Do Not Anticipate

“Do not anticipate.” is the mantra pilgrims hear on the Walk to Emmaus. You do not take a watch, electronic device, or clock. People tell you where to go at the appointed times. It is the weirdest feeling to spend the majority of your life run by all of thee above and suddenly leave them all behind. But, you stop anticipating and begin living in the moment.

Today I realized that I am anticipating July 1st. My son dies that day and since his birthday in May my anxiousness and anticipation has increased. I was overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom. But, WE DON’T HAVE TO ANTICIPATE! If God is enough each day than what comes tomorrow really doesn’t matter to today.

July 1st will come, no matter what I anticipate and it will be whatever it will be. Jesus didn’t pray, “Give me enough bread for July 1st.” He prayed, “Give us, this day, our daily bread.” It is amazing the peace that washes over us when we stop anticipating and become open to God’s will, come what may. What are you anticipating?

 

God’s Signiture Piece

We are not die stamped, manufactured

on the factory floor and manhandled down

the assembly line, only to be discarded if we are

defective.

 

God’s hands took intimate pleasure

in sculpting man and women.

He dug into earth, kneading clay into

his own image. Checking proportions, building

the detailed science of vein, muscle, bone and ligament.

smoothing skin to skeleton with thumbs, chiseling

eyes, curling lips and dipping dimples. When he stepped

back, he was pleased–

And signed his work with his own DNA.

 

 

Accepting the Lifeline: God’s Yoke is Light

Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

If you’re a Christian and His yoke doesn’t feel light, why is that? I used to think a light yoke meant my circumstances weren’t heavy, but clearly my circumstances are extremely heavy. Our yoke becomes light when we know God’s gentleness and humility so well that the yoke is nothing in comparison. Paul touches on the difference of our earthly weight compared to the heavenly yoke, in Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. If my yoke still feels heavy, it is because I am the one still carrying the weight! I don’t know or trust God’s character; giving him full reign of my life. The yoke becomes lighter and lighter when I love Him completely and recognize his complete love for me. Have you ever been secure in that kind of love? Can we accept that he carried our burden on the cross, and therefore, find rest (relief) in the yoke of our savior.

Much of faith is getting to know our master’s character so well that we trust him implicitly. Think of it this way. We are drowning in sin, sin we are doing, and sin that someone is enacting on us. We are exhausted and God has thrown out his life line. We must choose to grab the line before we can rest and allow him to pull us to safety. Now I can keep attempting to save myself, or allow others to pull me under in their misguided attempts at saving me, or I can trust the character of God. This is so much easier when we get to know his character. We read his love note (scripture) over and over. We witness that he has rescued others, we ourselves might have thought hopeless, and we act on his character over and over. I’ll grab the lifeline of the certified swim instructor who has swum the channel! Jesus swam the channel of humanity! He tells us his yoke is light, because he wore the yoke of his father, and knows it to be true.

Observe His gentleness and humility throughout scripture. Don’t discount his love for mankind in the Old Testiment as well as the New. From the birth of creation he has loved and called you by name. We have to decide, will we take His yoke upon us? Will we accept the lifeline and rest?

 

 

Hearing God in the Silence of Grief

Romans 8:31What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”j

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 

It’s the silence, after a house full of guests, that threatens to undo me. In grief, you brace yourself for the days of deepest memories, but the days that would have been routine, those are the days that crush bones. In these difficult days I grow best if I listen to what the new aspects of grief want to tell me.

I hear God calling me.

I am here, in this season of depression, to shout that God makes a way through. I am being stretched and prepared to love more deeply than I ever thought possible, so that you know, beyond a shadow of doubt that God loves you. He has chosen you since before the beginning of creation! There is not a single second of your existence that does not matter to him.

Lean in and listen to the silence of your circumstances. Allow God to teach you more about both loss and gain than you knew before. Grief can widen our hearts to love God and our neighbor more deeply or close us off. Perspective is the only difference. Do I fix my eyes on the evil of losing Jonathan, meant to harm me (which it was), or allow God to transform my loss into good, for the salvation of many? Even typing these words are hard. I grapple with the untamed nature of God most when ask this question.

But, then I look at the son God did not spare. Was the cross evil. Yes. Was Jesus innocent. Yes. Did God spare Jesus. No  What kind of God operates this way? I have heard again and again from people suffering the horrid torment of cancer that they felt God’s presence, and were able to love more deeply than before their cancer. What kind of God determines what is evil as being for the good of the world?

A God who is not limited by evil!  A God who sent his own son to the pits of hell to save us. A God who gave us over to ourselves, but made a way for us to be better since the beginning of time. My God isn’t tame, he is dangerous to follow, but he is good! How glad that I am that God has never fit into my box, or been limited by what evil men do!

Listen to God’s call on your life and walk through the flames if that is where he leads. He may take you out of the furnace, he may take you through the furnace, or he might take you by the furnace, but one thing is certain, others will see him standing with us as we walk in obedience to his will.

 

I Write Because . . .

. . .Sand should be squished between toes
and the ocean caught in cockle shells.
. . .Children’s laughter begs even the soberest of lips to curl into a smile.
. . .Pain digs into my heart
And I refuse to hold it in.
. . .God tickles my ears with
whispered clues to life’s mysteries.
. . .Pop-sickles melt loud summer days
into cool splashes of flavor.
. . .Treasures are found in the cracks of chairs that bring back memories we lose.
. . .I want the sugar I harvest
to sweeten someone else’s black coffee.

Romans 11:33

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

34“Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counselor?”

35“Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay them?”

36For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.

I see Paul hunched over his writing table, earnestly wrestling with the place where God’s holy and perfect sovereignty meets our free will. “32For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 
If you are anything like me, you lean in one direction or the other, but oh the power we will have when we accept the full wildness of who God is. We want Him to be safe, or we want God to be powerful, but we don’t want him to be safe and all powerful at the same time. We try to place a divider between Old and New Testament and treat Him as if he is two separate Gods. Remember, the cross of love was brutal, the scars permanent, and the forgiveness complete. That’s inconceivable! Man meant (acted in our free will) crucifixion for evil, but God meant it for our good. To save many!
.

It is uncomfortable being shaped inside the Chrysalis of His hands! It was the same for all the patriarchs!  Joseph’s journey was painful, but he was able to see that God was both sovereign and gave mankind free will. He told his brothers who sold him into slavery, 20“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Transformation occurs when we both submit to the sovereignty of God and exercise our free will to obey and glorify Him.

I believe standing in this spot, meditating on the fullness of God’s character is where I accept that he did not cause my son’s death AND His perfect will is working through Jonathan’s death. How can both statements be true? I know this much, I would not be sitting here sharing my story with you. As I reconcile myself to God in the flesh, who used his free will to die for me,  I also open myself to His will for my worst enemy! Many will be saved. That is indisputable. Amen and Amen!

 

I Am Not Picasso, I’m the Brush: Learning to Glorify God Not the Words I Write

Philippians 2:5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very naturea God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureb of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Do we make ourselves nothing as Christians? I have been working to remove idols from my life this month. And there are many. A person handed me In His Steps when I was young, sharing the challenge of asking, “What would Jesus Do?”, in all aspects of our lives. I read it, attempted to ask “what would Jesus do”, and fizzled out very quickly. Why? Because, doing what Jesus would do, does not include being the center of praise. I seek the comfort of worthiness in man’s eyes, not God’s pleasure.This is an idol. I worship at the feet of human praise.

Everything in this world points towards praising the individual. It is an accepted practice–even by the church. When we applaud or give standing ovations to the work of our musicians, our pastor and ourselves are we giving God the glory? Please hear me, I am simply asking our motivation. The answer is between you and your maker. We have shows boldly calling themselves “American Idol”. Idol is not a bad word on our lips, it is someone with gifts and talents to admire. And some even acknowledge God for their talents, but it isn’t God we admire on that stage.

When you read my writing does God take center stage, or do I? I want his mighty works to be what you see. “When you see a great Picasso, da Vinci or Rembrandt. Do you ever sing the praises of their brush. It’s the master of the masterpiece who deserves the praise. Not the paint they use-blue, green, or blush. So don’t praise me if I do something wonderful . . .” (From the movie In His Steps)

Do we find ourselves needing praise to do a good job, or are we doing each aspect of our life to the glory of God? Taking on the very nature of a servant. Guaranteed we’ll be called “Jesus Freaks”, but there are worse things I could be called–such as an idol.

Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'”

The water bill almost undid me last night. I have had a really good week since Mother’s Day and have been swimming confidently out to uncharted waters with Christ.

Brian excitedly stated, “I don’t know how, but our water bill dropped this year.”

It took me a moment to realize why . . . “We don’t have a teenager using the water.” I quietly responded. Suddenly I was deeply weary. The busy week had not drained me, the amazing time with teenagers at the ranch had not brought me to my spiritual knees, and several days of not sleeping had not disabled me. No, it was a water bill. I wanted to disappear in that moment, not feel the grief that poured into my soul. I’d give anything to do Jonathan’s laundry or hear him singing from the shower as he got ready for school.

I realized that the best thing for me to do was to head on to bed. Nothing good was going to come from me sitting there dwelling on my heartache. I heard a woman wisely say, she set a consistent pattern of going to bed when her kids do, because she realized that anything past that time that her flesh was weakened.

Again I did not sleep well, but this morning I sought the Lord’s face and reread Matthew 5:4. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He gives me comfort through scripture, laughter with a friend, my husband and kids, as well as the discipline of writing this blog. Just to name a few. Tapping these resources today I clearly see that in less than a year there is a transition happening. The days of deep anguish are becoming . . . well . . . moments. Why? Developing discipline (just about a curse word for some of us), is shutting the door on death, and opening the roof for unfathomable faith, hope, and love. The more I experience these gifts, the more I long for them to finish their work.

Oh, my sweet son, you are experiencing these three things with Jesus! May I be a witness of that indestructible abundant life, promised on this side of heaven. May I grasp ahold and be strengthened by the truth that nothing is impossible for God. Amen.