Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hotel Rwanda: Hotel Forgiveness

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

forgiveness

What is forgiveness, anyway?

It’s such a strange, strange creature.  As believers, we are recipients of the ultimate forgiveness of our sins by the price God paid in the death of His Son on the cross.  For us.

We can’t even begin to understand that.

But we as fallen, sinful creatures in community and relationship with those around us, encounter either the need to forgive or be forgiven on a regular basis.  We sin against each other.  We hurt each other.  Even in our best intentions.  Even when we had no desire to cause harm, we sometimes cause harm.

Yesterday I stumbled across a portrait exhibition on forgiveness and reconciliation that absolute cut me to the core.

Many of you are familiar with the genocide that took place in Rwanda 20 years ago.  Has it really been that long?  Yes, it has.  That frozen time in history saw some of the most horrific tribal killings, lootings, and destruction of property that we’ve seen.  The story of the Hutu and Tutsi tribes was told in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”.  Not an easy film to watch.  But an important one.  I’ve shown it to my teenage children–I want them to be aware of the violence that can be perpetrated by the evil that is in this world.

Anyway, yesterday as I was working my way through some blogs I like to read, I came across an article and portrait exhibition dedicated to the memory of the Rwandan genocide.  I was unprepared for what I was about to see and read.

There is an ongoing national program of reconciliation and forgiveness in Rwanda, with the help of Association Modeste et Innocent, a non-profit organization.  Slowly and miraculously, forgiveness and reconciliation is taking place between these two tribes.  Only God could do such a thing.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

In AMI’s program, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counseled over many months, culminating in the perpetrator’s formal request for forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted by the survivor, the perpetrator and his family and friends typically bring a basket of offerings, usually food and sorghum or banana beer. The accord is sealed with song and dance.

But what got me, were the pictures of perpetrators and survivors taken together, and their personal testimony of both why they asked for forgiveness, and why the survivor granted forgiveness.  It’s a must-read.  I wish there was some way I could get all of my friends and families to read this powerful article and see these images.

You can find the pictures and testimonies here:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?_r=1  I urge you, I implore you, to click through and read these stories and view the pictures.

That the survivors were able to forgive–with much difficulty, I’m sure–such tremendous atrocities shames me into thinking “Who do I need to seek forgiveness from?  For what do I need to go to God for honest repentance?  Who am I not forgiving in my life, that my God would have me forgive?”

Forgiveness and reconciliation does not come easy.  Asking for forgiveness sincerely and with repentance is some of the hardest soul work known to man.  Granting forgiveness and reconciliation to someone who has hurt us or that we are angry with is also some terrifically difficult work.  It takes true repentance on the side of the perpetrator.  Real repentance.  It takes humility on both sides of the issue or the act for forgiveness to take place.  And, above all, it takes God working in the hearts of each person to lead to scriptural repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

But when it happens, it is a beautiful thing.  When it happens, it is a God-given gift.  When it happens, it is good and right and Biblical.

We need to be honest with ourselves about our need to both repent and to forgive.  And I think we can gather some courage to do so from these Hutu and Tutsi tribe members.  Because it takes courage to ask for forgiveness and to seek reconciliation.  It takes courage to repent.  And it takes courage to accept someone’s plea for forgiveness.  It takes courage to forgive.  It takes courage to be reconciled.

The Bible says much about repentance and forgiveness.  I could list verse after verse here and probably still only scratch the surface of what our God has to say in His word about these subjects.  I’ll close with only one, but would suggest that you (and I) take time this week to really search out to see what scripture has to say about both repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 

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Messages

Monday, April 7th, 2014

We all send messages–through the way we talk, the way we look, the way we behave, the way we are.

Every day, we send hundreds of tiny messages to those around us.  Just this morning, during the 30 minutes of worship team practice we had before worship service, we probably each sent each other a dozen or more messages—”Good to see you!” “How are you feeling this morning?” “What a game that was last night!” “Let’s watch our pitch on the end of that song.” “It is a privilege and an honor to get to get to worship our Savior together with you this morning.”

And as I sit here taking some time to write, I’m communicating with my crew–”Somebody eat that last piece of pizza!”  ”Is anyone else cold?” “What’s going to happen to the Avengers now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone? (from Captain America)” and “Later we need to go to the grocery store.”

My crew doesn’t even have to say anything.  I can read their body language and know when they are tired.  When they are frustrated.  When they are hyper.  When they are excited.  When they are sad.

God has gifted us with this gift of communication.  It’s vitally important.  When communication is cut off, then how we know or see a person is severely limited.  God created us to live in community.  It’s no wonder that the word “community” and “communication” come from the same root word.

Today I met with a new friend who understands the importance of communication.  Her name is Carolyn LeCroy and she is the founder of The Messages Project and the author of the book A Parent’s Message.  Her passion-her work-is to connect children with their incarcerated parents in ways that are healthy and hopeful, in place of relationships that many times are tumultuous and raw.

She–and the volunteers in her foundation–do this through literature, which is a passion of my life.  They enter prisons, and allow inmates to choose a book as a gift to their child, no matter what the age.  They then will film the inmate as a DVD gift to go along with the book present.  The volunteers “coach” the inmates on how to talk to their child–maybe they will read some or all of the book to their child during their filming.  Or maybe they are illiterate themselves, and will instead talk to their child about the book and other things.  Or maybe they aren’t illiterate, but will use the DVD just to send a message of parental love–as best they can–to their child.

A child with an incarcerated parent lives in a world that is, at best, “missing” something.  Often, it can be a chaotic, confusion world.  Maybe they are living with Aunty or Grandma now.  Maybe they have never seen their parent sober, off of drugs, not angry at them.  Maybe they have had everything torn from their lives and they are fighting for some sense of normalcy.

The gift of a book and a DVD from a parent serving time in prison can become a priceless, cherished item.  I know that it did for my youngest daughter, when she received a book and cassette tape from a similar local program.  Carolyn told me the story of one incarcerated father who kept looking at the books offered, but kept saying “But my son is 18.”  When asked if he remembered the last time he had read to his son, his answer was that he never had.  He was convinced to pick out a book that he remembered as a child (The Night Before Christmas) and to just give the son a short message on how when he was a child he remembered that book and wanted his son to have a copy.  This book/DVD became precious to this son and opened doors of communication between father and son.

You see, messages matter.  Honest communication matters.  Not promises that can’t be kept.  Not platitudes and shallow words.  But honest and real messages.  ”I miss you.” “I’m sorry.” “I love you.” “I wish you the best in this life.”

Yes, today has been about The Messages Project and the tremendous good they are doing in the lives of both children and inmates.  As a mother of 4 children with an incarcerated father, I know the importance of this “Messages” work.  The value of it.  And if you’d like to become involved either through giving or volunteering, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.  There are exciting opportunities on the horizon for this amazing project.

But today has also been a day of reminding me just how important communication is.  Just how important that the things I say, the way I behave, and the attitude I have are and the effect they have not only on my crew, but on my church family and those I come in contact with each and every day.  The cashier at the checkout counter.  My elderly neighbor.  The tired teacher at my kid’s school.

Jesus was a communicator.  He used words and actions to communicate to those he came in contact with His very real love and eternal hope.  The crowds watched Him.  His followers watched and listened to Him.  Even His enemies watched and listened to what He had to say.  And via Jesus’ death on the cross, God’s redemptive plan for the world was put into place.

So we must be cognizant of our words, our actions, our behavior.  I, personally, have so far to go–so much improvement to strive for in this area.  Our children are watching and listening.  Our neighbors and co-workers and friends are watching and listening.

Just like the inmates and their children in The Messages Project, those around us are looking for hope, for love, and for acceptance.  Let’s be light in a world where there is too much darkness.

 

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The Despondency of Fear: Psalm 41:10 and Sleepless Nights

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Sleep is not coming easily tonight.

No, my old foe of anxiety, worry–panic–has crept into my bedroom tonight and is robbing me of sleep.  Of peace.

It’s 12:31.  And even though my bedside lamp is on, I’m afraid of the dark.

I hate nights like this.  Nights where my mind won’t settle.  Nights when I am afraid to even try to sleep.  Nights when the panic leaves me shaky, sweaty, un-nerved.  Nights when the dark I am afraid of is the dark that is in my mind.

I’ve laid here trying to pray.  Listened to scripture.  Recited the familiar scriptures I have memorized about peace and resting in my God.  To no avail, my heart is still racing.

Some nights are just like this.

At least I know that.  At least I know, that nights like tonight come and go.  And by God’s mercy, they come less frequently than they have ever in the course of my life.

Tonight, the air is heavy.  The atmosphere is thick, surreal.  I am both rationally and irrationally afraid of choking.  This is what fear does to me.

Why is fear such an all-consuming thing?  Why does it hold such power over us as humans?  Why, when I know I am perfectly safe, when I know that God is real, when I know that even death has no reign in my life because I am a believer and a child of God’s–why does this fear grip me in such a choke-hold, cutting off my breath?  Literally.  Figuratively.

Why does fear of the worst consume my thoughts on nights such as tonight?  I don’t want to fall asleep, for fear of what awaits me there.

Isaiah 41:10 says this:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I have probably recited this verse a dozen times since crawling in bed tonight.  It’s not a magic formula.  It’s not a secret code.  But I do know that when I let the words do their work on my soul–turning them over and around in my mind–that I can better grasp the truth of what they are saying.  The truth of what God is saying here in Isaiah 41:10.

I don’t know why it is harder tonight; it just is.

There is a despondency in fear.  It is defeating.  We all want to be brave, courageous people.  We don’t want to be simpering, withering fearful beings.  At least, I don’t want to be.  Yet here I am, at 12:49.  Wide awake in fear.

It is a battle.  And, though I often don’t talk in these terms, it is a spiritual battle.

So.  So then.  What shall I do?

I will fight.  It seems strange to use that term with regards to sleep, but I will fight to sleep.  I will consciously make the decision to switch from fighting to stay awake to fighting to go to sleep.  I will do this the only way I know how, which is to write and to fight with scripture.

“Fear not, for I am with you…”  This is a command.  A command to me.  A command to you.  I know what I am afraid of.  I don’t know what you are afraid of, but I can almost guarantee that there is something in your life that causes real fear.  Maybe it’s fear of not being able to provide for your family.  Maybe it is fear of failure.  Fear for your children.  Maybe it’s fear of illness.  I know my sister was awake earlier because of an intense fear of storms that were passing through her area.  Fear grips us all.  It can control us.  It can keep us up at night.  It can create intense panic.

But our God says to Fear Not.  But He doesn’t leave it at that–He tells me, and you, why we should not fear.  We should not fear because He is with us.  Do I sense God’s presence right now?  I’d have to be honest with you and say that no, I don’t.  But that doesn’t make His presence with me any less real.  It’s taken me a long time to learn this.  I’m still learning it.  Scripture is truth.  He is with me.  He is with you.  Regardless of our “feelings” of whether or not we sense Him.

I am preaching to myself.

“Be not dismayed, for I am your God.”  The reason we are to not be dismayed is simple.  God is our God.  My soul; it doesn’t seem simple.  It doesn’t seem simple at all tonight.  But it is.  The God of the universe is not just some being that is beyond my comprehension–though it certainly seems that way at times.  No, He is a very personal God.  I used to not like that.  Not at all.  I didn’t want a personal God.  I was ok with a creator God, but not a God who loved me enough to sacrifice His Son for my sins.  But now?  Now I know I need a personal God.  I need God to be my God.  And you need God to be your God.  Oh, dear God, please come be near now!  I do need You.  We need You!

“I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  This is where it gets practical.  Where it gets real.  He doesn’t just say I am your God–do not fear, though He certainly has the right to end it at that point.  But He knows we are weak beings.  He knows we need assurances.  And because He loves us, He gives us those assurances as truth.  Practical truth.

And so tonight, regardless of how short this night is, my God will strengthen me.  He will help me.  He will uphold me with His righteous hand.  This night will pass.  There may not be a moment of sleep in it.  I’m praying that won’t be the case-as tomorrow is a busy work day followed by an important meeting in Norfolk.  But even if it is–even if I fight to sleep all night long as I have on many other nights, I know this scripture is truth.

God is with me.  He is my God.  He will strengthen me.  He will help me.  He will uphold me by His righteous right hand.

I am not alone in this sleepless night.

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It’s the Simple Things

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

I don’t know about you, but in light of the tragic loss of one of our community’s young people, I found myself lingering over prayer both last night and this morning for my children, for all of our children, and for the family that is experiencing tremendous grief.  Deep prayers–real prayers.  Prayers that contain words.  Prayers that contain words that can’t be found.

And today, I’ve been thinking about the world just a little bit differently.

Oh, it’s nothing profound.  It’s nothing earth-shattering.  But I think there is a slight deepening within my soul of appreciation for the simple things.

I, like you, like all of us, get so wrapped up in my own world.  The work projects I have due, the health insurance decisions that I should have made yesterday, the overwhelming to-do list, that upcoming parent-teacher conference.  I let the worries and the stresses of the day–and the days ahead– blind me to what is really going on right in front of me.

  • Like my elderly neighbor who just returned home from a lengthy hospital stay
  • Like my single parent friend, who is rejoicing because she successfully changed out a spark plug in her mower and the cables in their vehicle and deserves a pat on the back for that
  • Like my child who woke me up last night just to tell me that he loves me very much
  • Like the fact that God is awakening the earth from winter and the trees are budding and the breeze is flowing through my house
  • Like my friend whose home-study is today for adoption from Honduras

I am blessed by friends who have experienced much suffering.  Do I wish for their suffering?  Heaven forbid,  no!  Never!  Yet, they are blessings to me, because by watching them and their wrestling with God, they teach me about the nature of God.  I am also blessed with friends who have been blessed by God.  They teach me how to respond joyfully to the simple things in life.

And I, too am blessed both by the sufferings of my life and the blessings of my life.  For through both of them, God continues to pour off the dross (and there is a LOT of it!) of my life, teaching me more and more about the work He did for me on the cross.

I received a simple gift today.  I receive this same gift about once a month.  A couple in Hawaii know how much I love words.  Their gift to me is to send me a small stack of cards occasionally with uplifting scriptures and quotes on them.  Such a simple thing, yet such an encouragement to this word-loving girl.

What can we do, my friends, to celebrate the simple things together in community?  What can we do to reach out in simple gestures of real love to those that are hurting?

A friend of mine did what she could today, she wrote a letter to the grieving family I told you about at the beginning of this post and she delivered it.  A simple gesture of love and prayer.

I have a shoebox full of cards and notes from friends all over the world that arrived in the aftermath of Jack’s incarceration.  I still take that box out about once a month and read through each and every card of love and encouragement.  Most of them simply say “I am so sorry”, and “We are praying for you and the children.”  Just to read those words gives me the courage to take another step in this uncertain world.

So today I am trying to remember the simple things.  Today I am holding my crew close to my heart.  Today I am asking God what it is I need to be doing more of to touch lives, because the ideas and the thought to do so doesn’t come as readily to me as it does to so many of my friends who are gifted with the gift of acts of kindness.  I want to be more like them.

This is the Psalm that has been on my mind and my heart all day.  It reminds me of the grandeur of the simple things of God.  It reminds me to remember to ask “Who am I, that the God of all creation would care to see my worth?”

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

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When There Are No Words

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

My heart is breaking apart today for a family I personally do not know.

They are experiencing some of the deepest grief known to man, that of the loss of a child.  I can’t even begin to imagine.

My daughter graduated with this young man.  Her boyfriend played football with this young man.

In times like these there are no words—none–that bring relief from the anguish and grief.  Every word, every platitude, even the beautiful true words of scripture can ring hollow in the waves of helplessness and hopelessness.  The questions of why??  The search for answers that are not to be found.

My friends, despair is a very real enemy.  The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10a)  Despair is a darkness with no light.  The words “If Only….” are meaningless when trapped in the darkness of despair.  I know this full well.

Who do you need to check on today?  Who needs to hear from you that you love and care for them?  Who needs to know today that you have not forgotten them, that they are not alone, that there is hope?  Who needs to know that you see, that you know, that you care?

Whew.

We are called to love each other.  With a love that this world does not understand.  With a love that is all-encompassing, that is strong, that is gentle, that is genuine, that is forgiving, that is real, that is not of ourselves but is of God.  I need to learn to love more like my Jesus.  I need to learn to love.

What can we do for this grief-stricken family in our community?  Seaford Baptist Church, what can we do as a church family to meet the needs of this family and our community in this time of deep sadness?

Yes, even the beautiful true words of Scripture can ring hollow at times like this.  But the circumstances of this imperfect and very fallen world do not make them any less true, and today, especially, may all that are grieving and mourning-wherever or whatever your circumstances may be-find some measure of comfort in Psalm 34:18:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

 

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Giving Up Hope

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I gave up hope this morning.

Aren’t we silly people sometimes?  We learn something, we think we have a grasp on it, only to go right back to our old way of thinking and behaving.  How we must make God sigh sometimes.

Just two–2!!–short days ago, I was filled with hope.  Filled with the encouragement that my God is a God of hope and that Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. — was truth for my life.  That out of the mess I have made of my life, God all along has been permitting the story line of my life and that He has a plan for this broken, chaotic life of mine.

I went to bed last night a bit goofed up, questioning the truth of Jeremiah 29:11, and I woke up under a thick fog of discouragement.  Where had my hope gone?

As I’ve mulled it over this morning during work, I came to a couple of conclusions:

1.  It’s not my hope.  It’s God’s.  His plans include giving me a future and a hope.  But the hope is not mine, it belongs to Him.  It looks very different from my hope.  My hope is wrapped up in the dreams and plans I have made for my own life–and I still, many times, selfishly expect God to fulfill them the way I would arrogantly demand Him to fill them.  I have to let go of those dreams–the man-made dreams of my mind and my heart.  For a very personal and hurtful example:  I don’t want to live alone the rest of my life.  I have prayed that God would send me someone that I could commit to in a godly, covenant marriage.  That God would send someone to fill the loneliness of my heart.  It has been my hope.  But it hasn’t happened yet, nor are there any good prospects on the horizon. :)  What if God is calling me to lay down my dreams (more than just for a husband–I have lots of dreams:  dreams to write a book, dreams to live an adventurous life) in order that He can fulfill His plans for me?  What if His plans for me mean never marrying again?  Oh, it hurts to lay down our dreams.  It hurts to surrender them over to God, especially when we can’t clearly see what plans He has for our future.  But that’s where trust comes in.  The hope he longs to give me and does give me is His hope.  The hope He longs to give you is His hope.  We must be willing to lay down our own dreams in order to make room for Jeremiah 29:11 to be truth in our lives.  From there, we will be given a hope that will not be shaken.

2.  Sometimes–and this is embarrassing, but I’m hoping that some of you can relate–sometimes God firmly places hope in my soul and I find myself purposefully dropping it.  Not holding on.  Part of this is a trust issue–do I, do you really trust God to give us a future and a hope?  Do we truly believe that He has plans for our lives?  Sometimes the idea is too wonderful, too overpowering that I let my default of doubt-which is sin-drop that line of hope.  I don’t want to be hurt again, therefore I’ll refuse to hope, especially if it is God’s hope that He has given me.  How ridiculous is that??  But wait, it gets worse.  Other times I drop the hope I have been given out of more nefarious reasons, such as self-pity, selfishness, pride, stubbornness–the list could go on.  Why do we do this?  I believe this is where I was at this morning when I woke up terribly discouraged.  I dropped the line of hope that had been given me for all these reasons and more, including the realization that I need to surrender my dreams to Him, realizing that they may never come true.  We watched Frozen last night–which, of course ended in the typical “Happy Ending”.  Well, God may have a “different” Happy Ending for me–am I going to accept that?  Are you?

I would like to say that I’m overflowing with hope this afternoon, but that’s not true.  However, maybe I’m not intended to, because sometimes that overflowing hope can be deceiving and disappear as quickly as it comes.  Instead, maybe God intends for us to have a steadily growing hope–which, as I look back over the past years, I have to admit I see it.  I see someone who has gone from life-ending despair, to having this ember of hope that is slowly but steadily growing into a fire of love for her Savior.  “Hesed” love–enduring love.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, I finished reading Paul Miller’s “A Loving Life”.  I would recommend it to anyone, especially to married couples or couples who are struggling.  As a divorcee where remarriage to my former spouse is not a possibility, it was a painful book to read.  But it was a hopeful book as well.  I’ll close this post with one last quote from Paul Miller:

Suffering is the crucible for love.  We don’t learn how to love anywhere else.  Don’t misunderstand; suffering doesn’t create love, but it is a hothouse where love can emerge.  Why is that?  The great barrier to love is ego, the life of the self.  In long-term suffering, if you don’t give in to self-pity, almost imperceptibly, self dies.  This death of self offers ideal growing conditions for love.  So, not surprisingly, this book on love, the book of Ruth, begins with the descent of Naomi’s family into a crucible of suffering.

I want self to die.  We need ourselves to die, so that love can grow.  Suffering truly is a crucible for love.  Read the book of Ruth.  Slowly.  See what God does.  Then be willing to lay down your dreams and allow His plan for your life to unfold.  This is what I’m trying to learn.

 

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The Story God has Permitted: Written with Tears

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

“Love will not grow if you check out and give in to the seductive call of bitterness and cynicism. We have to hang in there with the story that God has permitted in our lives. As we endure, as we keep showing up for life when it makes no sense, we learn to love, and God shows up too.”~Paul Miller

I think I’m in over my head.

I received a new book today by Paul Miller.  He is the author of A Praying Life, which was a tremendous, tremendous book.  I’ve been looking forward to his next book, A Loving Life, for awhile–and was excited to read it when I received it today.

I’m 23 pages in, and I’m unexpectedly wrecked.  Not what I expected.  But maybe exactly what I need.

I did not know that the book was going to dive deep into the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz….a story I already find hard to read after the destruction of my marriage.  I knew the book was going to be–as the title states–a book about living a loving life.  And I want to be known as living a life that, however imperfectly, demonstrates the love of God.

But I didn’t know that it would get to the core of my soul, examining bitterness and cynicism; examining how to live a loving life when you are abandoned.  Whew.

When I read the quote at the top of this post, I was reduced to tears.  Wrecked.  For many reasons.

For one….I’m the queen of checking out.  Oh, my.  The author talks about checking out of life.  Yes, I know that action very well; too well.  He also speaks of checking out of life and into the cycle of bitterness and cynicism.  Cynicism is my default mode.  I have to work hard to keep out of that gear.  It is a seductive call, the call to bitterness and cynicism.  Maybe you know this well in your life, too.  Where it’s easier to be cynical than it is to believe truth of God’s Word, because the truth exposes us for who we really are–and exposes our situations for what they really are.  And bitterness–isn’t it easier to be bitter than it is to be loving when we are hurting?

But it is that next line that got me:  ”We have to hang in there with the story that God has permitted in our lives.”  Wow.  Whew.  We can’t check out–that’s not God’s call on any of our lives.  Instead, we are called to hang in there.  To hang in there with the story–THAT GOD HAS PERMITTED IN OUR LIVES.  Good grief.  We each have a story.  God is writing the stories of our lives.  You have a story; I have a story.  And sometimes that story includes tremendous joy; other times that story includes tremendous suffering.  Job-like suffering.  But whatever storyline your life and my life takes, it is a story line that God has permitted!

This both greatly encourages and greatly disturbs me.  First, it disturbs me because I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why, in my situation, I would see and experience what I have experienced; do the terrible things I have done, and lost all that I have lost in the imprisonment of my husband due to the sins he committed.  I don’t understand.  It hurts.  And maybe you don’t understand either.  Maybe the cry of your heart is often like mine: “Why God, O Why?”

But then, I am strangely encouraged.  If God has permitted this story in my life, doesn’t it follow in logic that He–who is above all and in all–sees and knows and is in control?  If He has allowed it, then it MUST be for His purposes, and His purposes would never be to ultimately destroy me.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  It hurts.  And I have often felt destroyed.  Often.  But you know what?  I’m not.  Instead, I have known God’s grace in ways that I NEVER would have, had these events not been a part of the story line He has permitted for my life.  Tears.

The last sentence of Miller’s paragraph is this:  ”As we endure, as we keep showing up for life when it makes no sense, we learn to love, and God shows up too.”

My heart beat faster at the words “as we keep showing up for life when it makes no sense”, because that’s it exactly.  That’s exactly what it is like, what it has been like, and–on some days–what it will be like in the future.  I wanted to check out.  I wanted to sleep and never awaken.  But by His grace and ONLY by His grace, I have kept showing up for life, even when it didn’t make sense to.  And through this long process–I have learned to love better.  I have learned to love my crew better.  I have learned to love my church and community better.  And most of all, I have learned to love God better.  Oh, I’m far from perfect, just ask any of my kids!  I have far to go.  But I can tell that where there was once hardness of heart, there is a new tenderness and love that I could never have manufactured on my own.  Ever.

And God shows up.  He does.  No, I don’t always sense His presence.  But I assure you He is here with me.  How do I know?  Well, it’s like this.  I am like Thomas who doubted Christ’s resurrection.  He demanded proof.  I, too have demanded proof–in my pride and stubbornness.  But one day I realized that my life is proof.  My life is proof that God is real.  And  He is here.  With me.  With my crew.

He will not abandon us.

 

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I’ll Stand: A Prayer

Monday, March 24th, 2014

My soul now to stand.

 

The awe of it all.  The idea that He stands before my failure—my daily failure that debilitates me.

The awe of it all.  The idea that He carried the cross for my shame—the deepest shame of the worst nightmares that paralyze me.

The awe of it all.  The idea that the weight of all my sins weighed upon His shoulders—my ugly sin that I despise.

 

What can I say??  There are no words.  I could fill a thousand notebooks and never come close to expressing all that is within me to express to my God.  I could write songs and prose and poetry, yet they would only say a fraction of all that is in my soul.  What can I say??

 

What can I do??  My sinful self wants to work for Your grace.  To earn your grace.  But that’s not how this strange thing called salvation works.  I could do all the good works in the world and yet not atone for my own sin.  You did that for me on the cross.  All I can do is offer my heart–completely to you.

 

So I’ll walk upon salvation.  I tread this path that you have laid before me–the beautiful joys and the Job-like sufferings.  I’ll walk upon your salvation, for to walk anywhere else is to fall, like Peter in the water.  Your spirit is alive in me–even when I do not sense you, you never leave.  I want my life to declare your promises.  I want others to see you in me.

 

My soul now to stand.

 

1 Thessalonians 3:8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

 

My soul now to stand.

 

And I’ll stand God with my arms raised in praise to you.  I’ll stand out of respect and in worship of You.  I’ll stand with my heart, mind and soul abandoned to you.  Abandoned of my own selfish dreams and desires; replace them God with only what you want for my life.

 

I’ll stand, in awe of you God!!  In awe!!  For you gave it all.  You gave your son.  For me.  For us.

 

I’ll stand God, my soul surrendered to you alone–no idols.  I’ll stand God, my soul surrendered to you alone–I give up.

 

All I am is yours.  This mess of a life.  This broken life.  My failures, my sins.  My gifts and my talents.  My fears and my confidences.  The very essences that make me who I am.  It’s all yours God.  It’s all yours.

 

I’ll stand.

I’ll stand.

I’ll stand.

 

You stood before creation
Eternity within Your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand

You stood before my failure
Carried the Cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders
My soul now to stand

So what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You

So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your Spirit alive in me
This life to declare Your promise
My soul now to stand

So what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You

So what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You

So Ill stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So Ill stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

So Ill stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So Ill stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

So Ill stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So Ill stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

So Ill stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So Ill stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

So Ill stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So Ill stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

So what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You!

 

 

 

Read more: Hillsong United – The Stand Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

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Crushed in Spirit

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Have you ever been hurt by someone you loved and cared for? Maybe a spouse, a child, a relative, a close friend, a teacher?

Late last night, I read something that did just that to my soul.  I know it was not intended to, but it broke my heart anyway.  And no amount of prayer or self-preaching seemed to take the ache away, no matter how hard I fought and how much I scolded myself.

I was foolishly hurt; my spirit was crushed.

I’m still aching today.  Do you know why?  I am human.  And we, as humans, get hurt sometimes.  We as humans hurt others sometimes, even unintentionally.  I long for the day when all that is wrong will be made right.  When we will no longer hurt or hurt others with our words and actions.

Even though I am still aching this morning, God has granted me great comfort in one small verse:  Psalm 34:18

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

I am embarrassed that I allowed words to hurt me.  I am embarrassed that my spirit was crushed.  I feel very foolish.  When will I ever learn?  But even in the midst of my shame over being hurt and yet the very realness of that hurt, I see here in this Psalm, that the Psalm writer knew brokenhearted-ness and knew what it was like to be crushed in the spirit.  But more than that, he KNEW that the Lord was near to him and to those who are broken hearted.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. He sees and knows.  But he does more than just that.  He doesn’t stop at simple knowledge of the pain. No, read the rest of the verse:  He saves the crushed in spirit.  He saves them!  Only he can mend the crushed.  Only He can mend the hurt.

So today I will rejoice that my Lord is near and that He saves.  I will attend church and sing to Him; Worship Him, hear His word.  I will fight this hurt with the tools God has given me to fight with, but I also will acknowledge that it is through those tools that He does the work of repairing–of coming near and saving.  And I will be glad.

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16 Hours Dead

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

What a strange, strange day today has been.

I’ve slept 16 hours.  Not straight, because I had to give my son a ride to and from a school activity, but adding up the hours it has been 16.  Like a dead man sleep.

I’m barely awake now, but I’m afraid if I don’t get up and stay up awhile, I’ll not be able to sleep tonight.  So here I am, but very much in the world of slugdom.

Sleep and rest are such a strange thing.  And I struggle so much with it.  I know some of you do, too.  I fight off nightmares or dreams about disasters, I have bouts of insomnia, or-like this week-I lose massive amounts of sleep over work.

Today, my body gave up.  It slept.  It rested.

But I don’t believe this rest today has been purely a physical thing.  I think it’s been a spiritual thing as well, as I look into scripture.

Like I said, sleep is a strange thing.  It was created by our God for the benefit of our body, our minds and our spirits.  We need it.  Although I can go long periods of time without sleep, I eventually must sleep.  We all must.  The Bible has quite a lot to say about sleep.  Here are some verses that have become very important to me:

Psalm 127:2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

This verse I sheepishly read in light of this past week.  Not only did I rise early and go late to rest, I also forwent sleep altogether, eating the bread of anxious toil.  In vain.  For I realize that had I trusted God with my work problems and chose to sleep in that trust, He would have granted me a much clearer mind with which to figure them out.  For He gives to His beloved sleep…..I am His beloved.  You are His beloved.  Even in my foolishness, He has given me sleep today.  Yes, I’m a bit frantic over all the work I DIDN’T get accomplished today, but doesn’t that defeat His purpose?  He knew what I needed, and granted it to me, because He loves me.  I can’t argue too much against that.

Proverbs 3:24 If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 4:8  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

These are two verses I have memorized.  They are very important to me.  It’s not unusual for me to repeat them a few times as a prayer as I try to fall asleep, praying back God’s word to Him.  Reminding myself that there is nothing to fear, that the Lord makes me to dwell in safety.  To sleep in safety.  It’s not a magic formula.  I still struggle with nightmares and insomnia.  But I am learning more and more that sleep, like I mentioned above, is a trust issue.  Do I trust Him to keep me safe through the nights?  When I am awakened, do I go straight to Him with my nightmare for the reassurance that I no longer have anything to fear?  Or do I allow myself to get worked up, spun up in fear.  Do I forget that it is a spiritual battle to be fought with prayer?  Now that’s a newish concept to me, that there are spiritual battles that rage, but that even in the midst of those, my God makes me to dwell in safety.  O, my soul.

Is your sleep sweet?  Do you trust Him?  Sleep is a picture of the resurrection.  We lie down….our body is stilled…..we wake again to a new day or a new hour.  One day we will lie down and sleep…..and wake in the presence of our Jesus.  Oh, how I long for that day!

But in the meantime, I will be grateful when God grants sleep.  I will try to trust Him in the sleepless nights.  And I will trust that Matthew 11:28-30 is truth:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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