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Brilliant shafts of light passed through the windows as I sat silently…listening for God to instruct my heart.  Closing my eyes, I invited Him to meet me during these few quiet moments set aside for prayer and reflection.

Glancing at the sheet of prompts held in my hands, I struggled with the response–not because I didn’t know the answer…but because I did.  Today’s devotion penetrated with the question…What are you excited about?

The answer surfaced quickly–an undesired intruder provoking speculation…questioning…uncertainty.

What was I excited about?  

Nothing.

I feel as if I’m living in limbo…wondering about God’s plans for my children, my family, and my life.  And like a man standing on a mountain top in the midst of a snowstorm, I can’t see the other peak just beyond the valley.

Pausing, I wonder if my honest answer is unacceptable to God.   Ungrateful…unworthy…unholy–the words penetrate my heart and guilt’s shadow presses near.

Grappling with both the question and the answer, I realize my longing for more–more of holiness…more of  beauty…more of Christ–is the deep desire to know my Creator; to live in the perfection of  an Eternal Garden.

Today, though, I am living as all people do–in this strange Temporary of joy and pain, hope and fear, celebration and sorrow.

The Psalmist shared the same feeling–I want to drink God, deep draughts of God.  I’m thirsty for God alive.  (Psalm 42:2). Dear Friend, my soul yearns for the day I am fully in His presence and surrounded by glory.  That is a Forever excitement.

Knowing the Truth

A trusted mentor of mine put it bluntly…”What gives you the right to malign God’s character?”

Revealing the ugly places in my heart, I confided to a root of bitterness that threatened to impair my faith with its silent, choking growth–an infected seed of doubt…fear..and disillusionment had taken root. The Enemy’s whispered messages had penetrated my mother’s tender heart. This was not what I had imagined for my precious ones.

I wondered if God really had a plan…really had our good in mind. How could this hardship, this suffering, this hollow ache in my heart beating its cry moment-by-moment lead to something more…something beautiful?

Meeting my friend’s gentle rebuke with an unusually frank reply I responded, “I have no right to malign God. I know the truth whether I feel it or not.”

Could you, too, be struggling with a situation that makes it difficult to see God’s good in your hurting? You will see Him, dear Friend, if you watch and listen. His goodness might come through the words of a loving friend…a meal cooked by servant hands…a prayer offered quietly on your behalf. You might notice His mercy in the fresh, clean smell of your freshly bathed child pressed close to your heart…the rising of the sun when you didn’t think light could penetrate the darkness.

I pray you know the truth–whether you feel it or not.

Truths from Scripture

Psalm 27:13
I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of The Lord in the land of the living. Wait for The Lord; be strong And take heart and wait for The Lord. (Emphasis mine)

Romans 8:37
In all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us.

1 Peter 5:8-10
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…will himself restore you…

John 8:32 …the truth will set you free.

Someday

As a little girl, I longed for a normal family life–a Brady Bunch sort of family life that included trips to the Grand Canyon, sack races in the backyard, and the resolution of any conflict within a thirty minute time frame.  Whatever you say, Mike. My childish longings found fertile ground in the solitude of my imagination where I created a rich landscape of characters who allowed me to foster dreams of what might be…someday.

Someday finally arrived. And from the moment he slipped the ring on my finger,  I knew we would have a “normal” family. Which we did–and do.

Our family is as normal as any other.  Socks never seem to match, the children argue about important matters…“I have he biggest spoon!” Meanwhile, my husband and I marvel at the ridiculous things we say…”Who put underwear on the dog?” These are the small delights and details of an everyday family.

But, along with the regular we’ve experienced the unwelcome–those changes in perception or circumstance that so substantially impact one person that the rest of the family feels the aftershock.  None of us are exempt from these experiences.  While we can’t identify with every situation, we can understand the disappointment, fear, and grief associated with them. Alzheimer’s…infertility…cancer…depression.

This, dear friends, is the normal of people living between the worlds of Today and Forever.  Today’s normal is a beautiful, imperfect challenge.  There are joys and sorrows; hurts and triumphs. If we pause for a moment from our rushing and worrying, we might just catch a glimpse of our Eternal Someday in a child’s belly laugh…an old couple’s tender kiss…a father praying for his family.

Someday…

WinterThe quiet stillness of a snow-shrouded evening encased our home like a gentle cocoon  and most evenings I would have slipped into bed with a smile; content in the cluttered reality of our home–my youngest son’s super hero collection strewn about his floor, my daughter’s treasured dolls tucked into their makeshift bed with the loving hands of a little girl, and a load of folded laundry sitting on the sofa until tomorrow with hopes that the unmatched socks might find their mates.

But tonight, while my family slept soundly, my restless thoughts turned first to self-reflection–Had I done something to cause doubt?  Was there a failure on my part to engender trust?  Quickly, I resorted to self-recrimination–an old habit of a reformed people-pleaser. Surely, God hadn’t meant for me to serve Him in this capacity. I’m not meant to be a leader.  I’m better suited to coming alongside one person at a time–listening to hurts, offering a hug, quietly encouraging….not this.

Have you, too, wondered why you are serving God in a particular place or position?  Do you doubt your abilities? your purpose?  Dare I even say it…have you wondered about God’s wisdom in giving you a certain sort of influence or leadership opportunity?

I admit it.  I am a self-doubter….a purpose-seeker…and a believer who would often prefer dew on the fleece or handwriting on the wall to the uncertain business of discerning God’s will for my life.  But, most often God reveals his desires for His people in the mysterious places of the heart–where Spirit responds to spirit.  These are the opportunities in which believers can grow–in trust…in faith…in awe of God’s ability to use fallible God-lovers to do His work.

As the evening hours slowly faded into a new morning, I began to pray for a different perspective.  A perspective focused not on myself or on the perceptions of others, but on the work of Christ and His plan.  And finally, peace settled in my heart like the snow on the bare tree limbs outside the window.

Scripture for Reflection

But Moses said to God, “Who am I…?  (Exodus 3:11)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:10)

Fish Symbol on CrossI want to be your encourager today–the one who reminds you that Christmas is the day Eternity entered the world…that moment when the Holy One stepped away from God’s glory to lay shivering a midst the squalor and stench of man’s inhospitable world.  For within that unremarkable town in an unknown stable, a young woman wrapped filthy rags around the King-turned-flesh.

And she must have wept tears of joy…and sorrow–knowing that God’s Miracle-child had been meant for more.  The world should have received the Lion-made-Lamb with shouts of praise and proclamations of the Messiah’s arrival!  God incarnate should have been wrapped in blankets of silk stitched together with threads of gold and silver!

Yet for thirty-three years, Jesus lay his crown of glory aside.  The one who breathed life into the spirit of man gave up His glory the moment the power of the Most High stirred life in the virgin’s womb.  Why?  Because of love.  Nothing more.

Dear friend, Eternity entered the world that we might have eternity.  But not just any eternity, nor an eternity spent shivering in a place of corruption…a place without the Lion-made-Lamb. He lived a man’s life–from cradle to cross–with you and me in mind so that we might experience Eternity himself.

It was His plan all along–this quiet redemption.  His impoverished birth for our heavenly re-birth.  His tattered swaddling clothes for our white robes.  His unheralded nativity for our celebrated homecoming.

The day Eternity entered the world is much more that Christmas–it is Christ.

Verses for Reflection

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.  (Luke 1:35)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:17)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, … (Revelation 7:9-17)

Living Prayers

God shapes the world by prayer.  Prayers are deathless.  The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them.  Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.  –E.M. Bounds

If you have a share in a story like mine, you understand the pain of loving a prodigal.  Your prodigal might be a spouse, a parent–or, like so many, a treasured and precious child. I know my experience is far from singular.

The Christian speaker’s adult child has turned from God to alcohol….the Sunday School teacher’s son glares at the clock as the passing of each day reminds him the iron bars are a visual representation of  choices that have bound him to more than this place…the adopted child raised “in the fear and admonition of The Lord” lives for the next high…and, for at least the last four years my own son has walked a painful path–his soul searching for fulfillment in a lifestyle devoid of the God he trusted as an innocent boy.

And that painful path?  He may not realize it….or may even resent it–but, my heart has been with him the entire time.  Like Mary, I feel “as if a sword had pierced my own soul”.  But, I refuse to give up the fight for this is “not a battle against flesh and blood…but against the powers of this dark world”.

Above all, I know that neither your prodigal nor mine wanders alone.  In the dead of the night…when the lion of this world prowls about seeking to satisfy his gluttonous hunger, the Lion of Judah stands strong and vigilant–the eternal victor who “will contend with those contend with you, and your children I will save”.

Be encouraged, Friend, and continue to pray on behalf of those who refuse to pray for themselves.  If you do not have a prodigal in your life, then pray–without judging–for someone who does.

Scripture for Reflection

Ephesians 1:18-19

John 16:33

Rushing River

imagePerched atop a weather worn balcony, my gaze sweeps the views afforded by the Arkansas River valley.  Surrounded on every side by mountains, the prairie splays wide between–a broad swath of sun kissed grasses and gray-green sagebrush.  Barbed wire fences zig zag across the landscape and disappear somewhere in the distance where plains and mountains merge.  And the rush of the river below creates a duet with the black capped chickadees darting from one pine branch to another.

I pause…inhaling the calm of this place–a welcome respite from the clamoring sounds of suburbia.

 

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I’m struck by the river as it hurries by–always moving toward something unknown…the promise of what lies around the next bend luring it away from the beauty of its here and now.  And in its incessant winding and wending, I wonder if the river ever pauses long enough just to notice.

But maybe it’s my life I’m really considering–how quickly time moves and twenty years young suddenly becomes forty and now I am my parents while my children have become me.  And like ripples across the river’s surface, my face has begun to wear life’s lines and the days rush by.

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I wonder… In all of the busyness–does my life make a difference?  I pray that even in my smallness God will show Himself large…that these worn mother’s hands will willingly do the work of laundry and dishes and tucking into bed with the tenderness of  the Heavenly Father and that simple words shared on a page will remind you, dear Friend, that the Word is eternal.  He stands strong in the rushing waters–even walks on them–with his hands extended toward you.

No matter how rapid the current and despite the busyness flooding our lives, let’s hold onto the one who leads us beside still waters. (Psalm 23)

 

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