When We’re Stuck in the Dark

I’m not afraid of the dark except when it covers my soul and I lose sight of hope. Common sense says: “Life’s not so bad. Count your blessings. This too shall pass.” But when the night lingers and you can’t force the sun to shine, what do you do? Pop a pill, chug some wine, pull the bedspread over your head?

Maybe . . . but people gotta keep living even when they feel like the walking dead.

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Last summer, God’s Word which normally fills me up . . . suddenly fell on deaf ears. Unable to hear the Spirit of God, I became spiritually mute. Words eluded me—even on paper. Unable to hear The Word or articulate my thoughts, I sank into the dark night of my soul. Yep, disappeared like invisible ink.

I doubt anyone noticed. After all, it’s safer to hide when we’re depressed—physically or spiritually—instead of asking for help or prayer. Why invite someone to judge us or tell us to “snap out of it” when there’s already enough self-condemnation smothering our mind?

At the time I didn’t feel any emotion. Oh, I could laugh. Chat with a friend. Text platitudes to the dark souls around me. A person had to step close and gaze into the window of my soul to notice the flame flickered and dimmed. They had to listen—if only to notice my silence. And who has time to listen to someone else when we’re tuned into a multitude of other frequencies—especially Self.

Besides, I didn’t know how to explain the pathos. Could I blame my dark night on the summer heat? Unmet expectations? Unconfessed sin? Perhaps like Scrooge, I could attribute my heaviness “to a bit of undigested beef.” Who knows what triggered the night. But when you’ve tasted sweet fellowship with the Lord, it’s despairing to cry to God and hear nothing . . . .

      My mentor, Loretta, once said, “When God appears silent, it feels as though He’s left the stage and is standing in the wings.” Only, we know it’s not true. Feelings and hormones have a way of distorting reality—even for Christ followers.

The longer my soul stayed in the dark, the less I prayed. I got bored at playing church. Tired of doing the right thing. But like the apostle Peter told Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6: 68,69)

So I went through the motions, and waited for night to pass while I held onto these truths:

  • “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:35-39)
  • “Christ will never leave or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • “Don’t grow weary in doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

One day, I said, “Enough.” I turned on praise music and fastened my mind to the lyrics. I stopped staring inward and gazed outward to the Creator, Elohim, who knows us inside out. I raised weak arms to the great Shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi, who cares for His beloved and longs for us to experience abundant life. I raised my voice to Jehovah-Rophe, who heals the soul and makes it new.

As my body swayed to the rhythm of Casting Crown’s song, “Who Am I,” a pinhole of light blasted into my dark soul. The longer I sang to the Light of the World, the more brilliant His light shone within me until . . . my dark night mourning turned into dancing.  And it was good!

Are You Unraveling?

A single piece of thread dangles from my scarf. I tuck the lonely strand back into place. Try to hide it.

For I know if I yank the thread too hard, the scarf will bunch up. Keep pulling it and the scarf might unravel.

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Ever feel that way?

Like you’re composed of multiple strings of yarn and everyone is tugging on you? 

And each time those strings are pulled, you feel as though you’re unraveling. Bit by bit.

Until there’s nothing left of you, but a heap of yarn on the floor.

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Unless, of course, you’ve learned to hide the loose, frayed strands from other folks.

Maybe—instead of a frayed scarf—you feel more like a string puppet. Just going through the motions with each tug. Nod, smile, wave, bend, move….

Too much jerking and we lose the elasticity of our stringy nerves. Or they get tangled from hurrying in too many directions.

So how do we avoid unraveling? Untie the knots?

How do we REST in the middle of wrestling life?

Return to the Lord and let your soul find rest (Psalm 116:7).

Exalt the Lord. Praise His name and thank Him for Who He is and the great things He has done in your life (Psalm 69:30).

Submit to the circumstances in your life in which you have no control. If we can’t change our circumstances, we can change our attitude.  (Philippians 4:8)

Trust God’s promises. Knowing He use the events and people in our life for His purposes which includes molding us into the image of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)

Even when King David’s personal sin crushed him, he returned to the Lord. For he knew his redemption and delivery had nothing to do with his own character or actions.

It had everything to do with God’s lovingkindness and compassion.

Maybe you’re on the endangered list as your inner being unravels. Desperate for God’s compassion.

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Turn off the news; the cell phone.

Go to your hiding place and show your Abba Father the knarled knots and loose strings.

Then R.E.S.T.

And like a child who waits while a parent untangles his shoestrings…

Allow the Lord to clip and mend your frayed, loose strings until you’re new again and ready to rumble.

 

Photos by Jennifer Wrede Photography

How a Blue Jay Convicted Me

They come. The Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Finches.

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In a drought-ridden land where the color brown defines much of the landscape, birds flock to my man-made waterfall and birdbaths.

Desperate for water but wary of me, they keep their distance. They don’t know my intentions are good.

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Meanwhile, I recline in my patio chair, praying to the God who weaved me in my mother’s womb.

I know His intentions are good. However, without a healthy “fear of the Lord,” I’m prone to act cavalier. Other times demanding.

Lord, could you, would you? And while you’re at it, why don’t you….help, fix, cure, resolve….this and that!

I assume God is listening; that He wants to meet my needs and more.

The same way I enjoy providing Premium Sunflower Seeds for my feathered friends. To my delight, they keep returning even if it’s not for me. No ruffled feathers here.

But I wonder how the Lord feels when my prayer life resembles a Toby Keith song, “I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one.”

woman-825154__180Would anyone watching me from a bird’s eye view find me…..

  • Returning to God because I need something.
  • My prayers filled with petitions instead of praise.
  • My intentions purely self-seeking rather than pure.

I cringe to think audacity trumps humility when it comes to my attitude towards……

~A holy God whose grace prevents me from receving what I really deserve.

~A faithful God who loves me even when I keep my distance.

~A patient God who longs for me to return and spend time with Him.

Even in this moment, a Blue Jay perches on the edge of my waterfall. He bends down and fills his beak with the cool water rushing over the moss-covered stones. His head tilts backward as he swallows.

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Satisfied, he flies away.

I reach for my water bottle to quench my own thirst because I love the Lord, but I see myself….

Swooping in and out of prayer when I see fit.

And I’m convicted.

Would I pray as often if I could only praise God instead of dictating what I think He needs to do?

How would you answer that question?

Photos: Pixabay

Thankful I Don’t Have

IMG_5310Although I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I also praise God for the many things I don’t have:

Terminal illness

Delinquent child

Empty food pantry

Rat eating my kitchen pipes…like a year ago

Some readers may be dealing with these issues, or worse. So forgive me if I step on toes. And yet, when I’m trudging through the messy circumstances of life, I believe….God’s grace pads my life in ways I can’t imagine.

Crises diverted. Grief avoided. Unspoken prayers favorably answered without my knowledge.

Doesn’t God deserve gratitude for covert blessings too?    

During imperfect days, sprinkled with more discomfort than joy, it’s natural to grumble, “Why me, Lord?” Then I hear the news, or receive a prayer request, and realize the multitude of evil and sorrow that God spares me from each day.

My perspective changed back in the day, when my five-year-old son fell from the Monkey Bars. While I kissed the bruised bump on his head, he whimpered, “Why did God let me fall?”

I responded, “Let’s thank God you don’t have a broken neck.”

It’s not just viewing a half-empty cup as half-full. It’s naming names.

Praising God that I have good health doesn’t have the same powerful imagery as thanking Him that I don’t have breast cancer when my mammogram comes back normal.

That’s because I remember driving my bald-headed friend to her chemotherapy appointment. I listened to her miserable groans afterwards. I’m thankful I still have my friend.

I’m also thankful I don’t have to walk in her shoes…at least, for the time being. But even then, God willing, I’d be glad I didn’t have to go through cancer alone.

Three weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. No big deal comparatively speaking, but rotten timing. I was scheduled to travel in two days to visit my daughter. As I lay on the floor, wreathing in pain, I wailed, “No! How will I drive to the airport? How will I get from my parked car to the terminal gate?   

I hobbled to my couch, placed an ice pack on my elevated ankle. The more I mused on my clumsiness and misfortune, the more gratitude bubbled and spilled over, soothing my taunt nerves.

Thank you Lord, I don’t have a broken ankle. As I massaged my bruised hip, I sighed, “I’m not a spring chicken. Thank you, Lord, I don’t have a broken hip bone.   

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A positive spin weaves threads of have and have not into a tapestry of thanksgiving. And gratitude enables us to look at life like a two-sided coin:

The blessings we have,

The battles we don’t have to wage in this moment.

It’s a win-win~~no matter how the coin lands.

What are you thankful for that you don’t have?

Slow Down, Don’t Move Too Fast

Stop and smell the flowers? Many days, it’s all I can do to slow down and notice them.

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I rush from home, anxious to accomplish my “tyranny of the urgent.”

But last week, circumstances forced my hand, made time stand still.

Or so it felt when the orange cones and yellow warning signs stopped my race against time. When I wasn’t at a complete stop, I drove at 5 miles per hour because there was construction work on the shoulder of the rural highway.

I glanced at the clock, no way to reach my destination on time. Excuses tumbled in my head as I envisioned walking breathlessly into the room. Not my fault. Road work prevented me from being on time.

But self justification was interrupted by a popular truism: Life’s a journey, not a destination.

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Like the gears in a car, I shifted my mindset to “enjoy” the journey instead of fret over something beyond my control

Relaxing my grip on the steering wheel, I turned my head to gaze out the window. Winter’s once dormant trees were bursting with new mint-green growth. Their branches cast shadows on the sunlit asphalt.

When I rolled down the windows, a warm breeze embraced me. The smell of fresh cut field grass tickled my nose. And I marveled as a yellow butterfly fluttered among the orange poppies and bluebonnets that adorned the hillside.

How many times had I traveled this highway with windows rolled up and radio blaring, unable to hear the chorus of birds twittering in the trees? Even the purring of my car engine couldn’t drown their song.

Most days, I move too fast, fixated on my destination.

I miss the journey because my mind is already there, or stuck on autopilot, rather than living in the moment.

But on this fine spring morning, forced to slow down, and intent on enjoying my journey…………

My heart felt light as air. Not unlike those calm mornings when I’m able to relax and enjoy God’s wonders.

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When the orange-vested man waved me forward, and the cars sped by me at 55 mph, I was singing, “Glory in the Highest.”

Because there is joy in the journey. It’s all around us when there are eyes to see and ears to hear every good thing that God has created for our pleasure and His glory.

Shout with joy to the Lord, O earth!

Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before him, singing with joy.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are his,

We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

Go into his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name.

For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

And his faithfulness continues to each generation.” (Psalm 100:1-5)

Haunted by Ghosts of Regret?

231 Do the ghosts of past regret haunt you with the words “If only?”

When Daylight Savings Time ended last Sunday, the sun rose at 6:35 a.m. instead of 7:35 a.m. because I set back my clocks by one hour.

If only I could change my past that easily by switching back the hands of time.

Hindsight has taught me many lessons, made me wiser.

Even so, I’d like to go back and change poor decisions. Sometimes, I wonder how life would be now if I’d made different choices.

There are also things I wish I’d done…..

For two years, I promised myself I’d visit an elderly friend. But she lived “so far away” and “life was busy.” By the time I went to her home, she had passed away.

 IF only I had known….

Regret is difficult to avoid…   

If only I had taken a different path,

If only I had made better choices,

If only God hadn’t allowed that circumstance,

If only I had known then, what I know now.  

But living with “what might have been” paralyzes me.

Before Paul was an apostle of Christ, he persecuted Christians. The memory of watching Stephen being stoned to death must have made Paul cry, “If only I had known Christ then, I would have ….

Paul experienced remorse over his actions: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

But he received the peace of God. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Read Romans 7:15-8:1)

“If only” didn’t hold Paul captive to the past.

Instead, he believed that he was loved by God, saved by grace, and forgiven.

And those facts enabled Paul to say, “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Read Philippians 3:8-14)

Like Paul, we get to choose where our mind dwells.

“Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things…..and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

                  The only “if only” anyone should regret……is not knowing…..the God of peace.

Blame it on an “Act of God”

The newspaper said it was an “act of God.” And they didn’t mean a miracle.

A major storm blew through the area, and the falling debris from trees damaged someone’s car. The car owner’s insurance company refused to pay for repair costs because it was considered an “act of God.”

How strange, and convenient for insurance companies, when men deny the existence of God in one breath, and point fingers of blame at Him when bad things occur.

Am I guilty of that mentality?

Blaming bad things on an “act of God” and ignoring Him when my life runs smoothly?

What is an “ACT OF GOD?” Supernatural, unexplained, an insurance clause?

Was it not an Act of God that redeemed my soul?

Aren’t mankind and nature a wondrous Act of God?  

How many countless, merciful Acts of God occur throughout my life—many times without my knowledge—to spare me from calamity, or the consequences of my own sin?

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Some days, I choose to ignore the collateral damage of this fallen world, and praise God for His blessed acts.

I breathe in the scent of fresh-cut grass, and sweet Jasmine growing on the vine. Listen to the melody of birdsong, and watch them nourish themselves at my feeder.

“God’s in his heaven, and all’s well with the world.”

But if I only praise God when  

My world feels good.

My health is better.

My bank account is in the black.

The sun is shining.

Then I’m a fair-weather friend. I’m only in relationship with God for the good things He gives me, rather than for Him alone.

And if that’s true, then I’m no different than the birds. They don’t come for me; they come for the seeds I provide.

 God help me.

I don’t want to be like the multitude of people who followed Jesus because they were hungry and knew he could miraculously feed the masses with five barley loaves and two fish.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. (John 6: 26)

I don’t want to be like insurance companies, eager to blame God for damages, and never giving Him the glory for His awesome deeds.

Instead, “I will sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders.” (Psalm 105:2)