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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Love of God

The following is a portion of my journal entry on October 20, 2009...

"'The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell; it goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell...'
Love. Respect. Value. Use. Obedience. Love can include all these things, but doesn't always. I think that's where I get hung up. I know You love me. But value me beyond my obedience or usefulness? I'm not so sure. And even in my obedience & usefulness, I don't necessarily feel any of Your pleasure or delight in me. So I'm left wondering 'What will it take? How can I get Your attention?'...Bring me to a deeper understanding of You--Your love--and self-sacrifice"

Exhausted with comparisons and weary with doubt, I turned to Him.

What does He have to say to me? About me? About you?

I know I'm loved unconditionally; so are you.

I know I don't earn that love; neither do you.

I know I can't lose His love; neither can you.

So, why do I fall so quickly into earning favor with God?

Wanting desperately to be one of His "favorites" of the children He speaks to in oh-so personal ways...I do things I think He'll like; that I think He'll notice.

Somehow, I think my only value lies in my usefulness.

Somehow, I think His love is contingent on my obedience or level of self-sacrifice.

I know it's not true.

I know that's not true.

But why do some people seem to have a direct line to God and His love and others flounder on the outskirts?

I don't have an answer.

Faithful, obedient, trusting people flounder; unsure of His love.

I've been searching the Bible, trying to find out more about His love.

Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness..."

Lamentations 3: "because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed..."

Zephaniah 3:17 "...He will quiet you with His love..."

I John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God..."

Isaiah 63: 9 "In His love and mercy, He redeemed them..."

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave is only Son..."

Romans 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This is a small sampling...I'm still searching...still trying to see these verses in their context...still trying to believe and know that each of His children is His favorite.

I am His favorite...

You are His favorite...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rainy Days

It's raining today.
The gray clouds hang low in the air and the rain comes in a steady downpour.
Inside my shop, I can watch the rain and hear it beat against the windows.
The puddles are rising, but this isn't the flooding kind of rain. This is the gentle soaking variety.
No storms today, just gray skies and big drops of water.
From a young age, my dad taught me a love and respect for storms. Sitting on our screened in back porch, listening to the thunder and seeing the streaks of lightening flash across the sky are fond memories.
Now, as an adult, I love storms in Iowa. There aren't trees or hills to block out the beauty, so you can watch a storm building and approaching for hours sometimes. My husband and I sit on our front porch and watch the natural fireworks light up the sky and can feel God's power.
His might is so evident to me in the middle of a storm.
He's just so big.
But what about everyday, ordinary rain, like we 're experiencing today? Do I see God's power in it?
There's nothing flashy about today's rain.
Nothing dramatic.
It's just plain old rain.
When storms blow into lives around me, I often see God's power and unmistakable presence.
I see people being held up by the power of prayer; being strengthened by the outpouring of love and concern from a community; being protected and guided by God's providential hand.
But those are the big things.
But what about in the everyday, ordinary rainy days of life? What about the everyday things like constant financial pressure, or the drudgery's of your job, or the ongoing marital discord over nothing or the everyday-ness of dealing with an aging parent or a willful child, or the relentless ache of grief, or the exhaustion of caring for a special needs child, or the everyday challenges of a chronic illness?
Of course He's there: in all His grace, sovereignty, power and faithfulness, He's there.
But the low hanging clouds and the mundane tap tap tap of the rain dampen our senses and obscure our view and somehow this magnificent, awe-inspiring God seems, through the gloom, to be unavailable, unfamiliar, unapproachable and unloving.
If you've done any sort of consistent Bible reading and study, you'll be familiar with Lamentations 3:22-23:
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
But have you read what comes before those verses? Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, is listing all the ways God, the same God in verses 22 & 23, has left him, abandoned him, afflicted him, scorned him and made him a laughing stock.
It puts these verses in a different light doesn't it? They become much more than nice words to hang on your wall or sing about or throw around lightly. They become the lifeblood of living each day only by His grace.
Just something to think about today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Going the Distance

They were amazing.
Strong, confident, and running to their potential, my son and his teammates captured the title in their Conference and all seven runners made the All-Conference team.
The chilly night wasn’t over, though. There were two more races to be run by the Junior Varsity.
As wonderful as it was to watch our Varsity teams excel, the JV races brought tears to my eyes.
Right before the boys JV race started I heard coach say to the guys “Cheer for J. Everywhere you can on the course, cheer for J.” I asked a parent standing by what the coach meant (because we all cheered for everybody, why single out J?) The parent explained to me that even though he’d been part of the team all season, J hadn’t run a single race due to serious health issues. So this meet, one of the last of the season, was his first race. We parents cheered for him with the boys at the first turn, and then the seven, who had already finished their race, took off again to meet J at another part on the course.
Later, tears came to my eyes as I watched the entire Varsity team running alongside J as he struggled far behind the other runners. His older teammates dropped out as he approached the last leg of the race and cheered from the sidelines as J finished…tired, weary, and minutes behind the next runner. But he’d finished his race and he wasn’t alone.
Then the girls’ race started. All season I’d watched her; struggling well behind the others almost shuffling instead of running. Yet there she was, running this race no differently than the others. Race after race, she ran to the finish no matter what. I marveled at her perseverance and determination. Later, as the scant crowd cheered her across the finish line, with a lump in my throat, my eyes once again filled with tears as she finished her own race.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1

Throughout the years, God uses certain phrases in this familiar verse to change my heart or focus. At times “throw off anything that hinders” convicts me. “Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” rang particularly true when my dear father-in-law lost his battle with cancer. But the last year, because of what a friend said in a conversation, the phrase “run the race marked out for us” impacts my heart.
So yesterday, as I watched runners of every shape, size, and ability cross the finish line, I realized again that we each have to run our own race. We can’t run the race marked for someone else; we’d only be discouraged or confused.
In Christ, we all have the same goal, but each individual’s race is unique. Some people start out fast; others have a kick at the end. Some are always in front and others constantly bring up the rear.
Is the last person’s race any less important than the winner’s? In this spiritual race, it’s crossing the finish line that matters. It’s getting to the end, knowing we’ve done our best and run the race that our Coach set before us with determination and perseverance that holds value.
Thankfully, we don’t run alone, but we have teammates cheering us on from the sidelines and even, at times, running alongside us.

What a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I've had a hard time posting lately.

Not because of technical difficulties.

Not because of lack of material. No, I've written volumes.

But the volumes are filled with my lastest bout with depression which is frankly, well, depressing and doesn't make for great reading.

For 23 years I've dealt with the ups and downs of clinical depression. I'm at a point now, of understanding that I've done everything I can do to bring relief and healing. Medication, counseling, prayer, scripture, supportive community...I've experienced it all and thank God for all of it.

There have been measures of healing and times of living symptom free, again, thank God.

But no matter how much I beg God, He, so far, has not completely removed the burden. I don't know why and ultimately it doesn't matter.

The point is, it's something He wants me to live with and continue experiencing.

Only He can bring complete relief and in my case, He doesn't. He's taught me lessons, used my experiences to help others, given me tools to handle it, but He hasn't brought complete healing.

I know many of you reading this can't possibly understand and are filled with questions, judgments, and possible remedies.

I also know that some of you reading this struggle too, perhaps silently.

Others have people in their lives that they can see deal with depression and are at a loss to help.
I'm not writing this for any ones sympathy, pity or advice.

I offer my story as a testament to God's power (for keeping me alive & functioning) and His faithfulness (for in reality, never leaving me even when it feels like it) and His sovereignty (He will bring healing when it suits His purpose).
It's also offered, hoping that it causes those of you prone to judge others struggling, to reserve judgement, those of you prone to depression to tell someone, and those dealing with it in someone elses life to pursue that person so they don't feel so alone.

Friday, October 2, 2009

As I was doing my hair this morning, it struck me that we spend a lot of time taking care of dead things.
Our hair is dead, yet we spend time, energy and money to make it look nice.
Our nails are dead, yet we file and paint them so people will notice.
They are dead.
It got me thinking about all the other dead things in my life that I dress up, decorate, spend time, money and energy on...

"We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life...For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Rom 6