But God!

 

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Several years ago, we had a particularly full year and a half or so – a whirlwind of highs and lows.

We saw our daughter marry, our youngest son graduate college, and our oldest son completely change career paths, setting in motion significant change.

Then and even now…

In and outside our family, we’ve seen beauty and brokenness.

Relationships flourish, even restored, and relationships end.

Health return and health fail.

Plans come to pass and plans be turned upside down.

Sometimes the roller coaster of happiness and weariness has felt overwhelming.

BUT GOD!

Oh, how I love those two words that hold such truth! For in them is abiding joy…regardless of circumstances.

His call is to lay down our burdens. He may not always give the answers we want, but HE will BE our peace and HE will give us rest in the midst.

How many times have we watched things happen seemingly out of control?

How many times have we or someone we love been hurt by another?

How many times have we known what God was asking us to do, and, yet, our response has been a whiney, “But, God…”? And, in that instant, we are the petulant child – quite sure we know better how we would “fix” situations, what will make us “happy,” or how we believe we should respond to hard people. In general, we plow ahead, confident of how we think we should react to life with its occasional (sometimes feeling more like routine) curveballs regardless of God’s direction.

Yet, it is also in that moment that, if we will be still and listen. If we will run to His Word and not harden our heart to His voice, we will hear the Spirit of God speak as He reminds us that He isn’t surprised by any unexpected turn, any unmet expectation, any physical pain, or any hope deferred, even if unforeseen or unanticipated by us. Our Lord and King, our Adonai – God, whose tender love for His children never ceases, is actually doing so many more things than we can see.

Because of that we can say in a different tone and with a humble, submitted heart, even if through tears, “Yes this…BUT GOD!”

And it is good!

He may be disciplining us, His beloved children, who often need a reset, yet sometimes fail to see it.

He may be chipping away at ours or someone else’s self-satisfaction or self-rule that directly or indirectly affects us or others.

He may be preparing something far greater for us than we can know or begin to imagine.

He may be using circumstances and even wounds from others to make us more like Himself and able to empathize with another, help another heal, or show the same grace and mercy we have been given.

He may be teaching us to forgive even if the hurt is never acknowledged and we are never asked for forgiveness.

He may be teaching us to die to self.

He may be working through our response to our circumstances to point a watching world to Himself.

There are myriads of ways that He uses the most difficult times for His glory and our good. But always He intends that we set our gaze on Him instead of what we see with our eyes or feel with our hearts.

Always, He is seeking to draw us near and set our feet on the firm foundation of Truth.

So, He calls us to “not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

As redeemed children of God, we have the privilege to not grow weary as we pray, as we set our hope on the faithfulness of our El Shaddai – our all sufficient One, the unchanging truth of God’s Word, and the “LIVING hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” so that we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:3, 8) even when, at times, our hearts are breaking and the very breath of life seems to be sucked from our lungs.

We have the responsibility and the power to not grow weary as we choose obedience to God even when our flesh cries out to the contrary, to do it our own way or respond to hurtful people in like kind.

We have the God-given charge to not grow weary as we re-format our thinking, not allowing the temptation to think outside God’s Word to set up camp in our hearts and minds but rather, to “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and (to) take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It may be that we are to ask the Lord to show us our faulty thinking in the moment and intentionally remind ourselves of what is true and/or it may be a proactive choice to change what we allow and choose to put in our minds and dwell on which then permeates our thoughts and how we respond to our emotions and temptations.

We have the opportunity to not grow weary as we speak words of life and truth as well as setting forth an attitude of joy that is not dependent on circumstances, trusting man, or gaining our identity from another’s opinion or treatment of us, but is rooted and grounded in trusting our Sovereign God.

Our lives can grow chaotic and we may feel out of control.

BUT GOD!

We do not rest on what we see. We do not rest on what we feel. We rest on truth…

He is faithful.

He is merciful.

He is Redeemer.

He is the Mender of the brokenhearted.

He is Healer – sometimes of our broken bodies but always of our broken souls as we call on and submit to Him.

He is the Father who disciplines and sometimes lets us have our own way to show us the deceitfulness of sin and our need of Him.

He is our Abba Daddy who is ready to restore us to Himself and draw us near as we repent and return.

He is unchanging.

He is our peace.

He is good.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  (C.S. Lewis, Aslan being a character picture of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (sin), made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!”  Ephesians 2:4-7

 

When God Shouts, There Can Be Laughter and Joy! Revisited

Sometimes I listen well.

Sometimes God needs to get my attention.

Sometimes God shouts!

Today He shouted!

It wasn’t in anger.  It wasn’t in chastisement.  It was from the tender heart of my God Who sees, Who knows my weaknesses, Who knows my sometimes fearful heart but Who loves to pull me close, steady my heart, and remind me of Who He is and what is true.

In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Fear.

The things that were waging war on my mind are real, but they are not outside the hand of God; they are insurmountable only as I try to, in my mind and often actions, fix them or worry them into submission.

But in the hands of my Redeemer, they are just instruments to chip away at my control and self-sufficiency and point me back to the true King, the true Salvation, the true Peace!  He is doing HIS good work, not my own, in each circumstance and person.

After what seemed like hours (and may have been), I asked  the Lord to help me stop “thinking,” to be my rest so I could sleep; I eventually drifted off.

The morning light came and with it evidence upon evidence that God heard my cries in the night. He listened to them, and He has been shouting all morning long, “I love you!  I am not caught unaware!  I am still on my throne and I am still making all things new!  You may not see, but ‘Be still and know that I AM God!’”

Circumstances may not have changed in the world around me or in my world as I rose out of bed, but they are known and being sifted through the hands of our very good God.

And, even as I write this, I laugh and also cry tears of joy that my God is faithful in all things and loves to point His children to that truth again and again as a reminder…if we will just get still and ask Him for eyes to see and ears to listen.

So may I share just how He did it on this one particular day, while recognizing that He does it so often?

Sometimes I am listening but other times I miss His still small voice as well as His shouts!

In preparation for getting everyone off to their day, I headed to the kitchen.  Before I had my first cup of coffee, God was already putting things in front of my eyes to strengthen my heart!

First, came a morning Twitter notification over my phone from Kevin DeYoung (While I don’t get notifications for all, I did have specific people who I know write truth and I want to see it when they do so I set it for such)!

“To start the day without prayer is to suggest the devil is feeble, God is irrelevant, and we can handle things on our own.”

After which God brought Psalm 5:3 to my mind, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

And again, the Word hidden in my heart came to my head.

“I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

That first cup in hand and waiting for my son to come down for work, another friend’s reminder…

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come … He will come to save you.’” Isaiah 35:4

I hurriedly grabbed my Bible and opened it to Isaiah 35 and read more.  That was prefaced with verse 3:

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” and THEN, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come!”

Feeling a little more refreshed and with a knowing smile on my face, I saw an opened devotional.  No surprise…I was beginning to expect God was having “fun” with me that morning!

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”  Exodus 14:13. 

I read on and couldn’t help the tears of joy that fell as I realized the Lord was holding me in His arms and saying, “Keep listening child; I’m speaking to you and always will! You just need be still!”

“These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is… brought into difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, ‘Stand still.’… Despair whispers, ‘Lie down and die; give it all up.’ But God would have us put on…courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness… Precipitancy cries, ‘Do something. Stir yourself.  To stand still and wait, is sheer idleness.’  (It says) we must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything….But Faith (in the One true God)…hears God say, ‘Stand still,’ and immovable as a rock, it stands. ‘Stand still’;—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God will say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, ‘Go forward.’” (Charles Spurgeon)

And, as if that were not enough, as I was pulling up that devotion to share in this blog, He continued to pour on the encouragement and challenge,

“So don’t lose heart. Have the same kind of confidence as the widow (in Luke 18). Pray with the confidence, not that precisely what you’re asking will be given, but that God will give what He knows is right. Perseverance is less about getting what we want, and more about believing that God hears us and will provide what we need — which is oftentimes something we have to grow into, especially when we ask, full of good intentions…God is never bothered when we pray by faith. Never. And perseverance is trusting this truth, as we keep asking for what’s right as far as we know, until God does what is right — either by giving us our desire or correcting it.” (Keep Praying that Prayer by Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God)

Coincidence?  No, you see God has said that His Word “will not return to (Him) empty, but will accomplish what (HE) desires and achieve the purpose for which (HE) sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  

He has also said in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you wonderful things that you did not know!”

And He has promised that when we call out to Him, He hears and responds.  “I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”  (Psalm 120:1)

So He sent a variety of people who had no idea how what they shared was going to be used but who were faithful to do so.

Equally true, He has used the Word stored up in my heart that He alone can bring to my mind as I need it;  His words repeated back to me, to encourage, strengthen, equip, and calm His child!

I honestly laid it out to Him I wasn’t battling those fears well but that I needed to hear His voice and have my heart and mind redirected.

And as I stand in awe that the God of the universe who loved me enough to redeem me through the work of His Son, Jesus, on the cross would also choose to speak to my heart and steady my “feeble arms and weak knees,” He reminds me yet again, “Be still and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10) 

And He takes me back to another time long ago when concerns weighed on my husband and I as we talked while driving around town with our then just two small children at the time.

From the back seat came a little voice.  I can still hear; our then three year old daughter singing “I cast all my cares upon You; I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.  And any time I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon you.” 

It was His voice through hers then and now, a child singing faithfully with steadfast, solid truth from I Peter 5:7.

My confidence is in the fact that “He who began a good work in you (and me), will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6) 

He is isn’t weary of my wrestling.  He isn’t shaking His head saying, “Do I have to remind you of My faithfulness again?”  No, He is carrying me to completion, gathering me in His arms, and reminding me in a myriad of ways that He is faithful, that He hears when we call to Him, and that He answers even if our fainting hearts sometimes cannot or do not hear.

So I “go forward” even as I am praying that I will continue to learn to just “be still” and rest in Him rather than look at circumstances beyond my control.

The conclusions to the “details” of  life that can cause my heart to tremble and grow weary may not be my timing or my ways, but my God is indeed making all things new, beautiful in His time and according to the riches of His grace.

He is amazingly writing my story, with its twists and turns, within the greater story of His redemption from creation to His return.

Speak Lord! I’m listening!

God Is More Than Able

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“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory…”  Ephesians 3:20-21

God is able.  We know that.  We don’t doubt it.  We want our lives to reflect a deep assurance in Jesus so that others will know the God in Whom we trust.  And yet, there are times we forget and allow our fears to overtake what we know and step off our firm foundation to a place of shifting sand.

It’s so easy to trust, when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and when we “feel” His presence.  But when the winds shift and the waves get wild, too often we shift our gaze inward to self or outward to circumstances and we falter.

Can’t we, at times, relate to Peter, the disciple who boldly declared his allegiance to the Savior, yet later ran in fear when asked if he knew Him?  It wasn’t his intention; but, in that moment, he hesitated.  He had moments of both trust and the lack thereof throughout his life.

In Matthew 14, he boldly declared his faith by looking intently at the Savior and, thus, was able to walk out to Him on the water when Jesus said, “Come.”  But when Peter began to focus on the raging storm around him, taking his eyes off Jesus and putting them on what he could see, he began to sink.  It was Jesus who had to save him when all he could do was cry out; just as He is faithful to do for us when we call out in our weakness.

God lovingly commands His children to keep our eyes on Him – yes, because He is worthy and yes, because He is good!   But it is also because God knows that we are only steadfast, confident, and able to stand firm when our eyes are completely fixed on Him through His Word, the Bible, and our daily, even minute to minute, communication with Him through prayer.

These aren’t legalistic rituals or “spiritual” exercises to soothe the soul on the surface. Rather, it is time to climb into the lap of our Abba Father, our Savior, our Comforter and to rest instead of wrestle; to put our confidence in the hope that is grounded in a Person, namely Jesus, not a “hope without substance” philosophy devised by man.

It might be a designated time or an impromptu moment of praise, an outpouring of our pain or doubt, or a humble moment of repentance when His Spirit convicts our hearts and we must set our sin aside so we can again firmly walk in truth.  When we are in relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ, we can come at any moment – He desires it and beckons us to it.

God loves for us to bring Him praise, unburden our hearts, pour out our fears, and lay ourselves bare before the God who knows us intimately, even better than we know ourselves.  When we don’t understand the circumstances around us, we have a Father who is not afraid of our questions and who even allows us to ask “why.”  But then He tells us to trust in what we cannot see rather than demand that He change our situations or readjust His will and His ways to suit ours.  We are called, as children, to open hands; to a humility that says, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord.”

And, we are invited to a greater hope and purpose that says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)  Many cling to that verse as if it is quick fix – that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will do whatever we want Him to do.  But it is so much richer and more redeeming than this short-sighted view.

The paradox is that if we truly grow in our delight of the LORD – if we earnestly seek Him and know Him – our desires will be transformed to reflect His desires, our wills will be changed to want His will.  In so doing, we will receive the double satisfaction of having a heart after our Redeemer and He, in turn, will fulfill His renewed purposes and our redefined desires.  Through it all, He gets the glory and we receive the joy!

We see the chaos; He sees where He has said, “this far and no further.”  We often miss seeing the mercy and grace in situations, but make no mistake, everything that touches us is full of both, even when we don’t see or feel it.

Our covenant keeping God sees the full picture clearly, from start to finish.  We see only where we stand in a moment’s time and even that imperfectly.  If we will trust the heart of the One who, in His great love for us sent His Son to redeem us and make us His own, we can rest, even give Him praise, in the middle of the moments that sometimes rock our world, the daily grind of the ordinary, or the difficult life situations that are part of our everyday, because we know that what He does and what He allows has a greater purpose now and in the future.

As Oswald Chambers writes, “We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute.  If we have God’s say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways!” 

And again, Chambers states it so clearly,“Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.” (from Love: A Holy Command)

Yes, He is preparing to do exceptional things even as He is already doing in the present.  Indeed, he is doing much in and through us, though we may not yet touch that reality and though we may, at times, hold up open hands through tears!  We know that because, as we look back, we can often say, “Now I see what God was doing all along and it was flawless!”

Through it all – past, present, and future – He gets the glory and that’s just how it should be because He is more than able; He is good!  And that is not dependent on His answer!

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus…”  Hebrews 12:1-2

MAKE MY LIFE A PRAYER TO YOU  by Keith Green

Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what You want me to,
No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.
I want to shine the light You gave, through Your Son, You sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair, It comforts me to know You’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank You now, for being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me,
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away,

I want to die, and let you give Your life to me, so I might live
And share the hope you gave to me, the love that set me free.
I want to tell the world out there You’re not some fable or fairy tale
That I made up inside my head –
You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

(Originally posted June 2013)

“Fear Not,” Said Daddy

The day was clear and the sun was shining; all seemed perfect for a family outing at the amusement park! To me, there was no better place in all the world to just enjoy being seven years old.

We quickly got our tickets and, with me way ahead of my brothers, sisters, and parents, we entered my “perfect world.” I ran first to the bumper cars, then the airplanes, the water flume, the mine train – all the rides that were just my size. For one with so much enthusiasm for adventure, it was almost overload!

After about an hour, my dad led me to what he said would be the “most fun of all.” As I stared up at the monstrous creature before me, tears filled my eyes! My “perfect world” no longer seemed so perfect and my enthusiasm all but vanished.

“Come on, honey,” Daddy shouted, “You’ll love it!”

“I can’t, Daddy!” I cried, “It’s too big, too fast! I’m just a little girl!”

“You can do this…But I’ll let you make that choice; wait for us here while we go,” he said as they all ran excitedly up the ramp and towards the enormous roller coaster.

I sat on the bench with my head in my hands as I fought hot tears, not only because I was having to wait alone and I wanted to not be afraid but also because I knew how disappointed my daddy would be in his little girl. He knew my love for trying new things so I’m sure he was surprised when I stood resolute. I’m also sure his heart broke a little when he saw my tears falling.

But my daddy knew this moment in time was bigger than what loomed before me; he knew it was an opportunity to teach and to train. And it was the way he raised us – seize those teachable moments wherever they arose.

So, when they all got off and were getting in line again, he tried once more to convince me. “You don’t have to be afraid; I’ll be right there beside you.” But I stayed firmly planted on the bench while everyone else ran back around for the second time with smiles and laughter.

As Daddy got in line for the third time, he felt a tug at his shirt.   Looking down, he saw me staring up at him with a cautious smile.

“I’ll go, Daddy, if you’ll sit beside me.” I barely got the words out when it was time to board the ride.

Eyes closed tightly, hands gripping the safety bar, I snuggled close to him as the ride started off with a jolt. We were sent soaring, higher and faster. Slowly my eyes opened a little at a time.  It was terrifying but so much fun.

This little girl who loved adventure, climbing, and proving she could do what the big kids could do and love it, was in her element. But first I had to face my fear.

Too soon it came to an end and we had to get off. I ran to the end of the line and, with great boldness, declared, “If you don’t mind, Daddy, I think I’ll ride alone this time!”

And sitting in the very first car all by myself, eyes wide open, and with a great big grin on my face, I was off on the first of many wild roller coaster rides without my daddy.

In fact, it was just the beginning of a lifetime of “facing my fears,” one of those life lessons my dad brought home to my heart over and over again.

Most of my life, if I said I was too unsure or afraid to do something, his immediate response would be, “Then you need to do it!” And when I would tell him of an experience where I had to put that encouragement into action, I could see his smile and hear his joy through his words, “That a girl!”

In the moments when he was there at bedtime and we would be making up stories and talking about the day, in the opportunities when we would be driving in the car on a quick errand or a long trip, he would remind me that we face our fears – every time – because we don’t want fear to cast a shadow over our lives, we don’t want to miss opportunities, and we can know that, because we are His, God is with us, bigger than our fears.  He would remind me that I could face the impossible because He is bigger than the impossible. He would remind me that the scary things of life can be and should be faced knowing God can be trusted to walk with us and give us the courage to do or to endure.

The roller coaster was one of the first of many “face your fears” moments in my life. But it wasn’t the biggest nor the last.

Sometimes I have risen to the occasion and sometimes my fear has caused me to “stay firmly planted on the bench.” And always, I heard and still hear my daddy’s voice, “You can do this…I’ll be right here beside you.” And, while I know my dad has not been right beside me in each of those moments, I have known his encouragement and have always known that my Abba Father, God who is my tender heavenly Daddy, is indeed right here with me.

I hear the voice of my Heavenly Father say, “Fear not…”

I’m thankful that my dad began to instill this truth of God in my heart that day and, as I grew, he brought it back to Who gave him the courage to face his fears – though it was sometimes hard to imagine that the man who pushed the limits on adrenaline pumping experiences and new challenges had any fear. His confidence began with the One who walks us through adventures and valleys, thrills and incredibly stifling places, strong, healthy bodies and those broken and racked with evidence of the curse.

And, I’m thankful that, though I lived far away in my adult years, in some of his last days here on earth before he stepped into eternity where, for those redeemed by the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection, fear is extinguished forever; before the God he loved and proclaimed, I was able to spend time by his side.

And I had the privilege and joy of speaking that truth to him, his once strong body and sound mind now frail, “You’ve told me all my life and I’m going to remind you now, Daddy: You don’t have to be afraid. I’m right here for now, holding your hand. But, most of all, Jesus is right here with you walking you through it all. Our God has told us, ‘Fear not…’ Hold on to and keep your eyes on Him!”

He looked at me through tired but still twinkling eyes, with that winsome, crooked smile that was uniquely my Dad’s and whispered, “It’s good to know I was heard; I guess I’m getting it back now and hearing my own words.”

Thank you for giving it in the first place, Daddy. Thank you for pushing me to step out beyond my fears as a little girl and also as a young woman, and, in the frightening moments not to look at the circumstances. Thank you for teaching and reminding me to look at Jesus – to give thanks and to give up trembling.

You have no fear any longer, Daddy; I’ll see you when God calls me home and, in that moment and in the meantime, I’ll remember not to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!” Isaiah 41:10

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…for I am the Lord your God…do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Isaiah 43

“…do what is right and do not fear anything that is frightening.” I Peter 3:6

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“You can grieve for me the week before I die, if I’m scared and hurting, but when I gasp that last fleeting breath and my immortal soul flees to heaven, I’m going to be jumping over fire hydrants down the golden streets, and my biggest concern, if I have any will be my wife back here grieving. When I die, I will be identified with Christ’s exaltation. But right now, I’m identified with His affliction.” RC Sproul

Until then Daddy…Dawnie

1998 Dad and Me

“It is Finished” Began at Christmas, Remembered

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“Peace on earth; good will towards men.”  A proclamation and a promise.

But so many things threaten to undo our peace.

Intermittently, circumstances and the pace of life chip it away.  Sometimes it is sin committed against us; while at other times, our own sin unconfessed.  Sometimes we grieve loss of various kinds in a world turned upside down; broken relationships, financial stress, or death that takes one we love far from us.  And sometimes we watch or are the prodigal sprinting to a supposed “safe place,” a place of assumed comfort, only to find it is anything but calm.

At times it’s obedience in a long direction.  But, though that “delayed obedience” may take a winding path, when it ultimately returns to the Truth, the enemy of our souls cringes at redemption coming to fruition. And now and again it is unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or believers who confess the name of Jesus but think and live like it makes no difference; yet we do not compromise our words or actions to appease in order to make one “feel” better. Unashamed, we speak truth out of a great love for them and for our Savior so they will “know the hope!”

And a tremble can be felt.

We are setting holiness in motion; allowing God to reign and work.  The enemy of our souls can wound our spirit, make us uncomfortable, press in on us with sadness, stoke discouragement, or prompt tears.

But He cannot destroy us.

We can have rest.

“The weary world rejoices” and so can we as we set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”* and not let the lies penetrate our soul; our God came in the flesh, penetrating the darkness on that holy night!

Pain is real but so is the Savior who has promised peace for the brokenhearted, a way of return for the runner, rest for the weary, reconciliation with Himself.

Even sin does not have to separate any further.  No, we don’t always follow perfectly, but we are in this world to be Christ’s image bearers, light shining in this generation, and we have been given the power to overcome and to grow in that likeness.  When we fail (and we will), we can run to the Savior and humbly go to those we have wounded or sinned against and make it right.  We don’t exalt in our sin or demand a “right” to it.  Rather, we set our eyes on that One who came to set us free from those things that threaten to undo us.

We can honestly admit to those who have witnessed our failure and cynically thought, “Well, there you go – I see there’s really no difference in a follower of Christ” that we have failed and so need the Redeemer; that we do live as one being changed by the transforming grace of God…a little more each day.  For the difference is not in us; it’s in our Savior.

We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying it down and reminding the watching ones that our hope is in Jesus and our desire is to become more like Him daily, to increasingly want His will not ours, and to understand and live out the beauty of His holiness a little more with each passing day and year by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And by His grace, we have that One who forgives us, picks us up, embraces us, brushes us off, then sends us out to “go and sin no more.”  We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior! (paraphrased from John Newton)

We can reach out to the weary, the hurting, the brokenhearted over life circumstances and loss, to be the hands and feet of Jesus; we can listen and we can love.

At various times we will have a settledness in our souls and there will be others when restlessness will haunt us; but, for the follower of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God through the finished work of His Son, who came as babe, crashing through the barrier between those who bear His image and our three times holy God, devastating death there on the cross with “Tetelestai” – “It Is Finished!”  The condemnation of our sin is paid for, defeat by discouragement has been decimated, and we, who long for the Savior’s return, keep “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”** so that we are growing deeper in His truth and in His love, able to enter that respite and “shake off our fears.”

And it all began on that not so silent night!

We long for His return even when we feel too attached to this world.

“Peace on earth; good will towards men.”  A proclamation and a promise. The now and the not yet!  Gazing on the babe in the manger, we remember what was to come – His finished work on the cross and His resurrection to life!  And we await our soon and coming King once more!

This is Christmas!  The longing for Jesus to break through darkness and discouragement, hold us near to His heart, and equip us to rest even when circumstances cause our spirits to sometimes faint, even falter!

Christopher West says it well, reminding us of the reality of the hope we find even in our weariness:  “This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

And Emmanuel has come.  It is finished!

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Cries of the Heart

There are times we weep!

Yes, we long for and delight in tears of joy, but what of the moaning of the heart?

Tears may be tender and quiet; at other times they come almost violently, physically draining – weeping of deep sorrow.

The grieving may come from the physical pain of illness, loss of life, the betrayal of a friend or a loved one, the death of a dream, watching a loved one wrestle and drift, the waiting that does not fit our time table, or a myriad of other reasons.

Great joy does not always exclude sorrow.  There are times my greatest joy has come from my deepest sadness and loss when it meant that God had torn away something that was not for my ultimate best.

At other times, the profound sorrow led to a deeper understanding of and dependence on my tender Savior.  He has often turned my “mourning into dancing.”  (Psalm 30:11)

But sometimes I have had to wait for that dance.

Seasons of life have arisen when my own compromise with that which I know God had called me to or away from initially created a more comfortable place. But no lasting comfort, satisfaction, or pleasure comes from being the prodigal – either running to the far country or just outside the walls of His protection.

Tears that flow from leaving behind something that was not His best or was totally contrary to His heart are dried in the reality of the sure hope that my God knows what is the most excellent path for me and will bring it to completion. It becomes my call to simply surrender and trust.

His course may not always be easy, but it is, ultimately, the most pleasant.  It may not come with immediate relief, but He does promise the “still rest” as we remain steadfast, waiting for our faith to become sight.  And, oh that amazing view!

But even if it never becomes sight this side of heaven, it will be worth the surrender of my will.

The cries of the heart often stem from the longings with which we were created and which, when fulfilled, will be satisfied – but only partially here.

As glorious, pleasing, and satisfying as they are now and will be in this life, they are only dim reflections of things we cannot even imagine!  They are gifts that delight from the hand of our good and gracious God, intended to point us to a greater love, a grander gift, a deeper joy!

“Now we see through a glass dimly…but then we will see (clearly) face to face…now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  (I Corinthians 13:12)

Will I allow the cries of my heart, the tears that have fallen, to be dried by the hand of my Redeemer and King as I rest in the hope of a greater promise?

“And in Your hands the pain and hurt look less like scars and more like…character.”  – Sara Groves, “Scars”