The message.

The message came out of the blue.

Sitting contentedly with a word search, she suddenly looked at me with her big, sweet eyes and said “Oh Patty, God will take care of you. God will take care of you.”  She rocked back and forth in her chair then said again, “The Lord will provide. The Lord will provide.” Through stinging tears, I agreed with her, “Yes, He will take care of us. Yes, He will provide.” Then she went back to her word search.

She’ll often repeat things for comfort. Maybe she was anxious and needed to remind herself of God’s love. I don’t know. What I do know is that I needed to hear about God’s love and provision. I needed to know He cared. In that moment, her simple, repetitive words spoke peace and comfort to my anxiety-ridden heart. She had no idea what was on my mind. But God knew. And His clear message came through one of His most precious souls and provided a grace-laden balm for my churning thoughts.

Do you need to hear the message today too, friend?
He’s whispering it to you.
He will take care of you.
He will take care of you.
He will provide.
He will provide.

 

 

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Hoping

Discouragement stands on my doorstep, relentlessly pounding to come in and invade my heart.  I grip the handle with all my might and try to keep him out. But this week, for lots of varied reasons, fending off discouragement felt like a losing battle. These words that I wrote three years ago and read again this morning helped call me back to a place of hope. Maybe, just maybe, if you’re fighting the battle against despair and discouragement, they’ll help you too.

About 24 years ago, my former pastor said “There’s no hope without waiting.” As a 24-year-old who’d just recently experienced my first major loss as an independent adult, those words sank deep into my heart and shaped my view of this faith journey. As I grew in faith and read the Bible more, especially passages like Lamentations 1-3, another truth dawned. Not only is there no hope without waiting, but there is no hope without pain. If we don’t experience pain, loss or need, we have no reason to hope. If we have every need met, every longing fulfilled, and every dream realized before even asking, we don’t experience hope. So, in my little mind, would life be better without a need for hope? Would life here be better without pain? Is that what heaven will be? We will live in the presence of every fulfillment so there will be no need to hope. What will that feel like? What replaces hope when there’s no need for it? Contentment? Fulfillment? Satisfaction? Peace?

I’m not sure. I’m just pondering. And, if I’m honest, I’m trying to hold on to hope in the midst of some hurts and fears. People betray and disappoint, uncertainty of the future rears its head, injustice seems unchecked and my heart and mind grow weary. But I want to live in a place of hope. I want to live as a person of hope.

There is pain and suffering and heart ache and the truth is, life can be hard. But I don’t want to live as if that’s all there is.

I want to be a person who lives and breathes and brings hope.

Back to Lamentations 1-3, if you read it, it’s painful. It’s about regrets, screw-ups, abandonment, disappointment and desertion. The writer despairs over his own people and their predicament. He despairs of his own life and feels alone in his suffering. He feels like everyone is letting him down and they (the nation of Israel) have let God down. There’s a sense of betrayal and bewilderment in his summary words:

 The thought of my suffering and homelessness
    is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.

Then, he follows with the oft-quoted words:

Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”
 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.

What would those beautiful words of hope be without the longing and despair that came before them? Hollow. Shallow. Trite. But because of his sense of loss, pain and longing for justice, the words are filled with trust and beauty. He writes his words in the midst of his burdens, not after them. He claims hope and salvation from the very place of his intense mental anguish.

The writer’s words–his faith–his hope–gives me hope for the day–hope right in the middle of confusion and hurt. How about you? What gives you hope for the day?

Enduring Love from a good God.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever. ~Psalm 136:1 (click here to read the rest)

Enduring love from a good God. That’s what I need. It’s what I crave. Without it, my tumultuous thoughts take over and I’m adrift in the storms raging in my mind and heart. But God, true to His faithful nature, offers His enduring love from His good heart to me, a weary soul.

And He’s offering it to you as well.  Hear His heart for you:
I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
    With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.  

He loves you. Period. Accept the fact, decide what you’re going to do with it, and move on from there. He loves you and that’s not going to change.
No matter what.
He loved you yesterday. He loves you today. He’ll love you tomorrow.
No. matter. what.
Struggle to believe it? Yep, I know, I do too.
Click here to read 1 John 3 to read more of His love.
Listen to this song by Bethel music (based on the Bible) and let the Truth of the words soothe your soul:

He loves you, dear one. And His love endures forever. He’ll never leave you.

Praying for your weary heart today.

Loving Well.

It rained on Saturday. Not a steady, all-day downpour, but an on and off drip. As we pulled into Fort Snelling, the drips subsided and the clouds thinned. Damp, colorful red and yellow leaves littered the hollowed ground as searched for the grave. We stood, three figures, remembering and missing. For four years he’s been absent from us and in the presence of the Holy. The tombstone reads: “Alive in Christ” and as I stood, I tried to imagine what that meant for Dad and what it means for me. We left the cemetery and went on with our day, enjoying each other’s company, but missing Dad’s.

As I drove home yesterday, I pondered again Dad’s life and legacy. Once again, I remembered his love, humor, intelligence and wisdom and thanked God for it. Dad loved people well. But his love came at personal cost. An introverts introvert, dad would have preferred to live his life in his home surrounded by his books and music with his lovely wife by his side. He could have easily and happily stayed within the confines and safety of his home. But he loved God and God calls us to love others. So he did. Dad loved others through kind words. He loved them through hugs. He loved them through his teaching and wisdom. He loved them through his generosity. He loved them through faithfully and skillfully practicing his trade. People experienced God’s love because Dad saw every interaction as a means of showing God’s love.

I don’t know what your day looks like today or if your life sucks right now. I don’t know what battles you face or the mountains that seem insurmountable. But I pray for you, friend. I pray if you’re not feeling loved, that someone will be God’s love to you today. And if you claim Christ, I pray you take loving others well as a serious and beautiful calling.

 

 

 

 

Quiet.

I’m reposting from my archives today. I wrote this three years ago, and in the interim, it seems soul-rest has been even more elusive. I needed to hear this again today. Maybe you do too.

I relish in the quiet of the early morning. In fact, I love any kind of quiet at any time of day. Silence, over the years, proves my friend. Every morning I drive my 35 minute commute in beautiful silence. I guess I’m an auditory minimalist. Too many noises, even good ones, wear on me. Incessant background noise–tv, radio, lots of voices– exhaust me. I suppose it has to do with filters– I have a hard time tuning anything out so it quickly becomes too much.

Lately, although I enjoy an abundance of silence, I’ve noticed that my being struggles to be quiet. Always churning and chewing on thoughts and emotions, both my heart and mind remain a far cry from quiet. A pervasive theme throughout my life, the convergence of past hurts, present struggles, and future fears set up a road-block in me and it’s a daily battle to tear it down and continue on my journey.

This morning, over coffee, I read this from the author, Isaiah:

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.

There’s so much noise in our world, so many things vying for our attention. How can we possibly weed it all out? And yet if we don’t–weed out the noise (sounds, sights, smells, activities)–I believe there’s the possibility we’ll miss the soul-rest that’s right there in front of us.

That verse from Isaiah? I didn’t include the last line; the complete verse reads:

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.
    But you would have none of it.

In other versions, they translate that line as “But you refused.” or “But you were unwilling”.

We all claim to want and desire peace and yet what are we willing to do or to change so that we have it? Is soul-rest right there for the taking, but because of an unwillingness on our part to simply accept it or make changes or believe it, we end up missing it? I know I do . I miss the invitation and I miss out on the rest. I know I trade quietness for the noise of the world, and I certainly trade confidence and trust for doubts and fears.

So today, once again, I pray for a willing, receptive, open heart so that I don’t miss the rest and salvation being freely offered and freely given. I pray for a constantly returning, remembering, believing heart.

In Between dusk and dawn

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

On the cusp of dawn, leaving the night behind, but not quite daybreak.
The in-between.
Mysterious. Dark and light mingled and entwined and, for a few brief moments, inseparable.
Wide awake during the in between, praying…thinking, I strangely had a flashback to college.
Religion 101. Junior year–yes I realize that is late in a college career to take a general course and the registrar and prof were not happy with me, but I was and still am of the opinion that the point of a liberal arts education is to have a diverse, balanced course of study all the way through school…ok, sorry about that…stepping off my soap box now and back to the blog… Religion 101…junior…oh yeah…
Willis P. De Boer. Close to retirement, lanky with what I thought at the time were unusually long appendages (now I know that it’s just part of being Dutch) and a slight brogue, he gestured with those far reaching fingers and said we were the in “the already but the not yet”.
The already but the not yet.
The in between.
Like seeing a mountain range far off we recognize the majesty and vastness, but don’t really begin to understand their scope until we travel into them. The view is different from the foothills to the passes to the mountain tops to the high plateaus. Discovery is around every corner and rarely looks the way we expected it to.
When Jesus came to earth, He ushered in God’s Eternal Kingdom. It’s already here. But as is painfully obvious, the fulfillment of that Kingdom seems forever in the future with, at times, little evidence of its existence. For the past 2000 years we, the human race, have been journeying through the mountains of the already but the not yet.

Oh, we’re in awe of the beauty and rugged delicacy. But we’re fickle people and even the majesty of the mountains becomes mundane and all we see are the rocks and foot falls. Sometimes we’re fearful that any misstep could lead to disaster. Not always aware that what we’re in is so much bigger than us, we continue on.
I know I’ve felt lost in the mountains…in the in between. Caught in the middle…wanting desperately to get through or at least to a peak so I can get a bigger view and maybe see how much farther there is to go. Caught. Between night and day.
But then there are those moments, when beauty or art or music or communion with loved ones, or acts of kindness and generosity, or the realization of sacrifice transcends what we can grasp and is something felt not thought, and we get a glimpse of the already but the not yet. Signs of the coming dawn.
Life in the in between.

***forgive mixing metaphors and being a bit melodramatic…remember I wrote it in the wee hours and after reading Bronte.***

*reposting from the archives today. I originally published this back in 2010

Mercy

“A beggar poor at Mercy’s door, lies such a wretch as I;
Thou knowest my need is great indeed, Lord, hear me when I cry.”~Samuel Medley

Throughout my life of faith, grace (or rather Grace), has meant everything to me. The knowledge, belief ,and experience that Grace is real, has been my bedrock. Grace: being given something I didn’t ask for and don’t deserve that’s more than I could imagine. I’ve been given saving Grace, sustaining Grace, guiding Grace, and forgiving Grace. It’s all a gift.

Lately, another reality of God ignites my soul: Mercy.
Grace is all about Love…free, unconditional, pure, saving love.
Mercy possesses a different quality. Mercy suggests being spared from something. There’s an element of judgement in Mercy that makes it even more wonderful. I deserve “A” but am shown Mercy and get “B” instead. Beautiful.

The words above by Samuel Medley**, grip my heart each time I hear them. I show up, beggar poor–nothing to offer, nothing to give–at Mercy’s door. He opens the door and instead of sending me away empty-handed or throwing me some scraps and then slamming the door in my face, He invites me in. Essentially, because of sin, we’re all strangers to Him. And yet, even as a stranger, because of His Mercy, He opens the doors wide open. He asks me to live there, in this place of Mercy.

But here’s the thing, if I leave Mercy’s door, I leave beggar-poor again. I can’t go there, fill up, and expect to distribute the wealth I’ve been given as if I were Father Christmas. No, I come a beggar, and if I leave, I leave a beggar. So often, we, as Christians, talk about being “filled” in such a superficial way. It’s as if you can tank up on God like you would gas and run for a while until you’re empty and then go back for more filling. He’s not a cosmic gas station. I come to God with nothing and I leave Him with nothing.

The only way I can share His love –the only way to be “filled”– is by staying at His Mercy Door. Jesus put it this way in the book of John:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” 

When we stay in His presence, we become a channel or instrument of His grace, love, forgiveness and mercy and not a distributor of it. God, may we show up beggar poor at your door and feast on your welcoming Mercy so others may experience it as well.

**The words are lyrics from “Love me to the End”; a hymn by Medley and covered by Red Mountain Music. Take a listen…

***Posting from the archives today