Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 3)

My students got to come to school this morning, if only for a day. We talked about online learning from home and why it is necessary. They are 4th and 5th graders–smart enough to understand a lot of what is going on and definitely old enough to feel the emotion of it all.

Today, the thing that stuck out to me most was how so many people–from the youngest students to the most seasoned teachers–are just looking for something normal, something stable to hang on to. I could see it in the eyes of kids, hear it in the voices of my peers, and sense it in my own heart.

Our elementary school is a home away from home for students and staff too. It is easy to take that kind of community for granted until you know you’re not going to have it for awhile.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is aching some on the inside for all the connection I know I’ll miss in the next couple of weeks. It’s strange how you can feel a little homeless even while confined to your house. Home is more than just immediate family. It is pushing tables together to accommodate aunts and uncles, cousins, and gammies. It is spontaneous trips with friends to the zoo and piling into the car for a Sonic run. It is circling up to pray or sitting with an open Bible, shoulder to shoulder with precious people of like faith.

These last few days, I’ve found my home again in worship. Looking back, every difficult season of my life has brought me here. To praise. To less of me and more of Him. I sing sometimes, but it’s more than just singing. Like pouring out yesterday’s coffee, it is emptying myself to be filled with something fresh. Like sinking into the most comfortable chair in the house, it is settling into the role I was created to fill. It is remembering and responding to and reciting the faithfulness of God.

Worship can look like a million different things, but it is marked by a heart turned toward Heaven, focused on Jesus. For me, right now, worship looks like crawling into bed with YouTube streaming on the TV. Robert is a night owl, so it’s just me and a playlist full of worship music. I’m singing sometimes and praying sometimes and sometimes just sitting still. After awhile, I realize it’s not just me, because God meant it when He said He would come to us.

Make me an earthen Altar. Sacrifice your Whole-Burnt-Offerings, your Peace-Offerings, your sheep, and your cattle on it. Every place where I cause my name to be honored in your worship, I’ll be there myself and bless you.”–Exodus 20:24 (MSG, emphasis mine)

Our God doesn’t require animal sacrifices any more. Jesus took care of that at the cross. What He asks for now is a living sacrifice–a life totally surrendered to Him (Roman’s 12:1). Worship prepares us to freely lay down all that we have and everything we are before our trustworthy King.

And when we build an altar–a place of offering–in our own hearts, God promises to meet us there. Oh, how I need God’s presence, with all of the peace and calm and steadiness He brings. It is worth whatever it may cost me in the way of personal surrender.

Worship feels like connection and community. Like stability. Like home.

Day 3: Create some space to worship God today, however that looks for you. Come to Him prepared to release whatever you’ve been holding onto in exchange for all that He offers. Expect to experience His presence and His peace.

God, You are so worthy of my worship. I choose to honor You today with my praise. And even though worship is not about me–You are so good to meet with me in the place of my offering. I want to experience Your peace and Your love more than ever before. Steady me with your presence. Thank you for being my home.

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 2)

I used to watch a show called “House.” It was a sitcom titled for its main character, Dr. Gregory House. Despite having an awful bedside manner, House was a genius diagnostician and always solved the medical puzzle by the end of the episode.

While flipping aimlessly through channels one day, I did a double take at an interview with Hugh Laurie, the actor who plays House. You see, Gregory House is a cranky American doctor, and Hugh Laurie was speaking with a British accent. I’d watched season after season of the show and never would’ve guessed that the actor wasn’t born and raised in the United States.

More than once, I’ve found myself wandering aimlessly through life, whole seasons passing me by, before I realized that my relationship with God needed a double take. I was hearing plenty of what others had to say about Jesus but lately, hadn’t taken the time to get to know Him firsthand.

Having a relationship with God that is based mostly on what others say about Him is a lot like relating to a fictional character. You’re familiar with the stories but hardly know the person behind them.

How do we get to know a God we cannot see? Through His Word.

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”–John 1:14 (NLT)

This passage reveals that Jesus IS the Word of God. From “Let there be light” in the first chapter of Genesis to “Surely I am coming soon” at the close of Revelation, the Bible is alive with the breath of God.

God’s Word is more than an autobiography. That alone would be incredible, but the Author invites us into His Great Story and we are changed as we encounter Him there.

Self described, the Bible is a lamp to guide us. It is bread for the hungry, water that cleanses, and a mirror to reveal the truth. The Word of God is a fire that ignites and purifies the soul. It is the mightiest of swords.

To delve into God’s Word is to search His heart.

Day 2: Along with refusing to dwell on anything negative today, find a Bible verse that speaks to you in this season. Feel free to use the one I chose (below), or better yet, ask God to lead you to the scripture that He has for you right now. He is faithful to answer! Write your verse on a notecard, the bathroom mirror, your phone’s lockscreen, or somewhere else you will see it often.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”–Psalms 27:13‭-‬14 (NKJV)

God,

You could have kept me at a distance, but instead You sent Your Son Jesus into my world to make a way for me to come to You. You could have held me at arms length, but instead You revealed who You are through Your Word and invited me into Your Story. As I meditate on Your Word today, I invite You to deal with the misconceptions that I have about who You really are. I want to know You firsthand.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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Unquarantined: Draw Near

I went back to work today after an extended Spring Break. My little Livi stayed home with her nurse, “quarantined” in her bedroom, since her doctor considers her to be part of the at-risk population.

Along with the other teachers and staff of our local elementary school, I made plans for the return of my students later this week and also for online learning, should that become necessary.

Who knows what the next days and weeks will bring? I find myself praying:

“God, what would You have me do?”

This prayer is stirring in my heart–not specifically in regard to my family or job, but in a much broader sense:

“God, people in my circle and all around the world are uncertain, hurting, and scared. I know that You are the answer. What would you have ME do?”

Because Robert and I have spent the last seven years in and out of crisis situations with Olivia, I’m pretty sure I know what God would NOT have me do.

I know that His desire for me is not to succumb to fear, living out the moments of each day gripped by anxiety. I don’t want that either. Not now that I’ve experienced Jesus as my prevailing peace, my calm in the storm.

I know that God’s wisdom is a gift from heaven–one that He would not have me cast aside carelessly. Wisdom compels me to love my community and honor governing authorities by practicing social distancing and staying home whenever possible.

I’ve heard it said that the church (made up of people, not buildings) is a light that shines even brighter in dark times. I want to be part of that light. My soul is stirred:

“Oh God, let the light of Your Son in me not be hidden behind a wall of self-absorbtion or extinguished by the changing winds of fear. Let it be a beacon shining directly on Your heart, which pulses for humanity.

What about you? Social distancing and quarantines may restrict where we can go physically, but they also foster a near-perfect environment for drawing near to God.

The busyness of life has been put on pause. We are cut off from the usual string of endless distractions, and we have a Father who longs for us to turn our attention to Him. He wants us to know Him more deeply and to rest in the satisfaction of being known by Him.

I’m still listening for the complete answer to my prayer, “God, what would You have me do?” But on the inside, somehow, I know this is the place to start:

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”–James 4:8a (ESV)

“God, I’m here. Right now. In the space created by this pause, for however long it lasts. You have my attention. Yes, I will take care of my family, cherishing the blessing of this extra time with them. I will look for opportunities to care for my neighbors and community. I will show up for every day life and whatever it demands. All the while, I settle it in my heart today–the trajectory of my life is directed toward You. In this season, You are the treasure I seek. Give me grace to pursue You with all that I have and to follow where You lead.”

I commit to spend the next 14 days actively seeking to deepen my relationship with God. Friend, even as you practice social distancing, will you “unquarantine” with me? I pray that as we purposefully draw near to God, we will experience more freedom within the walls of our homes than we ever have outside of them.

Day 1: No matter what happens today, refuse to dwell on negativity and fear. Instead, each time you are faced with an opportunity to be swept up by negative emotions, choose to re-direct your thoughts to God and His great love for you.

God, I consciously make the decision to turn my eyes toward You today. As I go about the tasks that this day will require of me, I guard against fear, worry, and anxiety. I recognize and admit my human tendency to magnify anything negative, and I ask for the grace to magnify Your goodness instead. As I draw near today, please highlight the particular facet of Your goodness that I need to see today.

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Should I Be Worried?

I’ve spent entirely too much time on social media and news sites in the last few days. Like a bystander who just can’t seem to avert her eyes from the scene of a collision, I just keep going back for another glimpse at “Coronavirus versus the World as I Once Knew It.” I can sympathize, at least in part, with many of the viewpoints that are monopolizing my newsfeed:

• Those who show great concern for the well-being of the most vulnerable among us

• And … those who think fear is being unnecessarily spread by the media

• Those in leadership who are tasked with making decisions that will affect others (and who bear the weight of public opinion, no matter what they decide)

• And … those who, in response to decisions made by others, must figure out how to re-arrange to make life work

• Those who buy hand sanitizer, and non-perishables, and toilet paper, because everything seems out of control, and storing up supplies is one thing they can actually do

• And … those who fear that supermarket aisles will be empty when they need to buy formula for a baby or essentials for an elderly parent

• Those who worry that the virus will spread rapidly if events do not shut down and people do not stay home

• And … those who worry about the economy and the financial well-being of people whose jobs depend on society functioning as normally as possible

I sympathize with all of us, who are being inundated with an overwhelming stream of information that is difficult to sort through.

While scrolling through Facebook, where every other post on my feed references coronavirus, I noticed a question posted to a page that is tailored to moms of young children. The mama asked,

“Should I be worried?”

I’ve phrased the same thought in various ways over the last few days. Asking those who’ve lived longer than my 33 years, “Do you remember anything like this happening before?” Asking myself–as if to make sure I’m not going crazy–“Is this really happening?”

The question that comes to mind the most often–the one that has me reverting to Facebook and online news too often for my own good:

“What is going to happen?”

It bubbles to the surface of my heart less like a question and more like a foregone conclusion:

“I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Honestly, these words have felt like the theme of my life lately–long before coronavirus.

Because Olivia just turned eight years old, and genetic disease means her life looks nothing like anything I ever pictured.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

And I feel like I’m living it all over again. Her baby brother, my little AJ, is scheduled for an MRI soon.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

Our sweet seventeen year old is trying to be a teenager while carrying burdens not meant for her young shoulders. I am only a foster mom, and it isn’t in my power to cast off the weight.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

The little girls have been with us for almost a year. They might be with us longer, for forever even. Then again, we may have to say goodbye soon.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

This season of my life is requiring things I never thought would be asked of me. At times I feel so very weak. Roles that I used to fill with ease and grace feel cumbersome and clumsy.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

I’m beginning to discover something about that statement. Though probably born out of fear, if offered to Jesus, this very same sentence can be an expression of humble faith. It is the realization that I can never perceive enough, prepare enough, or be enough.

I simply do not know what is going to happen.

And while, yes, that can be a very scary place to be, it brings an unexpected freedom too. An unloading of everything that I am not at the feet of Jesus, who longs to be my all in all. Like curling up under a shade tree after trudging through the desert for far too long.

I do not know what is going to happen, but there is One who does.

No amount of planning and preparation on my part can guarantee an outcome, but the God who clothes fields of flowers and provides food for the smallest of sparrows cares deeply for me and mine.

In and of myself, I have very little power to slow the tide of disease or even retain my sanity through an indefinite quarantine with five children, should that be required. But I serve an Almighty God who holds the hearts of kings in His hands. He is my Healer, my Provider, my Protector, my Teacher, and my Friend. He “rescues the weak and needy (Psalm 82:4).” He hears my prayer, and though I do not always know when or where or how, He answers.

I rarely have dreams that I can remember once awake. I’ve only ever had a few that I thought actually meant something. Yet, night before last, I dreamed something important.

I was moving–almost being pushed through–a long house with lots of rooms. Each room was over-crowded with people pressing in on each other. Everyone was talking at once so that I could hardly distinguish a thing that was being said. Finally, I got to what I knew to be the final room. I opened the door to utter silence. Fewer people were in this room, and each was kneeling in prayer or had hands raised in worship. The contrast between the former rooms and the last was so stark that it brought tears to my eyes.

The dream reminded me that while there is a lot I don’t know (especially with regard to coronavirus), there are a few things that Jesus has made me certain of:

There is wisdom in informing ourselves and taking precautions based on the advice of knowledgable authorities. But we can’t expect this to bring us real peace. Peace that comes through what I can do is both limited and temporary. Peace that transcends circumstance comes from walking in step with the Prince of Peace. His name is Jesus.

There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by pressing through the chaos and noise to find a quiet place at the feet of Jesus. We will find Him to be a Good Shepherd (the best of guides), always willing to lead us beside still waters.

Often, Jesus teaches us to overflow with peace by turning our focus away from ourselves and outward to the needs of others. In serving my neighbor or a stranger, the churning of my own heart is calmed.

So, center your heart in the peace Jesus offers, and I will too. Let’s do it now, before voices of fear drive us to panic or thoughts of self-preservation cause us to forget the needs of others.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”–Matthew 6:25‭-‬33 NLT

These words, so tenderly and powerfully spoken by Jesus, give me the strength to prioritize His voice over the pull of my Facebook feed and Amazon shopping cart.

Should you be worried? Should I? No. Our Heavenly Father knows all of our needs. He will certainly care for us.

Waterfall

waterfall-4297449_1920

Tomorrow is our (soon to be) seventeen-year-old’s birthday. For the last week, I’ve been filling a Birthday Box for her each day. The idea came from The Cirkles blog; basically, you shop for a few favorite items and place one in the box each morning until the big day arrives. I chose to include notes as well–one of them being a list of the birthday girl’s accomplishments from this past year.

A few things from her list were …

  • Getting a driver’s permit
  • Responding to a nudge from the Holy Spirit to pray for a stranger
  • Being an excellent older sister to four little people
  • Leading a “tribe” of her peers as a “chief” in our church’s youth group

As I was writing this list of accomplishments for our oldest, my mind couldn’t help but wander to the others in our family of seven:

  • Robert spoke at our community’s Thanksgiving service
  • Holly learned how to cook (finally!)
  • Our 6-year-old cheered at a pep rally and is starting to read
  • Her 3-year-old sister potty trained and expanded her vocabulary exponentially
  • A.J. added crawling, standing up, and climbing on the couch to his repertoire
  • Olivia …

A pang of emotion hit my heart as I thought about Olivia. My faith sees her running and leaping, speaking and singing. The past year has found her laying–in bed or propped up on the couch, reclined in her stroller or in her hospital bed at school. Her arms and legs have not moved with any purpose. Her fingers remain closed in a fist. We talk to her as we always have. Where we go, she goes too. But there is little in the expression of her face, except maybe, in response to pain. The world behind her eyes is very much alive, I believe. Still, my little girl’s thoughts are a mystery to me.

What has Olivia done this year?

My trembling heart couldn’t help but ask the question. The answer hurt–too much to think on it for long. Days later, an answer came in those moments just between wakefulness and sleep.

It’s not about what Olivia has done. It is how well she is loved.

Jesus had answered, and His words stole my breath away.

My goal-oriented and task-driven personality often equates value to doing, worth to accomplishment. There is nothing wrong with being a hard worker, having aspirations or setting goals for achievement, but none of these things can garner the one thing that matters most in this life. Love. The love of God.

Success in the things we do can bring short-term satisfaction, but God’s love is the only thing that can truly fill the bottomless well that is the human soul. In the words of my favorite children’s Bible, God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love” is life’s real treasure.

Olivia has that in spades.

So do you and I.

I’ve heard it said that love is an action word; it is something you do. I don’t disagree, but the message my heart needs to hear is this: God’s love is a waterfall. It is something you stand under, face turned upward, arms thrown back in abandon–overwhelmed by the thundering power of it, softened as it pours into every dry crack and crevice, swimming in its inexhaustible supply.

Then, love is a river. Flowing effortlessly out of a heart that has been loved well.

What does Olivia do?

She stands under a waterfall of love poured out by her Father. She rests, carried in the current of the love of her mama and daddy and countless others. And without words or physical action, Olivia shows the love of God to those who have the blessing of knowing her.

Jesus, help me stand under Your waterfall. And let Your love flow out of me like a river.

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.”–Lamentations 3:22

“I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself.”–Jeremiah 31:3

’til the wondering is gone

When the wondering finally left their eyes, I knew we were going to be alright.

For weeks and months after the little girls came to live with us, I saw their questions in every unsure, backward glance:

“Will the lady with the bedtime songs and prayers be here tomorrow night, and the next? Will she still be here when I wake up in the morning, and after school, and at the end of a long car ride?”

Their wonderings came out in tears or tantrums far more often than words, but I heard them loud and clear. I heard them, and oh, how I wanted to foster a safe place. Somewhere secure, where they’d know that I wouldn’t dream of causing them harm.

I couldn’t promise things outside of my control, so instead, I said a truthful thing that was real:

“For as long as you are here with me, I will take care of you and love you and keep you safe.”

I said it again and again. And then I did it, again and again. Robert did too, and we are far from perfect. But after awhile, I looked and the wondering was mostly gone.

When the wondering was mostly gone, I knew we were going to be alright.

*********

I look at my other babies.

The Brave One, who has been through more than my heart can hold onto without breaking. Whose 16 years mean that “mom” is a name I’m hardly old enough, yet still priveleged to be called.

Our Firstborn, who has taught me more about grace, and peace, and trusting Jesus than I learned in all the years before she came along. Whose story is painful and glorious, and full of suffering and of hope too.

Little Man, my baby boy. Sometimes, I just want to stay here in this season where I can whisk him up into my arms, away from the brokenness all around. I want time to freeze these big smile, belly laugh moments.

“Will the God with the promises and miracle stories be here tomorrow and the next day? Will He still be here when I’m not enough, and in the middle of my mess, and all the way until we win? Will we win?”

My wonderings came out in fear and frustration far more often than words, but they spoke loud and clear. He heard them, and oh, how patiently my Father drew me to a safe place. Somewhere secure, where I’d know that He wouldn’t dream of causing me harm.

I’m not sure exactly when the wondering left my eyes, but it’s gone.

Because the One who holds the whole world in His hands said a truthful thing that is real:

“Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”–Matthew 28:20

He said it again and again. And then He did it again and again. He did it again and again, perfectly faithful, ’til one day I looked and the wondering was gone.

When the wondering was gone, I knew we were going to be alright. So much more than just alright.

Conversation of Worth

AJTwo conversations have been on repeat in my mind for weeks, like a song that won’t be forgotten. The first occurred 5 or 6 years ago between two acquaintances that didn’t know I was in the room. I don’t remember much, except that the subject of discussion was a mother who was raising a child with a genetic disorder. The mom was pregnant with another child, and the line that attached itself to my brain like a leech was this:

I don’t know why anyone in that position would allow themselves to get pregnant again!

The words burned like salt on an open wound to my heart. This heart that knows so well what it is to love a child whose been diagnosed with genetic disease. This heart that had my Aiden’s name picked out before his big sister was even born. This heart that holds the lives of ALL of her children as infinitely precious and forever worthy of space in this world—space not just to take up but to fill. And they do fill, to overflowing, all the hearts and moments and spaces that let them in.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but I will say it anyway. Every child is worthy of life and of love, and this truth cannot be torn down by the presence of disease or disability any more than it can by society elevating a mother’s “rights” over her voiceless child.

The worth of my child—and every child—is not grounded in her stage of life or the way she journeys through it but in the love and affirmation of a Father who knew her before she was conceived and will hold her securely throughout eternity with him.

The very words of the Living God shout her worth, and Aiden’s, and mine, and yours:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you …”—Jeremiah 1:5

It is His steady and familiar hand that gives me courage to write today, to make myself vulnerable yet again, and to continue moving forward in faith.

——

I know what Peroxisomal Biogenesis Disorder looks like. I am one of a handful of people on earth who’ve personally watched as it stole eyesight and hearing from my child, hindered her ability to reach developmental milestones, and raised liver enzymes to alarming levels.

I recognize the signs of this ugly disease, and I see its mark on my baby boy. The eyes that don’t focus. Feet that struggle to take a step. Ears that don’t turn to his name.

I hate saying that. Still, saying it is like unloading a heavy burden I’ve carried far too long, because to bring a thing into the light is to entrust it to the hands of the Redeemer.

For years I was terrified of walking this path with another child. Because it’s painful and it’s hard and it hurts. For so long my mind was locked up like a maximum security prison—no thought of another baby allowed within a mile of my carefully protected heart.

Until Jesus came and set me free. Without pretense or flair or explanation. He simply set my heart free, and I wasn’t afraid anymore. Then Aiden (my little AJ) came into this world and into my heart and our family. Life without his footprint is unimaginable. He is joy encapsulated.

A second conversation still plays in my mind, and this one happened a month ago between myself and a mentor that I love dearly and admire greatly. She asked me about the goodness of God and how I perceive it, given all that our family has been through. I’m not sure, but I think she was asking from a place of both experience and curiosity. Undoubtedly, she knows better than most what it is to trust in the goodness of God, though perhaps not from the context that Robert and I live in.

How do I relate to the goodness of God? The question is a significant one. I didn’t answer it well at the time but have spent a lot of time pondering it since.

From the time that I was a very little girl, I have been taught to know and love God for His goodness toward us. Upbringing is not enough.

In my 32 years on earth, very few Sundays have passed by that I was not in church, hearing and singing about God’s goodness. Church attendance is not enough.

I have read and studied the Word of God, which testifies to His goodness. Knowledge alone is not enough.

I have seen the evidence of God’s good work in my own life—His acts of mercy, healing, and blessing. But belief, if only in what God can do, is not enough.

I am so grateful for the wonderful example and testimony of my parents and others, for the blessing of getting to be part of a church family, for the opportunity to study the Bible, and for the many times that God has acted on my behalf. Yet in the most difficult moments of my life, these things alone couldn’t sustain me. I would’ve been buried under the weight of “How is this happening?” and “Why me?”

The reason my faith is intact and my hope is secure—the answer to how I still have peace and joy. It’s because I have known God. I have experienced his goodness for myself. Personally and intimately. Not only hearing and seeing, but actually tasting His goodness. In the laboratory and not just the classroom.

No human tragedy or demon of hell could convince me that God is not good, because I know Him to be good, and I know it to my core.

I’m certain of God’s goodness, and this allows me to put my faith in God Himself instead of in an outcome. I have believed that I would see Olivia healed, almost from the instant she was diagnosed. Now I believe the same for AJ. I have hope, and that has kept me moving forward. That hope is not fleeting but an anchor, and here is the reason:

I hope not in hope itself but in “the God of hope.” Not in a promise but that “He who promised is faithful (Romans 15:13, Hebrews 10:23).”

In “Experiencing the Presence of God,” A.W. Tozer wrote:

“If Christianity is reduced to a doctrine that can be explained with no intuitive knowledge, no direct knowledge of the heart of God, then where is the wonder of it? I would not give a dime to support a teaching that denied the presence of God in His universe and the fact that the human heart can know God through Jesus Christ.” 

The book also quotes a hymn by John Henry Sammis:

Trust and obey, for there’s
no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but
to trust and obey

Tozer added:

“I believe that “trust” and “obey” are two wings of a bird. A wise old writer once wrote, ‘Two wings of a dove don’t weigh her down.’ She rises by means of them.”

I have seen the truth of this in my own life. There are only two reasons to obey:  fear and love. Fearful obedience won’t last long. But obedience that is born of love and offered in trust brings lasting peace and joy.

My God is worthy of that kind of love. That depth of trust. That quality of obedience. To know Him is to realize this.

I want to know Him more.

*I wrote this post from my own perspective, using “I” instead of “we”, but the reality is that Robert and I have lived every step of this journey together. His faith is genuine, deep and sure, and he has been my rock (by pointing me to Jesus, my Rock) more times than I can count. The way that he loves our babies is just one reason why I love him so much. He would tell our story with different “flavor” but the same truth. We’ve also gained three wonderful children in the last few months through foster care, and I hope to find the words to write that story soon.

~Holly~

The Greater Tragedy

I just don’t want to listen to that song again.

The thought passed through my head after a second person brought up “More Than Anything,” by Natalie Grant.

It’s lyrics read:

Help me want the Healer
More than the healing
Help me want the Savior
More than the saving
Help me want the Giver
More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus
More than anything

I could find no fault with the song’s message or melody, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way. A prayer for Olivia’s healing is never far from my lips, and the lyrics prodded some of the most tender places in my heart:

You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak
And You know I’d give anything for a remedy

So often the words we don’t want to hear are the ones that we NEED to hear most.

And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today
But even if You don’t, I pray
Help me want the Healer 
More than the healing

Months later, I am reading about the Exodus–how God used Moses to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt and lead them into the wilderness, headed for the land He had promised would be theirs. It’s a story replete with the miraculous and also with tragedy.

God parted the Red Sea so that Israel could walk between two walls of water on dry land. He guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. This, after Israel had seen the wonders that brought about their deliverance from Egypt.

When I place myself in the shoes of people who were witness to such power, it’s hard to understand why the book of Exodus sometimes sounds like a broken tape. God performs a miracle. The people complain. God proves His faithfulness. The people fall away. And … repeat.

Israel sang God’s praises after their Egyptian enemies were drowned at the Red Sea, but days later the people were grumbling against Him when they couldn’t find water.

Bitter, undrinkable water was supernaturally made sweet, and the people marveled. But it wasn’t long before they were murmuring again–this time over a lack of food.

So, God rained down manna, the bread of Heaven, every day for forty years. He brought water from rocks and sent quail in massive numbers. Even clothes and shoes did not wear out. Deuteronomy1:31 says that God carried them “as a man carries his son.” The following verse reveals their response:

“But in spite of this you did not Trust the LORD your God, who went before you on the journey …”–Deuteronomy 1:32

An entire generation of God’s people wandered around in the wilderness for forty years and ultimately failed to receive the promise of God, because they could not–or would not–trust Him. Only Joshua and Caleb believed God and eventually entered the promised land, together with the children of those whose faith had faltered.

The men and women brought out of Egypt never received God’s promise for themselves, and that is tragic. The greater tragedy, though, is that so many of these same men and women never learned to yearn for God’s presence over His power.

Quench our thirst. Feed our hunger. Ease the burden. Smooth the way.

How many times have I prayed for things to be easier or for the answer to come more quickly? So often, I have made an idol of the promise and forgotten the Promise Keeper. Stiff-necked, I have looked only at my great need, not lifting my face to the greatness of God.

But the promise is worth nothing without the presence of the One who gave it.

“The Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Go up from here, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your offspring … Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go up with you because you are a stiff-necked people; otherwise, I might destroy you on the way.’ When the people heard this bad news, they mourned and didn’t put on their jewelry.”–Exodus 33:1, 3

But one man hungered for God more than anything, and his passion for God’s presence changed everything. Moses set up a tent for the purpose of meeting with God. There, The LORD would speak with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11).” You can hear the devotion in Moses’ words:

“If your presence does not go, don’t make us go up from here (vs. 15)”

The sincerity of Moses’ request changed God’s mind. His presence did go with the people, and the younger generation came into the “land flowing with milk and honey,” possessing the promise of God.

While the great promise of Moses’ time was Canaan land, the great Promise of our time is the Holy Spirit. He is God’s presence in the earth today, the Spirit of Christ living in and working through those who belong to Him.

“This promise belongs to you and to your children and to all who are far off, to all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself.”–Acts 2:39

And hasn’t that been the point all along? That God would gather to Himself people who desire His presence above all else?

My prayer for myself is this:

God, Help me me be like Joshua and Caleb, who believed Your Word, remained faithful through the wilderness and received Your promise. But even more than that, help me be like Moses, who valued Your presence over Your power.

Help me want the Healer
More than the healing
Help me want the Savior
More than the saving
Help me want the Giver
More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus
More than anything

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