Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Learning to Trust Part 2

I was panting by the time I arrived at my destination. I could see the plane sitting there on the runway. What I didn’t see was anyone at the desk. I glanced around frantically until someone came and asked what I needed. I pointed to the plane and told them that I was supposed to be on it! She turned to look at the plane and then immediately got on the phone. Minutes later she looked up and said, “I’m sorry, you’re too late. You will have to reschedule.”

My mind was suddenly flooded with questions. Would I make it to Florida in time for my speaking engagement? What about the man and his wife who were going to pick me up at the airport and drive me to the conference, how would this effect them? I was also supposed to make contact in Florida with an eighty five year old couple at the baggage claim when I got there, what would happen to them? It was then I heard, “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God. But what is revealed belongs to us and our children” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

The hidden things were all the things that I had no control over. But to whom did these things belong? They belonged to the Lord God. But in that moment of panic I had to stop and ask myself, did I really believe that God was the Lord of my circumstances and the altered circumstances I’d created in the lives of others because of my mistakes?

I thought again about the statement that the hidden things belong to the Lord God and realized that it was the “hidden things” that caused me anxiety--all the tomorrows of my life, the what if’s, the what next. I was reminded of a poem I’d learned as a teenager. “Child of my love, fear not the unknown morrow, dread not the new demands life makes on thee. Thy ignorance doth hold no cause for sorrow. Because what thou knoweth not is known to Me.”

I had time at the airport that day to also think about the second part of Deuteronomy 29:29. What was revealed? In the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy God points out that for the forty years in the wilderness neither their clothes nor their shoes had worn out. I wondered if they noticed? It reminded me of the sermon on the mountain when Jesus encouraged His followers not be afraid of tomorrow but instead consider how God cared for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. As I sat waiting for my rescheduled flight I chose to relinquish the things I had no control over and instead turn my attention to the many blessings God had given me. As I did my breathing slowed and I felt at peace. My plans for that day were altered, but I don’t think I altered God’s plan. I think He wanted to teach me to sink a little bit deeper into what it means to trust Him

Monday, May 14, 2018

Learning to Trust Part 1

“I will seek You in morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days”

I sat on the porch in the cool of the morning with Rich Mullin’s song playing in my mind. The words so fully expressed my heart’s desire to seek God in the morning so that I could learn to walk in His ways. That sense of deep security knowing I could have a bold confidence that the God I was seeking would lead me step by step throughout my day.

I opened my devotional and read, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Yes, I thought, this is how I want to live. However, what I  learned that day while sitting on my front porch and watching the sunrise was that trusting God was a whole lot more than simply reading a Bible verse. Trusting God takes place when you’re put in situations where you are not in control. It is discomfort rather than comfort that teaches me the deep security and bold confidence that God is in control.

Later that same day my husband took me to the Atlanta airport. I was going to be speaking in Florida that evening. I am not a seasoned traveler, and the Atlanta airport scares me to death. All the way there I kept telling my husband how much I appreciated him taking his morning to drive me to the airport and figuring out what time I needed to get there. However, just as I was approaching the door to get out of the car, I realized that we had gotten the time confused. I was walking into the airport at the same time my plane had begun boarding!!

My mouth was filled with the metallic taste of panic. The doors opened to a huge room full of people hurrying in all directions; loud, garbled voices on the intercom and signs pointing in everywhere. I stood there overwhelmed and scared, totally uncertain of what I was supposed to do. That is when I heard again the voice I had heard in the morning. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

My prayer in response was simply, “God! I don’t know how to trust You!” Then I heard Him say, “Trust is something that you learn. You don’t learn how to trust me from places of comfort when you are in control. You learn to trust me when I lead you into circumstances where you are not in control. Don’t be afraid what is hidden from you because it is not hidden from Me. I will teach you to trust Me. I will lead you step by step.”

The beginning...

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Night the Canary Sang

There was a time when coal miners would take a canary into the mines with them. They would listen for the song of the little bird as they worked. As long as the canary could sing it reassured them that the air was safe to breathe. I recently saw a similar situation, how the hearing of a song showed the health of its listeners.

The group held its breath as the woman with dementia rose and walked to the stage. She stood there holding the mic expectantly. She was dressed in a golden gown. On her feet she wore tennis shoes and anklet socks. She had a childlike expression on her face. It often seemed that she lived in a world set apart from those around her, but tonight she wanted to share with us the song in her heart.

But something was wrong; the disk that held the music to accompany her song would not play. So she stood before us vulnerable and waiting. She waited, we waited, and all the while there she stood in her golden dress, anklets and tennis shoes with an expression of childlike faith. We were all knit together in a moment of discomfort and uncertainty.

Then it happened. A kind man in his eighties stood and began to approach the stage. Slowly he climbed the steps to where she stood. He took a chair and placed it beside her. Then, taking her by the hand, he gently invited her to rest.

Tears were streaming down my face as the would-be audience began singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Then one love song followed another and were sung as a gift to the woman seated on the stage. Finally, she stood and in a beautiful soprano voice she sang, a capella, “We Shall Behold Him.” Earlier in the day this group had been questioning its viability. I believe that the health of this organization was shown by the way they responded to one of their most vulnerable members. That was the night I felt like I heard a canary sing.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Treasuring the Gift of Love

When you take hold of a moment and treasure it in your heart it becomes a memory. This is a gift that a child gives to their mother, moments of wonder to ponder and cherish. And when your child has a child, the wealth of these memories are exponential.

The soft, clear light of the moon peeked round my curtain this morning, announcing that the night was coming to an end and a new day was about to be born.  But since it was still dark I chose to stay cuddled under the warmth of my down comforter. Today is my granddaughter Ann's wedding day. Today, my Ann is a bride.

So, bathed in the silver moonlight I took the key of memory and unlocked the treasury of my heart. Once more I experienced the wonder of her birth. And then, as if I was riding the wind, I saw the years come and go. I heard the echo of her childish laughter. I watched with joy as she began to crawl, then take her first wobbly steps. Then, suddenly, she was opening the door and walking out into the world.

So many moments make up a day. So many days make up a week. So many weeks make up a month. So many months make up a year. But today is my granddaughter's wedding day, and my heart is holding on to moments. Treasured moments that we have shared together: Holding her hand; pushing her on the swing; having my picture taking with her in her prom dress; waving goodbye as she drives away in her first car.

Today my granddaughter is a bride. This is a day that will be filled with new moments to treasure. Today I will hold my daughter's hand in mine. Today both my daughter and I will open our hearts and treasure together the gift of love.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Don’t be Afraid of the Struggle

I saw that my friend was struggling and I asked her about it. I knew that she had gone through some very difficult situations. She was grieving the loss of many whom she loved. She was facing a life-altering illness. She told me that she didn’t think it was right to complain to God. She had been told that when you come before God it should only be with praise.

My friend is a strong and disciplined woman who wants to do what is right. I told her that when we come before our Heavenly Father we are invited to be vulnerable. He doesn’t want us to come wearing a mask. In fact, no matter how old or mature you are, when you enter His presence you enter as His child. I remember when I was a child I could often contain my emotions and hide my hurt. But when I saw my mother I would burst into tears. I was safe in her presence to express the depth of my emotions.

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words what you’re feeling. I believe that is one of the reasons God gave us the Psalms. Consider the words of Psalm 142, "I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way." The Psalm continues with these words, "I cry to You, Lord; I say, 'You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.' Listen to my cry, for I am very weak. Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name. The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me."

Grief can be a prison. Suffering with a life-altering illness can make you feel like you are being pursued by an enemy. We come vulnerable and sometimes weeping into the presence of the one who knows us best. We come acknowledging our weaknesses and claiming His strength. Like a child throwing themselves into the arms of a loving parent so too we are invited to cast all of our care on our Heavenly Father because He cares for us.

I reminded my friend also that there is a whole book of the Bible entitled Lamentations. It is a book filled with honest grief and the confusion that often accompanies those times. Yet, in the heart of this book we find hope. "Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him." (Lamentations 3:25-27)

So I reached out my hand to my friend, not as someone who is strong and has it all together, but as a sister who understands what it is to cry and to be weak. I reminded her that not only did our Father give us words to express the deepest cries of our heart and a book entitled Lamentations, He gave us each other. He did not design us to be alone. He made us a family. He knows that there are times when we not only need the words to express our hearts we also need the physical touch of a friend who can weep with us.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Gift

I see the memory as if it was a scene in a play I am watching. I cannot picture where I was when I was given the CD. I cannot picture who it was who gave it to me. The gift was given without a word of explanation. It wasn't new; in fact the CD was 16 years old. I found myself  simply holding this plastic case in my hand and saying thank you.

I didn't have an opportunity to listen to the music for almost a week. I still haven't listened to all the songs. It's not because I don't like what I've heard so far. It's because I've been captivated by one of the songs. The song has become a prayer. The prayer has become a lens through which I view everything around me.

When I finished Daniel last Spring I was asked to teach the book of Revelation. To be honest I felt completely inadequate. To prepare myself I began to listen to Revelation. I listened to it daily--while I was walking, while I was working around the house, while I was resting. I began to picture the prophecies that John saw.

Our class has been using a Precept study of Revelation. For several weeks the instruction has simply been to draw what is being described in the prophecy. Wait a minute, did I just use the word simply? There is nothing simple about this! However, something has happened as I have wrestled to capture what is written on the pages of this prophecy. I find myself being drawn more deeply into what I am reading.

I have listened to Revelation. I have read through Revelation over and over. I have used my imagination to picture the words I have heard and read. Finally, I have in a very childlike way drawn what my mind now sees. What I have seen is God's glory. What I have tasted is living water. The truth of God's Kingdom has taken up residence in both my heart and mind.

Let The Weight Of Your Glory Fall

Spirit of the Sovereign Lord
Come and make Your presence known
 Reveal the glory of the Living God

Let the weight of Your glory cover us
Let the life of Your river flow
Let the truth of Your kingdom reign in us
Let the weight of Your glory
Let the weight of Your glory fall

Steve Merkel

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

When You Lose Your Way

It was dark when I left home, so very dark. I was going to meet my daughter at her shop. It is only a twenty minute drive. I chose to take the route my husband had showed me using the back roads. But it was early in the morning, the sun had not yet risen and it was dark, so very dark.

As soon as I turned onto the back roads I began to wonder if this was really the best route. It was so dark that I was unable to see any familiar landmarks. My headlights showed only the road directly in front of me, so when the road split I wasn’t sure if I had gone the correct way. I could feel myself gripping the steering wheel tighter and tighter. I could feel the tension in my shoulders and neck as I drove further and further into the darkness.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I was lost. I didn’t know where I was nor did I have any idea how to get back onto the right path. I carefully pulled over to the side of the road and turned on my GPS. But I was so far out in the country that I had no service. I sat there for a moment feeling very lost and trying to think of what to do next.

Though I was still unable to see anything around me, what I knew was that I was going in the wrong direction. I knew that if I kept going the wrong way I’d simply get more and more lost, so I carefully turned my car around. To be honest, I still didn’t know where I was, but I was hoping that perhaps I would get to a place where my GPS would work. Finally, I was able to connect. It took me one hour to make a twenty minute trip. But at last I finally made my destination. Had I continued to go in the wrong direction I would have never found where I was going.

I had awakened that morning praying for someone very special to me. Someone who had lost their way. Once my panic had subsided and I was finally connected to my GPS, I began praying for her. I felt like my experience of being lost in the dark was similar to what she was experiencing. I used the extra forty minutes driving to my destination to pray for her. I prayed that she would realize that she was going the wrong way and stop and turn around. I prayed that she would seek direction from the One who could show her the way to go. I prayed that she would arrive safely at her destination and focus on arriving--and know that it was better to arrive late than not to arrive at all.