rebuilding the temple

It’s August, a month for personal remembering. The one year anniversary of completing cancer treatment and ringing the bell just passed. I’m also coming to what would have been my 47th wedding anniversary next week. The memories of my time and relationship with my husband, and the trial of health issues have rightly become part of my foundation, of the core of who I am. The season I find myself in reminds me of the return of the exiles to Jerusalem, and their monumental task of rebuilding the Temple. 

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites… took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. Ezra 3:10-12 NIV

There was much rejoicing at the rebuilding of the Temple, the laying of a new foundation for a place to worship the God of Israel. There were also those who had seen the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple, and they knew this was a much smaller, less impressive edifice. There was actually grieving in the midst of joy, and that was okay. 

David speaks of God’s faithfulness in Psalm 30, a prophetic song of hope and praise composed for the dedication of the original Solomon’s Temple, which came to pass after his death: 

I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,  and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death. Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment,  but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. When I was prosperous, I said,  “Nothing can stop me now!” Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain. Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered. I cried out to you, O Lord.  I begged the Lord for mercy, saying, “What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness? Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.  Help me, O Lord.” You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

So as I contemplate the foundation of my life, and the many things that have contributed to the solid foundation, it seems like this temple, all of who I am, is getting smaller. As life ebbs and wanes, the things that were important, the actual mere fluff, are slowly being removed, and what remains is more simple. I’m finding that if my foundation is truly built upon the rock, Christ Jesus, there’s not going to be a lot of shiny, impressive stones. What’s going to be my foundation is His character, and what He has done in and through me is the edifice that’s being built. It seems like the building, the temple, that is rising up is more streamlined, and hopefully is looking more and more like Him. In the end I’m finding that His way is much more simple than anything I ever imagined or dreamed. 

Jeremiah, written around the same time of the return from exile, says: Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

This was God’s invitation to a life built on His Shalom presence, but their answer was, “no, we will not walk in it.” I am called today to make that same choice. The rebuilding work is costly, a giving up of my ways for His and a trust that He only plans good for me, no matter what I can see ahead. There are many “ways” but only one “Way”. His Way is unshakable, dependable, but also unknown and risky to my safe-loving reasoning. It leads me to the ultimate place that my soul wants to dwell, the heart of my Father God.

So I’ll give space for remembering the times I have been held close on dark days, and the bright times of love and joy with Him. He is making me a living temple of God, and His building plans are only good.

fog on fragile wings

Outside, the fog is heavy in the air, a unique phenomenon in Florida when the atmospheric pressure causes tiny water droplets to thickly hang below the clouds, until mid-morning when the sun will be high enough to burn it off. This rain-like suspension reminds me that before the flood in Noah’s day, and our earth began to experience rain storms, every morning this mist would water the plants, bringing life-giving moisture, a heavenly provision. From the beginning the plants and animals and birds were given everything they needed to thrive without having to toil or spin. 

In the palm trees birds flit to and fro, looking for a frond to land safely upon, their wings carrying that heavier weight of water, making it more difficult than normal to fly. The fog also can keep me immobilized, stuck in a holding pattern much like the birds who light upon branches rather than moving in the straight path forward.  Sometimes my focus gets pulled from the normal, everyday ways God is giving me life and breath, guiding and directing me along a good path. The heaviness of tasks that I feel are urgent go undone, the way that I long to see things come to pass are thwarted, and the difficulties of the path I think I should be following draws my attention to what has now become a burden, a yoke I’m not designed to bear.

However, the fog can be like a gossamer veil between earth and heaven, a tangible representation of God’s presence. I’m reminded of a quote from Sunday’s sermon by Mike Patz on the Book of Acts, “If it’s God, nothing can stop it; but you can miss it.” Oh, how I don’t want to miss it!

There’s a Hebrew word that is used by Abraham and Moses, then again in Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to these people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.'” The word for “here I am” is ‘hineni’, which holds a deeper meaning to me of choosing to trust God even though I’m in a fog and can’t see the way clearly. 

In my personal walk I stepped out in faith this week, saying “’hineni” to the purchase of a new-to-me vehicle. I trusted that God was directing me to let go of years of putting aside money into a savings account, in order to make a large down payment so that this would not add a hard strain to my monthly budget. I released the vehicle that my late husband and I purchased near the beginning of his Parkinson’s journey, one that served us so well in those difficult years. 

 “Where are You leading me, God? Who are you asking me to speak to?” When I announced the purchase on social media, my friend Steve Batson said, “Betty walks and drives the way!” and I truly am hoping that’s a prophetic word. May I always live ‘hineni’, ready for God’s call even when the way is foggy and unclear.

The foggy-mist that is meant for our good is really light, but the longer it becomes the focal point the more oppressive it becomes. The remedy for this clouded vision is to purposely shift my gaze back to my Provider. Like the birds, I just need to find that safe place to land and then be. My labor in Him will always bear the fruit He has planned, and it will come forth with no real effort of my own strength. It’s a divine paradox. What is started in my own strength will have to be completed in my own strength, but as I am willing to join God in the work all things are possible and the burden is light. 

I love that the first song that was broadcast over the radio as I drove off the car lot was Jireh: If He watched over every sparrow | How much more does He love you? | According to His power working in us | It’s more than enough | More than you know | Jireh, You are enough | And I will be content in every circumstance | Jireh, You are enough. by Elevation Worship & Maverick City Music.

I can live ‘hineni’ every day, because He is my more than enough!

know my anxious thoughts

Over the past few weeks I have felt an uneasy apprehension growing as my days have played out. It gnaws at me and easily steals my joy in the moment.  I sit and journal my thoughts, and realize that maybe, just maybe, I am anticipating bad news at my semi-annual cancer follow up. There is much to be studied nowadays about neuroscience, and how trauma can replay itself for years to come, and the time I spent in treatment last year did have some anxiety-producing episodes. Quite honestly, even the fact that chemicals not naturally found in the body were repeatedly infused in me is of concern. Beams of targeted doses of radio-active material were emitted during a six-week round of treatment. While these treatments were monitored and regulated by health care professionals they are still extreme.    

The NCBI Bookshelf writes, “Delayed responses to trauma can include persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety focused on flashbacks, depression, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma, even remotely.” Some of these are true for me, and I lean into God for healing and clarity. 

My mind goes to Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24 The Message:

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back;  I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—  your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in!

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—  you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;  night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out,  you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them— any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!

Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.

The Blue Letter Bible explains that the word know, in Psalm 139:1 NIV  “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…” is the Hebrew word yâdaʻ, meaning to know, acknowledge, advise, be aware, but also is used in the sensual way of love, as between a married man and woman. God knows me, every part of me. There is an intimacy that He is waiting to unfold when I am willing. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (verse 23) He even sees the anxiety that my body and mind are holding, and He cares deeply. He “yadas” and wants me to bring them to Him for soothing and relief.

So as I wait in the exam room to meet with my doctor for test results and next steps, I look up. There is the familiar photo on the wall of a stack of flat rocks on the shore, my “stones of remembrance” as I like to think of them, referencing the ones Joshua set up at the entrance to the promised land to remind the Israelite wanderers of what God had done for their deliverance. I will submit my thoughts even here to the knowing of God so He can heal these memories of pain and uncertainty. 

My doctor comes into the room, and quickly says, “Your scans are clear!” Again, God is faithful! This almost two-year journey, from hearing there is a shadow on my scan in July of 2020 to the “all clear” today, have been filled with so many times of trusting in God with hope that my story will be good. Last week I listened to a podcast on soul-care during times of grief, and author Lisa Appelo said, “This is not God’s Plan B. It’s simply a new chapter in the story God is writing.” How true! According to Psalm 139, I am an open book, and every page of the story of my life was planned with great care before my conception. I can be well assured that God is not finished with me yet.

the in-between

For the past five years I have been more intentional to spend the Lenten season in reflection on the sacrifice that Jesus made for me. There is so much, both physical and symbolic, which happened in the forty days leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ, and I find that if I will truly focus a real transformation in my heart and soul can occur. 

Today is Holy Saturday, the day between the crucifixion or Good Friday and the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. This day of vigil, traditionally 40-hours long, was when Jesus was silent in the tomb,  descended into hell, ultimately defeating death and the grave. This would have been the Sabbath, and therefore no work could be done. In Luke 23:55 we read, “As his body was taken away, the women… followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and oils to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.” As a female disciple in this current day I can allow my imagination to run to what was going on in their minds as these women waited.

The waiting time of Holy Saturday can also be known as a liminal space. The word liminal comes from the Latin word meaning “limen,” a threshold or new beginning, a place of transition, and not knowing, which can lead to transformation. It is “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.” Richard Rohr

As I sit and lean into Jesus’ presence on this Saturday, I wait and listen for His voice. The sweet whispers seem to get drowned out in my regular working days, and it has become vital for me to take an extended time of Sabbath every week to allow Him to speak and comfort and direct and heal. This act of keeping a day “… as unto the Lord…” (Exodus 20:8) gives me a weekly reset and a choice to observe and rest in what He is doing, a reminder to allow my soul to truly abide in Him. This annual longer time of reflection provided by the Lenten season is even more beneficial to growing my faith and hope in Him.

The Easter week events of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem as King, the Passover meal where He washed the disciples feet, Christ’s scourging and death on the cross are all symbolic of the ways He longs to be real to us in our lives today.  As I continue to meditate, I am led further to Psalm 23. So much of the Passion Week imagery is found there. 

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters. He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord. Psalm 23 AMP

Our King reigns, and we are called to usher in that kingdom, to bring heaven to earth with our love for Him expressed to a hurting world. Do I feed His sheep? Do I willingly drink from the cup of suffering with Him? Do I wash the feet of others, even my enemies? 

As I move forward, abiding in Him and doing His will, I have everything I need.

And when this life is over, I’m gonna live again | Gonna trade this cross for a crown | No, this is not the end | And when You call my name, I will take my rest | There’s a mansion in glory and You’re gonna meet me there | I shall not want, I shall not want | He will wipe every tear from my eyes| I shall not want | I shall not want, He’s on my side, I shall not want | I’ll be home in His presence forever | I shall not want | For the Lord is my shepherd in a valley | For the Lord is my shepherd when I’m lacking | For the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want | I’ve got everything that I need | Your goodness and Your mercy is following me | I Shall Not Want, Songwriters: Christopher Joel Brown, Steven Furtick, Chandler David Moore, and Naomi Raine

epiphany

My spiritual roots began in the Episcopal Church, but I did not become aware of the liturgical calendar they follow until much later in my life. I love how it draws us back into the gospel story by focusing on the happenings in the word of God. There’s a rich heritage in studying the word in an ordered fashion, and I find myself enchanted with the way it all weaves together like a tapestry. 

Epiphany is the feast day after Christmas that commemorates the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12) who came to visit the infant Jesus. It comes from the Greek word epiphainein, meaning a manifestation or appearance, to reveal. It was the revealing of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. We also use the word today to mean a sudden revelation of something that is simple yet striking. 

These Magi were not the typical “king” or wise men as we would think, but actually believed to be astrologers, those who would have been intently studying the signs appearing in the sky. They came from different regions, including Arabia, Persia, and India, following a star and  meeting up at some point, realizing they were all on the same mission, to greet a new King in Bethlehem. They brought very unlikely gifts for a king:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were in themselves very symbolic. Gold would have signified the royalty of Jesus. Frankincense would have been one of the precious incenses used in the priestly role, representing Him as our Great High Priest. Myrrh was used as an embalming compound, and would have indicated His death and burial. 

Shine bright! This star was unique, and scholars would have been familiar with the star prophesied in the book of Micah. It was a foretelling of the Messiah, and He shines brighter than the sun!

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.  John 8:12 NKJV 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts  2 Peter 1:18-19

All of these pieces of the story point to the greater gospel reality! Our Savior has come to bring light into the dark world! There is a need to continually ask Him, “Shine on my heart, in all the dark places. Bring wisdom and revelation that I may live in the freedom of Your Holy light!”  

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

As He shines bright I become a reflection of all that He is, and in turn that reveals Him to those around me. May I pay attention to the light shining around me, and go to those God highlights. This epiphany revelation is the call of all believers. Go, and shine bright! 

clean slate

Thinking this morning about the beginning of a new year. A fresh slate of days, unknown direction, much less angst, in fact a deeper gratitude for my current health report than I faced this time last year. Looking back on my journals from 2021 I see the routine day-to-day capture of a life lived in cooperation with God, and I’m grateful. The telling of daily life reminds me of a treasured heirloom given to me by my paternal grandmother, Alma Werner Shrum, also known affectionately as Grams. For as long as I can remember I have owned her vintage copy of Little Women, complete with the inscription “To Alma– Let all your days be bright and clear as this one, the loving wish of Mother and Daddy August 21, 1915.”  It’s yellowed, fragile pages and enchanting illustrations of days long ago are most likely what inspired me to write. When Miss Josephine March was finally persuaded to “write what she knows” a classic was born!

A few years back my daughter and I started an enjoyable Christmas tradition, gathering to watch the 1994 film version of Little Women. We serve brunch in honor of the March family giving up their Christmas breakfast to the poor, then settle in to relive the tale of four girls, each as unique and special as my own children, and their Marmee and Father. Looking back on the year, I’m reminded of the scene in this version of the movie of Amy walking to school in the snow, dropping her slate with all those tedious arithmetic problems and having them washed away, bringing despair over the consequences. Yet a clean slate can be a good thing. “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7b NKJV. Here’s to new beginnings! 

The turning of the page from 2021 to 2022 is like a mystery. What will the new year hold? There’s generally a reset at the start of the year, the annual consecration fast at our church and a chance to make changes in my diet. A refocus on the path before me and my eyes upon God. Reviewing my vision statement, or my Way of Life as I call it. Where have I gotten off track? When did I feel God especially close? What gifts do I have to be grateful for? It is a time of newness:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

Charles Dickens proclaims in his classic tale, A Christmas Carol: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” Such an often overlooked thought, that every day we live holds choices, and every choice holds a lesson from which to learn.

The picture of Amy’s slate in the snow reminds me of the chalkboard that used to hang in my Mom’s kitchen. “I love you both — Aimee”  written by my daughter in the 1990’s. Another slate, another “Amy” with important words.  Oh how I feel the love of God for me going into the new year!

I am the New Year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time. | I am your next chance at the art of living. | I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months. | All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me, waiting for you to search it but with more determination. | All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires. | All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will, all the faith that you claimed but did not have-these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose. | I am your opportunity to renew your allegiance to Him who said, “Behold, I make all things new. – Author Unknown

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you… and He who formed you… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:1-3, 18-19

Remember, but don’t become stuck in the place of remembering. God is leading even into this new year, and the path of life I’m on is bright and clear. This is my inheritance, the blessing promised to me from ages past. Happy New Year!

the ghosts of Christmas past

This year my children seem to be pulling up memories. It started with the picture of a shimmery little Christmas tree that my son took in a store, then shared in a family group text. His siblings started chiming in “oh, I remember getting together to decorate Granny’s tree!” and “we always had pizza!” and “will there be Chex-Mix this year?” (We have not had Chex Mix in many, many years.) They had experienced and remembered special times that involved their grandparents over their childhood years.

This time last year I was anticipating surgery, many unknowns, and preparing to be ready for the holidays without being able to drive. It was the first time in a long time that my children were all planning to visit, and it was all because of my cancer diagnosis. My goal had been to have everything I needed for Christmas gathered and ready the week before my surgery so that I could celebrate as I was accustomed to, but still be resting and recovering. That plan had required being willing to shop early and with simplified expectations. It meant letting go of unrealistic visions of how the holidays would look. There were activities that I liked to do with my family, but I needed to yield to the possibility that they may not happen that year. We had traditions of the grandchildren gathering to watch The Polar Express on Christmas Eve, with “hot, hot, hot chocolate” during the scene on the train of children expectantly waiting and nervously anticipating seeing Santa. Family holiday meals were organized by my daughter and mom, rather than me. Friends came together and cooked a New Year’s Eve feast. The love shown to me lives on in my own memory bank, and I am grateful!

So this year I’m following the new tradition of a more simple holiday. This Advent I have slowed way down, trimming my schedule more than the tree. Less hustle and bustle, more “peace on earth, good will towards men…” and silent nights. I’m remembering that Immanuel means God with us, in our past, our present, and our future.  I’m taking time to be with people, to really experience their presence, rather than concentrating on the presents. I’ve always felt it’s more blessed to give than to receive and Christmas is the best time to model that, so I’m listening for that “still, small voice” that guides me to partner with Him in caring for others and loving well. 

I’m remembering the good, learning from the bad, and being willing to move on to the future with joy and anticipation of new memories being made. Once again I am cancer free, and I am so grateful for God’s faithfulness. 

Merry Christmas, and “God bless us everyone!

winter solstice

The longest nights of the year. As I arrive home from work, my mind muddled by the trouble-shooting, problem-solving duties of the day and muscles tired from the tasks to fix them, the sun has already begun her descent and darkness falls. My body, which is still recovering from the invasion and eradication of cancer, struggles to find a new norm. 

I’ve always been a person whose body craves sleep. Eight hours a night, to be precise. Yet here in the season of equal parts day and night, I find myself awakening after only 6 hours. So rather than fight this new yet unwanted pattern of sleep, I rise again.  

Winter solstice, the astronomical term for the beginning of the season that marks the lengthening days and shortening nights, is surely upon us. It is the time of year when the path of the sun finds its way farthest south in the northern hemisphere, in the second half of December right before Christmas. Many cultures actually celebrate this season with feasting, fires, families, and friends, most likely to help pass the time and lift the spirits.

This early rising, hours before the sun will again show her face upon my day, has me remembering and pondering the words of the prophet Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 NKJV

In my early morning musing, I see something new. As Matthew begins his gospel, he quotes Isaiah almost word for word in 4:16, but uses the word ‘sat’ rather than ‘walked’. I want to believe that it is an  intentional substitution, alluding to an increased despair and lethargy as the people in darkness are endlessly waiting for the light. God’s people must have given up the hope of ever experiencing the redemption that had long ago been promised.

Am I still walking, pressing forward with a motion of hope, or have I relegated my body to sit in the darkness of situations that seem to never change? The rising, even while it is dark, is a form of faith that good will come if I’ll continue to trust and keep moving. I have a purpose, even if my body is weary and my mind still fuzzy from lack of sleep. 

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

As a disciple of Jesus I have a calling to come forth and to shine bright! My words of praise to God will pierce the darkness and bring hope to the hearer. This light, as incomprehensible as it may be, shines brighter than the sun, and warms the coldest heart. Shine through me! Yes, Jesus, shine brightly through me!

wrap-around presence

It seems that once my regular routine of cancer treatment ended, life’s pace picked up and it has become more difficult to consistently connect deeply with God. I’m having to fight for that closeness that was vital as I prepared daily for radiation or sat in the chemo chair. My body is slowly but surely regaining physical strength, and there’s often a feeling of being on my own, of needing to be strong, and I can quickly fall into the trap of trying to hold the pieces of my life together. 

Awakened early this morning, I was led to the words of Psalm 89, ascribed to Ethan the Ezrahite, a singer at King David’s court well known for his wisdom. Ethan means strong and optimistic, solid and enduring, permanent. This psalm brings comfort, even more so because my oldest grandson is also an Ethan who is a poet that sings beautifully. 

God, your wraparound presence is our defense. In your kindness look upon the faces of your anointed ones. For just one day of intimacy with you is like a thousand days of joy rolled into one! I’d rather stand at the threshold in front of the Gate Beautiful, ready to go in and worship my God,  than to live my life without you in the most beautiful palace of the wicked. For the Lord God is brighter than the brilliance of a sunrise! Wrapping himself around me like a shield, he is so generous with his gifts of grace and glory. Those who walk along his paths with integrity will never lack one thing they need, for he provides it all!

O Lord, how blessed are the people who know the triumphant shout, for they walk in the radiance of your presence. We can do nothing but leap for joy all day long, for we know who you are and what you do, and you’ve exalted us on high. The glory of your splendor is our strength, and your marvelous favor makes us even stronger, lifting us even higher! You are our King, the holiest one of all; your wraparound presence is our protection.  Psalm 89:9-11, 15-18 The Passion Translation

The Hebrew word used in Psalm 89:15 for “triumphant shout” is teruah, a homonym of the word for “brokenness.” This word which sounds like a shout of triumph in battle is made ever more powerful when it is lifted up in the midst of our brokenness. 

Surrounded! Anytime I begin to think that I need to be in control, God seems to come and remind me that I do not have to fear the unknown of the day, or the week, or even the season. His wrap-around presence is the only covering I truly need.

It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by You | It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by You | This is how I fight my battles | This is how I fight my battles | This is how I fight my battles | oh | It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by You. Josh Baldwin 

My call, my responsibility, in every situation is to bring my mind and my emotions and my will back under His control through worship. The battle is the Lord’s and He is always victorious! I choose again today to walk in His beautiful and strong radiance. His wrap-around presence is ever near!

delight

I awoke on this day of Sabbath to the steady sound of drizzling rain and gray skies. When you’ve looked ahead to your schedule and realized that this day is your only one for a long walk and feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, of the leisurely no plans or obligations, of a “day of delight”  to be faced with a stay at home day wrapped in warm blankets, it made me stop and have a heart check. Even though my body is healing and getting stronger, I long to be able to take long walks like I could a year ago. 

Sabbath is to be a day set apart unto the Lord, and while He wants us to enjoy it, even more He desires us to enjoy Him in it, no matter how it looks. How often do I get things turned around in my thinking, that it’s all about me, when it’s always, only, all about Him, being glorified in me.

Keep trusting in the Lord and do what is right in his eyes. Fix your heart on the promises of God, and you will dwell in the land, feasting on his faithfulness. Find your delight and true pleasure in Yahweh, and he will give you what you desire the most. Give God the right to direct your life,  and as you trust him along the way, you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly! He will appear as your righteousness, as sure as the dawning of a new day. He will manifest as your justice, as sure and strong as the noonday sun. Quiet your heart in his presence and wait patiently for Yahweh… But the humble of heart will inherit every promise and enjoy abundant peace. Psalm 37:3-7a, 11 TPT A song of wisdom

This word, to “delight,” means to be soft or tender, and to “commit,” means to take your cares or burdens and roll them off. It actually can be work to do all this delighting and committing and waiting, because we are so ingrained to want to do our own thing, go our own way, in our own strength. It is like a birthing, a labor, to cease this striving and truly trust in Him. But as we make the choice to stop and wait, new life and growth can come. 

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes | Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies | Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee | In life, in death, o Lord, abide with me | Abide with me, abide with me. Songwriters: Henry Francis Lyte / Will Henry Monk

As I delight and abide with Him, He becomes my delight and abides with me. As I look to the cross and all it gained for me, the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah and His people will begin to come into fruition:

Your people will rebuild long-deserted ruins, building anew on foundations laid long before you. You will be known as Repairers of the Cities  and Restorers of Communities. “If you stop pursuing your own desires on my holy day, and refrain from disregarding the Sabbath, if you call the Sabbath a delightful pleasure and Yahweh’s holy day honorable, if you honor it properly by not chasing your own desires,.serving your own interests, and speaking empty words, then you will find the joyous bliss that comes from serving Yahweh. And I will cause you to prosper and be carried triumphantly over the high places of the land. You will enjoy the heritage of Jacob, your ancestor.” Certainly the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it! Isaiah 58:12-14 TPT

What an unusual concept for waiting on God. We may feel like we’re being whirled around by our circumstances, but in the end, our season of waiting gives birth to greater things. We will be restorers of paths that lead others home. We will be the ones who usher in the peace and reign of Jesus our King.  

What blessing comes to you when gentleness lives in you! For you will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 TPT

This day of delight when yielded to God brings peace and freedom to so many as I faithfully do the work of waiting while walking the way today.