Looking Up

image‘Before the Israelites could go into the land of milk and honey, they needed to trust God with the daily manna.’

Yesterday, my pastor delivered a message about idols that stopped me in my tracks. It caused me to pause, think, and reflect – to search my heart and ask myself what the idol in my life was. I knew there definitely was one, just like I knew the message was for me. He addressed the idol of self pity and how complaining about our circumstances can land us there very quickly. I thought, ‘I’ve definitely been there.’ Self pity is an idol that I’ve buried time and time again, only to dig it back up each time that grumbling and complaining would make their way back into my heart. Speaking God’s Word and His promises are the only weapon against this idol which always tries to ressurect itself back into my life. But, as he continued on in the sermon, the more subtle, yet most prominent, idol became more and more exposed. He was shedding light on the area I had placed above God. I hadn’t done it on purpose. Yet, despite God’s first and greatest command to have no other gods before Him, I had unintentionally  gone ahead and disobeyed.

As my pastor recounted the long, hard journey of the Israelites, I couldn’t help but see myself – wanting so desperately to reach the promised land, but unwilling to leave the past behind, desiring fully to trust God at His word, but too scared to simply be still and wait on Him. As he talked about how the Israelites delayed their own progress because they wanted to do things their own way or how they couldn’t receive the daily provision of God because they were too busy trying to store more for the next day, I identified some of those very same behaviors in myself. But, it was this revelation that was, perhaps, the most powerful… One of the reasons the children of Israel couldn’t get to the next place was because they couldn’t let go of the last place. Wow. They were rejecting the place that God desired to bring them – a prosperous land flowing with milk and honey – because they were being held captive by a false sense of what Egypt had been to them. They had adopted a skewed reality of what it was they had left behind. They had forgotten all of the pain and suffering and hardship they endured while under the rule of Pharaoh and somehow remembered a better life.

Then and there I realized that  yesterday AND tomorrow had become my idols. Could have been’s and should have been’s had made their way into my heart, along with what will’s and ‘how will’s. Like many of us, the Israelites wanted to enter the Promised Land immediately, to be instantly gratified, and if they couldn’t have it immediately  – they would rather have gone backwards than wait any longer. They were unwilling to ‘be’ in the here and now; dissatisfied with the process, tired of the journey, and doubtful towards God, the Israelites wanted to quit.

I’ve been there many more times than I’d like to admit. Losing a child can leave you feeling like you’re in limbo, much like the children of Israel. Limbo is an uncomfortable and uneasy place to be. It’s where you are when you’re leaving one place and heading to another, when you’re saying goodbye to something, but haven’t really said hello to the next thing. For a parent to say goodbye to one of their children is very unnatural. Life becomes drastically and immediately different whether we are ready or not. It’s hard not to look back to what life once was and create an exaggerated happiness. What once was, well it can become perfection in our minds, like a land of euphoria never again to be obtained. And, once we gain the courage to come to the realization that we can never visit that place again, the future is what we begin to obsess over. We want to get better, be better, do better, and live better. We become desperate to make our lives count. For me, it was almost immediate. I became desperate to keep my son’s memory alive. Just five months after he passed away, I began working on a foundation in his name. I also became desperate for his life AND his death to count for something. But it was all being done in my own strength, and there wasn’t a whole lot of that left. I was making my own plans and fighting a battle that could never really be won in the way I wanted it to be. Nothing would ever bring him back, and nothing would ever suffice in what I considered making his life and memory matter. There was no finish line in sight for me.

When God started to reaveal His plans for our lives, it was less about Christiano and more about Him. It was less about us and more about what He was doing in us. It was less about our journey and more about Him being glorified through our story. Of course, trusting God for all of this is a daily struggle. I want to know how it’s all going to pan out. I want to get a glimpse of the Promised Land, so that I can keep going each day. But, God wants me to trust Him; He wants me to flow in His unforced rythm of Grace, to ‘be’ here in the now. Instead of looking back or looking to see what’s ahead, I must look up to the One who holds me right now. It’s amazing that He can lead me to write a blog on something then just a couple days later confirm it through the words of my pastor. But, his love doesn’t stop there; He gently shows me how I need to shift my focus back to Him. He says, ‘Yes, my child. You’ve gotten some of it. You’re learning to be here in the now – to be present in the moment. But, there’s more I need from you in order to get to the next place. Keep me first. Stop looking back and lusting over a life that will never be. Going backwards will only lead you on a path to destruction. Let go of needing to to see and do not be consumed with getting to the next place. I need you to trust me alone with your future, to abide fully in me. Getting ahead of me will only bring you more heartache. Stay with me. I’ve got you.’

 

And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:1-3

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge me and I will direct your path. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20a

 

 

Being Here in the Now

imageThere’s so much to be said about eternity. We can so easily get lost in the idea of what’s on the other side. How beautiful it will be; what peace it will hold – fear and doubt will be forever cast away, pain will be gone and death will be defeated once and for all.

We tend to think similarly about our futures. We day dream of the brighter days we’d like to see; we are certain that there are far better things ahead than the mundane ins and outs of today. We are convinced that one day, or some day rather, there will be bigger – a bigger purpose, a bigger bank account, a bigger house; and there will be better – a better car, a better body, a better wardrobe, a better job, and a better day. But, before we know it THIS day is over. We wake up just to do it all again; we wake up hoping that today will be the day we’ve been daydreaming about for years. And, when it’s not, we become disappointed. We become dissatisfied. We become discontent. We become failures in our own hearts before we’ve even had breakfast.

This should not be…

God wants us to be present – to be here in the now. Jesus tells his disciples in the book of Matthew not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough cares and concerns. Over and over we are told to ‘be still’ or to ‘be not anxious.’ It’s great to dream, but not so much that we are never fully alert in the moment of today. While it’s good to have goals, we must be careful not to forsake and resent the place we are living in.

Losing my son has caused me to think of heaven more. When a mother knows where her child is but can’t get to him, she dreams of the day when she can. I’ve had many bad days over the last 27 months – more than some have in a lifetime and more than I know what to do with. I know all about wishing days away or hoping for time to pass faster. I know what it feels like when people say that in order to move ahead, you’ve got to be able to leave the past behind. That’s so different for a griever, and today tends to get lost in that phrase. Sometimes I want to shout ‘I’m just trying to make it through TODAY!’

For many of us, forgetting to live or just ‘be’ becomes a habit because, as a culture, we are so consumed with getting ahead. Chasing the American Dream is like chasing the wind. And, that is a sure route to disappointment. Tomorrow never really comes for people who can’t stop chasing after it.

I remember the days that I just wanted to be able to spend more than two minutes doing my hair or have more money in the bank. I can easily look back and see the days when all I wished for was to to be able to go back to school or get a job with purpose or be able to inspire people… But guess what? Sometimes the thirty minutes with the blow dryer still doesn’t do the trick and the money in the bank still gets depleted just as fast as it comes in for the appliance that busted or the car part that needs replacing. School… Well it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. My dream jobs have come, but they come with lots of pressure, and it has cost me more than I ever wanted to pay just to inspire people. New heights often come with new hardships. Thankfully, our God is the same yesterday, today and forever!

We must learn the contentment that both Paul and Christ displayed through their joy, as well as their suffering and clothe ourselves with it. Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have hope for the future, but our hope shouldn’t be IN the future. Our hope should, instead, be in the God who holds our future, the One who has promised good to us. If we can learn to simply rest in His promise and be present in the moment, knowing that He who began the good work will carry it out to completion, then even when we are struck down, we won’t be destroyed; even when we are hard pressed, we won’t be crushed. Be excited for tomorrow, but live in today because God has something for us right here, right now – in the joy and the sorrow, in the temper tantrums and the teen-i-tude, in the mundane and the extraordinary, in the mountain highs and in the valley lows.

 

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

 

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

 

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11

 

 

Knowing God

imageThere is so much to be said and such freedom to say it, especially nowadays in the world of social media and networking. Between blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, anyone can write, speak and publish anything. As a mother who has known loss and experienced grief, I’m constantly looking to connect with other grieving mothers who have walked this road before me. I’ve been very grateful for how easy it has been to access these women through social media. The most beautiful gift these mothers have given to me is acceptance. No matter how much further down the road than me, they have always been willing to backwardly outstretch their hands towards me – careful not to pull me too fast, yet willing to stop for a time to rest or ponder and other times to let me go at my own pace, never once letting go of my hand. It’s what I have needed, and it’s what made me eventually get up and walk ahead. Their goodness and their love led me further than any harsh word ever could have.

And, isn’t that just how God is? Willing to meet us exactly where we are, yet loving us too much to let us stay there. He isn’t harsh or forceful. Instead, He is gentle and kind. It’s amazing to think that the God of the universe would follow us anywhere. We are never too far from His powerful redemption. Never. Ever.

But, with all of this free access for people to post whatever and wherever they want, we can so easily become acquainted with a counterfeit God. This is why it is important to know Him for ourselves – the one and true living God, the Great I Am. To whom we need not add anything or take anything away from. He IS. In 2016, let us be brave enough to pursue Him for ourselves, let us make knowing Him our highest calling. For, in Him, we will gain full access to the real God who loves us enough to have sent His only son to die in our place that we may become His children.

Reflection: What are some ways I can draw closer to God? What are some ideas I have heard about God that don’t sit well in my spirit? Have I based who God is on my circumstances or the circumstances of others?

 
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 NKJV

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬