Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Long dark journeys

I am not a roller coasting loving kind of girl, nor am I fond of small tight places. Unfortunately I remembered each of these facts after being launched into a five story tube of water.

Deep breaths.
Slow, deep breaths.

It was pitch black in here. I was okay for a few seconds and then the tube twisted on itself launching me against the side.

More breaths. Ragged. Shallow.
A distinct impression that the walls were closing in.

Ah, lights!
It’s the end!
What a relief!
...

.....

.......

.........

...........

.............

The darkness, if possible, seemed deeper as I continued to rush forward leaving the lights left far behind. How long was this going to last? How long could I last having no awareness of anything beyond the darkness and falling and the feeling that I wouldn’t make it if this lasted much longer?

A water park ride is one thing but when you’re plunging through life and circumstances with no control; that is a kind of scary that doesn't end in a minute in a splash of chlorinated water.

God promises that He walks through the 'valley of the shadow of death' (Psalms 23) with us. This promise is for any kind of death; physical loss but also the loss of employment, health, home, or hope. Included are when dreams, expectations, or relationships are slaughtered or when we’re plunged into valleys that rob us of reasoning and blind our eyes to the beauty of living and stop our ears from the call of hope. There are valleys when the only emotion is fear from the shadows that grow deeper on a journey that seems like it will never end. Here, in these valleys, God walks with us for this is why He came.

God came to be Emmanuel - "God with us".

Not "God with us when we're in our Sunday best".
Nor "God with us only in wide verdant peaceful places".

But simply God with us - wherever we are.

He is Emmanuel - God with us, especially when it is dark, and long, and out of our control, and scary.
Especially then...


To you O God, who is the Light of the World, come to us here in these small dark spaces. Give us the light of Your presence and the touch of Your hand. Reassure us that, no matter how we may feel, we are not in this alone for you have promised to never abandon those who love you.
(John 8:12, Psalms 4:6, Psalms 89:15, Psalms 73:23, Psalms 37:28, Hebrews 13:5)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pregnant...

There is something special about being pregnant around Christmas for no matter how frantic and frenzied everything gets around you your thoughts never get too far from the life you’re carrying within you.

Be pregnant this Christmas.
Yes, I do mean you…

Be cognizant of the life you carry within you – in your heart. Remember that the relationship you have with the Savior is what those around you, harried in their busyness, are seeking.

This season is all about peace, joy, and love.
We, as children of God, know the truest meaning of those words.
We have experienced peace in the unsure, joy despite long dark valleys, and love that is unconditional.

We know the real reason for the baby in the manger.
We understand that Christmas is really all about Easter.
And Easter is all about God who so desires a relationship with us that He’d sacrifice His Son for our redemption.
Christmas is all about the gift of God’s love.

Birth that gift into your world this season.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Just in case you hadn’t notice the million ads on television or the four inch thick paper that arrived on Thanksgiving, today is Black Friday. This is the day that officially kicks off the Christmas shopping season with special sales that began at 3 am so, if you played your cards right, you could be done by breakfast!

I am sure that there were hundred of thousands who were out this morning and I know my girlfriend was one of them; only she wasn’t at the mall but instead cooking breakfast at a battered women’s shelter. Few are the things that motivate us to get out of our beds in the middle of the night; for some it may be the thrill of being in a crush of a holiday crowd (although I don’t know who!), for her it was the chance to do something for others and thereby show the love of Christ, and for some, out this morning, it was a sacrifice of their own comforts in order to afford a gift they know will bring a loved one great joy.

Many bemoan the fact that Thanksgiving has become the forgotten holiday as retailers rush us now, earlier and earlier, into Christmas with holiday displays and music as soon as Halloween but I think perhaps that we know something they do not. For you see Christmas is really an extension of Thanksgiving. We embrace this season of gift giving because we are thankful for the people in our lives. Sure there are some obligatory gifts that are given but aren’t most of your thoughts of what you can give to the ones you love? We are celebrating the coming of Christ because we are so grateful that God did not leave us forever separated from Him but has sent His Son for our redemption.

So bring on the sales, the trappings, the wonder and madness of it all because to a thoughtful heart it is the beginning of a prolonged season of giving thanks!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chronic

Chronic -ugh - even the word makes one cringe!

Merriam Webster's dictionary defines it as "marked by long duration, by frequent recurrence over a long time". This word originated around the 1520's from the Greek khronikos meaning "of time" and vague disapproving sense is from association with diseases (a connection found since c.1600).

I hurt my back last week and since then have a new appreciation and sympathy for those who have chronic pain. I know how crabby I've been, so I can't imagine what it is like to wake up every morning knowing the day will be pain filled and one's ability limited.

But, the more I think about it, I realize that we all wake up each morning to chronic conditions. It may be physical or perhaps it is emotional, spiritual, or relational in the form of an ongoing situation, besetting sin, or problematic relationship; something that, as you look back over your life, has been there for years upon years. I was flipping through my journal and found that while some things have changed many have not. I see the same prayers and questions over and over in its pages: chronic conditions that, in all likelihood, will never change.

“Marked by a long duration – by frequent recurrence over a long time” this is what chronic means and it feels so negativebut dare we look at the positive side of chronic?

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed for they are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness” Lamentations 3:23.

God’s love is chronic in our lives.

There is never a sunrise that is not accompanied by His mercies and strength.

Never does the moon rise unaccompanied by His promise to watch over us through the night and to be there for us should sleep be elusive.

For whatever else is chronic in our lives, so is the love and care of our God.

"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9,10

“I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

So as you deal today with whatever is chronic in your life do so remembering that God's presence is also always with you.  His ear is attentive to your prayer:  He is listening for your voice. (Psalms 130:2)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Smudges on our souls

My whole world has titled off its axis just a bit since yesterday.

Why, you might ask?

It’s because I washed all my windows.

In Chicago we've had some unusually mild weather so, before the blizzards blow, I took advantage of the warm days and cleaned all the windows inside and out.

A clarity has been added. Gone are the smudges, the built up dirt that distorted the view as I looked outside. The light in my house is now brighter, clearer and it changes what I see and how I feel.

Life is messy.

We get smudges on our souls and the dirt of discontent builds up on our spirits; but then God provides agents to wash it away. It may be a song, a sermon, a conference, a comment, a catastrophe, or a circumstance and suddenly we see life more clearly and it changes everything.

Matthew West sings in My Own Little World about his small safe world with "population: me” until he sees a homeless widow and now his world consists of two. What would we see if our eyes were opened?

May God clean the smudges off our souls so that we can clearly see what is around us. Each of our lives are different, perhaps this is the time to focus on a spouse, a job, a neighbor, children, ministry, or the world outside one’s comfort zone but, no matter what we will see, may God gently clean the dirt from our hearts so that we can.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What I need to know

I know not -
how God moves
how prayer works
what God plans
why bad things happen
or what my future holds.

BUT

I know the One in whom I trust and am confident that He is capable.

Those who know your name trust in you
for you O Lord have never abandoned anyone
who searches for you. ( Psalms 9:10 NLT).

I know whom I have believed
 and am persuaded that He is able
 to keep what I have committed to Him
until that day ( II Timothy 1:12 NKJV).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

One among millions

 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6,7)

"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. (Matthew 18:12-14)

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away.  You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am...You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. (Psalms 139:1-5)


Monday, November 1, 2010

The Parable of the Princess

The streamers of ribbon and pearls rode the wave of long brown hair cascading down her back; her headdress telling all that she was special, she was royalty, for tonight she was the princess.

She was also the mom who had thrown on her daughter's crown as she was walking around with her family as they trick-or-treated. She was the rapidly aging woman who was realizing she was no longer as attractive, fearless, hope-filled, or energetic as once she was. She was all grown up now and, at the rate her kids were growing up, she’d too quickly become an empty nester. Her castle was filled with projects well intentioned but only begun and piles of responsibilities waiting to be sorted. Her lists were always longer than her hours and she’d discovered the white horse, that her knight had arrived on, involved a great deal of upkeep.

Her court of ladies brought her great joy however castle responsibilities left them little time for repose. There were the endless rounds of engagements to attend to and also constant threats to the peace of the kingdom.

The King however was the one who had placed this garland of loving kindness upon her head and bestowed upon her the honor of being a princess and His beloved daughter. He was in complete control of the happenings in the kingdom and always welcomed her warmly when she came into His throne room. No detail was too small for His attention and no threat too great for His power. She was dressed in rich flowing garments of praise and salvation and her table always abounded with the finest of food. Her heart was secure for the Almighty King was her protector and she served and worshipped Him as her Lord. He asked her total allegiance which she freely gave knowing that without His good favor she would still be dwelling in the shadowed outskirts of the castle. She now lived each day in His palace enjoying the nearness of His presence and the richness of His love. No matter what the responsibilities or difficulties; she would remember that, not only for tonight but also for all of eternity, she was His princess-with or without the ribbons.

(Taken from Psalms 103:4, John 1:12, Jeremiah 32:27, Isaiah 61:10, Psalms 55:7, Psalms 104:27,28, Psalms 23:5, Psalms 89:15, Psalms 56:13, Psalms 26:8, Psalms 27:5, Psalms 61:4, Hebrews 13:5)