March 19, 2019

                                             

Weekly thoughts for the believer's walk with God, a walk that is intended to nurture us on a personal level as we embrace our grief and embrace the God who longs to walk with us on our journey.


Thoughts Under the Umbrella

Psalm 116:8   “For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.”

My three-year-old granddaughter had just started preschool two days a week.  Her dad dropped her off every morning on his way to work.  Every morning, there was a tearful good-bye as she watched him walk out of the room.  This continued day after day.  One day he picked her up in his arms and asked her, “Finley, why do you cry when I drop you off?   Don’t you like going to school?”  With tears in her eyes, she looked at him and said, “It takes too long until I get to see you again.”  My son-in-law said it took all he had within him to not take her with him to work.  Daily he reassured her that he loved her and would be back to pick her up.  Through his daily faithfulness,  she began to understand that at the end of the day he would not leave her, and she began to find enjoyment and a purpose in her day at preschool.  My granddaughter’s words and feelings express exactly how we who have lost our children feel.  It has been over 20 years since I have hugged my daughter and heard her sweet voice.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday, but most of the time it seems like forever.  I can remember a month after she went home to be with the Lord, waking up one morning and thinking it has been one month since I have seen my daughter; the pain was unbearable and I thought that pain would encompass every waking moment for the rest of my life.  How could I continue to go on the rest of my life in this grief and how could I live without seeing her?   I too have seen the faithfulness in my Father.  He has kept His promises.  He daily reassures me, He loves me, He has a plan for me, and He will never leave me or forsake me.  I too will not be left here, but will go home with Him to a place called Heaven.

Lord, You are faithful in Your promises and in that, we can stand.  Life here on earth is done in a blink of an eye.  Eternity with You and our child will last forever. 

                     – Michele

March 13, 2019

2019 Journey of the Heart West Coast Conference


God's Father-Heart of Love

When we are adopted into God’s family on the basis of what Jesus has already done for us, a relationship with God is established in which God is our Father and we are His children.  It is a relationship that is personal and intimate.  It is a relationship that is profuse with the stubborn, unyielding, unconditional, empowering, extraordinary love of God.  Although we parallel that relationship with earthly ones, the comparison is flawed only because earthly relationships, even the best ones, are flawed.  And God is the initiator in the love relationship we are privileged to have with Him.  He first loved us.  It is a love that was first identified in the Old Testament. In Zephaniah, “He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”  And in Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”  Paul prays for the Ephesians to enter into the experience of God’s love knowing they will never fully grasp its depth or fully comprehend its reality and intensity.

In one of those mass emails that did give a poignant reminder of truth, a young girl is walking home from school when the skies darken, the thunder begins to rumble, and jagged shards of lightning flash intermittently.  A concerned mom has already decided that today is not a good day for her daughter to be walking home, and she sets out in her car to meet her daughter on the way.  As she approaches the school, her apprehension that her child is being taunted by the approaching storm is quieted.  The young girl momentarily pauses every few steps to look up at the sky and smile.  With apprehension turned to inquisitiveness, as her daughter settles into the car, her mom asks, “Why were you stopping and smiling and looking up at the sky?”  “Oh, Mommy,” came the quick reply.  “I kept smiling cause God kept wanting to take my picture!”  The story brings on our own smiles, but why would the child smile?  There is only one explanation.  She was so confident in God’s love for her that a natural expression of that love was picture taking!  

God’s love is a love that gives, first, His Son, and then an outpouring from His unlimited resources.  His love is my safety, my security, my enablement, my encouragement.  It softens the darkness and gives reason and purpose.  It opens my heart to His unfailing presence and the truth He wants to replace lies with.  Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  But now I have a choice.  I can choose the security and gifts of His love that reflect His Father heart for me, or I can close myself off, wrapped tightly in my own self-made cocoon.   He is calling to me.  How am I responding? 

                                                                                  – Bev

(Related Bible reading: Zephaniah 3:17; Ephesians 3:16-19; Romans 8:38,39)


March 6, 2019

Trigger Days


2 Corinthians 3:18  “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

As the day wore on, my mood worsened and I began to draw my attention to the things that were bothering me. By the end of the day, I was in a foul mood and I could not figure out why. I chalked it up to just being disgusted with myself for having those three cookies at the Bible study pot luck last night, and then five cookies after lunch today, after a week with no sugar. But was that what was really bothering me? Or was it the fact that I actually had given in to my craving when I had already had a mindset to fast from sugar so I could hear from the Lord. I had purposed in my heart to give up something that I knew I was turning to for comfort as a result of this difficult trigger date, and because I was in a difficult season, I really wanted to be able to come to my Heavenly Father and have Him be enough. I was so disappointed with my lack of willpower, but most of all, I was afraid God would not speak to me because I had failed miserably. As I sat before the Lord this morning, the notion that I had put my God in such a small box to think He would withhold His affection and love toward me because I had broken my sugar fast seemed ridiculous, but isn’t that we do? I know for a fact that this is not how God operates, but there is an ingrained life commandment that has been a part of me since I was a child that says, “I must perform in order for you to love me.” How often do we bring these mistaken lifelong belief systems that keep us in bondage into our relationship with our Heavenly Father? Why do we allow our thoughts toward Him to be controlled by our experienced failed relationships?

Jeremiah 29:12-13 says, “Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart.” I have come to a place in my grief journey that I long to be free of the suffering that comes along with the pain and heartache of losing my son. Even though his loss will always be with me, I have grown weary of the fallout that occurs within me when certain dates roll around on the calendar. The anticipation that sets in begins with a pit in my stomach and it is almost as if the enemy of my soul wants me to entertain thoughts that tell me if I had done something different that my child would not have died. I long to turn my attention to the One who is my sufficiency and who can raise me up from the dark suffering that encompasses me as I travel through the valley of the shadow of death. I want to be a purposeful and intentional listener as I walk this path with my Savior who is there beside me. I want to hear His still small voice speaking truth and love into my life. I want to be aware of His presence instead of the emptiness that comes along with the loneliness of death here on the earth. I want the intimacy of continuous surrender to the Lord and peace, confidence and security that begins and ends with the only One who really knows me and sees every single tear that falls.

So as I sit before the Lord this morning, I have to ask myself, “Why are you so troubled, dear one.? Why are you downcast; why have you been enduring long nights and weary days fearing that your God has forgotten you, when all along He has been there waiting for you to call out to Him in your distress? Do you not know, have you not heard, that He is God and there is no other? His counsel shall stand and He will accomplish His purpose; He has spoken and He will bring it to pass; if He has purposed it, He will do it. His promises are true and He is a faithful and good, good Father who longs to give good gifts to His children.” When I call upon the name of Jesus, no matter what, when I pray to Him, no matter where, He will listen to me when I seek Him with all my heart.  And as I walk with Him and talk with Him, in time, as I continue to enter into the throne room of grace each and every morning, I will continue to contemplate the Lord's glory, and in turn, He will transform me into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes only from the Lord, who is the Spirit of the Living God.

                                                                      – Melody 

February 27, 2019

God’s Bigger Story

Leah.  The oldest daughter of Laban and older sister of Rachel.  Leah’s name alone was foreboding – it meant “wild cow.”  Her beauty paled in contrast to Rachel and an eye condition seemed to define her.  Forced by Laban into a marriage with Jacob, she was the commodity that satisfied tradition, and yet she was unloved, unwanted, and desperate for both love and respect.  Jacob’s anger toward Laban demanded Rachel as well, and birthing babies became a contest between the two women, and a prayerful longing on Leah’s part for her husband to give what she was desperate for.  The One she cried out to though, and the One she confided in, was the God who had a much bigger story to tell.  

Charles Stanley teaches 30 life principles drawn from God’s Word, principles to help us fulfill the potential God has for us.  In one of those principles, trust is defined as looking beyond what we are able to see to what Godsees – the bigger story, His story.  A story that weaves the intricacies of our lives with the lives of others and with the purposes of God and creates a picture based on hope, secure in His love for us, beautified with the essence of good and the ultimate glorifying of the God who brings it all together.  Sometimes, alone in our own little, insecure corner of the world, threatened by its unfairness, its difficulties, hardships, tragedies, and confusion -- scarred by the past and chronically discouraged in the present – it seems impossible to see a picture bigger than the muck I am trudging through.   Leah knew the muck and she had a history of muck, and yet Leah made a choice to see and know and experience her God.  She lived the definition of trust and she lived it by choosing God, depending on Him, and leaving it all in His hands.  Like us, she could have easily looked in the mirror of her circumstances and found much to reactively hold her in its unfairness.

As we discussed Charles Stanley’s principle about trust in our ladies Bible study class, we defined too the word we interchange with trust, even if technically, some would define them differently.  Faith, as a verb, captures the essence of trust.  An acrostic I learned decades ago says, “Forsaking All I Trust Him.”  There is so, so much I can’t fully grasp.  So much I can’t control.  So much I long to know the outcome of.  So much that enters into my fears, distorts my thinking, confuses my emotions.  But I can make a choice.  At the fork in the road, whatever that fork may be, I can choose my God, walk with Him, depend on Him, and leave “it” fully and completely in His hands – and I will probably repeat that process over and over.  And I will walk without sight into the future, into the bigger story God wants to tell, knowing that God loves me and cares for me, just as He did with Leah, and knowing God will weave all the details together – some day, somehow.  Leah birthed seven children within her marriage to Jacob, but even then, God wasn’t finished.  It was through Leah, and not Rachel, that over 2,000 years later, God birthed His Son into our world.  We wait, but not without hope.  We have a God whose story is far greater than the one we can see.

                                                             – Bev


(Related Bible reading: Genesis 29:31-35; 30:17-21; and Leah’s son, Judah, shows up in Matthew 1:1-3)

February 13, 2019

Just Like Me

A trial marked by lies and unfounded accusations.  An attempt at pacifying the crowd that still left an innocent man brutalized by an inhumane flogging that stripped away flesh and dignity.  A torturous death by crucifixion witnessed by gaping, gawkish taunters, and by confused and grief-stricken mourners.  And then, a body is buried, and with it, hope, anticipation, and unanswered questions.  Incredulously, some women came on Sunday with amazing words that the body had disappeared!  How could that be???  It was certain the body was gone, but a resurrection?  A restoration to life?  Two who had mourned, and now questioned, walked and pondered aloud.  Time was theirs to rehearse the days that had just passed – they had a seven mile journey by foot from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  That is when an apparent stranger fell in step with them.

We all know who the “stranger” was.  The One who truly was alive engaged their hearts and their thinking in such a way that their eyes and their understanding were open – and then, again, He was gone.  What happens next though wholly intrigues me.  After a seven mile intense walk on dusty, dirty roads, they turned right around, and went back to Jerusalem!  I would have been ready for a hot bath and a shoulder massage!  Why???  Why go back?  In Jerusalem were the “others” who were “just like them.”  Others who had mourned, who had questioned, whose hope was shattered, who wanted sooo much more than what they thought they had.  Their hearts and their spirits were as one, and they wanted to be with them!  Together their profound joy could be multiplied, and together, without having to explain anything, they could draw together as one in all the thinking and feelings of their spirits.

I spent a weekend with 106 moms who are “just like me.”  Each one of us has lost a child to death.  Our stories are different and some were, and still are, complicated by agonizing dimensions that horribly distend the whole grieving process.  But at the core of our mother-hearts, we understand each other.   We give love and acceptance.  We have a common hope, but we know that hope, as certain and real as it is, is not a bandaid or a quick fix.  There are things we have experienced and felt, questioned and pondered, that mark us as distinct and those on the outside aren’t always quite sure what to do with us.  But together, we grieve, we search, we encourage, we challenge, we hope, we heal.   God becomes the very foundation of all we share together, and He becomes God-with-skin-on in the lives of those who stay around long enough to patiently, compassionately, and with an understanding borne of life itself, help another mom walk forward on her journey.

We need each other.  Whether you are a mom who has lost a child, or you have faced and felt and healed with addictions or abuse, divorce or single parenting, the helplessness of standing at a distance with your own prodigal, the challenges and heartache of a special needs child, or the death of a spouse – there are others “just like you” who desperately need to know you understand and you will embrace them as they walk forward in their own journey, dependent on the hope that only God can give, and encouraged by one who can fully enter into the thinking and feelings of their spirits.  God ... who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
                                                                       – Bev

(Related Bible reading: Luke 24:13-34)