Sometimes Blessings Come Disguised

I am sure you’ve heard this saying before: “Sometimes blessings come disguised.” It rings true to us for many reasons. We make plans and often times those plans don’t happen how we’d like or when we’d like. We see the bad in some circumstances, only to find out later that there was some good mixed in. Or if there was no apparent good to be found, we at least learned some good things through the hard times.

This is what I discovered yet again a few days ago.
The LORD took me through an amazing time of reflection and thinking, a time of renewal. He encouraged me to write out my story, the whole thing, from beginning to end. So write I did… and write, and write, and write. And what a freeing act that was. He showed me that through some of the difficulty and strife, through some of the pain and hurt that I had experienced, there were great blessings and lessons that I learned that I am only beginning to see now. He does not deny that some of those things were bad or that some of them hurt — because they really did — but He is showing me that He can make such beauty from ashes, from the fire of trials. But He can only make beauty and bring restoration and renewal if I surrender and let Him. This is a scary act, I know, because it is an act of giving up control. But it is an act of liberation and trust, an act of letting Abba Daddy take the reigns and lead me by the hand instead of running ahead alone to fall in a mud hole that I cannot climb out of by myself. He will certainly help me climb out and gently clean me up if I DO decide to do that… but He encourages me to walk next to Him, letting Him speak into every part of this journey called life. Because truly, that is the Good Life.
So here I am, LORD. Do with me and in me as You will, Abba. I am all Yours.

Most This AMAZING Day

“i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”

– e.e. cummings

 

I absolutely love this poem — the creativity it inspires in me and the imagery it conjures up in my mind. I referenced it in a conversation with a friend a few days ago and haven’t been able to forget about it since then. Then a different friend posted it on Facebook today! As I’ve been mulling over it the past few days, I’ve thought about writing a choral work with this text. I have many ideas for it and many directions in which I could take it, and I’m sure it would be a difficult task. BUT I am up for the challenge. Should I take it? ūüôā

Another reason why I love it, particularly today, is because of this most amazing day in history. There’s a reason why today is called Good Friday. NOT because it was full of smiles and sunshine and lollipops. NOT because it was happy or playful or full of blue skies. No, this day is called Good because of the wonderful, unimaginable, indescribable, sacrificial, anguishing, painful, agonizing, highest LOVE that was shown on this day by the greatest Man, the most perfect, holy, gracious, merciful, just, beautiful, and righteous Man to walk this Earth. This Man was also God — Jesus, Immanuel. On this day over 2000 years ago, though, He was not Immanuel for long. He was no longer with us, that He might accomplish for us what we could never do for ourselves. For 3 torturous days He separated Himself from us and from His Father, that we might never be separate from God again. That’s not the end of the story, though, or I would definitely not find this poem very inspiring. No, our Jesus is ALIVE today, reigning with the Father at this moment! He conquered death so that we might LIVE with Him. How marvelous is our Savior’s love for us who KNOW Him!! ūüėÄ

So this is why I love this poem. And why I want to write a beautiful, moving piece of choral music for a great choir to sing, that it might be a blessing to others and bring glory to Abba. ‚̧ Maybe I’m too ambitious… or maybe I have a Great God Who is within me, Whose creativity can outshine my own in a heartbeat.

Life Lessons From A Chiropractic Appointment

As I woke up this morning, my whole body (particularly my shoulders, back, and jaw) reminded me of yesterday’s happenings. I went to the oral surgeon and chiropractor yesterday. To make a long story short, I learned that I have¬†TMJD, which is from where all of the jaw and back/shoulder pain I’ve been experiencing is coming (not from my wisdom teeth coming in as we thought. In fact, my wisdom teeth are still too immature to take out and we’re waiting on that!). Right after I learned this, I had a chiropractor appointment for my shoulder/back pain, so I told Dr. Katie what I’d just learned about having TMJD. When she adjusted me, she did everything normal up until she started doing my jaw. The adjustments she did to my jaw were so painful; apparently your jaw muscles are some of the most tender ones in your body! I cried because what she was asking me to do (to open my jaw really wide as she massaged pressure points that were inflamed) hurt so much. So when I woke up so sore this morning, I thought to myself, ‘If my body hurts this much after going to the chiropractor, who is supposed to make it feel better, why do I do it?’ Well, I know the answer, of course. It’s to make it feel better. Even if it’s painful now, the adjustments will make it get better in the long run. If I just left it alone, it would only get worse.

Today it struck me just how true to life this is. When we have hurt and pain in our lives, the first reaction we have is to leave it alone. We rationalize, saying to ourselves, ‘No, if I dig that up or think about it too much, that’ll just hurt even more. I’ll just leave it be.’ What God has in mind for us is SO much better, though! He wants to take our hurt and our pain, our sin and our shame, and massage it out. He wants to work on the knots and the inflammation. He knows that it’s going to hurt. He’ll ask us to make movements while He’s adjusting us that will make us cry out “Why?” or cry real tears like I did in my appointment. He knows that, yes, it probably will hurt more the day after (or week after, or year after) than it did the day He started. But the whole point is to make it better for real, not just to pretend it’s okay and cover it up. He wants to HEAL it, to heal you and me. The question is, will we let Him?

True Life

Patience. Tolerance. Long-suffering.
Self-conciousness. Hopefulness. Let down.
Sadness. Sorrow. Love. Struggling.
Trying to follow Jesus.
Trying to do what He says.
Trying to implement wisdom.
Blown off. Rejected. Ignored.
Disrespected. Teased. Back-stabbed.
Cold shoulder. Left out. Against me.
He said it would be like this.
He said it would be hard.
He said there would be pain AND joy.
I accept the challenge.
I surrender all.
I give up what I think is life to find True Life.
They reject You really, not me.
They are intimidated.
They don’t understand Your love and grace
to be more than rules and regulations;
Boring. Non-relatable. Apathetic.
But You are so much more.
You are Jesus, friend.
You are Spirit, with us.
You are Abba, Daddy.

Beatitudes: They Will Be Comforted

“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”

~ Matthew 5:4

This is such a beautiful verse that reveals two simple, yet vital truths.

1) It shows that we CAN mourn. Jesus was giving the people permission to cry, to mourn, to feel sorrow. We live in a broken world; Jesus knows this better than anyone else. He’s reminding us that it is not only okay to mourn, but that we are blessed when we mourn. It takes strength to mourn, despite that people say otherwise. It takes courage and trust in Christ to let yourself acknowledge that things are not as they should be, that the world is fallen. It takes strength to feel the sadness and sorrow that we should feel in regards to sin and the effects of sin. Christ is encouraging those who mourn to take heart; He has blessed them and will bless them.

2) It shows that Christ WANTS to comfort us. Jesus doesn’t just want us to mourn forever. He wants us to mourn as we should and as we need to, but He calls also calls us to comfort. He is our greatest Comforter and Counselor. He will be there when no one else is. He went through the greatest trials and troubles that any person ever did or will, so He can be present in our suffering and sorrow as well. He promises blessing to the mourners, those grieved by sin and sorrow.

What a comfort this verse about mourning and comfort is. Thank You, Jesus, for being the Great Comforter.

Beatitudes: Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn,¬†for they will be comforted.” ~ Matthew 5:4

Well, this one seems pretty straight-forward. When you mourn, God will comfort you. As I was pondering this earlier today, I thought, ‘What else can I say about this? Is there a point in meditating upon this one?’ And Abba has showed me just how important this one is this week. I’ve been going through some things the past couple months that are very painful — friendships don’t always last forever or turn out the way we think they will. People do not always act or react in ways that are wise or God-honoring — in fact, we often don’t because we are fallen human beings! I have been feeling particularly lonely lately, not just because of losing friendships, I’m coming to realize, but because Abba wants to teach me truths about Himself. He wants to teach me to rest in Him. He wants to teach me that He is the ultimate Friend; He is the ultimate Lover; He is the ultimate Source of relationship and support that anyone can have. Every human being will fail me at some point or another, but God NEVER will. He is ALWAYS here with me and for me, whether I can feel Him or not. This is part of what He means by comforting those who mourn.

Mourning — losing friendships, losing loved ones to death or distance, wishing we had back a past circumstance or opportunity, letting our dreams die in order to follow Abba wholly — these are all ways we mourn because we are human beings. We even mourn our own selves because of loss of youth or memory or abilities to do things we used to be good at or failure. There are many things in this world that we can (and often should) mourn. Jesus does NOT say “Do not mourn.” In fact, He asserts the opposite! He says, “Blessed ARE you when you mourn.” He encourages us to mourn, for in our mourning He will bring healing. He will bring comfort. He will bring about redemption. He will bring His joy. He will be our strength. We only have to bring Him ourselves and lay at His feet the pain, longings, hurt, and sorrow that reside in the deepest part of our hearts. When we accept the pain as real and do not try to reject it or ignore it, it is then that God can work through it to bring us healing. His healing doesn’t mean that the pain will necessarily go away; in fact, sometimes He increases the sorrow we feel to breed compassion in our hearts for others. I encourage you, just as Abba is whispering in my soul, to not seek the life without pain. That life will not come in this world, broken and fallen as it is. However I DO encourage you to seek the Good Life, the joyful life. The Good Life may be filled with much pain. It may be excruciating. People may think us crazy for seeking God’s Good Life rather than the pleasure-filled life of the world. Don’t be deceived. Though the road of the blessed is difficult and narrow, God assures us that He will walk it with us and He will comfort us in those deepest, darkest moments of pain and sorrow. He promises us LIFE to come that will be so much greater and more beautiful than anything we have now that this pain will seem like the blink of an eye, a fleeting shadow. Don’t pass up Eternal Joy with our King for the temporary pleasures this world offers. Stay with the pain and offer it to Jesus, moment by moment. And don’t give up! He will bless you for persevering.

Reflections: Joy and Hope

*This post will refer to¬†Saturday and the Hope of Sunday, so if you haven’t read that one, it might be helpful to read that first.

Abba, I have to confess that this morning I was not feeling celebratory. I know, I know… it’s Easter! It’s the day that we rejoice that You are ALIVE! How could I NOT be happy and excited?! Well, I was at first… but then I experienced the reminders of pain and suffering and knew the isolation of deep loneliness. No matter what I did, I could not get past the despair that seemed to hover over my soul as a storm cloud of darkness. I rested. I prayed. I read Your Word. I sat and listened. Nothing was working, and I was beginning to lose heart. I know that joy doesn’t equal happiness, but I so badly wanted even joy, if not Your happiness and tangible presence. I kept asking myself, ‘Why can’t I rejoice in this suffering, rejoice that I am carrying my cross for Jesus?!’ but then I came across 1 Thessalonians 1:6 — “You became imitators¬†of¬†us and¬†of¬†the¬†Lord, for you welcomed¬†the¬†message¬†in¬†the midst¬†of¬†severe suffering with¬†the¬†joy given by¬†the¬†Holy Spirit.” Woah. What I realized after reading this passage is that I DON’T have to rejoice in the trials themselves — they are evil and Jesus tells us to avoid them, to pray against them in the Lord’s Prayer! He says that we are to ask Him to “lead us NOT into temptation”. Since God cannot tempt us to sin, I think this means to lead us not into trials and bad circumstances. Now, even if I am wrong in this, Paul still tells the Thessalonians to rejoice IN THE MIDST OF severe suffering — he doesn’t say that we have to say “Yay! Suffering!” with a smile on our faces and laughing, but he does say that we should rejoice DESPITE suffering, rejoice in who we KNOW Christ to be and what the eternal outcome will be. This brought me so much relief this afternoon as I rollerbladed as far as my tired legs would take me (I ran my first 5K yesterday, so they were already quite sore!).

Not only did the idea of rejoicing despite the suffering bring me relief, but it brought me hope. (Yes, now I’m finally getting to the reference you’ve been wondering when I was going to use!) I was feeling earlier as if all hope was gone, as though Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t give me any reason to be hopeful. Now, I know that feelings are not everything, so I was determined to not let negative thoughts and painful feelings get the better of me. So I meditated on all that God has done for me in the past; I KNOW that He is faithful and that He can (and will) work in every situation for my best. I brought to mind testimony of the past where I know that God has worked in my friends’ lives and in the lives of His people (in Scripture) in similar ways. I took captive the negative thoughts (that God can’t work in my pain) for Christ and spoke His truth to my soul. Through this process, God brought hope back into my heart, even though the pain and loneliness still resided there. I did not feel His presence, but I did not need to. I KNOW that He is with me always, whether I feel Him there or not. THIS is how I’m able to speak with conviction and sing with sincerity these words which I felt guilty singing only a few short hours before:

Jesus, hope of the nations
Jesus, comfort for all who mourn
You are the source of Heaven’s hope on earth
Jesus, light in the darkness
Jesus, truth in each circumstance
You are the source of Heaven’s light on earth

He IS the hope for the nations, no matter how corrupt, no matter how broken, no matter how destitute, no matter how far away from Him they may be. He IS the comfort for ALL who mourn, whether they mourn in the open, physically, or mourn in silence, too tender and personal to ever show it. He IS the source of hope to the earth, to this fallen, shattered, broken world. Hope isn’t just wishful thinking; it is an expectation of what we know is to come. He IS the hope that we have of redemption, of healing, of love. He IS the light in the darkness of this sinful world. He IS the truth in every circumstance, no matter how painful, horrifying, or remote it may be. He IS the source of light — not just physical light, but spiritual light, too. Jesus Christ brings HOPE through His miraculous resurrection. He IS hope through His remarkable, unexpected return. And He will return again — it will be unexpected and remarkable, just like the first time, but this is where Christians place their hope. This is where I place my hope.

In what or whom does your hope lie? My prayer is that it lies in the only One who can fulfill it.

The Passion of Jesus Christ

Last night I watched “The Passion of the Christ”. It was definitely harder to watch this year than it was last year, probably because I KNOW my Savior and my Abba so much more intimately. I was particularly struck by a couple of things:

1) Jesus’ eyes — every time He encountered someone, He looked deeply into their eyes. Those people, in that moment, knew there was something different about Christ. Every person either turned away, refusing to look Him in the eye, or they couldn’t stop looking into His penetrating gaze. The four people who didn’t look away were John, Veronica, Simon, and Mary. These four knew Christ. They maybe didn’t know Him right away, but the power and irresistibility of His look, peering into their very souls, drew them to Him because they found truth and love there. They found their Messiah in Him in those moments. Everyone else, however, looked away because they couldn’t bear to face the truth. They saw the truth, but they couldn’t let themselves believe it or let it penetrate them because if they did, they would see just how horrifying their deeds were, how sinful they were.

So into which category do YOU fall? Are you looking away, refusing to see the truth and believe what is found there? Or are you gazing longingly, full of sorrow and love, into His eyes, finding truth, finding forgiveness, finding the greatest love that anyone could ever give there? It’s your choice — there is no passivity. Both turning away and staying require action. Which will you choose this day, every day?

2) How could they DO that to Him?! He never did anything wrong; the accusations they brought against Him were all false. They were made-up lies! And not only that, but how could they bear to torture someone through all that flogging and mocking… and then put them through the agony of crucifixion? How could they bear to do that to ANYONE, let alone an innocent man? Let alone Christ, God and Man?

My whole being was absolutely appalled at what they did to Him… but then I realized that¬†I also do that to Him. No, I don’t physically whip Him or spit in His face, but the reason that He went through all of that pain was for me — for¬†all¬†of us. He didn’t only go through excruciating physical pain — He went through unbearable emotional and mental pain in the moments leading up to His arrest. He experienced the worst spiritual pain, the worst kind of rejection possible — His Father, God of the Universe, forsaking Him. Abba abandoned Him on that cross — for you and for me. Christ went through all that willingly — for us. He kept getting up again to carry that cross, so broken and exhausted and bleeding, because He knew that He was doing it for us. Not only that, but the guilt and pain of ALL of the WORLD’s sins He carried. That means that He bore the weight of EVERY SINGLE sin I have ever done or thought or said. So really, I¬†did all of that to Him, too. He suffered willingly, but I also participated in handing Him over and killing Him. This realization was so heart-breaking, so moving, that I see SO much more significance for every moment of my life. With my life I have the ability to honor and glorify Him or to add another weight, another sin, to the millions that He bore. I have a choice — for good or for evil. With all that is in me I pray that God might give me the strength to honor my Suffering King by choosing good, by taking up my own cross and following Him, by living every moment obedient to His calling.

Again, there is no room for passivity here. Every action we do, every thought we meditate upon, and every word we say is for good or for evil. Which will you choose? Will you honor your Christ — your King? Or will you continue to participate in crucifying Him? It’s a daily choice, a moment-by-moment choice.

Saturday and the Hope of Sunday

“Abba, You have taught me some really neat things this weekend. I realized that this whole life is a “Saturday”, You know, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Life IS a whole lot of Saturdays (confusing, painful, full of doubt, and close to despair), but I can know You better and differently during the Saturday than I can on Sunday. The thing is, we have to live through the silence of Saturday and the great pain and deep hurt that Friday and Saturday bring with the HOPE of Sunday. I’m not talking about wishful thinking or a nice, happy thought. NO, I’m talking about¬†HOPE — living, moving, breathing, life-sustaining, joy-giving, energy-filled, motivational, all-consuming, Christ-centered, selfless, strengthening, passion-filled HOPE!! I realized that living in a Saturday-world is all about the journey. I mean, yes, the goal and achievement IS Sunday and glory — the revealed hope of Jesus! but the journey is where we grow. The journey is where we¬†know You and become known by You. The journey is where we experience what it means to say “It is well with my soul” even when everything seems to be going wrong, no one understands me, people ridicule me, ignore me, or attack me, I feel unloved, I feel like I can’t be open and honest with people, or I experience deep loneliness. Even through pain, struggle, hurt, and doubt, I CAN say “It is well with my soul” because I know that it is only Saturday and that Sunday is coming! If there was no Sunday then, yes, I probably would (and with good reason) despair. But because You, Abba, my Almighty and All-Powerful Creator, are alive and can work in and through every Saturday to bring glory and honor to Yourself, I WILL persevere and not lose hope. Thank You, Abba, for this assured promise!”

September 6, 2011

Abba, we hurt.
Abba, we cry.
I know You hold
our tears and
each one of us
in the palm of Your hand
when the struggle’s so hard
we can’t even stand.
You are there.
You are good.
You are more.
You are my food.
You are Abba.
You are my Dad.
You are greater
than all I’ve ever had.
I long so much
to come back Home,
But I will wait
patiently for Your call.
You catch each tear
as it silently falls.

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