Gracious Uncertainty

“It does not yet appear what we shall be.”

1 John 3:2

As our whole world walks through an unprecedented experience . . . a global plague, we have been shaken.  It is as if God has pressed a “Pause Button” on life as it was.  Nations, cities, communities, and families have been forced to consider the present and the future, knowing that something has changed “life” as it has been.

We don’t know how the future will look.  We don’t know how life will look.  For people who have chosen to follow God, this is nothing new.  The Bible is filled with the stories of individuals, families, and nations who experienced Divine Disruptions to Life as they had known it.

John wrote out of his first-hand experiences as one of Jesus’ twelve closest followers.  He was an eye-witness to Jesus’ time on earth, and fully qualified to write of it.  He had seen it all, went through the extreme highs and lows of following Jesus on earth, and then carried his experiences through decades after Jesus returned to Heaven.

John’s life ended as a very old man on an island.  Not on a retirement vacation…but in forced exile.  He would have deeply understood “social distancing” and being in “quarantine,”  but not for his benefit nor the benefit of others, nor for a temporary period of time.  He would die there.

Yet, from that place of isolation, he wrote, “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children, and we really are!”  and  “This is the message we have heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.”  I John 3:1, 11   And much, much more.

May we use this Time to let go of our “normal,” and let God draw us close.  May we listen to His Words of Love to us and through us…as did John.

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When my world “blew up” a few years ago, I experienced major losses… the man I dearly loved was gone, the home we had shared, as well as the work we had birthed and raised together for 35 years.  I  have tasted a bit of what John may have faced (no imprisonment nor forced exile here!).  But the dramatic sense of “being alone” has brought up thoughts and emotions I had never experienced before. 

My setting includes a shoreline of water, and an extremely quiet living quarters.  I think that I can relate much more personally to John now, as years worth of stories, memories, and lessons have the space and time to come to my mind.  I have the quietness to “listen” more, contemplate more, study and write more.  Life has become much more simple and basic. 

“Pause Button-pushing” is often not invited nor wanted in our world.  But when God allows it – especially on a global level, it is extremely likely that His has “pushed it” out of Love, and out of His desire to have our full attention.   

May the people of His Heart, especially, not waste the opportunity He has given us to look into His Face,  His Eyes, and draw closer to His Heart.

 

In the Blank Space

“Peter said to Him,

‘Lord, why can’t I follow You now?’”

John 13:37 

Jesus had created a “blank space” for His friends.  They had just finished what would be their last meal together.  It was a special meal, remembering how God had miraculously delivered His people from their slavery in Egypt, and brought them to the Land He had promised them.  Jesus was leaving the room.  Peter wanted to go with Him.

But Jesus was heading to the cross.  And Peter was going to hear a rooster crow three times.

For three years they had been together.  They had experienced God, and their lives had completely changed.  They had been very busy together, watching… learning… following…and being included in the Work that Jesus had come to earth to do.  They’d seen miracles.  They’d learned of God…heaven….and how to be part of God’s Plan for the people He had created.  They’d had front row seats, and had actively participated in the life of Jesus for three years.

When God creates a “blank space” in our lives, it is difficult for us.  Especially when we don’t understand it….had not expected it….had not asked for it.   It leaves us with unknowns…questions…anxieties…and often pain.    It is hard to stand in the space…and wait.

Peter experienced that.

But God has a Purpose for the “space” He has created or allowed in our lives, often not of our own choosing.

The Truth is, God is in that space.  Just as much as He has been in the active, purposeful activities we have been part of, sometimes even for a lifetime.

What does “the Space” offer us?

  • Time to LISTEN
  • THINK
  • BREATHE
  • LOOK into my own HEART
  • SPEND OPEN-ENDED TIME WITH HIM
  • PREPARE FOR WHAT IS COMING . . .

Filling “The Space” may take away from the opportunity God has offered to simply look into your own heart . . . and into His.   He has a Purpose for the Space that He has permitted.   Don’t lose the opportunity laid before you.  He is there.

Like Babies

“Desire God’s pure word

as newborn babies desire milk.

Then you will grow in your salvation.

Certainly you have tasted that the Lord is good!” 

1 Peter 2:2-3

We can make things very complicated, can’t we?  I was awake at 4 am today, and my mind was quickly spinning, moving along from topic to topic as my conscious brain seemed to kick into high gear.  After about 3 hours, I was a mess.  Emotionally and mentally.   Then, I heard a little “ding” on my phone, and here was the “verse of the day” that I check every morning.  It seemed to bring all of the thoughts, worries, fears and emotions down to something very simple and basic.

I love babies.  I am fascinated watching them in their “awake” hours….how much they are taking in every moment, and learning.  I love holding them, engaging with them, and take delight in rocking them to sleep.  After repeating the same lullabye with each baby’s favorite rocking position – 14 in our family, including the first 3 baby boys who were my own –  I am kind of a “baby whisperer,”  and have moved into a whole new level by putting myself to sleep in the process!

In our complex lives, overly-stimulated minds, and daily bombardment of stressful realities, it is good to hit the “pause button” and be reminded of how our Father God sees us. We’re His “babies”…..like a mother often looks at her grown children but still glimpses her babies.

Peter seemed to “get that.”   Though a very energetic “act-before-you-think” follower of Jesus, he captured the picture of the simple, pure basics of knowing Jesus, remembering where we’ve come from, and Who’s we are.  Spiritually babies, just beginning to grow into a life that has been born anew into a child/father relationship with God.  Those early days of total dependency and safety in His Arms build the trust and security that we will need to live out however many years we have on this earth.  Remembering Who He Is, and Whose we are, is the Foundation we have for the rest of our lives.

Wilder-ness

[ A psalm by David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.]

“O God, you are my God.

At dawn I search for you.

My soul thirsts for you.

My body longs for you in a dry, parched land

 where there is no water.” 

Psalm. 63:1

Have you ever thought about the term “wilderness”? It looks like it sounds…”wild-er-ness.”   It’s “wilder” than the normal places of trees, “green” vegetation, and water.   It’s “wilder” than most people choose to live in.   Dry.  Harsh. Less of everything that would be considered “nice.”   Wilderness is a small step up from desert…minus the beauty.

Picture how David describes his wilderness…..

  • He is experiencing “wilderness” in a way that he needs to call out to God; he reminds himself of Who God is to him.   He’s been through a wilderness night, with all of its darkness, vulnerability, shadows, strange sounds, and the fears that swell in our hearts when we are utterly alone;
  • As the sky begins to lighten by the yet-unseen sun’s gentle glow, still beyond the horizon, the fears of the long, dark night begin to slowly dissolve.
  • Throughout the darkness of the night, he became aware of his thirst….for water, surely, but also a deeper thirst in his soul.The wilderness experience focuses our attention inward, and the deep dryness of soul is felt….without distraction….and without any way for us to bring relief to that deep place.
  • The growing thirst in our soul drives us to look for some relief… something to quench and ease the gnawing awareness of deep need of fresh water for our parched lips, dry mouth, dehydrated body and sad soul.

Whatever drew us to that wilderness place has only increased our need ….physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  We come face to face with our present reality, and it forces us to look up.  The night is over.

And God is there.

Perfect Peace

“With perfect peace

 You will protect those whose minds cannot be changed,

    because they trust You.” 

Isaiah 26:3

The long history of God’s people is full of really tough times and experiences. Drama was always around the next corner, it seemed.  Wars, captivity, living in exile, being refugees, running for their lives, long periods of extreme cruelty, and Death.  God allowed all of this to be woven into their Story.  He saw it all.  He allowed it to go on.  That’s a tough thing for us to contemplate.

When I reverse the order of this verse, there are two things that are “on us” as His people:  His people trusted God, and their minds could not be changedLife on this earth is tough.  Sometimes it seems impossible.  TRUST requires intentionally putting our small hand into His enormous, powerful Hand….and hanging on.  No matter what.  It means accepting the fact that I cannot control the events of my life.  I can really try, but it is not humanly possible. What I can dois hold onto His Hand, like a child with his/her father. There we touch His Strength, His Presence, His Protection and Assurance.  Our Perfect Father has the perfect view of what is ahead, around and behind us.  We might even close our eyes as we squeeze His Hand.  That’s fine!  Hang on for dear life!

Unlike a human father, our Heavenly Father will not let go when we put our small hand in His.  And each time we experience Him as He walks us through this life, our trust grows. Each experience adds to our level of confidence  in HIM.Step by step, He will not let go…only wecan do that. We may have to walk through frightening times, painful experiences, rocky paths, dark days…life on this earth.  But, holding on tightly, our trust slowly grows.  Our minds begin to absorb the reality of His Presence, His Love, His trust-worthiness….especially through the most frightening times.

And slowly, slowly, with each experience we walk through holding His Hand, our mind becomes more believing because of what we’ve been through together.  Our trust grows, because He has walked withus.  We realize that keeping hold of His Hand becomes our safest place on earth. And out of the years of walking together through life, peace….PERFECT Peacebecomes our experience…It becomes part of our hearts….our minds.  It becomes TRUTH for us.  The pain and troubles of this earthly life do not change.  But the PEACEthat has grown and deepened through it all…remains.

Learning Trust

“Trust the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

and He will make your paths smooth.”   

Proverbs 3:5-6

This was one of the first verses I memorized as a child.  It would come to mind often as I grew up.  For a long time it was just words.  But in my teen years, as my “path” became far more bumpy, uneven and painful, the verse also deepened in its meaning and reality in my life.  I came to know Him more deeply as we walked that rough path together.   I learned how trust-worthy God through those years together.

Fast-forward through love, marriage, starting a church, and having two little boys join our family.  Then came #3. He became a great “teacher” for me.

From his first birthday, my life became a blur…often finding him in yet another life-threatening situation, or seeing him dramatically writhing on the floor as if his life was coming to an end. He had an incredibly strong will.  I experimented with all kinds of methods of getting him to calm down and listen to me.  I would often stand over him simply saying, “You’re not gonna win. You’re not gonna win.”  Once he’d calm down a bit, I’d get on his eye-level, pull his little face close to mine, and say “look in my eyes…look in my eyes.”  Of course, his little eyeballs were going everywhere except into mine.  But when we finally were eye-to-eye, my words could begin to be “heard.”  Soon we would be back on track and going about our day…until the next crisis.  I had to be consistent with him in disrupting his strong will, but I also had to be consistent with the peace-making and love afterwards.

I think that became a life-lesson for him in learning to trust….trust that he was loved, trust that he had boundaries to live within, and trust that even when he was going down a wrong “path” the standards remained…and that he was still loved.

How do we learn to trust God?   It’s not just a word.  It’s not just a concept we can decide is true for us.  TRUST is built.  With time, through tough “bumps in the road”, through falls and bruises and choices that end up with us writhing on the floor.  Mywillagainst HIS WILL.  It comes through times of God orchestrating getting our attention, with our face in His Hands, Eye to eye.  Until we finally let His Words sink in, andour willgives into His.

Each time we get up, look in His Eyes, hear Him…and can walk away knowing His Love goes with us, our trust in Him grows…stronger, deeper, solid.  Like a child.