"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 NIV

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Never Alone

Loneliness is no respecter of age. It weaves through the seniors' rooms where I work. My heart aches for them, and I spend as much time talking and joking with them as one person can. 

But driving home Christmas night I got angry - with God.

"How can lives that were once so full seem so empty? 
Why do you allow this solitude? 
Where are you?"

 He spoke to me in a song. 
(Which he does more often than anyone would believe.)

We cannot separate
You're part of me
Though you're invisible
I'll trust the unseen 

I cry out with no reply
I can't feel you by my side
So I'll hold tight to what I know
You're here, and I'm never alone

It was obvious, but I had missed it. Those who trust in him have been given the gift that conquers loneliness: oneness with Christ. The baby born in a stable grew to be a man who cannot be separated from those who love him.  

Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

Our God gives you everything you need. 

My perception of being alone is in essence, wrong. It is a lie whispered by the prince of darkness himself. I can feel alone. I can observe that others seem to be alone. In reality, this is an impossibility for believers.

So, as the song suggests, I cling with all my might to the unseen.

I am never alone.

Those who are truly alone have decided to walk down the path of life solo. And I must continue to reach out a hand and offer a better way.

Christ in me, thanks for bringing me around to truth. I love how you remind me often of your presense with glimpses of your glory. Help others to realize the magnitude of this gift you have given us. Guide me as your light in a dark and lonely world. Amen. 

"Never Alone" - Barlow Girl

*Col. 1:27 NIV, 1 Thess. 1:2 MSG

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When Greatest Fears Come True

Senseless. Questioning. Torn.

How could this happen? They were only children, concerned mostly with whether their heart's desire was waiting under a tinsel topped tree.

Their parents had probably been praying for their safety for years. How could God ignore such a selfless request, twenty times over?

That is the view from down here, in a fallen world.

But what if God not only answered the prayers of each of the parents in Connecticut, but he did more than they could ever ask or think or imagine. *

In my mind, a prayer for my children's protection means safety and shelter from the evil around them. "Please keep them safe" translates to, "Don't let them be hurt."

Since my thoughts are not his thoughts and my ways are not his ways,* I have to try to make sense of things from his point of view.

What if his idea of "keeping them safe" means giving them peace that passes all understanding* in the midst of evil? What if it means them feeling his warm arms around them and hearing a whisper of "I am here with you. Fear not." Perhaps he answers prayers by wiping every tear from their eyes*, forever.

I serve a God who promises to never leave me or forsake me*. I believe he can do anything. So I have to trust that his love was wrapped around each scared student and teacher. It's possible he kept them from feeling any pain at all. He was outraged at the evil even more so than I was. Yet, as the broken son of Adam pulled the trigger, I am sure God was speaking to his soul too, saying, "I love you. I still want to forgive you. Yes, I died even for you. Please turn and believe."

It still hurts. The happenings of this world will never seem fair. Death was not the original plan for his children. Pain in the face of evil, especially for those left trying to make sense of it all, is unavoidable. He longs to comfort those who mourn if we will let him.

However, my faith can not depend on God answering my prayers the way I want them to be answered. That is telling God, "I know better than you how to handle this situation."

Tonight as I pray over my children, I will ask him to use the pain they encounter in this world to make them stronger and keep them safely in his arms forever. I will echo Paul:  

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19 MSG)

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! (Eph 1:17-19 MSG)

Thank you, God of wisdom, for allowing me to share this life with others, whether it be for decades or days. Help me to hold onto everyone around me loosely and you tightly. Amen.

*Ephesians 3:20, Isaiah 55:8, Philippians 4:7, Revelation 21:4, Deuteronomy 31:6   

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gazing Upward

The day had been hard. I needed a moment of stillness. Although the computer beckoned to me, I chose to turn the lights off, save for the Christmas tree, and lay on the couch. My mind wandered for awhile until I focused on the scene before my eyes.

The children had obviously played with the nativity set on the coffee table. Every figurine except for one was toppled. The lone shepherd was gazing intently into the sky, watching in expectation. His act of reverence and the current state of my heart were polar opposites, and it unnerved me.

In an act of defiance, I gave a tug to the cloth beneath him. If I was not standing tall, he should not either. (This all made perfect sense to me at midnight.) My earthquake, however, did not achieve the result I desired. He stood his ground, staring skyward in perfect peace.

Then I remembered something my pastor had recently said. In a study of Christians who had gone through times of great trial, the ones who kept their faith and peace were the ones who had a habit of sitting at the Lord's feet daily, in his word and in prayer. They did not wait until they were in a bind to seek the Lord. They were in constant communication with him already. And when troubles (earthquakes) came, they continued to gaze upward.

Chuckling to myself for allowing the circumstances of the day to darken my spirits, I carefully restored order to the entire manger. Then I thanked God for the humorous heart lesson.

I choose to keep my eyes focused on the King of Kings.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. (Psalm 8:1 NIV)

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me... (Psalm 16:8-10a NIV)

Almighty God, thank you for showing me truth in ordinary objects. Help me to always look for your messages of hope, even when the light around me grows dim. When others fall, plant my feet deeper so I will not be shaken. Amen. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Grace and Peace Overflowing

I greet you with the  

grace and peace poured into our lives 

by God our Father 
and our Master, 
Jesus Christ. 
(Ephesians 1:2 MSG)

How can grace and peace be poured into my life if it is full of worry and stress? It is like adding pure water to a cup that is already full of murky water.

First, I need to empty myself of the unclean. 

I do this by becoming aware of the anxiety within me. I pour out my heart to God in prayer and often write my troubling thoughts on paper. God loves to answer prayers to empty me of all that does not honor him and fill me with the peace that can only come from him.  

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)

God, I want there to be more room in my life for your grace, peace, and joy. Help me to identify areas of my life that do not bring you glory and to be patient while you lovingly help me release them to you. Amen.