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Posts Tagged ‘God’s faithfulness’

Brilliant shafts of light passed through the windows as I sat silently…listening for God to instruct my heart.  Closing my eyes, I invited Him to meet me during these few quiet moments set aside for prayer and reflection.

Glancing at the sheet of prompts held in my hands, I struggled with the response–not because I didn’t know the answer…but because I did.  Today’s devotion penetrated with the question…What are you excited about?

The answer surfaced quickly–an undesired intruder provoking speculation…questioning…uncertainty.

What was I excited about?  

Nothing.

I feel as if I’m living in limbo…wondering about God’s plans for my children, my family, and my life.  And like a man standing on a mountain top in the midst of a snowstorm, I can’t see the other peak just beyond the valley.

Pausing, I wonder if my honest answer is unacceptable to God.   Ungrateful…unworthy…unholy–the words penetrate my heart and guilt’s shadow presses near.

Grappling with both the question and the answer, I realize my longing for more–more of holiness…more of  beauty…more of Christ–is the deep desire to know my Creator; to live in the perfection of  an Eternal Garden.

Today, though, I am living as all people do–in this strange Temporary of joy and pain, hope and fear, celebration and sorrow.

The Psalmist shared the same feeling–I want to drink God, deep draughts of God.  I’m thirsty for God alive.  (Psalm 42:2). Dear Friend, my soul yearns for the day I am fully in His presence and surrounded by glory.  That is a Forever excitement.

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Fish Symbol on CrossI want to be your encourager today–the one who reminds you that Christmas is the day Eternity entered the world…that moment when the Holy One stepped away from God’s glory to lay shivering a midst the squalor and stench of man’s inhospitable world.  For within that unremarkable town in an unknown stable, a young woman wrapped filthy rags around the King-turned-flesh.

And she must have wept tears of joy…and sorrow–knowing that God’s Miracle-child had been meant for more.  The world should have received the Lion-made-Lamb with shouts of praise and proclamations of the Messiah’s arrival!  God incarnate should have been wrapped in blankets of silk stitched together with threads of gold and silver!

Yet for thirty-three years, Jesus lay his crown of glory aside.  The one who breathed life into the spirit of man gave up His glory the moment the power of the Most High stirred life in the virgin’s womb.  Why?  Because of love.  Nothing more.

Dear friend, Eternity entered the world that we might have eternity.  But not just any eternity, nor an eternity spent shivering in a place of corruption…a place without the Lion-made-Lamb. He lived a man’s life–from cradle to cross–with you and me in mind so that we might experience Eternity himself.

It was His plan all along–this quiet redemption.  His impoverished birth for our heavenly re-birth.  His tattered swaddling clothes for our white robes.  His unheralded nativity for our celebrated homecoming.

The day Eternity entered the world is much more that Christmas–it is Christ.

Verses for Reflection

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.  (Luke 1:35)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:17)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, … (Revelation 7:9-17)

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Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

“Do something radical this week–live like you believe.”  There were some nods, nudges, and Amens  before God’s people bowed their heads for a final prayer.  Help me live like I believe.  

Then I remember yesterday’s stroll in the orange and yellow dappled woods outside of Divide.  The children were on a journey of discovery…Mom, look at this!  But my mind had been captured by the struggles of a dear one and I wondered–even shook my fist– at a world bursting with beauty and struggle, joy and grief, blessing and affliction.

Separating from my family, I lay beneath the aspen trees.  The sounds of father, boy, and girl slowly give way to the rustle of raindrop-shaped leaves. And I grieved over the young man–praying, hoping, wishing for more for him.  More living. More loving. More of the Lord.   But, the prayers have been slow to be answered and I think of the contrast between the two trees I see raising their arms to heaven.

One stands tall–its patterned bark and amber colored leaves offering tribute to the Artist.  An arm width’s distance away, another aspen stands –blackened patches and burn scars testifying to a lightening strike.  There are no leaves.  No signs of vitality.  But its roots dig deep into the   life- giving earth and it awaits the quickening of a new day.  A day of restoration…renewal…redemption.

Just by being, we bear the scars of the world.  But, dear friend, God proves Himself greater…more powerful…and true to His promises. The risen-Christ is living proof.

 Lord,help us live like we believe!

Scripture for Reflection

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”   (Rev. 21:3-5)

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When my husband and I were dating, we hiked a rugged seven mile mountain trail to Phantom Lake–a remote body of water located at the peak of a glacial mountain.  Neither fond of prolonged hikes nor keen on tall ledges lacking stair rails, I relinquished any misgivings and trusted Dave to guide me to safety.

Mid-way across an intimidating scree field, my left leg tightened painfully.  Kneading the throbbing knot, I leaned against the slippery shale rock.  What was I doing?  Anything taller than a stepladder caused near panic attacks.  Now, I peered warily down the sloping earth and wondered how I could possibly catch up with my mountaineering boyfriend.

Suddenly, Dave appeared at my side.  His strength and reassurance imbued me with the will to continue–regardless of discomfort, fear, or doubt.  And when I finally cleared the mountaintop I beheld nature’s unmatched glory shimmering and winking in the glow of that day’s waning light.

The journey had been difficult.  My leg still ached and I was weary.  But, I could see God’s beauty on display.

Once again, I stand awkwardly on a precipice–anxious and alert.  But now I am hemmed in on one side by the shifting promises of an unreliable world while on the other I can feel the strong presence of the Rock–the unshakeable and steadfast One who continues to whisper, “You are secure in me.  Do not doubt, Child, because I will deliver you.”

Are you standing at the edge of a cliff, dear Friend?  Has your healing journey scratched at the hurts lying just beneath the surface and caused unwelcome discomfort?

Maybe you feel as if there is no way off the face of the mountain and you’ve been waiting for too long already.  You want to be restored now.

This is a time for your decision.  Do you remain where you are…shifting and uncertain?  Turn back toward the familiar, worn paths of unforgiveness, bitterness, or ill managed pain?

Or, do you follow Him–the one who has wept tears and blood for you–up to the mountaintop where you can see for yourself his plan for your life fully revealed, restored, and renewed?

The journey may be difficult.  You may ache and grow weary.  But, you will be His Beauty on display–as he had intended when he thought of you for the first time.

Scripture for Reflection–Psalm 18:2

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The barren places..we all have them. They are the wounded, aching parts left empty; still waiting to be filled.

Was your mother critical, self-absorbed, or caught up in a drama so consuming that she overlooked your hurts? Did your father fail to fight for you–abandon you when you needed a hero? Perhaps your husband chose another or your children turned from their faith.
Invite The Lord to tend those wounds, Friend. He is “the balm of Gilead”. He offers the everlasting salve for a needy soul.

We may grieve momentary losses of relationship, yet we have gained the eternal presence of Christ. We may yearn for the tender words of a mother’s heart but the Lord exclaims, “I have loved you with an everlasting love!” We may desire the triumphant, sacrificial love of a hero and we know that the Lamb of God expelled his last breath thinking of us–you and me. He is the hero of our yesterdays, today’s, and tomorrow’s.

Take heart. Be encouraged. Your barren places will be filled for He is willing and able.

Scripture for Reflection
A bruised reed he will not break. Isaiah 42:3

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The Shadow of Death surrounds her like a dark, oppressive fog obscuring the path. Swirling madly about the Woman’s feet, the Shadow twists itself round and round–eliminating vision. The Woman gropes her way in the dark. Is there a cliff? Shelter? Will Death overcome her?

Not understanding pain…failing to grasp the marriage between El Roi’s sovereignty and the blight of suffering…and hoping she has enough faith, Woman calls out in her desperate need for the Light to reveal himself.

And because of his matchless grace and mercy, the Light holds her gently. Wrapped in the warmth of His promise, the Woman notices the Shadow retracting. Where there is Light, darkness cannot exist.

Scarmelcripture for Reflection–“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us..”. Luke 1:78-80

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She lay limp in my arms. Not a breath escaped from the perfectly formed mouth.  Her fragile ribcage failed to rise and fall and I knew her tiny heart had ceased beating.  And, for a moment, my own heart stilled.  I paused in horror as my daughter’s lips, face, and body changed from the new-from-heaven shades of pink and cream to a dusky grey and then a deep, unsightly brackish color.

Cradling her tiny body in my arms, I began crying out. “Dave, the baby isn’t breathing!” In a blur of commotion, my child lay motionless atop her changing table–my husband exchanging his life’s breath with our unresponsive daughter. Listen…breathe…compress.

“Ma’am?”  the voice passing through the receiver caught my attention.  “Has your baby choked on something? Does she have a pulse?”

No.  My baby was dead. There was no life remaining.  One minute…two minutes.  Still, the father breathed.

“Please, Lord.  Don’t take the baby…not my baby!”  My prayers emerged loud and desperate–pregnant with a mother’s agony.  Three minutes…four minutes. There wasn’t even the flicker of an eyelid; only the steady rhythm of my husband’s counting–one, two, three, four, five.

Then…five minutes.  The hands on the clock seemed to have stilled and the three of us were trapped in that moment.  Suddenly, Heather gasped for air–an  uneven rasping sound.  At the same time, the firefighters pushed into the crowded nursery.  Like us, they were unbelieving and surprised.  My precious child was alive!

In much the same way, Christ saw his children helpless…dying…exempt from eternal hope.  And without hesitation, He exchanged his own holy life for the lives of fatally sinful people.  His life for mine…and yours.  The moment of Christ’s last breath was a promise for our forever tomorrows.  His precious children are truly alive!

Verse for Reflection:  Colossians 2:13

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“If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods …”

Daniel 3:17-18a (HCSB)

Hand in a hand - Stock Photo

I want to offer words of encouragement, but my thoughts are jumbled…incomplete…fractured.  What insight can I offer through simple impressions on a page?

Perhaps in knowing that another struggles with heart wounds from the past or fears the days ahead you feel less alone.  Or, when you hear the pleading prayers of a mother for her hurting child you realize someone understands.

Yet, I’m reminded that Another understands completely.  He is the one who walks beside us–no matter the place or circumstance.  The World holds no power over Him.  The roaring flames may lick at tender flesh and the World shouts, “Burn! Burn!”  But, He is there–ever protecting, faithfully guarding, lovingly guiding.  Follow me.  Don’t be afraid.  I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.

And despite our human frailty and doubt, we trust and believe.  And when we don’t?  He is still there.

Then…deliverance.  We breathe deeply and everything is fresh and new.  Our lungs fill with the sweetness of God’s goodness and mercy and we know–those wounds, fears, and fires are only momentary.

 

Reflection

Have you been asking God to deliver you from a difficult situation?  How have you seen his faithfulness in the midst of the struggle?

 

Word of Power

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 46:4

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Shoulders slumped, the Farmer gazed at the cracked earth.  Reaching down he plucked a stalk from the edge of crop.  Nothing.  The hulls were empty…worthless bits of wheat lay scattered across the ground.  The potential for harvest was dim and the Farmer shudder.  Who will provide for my family?  Why hasn’t God answered my prayers for rain?  Doubt fell  across the Farmer just as the drought left the cracked earth and shriveled crops in its wake. 

Moving away from the evidence of failure, hopelessness, and defeat the Farmer turned away.  Wait…it couldn’t be.  A cool, damp breeze–the promise or rain, the promise of tomorrow, the promise of God’s faithfulness–brushed across the Farmer’s face like a the dampness of a tear cried by a child’s mother at her little one’s suffering and fear.  

God understood the Farmer’s need and He understands our needs.  Praise God for the relief offered by the very breath of refreshment and hope!

He has not forgotten.  The True Gardener sees the need and offerer his assurance.   

 

Verse for Reflection

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

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Watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.   Deut. 4:9

One night–that night–changed my life forever.

From the beginning, it had been a fight for her life.  Within a couple of months of discovering I was pregnant with our daughter, I began having complications.  Restricted to limited activity–a difficult task for a mother with three rambunctious boys–and taking medicine according to a regiment any nurse would applaud, I prayed for my baby. Please, Lord.  Please.

On her own schedule, Heather was born seven weeks too soon–her newborn cry like the mewling of a tiny kitten.  Each breath was a struggle.  For more than two weeks, Heather and I resided in the hushed NICU–the only predictable sounds those of the monitors and desperate parents.

One wonderful day, my husband and I finally invited Heather Grace home.

When Heather was exactly one month old, she lay contentedly nursing in my arms during our pre-dawn snuggle.  Caught up in the wonderful imaginings of tea parties and doll houses, I began nodding off.  Suddenly–as if someone nudged me–I jolted awake.

Heather lay in my arms motionless and unresponsive.  “Dave!  Dave, she’s not breathing!” Thrusting Heather into my husbands capable hands, I began praying.  Please, Lord.  Please.

Her little body on the changing table, Dave checked for Heather’s pulse.  Nothing.  He looked for the rise and fall of her chest.  Nothing.  Leaning toward our daughter, Dave began breathing for his baby girl.

One minute, two minutes.  Help us, God.  Please don’t let her die.  Three minutes, four minutes.  Not our baby, Lord.  Somebody do something!  Five minutes.  “I think she just took a breath.  Did she just breathe?”

Five minutes of eternity.  Five minutes of total dependence on God.  Five minutes–and then a miracle.

How could I not tell Heather about God’s grace, mercy, and power?

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