Category Archive: God’s Promises

Agony … and Glory!

“Christ is risen.”

“He is risen indeed!”

The traditional Christian Easter greeting celebrates the greatest truth believers know. But how often do we also focus on the agony that came before victory?

It’s Thursday. Jesus flinches as spittle splatters onto his face, and groans in pain as the crown of thorns is pressed into his forehead. The open gashes across his back attest to the whippings he has endured. His mother, Mary, is barely able to see above the rest of the crowd as she stands, watching while they nail her boy to a rough-hewn cross. Reaching out with her right arm, she forces her left hand to cover the scream that threatens to break out of her throat. She rocks back and forth, heart shredded. “My son. My son.”  Wanting to take his pain; unable to do so.

Later she kneels at the foot of the cross, wringing her hands, keening as she watches her son dying. Never has she felt so alone. Then John steps up and lays a hand on her shoulder. Mary looks up through tears to see that John, too, is suffering as he watches his Rabbi’s body being torn and bruised and broken. She sees Jesus look down on them both.

“Behold your mother,” he says to John.

And “Behold your son,” to Mary.

And after Jesus’ death, after they have buried him in a borrowed tomb, she goes home with John, who cares for her from then on.

There is so much agony in our world. On at least three of five days last week I read about another school shooting, a bombing during Easter celebrations, and a fired employee returning to the workplace to kill. I hurt because some people I love are going through physical, emotional or mental pain. A good friend with whom Don and I have ministered in Mexico for the past few years went in for what was thought to be a non-critical surgery, caught an infection and died. Wars and famine abound.

But, as an old song says, “Sunday’s comin’.”

Sunday, when Mary’s world, John’s world, our world, was changed forever because Jesus conquered death and, in so doing, gave those who believe, life eternal–and hope now!

Yes, sorrow is ever-present in our world. But there is a day coming when joy will be the light of our morning and the song we sing at night. The day when Jesus the Christ returns for his people, and sorrow will forever be forgotten; pain a thing of the past; and peace, justice and harmony will reign. What a day that will be!

I pray that if you are hurting, lonely, confused today, you will turn to the God who gave us Easter Resurrection; and the promise (and experience) of His presence with us in the sorrows and agony of today.

Sunday’s comin’!

 

 

He will quiet you in His Love

Searching for documents

My fingers tapped the table. My mind struggled to remember where I’d put those documents.  I’d been gathering information for our CPA for hours already that day. But I couldn’t find some significant paperwork I needed to complete my part of our tax preparation. Finally I went outside to find my hubby.

“Don, I need your help. I can’t find these papers and can’t finish my tax information without them.”

“Let’s both go look.”

I leaned into his shoulder while my love put his arms around me, holding me close. My spirit quieted because, whether or not we found those documents, I wasn’t alone in my search. Don was there for me, helping me, sharing the load. We walked into the den and checked everywhere we could think of, without success.

I spoke up. “Lord, we really need your help here. I have no idea where else to look.” Don looked up at me. “Have you checked the safe?”

“No, but that’s a good idea.” I got out of my chair and walked towards our room. Before I got there my view fell on the folder I needed in the hall closet.

“Thank you, Jesus … and Don.” He took my into his arms and we both laughed, rejoicing that the lost was found.

This is such a teeny example of the truth in a scripture I love. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

When I take my concerns to the Father, He puts his arms about me and says, “Let me carry this burden, my child.

I’ve got it!” And even more, the God of the universe rejoices over me with singing. That feels like the tenderness that surrounded me when my mother sang lullabies to me as a little girl. In God’s love I feel enfolded. And my heart and mind quiet in His presence.

What helps you give your concerns to the One who wants to quiet your heart with his great and unconditional love?

“‘Til the Storm Passes By”

Runoff from our hill 

Bills must be paid, despite stormy weather, mudslides, downed trees. Driving to the post office yesterday to mail those payments, Don and I saw four waterfalls, not there before, cascading down the hills on our right.

California has been inundated with storms recently. Two hundred thousand residents were temporarily evacuated when breaks in the Oroville Dam spillways threatened enormous floods. Flooding has overwhelmed parts of Southern California. Mudslides, power outages, and traffic tie-ups have resulted in several deaths.

Trees have fallen across roads, onto houses and cars, and slid down hillsides. Unsafe. Highway 17 has only two lanes open. Our road, a main alternative to Highway 17, is closed indefinitely north of us. The road has already sunk at least eighteen inches in one area, while a sinkhole took out a fourth of the road in another. Unstable.

The storm offers some gifts. Staying home. Burrowing in with hubby and dogs, writing, reading, cleaning, napping.

It also offers challenges. Don has created a good drainage system under the house, and along the road, so the water will not threaten our foundation. He’s checking it and refining it again today. Early this afternoon, Safeway was quite full, people filling their carts in preparation for the next storm, starting later today.

Storms enter our lives in different ways. Years ago I was seriously depressed. No strength remained in my mind or heart. But I had a cassette (I know – almost prehistoric!) of a melodious male quartet. “My” song talked about the storms of life. Every night for three weeks I crawled into bed, depressed, fearful, sometimes crying, and played that song. My prayer was brief. “Lord, I have nothing with which to hold onto you right now. Please hold me.”

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence.
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

‘Til the storm passes over,
‘Til the thunder sounds no more;
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

Hold me fast, Let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

And He kept me. Storms came, and went, and still do. But my hope is in the God who will hold me fast “’til the storm passes by.”

If you’re discouraged, caught in a storm you don’t know how to get out of, I pray this song will minister to you as it did to me. That it will give you hope, and truth to hold onto until your storm passes over. God be with you.

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Love’s Celebration

I trust in Your unfailing love. Psalm 13:5

I long for love. Don’t you? And I both give and receive it in a variety of ways and depths. I love, and am loved by, my husband; family; close friends; even my dogs.

While LOVE is one in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the same word is used in our culture for everything from admiration or appreciation, to a deep, self-sacrificing behavior.

“I love my husband”

“I love Gayle’s chocolate pie”

“I love the Warriors”

“I love my mother … children … siblings …. friends … pets … that song … these shoes.”

But the love that is above all, and is foundational to all other loves, is the love God has shown us in providing a way, through the Cross of Christ, for us to know Him, to enter an eternal relationship with the Creator of all. I’ve written about other loves … but today I want to celebrate God’s love.

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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17, NIV)

I once read a story about a man, let’s call him Richard, who was in deep despair, having rejected God in anger. He was staying with a friend who had challenged his guest to submit himself and give his anger and pain to Jesus. While the friend went out for a walk, Richard wrestled with God and finally released his pain to Jesus. He then sat down at the piano and began to play and sing an old hymn he recalled from his childhood. His friend returned to the house to hear his guest’s rich tenor voice, and knew God had met him.

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”

(Lyrics by George Mattheson, who was inspired to write this hymn in 5 minutes during a time of distress.)

There was a very difficult time in my life when I had no strength with which to hold onto God. I was depressed, weak, and despairing. Hope was gone. But I asked Him to hold onto me. II Timothy 2:13 tells us, “And if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” I pray that this song will encourage you to trust in His unfailing love.

   “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”  (I John 4:10, NLT)

 

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Hairpins and Hope

The dual switchback gave us no visibility to what might be approaching on the one-lane road. What if a local driver comes barreling around that corner? We’re on the cliff side of the road! Much of the drive was enchanting. Every change in elevation exposed different flora and fauna.  Some areas were lush, some covered with red dirt. “Look at this plain,” I said at one point. After climbing mountains and traversing hairpins for miles, the flatland was a lovely surprise. We crossed narrow bridges and stretches where meeting an oncoming car required one of us to pull out or back up, depending on the amount of margin on the side of the constricted road.

Don pulled over at one cliff, where we looked down at the lava rocks below, and spoke at length with the artist recreating the pastel ocean scene. Near Annalise, spread over a rock and colored the same, was a wild pig skin. I didn’t realize it until I saw hooves and a tail … and smelled an odor that was ripe. Some “rite of passage,” according to Annalise.

We drove past a picturesque little broken-down church, heavy tile roof falling in on itself, that was once charming. It sat above cliffs that led down to roaring waves, tumbling waterfalls, and a little village. We’d seen a sign earlier for banana bread so we pulled over at Julia’s tiny green shack.

I stepped up onto the porch behind a young woman who asked about banana bread. “Last loaf,” was the reply.

“Oh no,” I spoke without thinking.

The woman turned to me. “Do you want to split it?” Her husband joined her. “We don’t need to eat the whole thing.”

“Really?” I asked. Really!

I thanked them, and we divided the bread and shared the cost. Waving goodbye, Don and I continued on our journey, enjoying the moist sweetness of the loaf, which almost melted in our mouths.

More hairpin turns. More one-lane passages. More  beauty—orange and yellow-leaved shrubs, magenta flowers atop trees, hot pink bougainvillea, and palm to pine trees. And lava rock, and some small rock slides, and cliffs that plunged into roiling waves below.

And I thought, kind of like life. There’s a great deal of beauty, enjoyment, ongoing blessing as we walk with Christ. At times we need to hear a brother or sister say “You want to share?” … or perhaps we need to offer the shared blessing to others. There is also challenge, and difficulty, and pain, and suffering. Sometimes the road we travel is smooth and lined with blessings of health and love and productive work and hope. At other times the road is dark, the switchbacks prevent us from seeing the next step, and we have to move forward in faith, our hand in the Father’s, knowing He has promised never to leave or forsake us.

Julia’s

I’ve had a few big switchbacks in my life, along with lesser ones. Threats of mutilation while ministering in the ghetto; pain following departure from a work I loved; some health challenges; the losses of a nephew, several dear friends, my father, my first husband. But I’ve also seen the beauty of being carried through those hairpins by a God who loves me and would not let me go; of loving and being loved well by two wonderful men, and by family; of the gift of travel; of the joy of ministering to and encouraging younger women in their faith walks.

And sometimes it’s the hairpin turns, the switchbacks where we can do nothing but pray and trust, that teach us most clearly that our Father is always there, loving, guiding, walking alongside as we navigate  day by day.

So, while there’s no way I want to suffer, I also don’t regret the times my road has been hard. Mixed with the joys, the difficulties remind me to trust and rely on God in both good and bad times. I can’t become an oak of righteousness, rooted and grounded in Him, without His love and pruning and deepening, the same One who promises to give beauty in place of ashes.

The prophet Isaiah recognized his anointing from the Lord …

” … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2b-3)

What’s encouraged you during some of the hairpin turns of your life?

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