Light in the Darkness

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O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! ~Psalm 118:1

For many people of faith, one of the first things we want to do in uncertain times is to gather together to pray. As orders to shelter at home and for the doors of the church building to close for the health safety of its members we are left wondering where God is in all of this. With each passing day, things feel more uncertain, more and more fearful, causing tensions to rise. In our panic, we begin trying to seek out things that we can control in a time that everything feels so out of our control. One thing I keep hearing is that none of us have ever seen anything like this in our lifetime. We have to look back into history to the Spanish flu in the 1920s and Choera of the 1800s to find anything of comparison.

I read a post this morning where a question was asked of a Rabbi during a natural disaster to explain such a tragic act of God. The rabbi answered that the disaster was an act of nature. The act of God happened when people stepped us to help each other.

Where is God in all of this? What is the Good News in the midst of all our uncertainties? Where is the Light of God in the Midst of our Darkness?

The answer comes to us through the words of Psalm 118. “Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is the one that comes in the name of the Lord!” This is a reminder that God has acted in the past, has saved us from ourselves in the past, and God will save us again!

Even in our distance from each other, we can still come together as a community united in prayer. We can find comfort, peace and even moments of joy.

In its ancient context, Psalm 118 was most likely an entrance liturgy to the Temple, used at the festival of the Passover. It proclaimed God’s deliverance from Egypt and, later on, from the Exile.

Sine New Testament times, Psalm 118 evokes for Christians the story of Easter.

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?” (118:5-6).

New Testament writers used Psalm 118 “as a means of understanding and articulating the significance of Jesus.” (See Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7.) Christians have long read this Psalm with Jesus in mind.

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

Today, the words of Psalm 118 gives us hope as people of faith to celebrate God’s faithfulness. God was with us in the beginning. God is with us now. God will be with us always. The words in this Psalm remind us that God’s love is steadfast and endures forever. They remind us that God gave us God’s Light to shine in and through the darkness and that God’s light will never go away! The very words of Psalm 118 give us hope and stir our hearts and our souls to celebrate! They unify us! They remind us that we are God’s children! And remember being God’s children means that we are never alone.

Even in our anxiety and fear, we can celebrate that our God is still working.

We celebrate the hope, the security, the trust that we have as people of faith because we know that in the midst of our darkness, we find the Light of God. Because the Light of God never goes away.

If you listen to the news, they tell us to brace for a rough week ahead. I want to remind you that the churches may stand empty today, they may stand empty on Easter morning, but remember so is Christ’s tomb. This epidemic will not cancel Easter. Easter has already happened.

So we still celebrate because our God’s saving grace is steadfast and endures forever. The Light of God shines in this darkness, giving us strength and courage for the journey ahead. The Light of God is for all of God’s children, bringing peace, bringing hope, bringing grace. The Light of God fills us, renews us, lifts us up, and connects as one. Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Our God has answered our pleas and has given us salvation!

Dear God, even in these days, help us to remember your promises. Help us be unified in our prayers, even when COVID-19 seems to keep us separated. Fill our homes with your Holy Spirit in such a way that we know you are near. Restore us to health, God, restore us to life and give us hope. Amen.

Stay the Course

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Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. ~Galatians 6:9 (CEB)

No matter what is going on in our lives we must never give up. In the scripture on God’s Armor (Eph 6:10-18) it ends the section with “no matter what, persevere.” This is easy to throw around but how do you even begin to persevere in a world that we have never seen before? How do we persevere when each day seems to be darker than the last?

I persevere by my diligence in prayer, resolving to stay the course, unwavering faith, and determination to stand firmly on God’s Words and His promises for me.

Even so, it gets frustrating how slowly things seem to be moving sometimes. Every time I turn on the news, I feel like our “safer at home orders” get extended even further out. I no longer know what to say to my son when he asks me how much longer do you think COVID-19 will disrupt our lives? My heart breaks for him as this should be one of his golden times as a senior in High School. There should be celebrations, rewards for a good job done, a senior trip to Disney, a musical production with his high school theater group… and who knows yet about graduation ceremonies? Instead, he meets with his friends online as they try to distract each other between their lessons at home.

It is easy to think that God isn’t dealing with the situation, but I have to remember that God is doing some of his greatest work even if I can’t see what He is doing. This pandemic did not catch him off guard. Also, I need to keep in mind if the problem didn’t occur overnight it also will take time to correctly resolve it. There may be more going on than the “virus” we see.

No matter what is going on in our lives the victory is in not giving up. I think that is a good definition of perseverance. Not giving up. When the road ahead is full of bumps and I feel like I am acting out one of my son’s ninja shows he watched when he was little as I try to dodge trouble, I need to keep assured that the good that I am trying to do is noticed by God and time will bring fruition to my diligence.

Sometimes God, I get tired of doing the right thing. Give me courage to stay the course give me strength to do your will. Most especially God, help me to remember that as I child of God, I do not walk this journey alone. Amen.

 

I can’t bear this on my own…

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I can’t bear these people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. ~Numbers 11:14

Sometimes life is just more than I can handle. Some days it is all I can do to manage what I need to do for that day. In reading Numbers chapter 11 we read where Moses is feeling overwhelmed with leading the Israelites. They aren’t happy with the fact that God has been providing them just manna to eat. Now they are complaining that they want meat to eat too. Moses cries out to God in verse 13, “Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat’.”

The first thing Moses did when he realized he had come to the end of his rope in this situation was to admit, “I can’t bear these people on my own. They’re too heavy for me.” This allowed God to say, “I can!” The problem was bigger than Moses but once he allowed God into the situation it allowed God to go to work.

I often forget that God is waiting on the sidelines for me to call out to Him for my needs. God wants to work in my life but He isn’t going to come into the situation without my invitation. I first need to call out to God, “Help, this is more than me!” I need to realize Who can get the job done and then I need to let Him.

Dear God, help us this day to reach out to You when things feel more than we can bear. Come into the circumstances we are dealing with today and help us feel assured that You will make a way for us through this day and the days ahead. Amen.

In God’s Hand

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Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 43:30

One of my jobs at church is our social media pages. I scroll through feeds a couple of times a day looking for items to pass along to the church. As I was scrolling one morning, trying to not look too closely at all the COVID-19 bombardment of articles out there, I stumbled across this photo. I was so struck by this image. This little guy fits so securely in its parent’s hand. She is not struggling to get out of the parent’s grasp but resting and even drawing comfort for being there. This made me think of God holding me!

Whether we are on the front lines of this pandemic or sheltered at home, we can rest assured of God going with us through these times. Psalm 139:10-12 says, “Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me and the light around me become night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

One of my favorite verses in scripture is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” After seeing this image, I will forever connect this verse and this picture together. Before I always envisioned myself being still among whatever I was going through and trusting that God was taking care of things I couldn’t see. Now, when I need that verse to calm my anxiety (I often use it as a breath prayer) I will see myself sheltered in God’s hand as he carries me through not just this present time but in all the times ahead.

Dear God, Help me to find solace in the stillness you provide. Calm my anxieties so that I can know that You are God and that You will lead us through ALL our days ahead. Amen. 

 

 

*I could not find the original post of this picture. Since in my search I found thousands of pages using it, I believe it to be an open stock picture. If anyone finds the original photographer I would love to give credit.

A Smile and a Kind Word

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So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:10 (CEB)

A smile and a kind word, I would say that this is my mother’s ministry. I grew up with my mother always smiling to those she met and giving a smile. It seems like such a simple thing. It seems that it couldn’t really make a difference, but I have seen many eye light up when my mother smiles.

Often I forget that we are called even in the little things of life to serve Christ. If I put on God’s eyes and look around, His ears and listen, He is calling me to reach out every day even in the little things. Acknowledging a cashier and asking them about their day, holding open the door for someone, letting someone ahead of me in line who only has a couple of items, a smile, these are all things that I can do to serve Christ. Sometimes these “small things” can impact someone greatly. I will probably never know how my small actions may impact someone’s life this day but I am called to be Christ even in the small things that I do.

Lord may I not be so caught up with my own life that I forget to look out beyond myself. May I notice those around me with a smile and a kind word today. Amen.

Joy in the Moment

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A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones ~Proverbs 17:22 (CEB)

Sometimes I get caught up in looking at the big picture. The worries and stress of the day seem to steal all joy and I forget to live in the moment. When I forget to live in the moment, I forget to take joy in things like the melodies my son picks out on his guitar or the texts I get from my husband. When I get caught up in my worries I forget to see my flowers pushing up from the ground getting ready to bloom. I forget to laugh at my dog as she takes serious her task of chasing the rabbits. I forget to listen to the bird’s songs or listen as the wind rustles the wind chimes on my back porch.

Seeing things piece by piece and searching for the joy in the moment helps to lighten my day. When I get to worrying about all the things that I have no power to fix at this moment, those things that are out of my control, I allow those things to steal the simple joys from my heart. Missing out on these simple things soon finds my spirit hurting.

God doesn’t want me to live with the weight of the world on my shoulders. He has put things in my path to help me enjoy life. He created flowers and bird songs for my enjoyment. He gave me friends and family for comfort and love. May I remember each day to appreciate all that he has blessed me with down to the simplest and smallest of details.

Heavenly Father, help me to remember to stop and smell the flowers, to hear the birds sing, to hug my family. May I not take any of these joys for granted. May they ever be fresh on my heart. Amen.

 

Hard-shelled

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The commandment is a lamp and instruction a light; corrective teaching is the path of life. ~Proverbs 6:23

One day my dog was barking for all she was worth. I knew that bark. It was the type of bark that told me she had found some creature. When my son went out to see what Daisy was barking at, he found that it was a red-eared glider, a turtle whose shell was at least 18 inches long, bigger than what we were used to seeing migrate out of the small lake in our subdivision.

Early spring is the time of year turtles are restless from their winter “hibernation.” This restlessness puts turtles in places they don’t belong to. Sometimes it is just in the wrong back yard or in a neighborhood street. Sometimes their restlessness finds them on a busy highway which for many that try to cross does not end well. That spring restlessness drives them to be places that are not safe for turtles.

I can get restless like those turtles. Despite barking dogs, unknown territory and even dangerous circumstances I can feel driven to go places that I know I should not go. Against the instincts God has placed deep within me I can push past the natural boundaries He would have in place for me.

The good news is God’s word says, “I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go. I’ll advise you and keep My eye on you” (Psalms 32:8) If I allow God’s word to penetrate deep within this hard shell of mine, I only have to listen to the guidance He has placed within me and I can find my way home, away from the busy highways which are so dangerous, back to the beautiful lake He has provided. I just need to listen to my God-given instincts.

Dear God, especially today, may we ever be listening for that guidance you place deep within us. Help us take the steps needed in this time to protect ourselves and others from this virus that plagues us. And God, most especially send your spirit to go with us in this time of isolation so we remember that we are beloved children of God, therefore, we are never truly alone. Amen.

 

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