Posts Categorized: christianity

Valley of the Shadow of Death

(A post from the first days after putting Jonathan in the ground.)

Day 5

Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

A spur of the moment trip yesterday afternoon to Coco Key Resort, produced a valuable image for Daniel and I to hold onto as we walk through the darkness of Jonathan’s death. Daniel is tall enough to ride the four big slides, and this summer his confidence in the water has skyrocketed. He and I tackled the first one on a two-seater inner tube. After that he was ready to tackle it alone and then moved onto the body slides.

But, he declared from the beginning, that he would not go on the two slides that did not let light in. I have to admit, I had no intention of going on those either. Later, I’m not even sure what prompted me to go on the dark body slide alone, but I did. Maybe I chose the tube because I am already walking through the darkest place imaginable. The slide was as dark as the inside of a cave cavern. I could not see the twists and turns and I didn’t know how long the ride would be, but I knew the light was at the end.

Just before leaving, Daniel grabbed the two-seater and declared that he wanted to ride the dark slide. As soon as we started down I could sense his fear. I declared that I was still beside him, and that the light would greet us at the end. When we exited the pool I told him that this how I feel with God right now. I don’t see him, but I hear his voice, and I’m trying to stand on the truth of his character. In the car the kids asked to listen to their Music Camp CD. One of the songs was “You Never Let Go”. As Daniel listened he exclaimed, “That is like the dark slide! I couldn’t see you, but I knew you were there. I know God is there, and that he won’t let go of me.”

Yes Daniel, and yes reader, God will never let go of you! Through whatever storm or dark place in this life you are going through. Our part is to know that he is here. For me, the only way to obtain that knowledge has been to read about his character in scripture, to pray, and to practice walking in faith. I can’t see where this devastating dark twist will lead, but I won’t turn back, because I know you are here.

Goals:
1. Let others help me today.
2. Work on my song.
3. Find a new copy of Barbra Johnson’s book. (Meet me at half-priced books anyone?)

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.

No Regrets, Mother Mary

If I could reach back and trace the pink face not yet

troubled and embroiled in years, stroke little fingers,

And nuzzle dependent heart, would it make a difference in your dying?

 

No.

 

There should be no surprise—obeying God leads to rolling the dice with men.

I carried complete power and total submission in my womb nine months.

But, even as I nursed truth, I struggled

to die to motherhood.

The cross was born of my obedience.

 

Your heart now beats in the tender words spoken to

the desperate and despised. We fellowship with bread offered

to empty bellies.

Our hope is planted, watered, and grows in resurrected soil.

And I breathe. . . Oh, my soul breathes

deeply the fragrance of your presence with me. The cross did not

separate us, it made us one!

You live in the past, present, and future, and I find you in the gutters of obedience.

 

 

Standing Between the Grave and Resurrection

John 20:11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Death =  How serious God takes sin.

Resurrection = How serious God takes forgiveness.

 

I stand between the tomb and the resurrection. It is so hard for me to not stare into the darkness of the grave expecting to see the mangled body of my son. It is harder for me to look into heaven and see the resurrection power of the Son of God in the life of my son. Our pastor reminded us this morning that the men and women who ran to the empty tomb did not have the full context of what was happening, like we do.

Even with the full implication of the open tomb-death where is your sting -I am like the women headed to the grave to anoint the body. The followers believed that their hopes and dreams were buried with the miracle-working rabbi. No matter how much I have seen of God’s faithfulness, no matter that I myself was dead in my sins and made alive by the love of Christ, the resurrection power is not yet fully at work in me. I don’t believe that resurrection can happen in my circumstances. Heaven is distant and the grave is up close and way too concrete for me to embrace the freedom and power God’s perspective has for me. I am still morning who I thought Jesus was to embrace him right now even though I know he is calling me by name.

Father, you are patient with me. I feel the soil of grief more than the seeds of your presence with me. What is it that you are teaching me about heaven? Open my eyes that I may recognize you, my gardener and savior when you are standing right in front of me! Help me to embrace the resurrection of Jesus so that the fullness of your forgiveness can be revealed in me. Amen.

 

15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,b “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

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!

 

Good morning Lord

Matthew 25:20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’

Father, I raise my hands to you. Thank you for Daniel and Natalie who fill our house with laughter and adventure. What a precious gift my hard working husband is; teach me to bless and treasure him as you desire to bless him. I praise you for my many sisters and brothers in Christ. Truly I am never alone!

Open my eyes to heaven, that I may more clearly see your mighty acts poured over the earth. Strengthen my body so that I can serve you without reserve. Help me to get to know the spirit that you have placed in me and equip me to fight despair, lifting others out of the pit as you have lifted me! Father, it is your will that none perish and I come into agreement with your will.

You have gifted writing to me! I return the gift to you like the servant entrusted with five precious talents. May my delight in glorifying you increase! Amen.

Attacked, but Not Powerless

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (ESV)

Just ran into a friend fresh in the process of grieving the death of her newborn grandson. She relayed that the enemy was attacking her in the midst of her sorrow with a barrage of doubts and fears that everything that she does is meaningless.

Our enemy is merciless! He is no respecter of grief, depression, or even joy! Some of the seemingly happiest people are under deep attack. Why? No matter whether any of us believe in our creator, Satan does. He hates God, and his goal is to destroy everything God deems beautiful and good. We are the crown joy of God’s creation. As wonderful as nature is, only we are made in the image of Yahweh and receive His breath of life, therefore, we are Satan’s prime target.

Recognizing that Satan will not relent is crucial. Protecting ourselves and gaining ground does not happen by accident. We must guard ourselves, be secure in what we believe to be true, be true to the character God has placed in us, and continue to exercise our spiritual muscles. Warriors train, they listen to the guidance of their commanders, they prepare every day for battle, and they stay alert.

Lord, I am really battle weary today. Help me to rest in your arms tonight and allow you to strengthen my body, mind, and spirit. Amen

 

 

Valuable Valentine

Trace the curves of Virtue,

She softens your soul

with her joy, and kneads

stresses away with her

attentive ear.

How tenderly she leans into your perspective,

and fills your world with fresh fragrance.

Cradle her heart

like a valuable valentine–

You are nurturing the heart of God.

Sin Repellent, Not to Christ

Daniel got caught sneaking a brownie after I told him no more sweets. When I confronted him he cursed the brownie for making him eat it, then he cursed Satan, then he cursed Adam and Eve for their original sin. Finally, when he realized that none of those were responsible he put his hand up, turn and said, “Get away from me Mom, I’m sinful.”

Oh, dear reader you may standing there with your hand up to Christ declaring, “Leave me, get away from me, I am too far gone, I am beyond repair, I am unworthy of love. Christ, You are too pure and holy to eat at my table, or come into my home.”

Instead of repelling God, he draws close to us!  Example after example of a Jesus response to sinners recorded in scripture. He ate with tax collectors (IRS), allowed prostitutes and those cast outside the city gates to touch him. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples participated in a Jesus miracle, and he realized that the only reason that there were fish now flopping around in his empty boat was Jesus. Luke 5:8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man,, O Lord!”

We don’t have to guess how Jesus responds to our sin filled lives, scripture spells it out. vs. 10 “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” In this moment Jesus does not address Peter’s dirty laundry, he goes after his fear. We Christians really need to take note of this! The Pharisees approached sin with the mindset: Get clean first, which is impossible, and then we will allow you in. Too often this is our approach to the those who, like Peter, already know they are broken. Jesus offers different criteria: Follow me.

That is how God approached me. “Follow me and all of these other things will be added to you! Let me show the possibilities of your life in relationship with mine. Don’t be afraid, today I call you to follow me and I will teach you to catch men.”  None of us is beyond his redemption. So . . . come follow me reader and let me open your eyes to the FACT that nothing is impossible for Him.

 

 

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