Only in Him

salvation

Gentle Reader,

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

– Psalm 25:5 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

There’s a blizzard brewing, a phenomenon not uncommon to the prairie. Snow falls fast and heavy. Gusts drive that which has accumulated off of the roof, gravity pulling the flakes down onto the bare branches of the trees that stand sentinel in the yard. The call of sirens fills the air, drawing attention to an accident that must have occurred one or two streets over, for, despite the coming of ice and snow each year, people consistently forget how to drive in this weather.

It won’t be long before cabin fever sets in. Too cold and nasty to be outside for long, families search for something, anything, to do.

Searching is part of the human psyche. Whether it’s looking for ways to beat the winter doldrums, seeking a way to lose weight (without actually reducing calories or increasing activity) or questing for the perfect shade of red, we’re always chasing after one thing or another. No matter how often we are told to “be in the moment” and to “count [our] blessings,” discomfort and restlessness in the now, this day, seems to be our default setting. Surely there must be more and better.

Though discontentment can (and does) lead to bad decisions, I’m not sure that every twinge we feel is inherently bad. Perhaps these feelings, at least sometimes, stem from the part of our souls that recognizes truth: This world is not how it should be. The Apostle Paul told his Roman audience centuries ago that people have to actively suppress the truth they recognize in order to do whatever it is they are wanting to do. And oddly, whatever it is that a person is wanting to do often is done in an attempt to soothe the ache that the recognition brings.

Oh, humans. We are so smart, capable of truly great things, and yet so completely foolish.

Thankfully, there is a remedy. We don’t have to remain lost in feelings of anger and longing. As the Advent season just daily preached to us, God has come. Salvation is here. We, who cannot save ourselves, despite all of our best efforts and intentions, have been given the ultimate gift of grace. We can be reconciled to God, to each other and ourselves. Jesus, the Anointed One, took on our humanity. Fully God and fully man, He kept the law we could never hope to keep. He preached the Good News, healed the sick and set the captives free.

Then He died. A brutal, humiliating, unfair death. He paid the penalty for law-breaking that we should have paid. Darkness fell, the tomb was closed, His friends despaired.

Three days later, alive. Comforting Mary in the garden, eating fish with those He loved, taking the time to reach two people walking to another town. Death – defeated. Sin – vanquished.

He is our Priest, the only One who stands in the gap. He is our Prophet, the only One who speaks complete truth at all times. He is our King, the only One who can righteously rule.

Only in Him will our discontent be soothed.

Only in Him is our salvation found.

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A Prayer for Truth

Prayer in 2019

Gentle Reader,

Lord, Creator of all things, infinitely wise, majestic, holy
The One for Whom stars sing and sun shines
All atoms and pieces within held together by Your breath
Never sleeping, always seeing, forever working, full of grace
This year belongs to You

Your fingerprints and mercy cover every hour
The ones past and yet to come
For You sit, enthroned, outside of time, the King
Nothing can contain You, nothing will constrain You
None, no matter size or strength, can stand against You

Your plans and purposes will be accomplished
And all will see that they, that You, are so very good

Three days into this new year and already beset by worries
Pressures and old ways of being, deeply ingrained
I come to You, Beautiful Savior, and sit at Your feet
Here, surrounded by angel’s never-ceasing praises,
You lovingly and rightly speak

Every word that falls from Your lips is sweet
They fill my mind and warm my heart
Even as they pierce my soul – for my good
And with every piercing, comes a whisper of love
A balm for righteous wounds

You are not mean and awful, as some say
But truly kind, wholly true, ever-faithful

God, You count the lies I keep, held tight
Pulled close, afraid to let them go
They are what I know, what I feel, what I can see
If I open palm in release, what, Lord, then?
Exchanging these for truth is an ongoing battle

Yes, the battle – one into which to press, to engage
Yes, the fear – but truth more needed than routine
Yes, the ache – but this too will soon pass
Yes, the step – of faith, of hope, of love, of trust
Yes, the word – please Jesus, yes

You are my Savior, my Friend, my Great Reward
In You, in truth, I dwell this year

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Reorient

Reorient

Gentle Reader,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LordSix years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.

– Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 25:1-5 (NKJV)

We all know that hindsight is 20/20.

And we all know that sometimes we choose to learn the hard way.

Last year was one of lostness, bookended by difficulty, filled with doubt.

Relationally: unexpected shifts. Deep wounds that are not yet fully healed.

Politically: exhausting. I don’t know anyone, wherever they land on the issues, who feels energized by the current state of the American system.

Spiritually: an overall sense of boredom. Dryness.

Creatively: instead of rightly celebrating a decade in this world of blogging, humbled by and joyful about sharing this journey with you, I felt shamed by it. Surely by Year Ten an agent, a contract and a traditionally published book would have materialized. Some outward, tangible sign of success.

Mentally: the darkest time in several years. Plagued by both rising anxiety and the fearful numbness of sorrow, anger and bitterness too large and heavy to step away from and objectively address. As I continue to be slow to realize and feel my own emotions, this only dawned on me recently – but it absolutely showed here, in the writing.

Simply, I should have taken the entire year off. Closed the laptop and refused to place any kind of value on comments or statistics. (Difficult to do in the wildness of the internet age, when everyone is a “maker” of some sort and is competing for a even moment’s notice from a vast audience). Trusted that people would still be there to read when I came back. I didn’t, and the writing suffered. Much of what I produced wasn’t great. Nor was it focused on what truly matters, on what I consider my calling and mission to be.

God knows what He’s talking about. Such a blunt, easy concept to grasp. God is God and I am not. Still, after many years of walking this road, I forget. Today I wonder if it’s not the forgetfulness that hurts us more than the outright rebellion. A little step here, a little step there and soon, like the man progressing toward the Celestial City, we’re off track.

Lost.

When God told His people to take a weekly break, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of humanity. It’s not just our bodies that need rest. Our minds, hearts and souls need space, too. Indulge me for a moment; take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. Feel your lungs expand and your ribs press against your abdominal muscles. Let that breath out, slowly.

While the admonition to control breathing to calm the brain has been around for ages, only recently has science started uncovering how it works. A 2016 study accidentally stumbled upon the neural circuit in the brainstem that seems to play the key role in the breathing-brain control connection.  The circuit is part of what’s been called the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” because it can be adjusted by altering breathing rhythm (slow, controlled breathing decreases activity in the circuit; fast, erratic breathing increases activity), which in turn influences emotional states. Exactly how this happens is still being researched…

How Breathing Calms Your Brain, And Other Science-Based Benefits Of Controlled Breathing

When God told His people to let the land rest every seven years, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of the soil beneath our feet.

A fallow field is land that a farmer plows but does not cultivate for one or more seasons to allow the field to become more fertile again. The practice of leaving fields fallow dates back to ancient times when farmers realized that using soil over and over again depleted its nutrients. A three-field rotation system was used in medieval times in which one field was always fallow.

Agricultural experts debate whether the practice of fallow fields is necessary in modern farming and, if it is, how often a farmer needs to let a field go fallow. Most, however, agree that the practice at some interval or another is beneficial, and for dryland farming, it is particularly useful. All other factors being equal, fields that lie fallow do tend to produce better crops the next year.

What is a Fallow Field?

God is God and I am not.

That’s the truth.

On the first day of this new year, I reorient myself. This little space and these words belong to Him. My purpose isn’t to get an agent or a contract or a traditionally published book (though I’m sure that I will always want these things). When I write, I write for Him. I seek to learn, know and share His truth.

The other words will fade away. All the positive words of famous authors and of viral bloggers. All the negative words that tear down and obfuscate.

His words, they will not.

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Melted Chocolate Blanket

Melted

Gentle Reader,

I feel quiet.

There has to be a better way of describing the sense that pervades my body. Usually, all cells are on high alert, every neuron firing quickly, every chemical either too abundant or to scarce for equilibrium. Though one who despises feeling and has moments of wishing she could actually become a robot, I feel deeply, constantly and unendingly. Changes in environment give me headaches. A furtive glance from someone, anyone, makes my mind whir, attempting to discern the meaning. One stress-point away from panic. Code Red, all the time, always.

But today: not.

No hum in my brain, no throb in my veins, no ache in my stomach. It’s like I’m cocooned in a blanket made of melted chocolate. Not too hot, not to cold. Just right. (And, if such a thing existed, delicious).

It’s a wonder to feel this way. The husband and I were talking the other night about how we both have a niggling wondering in the back of our minds every moment of each day – Is this it? Will the world break out into war right now? Is someone pressing the button to launch the nuke? Those questions are not unique to our generation, of course. But they sure are exhausting.

Because we all want peace. We all want safety.

At least, I think we do. I hope we do. The screaming heads that make their way to the television screens and the Twitter streams can’t be representative of the majority – can they?

I sip my iced coffee as I look at the screen and wonder where this post is coming from and where it is going. That’s the thing with writing; the author doesn’t always know. My desire is to communicate…something to you today, something that I’m not sure I can find the words for.

The Psalmist says it best:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

– Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

We’ve heard this verse a million times. People love to quote it at those who feel stressed out. Be still, man. God has you. That’s true. That’s not what I want to talk about.

Rûm: to rise, rise up, be high, be lofty, be exalted

StudyLight

Exalt: to elevate by praise or in estimation

Merriam-Webster

So many people clamor for our attention. So many people want to convince us that they, and they alone, have all the answers. Pundits and lobbyists and advertisers and celebrities. People who, more often than not, have no actual expertise in the area about which they are pontificating. But they catch our attention. Because they’re loud and flashy and popular and we all want to be part of what’s popular.

Meanwhile, God doesn’t scream. He doesn’t strive. He doesn’t bully or push us. He doesn’t jump on bandwagons, make false promises or have to “walk back” anything He says. The lesson in confidence and identity is not learned in studying the biggest Instagram influencer or reading yet another self-help article (like we have time or attention for books these days. Yes, that’s me throwing shade. Go get a library card). It’s learned by looking at God.

He is who He is. He will do what He says He will do.

Period.

Let Christ Himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For He, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, He humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death He died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted Him so high, and has given Him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:5-11 (Phillips)

I’ve read, quoted and written about these verses more times than I can recall. Can’t help but dwell on them again as I consider God’s exaltation guarantee. It’s going to happen. The time will come when He will be lifted up. He will be praised. There will be no more debate or questions. Everyone who was, is and has yet to be will hit the deck in adoration.

Isn’t it interesting that He waits? That He doesn’t go on a cable infotainment show to try to prove how great He is? God is utterly, completely, secure in Himself. Human opinion doesn’t rattle Him in the slightest. He’s just not…bothered by whatever the theological equivalent of internet trolls are. He keeps on loving, keeps on tirelessly working to draw people to Himself, keeps on unfolding the plan set in motion since before time began.

Meditating on this reality is, I think, where the melted chocolate blanket feeling comes from. If God is secure and I am in Him, then I am secure. My identity, value, reputation, gifts, talents, all of it. None of it rests on any person who is just as flawed, fragile and feeble as me. I do not have to attempt to dredge up a sense of well-being in this stupid, chaotic world by clinging to a brand or a place or a political party. People don’t like what I write, okay. My name gets dragged through the mud, all right. Someone does hit that bomb button, hello nuclear winter and Heaven.

Someone said to me recently, “What people want is peace. They think they want solutions to this or that problem, but the driving thing is the longing for peace. Only God can bring that.” 

Only God can bring the peace because only He is peace. In knowing and loving Him is found the strength, the iron will, the sheer cussed stubbornness to keep going. Preaching the words that glorify Him. Working for the things that please Him. Loving as He loves. Even when someone whips those words back at you like a cat o’ nine tails. Even when the job never gets done. Even when hate would be easier than love.

We have a chance to be truly different when we follow Christ. In fact, that’s kind of a big part of the point. Transformation isn’t just about Eternity. It’s about the here and now. No screaming, scrabbling or stabbing for us. Instead, let’s walk through this world with quiet dignity and grace, leaving footprints of mercy and justice wherever we go. Let’s embrace and live out our status as culturally dissident residents of an alien nation, illegal spiritual immigrants who won’t assimilate into the larger society. Not because we are reactive and hostile, but because we hold onto the peace of the melted chocolate blanket.

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