Signs and wonders

If you happen to think to yourself,” These nations are greater than we are; how can we possibly possess their land?” don’t be afraid of them! Remember, instead, what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and all Egypt: the great trials that you saw with your own eyes, the signs and wonders, and the strong hand and outstretched arm the LORD your God used to rescue you. That’s what the LORD your God will do to any people you fear. The LORD your God will send terror on them until even the survivors and those hiding from you are destroyed. Don’t dread these nations because the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is with you and among you. ~Deut.7:17-21 (CEB)

These versed jumped out at me three years ago after a particularly trying time. I was in the game of worrying about how I was going to fix everything and had myself convinced once again that I just needed to try-harder. I felt that God was telling me that even though I felt the problems I was dealing with were bigger than me I was not to be afraid of them. Instead I was to think back to times where God had done signs and wonders in my life. I was to think of the times He had rescued me from storms where his strong arm had plucked me out of the drowning waters. I was not to fear the trials I was going through. When I read these verses instead of seeing this as a story about the Israelites I saw myself in these verses and I knew God would fight my battle!

Despite the wonders God has done in my life, despite the signs He has sent me to convince me of His love for me I still find that I keep slipping back behind the mask of trying-hard. I am not meant to fight these battles alone. The story was never meant to be “By Jennifer’s mighty strength the battle was won.” No the story was always been, “See what the good Lord has done in Jennifer’s life? See the wonders! Look at these signs in her life and know that the Lord is good, that He will do for you what He has done for her.”

Heavenly Father, Thank You for always reminding me who is really winning the battles. I thank You that I don’t have to be strong enough, smart enough or patient enough. I thank You that You are. May Your love sustain me through this day through battles big and small. May I always give You the glory. Amen.

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Moods

But now thus says the Lord,

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name,

you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not

overwhelm you;

when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

~Isa. 43:1-3 (NRSV)

 

It is so easy to let my moods hold power over me. Sometimes it just sneaks up behind me and grabs on tightly. I struggle for patience. Soon I am snapping at those closest to me.

“Are we condemned to be passive victims of our moods?  Must we simply say:  ‘I feel great today’ or ‘I feel awful today,’ and require others to live with our moods?

Although it is very hard to control our moods, we can gradually overcome them by living a well-disciplined spiritual life.  This can prevent us from acting out of our moods.  We might not “feel” like getting up in the morning because we “feel” that life is not worth living, that nobody loves us, and that our work is boring.  But if we get up anyhow, to spend some time reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and thanking God for a new day, our moods may lose their power over  us.” ~Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen.

Reading God’s Word reminds me who walks through the storms with me. He will not let me be overwhelmed. When I am in the midst of fire, He will not let me be burned. God knows my name. He formed me and created me. My moods have no true power. They do not have to define my day. “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isa, 41:13)

Heavenly Father, I thank You for this new day you have given me. I thank You for the house I live in, the food I have in my cabinets, and the love of family and friends. I thank You for Your Word from which I can draw strength to face the day. I thank You also for the reminder that my mood does not have to hold power over me. Amen.

Time to move on

At Horeb, the LORD our God told us: You’ve been at this mountain long enough. Get going! Enter the hills of the Amorites and the surrounding areas in the desert, the highlands, the lowlands, the arid southern region, and the seacoast—the land of the Canaanites—and the Lebanon range, all the way to the great Euphrates River.  Look, I have laid the land before you. Go and possess the land that I promised to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as to their descendants after them. ~Duet. 1:6-8 (CEB)

There are some things I just never seem to get over. Oh, yes, time does ease the pain of it but some scars will always be with us. I used to get mad at myself when “anniversaries” came around and I found myself siting in old pain. I have come to a point that I don’t get upset and instead allow myself some extra space to deal with what I know is coming. I have learned to accept that the pain is real (even if illogical) and sometimes I might need to sit with it.

One day when I was reading about Elijah, his story gave much insight. After doing a mighty deed with God in calling down rain when the false gods remained silent (1 Kings 18), when he should have been feeling on top of the world, Elijah let fear slip in when Jezebel swore to have him killed. Elijah ran away to Mount Horeb. Elijah sunk into such a deep depression that he couldn’t function. God didn’t berate Elijah but instead sent a messenger to tend him. God allowed Elijah some time to his feelings but after a little while God’s Word comes to Elijah. There is work to be done. It’s time to get back to living, back to the work you have been called (1 Kings 19).

The scripture from Deuteronomy 1:6-8 is telling the Israelites the same thing. You have been wandering around in the desert building up your strength long enough. It is time to move into the promise I have for you. Sometimes it is important to be still. In our stillness we are reminded who God is (Psalm 46:10). In our stillness we are reminded that God has a plan for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). But if we remain still for too long fear will begin to take hold.

When I get nervous about moving on, I recall verse 8 from Deuteronomy 31, “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!” Living hurts, but we are not meant to stay in the sad moments. God has promised great joy. (John 15:11)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your promise of joy and of hope. I thank You for the people You placed in my life to walk with me on this journey.

Out of the darkness

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied: free me from my anguish. ~Psalm 25:16-17 (NIV)

As many as one if four people may suffer from the disease of depression at some point in time in their life.

The news about Robin Williams has crushed my heart. I have known friends and family who have struggled with depression. There have been times that I even worried that they might take their life. With odds as high as one in four we all know people who are struggling, whether we realize or acknowledge it. Maybe you at this moment are in that dark pit.

What breaks my heart further is when someone feels that if they were just “stronger” or had “more faith” they could just pull themselves up out of the darkness. Even more painful is when they refuse to get help because it is a “sign of weakness.”

I know that the brain is a complicated organ. As I have watched family members struggle and have tried to help them seek relief, I know there is no quick fix and sometimes we have simply found a band-aide. For the moment.

Hearing about Robin Williams has stirred up panic in the very depths of me. If it has happened to him. It could happen to someone I love dearly! The news also takes me back six years ago to a pit of my own. I remember that feeling of reaching out to God to pull me out only to still be in that darkness. It took time to turn that pit into a tunnel that eventually returned me to the light. When I didn’t have hope, friends hoped for me. They believed even when I couldn’t.

The best thing you can do for someone you care about is to simply hold their hand so they know they are not alone. To hope even when they can see no hope. And sometimes to say…. “I once was so very lost, and I eventually found my way out…. ”

Heavenly Father, open my heart this day to those who might need a kind word or a hand to hold. Calm my own fears about those I love who are surrounded by darkness today. May they feel Your presence in that darkness and help them move through that darkness into Your Light. Thank You for reaching down to sit with me in my own darkness. Thank You for not leaving me alone, even though I may not have felt You, You were there. Thank You for seeing me, for knowing me and for loving me. Amen.

To see God’s dwelling place

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness ‘sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5:1-11 (CEB)

How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich?   Poverty has many forms.  We have to ask ourselves:  “What is my poverty?”  Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence?  Each human being has a place of poverty.  That’s the place where God wants to dwell!  “How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3).  This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it.   Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden. ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Help me to see where You dwell in my life this day O Lord. If I cannot find You this day, help me to see what is blocking my sight. Help me to look to You for my security, my safety and my self-confidence. Amen.

Death sentence

It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”  He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.

While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him. ”

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

“Barabbas, they replied.

Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said, “Crucify him!”

 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?”

They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”

All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified. ~Matt. 27:15-26 (CEB)

Is it possible that our world still knows better how to deal with a bandit, a murder, an insurrectionist than it knows to do with the Prince of Peace? There is a sense in which an assassin’s attempt on the pope’s life is less shocking to our world than the pope’s forgiveness of him. Is it possible that we would rather deal with raw power that rides on a stallion than with this one who comes on a donkey with the weapons of love, patience, suffering, and peace? Given the choice isn’t it possible that we would take Barabbas, too? ~From What Will You Do with King Jesus? by James A. Harnish

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 130:23-24)

my heart weeps…

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” ~Psalm 34:18

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express ~Romans 8:26

For our broken hearts this day Lord, we ask for Your healing touch. We need Your peace. Please wrap us up in Your loving arms. Amen.

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