Run

As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into.  Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us. We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. (Hebrews 12:1,2 TPT)

Over the years I have seen many sincere Christians in positions of influence who started well (some amazingly well) but who tripped and fell along the way. Nearly every incidence involved some sort of false idol adopted to comfort an old unhealed wound. Nearly every public figure I know who has fallen lost sight of Jesus and began to compare themselves to other runners. They lost their focus. None of them planned for things to go that way, but the pressures of ministry and the desire to maintain a good appearance or material security put enormous pressure on an unhealed wounded heart. The result was sin like an Argentinian gaucho’s bolo that wrapped around their legs and brought them down –face first.

How do we run this race set before us? First, we need to admit our woundedness and seek the Lord’s healing. We may fall and rise and fall and rise again, but with healed hearts, with passion and determination, and with focus on Jesus Christ, faith gains strength and speed.

A cloud of witnesses who longed to be where you are right now is leaning over heaven’s balcony and cheering you on. Run!

Creative Meditations for Lent, Word prompt: Run.

Carry

Creative Meditations for Lent. Word prompt: Carry

There are so many ways I could go with the word carry. Carry out, carry through, carry on, carry over, carry away, carry around…  What I hear in my heart is a line from a song by Selah called “Audrey’s Song.” The part of the song I keep hearing is “I will carry you.”

The song is sung by a mother to her child in the womb. Doctors told the parents that the baby had anomalies incompatible with life and recommended abortion. Instead, the they chose to love their child and honour the life she had, how ever short it would be. (Warning, it’s a tear-jerker.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MI9duC9mXQ

I Will Carry You (Audrey’s Song) by Selah from the album “You Deliver Me”

There were photographs I wanted to take

Things I wanted to show you

Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes

Who could love you like this?

People say that I am brave but I’m not

Truth is I’m barely hanging on

But there’s a greater story

Written long before me

Because He loves you like this

I will carry you

While your heart beats here

Long beyond the empty cradle

Through the coming years I will carry you

All my life

And I will praise the One Who’s chosen me

To carry you

Such a short time

Such a long road

All this madness

But I know

That the silence

Has brought me to His voice

And He says … I’ve shown her photographs of time beginning

Walked her through the parted seas

Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes

Who could love her like this?

I thought about others in the faith who died young. I have often wondered why Jesus chose James, along with his brother of John – the other half of the sons of thunder— and Peter, to be his three closest companions. Jesus would have known that James wasn’t going to live long. King Herod had him “put to the sword.” In a manner all too common in political machinations, when he saw favourable numbers in the local population’s response to his handling of the disruption caused by these Jesus followers, Herod decided to kill some more of them. Peter was miraculously delivered from prison, but James hadn’t been. James was killed.

Why would Jesus invest so heavily in someone who wouldn’t be around very long? Who can say James’ life was of less value than the life of John who lived to a very old age? Jesus obviously loved him and could have rescued him. James obviously had faith and he was surrounded by the same faithful people who prayed for Peter to be released.

Somehow, we have adopted the idea that a successful life is a long life, that people ought to be valued for accomplishments, or at least potential accomplishments. Baby Audrey lived outside her mother’s womb for only two hours, but I believe God saw her life was as valuable and he loved and appreciated her as much as a 100-year-old woman with many accolades.

God loves us for who we are. He loves us because he loves us. Nothing we do or don’t do can make him love us any more or any less. Can we also take the risk of loving someone who may be leaving life on earth shortly? Being separated from a loved one is extremely painful, but not eternally painful. I admire those who can risk the pain of loss and love freely, carrying another person in their heart because they know they are loved by Love Himself.

He will carry them too.

Why the photo of spring flowers on the windowsill? These words in 1 Peter inspired me.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 

For, ‘All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of the Lord endures forever.’

And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22-25)

Hope

“I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(Romans 15:13 The Voice)

Photography has taught me to look for the beautiful in the midst of the ugly. Faith is teaching me to see joy and peace in the midst of a world full of anger and fear. It doesn’t deny the dead and decaying, but when it is focused on the lovely, and the good and the true that say, “Look! New Life!” faith creates a portrait of hope.

Forgive

I thought I had forgiven, but it was hard. Every time some innocuous thing triggered a painful memory, I prayed hard to forgive again.

I thought I had forgiven, but I hadn’t. I forgave them for bumping into me and knocking me off balance. “There were extenuating circumstances,” I reasoned. “I’m sure they didn’t mean it.”

I thought I had forgiven, but I hadn’t. I thought I was just knocked over, but I wasn’t.

I couldn’t ignore the damage done. I had been trampled, broken. My trust lay in the dust in too many shattered pieces to fix. Even the desire to be the good person in this scenario was not a strong enough glue to hold my heart together. I wanted revenge. I wanted payback!

I made up an invoice and looked squarely at the cost of repercussions from their actions that played out for years.

“Oh God,” I cried. “This is too much! I can’t get by without what they owe me!”

“Take your hands off their throats,” He said. “I forgave you. When I was on the cross, I said ‘Tetelestai.’ It was finished. Done. All legal requirements met. I paid your debt. I paid their debt. Take your hands off their throats. Give up any expectation that they will someday apologize or give what they owe.”

“But how am I to live?”

“Empty your hands so I can fill them. I am your provider. I will give you everything you need.”

“Really?”

“Listen, beloved, I am telling you the truth.

I will give you what you need. I will even give you the trust you need to trust Me.

I give you My love first, so you can then love.

It all comes from Me.

It always has.”

Creative Meditations for Lent, Prompt word: Forgive

Stand

Little Warrior

“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” -from Ephesians 6 NIV

Like it or not we were born into a war. The powers of darkness still hate the Kingdom of Light. I see his warriors like much-loved children. Their armour and weapons are not impressive to most people in the world, but they are mighty for pulling down strongholds of satan’s lies and even their own vain imaginations.

They fight evil with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

They stand in the strength of the Lord, and not in their own might. They know where their authority comes from.

Creative Meditations for Lent, Word prompt: Stand

Dig Deep

How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord;
    within their hearts are the highways of holiness!
Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears,
    they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.
    He gives to them a brook of blessing
    filled from the rain of an outpouring.
They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward,
    and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion.

Psalm 84:5-7 TPT

Valley experiences are common to all of us who draw breath in this world. Some valleys are deeper than others. I’ve watched people who impress me walk through tough times as if they have a secret resource that allows them to remain at peace in spite of everything. When I ask them how they do it they tell me, “It’s in the dark places and stressful times that God’s grace is most plentiful. It’s not as easy as it was before. You have to dig. But that’s where profound silence invites you to come closer. That’s when you can feel his heart of love for you.”

Breathe Your Life Into Us: Strength to Trust After Disappointment

Sometimes the gap between a promise given and a promise fulfilled is excruciatingly long.

I grew up in a part of Canada where signs of spring could suddenly be buried under snowstorms riding on cold winds harsh enough to take your breath away. I see yearly disappointment has struck the prairie provinces again this week.

Last week we were told that churches could open at limited capacity for Easter. Many of my friends and our brave spiritual leaders, and worship team members eagerly made plans for a special time together after months of isolation. Today new announcements squashed that hope. Due to another increase in cases of the virus no indoor religious services will be permitted at all anywhere in this province larger than a lot of countries.

For several months I have had severe pain in my legs and have had trouble walking or sleeping. One day, my doctor phoned to say the latest scans revealed the cause and although I would need surgery, there was hope the problem could be fixed. He called back three weeks later to relay that the consulting surgeon recommended against surgery, for several reasons. There are some things I can try to lessen the pain, but it looks like I need to learn to adapt to disability.

Today I was aware that hope has been deferred for many of us for all sorts of reasons. I wonder if the way we process disappointment says a lot about the way we grow or fail to grow in faith.

Like a lot of people, I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a perpetual spring/not spring, forward/backward cha cha dance of hope almost fulfilled/hope definitely not fulfilled lately. Sometimes the dance is exhausting. I have been guilty of sitting down, not always to rest in the Lord, but to put myself into some sort of trance-like endurance plod that looks less like producing potential springtime buds of manifesting promise and instead settling apathetically under the snow for another stretch of dull dormancy.

David, the harassed young psalm writer, often composed verse about seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises snatched away. From the perspective of hundreds of years later it would be easy to skip the agonizing equivalent of some guy singing the blues and go directly to the ecstatic King dancing with such joy that his underwear showed. But the bit in between is important.

The bit in between is called process and that’s where God likes to meet us. It’s that liminal space neither here nor there where we don’t know if we should try something else to force the promise into fulfillment, or if we should just find a way to protect our hearts from the thing we most want to avoid – disappointment. It’s that place where we realize that change in us is more important than change in our circumstances.

This morning, I remembered today is the anniversary of the day our son-in-love was supposed to die. One of the doctors treating him said, “If that guy lives it will be the biggest miracle I have ever seen.” After a week of seeing amazing answers to prayer it looked like it was all over, but God stepped in and reversed the natural order of things. Bruce lived. The creator breathed new life into his ravaged body. The miracle wasn’t instantaneous, but his extremely critical condition from sepsis and multiple organ failure changed direction and proceeded toward full healing much more rapidly than any professional medical expert could have predicted. The doctor had to admit it was a miracle. All this occurred as thousands praying for him dared to trust God in the face of disappointment and in defiance of the odds.

That, I believe, was the real miracle. People across the country and around the world dared to trust again and look for God’s intervention. They chose hope.

Psalm 13

I’m hurting, Lord—will you forget me forever?
    How much longer, Lord?
    Will you look the other way when I’m in need?
 How much longer must I cling to this constant grief?
    I’ve endured this shaking of my soul.
    So how much longer will my enemy have the upper hand?

 Take a good look at me, Yahweh, my God, and answer me!
    Breathe your life into my spirit.
    Bring light to my eyes in this pitch-black darkness
    or I will sleep the sleep of death
.
 Don’t let my enemy proclaim, “I’ve prevailed over him.”
    For all my adversaries will celebrate when I fall.

 I have always trusted in your kindness, so answer me.
    I will spin in a circle of joy
    when your salvation lifts me up.

 I will sing my song of joy to you, Yahweh,
    for in all of this you have strengthened my soul.
    My enemies say that I have no Savior,
    but I know that I have one in you!

We are hurting, but our dancing day is coming. In the meantime, we are learning to lean on the One who loves us so much He gave everything to see us stand on wobbly legs and hear us sing in a wobbly voice, “I trust You, Lord. I know You are strengthening my soul. I trust Your timing. You are and always have been good. Breathe Your life into us.”

Fog

I love the mystery of foggy days. Since we see neither what lies ahead nor what lies behind, fog provides a space for just being. Fog can feel like a misty wall that turns acres of woods into a room of one’s own where time slows down and thoughts and feelings can be as imprecise and yet as real as an expressionist painting.

I hate the impediment of fog when I am in a hurry with places to go and things to do. A familiar road morphs into something strange and an unfamiliar highway provokes the kind of apprehension a horror movie director communicates with an over-the-shoulder shot. Is there a jack-knifed logging truck around the next bend? Cue the ominous music.

This time of uncertainty we live in reminds me of fog. The solitude we introverts usually enjoy is losing its romantic edge. I am ready for it to lift and leave a world of invigorating sunshine and sparkling frost on the trees instead. I long to get out on the highway to visit people dear to me in places beyond restricted borders.

How long will it be? When will the lockdowns and impediments of virus mitigation be over? With all the political chaos and hate-filled mixed messages we hear all around us, what kind of world will we see when the fog of propaganda war lifts?

I read a quote by Corrie ten Boom yesterday. She and her father and sister were sent to concentration camps for sheltering Jews during the second world war. Corrie was the only one to survive. She wrote: Faith is like radar that sees through the fog — the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.

Perhaps God is giving us this time to consider who he is and who we are and who or what we place our faith in. Perhaps we are not as in charge as we like to think. Perhaps he has a plan that relies on his goodness and his desire to kiss a guilty world in love. Maybe it’s about finding faith in his faithfulness and learning to see through his all-seeing eyes.

As I sit here, frustrated that my plans have been stymied by circumstances beyond my control, I am left with this conclusion. God is God and I am not. He has always been faithful to me. His love is unconditional. I hear him ask me to stay a little longer for a state of the relationship type chat. He asks if I trust him even when I cannot see though the fog. In other words, do I love him?

In this place, in the present in his presence, I let go of my need to figure everything out and sing:

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul, rejoice!


Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear
.

(Words and music by Laurie Klein)

Flabby Faith in God’s Gym

God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!
You’re a proven help in time of trouble—
more than enough and always available whenever I need you.

So we will never fear
even if every structure of support were to crumble away.

We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes,
moving mountains and casting them into the sea.

For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves
cannot erode our faith in you. “

(Psalm 46: 1-3 TPT)

Recently while I was on a Zoom call with friends who were checking on each others welfare, one said, “I’ve come to realize that I am responsible for my own flabby faith. I need to exercise it.” I knew she was right.

Faith is taking the risk of trust. When we sow seeds of fear, we reap a harvest of distrust. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a constant barrage of fear-inducing reports like the ones that saturate the atmosphere right now. So many of us raised with the fear of a punishing God are triggered by this negativity. We need to get to know in an experiential way who God really is and take steps toward trust.

I watched a lad sit perfectly still for hours as he reached his hand out to a wounded. I didn’t see any progress so I left to do something I hoped would be more productive. When I came back later in the day, the little creature was settled in the palm of the boy’s hand. God is like that. He has enormous patience. He is also a great trainer and gives us increasingly greater challenges to grow and strengthen our faith.

I sense we are heading into a time when we will need more than flabby faith. When foundations crumble, we need to be familiar with the Holy Spirit’s still small voice and the safety of the hand of our Creator. It starts with one step and grows in strength through exercise until deeper experience of His love conquers all fear.