From Drowning in Disappointments to Upheld by Hope

It’s not supposed to be this way...

I chose to revisit one of my favorite books yesterday.  (Love Lysa’s story!) And my whole heart resonates with her words - Yes! It is NOT supposed to be this way! 


In the world we once knew, today was supposed to be the first day of school.  A new year at new schools, filled with new friends and new possibilities. Instead, what we are staring at looks stale and disappointing.  Like boring left-overs when we wanted to try that new, popular restaurant. 


Virtual schooling at home was what we were thrust into towards the end of last school year.  And none of us were eager for its return.  Yet here we are. Again.


It isn’t supposed to be this way.


When I zoom out and look at the larger picture of my life, I can see many other arenas where things are not as they should be.  If you’d have asked me three years ago if I’d be living where I’d live, doing what I’d do, I would have said “absolutely not”.  If you’d have asked my kids what they’d be doing and where they’d be going to school, they never would’ve responded with the current reality they’re facing.  Did I ever think my marriage would’ve taken the course it’s on? Never. Ever. Not in 100 years.


Some of the things that are a part of my life I didn’t ask for and don’t want.  Things I once treasured have been stolen from my life.  Other things have fallen away as a matter or second and third order effects - like dominos near the end of the line-up.  Still others are transitional phases that have fallen out of necessity and usefulness.  But I miss them greatly nonetheless. 


We all feel the tension of and face the reality that life isn’t supposed to be this way.  In the hardness of getting things we didn’t ask for and the disappointment of not getting things we did want, we can face emotions as varied as a well-stocked charcuterie board (though not nearly as delicious). Angry. Sad. Stuck. Numb. Hopeless. Weary.


Today I found encouragement from the Bible for this very moment - the moment where what should be meets what isn’t.  This encouraging reminder shines - like a light piercing still and stale darkness.  You may know this darkness, as I do, as a place where we can find ourselves sitting in silence, sulking, and stewing, shouting, “God, where are you?!”  Like a beacon from the book of Hebrews, its author speaks to us of Jesus:


“‘…you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.’

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”   Hebrews 10:7-9


Did you notice that nod to our disappointments in this passage?  Verse eight acknowledges our awareness of “it’s not supposed to be that way” when it says:


“At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”


Amen, right?  When I look around the world (even my own life!) it does NOT seem to be in subjection to anything, much less to Jesus.  But what I love about this passage is that surrounding this verse which validates our displeasures is a balloon of hope that we can latch onto and which will buoy us in the seas of disappointment.  


Our hope is found in the truth that Jesus has been crowned by God with glory and honor. Another place in Hebrews tells us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God - a position of royalty and power.  He is the actively reigning King and everything has been made subject to him by the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth.  Quite plainly, this passage from chapter 10 states that nothing has been left outside his control.  So the chaos, the disappointments, the unfairness that we see now?  It is not happening outside of the sovereignty and awareness of our Lord and Savior.


So, if crazy, chaotic, sad-making, anger-inducing things are happening around us and to us, we can rest assured that Jesus knows.  He sees.  And He is still in control.  We may not see his rule and authority at work, but by faith we must believe that He IS, in fact, in power.  


But why?  Why, then, are we faced with so many disheartening realities that we don’t want and finding what we do want to be so often elusive?  I don’t have the answer to every ‘why’ and for every case.  But in light of these verses from Hebrews I can glean a little bit of understanding. Namely, that this season of suffering has a time limit (“at present” and “for a little while”) and a purpose (“so that…”).  


The gospel tells me that through Jesus’ willingness to suffer on my behalf and “taste death” the wrath of God was repealed and the grace of God was revealed.  His death and resurrection from the same proves that He has the power to overcome death and the finality of the grave.  It is that same dynamic power through which he maintains sovereign control over all things by subjection.  “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Hebrews 1:3


I can stand waist deep in today’s disappointments and know that a day is coming where all things will be and appear to be in subjection to the Lordship of Jesus.  The day Revelation reveals to us where He makes all things new and makes all the wrong things right has already been penned into the story God has written for us.  It is as sure as tomorrow’s sunrise.  Though we do not see it yet, it is coming.  


So I can take courage and comfort and heart today - knowing that though it’s not supposed to be this way, it is supposed to be - and is and will be - His way.

Guest post!

Today I'm featuring a guest post - by a guest who hasn't made it onto my blog yet.  My husband!  For those who don't know him, in addition to being a handsome husband & fantastic father, he also holds a Bachelor's in computer science and a Master's in theology.  Translation: he is smart and has a lot of Bible knowledge! Tim has served as a youth pastor, a US Army chaplain. He has also worked as a computer programmer and is now employed as a system administrator.

Here is his blog on "The Glory of God".

The first mention of the appearance of the glory of God is found in the story of the Exodus. God appeared to the entire congregation of Israel on Mount Sinai. Beforehand, they were warned not to approach the mountain because anyone or anything (including animals) would die immediately if they even touched the base of the mountain. In that situation, it was the first and only time God appeared and spoke directly to such a large gathering of people. The appearance of the glory of God and the sound of His voice was so intense and terrifying to the people, they begged Moses to ask God not to talk to them directly any more but to speak to them through Moses. 

The glory of God also led them daily through the wilderness and dwelt in the tabernacle during their time of wondering. Every time Moses spoke to God, he had to cover his face afterwards because his face shown with the reflection and exposure to the glory of God

There is also a story in Exodus when two of Aaron’s sons decided they had the authority and position to approach the Holy of Holy’s uninvited. They were struck down (killed) on the spot. 

This was the light that the shepherds experienced on Christmas night and why they were so afraid. 

Tradition says that these shepherds were probably watching the Jerusalem temple’s flock of sacrificial sheep, so these were no ordinary shepherds. They were probably very familiar with the stories of unworthy people suffering the consequences of approaching the presence of God uninvited. 

So, when they were surrounded and enveloped by the shekinah light of Gods glorious presence, they had every reason to be afraid for their lives (and it wasn’t because of aliens). It wasn’t because they were just startled by a bright light in the darkness, although that can be very disconcerting. It was the fear of a powerful and Holy God whose very presence reveals our shortcomings and fallibility. But it was this very God, whose perfect completeness exposes our lack, that chose to encompass Himself in vulnerable baby flesh. He clothed His all consuming light in this tiny body in order to cover our shame, our shortcomings, our fallibilities and everything we lack, so we could experience freedom from fear and death and take part in His amazing gift of peace and grace. 

This was the message the angel of the Lord shared with the shepherds: Do not fear but take part in the peace, grace and love your Heavenly Father has given you through the sacrifice of His son that was born this very day in Bethlehem. 


May His peace cover you this Christmas and remind you that He has covered all that has separated us from Himself and we can approach him without fear and partake in the peaceful light of His Glory. 





Twinning: Elijah & Elisha



Elijah and Elisha.  At times their coupling in the Old Testament appears twin-like. Even down to the spelling and pronunciation of their names.  Like the old DoubleMint gum, they resembled two prophets for the price of one.  Elijah was Elisha’s mentor and they often traveled and ministered together.  In 2 Kings chapter 2 (catching on to all the two’s??) we see the bittersweet and miraculous end of the Elijah/Elisha era as they quite literally part ways.  

Elijah knew that his “time had come”. He makes 3 attempts to separate from his mentee, all of them unsuccessful.  Elijah tells Elisha to “stay here” but Elisha refuses.  He cannot conceive of not being with this man of God…”so the two of them went on (v. 6)."  However, Scripture states clearly in verse 1 that the Lord intended to part them and to take Elijah to his eternal home in heaven.  The two of them must be split. 

At the location of his third unsuccessful attempt at separation, Elijah stands at the bank of the Jordan River with Elisha at his side.  This passage tells that Elijah took his mantle - that garment he had placed over Elisha when he found him plowing in the field, conferring spiritual authority from God on him - rolled it up, and struck the water with it, parting it to the right and left. Moses, anyone? (The book of Kings was written to  the Jewish exiles who had been dispersed in the 500’s BC and any of them who heard this story were no doubt reminded of the great leader who had led them out of captivity in the days of their earlier existence!)  God allows the water to be parted by this demonstration, a physical display of the parting which he intends for the two prophets. 

Elijah and Elisha crossed over on dry land and Elijah began his parting words to Elisha by asking him what he would like him to do for him before he is taken away.  Elisha replies he would like a double (2!) portion of his spirit. This request evoked the rights of the firstborn in the Hebrew culture to receive double portions of a father’s inheritance. Elijah’s response leaves the reader with a degree of uncertainty as to whether or not his request will be met.  Even so, they continue on together, walking and talking. 

Then, in a swift and sudden spectacle, the Lord separated the two Israelites with chariots and horses of fire and a whirlwind.  This parting was final and God carried Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind.  Elisha’s response?  He took his clothing and tore them in two.  Yup, in two. Then he reached for the mantle and repeated the water-parting actions of Elijah on the Jordan.  The results for Elisha were the same: the river parted to the right and the left.  Only this time, Elisha crossed back over alone.  Through this manifestation of God’s power, Elisha knew with confidence that the Lord God of Elijah was with him.  The men of Jericho who were observing from the water’s edge confirmed that “the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha”.  Elisha’s request had been granted: he received his own portion of God’s spirit along with Elijah’s.

Working through Elijah’s faithful mentorship and intentional discipleship, God raised up another mighty prophet to help guide his people. As people of God’s new covenant, we can see this Old Testament story as a foreshadowing of Christ who led and loved his disciples while he walked with them and who, following his death and resurrection, ascended to heaven as a true and better Elijah. And as believers in the eternal life he offers, we inherit a portion of his spirit which both comforts and empower us, his children.

Finding joy even here

The soil beneath my gloved hands felt loose, tender, and cool.  It felt good to turn over the dirt in that clay pot. I churned and aerated its contents.  The smell was earthy, its color black. It held moisture and promise.  I dug my hands in, filled my palms, lifted them up, and let the dark particles fall back into their container.  And instantly I remembered how much I look forward to this springtime ritual of sewing in soil.  There is nothing quite like the comfort and thrill of gardening. 

This spring season, my gardening efforts were small. They consisted of 2 small pots near our back door which I filled with flowers of varying and beautiful colors - not expensive but lovely still. Nothing like the raised bed gardens filled with herbs and vegetables I’ve had in the past.  Or the rose bushes I’ve tenderly nurtured.  Or the porches I’ve adorned with ferns and foliage.  Where we live now has no yard or porches. We have a stoop out back that holds my only hope for gardening of any sort.  

This place where I am is not what I wished for.  Not where I want to be. But I am where I am.  Better said, I am where God has me.  This is not a place I would’ve chosen for myself.  I don’t want to be here, much less be here long.  But I am here.  And I don’t know for how long. I am waiting on God, trusting in His timing, listening for his voice, and seeking His wisdom and guidance. And while I am here, I want to find the joy God has for me - even in this season of being where I don’t want to be.  God gives us joy for our journey, no matter where that journey takes us.  Jesus gives abundant life and because of Him I am never alone.  I may not be where I long to be in life, but I can still celebrate in the place I am.  Count the joys.  Mark the seasons. Enjoy life. Plant the flowers. 


Next to my clay pot of promise were three beautiful plantlings purchased that day from a local nursery - one vibrant in color, one a neutral white with trailing blooms, and one a deep, rich color that would vine and sprawl.  I dug dirt wells with my gloved hands and nestled each plantling into the rich soil. My teenage son (talk about watching something grow!) came out to help me water - giving each plant an ample drink. I tidied up a bit and took a step back to admire. To celebrate the beauty, color, life, and seasons. And I smiled.  I’m not where I want to be but He is here with me. And there is life and beauty even here.


Come and tune

Come thou Fount of every blessing-
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace...

Come, Lord - the one who is the source and creator of all the blessings we see and seek - come tune the off-key strings of my heart so they make a joyful song as they are played.  A song that sings beautifully of the riches you've given us at Christ's expense.  Repair those strings which have been overstretched beyond their tuning. Relax those that have been wound up tight by misuse.

Hearts were made to sing and worship.  My heart will sing a song - whether one of beauty, harmony, and joy or a dismal tune, focused on self and disappointment.  Father, I give you permission to enter my heart and tune the rusty, dusty strings so that what outpours rings out loud and clear of your melody of love.  Only you can change the tune.  Your love can change my song.

Stir the slumbering chords again.

In my heart there rings a melody.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it-
Prone to leave the God I love...

Like a once tuned piano whose notes are now dissonant, the strings of my heart will lose their pitch. It happens over time, as my gaze slips, as other things fill my heart - a drift occurs and those strings loosen.  I am prone to this, Lord.  You know it well.  Take my heart and seal it - preserve this tuning and pruning that you've brought about.  Come in again and tune my heart to sing your praise alone.

Practice the presence of Jesus

Practice the presence of Jesus.




Where this quote originated I’m not entirely sure.  And the internet was not much help in assigning it an author. Various versions of it seem to have flourished throughout the last several centuries.  But I know where it comes from in my life.  My Papa. These words could be heard rolling off the eloquent tongue of my grandfather quite often.  It was his “go to” phrase.  He was fond of it and had a keen awareness of exactly when to insert it where it would be most beneficial.  At a crucial time of stress and sorrow in my own life, he called all those in our proximity to prayer and he uttered these words: Let us practice the presence of Jesus.  I’m telling you, instant peace; instant calm.  

Practice the presence of Jesus.

In other words (as if it needs an explanation), if Jesus were here with you now, how would that change the challenge that you’re facing? How would that alter your perspective and therefore alter your thoughts and actions?  This results in a major paradigm shift. 

The truth is if Jesus were here, all hope would never be lost.  If Jesus were present, his strength wouldn’t be in short supply.  With Jesus here, his wisdom would abound as we ask.  In Jesus’ presence, there is no brokenness that cannot be healed.  Even death doesn’t get the final word with Jesus here. 

We celebrate it each Easter and the Christian knows it to be true: we can always practice the presence of Jesus because he is always here.  Omniscience is an attribute belonging to him alone.  It sets him apart from all other things we can worship.  Jesus spoke it to us like this: I will never leave you nor forsake you.  He didn’t just incarnate himself and come as Emmanual (God with us) to us (though that is miraculous beyond comprehension!) — he came, yes, and he remains with us still. His Spirit abides with us and in us.


So when the ground beneath you begins to quake, you can practice the presence of Jesus. When we feel the hurricane swirl of chaos gaining strength in our lives, we must practice the presence of Jesus. When greater pain than I can bear hits me like a bat, I will practice the presence of Jesus.  When we hear about the diagnosis, we will practice the presence of Jesus.  When loneliness is your only companion, you must practice the presence of Jesus.  When hope seems lost for good, let us practice the presence of Jesus.

Rest

Rest
R. E. S. T. It is 4:30 PM and my family is home with me from all the day’s activities. Each of us is in his or her own quiet corner of this apartment. The day is winding down and I am sitting down in my chair. My reading, thinking, “taking it easy” chair. This is new for me. A far cry from where I was a year ago, or in years’ past. The summer heat is still stifling outside this window, brightly blazing with the sun’s light and energy. But inside me, a new season has arrived.  A season of rest which I know not how long it will last but that it is definitely here.  

My feet are up on the beige ottoman I purchased at a discount price from Target - no doubt on one of those busy days from time past. My feet are up! I am winding down. This is new for me.  I feel anxious for nothing at this moment.  I find myself mindfully aware of the golden setting sunlight streaming in this room through my blinds - in the shape of long bars. The air circulating here is cool and the white noise is pleasant. 

In the stillness of my soul, I feel the Great Comforter urging me to rest in this moment.  He is telling me that this resting moment is me at his feet, indulging in the rest he has brought me in this new season. Instead of the spinning tilt-a-whirl that life can be (and has been for me) at 4:30pm, he beckons me to green pastures and still waters. 

He knew I needed this. After the last 14 months, I need this. Heck, after the last 14 years, I need this. After the last nearly 40 years, I need this.  I will always need the rest he provides.  It will not always be at 4:30pm in my favorite chair with feet propped.  But it will come. He will provide.  Just as I plan diligently for my own children’s naps and bedtimes, so the Good Father plans seasons of rest for me.  And I must take them. I will take this one. For I know that soon enough, yea, I may walk through a shadowy valley; I may feast with my enemies; I may be anointed for his sacred service. 


And, too, I know that his goodness and mercy - including seasons of rest - will follow me all my days.

From Drowning in Disappointments to Upheld by Hope

It’s not supposed to be this way... I chose to revisit one of my favorite books yesterday.  (Love Lysa’s story!) And my whole heart resonat...