Thursday, April 30, 2009

In The Palm of His Hand

This morning I was working out with my youngest daughter, she on the elliptical, I on the treadmill. She, being only five, has lots of energy and figured that she would keep me company. Her little legs were going one hundred miles an hour, while I dogged the run. "Working out like this makes us strong, Mom. Strong and courageous!"

I laughed, appreciating that she had pulled that scripture verse from her heart. Strong, hopefully. Courageous, I wasn't so sure about, although it did cross my mind that depending on the day and my frame of mind, there probably was a certain amount of courage that I had to muster up to either go to the gym or work-out at home.

As I was jogging (and she was sprinting) I watched the news (with the volume down low so my daughter could not hear, although I suspect it was difficult for her to hear anything between my loud running steps and my heavy breathing). I thought TV may distract me from the physical discomfort that was growing inside my tired body.

Recession. Terrorist attacks. Joblessness. Murders. Drugs. Homicide bombings. Kidnappings. So much for distraction.

I began to think, "so much to be fearful of." The world seems upside down, with the latest culprit having its grip on the people of the world -- the Swine Flu. Apparently, it is now at a level 5, whatever that exactly means. Level 6 is the highest, so I guess not good. Clips of people all over the world wandering around with respiratory masks on, fear emanating from their eyes, projecting that which is in their hearts. Schools closing. People staying home. Uncertainty. Real concerns.

If it isn't enough to be hounded on the outside by such terrors, whether close to home or not, we have our own personal issues. Illnesses. Broken relationships. Financial strains. Loss of dreams. Abuse. Homelessness. The truth is, people hurting everywhere.

And with their pain, comes fear. Fears come from the reality that we may lose something precious to us like our family, our loved ones, our health, our homes. Things that we hold dear, lost to us, and then what will we do?

How do we watch the news and not fear? How do we look at our own life situations and not fear when we are dismayed, disillusioned, disheartened, and discouraged? We can combat fear by remembering Who God is.

Psalm 91:4b-6 is appropriate to even the fears of this day. "... His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys by midday." Isaiah 41:10 reminds us, "So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Dear reader, if you find yourself fearful today, I pray that this gives you comfort. The God of the universe who created everything (including you) is with you, holding you in His righteous, strong and powerful right hand. Imagine that. What an incredible thought. God holding out His hand, and you sitting right there, resting, in the very middle of it.

Working out may bring us physical strength (and maybe alittle bit of courage) but it is God who gives us the strength that we need to overcome the fears and discouragement that we face. He says that He will be the one who strengthens us. He is OUR God, and we are His.

The truth is, life is hard and hurtful, but we need to stand back and look at our fears in light of eternity. I need to be reminded of this, often. It is can be hard to grasp and hard to continue to hold on to. Life may not go as we had hoped. There will be disappointments. God will help us with our fear, but that does not mean that everything is going to work out perfectly, at least from our human perspective. We will lose things that are special to us, and it will be painful. But God is here to give us the grace and strength that we need, when we need it, and He will hold us, and carry us to our heavenly home in the palm of His hand.

PS -- I do want to add one caveat. Fear can be a "good" thing, sometimes. It can tell us that something is wrong, and that we need to act or react. If you find yourself in a situation that is abusive or dangerous, pay attention to your fear. God may be giving it to you for a reason. Flee from the situation that you are in, seek safety and pursue wise and godly counsel.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Brake Light and My Sin -- What God Showed Me

It started three days ago. "Hey, Andrea. I saw you driving around town and noticed your right brake light is out. Probably should get that fixed before the police stop you" one of my children's teachers said to me in the pick-up line.

I got distracted and promptly forgot. I guess it was not a priority for me.

Then today I was in a copy shop and a man pointed it out to me, again. "Miss, I noticed your right brake light is out. Better get that fixed."

"Ugh," I thought, "when am I going to take care of that!"

All day long I drove around town, but now I was finding myself super self conscious about this burned out brake light. I'm not kidding you, it was ridiculous. You may laugh; maybe you can relate. I found myself trying to avoid braking, by slowing down earlier than usual. I would try and time my transitions through stop lights so that I did not have to stop. One time, I thought to myself, "I wonder if I take a different way to school, if I would be less likely to see the police." And then I even took it!

I even saw more police cars today, than usual, and at one point, one came up behind me and I was sure he was going to pull me over. At the stop light, next to him, I put the car in park so that I did not have to put my foot on the brake. I was determined to not get pulled over for this brake light, and yet, I just could not make time to have it fixed.

As the day went by and my antics continued, I began to think. This is just like my dealing with sin. Again, maybe you can relate. Something is not right in us, maybe even hazardous, like a brake light being out can cause an accident. We may keep bumping in to God trying to reveal to us the specific sin problem, but we keep on trying to manipulate our way around it. We deny it or try to forget about it. We try to avoid it. We take different routes, trying not to deal with it. We tell ourselves that we do not have time right now. We'll take care of it later.

And in the process, we just keeping getting more bogged down by the problem, and it holds us captive. Sin of all sorts. Mistrust of God, fears, worries, gossip, words misspoken, and bitterness, to name only a few. All we need to do is confess it and ask for forgiveness, but we don't.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."

Tomorrow, I'm going to bring the car in and have the brake light fixed. I don't like living in denial, fear and manipulation. Right now, I am going to ask the Lord to search my heart and help me to see what I need to confess. I know it's in there. And then I will ask the Lord to forgive me, in the name of Jesus, and set me free.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

God's Intricate Faithfulness

I pulled off of my kitchen shelf a small book with the words "Special Occasions" scripted across the front. Each year about this time, I place it by my kitchen sink, dust off my binoculars that are housed most of the year in the back of the kitchen towel drawer, and begin to watch for migratory birds.

The book is special to me, even though I only use it from mid-April to mid-May. I do not know who gave it to me or when I received it. Most people use this type of book to record birthdays and anniversaries. I use it to record when I see different birds, as they fly through for Spring, marking their names and the year. For example, these are the current entries:

April 24th:
Veery 2004
Wren 2006/2009
Chipping Sparrow 2006
Nashville Warbler 2009

April 25th:
Veery 2009
Ruby Crowned Kinglet 2006
Chipping Sparrow 2009
White Throated Sparrow 2009

April 26th:
White Throated Sparrow 2003
White Crowned Sparrow 2003
Chipping Sparrow 2004/2005

I gaze out my kitchen window or wander around my back yard, trying to spot the newest arrival. I search for their flitting and flying. I am delighted by their songs.

God is so amazingly faithful. How can it be that each year, I see the same type of bird for the first time, within the same dates. Take the Chipping Sparrow, for instance. I saw one on April 24th in 2006, on April 25th this year, and on April 26th in 2004 and 2005. How does God do that?

These sweet little birds find their way north without a map or a GPS, like clockwork each year. They do not wear a watch. They do not carry a suitcase. They do not have a ticket. They just do what God designed them to do and what He plans for them and they fly. They are fed by the Lord when they are hungry, and they are directed to shelter when they need to rest or are in danger of a storm. He cares for their every need and He leads them through the skies. Some may call it instinct. I call it God's intricate faithfulness.

Psalm 57:10 says, "For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies." As I look for the birds in the skies and record them in my book for "Special Occasions" I am amazed at how God is at work in the journies of little birds and how His timing is so perfect. And I am reminded of His timely care and love for me, as I journey with Him, designed by Him and part of His plan. Great is His faithfulness, indeed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

As For Me, It Is Good To Be Near God

My nine your old son shuffled in to the room.

"Mom, I really need to talk to you. I had a really bad day at school and I'm scared."

We sat down on the couch and he shared, near to tears, "We talked about the digestive system today in science class. I'm really scared that I'm going to have appendicitis and it's going to rupture and I'm going to die. Like, what if I'm at school and suddenly I get pain and there is not time for me to get to the hospital. I'm really scared, Mom."

I tried to calm his fears. I talked to him about how appendicitis doesn't happen very often, but when it does it usually happens very gradually. I told him about the signs and the symptoms. I reassured him that it rarely ruptures, and that even if it did, there are antibiotics now to help people.

He still worried. As the hours went by, he brought it up from time to time. Over dinner he talked about it. On a walk with the dog he talked about. Even after he went to bed, he talked about it.

Finally, I said to him, "Honey, do you want me just to hold you? Maybe that would help?"

He sighed, "I think that is what I need, Mom. I'm sure glad that God gave me a mom who used to be a Physician Assistant who knows alot about things like this and can comfort me." And shortly after that, he fell asleep.

Usually when God is trying to tell me something, he sets it up in different circumstances. I had just posted Psalm 73:28 on the side bar of the blog days before, the speaker spoke on Psalm 73 at bible study yesterday, and then I had this sweet interaction with my son.

Psalm 73:28 says, "But for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."

As I tried to encourage my son, I realized that I was much like him. I can have fears, especially during times of difficulty, when I am worn down and weary. There are so many uncertainties. I can become fearful and then I think on it, and think on it, and think on it. Finally, I remember that what is best for me is to be near God. And so like a little child, I draw away from the hustle and bustle, and draw near to God. With my warm fleece blanket, my bible and my journal, I snuggle in next to my Father in heaven and allow Him to hold me.

I realized that, because I had some knowledge, I could share with my son the truth about appendicitis. Because I had seen many people with the infection, I could assure him of the outcome. And because I love him very much, I could comfort him with my love.

This is how it is for us with God. He gives us truth, assurance and comfort. Our Father is a Sovereign Lord. He knows everything. Because of this, I can trust that He will show me the truth when I seek Him, and He will assure me in the process of His care for me, and His good and perfect plan. And because I am a child of God, I know that He loves me. He comforts me. He is my safe place of rest - my refuge.

Dear reader, my prayer is that you will know the gentle, tender touch of God, as you draw near to Him. I pray that you will know the truth and be assured through His Word and through prayer of His care and plan for you. I pray that you will know the comfort of his loving arms that hold you tight. Our all knowing God is in control of all things. We can depend on Him and not fear, because He truly is our refuge, and there we can rest.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

The daffodils in my yard, with their yellow, bright faces had finally bloomed. They pushed their way up out of the cold, dark soil, past the remnants of Fall, and announced the arrival of Spring. On sunny days, their heads bounced and bobbed in the gentle warm winds. They manifest hope and growth following a long, silent winter.

But today their sweet heads drooped down as they weathered stronger winds and freezing rain and snow. They seemed to peer at the ground with a yearning for the gentle touch of the sun. They represented perseverance and fortitude, yet appeared sorrowful. Their leaves were covered with droplets of rain, like tears resting on the cheek of one who longs for warmer more hope filled days.

My spirit was downcast within me today, as well. Perhaps the weather did not help, but it was more than that. There was an uneasiness in my spirit. Tears came easier than on more recent days, and my head hung with a more weary countenance than before.

Isn't this how it goes, though in healing? The old adage "two steps forward, one step back" often holds true. We begin to grow and change and blossom out of the darkness. We begin to enjoy the warmth again, and then something happens, or maybe even nothing really obvious happens, and we find ourselves downcast.

Psalm 42:5 says, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God."

The truth is that our hope is not in our circumstances, but in the Lord, and He is a ready help and comfort. He is our Saviour. We may be weathering another brief storm, but our roots are firmly planted in the Lord and we are being held on to and cared for. Warmer days will come when the sun will gently cast its rays across our faces and we will once again look upward. We may not know why we feel as we do, yet we can praise the Lord regardless of the chilling the winds that may blow today.

Dear reader, we can almost be certain that days will come amidst our healing when we find ourselves downcast and discouraged. These are hard days in contrast to the healing that we begin to feel. Yet, we can bless the name of the Lord. It is a choice. I love the song by that title - Blessed Be the Name.

You can listen to it by Tree63 by clicking on this link: I trust that the Lord will use it to encourage and strengthen you. He used it to help me tonite. In praising Him I am feeling His comfort and His grace. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Before I Could Even Ask ... God Answered

I got up at 5:30AM yesterday, and woke my oldest up to get ready. Made coffee. Let the dog out. Ate breakfast and drove my son to the high school for an event. Drove back home. Read my bible. Spent time with the Lord while the other children still slept. Researched grape vines and pruning. Wrote in my journal. Kids began to trickle down. Made breakfast. Answered a couple of e-mails. Took the dog for a walk and worked on (still!) heeling. Cleaned the kitchen, again. Did a load of laundry. Tried to organize the laundry room. Gathered up the kids to go to a flag football game of my youngest son. Soaked up some sun at the football game, talked with some friends and watched him play. Piled our stuff and ourselves back in to the car. Talked about what we would have for lunch and the long list of things we wanted to do during the day. Put the key in the ignition and - - - - - nothing.

I turned the key in the ignition once, twice, three times. Silence. But before I could even get the words AAA or On-Star out of my mouth, a man was standing in front of my car.

"Did you need me to help you? Sounds like your battery is dead. I can just turn around here and hook up the jumper cables."

"Really?" I thought to myself. Just like that? No calling for help? No sitting around for who knows how long waiting for road side assistance? Things usually don't come this easy!

I was thrilled. I popped the hood. The man, with his family, turned his car around, hooked up the cables, and I kid you not, within 4 minutes from figuring out my battery was dead, I was on the road again.

I couldn't believe it! Such quick response. I did not even have time to ask the Lord for help.

Through out the day the Lord brought a couple things to mind regarding this incidence, as simple as it was. They were just the things that I needed to be reminded of.

First of all, our Father in heaven knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8). Now, of course, that does not mean that we do not need to ever ask, it just means that He knows it all. Spending time with God in prayer is a vital part of our Christian faith, but I needed to remember that God is in control of all things, even when I don't have a chance to ask. He is ready at the rescue, providing just what I need, and just whom I need.

Secondly, I was encouraged to recall that even when I can't ask or don't ask, that there is Someone who is interceding on my part. Romans 8:26 says " ... the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, for we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

I have been feeling pretty worn down lately. I keep trying to focus on the Lord and resting in Him, but sometimes, I must admit that due to lack of wisdom or lack of energy, I don't even know what to ask for amidst my trial. My battery feels dead.

The paraphrase the message puts Romans 8:26 this way. "...the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.

Dear reader, what a blessed relief and assurance. Who knows how many times God answers the prayer of the Spirit when we have not even had a chance to mouth, let alone think, the words of our hearts. Sometimes, our only words may seem more like groanings and moanings let out from our pain; even these are used.

God really does have us covered and cares for us so tenderly. His timing is always perfect. At times He responds with a rapid response technique, even before we ask, and other times, His answers seem long in their coming. We can be confident though that in all things He is at work, and He loves us with an unfailing love.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Hedge of Protection

There are times in our lives when life is not as we had dreamed of or hoped for. Pain, fears, rejection, disappointments and uncertainty whirl around us like the blowing winds of Spring. We desire and cry out for safety and certainty, and they seem far out of reach. We yearn for a hedge of protection.

I have been thinking about Job today. Talk about drama and loss! In very brief summary of the first two chapters of Job, we hear of a man named Job who God describes as being blameless and upright, a man of prayer who shunned evil. The despicable Satan visits the throne of God and a conversation takes place.

Although the text does not explain why Satan has come, God cuts right to business and asks Satan if he has considered His servant Job. Satan sarcastically implies that the only reason that Job fears God is because of all that God has given him, and at this point, he had been blessed in abundance.

Job's hedge of protection, or so Satan thought, was at the root of Job's peace with God. God knew otherwise. God allowed Satan to strip it all away, except Job's body. It was to remain untouched.

Satan destroyed almost everything - sons, daughters, livestock, servants, households and houses - but when Job heard the news, he fell to the ground and worshipped God. Satan's plan was foiled. In fact Job's first response was to worship God. Double blow to Satan.

So, Satan tried again. God remains confident in Job. Satan wants Job's own physical self this time. Surely, he must of thought, the pain in a man's own body will destroy His spirit.

Satan inflicts Job with painful sores. Job mourns. His wife does not stand by him and his friends are not really friends at all. Job is left alone, trusting God.

As I reflect on this hedge of protection, I wonder how many years Job had asked God for this? The story of Job challenges me to think of the "hedges" that I ask God for and the "hedges" that I depend on. Job had prosperity, but I believe that this was not Job's hedge of protection. Job's hedge was something entirely more precious and wonderful.

What strikes me is that Satan tried to take away the hedge he thought was Job's, when all along Job's hedge was God, and Satan can't touch God.

Dear reader, we can learn and be encouraged and strengthened by this. Perhaps you are struggling with a great number of losses right now. Maybe very little seems like gain. I know that feeling, too. It is very hard. Whether our suffering is part of a greater battle between good and evil, I can't even pretend to know, but I do know that when we make our hedge God, we are safe. When we pray for a "hedge of protection" we can be confident that God, Himself, will be our Protector.

In the end of Job, God blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. I do not know what God has in store for any of us, but I do know that if we walk with Him, trusting Him for all things, that He will be all that we need and He will provide for us in abundance.

I am thankful that God is my Hedge, and tonite, I rest confidently in the safety of that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

God Will Never Let Go

I remember the feeling all so well, even though it was years ago, BK -- before kids. A friend of mine from college and I decided that we would be uncharacteristically daring and try sky diving.

Being that it was our first time and we were not trained, we flew tandem. On the ground, I put on a flight suit and eye protection, and climbed aboard the plane. Once in the air and reaching the right altitude, the professional sky diver (or at least I hoped he was) attached himself to me by the use of metal clasps that connected his jump suit to mine. In this position, his head was near mine, obviously, so I could hear everything that he was saying to me. The hatch door was opened on the plane and I was told to step out on to the bar that was attached to the wing. So in unison, the knowledgeable diver and I stepped out, holding on to the wing bar. At the count of three, I was to let go and "just" fall. He would take care of the where and when, I was just to follow his lead, and trust him. He assured me that he would be responsible for pulling the chord when the time was right, releasing the parachute.

So, I did as he said. After all, I had not come that far to climb back in to the plane. Nausea and fear filled my body. A pit welled up in my stomach, almost choking me in the throat, as I stepped out in faith, clasped to my partner. There I was, now, out on a limb (or a wing), so to speak, and ready to step off. All I had to do was let go at his signal and let him take care of the rest.

For several thousands of feet I free fell with him, face down, air rushing past me, looking at the vast scenery around me. He would point out different landmarks for me to look at. All I could hear was his voice. And then "pop" he pulled the cord, and I no longer "free fell" but floated to the ground, under the parachute, still attached.

It's hard for me to even choose the words to describe the experience. It was unlike any other.

The analogy is not a total parallel, but sometimes I feel like this is how our journey with God in trials can be. God may ask us to step out in faith in a really unbelievable circumstance that feels much like we are stepping out on to the wing bar of a plane and free falling. We need to remember Who has attached Himself to us and believe that He can be trusted. We need to listen to His voice alone, and follow His lead. Even though there may be the rush of a thousand other voices, like the wind, we need to only listen to His. We need to look around us in the process and see what He has for us.

There often are a myriad of questions. Had we really come this far with God to now be falling in such an unbelievable and vulnerable way? What do we do with our fear? Will we have enough faith? What is the right timing? Will God really be there for us? Are we sure the attachments are secure? Will He pull the cord giving us the parachute of His love canopy over us and provide for us a safe and quiet landing?

Lots of questions, some answers. But we can know for sure that He is holding on tightly and will never let us go. We are not flying solo. The pulling of the parachute nor the landing are up to us; He controls the timing and He controls the direction as we sail with him.

Psalm 139:8-10 reminds me a bit of this analogy. "If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."

Yes dear reader, in our times of trial and suffering, it can feel like we are free falling. Believe that God is with you and has clasped Himself to you by the love of Jesus. If He is asking you to step out in faith in a scary and difficult situation, know that He can be trusted. He will never let go of you. He will be there to guide you and He will hold you fast. He is faithful.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

"But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" Acts 2:24.

What a comfort! What a joy! What an assurance! It was impossible for death to keep its hold on our Jesus! Jesus was raised to life, and we too in believing in Him, have new life.

This is the only hope that we have, that in Jesus, we are free. He has rescued us and preserved us. He had the power to overcome the grave , and He has the power to overcome the evil and danger and destructiveness in our own lives, and in Him, we have the power to do whatever He asks of us.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Each day, from our rising in the morning till our resting in the evening, let us be confident and comforted in Christ, Who has set us free. Let us live in the glorious knowledge that Jesus is alive and well and in Him alone we can overcome our obstacles and trials. We may not always know the outcome but we will, in seeking Jesus, know Him and we can trust that whatever the outcome is, it is the right and good one for our lives.

Happy Easter, dear reader. We do not follow or love or serve a man who is dead, but a Saviour who is living. Praise God for this! And remember that you are loved today and each day forward. Rest and rejoice in the beautiful love of our resurrected Jesus.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wait for the Lord -- Be Strong

Psalm 27:13-14 says, "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

I don't know about you, but the idea of waiting conjures up all sorts of images in my mind that I do not find peace and joy in. Waiting in line at the grocery store, stuck in a traffic jam, waiting for an important phone call, and waiting for my food in a drive through. Waiting seems like an inconvenience, a nuisance, a waste of time. We are checking our watches, checking the mail, sizing up the shortest line, or trying to calculate the shortest distance from where we are to where we want to go, because we do not want to have to wait!

As I reflect on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I am struck with the waiting the Jesus must have endured. Knowing what was to happen, he patiently waited through being glorified by the crowds as he entered Jerusalem, knowing that ridicule and betrayal were in hot pursuit and would be on His back within days. He endured betrayal, deception, mistreatment and abandonment. Jesus had the power and the authority to come down off of the cross, throw His arms up in air and say "Enough with you people!" But He did not. He, in strength and confidence, stayed there and died an excruciating death.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, while His beloved disciples slept, He prayed to Abba Father. He acknowledged that everything is possible for God, and then said, "Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:32-36). Jesus waited and endured because He knew the Father's will and was willing to trust Him. He waited and endured because He loved you and me.

Waiting feels passive. It feels like, "Surely we should be doing something!" We want to take a short cut, perhaps get off at an earlier exit and weave our way home a different way, just to avoid the waiting. We size up the situation and look for the shorter line. We just want to get on with our lives, not wait! It feels as if nothing is happening, and like I mentioned before, like we are wasting time.

But this is not truth. Waiting requires a great amount of strength, strength that is given to us by the Lord. Waiting on the Lord is an active process of relying on the Lord and knowing Who He is. We are to know not just who He is, but we can know Him deeply and intimately and with that comes an assurance of Whom we can depend on and rely upon.

There is something in me, and perhaps in you, too dear reader, that says "Hurry up! Make a decision! Do something! You are wasting time!" But we are called not to rush ahead of God, but to wait on Him. We are to seek His Will and wait patiently.

Lamentations 3:25-26 encourages us that, "The Lord is good to those who trust in Him, to the one who seeks him. It is good to wait patiently for deliverance from the Lord." (NET) As we wait for the Lord, we can be assured that He will answer, and He IS answering. We can be confident that even right now, in the waiting, He is at work in our hearts and in our situation. We will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!

So let us slow down, take a deep breath, grab hold of God's heart and be strong. Think upon our Lord Jesus today and what He endured as He waited and remember that He really does love you very much.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

P.S. I Love You

I awoke to a blue sky and quiet. The wind that whipped and waled the day before was now silenced. The trees were still and the beach seemed to beckon, "Come and see what God has given you."

My daughter and I did not go down to the beach on the day of the storm. The wind in combination with occasional rain showers made it cold and difficult to try and hunt for shells. It was disappointing. In our first days at the beach before the storm, we were accustomed to rising early and combing the beach for shells. We were particularly drawn to finding sand dollars. We were delighted to have even found several. Sand Dollars are quite fragile and there seemed to be a lot of broken fragments laying on the beach, but to find a whole sand dollar, well, that was quite a find.

On this last day of our vacation, though, God had a surprise in store. We went out early. The sand was cold and the air was not much warmer; even the water felt warm on our cold toes.
Piles of sea weed were scattered along the shore like tumbleweeds, blown up by the fierce waves from the previous day. But the waves of the storm also deposited other evidence of the ocean, and as I would see, evidence of God's love.

We found star fish and sea urchins. We found an old trap that washed up and an old buoy. There were shells and pieces of shells in abundance. There were more things on the beach this morning, after the storm, than there had been previously.

And as we walked along, we discovered one by one, Sand Dollars of all sorts of sizes and colors. Like children on an Easter egg hunt, we giggled and searched, wondering what we would find next and how many would there be?

Nineteen Sand Dollars in total. Who would have ever thought it possible? Not me. It was as if God was saying to me, "P.S. I love you!"
We displayed them in the shape of a heart for a photo. I wanted to remember this sign of God's love for me - His abundantly, faithful and sometimes surprising love for me. Whole Sand Dollars resting on a bed of broken shells. God's love for me amidst some of the brokenness in my own life.
After gathering the sand dollars back up we imagined, out loud, to one another, "Wouldn't it be something to have an even 20?"
No kidding, we looked down to see one more instantly uncovered by a receding wave. That would be 20.
Now I don't have any idea how or why it would be that we found 20 Sand Dollars in one morning, but in the amazing experience that we shared, God showed me a couple of things.

1. God is at work in every detail of our lives.

2. God is always showing us how much He loves us.

3. God does give us special gifts after (and in) the storms of our lives. He may use these storms to stir up these surprises for us that reveal to us His goodness and His love.

4. Even when God seems to give us alot, sometimes He even gives us more.

Dear reader, take hold of God's love for you. As the storms of life blow in and out, sometimes hourly or daily or weekly or monthly, look for the gifts that He has just for you. He is writing you a love letter in the story of your life. Look for His "post-scripts" (or "post-storms") and be assured of His unfailing love for you.

Jeremiah 31:3 says, "In a far-off land the Lord will manifest himself to them. He will say to them, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I continued to be faithful to you." (NET) In the paraphrase the Message it describes God as saying, "I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, and love, and more love!"
Dear reader, take hold of the truth of God's love for you. In your suffering that seems like a "far-off land" God will show Himself to you. Look for the gifts that God has just for you. He is writing you a love letter in the story of your life. Look for His "post-scripts" (or "post-storms") and be assured of His everlasting love for you.

Love, love and more love! Nineteen Sand Dollars and one more. God is amazing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

He Calms the Waves of Sorrow

I am traveling with my oldest daughter. We are spending some long promised and much needed time together, one on one. It is a huge gift to have this time with her. It is like a sigh of relief and refreshment nestled between two parenthesis in the story of my struggles.

However, tonite I am having a hard time sleeping. My heart is stirred by a series of thoughts that I have concerning the sea and its waves.

I love the ocean beach. Today, we were walking along, looking for shells and sand dollars. The wind whipped around and through my jacket, crackling like cellophane. A storm blew in earlier, and the salty air seemed to hang heavy and thick against my skin. My hair curled in every direction, its natural tendency to do so accented by the moist air. The water was warm in contrast to the cooler air, and the waves lapped at my legs and feet.

It was the lapping of these waves that seemed to connect with my sorrow and grief that still remain deep within my heart. This is the reality of life. Joy in one aspect of life can run parallel to deep sorrow in another, and I have learned that it is ok.

Waves of sorrow or grief or whatever we may experience as a reality to the losses that we may know, can be like the waves upon the ocean beach. They rush forward crashing on the beaches of our hearts, and then ease back in to the sea. Rhythmically, but not methodically, they come. Sometimes, when the storm is great, the waves come rapidly and fiercely. Other times, when the seas are quieter, they still come, gently rolling in and pulling back, but still coming.

I noticed as the waves ease in and out, that they bring with them broken shells. These shells, large and small, are remnants of what once was whole. In our waves of sorrow, they may be dreams and longings and hopes, now shattered. They tumble along the sandy bottom of our souls, sometimes covered, sometimes exposed.

But once in awhile a treasure comes in on the waves, and if we are looking for it, we can find it. A whole sand dollar. A star fish. A sea urchin. Incredible in how God created it, we appreciate it for its beauty, and for the part of the landscape that it represents.

So, too, in our sorrow or our grief, treasures are washed ashore. They may be unexpected and we can choose to search for them. They may be new dreams or experiences that God is gifting us with. They are a part of His story for our lives, and they have a beauty of their own. They, too, are a part of the landscape amidst our grief.

Dear reader, perhaps today, you can relate to this sense of sorrow welling up inside of you, crashing on the shore of your heart. What to do? Acknowledge these feelings and ask Jesus, a man acquainted with your sorrows, to accept them in to His care. He will tenderly take your troubled heart and wrap His strong and mighty hands around it.

Psalm 89:9 says "You rule over the proud sea. When its waves surge, you calm them." Slowly you will begin to see that the waves of your sorrow begin to turn into waves of His care, and the gentle lapping of His love will wash over you and give you rest.

And for me, tonite, as I finally rest my head on my pillow, I acknowledge that God has given me a treasure in my sorrow today; I have time with my daughter, to pour invaluable love in to her life, just like that which He has poured in to mine.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Jesus Sees You, Too

"As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on" (Luke 21:1-4).

For some unknown reason, this interaction with Jesus keeps on coming back to my mind this week. As I read through it and reflect on it, I realize that there is alot that we do not know. However, it is what I am able to see that gives me encouragement in the Lord and strength for each day.

I see Jesus, and I see that he looked up. In the previous chapter he was in an intense conversation with his disciples and the teachers of the law, being bombarded with all sorts of questions and challenges. Deep in thought and talk, Jesus looked up and He saw.

He saw the rich and He saw a woman. We read that she was poor and she was a widow. We can assume that she was walking through a dark time in her life. Suffering surrounded her and I imagine that in more ways than one, she had very little reserve.

We know that she went to the temple and she gave all that she could. She got up in the morning, got dressed (I'm assuming) and gave.

And again, Jesus saw her. He not only saw her, but He acknowledged her actions. He knew her circumstance and He knew what she was choosing to do in it.

So, dear reader, how can these four simple verses, describing a minute detail in the greatest story of all time, encourage us? What do we see of Jesus and of ourselves?

First of all, we can get up each day. Maybe we are suffering in a same or different way. If we are not poor or a widow, we may be experiencing other sorts of poverty in our circumstances. We may be worn down with weariness or stretched thin by demands or flat on our backs with desperation, but we can make the choice to get up, get dressed and go about what God is calling us to.

Secondly, we can give what we have to the Lord. When we are walking through a trial, we may not feel as if we have alot to give. We may be too tired, too poor in spirit, too dry to come up with much, but we can give to our Jesus what we have. It may not be much, but God knows. We can give Him our desires, our wills, our dreams, our hopes, our gifts, our hearts. Even if we do not have much to give, we can give to Jesus and trust Him to care for it.

Lastly, I am strengthened and encouraged by the fact that Jesus sees. He looked up and saw the rich and He saw the poor, and He sees us, too. This is the most important part to me. Jesus didn't have to engage in a conversation about the poor widow. He was busy with other issues, but He did.

And, dear reader, He sees you and me, too. When we are feeling full of our fears or swallowed up by our suffering, He sees. He turns His gentle and tender face towards us and cares for us. He knows what we are dealing with and He knows what we do with it. We can believe that He is mercifully and intently watching over us.

Like the widow, rise up and give what little bit that you can, dear reader, to the One who loves you and sees you. You just never know how He may use you.
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