Following Close Behind

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It has been a noisy week. As I sit down to write this post, I still have all of these words scrambling around in my mind…words I’ve heard, words I’ve read, words I’ve spoken, words I’m trying to figure out how to express.

And as I come into this space…I’m yearning for quiet. I’m yearning for stillness. I’m yearning for less of me. I’m tired of my words.

It’s a sure sign that I need to hear His.

As we move into the weekend, maybe you (like me) are feeling that your brain is over-crowded and your heart is feeling a little weary.

We all need Sabbath-rest, friends.

So I’ll leave words here from the Psalmist, words to help my eyes re-focus on Him…and maybe take a walk, let everything else fade away for a little while, and leave room for the Father’s still, small voice.

May you find some room for quiet this weekend, some rest for your heart, some time to let everything around you fall to a hush for even just a little while…let’s leave space for His words, room for His presence.

My heart is confident in you, O God;
    my heart is confident.
    No wonder I can sing your praises!
Wake up, my heart!
Wake up, O lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn with my song.    

 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
    I will sing your praises among the nations.
For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
    May Your glory shine over all the earth. – Psalm 57:7-11

Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy…

Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:3-5,7-8

 

Be Still, My Soul (Scripture & Song)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him…-Psalm 62:5

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will claps their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” -Isaiah 55:8-13

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come…so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -2 Cor. 1, 20-22, 4:18

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations…May Your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” -Psalm 33:11, 22

“You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me…If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”-Psalm 139:5, 8-10

“But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.” -Psalm 13:5-6

Carry Me

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Nearly every afternoon, after I’ve picked her up from a full day of kindergarten, my daughter falls asleep in the car. We have to go one town over to pick up my son before returning home, so she has plenty of time to sink deep into slumber. Which means that, once we are finally home, she is quite unhappy to be awoken. There is usually an attempt to ignore the stopped car and my insistent voice. She’ll put her head to the side, eyes still closed, and would probably fall asleep again if I’d let her. But I unbuckle the seat belt and shake her gently, reminding her that we have to go inside if she wants a snack and time to play before homework.

Get your backpack, I tell her, when she finally slides out of her seat.

And then, every time, she slides it onto her back and declares: It’s too heavy! I can’t walk! I’m too tired! Carry me!

So with the bright pink and white Hello Kitty backpack slung over her shoulders, she throws her arms around my neck and I scoop her up into my arms. A few afternoons ago, she smiled as she rested her head on my shoulder and said: I carry my backpack and you carry me!

And her words were mirrors, reflecting a truth I needed to remember – even while we are called to pick up our crosses, even while we sometimes live with problems and the weight of our particular lives – we have a God who holds us firmly in His arms, burdens and all.

We do get tired, though, don’t we? Even the good things we are busy doing can begin to wear us out after a while if we are  drawing our abilities and strength from our own selves, forgetting to let God restore us with His Spirit…and if we are in a time of pain or fear, it can feel like our joy and strength have drained totally away, leaving us exhausted and wanting to just be left alone. We want to close our eyes to whatever comes next because it seems like we just cannot do it. Our shoulders are caving in from the weight of carrying it all and our legs are giving out, too weak to move another step.

And this is when it is time to say to our Father: I can’t do this on my own…this life is too heavy for me. I need Your help. Like Kailey, we can cry it out: Carry me!

Because the same Savior who calls us to carry our cross is the same Savior who says: Cast all your cares upon Me. This is not a contradiction but a beautiful mystery of grace: the work He has called us to do, the responsibilities entrusted to us, the hard times we are asked to endure – we must do all these things with our whole heart and everything within us…but all the while, He is our very present help. He gives us fresh strength. He gives us joy. He gives us His power…2 Peter 1:3 says that He gives us everything we need to live the Godly lives to which He has called us. So in our weakness, we don’t give up – because He comes through and He is strong in us and for us.  When He carried the Cross to Calvary, didn’t He bear all of that weight of the broken world because we could not carry it on our own? Doesn’t He still stretch out His arms for us, holding us and the heaviness of our hearts, so that we can find His yoke easy and His burden light?

We carry what we have been given, faithfully, and He carries us.

If you are weary and don’t feel able to budge another step, it’s time to remember that He is waiting to be your help and your source of strength. There is life ahead of you – a holy calling to live out His love – and so don’t stay put, eyes and ears closed to His beckoning. Reach out to Him and trust that He is able to keep you from falling. Even more than that, when we obey and trust Him, He carries us to the place we need to be: a place of purpose and abundant life, a place of fulfillment and restored hope. It takes talking to Him – surrendering control of what we are holding – and putting our faith in His promises to sustain us and to help us. The Message version of Isaiah 41:10 helps us to plainly hear God’s sure Word to us: Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

That makes me want to say with David, that poet-king – “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens…Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms.” (NIV&NLT)

We can rest in this way, with bold belief in His love and knowing that He will carry us all the way home.

“…you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born–
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”~Isaiah 46:3-4

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders…the eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms…He is your shield and helper.” ~from Deuteronomy 33

 

 

You Are Always Welcome Here

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My daughter has a Sunday afternoon routine. After church clothes are changed into play clothes and lunch is eaten, I know where to find her– sitting with her daddy.

Neil has a hectic work schedule and doesn’t get to spend much time at home during Kailey’s ‘awake’ hours. But she knows that on Sunday afternoons, Daddy is home. And when Daddy is home, she is determined to be right by his side.

He is usually watching sports. Basketball, football…whatever the season may be. She doesn’t care what is on the television. She is not there for the entertainment. She is there just to be near him. Sometimes she cuddles up to his side, his arm around her. Sometimes she plops herself right onto his lap, laying her head back against his chest. And she stays there, quietly talking to him for a while.

Under normal circumstances, Kailey does not stay still or quiet for very long. She dances around the house, runs from room to room in search of a toy or her brothers. I often hear her singing made-up songs all over the house and her favorite demand is come play with me! She likes to be in motion, actively doing something. But, on these Sunday afternoons, she is still. And, usually, it is not long before her eyes close and she drifts off to sleep. When she wakes up, she is smiling – “I took a nap with Daddy!”- and ready for action again.

She couldn’t put all of this into words, of course, but her actions tell me how she feels – safe, secure, cherished. She knows, without doubt, that she is welcome to sit by his side. Rest comes naturally and easily when she is in her daddy’s arms. He doesn’t have to talk or sing or play…he is there and that is all she really needs in those moments. She adores this man who is delighted by her presence, who loves her unconditionally. Being close to him is enough to make her content…and this thrills her daddy to no end. He loves being loved by her.

Words weren’t coming so easily this morning when I tried to pray. All of my thoughts were running, too loudly, around in my head. And this picture of Kailey resting by Neil’s side popped into my head. I realized – that’s what I need…to be still and simply lean into my Father’s presence…because being in His presence is enough to bring peace to my heart and to my scattered, frantic mind.

I don’t know what your relationship with your own father was like. But we all share a Heavenly Father who is always, always available and inviting us to be near Him. We are welcomed and wanted… treasured by Him. He knows us, knows us as we really are, and still calls us His own. So we don’t have to wear a pretense, we don’t have to act a certain way, we don’t have to do a song or dance to impress Him…we come to Him empty-handed and we are wholly loved. It is His love that brings us close to Him. It is His mercy that brings us into His presence.  We are free to simply come and sit before His throne of grace, to know that He is there and (this ever-amazes me!) He is delighted by us. I think our Father’s heart is thrilled when we can come to Him, free of expectation, just because we want to be near Him…because we want to adore Him, to honor His glory, to delight in His beauty. To love Him because He first loved us.

And if problems and worries are a weight on your mind? If your too-loud thoughts are an obstacle? He says – give those to Me. I am taking care of you.  Rest in Me.

We are all usually in constant motion. Working, cleaning, shopping, playing – it seems like there is always something to do these days. But Kailey has the right idea. As soon as she can, she runs to her daddy’s side.

We have to make time to run into our Father’s presence and to stay there, as close as we can get to His heart. There is a time for stillness, to soak in the peace of being in His holy presence, to simply love Him and be loved by Him. There is a time to wait by His side and a time to rest in His arms. There is a time to be re-filled with love and to be given new strength, new energy to walk in obedience to His Word and to live out this life He has given to us…knowing, even more fully, that He is always walking with us.

The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.-Deut. 33:27

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. –Psalm 62:1-2

How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings…for with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” -Psalm 36: 7&9

You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence…-Psalm 16:11a

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. -Psalm 37:7

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. -Matthew 11:28-29

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love. –Psalm 147:10-11

For Days that Are Full & Hearts that Are Tired

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As the season begins to change and we find our hands full of “to-do, go-there, be-this, don’t-forget-that”, may we always remember to empty our full hands into His hands.  Let us give it all to the One who loves us so completely that He wants to carry our burdens for us. We don’t have to figure it all out for ourselves.  He will order our steps…He will make our way straight.  He will “bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”. (2 Cor. 9:8)   Yes, the day can bring whatever it will bring…and if we are keeping company with Christ, He will empower us in every circumstance. I believe that, placed in His care-taking, our lives can be full — but not frantic. We can be pressed and still His peace will preside. We will not be stressed, but sustained. We can look at our hands full of busy and know that, in Him, even burdens can become blessings.

And even if it is one of those days when our emotions tell us that we are barely hanging on — because those days do come —  He is still beneath and behind and before us. We are not just hanging on to Him. He is holding us. We are safely and securely in the palm of His hand.  He never lets us go.  (You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me…your right hand will hold me fast. –from Psalm 139)

 So no matter how we feel and no matter what our rush-around world may bring — may we pro-actively surrender our schedules for a quiet breath, a slow-down space, wait-on-the-Lord moments. We need Him…we need time to surrender our day-to-day lives to the One who is Lord over every emotion, every blessing, every trouble that comes our way, every task on our agenda, everything in our lives. May we open His Word and carry it in our hearts, living out His love and light everywhere we go. May we seek Him in stillness, may we allow Him to be the center of our lives…

…and when we take these feeble steps in obedience toward Him, even as our legs tremble and our feet falter, He is the Father running to meet us. Boundless, He crosses the space between and gives us far more than we could ever begin to give to Him.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. ~ from Isaiah 40

A Deep Breath…

Maybe your day has been long…maybe you are out of energy and ready to rest.  If that’s true…I’m right there with you.

So let’s take a deep breath together and take a minute to put our minds on the love that surrounds us, the beauty we’ve seen today. I was awed by the sunbeams stretching over golden fields this morning on the drive to school…how about you? What did you see…hear…or feel today that spoke of God’s glory?

Let’s ask the Father to quiet our hearts and our always-busy brains so that we can end this day in His peace…His presence restores everything we’ve given today…His presence refreshes our spirits, gives us strength and patience to wake up tomorrow morning and give again.

So let’s worship Him…wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever’s on your mind – it doesn’t have to sound a certain way…He comes near to us when we call on His name. A simple thank you…a simple ‘I love You’…all that matters is that your worship comes from your heart. All that matters is that your heart is surrendered to Him.

Breathe deep, steady and sure. You are in His hands.  You are loved.

“I’m ready, God, so ready,
ready from head to toe,
Ready to sing, ready to raise a tune:
“Wake up, soul!
Wake up, harp! wake up, lute!
Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!”

 I’m thanking you, God, out loud in the streets,
singing your praises in town and country.
The deeper your love, the higher it goes;
every cloud is a flag to your faithfulness.

 Soar high in the skies, O God!
Cover the whole earth with your glory!”

~Psalm 57:7-11

Where to Find Real Rest

At the end of this day, is your heart longing for the quiet comfort of the Father’s embrace? Is your soul aching for peace — a time of sanctuary amid the chatter and busy to-do list of the week?

For me, nothing sounds better right now than entering into His presence and hiding in the shelter of His love.

Will you join me in acknowledging who He is and resting in His great compassion?   Won’t you accept this marvelous gift our Savior offers? “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  (Matthew 11:28-30, The MSG)

 

Psalm 103

   Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 
   Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits— 
   who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases, 
   who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion, 
   who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

   The LORD works righteousness
   and justice for all the oppressed.

   He made known his ways to Moses,
   his deeds to the people of Israel:
   The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
   slow to anger, abounding in love. 
   He will not always accuse,
   nor will he harbor his anger forever; 
   he does not treat us as our sins deserve
   or repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
   so great is his love for those who fear him; 
   as far as the east is from the west,
   so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

  As a father has compassion on his children,
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 
   for he knows how we are formed,
   he remembers that we are dust. 
The life of mortals is like grass,
   they flourish like a flower of the field; 
   the wind blows over it and it is gone,
   and its place remembers it no more. 
But from everlasting to everlasting
   the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
   and his righteousness with their children’s children—
   with those who keep his covenant
   and remember to obey his precepts.

  The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
   and his kingdom rules over all.

 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
   you mighty ones who do his bidding,
   who obey his word. 
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
   you his servants who do his will. 
Praise the LORD, all his works
   everywhere in his dominion.

   Praise the LORD, my soul.