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.

 

Day is done…….

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It’s growing late….earlier I watched stars shyly make their sequined appearance one by one in the cobalt sky. Humans and animals alike have settled into deep breathing for the rhythm of the night has caught us all. The house creaks, and the events of the day flutter, collect, and float down and gather at my feet coming to greet me again here in my quiet chair. I smile, for it was a good day. Soon all the lights will go out for me and I will say a prayer and talk to God unless I fall asleep first. Later, in the deep dark when it’s morning but not quite morning, worry will come to find me. But I am ready for it. I have the 23rd Psalm.

Times like these I reach for Merton’s hours. So now I look for Monday and it’s here:

Let us live in this love and this happiness, you and I and all of us, in the love of Christ and in contemplation, for this is where we find ourselves and one another as we truly are. It is only in this love that we at last become real. For it is here that we most truly share the life of One God in three Persons.

Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours.

Usually, you just don’t need that many words……..I am finding that out. The more I write, the more I realize that to be a good writer, you need to be an even better editor.

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.

Of perfect storms and sparrows

Since I started in this new area at work, I have unvolunteered myself for a couple of things I really had no business volunteering for in the first place. I know me right now. Several things in my life right now are stressing me out big time. When I started counting them all I realized it would be even more amazing if I weren’t stressed.

Today started off strange right off the get-go. The person I left at my station last night had transformed herself into a cactus. She focused her prickly laser-like vehemence on me as soon as I came in. It seems I left one thing undone which she proceeded to turn into her own personal very big deal. She left a nasty gram in bold print on my computer, detailing everything that happened as a result of my little mistake. The mistake by the way, that could have easily been corrected in about 5 minutes if she had chosen to respond in a different way.

I felt bad for her co-worker, who is a very nice lady.  She was rolling her eyes behind “the talking cactus.” Then later, I was scolded for not showing up to lead stretches yesterday afternoon. That was my fault, it was my turn. Not only that, I was told that my stretch leading was not adequate. I needed to hold them for 20 seconds each and include more of a variety. So I marched over and took myself off that list too.

Sometimes we disappoint people, ourselves, God. It can’t be helped. I have learned some things through this, though. That if you are stressed to begin with, don’t raise your hand up in the air and volunteer for more.

Sometimes you have to take care of you.

Sometimes you just have to “check out”

After the stretching incident I went outside for a few minutes to regroup and play my “Words with friends.” It helped.While I was out there, I studied a little brown sparrow on the wall. I meditated on that little guy.

I noticed all the variant shades of brown. There must have been 20 that I could see. He was really a work of art. Then I remember what Jesus said about sparrows…..how they are valued by the Father. Noticed, counted. And how not one of them falls to the ground without Him knowing.

And He values you and me even more, much more, the Bible says.

I breathe deep. I start over. And now I will say a prayer for the counterpart that will come in tonight. I will be kind. Because I know there must be a reason why she acts as she does.

I also know that despite all the conditions in my life right now that are threatening to create that Perfect Storm? I have resources, I have people in my life who help me, support me, love me. And some have none of those things.

And writing about it really, really helps.

And most of all? I know the One who specializes in calming stormy seas.

Love, Dad

—–Original Message—–
From: Lyleret8 Lyleret8@aol.com
To: Lheyd59 Lheyd59@aol.com
Sent: Sat, Sep 1, 2012 8:41 pm
Subject: book

Hi Lori, We worked on the fence today as I told you. The real hard part is done. Ron forgets I am 84. We did bending over all day, I can not do that….I came home and took a shower and relaxed in bed for awhile. I went out on the back deck in the cool breeze and took Merton;s book and you Prayer Closet book to read. I ended up reading your book for an hour and a half. You know I read good books but I was mesmerized by your writing, you write like Thoreau or Kathleen Norris. about nature and life. I can’t tell you how absolutely blown away by your talent. I Love you, Dad.

This email was sent to me by my Dad. And surely he could not have been talking about me, but about someone else…….I teared up when I got it, because I realized again how incredibly blessed I am to be surrounded by people who have sent me things like that my entire life. Not because I am so great, but because they are…..I don’t mind telling you, it made my night.

There is no price we can ever put on the value of good words. And because it was done for me, now I make a habit of doing it too. I never leave my Mom and Dad’s without leaving something under their pillow to find after I leave. And I leave notes around the house where I know Elaine will find them too. She had many words thrown at her growing up, but many were not good. Most were negative.

Edifying words have the power to convince someone they can really do anything they set their mind to do. But negative words have the power to demoralize and destroy. Sometimes those words make someone set out to try even harder to succeed, but all too often they leave a wake of destruction.

Some people spend all their lives recovering from the sting those words leave behind.

God loves it when we give out good words…….He knows their incredible ability to heal, to mend, to uplift.

And that person who has been on your mind? It’s time to write them a note or email . It may come just in time.

And then leave one for God too, even though He already knows what you are going to say…….

And if you have ever thought about setting your blog to print, I would encourage you to do so. It makes a wonderful gift for someone you love. Sure, they can get on the computer and read it, but there is something about being able to hold your words in their hands. Like having a bit of you with them.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24