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Friday, March 22, 2013

Waiting for Spring

My beloved speaks to me and says to me:  "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for  now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
                                                               Song of Solomon 2:10-12

The gifts of joy and spring are intertwined in my mind.

After the long cold winter my heart rejoices to see the first tiny hints of green appear.

My sense of hope and joy grows stronger as the resurrection of spring begins and all of life seems fresh and new.

Waiting for those first signs of new life requires the difficult discipline of patience.  Our faith in God requires that same patience.

In his book, Sacred Waiting, David Timms says:  "We will only wait on Him with joy if we have deep confidence in His love for us."

Just as we have confidence that spring will arrive in its perfect time, we are called to trust that the same is true of God.

There are dark days in the midst of winter when it seems as if spring will never come.  But our thoughts and emotions are not always truth.  Spring will return eventually despite how we may feel.

There are also dark times during our journey of faith, especially times of deep suffering and pain,  when we may not feel God's love.  But the truth is that God's love never fails.  Our feelings may fail us but God's love never does.

In Romans Paul proclaims that "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39

The journey of faith takes great patience and perseverance.  There may be times when we lose our way and feel forsaken.  Joy may be nowhere in sight.  Those are the times we must have confidence that God's love will prevail.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Some seasons may bring joy and some may bring pain but they are all part of the cycle of death and new life.  

In whatever season we may find ourselves, we can trust in God's goodness and His unfailing love which will never end.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Waiting in Silence

Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation.
                                                                     Psalm 62:1

Once more I have lost my way.

What seemed so clear and positively encouraging yesterday has been clouded back over with confusion and self-doubt.

A sense of heaviness weighed my heart down as I hurried through my morning reflection with God in order to got to my Hospice patient's home on time.

Convinced just yesterday that God was calling me to stay with this work as a family support volunteer, today I felt unsure again and questioned whether I might be mistaken.

My fluctuating and unpredictable feelings had once more rushed in creating a sea of confusion.  The peace and joy of yesterday's trust in God's ongoing guidance were washed away like fragile seashells on the shore.

During this midlife time of transition, God has been shaking up a lot of things in my life that have become comfortable and familiar.  I am struggling to move past my fear of change and hear where His voice is calling me beyond the chaos of my own cluttered thoughts.

I am painfully aware of the fact that there are many times my feelings and emotions cannot be completely trusted.  They have led me astray repeatedly and pulled me back to the edges of depression and despair.  They have caused me to question God's plan for me as I  become locked in a sense of failure and hopelessness.

So as I sit here in the quiet while my patient sleeps in merciful peace, I know that I can only wait silently for God's grace to answer my cries for help in discerning the Truth.

He has never failed me and He has promised that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).  He has fulfilled His promises to me so many times and His love is truly the light of my life.  For that I am endlessly grateful.

So once more I must be content to sit in the darkness and wait for a glimpse of His saving light.  I know that it will come.  It always does - just as He has promised.

Friday, March 1, 2013

From Darkness to Joy

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
                                                                      I Thessalonians 5:16-18

There are times when joy seems impossible . . .

                                                     - times of uncertainty

                                                     - times of loss

                                                     - times of fear

                                                     - times of sickness

                                                     - times of despair

It IS impossible to be joyful at such times in our own strength.

But through the power of prayer, God makes the impossible possible.

He reminds us to focus on all that is still good in our lives . . .
                                                     - family

                                                     - friends

                                                     - freedom

                                                     - food and shelter

                                                     - His unending and unfailing love and forgiveness

During my own struggles with depression and loss, there have been times when I felt completely abandoned and cut off from God.

But I know those feelings are not Truth.  They are only stealthily whispered lies of the enemy of my soul attempting to drag me away from the Light.

I have felt the fear and discouragement of David in Psalm 30:  "when you hid your face, I was dismayed." (v.7)

Like David, I have cried out, "Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me; O Lord, be my help." (v.10)

And God has always answered my plea.  Maybe not always instantaneously.  Maybe not in a way I was able to recognize at first.  But always in His own perfect way and timing.

He has "turned my wailing into dancing . . . removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to  you and not be silent." (vv.11-12)

I know there will be more times when "weeping may remain for a night" but I also know I can trust that "rejoicing comes in the morning." (v.5)

God has given me all the instructions I need to find my way out of the darkness - unceasing prayer and gratitude.  I pray for His grace to live it out in my life.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Light in the Darkness

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
                                                                          John 8:12

I've spent a lot of time walking in darkness . . .

                        - the darkness of sin

                        - the darkness of my distorted thoughts

                        - the darkness of depression and despair

But in all my darkest times there has always been a light.

Sometimes the light is completely hidden for a time.  And sometimes it it is so faint that I can barely see it.

But I am learning more and more that even when I can't see it,  the Spirit within me knows it's there.

I am learning to hold on even during the darkest nights because I've seen over and over again that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

Even in my deepest doubt and despair the light flickers in my darkened heart like a tiny pilot light that only God can see.

As God foretold in Isaiah about the coming Savior - a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.  (Isaiah 42:3)

I am learning to trust in the darkness because Jesus promises that whoever lives in the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:21)

I am learning that when I cling to His truth He will lead me back into the light of life for He is the light of the world.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Prayer of Letting Go

Great God of Love,

Forgive me for my feeble attempts to control Your world that I so often don't understand.

Forgive me for the arrogance that convinces me that my way is right.

Forgive me for the impatience of my ignorant demands and childish whims.

Forgive me for my careless words of manipulation and deceit.

Fill me with Your Spirit of grace and truth.

Fill me with the hope of trust and stubborn faith.

Fill me with the evidence of things not seen.

Fill me with the love and freedom held out to me with bloodied hands.

Fill me with the promise that all things work together for good for those who love You.

Fill my heart to overflowing with acceptance, gratitude and praise.


Friday, February 8, 2013

With all my Heart

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
                                                                       Proverbs 3:5-6


That's the word I chose to be my focus for the year 2013.  I felt as if too many of my efforts had become half-hearted.

I want to live fully committed and greet each day with gratitude and hope.

In my own strength that is impossible.  My flesh fails again and again and I become disheartened and discouraged.

My strength must come from abiding in the vine and living through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If I know this, then why can't I remember to live it out?

The distractions of the world lure me away from the truth and I fall victim to the lies. . .

     -lies that I can do it myself

     -lies that I have to be perfect

     -lies that I have to win others' approval

     -lies that I will never be good enough

     -lies that things should be easy

The lies can only be defeated by trusting in the truth of God's Word - with all my heart.

I may not always understand.
He tells me not to lean on my own understanding.

He alone is sufficient and I can trust Him - with all my heart.

It may not be easy.
I will have to cling to the promises in faith even when my thoughts and feelings rebel.

But I will not lose hope.
He has promised He will never leave me or forsake me.

He has told me to trust Him - with all my heart.
And with His grace, I will.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Clutter to Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
                                                                          1 Timothy 6:6-8

I'm still stuck in the process of learning that things - no matter how beautiful or special - will never be able to give me the contentment that can only be found in Christ.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with beautiful or special things.  They can add enjoyment and pleasure to our lives.

But they can never bring us lasting happiness.  They can never take the place of God - not without terrible consequences.

Advertisers promise that the next new "it" item is all we need to be happy and fulfilled.  We're told that we need this new and improved version of "it" to stay connected and current.

The reality is that there is no "it" that can ever fully satisfy our souls.  Only the Prince of Peace can do that.

Why is this so hard for us to understand?

Why are we drawn like Magpies to the next bright and shiny new object?

We'll never find what we are searching for in the temporary things of this world.  No matter how beautiful or exciting, they will all pass away.  The Love that is the great source of us all is the only thing that will remain.

True contentment will never come from the clutter of worldly possessions. We will only find lasting peace when we loosen our grip on the things of this world and cling to Christ who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17).  In the end that's all that really matters.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Open the Eyes of My Heart

O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.
                                         2 Kings 6:17

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

The more I seek God's face, the more He opens my eyes that I might see.

Even more astounding, He continues to open the eyes of my heart wider and wider with each passing day.

I feel the sense of His incomparably great power in my life as He strengthens me to become more and more confident in Him.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
                                         1 John 4:4

I have tried for so long to free myself from the chains of my addictions and obsessions.  In my own strength I am ultimately powerless.  My strength is too weak to overcome the power of the sin.

But God's strength is not.  As long as I cling to Him in faith, hope and love, He will not fail me.

I may stumble and fall but He is there beside me gently encouraging me to brush myself off and stand firmly beside Him once again.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Practice of New Habits

In my own struggle to develop healthier habits I have often turned to the wise words of Portia Nelson's poem:

I walk down the street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost . . . I am helpless.
        It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep  hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don't see it.
    I fall in again.
 I can't believe I am in the same place.
           But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the  sidewalk.
   I see it is there.
   I still fall in . . . it's a habit.
          My eyes are open.
          I know where I am.
   It is my fault.
   I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

This has been the story of my life for the last twenty years.

Over and over I've determined to set boundaries and over and over again I have failed.

I don't want to hurt other people.

I don't want to cause pain.

I don't know how to say what I really need to say.

So I've fallen into the hole of sweet compliance again and again at the expense of my true self.

I see now, on the verge of turning 50, that I can't continue to live a life only dedicated to pleasing other people.  Pleasing God?  Yes.  Other people?  Sometimes.  Myself?  As long as I'm not causing harm to others.

I have to live the life I am called to live - not necessarily the life that those around me would like me to live.

I'm sure there are times when I will walk down the wrong street and maybe even fall into the hole again.  But I also know that I have the strength and the courage to climb out.  And I'm grateful for that freedom.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Trust Beyond Reason

Losing my baby brother at the age of 27 was the deepest pain I've ever had to endure.

Not far behind was the death of my dear sister in Christ  to breast cancer two months to the day before my brother was killed.

My world and my faith were turned upside down.

Struggling with depression and questions that had no answers, I felt totally alone and abandoned by God.  How could this God I'd grown to love and trust in the past several years allow such terrible tragedies to occur to two of the best and most loving people I knew in His creation?

I still don't know the answer to that question but one thing I do know in my heart is the truth of these words from Romans 8:28:

                    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those
                     who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Against all logic and reason my faith has only continued to deepen in strength over the last 13 years.

Our family has continued to struggle with grief but we have also grown closer to each other than we ever would have otherwise.

I have learned that God is too big to ever fit in my (or anyone else's) carefully constructed box.

I don't want to make it sound like it was a quick and easy (or finished) process because it wasn't.

But in the deepest recesses of my heart and soul I know that out of the worst and most confusing situation in my life, my faith in God and my recognition of His unfathomable mystery has been the one thing that has sustained me.

Even though this world can be a dark and scary place, I now trust the One who made it.  He alone can make all things new.

I will trust in Him and not be afraid.