“Yet I will rejoice”

I’ve had this passage from Habakkuk in my mind since last week.  Initially I wasn’t sure why – it was just a passage I happened across as I was searching for another verse in my Bible.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

“Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.”

StockSnap_UVHUYWF46K (1)

This idea of praising God even when current circumstances look bleak is what has been rattling around in my brain.

Life has been rough lately (maybe I’ll share in a future post) – and yet God keeps gently reminding me to look to Him rather than the circumstances.  To praise Him.  To trust Him.

“Yet I will rejoice.”

I thought the last part of this passage interesting- “…he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”   Like what does this have to do with the part before it?  This part shows up in the Bible three times – also in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18.

The more I think about it and research it, the more I see the two ideas are connected – rejoicing in God in spite of any circumstance, and God enabling us to walk close to Him “on the heights”.  I think the connection piece is the joy.

Nehemiah 8:10  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” 

We must choose to rejoice in all things.  In return, God gives us strength to deal with all that life throws at us and to “tread on the heights”.

And what does “tread on the heights” mean?  It gives a picture of living our lives above the din of our circumstances – getting God’s perspective from a higher vantage point.  As I researched mule deer and mountain goats – they live in high terrain because it keeps them safe from the predators that live in lower elevations.  That’s what God wants us to do – to not get caught up in our circumstances (predatory though they may be!).  Through choosing joy and the resulting strength from Him – we are enabled to see life from His perspective, keep our eyes on Him, and walk closely with Him.

Thank you for the hope we have in you, Jesus.    

The waves and wind still know His name.

Years ago… I sat in my minivan in the Target parking lot and sobbed after a particularly intense battle with a strong-willed child.

Why hadn’t God changed me, made me more patient?  Why hadn’t God eased this constant turmoil?  Why hadn’t God repaired what was broken in our relationship?

“Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

That’s what Jesus’ disciples asked him that night they were in a boat with him and the storm was closing in (Mark 4:38).  And that’s how I felt that night in the parking lot.

I have been captivated by this story for several years now.  I think it’s because I see myself and my own story reflected in it so clearly.

Here’s the whole story, told in the gospel of Matthew (New Living Translation):

Jesus Calms the Storm

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Do you have (or have you had) a storm in your life that pulls you down, that threatens to overtake you?

I know I have.  And I’ve often wondered why God has even allowed the storm to begin with.  (or taken it away after I’ve prayed about it the first time, or the tenth time, or the 100th time)

I think this story – and, by the way, it’s told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke – has so much we can learn from!  Why did God send that storm?  He’s in control of all things, his son was in that boat and wanting to cross over the lake – so what was the point of the storm?

Four things I have come to understand after reading and praying and pondering:

The storm gives Jesus an opportunity to display His power.

The storm allows us a front-row seat to be amazed by Jesus.

The storm increases our trust and faith in Jesus.

And the storm helps us learn to turn to Him when we are afraid.

One of the things I think is so cool about being able to read this story from the perspectives of three different writers is that there are different nuances emphasized in each.  Mark, for example, says the disciples didn’t only declare that they were going to drown, but they also asked Jesus if he even cared that they were going to drown!

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes?  Not only are we afraid for the outcome (and at least in my life I assume the outcome is going to be the very worst!), but we are also afraid that Jesus doesn’t even care – that he’s abandoned us.

Jesus, don’t you care?

Haven’t you felt that way at some point?

Here’s the good news:  the answer is always yes.  A resounding yes.

We just don’t always see the bigger picture.

But we must cling to what we know is true – God is good.  He is faithful.  He is with us always.  His plan for us is good.  He is in control.  He loves us deeply.  Our knowledge and wisdom is limited, but His is not.

Nehemiah 9:17 “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

and words straight from the mouth of Jesus,

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

May we lean into the lessons he is teaching because we know His awesome goodness, faithfulness, and love.  And may we remember that the waves and wind still know his name.

 

 

 

Rest for the Weary

I don’t know about you, but I am so, so weary.

The election debacle, tragic stories in the news, and controversy within the church at large.  Even arguments in my own home.

I have felt alternately riled up, worn down, and again, just weary of it all.  Anyone else?

I don’t have the answers, except that Jesus IS the answer.

Consider these verses (all emphasis mine):

Psalm 119:28

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”

Isaiah 40:29

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

God’s word and His presence refresh, provide strength, and give rest.  I am so grateful.

I’m praying that you are able to sit with God for a few moments today and just rest in Him.

What to do when you don’t know what to do.

It was mid-2001.  I had a newborn (my first).  I was beginning to learn that the norm of motherhood is not having all the answers (or, really, any of the answers).

I had also committed to reading through the bible for the first time that year.  I may have been a little optimistic in my goal setting, huh?

I got through Genesis and Exodus pretty easily – after all, they are pretty fascinating stories!  Then I hit Leviticus and to be honest, I started to wonder not only about my level of commitment to this goal, but also about whether or not the Old Testament would have many lessons for my daily life.  I stuck with it.  And was amazed by the store of wisdom from God in those pages.

I remember happening upon the story of Jehoshaphat, King of Israel, in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20.  He  was one of the kings who did seek God – in fact in Chapter 19, he was described as having his heart set on God.  So in Chapter 20 we find him with an opposing nation coming at him intent on war.  And this verse is the one that caught my attention because it resonated with me – verse 21 – “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  In other words – he was crying out to God to manage this situation because he knew he couldn’t.  He didn’t know what to do, so he did what he was able- he set not only his heart but his eyes on God.

Sound familiar to any of you?  I have come back to this verse again and again through my years of mothering because there are so many times I don’t know what to do.  Can you relate?

The amazing thing in this story is what happens next.  God hears Jehoshaphat’s prayer and answers it by giving a message to Jehoshaphat through someone in his community.  Verses 15-17 share what this man said to Jehoshaphat, “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”‘

God speaks such sweet words of encouragement to Jehoshaphat:  I’ve got this.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t get discouraged because you don’t know what to do.  Even though the circumstances look bleak, you will get through this with my help.  I won’t leave you alone.

Listen up, friends.  God is speaking the same words of encouragement to you today.  If you are in a place where you don’t know what to do next, it’s ok!  All you have to do is set your eyes on Him.  Look to Him for guidance and direction.  Trust Him and He will provide.

This hope.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. "
~Hebrews 16:19  

Life gets real, doesn’t it?

It seems like in your 40s, it gets really real.  Marriages end.  You can no longer control your kids exposure to “the world” as much as you might want to.  People get sick.  Maybe you aren’t where you thought you’d be at this point in life.  Your own body starts to turn against you.  You lose your job.  You lose loved ones.  Someone close to you gets cancer.  Your kids make mistakes – maybe big ones.  There are new challenges to deal with.

All of these with increasing regularity.

Really Real, I tell you!  I feel it and I see it and I experience it in and around me.

But this.  God has been providing us with some amazingly beautiful sunrises lately.  Not only does the sun rise every morning, even on hard days – but the creator of all things gives us a bonus and makes it beautiful for us.

sunrise

It has just been a reminder for me that my hope is solely in God.  He is faithful, unchanging, and loves me more than I can fathom.

This hope.

This hope is an anchor for my soul.

Happy 2016!

Merry Christmas (a few weeks late) and Happy New Year!

Here’s a picture of our family at church on Christmas Eve.  It’s been so long since we’ve actually gotten a picture together as a family and it kind of shocked me to see how tall my kids have gotten!

22

So 2016 is here, the kids have been back to school for a week now, and I guess it’s time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I feel God calling me in this new year.

Although I just posted in December about these verses having been laid upon my heart last year, I feel God continuing to tell me I need to keep these in focus for 2016.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

This is what I wrote in my prayer journal a few days ago – so that I could put these themes into practice in my life.

Rejoice always – find joy in being present with my people (not being distracted by to-do lists or technology), live life to the full as if today is my last day (John 10:10), focus on the positive

Pray continually – continue to spend time with God each morning, get better at seeking Him during the day before responding/reacting to situations, pray instead of worry, make a habit of praying as a couple

Give thanks – continue my thankfulness journal, search for the good that God might bring out of every situation, be content with what and to where God has brought me

Feel free to remind me of these throughout the year if you think I’ve forgotten!

Where do you feel God calling you to focus your energy in 2016?

He will make your paths straight.

It’s funny how many turns a year can take, isn’t it?  I guess that’s just part of life.  And I can’t even handle that it’s nearly mid-December.  But I am so glad that God promises us in Proverbs 3:6 that if we acknowledge him, he will make our paths straight.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you may know I set goals at the beginning of every year.  I never posted them, but here were my goals for 2015:

  1. After losing a paycheck and feeling like my house (and in turn my mind) were basically in chaos, one of my goals was to (daily) make sure my kitchen table and dining room table were cleaned off.  In January, I did great.  In the same vein, I wanted to reduce clutter so I joined a clutter free challenge (link here in case you’re interested) and it went really well.  With each piece of “stuff” I got rid of, I felt free-er and lighter. Then life happened.  Ha!  You should see my kitchen table this morning, piled up with papers and books and bags and mail, and whatever else my kids dropped there!!  But in between there has been what my favorite author, Lysa Terkeurst, calls “imperfect progress”.
  2. Another of the things I wanted to work on this year was being a more constant pray-er.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually” and I really wanted to have a more constant connection with God in my daily life.  Again, there has been imperfect progress here.
  3. Enjoy life more.  I tend toward seriousness and I wanted to lighten up a little.  One way was to try to play more games with my kids and that has definitely added a bit of fun to our lives.  We’ve been playing backgammon a lot this year and now my two youngest usually beat me!

As 2015 wore on and I was having some health issues, I added another focus for the year – to be more content and thankful for what I have.  Laying on the couch all of July made me realize that there is so much to life that I take for granted!!

So here’s what’s so neat about the way God works.  As my kids started school in September and I was struggling to get everything in order (even the kitchen table!).  I was going to write 1 Thessalonians 5:17 on my chalkboard in the kitchen so I would be reminded to abide with God each moment during  week.  As I looked it up, I read the whole passage:

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Isn’t that interesting?  I started just with intentionally working on just verse 17 at the beginning of the year but what God has really been working in me has been all of verses 16-18!  Through the course of the year these themes of rejoicing, prayer, and thankfulness have just been rewritten on my heart over and over again.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Amen and amen!