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

 

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A Song for Your Saturday

I hope that you find at least a few moments today to rest in the presence of Jesus — just as you are, with your heart open to Him.

For a little while, let go of expectation and obligation…let go of what you’re trying to hold together…and let the Father hold you.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.-1 Peter 5:7

Together We Follow: Genesis 8

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Dear friends,

On the hardest days it helps if I write to you like this, a letter to sisters and brothers walking through this life with me. I am here, sitting in my dining room and watching the rain fall outside. The limbs of our pine trees move with the wind; the road has a layer of water covering its dark asphalt.

I don’t know where you read my words, but I know that we share this same sky, the same wind, the same rain that falls.

And we share the sorrow of everything that is happening around us.

The news is hard these days. So very hard. It is hard to even keep track of all the wrongs being done, all the pain felt, all the violence that circles our earth.

All through my news feed on twitter, I keep reading these questions: how long? When will things get better? God, where are You?

I wonder if Noah had some of the same questions. We will read today how the days on the ark stretched on and on after the 40 days of earth-shattering torrents. In total, he and his family spent over a year in the boat, with the memory of what had been, the unknowns of the future. I wonder if they began to doubt their rescue would come. I wonder if they begin to wonder if God had saved them from the violence of their time and from the storm only to leave them alone to figure out how to survive. Don’t you think, being normal men and women like us, that they asked – how long, God? Where are You?

Answers came– because God remembered Noah. He had never, not for a moment forgotten him. In His timing, the flood receded. In His timing, this family stepped into a new life and a new covenant–God promised that He would never flood the earth again . Despite the evil of man’s heart, He gave His word that the seasons would go on and life would not be destroyed. He already knew that sin would grow again in the descendants of Noah. He wanted to give a way of heart-change, of full redemption.

So where was God? He was there, cradling the ark among the mighty waves. He was there, teaching Noah to trust Him even in the silent times. He was there when Noah stepped off the ark, the feat of starting over ahead of him. He was there.

So where does this leave us? In this time that seems like an endless cycle of pain, where is God?

He is with us. Emmanuel–God is with us.  We can take this truth even deeper – He is in us. When Jesus left this earth after His resurrection, He did not leave us alone. He did not leave us as orphans. He did not leave us powerless. He sent His Spirit to dwell within us.

When God sent the Holy Spirit, He was showing us-I am not going anywhere. I am Your teacher. I am your comfort. I am with you. I am your power to push back darkness, to undo what the enemy has done.

So where is God?

Church…body of Christ…brothers and sisters…He is in us. We are alive in Him; in Him we live and move and breathe. He has given us His authority and His ear. We are sons and daughters of God, given all that we need to live in His image and to give others this hope of redemption, beauty for ashes, a day when all will be made new.

He has given us His weapons to demolish the strongholds of the enemy, to stand firm against his plans of destruction.

 He has given us His love that lights our path and shows us how to love each other. He has shown us the power of unity.

He has made us one body.

This is it. This is when we fall to our knees and stand in this gap to pray, even as Jesus prays for us. This is when we let our love speak louder than the hatred the enemy is spilling everywhere, every day. This is when we act out of faith instead of fear.

Are the waves high? Is the storm fierce?

Yes, we know that it is – but our Savior walks on water. Our Savior can calm the storm with one command. Our rescue has already come!

Our Savior is the One who says – yes, you will have trouble in this world. But take heart! I have overcome the world!

Has He forgotten us?

No.

Let us not forget Him. Let us not forget who we are in Him.

Let’s commit to love, to hope. Let’s commit to kindness. Let’s commit to prayer because prayer matters. If not us – if not the children of God who have been set free by His power and ransomed by His love – then who will declare His love to a world that needs it? Who else will love their neighbors as themselves and pray for their enemies?

This is the time for us – the Church – to let the Light of the world shine through us.

This is my reminder and yours– the darkness does not ever, ever, ever overcome.

Don’t be afraid to shine.

Love,

Christie

Genesis 8 

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. The underground waters stopped flowing, and the torrential rains from the sky were stopped. So the floodwaters gradually receded from the earth. After 150 days, exactly five months from the time the flood began, the boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Two and a half months later, as the waters continued to go down, other mountain peaks became visible.

After another forty days, Noah opened the window he had made in the boat and released a raven. The bird flew back and forth until the floodwaters on the earth had dried up. He also released a dove to see if the water had receded and it could find dry ground. But the dove could find no place to land because the water still covered the ground. So it returned to the boat, and Noah held out his hand and drew the dove back inside. After waiting another seven days, Noah released the dove again. This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone. He waited another seven days and then released the dove again. This time it did not come back.

Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began, the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry!

Then God said to Noah, “Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.”

 So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat. And all of the large and small animals and birds came out of the boat, pair by pair.

 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

Together We Follow: Genesis 4:2-16

 

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I went on my first run in about a week and a half today, easing back into my morning routine after being sick. Walking the path that I usually take around the neighborhood, I immediately noticed that some changes had come during my absence.

A thread of cool air, an unmistakable touch of autumn, was woven into the morning wind. My neighbor’s bright green grass was dotted with brown leaves. The trees standing at the edge of the woods were all green the last time I ran through — but today, they were spotted with yellow, orange, and red leaves.

The changing leaves have far from taken over – it was, probably, a subtle shift — but one that I noticed because I have been looking at these trees and these yards all summer long. Because I’ve been paying attention all along, I saw the signs of an approaching fall.

There’s a lot that can be taken from today’s reading, but it’s a simple message to my heart today.

God knew Cain. He had always known him. He could see his heart. He knew every motivation, every intention, every feeling. He knew what Cain’s heart had been created to be…and so He could see the signs of change. Maybe He saw jealousy marring the surface of Cain’s soul, bitterness beginning to grow. Perhaps it was anger or insecurity drying out Cain’s joy, his peace. However it looked — God knew Cain, and so He recognized when he was struggling…and He wanted to help him. He wanted an abundant and free life for him. So He gave this first son of Adam a warning and an encouragement.

But Cain didn’t listen.  Instead of subduing sin, he stretched out his hands and let the enemy take control of him, binding him with anger and violence.

 

And I wonder — how many times have I dismissed or ignored the voice of the Holy Spirit? How many times have I not given Him space and time to speak to me? How many times do I choose my own voice…or the voice of someone else…or, worst of all, the voice of the enemy?

Let us see the simple facts here — God knows us. He knows our hearts, what they can be in Him…and He sees every subtle shift, every little change in us as we live.

When He speaks to us — if it is warning, if it is encourage us, if it is to tell us our next step — oh, I pray that we will put aside our pride, our fear, our wish to control, our busy-ness, our anger  (whatever it may be!) to listen. He knows what we need — He knows when it is His living water that we require, His pruning hand, or His gentle healing. He knows when we need discipline. He knows how to help us defeat the schemes of the enemy. He knows when we need comfort. He is our Creator and our Father–His intentions for us are good.

He wants to help us.

We decide whether or not we will let Him.

Lord, soften our hearts. Open our ears. Help us to know Your voice…help us to know when it is You speaking to us. Let us be aware of Your presence and actively listening for Your words. You KNOW us — and You know exactly what we need. We are like Cain – we are marked by Your mercy, Lord. When our just end could have been death, You gave us life. We know that You broke the bondage of sin for us — and it isn’t our past sins that define us, but Your sacrifice. Help us to LIVE in that victory. Help us to remember that we are more than conquerors through Your love – we are no longer slaves to sin, to fear, to shame. Teach us to hear every word that You speak — and to not just hear, but obey, growing to be ever more like You. 

 Genesis 4:2b-16

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

 

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

 

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.

So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

 

 

How We Overcome

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I am so thankful that when it comes to our battles — battles in which we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood, but with the spiritual enemies at work in this world — we do not stand alone. It isn’t our strength we have to rely upon, but God’s. It isn’t our abilities or the material things that we have that bring our victory — it is the power of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God within us that enables us to stand our ground.

So don’t give an inch. If you are in the middle of a battle, put on the armor God has provided — armor infused with His might — and put your eyes on Him. Open your mouth and do the last thing the enemy might expect in the heat of a hard moment — speak praise.

Because we have already been made more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

Do not give up on what you know God has called you to do. Don’t be intimidated, don’t be silenced, and don’t be afraid. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.

Keep going, friends. Sometimes the fight is loud and earth-shaking, sometimes the night is long, sometimes it is plain hard to stand firm. But with His love around us, with His Spirit empowering us…we can be confident that He is our defender and victory. He is our help and our shield.

When the battle is fierce, Lord, help our faith to grow fervent.

When we are fighting the darkness, let us see by the light of Your face.

“Through You we push back our enemies; through Your name we trample our foes. I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but You give us victory over our enemies, You put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise Your name forever.”-Psalm 44:5-8

Yet Shall I Praise

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In uncertainty, in dark and cloudy times, in the hard and heart-aching hours — remember, my soul, who God is.

Remember His power and His presence. Remember the answered prayers and the peace He brought when everything around me was chaos. Remember how He calmed my fears. Remember how He lifted my shame. Remember how He gave my heart a new song to sing. Remember how He called me beloved.

When our tears are our food day and night, when we are worn out and in distress- yet I will praise You.

When we feel forgotten, when we are mourning, oppressed, and suffering — yet I will praise You…You are still the God of my life.

We hope in You in the hard times because we set our minds and our souls and our hearts on the good Father You have shown Yourself to be, over and over again.

We remember You, Lord. We remember and, yes, in these ti
mes of struggle — we will yet praise You.

“My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You…the Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me…why are you cast down, o my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”-excerpts from Psalm 42