Desperate for God

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 

You’re probably familiar with the opening of Psalm 42: It covers the walls of Christian bookstores, often printed on a peaceful picture of a sweet fawn tenderly approaching a quiet stream. Lovely.

But that’s not the picture the psalm is painting. Psalm 42 opens with desperation. Joel 1:20 uses the same word, “pant” describing animals when the brooks are dried up and the pastures devoured by fire.

Perhaps a better translation: “As a hunted deer, dying of thirst, pants for water, so my soul longs for You, O God.” But no one wants a picture of a dying deer hanging on their wall.

What is the deer dying for? What does the Psalmist want?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

I am convinced that the Psalmist is not thirsting to know about God. The word for “living” is a nature word, living or alive in the sense that vegetation is green, water is fresh and flowing, humans are lively and active, springtime is reviving.

The psalmist is thirsty for life. He’s running to God, naming God as the source of life and liveliness.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. (Psalm 42:1-4)

Do you relate? Are you thirsty for God, perhaps even remembering a time when you praised Him and were more sure of His help?


Click here to read the rest of this post over at the EquipHer Blog, where I am  honored to write this week.

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10 Commandments for a Happy Home

Hello from our last months as a family of five living under one roof, our last days with a high school senior.

I could mourn (And I have cried. Friends, you know I have CRIED.) But I’m choosing to celebrate. To count gifts, to name the things that have made our home happy. So many things bless our days and hours together in this season, blessings that add up to a happy home.

Here’s my top 10 list, 10 things I love about our family, 10 ways to live together well, 10 commandments for a happy home. Continue reading

The One Thing that Helps Me Face Fear

Are worry, anxiety, and fear the same thing? I’ve never been a worrier, and hardly ever identify myself as anxious. But I’ve been afraid my whole life.

I’m afraid of failure.

I’m afraid of abandonment.

I’m super afraid of rejection.

I’m so afraid of embarrassment I don’t enjoy movies or shows with embarrassing characters (See also: I’ve never watched a full episode of The Office.)

I’m afraid of making wrong decisions, of being misunderstood,  of doing the wrong thing, of not being enough, of being too much.

My life, my decisions, my relationships, my ministry, have all been shaped by fear.

Fear calls me to live a safe life, a life as protected as possible from failure, abandonment, rejection, embarrassment.  But a life without risk is also a life without adventure, connection, love, and freedom.

Continue reading

Everyday Holy: Creating a Sacramental Family

I hadn’t been a mother for very long before realizing that waking up before my children is a necessity for my mental health. I am a morning person, and I don’t function well without a bit of silence (and coffee) before facing the needs and demands of parenthood and life.

So nearly every week day my alarm goes off and I roll out of bed, stumble into my clothes, wander to the kitchen to pour a warm cup of wake-me-up,  and fall into the chair in my bedroom for a little silence, solitude, and time with Jesus and His Word. This is my preferred start to the day, and (when I don’t let myself get distracted by my dumb phone) it is a delight. But it is not the most delightful part of my morning.

The most delightful part of my morning begins over the next 30 minutes or so as the rest of the house wakes up.

Our youngest son is the only other early riser in the family. When our border collie camps out in the hallway, I know M is starting to move around. Before long I have a sleepy-eyed, pajama clad visitor. His preferred start to the day is a few minutes on my lap, and at almost 9 he will outgrow morning cuddles soon, so I soak them up while they last.

Soon my sweet husband drags himself out of bed and wakes up our sleepyhead middle child. T rises at the crack of dawn on weekends, but has to be pried out of bed when school is on the schedule. Eventually he too makes his way to my chair, seemingly unable to face the daunting task of getting dressed without a hug and kiss from his mama.

At some point in the morning, Matt wanders by in various stages of getting ready, kisses me, and tells me he loves me. An affectionate spouse is a gift I never tire of receiving.

Our youngest is eating breakfast by now, having let the dog out to do his morning business. When Dudley comes back inside, he (hilariously) also comes darting into the bedroom, sitting insistently at my feet until I tell him good morning too. He won’t leave until I’ve petted him, and most of the time he jumps up into my lap for a doggie-breath scented hug.

As my quiet morning draws to and end and the clock reminds me that it’s time to finish getting ready for my day, our oldest son comes in to say goodbye. As my alarm goes off every morning, I hear his blaring through the vents from the basement, attempting to wake the only other family member who has to be up early. This giant blond bearded man is about to graduate and fly our nest, but he never leaves without coming in and kissing his mother goodbye.


One of my co-workers has been studying and thinking about the idea of sacraments, and he won’t shut up about it (I’m not complaining, I love it!) A Sacrament is “a visible sign of an inward grace”. In the church the sacraments are the intentional, physical ceremonies we do to remind ourselves of God’s love and presence, like communion and baptism.

A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, they create an environment of affection and appreciation. A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, these small things can become holy, sacramental.

Nearly accidentally, we created a family culture of waking up to say I love you and hear it back.

I realized today that is what I want from my morning times: A quiet moment to crawl into my heavenly Father’s lap, hear “I love you” and say it back.

His love makes every day holy.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

 

Photo in images by Ember + Ivory on Unsplash

 

When You Have to Make a Decision, and You’re Scared to Death

I worked full time in order to pay for my last few years of college, taking only 1-2 classes a semester, so I had a lot of time to decide what I wanted to do “when I grew up”. About a year before my long awaited graduation my church created a job that was half administrative assistant and half women’s ministry assistant for the college ministry, and offered it to me.

At the time, it was the hardest decision I’d ever faced.

I loved the people offering me the job, and I loved my church, and I loved college ministry. But I’d never imagined working at a church. And since this job hadn’t existed before, it wasn’t something I’d pictured or dreamed of doing. Previously, the only jobs available to women at my church were secretarial, and I wasn’t interested in secretarial work as a career (I was working full time as an Admin Assistant at my university).

Looking back I recognize that deep down I wanted to say yes, and even felt the Lord pointing to His goodness for me in that particular job. But I was very afraid. And they wanted a 5 year commitment: I was 25, working my tail off to finally graduate and leave my college town, and I wasn’t ready to commit to being anywhere for 5 years.

If I say I agonized over that decision, I’m underselling it. I obsessed. I over analyzed. I made pro and con lists. I met with people from the church, repeatedly. I prayed, obsessively. I was paralyzed by indecision, desperately afraid of making the wrong choice.

Two things helped me to move out of my paralysis. Continue reading

3 simple ways for People of Faith to Avoid “Bad News Fatigue” {No Fear Devotional}

As part of my ongoing efforts to live life less tethered to my phone, last month I turned the notifications off on the News application on my phone.  Fringe benefit: Nearly instantly my mornings felt more peaceful. I don’t want to stick my head in the ground, but I also don’t want Google or Apple (or Facebook!) choosing what news I see. And over the last few years the news has proven a particularly unsuitable way to start peaceful days.


Before writing this, I popped into the news to check today’s headlines:

Zuckerberg testimony: Members of Congress grill Facebook CEO  (Washington Post)

Raid on Trump’s Lawyer Sought Records of Payments to Women (New York Times)

The Latest: Russian envoy says US has been warned on Syria (Washington Post)

And locally:

Man arrested following assault of two Lincoln Police officers

Officers defuse situation with man in Lincoln Wal-Mart threatening to shoot people (both from the Lincoln Journal Star)


In a world of bad news is it possible to not live a life of fear?

Is my only healthy choice to stick my head in the ground, never reading the news, refusing to engage in what’s going on in our country and the world?

I wasn’t expecting my study of “No Fear” verses to lead me to an answer to this question, but it did. Continue reading

Bittersweet

On April 9, 2003 in College Station, TX I was wrapping up another year in college ministry, rerouting summer teams whose destination had to change because of the SARS epidemic in Asia.

Meanwhile, wholly unbeknownst to me, in Omaha, NE many of the people who are now nearest and dearest to me were going through the hardest days of their lives. Fifteen years ago today, Matt’s first wife and my oldest child’s first mother lost her battle with breast cancer and went home to Jesus.

I love this life I lead, the home we’ve built, the family we rejoice in. But I also recognize that our home was built on a foundation of sadness and loss. Ours is a not a story of victory only, but of redemption.

My sweet life was made possible by the bitter hurt of the people I love the most.

So today I pray: Thanking God for my husband and son, praying for Julie’s parents, her sisters and brothers and the nieces and nephews who were robbed of knowing their aunt.

And I remember to trust God in my own bitter seasons, looking for His sweetness even here, and expecting His comfort for me and mine. He is a God who knows the bittersweet.

I’ve been a parent for well over a decade, but some mysteries still elude me…

One of them is:

Children who sleep like the dead and have to be dragged out of bed on school days, but rise at the crack of “Hey there Chachi, it’s still night time” on the weekend.

Happy Sunday! Hope you got to sleep in later than I did.

Ree Reads: March Book Reviews

Well, I hit an all-time high in March. Thanks to great audio books and the 8 hour drive to and from my sister’s new home in Illinois, plus several books I COULD NOT PUT DOWN, I read eleven books this month. YAY!

I loved all of the non-fiction I read this month for very different reasons, but if I had to name a favorite I’d probably go with the one that has stuck with me the most. I listened to this at the very beginning of the month, and I’m still thinking about it.

I also thoroughly enjoyed all the fiction I read, including some totally discussable reads that would make great book club choices. But if I’m being honest? My favorite reads in March were light and fluffy, with hardly any substance at all: a new cozy mystery series that I’m practically obsessed with.

 

Continue reading

Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit {The Last Words of Jesus}

The last words, the last actions, of Jesus are a demonstration of trust. We are called to live as Jesus died, committing our spirits into the hands of our Father.

Life easily lulls us into believing that if we are committed to the Lord, if we trust God, things will all work out for us (and in the end, I believe they will.) But in this moment, surely it looked to the disciples like Jesus was trusting His Father in darkness and failure, death.

Are you willing to meet Jesus here?

Don’t rush ahead to Resurrection celebration.

Take time this weekend for silence and stillness. Imagine what it felt like for the women and men who loved and followed Jesus as He walked the dusty streets of Israel, whose hopes were dashed.

 


Are there dreams you’ve had for your life that have died? What have you hoped for in your relationship with God, in being who He’s made you to be, that feels hopeless and buried?

What is the darkest area of your character, your circumstances, your hidden inner self?

What would it look like to commit your spirit into the hands of the Father? What can you release to Him today?

 


We are called to live as Jesus died, committing our spirits into the hands of our Father. Lord Jesus, we love you. And we are silent, with you.

 


I’ve compiled all of “The Words of Jesus” posts into a PDF for my subscribers. If you’d like a copy of that, you can sign up here.