My Corner

Come on in. I'll put on the kettle.

My Rock and My Fortress

I was sitting in my corner of the couch tonight minding my own business, working through my Bible Study as usual.  I read the assigned chapters in Psalms and sat with them for a few minutes (I can’t really call this meditation. Actually, I just have to read them two or three times because as soon as I get through them I’ve already forgotten what they said. Maybe I’ll tell you about my short-term memory issues in another post some day.)

Anyway, I had moved on to the study book and read the Day 5 prayer the instructor supposedly has prayed for all those who are currently involved in this particular Bible study at this particular time. I never had much regard for typed out prayers, especially if I don’t personally know the person who claims to have prayed them, but, dang! if all of a sudden my eyes weren’t opened up to a total O.M.G. truth bomb. If I hadn’t already been sitting down, I would have fallen on my knees!

I had just read (in the prayer) something about cracking any hard shell of indifference. And that’s when it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. I have a shell of indifference.  I know what you’re thinking. At least I know what my good friends are thinking. They’re thinking, “What? YOU, Stephanie, have a shell of indifference?” And to that, I would say, “I know, right? Who knew?”  Well, obviously not me, which is why my Father in heaven, who loves me too much to leave me in my comfortable darkness, took this opportunity to break into my neat little world and mess it up again. And by the way, so much for my opinion of typed out prayers.

Here’s the thing: As holy and spiritually “enlightened” as I like to think I am and mostly pretend to be, I realized that there are still areas in which I still allow myself to slumber. I still want Christianity to be free, to cost me nothing. I still want Christianity to be easy. You know, go to church, smile and be nice, say something wise to someone (which is easy when you’re over 60 yrs old and you’ve been around the church as long as I have), and go home. Maybe pray for some people during the week, stay connected in a very non-committal sort of way, and Boom! Bob’s your uncle and you’re a very good Christian.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. I’ve been saying that Christ is my Rock and my Fortress for years. Anytime someone would hurt my feelings or wrong me in some way I would run to Jesus and whine about it. “Jesus, did you hear what they said to me? Make me feel better.”   You don’t need a Rock of Refuge when your feelings get hurt. You don’t need a Fortress when someone wrongs you. Many of today’s colleges have “safe spaces” for students to go when they need to process their feelings.  That’s what we need when get our feelings hurt. A “safe space.” (Can you hear the sarcasm?)

A Rock of Refuge is a place of protection from enemies. A place to hide when evil – real evil – is hunting you down.  A Fortress is a place you go when you need protection from an enemy who is trying. To. Kill. You.  That’s what Jesus is to us. Why would we need that if we are not in a real (spiritual) war? And fighting against a real enemy?  My goodness, I’ve been looking at my Rock and my Fortress as a safe space to lick my play wounds from my play hard life. How blind am I? (Maybe now isn’t the time for me to ask that.)

Christianity, true Christ-following, cross-carrying, Christianity can’t be free. It must cost you something or it isn’t worth anything.  And it can’t be easy.  War is never easy!

It’s time to get real people. This isn’t going away tomorrow. Or probably not even by next month. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better – if it gets better. I don’t want to be a Negative Nellie, I just don’t know the plan. But I do know that we need to get real with ourselves and get real with Jesus, because the world is about to get real with us and we aren’t going to know what hit us. We are going to find out what it means to need a Rock of Refuge and a Fortress.  As Americans we’ve had it so good for so long, that we have no clue what atrocities happen all over the world, because we’ve been protected for generations upon generations. I have a feeling that’s about to change.

Jesus is our only hope.  He’s the only way we get out of this thing alive.  That’s something else I’ve said for years and I’m hearing myself say it now in a whole new light. Now I’m going to type out a prayer that I’m going to pray for everyone who reads this. My whole perspective on typed-out prayers has also changed. Yep. You read it here first. Please ask God to open your eyes to the truth he wants you to see.

Oh, and please forgive me for pretending to be more spiritual than I really am. I guess I still have a ways to go.

Ps 18:2, 31:2, 59:16, 71:3 Pr 14:26

Father, will you open the eyes of those reading this to the truths you want them to see. Break through the hard places they have constructed and fill them with your light. Speak to them in ways they have not heard before.  Find the pain that keeps them from experiencing the freedom you bring and heal them. Holy Spirit, guide them in all truth and bring light into the hidden places in their soul. Sing over them your songs of deliverance so they might step into the life you intended for them as you formed them in their mother’s womb.  Set your peace in their heart and bless their homes. Amen

Where You Lead (They Will Follow)

I guess my biggest insecurity as a Worship Leader was my singing voice. It was certainly adequate enough for leading songs, but there were so many incredibly talented singers in the Vineyard-at-large that I imagined that I was always being compared to them. I will never know if that was true or not (well, I know it was true at least once <ouch>), but for the most part I just pushed through, because it was what I was called to. I was well aware that worship had less to do with my abilities and more to do with what God wanted to do. That was my saving grace – and it should be yours also. Whether or not you have insecurities about leading worship in front of people, it’s of the utmost importance to remember that it’s not about you and your abilities, or lack thereof.

Hear me out. I’m not saying it’s okay to be terrible. I’m assuming that if God called you to lead worship, you already possess at least one of the talents required for that ministry – singing or playing an instrument. HOW talented you are can vary. So what I’m saying is, someone with adequate talent can be just as sensitive, or even more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as someone who is wildly talented. This is between you and God and he’s ready to get as personal (read: intimate) as you let him.

I think that’s where gifting comes in. Seems to me the gifting lies in our ability to sense what the Holy Spirit is doing and that requires an on-going relationship. Leading worship can’t just be leading the congregation in singing the latest, most popular songs.  Almost anyone can do that. At face value, songs are just words to music, after all. So how does it all come together?  If the songs matter, how do you pick the songs to sing and in what order?  How do you know where to start and when to finish?

Well, you just have to know what your goal is. The goal (I hope) is to lead the congregation, whether that’s 10 people, 100 people or over 1,000 people, into the holy of holies – into the felt presence of God, because it’s in the presence of God where we find healing and wholeness. It’s in the presence of God where we see the truth of who he is and who we aren’t. It’s in the presence of God where we can truly get in touch with how very much he loves us even if we don’t think we deserve it (see, his love isn’t about us either, but that’s a whole other article). So when you’ve reached that place – the felt presence of God – that’s when you stop, because that’s when the Holy Spirit has everybody’s attention (well, maybe not everybody’s, but that’s not on you).

Of course when you start your worship set, not everyone is ready to see Jesus in the next 5 minutes.  You have people coming from e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.  Some one rushed in late. Another one had 5 kids to get ready for church and is totally frazzled by the time she plops into her seat.  The guy with the angry face had a fight with his wife in the car on the way.  Tough crowd. It happens. But they all came because they need to be touched in one way or another by God. They need to be invited in.  Hearts must be prepared. Your job is to gather them all together and say “Follow me, I know where I’m going and I can get you exactly where you need to be.”

And why can you say that with confidence? Because you’ve been there before. You’ve spent time in God’s presence during the week. You’ve been praying for the people in your church family. You’ve been glorifying God throughout your day. You asked him what it is that he wants to hear from his people.  You listened for his answer. Because you are in relationship with him on a daily basis, you know what his presence feels like.

Picture this, if you will.  When you’re on stage leading worship you are standing facing the congregation, right? So basically, they are your audience.  But when you are leading someone into the holiest place the congregation is behind you, because they are following you. You are leading the way facing the goal – the presence of God. In this, God is your audience.  You sing to an audience of one. The congregation simply follows your lead because you are the leader.  And as you lead them to the most holy place it’s your job to help them get their hearts and minds ready to receive whatever it is that God wants give.

So you start outside the tabernacle with a song of invitation, inviting all who wish to come worship the Lord with you.  Then Psalm 100 tells us to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise so you pick songs accordingly. As you move closer to the holy place and the holy of holies (remember, you are paying attention to the Holy Spirit here) your attitude begins to change to one of reverence and awe, then perhaps adoration (again, pick your songs accordingly).  As the Spirit leads you may decide to stop here and let God do his work in the hearts that have been prepared for him. Or depending upon the circumstances you may finish with a song of celebration. That’s where your gifting comes in – knowing what is appropriate and when.

As you lead the people into God’s presence they are watching you, picking up on your cues. That means that if you are real in God’s presence, then they know they can be real in God’s presence. If you are open to whatever the Holy Spirit is doing, they will be open also.  You’re not just leading them there. You’re teaching them how to get there themselves. If you feel the need to fall on your knees before the King of Kings, this is no time to tell the keyboard player to start the next song.  Psalm 95:6 et al says Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker for he is our God…  If you find yourself in the presence of God you must be ready to respond to his majesty in any way that he directs. If you aren’t willing to do that, then you might be leading worship for the wrong reasons. Can you do this within time constraints that Sunday services typically have? Absolutely. And if your pastor is also led by the Holy Spirit and trusts his worship leader, who knows?  Something else entirely different may happen.  God is good. All the time.

Just remember, all eyes are on you. Not because you’re putting on a show, but because most people don’t spend much time in the presence of God. They’re looking to you to know how to get them there and show them what to do once they’ve arrived. Sometimes, they just need permission.  And when they see you respond something is released in the Spirit that tells them that they too, can respond however they feel God is moving them. It’s a beautiful thing.

Lead on, dear worship leaders. For where you lead, we will follow.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23, 24

The Call to (Lead) Worship: Does it Require Gifting?

I was a single mom. My daughter was about 5 yrs old and the guy I was dating liked going to a small Vineyard in San Clemente. The church met at the Senior Center and the pastor was Eddie Piorek. I remember looking at Eddie during his sermon and thinking, this guy is too good-looking to be sincere. I mean, have you seen Eddie? Geez, Louise! (More on that later).

Anyway, eventually I hooked up with a couple there who had a kinship group (yes, I’m that old). I started going to their group and when they found out I played guitar they asked me to bring it to group one night. They didn’t have any music so I really had no idea they wanted church music. I thought we were just going to have some fun, you know, campfire stuff.

So I did. I brought my guitar and all my favorite music – John Denver, James Taylor, Melanie Safka (told you I was old), – and I played them all. I had a blast. Then something happened. There was a lull in the music and we were all quiet. Softly, Roger said “Come Holy Spirit” and BAM! I’m not sure how to explain what happened next because I had never experienced it before. But it was about the coolest thing I had ever experienced. All of a sudden we were praying for one another and “words” were being said over people and the heavy presence in the room was so evident I could hardly breathe.

I didn’t understand it all, but that night Roger came to understand something that I wouldn’t know until several weeks later. Somehow, Roger knew that when I played guitar and sang, God would show up and do some really great stuff. So he asked me to bring my guitar to the next meeting and I did. I think it was probably a few weeks down the road that Roger suggested that I might want to learn a few worship songs, just for fun. (Did I say I was old? You can also add “slow” to that description.) I was definitely clueless.

But the worship songs were easy, which was a good thing, because, like I said, I was a guitar player, not a musician. I had taught myself how to play guitar after high school so I was adequate, but not gifted. And I loved the songs, which, of course, were the songs we sang during worship at church (duh!).

Weeks later …

It was Sunday morning and I was driving from San Diego to Mission Viejo.  Our church had made the move from San Clemente to Mission Viejo where we met in a school.  I had been visiting my boyfriend (a different one), that weekend and the night before we had sat in his car at the beach and each of us, together, had offered ourselves to the Lord and practically begged him to use us in any way that he saw fit. My boyfriend was a real musician. We were as sincere as we could possibly be – seriously, there were tears and everything.

The next morning I got up and left in time to get to church. As soon as I got on the freeway, God’s presence F-I-L-L-E-D the little cab of my Nissan truck until I thought it would explode.  Suddenly I began to weep. I was crying so hard I was afraid that passing cars would think – well, I didn’t know what they’d think, but I knew they would wonder why I was crying so hard. It sort of felt like my heart was breaking, but I didn’t understand why. What I did know, however, by the time I got to church was that I was called, by God to be a worship leader.  I’ve doubted many things in my life that God has probably planted within me, but I’ve never doubted his call to lead worship.

Evidently it was very obvious that I had been crying since I was probably still crying when I walked into the church building.  Roger knew that I had been down south visiting Zach and as soon as he saw my tears he said “What did he do?” (giggle) He was almost angry. It really was cute and I loved him for it. When I explained what had really happened (thinking it was the biggest revelation EVER), all Roger said was, “Well, it’s about time you figured it out. I knew it weeks ago.”  That’s when he revealed that God had told him several weeks earlier that I was a worship leader and he was wondering when I was going to hop on board.

I’d like to say that as I learned to and about worship I just got better and better. The fact is, there were good days and there were bad days. I didn’t really understand at that time all the responsibilities associated with a true calling, and specifically this calling.  Vineyard worship conferences were extremely helpful.  Sitting in classes with Eddie Espinosa, Andy Park, Brian Doerkson and others was invaluable.  The songs were easy enough, but because I was not a gifted singer, I would hear comments from people who wondered why I was doing what I was doing. I don’t think I was horrible as I could actually carry a tune, but I was untrained and unknown and in the Vineyard we had some incredible musicians and singers to get compared to.  There were many times I felt it would be best to stop putting myself out there and lay down my guitar. But I couldn’t. I didn’t choose this. He chose me and I couldn’t let him down. I led worship in small groups over the next 20 or so years and God was always faithful to show up.

Was I gifted? Yes and no. I wasn’t a gifted guitar player and I wasn’t a gifted singer. But I do believe that God gives us the gift(s) required to accomplish the work he gives us. God gifted me in leading worship. It was a gift for me and for those I led into the holy of holies. And it was for a season.

Today, my worship leading season is finished.  Again, not my choice.  Over the last 10 years I’ve tried to hold on to it, but I understand now that it was only for a season. Of course it took 10 years of kicking and whining for me to realize that.  Letting go of something so wonderful was hard. It was like laying down a piece of me. But, I finally understood, and I laid it at the cross – where my journey started.

God’s timing is right, of course.  The songs that have come out in the last few years are harder and I haven’t kept up. I also have issues with pain in my fingers (old, remember?).  It was God’s gift all along. His to give, his to use, and his to end. Using your gift is an absolute privilege. It’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes, it’s a temporary thing.

And just so you know, Eddie was sincere. He was very sincere. In fact, as soon as those thoughts passed through my head that day the Lord gave me a vision of.  It was a statue of Eddie (you know, like the statues of the Greek Gods?) and as I was looking at it, his face started peeling away like soft plaster.  Underneath was the real man. I knew then that God had Eddie right where he wanted him and he was going to peel away the things that were not real until nothing remained but the man God chose to serve him. Eddie was called by God to do what he was doing. And he obeyed.

Are you gifted at something the Lord has called you to or are you simply doing service because it needs to be done?  Find what God has called you to – what he has gifted you with. That’s where fulfillment lies. Obeying his call whether others understand it or not. I wouldn’t trade that season of my life for anything!

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 ESV

Death of a Dream

I want to move to Texas. Anybody who has known me for very long knows that about me. They may not realize how badly I want to go to Texas. They may not know that many nights I cry myself to sleep thinking about my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren and longing to be with them. I try hard not to make my entire life here in California about how much I hate California and want to move to Texas. I think if I did that I wouldn’t have any friends anymore.

I’ve been away from my family for over 40 years. I moved to California when I was 18 or 19 years old, got married, divorced and married again, and had children who are now grown and out of the house.  That entire time, I’ve lived away from my family. At first it was beneficial, I’m sure. Sometimes we have to break away to grow up properly, get a different perspective of the world and of our place in it.  But over the years I’ve missed being near my mom and family.  My daughter has moved and settled with her military husband in an area not too far from where I lived as a child.

Now I want to go home. In fact, with every grandchild that has been born (we are now waiting for number five) the pull home has grown stronger. So strong in fact, that now it seems it doesn’t just tug at my heartstrings, it seems now to be pulling my guts out through my nostrils until sometimes I can’t even breathe.

I’m not going to go into all the reasons I can’t just pick up and move back right now. Suffice it to say that moving back has been a growing dream for the last ten years or so.   And picking up and moving to another state doesn’t sound like such a big deal.  I got used to moving when I was young.  We moved often and it was no big deal.  Just another school. Another job. Different friends.  It all looked the same to me. Unfortunately, in 40 years a few things have changed in my life and I find myself having to let that dream die. If I am to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, then staying put is what I must do. 

My oldest grandson will be ten soon and shortly after, grand baby number five will be here. I will visit for as long as I can, but it won’t be long enough, and then I’ll have to come home again.  The whole time I will be wondering why God doesn’t just fix this and let me move to be with my family?

Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus was sick. They knew he’d come because they were all like family. Not coming right away just wouldn’t make any sense. All told, it was four days before Jesus arrived at the scene where people were wailing and grieving the death of his friend Lazarus. What the heck? Any one of us would have picked up and left the instant we got word that our friend was dying. But Jesus waited four days.

Mary and Martha surely didn’t understand it.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)

Jesus could have fixed it and didn’t. He chose not to. Why?

Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Death cannot defeat him. Death of a loved one or death of a dream.

Then Jesus said. “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v.40)

You all know the rest of the story and Lazarus lived again to tell it himself.

Mary and Martha didn’t have their eyes on the big picture. They had their eyes on their own pain and all that was going on around them  Who could blame them, after all? Their brother was dying.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

I can’t really keep my eyes on the bigger picture, because I don’t know what the bigger picture is.  But if I keep my eyes on myself and what I’m feeling and on my daughter and her four and a half kids and the hell she’s going through trying to raise them alone while daddy is gone so much of the time working and going to school, if I can only see my loneliness and my desire to be with my family, then I could very well miss Jesus and the glory of God.

Does that mean I believe he will resurrect my dream? I have no idea. But I know that he can because that what he does. He resurrects.  I also know that he let Lazarus die for a reason. And as much as it hurts to let go of something that seems so easy for me to do – just pick up and move to Texas, I wouldn’t trade any of it for God’s glory in me and around me.  And has hard as it is to be outnumbered every day by the beautiful children God has given her, I know that my daughter – deep down somewhere – feels the same way as I do.

I know he has a plan, and not just for me, but also for my family. It would be easier if I knew what it was. It would be nice if God consulted me on these things, but then I think I would only get in the way.

The bottom line is, for me, there is no choice, but to keep my eyes on Jesus who continues to redeem me every day, perfecting my faith even as I struggle against it.

Lord, help me keep my eyes on you, in the times when I see your glory and also in the times when I can only see my own loss. And if you choose to resurrect this dream, help me first become someone worthy of such of gift, because I learned to trust you through the pain.

You’re Not Going To Like This Post

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”  Daniel 2:20-22

This was Daniel’s prayer of thanks after God revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to him and gave him the interpretation, thus saving Daniel’s life and the life of his friends.

There was no question in Daniel’s mind who was in charge.  Without God’s intervention he and his friends were as good as dead, facing execution by an angry king.

I believe that is true of us today.

I’m being very honest with you when I say, I would have preferred NOT to write this post.  It would have been much easier to simply let November 6th pass, cast my vote and walk quietly away.  My heart is already sad as I anticipate the responses I will receive from friends and family.  But this I must do.

We, as Christians, are facing a great evil.  Actually, the entire United States (and even the world) is facing it, but, as Christians, I believe we have a clearer view of the overall picture.  And if anyone, is able to see through the world’s entanglement of lies, it should be us.  After all, we are friends to the One who holds all wisdom.

There has been much discussion (to put it mildly) about voting for the lesser of two evils.  I’ve heard all the arguments.  Truth be known, they are the same arguments I’ve parroted myself during elections where there was no clear “good vs evil” choice.  And don’t for one minute think that this struggle doesn’t continue in my heart to this day, because it does.  This is probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make as an adult.  Vote for Romney?  Or vote for a candidate who holds closer to my own beliefs, and who, according to political pundits, is equal to a vote for Obama?  Just thinking about it depresses me.

But this morning as I drove into work, this picture flashed across my mind.  I saw a little girl holding a broken doll out (as if to hand it to someone).  In front of her stood three men.  One man held a hammer.  His intention if given the doll was to hammer the doll until it was beyond recognition.  Another man held a paint brush.  His intention if given the doll was to paint the doll, making it pretty, even though the doll would still be broken.  The third man had nothing in his hands.  If given the doll, he would simply put the doll back together, heal it, so to speak.  He needed no tools, because all the parts of the doll were present, they simply needed to be put back together and he knew how to do it.  To whom was the little girl to release the doll?

What if the Church is the little girl?  And what if the broken doll is the United States of America?  Should she release it to the one who’s intention is to smash it to smithereens?  Of course not.  How about the one who stands ready to give the doll a new face, even so, leaving it broken?  If I listen to the world’s argument, this would be the ONLY choice.  One of the reasons being, that at least he wouldn’t break it anymore and then WE would have more time to fix it ourselves or get someone else to fix it–or SOMETHING.

I absolutely see the logic here.  I do.  And I don’t even necessarily disagree with it.  Romney IS a stop-gap.  I even think he’s a really nice guy with a great family.  Add to that his fiscal accomplishments and he looks like the man for the job.

But, what if Obama being elected for another term (God, please forbid it!) is the only way to get Christians to wake up to the fact that the ONLY reason we have been blessed for so long has NOTHING to do with voting the nice guy into office?  What if we’ve ignored his warnings for so long that this is the only way he can get our attention? (Think, Assyrians attacking Israel, maybe)

Please hear me.  In my heart of hearts, I believe that, for Christians, this is about more than who we elect for our next President. It’s even about more than saving the United States, the most wonderful country on earth, in my opinion.  I believe that the time has come to live out our faith, for real. Will we trust in another man?  Or will we trust God to make it right?

Many people still believe that our forefathers were deists.  I don’t believe so.  But are we the deists, that we believe in a God who sits high in the heavens and watches how matters of earthly men will play out?  Or are we followers of Jesus who believe that God has a plan and the ONLY thing we can do in ANY situation is to hear his instruction and obey–no matter if it doesn’t make sense according to worldly wisdom.

Honestly, I thought it would be easier to make a stand.  When I thought about this day, I thought I would be choosing between good and evil–not evil, less-evil, and only slightly better.  But that is the world in which we find ourselves now.  The lines have been erased and replaced so many times that now they are only grey smears.  We can’t get away from them.

I consider myself fairly weak-minded.  If you have a logical, well thought out argument, or if you just talk louder than I do, you can convince me of almost anything.  I’ve always been that way.  But, I can’t get away from this. The more time I spend with my king, the One who has already saved me once, the more I realize that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  There is nothing else.

For true believers, there is only one place to run.  Under the shadow of his wings.  As the song says “That’s where we belong, that’s where we are strong.”  We are not strong fighting the world’s battle with weapons that the world gives us.  We don’t battle flesh and blood.  When Ephesians 6:12 mentions “…rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world…,” it’s not talking about mere men.

I’m not telling you who you should vote for.  I’m encouraging you not to take this lightly.  Don’t simply react to the dire situation in which we find ourselves.  Wake up and listen.  God is speaking to us all.  Spend some time in prayer and fasting.  We are not simply electing the next president, we are choosing whom we will serve–the world, or God.

And lastly, don’t listen to me.  I speak as a fool for I’ve been the world’s fool for 58 years.  But he has called me by name, and now I will be a fool for Christ.  Who’s fool are you?

Death, I Have Felt Thy Sting

Death, do you taunt me?  Do your flames lick playfully at my flesh as I lay gasping for hope?  I feel the heat of them, sucking up the oxygen in the room, depleting it of everything that keeps me alive.

So much easier not to think.  Engaging the brain only brings confusion, memories, downfalls, failings.  I thought I gave it a good try, but it always comes to this.  My legs fail me and there is nothing, no one to hold me up.

Oh to have some visible, physical malady that would land me in the hospital.  Then they would know.  I would not feel compelled to convince them.  No reason to explain the tears, the silence, the vacant stares.  Someone else could tell them what was wrong with me.  Show them some vague image on film or screen.  Someone with papers who knew about such things.

But that’s for someone else.  I have just me. Though, barely so.

If only today would last forever.  No faces, no expectations (for now), no mask, no made up smiles, clever quips, questions to be asked and answered.  Only quiet.  Only me.  Only nothing.

Please understand.  It’s not that I don’t want to be with you, it’s just that I can’t.  You don’t want to see this.  Nobody in their right mind could handle this.  All you can do is pity.  And pity is nothing more than rusty nails in my gilded coffin.

There’s nothing to see here, people.  Go back home where there is safety.  She’s gone and nothing more can be done.

To feel the sting of death, even though I live.  Such is the irony of my existence.  When even the hope of a better tomorrow breaks my heart.

Who can understand this?

How long, O Lord?  How long?

Echos

Woke up crying again  – sobbing actually.  Wish I could put my finger on the sadness.  Have I always felt so completely and utterly alone?

There have been good times. There have.  Happier times with all the sisters together laughing, cruising the oceans, skipping across countries, loving life and my place in it.

The world was smaller then.  It fit.

When did it get so big?  What happened?

I miss Bill.  We were good together.   Quiet, uncomplicated, simple.  Good.  (Jesus, can I come too?  Haven’t I been here long enough?)  There’s nowhere here that I want to be.  Nothing else I want or need to do.  I don’t fit anymore.  The world has outgrown me.  Raced so far ahead that I can’t even keep up with the conversations.  What was that?  It was just there!  Now, it’s only an echo of something I almost remembered.  Was it something from the distant past?  Something Mother once said?  Something one of my kids did long ago that delighted me – made me laugh?   Or was it something I meant to put on my calendar?  Something I needed to do tomorrow, or next week.  Or next month, maybe.  Will the sun ever come up?  What does it matter anyway?  When you live alone, you can get up whenever you want.

I miss Bill.  We were good together.

What was that thing I almost remembered?  Maybe I put it on my calendar.  I’ll check later.  There’s probably still time.  How much time?  How many more days will I wake up to sadness?  Share the house with loneliness?

Maybe I could bake something for that nice lady at the post office.  Maybe.  If I could remember what kind of cookie it was that I made that her husband raved about.  Who am I kidding?  I can’t even keep my place in a cookbook anymore.

When did I start using cookbooks?  Was there anything I needed from the store?  I should start a list.  Maybe I could make some of those cookies for that nice lady at the post office.  What kind was it that her husband raved about?  I should start a list.

My Rescuer

O God, do not keep silent, speak to this heart full of turmoil; speak so my ears can hear.

             My life is in chaos, my thoughts in confusion.

There is no peace around me that I can see.

              I look to the north and see only battles raging.

I look toward the east and see only silent walls towering over me, too high to climb.

I search the south for solace and am faced with giants lying in wait to devour me.

I turn to the west for peace and see only kings building armies to take me down.

Chaos follows me and bears down as if to over-take me.   My heart cries out to you in silence.

You can hear me, can’t you?  You are my only hope; my rescuer; my strong tower.

Do not let them over-take me.  I will not lie down for them.

But they are many, and they are strong, and they are relentless.

I cannot cry out with a loud voice, for they will hear and know where to find me.  I will stay hidden until you come. I know you will come.  You are my hope and y redeemer.  There is none other like you.

Though others come and make promises, they are all liars, and they mean harm, not good.

You are good and you will come rescue me. I will wait for you.

The Invitation

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  Psalm 130:5

The invitation by God to “come away” is a constant in our lives.  For many years I pushed that invitation aside, complaining of no time, no privacy, and any other excuses I was able to come up with.  Recently, I realized that there was a deeper issue keeping me from practicing the presence of God.

Fear.

To be honest with myself I had to admit that I was afraid he wouldn’t show up.

Why?

There were many reasons.  I’m not worth his time; I’m not ‘waiting’ correctly; I wouldn’t know it if he did show (that one requires a whole other blog).  The point is, all of these excuses were fashioned to protect me from further rejection. But what they accomplished was to keep me from spending time with the only One who truly knows how much I’m worth; the only One who teaches me how to wait, how to quiet my heart, and how to find the rest in him that I so desperately need; the only One who would show up for me without fail. Any time. Any place.

Our adversary is a liar and he will do ANYTHING to keep you from spending time with God.  God gave us a promise through his prophet Jeremiah (29:13-14).

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you” (emphasis mine).

It doesn’t depend on us.  It’s all him.  He promised.

Fixing Life, Fixing Me

Fast forward 40 years.  That’s where I find myself today.  And I’m wondering who is going to fix my life.

You know how, in movies, you’ll see a short piece about a subject maybe when they were a small child that will set the stage for the rest of the story.  Then you’ll fast forward to a scene where the child has become an adult and the story continues in the present?  That’s how I feel.

The first 56 years of my life was a very short snippet.  And now I’m in the present, 57 years old and finishing the story–my life–wondering how the author is going to fix everything and conclude with a happy ending.

I’ve come to realize that by the time many people begin to understand just who God is and what that means for their life, they’ve already made many of their life decisions.  Decisions that have landed them in life situations, geographical locations, maybe even physical states in which they do not want to be.  They find themselves living with people or in the midst of a chaotic or dying relationship wondering if God is going to fix things now that they’re aware of his presence and his power.  You know, put us where we want to be so we can get on with the business of serving him without all those pesky distractions we have to struggle through everyday.

Which brings me to the question:  Does God fix our life when we find ourselves where we don’t want to be?  I’m not sure, exactly.  I believe that some people eventually get to where they want to be, but I don’t believe that everyone’s situation changes (relationships, locations, health).  I do believe that God can change anything he wants to and in some situations I believe he does.  I also know that God alone is the one who decides who and what he changes, and we have no idea why he chooses to change one and not the other.

But, I know this for certain.  Whether God sets us where we want to be or gives us grace to stay where we are, I believe that if we remain in his presence, look to him in everything, for everything, he will work out in us what he wants to work out.

The most important thing isn’t that we end up where we want to be.  The better thing is that we will definitely end up where God wants us to be.  Our hearts will be forever changed as we journey through the rest of our story.

Does that mean I’ll make it to my farm in Virginia with my family?  I wish I knew.  But this I know–when I make it into Jesus’ arms, I will be the beautiful bride for whom he gave his life.

“Then Peter began to speak:  “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”  Acts 10:34

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