To This Place
The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.
~ Deuteronomy 1:30-31
To this place. A place of peace and rest and plenty, according to His riches and grace in Christ Jesus (not mine that I've earned, but His I've been given). I've been carried on His Spirit current...sometimes not knowing where I'll be a month or a week out. But when I know that where I am is where He has led me, it reminds me to trust him for the next step forward.
He carries us as a man carries his son. His beloved, cherished, cared for child. Do I deserve to be held in His arms, led by His hand? Not of myself, but that is really beside the point. Always faithful--that's what God is! He is true to himself even when we are not. Not because of who I am, or what I've done, but because of who He is and what He has done! And because I didn't do anything to deserve it, there's not really anything I can do to undeserve it, because it was never about me to begin with.
The gift is given. It is my choice each day to receive it, to live in the gift of grace, his mercies new every morning. This morning. In this place. In each place that He brings me to.
Then fear creeps in, planting lies of uncertainty in my garden of trust. Lies to choke the growing, rob the sunlight meant to nourish, compete for root space under the surface of our minds, our hearts. Lies that say this place has no future, this place has no meaning for the journey, no fruit worth cultivating to share. But the lies are lies, and their poison must be dug out. Not once a in a while, but regularly keeping our vigil against the unruly impostors. Infuse the soil with truth as a protective barrier!
So when I'm home, I trust. When I'm away, I trust. Trusting that this place, too, is a marker on my journey whose destination ultimately lies with Him. My life is hidden with Christ! (Col. 3:3)
Do you hear what I hear?
'Tis the season of frantic shopping and gifting and Christmas partying.
The deceiver schemes to avert our gaze from the Holy. And our God is Holy-Holy-Holy! Is it any wonder that the "holiday season" is often characterized by rush, stress, pressure, and overwhelming taxes imposed on our time? Even the noble causes and good intentions can get in the way if we let them, drowning out the quiet.
Hush! Do you hear it? Are you listening? It's past the rustling wrapping paper, beyond the crunch of two-day shipping for last minute online bargains. Have we forgotten in our giving our connection to the Love-Gift himself?
Imagine yourself a witness to the single most world-changing, dimension-shattering event:
The heavens shiver in delight at the melodies of stars, celebrating the triumph of mercy poured like cleansing myrrh over our ragged attempts to reach pure.
Angels marvel at the great reversal, the Divine spirit conceived into human earth-flesh to rescue broken souls.
Darkness gnashes jagged teeth as hell's worst fear reveals itself in the face of an innocent child. Lonely shepherds from beast-ridden hills become the unlikely heralds of the mind-blowing news. The Messiah, the promised deliverer is here!
Here? Bedded in drooled-on hay, birthed to an exhausted teenage mother in a town far from home? A respectable young carpenter has stepped in as surrogate dad, and comforts his bride in the aftermath of pushing God-flesh into sin-ravaged world. Did they--how could they?!--know the enormity of the salvation this newborn had come to accomplish?
While the people of Bethlehem went about their business. Their busyness. The haggling for food at market and the scolding of wayward children and the lodging of traveling kinsmen and standing in line for Roman registration. Who had time to notice a visit from God?
Step out of the chaos for a moment. Listen for the gentle whisper:
"Be still. Know that I AM God.
I've come to be with you...to be with you.
To be with you.
Be still. Spend time with me.
Get to know my heart for you, and for others.
My dreams for our family reach into all eternity!
Rest in my love--my love that outbid sin so that you could come close to me without shame.
Grow in your knowledge of my extravagant love toward you...in you, through you.
Rejoice! The glad news is still for all the people:
PEACE! Peace between God and man!"
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. ~ John 1:10-12
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Painful, Confusing, and Inconvenient
The first snow of the year has fallen, and, so far, has stayed. The brilliant whiteness adds to seasonal cheer and travel hazards. Love it or hate it, winter is here!
Cold, yet cozy. Beautiful, yet dangerous. Fun...and annoying. The beauty may even prickle to the touch.
Metaphor for life?
Most of us have picked a favorite season out of the year, if only to have an answer when asked. Each have their pros and cons, and our selfish psyche picks which ones to remember and wishes away the rest. But as there is a "reason for the season" of Christmas (which approaches with astonishing pace!), there is likewise a purpose for each season we encounter in our lives.
We know that seasons change, but we do not always have the time or the inclination to prepare for them. Sometimes the change seems to come without warning....and not all the seasons are welcome. While there may be the occasional Indian summer of unexpected happy adventures, more often it seems that the interruption is of a sinister nature: accidents, sickness, unemployment, heartbreak, or the death of a loved one. What do you do with that?
Perhaps the most troubling question is: WHY? Why did this happen? (or not happen...) Why did this happen to me? Why did this happen now? Why shouldn't I give up now? Why doesn't it just go away? While those questions may have answers, maybe that's the wrong sort of question for us to be asking at first. Maybe the essence of Why is a distraction, to keep us sitting at the base of the hurdle in our way, analyzing the structure and philosophizing about the placement on the track instead of jumping or climbing over to continue the race.
We mean well, of course. If we know Why, then we know what to do about it, right? We would know how to prevent it from happening again, and eventually have a problem-free life. Right?
Wrong: "...in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
I have several friends who were/are involved in debate clubs growing up. Something they have learned is that if you let your opponent frame the questions for you, or fall into a default mode, you lose the argument. All right, fine. So what questions could we be asking instead? Well, here are some that I use for target practice when I'm "trouble shooting." :-)
What is the trouble/s? It is said that identifying the problem is the first step to dealing with it. While not imperative for initial action, understanding the issue is certainly necessary to achieve a long-term resolution of it. And have you noticed that troubles like to travel in company? When I'm feeling overwhelmed, it really helps me to write down a list of all the variables trying to stress me out, so that the nebulous mass doesn't keep churning in the back (or front) or my mind. Then I talk the list over with God.
Whom does this affect? Something I have found is that it helps to shift the focus from myself to others. Obviously this is affecting me personally, but while I might feel alone, I'm usually not. Even seemingly isolated troubles often have ripples into other people's lives. What can I do to ease their pain and better understand their burden?
Who am I fighting against? Regardless of who or what I think caused the problem, I need to recognize who the enemy really is: Satan. The devil will use whatever he can to distract me and trick me into putting my energy into warring against anything else. But although the symptoms vary with each case, it's hard to go wrong with targeting him as the ultimate perpetrator.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ~ Ephesians 6:11-12
How has God shown himself strong in the past? I remind myself that God is greater than my trouble/enemy. I read the Bible and find story upon true story of how God has shown his power and grace in strong, effective ways. I search out modern-day testimonies from friends or even strangers that relate to my situation. I review the specific faithfulness and goodness of God in my personal history. When I can't remember certain events well, I try to find someone else who was there that can help me recall it better. It also helps to write down answered prayers in a journal to look back at.
How do I fight? Instead of reacting in fear, doubt, hate, worry, griping, or other such destructive manner, I strive to respond with the opposite. These are some tactics in my arsenal:
How can I glorify God through this? There comes a point when how we respond to hardship contributes to answering the Why. When we submit our lives to the Lord Jesus, God works in our lives to bring good out of even the things that Satan meant to destroy us (Romans 8:28). We can partner in this process by keeping our eyes open for opportunities to give glory to God along the way.
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." ~ John 9:3
As you may have guessed, this is majorly a distillation of what I am learning from my recent life struggles: nursing my sister when she was suffering from a recurring high fever, dealing with a nasty rash on my own skin, resisting depression after the high of a long film shoot, ongoing car trouble, paying unexpected bills, and being there for friends in a hard place. It's been a hard fall.
But God has brought us through as victors, not victims! God has healed us and we experienced a recovery much faster than normal. I've been receiving unexpected gifts and funds that have covered all the expenses, and now have a wonderfully functional vehicle. And despite my many imperfections and inexperience, he has somehow used me to help others through some rough spots at the same time. I am in awe of what he has done—and is still doing!
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
....All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 15-18
Yes, life can be very painful, and often confusing. No, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of inconvenient circumstances cropping up from the infamous land of Nowhere with the unnerving speed of Suddenly.
But who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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. ~ Romans 8:35-39
Seconds of sliding changed weekend plans faster than I'd have thought possible.
We were coming home from set Friday morning after a night of filming on Beyond The Mask. Traffic was dense and there was heavy rainfall. I was driving, and my sister Christy was asleep on the passenger side. I was trying to take it easy, but hydroplaned at a red light and rear-ended the vehicle in front of me, totaling my car.
We were both conscious and coherent at the scene. First responders arrived quickly. The other driver was fine; praise God! The set medic and some other production crew members got to the hospital ahead of us and were there to help us through the process. My brother immediately started on his way from VA, and got here Friday evening. Spencer and his mom also came from WI to be with us for a few days.
Christy was kept in the emergency unit for observation throughout the night. She sustained multiple rib fractures on her right side, but is doing very well. We are "home" now to where we are currently staying in MI, and are taking it easy. My neck was stiff the next day, but I am uninjured.
How thankful we are for God's hand of protection! "What if" thoughts try to sneak in and conjure up alternate scenarios leading up to an outcome without a crash, but I handcuff them to the knowledge of my Christ, my Redeemer. He is my stronghold in the day of trouble (Nahum 1:7). In this world we will have trouble, but take heart! He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. ~ Psalm 32:7
God is so much bigger than any of my mistakes, so much stronger than any evil that can come against us. He even turns what Satan means to destroy us into an instrument of grace in our lives. We are not doomed to a living regret of what-ifs and should'ves and if-onlys. Instead, he gives us a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. ~ Proverbs 23:18
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11
The peace that I have experienced since the accident is hard for me to even comprehend. It is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7). I have not had a single nightmare, though I remember the incident fairly clearly. I cry sometimes, but it's more healing than hurting. There are definitely times of emotional release, of accepting comfort given, of feeling the stress of watching someone I love be in pain. There are times when I have to actively accept the peace instead of wallowing in "reasonable" condemning, accusatory thought patterns. If I want life and peace I must let my mind be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:6) and choose life-giving thoughts.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
~ Philippians 4:8-9
My God gives grace to the humble, strength to the weak, comfort to the broken, healing to the wounded. His love is unfailing, unwavering, undeterred. His glorious presence sustains joy in the middle of any storm. Did you know that in spite of the pain and confusion and tears and smoke and rain and phone calls and exhaustion, within minutes my sister and I had prayed, smiled, cracked a couple of jokes, and prayed again? Being the first time I had experienced this sort of trauma, I have a hunch that this isn't an expected reaction—were it not for the grace of God surrounding us.
Thank you all for your rich outpouring of love and prayers for us! We are blessed to have such a wonderfully big "family."
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13