One long night…

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. ” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us. ” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. ~Luke 2:8-20 (CEB)

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. Isn’t it? TV shows and commercials illustrate Christmas time as the … “most wonderful time of the year…” So if Christmas makes you blue… (now I have Evis singing in my head) or even flat out depressed it can be isolating in the sea of celebrations. It can leave some people gloomy finding the holidays anything but jolly, while still others will have experiences that make it difficult to be merry and bright.

When I think of the Advent story it seems to me to start out in the dark and cold, even in the midst of hopelessness. But it is also part of a bigger story of God’s grace waiting our discovery. It is a story of hope.

Sometimes the hype and clichés of the season distract us. The clever marketing ploys succeed in making us desire tangible things we can hold in our hands. Marketing gives us false illusions of how we can find happiness. However all the marketing efforts, hype and catchy logos cannot answer the deep questions of the heart, or address the pain that might reside there, explain the mystery of God’s presence, or even comprehend the meaning of our existence. It also does not help us to understand why bad things happen.

Advent can give us hope though in the midst of our isolation and false illusions because it tells us a story of how God humbled himself, intimately and personally through the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we blow off Advent as just another blip on the church calendar but it is meant to be something more. It is meant to lay a new path of faith for the new year ahead.

In the remembering and retelling of the magical story we are reminded that God loved us so much he allowed Jesus to come down here in the form of a fragile infant to be born in the lowliest of places. The retelling of the story is to remind me why Jesus came into the world in the first place, so that I might have life and live in the light.  I am reminded with the Advent story that God is a hands-on God willing to become vulnerable just so that I might catch a glimpse of how much He loves me. This story tells me that Jesus loved me so much that he came down to earth to be in the darkness with me and to walk with me as I search for the light.

Advent is meant to confront me once again with God’s unparalleled effort to communicate the message that I am embraced and held by a God of love. The Advent season is the time that I can shake off the failures, the victories and the sorrows of the past. I am given a new clean page. Again and again we see in the Bible that God is a God of second chances and the healer of broken hearts. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain and evil will be no more.

Heavenly Father, it gives me great comfort to know that You are big enough to handle all my sorrow, all my questions and all my fear. I am thankful that You are a God who is willing to come down to earth and be with me where I am, even if the place You find me is darkness. Even in the darkness I am not hidden from You. I may be worried that I will put others off during this “happy season” with the questions and fears that are hidden in my heart, but I know that You will never turn from my sorrow. You will never brush off my questions. You will never be upset with me if I have the “wrong feelings” for the season. You simply tell me that feelings just are.  Dear Lord, I thank You for sitting with me here right now, waiting with me through this long night, reminding me that there is always a dawn. Amen.

God’s hiddenesss

“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” ~Job 23:2-9 (NRSV)

Sometimes in the midst of my troubles I feel so alone.  I even feel abandoned by God.  Here is an example in the Bible of a righteous man who also felt abandoned by all and God seemed to be so far away.

Life can get really ugly sometimes. We don’t have to live it perfectly. We just have to make it through each day until we get to the other side of bad times. We can’t get to the other side without living through it. The Israelites are an example of this. To make it to the Promised Land they had to go through the desert. They didn’t do it perfectly. They even still had some kinks that needed to be worked out when they got to the new land. But God guided them through the desert and they eventually got there.

When it seems that God isn’t answering my prayers I have to remember that He is faithful. There are things that He is doing that I cannot see. All I am required to do is to live through each day, letting Him guide my steps. I don’t have to see where I am going. I just have to go.

 Guide my steps this day Lord, blind as I may be to the work you are doing. Strengthen my trust in You that all things will work out in the end for my good. I know that the only way to get through this desert is to just walk on through. Steady my steps when they falter, strengthen my heart when it is faint, give me faith when it seems all hope is lost. Amen.

Looking for the face of God

With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best– as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. Matthew 6:9-15 (Message)

Some final tough words on forgiveness for my heart when it feels that it has just has the right to hold on to that wrong for a little while longer because you know, “I have a right to be mad!”

“It may be infinitely less evil to murder a man then to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart’s choice. It is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excluded, that kills the image, the idea of the hatred.” ~From Creation in Christ by George McDonaold

When I want to hold on to my “rightful hurt feelings”, it is sobering to remember that I do so much more harm to myself for holding on to hurts no matter how justified it might seem. Harboring such hurt makes it hard to find God’s face and therefore I feel even more alone. This anger though justified just isn’t worth my isolation from God. I want to feel His mercies toward me so I must extend mercy to others. And so I move on.

Heavenly Father, I don’t want to be separated from you any longer. Help me to wade through this junk and move on. It is time. Amen.

Satan’s games

But the LORD is the one who is marching before you! He is the one who will be with you! He won’t let you down. He won’t abandon you. So don’t be afraid or scared!” ~ Deuteronomy 31:8

One of the biggest battles that Satan wages against us is getting us to believe that we are alone. I find myself falling into this trap often. This is a good verse to carry around in your heart. Deuteronomy 31:8 says that God will go before me, He will be with me and He won’t abandon me. This verse tells me that God won’t abandon me so I shouldn’t be afraid.

Recently I read something Joyce Meyer wrote, “Satan wants you to believe you are alone. He wants you to believe that no one understands how you feel, but his claims are false. In addition to God being with you, many believers understand what you are experiencing mentally and emotionally.” Satan wants me to lose sight of the simple truths found in the Bible. It is easy to forget that God wants to comfort us and deliver us when we are in the middle of pain and loss.

Part of the loneliness trap that Satan sets for me is playing the game of not sharing what is going on in my life. Then I get mad when no one notices that my life is falling apart. It is as if I just expect people to see the pain that I am going through but if I don’t open up and share what is going on in my life, then how do they know to reach out to me. I have a responsibility to meet people half way in relationships. Finding people that are “safe” to share my hurts and sorrows with takes time. But if I do not get involved and discover the people that God has placed within my reach then I am falling for the lies that Satan tells me and I will continues to find myself alone.

Heavenly Father, help me to hide in my heart the truth. You are with me and will never leave me alone. You provide for all my needs. Open my eyes to know the friendships you have set in place for me and close my ears to Satan’s lies. Amen.

Run over

 

I am hunched over, completely down; I wander around all day long, sad. My insides are burning up; there’s nothing in my body that isn’t broken. I’m worn out, completely crushed; I groan because of my miserable heart. Everything I long for is laid out before you, my Lord; my sighs aren’t hidden from you. My heart pounds; my strength abandons me. Even the light of my eyes is gone. My loved ones and friends keep their distance from me in my sickness; those who were near me now stay far away. ~Psalm 38:6-11 (CEB)

Have you ever felt like you have been run over by a semi-truck and then dragged behind it for a few miles? These words from Psalms reach out to me in those times that I feel like I have been beaten up by life. You know the kind of beat up where even your friends avoid you because they just don’t know what to do or say to you.

In those times I see these words in Psalms and I say, Yes Lord! This is how I feel! Completely broken, my spirit is crushed and my heart is in pieces. But you know my heart Lord, so you know all that is within me, my sighing, and my groaning you know it all. Strength has abandoned me Lord and my eyes can’t find the light. Then as I continue to read through Psalm 38 I see in Verse 15, “But I wait for you, LORD! You will answer, my Lord, my God!” Here is assurance that God will be there for me and He will answer the cries of my heart.

It is in our troubled times that we learn to lean on God and not on ourselves. Each trouble we go through we gain more and more knowledge of God and these moments add up to build trust in Him. 2 Cor 1:10 says “God rescued us from a terrible death, and He will rescue us. We have set our hope on Him that He will rescue us again.” No matter how beat up I feel. No matter how near death I am sure my heart has come, I have knowledge from God’s word that He well be there and that I can set my hope on Him.

Mender of hearts, I put my heart in Your hands. I trust you to help me keep it whole no matter what life may throw at me. In You I know that my eyes will find the light that they seek and that I can have hope for this day. I thank You that I can trust in You. Amen

Dark night

My God! My God,

why have you left me all alone?

Why are you so far from saving me—

so far from my anguished groans?

My God, I cry out during the day,

but you don’t answer;

even at nighttime I don’t stop.

~Psalm 22:1-2 (CEB)

“We may say that there are three reasons for which this journey mad by the soul to union with God is called night. The first has to do with the point from which the soul goes forth, for it has gradually to deprive itself of desire for all the worldly tings which it possessed by denying them to itself; the which denial and deprivation are, as it were, night to all the senses of man. The second reason has to do with the mean, or the road along which the soul must travel to this union- that is, faith, which is likewise as dark as night to understanding. The third has to do with the point to which it travels- namely, God, Who, equally, is dark night to the soul in this life. These three nights must pass through the soul- or, rather, the soul must pass through them- in order that it may come to Divine union with God.” ~From Ascent of Mount Carmel by Saint John of the Cross

Heavenly Father, when I find myself adrift and alone, guide me back into Your light. May all my travels find me closer to Divine union with You. Amen.

To sit awhile with me

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation.” ~Luke 19:39-46 (CEB)

“When Jesus was in his excruciating moment in the Garden of Gethsemane he needed his disciples to be with him while he prayed. He longed for the comfort of their presence and was pained by their inability to provide this for him. Jesus didn’t need Peter to slice off an ear of his enemy. He just needed Peter and the others to be there with him as he faced his enemies).” ~From The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp

Heavenly Father, help me to remember that sometimes others just need our presence. They may not be looking for words of comfort or even affirmations. Sometimes friends may just need someone to be “with them” in the sorry. Help me to see this day how I might “be with” others this day. Amen.

One long night

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. ” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us. ” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. ~Luke 2:8-20 (CEB)

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. Isn’t it? TV shows and commercials illustrate Christmas time as the … “most wonderful time of the year…” So if Christmas makes you blue… (now I have Evis singing in my head) or even flat out depressed it can be isolating in the sea of celebrations. It can leave some people gloomy finding the holidays anything but jolly, while still others will have experiences that make it difficult to be merry and bright.

When I think of the Advent story it seems to me to start out in the dark and cold, even in the midst of hopelessness. But it is also part of a bigger story of God’s grace waiting our discovery. It is a story of hope.

Sometimes the hype and clichés of the season distract us. The clever marketing ploys succeed in making us desire tangible things we can hold in our hands. Marketing gives us false illusions of how we can find happiness. However all the marketing efforts, hype and catchy logos cannot answer the deep questions of the heart, or address the pain that might reside there, explain the mystery of God’s presence, or even comprehend the meaning of our existence. It also does not help us to understand why bad things happen.

Advent can give us hope though in the midst of our isolation and false illusions because it tells us a story of how God humbled himself, intimately and personally through the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we blow off Advent as just another blip on the church calendar but it is meant to be something more. It is meant to lay a new path of faith for the new year ahead.

In the remembering and retelling of the magical story we are reminded that God loved us so much he allowed Jesus to come down here in the form of a fragile infant to be born in the lowliest of places. The retelling of the story is to remind me why Jesus came into the world in the first place, so that I might have life and live in the light.  I am reminded with the Advent story that God is a hands-on God willing to become vulnerable just so that I might catch a glimpse of how much He loves me. This story tells me that Jesus loved me so much that he came down to earth to be in the darkness with me and to walk with me as I search for the light.

Advent is meant to confront me once again with God’s unparalleled effort to communicate the message that I am embraced and held by a God of love. The Advent season is the time that I can shake off the failures, the victories and the sorrows of the past. I am given a new clean page. Again and again we see in the Bible that God is a God of second chances and the healer of broken hearts. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain and evil will be no more.

Heavenly Father, it gives me great comfort to know that You are big enough to handle all my sorrow, all my questions and all my fear. I am thankful that You are a God who is willing to come down to earth and be with me where I am, even if the place You find me is darkness. Even in the darkness I am not hidden from You. I may be worried that I will put others off during this “happy season” with the questions and fears that are hidden in my heart, but I know that You will never turn from my sorrow. You will never brush off my questions. You will never be upset with me if I have the “wrong feelings” for the season. You simply tell me that feelings just are.  Dear Lord, I thank You for sitting with me here right now, waiting with me through this long night, reminding me that there is always a dawn. Amen.

God’s hiddeness

“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” ~Job 23:2-9 (NRSV)

Sometimes in the midst of my troubles I feel so alone.  I even feel abandoned by God.  Here is an example in the Bible of a righteous man who also felt abandoned by all and God seemed to be so far away.

Life can get really ugly sometimes. We don’t have to live it perfectly. We just have to make it through each day until we get to the other side of bad times. We can’t get to the other side without living through it. The Israelites are an example of this. To make it to the Promised Land they had to go through the desert. They didn’t do it perfectly. They even still had some kinks that needed to be worked out when they got to the new land. But God guided them through the desert and they eventually got there.

When it seems that God isn’t answering my prayers I have to remember that He is faithful. There are things that He is doing that I cannot see. All I am required to do is to live through each day, letting Him guide my steps. I don’t have to see where I am going. I just have to go.

 Guide my steps this day Lord, blind as I may be to the work you are doing. Strengthen my trust in You that all things will work out in the end for my good. I know that the only way to get through this desert is to just walk on through. Steady my steps when they falter, strengthen my heart when it is faint, give me faith when it seems all hope is lost. Amen.

Forsaken

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. ~Luke 24:28-35 (CEB)

There are many references to people in the Bible who have felt forsaken or alone. Quickly scanning books like Job, Lamentations and some of the Psalms finds people with these feelings. Jesus too experienced that feeling of forsakenness. But Jesus was able to move from that forsaken lost place to feeling the confidence of a beloved child of God. The resurrection becomes the final proof that God can be trusted.

“Jesus’s journey from that forsaken feeling to confident trust gives hope to us in our times of loneliness and fear of being forsaken. If the theologians are right and God never does forsake us, we can remind ourselves frequently of God’s presence. Establishing a way of life that intentionally makes us present to God is one way of removing the feeling of God’s absence. Regular times of prayer and regular times of corporate, worship offer opportunities with the One who made us and loves us.” ~Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your word. I thank You for sending Jesus into this world. May I model my life after his in all I say and do. Give me the strength to also say “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Amen.

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