In the valley

I know its been awhile…

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This past semester at college I took an English literature course that focuses on the bible. I so enjoyed this class that combines two of my favorites subjects.

To look at the bible in the light of literature was eye opening, and the verses came alive in a new way. If you ever get the chance to take a class like this, I highly recommend it.

The first week of class, we looked at the story of the Good Samaritan and Psalm 23. Growing up in the church, both of these stories were very familiar.

Yet,

the bible never grows old.

It is living and breathing, waiting to share new thoughts.

As I read through Psalm 23, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.

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In the first part of Psalm 23, David writes in 3rd person. He is describing God.

He makes, he leads, he restores, he guides…

until,

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 staff, you prepare, you anoint…

In the midst of the valley, David begins to write in 2nd person instead of 3rd. The text suddenly becomes more intimate, and instead of speaking about God, David speaks directly to Him.

The same thing happens in the book of Job…Job loses everything and at the end of his story, he says,

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5

When we walk through the valley, wade through difficulties in life, or lose everything, this is the place where God becomes real. He moves from 3rd person to 2nd.

Out of pain, comes intimacy with Jesus.

Out of pain, comes knowing, instead of simply hearing about…

It doesn’t make me love the valley any more, but it does give me hope that God can bring good out of it.

I saw God today,

in the valley.

 

 

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Fight

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A little while ago we were in a desperate sort of situation. It was not a life or death scenario, but it was something which felt overwhelming for us as a family.

The one morning as I was praying about what to do, I had worship music playing in the background, and songs of trust and surrender kept popping up on my Spotify playlist. You know the ones that call us to trust even when we don’t understand why something is happening or trust when things don’t go our way. There is nothing wrong with these songs, and God has used them to speak to me many times in the past. Yet, on this particular morning, I sensed God saying something different. It was not time to surrender or to give up,

instead it was time to fight.

In prayer.

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecc 3:1

The word “fight” is not really one of those words I use regularly in my vocabulary. I like to think of myself as more of a peacekeeper than a warrior. I grew up in the peace-focused Mennonite church. I really have no reference point on how to fight or fight in prayer. It is not just the fight part I struggle with. It is the prayer.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14,15

My struggle with prayer lie in the tension of “name it and claim it” prayers vs. “God’s will be done” prayers. The one type of prayer feels like it depends on my effort while the other one feels like I do not need to take responsibility at all.

How do I know when I should press in, fight in prayer and use faith to move mountains or when it is time to surrender, simply rest and trust, or simply stand and let God fight? There are examples of each in the Bible, so how do I know which one to use?

What stuck out to me as I was praying, was the part of the 1 John verses that says, “…that if we ask anything according to his will.”

As I heard God’s whisper that morning, “it was not time to give up or come up with a different plan, but it was time to fight for this one thing,” I had such a peace that this fight in prayer was his will for that moment. It was the nudge I needed to keep going and believing. In the back of my mind I still worried, what if our prayers were not answered? However in that moment, the call to fight was stronger than my doubt and fears.

God answered our desperate prayer. I know this is not always the case…to receive an answer hoped for. Yet for me in that moment, it was so much more than just an answered prayer, it was the encouragement and faith to keep going then and in the midst of future battles.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time for war and a time for peace…He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8, 11

I saw God today,

in the fight.

The Joy of Letting Go

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In 26 days my oldest daughter will be graduating high school.

I am not sure if it is the fact that she could soon be leaving home or other factors influencing our life right now, but my wanting to hold on, wanting to control my life and the life of my family has been at an all time high. Time and time again over the last couple months, these words have been playing in my heart and mind.

It is time to let go.

What is it about letting go, that causes anxiety to rise up inside? Or why is it, when faced with letting go, we  hold on even tighter, or try and control other areas in our life?

This tension, this battle of control/letting go isn’t new. It was present from the very beginning, from those first moments in the garden…the need to be god, the desire to know, and the desire to control.

“You will not surely die, the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil…” – Genesis 3:4,5

Our need to know, our need to control was part of our original sin, while God’s heart was for us to trust and depend on Him; to trust in His goodness. Yet we know how the story ended. We know how it played out then and how it plays out today when we try and control situations and others. It gives birth to frustration.

“pain in childbearing…he will rule over you…cursed ground…by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…” Genesis 3:16-19

The truth of the matter is, we can control no one. As much as we try, we are not made for control, we are made for freedom.

In Danny Silk’s book, “Loving your kids on purpose” he talks about control. ”The lie that we can control others, is the biggest lie in human relationships. If we can be delivered from this one, deeply rooted lie, then there is hope that we can change the dynamics that cause so much anxiety between people.” (75)

And he goes on to say, “The only person we can control is ourselves.”(80)

No matter how much  of a challenge this is, there is a freedom in letting go. When I realize ultimately I cannot control another, I lay that down and look instead to what I can control, such as my reactions, my words, and my feelings. This is never easy, but with God’s Spirit these are the areas I can influence. The added bonus is, when I am focused on these areas there is little time left to control anything else.

So in these 26 days, I want to find joy in what is and what is to come, rather than holding on to things which were never meant to be held.

“Noble” faith

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I watched a movie the other evening I had been wanting to see for some time. It is called,

“Noble”

after the main character’s last name. It is the inspiring story of Christina Noble. The movie weaves together Christina’s past as an orphaned child with her work later in life to help orphaned children in Vietnam. There were many parts of the movie which stirred me, and I knew they would. But because I knew little about Christina before watching this movie there was one aspect of the story I was not expecting.

It was one of faith.

I do not want to give pieces of the movie away, because I think you should watch it, but this much I do want to share. Christina did not have an easy life. Anything but. Time after time, she experienced pain, loss, hurt, and disappointment. And time after time the movie shows her walking into church, lighting a candle, and talking to God. She was honest about her pain, her doubts, and whether she could even follow him. But she did not walk away. In her honesty, she continued to go and look for God, and she continued to talk to him. In fact one of the last lines in the movie was…

“She still talks to God…”

And this made me stop and think, maybe the most incredible act of faith is not the kind which moves mountains, or raises the dead. Maybe it is simply the kind that will come back, time after time and talk to God, sharing each hurt and disappointment.

“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in him;” Job 13:15

I saw God today, in faith.

“She still talks to God…”

What does faith look like for you today?

Words

I am not sure when or how this practice started.

Choosing one, new little word for the year.

For this girl who is easily distracted and often wonders about the meaning of life, it brings a little bit of focus and meaning to the new year.

This year rather than searching for a new word, It seemed as if my word found me. As I was writing my advent series this year, the word

joy

continued to roll around in my thoughts long after I was done writing. I felt like I was not finished with joy or it was not finished with me. In any case it is a fitting word for this glass half empty girl.

So in saying farewell to the old year and welcoming the new,

I am welcoming joy…

choosing this one little word to journey beside

as I continue to look for God in the midst of each day.

Will you join me?

(with joy, or another word of your choosing)

 

Advent – Joy

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“What happened to your joy?” – Galatians 4:15

“…now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” – John 16:22

This Christmas season as I have thought about joy; I have seen those things which give great joy and on the opposite hand those things which just as easily can take it away.

Have you ever thought about who or what it is that steals your joy…?

A harsh word

Comparison (“the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt)

Envy

Conflict

Focusing on self

Jesus warned us about one who steals. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10) He also told a story of a farmer, a seed, and the evil one who wanted to steal the seed. (Matthew 13:1-23) Jesus was speaking of stealing the message of our salvation, but the evil one is also one who steals our joy and will use whatever means he can to do it.

If we were to consider our joy as something that could be taken away or stolen, we might treat this joy differently. In the same way we guard and protect our material possessions (we lock our houses, our cars) against thieves, we might strive harder to protect our joy, a pearl of great worth.

So how do we protect our joy?

It could be guarding our heart against things which would want to steal it away. For me during this Christmas season, it was taking a break from Instagram and the comparison Instagram was feeding in my life. For you it might be something else. When you begin to give it some thought, you can start to pinpoint those thieves of joy circling your life.

Protecting joy, might also mean adding things into our lives which create joy. This holiday season Christmas music has brought me much joy (“…the best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” – Buddy the Elf) bringing a smile to my face and leading to kitchen dance parties with my girls.

Here are a few of the songs I’ve been listening to…I dare you to just try and not dance 🙂

Noel – Hillsong Young & Free

Better When I’m Dancin’ – Meghan Trainor

and then my favorite…

Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas 

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ ” – Luke 1:10

Jesus, God Emmanuel  – our joy.

 

Advent – love

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

If you have ever traveled, you know how wonderful it is to be away, but even better is the feeling when coming home. It is the familiarity, the comfort, and the sense of belonging greeting you at the front door. You are home.

Some days our home is that restful place. A house my family wants to come home to after a long day at school or work. This is how I want it to feel. But more often than not, this home can instead be filled with tension, criticism, or nagging. Hardly the place of refuge I picture:)

This physical image of coming home, of belonging and rest, is a good representation of what our true home will be …eternity with God.  But as we go through our days and are faced with critique, selfishness, comparison, rejection, or other things weighing us down; home can seem like a far away place. And we find ourselves longing, longing for that place of rest, longing for home.

So if this is you today…

I pray you will find grace in the tension of waiting.

I pray you will come home to Jesus,

and to the body of people He intended to be our home.

I pray if you have already found your way home,

you would notice the ones who have not,

and you would be home for them.

For, isn’t this why Jesus came?

His love leading us home.