If you’ve never been caught short in the midst of an unexpected downpour you might not know how important refuge under the boughs of a cedar or oak tree can be.
Living in the middle of woods, punctuated by open pastures, I’ve retreated more than once to the safety of thick boughs which limit the rain’s ability to soak me through.
I have memorized every safe haven between the road and the middle of my 34 acres.
Faithful friends are like those sheltering trees-offering respite to a weary heart, providing a safe space to take a breath, granting protection when we are pursued by the enemy of our souls.
When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was a mess.
Most folks that brushed shoulders with me in public might not have guessed but those who knew me well saw me devolve from “got it together” to “don’t even know what I should be getting together”.
I was utterly devastated.
Some people were repulsed.They either couldn’t handle my ongoing neediness (a week or a month on the prayer list ought to be enough according to them) or they simply found my presence too uncomfortable a reminder that bad things happen regardless of how “good” you are.
But there were a few…a precious, precious few who refused to go away. They showed up and stayed.
It didn’t matter if they had any remarkable insight or help or “solutions” to my heartache.
What mattered is that they bent over my broken heart and provided shelter.
We all need sheltering trees in the storms of life.
And I am beyond thankful for every single person who is brave enough to bear the brunt of evil winds to provide that shelter.
I’m not entirely sure this quote is an accurate one from the original Winnie the Pooh books but it is absolutely an accurate reflection of the characters.
And it’s a beautiful reminder to all of us how powerful presence can be.
May we all have Poohs and Piglets that come sit with us when we are Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around.
“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.”
Jehovah is the God of promises made and promises kept.
From Genesis to Malachi, God sent prophets to proclaim the coming of Messiah.
And He used Mary and Joseph, willing servants of the Most High, to bring about His plan.
22-23 All this happened to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet—‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’. (“Immanuel” means “God with us.”)
24-25 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel had told him. He married Mary, but had no intercourse with her until she had given birth to a son. Then he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:22-25 PHILLIPS
Not only was Jesus the Child of promise, the Messiah, the Savior, He was God wrapped in flesh.
Fully God and fully human.
The King of all creation chose to subject Himself to it. He was born in the ordinary way though His conception was miraculous.
There are many religions in the world. But there is not a single other faith whose cornerstone is Deity come to earth.
Only Christianity can claim that our God left Heaven and took on flesh to dwell among His people and that makes all the difference.
Grief is isolating.
There are moments, days-even weeks-when I feel trapped inside an impermeable bubble of sorrow and pain. No human touch or words can pierce the armor around my heart.
I can’t pray, I can’t read my Bible, I can barely lift my head.
It’s then that Jesus comes to me gently, sweetly, with grace, compassion and love because He knows every single heartache I endure. He walked the earth and was betrayed, wounded, forsaken. He is not far off and unaware.
Immanuel-“God with us”-isn’t just a lofty theological concept.
It (He!) is a living reality.
In my weakest and most vulnerable moments, when I can’t conjure hope for myself, He brings it to me.
What does it mean to YOU that God took on flesh?
Have you ever thought about Jesus as a man, living like a man, hitting His thumb with a hammer, stubbing His toe, loving His mother and all the other things life means? Or do you simply think about the punctuated moments described in Scripture?
The writer of Hebrews says that because Jesus experienced humanity in every way we have a High Priest who sympathizes and understands our weakness. I find that liberating! How might embracing this truth encourage your heart to bring every request, lament, praise and doubt to the throne of grace?
When have you experienced the Presence of Jesus?
Your people waited long for their Messiah. After hundreds of years You didn’t just send just someone, You sent your own Son. Fully God, fully human. He walked among us. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that idea.
But what I know from experience is that You ARE the God of Presence. You do not abandon me to despair. When I am most lonely and my heart is crushed under the weight of sorrow, help me remember that.
Give me the confidence to bring the good, bad and the ugly straight to the throne of grace. Remind me that though Heaven is your high and lofty holy dwelling place it’s not so far You can’t hear me.
And You DO hear me. You see me. You capture my tears and count them precious. Thank You for your promises. Thank You for your peace. Thank You for your Presence.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
It was a harsh sentence: Forty years of wandering in the desert for not putting their faith and trust in the God who had delivered them from bondage.
But wandering wasn’t the half of it.
Death surrounded them. All those adults who gave in to fear were doomed to die before the forty years were finished.
Can you imagine how many graves were dug in the wilderness? How many tears were shed? How many fists raised to the sky or hands to hearts begging, begging, begging for the sojourn of sadness to end?
So it was no accident that the Lord commanded Israel to set her camp with the Tent of Meeting at the center. He wanted them always to be aware of His enabling, powerful, holy Presence.
Even in the midst of judgement, death and sorrow. He was there.
And God is here with me in the midst of my mourning too. I am thankful for His Presence.
But the most beautiful promise is that there will be a Day when He will wipe away all the tears. He will redeem all the pain. He will undo all the damage death has wrought.
Joy will once again be untainted by sorrow.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:3-4 KJV
I make seasonal wreaths for Dominic’s resting place. I include these verses every time.
Because I believe them with my whole heart.
I love the way The Jesus Storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones renders them:
And the King says, “Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away. Or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue. And see – I have wiped away every tear from every eye!“
Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones
“Everything sad has come untrue.”
Heaven will not simply be rest after a long life’s struggle.
It will be restoration, redemption, recreation and resurrection.
Every thing stolen will be restored. Every thing bartered away by sin will be redeemed. Every thing destroyed by carelessness, hatefulness and cruelty will be recreated in perfection. And every thing dead and buried will be resurrected to life everlasting.
I can’t wait. ❤
What does it mean to you that “God is here”?
What do you think Heaven is like? Is your idea informed by popular media or by Scripture?
Does the idea of “everything sad coming untrue” speak courage to your heart? Why or why not?
If you have felt God’s presence in this Valley, how has He manifested that? If you haven’t felt His presence, would you consider asking Him to make Himself real to you today?
I’ll admit that sometimes future hope is not much to hold onto when sorrow and longing and despair overwhelm my heart. I need to feel Your Presence here and now. I’m not asking for a burning bush, but give me assurance that You have not abandoned me.
Fill my heart with hope and help me hold onto the promise that one day all this pain will be redeemed. Give me an eternal perspective.