Willing Submission or Fatalism?

I have to be completely honest-I’m not sure at all that my heart is truly submissive.  It may just be that I figure, “What’s the point of resisting God?”. 

Paul told the Roman believers to “present your bodies as living sacrifices”. 

Trouble is, living sacrifices can (and do!) crawl off the altar.  

I’m trying to stay there, subtle and malleable under the hand of the God Who made me.  But unlike inanimate clay, I feel every pummel, slap and squeeze as He continues to mold me into the image of Christ.

potter-clay

Some days I’m better at it than others.  Honestly, I think I’m better at it when I feel it most.  Because then I recognize the bits that need changing, the attitudes that need adjusting, the habits that need to go.

But when it’s little things-judging someone by his outer appearance or demanding my “rights” as a customer from a tired store clerk or even impatiently charging through the house ignoring a phone call because I “have to get (whatever) done!”-that’s when I want out from under the hand of God.

Then there are the REALLY big things that I always balk at. 

Why do I have to be ill when I have so much to do?  Why my child?  Why do all the appliances need replacing at once?  Why are relationships so darn hard?  Why won’t my RA go into remission?  Why did the hurricane make its way right over my parents’ home?

Why, why, why?

And I find myself back at the beginning because truth told, I can’t do a thing about any of that. 

Am I willingly submitting to what God allows in my life or am I simply accepting it because there’s no use resisting?  

It’s a daily battle. 

Still, Eternal One, You are our Father. We are just clay, and You are the potter. We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth.

Isaiah 64:8 VOICE

 

 

We Are ALL Bruised Reeds from Henri Nouwen

I find great comfort in Henri Nouwen’s words. 

He was a Catholic priest who struggled with depression at times and ended his years living and serving at L’Arche-a community of able and disabled persons living together.

He wrote extensively and honestly and openly about his own struggles.  He was full of compassion for fellow travelers. 

He was honest about loose ends. 

I like that.

I’m sure I would have liked him too. 

Not Breaking the Bruised Reeds

Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: “Well, I don’t have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one.” Often we also treat people this way. We say: “Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business…we’d better not take the risk of working with them.” When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

If you would like to receive daily devotionals from his writings you can click here and sign up:  henrinouwen.org

bruised reed

“Lord, Renew My Strength!”

 

I was pregnant or nursing for nearly a decade.  

With four children under six, I have no idea how I managed to get anything done, much less EVERYTHING done.  

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

Some days I didn’t.  But most days I muddled through.

But I was so. so. tired.

Every morning started with a prayer, “God, give me what I need for today.  Give me strength for today.  I won’t ask for tomorrow.  Just for today.”

As life accelerated to that frenzy only parents of teens can understand-one here, another there, cars everywhere-my body was rebelling.  My joints screamed, “No!  Let’s just stay right here for a day (or a week!).”

That wasn’t an option, so I leaned in and prayed again, “God, renew my energy.  Give me strength.  If You aren’t going to cure me, help me learn to live well with my limitations.”

I thought my middle-aged years would give me a bit of rest.  A time to catch my breath.

I was wrong.  

Dominic’s death plunged me into emotional, physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion I could never have imagined.  I did not know you could be so tired and still breathe.  

I found myself begging God once again for strength.

Now it is my daily prayer.

And He is faithful to do as He has promised.

Nearly four years and I have gotten out of bed every. single. morning. 

I do what needs to be done.  

I’m still standing. 

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
    The Eternal, the Everlasting God,
The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.
    His wisdom is beyond understanding.
     God strengthens the weary
    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.
     Young people will get tired;
    strapping young men will stumble and fall.
     But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.
    They will soar on wings as eagles.
They will run—never winded, never weary.
    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31 VOICE

 

 

 

Liquid Prayers

Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail? Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers, and of weeping as a constant dropping of importunate intercession which will wear its way right surly into the very heart of mercy, despite the stony difficulties which obstruct the way. My God, I will “weep” when I cannot plead, for Thou hearest the voice of my weeping.

Spurgeon

I was not yet through the first 24 hours of Dominic’s absence when I decided I’d never hide my tears. 

I love fiercely and I understood-even in the confusion of that awful day-that my tears were as much a testimony to love as my hugs ever were. 

So I cried when I wanted to, needed to, couldn’t help it.  

courage and tears

At first I think my tears were mainly an expression of loss and sorrow. 

But as the days rolled into weeks rolled into months and now years, my tears are as often an expression of longing as of pain.  

The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations. For example, we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonising longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart’s secrets understands, of course, the Spirit’s intention as he prays for those who love God.

Romans 8:26 PHILLIPS

my grace is sufficientWhen my mind cannot find words for the deep things of my heart, I cry. 

I think of each tear as a liquid prayer and trust that God captures it in His bottle, takes note of it in His scroll. 

 

You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.

Psalm 56:8 TLB

And I hold on with both hands to the promise that there will be a Day-a wonderful, never-ending, light filled Day-when tears will be a thing of the past. 

blessed is the one who believed his promises to her

Every sad thing will be untrue. 

Every stolen thing will be redeemed and every heart restored to perfect peace in the Presence of the Most High God and Christ Jesus Himself!  

But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will throw a feast for all the people of the world,
A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines,
    a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.
And here on this mountain, God will banish
    the pall of doom hanging over all peoples,
The shadow of doom darkening all nations.
    Yes, he’ll banish death forever.
And God will wipe the tears from every face.
    He’ll remove every sign of disgrace
From his people, wherever they are.
    Yes! God says so!

       Also at that time, people will say,
    “Look at what’s happened! This is our God!
We waited for him and he showed up and saved us!
    This God, the one we waited for!
Let’s celebrate, sing the joys of his salvation.
    God’s hand rests on this mountain!”

Isaiah 25:6-10 MSG

 

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Suffering Foretold

It’s easy for us this side of Calvary to point fingers at the Jews for getting it wrong. 

But when you are waiting for a Savior, you aren’t thinking that the One Who will save will be the One Who suffers.  

You think He will be strong and mighty and armed for battle.  You think He will conquer and lay waste and stride triumphant through the streets.

You don’t expect a Baby who becomes a Man who becomes a Sacrifice.  

But that is exactly Who Jesus is-He is a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.  And that is why this brokenhearted mama can lean in and hold onto the hem of His garment. 

Because He knows. 

He. Knows. 

 

“Who would have believed what we now report?
    Who could have seen the Lord‘s hand in this?
It was the will of the Lord that his servant
    grow like a plant taking root in dry ground.
He had no dignity or beauty
    to make us take notice of him.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing that would draw us to him.
We despised him and rejected him;
    he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him—
    we ignored him as if he were nothing.

“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
    the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
    was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
    beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
    made whole by the blows he received.
All of us were like sheep that were lost,
    each of us going his own way.
But the Lord made the punishment fall on him,
    the punishment all of us deserved.

Isaiah 53:1-6

When I think I can’t take any more, I remember that Jesus took it all.  

When I think this life is too hard to endure, I turn my eyes and heart to the One Who endured the wrath of God for my sake. 

When I want to give up and give in, I hold fast to the One who holds me in His hand and Who held me in His heart as He hung on the cross. 

jesus-the-heart-of-christmas

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Peace Foretold

Peace is elusive in the best of times. 

Even in the absence of all out war (emotional, physical or spiritual) most of us dwell in a kind of no-man’s-land where we might not fear for our lives, but we are not exactly content and satisfied.

And in the world of afterloss, peace seems like a fairy tale promise best relegated to children’s stories and Hallmark movies.

But God knows my heart.  He knows my pain.  He has made a way for me to experience peace even here, even now.

It’s not the “and they lived happily ever after” peace where every little thing is tied up in a neat package with a perfect bow.

Instead it is the firm assurance that no matter how messy and untidy our lives are, He is in control.

It is a promise that regardless of circumstances, we can rely on Him.

God gave Isaiah frightening visions of the destruction Israel would face.  But He also gave Isaiah precious promises of the restoration and redemption that He would bring to His people.

It speaks hope to my heart that this passage begins with “a green shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump”. Most days,  I feel like my life has been cut off to the ground.

I feel like there is not much left for even God to work with. 

JESSES-TREE-GREEN-SHOOT

But Jehovah is the God of Hope. 

He is the God Who breathes life into dry bones and brings forth new growth from old stumps.

I may feel like it’s over, but it’s not. 

I may feel like peace has fled, never to return, but that is a lie.

“But on this humbled ground, a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising,
    will sprout from Jesse’s stump;
A branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment
    He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength
    He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
    He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
    He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.

So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
    will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
    With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth;
    the impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

With unwavering steps and integrity uncompromised, He will establish peace.

A day will come when the wolf will live peacefully beside thewobbly-kneed lamb,
    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
The calf and yearling, newborn and slow, will rest secure with the lion;
    and a little child will tend them all.
Bears will graze with the cows they used to attack;
    even their young will rest together,
    and the lion will eat hay, like gentle oxen.
8-9 Neither will a baby who plays next to a cobra’s hole
    nor a toddler who sticks his hand into a nest of vipers suffer harm.
All my holy mountain will be free of anything hurtful or destructive,
    for as the waters fill the sea,
The entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Eternal.

10 Then on that day, that root from Jesse’s line
    will stand as a signal for the peoples of the world
Who will come to Him seeking guidance and direction;
    and glory will be restored to the land where He resides.

Isaiah 11: 1-10 VOICE

Waiting With Hope: Advent for the Brokenhearted

I  wrote this in 2013-the last Christmas my family circle would be unbroken. Now the longing hope Israel felt is so much stronger in my own heart.

Hope is what I hold onto.

It’s my lifeline.

Twenty-five days to ponder the coming of God’s great Gift. We know the end of the story which can make us jaded and impatient. If for a moment we can recapture the desperate hope that was in the heart of Israel longing for Messiah and then in the next remember that He has come, we will be forever changed.

For the next twenty-five days I will be publishing two posts-a regular post like always AND an advent post for those who would like to follow along.  If your heart is too tender to join in, feel free to skip this second post. 

But if you think you can bear to hear just a little truth, to swallow just a tiny morsel of the Bread of Life, then stick around.

I hope this helps at least one heart to hold on.  ❤

Jesus was promised from the beginning.

He is the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”  

I don’t understand it.

But I believe it.

prince of peace image

His Birth Foretold

Isaiah 9: 2-7

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.