In The Storm

Things look a little different around here these days. There are trees, their leaves now golden-brown, bowed low to the ground along the highway. Ditches are deeper, wider. Cracks and widening gullies have appeared on the edges of the woods near our house. Water lines stain buildings in town. Gaps appear where trees used to stand and, in one spot, an entire row of pines has disappeared.

Hurricane Matthew may be long gone, but the evidence of it still remains. Our land is changed. We have been marked by the storm.

I know I’ve been absent here on the site over the past little while. I’ve been watching and waiting as this storm of contention continues to hover over our entire nation. I’ve been wondering what the long-term affects will look like…I’ve been wondering how our land will change…I’ve been wondering how my life will be altered.

We can’t control the storm or the changes time will reveal…but I’ve been thinking a lot about the landscape of my own heart in a time when wildfires of anger are hot and fierce, ignited by careless words…in a time when hatred and fear are raining down…in a time when the ground beneath us seems to be cracking under the pressure of it all.

My instinct is to find shelter, to avoid the storm as much as I can, to keep change at bay.

But I’m reminded, as I watch the constant flow of painful news stories, that Jesus willingly stepped into our storm. He came into the pain, into the sin-filled world, to bring His peace. He didn’t avoid the chaos, but pursued our hearts in the middle of it. He came into the mess of my mistakes so that I could know His life-giving love.

If I am following Him, I cannot pile sand-bags around my heart to maintain my own safety. If I am committed to loving people like He loves people, I have to be okay with exposure to the gales…and I CAN be, because I know that the Peace-Speaker, the One whom the wind and the rains obey, always holds my soul steady in His hands.

We’re all enduring a storm and, one way or another, we’ll be marked by it. But I don’t want to be marked by fear, apathy, anger, or confusion. I want it to be the Holy Spirit teaching and shaping the landscape of my soul as this season continues.

Instead of hardening toward those I disagree with, I want my heart to soften in compassion. I need to strengthen my resolve to become quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, and the first to love. I want to tend even more diligently to these roots so that I am firmly planted in truth, immovable by even the fiercest wind. I want to remain bowed low in prayer. I want a deeper desire to intercede for others who need Him. I want to be more vulnerable, to throw up the windows and open the doors even as the rain pours and the thunder bellows — because I  want to be faithful to go into the world…into the storm…with the good news of Jesus Christ.

We are the children of God, the body of Christ, the citizens of the kingdom of light — so let us live unafraid and undeterred by the schemes of the enemy. Don’t let the cacophony of the storm persuade us to stop singing the song of mercy, grace, and redemption we have been given…it may seem powerful and overwhelming at times, but ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ belongs to our Savior. His voice cuts through the chaos. His truth does not falter. His power and His love do not fail.

Our world will keep changing – but the One who holds its purpose remains steadfast.

He has entrusted us with the call to shine into the darkness, not just to light up our own safe circle…and we can follow where He leads us, knowing that there is no storm strong enough to extinguish the Light of Jesus Christ within us.

Knowing You are with us, we can boldly declare Your name to this world.  Knowing how You love us, we yield to the changes You make in us…conform us to Your image, Jesus, and let our lives glorify the Father.  Remind us, Lord, of who You are…in our hope in You, we can stand firm through every storm that comes into our lives.  

“Death could not hold You,
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names.”

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble…

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – from Romans 12

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What I Really Need This Christmas

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Days are short and evening light no longer lingers.

But there are candles glowing and sparkly lights are draped over the tall tree in the corner. There is hot tea in my cup and music in my ears. There are the bright eyes of my children, their laughter loud and strong.

I am grateful. With all my heart, I am grateful.

And yet – who can look around and not feel grief in this earth, in the ever-expanding trouble we witness?

It is hard, sometimes, to reconcile the many good things in our lives with this heart-rending world. It’s hard to look into the brokenness. It’s hard to see the chaos and the fear.

But I don’t want to forget, as this Advent season draws nearer, that the point of Christmas was exactly this: God coming into the turmoil.

Jesus not only faced the brokenness, but stepped into it. His own body was broken, His own heart cried out in agony.

And the baby in a manger – this Emmanuel, God with us – may be commemorated once a year, but it is not a moment in time that can ever be packed away. His birth was the fulfillment of a promise and the spark of a new Day – His birth, His death, and His Life are the Hope we have to give to the world around us.

He came to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed. He came to tear down the separation between our hearts and God. He came to show us how to love each other. He came to change us and to bring us into the kingdom of God…can you see how Christmas was the beginning of a story that is still unfolding? It’s a story I want to live. It’s a story we must tell, again and again, in the way we love and in the way we give.

What we have been given — and what we have to give — cannot be bought, lost, or destroyed. It cannot be stolen. It cannot be silenced for His love will last forever. His presence abides in every circumstance.

His grace is what we needed, so desperately, and it is what we received. Maybe this is the year that we keep our ears tuned into Him and our hearts centered in Him. Instead of a season that brings stress and a striving for surface perfection, may this December bring a reigniting of our passion to share His grace! May we rest in His presence and in His promises, so that we can be strengthened and – in His name – shine into the darkness. We can follow Him into the brokenness, in the power of His Spirit, and proclaim good news – declare freedom! We can give what sustains both body and soul, we who have so much – oh, let us have open hands.

Let us hear His story again, look into the manger and remember the thrill of hope and life abundant.

May this season be a spark in our souls so that we burn bold and beautiful with His Light.

In Him was life, and that life was the Light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. -John 1:4-5

*Please join me during the month of December…beginning on Monday, I’ll be posting something every day to help us remember His love and His story…in a season that can be busy, I hope to offer at least a moment of stillness. I hope these posts help to keep our eyes on His Light and on the Hope we share every day of the year.*

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