When God seems distant

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There are times in every believers life when God feels distant. I have described this feeling in some previous posts on this blog. It’s a season I am going through, nothing more, but it’s disconcerting to me. My thoughts run something like this:

I used to talk to you God, and tell you everything. I used to enjoy the glow of Your Presence in prayer and while sitting in silence. I used to feel your Spirit leap for joy within me while out running and listening to music, or even doing simple chores like vacuuming. What’s different now? Is it me? Am I doing something wrong? I feel as if a scoop of something has been taken from my soul and I want it back.

For some reason, words seemed to come much easier when I was in Arizona, but then I had more time to reflect as well. I worked long hours when I worked but I was off 3 and 4 days at a time. Circumstances aside,  this lack of flow has been disturbing. I used to talk to God with the familiar and easy relationship of a father to his daughter, but now there is a blockage and I am navigating through it the best I can. Maybe it’s simply this:

When God seems distant, maybe He is asking you me stretch my faith. Maybe it’s just that easy. He wants me to ride it out, knowing that the Bible assures me that others have gone through these times as well. I can rest in my assurance that God hasn’t gone anywhere.

In times such as these I draw strength from King David. Listen to his lament in Psalm 13 verse 1:

How long Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

But David knew His God. Though His feelings were valid; people were searching him out to take his life after all, He knew in His heart he was not forgotten. Listen to what he says in verse 5.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

He had the key to success. He drew from the well of experience and memory and remembered all the times God had been there and he knew that God hadn’t changed. Can it be that it’s as simple as continuing to draw on all those answered prayers, all those times of closeness? More importantly, that God is who He says He is and will never leave His children behind.

This morning as I stepped down my little road to the prayer shack, I heard not one but two owls calling back and forth. Thank you God, that’s a gift.  Another gift He presented me with was the honor of having my photos shared on another blog today. I never expected that and it was a very good day to start my day. You can see them and also have the pleasure of some wonderful works shared by the talented Glynn Young here.

I am grateful this moment as I type these words. The sun is partially shining today and that’s another blessing. We have waited all week for this. Maybe today I will go the used Bookstore and turn in my CDs and get a little credit. It’s a good day God.

I thank You for it. I rest today in Your sovereignty, Your love, Your gracious Presence. This daughter loves you.

 

Someday

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As in every year leading up to Christmas, I don’t take nearly enough time for reflection. Somehow even when I don’t mean to, it gets swept away by all the other things that we have made Christmas into. And yet, and yet. Jesus is born once again in our hearts and in our remembrances. Despite our best efforts we can never ruin it as the great Frederick Buechner says:

Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed – as a matter of cold, hard fact – all it’s cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading. Whistling in the Dark

Dear Lord:

I am a deeply flawed and it’s not a stretch to say that I am sometimes a dark-hearted, selfish and sarcastic individual. I spend money on things I don’t need and toss my leftovers into the collection plate. I pray to be more like you but too often I’m not willing to do what it takes to make that happen. I pass what could be angels (or maybe even you) in disguise on the street, dirty disheveled, shopping cart piled high. Too often I fail miserably, and yet you continue to pile mercy on my plate. I need to love better.

I wonder if all of us knew each other’s insides like you do, what would happen. I think the world would be transformed by love. We would see each other the way you see us. This I believe is possible since as believers we have your Holy Spirit inside us. So if I have any goal at all in the coming year, it should be to walk not in someone else’s shoes, but to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal how someone else might be hurting, or alone, or joyful. And then show me how I can enter other’s lives the way Jesus would. That’s what you talked about the Kingdom of Heaven being here and now. That’s what Scripture means when it says that someday we will fully know you and each other. That’s how we will know we are in Heaven.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Thank you to those who have been patient with me this year. Thank you, Elaine for bearing with me as I went psycho over this job and for all you’ve done to keep everything running while I go different directions. I love you.

Thank you to my family, who I am very grateful to be with this year. I love you.

Thank you dear readers, those who are still hanging in with me and this blog. I love you too.

Thank you Jesus, for never loving halfway. You proved that with the Manger and the Cross. You are still proving your great love to me each and every day you crack joy into my heart in all the little everyday moments. I am trying to love You better.

Merry Christmas all, in Jesus name.

But the Lord…….

IMG_4250So far this year has been a year of tremendous blessing and challenge, and letting go. I let go of the first big thing, the thing that had been my financial security for 20 years. My job. My career. My nickname for Intel was “Big Brother” because in a sense it was. It was an umbrella of protection in a way. And it had also become part of my identity I guess. For so long I had questioned, wondered when the right time would be to leave. 

I kept asking God, make me know. Help me to be sure. Then the retirement package rolled out and it was like God was saying, “You asked for it, you got it.”

Since then I have been traveling back and forth to California to help my Mom get through a couple of surgeries, of which she has come through tremendously well.

And on the heels of coming back from California the first time, I lost my best little good fur friend in the world, my Sydney. We lost I should say, because Elaine loved him just as much, and Briggs is still searching some days for his brother.

I haven’t had a lot of time to really reflect on my semi-retirement. I found I didn’t want to get out of bed, and for me that is unusual being a morning person. But I did. I fed Briggs and cheered him up. Made him a little high with a dose of catnip.

I wondered whether I should even write a post because I wasn’t in the best of moods. But then I thought of David, and how blessed I have been by the Psalms over the years. David had his bouts with great fear and depression.

I remembered how many times in the Psalms (and the Bible) where it says, “but God.”

I was ready to close the door and cower in fear……But God. I was ready to throw the covers over my head and not face the challenges of a new day…..But God. I was thinking I had no happy words…..But God. You see, no matter what we are facing today, God is bigger. God is the big But in whatever we face, always! It the most important thing He has taught me in my one little life.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
For He will receive me.” Psalm 49:15

No one has ever actually seen God, but, of course, his only Son has, for he is the companion of the Father and has told us all about him.” John 1:18

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8

So this morning, I got out of bed much later than usual. I figured maybe I needed the rest. And though I didn’t feel much like doing anything, much less writing, I found that when I started moving through the day, listening to music that sang His praises, my spirit lifted.

The best thing we have as Christians is a hope that is tangible and real because it’s found in the physical presence of a living God who wants and desires to meet our every need. That’s something concrete that we can pass on to others. And it’s the most powerful gift we can give in a world that needs hope more than ever before.

So the next big thing will be letting go of this home that has been our sweet refuge for several years now. It will be hard……maybe the hardest thing yet. But God…….But God……I rest in You.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Jesus

Shalom!

 

This One Day

Wherever we are, it’s just a little season…..

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In 1 or 5 or ten years, it will be only a memory.

Even one you may have to conjure up to remember all the details…….

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Someday, we will be standing on the edge of an eternity without end.

And all these little moments will be nothing but little blips on a very small screen,

but then,

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we will realize just how much they all mattered.

But God says, “Pay attention to this one day, and in it, you will find eternity in Me.”  

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own………..Jesus

I have lost my footing as of late. I have forgotten where I came from and where I started. Why I live and why I write. Worry and stress had swallowed it whole. But I found my footing again today.

And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Getting back on the trail?

Today, I am picking up my walking stick and with eyes up, I look with anticipation at what lies ahead.

You come too.

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Why I took a break, and why I’m back

Sometimes the blogging world gets noisy. And sometimes you even forget why you blog. And you go to a post where you feel you have held your heart out to the world…painfully so, and you get no comments. And you are disappointed. Even though you know you aren’t writing for:
Accolades……Comments……Validation…..and those are all good things, that was never my motivation.
And you read all these wonderful other blogs, and you feel like your voice is just one more and it’s not quite as beautiful, as esthetically pleasing….as skillful, as creative….fill in the blank.
A scribbling on a blank piece of paper could save your life, if it is just what you need to hear in that moment. 
I have also been mad at the “blogger” platform. Different reasons. All of a sudden my playlist didn’t work. It won’t start playing right when you open my blog. I thought I had it set up to do so, but I still can’t get it to work right.
When I noticed myself scrolling to comments right away? That’s when I knew I had lost my way. I needed to remember Who I was blogging for and why I started in the first place.
Only three reasons, but they are big ones. God, the Word, and You the readers.
I have been going through some changes myself, and no doubt this blog will change with me. Change is a good thing. But the one thing about this blog that will never change is the message. It is a little four letter word but it means the world…..and it’s what the world needs right now:
Hope.
And I realized another thing. My little voice means something, and so does yours.
And after all, how many voices are too many for praise to the living God?
This year has been tough, and it still is. Going on two years of care taking and it takes its toll no doubt about it. But Elaine and I are still laughing despite the circumstances. And now I am going through some other things personally, physical changes which I have talked about here.
And even when the moods are incredibly dark? The amazing thing is that at unexpected moments I have this absurd joy. It just won’t stop, because God has me. And He has you too, no matter what else is going on in your life. Because each and every one of us has circumstances we have to deal with. Those will never go away.
But neither will God.
That, my friends is my main message. And this morning, as if to highlight what I was feeling, this song came on and it said: Let my life song sing to you.
Let my life song sing to you. And you and you.
And like those stones along the road to Jerusalem that would not be silent?  I will never ever stop praising Him, because He is worthy.

The Final Answer

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I smoothed the sheets on my bed this morning and said a prayer of thanks because I didn’t feel like I did yesterday morning. Yesterday I wasn’t ready to enter into the day and I did something I never do on a day off……I went back to bed. Yet, even as I crawled back under the covers, I was aware that it was a luxury.  Just the fact that I could do it. Most can’t.
I pulled the covers up, curled into a ball and slept until 9. For me, that’s late.
After that I went to Walmart, which is my new place between places. I call it my own personal Bermuda Triangle. I sat with my cart amongst the fake Christmas trees and patio sets and smiled at the irony. The depression snaked behind me, but just then I felt I had outsmarted it. I felt cushioned in an island of peace. Even the pink one didn’t bother me, it stood there innocently wearing sparkling white lights. How could I get mad at it?
I sat there playing my Words with Friends like I had nothing else to do. And it was good.
I got back and put everything away. And Joyce was agitated and pacing. I had closed my bedroom door and I think that threw her off too. Alzheimer’s patients are like Autistic kids in that they like routine and they like normal. They don’t like change.
And she forgets that Elaine has a job now and wonders where she is. Imagine never remembering anything? Your mind would have to work 10 times harder than anyone else’s.
Every time I sat down at the keyboard to clack out words…..she came in or out the door. I gave up trying to write. I felt hemmed in, so I went outside for awhile and watched the birds eat the bread I left. The cactus wrens were up to their usual antics and I couldn’t help but smile watching them.
And later the phone rang and it was a dear blogger friend just calling to say……”I have been praying for you.” Never underestimate how important that is. To me it was grace like spring rain.
He told me his frustration about how some of his young friends just don’t seem to get it. That it’s not all about them, but it’s about us and how we are all in this world together. And about Haiti and a world of people in need. And suddenly my problems felt smaller again. And I was able to write about just that very thing. Thank you, Duane Scott. You are a treasure.
Elaine came home after having to call four parents for out of control kids on the bus. They were new kids added to her route. She was exhausted. It was obvious the other driver had been ignoring the bad behavior. And then she sat in a training class where one of the other drivers constantly interrupted the instructor with unbelievably foul language.
Nobody was saying anything, so she finally did.
Then later my Mom called and told me of her friend’s daughter in law. She is in Stanford right now, a mother of three. They were all camping and she came home with a fever. Now something is attacking her liver. She is in Stanford undergoing tests and they can’t find anything wrong, all those very bright minds.
And it was morning and it was evening and God is pulling the shade down on another day.
And the team we were rooting for last night is going to the World Series.
Each day has its own set of wins and losses. Sometimes people get it but sometimes they don’t. And it’s okay……..We do the best we can any given day. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and prays for us with groans that words cannot express.
And in every conflict, as my friend so wisely said, the answer is always the same……Love.

What the Haiti Bloggers Taught Me

 
Tent City, a partial view….photo by telegraph.co.uk

There was a group of bloggers that went to Haiti not long ago. I guess you could say I went along with them. I found myself eagerly following their journey, swept up in their enthusiasm, fear, and trepidation about what they would see, hear and discover.

On Facebook and through each of their blogs, I packed with them, boarded planes with them and prayed with them. I was there, at least in spirit, while they waited in airports and when they touched ground there. I was wrapped up in it, but from a safe distance.

I read the first reports, saw the pictures come in one after another. Each sharing their own personal journey…..in their own words. And there was power in their words, because of what they saw.

Like drumbeats in a native village, the stories came back from each writer, along with the stunning pictures that went where words could not. And it wasn’t just the stories, it was the real people attached to them. People whose faces would be forever imprinted on the hearts of each writer.

I myself slept in my own comfortable bed as they told about how a Haitian Pastor slept on the ground outside by the orphan children that he was protecting, because as Duane Scott said in his post today, “A shepherd never leaves his flock.”

I was in prayer with them when they landed and came back to this land that must have felt a little bit foreign even after being in Haiti a few days. This land where normal means, buying the next model of IPhone simply because you must have the latest and newest version, not because there is anything wrong with your phone.

What they saw changed them from the inside out. Not only that, it has changed me too. I learned some things from them:

That a handful of committed people can make a big difference……and you don’t have to go to another country to be impacted and feel the change yourself, (but it helps).

That God doesn’t want my leftover gifts. He wants my heart.

That I am thinking harder and longer before I purchase something.

That even though I can wake up depressed like I did this morning? Over there in that country little children and adults are living in conditions no one should ever live in, and they are still smiling.

Singing, rejoicing……but they are also

Fainting in classrooms for lack of food.

Being kidnapped and raped.

Living with fear night and day and never ever feeling safe……

And God is watching how we respond, how I respond.

Each of us can make a difference. If only half of us went without one Starbucks Latte per day, we could build houses in Haiti.

If God moves you to do so, you can sign up for a project or make a one time donation right here, or find out more by clicking my “Help One Now Button.”

If God doesn’t lead you to give, then pray for those courageous souls doing God’s work over there. Your prayers make a difference!

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”  James 5:16, The Message.