Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Meditation on Psalm 57

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.                   Psalm 57:1

The storms will pass
Though they rage now.
You have a refuge
If to Him you'll bow.

It is God, the Creator
Who gives you shelter.
Under His wings
Hide from the helter skelter

Tell your soul
It is secure and safe,
Sheltered in God's mercy
That He will not abate.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What God Asks and Never Asks of His Own

God asks His children to endure hard, hard things,
Painful things,
To endure long periods of unknowns
Without answers or relief.

God asks us to have courage and be strong,
To trust Him
and lean not on our own understanding.

God asks us to take on things that are out of our comfort zone--
That hurt and stretch us.

God asks us to give things up,
To surrender,
To lean on Him.

God asks us hard, hard things.


But He NEVER has
And never will ask us
To be without Him through any of it.

We always, always have His presence.

We always, always have His power to overcome.

We always have His name to call on,
His promises to lean on.

We always have His wisdom guiding,
His Spirit abiding.

We always, always have the Father's perfect love
To cast out every fear.

We always have His favor,
His acceptance,
Affection,
His attention.

WE always, always have Him.




Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Unity Fight

Scene 1:
"Who ate my bagel?" inquires son number 2 angrily and then proceeds to accuse his brother of devouring what was left on the plate while son #2 briefly slipped away to use the bathroom.  Brother, being wrongfully accused, punches son number 2 in the lip.

Screaming ensues. Peeved mom intervenes.

Scene 2:
Son number 1 informs his sister loudly, "THAT'S NOT YOURS! I GOT IT FOR CHRISTMAS. GIVE IT BACK NOW!!!" Sister pulls the lego closer to herself, turning slightly away from her irritated brother. "May I play with it for just a few minutes?" she respectfully pleads.
"You may play with it as long as I'm right here with you. But when I'm ready to go outside, you have to put it back in its place," consents son number 1 kindly.

After watching the play by play closely, mom resumes washing the dishes, joyful that her children fought to work it out on their own.

I trust that any parent reading this can smile and nod, recognizing the two scenes I described. And, I would also bet that any parent would much prefer the latter scene over the first. Sibling harmony does indeed equate parental bliss.

This crossed my mind today around 11 a.m. when I realized my children had gone nearly all morning playing peaceably side by side, working together toward a common goal: building a super-duper, cool, train track.

Recently, the Lord quickened to my mind how, like me, HE delights when HIS kids live their lives peaceably side by side, working together toward a common goal, that of telling the world of His goodness and mercy toward sinners. He delights not just because our efforts toward accomplishing His purposes are much more effective, but because we, His children, are enjoying a part of the abundant life He died to give us!
You can read more about The Unity Fight over at Ungrind where my writing is being featured for the first time: http://ungrind.org/2015/unity-fight/

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wrist Pain is My Gain

Every morning, I try to take some time to sit and read from God's Word. I wipe the sleep from my eyes with a steaming cup of coffee, cream only please, and stare out the oversized, sliding glass doors to our stone porch, chicken coop and woodsy back yard. I love it. 

One morning recently, I turned to Matthew 28 and read, 

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.

My heart thrills when it sees the red words, imagining the women's stunned delight to see Jesus post resurrection.

He's ALIVE!


As I read, however, and try to fully engage emotionally with this remarkable passage, my wrist burns with pain. The pain has moved a few inches up my arm since the last time my husband asked me about it. And on this morning it is distracting me from fixing my mind's eye and heart's emotions on the glories and reality of Jesus's resurrection. Rather, I find myself imagining all the things that could possibly be wrong with my wrist.

My imagining persists and within less than a minute, I am meditating on how young I will be when I receive the cancer diagnosis. You see, anyone who has died in my family, died from cancer. I think it's only a matter of time for me to receive such a sentence. 


I start mentally playing out a scenario where none of the few medical specialists I have seen about my wrist catch the cancer. I end up fighting a short battle and am dead before I can leave notes for all my children's rites of passages and secure a spouse for Lawrence. These meditations come so quickly; I am far too familiar with them. Can you tell?

A second scenario pops in my head of finding cancer early enough to do something about it. But, what am I going to do? What medical facility will I choose? Doctor? Conventional or alternative medicines and treatment?  How much will we be willing to pay?  How much time will we give to my health and a cure?  Will we send the kids to school?

Yup...this all happens in a flash. These are the musings that start my day. It takes just minutes, if that.
The mind is amazing, isn't it?


The Holy Spirit is more amazing and kind.
He gently stops my runaway train of unhelpful ponderings and prompts me to turn to the Psalms. 


150 chapters to choose from, I make a simple, straightforward choice because, really, I have had enough of complicated for at least 30 seconds.  I pick today's date, the 6th. I read Psalm 6 and in reading, my attention and heart are fully captured. I become enraptured afresh with my God who loves to lavish good gifts on His children and is profoundly aware of the personal details of my life.  

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lordfor my bones are troubled.

My soul also is greatly troubled.
     But you, O Lordhow long?
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
   save me for the sake of your steadfast love
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who will give you praise?
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.


That God would prompt me to THIS Psalm on THIS calendar day with the crazy thoughts swirling about in my mind is no coincidence. God is real, friends. And, He wants to speak to us in real ways, in ways that are practical and personal. 

This prayer of petition and praise reminds me that my Heavenly Father determines my path here on earth and I can trust Him. My mind flutters on faster than a hummingbird's wings trying to anticipate and plan for every possibility--but God comes and quiets me. 

His awareness of me quiets me. 

His love quiets me. 

The pain in my wrist is still present and persisting but I have turned to God. I look to Him for each next step.  I trust He will be gracious and gentle with me. He is in control, working all things together for my good.  I don't have to be smart enough or educate myself in order to be well taken care of.  I am in His arms, that are not only loving but all knowing!  

He knows exactly what is going on in my body.  He can heal me. He can show me the healers whom He may want to use. I believe that He will preserve me that I might praise Him, magnify His power and declare His reign over all things and His love that is like no other.

Perhaps, friend, you are in similar circumstances. Your body, mind, soul or all three are in some sort of turmoil or pain. Your mind races with what to do, where to go, who to talk to, how to find answers and peace.
Go to God who is gentle, wise, patient and loving toward His own. Open up His Word from which He longs to reveal Himself to you. Allow yourself to be quieted by a renewed revelation of His love for you.


______________________

Sometimes God leaves us to mysteries, medical or otherwise. We have to wait and trust. But sometimes we receive answers and solutions to problems. 
After seeing a hand specialist about my wrist, it seems I have what is called "de quervians" which should improve over time by wearing a custom made splint to immobilize my wrist. 


Friday, January 02, 2015

The Unexpected Gifts of Chronic Pain

I just ended treatment with my chiropractor of the last 3 1/2 years, and I started sobbing. 
Yes--sobbing. 

Chronic pain has a way of taking you to a place of desperation and humility like very few other things can.  So when you find someone who relieves that pain even in minute ways, you give sincere thanks to God above and you think long and hard about ever parting ways with said care provider.

But, it was time. 


I have had pains creeping, now constant, in other joints without relief or any guess as to the cause. After waiting, praying, talking with others and trying once to leave, it came time to confidently end treatment with my current chiropractor in order to try yet another specialist with the hopes that a new set of eyes on my scans, my history and me will perhaps gain me more ground in recovering a pain- free body. 

But, I wonder often if my quest is a worthwhile one. How much money should I spend?  How many different specialists should I see? tests should be done?  Self doubt enters in and I beat myself up, (figuratively because you know, I'm kind of already feeling beat up enough physically) with thoughts of others who have "real" chronic pain (the kind that has a diagnosis). I think, 
I must just be a wimp or overly sensitive or too attune to my body.  
I'm too high-strung, and my character flaws are actually the root cause of my physical ailments. 
I think too much about myself and my body. I should pour myself out more into the pains and problems others are facing. 
I need to toughen up and deal with it; I am just getting older and this is life. 

And, you know what? All these thoughts MIGHT actually be true. But, it is of little consequence really because whatever the source of my (or your) pain might be, it is for us a context from which to live desperate.

Desperation is likely not on anyone's list of New Year's resolutions. It's not something most people aim for, pray for or welcome into their lives. But, out of desperation comes the sweetest intimacy one can experience, the most genuine experience of Immanuel, God with us, the One whose birth we just finished remembering and celebrating. 

We so often want to do anything and everything we can to rid our lives of pain whether it be physical, emotional or otherwise. We want to dismiss it, deny it or mask it but not press into it, feel it fully and allow it to just be present without answers or remedy to take it away.

But, one thing I have learned over the last seven years of  living with pain is that this thing that I would swiftly kick to the curb if I could, is the very thing that keeps me ever so close to Jesus. It is one of the most pronounced tools God uses in my life to draw my heart closer to His, to experience His abiding love for me, His mercy sustaining me, His ear bent to listen to my cries for help, His hands extending to be that help I need.

The pain that I often wish I could numb is the thing that keeps me from being numb to others' pain. In its height, it heightens my awareness of others' suffering. It fills me with great empathy. It fuels passionate prayers on behalf of others. The thing that I think is stealing my life away is actually what is making me live it more fully, more deeply, more keenly aware of what is worthwhile and eternal.


Today I am seeing a new-to-me doctor with the hopes that he will help me discover the causes and cure for some of the chronic pain I experience.  While I still hold out hope to lose the pain, I pray I will never lose the unexpected gifts pain has given me. 

Are you living with chronic pain, physical, emotional or spiritual?
I would love to pray for you.
No need to write specifics if you are not comfortable doing so; you could simply leave a comment of, "Yes," and I would be honored to pray for you today. May you, too, see and relish the unexpected gifts of chronic pain. 


Thursday, January 01, 2015

A New Year's Call to Remember Who and Whose You Are

2015 is here--a new year. 
Many start each new year with fresh hope and vigor for changes they want to see occur in their lives or the lives of loved ones.  We step into this first day of January each year with hearts wide open and eyes expectant for good things, for prosperity, growth, forward movement. And, for many of us, this new year will hold some of that. For some of us, 2015 will be a banner year, a year worth celebrating, sharing and recalling for all of time. For some of us, we are going to come to the end of 2015 (it will happen), and we'll bid it "good riddance." It is most probable, however, that for all of us, 2015 will hold a mixture of both. Just like 2014, '13, '12 and all years past, life will bring circumstances that thrill us and fulfill us, but it could also bring us events that dash dreams and send sucker punches. 

For all of us, in whatever 2015 brings,
Whether it be suffering or success, 
Blessing upon blessing or 
Burden heaped upon burden, 
Whether you fall prey to the hands of injustice
Or gain ground in making peace in relationships.
Whether God answers your heart's cry with a solid, "Yes," "Wait a little longer," or even a, "No,"

Whether you greet each morning with cheer 
Or end each day in sorrow, 
Remember this:
Call to mind what God says is true of you and Him in Isaiah 43:

"You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.  Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.  I, I am Lord, and besides me there is no Savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses," declares the Lord," and I am God.  Also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?"  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tired and Weary

We did not make it to noon before I had reached the end of my rope. 

It was the Friday of an unusual week for us with lots of time at home, in each other's space and mess of who we are. I had an especially long day with the kids the day prior as my husband had a longer than usual workday.  My mind was full of all the ways I would rather be spending my time and energies which did not include the futile feeling of re-directing my children multiple times a minute back to their school work. It did not include sweeping the kitchen floor countless times to pick up the breakfast mess and then the craft mess and then the lunch mess...
It did not include saying, "Be quiet. Be quiet. Be quiet," ad nauseam nor chasing children down to clean up after themselves because they are ten and seven years old after all and really should be trained by now in picking up after themselves. 


This context is somewhat typical these days in my home. I can say, however, that by the kindness of God manifested through the modern wonders of psychotropic medicines, my response was atypical.  

By mid-morning, I stood near the stove, preparing food for later that day and an event the next morning and had an all too familiar feeling wash over me that I had not felt in a notable amount of time: depression. Depression that is a mix of agitation, despair and a sense of futility. There is also the guilt that accompanies it because it is just so selfish of me to feel sad about the life with which I have been blessed. 


** (I believe depression is such a complex topic. It is experienced by so many people yet so individual at the same time. I know that what I have and do experience does not compare to the ways others suffer with it, rending them unable to even function. Nevertheless, I want to share vulnerably here as I know how much it has encouraged my own heart and even helped me to function better when I have read and listened to others share their experience.)

I have learned on these days to stay as quiet as I can, speak as little and as softly as I can muster to squelch the churning agitation that rages inside my heart and mind. I know I need to do the right thing when I don't feel the right thing. I can say that because I have experienced bouts of depression (if I am even allowed to call what I experience depression) frequently enough and long enough to be able to identify it quickly and know what game plan needs to be employed. I put one foot in front of the other, and I know it will eventually lead me to the end of the day when I will be granted the merciful gift of sleep from which I will wake up to new mercies the next morning. 

On this day, I reached out to my husband and asked for prayer. He called to suggest a solution by which I would be able to pull away from the kids for the rest of the day, and the kids would responsibly be "in charge." I was agreeable desperate, and the kids were thrilled at the prospect. Terms were established, and once lunch was undertaken, I retired to my room to write, read and rest, thanking Jesus for an unexpected break, praying the plan would miraculously work.

The first thing I did after cozying up under my blanket was to look up Isaiah 40, a long time favorite passage of scripture of mine and one that God gently brought to mind when that mid morning wave of sadness and despair washed over me.

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.


He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.


To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.


Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?


28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.


The weight of responsibility in raising and homeschooling three children, caring for chronic medical needs, managing our home, property, and other possessions let alone investing in and growing stronger all the rich relationships God has so blessed us with feels like it may crush me at times. a lot of times.

But, I have to say that my whirring thoughts and fast paced heart is first quieted; it is hushed and then stirred up again with fresh awe, wonder and worship when I think upon God. It really is not any more complicated than that. I think on God. I think about all HE is responsible for, all HE promises to sustain, all He not just manages but promises to work together for good (Romans 8:28). And, THEN, then, Isaiah tells me He does NOT grow tired or weary?! Whaaa?


I am of German/Irish descent. I was 'bred' to work hard and long and like it! I am surrounded by what I have heard is now being referred to as "try hards," what I always called, "over achievers." I once identified with these labels. Now? Not so much. Kids have leveled me. 

But, GOD is the ultimate over achiever. He finishes what He begins, and He does it with excellence. He has never experienced burn out or despair. All He does is with purpose and precision; nothing is futile or wasted. He never grows tired or weary. 

I pray these truths will surmount any waves of despair, sadness, or agitation you or I will face and carry us to a place of rest.