Seeking Peace/Battling Anxiety: A Stout Heart

So here we are a year later and the headlines still proclaim, “Just wait! It’s going to get better!”

In some ways things ARE better-there are vaccines, treatments and protocols that can chip away at the virus. Toilet paper is back on the shelves. Working from home is working out for a number of folks who love the flexibility.

In many ways we are still in a holding pattern. Waiting for life as we once knew it to once more be available.

Young people have lost important opportunities and are anxious to not lose more. Old people have lost precious time with children and grandchildren and are oh, so aware that every passing day is one less to spend with them and build memories.

So we’re still practicing this whole waiting thing. And it’s hard.

It’s hard to wait.

It’s harder to rest patiently for something you desperately want .

That’s why children shake the presents under the Christmas tree and grown-ups dip into their savings.

It’s also why we so often doubt that God has things under control.

When circumstances require sacrifice I want the Lord to step in and fix them. I want my omnipotent God to use a little of that power to make my life more bearable. And when He doesn’t, I’m more likely to call His character into question than to doubt my own motives.

Psalm 27 helps turn my heart back to truth.

Read the rest here: Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: A Stout Heart

Advent: Right On Time

I admit it-patience is not my strong suit.

I’m a person of action rather than deliberation.

Sometimes that gets me into trouble. Almost always it makes me intolerant of delays.

So I have to be very, very careful not to apply my impatience to God’s timing.

I’m pretty sure Israel was getting tired of looking here, there and everywhere for Messiah. I’m almost certain some folks felt abandoned and forgotten. It had been centuries since the last prophet spoke truth to God’s people. And another despot now ruled over the Jews.

Yet God was not late in fulfilling His promise, He was right on time.

But when that era came to an end and the time of fulfillment had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,[a] born under the written law.[b] Yet all of this was so that he would redeem and set free all those held hostage to the written law so that we would receive our freedom and a full legal adoption as his children.

And so that we would know for sure that we are his true children, God released the Spirit of Sonship into our hearts—moving us to cry out intimately, “My Father![c] You’re our true Father!”

Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re his, we can access everything our Father has—for we are heirs of God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Galatians 4: 4-7 TPT

Of course, for those trapped in time, it was hard to wait for and maybe hard to understand how perfectly every little detail came together surrounding the birth, ministry and sacrifice of Jesus.

I’ve touched before on how the census brought Mary, Joseph and Jesus to Bethlehem.

Local synagogues, teachers of the Law and a well-organized system of worship and education guaranteed Jewish males knew what God required and (if at all desirous of pleasing Him) recognized the chasm between personal holiness and that of the Lord. The whole Sermon on the Mount was about pointing out the impossibility of meeting the Law’s requirements.

It’s hard to appreciate freedom if you’ve never known bondage.

Jesus preached freedom from the Law through His perfect and final sacrifice.

That was welcome news to hurting hearts.

Galatians 5:1 — Verse of the Day for 07/04/2017

I can tell you that I was never more thankful for the truth of the Gospel than when I learned Dominic left this physical plane and entered Heaven.

I was desperate for my Abba Father to assure my heart of His love, His Presence and His provision.

I’m so, so grateful that I don’t have to wonder if Dominic “measured up” because God wasn’t measuring my son. When Dom trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ, he was no longer a slave to the Law. He was free from the penalty of sin and the sting of death.

The Father looks at Dominic and sees the righteousness of Jesus.

My son is clothed with His Son.

Now it’s still hard for me to wait for the final unveiling of what God is crafting from my sorrow.

But I’m absolutely, positively certain it will be glorious.

And I can rest assured that the revelation won’t be early or late-it will be right on time.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever considered the historical context of Jesus’ birth? It was a unique point in human civilization. Roman rule meant that there was a (nearly) universal language. The empire built and maintained roads that connected most of the then-known world. Even Roman persecution of Christians aided the spread of the Gospel. Can you think of other ways this was the “right time” politically?
  • The Babylonian captivity spurred Jewish religious leaders to codify and expand details of the Law. By the time of Jesus’ birth, the Pharisees and Sadducees had, in many ways, made a “god” of the Law itself. Jesus rebuked them over and over during His public ministry. His death, burial and resurrection satisfied the Law’s requirements and opened Heaven’s doors. Have you received the free gift of eternal salvation through Jesus? Has someone or some experience made you doubt that you are clothed in His righteousness?
  • Not all of us have (or had) a good relationship with our earthly father. But most of us have an ideal in mind of what a daddy should be. When Paul said we have the right to call God “Abba” it was a radical idea for the time. Jews tended to think of God as distant, separate, unreachable and definitely NOT “daddy”. How does it make you feel to know God IS your Father? Can you (do you) come to Him with outstretched arms? What do you expect if/when you do?
  • Are you ever impatient waiting for God to answer? Does the Christmas story, with all the perfectly timed and perfectly positioned events encourage patience?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Thank You for sending Jesus at just the right time. Thank You for preparing a people, a world and hearts for the Good News. Thank You that because I’ve trusted in Christ, I CAN call You “Daddy”.

I admit that even though my heart rests in Yours I can be awfully impatient. It’s hard to wait.

Help me recount and recite Your past faithfulness so that I’ll be more inclined toward patient waiting.

The Christmas story is a perfect example of how You work all things together to accomplish your purpose and to bring You glory.

Grant grace and courage as I count the days until every promise is fulfilled and my faith is made sight.

Amen

Advent: Behind The Scenes

So often it seems like God is dragging His feet, holding out on us, refusing to grant something we desperately desire.

The people of Israel waited and waited and waited for Messiah.

Many felt abandoned.

But God wasn’t being slow, He was waiting for the precisely perfect moment to send His Son.

Image may contain: night, text that says '+ when the fullness of time had come God sent forth His Son Galalians s'

Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census— the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted.

4-5 Mary’s fiancé Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census in the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy that the messenger Gabriel had predicted, accompanied Joseph. While in Bethlehem, she went into labor and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.

Luke 2:1-7 VOICE

An entire kingdom was mobilized to fulfill prophecy!

Because Rome demanded taxes from conquered peoples and wanted every penny owed, a census was ordered. Because the only way to get an accurate count was to order folks back to their ancestral hometowns, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem. Because of the timing, Mary was bursting with baby and gave birth.

Just as promised: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. ” Micah 5:2 KJV

Caesar was acting in his own self-interest.

Mary and Joseph were complying with the law.

Nature took its course as Jesus grew in the womb.

All the while God was weaving together the strands behind the scene to bring forth His purpose and provide salvation for His people!

I’m not privy to everything God is doing in the world. And, frankly, what I see sometimes looks like He’s not doing much. I want Him to step in and make things right according to my limited knowledge.

But He’s working behind the scenes in ways I can’t imagine or comprehend.

He has a purpose and plan that will not be thwarted.

I do not for one moment believe that God Took My Child. But I absolutely, positively believe that He is using what the enemy meant for evil to accomplish good.

So I try to be patient.

Even though it’s a lifetime.

Because no one who waits on the Lord will be disappointed.

QUESTIONS:

  • It’s so easy to read the familiar words and forget that each element of the story was important in fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever looked back on a series of seemingly unrelated events and realized how they came together to orchestrate God’s purpose in your own life?
  • I have often wondered how much Joseph and Mary might have thought about (if they thought about it) the words of the prophets as they fulfilled God’s commission to faithfully raise His Son. Can you put yourself in their position and imagine the weight of responsibility and also the fear of uncertainty they might have experienced in real time?
  • I admit that waiting is hard. I long for a supernatural revelation that gives my heart a handle on how long I’m going to have to practice patience. But I take some comfort in the multitude of promises kept by my God and His ever-faithful, always trustworthy character. When your heart doubts, what promises do you cling to?

PRAYER:

Lord,

You literally moved Heaven and Earth to bring salvation to Your people. You work where I can’t see and in ways I can’t comprehend.

But it’s hard to hope when things look dark and it seems as if You are slow to act. And sometimes it looks as if evil, death and sin are winning. That’s when my heart has the most trouble holding onto hope.

Help me cling to truth in spite of my feelings. Give me light in the darkness. Teach my heart to trust and sing hope over my soul. You are Faithful and True.

Even if I wait a lifetime my waiting will not be in vain. Every one of Your promises is “yes” and “amen” in Christ. The end is guaranteed. Victory is assured.

May I rest in Your unfailing love.

Amen

Advent: Dancing the Song of My Savior God

A few times in my life I’ve been utterly overwhelmed by an outpouring of God’s grace and mercy.

And like David who danced before the Lord when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem, I simply can’t contain myself. I want to move my body in response to the rhythm of the good news.

So I understand Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s blessing:

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home. Luke 1:46-56 MSG

My Soul Magnifies the Lord – Upside-Down Savior

Known as The Magnificat, Mary’s heartfelt response to the work God was doing in and through her is a perfect introduction into the upside down Kingdom Christ came to establish.

The Jews were under occupation, under the thumb of a pagan Roman government where might made right and the outcast poor had no hope for justice.

But the Holy Spirit revealed to Mary how very great was this Good News-no longer would evil reign nor the wicked rule. God’s mercy would be supreme! His people would be blessed and every single promise of the Lord would be fulfilled.

So she danced to the tune of salvation. Even though the music was faint and far away.

I’m invited to dance to the same song because God’s promises are sure.

Sometimes I have to strain to hear the music.

But if I lean in and listen closely, it’s there.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever experienced a moment when you were utterly overwhelmed with a sense of God’s goodness and faithful love? How did it make you feel?
  • Mary’s song emphasizes the truth that God will not allow injustice to reign. He will make every single thing right. But it can be hard to wait sometimes. Does this promise make waiting any easier for your heart? Why or why not?
  • Sometimes we look around and think, “What’s the point of trying to live a righteous life? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!” Do you think that there is an eternal reward that outweighs any temporal inequity?
  • Music and dancing go hand in hand. God has created us to be physical and sensual beings. Have you ever been so moved by truth (especially when presented in musical form) that you could not help by responding with your whole body?

PRAYER:

Father God, You never fail. Your purposes are sure and cannot be thwarted. You will not allow injustice to rule forever. You sent your Son to set the record straight, to pay the price and to squash evil tyranny.

It’s true that He has not yet established His Kingdom in its fullness. But the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. The devil is on the defensive and we are guaranteed victory.

Help me hold on to the fullness of the gospel message-not only that my eternal hope is secure (and those I love who have received salvation through Christ) but that You are working in and through your people to restore justice and equity in the world right now.

Make me an instrument of your peace. Give me words of hope to share with a frightened and confused world. Let me lead others in the dance of my Savior.

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.

Every Minute, Every Moment There Was Jesus

In the waiting, in the searching

In the healing and the hurting

Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces

Every minute, every moment

Where I’ve been and where I’m going

Even when I didn’t know it or couldn’t see it

There was Jesus

Jonathan Smith/ Casey Beathard/ Zach Williams -“There Was Jesus”

Songs reach places in my heart that words alone can never touch.

There is so much truth in this one.

When I couldn’t see Him, couldn’t feel Him, had no evidence of His Presence-Jesus was there.

His strength sustained me, His love protected my heart from bitterness, His grace was enough-is enough-for each day.

In the waiting, in the searching.

There was Jesus.

In the healing and the hurting.

There was Jesus.

There is a blessing buried in the broken pieces.

He is Jesus.

Covid 19 And Mental Health

I’ve learned to be pretty good at waiting.

For just over six years I’ve been waiting to see my son again. Waiting for this ache in my heart to be healed. Waiting for a sunrise that brings only joy and no reminder of sorrow.

So I’ve figured out some ways to fill these waiting days. I’ve developed habits and routines to make them count for something other than empty hours ticked off on a clock face.

The pandemic has thrust many other hearts into an unwelcome season of waiting.

Here are some good habits (most of which I’ve employed daily for years!) that make the waiting a little easier and healthier:

  • Get Dressed. Sure it’s fun to hang out in pajama pants when you know the only meetings you might have are online and no one can tell what you’re wearing. But getting dressed signals your brain the day has begun and creates a dividing line between night and day. Trust me, it makes a big difference!
  • Eat Well. Don’t allow yourself to graze all day on snack foods. Make or order real meals. It’s easy to overeat when grazing which will ultimately make you feel too full, bloated and uncomfortable. Fill a plate (even if it’s a paper plate!), sit at the table or a TV tray and finish your breakfast, lunch or dinner then put the food away. Daily rituals help a heart hold on and crafting them around meals is simple and satisfying.
  • Do something creative. It can be rearranging pictures on the wall, placing photos in an album (something you might have wanted to do for a long time), coloring, completing a craft project, sewing fabric masks, or dragging out a puzzle you’ve had in the closet. Anything that helps you think outside the box is wonderful.
  • Stay connected with friends and family. I know it’s not the same. FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram and whatever other social media apps may be trending right now are no substitute for face-to-face meetings and warm, in-person hugs. But they are the best we can do right now. And they are absolutely, positively better than nothing! Take advantage of all the ways you can reach out to those you love. Share funny stories or memes. Let your loved ones know how your day is going.
  • Do your hair and makeup. Well, I might not be the best person to recommend this particular practice since I don’t wear makeup unless it’s a very special occasion. BUTif you wear makeup on a regular basis, do the minimum. It’s another way of helping your brain and psyche draw a line between day and night, work and relaxation. Doing your hair might just be putting it in a ponytail or clip but get it out of your face. At least run a comb or brush through it.
  • Get some fresh air. There is NO substitute for outdoor air. Too much time cooped up indoors makes even the most sane person a little crazy. Walk, ride a bike, run, skip or hop your way around the block or in the park. If moving is too hard on your joints or your balance or your heart, then sit outside in the sun and breathe deeply. It’s a wonderful way to reset your mental attitude and get some Vitamin D.
  • Unplug devices and walk away from the screens! Too often we are stuck in echo chambers that reflect back fear and mistrust of the “other side”. Social media algorithms feed us what they think we want to see. The 24/7 news cycle thrives on half-truth headlines that encourage viewers to tune in for the “rest of the story”. It is possible to learn everything you NEED to know in about five minutes online. Leave the rest for those that enjoy drama, intrigue and worrying about every little thing.
  • Reach out. If you feel yourself falling down a black hole into the pit of despair, tell someone. It’s scary to risk rejection or judgement. But I think you will be surprised to find that most of the time you will be met with grace and compassion.

Only Twenty-four Hours


I remember the first summer after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

The days stretched interminably before me. I woke with a sigh and not a few tears as I realized I had to wait out another cycle of the sun before sleep (if it came!) would grant respite from the memories, the feelings, the ache in my heart.

Sometimes it was nearly unbearable.

But then I had a moment when I realized no day lasts forever. No matter how hard, no matter how long it seemed, it would end.

Even the worst day of my life only lasted twenty-four hours.

I had survived THAT day. I could survive any day.

I don’t know just when I figured it out, but somewhere in this Valley it dawned on me-NO day lasts forever.

Many feel like they do.  

The day I got the news stretched impossibly long in front of me as calls were made and people came to be wtih us.

But even THAT day ended. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/04/22/twenty-four-hours/

Holy Saturday: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

I think this unprecedented season of fear and uncertainty is awakening more hearts to the hard task of suspenseful waiting.

The world longs for a cure or a vaccine or something to guarantee safety against this virus making its rounds and threatening us and those we love.

In the meantime there’s not one thing we can do to make it happen.

Many of us are hiding away in our homes. Some are praying fervently for provision, for safety, for guidance, for hope while others are simply passing time until whatever happens, happens.

I imagine it’s very much like what the disciples felt when they realized no miracle would deliver Jesus from death and they might well be next.

Holy Saturday, 2020

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection because the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/03/26/living-between-the-crucifixion-and-the-resurrection/

Learning To Trust Again: Appropriate God’s Strength

My friend and fellow bereaved mom, Margaret Franklin, Ryan’s mom, shared a beautiful Dutch word with me “Sterkte” (pronounced STAIRK-tah).

It literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more.  It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insumountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.

Not MY strength, but HIS.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/17/trust-after-loss-appropriate-gods-strength/