Thursday, September 26, 2013

When You Feel Lonely In Crowded Places

Hey Friend,

There was a buzz in the air as people found their seats and wondered and speculated about the giant spaceship looking thing that seemed to form the stage.  I was there with my husband and two grown children to witness, in person, the one and only U2 in concert.  Certainly an enviable ticket.  You could almost feel the electric current pass among the 60,000 fans all anticipating the event to come.

My kids had led the way in followed by my husband, then me.  Not a word passed between my husband and me before the concert.  His back was turned toward me as he engaged my kids in excited conversation.  Unbeknownst to me, it was merely weeks until my husband would leave. 

The lights lowered and the spaceship came alive with lights.  "It's A Beautiful Day" rang out in the crisp night air.  I could see the stars and the thousands of waving cell phones.  I bit my lip and in the darkness tears burned down my cheeks.  Here in this crowd of 60,000 people, I had never felt so alone in all my life.

Why do crowded places breed loneliness?  I often, if I'm going to feel lonely, feel lonely in crowds.

I believe that in crowds we realize that we are not connected.  When there is a disconnect between us and God, or a disconnect between us and others, loneliness sets in.  A crowd is just a blatant reminder that something is amiss.

Does God allow loneliness to find us so that we will seek Him?  Perhaps so...

David, in the Bible, was no stranger to loneliness.  Read Psalm 38:9-15.  David cries out with his longings and laments that his friends and companions avoid him.

God, however never avoids us or forsakes us...even in our loneliness.

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave nor forsake you."  (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Jesus was also no stranger to loneliness when his close friends fell asleep on him and he was all alone in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus stood by himself in a crowd as people jeered and mocked him, tortured him and sent him to his death...alone.

But, thankfully, God is loving and compassionate and true to all his promises.

I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.  (John 14:18)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

I have found that it is often at my loneliest points - when my heart cries out to God that He is faithful and draws near.  He IS the great Comforter and He IS the God who sees (El-Roi)!

He held my hand that night, there in the massive crowd.  The tears didn't stop, but my Father was counting and catching them.  If you are in a lonely place, His promises are true for you!  Know that you are loved...


ps.  I continue to pray, both morning and evening, for all who read my blog.  Praying especially for you if you are feeling lonely. You are not alone.  You are loved...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Vacationing In The Land Of Busy-ness

Hey Friend,

Usually I post on Thursdays (for you folks that notice), but yesterday was an extremely busy, run around kind of day.  You know how those go...The day started out well and with good intention, but before I knew it I had made a few too many left turns and before you know it I was in the Land of Busy-ness.

I smiled and chatted with the Starbucks' barista as I waited in the drive-thru line to get my two pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin bread to take to my son and co-worker.  I even paid for the irritated looking woman behind me who probably was running late for work.  I dropped the dog off at the vet for blood work and a "spa day" (aka good scrubbin').  Picked up my friend's daughter and took her and her kitty to her vet for an emergency visit.  Ran to the grocery store.  Dropped the groceries.  Back to get friend, kitty and bag o' medicine. Drop them off.  Go get my clean smelling, mad at me dog. And, and, and...

Occasional days like that are okay, but I have to be careful that I don't start to vacation in the Land of Busy-ness.

Being constantly busy, to me, is like wearing an old pair of sneakers - comfortable to slide into, but not something you want to wear all the time.

Right now it's very easy for me to get caught up in a million little things, like home improvement projects and planning for my wedding.  It is safe to do other things because if I spend time with God, He might want to do some major renovation.  He might want to transform me and gosh, that takes work. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  (Romans 12:2)

Don't get me wrong, many of the things we do in our day are good and righteous acts.  Acts, that are pleasing to God.  But just as faith without acts is dead; acts without faith is, well, just plain addicting.  I have to watch that pride doesn't creep in there.  I am not performing in the great recital called life.  I am playing to an audience of One.

"All our righteous acts are as filthy rags."  (Isaiah 64:6)

God's reason for creating us is so that we can live in relationship with Him. (Period)

When I step back and truly take in what God has done in order that I can have a relationship with Him...He watched the blood of life drip from His son so that I could spend today and eternity with Him.  He loves me...he loves you with a persevering passion.  But, God will not compete for our attention. He will stand at the door and knock, but we ultimately have to let Him in.

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and eat with that person and they with me.  (Revelation 3:20)

God knocks every day at my door.  He is gracious, humble, filled with loving-kindness; but some days I don't open the door.  I'm too busy vacationing in the Land of Busy-ness.  It's easier.

On my smarter days, however, when I do open the door and invite Him in.  What joy and peace fill my soul.  Yes He may want to do some renewing and renovating, but in the "potter's hands" I am safe.  This is where I am meant to be.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.  (Psalm 84:10)

God will transform just as much of our lives as we are willing to give Him.  What are you willing to give? 



Thursday, September 12, 2013

When Does Grace Come?

Hey Friend,

I held my mom's fragile hand in mine as we walked into a room filled with caskets.  For a moment we both stood there, as if frozen, and gazed around.  We were on a shopping trip...a terrible, gut wrenching shopping trip.  The kind and compassionate, portly funeral director explained to us our different choices.  There was everything from your very basic box, if you will, to the super deluxe steel casket. 

I remember running my hand over the Cadillac box with it's shiny, cold, steel gray exterior and wondering who in the world would need that?  From dust we came and to dust we will return.  My dad was a simple kind of man.  A no frills guy who liked vanilla ice cream. My dad worked with his hands and loved building things from wood.  The cradle he had built for my two babies was and would continue to be a cherished heirloom. As if in unison, my mom and I decided on the chestnut colored wooden casket.  Simple in design, it would be fitting for my dad.

I look back on that time and I think how in the world did I do what I did?  It's been two years and the surreal experience is forever etched in my mind's eye.  In a few days time we went from picking out caskets to picking songs and scripture;  from meeting with everyone from the funeral director to the lawyer.

 Quite simple, God gave me grace in the moment.  I am an only child and for years I wondered, what on earth am I going to do when one of my parents passes away?  It was a thought that haunted me and made me anxious.  I couldn't fathom how I would get through it when that day would come.  But God did not give me grace in the period of my waiting and anxiously wondering, He gave me grace for and in the moment. 

There is not grace beforehand, there is only grace for the moment. 

Grace is not offered in the "what ifs" but in the "what is".

Grace does not mean there will not be pain and anguish, but grace does promise peace for those who believe.  Time and time again, grace and peace are joined together in the Bible.  Paul started each of his letters with the greeting: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3) Peace comes hand in hand with grace.

Grace is only offered in the present tense.  It is not in the beforehand.  I realized all my worrying was for naught, because God gave me what I needed when I needed it.  This experience has helped me to not fret and worry about how would I handle it if (fill in the blank)?  We all dream up our worst nightmares and wonder how on earth would I get through that?  It causes dread and panic because the wondering is void of grace.  I know now that I can rest in God's promises. 

I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

Ultimately, I must trust that God is good.  This is where my heart rests.  Through all the tests and trials that have come my way, God has been true to his promises and has showed up to give me grace and an underlying sense of peace.  No good thing has He withheld.

For the Lord God is a Sun and Shield; the Lord bestows [present] grace and favor and [future] glory (honor, splendor, and heavenly bliss) and no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  (Psalm 84:11)

So when does grace come? Grace comes for the moment...the moment our heart cries out to the Lord.  It will never be easy (in this world you will have tribulation), but God promises He will answer with grace and peace that only He can give.



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Things I Learned This Summer (Part 2)

Hey Friend,

Awww...not again?!  It's 4:30 am. and bing, I'm awake once more.  When will my body let me sleep in?  This has gone on for a couple of weeks and I have fought it, analyzed it and finally have come to the conclusion that this is when God wants to meet with me. 

I've always been a morning person, but not quite this early.  Even my dog looks at me like I'm crazy and she slowly saunters down the steps after I have a cup of hot java in my hands and have settled into my favorite chair.  This has been going on for most of the summer now, and I have finally stopped fighting and find I actually enjoy rising at an early hour.  The house is quiet and peaceful when it is dark outside and the rest of the world is sleeping.

It's then that I am a captive audience, without distraction, to whom God can speak.

I've learned that if I walk my dog at 5:45, I get to experience the awesomeness of God in the magnificent sunrises He blesses me with.  Now that fall is approaching, the sunrise is more of a benediction on my walk with my dog.

God's mercies are new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:23)

Another thing I've learned this summer is that I need to not only drink in scripture, but I've been challenged to memorize it.  It's kind of like packing my emergency kit, because when the storms come along (and they will), I need to be equipped with God's grace on the tip of my tongue.

His word is what I cling to and the more of His word I can have tucked away the better.  Not only for the storms, but for when life calls for praising Him.  I want to be ready with scriptures to bless and praise Him.

Impress them (God's commands and words) on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates.  (Deuteronomy 6:7-9)

Due to extensive knee surgery that kept me immobile for a long time, I rediscovered my love of writing this summer.  Do you sense a thread here, that God has to go to great lengths to get my attention sometimes?  A reader said that they appreciate that I am honest, real and transparent.  Yep, that's me.  It isn't easy sometimes, but I feel called to do so, so that we can stand shoulder to shoulder and support one another in this difficult thing called life. In a glossed over world, we need to be a little more real.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)...this is the most recent scripture I have memorized.

What things have you learned this summer?  I'd love to hear from you, but at the very least, I hope you will reflect upon this season and find something you've learned and can give thanks for.