Abundant food is in the fallow (uncultivated) ground of the poor,
But [without protection] it is swept away by injustice.
(Proverbs 13:23 AMP)
Abundant food is in the fallow (uncultivated) ground of the poor,
But [without protection] it is swept away by injustice.
(Proverbs 13:23 AMP)
To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.
The expression feeling under the weather means feeling unwell. It comes from a nautical expression. If a sailor on a ship felt sea sick due to rough weather he was allowed to go below deck until the storm was over or the ship sailed out of it or he developed sea legs.
The storm most of us find ourselves in right now with the threat of the covid-19 virus and the financial repercussions of efforts to mitigate the spread, have left many feeling sick with anxiety.
When people are overwhelmed with waves of anxiety crashing down on them they react differently than they normally would. They say or do things that escape normal healthy inhibitions. There is grace for that.
Sometimes it’s better to take a break and metaphorically go below deck to find a less stressful place and wait out the chaos. Sometimes I have to quit watching the news or listening to social media squabbles because they upset me. I’m liable to lash out in a way that embarrasses me in the way suddenly vomiting in a crowd is embarrassing.
Some people are called to hands-on-deck practical action – and for those people I am extremely grateful. Some of us are called to a quiet place where we can re-focus and listen to God’s heart for us. It’s only then that we battle, not from a place of fear, but a place of rest and confidence that God is still for us and still good.
God is not tethered to the timeline like we are. He sees the storm, but he also sees the resolution of this atmosphere of fear-inducing disorder.
It’s okay to take a break when you need to go below decks. Rest. Drink in God’s love. It’s the thing that casts out fear. Worship and give thanks, as you wait for the peace that passes understanding that Jesus promised. When you are full and can give out of the overflow, rise up and do the things that are consistent with being the person God sees when he looks at you. If you don’t know who that is, now is a good time to ask.
So now we come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned, to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of weakness.
(Hebrews 4:16 TPT)
Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves.
About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him.
But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!”
Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.
(Mark 6:47-56 NLT)
The disciples were in a storm struggling against the wind and waves. Everything in their evidence-based experience told them this was bad. Very bad.
Jesus saw their struggle.
If this pandemic experience had happened earlier in my life I would probably have felt overwhelmed with anxiety. It’s a sign of how much the Lord has healed my heart that even though I am in the high risk for complications category in several ways should I come into contact with the virus, I have more peace now than I’ve ever had before.
Like the disciples in the boat, my experience tells me this is bad. But unlike the disciples at that time, my heart has been softened by seeing Jesus do the unexpected. Sometimes the scary ‘what-ifs’ break through, but most of the time I can trust that no matter what, God still loves me and still loves and cares for the people I love.
I had no grid for God’s intervention back in the years of anxiety and depression. I struggled against the wind, but all I saw was the waves. Like Jesus’ friends, I interpreted anything supernatural as something even scarier than the storm.
Jesus didn’t shame them for what they felt. He responded to their cries. “I’m here!”
He had compassion and showed them what it was like to be at peace. He demonstrated authority over not only chaos in the physical atmosphere, but in the spiritual atmosphere as well. He put himself in the same position they were in and the wind stopped.
During a time of turbulent emotions stirred up by fear and illness, I painted a prayer of wanting to see Jesus in the emotional storm that raged around my heart. I had almost forgotten about it until I read this story in Mark today.
In a dream this week, I waited and waited in a church hoping for an encounter with God. When I could no longer stay because the last person turned off the lights and indicated he wanted to lock up, I went out into the dark rainy night. To my surprise, Jesus was waiting in the parking lot for me. When he touched my hand all fear was gone.
He wasn’t in the decently-and-in-order building with its platform and neat rows of seats. He was outside in the storm.
Perhaps that is where he is waiting for you.
Lord Yahweh, you are my glorious God! I will exalt you and praise your name forever, for you have done so many wonderful things. Well-thought-out plans you formed in ages past; you’ve been faithful and true to fulfill them all!
(Isaiah 25:1 TPT)
When I’m tempted to agree with the fear broadcasts in the atmosphere all around me, I take time to remember how God got me through the last crisis, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that…
Lord, you’ve been so good to me. Thank you. I will praise you and never forget your goodness in times of trouble. I trust you.
The Christian is a man who can be certain about the ultimate even when he is most uncertain about the immediate.
I was not expected to be born alive.
The fact that I am here at all was a miracle which I, of course, do not remember. But I remember my father’s telling of the story of my birth.
Many people die in utero. More now than ever. I’m here. Why?
As I was thinking about this, I realized that every day since the doctor, who expected to deliver a stillborn and handed my parents a healthy chubby screaming baby instead, has been a bonus.
The God of love who gave us life and sent his son to restore our relationship with him promises more than we can imagine. If every day is a gift now, how much greater is the gift of life with him forever?
And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness. This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time—an unshakeable hope! We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us.
(Hebrews 6:18a – 20a TPT)
My heart, O God, is quiet and confident.
Now I can sing with passion your wonderful praises!
Awake, O my soul, with the music of his splendor-song!
Arise, my soul, and sing his praises!
My worship will awaken the dawn,
greeting the daybreak with my songs of praise!
Wherever I go I will thank you, my God.
Among all the nations they will hear my praise songs to you.
Your love is so extravagant it reaches to the heavens,
Your faithfulness so astonishing it stretches to the sky!
Lord God, be exalted as you soar throughout the heavens.
May your shining glory be shown in the skies!
Let it be seen high above all the earth!
(Psalm 57:7-11 TPT)
One of the hardest challenges some of us face is forgiving ourselves. When we can’t forgive ourselves it’s hard to imagine that our heavenly Father does.
I should know better by now. I feel the urgency of the hour. Time becomes more precious, yet easier to waste as I grow older. I give in to self-pity. Negative thinking inevitably leads to conclusions that leave God’s extravagant love out of the picture and end up in a vortex of catastrophic projections.
I hear his voice gently whispering, “You! Eyes here. Look at me! My strength is made perfect in weakness. My strength, not yours. Your weakness, not mine. I’ve got this.”
I see the morning light in a corner of the sky.
“I’m sorry. I was wrong. I know you do,” I tell him.
“I forgive you. Now forgive yourself and let’s start again. It’s a new day and I love you. Do you hear me? I really, really love you.”
Thank you. I trust you, Lord.
Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed your hand has provided. Great is your faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
But as for me, your strength shall be my song of joy.
At each and every sunrise, my lyrics of your love will fill the air!
For you have been my glory-fortress,
a stronghold in my day of distress.
O my strength, I sing with joy your praises.
O my stronghold, I sing with joy your song!
O my Savior, I sing with joy the lyrics of your faithful love for me!
(Psalm 59:16, 17 TPT)
I love the Psalms and make an effort to read from them every day. Lately I have been aware of how often the Psalmists (David in particular) talk about their confusion, fear, and suffering. It’s easy to pick passages like the one above to print on pretty posters and mugs. They are lovely, but taken out of context of their setting, they are deprived of the power and drama of the moment of their creation.
The first line of the psalm is, “My God, protect me! Keep me safe from all my enemies, for they’re coming to kill me!”
The outpouring of David’s heart allows us to see how his focus moved from the reality of point A, “They’re coming to kill me!” to the truth of his conclusion, “Your strength shall be my song of joy…”
Just before the higher truth of the last two verses, he talks about the observable, measurable truth coming at him, “Here they come again— prowling, growling like a pack of stray dogs in the city. Drifting, devouring, and coming in for the kill, they refuse to sleep until they’ve eaten their fill.”
To me, the Psalms speak of the faith journey in real time. God is outside of time, but we who travel along tethered to this timeline, except for moments of prophetic vision, don’t know what lies in those valleys between mountain peaks.
Some people believe that talking about valleys creates valleys, that mentioning devouring dogs coming in for the kill, for example, gives strength to the dogs, or acknowledging the pain of arthritis entrenches arthritis.
The psalm’s encouragement, I believe, can be found in the “buts.” I am tempted to be terrified, BUT, you, my heavenly father are greater. They arrogantly scoff, BUT you break out laughing at their plans. They think I am vulnerable, BUT you hide me in a high place. They plot and scheme, BUT you watch over me. They boil over with rage and shout lies and curses, BUT you are amused by their arrogance. They hate me and want to silence me, but you, oh God of passionate love, will meet with me.
The psalmist strengthens himself in the Lord, not by denying the reality of the attack against him, but by declaring over and over the greater reality of God’s coming response to his cries.
I took the photo above during a time when wild fires threatened our valley. Smoking threat, sunset beauty and a patch of clear breakthrough all existing at the same time and space. This is where my heart is today, not denying the reality of threatening evil, but focussing on the beauty of my Lord, and seeing the early signs of breakthrough.
“My strength is found when I wait upon you.”
The day we took it upon ourselves to define good and evil life became terribly complicated.
“Stop dwelling on the past.
Don’t even remember these former things.
I am doing something brand new, something unheard of.
Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.
Don’t you perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and open up flowing streams in the desert.
Wild beasts, jackals, and owls will glorify me.
For I supply streams of water in the desert
and rivers in the wilderness
to satisfy the thirst of my people, my chosen ones,
so that you, whom I have shaped and formed for myself,
will proclaim my praise.”
(Isaiah 43:18-21 TPT)
I checked the weather report before I left to drive to Calgary. Mixed cloud and sun with occasional showers. Perfect.
I like driving the Cowboy Trail when the weather is unsettled. The road runs north on the east side of the Rocky Mountains from the Crowsnest Pass. Light constantly changes in these conditions. Vistas are never quite the same. Cloudscapes and sunbeams arrange patterns of shadow and sun on the hills, telling a different story with every shift of wind. The photographer waits, anticipating drama – a story told in darkness and light.
As part of my continuing story, this trip involved another trek to see specialists in a larger center about my complex health challenges. It’s one of those battles raging between good days and bad days, like plot shifts set in an ever changing landscape of unexpected symptoms.
I thought about the elements of story (a long road with few services leaves ample time for thought.) Even my little granddaughter had it figured out by the age of four.
“Every story has to have a good guy and a problem,” she said, drawing an exceptionally long-limbed princess on the first page of a storybook we decided to create one rainy afternoon. “Sometimes it has a bad guy, but it doesn’t have to. You can make a story without a bad guy, but you can’t make a story without a problem. Now what is our problem going to be? Maybe the princess has nobody to play with?”
A fellow writer had this to say about a memoire she was asked to review: “I’m happy for the writer. She’s had such a lovely life, but I feared falling into a never-ending sleep of the mostly dead before reaching the final chapter. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to her – no disasters, no life-or-death crisis, no betrayal, no wayward children, not even a single regret worthy of a flight to a priest in another town for a trembling ten minute confession. I’ve had a hellish life myself. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but at least it wasn’t boring. I can’t relate to this book. What should I say? Reviewer dies from toxic dose of niceness?”
Jesus understood the power of story. “It’s like this,” he said, communicating a complicated concept people could not relate to by referencing something familiar.
“It’s like a Father who had two sons, but the youngest one…”
“It’s like a rich man who went on a journey and trusted a manager to look after his business while he was gone, but…”
I watched the clouds along the highway and hoped for a place to stop where the views were best. A couple of times the clouds dropped their loads and the rain was so heavy I had to pull over to the side and wait them out. My windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. I could see nothing. But stories are like that too, especially our own, especially in the middle of a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding downpour.
It’s hard, on the underside of a deluge, to remember that God is in the story with us. In fact, he has gone to some lengths to arrange circumstances that will give us stories.
Everything we think we know about him is merely theory until we experience him in the storm. Everything is dull until we see the light flooding the plain with hope. Every seed is dormant until awakened by the rain.
I could pray for a nice life without stress, without doubt, without the need for divine intervention.
I could, and I have, but one night, in a dream, the Lover of my soul came to my door and called my name. When I opened to it, I saw him astride a beautiful white horse. He held the reins of a saddled bay and said, ”Come on! I want to show you something.”
We’re still writing our story together. It’s been an adventure, even when the skies have been cloudy all day, because, well, when that sun breaks through, it’s glorious.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”– Jesus
(John 16:33 NIV)