Easter thoughts

I really cannot imagine how the next generation will hear about 2020, or what they will think about the pandemic, or if they will really laugh that it was toilet paper that was a “hot” commodity for the first 6 months. I know we’re not fully back to our “normal” but we’re getting there in some places. I know it’s had an impact on us in different ways, but I’ll be honest that it’s taken a while to admit to the impact personally.  My kids are out of the house, I have worked remote for nearly 20 years before all this, and I was already going to grad school online….so in my mind, I didn’t have as much adapting to do as everyone. I realize it was a monumental shift for most, and my hat is off to everyone who has to navigate it different than I did!

That being said, I’m an extrovert. So in spite of having worked from home for all these years, not being able to gather – specifically at church – has probably had the biggest impact on me. Not that I don’t know how to seek God or learn on my own – I do. But in gathering, that truly is where I find so much joy, being with others whose lives are also being transformed by the life and way of Jesus. I know doing things digitally and “fellowshipping” remotely has taught us in new ways to be the Body of Christ scattered– and I so much want to hear what we all have learned in the midst of it!

Today, sitting in a common space that once used to be bustling with people having coffee and lunch after church… I realized something. I miss the feeling of all of us having BEEN in the presence of God – and having worshipped and been taught — together. Maybe bored sometimes – sure. Maybe challenged, maybe not. But seeing each other, seeking God, seeking to learn. I miss that.

I miss it because being together is a good reminder that we are not on this journey alone. Some of the videos I have seen this past year of people singing, together, across continents and countries has been just beautiful and healing. This one from Zimbabwe singing the Blessing song just about brought me to tears, especially given much of the hurt our country is feeling over racial things right now. It felt like my brothers and sisters from across the ocean singing healing to our wounded places, reminding us that in Christ… we ARE ONE.

https://youtu.be/OA1tVs7VNcY (you might have to copy and paste this, or just look up “The Blessing Zimbabwe” )

So as we step into Easter this weekend, regardless of whether your church is meeting in person, if you are still watching it at home…. If your church is big or small, or you are one that feels like you are on the margins and have been pushed out of the body of Christ for some reason (you know who you are, and let me remind you – you still belong)…. I offer you this humble thought on Good Friday, when we remember that our lives have been changed forever.

My dear family in Christ:

Remember that we are a force to be reckoned with, when we put ourselves in the presence of our God, then we walk forward in the love and joy and freedom we have found knowing Jesus. There is no depth of love that can every compare. You ARE the city on a hill, you ARE the light that is meant to shine hope and share an anchor we have.

It’s not that we huddle in our little groups and worship (which I’m sure folks think is strange) because we are proud, or exclusive, or want to perpetuate an “us-vs-them” mentality

It’s not that we have checked our brains at the gate, or been duped into believing some tale that gives us an escapist perspective that nothing matters

It’s because we’re willing to admit there is mystery in what we do not understand

It’s that we have been through knock-down-drag-out fights with the stuff of life and are STILL HERE

If we’re still in the dark, still in the hard stuff – it’s that we know there is a way out, because our God is not made of darkness

It’s that in spite of cultural messages that tell us we have to have the latest and greatest to stay relevant – we know we are being made new every morning when we talk to the One who created us.

(I guess that means I’m on v48.353… )…. hahaha!

It’s because in spite of bodies that age and break down, in spite of old injuries or surgeries or glasses or maybe a bout with cancer or two – we know and have experienced the Source of life – and that keeps us young forever

It’s because we haven’t settled for the subtle message that “everything will be ok”. We have wrestled with the God that created us and we know He’s real, and his promise to not abandon us is true. THAT’s why it is well with our soul

It’s because our faith is built on the stuff of wilderness and wandering, of calling back and of knowing we are here to live into a kingdom of forgiveness, mercy, grace

It’s because we too, may have at one time thought we didn’t need God, or his power living in us…But now we know it’s more important than anything else that lasts in this life

It’s because we know this is for everyone else too…. And we know the story isn’t over yet

That’s why we gather. That’s why we worship

That’s why we celebrate a leader, a master, a king….one that is not an idea, or just someone in a history book, or just a moral leader

It’s because the very life that brought him up from the grave brings us to life IN ALL THINGS.

So tonight, may things be surrendered at the cross that need to be surrendered. May we take the cup He offers, however hard, and say “your will, not mine”, knowing our Savior is right there with us.

And come Sunday… oh Sunday……may you worship with abandon, however you do it. May you delight in the body God gave you, however young or old. May you know your worth as a child in a kingdom that has been wrestling to make itself known since the day He walked the earth, but one that will never cease to be built as long as His story is told in us.

Hallelujah!

My take on Hebrews 11

The view of mountains (far, far in the distance) as you drive into Colorado from Nebraska. I promise you, they are there right beneath the clouds.

If you have been in church for any length of time, you have probably heard Hebrews 11:1 quoted often:

“For Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the assurance of things unseen”

or, as the Message translation puts it: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. Its our handle on what we can’t see”

The author then goes on to list all these people who lived from the time God called Abram somewhere between 2100 and 1800 BC through his current time, pointing to choices people had to make in the face of difficulty to show that they knew God had bigger plans for them, for their nation, for their lives. Not all of their lives are reflected in this overview, just some big, recognizable stories. It would be like if you had done your family’s genealogy and you just wrote about the highlights, like “your great, great, great grandparents moved from [insert country] to [insert country] with nothing, just to make a better life/escape war… then by faith they took this job and followed this path… and it landed them [insert state/country] where they met [insert spouse], and married them even though the family shamed them …”.

You get the picture. High level. Hard stuff that takes guts and faith in a God-sized destiny. The ability to look far, far away and see something beautifu. Kind of like looking for mountains on the horizon as you drive into Colorado, just waiting for them to appear 🙂

One of the things I have always loved to challenge people with is to read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11. Note the things you think really took faith, and note the ones that didn’t. Fact check. Do you think the author was painting any of this with rose-colored glasses?

Here’s why I ask: “…by faith [Moses] left Egypt, unafraid of the kings anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible”. Yet if you read Ex 2:14, there is a bit of a different take on why Moses left Egypt.

I’m not saying this to point out an error in the bible. But I do think the author of Hebrews is using this as an example to make a point. He could look back and SEE the long haul of Moses life, which DOES tell us that God walked with him to bring deliverance for the Israelites. Much of his later life IS lived in light of believing on the One who is invisible.

So this is big picture vision. How much of our lives to we spend in small picture vision?

Yes, the day in- day out existence matters. Did you speak kindly to your wife/husband/child/partner/friend/neighbor/person-at-the-checkout-counter/coworker/enemy today? Yes motives in business matter, Yes to all the little things that honor God.

But have you ever taken a step back and looked at your life to see the things that you have walked through, by faith? Not for self glory, but to take a humble look at how God has led you, maybe even when you didn’t notice.

By faith… what has been overcome? By faith, what did you live through? By faith, how were you carried by God when you just about gave up?

Sometimes when we wrestle to understand scripture, its easy to forget that our lives too can be found in these stories. They look different, they sound different, but God is still a God of rescue and deliverance. He is still writing stories…. and don’t think for a second that yours doesn’t belong alongside the list of folks in Hebrews 11!

What’s your story? No matter how hard it might be to write it down, get it all out. When you cannot see where God was there for you…. rather than avoid it, I challenge you to be willing to face it, be honest, and ask God about it. I trust He was there in a way you cannot ever have imagined.

— Tama

That craving….

Photo Credit: Free Photo Library provided by WordPress. Whoever took this picture.. I would have loved to be your taste tester 🙂

My kids have always known me for someone who, if you put a bag of almond M&Ms in front of me, will easily eat the entire bag in one sitting. There is just something about the perfect balance of crunch and chocolate. So too, a good chocolate mousse, the kind you take one spoonful of and savor, tasting every bit of the chocolatey goodness. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

I realize not everyone has such a liking for sweets. For some of you, this kind of reaction might only happen tasting a well-grilled, mouth-watering steak or a flavorful soup. Or, if you’re like my girls – it comes with the first bite of some good old Chicago deep dish pizza!

Regardless, we all know what it is to crave something, to savor said craving, to lean back and just smile as all those taste buds explode and send whatever good chemicals firing in your brain that it sends. “Delightful” might be one way to describe it.. “Delectable”…. “Heavenly”… or just down right “Damn that was good!” (Ok, some of you are going to just have to forgive me for that and get on with reading :-).

Why do I bring this up? Well, because its something we can all track with at some level or another. This idea of craving and desire. Oh, sure, maybe for you it’s not food based. Goodness knows there are sundry other things that we crave – some good for us, some not so good. When the weather’s nice, I also crave a good 10-15 mile bike ride to get my blood pumping. In quarrantine, you could say I’m craving a night filled with good friends and great conversations (and amazing food of course)!

Last night I picked up a book I read a few years ago (Mark Buchanan’s Spiritual Rhythms: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul) and skimmed the last few chapters again. I realized then that I had never actually finished the book. In one section, he talks about a sermon he preached on Phil 3:16, and challenged those listening to think about things they used to be sure of in God, but somehow had been stolen away, or maybe just lost. The movie “The Stone of Destiny” was a bit of inspiration, and so of course I had to watch it last night.

But it got me to thinking about what I had lost in my own life in some ways:

Delight…. in the Lord.

It doesn’t mean I stopped loving or seeking Him. He’s been true to every promise, faithful to me time and time again. But as I think back through most of my life’s walk, there was a childlike delight about my faith. Even through the tough years of raising teens, it remained. I don’t think I realized it had faltered….. but it did. Somewhere along the way of re-establishing who I was… it got a bit lost I think?

So today, I want to share with you my favorite passage that always reminds me of what my SOUL needs to crave. I hope, as you continue to persist during these times of quarrantine, this can be an encouragement for you too! (and I’m sorry this post is so long. There just wasn’t any other way to do it).

Isaiah 55:1-2

Looking at the first verse as more poetry, it speaks of cravings, and opposites: Thirst – there’s water! No money? – its ok, you can come buy and eat! In an agrarian society where you are completely dependant on the elements for food and water, I have a feeling this sounded a lot richer to the people who first heard it. But look at the progression. Remember that physical representations in scripture are often just natural things we can wrap our heads around to understand the greater message being conveyed.

Hebrew doesn’t have all the words we do and so sometimes translators have to add other words in to have the passage make sense and convey meaning. So I looked at just the Hebrew words. Now, please understand, I am still learning this stuff but still – in Hebrew it reads more like this:

“Why wages bread, earnings satisfy satisfy? Listen, listen eat/devour good good!” — still pretty similar to what we have in our translations. Its easy to read this and think: well of course I am working to earn money and feed my family. That is not the point. He’s saying LISTEN: There’s something more. You work to feed your self, your family – but there is MORE. Better.

Then this last part [anag nephesh deshen] : Be happy, delight. Your soul, desire, emotion, passion, the breathing substance and innner part of you. Fatness!Blessing!

Do you hear that?

God invites us to come to him to have our soul’s craving satisfied. That deep part of us that no one gets to see, that part where hope is supposed to dwell, the part that holds our emotion, our hidden desires, our longings, our fears.

Why do we think our earnings, our work (or what we do to keep busy now that you may be out of work due to the Covid crisis) – will really satisfy? Yes, its needed. Yes we have to feed ourselves and our families. But there is something deeper here to be learned, my friends. This means we have to step into the world of actually bringing our souls to him and asking him to satisfy that deep longing. Online church, zoom bible studies can’t always do that for you.

Who knows? Maybe its something else that you once had in your walk but you lost somewhere along the way. I’d encourage you to think deeply about what that was.

Trust?

Hope?

Joy?

A desire to even talk with Him? Belief that He actually cared about you?

Wonder about who He really is?

This week: I challenge you. Commit to getting away. Go for a walk. Sit in your car at the park, or in a chair at the far end of your back yard, or on your apartment balcony.

Wake up your soul, and invite the One who created you to breathe whatever is missing back into your life.

Blessings my friends!

Back up the mountain?

Somewhere along the road, we learn to cope with the things that knock us down, don’t we? We figure out how to do life again, maybe limping, but we keep going. We kind of have do, don’t we? Life doesn’t give you an option, but you can always figure out a way forward, even if its not what you expected.

I was was with a friend yesterday, someone with whom I have walked with for the past year or so, ever since she was diagnosed with a number of health issues. A group of us prayed for her, that God would bring healing; she has three young kids and they need her desperately. Dad’s unfortunately not very present. At that time, it seemed she’d be gone in a few months.

That was a year ago. Her health issues continue, she has more blood clots than anyone can imagine. Constant pain, a blood disease that renders surgery not an option, and failing lungs. Every day is hard. Yet she keeps going, she keeps leading her kids in faith, she keeps her home bakery business going to support her family. Doctors cannot explain why she is still here – and her answer is always “Well, I have a big God”. Yes, yes she does.

After I met with her, I kept thinking of a story in the book of Exodus (note: not because it described her, but because of the encouragement it could bring her) where Moses has just come down off the mountain and dropped the commandments God had given him, in anguish over the idol the Israelites had formed. This God that had delivered them from their slavemasters had just promised to be their God and lead them. He had spoken purpose over them – going from being slaves to being priests and a light to the world. They had agreed! But they so quickly went back to their old ways, not yet knowing how to trust in the God that had met with them nor how to follow his ways.

The description of them is as a “stiff-necked” or “obstinate” people, and Moses had the great task of leading them. I cannot imagine how frustrating it was for him as a leader. I can imagine if this happened today, his social media post would read something like:

COME ON, PEOPLE – GET WITH THE PROGRAM! Pay attention to what is being offered to you! Seriously. (#frustrated #leaderprobs #arewethereyet? #getmeouttahere)

I have a feeling that for those of you out there in leadership, or those serving in the body of Christ, or those helping your neighbors, or those raising teens – many of you get this, you feel the frustration Moses felt. You wonder “why me, God?” Why do I have to put up with this stubborn people, these kids, this situation? I’m trying to lead them, teach them, do my best to steer the Titanic away from disaster……

Maybe we can learn something from Moses. And friends, I do not say this lightly, because I need to hear this as much as you. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t need to be reminded of this very truth.

(I know I am skipping over a bunch in the text, but bottom line:) Moses asked God to show himself, after crying out for God to go with them into the promised land…. and God answered:

“Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, Jehovah….”

Can you imagine what that would have been like?

THIS IS WHO I AM. Not just “el”, the other gods people speak of. I AM YAHWEH God, that speaks.

God first reminds Moses who He is, before he reminds him of his character:

“Yehovah, Yehovah, the God merciful, gracious and slow to anger, abundant in goodness/loving kindness, and truth/faithfulness”

My friend, I know – you have probably asked God to show up, and maybe He has, or maybe God seems silent. Or maybe you haven’t had the heart to ask.

Yet the question remains – and will always be, no matter what trial you are facing, what stubborn people you are dealing with – are you willing to go back up the mountain, and let your soul be reminded of the God you serve? Will you let the Holy Spirit, in that mysterious way He comforts and speaks to us, bring these words to life again in you? Let the character of the God we serve, embodied in these words, wash over your tired and frustrated heart, and give you courage

“Yehovah, Yehovah, the God merciful, gracious and slow to anger, abundant in goodness/loving kindness, and truth/faithfulness”

He has not left. You are not alone. And He goes with you. That is his promise to us!

For the love of… what?

This is Oliver, our Maine Coon. He’s about 21 pounds, looks like a little lion when we have him trimmed, and he’s a “spiritual cat”….. Haha, just kidding – he lays pretty much on any piece of paper or book around :-). Yesterday was the day I dropped Oliver and our youngest off at CSU for her second year of school – and his first. It was hot, and because he doesn’t like traveling, he decided to poop in his crate half way to Fort Collins. Needless to say, Oliver got a bath the minute we got to school. He smells like coconut now, Maia is moved in and happy to see her friends again. All is well.

Me, I’m taking a few days to explore the northern part of the state that I always drive by on the way to and from Fort Collins. Benefits of working from home mean that you can pretty much work from anywhere – so today and tomorrow my office is a quaint Airbnb with great wifi and not too far from Estes Park and Boulder. Oh, and the house has this KILLER bookshelf with a ladder that leads to a loft!

Can you get any cooler than that?? I want one!! Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a book nerd…but if you have read any of my other posts you saw my bookshelf. This would definitely be a nice upgrade – with room for growth! (Hey, a girl can dream, right??)

So today after work I decided to head on up to Estes Park. The drive was gorgeous – although the down side is there are so many turns I couldn’t sit and just watch the scenery because, well, I was the one driving to make sure I’d get there. Side note: If you visit Colorado, do it with a friend. Or me. Or someone to drive FOR you so you can enjoy it all.

Anyway….the town is darn cute. Who knew you could fit that many taffy shops and ice cream shops in a 1/2 mile stretch? I found a great photographer’s art gallery, one that takes pictures all seasons – this guy can actually capture the purples and pinks of the sky. He’s amazing. I wanted one of his prints for my house but the $750 price tag was a bit steep. I treated myself to a small 4×6 matted one instead.

On a riverwalk behind all the shops you can just stroll and listen to the mountain spring that rushes through the town. There are benches every few hundred feet for you to sit and relax, so I chose one away from much of the crowd and closed my eyes for a bit just to be quiet. It was one of those times where I realized I had set these days apart for searching, for seeking, and my soul was definitely longing to hear from the Lord.

What I need, I don’t really know. I’m not asking a particular question, there is just this sense that I’m … waiting. Ever have those times? Those times where the something bigger in the universe, the something bigger in God calls out to the well of deep in your own soul, and just won’t leave you alone.

“Deep calls to deep….” the psalmist says (Ps 42:7)

It’s one of those moments when you know that no matter the noise in your life, no matter the chaos swirling around you, no matter the mundane things, the ridiculously bothersome things, and the unanswered questions…..your soul KNOWS it was made for more. It cries out for its creator and there is no stopping it.

I think sometimes we forget to stop and listen to that longing, even maybe unconsciously without realizing why. Yet the longer we push it aside, the more our heart starts to justify maybe it was just our imagination, or we’re just being too sensitive, or we tell ourselves why would God want to just sit with us anyway? I know, I talk about this a lot…. listening to the very voice, seeking the very presence of the One we call God. But how can I not? This is where LIFE within life is found. And when we can tune and re-tune our hearts, minds, and souls to that presence, we begin to see Him everywhere.

I love how Audrey Assad puts it, in the chorus of her song “For Love of You” (2010):

You are my deepest longing

and so I see you everywhere

It’s you I’m chasin’ after

‘Cause I am captivated by who you are

and how you move

I’ll follow you forever

So that would be my question to you tonight .. What is your heart and mind captivated by lately? Is it leading you to life, or away from it? I know there are seasons of faith, my friend, and I know that some of them can seem dull, too long, too difficult. Some of you may be ready to walk away or give up because of the pain. But God is so more faithful than you realize. Know that HE is captivated by you… so take the time and let your soul breathe!

Hidden glory

…..

There are three horizontal windows in the front of our house. They are about three feet wide and 12 inches tall, and they are stacked on top of each other. From the outside of the house, they provide some pretty cool visual detail on the 2nd story (as you can see above the front door). From the inside, they are at the landing where the steps turn from the kitchen and living room open space to go to the third floor bedrooms.

I have my cedar chest sitting there on the landing, mainly because… well… its a huge landing and it seemed to be the right piece of furniture to set there. Because it has a padded top, it is often a resting place for Oliver. Other times, its a barking perch for Gracyie as she surveys her domain for the neighborhood watch.

One morning recently I decided I would sit there for a bit and watch the sunrise as it crept over the horizon. The colors I could see were going to be just brilliant.

There was just one problem.

The other houses in the neighborhood blocked my line of sight. Pretty badly. All I could see was some of the pink and tangerine hues peeking out on either side of my neighbors houses. Bummer.

But, eager to have some peace before the busyness of the day started, I sat there, hugged my knees, and started praying. ‘I wish I could see the whole sunrise,’ I thought. It would be so much better.

Then quietly I heard a whisper, as faint as ever:

Sometimes my glory is hidden by the things of earth

And although I knew what the Lord was saying, and although I had a very visible example of what He was talking about, I felt immediately like Jesus’s disciples, just like in the gospels where they would pull him aside after a great parable or analogy and ask him what the heck he was talking about. Have you ever felt like that?

All I wanted to do was ask ‘Can you explain it to me better, Lord? What do you really mean, and how does that relate to life in the real world?’ The house blocking the sunset is perfect. I get that. But you know I have trouble thinking outside the box, Lord. Help me understand what you are trying to get me to see.

I find myself coming back to this question often, especially when I am with people. I find myself asking the Lord to open my eyes to see His glory at work in their lives and what they do

It has made me wonder if its because I tend to dwell in the practical that

I struggle to see the glory.

I know I can’t be the only one who has that struggle.

Scripture is full of verses about the glory of the Lord, and most of them probably make us think of His beauty in creation, His beauty in the cross and his self-sacrificing love for us. Maybe they make us think about stories of how He has held us in the deepest, darkest times in our lives. Those are all beautiful examples, and those I get.

But a book I have been re-reading lately has made me remember this:

God’s glory is ALSO like fingerprints of his work in the world to redeem and change lives.

Like … when people work together in a community to save children being taken for sex trafficking, and bring down the systems that facilitate such injustice. Or when someone figures out, even if they aren’t in church, (or, even if they are of another faith) that forgiveness is a good thing. Or when people work to have an honest conversation about difficult topics like prejudice and bias, or do the hard work of healing relationships. Or when people overcome addictions through groups like AA, or rally around their friend or neighbor with a mental illness.

The more I look around, the more I am convinced of this fact: God is not limited to working or showing His presence, his reality, and his impact in the world to just people who claim Jesus as their Savior. Does He use those who call him Lord to show his Glory? Absolutely! That is part of God’s call to us as believers, as reflected in two well know verses in both the Old and New Testaments:

Isaiah 43:12 “You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘That I am God’”

1 Peter 2:9 “….you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”

But for those of us know know the Lord, my question is this: Can we see and call out the truth, maybe even the fingerprints of God, that are sometimes hidden….

Behind the things that dazzle and steal our attention

Behind a religious facade or a theology we might not resonate with

Behind people we don’t understand

Behind a wall of fear, in ourselves or in others

Behind a mountain of insecurities

Behind hurt and pain that seems too difficult to let go of?

Or are we too afraid?

Is our understanding of God too small?

If God’s glory is to be found in the hidden places, maybe we who know Him still need to ask for our blind eyes to be allowed to see.

May you see the glory hidden by the things of the earth in your life around you today!

Two worlds in conflict

I heard a term the other day on the radio that I had never heard before: FOBO.

Now FOMO I know: “Fear Of Missing Out” – you know, the sense you get when you look at everyone else’s Facebook page or instagram post and feel like you are missing out on something really, really fun. Or that somehow YOUR life is less amazing than someone else’s because you don’t post as much, didn’t have great pictures from vacation, aren’t as creative, or aren’t as good at finding “spiritual” applications in your bowl of breakfast Cheerios like they are.

We can all sit and admit we know what we see online is only a slice of real life. Yes, there are those that post goofy pictures of themselves and their family, or they show a slice of their reality that mirrors your life (shock – everyone probably has clean laundry piled on a couch somewhere too). With as optimistic as a person as I can be, I too have to be careful to remind myself that I am not missing out on life just because I can’t or don’t feel like posting about everything as if it were the NEXT BIG THING. Heck, I can go weeks without posting and never feel like I missed anything. Sure, Facebook reminds me shamefully that I forgot someone’s birthday, and maybe I missed knowing I needed to pray about something or be happy for someone about their new job…. but the world continues on when I don’t check in. And guess what? No one cares. Life where I am, right in front of me, continues to be the biggest thing and where I want to put my attention.

So when I heard about FOBO I had to laugh. Of course we are going to find another acronym for our social fobias:

“Fear of Better Options”

Now, maybe this is just a thing for the younger generations. I have no idea. But the radio announcers were going on about how bad everyone is at RSVP’ing today because… well.. there might be a BETTER OPTION socially. So people wait to the last minute to decide what to do that will be the MOST fun.

Sounds like an extrovert thing (says the extrovert).

I wonder how much of God we miss because we are looking for better options?

I know, there are a million ways I could go with this one… but this time I wll start with a Psalm I read recently.

The writer of Psalm 19 starts off with this:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words, no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world”

I know this waxes poetic, and I am not the poetic type. But sit and think about this for a minute.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all over the world – from the North Pole to the Sahara Desert, from the mountain ranges to the vast amounts of farmland, to tropical beaches, all of creation is screaming out about God’s beauty and the complexity of the world he set in motion. Shouting, without words, for us to slow down and sit in the mystery and beauty of what has been created.

The other day when I read this Psalm, it made me think of the endless news cycle we are faced with today. Day and night, it too pours forth speech, as we are inundated with stories of every kind, from nearly every country. This too, reveals knowledge, as Twitter spouts the latest gossip or social media trend, brings awareness to the latest tragedy or thing to stand behind. It has speech, words, language – sometimes too much. Its voice goes into all the world – even developing countries.

Its not all bad, I know that. Yet looking at the two side by side, it begs us to look at what takes the space in our lives, doesn’t it?

When do we slow down to let the voice of creation speak louder than the news cycle, the twitter feed, or the need to post about everything you are doing? When do we slow down to be reminded of the One who created us as well?

Sure, I know I live where there are mountains and it’s beautiful. But you can find that same voice of God over the cornfields, the rolling hills, the city scapes and night skies, I promise. I might hear crickets, and you might hear waves or car horns and the bustle of a city that never sleeps.. but creation still shouts pretty loud if you will turn everything else down a notch.

This summer…. I challenge you to find the time to sit and just listen. Invite God into the space you have carved out, and let His love wash over you as you enjoy the work of his hands in the piece of creation where you live!

Who does your thinking?

I have this little post-it note sitting on my standing desk beneath my monitor, mainly so that I can see it front and center. Right now, it’s about as close as I am going to get to God hand-writing a note to me… but lately it’s something I have needed to remind myself of more than I’d like to admit.

In case you can’t read it, it says “Who does your thinking for you?”

Have you ever had a season in life where maybe you were in a rough spot, you were working through things, and eventually you get to a place where you are feeling ok, and then something happens and your mind gets thrown out of whack?

Yeah.. I just caught myself in that place this past weekend. You see, I would like to think I am a pretty positive person, always looking on the bright side of things. Even when life gets hard. I dig in, trust God will get me through, and keep plugging. I guess you could say my default thinking kind of runs like this:

  • Default: I’m doing well!
  • Default + hard stuff = I’m doing ok, keeping my head up and believing for the best
  • Default + hard stuff + outside voices = well maybe I shouldn’t be ok? Am I missing something here?

It’s this last part that I want to talk about today. Somehow I have this weird guilt feeling that I shouldn’t be doing so well when things get hard because everyone expects certain types of reactions from us when we hit hard things in life. Sure, sometimes we DO feel the “expected reaction” – like if you lose someone you love, you are going to go through some serious loss and grief that only others who have been there get the depth of. Or if you are betrayed by a friend, or you lose a job or house, or you are diagnosed with an illness of some kind. Anger, denial, numbness, hopelessness, disillusionment…. you name it, any of those would be considered “normal” in cases like this, right? So you work through them. You process with people, with counselors, with God.

Eventually you start to see rays of hope, pieces of joy that seemed just a bit too far at the start. Then maybe you start to feel better – like really better!

At some point, voices will surfaces that will lend their thoughts, wanted or unwanted: people who didn’t know what was going on, social media rants or blog posts, books or articles or songs that speak to whatever hard thing you are dealing with. Now, sometimes voices can sometimes be good and help you along – challenging you with hope, kindness, patience, forgiveness….. or they might give you permission to feel something you were afraid to feel.

Then there are the times that these voices might make you question how well you are doing. You sure you are ok? You’re not just hiding/avoiding/ignoring? (Which sometimes is totally ok, don’t get me wrong!)

The reality is that when you serve a living God, whose very breath fills your lungs and spirit lives inside of you… there is something that is net different as you walk through difficult seasons.

A few weeks ago I was reading again in Isaiah and ran across this verse, which I had not read in a while:

“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….”. (Isa 41:10)

And I sat and thought about that for a minute. This doesn’t have a qualifier on it like “I’m with you only in the big stuff”, or “ I’m with you when you don’t know what to do”.

Iam with you, so do not fear, God says. Period.

What about God being with us should make us not afraid? The easy answer is that, well, he’s big and he’s God so … there. But the reality is that we have to dig pretty deep to be aware of that presence and let it change our experience, don’t we?

Just knowing this in our heads doesn’t necessarily crowd out the voices that tell us we should be afraid, or make us recall the past, or that what others think makes more sense, or even a zillion other things that our mind might concoct to instill fear….. because to just tell ourselves “don’t listen to that voice” is like saying don’t look at the elephant in the room. Sometimes it makes us think about it more!

We have to move beyond head knowledge alone to more of a deep knowledge in our soul, one that is born of His Spirit, reminding us of God’s actual presence and power with us to get us through.

As I have been studying the Old Testament, the very presence of God is one thing that we keep coming back to. Every battle, every hard thing – God always reminded them “I’ve got this”. It didn’t mean they didn’t have to fight or chase the enemy to keep or capture land. But God being with them was huge. His presence was the deciding factor on whether they won or lost the battle. For us today, our battles are different. Often we don’t know the outcome, and what we want isn’t always what happens – but God’s presence with us SHOULD change how we experience whatever we’re going through. It’s time to stop thinking just “yep, I know God’s with me BUT…. “

No. “God IS with ME”. Not just the world, not just everyone when they are together in church. Me. You. Personally. Right there as you walk through whatever you walk through.

Are we still going to go through seasons and have hard times? Of course. Jesus says we will have trouble, but that his peace is real for us in the midst (John 14:27) of whatever we face.

Dear ones, this active knowledge of God with us takes practice. We don’t always get it right, but we have to start somewhere. I challenge you today, to ask the Holy Spirit to make you more aware of the truth that God is with you, so that His presence changes how you experience what you are going through.

After all, if he can hold the world together, don’t you think he can hold you together too?