Tag: God

Six Promises for When You Feel Abandoned by God

 

Caleb stirs from his nap with red eyes and a cowlick that stands straight up in salute to the sun or praise to God – I’m not sure which. I always wondered why mothers of boys let their little ones run wild in public with hair sticking out in every direction.  Now I understand.  Little boy hair does whatever it wishes, and no amount of water, saliva, mousse, or hairspray can tell it otherwise.

We descend to the living room, and the slow and painful process of his awakening takes place as I hold him on my lap. We read books and watch blue jays on the lawn.  We’re half way through Corduroy’s saga of the lost button when Darrell’s white truck pulls into the driveway, and Caleb’s off my lap in seconds, pounding on the window to welcome his father onto the property after a long day.

After the welcome hugs and cheers, I kiss the guys goodbye and slip into my walking shoes for a little bit of time out of the house. Like clockwork, Caleb erupts into primal screams.  “No!  Don’t leave me, Mama,” he yells.  “Don’t leave me!”

“I’ll be back in a half-hour,” I assure him, but he’ll have none of it.

I come back from every walk, and yet he fears this might be the one time when I don’t return. I kiss him on the head again and leave, despite the crying.  It’s best to just get on with it.

Walking down the road, I’m struck by the parallels between my son’s thoughts and my own thoughts. I recall a dozen times when it felt like the Lord had completely forsaken me: that race I lost, that bad breakup, Bekah’s medical condition, forty weeks of sickness – twice, the day the car broke down at the bridal shop with my baby girl screaming in the backseat, and more.

Things don’t go my way, and I’m prone to find myself wavering. I’m prone to wonder.  Prone to leave the God I love.  But his promise is this: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Why do I, like little Caleb, doubt that he means what he says?

I think long on this as I walk, and I list the promises for the hard times:

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).

Nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:38-39).

He will go with me through the high waters and the fires (Isaiah 43:2).

He won’t withhold what is good from me (Psalm 84:11).

He is close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

He will use these fiery trials for his glory (1 Peter 1:6-7).

I’m suddenly struck by the reality that I often live like I don’t believe these promises. I live like they count for the struggles and trials of others but not for my own.  What if I actually lived like I fully believed every word that proceeds from his mouth?

I would have less fear and a greater capacity to love. I would give freely and store up fewer treasures on earth.  I would encounter an abundant kind of life that I’ve been craving all along.

Returning home, Caleb has forgotten about the meltdown that took place when I walked out the door. He’s chasing his dad and his sister around the yard with delighted squeals.  I kiss him on the head and go inside to finish cooking dinner.  The comfort of resting in these promises feels like an invitation to sheer joy.

button 125px

This post was shared as a part of a link-up at Fresh Market Friday.

Please follow and like us:

When the Next Step Feels Scary

 

It’s late August, and the ironweed boasts deep purple blossoms among fields of green and gold. We stand at the end of the driveway with anxious hearts.  I honestly believed I’d be more nervous than our extroverted five-year-old, but it seems she’s the one with the jitters.  We review the directions to her classroom for the third time, and I remind her to focus on eating her sandwich at lunchtime and review the importance of washing her hands in the restroom.

As the engine of the school bus groans its visceral call and carries my precious firstborn to the care of people I hardly know, I’m surprised I don’t cry. Instead, I walk quietly back to the house with thoughts of her little brother asleep in his crib.  It seems this transition to kindergarten is simply a necessary part of the progression of her life, and I’m at peace about letting it unfold.

The evening is a different story. Exhausted from her first long day in the classroom, the child I’ve enjoyed for the past five years is nowhere to be seen.  Instead, an exhausted shell of a little girl crashes onto the couch with demands about juice and absolutely no desire to comply with any of my motherly requests.  She wakes up an hour later with frantic tears about the moment she couldn’t find the classroom and how scary it was and how she doesn’t want to go back.  My heart breaks just a little.

A year later, we’re staring down the face of first grade, and little Bekah is excited and only slightly nervous. She can’t wait to see the familiar faces, deliver a gift to last year’s teacher, and dive into all the fun that awaits.  I find myself remembering how scary the step into kindergarten often felt for her and how sometimes, there’s just no way around the next frightening step.

I wonder if this is how God’s people felt after wandering in the desert for four decades. They finally reach the gateway to the land he has promised for them, and the formidable Jordan River lies between the people and the land they will call home.  Joshua, their fearless leader, proceeds to command the Levites to step into the water.

These are the holy men who have been carrying the ark of God toward the Promised Land. They are set apart for special service.  They literally carry the presence of the Living God.  And they are called to step into the flowing waters of the river.

I wonder if this step was scary. I wonder if they questioned the command and if they hesitated.  They were well aware that God had the power to move the water, as evidenced forty years earlier when Moses raised his staff and the waters of the Red Sea parted.  But the waters of the Jordan showed no signs of parting, and yet they were asked to step into the river.

Sometimes we’re called to step into the next assignment before we see a comforting amount of evidence that God is working in our midst. Sometimes we’re called to step into the water when there’s no sign God’s going to part it.  Sometimes we’re called to step into a new place of ministry or a new season of life before we have confidence that God really will make a way.

While we’re not to make unwise decisions without consulting God, there are times when we must take the first step without knowing the final outcome or even seeing the immediate provision.

Feet in the swirling water, the Levites held the ark. They watched, as after the first step of faith, God performed yet another miracle with the water.  He drew the river back and provided a way across the Jordan on dry ground.  They simply had to step out in obedience for the miracle to take place.

Starting kindergarten is a large life event, but for those of us who have conquered the challenge, it now seems quite small. But we all face challenges on the horizons of our lives.  Often, the best thing we can do is pray it through, ask God for direction, seek wise counsel, line it up with the Word of God, and when all of these steps confirm the decision, step out in faith.

And so we lay out the clothes for the first day of school this year. We pack the backpack and stock the cupboards with small containers of applesauce and granola bars.  We pray for Bekah’s teacher and her classmates and the children who will be her close friends.  And we step into the water.

 

Please follow and like us:

God’s Desire for Communion

“The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time.” – Francis Chan

The curtains wave in the breeze, and a dozen songbirds chatter on the lawn. I sit with iced tea and a craving for something I can’t quite name.  It’s quiet time at our house – a designated hour of rest and silence.  Caleb sleeps.  Bekah plays quietly in her room, and I gaze into a long list of goals to achieve by the end of the week.

Francis Chan speaks through the computer screen. There’s a tent on the stage where he stands before a crowd – a red and white camping tent: a modern-day illustration of the place Moses once went to meet face-to-face with the Creator of the world.  Francis speaks of the awe with which God’s people once approached him – how God spoke through thunder, lightning, and fire.  He speaks of reverence and glory.

He says: “And what’s crazy to me is nowadays how we treat this time with God as ordinary or even burdensome – to where we try to squeeze in like five minutes at the end of our day, like I gotta try to get some time with him . . . I feel guilty ‘cause I only got like two or three minutes . . . And now it’s like a burden, and we have pastors that beg us . . . just give him a few minutes –  just try, please, please.”

I think of our morning: me with coffee, racing through the daily Scripture reading, while Caleb murmured on the monitor. Just trying to get it done.  I think of last evening: a chapter before bed, but my eyes glazing over and sleep settling in before I absorbed a single word.  I think of all the times it feels more like one more chore on a long list than the greatest honor a human could ever receive: The Creator of the universe wants to meet with me.

And here I am giving him six minutes and checking it off the list. Six distracted minutes.  Six minutes that were more about finding direction for my day and getting my needs met than actually connecting with his heart.

What if every time I opened my Bible, I actually expected God to speak to me? Doesn’t he?  Isn’t there a promise that every verse is God-breathed?  Isn’t there a promise that no word from this book will ever return empty?

I put down the list of tasks and silence the sermon from Francis. I open the Bible and expect God to speak.  I read:

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him. . .  these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. (Psalm 56:6-7)

If I bind myself to the Lord, he will bring me joy. If I keep seeking, pursuing, and attending to him, he will bring me to his holy mountain.  If I draw near to him, he will draw near to me.

I sit with the Book and the curtain and the songbirds. I don’t cross even one task off the to-do list.  And somehow, when the quiet hour ends, it feels like I’ve accomplished the very best thing.

~~~

 

For practical suggestions on growing in relationship with the Lord, enter your email to receive the free print out in your inbox: 10 Ways to Go Deeper with God.

 

Francis Chan, “Entering the Presence of God,” April 10, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdtNkjR-wFs

 

 

Please follow and like us:

The Morning Invitation

 

A fine white mantle of fog rests on the fields at dawn. I went to the deck to retrieve the coffee cup I left outside overnight, and it seems I’ve encountered God on the journey.  I sink onto the damp patio chair in the corner of the deck, and the chill of the dew on my bare legs feels like an awakening.  An awakening to what is uncomfortable and raw – real and tangible.

Dew on flesh. Fog on young goldenrod chutes.  This earth breathing life and promise and hope.

It’s so exhilarating that I fill my coffee cup inside and return to the chair with a jacket and my Bible. I forget the bookmarked app on my computer – the one that tells me what to read each morning, and I open tattered pages to Psalms:

Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy Before the Lord, for He is coming, For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness And the peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalm 96:12-13)

I close my eyes and drink black coffee. I consider what it will look like to live this day as a woman who honors God and lives with the expectancy of a bride, waiting for her groom.

I think of the words of Jesus: ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

His words ring true. Loving God must come first.  Have I kept it first?

Before anything else, my life is about my relationship with God. It’s about drawing close to him and growing in relationship with him.  I am deeply convicted as I reflect on what my prayer time often looks like.  I’m convicted that I’ve spent too much time asking for things, praying for direction, praying for ministry needs, and praying over priorities.

While all of these things are important, what is most important is that I learn to rest in God’s love. What’s most important is that we grow in relationship through these quiet, set-apart moments.  My life is primarily about this relationship with God.  The way I carry his love to the world is secondary.

A mourning dove coos, and I realize I haven’t kept the first thing first. I’ve put praying for direction above basking in his affection.  Looking at the fields, it’s all so clear: He wants to wrap me in his tender affection like the fog that shrouds the fields at dawn.  He wants to cover me in the warmth of his love and stay together in this place.

Tim Keller says it like this: “Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. . . . We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence.”

This time is first about basking in his presence. The priorities, decisions, and requests will flow from this place.  I sit long on the damp chair and don’t do much at all.  I rest in him.

I think of the words of Mother Teresa in an interview with Dan Rather.

“When you pray, what do you say to God? Rather asked.

“I don’t say anything,” she replied. “I listen.”

“Okay. When God speaks to you, then, what does he say?” Rather tried again.

“He doesn’t say anything. He listens.”

Baffled, Rather didn’t know how to continue.

“And if you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.” Mother Teresa concluded.

And so we sit. In the stillness.  In the newness of an emerging day, we sit in silent communion, and I don’t plan a single part of my day or seek direction over a single priority.  When the coffee is gone and the fog begins to lift with the silent chorus of a rising sun, I rise with it, and I’ve never felt more certain of what matters most.

 

 

Mother Teresa Quote with Dan Rather on listening to God and prayer

 

Keller, Timothy. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Books, 2014).

Mother Teresa, quoted in Chuck Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials to Get You There (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005).

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Pray Big Things for Your Little Ones

Friday isn’t my usual day to post, but I’ve been guest posting quite a bit lately.  It’s an honor to write alongside John Piper and other gifted writers at Desiring God.  The links below will lead you to these articles and a few more:

Desiring God:

Pray Big Things for Your Little Ones

God Carried Us with Promises: Five Truths Strong Enough for Any Trial

The Praying Woman:

Five Prayers Every Mother Should Pray for Her Children

Her View from Home:

To the Mother Who Feels Like She Doesn’t Belong

Christian Devotions Ministries:

The Promise for Your Affliction

You Are Cherished

Thanks for reading and sharing!  Have a blessed weekend!

Please follow and like us:

Four Reasons to Ponder What Is Beautiful

 

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The awakening of spring feels like a rebirth of sorts. Something about the sound of geese overhead, the emerging jack-in-the-pulpit rising from black earth, and the pungent scent wafting from the once frozen creekbed stirs a sense of vitality in my soul.  I sense this rebirth speaks of some greater longing within me – a longing for heaven, a longing for the day when all things are made new, a longing for the face-to-face embrace with the One who created me.

Throughout the most stress-filled seasons of my life, pondering beauty has been my greatest source of relief. When college classes weighed on me, I pulled poetry books from the shelves of the library and memorized poems about leaves no step had trodden black.  When my teaching career was straining, I took walks in the bitter December afternoons – towering spruce trees ushering me into a canopy of protection.  When pregnancy rendered me immovable, Mom pulled the old green reclining chair from the porch so I could watch the wrens flutter from their box.

In this season, I can think of lists of reasons to join Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in seeking what is beautiful. Here are four motivations to ponder beauty today:

Magnifying the beautiful magnifies God

In every moment, I have a choice. I can magnify my problems, or I can magnify God.  The mouse pointer disappears on the computer, rendering my day’s plans inoperable.  In this moment, I can magnify my frustrating problem, or I can magnify God.  The kids are literally screaming at one another over who gets to load Lion King into our antiquated VCR.  I can magnify the fact that they’ve now screamed at one another sixteen times in two hours, or I can magnify God by remembering how grateful I am to be a mother.  The daily grind of my life is wearing me down.  I can magnify all the reasons I’m disappointed with my life, or I can magnify the many blessings.

Magnifying God puts my problems in perspective

The benefit of magnifying God in my life is that keeping my eyes on him keeps my problems in perspective. The immovable mouse on my computer changed my plans for the day, but it’s not as big of a deal as it seems.  The yelling kids are unnerving and frustrating, but this is part of learning to cooperate and relate with others.  I’m glad they’re learning to navigate relational frustrations in a safe place.  In the grand scheme of my life, many of my troubles are light and momentary.  Even the heavy burdens will be used for God’s glory.  Keeping my eyes on him reminds me to endure hardships with strength and courage.

We were created to crave beauty

Snow-capped peaks and waves crashing to sandy shores elicit responses of awe because we were created to crave beauty. Ecclesiastes 3:11 reads: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart . . .” We all long for the beauty of encountering God face-to-face. Until then, our hearts are set on fire with passion for him when we see the beautiful works of his hands. Encountering beauty through nature, the arts, architecture, and other people reinvents the awe we were designed to crave.

Gratitude elevates

Gratitude lifts our eyes above ourselves. Thankfulness displaces negativity.  Even the smallest flame dispels a room of darkness.  We’re called to give thanks in everything.  The more we count our blessings, the less we keep track of wrongs.  Gratefulness and grumpiness simply can’t dwell in the same space.

Wherever life finds you today, may you embrace the joy of the journey, find something for which you can give thanks, and keep looking up. The geese are northern-bound.

 

Please follow and like us:

The Mystery of Life from Death

 

The lingering daylight leads us to the woods again, and I sink into a moss-covered log while the kids throw sticks in the water. The peepers have crawled from their winter homes and cry out for love, and something about the whole scene just feels completely alive and right in the most organic way.

I’m thinking about life and fresh starts, as the moisture of the sphagnum moss permeates my thin wind pants. It seems the rotting log is literally absorbing my weight, as I enhance the decomposition and press into the dirt. The moss is all around me now, sucking its life from the rotting log’s decomposing nutrients.

My mind shifts to Christ and his illustration about the wheat. There will be no harvest without a complete decomposition – a complete breaking – of the kernel of wheat. Life comes from brokenness. It’s the same with the moss. Because the tree gives of itself, the moss grows lush and abundant.

Christ took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples.

Christ took the loaves, broke them, and distributed them for the multitudes.

He who loses his life finds it.

Take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow.

~~~

I think to the birth of our two children – the breaking that comes with emerging into the cold world. A mother’s body is broken on behalf of her child. I think of the cross. His body broken so that we might have eternal life. I think of every hard season in my life – dying to myself so that fruit might come. I count the reasons to embrace the breaking:

If we want him to make old things new, we must let him break the old to refashion the new.

I’m not who I was ten years ago, and I hope to be different ten years from now. It took breaking the old ways of life for God to reshape me into a new creation. When I longed for freedom from destructive behaviors, he broke me, so that I might be set free. When living in my own strength became the greatest obstacle in my life, he broke me so that I had to live in his.

If our hearts are never broken, he can’t reshape them to the image of his heart. If our lives are never surrendered, he won’t reach his hand in and reform that to which we still cling. It must be set at the feet of the cross and offered for his recreation.

His light shines through the cracks of our broken parts.

My life felt most broken when a long string of unwise decisions left me reeling with pain. Though I’ve been healed and transformed, there are parts of my story that aren’t fun to relive. I often find that he uses these parts to shine his light through my own story and offer hope to those who are dealing with the same struggles I once I faced. His light shines through the cracks of my failures, and he receives the glory for his redemption. Life springs from death.

Redemption awaits the broken, not the ones who assume they are whole.

We are all broken. Doing life on our own leads to striving, and striving leads to emptiness. Only the broken realize they need put back together. Only the broken realize they can’t save themselves. I spent many years living in my own strength, thinking my good works would earn my ticket into heaven. Only when I was broken – when I came to the end of myself – did I realize that I had no power to redeem my life. Only the sacrifice of Christ can redeem my life.

Because he was broken, we are called to lay our lives down as well.

Dying to my desires feels like the hardest kind of death some days. Sacrificing sleep to stay up and talk with a hurting friend, sacrificing meals because a fevered child is resting in my arms, and sacrificing my comfort so that I can invest in the lives of others feels like death. It’s only when we die to our own desires that we are set free to live for the benefit of others.

 

Regardless of where you’re encountering something that feels like death today, my prayer is that you’ll look to Christ. He knows about the sting of death, and he overcame it at the cross. Victory is coming. Until then, may we continue to lay our lives down so that he might live through us.

 

Please follow and like us:

Three Things to Remember in the Valley

 

I slip to the woods on a Saturday evening after groceries and prescriptions and new socks for littlest one. The ground is soft and muddied with footprints of dog walkers and bird watchers. I immediately see why they came. The sinking sun blinds me to the west, but to the east, the ponds reflect perfect paintings of cobalt skies and grey hills – hills on the brink of bursting into glory, hills that are waiting for redemption.

I walk long through the mud and embrace the patches of soft grass that clean my shoes and offer traction. Geese linger in a pond to the south, and I follow the winding valley to its deepest place –where the sun hides behind the hills, and the darkness of night has already descended.

I’ve always been captivated by the shadows cast by mountains. Summers spent in Wyoming’s granite canyons bore witness to sun scorched peaks that stared down at the dark valley for hours. I lived in the valley, and I longed for the warmth of the morning sun each day. I missed the sunsets over Plain Grove’s hayfields and grew accustomed to watching the sun fade behind mountains early in the evenings to the west.

The geese are speaking words of warning about my presence as I tread farther along the path – less worn this far from the parking area. I pull my hood over my ears and hide my hands in my sleeves. It’s cool in the shade of the valley. Sitting on a rock at my turn-around point, I stare at the still water, look up at the illuminated hilltops, and consider the valleys of my life. I consider the hardest stretches, the darkest times, and the most painful trials. A few truths come to mind – truths for the valleys:

You are not alone

Some valleys exist solely on the precept of feeling alone. We believe we are alone, and the isolation of the season creates the valley. Feeling misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned, or without support leads us to feel alone, and there seems to be little hope for escaping the valley. Not that anyone cares.

The truth for this valley is this: “God will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). I generally wish God’s presence felt more tangible. I need to remind myself that just because I don’t see him or tangibly feel him, this doesn’t mean he’s not present. He walks with me through every valley, and he will never leave me.

This will be used for good

God holds the power to use all situations for good in the lives of those who love him. Some of my hardest valleys have taught me to be grateful for seasons of health and “normal” living. Some of the darkest valleys have helped me make better decisions in the future. Some of my most painful valleys have made the sunshine on mountaintops far more glorious than they would have been without a climb from the deepest place.

Our valleys are used to comfort others

Most of our valleys hold the power to comfort others who go through the same struggles. The hard breakups of my teen years later enabled me to mentor teens walking through the same trials. The difficult days of my pregnancies enabled me to comfort friends going through the same struggles. The challenges at my job gave me empathy to encourage others who are in difficult situations in the workplace. God uses our valleys to comfort others in their valleys.

If life has led you to a valley today, be encouraged. You are not alone. Keep clinging to the One who won’t let you go.

*On an entirely unrelated note, I’m writing at one of my favorite parenting sites this week: Your Budding Biologist Should Hatch Frog Eggs This Spring.  And right on time, our deck is now home to one large tank of hopeful bullfrog eggs.

Please follow and like us: