Going Home To Get My Spiritual Bearings

July 15, 2019


Tomorrow is the first month’s anniversary of our son’s death.  In some ways, it seems like a year has gone by.  So much emotion has been packed into so short a time.  For the first several weeks, sleeping soundly was impossible.  I’m just now starting to catch up.  What better place to do it than to go home to my roots.

IMG_2875

Beloved Berkshire Mountains

While I live in Georgia and call that home, my roots are in New England in a little town called Petersburgh.  I am fortunate to be able to go back to my childhood home (my sister still lives there) and walk the grounds that overlook the river, and then go to bed in my old bedroom.

There’s something about going home that allows you to get your bearings.  I finally slept last night – all night – for a good 11 hours.  I’ve gotten out to drive all the back roads I love and it has given me much time for reflection and conversations with Jesus.

IMG_2864

Childhood Bedroom

There’s also something about going home to the heart of God that allows us to get our spiritual bearings.  He is the safe place.  He hushes our agitation.  He speaks into the void where emptiness eats away at the soul.  He puts all our questions to rest as faith believes that He is enough ~ even without answers.

I’ve printed out Hebrews 11:1 on an index card and have been living in it for the past four weeks.  Here it is in THE MESSAGE.  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.  The meaning of ‘getting my spiritual bearings’ is unwrapped in this scripture.  Trust in God is the firm foundation that makes life (even in the midst of tragedy) worth living.  Trust in God is my handle on what I can’t see.

Suicide leaves so many questions behind.  Haunting questions.  Most never know the answers to why someone took their own life.  While here in my childhood surroundings, spiritual rest is intermittent amidst the grief but it is there nonetheless.  My trust in God has not been shaken loose from its moorings.  He’s got me.  He’s got my son.  He’s got the answers.  For everything I cannot see, or know, I do know in whom I have believed.

I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.  Psalm 119:163

God is rarely ambivalent.  He loves truth and He hates falsehood.  David spent enough time in the Torah and enough time in worship that God’s appetite rubbed off.  How our culture needs more like him.  There are far too many prominent Christians in the spotlight who, when asked where they stand on current issues, fail to answer the way God would.  Their tolerance makes them palatable to the masses but it erases their saltiness.  They have confused loving people with condoning what people do.  They have abdicated their chance to speak the language of the kingdom in order to draw others onto the narrow pathway that leads to eternal life.

Having grown up in legalism, I was used to a regular diet of dogmatism.  A church or Christian organization defined themselves by what they were ‘against’ rather than what they were ‘for’.  They had a poor track record when it came to loving people.  Perhaps some of our ambivalence on critical issues is an over-correction to legalistic Christianity.  In our collective responses to rigidity and gracelessness, we have made opposite choices that are equally as detrimental to the advancement of the kingdom.  The cure for any of us who fail to speak clearly about what we love and what we hate, whether it is rooted in fear or poor theology, is time with Jesus and time to immerse ourselves in His Word.  Christian education, in the context of relationship, cures ambivalence.

Today, I follow Jesus who ate with sinners, put his arm around the broken and repentant but simultaneously, spoke clearly about righteousness and unrighteousness.  His speech was so clear that his audience saw no ambivalence.  They left everything to follow Him or they picked up stones to murder Him.  If others fail to react to me in the same way, my speech is diluted and I have a ways to go to look like, and sound like, my Savior.

Sharpen the sword of my mouth with the sword of the Word.  Clearer speech, compelling speech, in the remainder of my life.  Amen

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me,  for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you.  Psalm 25:4-5

A woman who takes the time to listen to and obey the voice of God is never stuck.  Every step she takes is leading somewhere.  No gesture is ever inconsequential.  No task performed is ever hollow.  No pain is ever senseless. Everywhere she places her foot is strategic even though she may be unaware of the significance.  Solomon said so.  “The upright one is on a path that makes up a highway.”

Satan’s urgent agenda for us as God’s children is to cause us to distrust God.  If he can alienate our affections, he knows we will lose heart and abandon the way of faith.  One of his biggest lies is the one that says, “This is a dead end.  You’re trapped.”  Oh, how well I know.  I believed that and was crippled by a severe depression in the early nineties.  Everywhere I looked, I saw traps instead of doorways.  I didn’t know that they were a mirage, a smokescreen.  If only someone had told me to call Satan’s bluff with a well-fashioned arrow of the word of God.

Now, two decades later, I’m still on a soapbox to declare that each ‘trap’ was really a doorway into glory. I was delivered from my wordlessness when I decided to embrace the truth that God is never cornered, and since He lives in me and orders my steps, I’m not trapped either.  Facing the conflict of my core beliefs and then choosing to believe God over my own thoughts, I was freed to move again.  Slowly, I began to see that every pro-active step I took by faith was profitable. It proved that there were indeed invisible doorways I couldn’t see before.  Everywhere I placed my foot led me to another stepping-stone related to my destiny.

It’s still true for each of us today.  The best of life awaits us even in these difficult times if I define the ‘best’ as opportunities to showcase God’s glory. I intend, until Jesus returns, to become an spirited older lady who teaches others how to pray strategically, embrace the scriptures passionately, and love God wholeheartedly.  I don’t know how well I will sing in another decade or two but I will always play the piano, my flute and wooden recorders.  My dream is that God will continue to anoint me to be a ‘pied piper’ who marches on the kingdom’s highway, calling out to others on the sidelines to step onto the path behind me.   My once compromised faith-walk has become a banner-waving parade for the glory of God.

The destiny You write for every daughter is beautiful. Show me today’s stepping stones.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.  Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.  Genesis 6:114

God’s children are not destined for wrath but eternal life.  God’s wrath was about to destroy the earth with a flood but God proclaimed a different outcome for Noah. When the world would groan under the weight of God’s judgment, His child would safely nestle in God’s care.

This is not the last time an ark is mentioned.  When the male children of the Hebrews were being slain by Egyptians, God had one mother make a nesting place for her baby amidst the bulrushes of the Nile.  The same words for ‘an ark made with pitch’ are used again as she made a ‘floating box made with pitch’ to save her baby, Moses.

God’s purposes, written before time, will always prevail.  Even though it may appear that evil has snuffed out God’s promises, His covenant is unshakeable. The end of the story has already been written and God does not have to labor to make it all work out in the end.

What floodwaters are threatening to undo you today?  When trouble rushes in like a flood, I can feel that my life is at stake emotionally, even physically.  Noah heard the roar of the storm, felt the fury of the wind on his ark, but rode out the storm with confidence.  Today, Jesus is my ark, my hiding place .

David said, “The children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”  When in danger for my life, I run to Him.  Like a child who flees to a parent’s room to hide in their embrace during a storm, I run to Christ.  Under His wing, I hear His assurances.  “Shh, don’t be afraid.  I’m here.”  Under His wing, He even serves me a banquet in the presence of my enemies.   Each morsel holds the most poignant revelation.

I must not listen to voice of my enemy today.  He would assure me that I’ve failed, tempt me with many ways to self-preserve, suggest that I defend myself against accusers, goad me to self-comfort in ways that are not good for me, and encourage me to force circumstances to work in my favor.  All the time, God’s arms are open, He’s stooped down to beckon to the scared small child.  “Come!”

Jesus, my ark of safety.  Sealed by Your Spirit.  I run to You at the sign of the first threat on my life.  Amen

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he opened his mouth and taught them. Matthew 5:1-2

Jesus withdrew from the crowd, went up on the mountain by himself, and was joined by his disciples. He began to teach the beatitudes.  Humanly speaking, His sermon could have benefited the crowd he left behind to possibly reshape their culture but instead, Jesus chose to share it with His chosen few.  Some messages just aren’t for everyone.

The beatitudes were a collection of kingdom principles so difficult that only the ears of true disciples could understand them. A group of religious leaders wouldn’t have grasped them because the spiritual posture of each beatitude could only be understood through a relationship with Jesus. True spiritual understanding is theology learned through intimacy with the Savior.

I have heard some anointed messages in my lifetime. By earthly definition, they weren’t always insightful or clever. Something otherworldly was transpiring. From the time the speaker opened his mouth, my heart was burning. As truths poured out in quick succession, I was too stunned to take notes. The message went to so deep a place that I couldn’t have explained to anyone what I was hearing. My body felt heavy under the warm hand of God and I just prayed someone had recorded it.

Such is the impact when reading the beatitudes.  When I take them in slowly, I am stunned by Jesus’ words. Each one is too hard for me to get my head around. I could wonder why Jesus would give a sermon if it were impossible for us to apply it?

The beatitudes hold up a mirror to His perfection and I see my fatally flawed reflection. Each one describes Jesus and I recognize my need for the Holy Spirit’s help.  With a personal Pentecost, I am able to walk by the power of the Spirit.

I can do things that look righteous but my heart can still be wicked.   Live through me and fill me with Your Spirit. Amen

For thus saith the Lord, “Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.” Jeremiah 31:12

Are you languishing under the condemnation of someone else’s words?  The only cure is to allow God to speak the truth.  I must be willing to disown the hurtful words and no longer have them define me in any way.  The injurious words should be dealt with severely at the cross, in prayer.

Damage is done in two ways.  1.) by the words themselves but also, 2.) by the spirit that came with them.  What do I do with the animosity of the one who spoke them?  I forgive them as Christ forgave me.  I remember my own sin.  How many times have I injured the heart of God with my words, my accusations?  How many times, in my spiritual immaturity, did I whine like an entitled child when hard times came?  How many times did I insinuate, even say outloud, that He was a difficult Father to trust?  Yet, despite everything I hurled in His direction, He forgave me.  To understand the love of God, I look at Jesus.  I remember His response to taunting, even while suffering.

“While they hurled their insults at him, He did not retaliate ; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”  I Peter 2:23

When words are spoken against me, I follow Jesus.  1.) I do not retaliate.  2.) I make no threats.  3.) I forgive them and pray for them.  I remember disciples like Stephen who, when he was being stoned to death for his faith, cried out with words that were reminiscent of Jesus on the cross.  Falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  Acts 7:60

Jesus will deal with my spiritual accusers. I lay down my sword and defer to the King who holds the scepter of authority.  The spirit that came with the words, He will rebuke.  When I forgive them and put them in His hands, the one who judges righteously, I am cleansed from all the word’s effects.

PRAYER: “Lord, I forgive the person who spoke to me so treacherously and I give up my right to take revenge.  Nullify the effects of their comments under the power of Your shed blood.  Take these words from my mind and my heart.  Remove the arrows that wounded my soul so deeply.   Make it as though the words had never been spoken.   I put this person in Your hands for You to rule righteously. 

Now, for my own healing, I will eat the scroll of Your Word.  I will allow Your Spirit to speak truth to me, to lighten my path, and to define me.  I look to Your face for all the love and approval I need to stand today with no trace of shame.  “The Sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings.” Malachi 4:2  Amen

Overshadowed

July 3, 2019


I am concealed in the shadow of God’s hand.  Isaiah 49:2

The definition of a shadow is an image cast by an object.  The word doesn’t usually bring warm feelings.  Someone hiding in the shadows is a person with a questionable agenda.  Someone afraid of their own shadow is a poor soul gripped by shyness.  Someone who sees shadows in the night is one who sleeps lightly.  And we know the familiar phrase in the 23rd Psalm, ‘in the valley of the shadow of death.’ 

While the topic of shadows makes us think of something foreboding, shadows can also be beautiful.  How about these references.

I dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.  Psalm 91:1

I am concealed in the shadow of God’s hand.  Isaiah 49:2

And, I take refuge in the shadow of my Father’s wings.  Psalm 36:7 

God is also described as One who casts a shadow, and His shadow provides shade from the heat.  Isaiah 25:4  His presence shadows His children ~ going with them wherever they go. Psalm 121:5

If I am in Christ, I am overshadowed when the Spirit conceives something holy, or heals something broken, or prepares something yet unformed.  In these days of our family’s sorrow, we are overshadowed.  We are being refined in the fire, healed in our brokenness, and watching for redemption still unformed.

For each of us who are overshadowed by Your Spirit, we rest while You create.  Amen