Freedom Friday: Light & Momentary

As I write this, I am still pregnant.

I was supposed to have a September baby, but here we are, creeping into October. I wrestle with the odds stacked against me in having the birth I want. I went to bed last night, thinking about all the challenges. I won’t list them, but they are many.

BK_duedate

40 weeks pregnant

I woke up quite early today, before the sun came up. I lit a candle because I didn’t feel like turning on a light. I wanted to see the sun come up. I prayed, centering myself around God’s truth found in His Word. I got on my knees to pray (no small feat these days!). And the following verses came to mind:

“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 4:16-18

This is one of my earliest memory verses. When Jesus called me by name, I faced some difficult obstacles. I wrestled deeply with depression and anxiety. My default setting sent me into despair and hopelessness on a regular basis. I memorized a number of Scriptures to help continually turn my heart and my mind back to Jesus, what He had done for me, and the truth that He would continue to work in my life.

These particular verses were so much a part of my every day that Roy, my then boyfriend, and I would say to each other at trying moments, “Light & momentary, babe. Light & momentary.”

Whatever challenges you are facing today might feel monstrous. They seem insurmountable. But in God’s perspective, they are light & momentary.

Let that soak in for a second. Think about how much of your brain space those worries are consuming. Now think of something you have to deal with today that is light & momentary. Can you change your thinking to also view your challenges the way you’d consider what sandwich to pick for lunch?

The apostle Paul goes on to talk about how our souls groan to be in our heavenly dwelling, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” But we are not there yet. And so how  do we keep this perspective? In this “meantime” in which we live, how do we remind ourselves that the trials we face are light & momentary?

We fix our eyes on what is unseen.

We have a tendency to stare deeply into our struggles, as if by analyzing them over and over, we will find answers. Psalm 25:15 says, “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Notice it doesn’t say, “My eyes are ever on the snare, because only then can I figure out what to do.” That would be fixing our eyes on what is seen. That’s the opposite of what we are to do. Paul says, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:6-7.

We walk and live in light of faith and what we know to be true, based on what God has spoken through His Word, rather than what we see. Our perspective is so limited. And we all have a filter through which we view life that is often damaged by our past experiences. We have to continually refocus our gaze onto the things of God.

So when those trials threaten to consume you, keep turning them over to God, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7. Fix your eyes on the One who is able to lead you out of those trials instead. Do this over and over. It takes practice and perseverance to make this a habit, to change that default setting.

God is able.

Lord, today, the obstacles I see threaten to overwhelm me. But instead of staring at them, I choose to adjust my gaze. I choose to look deeply into Your Truth rather than the apparent “truth” of my circumstances. I choose to remind myself of the “light & momentary”-ness of what I am facing, and ponder instead the great work You are doing in me as I take my eyes off the snare. Thank You that You are able when I am not. 

Monday Morning Meditation: Waiting Well

At the time this is published, I will be 1 day shy of 39 weeks pregnant.

I wish I could say that pregnancy has been all roses and silver-lined clouds, but it hasn’t. It’s been 9 months of waiting and dreaming and at times dreading what is to come.

After 2 difficult births including a c-section, after walking with friends who have experienced babies born still, after losing one of my children to miscarriage, I know all the possibilities of what could happen over the course of these long months.

Baby Girl at the mid-pregnancy ultrasound

Even now, with a child still in my womb as I type this, I know that the next few days and weeks and months of this child’s life are in many ways out of my control. I don’t know how the birth will go. I don’t know if this child will have severe food sensitivities like her oldest brother, and how that might impact what and how we both eat. I can only pray she’ll be healthy and that things will go smoothly.

But there are no guarantees.

All the fears and doubts I’ve wrestled with during this time have brought me to the question:

How do I wait well?

What does that look like?

I can tell you what it doesn’t look like because I’ve been doing a lot of that. Moving 500 miles 6 months into the pregnancy likely didn’t help! Waiting well does not look like worrying and doubting and giving in to fear. It doesn’t look like allowing your imagination to run wild with all the things that could happen and focusing on those things. It doesn’t mean giving in to the depression and anxiety that at times comes so naturally.

Yesterday, as I didn’t wait well, these verses came to mind.

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)

What are we waiting for, anyway? In any period of waiting, while we might be waiting for something specific to happen (like the birth of a child), what we are really waiting on is The Lord.

One way we wait well, as demonstrated by the psalmist, is by putting our hope in His Word.

I realized upon reflection that I had been putting my hope in things turning out a certain way, and not only is that not beneficial, that clearly wasn’t working for me! I was reminded that the only real secure hope I have is God, and one way to rejuvenate that hope within me was to reflect on His Word.

I knew I need to fill myself with His truth, and I chose to do that through worship. You may put your hope in His Word by reading the Bible or listening to it, listening to sermons, or reading a Christian book. I pulled out my guitar and started to sing.

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say I am strong
In the strength of the Lord

This oldie but goodie has carried me through many a challenging time, and I went on from there, singing songs as they came to mind.

How can you fill yourself with truth today? In your present circumstances, what would it mean to hope in God’s Word?

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.”

Psalm 130:7

Monday Morning Meditation: And All That is Within Me

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 103:1” Psalm

I have just finished 30 days of concentrated prayer, something that Mark Batterson suggests in The Circle Maker. I asked a few of my closest friends what they would like me to pray about for them, and prayed for those things most days. Somewhere in that process I was reminded of Psalm 103, and read that psalm out loud many of those days.

This psalm has special meaning to me. Long before I knew much about Jesus, I loved using the gifts He gave me. One gift He has given me is music. When I was a tormented high schooler, ostracized among my peers because of my sexuality, I auditioned for the musical, Godspell. I was given the part in the production that sang, “O Bless the Lord, My Soul,” a song based on Psalm 103.

During a time of turmoil, God gave me moments of peace among my musical peers and even my non-musical ones. We performed pieces of the musical in front of the whole school. From that moment on, I may not have been liked by some, but in my small town, they respected me because of my talent.

Godspell

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His praise to thee proclaim!
And all that is within me join,
To bless His holy name!

God’s truth is still truth, no matter what its source or circumstance. Despite the fact that I didn’t know much about God, at this early age, God began to allow His truth to take root in my heart.

I auditioned again for another production of Godspell 5 years later at a theater company where my girlfriend worked. I was once again given the same role and sang the same song.

He will not always chide
He will with patience wait
His wrath is ever slow to rise
And ready to abate
Oh bless the Lord

Psalm 103 begins with self-directives. David sings (as psalms were sung) that he is to bless and praise the Lord with all that is within him.

As I have repeated this psalm many times in recent past, I recall the truth God began to weave into my soul decades ago. I am reminded of His faithfulness and sovereignty in a time when I did not recognize Him as Lord.

I also plainly see that there is much within me that does not bless Him at all: my complaining, my procrastination, my fear that paralyzes at times, my unloving and prideful attitude.

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His mercies bear in mind!
Forget not all His benefits,
The Lord, to thee, is kind.

How would my life change if I were to choose to allow “all that is within me” to bless His holy name? No allowing the negative thoughts to take over my mind but instead, pressing my fears into God’s heart and choose to praise Him?

Take this thought with you for the week. Ask yourself: are my words, whether spoken or thought, allowing all that is within me to bless His holy name?

*Words in italics are from the song, O Bless The Lord My Soul, by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak.

Monday Morning Meditation: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

When was the last time you waited in eager anticipation of something to come?

A wedding? The birth of a child? A loved one coming to visit after a long journey?

Think about it for a minute. Think of how you felt. You were likely so excited it was almost as if your breath was caught in your chest.

This was the scene in Luke 2 after the birth of Jesus.

When Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple to be consecrated, there were two people there who had been waiting… and watching… and waiting.

If you are not familiar with the story, take a second to read it. Simeon and Anna had been in the temple, waiting. Simeon waited with a promise from God: he would not die before he saw the Messiah. We don’t know if Anna had a similar promise, but we do know that after the death of her husband, she prayed, fasted and praised God night and day in the temple.

They both waited – with expectation.

In the morning, O LORD,
you hear my voice;
In the morning,
I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3)

Are you waiting in expectation this Christmas week? Or are you running around like a headless chicken trying to finish every last detail?

I encourage you – breathe. Stop where you are and sit. Grab a cup of coffee and just take 5 minutes to talk to Jesus. Set a timer if you need to. Welcome Him once again into your heart, and ask Him to take His place on the throne of your life.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

I pray that despite the busyness of the next few days, you would find your rest in the Lord as you wait in expectation for the celebration of His coming.

Monday Morning Meditation: God’s Character (end of Psalm 25 series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 19-22):

See how my enemies have increased
and how fiercely they hate me!
Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope is in you.
Redeem Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!

I decided to group all these verses together rather than split them up, so this will be the final installment of the Psalm 25 series.

What have been some of the themes of the Psalm so far? Let’s take a look at the blog post titles.

Safe with the Lord
Dealing with Shame
All Day Long (HOPE!)
How Does God See Me?
Need Help? Ask For It
Embrace Grace Again
Friendship with God
Off the Snare and On the Lord (your eyes)
Turn to Me

God’s character is revealed throughout this psalm, as well as the promises that are available to us because of who He is.

Safety. Help. Hope. Protection. Friendship. Grace. Hope. Focus. Perspective. Unashamed. Help. More hope.

In today’s passage, we find David surrounded by enemies. He continues to put his hope in the Lord, trusting in God’s character as well as his friendship with the Lord and his own obedience.

Yesterday in church, we sang “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies).” So many of the themes of this Psalm are highlighted in the lyrics, but I will simply highlight the chorus.

I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

Enemies will rise up. We will grow weak at times from battle. As the song says, “though troubles linger still,” God was won the battle. He is a friend who is also Protector and Savior.

Hope in Him – all day long.

Monday Morning Meditation: It’s Okay to Dream

On September 22nd, I ran the Zooma Cape Cod Half Marathon.

It was an amazing race. Still brings tears to my eyes.

Redemption. Read about it here. Amazing.

We had recently found out my dad didn’t have long to live.

I run because I can. I ran that race for him and so many others who cannot run.

On race weekend, we stayed at a little resort where my husband Roy stayed growing up. I found this postcard in the gift shop:

My father loves JFK, so I bought this with the intention of promptly sending it to him.

There was one last possibility for saving my father’s life (besides divine intervention): a new chemo. Within a couple of weeks, it became clear that the chemo was making him too sick to continue.  When I found this out, this postcard showed up a day or two later, stuffed in a book. I filled it out, shared some psalms, and encouraged him: It’s okay to dream.

And dream he did. When I arrived a few days at the marathon, as they had given him a few weeks to live, you could see it in his eyes. His eyes would slowly drift up, with a faraway gaze.

He dreamt of heaven.

I recently had the privilege of speaking to women of our church. As I prayed the morning of the event, I flipped through my Bible to read various psalms and came across Psalm 126:1 (NIV1984):

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

Are you allowing yourself to dream? Have your recent struggles and trials made dreaming seem unrealistic, or even painful?

My oldest son Bear, Me, and my dad, March 2012

Yesterday, I ran the ZERO Prostate Cancer Challenge, a 4-mile race on Father’s Day, in honor of my dad. He taught me to aim high, and open my heart to what life might bring me.

He taught me: It’s okay to dream.

It’s time to dream your own dreams again.

“You know a dream is from God when you can let go of it, but it won’t let go of you.” Darlene Zschech, Kiss of Heaven

Monday Morning Meditation: Off the Snare and On the Lord (Psalm 25 Series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 15):

My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

In times of trials or problems, what do you tend to look at? On what do you focus?

This is easy for me to answer. I tend to focus on my problems. In the past, this was my typical pattern:

First, I would stare at the trap or potential trap.

Second, I would try to think up a solution I could do myself.

Third, I may begin to think about how the God of the impossible could probably help me out with this situation.

Fourth, I generally end up talking myself out of God being able to really do anything because isn’t this problem just too big for God?

When I say it out loud, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

But this is what we do all the time.

Today at church, my pastor said, “What is impossible for God?”

And all of us good Christians answered, “Nothing.”

If only we acted as if we truly believed this.

We say it, but we don’t live and act as if we believe it.

We limit God.

As I read this passage a few months ago, I realized how often I fix my eyes on the snare. I analyze it. I imagine all possible outcomes and how I can avoid it or fix it. I lament at the difficulty of the situation.

And often I end up expending so much emotional energy evaluating the snare that I practically fall into it.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord….”

What would happen if we instead fixed our eyes on the One who is able to release us from the snare?

God does not tell us to evaluate the snare. God calls us to look on Him. I’ve included some past blog posts at the end to encourage you in looking to God.

Pray this with me:
Lord God, forgive me for trying to fix things all the time, as if that is within my power. You call me friend, and yet I am slow to ask for help. Your Word says, “You have not because you ask not,” and so, I ask. Help, Lord. May my eyes ever be on You, the Rescuer, and not on the snare. I pray this in the mighty, powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Several blog posts that might be helpful:
Seeing with God’s Eyes
Look Beyond Your Mountains
Watch for God

Monday Morning Meditation: Friendship with God (Psalm 25 Series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 12-14):

Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.

What is fear of the Lord? We addressed this a bit in the Psalm 34 series. One commentator on Psalm 25 says fear of the Lord is “an attitude of reverence and awe toward God, which is transformed into an appropriate manner of living.” This goes hand in hand with the ESV’s translation of verse 14:

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.

To those who approach God with an attitude of reference and awe, He extends His friendship, his “secret counsel,” as a footnote says “friendship” can also be translated. According to the Hebrew, that word can also be translated “confidential talk.”

What an encouragement to get close to the Lord!

Lord Jesus, empower us to draw close to You today. Help to revere You by living lives of awe and obedience. Teach us in the way we should go, as the psalmist prayed earlier in Psalm 25, “for You are God my Savior and my hope is in You all day long.” Thank You, Lord.

Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50. Vol. 19 of Word Biblical Commentary Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1983) 221.

Monday Morning Meditation: Need Help? Ask For It (Psalm 25 Series)

Friends, we are back to Psalm 25.

Today, we look at verses 8-10:

Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
For those who keep the demands of his covenant.

This passage directly reflects the message I heard at church today. Our pastor discussed the importance of living a life wholly devoted to God. As he shared of the importance of turning from our sin, I thought, I wonder if he is going to share the “how” part. Once we make a decision to turn from a sinful habit or tendency, what next?

I of course thought of Learning to Walk in Freedom. He pointed to these verses in James 4 for help in the “how.”

As I read these verses from Psalm 25 again in preparing this blog post, I thought, The Bible is full of “how”!

Look back on the Psalm 25 series so far.

Do you need direction? Are you weighed down by the foolishness of some of your decisions?
Are you struggling to see a way out of a trial or life-controlling issue?

< Need guidance from the Lord? Ask. This may seem really obvious. Of course I should ask for help when I need it! But my most-read post here of all time is “You Have Not Because You Ask Not.” Evidently, I’m not the only one who struggles with asking for help when I need God to come through.

Remember that God is good.

He wants to instruct you, enable you and lead you.

God’s ways are loving and faithful.

The NASB says, “All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth.”

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10 (NIV)

Monday Morning Meditation: How Does God See Me? (Psalm 25 series)

Another installment of the Psalm 25 series, my patient friends.

This week’s verses (v. 6-7):

Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

One of the main themes of this psalm is guidance. It’s a patient waiting on God to show up. There is no reference in the psalm about the situation to which it was written, as there sometimes is. Just a longing, almost as if in laborious prayer.

Show up, God.

I imagine King David at this point beginning to wonder if he has done something to cause God to delay. Why is God staying away? Is He silent because of my sin? 

Because David committed a lot of serious sin.

Adultery.
Murder.
Pride.
Getting ahead of God.

Remember not all the wrongs I’ve done. My rebellion. My childish mistakes.

How many can relate to this prayer, almost a begging reminder:

God, You are good when I am not.

Lord, let Your love be primary.

Oh, friends, it is!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8, emphasis mine

His love is primary. It’s the filter through which He sees us. Not in a “When God looks at me, He sees the cross” sort of way. I’ve heard that said before, and I don’t really think it’s an accurate depiction of what happened on Calvary. I believe when God looks at me, He sees me! And because of His desperate love, when He saw humanity, drowning in its sin, He gave.

He loved. A love so deep and tender that it kills its only Son.

How does God see you? He sees you as – well – you. He sees you in your messiness and powerlessness, and reaches down to scoop you up, just as any loving parent would. He’s a God who’s not afraid to get dirty. And He choose to use the cross to begin the process of making us not only clean, but changing us into who He created us uniquely to be!

April, 2011: Scooping up my sweet youngest

He sees you. As you are. And desperately loves you.

Embrace that place today. The place of being beloved and recklessly accepted.

God sees you as you. And in response, He loves.

A resource consulted in writing this post:
Kidner, Derek, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 15 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973.