Surviving Turbulent Waters

I fell in love with the white sand beaches of Florida 40 years ago when my husband and I made a trip to Panama City Beach. We discovered other beautiful beaches too, but there’s nothing quite like these white sandy beaches that border the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since discovering the awesomeness and wonder that come with the beauty of those vast bodies of water that give us sandy beaches, we’ve done an annual beach trip. We are now reveling once again in one of our happy places.

I’m an early morning riser who delights in sitting on the balcony which overlooks these gorgeous waters. There’s always so much to wonder about. This morning it was fun watching the orange floats, which mark the way for the jet skis to travel within, bobbing up and down. Those floats keep the jet-ski driver aware of where he can safely go.

 God has a good path for us to go on, too. It is a wise person who stays within the parameters God lays out. If we leave that space of safety, we will find ourselves in danger of drowning. As I watched the bobbing up and down of the buoys I imagined myself being one of them. What keeps the floats from going under? They are attached to a cable which is attached to a large and heavy object. As long as the float stays anchored to the cable and the cable to the anchor, all is well. However, there are two things that can go wrong: The cable can get weak and a strong enough hurricane that can dislodge the anchor.

Difficult unexpected things will happen in life. The storm clouds do come in. I visualize our faith being like that cable that connects the buoy to the anchor. It has to be periodically checked to make sure it’s strong enough to hold in turbulent waters. It’s like that in our spiritual lives: our connection with God is our faith in Him.  Our faith needs to grow in order for us to get stronger. This strength isn’t only for our benefit but it’s also for others in our life who need encouragement, help, and hope in their journey with God.

Is there a way to keep ourselves afloat, living above our circumstances when the unexpected storm comes? Absolutely! We stay attached to the Anchor! Our anchor is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, unlimited-strength God. If we believe and cling to these absolute truths about God, we will not be defeated and lost at sea when turbulence shows up.

There have been times in my life when I felt like I was sinking but God held me up. Those difficult times have helped my faith muscle increase in size. What can we do to help ourselves stay strong when the storm hits instead of cowering down in fear, depression, hopelessness, and helplessness?

  • Daily meditate on the character of God. How do we know His character? We learn of it through the scriptures.
  • Be aware of what our thoughts and feelings are when hard times come. Is there fear? Is there sadness? Is there hopelessness? What attribute of God do I need to cling to during those moments? 
  • We can talk to God about what we feel. He knows all about it anyway. Conversation with God always strengthens us.
  • Seek God’s face through reading promises found in scripture. Memorize specific scriptures that you know are filled with words of strength, encouragement, and hope from our Abba Father who calls us his beloved sons and daughters.
  • Recall the ways God showed up in the past, and with faith expect Him to do it again. He will come through!

A few weeks ago one of those unexpected and shocking turns came. It jolted me. Even though I sensed God’s hand and direction in all, I found myself moving to dread, fear, and distress. But then I remembered a promise I put to memory years ago from Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

As I cling to this promise, the dread, the fear, and the anxiousness cling less to me. His strength is securing me.

How about you? What turbulent waters roar around you? What are you doing that keeps you from going under or swept away? What keeps you safe, secure, and serene?

A New Look at Sabbath

Growing up, going to church every Sunday was a common practice. I loved that this was a rhythm that was deeply engrained in me. Even though I didn’t have a deep understanding of what the Biblical word Sabbath actually meant, I now realize we practiced its essence. Sabbath is a time to stop and rest. It’s a time to enjoy God, enjoy being with like-minded people in our faith community, enjoy a family meal, enjoy a nap, and anything else that was life-giving. This change of pace and shifting of focus is a gift from God that provides a way for our souls and bodies to be replenished. God knew we needed this. He established a day of Sabbath from the beginning of time.  It demonstrates God’s loving care for us. When I was growing up it was easy to set apart that day to rest and recharge since there was no cable or satellite TV, no retail stores beckoning me to shop (they were closed) and no internet. It wasn’t complicated to practice “Sabbath”.

Times began changing dramatically in the 90’s . . . but, our souls have not changed. The reason for Sabbath has not changed. We still need the weekly rhythm of practicing Sabbath which provides a way for our souls to be restored and replenished for another week. God knows our human limitations. He says in Jeremiah 31:25 that He will refresh tired bodies and restore tired souls.

A few years ago my husband and I discovered how easy it is to fall into a trap that was depleting us of joy when we allowed technology to steal peace and joy from us on the day when we could be filled up with things that satisfy. We never gave up our weekly habit of going to church, but we’d lost God’s original intention for Sabbath – a day set apart so that we can be reminded of who and what is most important, particularly our relationship with Him. The reality: you can do Sabbath. Here are some tips:  

  • Pick a day. It doesn’t have to be Saturday or Sunday. Our preference is Friday evening through Saturday evening, but you can choose what fits you and your family best.
  • On this day, with God’s help, let go of anxieties and worries that are taking up space in your hearts and minds. Give the mind a rest from troubling thoughts. This makes room for delighting in the peace, joy, and love of God.  Gwen Smith of Potter’s Inn ministries suggests writing down those things that are sucking life and energy from us and putting them in a little box she calls a Sabbath box.  
  • Take a rest from work and any kind of technology that is life-draining instead of life-giving.
  • Do something fun and playful. Allow for spontaneity.
  • If Sunday is the day you practice Sabbath, then enjoy celebrating Creator and Redeemer God with your faith community.
  • Take longer periods of time for contemplative and reflective practices such as silence and solitude, reading and praying the Scripture, journaling.  There are numerous ways to delight in the presence of Jesus. Linger in this sacred place as you enjoy time with Him soaking in His love, grace, goodness, and peace.

 I remember three years ago being in a listening group discussing ways to practice Sabbath. For most of us our Sabbath Day was always on Sundays. However, for this particular group, Sundays were a work day and that was not going to change. We realized being a legalist about the particular day had to go. Freedom came to us as we discovered that the Sabbath rest can be celebrated on another day of the week.

God desires that we become more whole in body and soul. That means He’s okay when we take our Sabbath rest on a different day than Sunday. It’s out of His care and love for us that He established the weekly rhythm of Sabbath. We’ve been intensely blessed through making this part of our Rule of Life. It’s one of the most transformative things we’ve ever done.

God’s Protection-Building Faith

My husband and I took daily one-hour walks during the months of the COVID 19 lockdown. These walks helped us not go stir crazy, allowed us to wave and smile at real people in our neighborhood who were also needing some fresh air to deal with the agony of being stuck indoors. It gave us a sense of being able to do something normal.

There were times we took our walks solo. It was on those walks that I began noticing some things I’d not seen before. One being a large prickly pear cactus growing in a neighbor’s yard. I was stunned at this sighting! I am a native Texan who spent a lot of time in New Mexico where it’s common to see prickly pear cacti growing wildly in open spaces and in yards. I discovered there’s only one variety of traditional looking cacti that grows in Tennessee. It’s the Texas Prickly Pear. It makes me proud seeing Texas as the adjective describing this type of cacti! Since then I discovered another Texas Prickly Pear growing by a mailbox on a road I take weekly on my way to church. Both these are now in bloom: one with yellow flowers and the other with red. They are stunning!

Every time I eye the one of these unique beauties, I remember a run-in I had with cacti. It was when I was 10 years old and attended a week of camp at Plains Caprock Camp with a group of girls from my grandmother and granddaddy’s church in Floydada, Texas. This camp is located in the Blanco Canyon and was my first adventure of being away from home for a camp experience.  I wasn’t too fearful since I already knew some of the girls and leaders I’d be spending the week with and I knew my grandmother wasn’t too far away if I needed her. Since the camp was located in a canyon I’d been warned to look out for rattlesnakes. Fortunately, I didn’t find one nor did one find me. However, Prickly Pear cacti were everywhere. It’s part of the beauty. And, they’re big enough that you’re not going to run into one or at least you’re not supposed to.

On the first day during free time, we did some hiking. We hiked up a small hill that took little exertion for a 10 year old.  Coming back down should have been easy but it was steep enough that it put me in a too-fast stride so I fell and started rolling. When the downhill roll came to a halt, I was left with only some ugly scrapes and scratches on my arms and legs, but nothing else! I’ll never forget looking back up at the path I’d just rolled down and seeing all the cacti with barbed needle like bristles that had not touched me. I’d just experienced my first miracle. God was watching out for and protecting this little girl at her first camp. The nurse cleaned and bandaged up the bloody scratches. I had the option of calling my grandmother to come and get me. I mean this was a rather traumatic experience! But, I chose not to.

This encounter with the wildness of nature taught me some things about the intrinsic nature of God and my own nature.

  • God has a “will” and his “will” will be done. His desire was to protect this little girl from being assaulted by cacti needles. He wanted me to stay at camp. He wanted me to hear the Jesus stories and the missionary stories. He wanted me to play and have fun with my friends.
  • I learned some things about myself. I found an adventuresome spirit inside of me that is full of courage and strength. I could overcome fear. Why? Jesus was with me.

I am no longer a young girl. I have passed the young woman season, the middle aged season and am now in the last season. The funny thing is that I still have to work at pressing  forward through times of fear that show up in new planned out experiences or unexpected life events that show up out of nowhere. But two things I know: Things do work out according to God’s plan and will. Therefore, I will be okay no matter what comes, and so can you. I will rest in the truth that I am a woman of strength and courage because of who I am in Christ . . . and so can you.

Where have you seen miracles in your life, big or small? What did that do for your faith? How does that help you press forward with more faith?

What unexpected life event are you dealing with right now? How are you handling it?

It All Adds Up, or Does It?

 

 

 

I taught elementary school and remember the words used to teach subtraction. We use words like take away, decrease, reduce, and fewer than to teach the concept.  Before we learned subtraction, we learned addition. Addition was easier to teach than subtraction. We all like the idea of having more than having less.

There’s another kind of subtraction that happens which has nothing to do with math. It has to do with life. We have experienced reductions of all kinds since the tentacles of the COVID 19 began wrapping its ugly and vicious arms around us in different ways, some large, some small. Our lives have been altered.

How do we lessen the tight grip those tentacles have around us?  We can loosen that grip through addition. We make sure we add right things into our lives. The plan is different for each of us depending upon where we live and our season of life. Even our personality and spirituality play a part in the “adding” back.  I was delighted when told that my Yoga class had opened back up! Sure there was a bit of fear, but those fears were alleviated after I observed and experienced the precautions taken to keep us safe during this workout.

I had four summer trips planned. That was reduced to one. That “one” was the just right one. Blessings abounded!

As Jesus followers we are always in a place where we can make additions that make us more whole, complete, and joyfully satisfied. “Make every effort to add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge.” 2 Peter 1:5. Adding virtue (moral excellence and goodness) leads to virtuous living which shows itself to be authentic as we bless others through gracious acts of goodness.  Adding this kind of knowledge refers to a knowing that brings wisdom and discernment.  If we don’t see faith, virtue, and knowledge increasing then we are not maturing. We are underdeveloped. Our quality of life will be diminished.

Where do you see yourself today? How are you adding into your life the right things that will prosper your own well-being as well as the lives of others? What reductions have actually been good? Which ones have caused harm or great distress

The Way to Live-The Way to Leave

 

In September of 2018 while on a spiritual retreat in Colorado, I peeked at Messenger. It was the kind of retreat where we were asked to put all technology aside, but I did happen to glance at my phone and saw something from my cousin, Greg. We lived 1000 miles apart which made keeping in touch difficult. Because it was unusual for him to message me, I knew it had to be something important. It was. He was asking for prayer. He had passed out in a restaurant which landed him in the hospital for testing. The doctors feared he had leukemia. The fear was confirmed.

Greg was a farmer. A friend has the right word to describe farmers: tough. Yes, farmers are tough. Greg had strength and toughness. But, he had something else, too: gentleness and a great capacity to love and spread joy. He poured out that love and joy to his teenage daughter, Sydney. He couldn’t bear leaving her. She’d already lost her mother 9 years ago. So, Greg fought hard for one and a half years. Two weeks ago yesterday, his final earthly battle was done.

I called Greg frequently during his stay at MD Anderson in Houston. His stay was long: eleven months. Our conversations were gifts to me. I remember one of his comments, “It’s a win-win, no matter what happens.” He said those words with joy and assurance. He could say them because he knew he had the hope of Heaven awaiting him. He knew that’s where he was headed, either sooner or later. Of course, he desired later, but he was entrusting it all to Jesus whom he loved and had given his life to years earlier.

God, through His goodness, grace, and mercy provided a way for me to attend Greg’s memorial service. Actually, God worked a miracle in order for me to be there. Yes, there was intense sadness for Sydney, Greg’s mother (my precious 90-year-old Aunt Nancy) and Greg’s brother, Mike. And, sorrow for all the rest of us who loved Greg. But, what we received from the memorial service gave comfort and even joy.

The pastor and shepherd, Rick, who’d spent much time with Greg, shared what Greg whispered into his ear one of the last times he saw Greg. Greg’s declared, “It is well with my soul.” How could Greg say that? He knew Who he belonged to and what he had to look forward to. It’s evident he’d surrendered everything which included his every breath to the keeper of his soul: Jesus.

Greg left the proof that he’d surrendered it all. This proof was included in the words he wrote that were read at the funeral: “Everyday God gives us is a blessing. When I’m gone I’ll be with him. What a blessing.” In these words printed on the memorial program, Greg again affirmed, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

This proof was also in the words of the two songs Greg wanted sung: “When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary, when troubles come, and my heart burdened be. Then, I am still and wait here in the silence until You come and sit awhile with me. You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains, You raise me up to walk on stormy seas, I am strong when I am on your shoulders, You raise me up to more than I can be.” And then the song Even If by Mercy Me “. . . I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don’t my hope is You alone.”

Greg left us in a way that brought glory and honor to the One who made him. Greg’s hope was in Christ and him alone. He breathed his last breath knowing all was well with his soul.

Questions we must answer: How is my soul today? How will my soul be the day I take my last breath?

What we do right now in this very moment will determine the answer.

With My Whole Heart

 

It’s hard to believe that five years ago today Mother breathed out her last breath in what had been her earthly home for 80 years. I can’t imagine what that first hello to Jesus must have been like! But, one day I will, of that I am sure.

What a gift it was for me to be there the morning of her earthly good-bye. Because she had battled Alzheimer’s disease, there was joy to see her delivered from the suffering that this disease had wrought. That morning before her departure from us, I read aloud Psalm 119 to her. It was sacred ground. So, for the last four years I’ve re-read this Psalm on this day and written about what stands out to me the most at this time in my life.

The words that have spoken the most to me this year are the words whole heart. I’ve been reading a lot lately about whole hearted living so it’s no wonder that the words whole heart leapt off the pages. “O Lord, teach me how you want me to live! Make me wholeheartedly committed to you!” Psalm 86:11 “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart.” Psalm 119:2 “With my whole heart I seek you.” Psalm 119:10

Giving my whole heart, my whole me to God is not as easy as I’d once thought it would be. There are obstacles to whole hearted living. Two major obstacles are not being authentic and perfectionism. When we put on masks covering up our true selves we end up hiding from God and living a divided life. A divided life makes it impossible to love God and others with my whole heart. Perfectionism is a dead end road. I have believed the lie that to be loved I have to be perfect. Of course it’s a lie! There’s no way I could ever be perfect. I am fallen, I have broken parts. We can believe that being perfect is where acceptance, love, and freedom is found. But it is not. It is bondage!

That bondage keeps us from living and leaning into our belovedness. It does not lead to anything good. I love what someone said about perfectionism in my Journey to Freedom group: “Perfectionism is not an option.” There have been times where I’ve deluded myself into thinking it was an option and even a demand from God. It is not. I am not perfect – I will never be. God knows that and He loves me no matter what.

I’ve been camping out a lot in the Beatitudes, Matthew 5: 1-12. I was delighted to find some amazing insights from Chuck DeGroat in his book “Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self”. He points out that Jesus’ way of ascent is the way of descent. Chuck writes:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit –We are blessed when we realize we are broken. This brings us to the end of ourselves. Jesus meets us in our brokenness. There is an invitation to come out of hiding.
  • Blessed are those who mourn—We are blessed to have a place where we can be present with God to let it all out through grieving and lament.
  • Blessed are the meek —We are blessed when we are humbled and allow our ego to be shattered.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness —We are blessed when we long more than ever for God.
  • Blessed are the merciful—We are blessed when we let ourselves be moved by and for the other.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart —We are blessed when we become whole by living in a place of holiness. We see God. Purity is about a state of well -being that leads to shalom. Shalom is a place of undividedness which is wholeness. Jesus puts us back together again so that our inner place matches our outer place.”

My mother is safely Home. She is now perfectly whole in every way. I’m not there yet. But for now, my desire is to live as fully as possible in a place of whole-hearted living where I can enjoy sweet communion with God and the people I love.

Celebrate Today

 

 

Two years ago today, we celebrated with family and friends the life of my fiery, bigger than life, beautiful red-headed sister, Kimberly. This service was not called a funeral. We never spoke of it in that way. It was a Celebration of Life service.  The burial took place during the morning hours, the Celebration in the afternoon.

We celebrated Kimberly’s life, but more than that, we celebrated the life of Jesus in her. He is the One who spoke life into her. He was her joy and her strength. We chose songs to sing that meant the most to her: The God of Angel Armies, Great Are You Lord, Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here, and No Longer Slaves to Fear. These are all songs related to the reasons we can celebrate life even when walking through dark shadowed times.

Kimberly focused on living bravely, in a celebratory fashion, so beautifully right up to the moment she left this earth. She is one that lived well and died well. I can’t help but think of the second verse of the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He (Jesus) did, this sinful world, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right, if I surrender to His will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life.

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

What is the will of our Father God? He desires that we celebrate something about life every day. How do we do this?

The key is living in the present. Living in the present embraces the truth that in each day there are moments to enjoy and even relish. The enemy of living present is living in the past. We do this by wishing things were still as they used to be. We long for those “good times.” But living in the past is dangerous because there were bad and hurtful things there, too. We can get stuck there wrestling with the “whys” and “what if’s”. Kimberly could have dwelled on many whys and what if’s, but she determined to live in the present.

So what kinds of things can I celebrate in the day I have? This is something I’m working hard on. How can I find those things? It’s about awareness. It’s an awareness that finds ways to celebrate the fact that I am alive and breathing. Kimberly never wanted to have to walk around toting a can of oxygen with an oxygen tube in her nose, but she surrendered to it beautifully and was she ever thankful!! She could breathe easier! She could still do life! She was tickled pink that the technician gave her enough tubing attached to the tank so she could walk all around the house. She rejoiced in how nice and kind that technician was in setting it all up in her house. She even said, “I’ve got to contact the company he works for and tell them what a great job he’s doing for people.”

I remember my father-in-law in his prayer before each evening meal saying, “Thank you, God, for this another beautiful day.” Is every day full of beauty? Well . . . maybe not, but, yes, there is much beauty around me every day. Sometimes I’ve just been unaware. Living in the present, even in the midst of pain, I’m discovering these things of beauty that I’d missed before and they are taking me to deeper sacred places in my own soul, in my relationship to God, and with others.

Sometimes it’s even seeing “old things” in a new way. As I experience delighting in seeing these new things and giving thanks to the One who gives good things to enjoy I’m beginning to celebrate life in ways I’d not known before. I’m more able to soak up and enjoy the goodness of the Lord and others in this place of joy. All of a sudden God creates in me a playful spirit full of gladness and freedom to be me as He truly intends.

What can you celebrate today? How are you going to celebrate?

Eight Essentials for Embracing Life

 

 

 

 

It’s February. Just last week I took down the last few Christmas decorations in our house. They are the decorations that look both Christmassy and wintery. I love the wreath I always place above the fireplace that has beautiful silver Christmas ornaments that sparkle and shine. Yes, it’s hard to believe it will be back up in less than a year.

As I put the wreath back up in the attic, I know it’s time to say good-bye to 2018. I realize I’m a little slow in this, but it really doesn’t matter. There’s a time table that’s just right for each of us which even includes holiday decorating: the putting up, and the taking down.  I know I’m just now strong enough to embrace the newness that awaits me in 2019. I’m prepared to walk strong again with the essential elements that are needed in order to embrace life with gusto.

What are the needed essentials for embracing the days ahead that breathe life back into me, into you, especially if we happen to be one who feels like the wind has been knocked out of us?

1.     Get alone with God in solitude. This place of stillness allows us to be aware of His presence. In this space we have the opportunity to be more aware of His perfect and unconditional love that is life-giving and life-changing.

2.     Be mindfully grateful throughout the day for blessings that are around us. They are there even when we are in a place of emotional or physical distress. If possible, write them down.

3.     Choose not to focus on failures or misfortunes of the past year that we have caused or that have come through the actions of others. Focus on what has been learned through the struggle and on creating a new vision of what God’s plan is that is good and that brings Him glory.

4.     Spend time with friends and family in community. Make sure time is with those who are life-giving. These are ones with whom you can be your authentic self. It’s a place of love, acceptance, and safety.

5.     Value others. We show how much we value and love one another through being intentional in kind and thoughtful deeds and encouraging words. Even something we may consider being small can have an incredible and significant impact on someone.

6.     Read portions of scripture every day in a way that is transformational. We will know transformation is real when we see ourselves moving to deeper places of worshipping God. We also see it’s real when we observe that our heart is being changed in ways that display more of the character of Jesus.

7.     Care for our physical well-being through getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, eating healthy meals and snacks, and being active through some type of physical activity 4-5 times a week.

8.     Be on the look-out for small or big opportunities that allow us some whole –hearted adventure.

More Room for Jesus

 

It’s the season of Advent: the time when we prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to spend most of our time on things that can take our focus off of Jesus and can zap our energy in a way that can leave us feeling simply empty and fatigued.  

We spend time scurrying around getting everything ready for this special day. We plan gatherings with our family and friends.  We decorate, we bake, we clean, we shop, we attend programs or participate in programs, we travel, we host. It’s a lot of “doing”. I find that we can be so busy with the “doings” that we can miss the heart of what Christmas is really all about. We can prepare everything except the most important thing which is the preparing of our hearts. For this is where He abides.  He desires to have all of our heart, not just a small portion, not the smallest room.  

 So what can we do to make more room in our hearts for Jesus? As I was pondering this question, a word that I don’t really like to think about popped into my mind. That word is surrender. It is in surrender that we make more room for Jesus to abide.

 A few weeks ago in my time of solitude with God I took some intentional time to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to my soul about the things I needed to surrender. It didn’t take too long to list at least ten things that I needed to let go of in surrender. They were things I thought I had at least a little control over, or at least a right to hold onto.  But, I realized I really didn’t. I wrote down each thing on a separate piece of paper and put each one, prayerfully in a little box I now call my “surrender box”. I knew that in doing this, I was making more room in my heart for Jesus. Hopefully, it helped me have more of Him and less of me.

 I do a home fitness program called “21 Day Fit Fitness”. One of the first exercises on one of the fitness days is called “surrenders”. How I dislike that particular exercise!  I am relieved when it is over! However, I do know that this is a strength training exercise and it does make my physical body stronger.

We become spiritually stronger when we surrender to God the things that are weighing us down. These things take up a lot of space in our minds. It’s a space that can be filled with peace instead of anxiety. It’s a space that can be filled with joy instead of despair. It’s a place that can be filled with thanksgiving instead of self-pity. It’s a space that can be filled with faith instead of uncertainty. It’s a space that can be filled with love instead of harshness.

Just this morning, God revealed yet another thing that I needed to surrender to Him. I must admit, my heart is lighter. My heart is more joyful. My heart is more peaceful. My heart is more grateful.

 How about you? What is God asking you to surrender as you prepare you heart for Christmas?

 

Hope in Affliction and Sorrow

I am behind in various things. One of the areas where I fell behind was getting a blog out on October 23. For the past three years I’ve written a blog that honored the anniversary date of Mother’s death. The blog always centers on the last hour I spent with Mother on the day she died. And, it centers on something else: God and His Word.

I spent almost a month in Texas that October. Three of those weeks were at Mother and Daddy’s house. Mother had battled with Alzheimer’s disease for 8 years. She was in her final days. Hospice kept saying we didn’t have much time left with her. Most of the time during those last weeks, she was peaceful, there was very little pain. What a blessing that was.

Every morning after I awoke, I’d go into her room and check on her. Usually Daddy was still asleep in his bed next to her hospital bed, so I’d slip back out, go grab a cup of coffee and return to my room to spend quiet moments with God. However, on this particular morning four years ago, Daddy woke up early and went on into the den to read the paper. Since I wasn’t interrupting his sleep, I decided to just sit there with Mother.

For some reason, I opened my Bible to Psalm 119. And, for some reason I decided to read it out loud. It’s a long Psalm, but I read it all. I tired of sitting pretty quickly, so I walked around her room and read. I’d read sections at a time and then pray. These were powerfully sacred moments. They are moments I will never forget. Just as I finished the last verse, she took her last breath. At that moment her spirit left this earth and she was in the presence of her beloved Jesus.

A part of honoring Mother’s going “home to Jesus day”, is reading again the 176 verses of Psalm 119. I read these verses always anticipating that there will be a theme that will leap off of the pages. This year the theme is affliction and sorrow. The Psalmist knows life has afflictions and sorrows. He has first hand knowledge. He knows where help is found: The Word of God.

  • My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word.
  • My soul melts away for sorrow: strengthen me according to your word.
  • This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
  • I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!
  • Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.

We can be laid low in the dust as we grieve the death of precious loved ones. But, there are other things that bring intense sorrow and affliction too: exhaustion, burnout, confusion, broken relationships, shame, loneliness, debilitating illness, divorce, natural disasters, shattered dreams, job losses, addictions, sin, aging. The list could go on and on. Sorrow and affliction bring chaos and heart pain that can be indescribable. We’re never ready for these life altering events. We may find ourselves asking these questions: How will I get through this? Is there any hope? Will I ever find comfort?

Because of God, there is help. There is comfort. There is hope. His light will burst back through and lift us up from our broken state. It’s a given that we have seasons of suffering, but God in His marvelous goodness lifts us out of our despair. He uses His Word to give us back what seems has been lost for a season: The Joy of our salvation, Peace that passes all understanding, abundant Grace that keeps our eyes on Him.

As I’m passing through a new affliction, not having any idea of where this journey will take me, I cling to Jesus. I cling to hope. I cling to comfort from the Word, especially these words from Psalm 23: His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

What are some words of comfort you cling to during seasons of affliction?