As the three female voices blended, sending harmonies soaring towards the rafters, I let go of some long held breath.
“Comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy”
They sang echoing the thoughts in the angels’ refrain.
“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” the angels sang, and…
“Tidings of comfort and joy” we sing today.
The words hang in my mind, like a smoke trail that refuses to dissipate, clarity dawning in me as if for the first time.
Why did the angels proclaim peace on earth, unless the earth was in decided chaos and turmoil? Why else would we need comfort, than if life was hard and our hearts were broken with grief and longing? This is not a cozy comfort, a simple ease, or a placid, picturesque peace that Jesus came to bring. This is a medicinal comfort: a Surgeon coming to bind bleeding hearts and restore shattered lives.
He comes bearing a healing comfort and a mending peace.
”But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.“ Malachi 4:2 NLT
We don’t need to be anxious or frustrated if this Christmas season does not seem to hold any joy for us. Because our Savior comes first to proclaim comfort. Proclaiming into the very heart of our pain and fear and turmoil: peace.
And who but God Almighty is strong enough to bind the cruel and festering wounds the world leaves upon our souls? Who besides the King of Glory is great enough hold the broken pieces of our lives? Who besides the Prince of Peace can still our aching and stormy hearts?
”“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.”…O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.“ Isaiah 40:1-2, 9-11 NLT
Are you feeling crushed and broken this Christmas season? Are you overwhelmed and joyless? Are you buried under grief and longing?
Your Savior comes to comfort you.
Don’t try to push past the healing, the binding of wounds, the comfort. Don’t search through the lights and the gifts and the festivities to find artificial joy soften called “the holiday spirit”. Don’t rush into busy to numb the pain wrapping icy fingers around your heart.
Don’t settle for artificial peace dependent on the world around us succumbing to our desires.
Instead, bring your brokenness, your joylessness, your pain to the feet of the One who came bearing comfort. Let Him bind you, tend you, apply stinging salve your bleeding wounds, and in His hands you will find true joy.
It might be a slow and complex joy. A quiet welling from within rather than fireworks pouring from without. But it will be joy, because our Savior came to bring…
A twelve days ago we were supposed to move into an adorable little two bedroom, two bath condo we were buying. And fifteen days ago, I was standing in line at Marshall’s when Travis called to tell me that the sale had fallen through.
I had planned to drive home and pack more boxes, then pick James up from his first day of preschool all smiles and energy.
Instead, I cried my way home and off and on through the rest of that day, and canceled the order for our new mattress that we scheduled to be delivered the day after closing.
I planned on anxiously waiting for the school day to be over so I could run and hold my preschooler and then sit enraptured hearing all about his day.
Instead, I washed my face, put on mascara and as much a smile as I could manage, and braved my way through his first preschool pick up, trying to be fully present and joyful in this moment with him, while at the same battling back the overwhelm now plaguing me.
I had plans, and they were suddenly, unexpectedly, gone. I had built dreams for our family in that place, all in my head, and those too, were now gone. I had expectations for what the next days would be like, and those were gone. I had thought I’d known where God was taking us, and that also, was now gone.
I felt unmoored and untethered. Adrift.
In the days that have followed, I’ve been all over the place. I’ve clung to God in some moments and run from Him others. I’ve been angry sometimes and peaceful others. I’ve run a million scenarios in my head and made plans a dozen different ways, grasping for what is right. Searching in darkness for a spark of Light to guide us.
And into the chaos of my heart and mind, a friend spoke these words. “We were shouting for joy just a few weeks ago…focus on those miracles. Those miracles didn’t come for no reason, and you guys didn’t get excited for no reason…continue to believe that the Lord is going to move.” Her words stopped me.
“We were shouting for joy just a few weeks ago…” “Those miracles didn’t come for no reason…”
I thought I had figured out how God was writing this story. I thought the miraculous way He was letting things fall into place, was all leading up to one certain ending. And when it all fell apart, I began to think maybe I had just heard wrong. Maybe we weren’t following God after all. Maybe God had spoken and I’d just missed it. Or maybe I’d been too stubborn to hear. Or maybe I just had no idea what was going on. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
And then God used the words of this friend to draw near and whisper in my ear…
“This closing falling through does not negate the things I did to get you this far.”
I can praise God for the way He worked and also mourn the ending that I didn’t get.I can trust the God I love to be near even when I don’t understand how He is working.I can worship the God who guides us, even when it feels like we’ve been led to a dead end.
I don’t have an ending to this story yet. Well…not quite.
I can say that we haven’t curled up in a ball and given up, as much as we’ve been tempted to.
God has also provided for us to extend the lease with our current rental until the end of September with no extra fees, so we won’t be homeless at the end of next week.
And today we signed a contract with a new seller, for us to buy a different condo in the same community, although based on the events of the past few weeks, this too, feels far from an ending.
I can say that I’ve had days of intense anxiety, days of overwhelming desire to give up, and days of overwhelming peace from God, in the midst of it all.
I can say that there is a tiny seed of excitement over this new place beginning to form.
We are working hard and the emotional roller coaster, is far from over.
But the fact remains true, God did some wonderful things that I will continue to praise Him for, and the ending we didn’t get, the ending we still might not get, doesn’t negate that.
How can I Morning after morning Wrap myself in All this glory And not open my Mouth to praise?
by Alesha Sinks
So often I find myself overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. And yet, so often I fail to step forward into the intended result of awe and wonder…worship.
Isn’t that the purpose of creation?
”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1 (NIV)
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 (NIV)
In the Psalms, there are examples upon examples of the writer praising God, inspired by and in awe of the glory of God’s creation.
“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24
“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;” Psalm 95:3-6
Yet so many mornings I hurry, feet pounding across weather pavement, stechting out to reach the sunrise. And when I get there, when I reach the oceans edge with the early light rippling across the waves, when I stand still and breathless at the beauty in front of me, I forget to do the very thing for which my soul was made.
I forget to do the very thing for which my soul was made.
I forget to take my awe of creation and let it lead me into awe of the Creator.
And that’s true of a little million moments throughout my days. watching pure joy radiate from my son’s face when that one shaft of light slips through the living room blinds the first glorious sip of coffee a peaceful moment, book in hand a friend reaching out in love and encouragement that one song playing right, exactly when I needed to hear it a cool breeze stirring through the hot evening air, summoning us to rest
How often do these moements slip through my grasp, our grasp, awakening joy and peace and hope and beauty, but failing to turn our hearts in gratitude toward their Giver.
I’m practicing. Practicing awareness in the moment. Practicing giving a practical, out-loud or a quiet, whispered-in-my-heart “thank you God” when I am surprised by joy. Praciticing reflection on blessings at the end of the day or the week or the month and practicing offering my thanks to God then. Practicing to make a seamless turn from “Wow, how beautiful” into “God, You are so beautiful”.
I’m practicing to make a seamless turn from “Wow, how beautiful” into “God, You are so beautiful”.
Will you practice with me? Will you join me in allowing the beauty around us to not just catch our eyes or our hearts, but to turn our hearts toward God?
My prayer for us today is…
Let the beauty we encounter daily lead us to worship.
So often I know, I know they aren’t. I apologize over and over. I snap and yell and rant again and again, and then must circle back to asking forgiveness.
I try this. Then that. I say one thing Then I change my mind and try a different vein of logic or type of consequence or chose a rewards system or give simply let it slide because I don’t know what I’m doing.
Maybe you hear them too? The dozens of voices. Opinions. Loud and demanding and, unfortunately, contradictory.
How do I know I’m listening to the right one?
And I can feel the them rising…the voices. Slowly louder and louder in my head. Crushing me with their volume and their weight.
Do this…not that. If you do this, you will hurt them… If you don’t do this, you teach them bad habits… This is kinder… This is wiser… This is effective… This is better for the long haul… This is practical… This is for their heart… ..and I am drowning in the voices.
But suddenly, in my head but not from within it, His voice speaks above the din. Softly. As if nearest to me out of them all.
“Don’t listen to them, listen to me.”
And I realize that somehow I thought His voice was there, in the chorus and chaos of voices in my head. I somehow thought His voice was among them, shouting at me with judgement, with fear, with shame.
I forget that His voice is different. His voice is outside of the crowd. Separate. And only in turning the crowd of opinions down, will I be able to hear His voice, firm and safe. A steady place to rest my heart and mind. A safe bottom to plant my anchor.
The steady thrum of options and opinions isn’t necessary to my parenting.
Being guided by the Holy Spirit is necessary to my parenting.
So I’ll lay my anxious heart down tonight, a little easier. My head will be a little quieter. And my mind and heart will repeat this simple prayer.
God, let me see my children with Your eyes and Your heart. Let me hear Your voice and let my heart be sensitive to Your touch. Give me Your wisdom and strength and grace as I parent, and the humility to allow myself to be parented by You in the process.
I see in his eyes. This desire to become alike to those he loves.
In the eyes of a three year old, it easy to see and to interpret that look. That desire.
But in the eyes of a twenty year old, a twenty-eight year old, a thirty-eight year old, a fifty-right year old, it’s harder to spot. It’s still there though.
This desire to be alike to those we love or to those we admire doesn’t go away with age.
Because perhaps, if we look closely, we can find beautiful ways that those we love have already shaped us. And that they have shaped us so deeply, it’s hard to distinguish their influence from who are most deeply are.
That can be a painful truth. But it can also be a beautiful truth.
It has struck me again and again this year, and particularly this Mother’s Day, how there are so many pieces of me put in place by others. Unintentionally maybe. Subtly. Beautifully.
And as I become aware of them, it’s up to me to keep them, or change them.
Today, I want to focus on all the wonderful, beautiful things about me that were taught by and learned from my mother. I’m still learning from her, becoming like her, seeing the fruit of my childhood admiration come out of the deepest parts of me.
And today, I’m thankful for so many beautiful pieces of me that are credited to her. To her teaching, her loving, her serving, her planning and organization, her openness and honesty, and most of all her willingness to admit weakness and failure and her need for Jesus.
I have so many memories of her leading and guiding us toward Jesus, or simply watching her pursue Him herself.
I pray that this can be my legacy as well. That those memories and habits I watched in her all these years become so deeply a part of me that they become who I am too.
So many pieces of me I take for granted, Mistake as innate. Till I stop and watch You live and love. Then with sudden clarity I see myself, All the pieces of me That aren’t accidental at all. Instead they are hours And days and years Of you sacrificing, Pouring yourself into me. Yourself out for me. And most of all Pouring yourself out Before Jesus. Letting Him fill you So that you could pour Into me something better Than just yourself. I hope that I Can pour myself Out that way too.
Just maybe, He gives us far more freedom in our decisions than I think.
A bad decision is not near enough to unhinge God's eternal plan.
I can rebel my way out of God's favor.
I can make stubbornly, unwise choices that will lead me far away from who God designed me to be.
I can miss out on certain life experiences by choosing one thing over another.
But if I humble myself and seek God, I will not miss out on Him. No matter how many "wrong" decisions I make.
Because God is The Great Author.
An Author Who can write His plots to beauty and purpose and good despite the foolish blunderings His characters create when trying to write their own stories.
Because God delights to give us free will and the ability to choose based not on formal command from Him, but on the good desires He has already placed inside us.
Because God lavishes His goodness upon us, primarily, in the form of intimacy with Himself. And that gift can be given no matter where we physically are in life.
If we will just turn to Him.
If we will just humble ourselves to seek Him.
If we will just delight in His presence.
If we will just enjoy His goodness to us. His presence with us.
Oh to live in that space of freedom and joy and delight in Jesus. That space where my decisions can flow freely and confidently. Not necessarily because He speaks to me directly about every one, but because I am confident in His love and care for me, and resting in the trust that what He has already placed inside of me will guide my decisions as I draw near to His heart.
May we each learn to live in that space of freedom and trust.
Trust that He will give us everything we need to make good decisions as we draw close to Him in love.
Trust that He is powerful enough to accomplish His will in me and in the world regardless of my decisions along the way, as long as I am making those decisions in a posture of drawing near to Him.