Tag Archive | hope

It’s okay

It's OkayIn my Monday post I used a simple little phrase–It’s going to be okay. I wrote that on Friday. Then on Sunday, my pastor used it, too. He talked about Jesus showing up in the upper room after his resurrection. He suggested one reason Jesus appeared in person to these scared, grieving, uncertain souls was to reassure them he was powerful and in control and that it would all be okay.

In my Monday post, I used the term in the context of writing. If my writing career tanks (okay, if it never takes off; let’s be honest about a few things here!), God still loves me. My failure will never put God’s plan to love me in jeopardy. It will be okay.

The next context was Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago. Jesus was dead. His followers had wasted three years following a guy who didn’t amount to much. They had no idea what to do next. Then there he was, showing them his hands and his side. The rabbi was back, only he was more than a rabbi. Everything he said was true, yet much bigger and better than they realized. The plan was never in jeopardy. It would be okay.

I think the world is a little bit scary right now. People who love God in this world are being burned alive, beheaded, fined, exiled, slandered, and more, and it’s scary. But the big plan? Never in jeopardy. He’s got this. He beat death. It’s going to be okay.

Right now, this post is under five hundred words. That’s short. But I want to stop here.  Jesus won. The plan stands. Nothing can ever upset it. He’s in control of all of it. Everything. Whatever happens here, whatever hardship comes along, whatever Satan’s new tactics, there is a plan for a future, a plan where all this falls away, a plan where wrong is made right. The outcome of every battle is the same. Jesus wins.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them (false prophets, evil spirits), because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4,5

He has overcome. We will overcome. Sit with that a while this week. Breathe it in and let it fill your spirit with comfort and rest. It’s all going to be okay.

 

 

Interlude

InterludeWhenever I hear the song Cool Change by the Little River Band, I feel like crying. If you’re not familiar with the song, it talks about time alone on the ocean and how important it is in a pre-arranged life to get away for a while. For some reason, it hits me deep every time, and sometimes it takes me to the floor.

I’ve been grappling with a simple life for a while. I’ve been digging into spiritual disciplines. I dream of green pastures and still waters. I imagine a house with space, a life with wiggle room, the perfect quiet times where God and I have this amazing, life altering connection every day.

Two things have spurred this strange unrest in my soul. One is a new awareness of the Spirit. Yes, being aware of the Spirit can bring unrest. I have to learn to hear his voice. I have to follow his lead. For now, I’m giddy with longing and anticipation, and that giddiness can make me restless. Continue reading

Safety Quest

MountainsI’ve been trying new spiritual disciplines during lent, and one is silent prayer. As a writer who deals in words all the time, I have been looking for a way to silence what goes on in my head so I can listen to the Spirit. Honestly, I don’t know what to put in my head when I’m not putting together words. Of course, reading and contemplating Scripture is always a way to hear God, and usually I begin in silence and end up in Scripture. But sometimes I find myself using images to help me focus on God and not the noise in my head.

I read a book where a woman equated the human soul to dirt–I am soil waiting for God to plant seeds to grow. I like to garden, so this image stuck with me. Sometimes, when I need to still my noise in prayer, I find myself imagining a plot of dirt. Imagine lying in the lawn looking up–that’s my perspective. Trees are around me. Grass is barely in my line of vision. The sun moves overhead. Rain comes and goes. The only sound is distant running water and the occasional bird. It’s a peaceful image.

I love the book of Genesis. I suspect I spend as much time imagining the world of Genesis as anything else in the Bible. The world was new. What was life like before the flood? What was the garden of Eden like? I would love to glance back and see it.

Now, this is where my visualizing sounds crazy. I promise I’m not channeling past lives or heading into strange New Age waters here. I simply love the idea of visiting the world of Noah or the world of Adam. When the world was huge and the population of people was small. When all of history was ahead. I know sin was there just like it is now, so my image is flawed. But in my head, when I find myself in a pasture somewhere, it’s there in the past. I’m waiting for seeds to grow, alone at the dawn of time, and it feels safe.

And that’s the magic word. Every time I imagine this, I think about safety. I know that Adam’s world lasted. He died a natural death. I have this strange fear of the end of the world. I imagine chaos and evil and destruction. I look at Revelation and shudder. It doesn’t look like a fun time to be alive, and yet it feels more likely every day that I might see that. Sin seems to be winning a lot of battles, and God won’t allow that forever.

So I head back to Adam, when the world was new, when it was possible to wander so far that one could be the first human to see a thing. A world filled with the sounds of birds and animals and wind and water and not man. And I realize the reason I keep going back there, flawed as the image might be, is because I have some trust issues. I want to feel safe. I don’t want to watch the world burn.

There was no safe period of history. I know that. Safety comes from God. That field of silence, rain, safety–that’s Him, not some place in this world, some place in history. I have come back to the 23rd Psalm a hundred times this year, and I realize that is Him, too. God will allow me to feel that safety here, in the midst of the burning, if I will be his lamb and let Him soothe me.

I continue to pray with both words and silence. I continue to wander that garden, that safe plot of soil, to feel the gentle rain, hear the cool waters, nibble in the green pastures. I am learning to trust its reality, to follow the Spirit when he calls me to his peaceful, restful places. Sure, I would still rather not watch the world fall, but I know my place is safe. I can also invite others to that safe place. He has enough green pastures to go around.

Fear doesn’t die easily. Safety isn’t bad–God calls himself a refuge, a rock, a shepherd, a father, all images of safety. I am learning to go to him for safety when fear strikes. I hope you, too, find ways to remind yourself that nothing here in this world has the last word. It will burn, but the pasture with still waters, the rock, the fortress–those are ours, and they will last forever.

 

 

Spirit Bridge

In my reading this week, I came across a paragraph that hit me like a ton of bricks, except in a good way. Okay, maybe a ton of kittens and not bricks. It had to do with obedience. The writer of a devotional I’m reading pointed out that love is the key to obedience. I didn’t disagree, but I I had it backwards. I felt I had to obey to prove I loved. And that doesn’t work. When I tie how much God loves me to how obedient I am today, God’s love appears to waver. That’s not true.

No, the writer said, the focus is Jesus’ love for me. I don’t have to work to obey. (Yes, I make choices, but just bear with me here.) My focus isn’t scouring the Bible to know all the rules to obey. The focus is scouring the Bible to know how much Jesus loves me. Do you see that? Not how much I love him–because that’s sporadic and shifty and a sure recipe for disaster. No, how much HE loves ME. And once I get it, I will obey out of gratitude. I hate to use the word gratitude, because if feels too neutral and small. Big gratitude. Monster size. The kind that brings tears. All-encompassing. Life defining. Epic. The stuff of legends. BIG.

So my Bible reading has shifted into a search this year. Paul wants me to know how wide and deep Jesus’ love is for me. I can get on board with that goal. So much easier than proving I love God when some days I don’t. I was building a bridge to God based on my love.  Not a solid bridge. The Spirit says it was built by Jesus’ love for me, and it came from his side to mine, not something I built to him. I don’t see that yet, not always and not clearly, but it’s there, solid and safe.

The day after reading this I was reading yet another writer, and she was walking through the passage in Mark where little children are brought to Jesus and he says we have to approach him like children. And the question was what does that mean? I have kids. I love kids. But my first thoughts were entitled, whiny, self-righteous…  Yeah. I don’t think Jesus meant all that. But I want to understand it because this has to do with his love for me. It has to do with obedience in a way, but more with how I view God and how I view myself. How can I approach Jesus as a child?

Two days before this I’d read Psalm 131, and the Spirit nudged me back there, where David compares himself to a child. He says he doesn’t involve himself in great matters. Like a child in the back seat on a long drive–the child says Are we there yet? but doesn’t demand to see the map and navigate. He trusts Dad and Mom know the way. David talks about resting against God, having a quiet soul, a calm soul. Knowing God was talking, I excitedly pulled up Bible Gateway on the computer and looked up this Psalm in all the English versions, adding adjectives from different Bible versions: humble, dependent, satisfied, safe, peaceful. That’s how I am to approach Jesus as a child. Like a chubby, well-fed child who is so content he lounges, dozing, on Mom’s chest. It made sense now.file0001368323435

Jesus wants me to get it, so he corrects me. He wants to show me his love. When I look for it, he’ll gently draw me closer and make connections.  Right now, my connections to God feel something like a rickety rope bridge over a chasm. I don’t yet trust it. But the Spirit and I are hauling logs this year, filling in the bridge with planks, adding to the rails, building better supports. They’re there already on his end, but I have to learn to see them on my side. Instead of simply opening my eyes, he lets me work, lets me feel each log with my fingers, pound each nail, smell the sawdust, makes the connections real for me so I won’t forget, so I’ll know this bridge not simply by sight but with all my senses. Soon I’ll be able to fly across that bridge with complete faith. Satan won’t be able to set it swaying in every breeze.

Because my word of the year is coming into play: Reestablish. I’m learning about love and obedience and listening to the Spirit as he makes connections. I knew all this once, but not deep in my soul, and God is reestablishing everything in my spirit so I can hear and understand and then turn and do what he wants me to do. This time the bridge is strong because I’m intimate with its every curve and step, because the Spirit and I are exploring it together and he’s showing me its tiniest details. This time, I walk it for the right reasons, because I know I am loved with a patient and everlasting love.

Spinning at Sea

DockI’m not sure how it started, but I think it happened long before I was aware of it.  Slow shifts away from truth toward lies, listening to quiet voices that didn’t come from the Shepherd.  Digging into the past instead of seeing the present or future.  And then one day, I realized I had lost sight of the land entirely.  I was at sea with no compass, cloudy skies, and little energy to row home, especially since I didn’t know the direction of home.

There are a few areas where I’ve never done well.  For instance, I lean toward the idea of God as a little bit angry.  A little bit frustrated with me.  More wrath and less compassion.  I know that’s not the right view, but knowing a thing and being saturated with a thing–yeah, I knew it, but I couldn’t figure out how to believe it, trust it, bank on it.  The default setting was “God might not be happy with you right now because…”

That’s a terrible foundation.  It breeds fear.  Doubt.  And Satan had an absolute field day with it.  He was the quiet voice saying “Do more. Try harder.  Don’t slow down and work through this,  because even questioning it isn’t right.  God needs you to obey.  Sure, he loves his own, but exactly what evidence do you have that you’re one of those?  The road is narrow.  What makes you think you found it?”

But I pushed on.  Okay, so maybe I wasn’t entirely sure of the outcome, but I could obey. Except obeying out of fear and doubt is exhausting.  There is no time to rest and relax. That yoke Jesus says is light–it isn’t light if you don’t wear it right.  It chafes.  Blisters.  Pain.

A few months ago, the spiritual battle in my life came to a head.  There was no event, no trigger.  It was a slow drift to sea.  For some reason, I started to dwell in the past.  Failures.  Betrayals.  Relationships gone wrong.  Areas of sin that have plagued me for decades.  Wrong thinking.  All of it played over and over and over.  I couldn’t get away from it. I was driving myself crazy.  I read more Bible, but I still wasn’t seeing it, wasn’t seeing God right.  I didn’t feel loved.  I didn’t feel protected.  I felt adrift.

To make things worse, I’m getting older.  That age where you can look back and suffer regrets.  It’s too late to do a few things I always hoped to do. My parenting years are almost done, and some of my children are wandering, and you don’t get do-overs.  Some of my dreams need to be released because they’re never going to happen.  I have a chronic illness (Diabetes Type One) that darkens my life a little bit and speaks of an uncertain future. And all of those things together–they gave Satan a lot of fodder.  They gave my sinful self a lot of fodder.  It was toxic fodder with fungus, though, and I chewed and chewed until I was sick.

Which leads to a new touch, a new start, a year of being reestablished. God sweeping in and sending a wind toward the shore. And yes, this post is a cliffhanger, because it’s a story. I hate cliffhangers, and I apologize, but the story takes time, and it’s still unfolding as I write it, so you’ll have to wait, along with me, for the whole outcome.  But I promise, it gets better.  I mean, it had to, right?  But for now, drifting at sea, chewing toxic cud, and needing, more than anything in this world, a rescue by a knight or a prince or a shepherd who knew me and loved me and wouldn’t get angry with me for being who I am… That’s how the story began. Once upon a time.