Joy in Sorrow

I was thinking. While the last post was written with heartfelt sorrow, there is joy and hope there as well. I pray I conveyed that as clearly. As much as I long for my true home there IS beauty here.

I’ve heard people say that ‘we couldn’t know the beauty without the pain’.  I don’t know about that. I know without the pain, I wouldn’t seek my Savior instead of myself, and my joy in the beauty wouldn’t be as complete.  Christ knew true beauty before He came to earth.

What I am often looking for is a reason for the pain. Sometimes it feels so pointless. What I need to remember is, with God nothing is pointless. He is giving me chance after chance to look to Him for my strength. When I am weak, His strength will shine through. Not when I think I’ve had enough and think I am weak. When the lover of my soul sees that I am ready to fall on my face before Him in worship and truth.

Remembering and trusting in God’s promises encourages and challenges me.  I think of Mary Poppins when the kids asked her if she would always stay, she said it was a “Pie crust promise. Easily made easily broken.”  God’s promises are not easily made and they are never broken.

A promise: He will never leave me or forsake me.  Deuteronomy 31:6-8 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

A promise: God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

A promise: We will all one day stand before God. The just and the unjust.  Acts 24: 14-15 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

A promise: God will pursue us.  Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

God will pursue me. Relentlessly. What a blessing!  This post encouraged me today. God’s promises will never be broken and He will never leave me.

 Hebrews 10

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

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The Reality of Death

Sometimes I hate what this world represents. I hate it when death smashes up against my beauty!  I like my seaside painting in the mud! And I like my imagination. Oh what pretty things are there! Joni Erickson Tada has a beautiful song about Pretty Things. You can listen to her singing it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dsq4UMBgwZc.

Here are the words:

My life was just like china, a lovely thing to me,
Full of porcelain promises of all that I might be.
But fragile things do slip and fall as everybody knows,
And when my vase came crashing down those tears began to flow.

But don’t we all cry when pretty things get broken?
Don’t we all sigh at such an awful loss?
Jesus will dry those tears as He has spoken
‘Cause He was the One broken on the cross.

But Jesus is no Porcelain Prince.
His promises won’t break.
His holy Word holds fast and sure.
His love no one can shake.

So if your life is shattered by sorrow, pain or sin,
His healing love will reach right down and make you whole again.

The reality is that there is a valley of the shadow of death. And one day I will walk it. And so will you. But we are promised that we won’t walk it alone. Our Shepherd will lead us home.

This doesn’t diminish my joy for what God is doing in and through me here. In fact, realizing that what I do here matters for all eternity, impacts every decision I make. Instead, like the beauty of the sunshine after the rain on a cloudy, fall day, I see things more clearly for a moment. The colors of life are that much clearer for being painted stark against the gray. I remember His promises and stand firm in them as the tears of life reduce me, purify me.

A sister in Christ is dying well. Her book is a beautiful testimony that shouts out her joy in her weakness. Joy that can only come from her Creator. One who is not far off but knows and has shared in her suffering. And pleads with the Father for her.

To remember that as a Christian I have an advocate with the Father!  And He will send His Spirit to comfort me.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

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Hope

Everyone loves a heartwarming true story where someone stands tall when everything around them pointed to failure.  Stories of a person beating cancer, a team beating another team against all odds, rags to riches etc. It is hope personified.

Hope is a breath of fresh air. That is the reason little children light up a room. They are full of innocence, cheer and hope.

Christmas is the season of hope. A place where we can rest knowing that God had a plan all along. When He sent His son to be the light of the world and our beacon of hope he promised us that if we keep our eyes on Him we will see that hope clearly one day even though right now we see as through a glass dimly. (I Corinthians 13:12)

After our brief reminder of where our hope originates, we look with renewed eyes on the new year.  It is a time to examine goals and renew commitments. What is your goal for the new year?

My goal this year, is to not loose sight of my hope and in whom it rests.

Romans 8:18-25

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

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Expectations

I hold very high expectations for my kids.  Not so much in the area of performance, although I do try to help them make and reach life goals. More in the area of character.  Holding high expectations without allowing them to color how they see themselves is important.  If they never meet my expectations and only see that, it will color their world in a gray sea of failure.  But if they see through the eyes of grace, that we all fall short of the glory of God and those expectations become their own, they will see a rainbow of opportunity open up before them.

My expectations for my children often overlap to my feelings of Christians I hold in high regard.  Sometimes their failure to meet my standards colors my view of them. I am not their parent. God is. Therefore it is His expectation that matters, not mine. What is His expectation of  me in these instances and how do I not suddenly change my view of a person because they have disappointed me?

I am called to love. I often think of love only as an emotion.  It is an action. A call to arms. One where I both arm and disarm myself. I arm myself with truth. Truth, people will disappoint me. Truth, I will disappoint people. Truth, God is the one constant in both of these truths, the only One who will never disappoint me if I trust in Him. I disarm myself by letting go of the pride that makes me want to close up around other people because they so often disappoint. And instead, turning to the One who understands and asking Him to guide me into truly loving that person.

Only when I truly realize my own capacity for failing others can I extend grace. How selfish is it to expect more than a person can give? To hold anyone other than myself to Gods standard (realizing I fall short and falling at His feet in gratitude for his mercy) is selfish pride.

I Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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Confidence

How does a mom gain confidence?  I have been a mom for 15+ years and I keep wondering when that feeling of confidence about the choices I have made and am making, will kick in. I have 5 beautiful children and enjoy raising them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Their joy makes me smile and I love the unique individuals they are.  But they are who they are in spite of me not because of me. And for that I can praise the Lord.

Questioning comes easily to me. Maybe life is about more questions than answers and I don’t mind resting in the Lord. But having confidence in what He is doing in my life and how He is growing our family would be a place of rest for me.

I honestly don’t have an answer for this.  I know the ‘right’ answer. Sometimes though, I think we just plug along and if there is a sin pointed out to us we address it the best we can knowing it will probably come back around because the struggle with sin is like that. Joni Erickson Tada, in a talk I listened to recently, said she can’t wait to get to heaven.  Not because she can’t wait to walk and run and jump, but because she won’t have to struggle with her sinful heart. How I echo that sentiment!

When I first started attending Grace Reformed Episcopal Church, apart from making a mad dash defense as to why this isn’t the Episcopal Church, I struggled with the canned prayers. What I have finally come to realize after 7 years, is the beauty of corporate worship. Joni Erickson Tada grew up in the REC church. She still remembers the prayer we pray before communion and I want to share that with you now.

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Maker of all things, Judge of all men:
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,
Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed,
By thought, word and deed,
Against thy Divine Majesty,
Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.
We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
The remembrance of them is grievous unto us;
The burden of them is intolerable.
Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us most merciful Father;
For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee
In newness of life,
To the honor and glory of thy name;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Matthew 11:28

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Perspective

I am constantly comparing myself with those around me. Sometimes that is a good thing as it helps me to see things from another perspective but more often it is destructive. I compare and wonder why it seems like another persons walk is easier, better or just more Godly.

Are they more organized? More disciplined? More faithful? More giving?More loving? There has to be something better that I can work on because I am failing (in this or that area) and I need to pull myself up  by my bootstraps and get moving! There is always something that can be worked on, or there wouldn’t be so many successful people writing self help books about how they turned their life around with some simple little life change. Right?

The truth of the matter is: God hasn’t given me another persons life, He has given me mine. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile this with how my life appears along side of someone’s perceived life.  (I say perceived because I can never truly know what someones life is like unless I were to BE them).

If I am honest with myself, I am coveting my neighbors ox. I want what God has gifted them. It’s much harder to look honestly at myself and see what God has gifted me. I think I don’t want to see the gifts I have clearly, because when I do I can become prideful.  What is easier to look at are the areas I’m not measuring up. Since it appears better to err on the side of caution, I chose to not even consider what I have been given. Through my covetous eyes, what I have been given will never be enough.

What I’ve been given doesn’t have to be enough because the giver IS enough. The gifts I’ve been given aren’t earned. They were His to bestow and He chose to bestow them on me.

If I’ve been given one gift or ten, it is an honor to have been given it.  To honor the one who gave it to me I need to acknowledge that it was given and use it for His glory. To stop comparing and start enjoying.

What exactly is a gift?

Merriam-Webster

:  a notable capacity, talent, or endowment
:  something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation
:  the act, right, or power of giving
Considering my gifts through this light is a bit like tithing. When I tithe I give back to the very One who gave it to me in the first place. It is a joy, not a sacrifice.  He gave the gift, I give joy to the giver by using that gift. There is no pride when I consider that I didn’t work to earn it. It was bestowed.
What gifts have you been given that you can give back to the Giver, using them for His glory?
Romans 12

1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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Every Good and Perfect Gift

Often gifts are given and then forgotten by the giver. The receiver can bask in the knowing, year after year, that someone thought of them.  I can’t tell you how many times I have knitted or sewn a gift and thought about the recipient through the whole process, only to look at a picture years later and barely remember having made it.

Christ’s gifts are different. The giver pursues His beloved.  We are promised that He won’t give up. No matter how much we look up and wonder why He could possibly be allowing this.  He has a purpose and we, the receiver of His good gifts have to believe this and rest in this knowledge.

A gift is something to be remembered and gazed at in wonder, realizing that the giver thought of us. But this gift is so much more than that! He gave us the gift and will never let us put it down and walk away from it. We are promised that it is indeed a good gift.

The gifts we’ve been given in this life may initially appear to lack the beauty we expected. These gifts are for our refining and learning to lean on Him.  We are not living for this life alone. We live with hope in the promise that one day we will look upon His face and hear ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23)

Joseph: stuck in a hole, sold into slavery by his brothers, put into prison because he refused to sleep with the owners wife, in the end God’s will was accomplished.

Genesis 50:18-21

 18His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

 

I believe that when we find our rest in Him we will be given the peace that passes understanding.  Peace for our own walk.

Philippians 4:4-9

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

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When the storms of life rage and the world tells you to rage against the storm, instead shelter in His wings knowing that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

James 1:17-18

12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

 

Ask and Receive

Lord, you promise that if we ask we will receive an answer from you. Believing those words doesn’t mean they have to be felt.

We have been given gifts but sometimes it’s hard to see them. When things seem to be falling apart emotionally and in reality, when the money isn’t there for true needs and we wonder why our prayers seem to be hitting the ceiling.  We know God is truth in our heart of hearts and refuse to abandon the principles of our faith because of that knowledge, but it just feels like His promises must be for others. We feel we must be condemned to a living hell because of a past sin or a current one we must be unaware of.

Naming a thing can begin a healing that reflects back on the gift of our salvation.

“The 10 Commandments are found in the Bible’s Old Testament at Exodus, Chapter 20. They were given directly by God to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt:
“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the LORD your God
ONE: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.
TWO: ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
FOUR: ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
FIVE: ‘Honor your father and your mother.
SIX: ‘You shall not murder.
SEVEN: ‘You shall not commit adultery.
EIGHT: ‘You shall not steal.
NINE: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
TEN: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.‘ – (See more at: http://www.allabouttruth.org/10-Commandments.htm#sthash.Ws870QyK.dpuf)

Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Our sins have been forgiven. Completely. Repent and be forgiven.

We are promised that if we ask we will receive. Maybe what we need to ask for is eyes to see what we’ve been given.

Words & Music:Clara H. Scott
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Refrain
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!
Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.
Refrain
Open my mouth, and let me bear,
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.
Refrain

I John 5

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

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The Fear of the Lord

God often appears to take longer than we would like to accomplish His will. We pray and pray for direction and wisdom and for years it feels like nothing.  So we wait. Sometimes convincing ourselves we’re being patient, other times not caring that we’re not.  We don’t even know what to hope for sometimes. The direction is hidden and the way forward doesn’t feel right either.

Like the Israelite people in the wilderness. Wandering for 40 years. Worshiping a golden calf when Moses was up on Mt Sinai (receiving the law so the people could see their sin and realize their need for sacrifice) too long. Finally seeing that long awaited land! Only to fall back to worshiping idols. Judge after Prophet after prophet after judge.  Sometimes the king turned and repented, but he never tore down the idols that were up on the hill and the people always returned to them.

God is always accomplishing His will.  We can rest in His Sovereignty. 

God always provided a way out for Israel. A way to repent and turn from their ways. When they didn’t He didn’t give up on them. He sent a nation to overcome them so they would repent, When that nation went to take over the land they had possessed they found it uninhabitable because they didn’t know ‘the god of this land’.  A prophet was sent in to teach them. They added the one true God to their pantheon of gods.

What are we worshiping when God slows things down for us and it feels as if the way we thought we were honoring Him appears to be nothing?  What are we worshiping when God shows us our hearts and reveals our idols to us?  Israel was given mercy when they repented and turned from their sin. Praise the Lord that His mercies are new every morning and we are promised mercy and grace.

Can you remember seeing the hand of God when all else seemed to have come to nothing?  Someone who seemed so far out of reach of the Lord that after praying for years, you stopped. Only to fall to your knees in gratitude that God hadn’t stopped pursuing them. A marriage that fell apart yet for years a spouse prayed and prayed and kept hoping, until they began to listen to the wisdom of the world and stopped hoping.  Then when all hope appeared gone, something happens to bring those people back together.

Trust in the Lord. Let the fear wash over and out as we call upon His name and learn to fear Him and Him alone.

Isaiah 55:6-12

6“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Choices

We are part of a culture that has learned to walk away and never look back. Looking back might signify regret and we were told never to regret anything. Disassociation at it’s finest. I believe this advice was originally given with the best of intentions, that we would make better choices than our parents did.

When we do look back we have found a way to become both nostalgic and detached. After all, what would anything else achieve other than depression and doubt?  Yet as love and hate run a fine line so do regret and repentance.

Memoirs and reality TV have become more popular than ever.  We are either relating to them or receiving some false reprieve and relief from them.  What we are looking for can’t be found in forgetfulness or self loathing.  It can only be found in learning to stay close to the One who has forgiven us, and walk the road given to us.

As if we were standing in an ice cold river. Water streaming past our legs threatening to sweep our feet out from under, sending us careening downstream. It might be easier just to allow the river to have it’s way. To allow the eddies and currents to twist us down to the bottom. To float to places never to return.

The river of life flows swiftly. Hours that are years turn into moments in a blink, and being swept away in a moment which has felt like a lifetime, can lead to a chasm we never meant to drown ourselves in. The rope of grace dangles over the edge but it’s hard to see through the curtain of darkness we’ve pulled around ourselves. There is hope.  To let go of that curtain and peek around it’s edges, daring to believe that you are forgiven. To climb the cliff and start over in humility.

Micah 6:6-8

6“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

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