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When I don’t get what I want

What I want and what I get are sometimes roads apart.

I could make a list of the things I’ve wanted, prayed and hoped for that did not come to fruition. I could. But I won’t. We all have our own lists because life has a way of surprising us.

I am thankful I didn’t get some things hoped for when I was young. It could have been disastrous.

Growing older, and hopefully wiser, my perspective and my prayers have changed. I pray more “Your will be done” prayers than “I want it my way” demands.

I still believe in healing and miracles and angels unaware coming to the aid of God’s children. I ask for those things. And I know He is able.

It’s just that I don’t always get the answer I want.

Such was the case this week. People for whom I prayed hopeful prayers got less than hopeful answers.

I’m disappointed and hurt. This is not what I asked for. I know it isn’t what my friends wanted.

We live in a troubled world that bears the scars of sin and disease, of fear and anger and bitterness. Bad things happen to good people. And we wonder why.

The maxim is familiar: God is good. All the time. And all the time, God is good.

Do I believe that when the test results are not desired, when there’s pain and suffering at every turn, when people die because of predjudice and hate, when the road we travel suddenly takes a nose dive downward and we are holding on for dear life?

It is not given to me to understand it all or the reasons life is not always pretty. My purpose is not to figure it out. My purpose is to faithfully believe that God is good all the time and that He is in control; that what He allows and what He does has a bigger purpose than I can understand; that He is always working toward the ultimate plan for mankind and is not a genie to fulfill my wish list.

Yet at the same time, I believe He is fully focused on His purpose for me and those whose names I lift in prayer. I believe He is constantly working out His divine will for individuals through the circumstances of life. I believe He is personally involved in my life and that He wants my faith to grow in the bright light of day as in the dark night of my soul.

The Psalmist declares God hears prayers, and that He answers prayers. We are assured we will be satisfied with the good things He has prepared for us, even when the good is not wearing a smiley face and carrying balloons. When what stands in front of me is hard and painful, I can still expect good from a God who is wholly good, fully righteous, and always loving.

Exercising my faith-eyes means trusting Him for the outcome when I see the storm clouds gathering. It means leaning my entire self into Him, against the wind of tribulations. It means believing He is the all-wise God who will not fail to complete His purpose in me and in others.

I will continue to pray and hope and believe. I will expect an amazing-grace outcome.

Because God is good. All the time.

But I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.  — Micah 7:7

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December thoughts

December always brings its own set of lists, activities, family gatherings, and stress.  Each family is different.  Each celebration is different.  Each year is different.

This December 25 was so different, one we will remember.

While we treasure the season and the reason for it, which is Jesus, we often put all the stuff of Christmas away with a sigh and a relief.  It is over for another eleven months or so.  Life will go back to normal. Whatever that is.

But not this year.  Not for my family members who suffered great loss.  There is no normal today.  This is new ground.  They have never walked this way before.

Others have walked this journey.  Others have experienced a similar loss.  And it is only in the suffering that we learn to comfort one another.  It is only when my own heart has been broken that I have been able to weep with, grieve with, and hope with another.

My own experiences of anguish and adversity have made me tender toward another in comparable circumstances.  I tear up easily as we share the intensity of pain and suffering.  I understand the words and the feelings another shares with me.  I’ve been there.  I know.

And so we comfort as we have been comforted.  It is God’s way.  It is one of the ways He brings light from darkness, joy from sorrow.

It is the blessing of Christmas, a Savior who came in infant form, had a rough and tumble boyhood and grew to become a man.  So human He came, though fully godlike in character.  He experienced life yet overcame its pitfalls and temptations.  He laughed and cried, loved and was loved in return, gave His heart and had it rejected.  He was hungry and thirsty.  He was tossed on stormy seas and was so tired that He slept hard through it.

He saw life as we see it yet He saw it through the eyes of One so much different, so much greater.

He had compassion on us.  And so He offers compassion to us.  He runs to our cry, our cries of heartache and heartbreak.  He understands our feelings.  He’s been there.  He knows.

We comfort as we have been comforted by a Great High Priest who lived and died but came back to tell the story.

I can tell the story, His story.  It is a story of a hope beyond all hope, a joy when tears fall, a love that will not let us go, a peace that cannot be explained when the ground shakes underneath us.

Comfort one another with these words.

It is Jesus.  There is no other.  He runs to our cry and we run to His arms.

mary and jesus

 

 

 

 

Sharing grace

I read the Psalms this morning and think of a friend who is suffering long and hard.  Her trial reminds me of the road Sweet William and I were on for several years, a dark road that looked endless.

I read the comforting words,

All you Israelites, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
House of Aaron, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.

The Lord, our help and our shield.  It is He who gives grace for the journey.

I want to share grace with my friend.  Grace is what she needs to sustain, to strengthen.  It is her help and her shield.

I want to say, “Hold on to Jesus.  He is tender and compassionate and knows our sorrow.  He is near to the broken and wounded.”

I want to encourage her with “God is good.  He is Sovereign.  He is with you even in this.”

Grace has been sufficient for me in the darkest nights and the longest days.  Grace has strengthened.  It is grace that saves.

I would share grace with she who suffers today.

Not just Sunday grace, but everyday grace.

Grace and peace to you, my friend.

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Remember His suffering

Day 6 of 40 Days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read Isaiah 53 about our suffering Savior

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, Jesus’ suffering is apparent in the opening scene.  He is praying in the garden to His Father, agonizing for relief.  One disciple remarks to another, “What’s wrong with him?  He seems afraid.”

The men who had walked with Him for three years had never seen Jesus shrink in fear.  He had faced down the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  He spoke with an authority that shocked and amazed people.  He had no fear of wind and storm or the demonic living in graveyards.

How could He, the Son of God, be afraid?

Yet, that is how it appears, at least in the movie.  Already Jesus seems to feel the weight of sin-soaked humanity, blood-thick sweat revealing His battles to do the will of God.  Satan appears, offering Him an easier way, a way out of the suffering that Jesus knows is ahead of Him.

I’ve heard people say they’ve never seen the movie, can’t stand to watch the graphic display of the life nearly beaten out of Jesus, the blood and gore of it.  The movie’s R-rating is well deserved.

While my body physically reacts to the movie every single time, I need to watch it, need to be reminded.  I need to get a picture of how much God loved me that He would allow His Son to pay such a high price.  I can only do it once a year, but once a year I must.

During Lent, aren’t we supposed to reflect on Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness while fasting and praying before His public ministry begins. Aren’t we to be reminded of His suffering for us?  Aren’t we to consider the great cost of our salvation?

So we give up caffeinated drinks, certain activities, and Snicker’s bars.  Yeah, we’re really suffering here.

As I reflect on the nightly news, Christians around the world being martyred and persecuted, I wonder if I can even identify with real suffering?  I am not acquainted with true persecution.

What will happen when I am?  What will my response be when questioned “Are you a Christian?” with a gun pointed at my face or a blade ready to sever my head from my body?

In the movie, after the garden prayer, the scene changes.  Jesus stands resolute, his gaze fixed upon the cross that will come.  His crushing blow to the head of the serpent demonstrates a triumphant act of courage and determination.

The Son of God, the Darling of Heaven, the very Word who was in the beginning becomes a Savior. Our Savior. My Savior.

He was beaten.  He was bruised.  He was wounded.  He was mocked.  He was humiliated.  He was forsaken.  He bore my horrible sin.  He did it for me.

What I can do right here and right now is consider Him and live my life in the power of the Holy Spirit, a life that will reflect my Savior.  In His suffering.  In His death.  In His resurrection.  In His glory!

Isaiah 53 from The Message

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
    Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
    a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away. 

We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—

    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
    We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
    on him, on him.

He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared,
    he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
    and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
    beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
    threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
    or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
    to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
    so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
    And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
    he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
    will make many “righteous ones,”
    as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
    the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
    because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
    he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

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Share your thoughts here friends.

Or simply press “Like” if you want to let me know you are journeying with me.

This week’s musing

Truth is revealed to me, even when my skull is thick.

 I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.”  Psalm 77:1

I read the whole of Psalm 77 and think how Asaph, the author, expressed similar feelings and asked the same questions I have asked.  Perhaps that puts me in good company, the company of mankind.

Do we all question the goodness of God when our lives seem very hard?  I’ve done my share of asking only to be met with a hushed quiet that I now recognize as loving concern rather than silent neglect.

After this last season of Sweet William’s health issues, I am trying not to question so much but rather to fall upon grace and pray, “The will of the Lord be done.”  It is the prayer that never fails.

“Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done,” Jesus prayed and gave us the example.  It does bring me more peace, just to rest it all in His hands rather than flail like a fretful child.  Trying to figure it all out is exhausting.

I’m still learning along this journey, not having reached perfection yet.  I have a long way to go.

Yesterday morning as I was finishing my Bible study lesson for the day, I wrote in the margin of the book these words,

“I’ve gotten to know Him [God] in great victories, but even more I think in great trials.”

 I almost gasped at the revelation of it as I wrote the words.  They are truth I know in my head but suddenly they seemed to take root in my heart.

Is it possible, probable that hard places reveal Jesus the most?  Paul’s words ring in my ears:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

I do want to know Him, my God, my Father, my Savior, my Lord.  If it takes the hard roads, the rough seas, the jagged edges of life, to know Him most and know Him best, then I pray those sweet words, “The will of the Lord be done.”

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Counting on His grace

More sickness.  More surgeries.  More hospital stays.  So begins 2012.

I have so many wonders, so many unanswered questions.  I place one foot in front of the other and take the next step.  I cannot see what is beyond this minute.  So I do what is necessary right now.

I read the Bible and hope for a “word” from the Lord.  I search my favorite Bible for those underlined or highlighted Scriptures that have helped sustain me before.

My eyes fall upon Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  [You, O God, have been so before]  Therefore we will not fear [I confess that sometimes I am afraid of what is ahead] though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  [It feels just like this]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall [does that mean me, Father?]; God will help her at break of day . . . [Can I hold onto this promise?]

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

And so I learn that trusting is all there is.  That it is an ongoing lesson.  Some days it is easy.  Some days it is not.

And I learn that giving thanks reminds me of God’s goodness when the clouds gather.

I count my blessings.  I look for the graces that fall all around me.

  • A beautiful full moon early this morning
  • Faithful little Buddy, our Maltese, who sticks by my wherever I go
  • Prayers going up for us from family, friends, and even people I don’t know
  • Offers to help and being able to call for it when I need it
  • Praise music on the CD player that invites me to join in the song
  • Health professionals who do their job diligently and with kindness
  • Sweet William’s sweetness in spite of his pain
  • The familiar things around me that bring comfort
  • The little black Honda that gets me where I need to go
  • The necklace I wear constantly that reads “by grace alone” and witnesses to eyes that see

I count graces because I must.   It is where I stand (Romans 5:2).

I count graces because it gives me strength (Hebrews 13:9).

I count graces because the Father has lavished it upon me (Ephesians 1:7).

Grace.  Amazing.  How sweet the sound.

Suffering for Christ

“If I call will you come? When I cry do you hear?”

The questions from a song written by Zach Neese called Faithful God echo my own heart.

I’ve asked those questions in the midst of difficult and uncertain events.  I’ve wondered where God was while I suffered or watched people I care about suffer, even die.

Maybe you have, too.

Why is it we think God is in our midst when all is right with our world but we assume He is far, far away and out of hearing when the world is crashing down around us?

More and more I realize I don’t know all the answers. I’m not a theologian, only a forever-student of the Word.  I’m still learning.

I used to think I could “command” God to do what I wanted, the results of an idea that we can name what we want and claim it in Jesus’ name.  That should make it a done deal, right?

Another line of thought says if I can just think enough positive thoughts and eliminate all the negative ones, I will draw only good things to me.  That would be pretty powerful, wouldn’t it?

There is nothing new about those ideas.  It was put into a poem called Invictus by William Ernest Henley in 1800s.

“I am master of my fate; I am captain of my soul.”

 I have already decided.  I don’t want to be in charge of myself and my destiny.  Captain of my own soul?  I answer that question with a resounding “No!”

I don’t have sufficient intelligence or wisdom; I am too selfish, too self-focused, too emotional, too small in my thinking to design my own life, to decide what is best for me and expect a good outcome.

I have surrended the command of my life to the Captain of the Lord’s Host, Jesus Christ.  But when suffering is all around me, family, friends, the world, I still have questions.

Reading chapter 1 of Philippians recently, I see words that I’ve read many times before, but they spoke in a different way this time.

Verse 29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.”

I’ve always considered the suffering Paul talked about to be persecution for the Gospel of Christ, the kind of suffering preachers and missionaries deal with, the ones who give their all, live in foreign countries, and risk their very lives to spread the good news of Jesus.

I’ve never suffered like that.

But what if Paul’s words were expanded to include Christians who deal with mental, physical, emotional pain while still reflecting the light of God’s glory as they endure?

A friend tells me about a young woman with a husband and two small children who is dying of cancer.  Treatments are no longer effective.  She will not be a survivor.  She has little energy anymore while friends bring food and take the children out for a picnic or ice cream.  Yet, she musters the strength on a Sunday morning to dress in something pretty, wearing her face mask to prevent an infection, and she comes to church to worship.

I hear of a mother of six boys who was told the sweet baby girl she and her husband had waited for is diseased in the womb and will not survive long after birth. This mother courageously carried the child full term despite medical advice to abort. She gave birth and held her little girl until breath was gone. Her friends, her church, and her community are impacted by her faith.

I listen to heart-breaking prayer requests from the lips of my choir when we practice on Wednesday evenings.  Then I watch them lift their hands and hearts in worship to their God who leaves many questions unanswered.  Their joy shines though the burdens are heavy.

Another friend shares through tears the heartbreak of watching a family member’s life deteriorate before her eyes. Yet she continues to serve and fulfill her obligations, faithful to the calling of God.

A childhood friend who has many gifts and talents was struck with a debilitating disease years ago that allows only a few good days out of many painful one when staying home and resting is all she can do.  She recently shared her great joy at being able to serve her church in a way she can, organizing a greeter ministry.  It’s something she can do within the limitations of her illness.

Another childhood friend lost her husband this year to a lingering illness.  We have reconnected on Facebook. I recently asked her how she was doing. Her response was from a wounded heart that was fully and faithfully trusting her God.

I see the glory of God shining in those lives.  Though He slay them, yet they will trust Him!

That kind of faith speaks louder than a Sunday morning sermon in the church house.  It shouts loudly to neighbors, co-workers, people on highways and byways of life who will not hear the gospel except as it is lived out by persevering Christians.

So maybe Paul’s words ring true for you like they do for me today. When life spirals out of control and I feel myself falling with it, I remember that God told me in His Word that there would be days like this.  He has not left me in my suffering.  He is ever near the broken, the wounded, the hurting.  He has a purpose for it though I cannot see.  And perhaps . . . just perhaps His light will be reflected in me as I hopefully endure. 

The song I began with continues like this:

“If I call will You come? When I cry do You hear?  I believe every tear is caught up by a faithful God.

  So I will cry until You come, cast my cares into Your arms.  I can’t see past this storm, but I’m counting on a faithful God.”

Until the storm passes by, I’m counting on a God Who has been faithful to me in my past, is faithful right now in my present, and will be faithful until my life on this earth ends, and I stand in the presence of my God.

A promise from 2 Corinthians 4 rings in my ear:

  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory . . .

Being there with Jesus will be worth it all.