I loved everything about it: the color scheme, the food (I love, love, love to cook-it was never a burden), family and friends gathered around the table, and the wonderful slowness of the day as it lingered into nightfall.
It was more flexible than Christmas for including all sorts of folks who otherwise didn’t have someplace to go. Living near colleges meant that we welcomed students from around the world-we might have two or three dozen laughing faces milling about.
It was wonderful.
And I loved going around the circle, tummies bursting, to share what people were thankful for and why.
My birthday is in a couple of weeks and my daughter has arranged for us to have a little getaway together this week.
She had no way to know when she made the reservations four months ago how badly we both would need it.
But God knew.
Nothing takes Him by surprise even when it blindsides me.
I often have to remind my heart of that truth.
Especially when blow after blow lands hard and knocks me off my feet. Especially when I feel that I might be crushed under the load. Especially when my mind is so full of fear and anxiety there’s no room for much else.
I’m thankful for a daughter who thinks ahead and a God who knows.
Some quiet time is precisely what our hearts are longing for this November. We will sleep and talk and walk and wander. We won’t have to answer to a clock or a phone.
I think we often interpret Old Testament Bible verses in terms of New Testament reality.
Sometimes that’s warranted because the verses foreshadow the fullness of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.
But sometimes we miss out on the deeper meaning of what God was saying through His prophets.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” quoted as a general blessing/admonition/encouragement at the beginning of a worship service or just the start of an ordinary day.
I don’t think that’s technically a misappropriation of the sentiment, but I do think it falls far short of what the Psalmist was trying to convey.
The Temple stood on a hill above Jerusalem and those last steps for the pilgrims who traveled faithfully three times a year to celebrate the appointed festivals were hard. Many had walked miles and miles and were just plain tired.
So they sang songs (Psalms) to encourage their hearts as they plodded forward.
If you have a Bible with notes you’ll see them marked as “Songs of Ascent” because that was exactly what they were.
In addition to the expense, time, effort and commitment it took to make it to the Temple, pilgrims were expected to offer a sacrifice. Some could bring their own and some had to purchase a lamb or ram or other sacrificial animal from those offered by vendors just outside the inner courts.
It could be easy to resent the cost of coming.
It would be absolutely understandable to get just a bit disgruntled making those last few steps to plunk down a sacrifice to a God they couldn’t see.
So the Psalmist says, “This is the DAY(the appointed feast, the reminder of covenant, the renewal of promise) the Lord (Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and you) has made (ordained, appointed, set aside). Let us rejoice (revel in the fact that He has chosen us of all people, that He is faithful, that we can come and worship) in it.”
God doesn’t need my lamb or goat or calf.
The feasts weren’t designed to jog His memory regarding my relationship with Him, they were designed to help ME remember that I am creature and He is Creator.
And I need that reminder most when things are hard, when I am tired and when I may have forgotten that worship is a privilege.
Some days are uphill all the way.
I’ve had a few of those lately.
And while this verse isn’t really about ordinary days, it helps my heart as much on those as it does on the special ones. ❤
There has been an interesting back and forth in my spirit since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
Before I got the knock on the door I didn’t really fear for my children’s safety.
They traveled the world, did things that would make others cringe, ran into situations when others ran away and I can honestly testify that other than the typical, “Be safe!”, comment by mothers everywhere, I did not sit up at night wringing my hands hoping they’d be OK.
Then Dominic was killed less than a mile from his apartment. An ordinary evening doing ordinary things except for his foolish choice to go too fast on his motorcycle.
And everything changed.
Suddenly imagining child loss was not necessary. I was living it in technicolor reality.
There was no earthly remedy for my heartache. No safe space in the physical world for me to carry my pain.
Only God could comfort my mama heart.
God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide? 2 No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails. When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless. When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless. 3 Even in heavy winds and huge waves, or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless. [pause][b] 4 A pure stream flows—never to be cut off— bringing joy to the city where God makes His home, the sacred site where the Most High chooses to live. 5 The True God never sleeps and always resides in the city of joy; He makes it unstoppable, unshakable. When it awakes at dawn, the True God has already been at work.
Psalm 46: 1-5 VOICE
I don’t know about “fearless” but I can testify the fear that consumed me in the wake of Dominic’s death for the safety of my earth bound kids was eventually replaced with a calm assurance that nothing had really changed.
They were still in the hands of a God who loved them more than I did.
They were still secure for eternity because they had put their faith and trust in the finished work of Christ.
They were still just as likely (or unlikely) to be the targets of another’s (or their own) sinful or foolish choices.
And our hope was not (never has been) in THIS life. Instead it is in the eternal life God offers all through Jesus.
Ezekiel records a vision of seeing first a trickle, then a stream and finally a river flowing from the throne of God and giving life to creatures, trees and those who eat them.
Truth is, there is no stopping the plans of the Almighty.
And there is no stopping the flow of life from Jesus to His sheep.
I am so thankful for this promise, this truth and my own testimony that God is indeed the Giver of life, a safe Refuge and a sure Foundation.
Would you describe yourself as a fearful person? Why or why not?
We are all afraid sometimes. What do you do when you are afraid? To whom do your share your fears?
How can you make today’s verses personal and allow them to encourage your heart?
I love the water analogies in Scripture. They really speak to my heart because with a farm full of critters I can see how critical water is to life on a daily basis. Has the trial of child loss (or other hard place) made you more or less thirsty for the Living Water Christ offers?
Sleep can be hard to come by when you are overwhelmed with grief, stress or fear. Does it help your heart to think about God as the God who never sleeps? Why or why not?
What do you want from God right now? What would it look like for Him to be your personal place of safety?
Who do you need to release to the care of the Father? Who are you worried about that you need to place in His hands?
You are never caught by surprise. You know the end from the beginning. When things overtake me help me remember that You are there. I need a refuge from this life of grief and pain. I need to rest my feet on the solid Rock of Your presence, Your goodness and Your provision. Open my spiritual eyes to see the way You are working even here, even now.
I want to drink from Living Water. I want to be so filled with Your grace, mercy, love and strength that no matter what life throws at me my testimony is to Your sustaining power.
Joy seems a distant memory. Days when laughter flowed freely and fully from my belly out of my lips are like a dream. Give me joy again. Even tainted with sorrow, give me joy. Thank You that I know you are near and that You have a plan.
If someone asked me to describe Jesus I would say He’s the God who does not turn away.
He’s the God who comes near.
He’s the God who will always, always, always show up and bend down.
That’s what I hold onto in this life I didn’t choose-that my Shepherd Savior sees me, hears me, loves me and will help me.
For the Eternal watches over the righteous, and His ears are attuned to their prayers. He is always listening. 16 But He will punish evildoers, and nothing they do will last. They will soon be forgotten. 17 When the upright need help and cry to the Eternal, He hears their cries and rescues them from all of their troubles. 18 When someone is hurting or brokenhearted, the Eternal moves in close and revives him in his pain.
Psalm 34: 15-18 VOICE
Not long after Dominic’s death there was a horrible mass shooting and the perpetrator was in his fifties. I have to admit I literally yelled at God, “REALLY???? This guy lives to his fifties only to kill a bunch of innocent people and You didn’t save Dominic from his accident?!!!”
I was angry and frustrated and sad and broken.
If I’m honest I’ve had a few more moments like that since then.
But I’m brought up short when I read these verses and others like them. The wicked do not have God’s ear. They will not know eternal life with Him in Heaven. They may even be worldly successes but nothing they do will last forever. Riches don’t secure immortality.
Only a penitent heart leaning fully on the grace and mercy of God is eternally safe.
Because I am His child. when I’m hurting, God does not run away or turn a blind eye or a deaf ear-He meets me there.
Jesus is the lover of my soul.
He is the Healer of my heart.
Do you feel heard by God? By others? Why or why not?
How do you deal with the fact that sometimes evil seems to win and evil people prosper?
How would you describe Jesus? Has grief changed how you describe Him?
Is your description consistent with what Scripture tells us about Him?
Theology matters-especially when grieving. What I believe about God and Christ either undermine or strengthen my faith. Write down ten things you believe to be true about God and/or Jesus.
I admit that it’s infuriating and feels unfair that sometimes those who don’t love You still prosper. They seem to have a life free from trouble and heartache. And here I am-hurting, deeply harmed and holding on by a thread.
But You are not unjust. You are not ignoring me. You will work all things together for good for those who love you. Help me trust those truths.
You are the God who came near in the stable and on the cross. You are the God who dwells inside those who receive the gift of salvation through Christ. You are not far away.