He Is ALL That and More

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the One Who holds me in His hand IS “All That” and MORE.

He is more than I can imagine,

more than I need,

His resources are limitless

and His grace sufficient for every day

and all eternity.

HE IS-

The Way and the Way maker:

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

~Isaiah 43:19 KJV

The Truth and the Truth Speaker:

“When swearing an oath to confirm what they are saying, humans swear by someone greater than themselves and so bring their arguments to an end. 17 In the same way, when God wanted to confirm His promise as true and unchangeable, He swore an oath to the heirs of that promise. 18 So God has given us two unchanging things: His promise and His oath. These prove that it is impossible for God to lie. As a result, we who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us. 19 That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is (as the high priests did in the days when reconciliation flowed from sacrifices in the temple) 20 and back into the place where Jesus, who went ahead on our behalf, has entered since He has become a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

~Hebrews 6:16-20 VOICE

The Life and the Life Giver:

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.”

~John 1:4 NLT

The Promise and the Promise Keeper:

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”

~2 Corinthians 1:19-21 MSG

I cannot see the end of this journey but He is already there.  

god is already there

It looks black as night to me and I am fumbling around in the dark, but there is no darkness in Him at all.  

in him is no darkness

My flesh and my heart will fail, but His never will.

god is the strength of my heart

I Want to Get It Right

There are lots and lots of things in life where the distance between “good enough” and “perfect” really doesn’t matter.

I don’t aim for hospital corners while making my bed.

I cook without recipes-adding this or that until the taste suits me.

If I walk 8,567 steps or 10,291 steps I am not going to stress about it.

BUT-there is one thing I absolutely MUST get right.

My understanding of God-Who He is, Who Jesus is-matters for ever and ever.

I want to get it right.

I want to hear from the Holy Spirit and understand God’s Word.  I need to figure out the basics even if I can’t fill in all the details because what I believe about Jesus Christ determines whether or not I will join my son in heaven.

I admit that I still struggle with reconciling God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness.  I haven’t come up with an easy answer for why bad things happen in the world-often to people who don’t seem to “deserve” it.

But I am absolutely convinced that God is in control.

He is the Creator and Sustainer of this world.  He rules and reigns from a place of power and glory and might.  He did not make us and then leave us to our own devices.  He is active, here and now.

I trust in God’s faithful, enduring love.

graphic-his-faithful-love-endures-forever

It certainly doesn’t always look like what I think love should look like.  It includes allowing pain and heartache, dark nights and deep valleys.

Some He saves from the fire and others He gives over to tyrants.

But He also pursues me,

woos me,

strengthens me,

and sustains me.

He does not leave me to my own devices nor abandon me to my sin.  He has provided a way where there was no way.  His own Son’s blood is the Perfect and Enduring Sacrifice that gives me access to the Throne of Grace.

And I am convinced that the work He began in me-the work He began in Dominic-He is faithful to complete it.

I don’t get to see the finished product yet.  

It’s frustrating, frightening and painful to wait for it to be revealed.

But I believe with my whole heart that it will be one day.

beauty-from-ashes-clothespin

 

Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

There are lots of opportunities for offense surrounding the death of a child.

Once your heart is broken open wide with great sorrow, there’s no defense against the bumps and bruises that are a natural product of human relationship and interaction.

  • Friends and family that didn’t show up.
  • Friends and family that showed up but said or did the wrong thing.
  • Friends and family that abandoned me as soon as the casket closed.
  • People that make me feel guilty for grieving or question my sanity or my “progress”.

But I’m learning to let go of offense.

Not only because it is too heavy to carry in addition to my grief, but because the Lord has commanded it.

I grew up reciting what’s commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer” without much thought to the individual phrases or their meaning. It wasn’t until adulthood that I read it in context and continued on to the rest of the chapter.

What I found there was chilling.  

These are some of the hard words of Christ that most lay persons and many theologians prefer to gloss over.

“For if you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive other people, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures.”

~Jesus (Matthew 6:14-15 PHILLIPS)

WOW!  The plain reading of this text tells me that if I refuse to forgive others, I place myself outside the forgiveness of my Father.

It makes sense though-if my sins were borne by Christ on the cross, then so were yours.  

If His grace covers me, it covers you.  

If I want to be seen through the eyes of mercy, then I must be willing to look through those same eyes at my fellow man.

At first this feels like bondage instead of freedom.  

But the truth is, forgiveness is liberating.  

It sets me free to operate in the fullness of who I am in Christ.  It forces me to trust Him with my pain, with my sorrows, with my offenses and with balancing the scales of justice.

forgiveness-quote-charles-stanley

Forgiveness opens the path to relationship and community.  It testifies to the mercy and grace of God.  

It shines like a beacon of light in a dark world.  

It is the power of Christ in me.

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

~Henri Nouwen

forgiveness_is_the_fragrance_that_the_violet_sheds_on_the_heel_that_has_crushed_it-385646

Prayers I Still Pray, Part II

As I mentioned yesterday, prayer after loss is complicated for me.  I wrote a post months ago The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer that addressed this.

But I AM able to pray Scripture-especially the prayers of Paul, which are centered on asking God to strengthen others and to expand their understanding of His love, compassion, power and grace.

Here are two more that I find helpful:

Philippians 1:9-11

phil 1_9 feet

I pray

  • that ___’s love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
  • that___may be able to discern what is best, and
  • that____may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,
  • that___will be filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.

 

Colossians 1:9-12

Father, I pray

  • that You will fill___with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
  • that___may live a life worthy of You, Lord,
  • that____may please You in every way,
  • that___will bear fruit in every good work,
  • that___will grow in the knowledge of You,
  • that___will be strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might,
  • that___may have great endurance and patience,
  • that___will joyfully give thanks to You, Father, who has qualiied them to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Today by Your Spirit make real all their inheritance in Christ Jesus.

col 1_9

Jehovah-Jireh: The LORD My Provider

The first time God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Who Provides, is Genesis 22.

Abraham and Sarah have received their son of promise.  But God tests Abraham.asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham obeys in faith, trusting God even in this request that seems to undo every promise the LORD had previously made to him.

How would he be the father of many nations if his only son was taken from him?

As they were going, Isaac noticed something unusual, “See here is the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice?”  (Genesis 22:7)

To which Abraham replied, “My son, God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” (Genesis 2:8)

Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD My Provider was his answer.  

He couldn’t see the provision, there were no loud bleats in the distance, but Abraham knew the character of the God he served and he trusted that what he needed God would provide.

And God did provide.

Isaac, bound on the altar, Abraham’s (trembling?) hand raised, the Angel of the Lord calls to Abraham:

“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide” Genesis 22:12-14

I wasn’t asked to give up my son.

There was no miraculous intervention on that day.

No angel stayed the hand of circumstance that slew my child.  

But I do believe that even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the LORD is My Provider.

He provided His own Son, Who conquered sin and death and Who made a way through the Holy of Holies for my child to enter eternity straight into the arms of Jesus.  

I don’t have to fear that when Dominic left us, he was left alone.

I don’t have to worry that our seperation is forever.

I don’t have to wonder if he was “good enough” to get into heaven.  

I can trust in the character of my God, The LORD My Provider, that He has made full and adequate provision for me and for all those who trust in Him through Jesus to be redeemed and restored.

And He has provided friends and family and online communities and His Word to bring me comfort in the waiting.

He fills my heart with hope when my soul is weary.  

He grants peace when I am overcome with anxious thoughts.

He pours grace and mercy and love into the empty places so that being filled, I can overflow.

There are days when I wonder, days when I am afraid.  When those days come, I run to the tower of the Name of the LORD.  I remember that He is The LORD My Provider.

He has provided.  He does provide.  He will provide.  He IS His Name.

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone. Psalm 56:3 VOICE

The Authority of Compassion

I don’t like pain.

I don’t enjoy suffering.  

But deep pain and suffering have left a lasting impression on my soul.  Experiencing the loss of a child has enlarged my heart and sharpened my senses to the pain and suffering around me.

Choosing transparency in pain is hard and vulnerability is frightening.

But when I let others in, they see that I am just like them. I struggle, I cry out for mercy, I need God’s grace, mercy and strength to carry on.

And that lends authority to my invitation to meet Jesus.

It changes a “sales pitch” into a genuine message backed up by the evidence of His compassion and care in my own broken life.

Even more, they know that I KNOW-I understand pain, I understand struggle and I understand desperation.

Jesus came, in part, to embody the heart of God to the world.  He came to give abundant proof that God loves us.  He walked gently among the wounded and healed the sick and hurting.

Jesus has all authority because He was obedient in suffering.  His love for us kept Him bound to the cross.  His Father’s love raised Him from the dead.

When I choose compassion, when I choose to suffer alongside the suffering, I am most like Him.

And my living example of His eternal one is a powerful testimony of His work in my life and a grace-filled invitation for others to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy in their own time of need.

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

 

 

The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer

When it’s not your kid you can think of all kinds of lofty, theologically correct arguments or reasons for why God answers one prayer and not another–for why one person is healed and not another–for why one person survives a devastating-should-have-killed-him accident but not another.

But when it is your child that doesn’t survive or isn’t healed or is stolen through the violent actions of someone else…well, that’s a different matter entirely.

I prayed every day for my children.  I asked God to protect them, to give them wisdom, to draw them to Himself and to guide their steps.

I never thought I was “giving orders” to God, but I did expect that my prayers would be honored-that by praying in obedience to biblical commands and in accord with scriptural principles I was making a difference in the heavenlies.

Like Daniel, who received word that his prayers had helped Gabriel fight against the prince of the air opposing him, I sent my petitions as weapons and armor against any schemes of the evil one  that might threaten to undo my family. (Daniel 10: 1-13)

Herein lies the problem:   when things go well, when the job comes through, the test score is great and the person walks out of the hospital, healed and whole, we say, “God answered prayers.”

And I believe that He does.

But if we ascribe glory and praise and honor and thanksgiving for the blessings received, how are we to understand and talk about the ones denied?

The nation of Israel was looking for Messiah-expecting Him.

Yet when He came, most missed Him.  They had decided for themselves what He would look like, what He would do and how He would rescue them from bondage.

God’s ways are inscrutable.

I’m not arguing that prayer doesn’t matter.

It does.

I am commanded to pray. And God’s faithfulness to answer prayer is documented from Genesis through Revelation.

But I would argue that the way we speak about prayer, as if we understand how it works and how God works in it and through it, is often unhelpful.

The book of Job pulls back the curtain on what was happening in the heavenlies when God allowed Satan access to Job’s life.  We know that Job’s earthly suffering represented a testimony for God against the Accuser.

But there’s no evidence that Job ever knew.

There was no dramatic revelation by God to this man that had lost EVERYTHING except his own life (which he would have gladly given up) and his wife (who, it seems, went on to bear him more children-oh joy!). Instead, God confronts Job with questions, not answers.

My heart wants answers, not more questions.

I doubt that I will have them this side of heaven.

So I have decided to speak more honestly about my experience with prayer, to refuse to pretend I understand how it works any more than I understand how God breathes life into bodies or takes souls to heaven.

I will pray, as best I can-mostly recalling God’s own words to Him-and resist my desire to think that because I pray, I can direct His hand.

When Jesus was in agony at Gethsemene, He asked His Father to take the bitter cup from HIm, but in the end, submitted to God’s will and plan.

That is all I have left for me as well-to submit and be made into whatever God has ordained.

I will trust in the goodness and faithful love of my Heavenly Father, because He IS my Father.

I will lean into His heart even when I cannot see or understand the work of His hands and follow because He is the One Who will lead me Home.

he is faithful who has promised

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

“If we could remember that divine mercy is not a temporary mood but an attribute of God’s eternal being, we would no longer fear that it will someday cease to be.”

~A.W.Tozer

We live in a throwaway society.

Cups, cans, plates and people.   Too often we toss friendships when they become inconvenient, uncomfortable or require more energy than we are willing to give.

Adults trade partners in a frenzied search for happiness and fulfillment and leave children’s hearts in the wreckage as families are ripped apart.

So it’s no surprise that many people find it difficult to believe in a Heavenly Father that is good, and loving and everlasting.

But God is just that:

He is an Everlasting Father.

A Faithful Father.  

A Father whose enduring love lasts FOREVER. 

 Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35, 38-39

My mother love is fierce.

But it was not strong enough to keep my child from the grave.

How much greater is the Father’s love that NOTHING can separate us from it?

What fills my heart and soul with hope and gives me strength to bear this great grief is unshakeable confidence that my son is safe in the eternal arms of my Everlasting Father.