, and the temperatures dip at a threatening speed, I have learned to enjoy winter. I still arise early, before the sun says “hello”, and quietly process Scripture before the fire.

God designed us to rest. I don’t know about you, but that is something I have needed to make myself learn. Raised in this fast-paced American culture where busyness in condoned and applauded, I needed to take time for both the Lord, and my thoughts.

I love Psalm 46:10 , “Be still and know, I am God.” However, that is not a practice I have mastered. Some might remind me it’s just my stage of life, or that one day I will have plenty of time to be still and contemplate spiritual truths.

But I have found I don’t want to wait for life to slow down, I must make the time now.

As I contemplate the new calendar every year, I see winter as a gift from God. Having previously declared it my least favorite season in years past, I have found a new affinity for it. The weather and lack of light encourages me to settle into my home earlier in the day, not venturing out as much in the evening. When home, my life often feels quieter, not rushed, and less scheduled. Maybe, God intended for me to realize I can spend time with Him and learn from Him, even during this busy time of life.

As I glanced out at the winter landscape, I used to feel confined indoors, with little to brighten the day. Now I see those cold, cold days as a perfect time to start a delectable dish in the crock pot, bake something in the warm oven, and sit before the fire, snuggled with my favorite people and puppy!

God can speak to us through anything. Even the weather, even the seasons. Even as we experience them time and time again.

How do you slow yourself down to listen for Him?

 

Fix Your Eyes

Our adorable puppy has perfectly illustrated another truth: once you’ve fixed your eyes on something, it is possible to not be distracted from it.

As Minna proceeds throughout her day, many mesmerizing motions captivate her: the flash of a shiny pan drawn from the cupboard, the swish of the curtain drawn across the sliding door, and the sway of long coats as girls rush out the door to school.

She notices everything.

But there is one thing she absolutely refuses to turn away from: the lit flashlight.

What began as a desperate attempt at occupying our rambunctious Rottie has quickly progressed to become her favorite activity.

She will lead us to the drawer she knows contains it.

She’ll nose under the cushion under which we try to conceal it.

And, this gentle girl gets assertive when she hears the ‘click’ of that delightful device turning off. She actually runs over and places her paws on it, as if attempting to turn it back on.

When the light is shining, her eyes track it. Whether its tracking racing movements or patiently watching as it simply sets on one spot.

Loud noises, the tantalizing aroma of cooking beef, or the sound of her favorite people’s voices can not distract her concentration from that light.

We are encouraged in Hebrews 12:2 to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Most of us might agree it’s easy to become distracted from Christ.

It’s easy to prioritize a work deadline,  ill family members, or sometimes, even a dirty floor.

While thing in this world need some of our attention, it’s the peace of Christ and the assurance we have in Him that should reign in us. I know I am often missing that peace as I try to accomplish everything captivating me.

How can I experience that peace?

We need to not only  take the time for Jesus, but make the time for Jesus.

Like Minna with the flashlight, I need to fix my eyes on Jesus, never allowing my gaze to wander.

Thank you Minna, for reminding us to stay focused on the Light!

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!

Christmas Presence

Are you ready for Christmas?

The golden question I have been asked so frequently the past week. As of today, not all the presents are home, the live tree is still standing in a random field, no wrapping has occurred, and baking, well about tomorrow I will begin a Betty Crocker day!

But I have told people I am ready. I am ready to worship Jesus. I am ready to focus on the Greatest Love Story ever: God looking at His creation and authoring a way for His sinful children to return back into His presence.

I am ready to let go of this crazy schedule and ridiculous expectations and allow myself to sit in silent wonder of just how much God loves each one of us. How He treasures us. How He wants to spend time with us.

He doesn’t want us to stress about His Son’s birthday. He wants us to be joy-filled and celebratory. He wants us to be able to treasure the time off and spend it with those we love; not schedule commitments out of obligation.

Are you ready for Christmas? Are you ready to worship the Creator of everything? Are you ready to enjoy this wonderful time of year and let its true meaning wash over you and fortify your soul?

I pray that in the midst of the chaos you will chisel out many quiet, beautiful moments to sit before a lit candle and read His love story. You will read His great love for all humanity, and for you personally. Maybe, you will even experience a Mary moment and “treasure up all these things” in your heart.

Let your heart listen to His quiet words whispered through the pages and allow your mind to fix on the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas!

He Hears The Counting

Twelve years.

Have you ever prayed for God to intervene for twelve years? Or, like me, are you tempted to stop praying after only a few years, or even just a few months?

In Mark 5:25 we meet a woman who had suffered with a  bleeding condition for twelve years. Not only did she suffer physically, but socially and emotionally as well.

Because of the bleeding, she was considered “ceremonially unclean.” During this time, others were not to even touch her.

No warm hugs. No comforting pats. No grasping of hands.

Imagine life without the comfort and camaraderie of physical touch.

Now imagine it for twelve years. Did she even still feel connected to people?

Imagine growing up in faith, trained in all the preparation for worship for the Sabbath. In fact, helping with this was an honorable rite of passage. But bleeding bans participation from this, for twelve years.

Did she still feel connected to God? The God who could halt this horrible condition. Year after year there seemed no change.

What was her life like? She wasn’t allowed close proximity with people. She wasn’t welcome in worship. Was her life a recipe for depression?

As we read further into Mark we learn “she had suffered a great deal under the care of doctors and had spent all she had. Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse.”

Her little girl dreams weren’t realized.

She couldn’t marry.

She didn’t have children; could not imagine such joy.

Instead, she was an outcast. An untouchable. Nothing left to try, nothing left to do.

No hope.

Then she heard about Jesus.

She was determined to just touch his clothes. (A violation of her status for sure!) A risk she was willing to take because she believed He could heal her. “And when she touched his cloak, her bleeding immediately stopped.”

He had healed her!

After twelve years, God finally fulfilled her faith-based request.

After twelve years, her suffering stopped.

After twelve years she could once again share in humanity’s daily life.

Amazingly, she didn’t give up after year one, year five, or even year eleven.

Verse 34 tells us Jesus’ sweet words to her, “Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

God never left her throughout her suffering. He saw her. He heard her. And, He determined the hour He would halt her misery.

We may not understand why God doesn’t seem to intervene early on or in our time frame. But we can trust He knows. He sees. He hears. And He will not allow us to suffer one second more than necessary.

 

 

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.

In Need of a Silent Night

Final exams.

Dinner to make.

Children to bathe.

Dog chewed the steak.

Laundry to fold.

Papers to grade.

Lord why did I think I could do all this today?

Floor is filthy.

Classroom’s a mess.

Lab exploded.

Broken glass creates a mess.

Christmas décor blew away.

My Olaf popped on a thorn in the fray.

The last child tucked in; dog collapsed by the fire;

I knew I better sit down or retire.

My heart’s heavy, my mind just wouldn’t quit.

It was then I realized I needed way more than St. Nick.

I needed peace.

I needed slumber.

I needed quiet, unencumbered.

I needed more warm moments.

I needed less cold thoughts.

I simply needed something that just couldn’t be bought.

This time of year it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But somehow, I don’t think Jesus would desire for us to feel frantic celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Jesus came to give us life and give it abundantly.

Today.

Everyday.

It’s we who overfill the moments.

It’s we who try to create grandiose nostalgia when the most meaningful memory would be the moment of comprehension of our greatest gift.

God has blessed us with the gifts of life on earth, and of eternal life through His Son.

God is blessing us with the gift of time of today. He lets us choose how we will spend todays’ hours and minutes. What will we choose?

Although they are pretty, the packages do not contain the gift of happiness.

Although they may fill (and overfill!) our stomachs, the delicious traditions of our family feasts will not quench our heart’s desires to know and be known by our Creator.

Although the parties and festivities are fun-filled social events we don’t want to miss, they could never take the place of that one deep relationship Jesus desires to have with each of us.

Maybe you’re like me and must force yourself to just sit and be still. Even if it’s late, I hope you can take the time to truly rest in a dimly lit room, enjoying the unencumbered, unimaginable joy of Christmas as God intended: a sincere celebration of His great love for each of us.

I pray this holiday season we can each and all discover the true joy of Christmas.