TRUSTING, EVEN IN THE DARK

The last few months have been a confusing, confuzzled configuration of one mess puddle after another. There are times when it feels like I walk out of one valley and fall into another that is deeper than the last.

So much of my life is unrecognizable compared to even six months ago. Everything has been turned upside down and I have been forced to branch out and learn things I never thought I would have to learn – and some I hoped to continue to avoid.

I have found myself in situations where a rather destructive behavior was planned, but the Lord intervened and I ended up with other plans/commitments during the time in question. There have been other times when I was so determined to go through with the destructive plans that I made sure I went through with it. I did not leave myself or my heart open to any other options or possibilities. However, these times ended up doing nothing more than making me look like a fool and feeling so much worse in the end.

I have:
raged at the heavens desperate for relief…
yelled at a friend in a desperate search for clearing of my confusion…
hardened my heart to the Spirit of God in defiance of His Sovereignty…
denied myself the release of the feelings through the tears I have not allowed to flow…
isolated myself from those who would speak the ugly truth to me in the moments when I needed it the most…

But most of all, through all of this, my stubbornness and hardheadedness have cost me the peace I could have been enjoying all along if I had only allowed God to be God rather than blocking Him at every turn because life was not going how I felt it should go.

Despite all of the jumble of junk and mess that have been trudged through, there have been moments of elation, moments of surprise, and moments of freedom. The truth is not as frightening as it once was and I have found a strength within I did not know I had. I have also been blessed with a friend who is not afraid to speak the truth to me in bold living color when it is needed – and whether I feel it is needed or not.

When the storm rages and the darkness envelops my heart, I must remember to fight against the darkness, but not fight against the One who anchors my soul throughout the storm. Even though I cannot see His hand and I do not have a clue where He is going with my life, He is still there, He knows every pain in my heart, and He understands every tear I cry. He knows the beginning from the end and He will carry me when I lack the strength to even stand. He can be trusted for He is faithful.

Even in the darkest of times, the deepest depressions, and the most difficult circumstances, He continues to be faithful. He can be trusted, even in the darkness of the heart.

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YET AGAIN

Well, here I am – again. A blank page before me (again), thousands of thoughts and feelings flying through my head (again), and the cursor sits there blinking at me (again) as if impatiently beckoning me to do something, anything (again).

As I sit here and watch the blinking, I have to question just how long it has been since I have sat here like this? Better yet, I must also question myself:

• Why I am here, yet AGAIN?

• How long have I kept what was supposed to be spoken in black and white muzzled in silence, stifled as if time would collapse if I let it go?

• Why have I allowed so much to interfere, to come between, to cause me to close the blank page and file it away?

Once AGAIN, I find my focus re-directed by the mere blink of a cursor on a blank page… I should not have allowed this, yet AGAIN. I have missed out on the opportunity to listen to my Father’s heart. It should not be so. I know to do better than this…

I must be mindful, ever conscious, of my need to pause beside the River of His Heart at some point each day, to take the time to spend a moment with Him, to allow Him to speak and not just listen to my rambling. I must stop being too focused to be “distracted” or “interrupted” by taking time to just sit with Him.

After all, a loss of joy, a loss of peace, and deteriorating health are not worth the results achieved by squeezing one more thing into an already full day in the hope of accomplishing one more task rather than to just pause for a moment and have a cup of coffee with my Lord.

Too much Martha and not enough Mary will find us lying broken in His green pastures, too weak to reach His still waters, and too empty to even find the table that He has prepared before us. Thankfully, our Father’s love and mercy is far more stubborn than we – and He loves us far too much to leave us in the condition we are in when we finally throw ourselves at His feet.

Grace upon grace is ours, free for the taking – yet again.

Never Forget

The excitement of Christmas morning comes along. The anticipation is so thick you can almost cut it with a knife. The constant wondering if you are going to receive the gift you wanted so badly is finally met with the amazing realization that you did!! The most fantastic gift ever given to you has been received that morning! Joy is incredible! The excitement is palpable! Success!!!

Fast forward to week later… The gift is still awesome. You are still amazed that it worked out the way you hoped it would… It is still the coolest thing ever!! You still remember to be grateful.

Now, fast forward six months down the road… Gift? What gift? “I don’t remember”…”oh, yeah, well, I guess I remember that”… It was a fantastic gift at the time, but what about now…. “I am happy you got that for me, but I already expressed my gratitude when you gave it to me.”

Is that not how we as human being tend to be? We are excited for what we receive right now, but we so quickly forget once the emotions have quieted down and the “calm” returns. While the newness is intact, we are grateful, we are happy, we are excited, and we do not hesitate to share it. Once the newness begins to wear off, we slowly loose most of these until we eventually lose it all – and ultimately forget.

How much more so do we do the same with the faithfulness of God? With the providence of God? With the grace of God? How often do we take Him for granted, forget to be grateful for all of the blessings He pours on our lives, or forget that He is holy?

Reading through the Old Testament, one theme seems to be repeated on a regular basis – constant reminders to never forget.

When the Children of Israel were being delivered from Egypt and instructions given for the first Passover, they were told to celebrate this every year at the same time so that they never forget. When the Israelites were saved through the bravery of Esther, they were instructed to remember that day every year so that they never forget. The feasts and celebrations that are observed throughout the year all serve that same purpose – they celebrate an important event in Jewish history when the providence of God was manifested on their behalf and they are to remember it always. Seemingly minor details, such as the manner in which they pray and the prayers that are said, were designed to ensure that they did not forget to be mindful of God, to be focused on pleasing God, following Him, and on not their own desires.

Within my own soul, I know how quick I am to forget all He has done on my behalf – especially during the rough times – and I also must question myself as to why I am so careless with His grace. If the Almighty, Omniscient God took the time to remind His people and institute celebrations and practices to help keep them focused, should I also not take such determined care to ensure that I do not forget all He has done for me? Should I wait for Easter/Resurrection Sunday to celebrate the fact that my debt is paid, that He became the ultimate sacrifice to cover MY sin, that He made a way for all people to come to the Father through the shedding of His blood on Calvary, and that He loves me more than I can comprehend? Should I wait for Christmas to remember that He willingly set aside His glory in Heaven and His place with the Father to come and be Emmanuel, to be God with us, to live as one of us, to experience all that we do? Should I wait for communion to be observed in church before I seriously take time to search out my heart, deal with hidden, unrepentant sin, and celebrate the Cross of Christ?

Unfortunately, and all too often, the answer to these questions tends to be “yes”…… We tend to get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives and forget or overlook the ways in which He is moving and working in our lives. Perhaps we, like the Jewish people, need to be more diligent in remembering Him in even the little things in life…. I can only speak from personal experience, but, in talking with my Jewish friends, I am continually convicted of how lazy I tend to be and how casually I treat my relationship with my Father.

We must be more diligent in our relationship with the Almighty. We must take time and make time to remember all that He has done for us, all the He will continue to do. I am so grateful that He remains faithful even when I am faithless! However, I do not want that to be the case any longer! If the Good Lord took the time to institute remembrances throughout the daily lives of His people, we need to be diligent to remember Him as well. After all, He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows how easily we forget.

My challenge to myself – and to anyone else who needs the help – is this:

*Find God in everything each day because He really is there if we will take the time to look.
*Be mindful of all the blessings He has poured out on my life and return all the glory back to Him.
*Thank Him continuously and in everything – He is worthy to be praised!
*Don’t let the busyness of my life supersede His authority in my heart or His position in my life.

May you see Him clearer, know Him better, love Him deeper, and cherish Him always.

An Adventure On The River

It is a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the sky is clear, the water is fantastic, and you are in a canoe floating down the river. Bends in the river are successfully navigated and the peaceful journey continues on. For hours, all is well, calm, and beautiful – until you hear the crashing water… Dead-man’s curve is up ahead, but the river appears to be too low to be able to go around it. No other options appear to be available, and off you go – and then out you go…. The canoe is tipped over when the curve is missed because the current is too strong. Head first you fall in – the current within the river is so strong. However, a funny thing happens on the way into the water… You fall in head first, but it is your knee that hits the river bottom (and very hard, too). The surface finally re-appears, but the current is overpowering. Several more times you go under and are pulled along where you did not want to go. Fighting this current it is not something that can be easily done. When you finally stop and find a rock you can hold onto to stop yourself from going further downstream, the current is still too strong to let you stand up. Thankfully, a friend is nearby who risks his own safety (and dryness) by walking into the river to give you a hand up. Once you make it to shore, you assess your injuries (knee is not pretty and rather large by this time) and try to remember to just breathe.

That was my one and only experience in a canoe. The funny thing is it has taken me six years to actually stop and think about how I entered the water versus how I hit the river bottom. How did I get flipped over? Better yet, how did my glasses stay on my face throughout this entire ordeal? The later I definitely do not know, but I am very glad they did.

Our lives are a lot like my adventure on the river – and the daily trip we all travel through the River of His Heart. Dead-man’s curves are there. Sometimes they can be avoided, but sometimes we can’t seem to see a way around them. Our view is obscured and limited by our own perspectives. (After our adventure was over that day, we were informed that there was a way around the curve, but it was on the complete opposite side of the river – were we never bothered to look. Limited perspective…) There are so many pitfalls, challenges, and obstacles in our lives that can be avoided if we would just look up to Jesus, trust His perspective, and let Him lead the way.

Falling into the river of life can be avoided at times, but sometimes we can learn a great deal from our encounter with the river bottom if we will allow ourselves to see past the fear and the pain to find God’s hand in it and His heart through it. The river does not have to overtake us. We do not have to get swept away in the tempestuous current. If we have fallen in, He can pull us out. If the waters are sweeping over you, we can reach up for help. When we are hanging onto a rock just to keep from being swept further downstream, He will walk out into that river, stretch out His hand, and help us back to our feet.

Don’t let the twists and turns of life get the best of your or wash your heart away. Trust His heart, let Him guide the way, and know that even though we cannot see what lies ahead, He knows every inch of that river and what is around each and every bend. There is nothing that will come your way that He cannot use for our good – and for His glory.

3 Steps Forward, 10 Steps Back – and Have A Seat!

Oh my, what a mess!!! Ever seem to have one of those weeks where your gaze on Him has dropped and you feel as though you are going to drown? Where you fall flat on your face? Where your weaknesses are exposed and found to be so much larger than you would like them to be? Ever find yourself in a situation where you are enjoying a nice moment/conversation and a random thought comes along catching you off guard? You don’t really see the harm in it for a moment, but, before you know it, that random thought has taken hold. Maybe you don’t realize it at first, but it just kind of grows. This is a very accurate description of this past week for me – and it was all due to my own choices.

For just a moment in time, I took my eyes of my Lord and focused them on the desires of my heart. Like Peter, I began to sink quickly, but, rather than cry out to Him, I stayed in the water far too long trying to decide how “I felt” and what “I really wanted” – as if it was really about me. I chose to stay in the whirlpool rather than rest with Him in the green pastures beside the calm waters. I chose to explore areas forbidden to my soul, finding nothing but sorrow and emptiness – and possibly a damaged friendship.

As sanity has begun to return, so to speak, and restoration has started yet again, a verse from long ago was brought to mind. I have known this verse for a very long time, but I don’t think that the depth of truth contained in this verse had ever really sunk in before now. Let me assure you, the lesson has become a well learned one this week – and, unfortunately, it was a lesson that didn’t necessarily have to be taught in the first place had I kept my focus where it needed to be. Through His prophet Jeremiah, the LORD says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jer 17:9 (NIV)

The King James Version says that the heart is “desperately wicked” rather than “beyond cure.” A much more powerful description and, given recent events, I think the King James captures it a little more accurately. The verse that follows seems to drive the message home even harder.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their
conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jer 17:10 (NIV)

If am to be “rewarded” for the contents of my heart during this past week, I am in big trouble! However, I know I can take comfort in the promise that not only does He provide grace all sufficient during our times of need, His grace is sufficient in our weakness and His mercies are new every morning.

I cannot say this week has been wasted in all senses of the phrase. Yes, countless opportunities to be a blessing to someone else were missed. Yes, many God-sightings were missed because my focus was on other things beside Him. Yes, I missed the opportunity to find out what was around the next bend in the river because I decided to explore a different stream. However, what I did find was a new sense of adoration for my Lord and a new outpouring of grace. He remains faithful even when we are faithless.

My assurance that Jesus truly is my Messiah is stronger now because of this journey. Does that justify taking the journey? God forbid!! It does, however, prove that He is still working for our good even in the midst of our stupidity and our hardheartedness. He will turn our bad choices into something good for His glory, if we will allow Him the opportunity to do so by humbling ourselves at His feet and allowing His ever-sufficient grace, His boundless mercy, and His limitless love to revive our hearts and turn our focus back to Him.

The new prayer of my heart is this:

Wash me in the waterfall of Your mercy! Pour Your love over my sin-soaked soul so that I feel Your peace and Your grace wash over every pain, every bruise, every stain I have placed upon my heart! My soul cries out like David’s and begs You to create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me! As it is written in Psalms 139:23-24, I willingly invite You to:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (NIV)

Be Still, My Soul!

This past week in my life seemed to be one of back-tracking. I kept trying to push forward and continuing working on the areas in which I struggle, but the more I pushed, the more I saw myself going backward. I finally stopped and asked the Lord what it was that I was missing, what I had missed. The silence seemed deafening for a while… Something happened a few days ago that has caused me to really sit back and evaluate some places in my heart and life. A rather interesting conversation with a friend had taken place and challenged my heart and mind to go places it had not been in a very long time and try to force words to surface to express feelings long buried in the past. The fear of this was overwhelming at first, but my friend was very patient. Through a few prods and challenges, I realized that I have been held captive by this fear for far too many years – and for no reason. When I pushed beyond the fear, the expected result at the end never appeared. The fear was completely without merit – as so many of them are. The silence from the Lord was preparing my heart for this conversation and He used it to His glory to break down walls in my heart erected so many years ago that I do not remember life without them.

So begins the process of rebuilding… and renewal. I am not sure what is around the next bend, but I do know who will be with me when it is found. There will be new challenges to face, new barriers to cross, but I know that He who started the work in me will be faithful to complete it – and it will better prepare me for whatever work He has for me to do. All I have to do is be still and know that He is God – and that is all I need to know!

During this process, when the doubts and fears creep in and questions begin to swirl, it is important to remember to fix our eyes on Jesus. After all, in the midst of the storm, look what happened to Peter when he took His eyes off the Lord….he sank. However, much with like us, Jesus was there immediately reaching out a hand to pull him up again. During those dark times when you wonder why you were made the way that you were and what purpose the Lord could possibly have with your weaknesses or failures, just remember that it is not WHO you are that is important, but rather WHOSE you are. There is a reason and purpose for everything under heaven – and that those weakness are opportunities for Him to be our strength and show His strength in our lives. We just have to trust that He knows the way, He will guide, and He will comfort during the dark times through the valley and rough rapids of the River.

Relax…God’s Got This

There have been many ongoing struggles within the realm of writing. What to write? How do I convey what is on my heart and will the meaning come across clearly and understandable? Do I actually have anything relevant to say? Do I believe that the Lord would have something to say through me? All are very good questions for one who has their focus on the wrong thing, and none of this is helping the Kingdom in any way, shape, or form. While questioning and thinking that I am just trying to make sure that I am doing His will, the reality of it is I am just sitting in neutral, stagnating, and being stubborn. To really be working for Him and doing His will, one must be DOING SOMETHING! Sitting and thinking, while very essential and useful in many situations, is of no use at all if that is all that you do. The journey with Jesus Christ and walking in the will of the Father will not begin or continue along if we spend our entire time sitting, thinking, and continually questioning.

This is a lesson that was driven home to my heart this past week in the most amazing, gentle, and humbling way – as only our Father can do. I love to write poetry, but have not really found a “use” or purpose for it beyond just being something I enjoy. I have submitted some pieces to various contests, but it never went any further. True, they were not Christian based contests and, yes, the testimony of the Lord was presented to some who may or may not know him, but, in the back of my mind, a small part of me still would like to have had that affirmation that I had written something that someone felt was worth reading. The intention was good, but the focus was still just slightly skewed – after all, if I am writing for Him, they are not my words but His anyway and, therefore, they are worth reading. In light of my lack of faith in this area, I put the pen down for a while. I did, however, share a couple of pieces on a FaceBook group page dedicated to Christian poetry. Some nice comments were made and that is as far as it went – or so I thought. Come to find out, the moderator of the group is putting together a compilation of some of the poetry posted to that sight – and two of my pieces are listed among the ones to be included.

For those of us who tend to be just a little hard-headed at times, here is the question for you (and for me). How much time has been lost to stubbornness? Better yet (especially with me), how many kind, sincere words are wasted by second guessing? I know that I have broken the Father’s heart with some of my misdirected stubbornness. I know I have missed out on many God-sightings and blessings by spending too much time sitting, thinking, and second guessing. Therefore, the challenge this week is to speak to my soul and remind my heart to just Be Still and KNOW that He is God – or as my niece would say, just relax – God’s got this!