Advent: The Righteous Branch

One of the recurring themes in Scripture is redemption, rescue and renewal.

Over and over, just when it seems things can only get worse, God steps in and crafts an unexpected and beautiful story from the broken bits.

The challenge for we who are trapped in time is to remain patient and hope-filled in the waiting.

Israel had plenty of practice.

I do too.

But God doesn’t leave us without promises to hold onto while we wait.

Jeremiah is often called “The Weeping Prophet” because the messages God have him were full of gloom. Judgement and destruction were on the way. There was no escape and Jeremiah had been commissioned by the Lord to tell folks all about it.

Yet woven throughout the verses detailing all the awful, God spoke hope to the heart of His people:

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

15 “‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it  will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ “

Jeremiah 33: 14-16 NIV

These words speak hope to my heart too.

Dominic’s death is the most devastating thing I’ve ever endured. It was not only the earthly end of him, it was the earthly end of me in many ways. All the things I anticipated for him, our family and the future were cut down in one fell swoop.

So when Jeremiah promises that even though all that’s left of David’s progeny is a pitiful stump, God will raise up a glorious and most Righteous King, I hear that redemption is possible.

And because Jesus DID come, I know that redemption is guaranteed.

Advent reminds me that even when waiting is long and in the dark, God is working.

Just as He raised up life from a (humanly) lifeless bit of wood in the ground, He will raise my son and redeem my pain.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever thought a plant was dead only to have it sprout fresh some time later? How might that experience help you cling to hope while waiting on the Lord?
  • What do the words “The Lord Our Righteous Savior” mean to you?
  • The literal translation of those words is “Jehovah Tsidkenu” or The Lord My Righteousness. There is no righteousness apart from Christ. No way for me to clean up enough to stand in the presence of God. Have you embraced and received the gift of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus? Is HE your righteousness?
  • God has never hidden from His people the fact that life in this fallen world is hard. Are you encouraged or discouraged by His honesty?
  • Do you have favorite promises your heart clings to in times of discouragement? Consider typing or writing them out in a journal or small booklet to review often.

PRAYER:

Father God,

It is so, so easy to be discouraged and disheartened. Truth is, life is hard and often seems headed in the direction of becoming harder.

I’m tired and sometimes I want to give up and give in. Not only is there no end in sight, I can’t even imagine an end that would be worth waiting for.

But I will choose to trust in Your unfailing word. I will rest in Your everlasting love. And I will take hold of every single promise You have made. Help me trust that You are working-even when I can’t see it-to redeem, restore, rescue and rewrite my story.

Let me remember that You are the God of new things, the God who transforms death into life.

Amen

Advent: The Light That Bursts Through Gloom

In our modern age of light switches and street lights it’s hard to imagine a world where the tiniest candle flame could lead a body to safety.

But for most of human history that was how people lived.

It’s how some still live.

So when John described Jesus as the “Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish” (John 1: 5 TPT) he’s really saying something.

This isn’t a tiny candle or smoky oil lamp barely pushing back the edges of inky night.

Jesus is a spotlight dispelling not only the experience of darkness but the power of darkness!

And that’s only a fraction of the truth revealed in these five verses.

In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there.

And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God.

They were together-face-to-face, in the very beginning. And through his creative inspirations this Living Expression made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him!

Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity.

And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish!

John 1: 1-5 TPT

Jesus is co-equal with God. He has existed for eternity past along with the Father. They were, and are, in perfect community.

Face-to-face, cooperating in speaking life and light into existence.

No thing and no one draws breath apart from Christ.

In Him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 | Good morning  girls, Inspirational scripture, Morning girl

That is why my heart can rest secure in the promise that the resurrection is coming.

If Jesus breathed life once into my son, He will most certainly breathe life once again into his glorified body.

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says 'FOR He HAS RESCUED US FROM THE DOMINION OF DARKNESS AND BROUGHT US INTO THE KINGDOM OF The Son He Loves COLOSSIANS 1:13'

So when the darkness threatens to consume me I light a candle.

I watch the flame and listen for my Shepherd King’s voice singing hope over my soul.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you have personal experience of being lost in the dark? How did you find your way to safety?
  • When have you felt soul darkness? Could you hear or feel the Lord reaching out and reaching down to lead you to the Light of His love?
  • Why is it important to know that Jesus is eternally co-existent with the Father?
  • Does the fact that Christ is the creative force of the Godhead give you confidence in His promise to redeem and restore what the enemy has stolen?
  • How does the fact that Jesus is the Eternal and Inextinguishable Light help your heart hold onto hope?

PRAYER:

Lord,

I live in a world of uncertainty and often great pain. It’s easy for my heart to sink into despair. It’s hard to hold onto hope.

In the natural it feels like darkness is winning.

But I know, deep in my soul, that Your Light will conquer the darkness. In Your Presence there is no night-only, always, glorious Day.

Help me lean into this truth and hold onto hope.

Let the light, love and life of Christ dwell in me richly and spill over into a lost and lonely world.

Amen

Advent Invitation

We’re all waiting this year, aren’t we?

Waiting for the pandemic to be over (or at least managed somehow), waiting for things to get back to normal (whatever that is), waiting to see extended family without masks and social distancing.

Waiting, waiting, waiting!

That makes this moment ripe for we who live on the back side of Christ’s first coming to fully embrace the season of Advent-perhaps as never before.

All Israel was waiting with bated breath for redemption that first Christmas morning. Not looking for presents but longing for Presence.

A Messiah had been promised but was (by human standards) long in coming.

May I invite you to allow God to use this intense season of helpless and perhaps, sometimes hopeless waiting to turn your heart toward His?

Here is an Advent Scripture Reading list I’ll be using for devotional posts starting tomorrow.

May I ask you to come with me on a walk through Scripture as we walk together toward Jesus?

Our Faithful Father doesn’t waste a thing! He will use our sorrow, sadness, fearful moments, impatient waiting and even this pandemic to make us more like Christ.

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

We can lean in and take hold of His truth while we rest in His grace and goodness.

And the light of His love will fill our hearts with hope-just like that first Christmas.

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

Walking the Valley: Trust After Loss

When this video popped up in my Facebook memories, I was tempted to skip it.

Three years ago I was in a very stressful season of life. My mother was seriously ill, my husband was working away from home and facing daunting challenges, my surviving children were in various stages of transition and I was just plain worn out.

But I stepped out in faith and accepted an invitation to share at a gathering for bereaved parents.

I was used to hiding behind my keyboard, having days to edit and refine what I would say; not opening my mouth and spilling thoughts without any opportunity to call them back.

It was truly frightening and I had no idea it would be recorded.

I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I sound. But I love the message the Lord laid on my heart and enabled me to deliver that day.

So I’m being brave, being transparent, risking whatever judgement others might feel and some might voice to share it here.

{I’m no tech guru and have absolutely no idea how to edit the video so here it is in its entirety. If you’d rather skip the worship music segment, fast forward to the 30 minute mark.}

Three years later I STILL need to preach to myself. I STILL need to exhale my doubts and questions and pain and inhale the truth and grace of Jesus Christ.

I continue to circle round and round, revisiting questions and issues and feelings I thought I’d conquered.

And every single time He meets me there.

I am more convinced than ever that I am only able to stand in the strength and power of my Father God.

Every day I reach out and take hold of the hem of His garment.

And every day that is enough.

He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

Sea Of Love And Goodness

Life is full of storms.

Some are outside myself and others start in the secret corners of my own heart.

All of them make me wish for quiet and calm, peaceful waters where I can sail the ship of life and not worry about sinking beneath the waves.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the  world gives... - SermonQuotes

When I’m afraid I remind myself that Jesus is the Peace Speaker.

He calmed the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee and He will calm the wind and waves of my heart.

He is the unchangeable, faithful God and I am always safe in the sea of His love and goodness.

Dear Lord,

Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, You remain the same.

Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of Your love I came to life, by Your love I am sustained, and to Your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by Your unwavering love….

O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea.

Amen

Henri J. M. Nouwen

There’s Hope in Every Scar

Sometimes people ask, “How can you cling to Jesus when He could have saved your son, but didn’t?”

I give the same answer Peter gave, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

He is light and life in the Valley and on the hilltop, in the fire and in the flood.

He will redeem every tear and restore every thing the enemy has stolen.

My scars tell a story: Yes, I’m wounded but I’m still walking. I’ve been hurt but I’m healing.

There’s hope in every scar.

Suffering is but a moment.

This is not forever.

Jesus is.

Hallelujah!

Let The Morning Come In Our Hearts

I have written many times of my habit of greeting each new day watching the sun come up through my east facing living room window.

It never gets old.

I cherish the reminder that despite how difficult things may be or how dark my heart might feel, God is still on His throne.

Daily Bible Verse | Heaven | Psalm 103:19

As the shadows fade and light pours through the window and illuminates the world outside, I remember that no night lasts forever and death doesn’t win.

John 11:25-26 | Jesus quotes, John 11 25 26, Jesus

It’s not always easy to choose life, Lord

Because then we have to struggle with who we are

and why we are, and who you are,

and what to do with who we are,

and why we are,and who you are.

We have to let you make us new, and being made anything always hurts.

Father,

Let the morning come in our hearts,

So morning can come in our lives,

And the world that needs a word of hope can hear

‘Death has lost, and life has won.”

Verdell Davis, Riches Stored in Secret Places

It IS painful to be made into anything.

And sometimes I resist.

But then the morning comes and once again I choose to yield my heart to the One who loves me best and is molding and making me more like Jesus.

Why Pray After Child Loss?

Did the mother whose son died pray less or with less faith than the mother whose son lives?

We must be careful to remember that God is sovereign and while we are commanded to pray, our words do not dictate His actions.

He alone knows the end from the beginning. He alone is the Alpha and Omega.

Read the rest here: Prayer After Child Loss: What’s the Point?

Where The Problem Lies

God’s promises.

He said it, I believe it.

Simple, right?

Not so simple when a plain reading of plain words seems to guarantee one outcome and life delivers another.

As a Christian, you are to honor your parents, and you are to show ...

Not so simple when pain obliterates hope and tears blind my eyes to a future that’s anything other than dark.

But is the problem with God and His promises or me and my expectations?

Before my lifestorm I could have worked up a lovely devotional on God’s promises and given good reasons why we should not doubt them. But God’s promises were no longer devotional material; they were real-life issues. I knew I could not go that class and tell those who gathered there how God keeps his promises, but I could assure them I was learning that he does. Even as I questioned his promises because of the pain that wouldn’t go away, I knew I was learning that the problem is not with God’s promises but with our bringing twentieth-century expectations and personal wish-fulfillment to those promises. The problem lies with our expectations of what God should do and how he should do it when life hurts. I was learning that I had to quit just looking at the promises of God and look to the God of the promises.

Verdell Davis, Riches Stored In Secret Places

I’ve written before about how easy it is to put God in a Box.

So often I interact with Scripture based on false assumptions, wishful thinking and my own idea of how God should work in the world. I want a God I can understand or (if I’m honest!) manipulate or cajole into doing what makes me most satisfied and most comfortable. I pick and choose among the promises and tend to focus on the ones that seem to guarantee health, wealth and happiness and I gloss over the ones that plainly describe the painful process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ.

Pruned by God is PAINFUL! | RoadTrip Parenting

I cannot answer all the questions my heart can conjure up and I don’t think God will answer them for me this side of Heaven.

But God doesn’t lie.

His promises stand.

How and when He chooses to fulfill them is not for me to say.

I am learning to lean into His faithful love, trust His heart and live in the mysterious space between what I understand and what I find incomprehensible.