Saturday, March 16, 2019

Dear Child,




Dear Child,


I saw you cry last night. Tears of pain, tears of grief, tears of sorrow for the ones you love. I know you didn’t see me, or even know I stood beside you, catching every single tear as it slid down your cheek and fell onto your pillow. I placed each tear in a bottle and recorded it in my Tearbook, because your sorrow matters that much to me.[1]
I saw you cry as you woke to a new day. A day I created for your enjoyment and pleasure. Though this day may dole out its share of joy and sorrow, I will remain close beside you, ready to guide and comfort.[2]
I see your struggles and the anguish of your soul. Though you stumble, I hold your hand in mine so you won’t fall. Find your strength and hope in me, for I am your helper and Savior. Stop striving and be still, place your trust in me. I am still on the throne and still in control of the storm.[3]
Give me that burden you bear. Do not struggle needlessly nor writhe beneath that heavy load. Surrender all your worries and cares to me. And when you feel like you can’t take another step, I will lift you up and carry you in my arms.[4]
Because you are my precious child and I love you.



[1] Psalm 56:8
[2] Psalm 23:4, Psalm 118:24
[3] Psalm 31:7, Psalm 34:18, Psalm 37:24, Psalm 39:7, Psalm 40:17, Psalm 46:1
[4] Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 62:8, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 145:14, Psalm 68:19

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Misery in the Mire



I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
Psalm 40:1-2 (NLT)


            I’ve never been stuck in a mire – at least, physically. Mires are low areas where deposits of peat are so saturated with water that walking becomes heavy and sluggish. Mires often form where rain abounds and soil is impervious.
            But mires are not exclusive to certain countries or locations. They can often be found where pain and heartache abound: a devastating diagnosis; heartbreaking news; discouragement so deep it leaves us reeling; disappointment so bitter it eats away at our heart and soul.
            In Psalm 40, David voices his misery as he wallows in the mire. He isn’t simply referring to a setback, or a hindrance. He’s speaking of deep, emotional grief from which he cannot extricate himself. Powerful desperation which sucks him further and further into its murky depths. Helplessness that renders him exposed and vulnerable.
            Yet in the midst of his anguish, David waited. He waited on the LORD, confident God would never forsake him. He waited, convinced God would help him. He waited, secure in the knowledge that God saw every tear he cried. He waited, certain God heard his pleas. He waited, confident that God was with him even in the deepest and darkest moments of his life. Therein lies the key to hope in the midst of grief.
            Thankfully, God did not leave David to wallow in the mire. He reached down and pulled David from the depths of despair. Furthermore, He didn't leave him there, shivering beside the slough of despair; He set him on solid ground (some versions say “upon a rock”) and steadied him with His strong hand.
            It’s hard to wait patiently when we’re stuck in the mire. We want to climb out at any cost, do whatever it takes to remove ourselves from the pain, or cling to false hopes that eventually leave us disheartened when they don’t hold up under the pressures of life. But God urges us to wait patiently for His perfect timing and His perfect plan to be fulfilled.
There is no mire or pit so deep God cannot reach us. He hears our prayers, He sees our tears, He cares about our pain. In due time, He will reach down and save us. Because He loves us too much to leave us to wallow in the mire.



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Desert of Shur



The Desert of Shur

Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea,
and they moved out into the desert of Shur.
They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water.
Exodus 15:22 (NLT)


            The desert of Shur; we’ve all traveled through it at some point in our lives: a heart-breaking diagnosis; struggle-filled days that loom ahead with no reprieve in sight; problems that multiply faster than we can cope; months that contain more days than dollars in the bank; disappointments that overwhelm the heart.
            The Israelites had just crossed the Red Sea unscathed. Not a single life lost. The Egyptians? Annihilated. Talk about a wow! moment. It doesn’t get any more jaw-dropping than that. They were ecstatic, confident, and seemingly invincible. They were on a roll. Then it all comes crashing down. A vast desert ahead. No water in sight. For three days, they trudged across the hot, arid desert, shaking sand from their sandals as they struggled with tormenting thirst. Not exactly the vision of a victor. Who wants to trudge when you’ve just scored a major win?
            It didn’t take long for the winners to start whining; the reprieve they thought they’d found at the oasis of Marah proved to be bitter. Just like their hearts. They wanted to continue on that high-note they’d experienced at the Red Sea. Why not? Why couldn’t God simply lead them to the Promised Land without any hiccups along the way? Why did God have to test them?
            Sometimes, I find myself copping the same attitude when life leads me through the wilderness of Shur; sure, God’s promised never to leave me nor forsake me; sure, God’s plans are for good and not for evil; sure, God loves me. Yet what I know and what I feel don’t always match up. The miracles of yesterday quickly tend to memories in the face of new trials. The Red Sea is relegated to a story I can tell my children, instead of first-hand experience of God’s faithfulness. Thankfully, God is merciful and loving. Even when my faith wavers, He provides waterholes in the wilderness.

God’s tests are never without purpose. If He leads me through the desert of Shur, it’s because He wants to strengthen my ‘sures’ into heartfelt, unwavering conviction that God is working all things for my good.

Monday, January 21, 2019

From Emptiness to Fullness




… that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:19 (NIV)


            I lie in bed, listening to the rhythmic call of the Whip-poor-will as he perches in the tall oak outside my bedroom window. Sunlight peeks through the blinds, urging me to wake and seize this new day.
            As the fog of slumber dissipates along with the muddled thoughts that belong to the realm of dreams, the realities of my waking life cause me to sigh. I’m not ready to tackle the demands of this new day. My heart and soul feel empty before the day has begun.
            I slip into prayer, soaking in God’s presence like parched land soaks in the rain. Today, I need to cast my burden on Him more than ever. In that moment, I hear God speaking to my heart, saying, “When you are empty of yourself, then I can pour myself more fully into you. For when your self-sufficiency is gone, when your earthly wisdom has run out, when your strength has petered out, and you have nothing left to offer, then I am truly able to pour myself into every part of you – not just to the brim, but to overflowing.”
When I stop relying on myself and my feeble resources, and lean solely upon God’s mercies, that’s when I truly experience complete Christ-sufficiency. My lack is my gain, for less of me means there is room for more of Him, as He fills me with every need for the coming day; His power, His love, His grace, His patience, His wisdom, and His joy.
            The result? It’s revealed in the following verse; God is able, through his mighty power at work in me, to accomplish infinitely more than I might ask or think.

            Empty so that I might be full; this is the paradox of grace.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Our Burden Bearer




Praise be to the Lord,
to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
Psalm 68:19 (NLT)


            I’m a packer and a stuffer. You know those people who carry half their household with them every time they travel? That’s me. So when I went to visit my parents in Indiana last week, I packed a satchel full of items that were heavy and cumbersome; my laptop, I-pad, two Bibles, reference materials, books, and my current writing project, just in case I had a free moment with nothing to do.
Seeing as my mother was in Intensive Care, I parked my car in the parking garage, hefted the satchel onto my shoulder, and trudged through the concrete structure to the hospital itself. Stooped like a Sherpa beneath his load, I hiked down long sterile corridors searching for the elevators to take me up to ICU. When I finally got to my mom's room, my shoulder was burning and my back was screaming in protest.
Imagine my relief when, as we prepared to leave, my father picked up my satchel and carted it back to my car for me. He took my load because he loves me and knew it was too heavy for me to carry.
            We all carry burdens; whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, they all have the potential to crush us beneath their weight. Some days I wake up and wonder how I can cope with the all struggles and challenges that life seems to be throwing my way. If I had to handle them alone, I would certainly fall. Thankfully, I have a Savior who wakes me with His love each morning and whispers, “Let me take that load today. It’s too heavy for you to carry. “
            So often, I think I have to shoulder the burden. I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to yield control for fear God might lead where I don’t want to follow. So I cling to my worries, hang on to my man-made plans, and maintain a firm grip on my burden instead of simply saying, “Thanks, Dad,” and handing it over to Him.

            God doesn’t promise there won’t be hard times. But He does promise He will walk beside us through those dark days and will shoulder our fears, our worries, and our cares. Because He’s our Abba. Because He wants to. Because He loves us. Because He cares.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, Same Struggles




God’s Unfailing Love

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143:8 (NIV)


          New Year’s day. For some, this brings the promise of fresh opportunities, a chance to start over, a blank page just waiting to be filled in. For others, it’s just a roll-over from yesterday, waking to the same heartache, the same struggles, the same pain that’s been dogging us for a while.
          For me, this New Year begins with sorrow as I head out to visit my parents. A couple of days after Christmas, Mum fell and hit her head on a table, causing an intra-cranial bleed. Now she’s in the hospital, a shriveled and lethargic shadow of the smart, beautiful, vibrant woman she used to be. For several months now, we’ve slowly watched her disappear as she gradually fades into the thick fog of Dementia. Each day, we wonder what she will remember and who she will forget. Every morning brings new struggles, new challenges.
          Although we grieve, we do not despair because we’ve put our trust in God. Waking every morning to the certainty that He loves us brings some clarity to the kaleidoscope of struggles and emotions every day brings.

          God sees our struggles. He feels our pain. He hears our prayers. He will guide our path in the coming year, whatever may come. Because He loves us. Because He cares.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Perishable





For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)


            One of the presents we gave our oldest son this Christmas is a box containing a variety of snack-sized sausages, cheeses, mixed nuts, and chocolates. The day it was delivered, I noticed the large label affixed to the box; “Perishable.” Immediately, I wrapped the box and put it in the fridge to await Christmas morning.
            In his Gospel, John relates a visit between Jesus and Nicodemus. During their conversation, Jesus reveals to Nicodemus that every man is born into this world perishable. Because of sin, we are separated from God and condemned to both physical death and spiritual death. But because of God’s great love, He did not leave us to wallow in sin. He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to save us. Knowing the price that needed to be paid in order to reconcile man with God, Jesus willing came and willingly paid that price.
            Through Jesus, we can find eternal life. When He died on the cross, He removed that perishable state for all those who receive Him as Lord and Savior. Through His death, whoever (that means you and me) believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Although mortal physically, our souls ascend to live in His presence for eternity.

Perishable becomes imperishable. Mortal changes into immortal. Ephemeral transforms into eternal. There is no greater gift than this.