Grief is never the final word…

Lydia's Birthday Party-Forest-Kody 209“You will grieve but your grief WILL turn to joy (John 16:20)

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5)

“He is faithful to complete it” (Phil. 1:6)

“He hath said” (Heb. 13:5)

He WILL NOT leave your life undone.  He can not.  All His words are true, and He is not a man that He could lie.

It is the nature of grief to raise raw feelings to such a level that it feels and even looks impossible for joy to follow the particular messes that you are aware of, grieving over….

Beware of trusting your feelings over His Word. Feelings ebb and flow and can be 100% lying to you, even as you’re 100% certain they’re accurate.

You can not make Him abandon his purposes; He is staying His course and will continue to do so.  He says rejoicing follows weeping.  HE SAYS IT.  Hold tight and corral all your imaginative abilities into picturing the joy that is certain to follow.

Grief is never the final word.  But joy is.

Show Up for the Game

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)

I have been so struck with just this: Richard is on a not very good basketball team (by the world’s standards) – a close game for them is when they lose by 20 points.  But over and over throughout the game, as Richard grabs the ball and drives to make a shot, we all hold our breath, willing, willing, willing that ball to go through the hoop.  And we audibly moan when the ball hits the rim and bounces off.

Richard has made one basket.  One.  In 3 games.  And he is my hero.  I just love that skinny lanky boy racing up and down the court, playing till his side aches.

Here’s the thing: When he misses a shot, I don’t mutter under my breath “Well, what do you expect when you don’t practice?”  I don’t greet him after the game with “Honey, THAT’S why you better start practicing.”  No!  Instead I put my arm around his sweaty shoulders saying, “That one outside shot was SO close!  And you were AMAZING under the boards!”.  and I am just beside myself with pride that he tried so hard.

Why is this?  Do you think it is because of my mother’s heart?  I am absolutely convinced this is not it…it is because I have my Father’s heart.  And He watches every attempt we make and cheers us on, and rejoices when we make one basket every three games.

And I can even prove it to you.

We recently studied the book of Judges and I was dumbfounded – really, I was – at the lack of spiritual and moral character that each judge showed.  And some of the worst ones are then listed in Hebrews 11, God’s Hall of Fame???  Samson made God’s All Star team?  Surely you remember Samson:  The spoiled brat who ordered his parents “get her for me NOW” – her being a Philistine girl living in the land of the Philistines, Israel’s mortal enemy.  Did he learn from the disaster that happened with her? No.  Years later we find him returning to the land of the Philistines, and after his being with a prostitute meets Delilah, another time bomb.  The last scene of his life shows him with both eyes taken out by the Philistines, chained up, at one of their feasts where they are praising their god for being stronger than Samson’s God (it certainly looked that way).

Reading and studying Samson’s story, I find that out of 4 chapters devoted to his life, there is only 1 verse where he does ANYTHING that has ANY merit in it.  One verse out of 4 chapters of muck: Judges 16:28 “Then Samson called to the Lord, saying “O Lord God – remember me I pray!  Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance  on the Philistines for my two eyes!”

It is as if God’s eyes are upon us, not to catch up when one hand is in the cookie jar, but to catch us when we do one thing semi-right.  Like suiting up for the game and trying for a lay up even when we haven’t practiced all week long.

I find this especially comforting today.  It was hard coming to the LORD this morning.  Yesterday we had a houseful of kids over and I thought I’d bake them some banana chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  But instead of the kids eating them, I did.

I am sure God was watching me  with my hand repeatedly in the cookie jar.  After I’d said to myself, “o.k. – NO MORE”.    “Repeatedly” is the key word here.

Yet this morning, as I felt dull and stuffed, and couldn’t see how I could come to God, full of cookies but empty of passion and faith, feeling the familiar Saturday “I’m sick of Saturday chores” within myself, feeling the plodding of day to day life and wondering where my passion for Christ went, I come to Him and hear Him whisper, “Good job Debbie!  You showed up for the game!   I’m putting you on my All-Star team and am surrounding you with clouds of witnesses who will cheer you on.  I’m so proud of you for coming to Me – you’ve got your red team uniform on, the “covered by the blood team”.  You almost made a basket yesterday – did you hear Me cheering?”

And I realize – God is not troubled or distressed by my eating too many cookies last night.  He’s simply pleased that I showed up today, so He could put me in the game.  That’s the one thing I did that was semi-right: I came to Him.  Believing that He IS a Rewarder of those who seek Him.  I came.

O, go to Him, now, today!! He is rooting you on!  He is waiting to catch you do one thing semi-right!  He’s dressed you in His colors!  He is FOR you!!

adjusting expectations…

Comments 0hammockJuneJuly 2009 001front porch in Costa Rica, 2009

“Trying harder to be happy or content will not make you happy and content; trying harder to rest in God and depend upon His grace will.  It is a spiritual issue, not a practical one.  Contentedness will not come from being more organized, sleeping longer, being a better wife…having more time to yourself….  Contentment is learned in the process of daily accepting life as God gives it to you, and adjusting your expectations to life’s limitations.”

Sally Clarkson

We all have limitations, don’t we?  Some are physical, others are relational, emotional, or circumstantial.  We don’t like to  think about limitations…especially not during the beginning of the year when we are encouraged to dream big and go for it.

I really like that last sentence: “adjusting your expectations to life’s  limitations.”  With Menieres, I am forced to adjust, but I am sorry to say I more often than not do it kicking and screaming.  My girlfriend who has many more physical limitations than I do, reminds me that it is easier when you hit a limitation, to say “Well, of course it would be this way, since I have __________.  That is normal with ________.”  I have been trying this and it has helped.  Limitations aren’t a sin, although it sometimes feels like it is!

Many of you come to mind and I see such limitations in your relationships – with grown kids and their boundaries they put on their relationship with you, with husbands who may be very limited in their scope of relating in a way you’d  enjoy…  so  much of life is out of our control, isn’t it?

I am praying I am learning contentment – adjusting my expectations, accepting my limitations with grace, TRUSTING it is from His hand and He knows what He is doing.

Did any of you read “Jesus Calling” today?  I had never connected “storing up your treasures in heaven” with saying to Jesus, “I trust You right Now, right Here, with these exact limitations”.  She made the point that each time we tell Jesus “I trust You” we are laying up treasure in heaven!  So I am trying to simply tell Him throughout the day, “I trust You.”  It’s  back to practicing His presence, isn’t it?  Do we keep coming back to these same signposts?

“You cannot prevent His loving you…”

Lydia tutu ribbon Guate 2004

Lydia full of wonder – Guatemala days…

 

In our age of evangelicalism and its emphasis on the “how-tos”, whether it is how to grow a church or how  to pray or how to conquer fear or how to run in faith, it becomes too easy for me to lose the true perspective – that I am not the  one carrying the brunt of my relationship with God.  It is HIS job, not mine.  Thank God for that.  If I believed in resolutions, which I don’t, my one resolution would be  to stop thinking that God will unfriend me because of my poor performance.  He can’t.  He may have been helpless while in the manger, but that was the last time we see Him helpless.  He isn’t in the manger anymore, and He has me covered.

“YOU, by your persistent adherence to the paltry present,

the material,

the visible,

the selfish,

have reared up a wall against the windows of your soul that look heavenwards;

and of God,

and all the lofty starry realities that cluster round Him,

you are as unconscious as the corpse upon its bier…

BUT…BUT…BUT…BUT

That Divine Love of the Divine Father

bends down over His dead children and cherishes them still.

Oh!  You can do much in separating yourselves from God

through selfishness, self-will, sensuality,

BUT THERE  IS ONE THING YOU CANNOT DO,

YOU CANNOT PREVENT HIS LOVING YOU…

Surely a mercy which refuses to be provoked seventy times seven transgressions in an hour, not to say a  day, is rich!!”

                                                                                                                                 Alexander Mac Laren, commentary on Ephesians

Isn’t that a great sentence? “…by your persistent adherence to the paltry present”??

I know what some of your “paltry presents” look like, which really are quite awful, and why it is so hard to tear your eyes and senses off that one little reality to this much bigger Reality.  This will keep you sane and breathing…and maybe help you even a bit to tap into the wonder of His Love and Mercy FOR YOU… He really does have the paltry present covered. You can let go of your worries about it, really you can.

“God is in the Manger…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung at age 39 as a spy, just ten days before German forces began to surrender.  If you haven’t read about his life, or read his writings, you are missing O so much.  Truly.  He wrote prolifically from  prison, many many letters and stories to his family and to  his fiance, Maria.  While in prison, there “was a helplessness in his situation that he recognized as a parallel to Advent, Christians’ time of waiting for redemption in Christ.” Bonhoeffer:  “Life in a prison cell may well be compared to  Advent…One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other – the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”

Well.  We all have areas or circumstances in our lives where either we or someone deeply loved by us have found themselves in that kind of a situation.  We can learn much from this real hero…

Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the ongoing for the last Advent, when the work will be ‘see, I am making all things new‘ “(Rev. 21:5)

I am  just a bit undone when I read this excerpt from a letter he wrote to  his fiancee during the  Christmas season.  Please read this and re-read it a day or two  later – it really is quite profound, and once it is understood, so very encouraging.

“Be brave for my sake, dearest Maria, even if this letter is  your only token of my love this Christmas tide.  We shall both experience a few dark hours – why  should we disguise that from each other?  We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the  question of why, over and above the darkness enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to  the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand…And then, just when everything is bearing down upon us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are  wrong, and that what  we take to  be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God.  Our eyes are at fault, that is all.  God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.  No evil can befall us; whatever men may do  to  us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as  love and rules the world and our lives.”

letter to fiancee Maria von Wedemeyer from prison, December 13, 1943

If Bonhoeffer can say this…being, living right in the very depths of hell in a Nazi prison, watching his fellow prisoners daily be pulled out and hung, Hitler seemingly unstoppable…if he found solace from this, from the one and only one thing that is truly unshakable, that being the sovereignty of God…Bonhoeffer who is now reunited with his dear Maria, both cheering us on down here, while they watch from heaven as part of the great cloud of witnesses..surely this is worth meditating on and strengthening ones self in the midst of so many things “whose purpose we fail  to understand”.

God is in the manger….GOD is in the manger!!!

The illusion of security and Advent

“But we have stood on this earth in false pathos, in false security; in our spiritual insanity we really believed we could… avert the dangers and banish night, switch off and halt the internal quaking of the universe.  We believed we could harness everything and fit it into a final order that would stand.

Here is the message of Advent: faced with Him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake.  Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things

The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by Him, even if they are hounded from the earth….

This shocked awakening is definitely part of experiencing Advent…Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time.  These promises kindle the inner light in our hearts.  Being shattered, being awakened – only with these is life made capable of Advent…”

Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest who wrote this in a Nazi prison shortly before he was hanged in 1945.  Advent???In a prison cell?

Our society fosters a false sense of security unequaled in any other place or time.  Children are raised to believe they have an inalienable right to live free of harm.  Precautions are taken to protect people from the most obscure and trite dangers…there is virtually no risk we are not warned against.  And yet our obsession with protectionism has not only become absurd but has proved futile.

I think Christians are often in greater denial of affliction than non-Christians because we almost feel we should be immune…”

-Palmer Chinchen, God Can’t Sleep: Waiting for Daylight

I have been thinking much on this: the illusion of security, and how undone we feel when we are “exposed”.  How affliction often feels, and seems, like an unwanted visitor who takes residence in our home, and you want him to leave even though you  know he was sent to your home by your Father, and you are asked to be hospitable to him.  How much better we feel when we have all our bases covered, and know not only the score but the outcome.

Is it possible that all these labors do keep us from doing some serious waiting and expecting of Him?   Is it spiritual insanity?  Is that why He said He came for those who are afflicted?  “Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things…”  Many of you are in the midst of affliction as you wait for Him to call your child who has wandered far from the fold…you have no illusion of security with their future with God…all you can do is wait.  Aren’t we all waiting for something?

Take heart!  “Being shattered, being awakened – only with these is life made capable of Advent…. Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time..”

The hidden happiness in a Nazi prison cell?  There MUST be a hidden happiness , then! O, how much of His first coming was hidden!  How much mystery continues to surround His people!  How can hidden be good?  We long for the Messiah to come strong and take charge, we long to be finished with this sorry old world, O Come, Lord Jesus!  Take heart as you wait, that He DID come and IS coming and WILL come again.  He KNOWS you!  He KNOWS your longings!  He UNDERSTANDS your weaknesses!  He rescued you when you were at your worst!

“The horror of these times would be unendurable unless we kept being cheered and set upright again by the promises that are spoken…Quiet, inconspicuous, they come into rooms and before hearts as they did then.  Quietly they bring God’s questions and proclaim to us the wonders of God, for whom nothing is impossible…

Understanding this world in the light of Advent means to endure in faith, waiting…for the abundance of the coming harvest…”

“Cheered by the promises that are spoken!”   Abundance!  The harvest!  Trust Him to be faithful with those desires of yours!  Rejoice that He CAME, and KNOWS the anguish of a mother’s heart, knows the hating of the afflictions after years of doctors, He knows and He CAME to take care of all those things!!!  He is Trustworthy!  O Come Emmanuel!

The Hound of Heaven WILL have His way…

This is truly something to thank Him for as the holidays approach – when you may be struggling with your “not so Hallmark” Thanksgiving…it may be a walk of faith for you, these coming days, when sight lies and hope dies…   Take heart, dear friend, that He is busy as always and is still hounding that loved one and He will be all He says He is, the Father with not only arms wide but the Father who is actively working on this child or spouse or parent who feels their one goal in life is to run the opposite way of Him…

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.  That which I greatly feared had come upon me.  In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most reluctant convert in all England.  I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine Humility which will accept a convert even on such terms.  The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet.  But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare”, “compel them to come in”, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine Mercy.  The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

This is the walk of faith, isn’t it?  To thank Him by faith that all will be well?