Hope Is Not Anesthesia

It is unhealthy to ignore pain.

heal and acknowledge

But when it comes to emotional pain, we sometimes shut people out or shut them down.

I submit that we diminish the power of the cross when we deny or minimize the presence of pain.

Believing that God is in control and Jesus lives does not undo grief’s storm-it is a lifeline that keeps my desperate and hurting heart from sinking under the waves.

Read the rest here: Heartache and Hope

Tenacious, Unyielding Trust

Just think-when our hearts hang onto hope in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, we are taking back territory from the enemy of our souls.

We are shedding light and spreading salt.

What a powerful testimony to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Read the rest here: Defiant Faith

Tested Faith Is Born Of Questions

In the midst of this uncertain time many people are asking questions.

That’s a good thing.

Because unlike others who may insist that faith never questions, I maintain that faith begins with questions.

Who needs a God who knows everything if they never wonder about anything?

It’s no sin, to ask, “Why”.

The Psalms are filled with questions.  

Jesus Himself asked, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” from the cross.

God invites us to ask. 

Read the rest here: It is No Sin to Ask, “Why?”

A Poem: Through The Fog and Dark

Through the fog and dark and limits of my sight

I hear birds singing

as they welcome the day

I still can’t see.

Read the rest here: Through The Fog And Dark

Journaling My Way Home

My journals are filled with strong words and strong feelings. 

They are also filled with, what I believe, God spoke to my heart in response. 

Sometimes it was in the form of a Bible verse, sometimes a memory, sometimes song lyrics or a prayer.  And sometimes the pages are simply a record of how my Shepherd gently led me through a particular hard moment or day or week.

So if you are struggling with doubt-let yourself off the hook. 

You can’t deny it. 

And you don’t have to. 

You’re in good company.

Read the rest here: Doubt Is Not Denial: Journaling My Way Home

Denying Pain Diminishes the Power of the Cross

To deny the presence of pain is to diminish the power of the cross.  

Dying, Jesus honored His mother’s courage by acknowledging her pain. She was losing the Son she loved and it hurt in a way that only mothers can comprehend.  He didn’t tell her that it would “be alright” or that “the ending is ultimately victorious”.

Instead, He looked upon her trembling figure and saw her broken heart.

Read the rest here: denial

He Still Holds Me Fast

It will soon be seven years since Dominic stepped into Heaven.

It’s really hard to write that and harder still to live it.

In those years I’ve spent a great deal of time dragging out what I thought I knew about God, about how He works in the world, about how we take Scripture and wrap it around preconceived notions to make us feel safer and more in control.

I’ve had bad days and better days. Days of doubt and days of faith.

But every day I’ve felt assured of this truth: Even when my grip on Jesus is slipping, He holds me fast.

I’ve mentioned it before.

I’ve encouraged others not to resist.

But I want to be absolutely clear:  Losing my son made me doubt EVERYTHING.

Read the rest here: He Will Hold Me Fast

Advent: Highly Favored

Luke tells us that his purpose in writing is to give an orderly and full account of the life of Jesus.

It’s far from a dry “news report” though. It’s full of personal encounters, emotion and delightful detail.

I love the description of a (probably slightly perplexed and perhaps frightened Mary) and her older cousin Elizabeth:

 Afterward, Mary arose and hurried off to the hill country of Judea, to the village where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. 40 Arriving at their home, Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the moment she heard Mary’s voice, the baby[a] within Elizabeth’s womb jumped and kicked. And suddenly, Elizabeth was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit! 42 With a loud voice she prophesied with power:

“Mary! You are a woman given the highest favor
    and privilege above all others.
    For your child[b] is destined to bring God great delight.
43 How did I deserve such a remarkable honor
    to have the mother of my Lord[c] come and visit me?
44 The moment you came in the door and greeted me,
    my baby danced inside me with ecstatic joy!
45 Great favor is upon you, for you have believed
    every word spoken to you from the Lord.”

Luke 1: 39-45 TPT

It’s unclear from the text but it could be that Elizabeth and Mary were close before they shared the secret that they both carried sons of promise. For some reason Mary went quickly to her after the visit from Gabriel.

Was it to buy time before her belly gave her away? Was it to seek godly counsel or confirmation from an older, wiser woman? Was it simply because she had heard Elizabeth was also pregnant when it seemed unlikely it could be?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that every person in the nativity story was a real live flesh-and-blood individual who was as trapped in time as I am. They had to walk out events as they happened and didn’t know the end from the beginning even if they’d been given promises from an angel.

God provided extraordinary confirmation for them both. What a beautiful moment!

Not only did John leap in Elizabeth’s womb, the Holy Spirit came upon her and gave her a message for young Mary. Mary was “highly favored”, chosen as a vessel of honor and blessing.

Reflection on the Visitation of Mary | Society of the Holy Child Jesus

I imagine Mary held those words close to her heart over the next many months when whispers and sideways glances followed her everywhere.

I know I hold close the words the Lord has given me.

When I read Scripture, the Holy Spirit often quickens my spirit to take note and take hold of a verse or two. He whispers, “This one is for YOU”, to my heart.

I underline it, write it down, meditate on it, come back to it and rest in the truth that if God says it, it’s true.

Mary was highly favored because she believed “every word spoken to her by the Lord”.

Jesus was born a single time-no other woman will ever again carry God’s Son in her womb. But we can each carry God’s word in our hearts.

When we do, we too are vessels of honor and blessing.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever stopped a moment and thought about how the people in Bible stories were, in fact, real people? If not, do it now. How does that impact your understanding of the text?
  • Mary was an unmarried virgin who became pregnant. No matter that Gabriel assured her it was by the Holy Spirit, I imagine others thought something very different. Why do you think she went to see Elizabeth?
  • Which of Elizabeth’s words to Mary mean the most to you?
  • Has the Holy Spirit ever quickened verses that you read? How do you make a note of them? Have you ever come back to them later and realized God used them in a special way to encourage your heart?

PRAYER:

Lord,

Sometimes trusting the promises is a struggle. I want to believe, I try to believe but no amount of willful conjuring on my part can make me believe.

But for this, I have Jesus and your Holy Spirit. Like Elizabeth and Mary, You quicken your life, hope and power within me.

You have given me your word. Your word is truth. I can rest assured in the promises that have been fulfilled and know the others will come to fruition when the time is right.

Help me believe every single word You have spoken. Help me be a vessel of honor-to hold close and hold dear what you plant in my heart.

Amen

Advent: Stunned Into Silence

When I received the news that Dominic would never walk through our door again, I let out an unearthly wail.

Then I had to make phone call after phone call.

And after that I ran out of words.

So while I realize Zechariah’s silence was imposed on him by God, I can imagine how it felt to hold a secret so deep and yet not be able to speak it aloud for others to hear and share.

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is too old to give me a child. What sign can you give me to prove this will happen?”

1Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel.[I stand beside God himself. He has sent me to announce to you this good news. 20 But now, since you did not believe my words, you will be stricken silent and unable to speak[until the day my words have been fulfilled at their appointed time and a child is born to you. That will be your sign!”

21 Meanwhile, the crowds outside kept expecting him to come out. They were amazed over Zechariah’s delay, wondering what could have happened inside the sanctuary. 22 When he finally did come out, he tried to talk, but he couldn’t speak a word, and they realized from his gestures that he had seen a vision while in the Holy Place. 23 He remained mute as he finished his days of priestly ministry in the temple and then went back to his own home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for the next five months. 25 She said with joy, “See how kind it is of God to gaze upon me and take away the disgrace of my barrenness!”

Luke 1: 18-25 TPT

I feel Zechariah’s pain!

He and Elizabeth had undoubtedly prayed the same prayer for decades so maybe he not only questioned what Gabriel told him, he may have questioned his own senses and sanity. That’s not in the text, but I can imagine he might have.

Before he could stop himself he blurted out that the words were all well and good but a sign would be something he could hold onto for assurance.

Mark 9:24 | The Consecrated Woman

Gabriel told him, in essence, that if his own presence was not enough to validate the promise, Zechariah wasn’t getting the sign he hoped for but he’d get another sign-one he wished he hadn’t asked for.

It’s natural for human hearts to long for something they can hold in their hands to act as guarantee of God’s promises. We are creatures of the earth and we live by our five senses.

Our Heavenly Father knows I am frail and made of dust. He doesn’t despise me. But He does insist that I walk by faith, trusting in His character, His love and His promises. He doesn’t supply me with signs and miracles as proof to soothe my doubts and fears.

He could.

But He doesn’t.

Instead I have the testimony of the Holy Spirit to my spirit. Leading me into all truth and helping me hold fast to hope.

If you are raising prayers or your heart to the Lord today, anxious for Him to show you that He’s listening, be still and let His Spirit speak to yours.

It won’t be an audible voice, but it will be unmistakable.

He’s still in the business of answering His children.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever prayed long for something? If your prayer was eventually answered did it shock you?
  • Sometimes silence seems the most holy response when I’ve spent time in God’s Presence. Can you remember a moment when what the Lord revealed to you felt too precious or too impossible to share with others?
  • What do you think Elizabeth’s response might have been when Zechariah came out and couldn’t speak? Do you think she had a clue what had happened?
  • Do you believe God answers prayer? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Lord,

You are my Maker. You know I am frail and prone to doubt. It’s especially hard for my heart to trust when it feels like prayers I’ve prayed for nearly my whole life have gone unanswered-or answered in a most painful way instead of the way I wanted them to be.

I confess, it’d be wonderful to have some sort of sign I could see with my own eyes, turn over in my hand and tuck in my pocket as a reminder of Your sovereignty. But that’s not how You work in the world.

You have given me Your Spirit and Your Word and that is enough. Help me believe that it’s enough-more than enough-to guide my heart through this Valley. You hold me fast even when my grip loosens and threatens to give way.

Thank You for Your Presence. Thank You for your Promises. Thank You for the privilege of lifting my hands and heart to You in prayer.

Amen

Learning To Be Yielded And Still

I first shared this four years ago when I was still in the early days of mourning Dominic. Our family was facing the third set of holidays with an empty chair at the table.

Life since then has been full of additional challenges and loss.

I still rebel sometimes at the road I’m asked to walk.

But I am more convinced than ever that when I yield my life and heart to the Master Potter, He will mold me and make me into the likeness of Jesus.

And that’s really who I want to be-even if it hurts.

I can’t claim to be satisfied with this life I’m living.  

do not like this path I am forced to walk, this darkness that hides the light, this pain that burrows deep in my bones.

But I can say I’m learning not to fight it.  

Sometimes I still pitch a fit.  

Read the rest here: Yielded and Still