Chasing Joy

"I am guiding you on the way of wisdom and I am leading you on the right path." Proverbs 4:11

learning to rest while choosing to stay

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He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  -Jim Elliot

the details are long, but the short of it is that we could leave now.   the market has shifted in town and this little run down house could be sold for 4 times what we still owe.  elementary school has ended for us and the middle school years are just plain hard.  especially here.  we could retreat.  sell this house, and re-locate.

it is true that i need rest.  i have responded to the Lord’s invitation into hiddenness with a wholehearted; “i am willing, show me the way.” the danger has been in the timing of the real opportunity to leave it all behind.  it would seem logical that if the Lord is inviting me to ‘a solitary place’ that leaving the noise of the city for the quiet of the mountains would be precisely the solution.

except that it’s not…..not exactly.

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we didn’t move here to start a ministry.  we didn’t even move here to love our neighbors.  we moved here in the midst of a real trauma, doing the best we could with what we had.  it was the God of the Samaritan who had a ministry in mind for us, a church, a school, and neighbors to love.   the only thing that has shifted now is the financial freedom to choose a different location.  couldn’t we relocate and love those we’re called to love from afar?  put a little distance between us and the constant visible needs of those around us?

the reality is, the reason i have a bus schedule on my fridge to share with the friend sleeping on my couch is because we are familiar with utilizing the city bus.  i cannot love well from afar.

it is costly, this way of the Samaritan, this daily dying to self, this obedience.  He’s not asking me to stop obeying in order to rest, but into a deeper obedience.

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“A decision to release the world and our fate to God runs contrary to everything within and around us.  We have been had by a system of behavior that was here before we were and seeps into every pore of our being. “Sin,” Paul tells us, “was in the world,” even before the law came.  it forms us internally and pressures us externally.  Hence we must learn to choose things that meet with God’s actions of grace to break us out of the system.  These things are the disciplines of life in the Spirit, well known from Christian history but much avoided and misunderstood.  For those who do not understand our desperate situation, these disciplines look strange or even harmful.  But they are absolutely necessary for those who would find rest for their soul in God and not live the distracted existence….solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines…”  -Dallas Willard in his forward to Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

what i’m being asked to do is walk the path of entering His rest, of withdrawing by myself to a solitary place, setting aside the needs of those around me for communion with Him….while at the same time moving out with compassion for those who come my way.  it’s complicated, it’s messy, it takes discernment to know when to set aside my plan for the day for the need of another and when to shut my door and turn off my phone.  it means knowing full well that i am in a season of stepping back from actively serving in order to tend to my soul, yet making a bed up on my couch to ‘provide the poor wanderer with shelter.’

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it’s trusting Him to provide what i most need.

He knows the way that i take.  He’s walked this same road of compassion and self-care.  He shows me the way. He says there is more for me here in this little house, that it is not finished.  i believe it’s more of Him.  more of learning the disciplines of life in the Spirit through staying the course, persevering, lifting my eyes up to the hills and remembering where my help comes from.  there will be days of retreating up to the mountains for a time but more often there will be days of taking a walk by myself through my neighborhood to pray.  i have much to learn and a patient Teacher.

 i’ve counted up the cost, oh i’ve counted up the cost…
            and You. are. worth it.
-Rend Collective

to draw further in:  Matthew 14; Isaiah 58; Hebrews 4

underground

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As you wait upon the Lord, you learn to see things from His perspective, move at His pace, and function under His directives.  Waiting times are growing times and learning times.  As you quiet your heart, you enter His peace: as you sense your weakness, you receive His strength: as you lay down your will, you hear His calling. When you mount up, you are being lifted by the wind of His Spirit…When you move ahead, you are sensitive to His timing, When you act, you give yourself only to the things He has asked you to do.

–Roy Lessin

i entered summer bone tired and weary from a long season of care-giving and loving of others.  the One who knows my frame made it clear to me i was to step away from certain ministries i’d been a part of for a very long time. since obedience is better than sacrifice, i obeyed.  it really wasn’t that difficult at the time, there was the natural end of the school year which always put these things on pause coupled with having my children home for the summer and all of the hidden work that comes from where we live and move and have our being.  a couple of weeks before my youngest’s last day of school i penned these words in my journal:

i’ve heard it said that as swimming is to fish so is loving to a Christian.  does a fish ever get fatigued from swimming?

my heart is struggling with fatigue, yes, but something else has taken root, something subtle, yet it feels a bit ominous.

maybe its time to go underground for a while.  to hide away with my savior and work through what it is that is threatening my heart:  a growing resentment for those who sleep ignorantly peaceful in their beds while the whole world is hurting.  a resentment for not having control over being inconvenienced when it comes to strangers….or a call to love. an anger at being so alone in our way of living.

i’m finding it hard to be in the presence of others.  i am aware of my inner pulling away….
                something is wrong here.

i walked through summer with this sleeping dragon in my heart.  my Wonder of a Counselor and i have been getting to the root of things and it has felt messy.  and very difficult to explain.  the light and warmth and fun and slowness of summer has been a nice companion, but community remains challenging.  there have been conversations that have set my heart to churning and made plain the reality of my aloneness.

i’ve longed to write here as i live and process through this season.  but have felt a quiet nudge to allow these stories i am living and struggles i am feeling to remain hidden….for a time.

and so i wait.

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the voices of our day call out; “show yourself, show yourself, make your story known!”  they are loud voices, constant voices, overpowering voices.  so to find myself in this underground and hidden place, well i have felt this need to rush.  to hurry up and learn what i need to learn; grow and process through, and then get back to work.  for goodness sake, the time is short and there is no place for waiting or hiding, the investing of time in the inner man needs to be minimal, and the work that flows out of that needs to be made known.

but there are other voices.  they rise above the noise.  it is important that they do.  because without the courage to speak of another world, another type of King, another Life, those of us traveling the narrow road lose our footing wondering if maybe we have made a mistake.  i have numerous drafts written regarding this season of hiddenness, unpublished because i’ve been unsure. could i really declare this as holy work?

and then one ordinary day i am given the gift of these words:

One of the reasons that hiddenness is such an important aspect of the spiritual life is that it keeps us focused on God. In hiddenness we do not receive human acclamation, admiration, support, or encouragement. In hiddenness we have to go to God with our sorrows and joys and trust that God will give us what we most need.

In our society we are inclined to avoid hiddenness. We want to be seen and acknowledged. We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events. But as we become visible and popular, we quickly grow dependent on people and their responses and easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being. Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves.

Henri Nouwen via Shawn Smucker on the Importance of Hiddenness

waiting and hiddenness-i do declare it to be a wild and holy work.  i am learning to see things from His perspective, more than ever going to Him with my sorrows and joys and learning to trust that He will give me what i most need.  as i choose not to rush through this season, accepting what comes as direct from His hand, blurred lines are coming clearly into focus that it is He, the God of Israel, who calls me by my name.


to draw further in: proverbs 1:20. Isaiah 45:3; the hymn Be Still My Soul

this will do

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sitting on the back porch the welcoming sounds of birds mixes with the edgy sounds of man and machine.  windows open mean the sounds will follow me inside-even the bird songs make it through, soft as they are.  the tea whistles and i cringe in fear i’ve ruined my quiet.  i laugh a bit at the irony of the thought.  but the birds and man and machine do not belong to me, nor do they require anything from me.  it’s both voluntary and hidden, my response to their presence.

June is here.  school has ended. mornings have slowed.

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my front garden is wild with columbine and pansies that i didn’t plant.  well, that’s not entirely true.  when we first moved here i had planted pansies in a pot for the front step-they grew well there so i repeated the process the next year.  but the squirrels and their constant overturning and digging and dragging them off finally had their way and i stopped altogether, throwing out the pots, now chipped and cracked from all the abuse.  a few years back i received a columbine plant as a mother’s day present.  waiting a bit too long i did nestle it in the ground, a lone beauty in a sea of unkempt attempts at making something of the plot of land i’d been handed.

but this year, my columbine, she has sisters galore.  they stand tall towards the back as though they are watching over their young pansy charges.

their beauty invites me in to pull up all the thorny weeds and dandelions.  i’ve been pining for a real landscaper with a real eye for composition and real knowledge of planting to come and give me something to work with, to joy in, to welcome me home.  last night, for the first time in the 7 years we’ve made our way here, i walked the path to the door gazing at this bed freshly weeded and breathed;

this’ll do.

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my soul is weary from a long winter.  spring arrived out the windows and moved into summer, yet my soul struggled to take notice or nourishment.  aware of the bone deep fatigue all the while life buzzes around i have been paying attention.  “this is why missionaries have furloughs” i tell myself.  “you are not that type of missionary” i respond.  and there is truth to those words.  but the need for a ‘furlough’ of sorts is real along with the understanding that it will look its own way.  so i’ve been sitting with myself, stealing moments when they come, gently requiring nothing of the time.  no figuring things out.  no formulating plans for a different way of living.  instead letting the anger pour out, the sorrow, the loneliness, alongside the amazement and joy and beauty.  allowing repentance to do it’s lovely work and security to come from being seen by the One who knows my frame.

      I have always imagined gratitude as a kind of discipline.  It is a practice.  A choice.  I still think this is true.  However, I begin to glimpse a long-buried and misguided assumption.  I have believed that the practice of noticing good gifts in my life would widen some sort of divine exchange.  As if noticing the gifts and giving thanks for them could bring me more of what i noticed.

These days are dark, and I sometimes think I glimpse floodwaters rising.  Yet because of November’s emphasis on gratitude, I cannot help but lift up my eyes to the mountains (Ps. 121:1)

What if gratitude is more about seeing the face of God?  Of locking our eyes on his and remembering where our help comes from?  Perhaps gratitude is not only a discipline but also a gift, one we are given in special measure just before we pass through the door to suffering.

Christie Purifoy; Roots & Sky-A Journey Home in Four Seasons

 

hope for the unsuccessful

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it is a difficult thing to be entrusted with living breathing small humans, tasked with the job of guiding them into adulthood.  this morning after yet another rough dialog i find myself in a place of needing to do some work, of not having time to waste, and yet being so full of all the emotions that i can’t focus or move forward.  tears cloud my vision, discouragement and despair threaten to take over.  teenagers are complicated as are middle aged adult women (such as me).

i find it so easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees these days.

IMG_3403two weeks ago i prepared a training session for a group of women who lead school age students in bible study.  the remains of this session spill from my pile of papers. but of course, i sigh as i kneel down to pick them up.  providentially one of the papers catches hold of my tear-filled eye and i pay attention.

i’d given each group a piece of paper with a line down the middle and the words successful and unsuccessful at the top.  the instructions were to list off things that make them feel this way in their classrooms.  then i gave them a fill in the blank sheet to complete as i recited the following truths:

Looking to God’s purpose vs. a personal sense of success.

i…prefer things to go smoothly, and feel more comfortable when i’m in control.

God….often works through human weakness and failure, and invites me to yield to His control.

Being prepared and purposeful is important and necessary.  It is good and nice to have a classroom run smoothly….

yet…

The struggles i face do not represent failure, but opportunity for growth…and to see God do amazing things through an unlikely vessel such as myself.  it is more important that God is glorified than that i feel successful.

it is more important that God is glorified than that i feel successful.

True success is allowing God’s higher purposes to prevail.

in light of all of this…how will my inner dialog change?  how will my prayers change?

 

IMG_3545i prepared that lesson, i read those words out loud two weeks ago.  today it’s as if i’m seeing them for the first time.  choosing to reject the mocking of myself about that and instead letting them wash over me afresh, in this moment, after this particular argument, with this particular child.

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methods and mothers may fail (guilty and guilty)
children may falter and fail

God’s love never fails.
God’s higher purpose prevails.

 and that right there brings me such a depth of hope and a settled calm.  my inner dialog does change, and so do my prayers.

maybe you too?


to draw further in:  meditating on Matthew 11:25-30, Hebrews 2-4 and what it means to make every effort to enter into the Rest/Easy Yoke of Jesus.

 

a feeble fasting

 

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i pray for victory and it comes in the form of sheets on my couch instead of admittance into a facility staffed with skilled folks.  believing instead that the enemy still has the upper hand in the life of one who longs to be free from his grip, the 5 of us make space in an already tight and cramped home.  we spend the mornings on the back porch with tea and cigarettes.  she sees me on the floor scrubbing the bathroom, she excuses herself when words are tense between a parent and teen.  she joins us in gut laughter at the dinner table over some joke a middle school boy tells.  she wakes to this same boy fixing her tea and toast while his parents are at their early morning bible study.  this is our junk and our joy.  and victory from the One who knows her frame looked like sending her to spend 3 weeks with us, regardless of what i believed.

pain and heart longings were often the topics of our back porch discussions and today as i sit for the first time alone back there, i find myself missing the morning moments of clarity and healing that my Victorious King brought to my doubting and hurting heart through our discussions.  i miss being a witness to an enemy who is ruthless and a Mighty God who never lets go, never lets go, never lets go.

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there was a day early in februray that marked the beginning of lent;  that season of fasting.  i had spent time pondering what, if anything, i’d give up.  but then a phone call and i forgot all about it as life took it’s own turns and bends and shape.

is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?

a call to love and be a hope bearer from the One who promises those who hope in Him will not be disappointed. except that i am prone to disappointment, discouragement and such doubt.  it grieves me so to admit it.  i need His help to overcome my unbelief every. single. day.

i wrestled hard in prayer for this one sleeping on my couch, prayers yes for the Lord to have victory, but cries too that i would believe and not doubt that it was so.  that i would carry hope instead of the real hopelessness that i actually felt.  and one day she says to me; “you gave me hope.  when i didn’t have any hope in myself, you did.”

then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the LORD will answer, you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.

the journey for both of us is long and there is no guarantee it will ‘all turn out ok’ as we might think.  but there is a God in Heaven and He gives hope to a weary one through a doubting one.  Who is a God like our God?  able to do the miraculous on a dry and splintery back porch?

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and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

i never understood this verse before.  but today i see, the only reason hope does not disappoint is because of the Holy Spirit-He does His work through us who are all weakness.

The Strength of our hearts will do His work through us who are all weakness.

take heart, I have overcome.  I am the Root, and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.  Yes I am coming soon.

amen. come Lord Jesus.  and may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  and when your trust waivers?  may He strengthen your frame and satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.


to draw further in:  Isaiah 58, John 16:33; 1 John 5:4-5; Romans 5, 15:13, Revelation 12:11; 15:3-4; 22

hope for the hopeless

dener rescue mission

about an hours drive from here there is a place that offers hope and healing for those facing homelessness and addiction.  their newsletters remind me of the possibility, remind me that Jesus Saves.  i need to be reminded….often.

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in the morning light the sky is grey and cloudy, my little city full of contrasts.  the deep red of the train car and the yellow lights of the mini school bus stand against the snow that has become grey and black.  the colors of the houses seem muted with the grey empty trees that tower above them.  but as i drive further out towards my son’s middle school i get a glimpse of the mountains.  those mountains have ministered to my heavy heart before and today is no different.  the entire mountain is shadowed and deep blue…but the snow-capped peaks are glowing.  somehow the sun is breaking through the clouds just enough to shine on those peaks.  my son’s school is only 2 miles from our house which sits right in the middle of town,  yet from that vantage point 2 miles out i can see those sun kissed peaks.

my heart is heavy today over someone i have grown to love caught in the web of addiction and homelessness.  the small hope from last night has been crushed under the weight of the phone call this morning.  getting a glimpse of those peaks as my son and i wait our turn in the drop off line causes me to catch my breath and  i quickly call out ‘l love you, have a good day’ as the tears begin their release.  half of me has been listening and engaged as i make the pb&j and get my kids out the door, the other half has been in the depths of prayers reminding myself and my God of His sole Ability and Power.

but truth be told, my heart is full of doubts and hopelessness.  i begin to listen to the wondering if Jesus is able to save, if He is able to rescue, if hope is even possible?  as i drive back home, those peaks begin to be hidden behind the tall ancient trees,  i catch glimpses of them only because i now know to look.  but by the time i reach home, they are completely hidden from my view.  This world is grey and dark, shadows of addiction and sin and a myriad of problems we all know so well hover.  but somewhere the Sun is shining on the mountain peaks.  whether i can see it or not.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.

Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.


 

to draw further in:  Isaiah 40:26; Romans 7:21-8:39; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 12:10-11; all the ‘To Him who is Able…” verses.

 

dominoes

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they line them up oh so carefully, pleading with everyone near to “please don’t stomp and keep the dog out!”  if they can keep their hands steady, the dominoes snake around and about for a long long way.  if it all goes according to plan, one tap on the first tile will bring about delight and wonder.  if not, well, they re-position and try again.

my boys love this activity.  so much so, one boy bought the other boy a complete set dedicated to just such purposes.  no number dots on these ones, just wooden rectangles that can be stacked and wound around for hours on end.

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obedience is like dominoes i think…..except i don’t really believe it.  at least when it comes to me and especially the things that are hard to obey.  i behave based on what makes sense to me, the problem is the places where my thinking is off.  the places i’ve concluded don’t matter, except that they actually do.

remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in…the face of suffering.  do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded.  you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised…we are not of those who shrink back.

i’m talking about all the things.  doing the dishes types of things mostly.  the lie is it doesn’t matter, the truth is it does.  it matters if i show up vulnerable and authentic to a conversation, it matters if i take a deep breath and pray and then pursue my child i just wounded…or my child who just wounded me.  it matters if i do the dishes…or don’t depending on the need of the moment.  and it matters if i follow my Shepherd into the places He’s calling me.

the tiles -they are strategically placed and tap-taping along. removing myself from the path brings the whole thing to a halt along with the reward of delight and wonder.

i believe You Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!


to draw further in:  Hebrews 10, quoted above vs. 32-39;  Mark 9:14-24; Hebrews 12

 

Kingdom Come/things i learned this first month of 2016

writing has been so very hard this month of new beginnings.  thoughts mingle with beautiful sentences inside my head, but when pen hits paper or fingers touch keys they fly away like ornery fireflies, refusing to be captured.  snippets here and there, but nothing of length and so what better way to persevere than to gather the threads up and bring them to emily’s month end gathering.  it seemed hopeful to me to do so, and doing something hopeful feels a little like winning don’t you think?

caroling, cancer and first and second things.

someone we love was too weak from her cancer fight to make it to Christmas eve services.  when i heard the news the first thought that entered my ordinary small brain was this; “we should go caroling to her.”  always so quick to deem my inner thoughts silly i left them there, but the Spirit had His way with another and the message made its way among the congregation.  after worshiping in our church building, we took it outside and drove over in the dark to her front door to bring ‘tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.’  singing to one so very weak and frail assaulted all of my senses and through tears i lifted my head up to heaven and cried out; “what is in fact the point of this?  she will still have cancer in the morning.”

a few days later i’m stirring chicken soup on her stove listening to her family share how much the caroling ministered to their very souls.  he says he will remember our singing for the rest of his days….days that will soon be spent learning how to live life without his dear beloved wife.

january 1st she  went home

and the One who welcomed her into His arms whispered to my soul; “curing cancer is a secondary thing.  ministering to the spirit of My beloved?  that is a first thing work.  singing at her door those tidings of comfort and joy brought My Kingdom Come.  child, keep learning to trust Me.”

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the parable of the merciful servant

he’s next to me in the car telling it all.  “my friend wanted something i had.  i said no.  my friend was mad.  my friend choked me and my neck got stuck in my zipper. ”

he keeps saying; “my friend, my friend.”

i know this ‘friend’ without my son ‘naming names.’  i am familiar with his ways.  my son’s choice of words gives me pause, i know he means what he says but i don’t understand.

two days later i’m standing on the playground watching  boys playing at football.  my son waits for this friend of his to be open and throws the ball to him.  i know it is intentional.  he’s shared many a time how he just wants this boy to have success.  to make a play, score a touchdown, have something to celebrate because he’s so often in trouble.  he misses the ball and my son calls out encouragement and building up words.  to the boy who choked him.

and the One who bled for these boys whispered to my soul “Kingdom come.”

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who do you think you are?

there has been this inner struggle that i’ve not been able to put a name to.  the One who knows my frame knows it, and knows just how to open my blind eyes and help me to see.  i saw that emily freemon was hosting a webinair on how to write a book proposal and i was drawn to it which didn’t make any sense at all.  i’m not writing a book or a book proposal.  i signed up anyway.  when she spoke the words naming a writer’s real fear; “who do you think you are?” the tears flowed freely.

one piece of the current struggle-not just in writing, but in being fully myself in the presence of others -has been exactly this.  a subtle accusation whispered and payed attention to.  what now, now that i see it?

well, the prayer went like this:

Lord, i still can’t do it, i still can’t write.
it doesn’t flow,
i still feel stuck.
kingdom come.

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a study in hope

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it.  I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave-that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful.  It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.

Marilynne Robinson | Gilead: A Novel

There is a way in which the jesusy folk tend to write (I do it, too), and that way feels so disconnected from my real life that I could scream. I don’t feel disconnected with my Jesus, no, but I do feel disconnected with the pull inside me to sound this way or that – or with the pull of what others are doing so successfully to point to the kingdom of God. Maybe some perspectives are done; they’re processed, cooked up, and plated well. My perspective is still raw. I’ve barely cleaned these veggies.

Amber Haines | An Uncooked Story

People will tell you to put down your books and join the real world, for heaven’s sake. They will remind you that you live in a university dorm or an apartment reached by only a sliver of light or a temporary rental and do not even think of wasting time or money on land you do not own, but you would do well to smile and say nothing. Go on. Read. Read your books and dream your dreams. You are storing up treasures in heaven.

But after I tucked them in bed and in between her sobs and up the stairs and down, ushering children into jammies, I prayed a new kind of prayer. Prayer was no longer discipline, I was desperate. Tired and needy and confused. And weak. Really weak. There were no books to tell me what to expect from my child, with her particular history — her cocktail of losses and grief, who was wedged into our particular family. Even the best parenting strategies were not sufficient. I needed Him.

We were the kind of weak which many Christians spend their entire lives training themselves to not be.

Sara Haggerty | I Think I’ll Choose Weak, Today

 


thank you dear reader, for your gift of time spent here.  let’s continue on in hope, shall we?

may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

romans 15:13

 

Christmas-where you belong

the boys are out watching the new Star Wars movie, my girl and i are staying in to watch the Book Thief. i have my doubts, the book being a favorite i expect the movie to disappoint.  but we’ll give it a go and see.  across town a friend is battling hard against cancer and another dear one is waiting on a new prescription to ease his suffering, praying for sleep to come for the first time in months.  wives are waiting on husbands to fly home, children are spending their first Christmas split between families.

it’s a mixture of the reality of joy in a Savior come down and sorrow in a world waiting redemption.  as i prepared a card for my friend with the cancer, the words the Lord has been ministering to my heart are all i had to offer.  it’ what i offer you here.  it’s where a weary and burdened soul finds rest.

belong

oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy

May you and yours know both the comfort and joy that Christ Himself gives this season and into the new year, whatever it holds, as we wait for home.

for when you are waiting for health

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A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…..

~~///~~

The drive has been long in the night.  She pulls in tired and weary, she glances back at the slow and peaceful breathing of her sleeping ones.  resting her head on the steering wheel she breathes deep.   “Oh Lord, please make something out of this mess, somehow redeem these years, restore these hearts.”  she rests her eyes but is unable to rest her thoughts.

they tumble out of the car, the kids running free after being cooped up for the hours of driving it took to get there.  the family pile out the door with smiles painted on and arms out wide.  the expectations linger thick in the air as she braces herself at the trunk, breathing deep and praying for strength to endure.  one last breath and she gathers up the presents and bags and faces the music.  everyone else has already made their way inside, she enters, sets things down and joins the others around the dinner table.  the conversation stays where it always does, all the elephants packed neatly on the shelf and smiles all around.  “fine, fine fine”  echoes like the seagulls on finding nemo.  she smiles to herself at the picture as everyone shares all the ways they are ‘fine.’ 

she tries to play along, it’s only a short visit after all.  but when she looks in the eyes of the sulking teen and the toddler pulling for the hundredth time on his mama’s sleeve, she sees deep into the un-fineness of it all and something breaks.  the tears start slowly, and she tries to hold them in and look away.  it’s awkward and uncomfortable, first one set of eyes catch hers, than another.  the dam breaks and before she can excuse herself discretely, the room grows silent as all eyes rest on her.  broken under the weight of all the brokenness sitting around this table, she lets the grief flow.

she receives a pat on the shoulder with; “now dear it can’t be so bad” and someone breaks the tension with a request for potatoes.  the room fills up again with conversations about great aunt myrtle’s oysters and that time it snowed so hard no one could come for Christmas.

she looks up and glances over again at the teen and toddler.  the toddler happily plays with his cranberry sauce, the teen moves her food around.  she stares around this table of brokenness.  she wonders about hope.  

This is what the sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”

~~///~~

christmaslightstree

the above words are a work of fiction, my attempt to paint a picture.  the realities are stories too close, too painful to share.  the levels of dis-function and unhealthy patterns of relating that we have been walking alongside this month seem to have reached epic proportions. it is magnified on all sides i think because these holiday seasons are the times when time with extended families increases.  i have been battling against despair,  against loosing hope.  as far as the eyes can see health is not appearing.  repentance continues to be rejected and all the striving and excuses and “fine, fine, fine” remains the norm.  my heart grieves.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

The reality is that the Only One who can bear the weight of my hope is Jesus Himself.  The Holy One of Israel who longs to be gracious, who rises to show compassion, who is a God of justice; it’s His light which shines in the darkness.  it’s just the darkness has not understood it.  a hope that thrills is this:  yonder lays a new and glorious morn.

For today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.

He is a Wonder of a Counselor, a Mighty God, the owner and ruler of Peace.  we are all weakness, yes, us who want to love well, who want to bring the light of LIFE that is real living, but God….our God who is able to do immeasurably more than we can even fathom, He is the strength of our heart and our portion forever.

in the waiting, i remember ^^.

in remembering, hope appears.

when hope appears, peace descends and along with it a release of the outcomes into the capable hands of a Father who is good.

with release, i can show up again….from a place of health.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in HIm,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.


to draw further in:  Isaiah 30, quoted above vs. 15 and 17, John 1, Isaiah 9, Psalm 73:26,  Romans 15:13, O Holy Night.

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