Tag Archives: God

Brokenness

On a recent Sunday morning I was struck with the brokenness that surrounded me.  From the sisters sitting on my row to the families sitting across the aisle, from the song leader to the speaker, from the weeping daughter on the front row to her terminally ill dad who was baptized into Christ that day, from the man who led communion to the person in my own skin, every week I worship with a building full of people who are battered and worn by life’s storms.  And we are winning.  We are torn and broken down but we are not defeated by illness, betrayal, injustice, disappointment, grief, abuse or any of Satan’s schemes.  We hobble into the church building on weakened legs carrying weary spirits, but we are a family and we are worshiping the one, true God.  We are winning this race called life.  And Satan is very unhappy.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,… Philippians 3:7,8

Knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior is worth whatever I put up with in the time before I join Him in heaven.  Knowing He is near at any moment, knowing He loves me unconditionally, knowing He will lead me if I will follow, knowing He will work out whatever comes my way in this life into my eternal good, knowing He saves me with joy and thankfulness, these are the most precious gifts He has given to me.  And they are worth much more than anything this life has to offer.

…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,… Philippians 3:9

Praise God!  I don’t have to be good enough to know Jesus.  I don’t have to pass a test.  I don’t have to meet a certain metric to have Jesus as my Friend and Redeemer.  My righteousness comes from God Himself!  I just have to believe in Him and act like I believe in Him.  What good is believing if I don’t act like I believe? (James 2:14-26)  If I choose to accept His gift of salvation, would it not be foolish to try to accept it any other way than the way He offers it to me–through obedient baptism?  To act like I believe Him means I yield to His will and obey Him.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  Galatians 3:26, 27

 If God redeems me from the penalty of all of my sin, if He bestows on me the righteousness that identifies me as His child, should I not wear that righteousness proudly?  Is there any thing in this life that matters more than wearing Jesus?  Illness?  Heartache?  Chronic pain?  Poverty?  Drugs?  Alcohol?  Injustice?  Pleasure of any kind?  Abuse?  Wealth?  Accomplishment?  Pride?  There is nothing in this life, or any life, that is worth more, that is more precious, that is more worthy of my complete devotion than being a child of God.  Nothing.  Ever.  No thing.

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:10, 11

He will not leave me behind to rot in an eternity without Him.  Wearing His righteousness, relying on His guidance and His strength, I am secure in knowing He will come back for me to resurrect me from my decaying humanness.  If He leaves me here to a ripe old age, each day I walk knowing He will come back to get me.  If He returns tomorrow to claim His own, I have no fear.  He is coming to get me!

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,…  Philippians 3:12, 13

I press on.  I don’t give up.  No matter how badly I mess up.  No matter how much I hide the righteousness God gives me.  No matter how far I have walked away from Him, over and over again.  No matter how much injustice and abuse I endure.  No matter how much heartache tears at my soul.  I forget what is past.  I cannot change it.  I cannot wish it away.  I cannot fix it.  I forget what is past.  I press on and reach for what lies ahead–resurrection, reward for enduring, the end to my suffering.  I take off the rags of sin and selfishness, wash off the dirt of self-pity and again wear proudly the clothing that is Christ, and I press on.

…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Nothing is worth missing the prize of heaven.  Of eternity with God.  Of leaving behind all that is ugly and wretched and horrific about this world, forever.  Nothing.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.         James 1:12

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Revelation 2:10

Endure to the end of suffering.  It will end.  My brokenness will be healed.  And I win!

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Walking on Water

I cannot walk on water, liquid water, that is.  I do occasionally walk on the frozen variety, and slip on it, as the bruise on my back attests to.  I can walk among the vapor state of water, was driving through it last night, very slowly.  I cannot walk on water.  Not by my own power.  For the physics nerds I know, I suppose there might be some sort of device to attach to my feet to make it possible to walk on the surface of liquid water.  Something like a ‘snowshoe’ for water or boats for my feet.  After all, I am able to float on top of water when I swim, or when I am in a boat.  I leave that to the physicists.  Under my own power, I am not able to walk on water.

“And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’  And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'”  Matthew 14:25-27

Jesus, fully human and fully divine, walked on water.  He had human feet which displaced water the same way mine do.  Yet, He walked on the surface of the water.  His divine nature interrupted the laws of physics so that He could walk on water.  Mark would have us believe that Jesus was planning to pass by His disciples in the boat (Mark 6:48).  He needed to get to the other side of the sea, more work to do, more hearts to convince, more souls to save.  Always more souls to save.  His disciples were “straining at the oars”, the wind against them.  They were having trouble getting where they needed to go.  But Jesus walked into the head wind, with ease, on the surface of the water.

The disciples did not call on the power of God to help them overcome their predicament.  They did not marvel at their Teacher.  They did not recall the great miracle He had done just hours before, feeding five thousand hungry people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  Rather, they thought Him a ghost, something they did not understand, something they feared.  Every one of them saw Jesus walking on the surface of the water, and not one of them recalled the miraculous scene they witnessed just hours before.  No David in their midst to encourage faith instead of fear, to slay the wind with faithful courage and five smooth stones (1 Samuel 17:1-54).

Jesus calls out to them, tells them not to be afraid, that it is He, their Teacher, their Friend, who used the power of God to feed a multitude with a pittance of resources.  Peter is not convinced.  Or, isn’t he?  “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  (Matthew 14:28)  If it was not Jesus, Peter knew he would  start sinking with his first step on the surface.  If it was not Jesus, would a ghost command him to come? Finally, faith!  I can see Satan grinding his teeth at this one.  Peter, with the faith of a spiritual giant, proves faith true in one statement.  Jesus tells him to “Come!”  Peter steps out of the boat and walks on the surface of the water.  The great crescendo!  Peter does the physically impossible, just like the man who is fully divine.

“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'”  Matthew 14:30

The scratching of the vinyl against the needle.  Peter starts thinking too much and loses touch with the divine.  Satan gives it his best shot, roars the wind and Peter sinks.  He takes his eyes off of the Teacher, the One empowering him to defy the laws of physics, and allows doubt to blow into his mind.  ‘What if He really isn’t the Lord?  What if my faith isn’t strong enough?  What if I am supposed to be doing something to make this continue?  What if He changes His mind?  What if I’m not strong enough to continue this walk?  What made me think I can walk on water?’

“Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:31

You were almost there, Peter!  Your doubt, your reliance on your own abilities, your fear, Satan’s windy distraction–you lost your focus, Peter, and you doubted.  But, you had faith!  None of your comrades in the boat did.  They didn’t step onto the surface of the water like you did.  They didn’t walk toward the Teacher like you did.  They had no courage to prove belief true, but you did.  The Teacher gives you a lifeline; your faith resurges as He grabs hold of you and walks you back to the boat.  Satan loses his power over you and your mates, and the wind stops.  The Teacher didn’t let you sink.  He was never going to let you sink.

Do I believe He will never let me sink–sink into my own despair, sink into my doubt, sink into Satan’s distractions–when I step out in faith on the surface of the water?  When He calls out to me to leave my boat in the midst of a storm and walk on water to Him, do I believe He will keep His eye on me?  Do I believe He will lead me to where He wants me to go?  Do I believe it is wiser to leave my faithless mates behind and follow only Him?

Common sense tells me it is impossible to walk on water.  Faith tells me I must walk on the surface of the water to get to where Jesus wants me to be, at His side and safe in His embrace.  If I stay in the boat of self-reliance, straining at the oars with the wind blowing against me, I will never get to the place of spiritual safety He intends for me.  By my own strength, I am powerless against Satan’s wind.

When I am at a point in life when a spiritual storm is raging around me, threatening to take me under, only by walking toward the Teacher on the surface of the water do I find safety.  A step of faith followed by another on uncertain surfaces, ever looking at His face and seeking His guidance, focused on His ability to rescue me if I falter, with the courage of a young shepherd facing a giant–this is how I should walk through the storms of life.  But, I have to get out of the boat.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”  Proverbs 3:5-7

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

What Did She Say?

Communication Miracles for Couples.  It’s the Way You Say It.  Strategic Management Communication for Leaders.  Nonverbal Communication.  What Every BODY is Saying.  Communication Skills for Dummies.  A quick search of Amazon on “communication” yields over 326,600 results.  And that is just in “Books.”  The titles promise me easy fixes to life’s problems, especially in my relationships.  If I can only figure out how to make myself clear to others, assert my point of view in positive, relatable ways, and interpret others’ communication accurately, then I will be happy, successful in my endeavors and fulfilled.  From home and family to work relationships, the world I live in struggles with communicating.

In the very beginning, Satan used this human conundrum to confuse Eve.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.  And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ”  The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Genesis 3:1-5

Eve quickly and easily repeats God’s instructions about what they are allowed to eat.  God tells them they should not touch the tree in the middle of the garden, much less eat of its fruit.  So, Satan in all of his craftiness, couches his lie among truthful, but incomplete, logic.  The lie:  “You will not surely die!”  The truths:  “…your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The omissions:  They were already closer to God than they ever could be, more like God than they ever would know otherwise.  He was their companion, walked with them in the Garden.  To know good and evil meant they would have to commit evil and separate themselves from God.  Eve’s mistake:  taking God’s instruction out of its proper context–the context of God’s overwhelming love for her and Adam, the pinnacle of  His creation.  Because she chose not to trust God’s love but chose to entertain the serpent’s appeal to her lust and pride, she and Adam lost everything.

Communication for me is always a challenge.  As an introvert, I mentally and emotionally process on an internal level before communicating about anything.  Most of my blog posts are days in the writing and even more days in the formation before the writing.  In high school, through a wonderful teacher I learned to enjoy the craft of writing.  But it does not come easily.

I am learning the limitations of the written word.  Writing is sometimes without an accurate context, two-dimensional in its presentation.  As Eve found out, context makes a huge difference.  So often in modern society, context is omitted from quotations, making a speaker seem to say one thing when they are really saying something else.  As a writer I view what I see and read and experience through a lens built by my life experiences, my personal context.  When I was younger, I had a very simple lens with narrow focus.  As I grow older, my lens becomes multi-faceted, sometimes making my ‘sight’ prismatic, creating great difficulty for me to find any sort of focus.  I write what I ‘see’ through my lens, or personal context, and anyone who reads my writings does so through their own lens.

I find it very interesting that God would choose to reveal Himself primarily through two-dimensional written words, knowing that man would fall because he forgot the context of his existence.  Would man not continue to forget God’s overwhelming love in two dimensions, when in three dimensions he already proved this weakness?  By His great wisdom, God also revealed Himself through His Son.  Jesus is called The Word, the living, breathing incarnation of God’s will, a walking Bible.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.   John 1:1-3

So, God gives me His written word, the Bible, and He gives me the living example of His will, the Word–His will in both two and three dimensions.

When I write personal communications, I attempt to add texture to my writing.  I use descriptive words and punctuation and the fashionable emoticons to relate my meaning in three dimensions, to give depth and breadth and feeling to my words.  When I read a personal communication from someone, I find myself looking for the context, reading between the lines, to properly interpret their meaning.  I am sometimes a frustrated reader, especially if the note is from someone I do not know well.  The likelihood that I will misinterpret the writer’s meaning is high in such a circumstance.

When reading God’s Word, I sometimes feel a similar frustration.  To know the context of words written thousands of years ago is daunting.  Yet, God knows us well, knows what we need to properly ascertain His meaning and His will.  In Exodus, He gives us a chronological account of His leading the Hebrews out of Egypt toward the Promised Land.  Then, in Deuteronomy He includes Moses’ recounting of the journey (Deuteronomy 8-10) and how the memory of that odyssey is to be used as motivation to obey God.  One of the psalmists gives another rendition of God’s leading Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness in Psalm 106, adding more texture and more relevance to the already ancient story.  In the Gospels, God gives us four accounts of Jesus’ life on earth, four perspectives written for four different purposes–depth, context and texture for comparison and proper interpretation.

I cannot approach God’s word frivolously and expect to understand it.  He wants me to read it, study it, meditate on it, apply it.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16, 17

I know God wants me to understand His will.  He goes to great effort to show me His context.  He adds depth and breadth and feeling to two dimensional words, allowing me to know clearly what He wants me to know.  His Son, by example, shows me how to find Him in my daily life.  His Spirit guides me in my quest for knowing Him and His will.  My job is to want to know Him.  I need to come to His word with a pure heart and a mind open to learning what is true about Him–through a simple lens that does not distort–keeping paramount in my mind the context of God’s overwhelming love for me.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Matthew 5:8

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Oh, How He Loves Me!

Two years ago, my husband of nearly thirty years died from brain cancer.  He was fifty-two years old and otherwise healthy.  The summer before his diagnosis he was hiking mountains with his work buddies, although he had been suffering for several years from the effects of the growing tumor in his brain that we didn’t know about.  By God’s grace, he survived two and a half years after his diagnosis, giving us time to wrap our heads around the possibility that he and I were not going to grow old together.  It was two and a half years of near constant trauma, though.  Treatments, side effects, heartache and physical deterioration took a toll on him and me and our grown children.  I had never before known the kind of heartache I felt from watching him suffer and from losing him in death.  I hope I never experience it again, not that way, not that deeply.  My heart broke and calcified as I watched him take his last breaths.  I had no sense that angels were near, only utter devastation.  God made sure I was not alone in that moment, but it was the loneliest moment I ever experienced.

The most difficult part of my healing process has been the spiritual part.  I challenged every promise of God’s I knew.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  (Psalm 23:1)  “God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God…”  (Romans 8:28)  By God’s great grace, He wrestled with me through every challenge I threw at Him and showed me what were truths and what were lies.  One challenge that persists in spite of my tremendous healing concerns His promise that He has endured every temptation that I endure.

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”  Hebrews 2:17, 18

In order for God’s great plan for my redemption to work, Jesus had to be made like me ‘in all things.’  But, Jesus lived life on this earth as a single man.  He never married.  He, as a human being, did not have a lifelong mate.  He did not suffer the loss of a lifelong mate.  He did not grow emotionally interconnected to the same degree as with a lifelong mate.  He did not share in deep emotional intimacy more days with one specific human being than without.  He had close friends, friends as close as or perhaps closer than brothers.  He suffered the loss of family members.  It is not the same.  Anyone who has lost a lifelong mate knows that it just isn’t the same.  How could He possibly know the temptations I have fought?  How could He know the depth of my despair?  How could He have felt the interminable loneliness, the feeling of being cheated out of the life I had built, the tragedy of having my dreams stolen from me?

He has.  He does.

God uses several metaphors in the Bible to describe His relationship with me.  The shepherd-sheep metaphor permeates every generation of God’s people.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”  John 10:11

The father-child metaphor is one of the most beloved.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,”  Romans 8:16

The bride-groom-marriage metaphor is perhaps the most mysterious.

“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”  Ephesians 5:28-30

These metaphors are more than literary devices.  God describes in human terms His complex relationship with me which is much more than any one metaphor.  He relates to me on multiple levels at any given moment.  My interactions with Him are always as rich and multi-faceted as I allow them to be.  He is at all times my Shepherd, my Father and my Groom.  The images He evokes in the metaphors are mysteries revealed in language I can understand, yet I will use eternity to discern them fully.

In His metaphors, He gives accurate descriptions of His behavior toward me and His expectations of me.  As His sheep, I am to trust Him and follow Him.  As His child, I am to obey Him.  As His bride, I am to be loyal to Him and cherish Him.  As my Shepherd, He is always working in my best interests.  As my Father, He protects, disciplines and guides me.  As my Groom, He loves me and cares for me personally and passionately.

Back to Ephesians…chapter five, verses twenty-two through thirty-three are rightly used when discussing God’s plan for the marriage relationship between a man and a woman.  Paul uses the relationship of Jesus with the church to teach men their responsibilities to their wives.   Then Paul refers to the “mystery” in verse thirty-two, a previous unknown in the relationship of Jesus with the church.  Just as a groom and his bride become “one flesh,” I also become united with Jesus, a literal member “of His body.”  At my baptism, I receive the indwelling of His Spirit (Acts 2:38).   My relationship with Him when I become His sheep, His child, His bride, becomes emotionally and spiritually intimate, personal, and interdependent.

When Jesus became a part of the human context, He learned to feel in human emotion what He had been experiencing since the very beginning of time…love, betrayal and the loss of a great love every time one who belonged to Him left Him.  Every time one of His own who has rejected Him dies physically that great love is lost to Him for eternity.  They become dead to Him spiritually, forever severed from contact with Him.  And He grieves personally and passionately.  There is no other path, no other mechanism to forgive the sin that impedes humanity’s ability to spend eternity with Him than through the sacrifice He Himself provides.  He loses all of the hopes, all of the dreams, all of the carefully laid plans, the companionship, the spiritual and emotional connection He has with each and every one who transcends beyond His reach when they die still accountable for their sin.  He is cheated out of the relationships that were supposed to last for eternity.

Once He became fully human as well as fully divine in the earthly domain, He began to experience the same depth of any human loss, multiplied and intensified on a divine scale across millenial generations.  And He carries that human and divine grief experience with Him even now.

“Therefore when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept.  So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!”  John 11:32-36

Jesus states to His disciples earlier in their journey to Bethany that He was going to raise Lazarus so that they would believe (John 11:14, 15).  He delayed two days going to Bethany, even after He was told Lazarus was very ill, to give Lazarus time to die.  Jesus does not weep at the awareness that His dear friend is dead.  He weeps at the grief He sees in Mary and Martha and in those who accompany them.  He understands their grief inside out, and it moves the Son of God to tears!

His love for me is personal, intimate, unrelenting, boundless, fearless.  He knows what I know about grief and so much more.  His losses far exceed my own.  His sense of abandonment runs fathoms deeper.  His loneliness outpaces mine by thousands of light-years.  His despair envelops Him far beyond what suffocates me.  His lost dreams and plans echo plaintively through eternity for each and every soul who becomes eternally lost to Him.  What is the point of all of His work, of all of His agonizing sacrifice?  I am the point.  Each soul He redeems for Heaven is the point.  Each soul He loves beyond human comprehension is the point.

Oh, how He loves me!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:4-7

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Just Say Thank You

When I was a teen, I observed an event on several occasions that brought me a tinge of embarrassment.  My mother and my grandmother, my mother’s mother, whenever they would eat at a restaurant together, would regularly fight over the check.  I witnessed these epic battles several times, and I still cringe when I think about them.  These women were my primary role models.  Parts of me were afraid of them, all of me respected them, except in these moments.

My mother and grandmother are not alive to defend themselves, and I have no doubt they would try if they could.  They were both strong women of high moral character and normally very dignified in their behavior.  My family is better for them having been a part of it, and I spend much of my life living up to their memories.  I always wanted them to be proud of me, and I know that I made them proud.  They were loving women with great fortitude who saw their families through very difficult times.  They both suffered from debilitating, lifelong illnesses–my mother from rheumatoid arthritis and my grandmother from type one diabetes–and lived lives of grace and faith in spite of the toll disease ravaged on their bodies.  One of my greatest sorrows is that my girls had precious little opportunity to know who they were.  My younger daughter was only two years old when my grandmother passed, and she was five when my mother passed.

The stubbornness which buoyed my mother and grandmother through heartache and physical suffering also contributed to the battles over the checks.  Each could match the other in determination and focus.  Most of the time these battles ended with one grabbing the check from the waitress and the other letting out a huff of disapproval.  My mother could also add an eloquent eye roll.  What I learned from these skirmishes was to say, “Thank you.”  Every time someone picks up a check for my meal, I think of my mother and grandmother and the battles of the checks.  After the cringe, the memory brings me a smile.  And, I just say, “Thank you.”

I wonder how many times when God blesses me does He wish I would say, “thank you,” instead of all of the other things I come out with.  Sometimes, I think I deserve the blessing He bestows and pat myself on the back for a job well done.  Ingratitude is never pretty and puts much too much distance between my heart and His.  From time to time, I overlook His blessings completely because I’m not paying attention.  Occasionally, I don’t recognize a blessing because it doesn’t look like I think it should.  Amazingly, at times, I will fight with Him for the check.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”  1 Timothy 4:5, 6

Now and then, God bestows a blessing, the answer to a long held prayer, to which He has been saying, “not yet.”  I am overwhelmed.  I don’t believe it because it comes in a package I did not imagine.  I wonder what the catch is, why it is so much more than I asked for, so different from what I thought it would be.  “Why now?” I ask myself.  I feel the burden of it, a steward’s responsibility, and I want to say, “no, thank you.”  I don’t trust God to know me well enough to know the best timing and appropriate quality of His blessings for me.  I look to either side of me and start to reach for something, anything, that feels like I deserve it or looks like I think it should.  Mediocrity.  Imperfection.  Triviality.  Surely I don’t deserve the blessings that belong to the child of a King!

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28, 29

But, I am the child of a King!  A gracious and glorious King who loves me.  I am a joint heir with the Savior of all humanity, entitled to every blessing in Heaven, even though I have not earned them.  If I don’t know how to handle a blessing, I have only to look to Him for guidance and strength.  If it doesn’t look like the blessing I was expecting, His package is much better for me.  If the burden of the responsibility of the gift is heavy, He will help me carry it.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”  Ephesians 1:3

Every blessing from God comes with some kind of responsibility.  Every holy gift is to be treasured and used for His glory.  Every godly endowment is to be nurtured and grown and shared for the benefit of His reputation.  Every good thing from God is to be accepted and opened with a gratitude that never fades.  Refusing a blessing from God or settling for anything less than what He deems I deserve is like spitting in His face, an affront to His great and glorious generosity.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  James 1:16, 17

On this day of thanksgiving, I try to remember as many blessings as I can and thank God for each one.  I remember the times I almost did not accept a gift God provided, and I am deeply thankful He gave me the wisdom to walk past my fears into His gracious blessings.  My life would be much less full, much less happy, much less abounding in love if I had given in to my fears and trepidations.

I accept His gifts and, with all my heart, just say, “Thank You!”

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  Psalm 118:1

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Puzzle Piece

I don’t like waiting for anything, but I seem to do a lot of it.  Waiting is the nature of this life, I suppose.  We wait to grow up so that we can be independent.  We wait for the birth of children.  We wait for cherished holidays, for beloved relatives to arrive, for the appointed time to open gifts.  We wait in line to check out at the grocery store, wait endlessly for an amusement park ride, wait our turn to graduate, all for an expected payoff for our patience.  The world waited centuries for a Savior.

We wait for prayers to be answered, nightmares to end, dreams to be realized.  We wait for medical treatments to work, for test results, for heartache to go away.  I once waited to relocate to a more desirable locale, much longer than I ever expected or wanted.  Many years ago I gave God permission to work His will through the details of my life and He took me seriously.  It has been quite the adventure, and it has been a lot of waiting.

Now, I am waiting again for big changes in my life.  I believe I am ready for them; I know I welcome the idea of changes.  Many days I find myself tempted to twiddle my thumbs and drum my fingers, actually catch myself doing them, because I am impatient with the waiting.  I am ready for life to move forward in a big way.  God gave me the gift of analysis, to see a situation and devise solutions.  I have a solution to my current situation plainly mapped out in my head, steps one through ten neatly spelled out.  Deep inside me, though, I know God says it isn’t His time yet.  His time.  Isn’t it MY life?

The great temptation for me is to take matters into my own hands rather than waiting on God to work circumstances and people into the places He wants them before I make my changes.  I feel the pull to rely on my own logic, to cut God out of the process of deciding what changes to make and how to make them.  I question if God truly cares about the details of my life, if He really is working all of the mess and confusion of my life into something that is good for the long term.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

God causes.  All things.  To work together for good.  It is one of the many wonders of God that He sees all of time all at once as one big picture of good.  I am but one small puzzle piece He shapes so that I will fit in His plan for eternal blessing.  If I choose to shape myself, I do not fit anywhere in His limitless mosaic.  Some pieces in the puzzle need more shaping than others, but all are precious to Him.  Each and every piece is a treasure to Him.  With my permission, He works on me like a craftsman, honing intricate edges and fluid curves.  He fashions the events of my life so that they put the right facet in just the right place on me.  So that I will fit.  He wants me to fit.  I want to fit.

But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.”  Isaiah 64:8

I learned a long time ago to take Mr. Rogers’ advice to heart and “find something to do while I am waiting.”  So, during each and every interlude of waiting I find productive things to do.  Things which honor God.  Things which bless those around me.  And I seek God more earnestly than ever before, begging for His guidance, still asking for His moving of me to the next place, to show me plainly how and when and where and why.  He eventually provides the when and where.  He doesn’t always provide the how and why.  Silly me!

Looking back, I see that sometimes the periods of waiting have been times of healing and rest.  They last longer than I want them to, but they are important to my well-being.  Occasionally, the time of waiting is an episode of profound growth when I learn new-to-me truths and flesh out an unknown-to-me about God.  Such times are filled with wrestling with God, figuring out how to align my will to His, letting go of my idea of what should come next and adopting His idea.  Once in a while, the waiting is not about me but about someone else God is working on to bring to the place of blessing for both of us.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27: 13, 14

“I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.  My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.”  Psalm 130:5,6

“Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, We have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls.”  Isaiah 26:8

“Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  Isaiah 40:31

“But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7

The first century Christians anxiously waited for Jesus’ return.  (Romans 8:25, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Philippians 3:20, 1 Thessalonians 1:10)  Do I wait eagerly for the Lord to return?  Is it more important to me to be ready for His return than it is to be ready for the next big change in my life?  I prepare for the next chapter of my life by doing what I need to do to hear God’s instruction and leading.  Am I listening for the trumpet call that will announce the arrival of the Son of God? (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

So I wait in promised hope of a blessing greater than I can imagine–the next step in my adventure with God in this life.  And I wait for my Savior to return, to take me Home with the rest of His beloved.  Waiting for God is never a wrong move.

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him,  It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord.”  Lamentations 3:25, 26

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Spaghetti

This is one of those weeks when my emotions seem to invade every piece of my life.  I am not a fan of days like these.  I like to feel in control of daily life.  This week, I feel like life is jumbled into a pile of spaghetti with pieces going in an endless array of directions, and I am not able to find the beginning or end of any one piece.

Have you tried to buy private health insurance lately?  I tried to buy mine for next year  only to be told I need to wait a month because they aren’t completely ready with the new plans for non-exchange customers.  Lovely.  I was hoping this chore was the one thing I could get accomplished this week.  I wanted to feel comfortable knowing this piece of life was taken care of.  Instead, I feel even more unsettled.

I went snow blower shopping.  To get the model that fits my property’s requirements, I will have to spend more than I had hoped, but the retailer will get rid of my old, broken machine for me and deliver the new one.  I could buy a less expensive model but it would probably break down sooner rather than later because I would use it beyond the specifications it was designed for.  I loathe buying machines.  I hate even more having to do it by myself, without a partner to share the burden, and the consequences.  Grief tries to flood in once again.

My five-year-old washer keeps giving me an error code partway into its cycles.  I looked up the code, and it seems I need to replace the filter screens in the water intake hoses.  Okay.  Not a big deal.  I should be able to accomplish this.  In my heart, though, it is another reminder I no longer have a handyman-in-residence.

I received the forgiveness I requested (“White Lie”), but I am still having trouble with moving beyond.  Let it go, I tell myself.  Just let it go.  They forgive you, feel it is of no consequence.  God forgives you.  What I feel is fear.  Fear that I will not see sin for what it is before I fall into it.  And next time the consequences may be more serious.  How can I forgive myself if my heart thinks I will just slip into sin again?  How can I feel spiritually safe with myself?

I heard on the radio a woman talking about her recent diagnosis.  She was expressing gratitude for the station’s programming which was encouraging to her in the difficulty she is facing.  I heard the fear in her voice, and the memories rushed in.  I remembered what it feels like to face medical uncertainty.  And I sobbed.  I asked God why this life has to be so hard.  I prayed for her, a stranger, to have the courage and strength I know too well she will need.

My inclination is to blame my current state of emotional confusion on hormones or on the time change last weekend.  Truthfully, both are playing a role, but fixing blame does not help me.  There is nothing I can do about the time change except wait for my body to adjust.  And hormones, well, I don’t have much control over them either other than the healthy habits I already avail myself of.

I could easily slip into a downward spiral of emotional morass, but I choose instead to see what God would have me learn:

Life is full of annoying chores.  Any time and energy I spend worrying about what might or might not happen tomorrow or next week or next month is wasted.  Eventually, I will be able to buy health insurance.

“‘So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.'”  Matthew 6:34

My loss is eternity’s gain.  This life goes on whether I participate or not.  Allow grief to lessen, knowing God leads me through my struggle.  Move forward with life, no matter how hard it feels.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones.”  Psalm 116:15

No matter how I feel, God never leaves me alone.  No matter what circumstances occur in my life, I do not face any of them alone.  No matter how disheartening.  No matter how frustrating.  No matter how upsetting.  I am never alone.

“‘Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.'”  Deuteronomy 31:6

God’s grace is always big enough for my sin.  God wants my heart, wants me to want to be with Him.  His grace makes His forgiveness always possible.  As His child, no matter how far or how often I slip, His forgiveness is always, only, one confession away.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

This life is not the end; each day is new; God is faithful to those who love Him.  The hard days of this life move me to want the next life, eternal life in God’s presence in a resurrected body, even more.

“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.  Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me.  This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.  The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I will have hope in Him.'”  Lamentations 3:19-24

 This life is not going to be easy, simple, fair or always happy.  Because sin is a part of every day on this earth, because earthly perfection was lost with the first bite of the forbidden fruit, this life will have hard days, days of jumbled emotions and fractious thinking.  If I choose to endure and persevere, I will find blessing.

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  James 1:12

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

White Lie

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,…”  Hebrews 12:1

The sin which so easily entangles us…

I made my commitment to Christ when I was fifteen.  That was just under forty years ago.  I have a lot of experience being a Christian, walking with God, discerning and avoiding sin.  And still, sin easily, much too easily, entangles me.  A white lie, just a teeny tiny one about something completely unimportant, of no real consequence except that the deception itself turns it into more than it ever should be.  My only calculation that accompanies the ruse is that it is easier to let the lie stand rather than correct it.

I hate deception in any form.  I hate being lied to, which is apparent in my “Liar, Liar” post.  I have difficulty interpreting others’ actions and discerning character from someone’s behavior.  Gullible, yes.  Naive, probably.  Way too trusting, definitely.  I need honesty from those around me to do well in this world.  Yet, even I fall into creating a falsehood from time to time.  It is rarely something of any importance.  Letting someone tell me something I already know and acting as if I am learning it for the first time.  Asking a question I already know the answer to.  Letting someone believe one thing is true when it is really something else that is true.

Some might call this being polite.  Some might say it is okay to reserve one’s point-of-view in the interest of keeping peace or going with the flow.  Some might say if it is nothing of significant consequence, then it is no big deal.  Some might say that some people can’t handle the truth and they need to be protected from it.

My conscience screams at me.  But, it is much better, I think, for me to keep the deception to myself.  ‘What someone doesn’t know can’t hurt them.’  Until the victim does find out, and I see the disappointment and betrayal in their face revealing a deep wound.  The offended may be able to maintain a perspective on the trivialness of the offense and not let it affect how they think of me.  The one I hurt may be able to forgive my lapse in judgment.  Or, they may not and I have damaged something precious to me.  My conscience screams some more.

What a dilemma I have wrought for myself!  If I confess to the one I offended, then they will know what I have done and I may have to face their disappointment anyway.  If I confess, I risk putting the one offended in the position of temptation to react harshly and in an unforgiving manner.  If I confess, I feel my own embarrassment at being ‘found out’, rendered as the fraud I really am.  If I confess, I feel my shame.  If I confess, I verify that I am weak and sometimes foolish.  If I keep it to myself, perhaps no one will ever know…except for me and God.

Here are the most difficult parts of my dilemma:  Confessing to God what I have done and begging for His forgiveness as I strive to repent.  Forgiving myself for causing a stir over something that was easily avoided.  Forgiving myself for treating someone I value highly as if they were unimportant to me.  Reconciling the person of integrity and honesty I want to be with the person who is entirely imperfect and grossly flawed.  On my knees I go to petition the only One who can completely absolve me of my sin.  And I work on forgiving myself.

I don’t know if the one I offended will be able to restore our relationship to its prior status.  I am tempted to think, “If I had just kept quiet, they would never know and things between us would be okay.  There would be no forgiveness needed, no known offense.”

I sometimes wonder how Bathsheba felt when she discovered David had ordered her husband’s death so that he could hide their sin and have Bathsheba for himself.  Perhaps she never knew, but I doubt that.  Royal palaces are hotbeds of gossip.  Joab, the commander of David’s army, knew David ordered Uriah’s murder.  (2 Samuel 11:14, 15)  How it must have strained the trust and love between them if Bathsheba even suspected what David did.  Given the depth of lament David expresses in Psalm 51, I tend to believe David confessed to her himself and begged her forgiveness.  David and Bathsheba suffered deeply for their indiscretion, losing the child which came from it.  Yet, David and Bathsheba eventually became the parents of Solomon who would become one of Israel’s greatest kings.  They must have worked things out between them.

Deception is usually discovered at some point.  Satan likes to play with us, let us think everything is okay because we keep quiet. Then he orchestrates the revealing and laughs heartily at us as we squirm and suffer the consequences of an extended deception.  I choose to confess, sooner rather than later, to steal from Satan the opportunity to wreak more havoc than I have already accomplished myself.  I choose to do all I can to make right a lapse in my honor, to repent, so that God can forgive me.  So that I can forgive myself for hurting someone I care about.  So that the one I offended can forgive me.

“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.”  Psalm 51:1-3

Sin always brings consequences…destruction, death…even the sins I think I hide so well.  Sin of every kind, of any kind, separates me from God until I repent of it.

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.”  Hebrews 10:26

There is no hiding from God.  To maintain a deception is to sin willfully.  The one I offend may never know.  But, God will.  And, I will.

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

First Love

“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.’  So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.”  Hosea 1:2, 3

God tells the prophet Hosea to make a prostitute his wife.  He is showing Hosea in a very personal way the heartache He is suffering because of Israel’s chronic betrayal.  God has been warning Israel for years that they are testing His patience, that there will be a day of reckoning when He will strike them down.  Yet, they continue to worship Baal and Asherah in addition to the true God.  They build shrines to these gods and incorporate ‘sacred’ prostitution into their religious practice.

Israel makes a mockery of the first of the commandments God gives to them at Sinai:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before Me.”  Exodus 20:2, 3

They prostitute themselves to other spiritual loves.  Eventually Israel comes to consider the Baals more beneficial to them than God Almighty.  God makes it clear from the very beginning that worshiping any other god will have repercussions.  He is a jealous God and does not tolerate their hearts wandering to any other god.

“…for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”  Exodus 20:5b, 6

Israel’s mistake is to stop pursuing God as their first love.  In doing so, they lose their knowledge of Him, lose the connection they have to Him.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”   Hosea 4:6

Israel doesn’t seem to know how destitute their plight is:

“The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame.”  Hosea 4:7

Hosea gains firsthand a glimpse into the heart of our grieving God.  Gomer’s betrayal leads Hosea into deep heartache that mirrors the heartache of the Creator.  Israel, His chosen love who would bring into the world the Messiah, His Son, no longer pursues Him, chooses to pursue false gods who have never been and never will be their savior and true love.  How do they not understand what they are doing?  They break the heart of God.

“‘I will punish her for the days of the Baals When she used to offer sacrifices to them And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry, And follow her lovers, so that she forgot me,’ declares the Lord.”  Hosea 2:13

Do I betray my God, my only Savior and Redeemer?  How?  With what gods do I prostitute myself?  The god of pleasure or the god of success?  The god of recreation or the god of power?  The god of money?  The god of influence?  What in my life matters more to me than Him?  Do I matter more to me than He does?

When I ask myself these questions I feel myself recoiling.  “Of course I don’t prostitute myself to other spiritual loves!”   Now I ask the questions a bit differently.  Who would I rather spend time with, the God who made me or the gods who make me feel good?  Who do I trust, the God who redeems me or the gods who give me what I want today?  To whom do I surrender allegiance, the God who is perfect in His love and faithfulness toward me or the gods who exalt me among my peers?

In my shame, I start to understand how I break the heart of my loving God.  Most of my time is taken up by activities that enrich me in some way.  My life is tied more to this world than to my home with God.  When I have the opportunity to meditate, I spend more energy thinking about, worrying about, the affairs of this world than I do on the One who provides what endures for eternity.  Too many times, His Spirit is prompting me to pray before I choose to do it on my own.  When will I understand choosing anything or anyone before choosing Him is like slapping my mate in his face with ridicule and contempt?  When will I realize that trusting anyone or anything except the God who loves me with a passion that lasts through eternity is like stomping on the heart of my beloved after he reveals the depth of his love for me?

I don’t want to lose my first love.  I know what it feels like to lose a love.  My heart cannot afford to lose any more.  I don’t want to be like the Ephesians, stuck in my ‘rightness’ but far away from the heart of God (Revelation 2:1-5).  God makes it clear that He does not tolerate sharing the throne of my heart with anyone or anything else.  Do I take His jealously seriously?

Jesus teaches the first commandment is to love God with all that we are, heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22:37, 38).  No equivocation here.  Heart.  Mind.  Soul.  All.  I must pursue Him, and Him only, with all that is within me.

Just like Hosea buys back Gomer after she had become another man’s property, God buys back Israel and all of mankind through His Son.  God’s love of man is relentless and unending.  He is faithful beyond reason.  He is unspeakably generous.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquitites, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”  Psalm 103:1-5

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

Change

As a child and young adult, I enjoyed change.  Each day was new and sometimes exciting, bringing both good changes and bad.  I liked the challenge of learning new things and the thrill of new experiences.  Feeling destabilized faded in the face of meeting changes with my ability to analyze and assimilate them into my life.  My family moved three times while I was growing up.  Each move involved climate and cultural and social changes that felt difficult but not unconquerable.  As a child, I thrilled at the anticipation of moving to the next grade, thrived on learning new concepts and passing the tests to demonstrate my mastery of them.  Finally starting high school was a high point in my adolescence.  Going to college was a fabulous new adventure.  Getting married, the triumphant culmination of many dreams.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the thrill of life changes.  In my heart, challenges started representing losses instead of exciting voyages.  Relocating became frustrating and tiresome.  Learning new things became an unwelcome chore.   I found myself emotionally recoiling from change, anxious to protect what was mine and maintain the status quo.  Realizing the years were piling on faster than I wanted them to made me want to slow everything down and keep life stable and predictable, unchanging.

And now, I find myself in a season of change–unplanned changes I did not anticipate brought into my life by tragic loss.  To avoid this season would mean certain stagnation, getting stuck in my current frame of mind and heart, so change is the path I prefer.  Personal, financial, mental, emotional and social changes stare me in the face.  Many of the changes are blessings, new responsibilities which give me a sense of security, newly found footing that feels solid.  Some of the changes require me to expend a tremendous amount of energy to accomplish them.  Nearly all of the changes necessitate that I feel motivated to achieve them,  an emotion that is too often illusive.  For the first time in a long time, the choices are mine alone.  I now have options, but they materialize with no clear path as to which road is right or best for me.  I feel myself going with my ‘gut’ more often than I am comfortable with, relying on instincts honed by experiences I am not confident qualify me to make good choices.  Anxiety is a frequent and unwelcome companion.

Change in my life moves me to reach out for something solid, something unerringly reliable.  Change moves me to pray to God, my heavenly Father, the One who is always the same.  To seek not only His help, but His leading, His desire for me, His choices for this season in my life.  Not only His preference, but also His will for what comes next for me.

To pray before seeking any other activity to fix my dilemma is new to me.  I am a problem-solver, one who analyzes, assesses and chooses a solution.  I am fairly successful at this, consider it a gift I can use confidently.  I nearly always ask for God’s blessing, for His encouragement, in my life choices.  Now it is different.  I am different, changed by upheaval I was unable to prevent or stop.  Now life is upside down and inside out.  It is nonsensical and illustrates to me how little I know and how little I control.  I am unsure when or where to raise my sail, in what direction to move the rudder.  A boat on choppy seas, and all I feel like doing is curling up in a ball and wishing it would all go away.

So I pray.  I talk to the One who knows my ending before I know where to begin.  I seek the counsel and encouragement of the One who charts my path through all the turmoil of my human existence.  I learn to trust the One who loves me in ways I neither understand nor am able to emulate.

My prayers are no longer wish lists to satisfy me.  They are now recitations of gratitude for His care of me, for His provision of my needs and wants and comforts, for His protection of me from the Evil One, for His leading and strength and love.  I ask Him to continue His loving care of me.  I ask Him for His wisdom so that I make choices which not only please Him but choices that bring Him praise and glory.  I ask Him to lead me in righteous paths so that in no situation am I too far away from Him.  I ask Him never to let me let go of His hand.

With each prayer, He rebuilds my confidence, not in my abilities, but in His desire and  His ability to lead me into the best life for me, a life that keeps me close to Him, loving and serving in the ways He wants me to love and serve.  With each prayer, my anxiety subsides and I start to know that I am secure in what the future, which remains a mystery, holds for me.  The fear abates; the heartache at what might have been, what is forever lost, recedes from importance.  Life starts to make sense again.

“Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.  The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.”  Psalm 28:6, 7

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.