Longing

Longing is part of our human DNA. What do we long for? If we are honest I think we all long for significance, authenticity, peace…. Yes we want the ‘Beauty Pageant’ answer ‘world peace,’ but what we really want is inner peace. I think we long to go back to the Garden where unity was the norm and division had not yet entered our natures.

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Hebrews 11:16 …they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

To me, this picture captures a small taste of our longing for a heavenly home. The word of God begins in a garden and ends in a city, the New Jerusalem. Does our creator leave us to fend for ourselves as we seek to  reunite with Him? NO! Hebrews 11 communicates this well.

“6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Yes he rewards us.

We just have to believe God exists and begin the journey to seek Him. Yes, there are days when we face opposition. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is the most read book after the Bible. This story of the journey to the heavenly city is only one clue showing the universal sense of longing to understand where we are going, how to get there and it reminds us we are not alone.

 Hebrews 11 again: v13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

We are not made for true contentment here. Our creator knows it. He provides for us, comforts us, instructs us and encourages us with the whisperings of the Holy Spirit through the word of God. He also gives us human friends to encourage us on the long journey and His personal presence whether we detect it or not.

Abba, I have only a general sense of where I am going. I have the head knowledge of your promises and I ask for more heart and faith to allow your promises to direct me. I long for more of You every day, because You are the only thing truly certain in life.

Thank you for this life. Thank you for the twists and turns that throw me into Your arms. Thank you for the freedom to walk with you, or not. Thank You for seeking me out…always, and never giving up!

Forgetting And Remembering: Finding A Balance

The Word of God tells us many times that we need to remember. And it tells us to forget what lies behind. Is that contradictory? I think not! So, how do we find a balance? I think there are probably a few pointers that can help but ultimately it’s the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us that will give us each the keys for our individual​ lives.

Fireworks disappear quickly, but we remember...

Fireworks disappear quickly, but we remember…

I think there are at least two categories of things behind us. For our purposes I’ll label them A) those places we saw God work in large and small ways, and B) those places we could not find God at the time, whether or not we tried. The A category is easy to talk about, remember and celebrate. The B category is the stuff we are more likely to struggle with putting behind us. They usually are full of lessons learned the hard way.

Many times we see or hear one of God’s greatest promises when we face struggle. It is easy to allow it to sound like a pitiful and powerless cliché. Romans 8:28 tells us that “God works all things together for good for those who love H​im and I called according to His purpose.”

This one verse, and its larger context, do an amazing job of holding the tension between good and evil as well as between forgetting and remembering. We need to be able to forget the bad things that have happened to us and yet we need to remember their lessons. By looking for God in those circumstances, and choosing to believe that all in Romans 2:28 really does mean all things, we begin to see the larger perspective.

That process allows us to re-frame our past from God’s perspective. That re-framing disarms the pain and allows us to look at the “fireworks” of the past with awe and thankfulness for our Creator’s presence with us and not from fear of the fire and the noise.

Romans 8:28​ Is surrounded by the love of God. Just before it Paul is explaining that we are already adopted as children of the Creator for eternity. The word hope is used 5 times in that paragraph.

The paragraph following Romans 8:28 holds one of the most amazing promises of God’s love ever written. Verses 37-39 read: “​No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. where I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, or anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.​”

Abba, what do you want me to celebrate today? What has been niggling at me that you want me to ask you to show me some of the good I was not able to see before today? Help me to see it as you do, to re-frame it, knowing that you work all things together for good (even if I can’t see it now) for those who love you and are called according to your purpose!

Finally, help me to strike a balance like the Apostle Paul. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14. 

“Our God Can Give Songs In The Night”*

For those of us who have made a commitment to become disciples of Jesus Christ, we nearly all begin with some sort of a big surge of energy, hope and optimism. I mean, after all, didn’t we just have all our sins forgiven? How freeing is that!?! We are now in the eternal family of God! Paul tells us, ” if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17) I am new and I get to start over!DSC_0287 - Version 2

Then it happens.

We face opposition. If we are not raised in a household of believers, our family thinks we are either certifiably nuts, or at least too radical and want us to go back to being ‘normal.’ A different version of the same thing happens if one is from a family of disciples. Sometimes religious expectations can choke out our new-found joy.

It is tempting and normal to ask if following Jesus is worth it. Sometimes that is because there are other forces in opposition to us walking in victory and shining as a light for Christ.

Other times it is God. It is not that our creator has set out to take us down! Rather, The one who loves us more than we love ourselves, desires us to grow stronger in our love relationship and trust in Him. So, he allows things we consider unpleasant to test us and give us opportunities to trust the promises of God. It is an amazing thing is to look for God in the midst of the trails. In my experience, when I stopped asking God “why are you…?” and “what are you…?” and began to ask “Where are you in this?” then waited and watched… I found a whole new realm of trust and faith begin to open to me.

I found the following and it rang true to me. My prayer is you can read it, maybe more than once, and sit with it a bit. Maybe only one or two things will grab you. You are never alone when you are in Christ.

​I have been through the valley of weeping,
T​he valley of sorrow and pain; 
But​ the “​God of all comfort”​ was with me, 
At the hand to uphold and sustain. 
As the earth needs the clouds in the sunshine, 
Our souls need both sorrow and joy; 
So he places us oft in the furnace, 
The dross from the gold to destroy. 
When he leads through some valley of trouble, 
His omnipotent hand we trace; 
For the trials and the sorrows He sends us, 
Are part of his lessons in grace. 
Oft we run from the purging and pruning, 
Forgetting the gardener knows 
That the deeper the cutting and trimming, 
The richer the cluster that grows. 
Well He knows that the affliction is needed; 
He has a wise purpose in view, 
And in the dark valley he whispers, 
“Soon you’ll understand what I do.” 
As we travel through life’s shadowed valley, 
Fresh springs of His love ever rise, 
And we learn that our sorrows and losses, 
Are blessings just sent in disguise. 
So we’ll follow wherever he leads us, 
Let the path be the dreary or bright; 
For we’ve proved that our God can give comfort; 
Our God can give songs in the night.*
Abba, I ask you to give me grace to accept your work in my life, the strength to reach for your hand, the understanding that you are working for my good, always! I ask for eyes to see your springs of love, to see through the losses to the blessings and I pray for ears to hear your songs in the night! Amen
*Poem from Streams In The Dessert, August 9 by L.B. Cowman, edited by James Reimann. Zondervan Publishers 1997

What if…?

I don’t know about you, but every day I entertain thoughts of ‘What if…?’ And most of the time I find it time better spent elsewhere.  Yes, I want to learn from my experiences and failures, but too many of the what ifs try to suck me down a hole to paralyze me, at least emotionally, and take me off track from what God wants me to do.

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Staying on track vs What ifs…?

What if I had not said that, or said it that way?

What if she had collaborated with me instead of competed?

What if my brother was still alive?

What if my dad never had a stroke?

What if I still worked with…? (person or company)

What if I’d never met….? (Friend or foe)

What if my son had died or been brain-damaged when he drowned in a half bucket of mop water instead of being completely healed?

What if I did not know God personally though Jesus?

But what if…God asks us to dream of possibilities?

What if He invites us to think about the beauty of Creation?

What if we are invited to seek solutions to our challenges and those of others?

What if instead of getting sucked down a ‘What if hole’ we prepare ahead of time, knowing a negative ‘What if’ is inevitable?

What if we can predict some of the ‘what ifs’ because they keep coming, over and over?

What if we look up specific promises from the word of God?

What if, when it comes, we are ready to swipe it away with God’s answer to the ‘what if?’

What if instead of getting sucked into a hole of negative we thank God for meeting us in that moment, whether or not we understand it at the time?

What if we can change paralyzing ‘what if’ holes into positive ‘what if’ creation sized hopes and solutions with a little preparation?

What if we give it a try? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can do it for every one who dares to ask Him ‘what if…?’

Abba, Thank you for knowing our every need. Thank you for knowing every ‘what if ‘ that floats through or lodges in our brains. Thank you for knowing what your purpose is for us and how we can best fulfill our destiny! Thank you for caring even more than we do about what happens to us and providing everything needed to stay on track with you! Amen