Wednesday, November 26, 2014

in all things give thanks

I recently sat with a trusted counselor, sharing a hard circumstance our family is currently walking through. In the middle of his caring, empathetic response, he closed his eyes and simply prayed:

"Thank you, Lord. We thank You for this situation."

I had released our path to God many times. I had accepted that God's ways are not always so easily understood. I had accepted that what I wanted often does not line up with what He had planned. I had thanked Him for His goodness on the other side of the mountain that others had chosen to shove our way.

But I had forgotten to give thanks for the injustice, the difficulty, the complications we faced. In the middle of that prayer, I remembered.

If there is one trait that ought to be universally characteristic about Christians, it is gratitude.

Lord, forgive me for my short-sightedness.

How many times have I found that beauty from ashes is more than a relief? It is a great joy, indeed.

How often has the resurrected miracle outshone my ideas of what is right, what is just, what is good? Every. Single. Time.

No one wants to need the gift of perseverance. No one wants to understand forgiveness as a result of wrestling with  the pain of offense until their hands ache with a longing for heaven. No one wants to lose precious comforts so that they can receive a crown of heavenly peace.

And yet that is the story of God's ways here on earth. Those who love Him find their paths don't always make sense to our natural way of thinking. And once embraced,  His will is a delight to our souls. His ways are light and love and His government of our lives is full of a joy that springs forth from a foreign and glorious land we can only see with eyes of faith.

Whatever you carry today that is too heavy, too hard, too unjust, too burdensome, I am praying  this over it. Perhaps you would like to pray with me?

"Lord, thank you. In the midst of this great weariness; in the middle of the arduous battle; in the deep waters of loneliness; in this foreign land of neediness and sorrow; we give You thanks. We praise You for your marvelous love that washes away the stain of our our sin. We lift our hands to You for being the beginning and the end. We open our hearts to hope for a home beyond this one, and make the righteousness You won for us our greatest delight. In the name of our King and Lord, our great Mediator, our High Priest who understands all the pain we endure, in the name of our Brother Jesus, we pray. Amen"

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. May our hearts remember His goodness dwells not just beyond our current struggles, but that right here in the mess of it all, He is good.

Monday, November 24, 2014

when a mama needs grace

He sat in front of me with sad eyes, bearing guilt and shame for telling me a small lie. Why do my kids think I won't find out? Maybe they know I will, but they simply can't help themselves.

Still, he was caught, and he knew it.

"I hate lying! Why did Adam have to disobey? This world is a terrible place," he waxed eloquent and dramatic for a kid who only fibbed a tiny bit.

These are the moments a mama has to decide what she really needs her son to know. The following were my options:
1. We can't blame every error on ancient relatives who passed along their broken humanity through the generations.
2. Mama ALWAYS finds out the truth. Don't even try to pull a fast one again, kiddo.
3. Yes, the world seems like a terrible place sometimes. But in the end, we have a Savior who redeems our worst mistakes, and His love gives us reason to rejoice.

I went for #3.

"Jesus said we would have troubles in this world, baby. And they do make it seem like a terrible place sometimes. But He also told us not to despair, because He has overcome the world. Jesus always comes for us when we call out to Him. But sometimes it takes longer than we like," I passed on the words that I have been using to woo my own heart recently.

Perhaps he understood it, perhaps he didn't. It's always so hard to tell what a child's soul has absorbed. Sometimes I wish I could see into the dark places of their hearts.

But to God, even dark things of this world are lit with His divine plan for redemption.

And even mamas need the hope of the gospel. Even grown-ups come to the end of their rope and look up to heaven and ask God the hard-soul questions that can usually be summed up this way: Why, God? How God? When, God?

Those are the moments a mama has to decide what she really needs to know. More specifically, the answer to all those questions can be summed up in one word: Who.

The One Who is love.

The One Who does reign.

The One Who is holding all things together by the power of His word.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. -Colossians 1: 19-20

All things have been reconciled to God through Christ's sacrifice.

Reconciliation and peace are the birthright of the children of God. For my children. For me. For my husband. For the world.

Late at night, I tiptoe into my children's rooms. I stare at their tender faces and I lay my hands on their backs, trying to absorb the assurance of their life and love.  Deep in my soul I find the concern for their futures, the trials of the day, and the fears that dangle in a mama's mind begin to melt away. Because I know Who holds them when I can't. And He is a great Reconciler, a loving Father, and One who works and wills all things for His good purposes.

 I say a simple prayer over the four lives He entrusted to me as a mother, and it is one name, the Word that reigns over all others, and it is the best gift I can ever give my children:


And then I go to bed. Tomorrow we begin again.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

bread prayers

Last week I began praying for bread. Not physical, actual bread. But the God-I-asked-for-bread-please-don't-give-me-a-rock kind of bread; the give-me-this-day-my-daily-bread kind of bread; the Jesus-is-the-bread-of-life kind of bread; the manna-falling-from-heaven-tasting-like-honey kind of bread.

Bread is good, isn't it?

Bread fills the empty spaces of our lives. It is God's provision, broken for us. We fall into the hands of a mighty and merciful God when we bow low and give thanks for bread's sustaining power. 

I need bread in my soul, in the places that I don't understand the will of God. 

I need bread in my body, for healthy cells to arise and sickness to be eradicated.

I need bread in my marriage, in the places I don't know how to love well and be loved humbly. 

I need bread in my mothering, in the strain of shepherding children who need God more than they know. 

I need bread in my family, in my relationships with the people to whom God has linked my life.

I need bread in my friendships, in the difficulty and the drama and the delight of women learning how to love one another.

I need bread in our home, the place we dwell in safety and trust in the midst of a fragile and complicated world.

I need bread in our finances, in the decisions of giving and saving and submitting and glorifying the God who has given so freely to us.

Do you need bread, too?

It seems a little strange at first to name our needs as bread. But Jesus is the Lord of the strange words, and He said things that confused people like this:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." -John 6:35 
"But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” -John 6:50-52

And so the prayer rises from deep within my needy soul, and saying the words brings life to my bones and hope to my heart. Perhaps it will do the same for you?

Father, I need bread today. I need bread in my soul, my relationships, my life. I cling to Jesus as the Bread of Heaven, His sacrifice as my sustenance and delight. I lay my pride down. I throw off my selfish ways. I refuse to trust in my limited understanding of all that is happening in the world. Thank you for being broken for me, Jesus, for being faithful to save despite my faithlessness to obey. Thank you for deeming me worthy of sacrificial love despite my unholy heart. Your ways have never failed me; Your love has never fallen short of all my needs. I won't grasp for life in the ashes of my broken ways, but I look to heaven for the Bread of Life to bring resurrection power to all that seems dark and hopeless. I humbly open my hands for your bread. My soul will patiently wait for You....