Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Year of the Lord's Favor

Four years ago at this time, I was determined that 2008 was going to be the Year of the Lord's favor for my family--a year of new beginnings. I claimed Isaiah 61 and hung on with all my might. I even sent out New Year's cards with that scripture as the focal point. At the end of 2008, nothing had changed. Actually, some things had changed, in fact, life was getting worse instead of better. I felt completely abandoned by God. I had celebrated with friends and their new beginnings--marriages and new babies. It seemed like everyone I knew was finding favor with God but me, and I felt cheated.

As I wrestled with God through the first few months of 2008, I realized that what I was really looking for was happy endings. In fact, I was so busy looking for happy endings, I couldn't see the new beginnings that were right in front of me. They were not the new beginnings that I wanted or expected. But now, looking back over those four years, I can focus and see that there were new beginnings that year. It's like when my 4-year-old (yes, that's one of our new beginnings--just not the way I expected it) wants me to see something and she holds it about an inch from my eyes. I can't see things that close. I need her to move it farther away from my eyes so that I can focus on it. (And that distance gets farther and farther as I get older!)

My life, and the lives of my family members are still not perfect, and they won't be as long as we live on planet earth, but I'm a little better at seeing the potential of the uncertainties in life as new beginnings. I'm determined to quit looking for the happy endings--those may not come until heaven--and, instead, look at the chaos of my life with hope.

May 2012 be a blessed year of new beginnings, and may we all look at them through the eyes of Unswerving Hope!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Safest Place

Sarah Young, in “Jesus Calling” tells me that my desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Ouch!

I recently did an exercise that lead me to get in touch with my deepest needs. I learned that one of my deepest (if not THE deepest) needs is security. I think most of my life has been all about playing it safe. I hate taking risks. I am not a thrill seeker. I have no desire whatsoever to skydive, mountain climb or even ski any faster than doing a snowplow on the green circle runs. I even have a tendency of keeping my relationships shallow for fear of hurting or being hurt. I’ve even told God that I like being shallow, that I have this deep desire to be safe. And He says, “yeah, that’s nice, but buckle up cause we’re going for a white knuckle ride!”

Sometimes, I’ve still tried to keep life stress-free and safe, but that’s nothing but a fa├žade… and denial. It’s really not safe at all. The only truly safe place to be is wherever God is, and that’s rarely a “safe” place. Like Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” God is not safe, but He is good.

So, I need to let go of my desire to be risk-free and find my security in this risky, unsafe, but good God. He is my unswerving hope!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Look, There's a Chicken!

We can often be a little ADD. I have some friends who joke about the “chickens” or “squirrels” that yank our focus out of a conversation. Our minds are so over stimulated, it’s hard to focus on just one thing for very long.

Yes, we joke about it, but losing our focus on Jesus can wreak havoc in our daily lives. In my devotional (Jesus Calling) this morning, I read, “I am with you in all that you do, even in the most menial task… However, your awareness of My Presence falters and flickers; as a result, your life experience feels fragmented. (to say the least!) When your focus is broad enough to include Me in your thoughts, you feel safe and complete. When your perception narrows so that problems or details fill your consciousness, you feel empty and incomplete.”

There are so many things in this life that divert our attention from Jesus and cause us to fear. And they are real, legitimate fears. I’ve been through the death of a child. I’ve watched both my parents die of cancer. I’ve witnessed my son as he struggles to stay clean and sober after years of a drug addiction so powerful that, at times, it seemed he would never be free. These are things I wish no one ever had to experience, but we all do. Whether it’s the struggle to keep a job, chronic pain, aging parents or depression, everyone has very real problems and issues that can so easily steal your joy, your faith, and your focus.

That’s why we need to make it our number one priority to know Jesus, to spend time in His presence, reading His Word and focusing on Him. Then when the fear, pain and darkness begins to engulf us, we can say, sometimes with teeth and fists clenched, “I trust You, Lord, I trust You.” Sometimes that’s all I can say. I can’t come up with any lofty words or pious prayers. It takes every ounce of energy and focus I have to look to Jesus and trust Him, rather than become consumed with the problems of life.

My devotional continues, “Though the world is unstable and in flux, you can experience continuity through your uninterrupted awareness of My Presence. Fix you gaze on what is unseen, even as the visible world parades before your eyes.”

So, as all the chickens and squirrels parade across my path, I will use every ounce of my being to maintain my focus on Jesus, to fix my gaze on what is unseen, to hold tightly to My Unswerving Hope.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Surely the Lord is in the Place!

I read my “Jesus Calling” Devotional this morning, and it talked about Jacob when he was in the desert, fleeing for his life. (Genesis 28) When he lay down to sleep that night, all he had for a pillow was a rock. But he had a dream about the presence of God. When he woke up, he exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!”

The devotional continued to instruct me to proclaim those same words at times when the Lord seems so distant. Then ask Him to reveal Himself to me in that very situation. So that’s what I will do…

… when uncertainty clouds my view of the future, I will say, “Surely the Lord is in the place!”

… when fear consumes my present, I will say, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”

… when I’ve blown it and fallen into sin yet again, I will say, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”

… when life feels completely out of control and there’s nothing I can do to change things, I will say, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”

… when darkness encroaches and attempts to consume me, I will say, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”

… when self-pity launches me into a downward spiral, I will say, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”

Then I will plead with Jesus to reveal Himself to me in those desolate places, and I will praise Him and declare that He is my Unswerving Hope.