Nov 29, 2016

When Comfort Dies

Have you ever reached for something to hold onto or to hold you in place  . . . .
As if you so desperately needed that something to keep you from floating away, to tether you to this life? Ya, me too.

While I know that as a believer in Jesus Christ, there is only ONE true comfort and COMFORTER, I will confess right here and now that in the dark, desolate and desperate times,  at times I have been guilty of reaching for alternate comfort, instant and vapor like feel goods to soothe my wounded soul. I don't recommend it, but I do recognize it. Ultimately, any pseudo-comfort that we hold onto - even if it is real and good in the moment, yet not from the one true source of comfort - will fall through our fingertips like a swinging trapeze bar that we were never meant to grasp for longer than a second - a person, a pet, a purchase, a purpose.

Shortly after our 20th anniversary in August, he took me to the park where a man was selling furry four-legged comfort and we came home with a 3 month old Yorkie puppy which we named Ray (Star Wars: The Force Awakens - that Ray, girl power! :) In a season of excruciating difficulties that left us wiped, worn and exhausted, I had made a passing comment about wanting a lap dog to just sit with me, be by my side and offer unconditional love as pets are so prone to do. For I was desperate for tangible comfort. While we have 2 ginormous "lap dog" mastiffs already, the thought of having something small hold me down in my still moments of the day had become increasingly appealing.  He suprised me by taking me to the park that day, and we walked off with a month and a half's worth of cuteness and love. Unfortunately, Ray was not very healthy. On her good days she was a hopping delight of comfort. Her presence helped quiet my soul and met me in a vulnerable place.

In early October, after a long night of suffering and my prayers moving from "Please don't take my comfort," to "I surrender her to you - please take her quickly," she died. Her death came on the heals of some very major events and changes in our life. In my agony, I cried to the Lord, "WHY, GOD, would you allow this tiny source of comfort to leave me in this moment - a moment of being so stripped down, vulnerable and low?" I was devastated beyond devastation.

Her death  ushered in a  flood of intense emotion,  becoming an outlet for an outpouring of gutteral utterances for all things that had transpired recently - stifled tears flowed forcefully with wild abandon. Where there had been a semblace of control over the flood gates, there was now none, an involuntary reaction to unforeseeable circumstances on every side. My insides jumped into the boat of emotion like Ray into my lap. A cloud of disbelief hovered over my life: So. Much. Going. On. My little slice of purchased comfort took its last breath as she did hers.

I had no choice and at the same time, the only choice, but to turn back to the only ONE that could satisfy the aching slivers of my broken heartedness. Even my brokenness was broken and I knew it. I clung to Ray but what I needed to reach for was Jesus. Because I have access to the GIVER of all GRACE, I am free to share my fleshy shortcomings without fear of condemnation, and He is always with us waiting for us to turn to Him. If you are reading this and you've ever clung to something other than Jesus for comfort, you either already know or will one day know that whatever that thing is, it will at some point fade away, leave, die, get used up, etc. The time is now to secure your comfort in the only source of it that won't die, Jesus.

In this season of anticipation for the coming of Christ, I submit to you truths about the coming of comfort - the kind that can't be snatched away.

Psalm 119:50 "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life."

Isaiah 40:1 "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God."

Isaiah 49:13 "Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."

Jeremiah 8:18 "You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me."

Jeremiah 13:13 "Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."

Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

2 Cor 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,"

Phillipians 2:1 "Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose."

God can certainly use the things of this world to be a source of comfort to us, but the only way to secure absolute comfort for all of eternity is to KNOW THE SOURCE of it and to ultimately turn to Him to provide it.  All you have to do is confess that you are a flawed vessel, that you need Him in your life to make things right, and He will show up. In fact, He's right there.

Nov 25, 2016

The power of "NOT"

The drip, drip, drip, drip, drip of a relentless stream of water from the sky has worn a blister in the pit of my stomach, like the rub of a not-quite-right shoe in the same place. Isn't it funny how something so small can make such a big commotion? Especially with persistence, a tiny bead of water falling in repeated succession will eventually create such an overflow that big things can be shifted,  altered, expanded beyond the normal boundaries.

It has been raining constantly in the D.R. now longer than Noah was on the ark. Rivers have risen and expanded larger than the marshmallows on top of the sweet potato casserole. Bridges are busted up, roads are more reminiscent of the surface of the moon, dams are spilling over. Drip, drip, drip.  Everything is saturated, rats and tarantulas and other creatures are seeking higher ground like the rest of us, mold grows on the walls, the dishes, the clothes. I am NOT complaining. These are just realities that come from living in  humid, constantly moist and overly saturated conditions. We are beyond overflowing up in here with more rain on the way.

But the overflowing is not limited to the catastrophic type of flooding this country is dealing with right now. In my heart, there is an overflowing of gratitude for the promises of God, for this special place that He has allowed us to live in, learn from and walk alongside others in, for the ways my eyes have been opened to how He works in uncomfortable ruts and grooves created by that same rubbing that sometimes makes me feel a little sick but also a lot grateful! My heart is full because of the way the Lord has revealed more of His character through the amazing people in this country. I'm not talking about perfection, but authenticity.  Like anywhere that humans are living, there is as much wrong as there is right, yet I see God in greater depth because of what I have experienced in this place. And eventually, He will make all things right. Thank you, God.

As I sit at my computer with the birds shaking out their soggy wings, the roosters calling out and a tiny bit of sun peaking through the clouds, yet knowing more rain is coming (unless God seals up the sky - which He can do should He choose!), I am reminded of the power of the "not."

"But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you." Isaiah 43:1 - 2

I am His. He has paid my debt and washed me white as snow. I will pass through the waters - not if but when. I will walk through the fire - not if but when. However, because of the power of "not" I will neither be drowned nor scorched! I am thankful that He is with us in every situation.

Nov 21, 2016

Deep calls to Deep

There are seasons of life that can feel like they will take you under, wave upon crashing wave without pause to gulp for air. Soul pummelled and tumbled like clothes being swished clean in the washer, the agitation shakes you loose and you wonder, "Will I make it out of this?" Perhaps your heart is shook loose that it beats wildly yet unattached to you, all out of sync like but loudly like a wake up call. In the sleepy background, you hear its piercing announcement to "RISE UP!" yet the ringing fades away as you drift out of reach. Woundedness becomes your wardrobe, yet in the bottom of your little toe you know you are not called to wear it - not for long, not for always. Oh but that woundedness be not worn, but also be not wasted, giving new eyes to see the beauty in the broken places, to see more clearly what was always there but obscured by something comfortable. The crushing and the heavy swishing in your soul have thrust you down deep below the surface, which  feels like both a retreat and a death sentence. Deep calls to deep.

In this time slot of life, there have been unending waves of grief, coming in one after the other after the other with little time to regroup. At times, the water was flat and then it wasn't - BOOM a crashing sucker punch of a wave. In other moments with eyes just above water searching the the horizon, waves for miles, we can see them coming.  Whether relentlessly predicatable or out of no where, each crash thrusts us deeper, and while the twirling under water feels impossible, maybe that is the point. Deep calls to deep.

For months I have sat silently. Sometimes because there were no words. Sometimes because I needed to listen. There is both the reaction and the being intentional when it comes to handling those waves and the unpacking process is not without great difficulty or great hope.  Deep calls to deep.

What is this deep calling to deep? Do you hear it too?

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life." Psalm 42:5-8

I hear you Lord and the waterfalls of your grace, mercy and love. Yes, you have wrapped me up in the waves and breakers, rolling over me with divine promises born out of your absolute GOODNESS. The going under is a deep submergence into your peace, and not only do I surrender, but I dive in! You are with me and You are calling. Yes, deep calls to deep.