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Posts Tagged ‘tears’

tearsJust survived a very busy, emotional, tension packed weekend. I don’t usually breathe a sigh of relief when Monday comes. In fact, it’s often the other way around – the sigh of relief when Saturday comes. But this weekend started on Friday when my granddaughters headed off to WSU to try out for the Crimson Girls Dance Team.

First you need to know they have been dancing competitively since they were three and they are amazing. Bethany graduated last year and has one year of local college under her belt. Bailey graduates this year.

The competition for a place on the team began Friday afternoon and for the next three days there were performances and cuts, performances and cuts. My cell phone was popping with text messages as their mother kept me updated. With each successful round, the competition got tighter and the tension magnified and my prayers became more frequent and more fervent.

I didn’t pray that they would make the team. I prayed that God’s plan for them would win out. I wanted Him to be in charge of their destiny. What I did pray was that they would either both make the team or neither make the team. I knew a split would be very difficult to deal with.

On Sunday, it was down to the wire. As I kept up my busy pace of setting up for worship. leading the team through our practice, helping to prepare for the barbecue being held after the service and just touching base with my church family as they arrived, I kept the phone close and waited for that vibration signaling news.

And it came – Bethany was officially welcomed onto the team. Bailey was not. Excitement on the one side, devastation on the other. Tears of joy, tears of sadness. My heart swelling with pride for one and breaking for the other.

As I got in my car after the barbecue, still trying to understand the results, I saw my memory verse for the week on my console. Psalm 56:8-9 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You record them in Your book. This I know, God is on my side.”

I thought I understood the verse but I realized God had just taken me deeper into His word. He does know every hurt and rejection we suffer, He feels every pain, He understands every grief. He hurts when we hurt. Our struggles are precious to Him. But in the end, in spite of how much we are going to suffer from the tragedies of this life – because He is on our side, He will not allow a result that leads us into danger or is not going to work for our ultimate good. Tears and disappointment today will keep us from the tragedy around the corner.

Someday we will meet Him and in His arms will be that precious jar of tears He collected. We will be enlightened and we will see that what seemed a muddy mess of hurt and weeping was truly one more step leading us down the path that got us closer and closer to our goal.

I’ve often wondered what He will do with that bottle of our tears when we finally reach heaven. I have this vision of Him dropping the jar and as it shatters, He and I will both be soaked with splashes of incredible joy. We will know the truth of His Word, “Consider it pure joy when you meet trials of various kinds…” James 1:2

For Bailey, the light won’t dawn today or tomorrow. But my most fervent prayer is that she will grow spiritually every day until she sees the beauty of every Word written between Genesis and Revelation; that His truth will come alive for her; that she will one day look back on this disappointment and be able to smile and say, “Thank you, God, for protecting me in that moment and lovingly moving me further down the path toward you.” In the meantime, not one of her tears will be wasted. The minute they are shed, He scoops them up and stores them close to His incredible heart.

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MP900070786[1]Like many other areas this time of year, we are battling wildfires which thrive on vegetation dried out by the hot summer sun. Two large fires, one to the south and one to the north have painted our skies with a hazy smoke cover.

The strong smell of burning timber and the fine film of ash that settles everywhere are clear evidence that those fires continue to rage and a barrage of firefighters fight to save homes and control the burn.

Ash is certainly a symptom of troubled times. The Bible refers to ashes as a symbol of repentance and grief. Men dressed in sackcloth and ashes when crying out to God as an outward sign of their humility and sincerity in their need for mercy.

For the last few evenings I’ve walked out on my deck to watch the sunset. It has been overwhelmingly beautiful, the smoky haze creating vivid reds and pinks as the sun sinks behind the hills.

I am reminded over and over of the phrase “Beauty for Ashes” when evening falls and I’m surrounded by the artistry of God where light through ashes creates a priceless masterpiece.

God always uses the tough and tragic times in our life to move us to a place of beauty if we let Him. Job suffered greatly and was restored to a point far beyond his losses. Moses was exiled from his beloved home only to return as the Deliverer of people. Joseph’s story is a classic tale of beauty for ashes.

The common threads between these stories, and many others, are acceptance, obedience and unwavering faith. God always wants to bring us to a better place but He needs our cooperation.

If the sun refused to shine because the smoke blocked its rays, none of these gorgeous sunsets would occur. If I refuse to trust and do what I am called to do because tears are the order of the day, I will never experience God’s great mercy that picks me up, sets me on my feet again and allows me a vision of my future made more brilliant because it’s been washed by those tears.

I’m thanking Him today for this reminder, handed to me as I stand on my deck on a soft summer evening, watching the miracle of ashes for beauty.

Is 61:3 :…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness  instead of mourning, and a garment of praise  instead of a spirit of despair.”

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 MM900254494[1]We got our miracle this past week when my granddaughter’s test results were negative for cancer. It wasn’t what the doctors expected and I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t what I expected.

I’m ashamed that I was prepared for the worst instead of claiming the best. A legion of prayer warriors was beseeching God on our behalf. I myself  spent hours and hours in fervent prayer.

And – we prayed specifically for a miracle. But when it came – my reaction was disappointing. I didn’t immediately jump for joy. Instead, I wondered how that could be. If four biopsies came back abnormal, how could a fifth test come back negative? What if they made a mistake? What if they missed something? Should we get another opinion? Should we trust the results?

It took a few hours for me to truly believe that God had answered our prayers exactly as we’d requested. What originally was bad news had been flipped around by the Hand of God. Why was that so hard for me to grasp?

Our pastor has been preaching a series on the Lord’s prayer and just this past week I noted and underlined a statement he made.  He said, “People who pray mighty God centered prayers live a mighty God centered life.”

I’m trying to live a mighty God centered life. I believe in the power of prayer. So why is it so hard for me to accept a miracle when it happens?

I think it has to do with a world that pelts us daily with horror and violence, immorality and disappointment, bad news heaped on bad news.  Seldom do you come across an uplifting, positive piece of reporting. Each day when we turn on the TV or open the newspaper we are programmed to prepare for the worst.

If we would only open the Bible first we’d see a different story. Bad things happened in Biblical times but they were never the headline.  The headlines are always the redemption, the promises of God, the restoration, the forgiveness, the love – always the love.

Imagin the difference if we all started our day expecting the best instead of preparing for the worst.

What if we read this:   By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:79

Before we read this:  Another School Shooting

Or this:  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. 2Samuel 22:3-4

Before we read this:  Another Terrorist Attack

Or this:  The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Before we read this:  Suicides on the Rise

If we could just concentrate on the best God has for us we could put in better perspective the worst the world has for us. In order for our mighty God centered lives to be mighty and God centered, we’d best be delving into the good news that never changes. And when we pray those mighty God centered prayers, we’d best get ready for mighty God centered results.

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples Psalm 77:14

I believe in miracles. I believe my family just experienced one. And I believe it is a direct result of the powerful prayers sent up to a mighty God by family, friends, my Bible study ladies, my church, my pastor, and my own desperate heart. In all humility, greatfulness and overwhelming joy I shout, “Thank You, God!”

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MB900316860[1]Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if your life is one of peace interrupted now and then by crisis or one of crisis interrupted now and then with peace.

Our family is certainly in the middle of crisis at the moment with a granddaughter facing surgery and our fear of test results. As any medical situation, this has been going on for what seems like forever but is actually about two months. Appointments, tests, test results, more appointments – it’s endless and frays the nerves to the breaking point.  

When someone you love is suffering, you suffer. But what about when it is not necessarily someone you love?

 In the midst of our overwhelming crisis comes the Boston Marathon bombing. People I’ve never heard of dead and horribly injured. Families shocked and grieving. Friends trying to make sense of a nightmare.

And then just a few days later an explosion in Texas causing widespread devastation with the same result – death, destruction, pain, anguish, grief.

When you are mired in your own personal heartache it’s hard to read the stories. My brain wants to say that in the large scheme of things my problems are small. My heart speaks louder crying out “But this is my grandchild, not a stranger.”

And yet, I don’t ever want to become calloused when it comes to feeling compassion and heartbreak for God’s people.

The prophet Jeremiah actually prayed for a greater capacity to grieve.  “Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” Jer 9:1

It’s not like Jeremiah didn’t have enough to cause him grief. He was the ultimate misunderstood, mistreated and unappreciated prophet. Yet he longed for a much larger resource to provide the tears he wanted to shed for God’s people.

Psalm 35:13-14 says “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting; And my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.”

I love that – I went about as though it were my friend or brother. My pastor’s wife shared with me yesterday how they just received news that their very good friends have lost a son.  She said their shock and grief goes so deep “We feel as if we have lost our own son.”

If only we all had the kind of love for mankind that caused us to grieve in a manner where an onlooker would think we’d lost a loved one or a close friend.

Because when we are that tender to the hurts and needs of those around us we are stifled in our ability to hurt those around us. Imagine a world where people could only act out in tenderness, a community of kind, generous souls unable to be anything but loving because the sight of a hurting human brings them to their knees.

I would love to close my own life by repeating Job’s statement to God as I enter His presence.  “Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy?” Job 30:25

Let’s inscribe that on the walls of our hearts and live the legacy.

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MP900390547[1]Waiting – we hate it but we can’t avoid it. Some waits are simply irritating. Standing in line, stuck behind a stalled car, sitting in a doctor’s office.

Some waiting is pure agony. Waiting for news that could send joy bubbles coursing through your veins or plunge you into a place of pure grief is the worst kind of waiting. Time drags until you are convinced the clock is broken. Minutes tick slower and slower and so do you, weighed down with the wait.

How should we wait? Talk about it? Don’t talk about it? Push through or sit it out? Hide it deep in our hearts or put it out there where our heart is exposed and sore?

I am waiting today in one of those pure agony situations. It’s hard and very emotional. This morning I found myself reflecting back on  Easter week and finding the timing ironic. The Son of God was waiting for the completion of His mission and the fulfillment of the scriptures that week. Knowing beforehand that what He awaited would be agony, how did Jesus wait?

In Luke Chapter 7 it says He started His week of waiting by going to the home of a Pharisee for dinner, an interesting decision given that the Pharisee’s were not exactly friends or supporters. While there his meal was interrupted by a women whom the Bible says was “known to be a sinner”.  Although it isn’t specifically stated, that would indicate she was a prostitute. The woman proceeded to have a complete meltdown, sobbing uncontrollably and we all know how comfortable that must have been for the men in the room. I know it was that kind of red nosed, puffy eyed crying because it produced enough tears to be used in the washing of Jesus’ feet. Once she got her hysteria under control she dried them with her hair and massaged them with expensive oil.

And there in that room, as Jesus waited forthe events that would lead to His  painful death, He restored a broken soul and gave her new life. Of course, He was challenged to justify all of this, prompting Him to teach about great love – just days before He would experience great hate.  (Luke 7:36-50)

How else did Jesus wait that week? Luke says that after the incident of the woman who washed His feet “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. “ Luke 8:1

Jesus didn’t put Himself on hold as He prepared for the devastating results of His trial. He went about His Father’s business, continuing to reach out and heal, teach and preach, nourish and love the ones who would bring Him to the cross.

What an incredible lesson for me today. My soul may be heavy but my feet and arms still work, my heart can still be touched by brokeness, the people in my life still need me to minister and God still has work for me to do.

I am not called to build a fortress to hide behind while I wait. I am called to be a fortress for a frightened, lonely world by not hiding the light that leads to Jesus behind my own dark situation.

I’m not saying that in times of distress we can’t be sad, or ask for support or seek counsel. I’m just saying that life doesn’t stop because I am in a hard place. Every day, along with the challenges I face, there are tasks I have been given by the One who guards and guides me.

I expect Him to follow through on His promises. He expects me to follow through on my calling. Believe me – He’s getting the short end of the stick while I’m getting the best end of the bargain.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Ro 12:11

 

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MP900178785[1]Never in my entire Chrstian life have I prayed as often or as desperately as I have this past week. There is someone I love beyond measure possibly facing a life challenge that I would spare her at any cost.

I’m sure you’ve been there, when you wake up over and over during the night, a name is on your lips and your mind goes instantly to prayer. When it’s all you can do,  you do it with a fervor you’ve never known before.

I read a fellow blogger’s post this morning and it spoke to me so deeply I have to share it. Here’s the link: http://pausingtopraise.wordpress.com/author/sheilacampbell  

From her post, I quote these words:

I read the prayer of Moses in Deuteronomy 9: 25, “Thus I prostrated myself before the LORD; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the LORD had said He would destroy you. Therefore I prayed to the LORD,…” And I read the prayer of Daniel, “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” [Daniel 9:3] Both of these men were interceding on behalf of their nation that had rebelled and turned away from God. They were earnestly pleading for God’s mercy in the lives of others.

I am reminded that in the great scheme of things my faith is shallow.  I think I have come so far in trust and belief, and I have. But I have many miles to go before I can really count this a successful journey.

My hope and my light is in the fact that while I am changing every day, God is not. His promise to hear my prayers and answer each one doesn’t contain the codicil that I must first attain a level of fervency or sacrifice. If you don’t know what a codicil is – it’s wording that amends but does not replace a previous statement. God’s original promise stands as given.

When Moses prostrated himself and when Daniel smeared his face with ashes, it got God’s attention, touched his heart, drew his compassion.

When I cry out from my comfortable bed with my head on a soft pillow or sit at my desk, mascara and blush carefully applied and tailored outfit perfectly color coordinated, I get the same response Moses and Daniel did. Thank God for that!

I want my prayer life to go deeper and I want my walk to be more committed. I want the blinding light of Christ to be all that people see when they look at me. I know I’m not close to where I want to be . I have much work to do for sure.

But in the meantime, I am so humbly grateful for a God who takes me where I am, listens to my faltering voice, collects my tears in His bottle and loves my every effort no matter how small.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

 

 

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Hand ReachingI love the way friends and family rally around when there’sa  big crisis. We pray, we bring food, we give words of encouragement, cards, little gifts, offers of help and anything else that comes to mind because we recognize a critical need.

But sometimes the smaller challenges go unnoticed and yet are often the sandpaper that wears the body down leaving it raw and open to depression and despair. An outsider might look and wonder how something small in comparison to what others are going through could have such impact.

I’m afraid I have been guilty at times of brushing off what I considered lower priority battles.

When my friend went through cancer I was there for her, constantly trying to think of new ways to encourage and give hope. I jumped in and rallied others to do the same. It’s not hard to be inspired into action when someone you love is facing a life and death situation.

But what if it doesn’t look like a life and death situation? What if it’s not big on the Richter scale of crisis but it’s huge on the personal scale of an individual’s limits at that moment in time?

I learned a great lesson summer before last when I severely damaged both my feet in a fall. The first few days were certainly noteworthy on the crisis scale. But after that, life settled into ice packs, crutches, physical therapy, the inconvenience of not being able to move as fast as I wanted and the insult of ugly shoes. (Yes, I am a cute shoe fanatic.)

When I looked around, there were people with much more serious injuries, illnesses or life challenges. Still found my small scale troubles pushing me into depression.

I think my biggest problem was feeling I didn’t have the right to complain or whine or get discouraged because my problem wasn’t that big. Of course, the size of a crisis doesn’t always determine the size of its impact. It made me stop and look around at what was going on in the lives of those closest to me. Were any of them where I was – minor trouble, major impact?

I’ve seen people sail through stuff that would bring a prize fighter to his knees. And I’ve seen people crumble under what appeared to be a minor annoyance in the scheme of things. I think I was almost one of them the summer of the foot fiasco.

Through that experience I have gained a great appreciation for waves of life that keep washing over the solid rocks on the shore. You can be rock hard and still be worn down by constant pressure no matter how gentle a disguise it comes in.

Every time that rock enjoys a little drying out in the sunshine, it once again gets a good soaking. I have friends who are like that rock. It seems that each time they get their head above water, they get soaked again. It’s seldom a tsunami. It is more often a shower. But after a while, a person can get waterlogged and the moments of sunshine are hard to enjoy. Please God, give me insight when they get to that point.

Here’s to my friends who have not gotten the cancer diagnosis or lost the loved one or faced the giant mountain of a lost job or something equally monumental but who still face challenges every bit as life threatening.

I recognize your daily struggle trying to slog through the paperwork for the divorce, the dissatisfaction with the job you have, the annoying health challenge, the trying marriage, the chronic pain, the never-quite-enough money situation, the tough decision making, the acceptance of things not going the way you want them to again.

Don’t discredit your need for help, encouragement and support. Don’t belittle your reaction to what others might consider minor worries.

If it makes you sad, if it makes you tired, if it makes you want to give up and cry – I understand. I’m praying for you. I’m reaching out to you and I’m ready to jump in and do what I can to help.

Just think of me as the very absorbent pink fluffy towel standing ready for the next dousing.

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running (Carole King, 1971)

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (God, from the beginning of time through forever)

 

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