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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I'm not sure when it happened. I had set up a miniature nativity scene on my kitchen table; it was complete with a little stable, sheep, a donkey, wise men, Joseph, Mary, and of course the baby in the manger. But somehow, in my hurry and flurry, when I was cleaning I must have thrown the baby out! I couldn't find him anywhere! So what good is a nativity scene without the baby?

I rearranged the scene and instead of the having the characters looking down at the Prince of Peace I positioned them so that they were all looking anxiously around the table for the lost baby. Looking at the chaos on my table I was reminded of the prophecy in Isaiah, "See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Emmanuel, which is translated, "God is with us."

As I thought about what this means I was reminded of something that had happened earlier this year. I was confronted by a situation that overwhelmed me. I saw no solution. I felt afraid. As I began to pray I heard in my spirit the words from Isaiah, "Do not fear, for I am with you." I turned my thoughts away from the situation that brought me anxiety and focused instead on Emmanuel.

In the intimacy of prayer I heard His voice, "Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." I felt my weakness exchanged for His strength, my fear was replaced by His peace.

Sometimes I have a level of anxiety that comes with the Christmas season. It's a feeling of being incomplete, not enough. The missing baby in the manger caused me to pause and reflect on what it means to have an ever present God. A God who was, who is, and who is coming again. It caused me to think about the Almighty God who is the Prince of Peace who came as a shepherd to find me. I was the one lost, not Him. As I meditate on this truth I hear deep in my spirit, "Do not be afraid, I am with you."

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Rest of the Story

I opened the sliding glass door into the night coolness and was greeted by the smell of "good cigars." The fire was blazing and the conversation was animated. I have a very large family with very large personalities. The topic was politics, even though it had been decided ahead of time by the host that that topic was off limits. However, since he was the one holding forth I figured he must have changed his mind. Everyone was friendly even though they didn't agree with each other.

I listened a while in the darkness, but because of my ever encroaching deafness I found it difficult to follow what was being said. I could hear the hum of their voices rising and falling, but my attention was drawn to the starlit sky and I let my mind move in that direction.

"Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like fiery flame, and on His head were many crowns, He had a name written that no one knows except Himself. He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is called the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses,wearing pure white linen. From His mouth came a sharp sword, so that with it He might strike the nations. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the wine-press of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:11-16).

As I drove home I was aware that the Christmas season was in full swing. I was beginning to see mangers everywhere. I thought with wonder about Jesus who is, "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominion or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:15-16). What a picture of incredible grace! That this same Jesus would humble Himself to be born into poverty--such a picture of love that stoops down and offers salvation to those who hung Him on the cross.

I thought about this picture of grace, but then I could almost hear a shout from heaven and I thought about His glory. "Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pieced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over him. This is certain. Amen" (Revelation 1:7). My mind, my heart, my soul, my spirit are filled with wonder as I meditate on His grace and glory.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

I first started thinking about this thirst for life and meaning when I read an article about a brain surgery. It was beautifully written. Although it was a different brain surgery than the one I had had I could still identify with some of the things described. Towards the end of the article the author asked the surgeon if he believed in God, in life beyond the dead. He responded by simply shaking his head and replying, "This is it."

The rest of the article seemed colored by this interchange. Without a belief in God even though the surgeon was seemingly able to rule over life and death in the end he described life as meaningless. As I read this I remembered the words of Ecclesiastes 2:11, "When I considered all that I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun." Life lived under the sun believing that there is nothing beyond death is as empty as chasing the wind.

I spent last week visiting my daughter Abigail in the hospital because she is on bed rest with her pregnancy. One day I received two calls; each call was telling me of the death of a friend. The next day I was told that another friend who had spent two weeks with me at Christmas had been given only a month to lives. With all this going on I woke up at 4 am thinking about this thirst that we all have for life and purpose.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Battle to Believe

Even though it happened over thirty years ago the memory is still fresh.

I woke up as if someone had just dumped a bucket of ice water on my head. In my dream I had seen someone abducting my daughter. The nightmare was so real that I could see her face staring at me from the rear window of the car as it drove away. My heart pounded in my chest as I stood on the gravel road, helplessly watching my daughter being taken away from me. My eyes shot open and I ran to my little girl's room only to find her sleeping peacefully in her bed. It had been a dream, only a dream. However, it awoke a battle of doubt inside me.

I was now wide awake and facing my fears because I now had to confront the reality that, even though my child was sleeping safe in her bed, there were other children who were not safe. There were grieving parents whose children had been taken from them. I began to pace the floor tormented with these thoughts. "Lord!" I prayed, "I want to trust you, but I don't know how!"

I prayed and paced for most of the night. It was an honest battle with doubt. I now believe that true faith isn't an absence of fear or doubt, but instead it's when you humbly bring these struggles to the throne of grace. That night I prayed and cried until I received mercy. The core of my fear came from the ancient doubt presented by the flickering tongue of the serpent. "Is God really good? Can you really trust Him?"

That night I kept going into my daughter's room. Part of my pleading with God was this, "Lord, I trust you as long as I can see that my child is safe. But I know that faith is being sure of what you hope for and confident about what you don't see. I want to have this kind of faith, but tonight I don't!" My struggle wasn't only with my doubt but with my desire to have faith. Finally, I felt the peace of God and I heard His voice in answer to my cry, "Sarah, I will give you the grace to trust me tonight, and I will give the grace to face anything I allow to come into your life."

This happened over thirty years ago. I have found God's promise fulfilled over and over as He has met me with both mercy and grace to face many trails and heartaches. I am grateful that I do not have to pretend that I am strong when I am really weak, but instead I am invited to bring my weakness, my doubts and my fears before the throne of grace and there I find mercy and grace to help in my time of need. He is faithful. He is good. He is worthy of my trust.

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Come up here"

"Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"

 "Absolute futility! Everything is futile!"

 "Absolutely pointless, everything is pointless!"

All of these are different translations to what Ecclesiastes describes as life simply lived, "under the sun." As I read these words I can almost hear the words to a song in Les Miserables  playing in my mind.

"Turning, turning, turning through the years
Minutes into hours and hours into years
Nothing changes, nothing ever can
Round and round the roundabout
and back where you began!
Round and round and back where you began!

How very depressing it would be if this was the only way to look at life lived here on earth, from birth to death. But there is another way. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Two years ago today I had brain surgery. The last two years have been very hard and life-altering. However, I have found that the more difficult my life has become, the more I need to focus my attention on life "beyond the sun."

This Summer while recovering from my sixth surgery I decided to use my time studying the book of Revelation. I was only on the third verse of the first chapter when I came to these words, "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." This word for blessed means "possessing the favor of God, that state of being marked by fullness from God."*

In this book that unveils God's eternal plan there is an invitation, "After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this" (Revelation 4:1). This invitation comes with a blessing to see beyond the sun all the way to the throne of God.

This Summer as I read and reread the words of this prophecy I felt the full circle of God's love. In the beginning God had come in the cool of the evening seeking fellowship with His creation, but the fellowship was broken by sin and rebellion. Death, sorrow and grief became part of the human experience.

In the book of Revelation there is the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. God at last will dwell with His people. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will exist no longer, grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous  things have passed away. Then the One seated on the throne said, "Look I am making everything new" (Revelation 4:5).

Life is not meaningless. Life is not futile. Life is not pointless. Look carefully; read the book of Revelation and you might just find an open door that will reveal a picture of what is above the sun.

* Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament

My Life is Like This

I was running late. The van was packed with grand-kids. There were two teenage boys in the back, two car-seats in the middle and my granddaughter in the seat beside me. That's when I saw it. A car was turned on its side in the ditch. As I whisked past I thought I might have seen someone in the driver's seat.

"Mimi! You're not just going to keep on going are you!?" Here, my dear readers, I will confess my heart to you. I was running late. The van was packed with grand-kids. Not only that, but as I whisked past I thought the woman in the driver's seat might have had a phone in her hand. I had more to do than I had time to do it in. Nevertheless, I did turn the van around and go back to check and see if I could be of help.

As I slipped into my bed that night I was exhausted. In my mind I began to review the events of the day. I was supposed to teach a class, but found out instead I had a doctor's appointment so I had to cancel my class. I had planned to do several things around the house, but by the time I got home from town there was no time left. In fact, a great deal of what I had planned to do ended up needing to be changed.

I closed my eyes and smiled as I remembered the verse I wrote across my to-do list. "Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9.) I blanketed my mind with peace as I humbled myself and surrendered  to the Lordship of my God. It was then that the words from Jeremiah came to me. "I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown" (Jeremiah 2:2). "Ah, Sovereign Lord!' I prayed, 'this is how I want to live, totally surrendering my will to yours!"

As the sweetness of sleep came I heard yet another verse I had been memorizing whisper to my spirit. "What is this coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, scented with myrrh and frankincense from every fragrant powder of the merchant?" (Song of Songs 3:6). Yes, yes, I thought as I drifted off to sleep; life is very much like a wilderness to me. But, oh, how sweet to be led by columns of smoke and the fragrant presence of my Lord.