Days when you feel stuck

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Sometimes, when we are in the darkness or someone we love is, we feel paralyzed. We wonder what to do. When it’s someone we love, we reach back into the wellspring of our own memories and remember how it felt being in the bottom of that well. It’s not a good place, we don’t want to go back there.

I remember that a miracle started my walk back to the Lord, and I also remember that even though He provided that huge first step I needed, He taught me that I needed to keep on walking toward Him, no matter how I felt. In my case, I needed to heal my mind before I could cooperate with God in healing my body. I needed to get up and take a courageous first step.

I remember those early days, exercising in the dark of the morning so no one would see me. Faithfully, I went out, day after day. Finally, my body started to reward me by showing me results. My mood improved, my confidence increased, and I started to attend classes with other people. I traded in my baggy clothes for bright colored leotards (and leg warmers, yes forgive me…….after all, it was the 80’s!)

God has never let me forget how it felt to be in that place of darkness and I am grateful for that, for now I can be empathetic to those who are there now. My advice might seem meager and overly simplistic, but there is great power in it. Because I’ve been on the road, I know the road out.

These days when I feel paralyzed, I stop and seek the Lord. I pray. The beauty of prayer is that you can stop and pray anytime and anywhere.

Then I thank God for the new day and I thank Him simply because He is with me in it. It’s a process of reaching for the light, sometimes over and over again throughout the day. That process alone is a conscious effort of choosing joy. Light over darkness. There is plenty on any given day to feel hopeless about, all we have to do is watch the news.

After I pray, I open the Word and ask God to reveal the power and hope in its pages. I always find what I need there. Satan will try his best to keep me from doing that, because he knows once I start giving God gratitude in the midst of my circumstances and opening the Word, he knows he has lost the battle.

Then, I just start moving around in the day, starting with little tasks like cleaning the cat box, starting the laundry, emptying the dishwasher. I have found that Holiness resides in little tasks when it costs you an act of faith just to take that first step.

Then I start looking for the light. In every little thing I can find…….from the frozen bird bath, to the sun shining through Mr. Briggs whiskers……….

There is a darkness called depression and it’s very very real to many people. When you are there in that place, there is nothing anyone can say that will make a difference. Those easy platitudes will only make a depressed person feel worse, almost like its their fault. Believe me, they are usually kicking themselves around the block and back, wondering what is wrong with them.

In those instances, it may be that medication is needed, or counseling, or both. But in all those situations, God is there ready to meet you. If someone you love is in a dark place, pray and keep praying. If you are that someone, know that hope is near. And it’s for you, not for everyone else.

Look to the Light today, take just one step forward and I will stand with you. Together we can walk out of the land of the shadows.

Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us   from Heaven…..Luke 1:78

 

 

Advent: Who or what is overshadowing you this Christmas?

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Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.…Luke 1:34,35

So the question remains: Who or what is overshadowing you this Christmas? Have you made way for the Holy Spirit, believing like Mary that God can overshadow your circumstances whatever they are? Are you willing to partner up with God and create a miracle, even in the midst of an ordinary life?

This Advent as in all others, I go back to those supernatural events that happened, and I marvel and wonder right along with Mary. When you think about it, what happened to Mary is what happens to all of us when we become believers. We step out in faith even though we aren’t sure how it’s all gonna work, we know somehow that God will pull it off.

And that is the hope and reality of what Christmas is, that against the dark backdrop of our lives God came in the flesh to flip the switch on the light that no man or circumstance has the power to snuff out.

Too much of my year has been spent in doubt and uncertainty and fear. Too many times I have failed to remember what a Big God I serve. I have forgotten that God has taken up residence in my own temple of this body. In light of that, what event in life could ever eclipse that Light? Thankfully, He knows how weak I am and loves me anyway. Each day I am bowled over by His incredible mercy.

Yesterday morning, the events of the past few weeks finally caught up with me and I had a bit of an insane moment. My Mom falling while I was there and then having Elaine’s Mom die while I was away and knowing she had to deal with that alone, and then being afraid my Mom would fall again or further injure that arm culminated in me attempting to sing all four parts of Handel’s Messiah on my morning commute.

If I had a video of it, it would have gone viral, I am sure. I proceeded to butcher all four parts and screech my way through the Christmas portion. And it was done in love because I have had a passion for that piece of music ever since I can remember.

By the Hallelujah chorus (when the audience traditionally and appropriately stands to its feet) I was in tears.

I was thinking about how the night before I had watched 20/20 and they showed footage of how Isis had gone into these Christian towns and torn down the crosses. I saw the statues topple and the churches desecrated and the Bibles blackened and it sickened me, but then as I listened to the music, I got another vision. That of Christ coming in the clouds.

The first time He came in the weakest, most vulnerable form possible. He died the same way, but He arose victorious and with power. He will come back the same way. And though Mary had to deal with the sorrow of losing her son, she also saw His victory in the end.

And the victory belongs to us all…….and nothing and no one in this life has the power to dim that great hope. Not even death or taxes.

Death has been swallowed up in victory for one more year……….

 

Advent: Looking toward the Light

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“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],
I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 AMP 

In the deep dark of morning I was reflecting on the events of the past week trying to fall back asleep when I realized my usual method was failing me. I couldn’t get past the first line of the 23rd Psalm. I think that was exactly what God intended.

Sometimes He doesn’t mean for us to jump ahead when He knows that all we need is right there in the first line……”With God, I have all I need.” Stop. Done. Nothing more to say.

It’s been a season of highs and lows this Advent. How do you keep looking towards the Light when circumstances threaten to snuff out the “Merry and Bright” aspects of the season we celebrate? This has been our challenge this year. On the upside, I got to help put on a wonderful party for my niece, it was her 13th, a big one. Everything and everyone worked, even the Christmas lights, both front and back.

Everyone had a great time, adults and kids alike and the highlight of the night was when one of the floats from the Christmas parade pulled up out front complete with music, animation and hundreds of tiny lights. It was arranged through my brother’s friend and it was wonderful to see everyone coming out of their houses to enjoy it.

The downside was that Elaine’s Mom took a turn for the worse before I left and passed away the week I was away. You can never prepare for that. Death might be swallowed up in victory in Christ, but when it comes to call, we are reminded all over again how wrong it is, how unnatural. How it was never meant to be. My heart hurt for her from miles away and I could do nothing but pray.

Then, as we were all recovering from the Birthday party, my Mom fell outside of CVS Pharmacy. I wasn’t with her but thankfully a friend happened to be there, that part I know was Divine intervention. He drove her home. The following days before I left I was able to go with her to the Doctor for wound care.

And the question we ask over and over again in times like this is, what does His coming mean to us in the here and now moments of life?

The answer still lays in the Manger, and in the fields where the Shepherds were watching their flocks, it thunders from the brilliant sky which was suddenly and miraculously lit up by myriads of Angels.

Over and over again, this is the message we live out:

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men, with whom He is pleased.” 

We hold on to the One who will never disappoint even when everyone else may, even those we love most. In any and every circumstance this life throws at us, we can have hope in the One who will never disappoint.

That is what we cling to this season and every day. By faith we hold up our heads and continue to put one foot in front of the other. It’s why every morning and every evening I flip the switch that lights up the tree and I plug in every strand of garland that hangs.

Those lights represent a hope, or rather a Who, that can never be extinguished.

Because He came and lives today, we can too.

Advent: The joy of being fully known

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God sees the miraculous beauty of each individual snowflake, just like He sees the miraculous individuality that is you. There is nothing about you that He doesn’t know. Isn’t that what we all want? To be seen and known by those we love most and who we hope loves us most? What could be any better? To be seen and known by the God who created us?

There is no better feeling in the world than to be with someone who knows you so well that you even breathe easier when they’re around. It’s like when they’re around you know that everything will be okay, or they will say something to make it okay.

Jesus came near not to get to know us better, because He already knows us better than anyone. He came so that we might believe more readily in a God who knew what it felt like to be human. To be lonely. To be misunderstood. To feel like no one understands you. To feel like no one really knows or values the real you.  And isn’t it wonderful to know that even if you were betrayed by every last person on this earth, that God would never betray you. Never abandon you.

The beauty of God coming near is that even when trust is broken by someone you gave your heart to, there is always hope for healing if you want it. The Holy Spirit is the binder of anything and everything that is broken. And our great hope in Heaven is that there, we will finally fully know and fully love each other with the perfect love we just can’t seem to master down here.

This Advent, God is calling you to draw near. Enjoy the wonder of having a God who knows you intimately like a favorite well-worn sweater. Wrap His love around you and pour out your grief to One who is well acquainted with it.

Seek healing and comfort in His Presence today.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT

Prayer: A way to set the world right.

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 Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Prayer is the one thing that ties this world to eternity and prayer is the one thing that can set the world right. What I mean by that is at the end of a prayer session, everything may be just as messed up as when I went in, but what has happened is a seismic shift between the world outside that I observe, everything I see that’s so out of control, to the reality of knowing that God still and always holds everything perfectly in place.

An active prayer life has also taught me that prayer is not always primarily for changing my own circumstances or that of someone else, though many times that is what drives me to pray. Sometimes God does intervene and change the circumstance, but sometimes He doesn’t. So why pray?

I pray because prayer moves the mountains in my own heart. That’s where God does His best work with all of us. Ultimately that is where it has to start with each one of us.

It’s so easy to throw up our hands in resignation isn’t it? Especially when we look at the chaos swirling around in the world just outside our doors. Maybe there is even chaos inside your own doors too. But seeking His face in prayer reminds us of who is ultimately in control. Just the simple act of prayer is giving God the glory that belongs to Him alone. And here’s what happens…….when we get alone and in the deep quiet, we remember. We remember who He is and how far He’s brought us. And when we turn the pages of God-breathed words in Scripture we see how far He’s brought everyone else. He’s not about to stop now.

Prayer is the simple acknowledgment that God is in control when every circumstance around us makes us think otherwise.

And when we do that, when we give Him the control we tried to wrestle out of His hands, something miraculous happens. We get so lost in His magnificence we forget the chaos swirling around outside and in. For just a little while, the madness stops. The voices are silenced. The images stilled.

When we see Him as He is, that’s when it blooms forth into a wellspring of Thanksgiving and Gratitude…….and Thanksgiving leads to prayer and praise. So it’s an endless circle that begins and ends at the Throne of Grace.

This Thanksgiving, I pray for everyone in my circle and out. I pray for each follower of this blog, whether you are a faithful reader or a casual one. Whether you followed at one time but haven’t read it in months or years, I pray for you. God sees you, friend. He sees your heartache, and your joy and follows your steps.

I pray you would feel Him near.

And now, from my house to yours………

May the Lord bless you
    and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

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Believing in the Big Buts

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“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”……..Jesus

The past two weeks have been unsettled……..for my household, for the world. It’s easy to be dismayed when you look at the events unfolding all around us. Have you ever talked to someone and even as they are giving you a compliment you can feel the “big but” coming? I hate that. It’s like giving someone a gift and then grabbing it out of their hands  and saying, “Just kidding!” Why say anything? It’s really horrible conversation etiquette. The Bible puts it this way:  “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” 

Coordinating conjunctions aside, there is one occasion where I love the word, “but” and that is when God says it. That’s because when He says it, there is always a wonderfully encouraging promise attached to it. There are probably hundreds of places in the Bible where this phrase is uttered…….”But the Lord.”

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one……2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. Psalm 94:22

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. Jeremiah 20:11

The lot is cast into the lap,  but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33

I decided last week to break my “not until Thanksgiving” rule and put up a couple of Christmas decorations in my room. One string lit up and the other didn’t, but the little tabletop tree fired right up, just like it does year after year. It made me happy. We all need a little more happy. So this weekend I plan to do some more. I intent to light up the whole house and proclaim all over again that in our dark world a Bright Light has dawned and never dimmed. And I will have overwhelming moments of that peace that passes understanding in every little thing I lift out of the dusty storage boxes. 

I will remember that Heaven touched down for a brief moment in time and all the shadows in this land sprang for cover, for good. He ended this shadow-land living by paying our ransom once and for all. We have a living Hope that no one and nothing can ever snuff out.  Not isis, not boko haram, not Alzheimer’s, not unpaid bills, not stress or fatigue or anything else under the sun.

It’s crazy. We have Christian refugees who have been bombed out of their homes and lost everything but each other, yet they found their everything in Jesus. The spark of Holy Spirit Hope in their eyes makes them our brothers and sisters. And I am burdened for them.

But God……..He watches over the sparrows and He keeps count of every single one.

Clinging to the big Buts today.

He Delights in Us

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If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Zephaniah 3:17

God delights in us! Is it possible the One who hung the moon and the stars, personally delights in me? Is is possible the One who created the earth and sky and sea and everything in them, personally looks forward to my little prayer time with Him?

Yes, a resounding yes!

Even when I bring all my junk from the past week, even when I drag it all in with me, He still delights in me and looks forward to our meeting. Can there be anything more astounding than that? Scripture also uses words like “passionate”and “jealous” to describe His love for us. In God’s world there are not 50 shades of grey, there is only light and dark and no room for anything in between. He loves us with a love that is total and complete and perfect, lacking in nothing.

He went to the ends of the earth and all the way down to hell for us. He left perfection to come to this soiled planet to rescue us, and He smoked the Dragon of death forever. That’s the kind of God worth knowing, worth committing my life to. His commitment to me is total. He said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” When He said, “I do” to me, He meant it.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of God I want.

Big enough to create everything we see and hear and touch. Small enough to fit inside my heart. He delights in me and loves our time together and I love that about Him.