Chasing Joy

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

Category: interlude (page 1 of 3)

no security, only rest

come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…

we are standing on the shore, my boy and i.  watching his brother and dad out in the water….struggling, struggling, struggling.  time has slowed and we fear help will not come in time.

we are staring death in the face and it is terrifying.

we are powerless.

some teenagers in their fishing boat arrive first.  then the firemen, paramedics, rescue/dive team.   they carry my youngest boy onto the stretcher and into the ambulance, then my husband.  Their bodies so weakened by hypothermia, they are  shaking shaking, my boy looses consciousness, then comes back talking gibberish, crying out in pain.  my older boy and i, we watch, we speak strengthening words to them, we pray.  we make decisions-will we ride in the ambulance with them or follow in the car?  which hospital?

we are all well cared for, the doctors do their jobs.  the boys all begin to recover, both the ones in the water and the one standing powerless on the shore.

after a few days, when everyone is back to school and work, i sit in the quiet….

….and wail.

men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury.  and the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied.  the more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured…

screwtape to wormwood -cs lewis

it is not strange these painful things that happen.  i know, i know.  the injury on this particular day was pointed, specific, cutting deep into a desire and felt legitimate claim.

and so i lament.

lament would provide a bridge back to the safe presence of God….only someone engaged in life can lament.

a sacred sorrow -michael card

gravity is a law of nature, a reality of life.  it cannot be thwarted, controlled, denied.

i am lamenting many things, but the main thing is; the absence of security.  like the presence of gravity exists, so does the absence of security.  i have no power or control over the outcome of a planned day.  i cannot lay claim to any expectation of smooth waters, joy-filled experiences, or long days with the ones i love.  in an instant it all can be taken.  all. of. it.

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for the past 3 years i’ve been memorizing Romans chapter 8.  it’s taking a long time.

i think i’m reciting to myself to help get thru these days following tragedy, where the rug has been pulled out from under me and i’ve discovered there is no floor.  i think i’m behind because it’s taking so many years to memorize this one chapter.  i think lots of things that are merely a shadow of the reality of a God that is near.

…hope that is seen is no hope at all.  who hopes for what he already has?  but if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

i weep and wail at these words.  i confess that i no longer know how to pray.  standing on that shore, i cried for help only, reasoning that my boy and husband in heaven with their savior was to their gain and my loss.  wondering how to move forward with a heart of flesh instead of stone.  knowing that i can plan and dream and create, but i cannot control and am given no guarantee that fun or rest or simple monotony will follow.  i am promised trouble, and joy.  i don’t know how to expect both.  i don’t know how to pray.

…in the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express…

Michael Card is on to something.  as i lament, as i weep and wail and honestly express all the things i’m thinking and feeling, the One who translates it all crosses over the bridge and engulfs me with His very safe presence.

Young gives the meaning of rest as “rest again, cease from, rest thoroughly.”  Rest again is the word for today.  We are not promised smooth roads, but rough.  When things are smooth we should look up in delight and thanksgiving, thinking of them as breathing spaces rather than as the normal condition of things. Rough roads make it certain that we shall often come to our Lord for rest.   Our dear Lord will never be surprised by our frequent coming.  He will never tire of resting us, and in the rest He gives His strength.  His invitation stands sure:  Come unto Me and I will give you rest, rest again.

-Amy Carmichael

He is in me.  He is for me.  He is with me.  He is my hope.  it is enough.


to draw further in:  a playlist for times of lament.  Stars by Skillet.  Never let go by David Crowder.  Fierce by Jesus Culture.  I won’t let you go by Switchfoot.  It is well by Bethel Music.

pondering with Mary

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And coming to her, the angel said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly perplexed at what he said, and kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was….The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Highly favored, that’s what the angel told her; she had found favor with God.

“While they were [in Bethlehem] the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

i’ve been pondering Gabriel’s words, coupled with all that lie ahead for Mary; all the loneliness, the misunderstandings, the rejections…. it would have been a long and exhausting 9 months.  then they arrive in Bethlehem to discover no room for them.  As Mary set up camp in that barn, did she grumble and stomp;

is this the way the Lord favors?

how many days did they stay there before the ‘time came for the baby to be born?’  a week, two?  uncomfortable and very pregnant, was she able to sleep?  did she snap at Joseph-had he tried-really tried- to find them somewhere else to stay?  the baby would be coming soon-were they to have him here?  Had God completely abandoned them?  were they so very alone?

He was despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief; And like One from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him.

as the ones chosen to carry this Savior to term, to then love and parent him….did Mary and Joseph bear this same fate?

as a follower of this Savior-as one in whom He dwells….is this my story too?  when loneliness, fatigue and rejection set in, when the condition of my home is frustrating me, when the contrasts of this world seem to weigh heavier on the dark side…. will i grumble and stomp;

it this what it means to be highly favored?

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And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.

maybe for Mary, when she began to set up camp in that barn it went this way instead;

huh…this is not what i thought it’d be like in Bethlehem.  thank you Joseph for trying your best to make my bed of hay comfortable.  the baby will be coming soon.  let us pray for the strength we need.  Gabriel said i am highly favored.  God will be present here.  He will provide help.  we are not alone.

 

maybe for me too,  setting up camp in this life, it can go this way instead:  “He has said he is enthralled with my beauty, He keeps track of the stars, He dearly loves me.  God will be present here.  He will provide help.  i am not alone.

For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!

 

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Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth Peace to men
on whom His favor rests

May you experience His assurance of His delight and deep deep love for you this Christmas season.  


To draw further in: Luke 1:28-38; Luke 2; Romans 8: 17-18 amp; Philippians 3:9-11; Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 45:11

 

a study in contrasts

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the pictures scroll through randomly as my screen saver.  a boy with a stick and a tire amongst the red dirt of Uganda.  my two boys hugging tigger at disney world.  snow on mountain peaks.  the sunrise over the train tracks near my house.  it stops me sometimes as i walk past-these are all photos taken by me, grouped randomly by my computer-a study in the contrasts of my existence.

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i sat to think about the intensity of the last 24 hours.  pausing for quiet, to recover, to be restored, redeemed.  my mind moves back a day, back a day, back a day.  the intensity of the last month….year….5 years….

i breath.  in.  out.  pray prayers without words.

“if you are tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

+++

Alleppo has fallen

refugees are making sleeping bags for refugees. 

the grey house with the green door on the corner of 7th boasts flashing lights “porn!” “Live girls”  a marajuana leaf, a car missing it’s window

my neighbor is remodeling.
her house looks beautiful,
i so appreciate it’s beauty.

one of my neighbors’ house caught fire on election night.
it was in the attic.  now there are keep out posters on the doors
due to asbestos

i stood and watched the firemen do their thing.
with smoke pouring in next door, a neighbor steps away
to close her windows
and get a cup of cold water for the one who was in the house
when it caught fire

this little house of ours is overflowing with art projects,
christmas projects, school papers, children fighting,
a broken dryer, piles of dishes,

 the heat and plumbing are working,
children are also laughing,
scheming surprises for one another.
christmas lights will soon shine their joy
into the dark of night.

one minute i lament,

the next i praise

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i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water

.later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere

-Warsan Shire

+++

i’ve been praying too.
prayers that look messy
full of stuttering, absent of many words.

i walk through these days
gazing at the world travelers
i whisper
where is the beauty?

worldsbeauty

they answer

everywhere
everywhere
everywhere


instagram: fingerprintofgod; theexodusroad; natgeo; solehope; tiinautti;theexodusroad;
there are many more expressions of beauty i’ve found on instagram.  my list is  here.

to draw further in: Isaiah 40, 58; Psalm 91, Romans 8, Matthew 4:12-17; O Come O Come Immanuel

the wilderness

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Elijah was hungry for an experience of divine Presence, and even the public display of God’s power in the fire that consumed the altars of Baal could not fully satisfy that hunger.  He had some inkling of where to go to find what he was looking for, and he was willing to walk faithfully and resolutely in that direction.

-Ruth Haley Barton Invitation to Solitude and Silence

i enter the building for the first time this year,  my prior absence purposeful.  the greetings are warm and expressions of being missed do not carry any subliminal motives or guilt.  should i return i will be welcomed back.  should i not, care for my person overshadow the real and felt needs that remain.

this is a gift.

i’ve traversed the wilderness before-but before i’d trek in and back out again, in and back out, in and back out.  keeping up with obligations that i lacked courage to shed along with real and necessary responsibilities (motherhood sleeps for no man.) this time the invitation has been different.  the hunger and longing unable to be satisfied by short trips.  i too have an inkling of where to go to find what i’m looking for, the question of willingness answered by my intentional withdrawal from people and places near and dear to my heart.

On top of this willingness to walk away from the peopled places of his life, places that had a bit of definition, Elijah had an even deeper willingness:  he was willing to walk into the emptiness of the wilderness in order to find what he was looking for.

-Ruth Haley Barton Invitation to Solitude and Silence

as i’ve traversed this mysterious place, respecting my desire enough to keep walking tho still not having found what i’m looking for, a few things have become clear:

the alter of ‘definition’ is a strong temptation.  living in the unexplainable, undefinable mystery is uncomfortable.

stating clearly expectations for myself during this time has been life giving.  my daily docket has 4 items; walk or run, silence, create needed atmosphere in kitchen/living room, be available for my teen girl.  it’s not that this is all that happens, it’s that this is where my primary focus is, the bare necessities if you will,  giving me a filter for my inner dialog and external opportunities.

there is power in patience and courage in support.

-being misunderstood remains a constant companion.  recognizing where this is a result of my lack and where this is due to another’s issues makes all the difference.  God is dealing with me, He can deal with them in His way and His time.

-the process of deep soul work releases art.  In this wilderness, while withdrawn from previous work-some projects have begun to take shape.  i’ve given them respect and weight, allowing them to exist without clear definitions.  Nothing tangible may come, but my soul will be more alive and that alone is worth it.

help comes just when i need it by the God in heaven who keeps track of the stars.  a chance glance at the library leads to a timely book.  a small conversation outside the grocery store, an online course or blog post. the bird call that draws me outside for a needed walk. He knows my frame, and tho i daily flounder, He has not left me alone to find my way.

Elijah walked through the emptiness of the desert for forty days and forty nights until he settled into a cave on the side of Mt. Horeb, and there he waited for a visitation from God.  He probably had no idea when, if or how anything even remotely meaningful would happen, but he was willing to stay in the wilderness until it did.

-Ruth Haley Barton Invitation to Solitude and Silence

when i entered that building for the first time this year, i was afraid.  i hesitated for a long time when the short request came to fill in for a friend.  i was afraid that i would self-sabotage my willingness to stay in the wilderness.  but i didn’t.  i received the warm welcome and responded in kind.  i completed the task-and then i left-not seeking to explain my absence or guiltily volunteering to give more.   this was an “now I know that you fear God….” moment.  revealing the growth that has been happening underground.

for i still haven’t found what i’m looking for.

and i this time it appears i actually am willing to wait here as a true friend to my soul until i do.

Your true friends will be willing to sit with you in silence not for a week, but for as long as it takes.  Your real friends will encourage you to keep talking, crying out to, arguing with God.  And when you would be tempted to despair and quit the dance floor, saying that you simply lack the strength or the faith to go on, it is only your real friends who will have the love to leave you all alone with the One who desires, above all, to finish the dance with you.

-Michael Card  A Sacred Sorrow


to draw further in:  Genesis 22-especially vs. 12; 1 Kings 19:1-19; David Crowder’s Let me Feel you Shine; U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For; Need to Breathe’s Through Smoke

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

for when you are waiting for health

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

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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.”

~~///~~

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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.

for when you are waiting for relief

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are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?

a year ago i prayed with an intensity that can only be explained as a movement of the Spirit.  i prayed for a “hope that wouldn’t mock, but pull you up even just a little out of the pit you are currently in.  oh, it is so despairing, dear Lord, please grant Your Beloved some relief.”

i shared this prayer of hope with the ones it was for and all day long i carried around faith of a child; expectant and excited to see how their Ever Present One would succor their weary hearts that day.

turns out it was one of their most hopeless days ever.

blessed is he who is not offended in Me

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the logical fallacies that seem so, well, logical, fall like rain and gather in pools in my mind.  doubt becomes a dog at my heals that refuses to leave.  i’m walking with the limp of one whose boot is engulfed in mud.  this is how prayer feels now, heavy and weighted down.

But we know our Father. We know His character.  Somehow, somewhere, the wrong must be put right; how we do not know, only we know that, because He is what He is, anything else is inconceivable.

For the word sent to the man whose soul was among lions and who was soon to be done to death, unsuccoured, though the Lord of Daniel was so near, is fathomless:  “And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”

-Amy Carmichael Rose from Brier, emphasis mine

one of the errors in reasoning is that the more i fumble in prayer/doubt the quicker i’m tempted to quit.  ‘your prayers cause more harm than help’ the dog growls, they reveal to you a God who is cruel.

the argument is rendered invalid because i know that God is not cruel.  Mysterious, yes.  Wild and Big and completely Other, yes.  i do know His character.

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There is only one place where we can receive, not an answer to our question, but peace–that place is Calvary.  An hour at the foot of the Cross steadies the soul as nothing else can.  “O Christ beloved, Thy Calvary stills all our questions.”  Love that loves like that can be trusted about this.
-Amy Carmichael

tho in my limp i lack courage to share my prayers with these dear ones still suffering; i’m still praying.  praying for moments of laughter, the kind that takes their breath away and does the work that only laughter can do for a soul.  prayers hoping in Stephen’s God to ease their suffering with a tangible glimpse of His nearness.  and when the words get stuck in my throat, i lift up these:

O Lord, we bring Thee him for whom we pray,
Be Thou his strength, his courage, and his stay,
And should his faith flag as he runs the race,
Show him again the vision of Thy face.

Be Thou his vision, Lord of Calvary,
Hold him to follow, hold him fast by Thee,
O Thou who art more near to us than air,
Let him not miss Thee, ever, everywhere.

LORD, Thou hast suffered, Thou dost know
The thrust of pain, the piercing dart,
How wearily the wind can blow
Upon the tired heart.

He whom Thou lovest, Lord, is ill.
O come, Thou mighty Vanquisher
Of wind and wave, say, Peace, be still,
Eternal Comforter.

-Amy Carmichael

but even if You do not, oh Eternal Comforter,  You Who sang of John’s greatness; doubting, imprisoned John longing for relief–  steady us at the foot of Your love poured out, remember us with an overshadowing of Your still small voice;

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   I am your Abba, and you belong to Me.

to draw further in:  Matthew 11, Daniel 3:16-18, Amy Carmichael’s book Rose from Brier

those pictures of the green leaves and pink flowers growing out of the largest thorns i have ever seen were taken at the San Diego zoo.  i think we stopped and marveled at this fascinating plant just as long as we did the pandas.

*logical fallacy= a flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the argument invalid/an error in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.  when your kids enter high school they use phrases that you are supposed to know, having gone to high school once yourself.  i had to look it up too.

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the Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.

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discouragement threatens to take over like ice holding life captive.  and i know what is true.  i know Jesus wins.  i know His light will break through darkness.  i know His presence is real and true even though it isn’t felt.  He keeps track of the stars, He holds the ocean in His hands.

still, reciting the truth to myself doesn’t seem to melt my heart growing cold.

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i join other’s more faithful and rest my hands on a man who is suffering.  and the words they fall short, they stumble under the tears and longings unmet for oh, just a glimpse of You Lord.  Stephen, while being stoned, got to see heaven open before him, oh Lord, just a glimpse of you would bring such encouragement and strength to endure.  please?

and grief sidles up next to the discouragement and they draw a wider circle around my heart.  grief over my own lack of faith in the goodness of a God who gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  i’m pleading with the Lord with more doubt than faith, it seems these days there is more doubt than faith and i long to be a better lover to the Shepherd of my soul.

little baby,
i am a poor boy too,
i have no gift to bring,
that’s fit to give a king

the ice wraps around and knowing that my Sovereign God is faithful and true, oh so worthy of my trust, doesn’t melt the discouragement grief and doubt away.  i know i’m struggling to trust Him.  I know He is worthy of my trust.  i preach the gospel to myself, i remember and remember and remember.  but i can’t seem to create the trust i lack.  i am a poor girl too, i’ve no gift to bring, fit for my King of Kings.

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we’re driving along this beautiful winding road.  the kids in the back seats delighting in the curves and hills, my capable and loving husband at the wheel taking his family from place to place, navigating the weather and traffic and enjoying the ride.  He slows down for pictures and speeds up for tummy-tickling joy.  i sit in the passenger seat missing it.  i’m the drowning swimmer needing a slap in the face so as not to drown the lifeguard seeking to rescue her.  i know this.  i know there is no reason for the fear that has joined in with discouragement, doubt and grief.  but the knowing doesn’t melt the ice.  and i long to share in the joy of the others and for peace to descend out of the chaos and take a firmer hold of my heart.  i pray and pray and pray.

and wait.

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take heart, your redemption is near

dear ones listen, friends pray.  hymns penetrate.  tears fall freely while the worship band sings.

we are a flock unworthy, lambs frightened and silly and dumb.  we are the sheep of His pasture.  we are the sheep the babe came to save. we are desperate and needing redemption from a God who comes down.

the preacher reminds us of the cloud of witnesses, those who’ve walked in such darkness, who’ve seen a great light and bear witness to the glory of knowing Christ.

and the suffering one reads aloud…

though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  Praise be to our God and Father, in His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through His own resurrection from the dead.   set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

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there is no hope in my ability to respond to the stuff of life with faith hope and trust.  my hope is reduced fully to the grace given when Jesus Christ, the One willing and able to keep me from falling, the One who fights for me, the One who never leaves or forsakes even when i think He has, my hope is reduced fully to the grace given to me when this Jesus is revealed before me and i see Him as He is.

Abba, i belong to you. *

peace descends and the ice begins to melt.


to draw further in:  Acts 7, Revelation 6:9-11, 1 Peter 1:3-13; 2:9-10, Isaiah 30-33; 40-42; O Come O Come Emmanuel, Christmas Canon

*Brennan Manning.

 

chasing joy | a cabin story: the foreword

my daughter never reads the forewords or the prologues in a book, declaring her disdain and sense of pointlessness with them on a regular basis.  i find that to be one of her endearing qualities and it makes me smile.  she is passionate about certain things and is free to share it.

a foreword is typically written by someone other than the author themselves.  it’s a word before the story meant to give insight into the story the book tells.  in my case here, i’m writing to create a level of understanding of the foundations laid in my inner man regarding who God is and what it means to be loved by Him.

if you also share in my daughter’s disdain and prefer to just jump into a story, than you’ll have to wait a couple of days for it to begin.   i’ve known i would have to go here in this series and have been struggling with how to go about it.  this is the way forward for me, (pun intended).

 

Chasing Joy | A Cabin Story

foreword

i once read the book:  The God I Love by Joni Eareckson Tada.  it is a book full of wisdom words such as these.  There is a chapter in that book where Joni wrestles with a friend over the concept of a God who is both Sovereign and Good (vs. either/or).  a mere inches could have meant a different outcome for her that day.  that chapter marked me.


in the dead of the night with my firstborn, i’d rock and nurse and hold this love of my heart.  and the God who knit her together in my womb would bring to my mind one song.  only one song; “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus”  and so that became ‘her’ song, and the truths contained within would overlay my own thoughts and prayers and needs as her mom.

with my second born, again there was one song, only ever one song; “The Love of God”

our first born delight was a very cooperative baby.  this second born, not so much. about 8 months in we find ourselves far from home riding along in an ambulance wondering if he will survive the night.  leaving our girl behind with grandma and grandpa we spent the next 5 days in the fight.  the first hours included such depths of suffering and torture i will never forget.  my husband was allowed to remain inside the ICU assisting the various docs while they worked for hours upon hours attempting to insert an iv into his dehydrated and failing body.  i, however, was forbidden and exiled outside the closed and windowless door where i could hear his screams of pain, yet see nothing.  the God of Jacob and i wrestled that night and i still carry the limp.

a mere inches could mean a different outcome.

Sovereign.  yes.  Good? after about the 5th or 6th failed (and extremely painful) attempt i began to wonder.

sometime in the middle of the night i was made aware that we were running out of time and options.  i knew that the God of the Universe knew the outcome.  if He was planning on taking my son, then get it over with already, why this needless suffering?

the familiar song flooded my mind and i could not stop the words.

I Am.  I love you.  I love zeke.

as i melted into a puddle of sobs over the reality that appeared to state otherwise, i was able to surrender to His Sovereignty and His Goodness co-existing in this place of torture and suffering.  i leaned upon His breast and wept.

exhausted yet strengthened in my watchman’s post, a few hours later they handed me a limp body with an IV inserted into his scalp-the last attempt by the last person at the hospital that they knew to call in, inserted into the last place possible.

i have never understood that night.  there has never been made known to us any type of outcome that makes sense or lends purpose to the suffering we all endured. (for it wasn’t only zeke who suffered and was afraid.  hannah, barely 4, and jeremy and i also suffered and were frightened by that week.)  the mystery remains to this day.

“I wished God were like He used to be, a few notches lower. I wanted Him to be lofty enough to help me but not so uncontrollable. I longed for His warm presence, times when He seemed more… safe.”  -Joni Eareckson Tada

 

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