What To Do When God Feels Far Away

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When you feel far away from God, it can feel like forever until you find your way back. You don’t feel like you’re home.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, darker than loneliness for its emptiness. For you feel hollow, forgotten even. Your head knows you are not forgotten by God, but the ache of your heart tells you something different.

Your heart tells you it is what you can trust, not your head. You are not free to be rational. You are not free to remember who you are–a beloved daughter who is delighted in. You want only to heed your heart, a heart that, actually, feels so untrustworthy now. A heart that may lie and a mind that wants your heart to listen to what must be true–despite it not making logical sense.

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For it tells you, once more: Dear one, you don’t have to keep chasing God. You need only know Him. Walk with Him. Listen for Him.

And you quiet, wanting to believe this could be true: God is close; God is here, despite the state of your heart and its untrustworthy whispers. For God gives away clean hearts. And it’s not because you deserve it, but, rather, because you totally don’t.

So you let your mind relax and your heart open up now–for you are unwilling to stay in the dark, where emptiness feels like death and God is life and hope. It is true: it is God you want, more than anything.

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So, these lies about not being okay have to go. There’s no room for them in a heart washed out bright and new and clean.

No more battle then, please. Instead, let’s choose God’s rescue and our obedience. Let this be a rebel’s determination to choose life rather than death, to choose God and fullness, not hollow, empty space.

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Come now, Father, mend these broken hearts. We are the rescued now, the fearless. We do not dread the quiet with you; we dread life without you, and our full hearts are what inform our minds now: stay here, where there is beauty, where it is safe.

 

Ferguson and Holding Light

Ferguson and holding light

It’s into silence where you are willing to go. It’s into places dark and heavy. It’s where anger lives, injustice an iron vice around one’s neck. It’s where your people are trapped, souls chained like animals to a steel bar where freedom only seems to go so far. We are here, chained, the weight of the metal we forget to feel, see.

Where are the chains, Father? We are blind, forgetting we wear them when we forget you. We forget you walk into darkness, wanting to remove each and every chain.

We are created in God’s image. We bear His image. We walk around, beauty turned evil when we forget we are to bear light, in His name.

Carry us deeper into the darkness where you are, Father. We are in it but we forget. We forget where light is–and when we forget where light is, we are stumbling around in darkness and not even knowing we’re doing it. We think things around us are pretty good, until they’re not. And it’s because we are focused on creating our own light, our own lives, planning our own escape from the chains that we don’t really even see but think we can escape all the same.

Strip us of self-reliance, Father. Strip us of blindness and deafness and selfishness. Plunge us deeper into darkness, where you are and where you bear the light so we can remember you are the only one who is light. And when we forget and walk around holding high candles of our own making we are ignoring it is you who rescues and brings justice to the oppressed.

But we have a part to play.

You are here, and you are not removed from despair. You catch every tear, but you cry tears too big for us to ever catch, tears for the children who ignore injustice. Tears for the children who turn away from pain. Tears for the children who forget their brothers and sisters and are blind to their own chains that lead to indifference and turning away.

We are injustice too, when we don’t follow you into the darkness, when we don’t look to your leading for love and for rescue. We, too, then, are not truly free.

We are not free if we continue to forget who carries the light. We are not free if we forget we reflect God’s light only if we stay close to his light. We forget we can be candles in the window for the people who suffer and know they suffer. But we can’t bear God’s light for the suffering if we refuse to see how our only strength is the light that is His, within us. We falter when we try to create light on our own.

Suffering remains, darkness remains, when we think it is our own light that illuminates our way and not God’s.

For He stands in the darkness, a light created from nothing. God, you are the Word come down, light in darkness. You illuminate corners where pain walks, and injustice screams, and despair lies huddled long in shadows. Show us where you shine and how we can go with you, to shine. Show us how to see, how to hear, how to walk.

You come for us, freeing us in our chains. Help us stand with you, walk with you, in darkness with you–shining light where chains still exist. Help us go with you, removing chains, one by one, your hand in ours. Only in your light. Let us stay and shine in your light.

We continue to watch you shine. We continue to call out your name. We continue to forget ourselves and seek your face, in the darkness.

Oh, God, let there be light.

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Don’t Keep That Secret. It Might Be Time to Confess

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It was when I confessed what I had done–and what I do–that I began to know Jesus for the first time. Growing up learning about him was one thing. Seeing his face? Hearing his voice? Feeling the Spirit’s heat burning from my insides?

Confessing to Jesus what I was loving more than him–in this case, my pride–led me to experiencing God rather than looking at him from a distance. Confession was letting God create space in my heart so I could experience Jesus living in me.

When we stuff down our sin, refuse to confess our sin to God, we say yes to pride. We say yes to our desire for independence and self-sufficiency. We say yes to everything our culture tells us is perfectly good, an example of strength and success: work hard; keep your head down and try harder when you fail; don’t let on you’re weak and you can’t get the job done on you’re own; don’t let anyone see you when you’re down.

We shout to that distant God up there, somewhere in heaven,”I’m good! I’ve got this covered. No room for you!” And we remain feeling alone. And God keeps feeling distant. And we work harder to live our lives well, whatever that really means.

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You know who we’re listening to when we ignore God’s voice and respond to all the other voices that boom much louder, don’t you?

Oh, Jesus, I pray now that you silence the voice of the enemy right now. For everyone reading these words right now, silence his voice; make his whispers unable to be heard by our hearts. Let us hear just your voice. Let us recognize you and say yes to you, with wide-open hearts.

To do this, to say yes to the Holy Spirit filling us, to say yes to Jesus living in us, we must confess all the ways we are trying to live without God, all the things we’ve kept hidden, all the things we’ve tried to fix in ourselves, on our own, all the things of which we are ashamed, all the things we’d much rather forget than ever, ever address.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help (Hebrews 4:16, MSG).

It was in college when I–a lonely, overwhelmed transfer student in a new, big school–that I first confessed my sins to Jesus. I was tired of keeping secrets, tired of pretending to have it all together; tired of praying to a God that felt so very far away and not at all like a God who was with me, in me, wanting to whisper love to my heart.

For me, there was a particular secret that I was working hard to hide from everyone. And Jesus was asking me to give it up.

And some of you here, reading? I know you have secrets too. You have things to confess, ways that you’ve been trying to fix yourself, things that happened in the past (whether the past could have been years ago or just a few minutes ago) of which you are ashamed.

 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God (1 John 1:9).

Can you give it up now? Whether this is the first time you’ve confessed your heart to God, or if this is your thousandth, can we do this together, kneeling together before our God and asking him to show us what it is that we’ve been keeping from him?

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Go to a quiet place and close your eyes. Ask him to search your heart, to put his hand on the one place in your heart right now he would like to claim. What moment still feels heavy? What situation have you been trying to fix? What memory still haunts you? What burden are you carrying, this moment, that brings you to tears? In what area are you trying to be strong, on your own? What relationship is causing you pain?

Now, here’s an extra challenge–and you don’t need to do this at all. But, if you feel your heart beating fast and your chest all hot and you are feeling like you want to step forward even more, trusting Jesus in community around you, would you be bold enough to type up the confession, on the blog’s comments page, right here?

Or, if that feels like just too much–and I love that a lot of you do this–would you feel like typing up the confession and sending it just to me? Because then we can pray for each other and for God’s continued protection of us and our hearts as we confess. It can be a beautiful yet vulnerable place when we confess to our God. We are letting go of the old self and asking him to bring more of his new life in us.

Now, if you do this, there will be opposition. Those other whispers we talked about earlier? Yes, well, satan is not going to want to have you confess a thing. And if you do, he isn’t going to want you to feel good about it. He is going to want you to feel alone and crummy and afraid and doubtful it was ever a good idea in the first place.

So, together, let’s do the opposite of what we’ve been doing before.

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Let’s not hide. Let’s speak aloud our confessions to our God and imagine we are here, in a circle together, doing it together before our God. I know I would be emboldened by your confession. I would be reassured. I would see Jesus in you when you went ahead, saying yes to Him and no to the whispers of the enemy who are telling you to do exactly the opposite.

So, how about it, sister?

Are you with me?

I’ll go first (and here is the confession from that day in college):

Father, I confess I am worried about doing a good job with what you’ve given me to do. And in the evenings, with my children, I often react out of fear of still, not being enough or doing enough,with my job, my work, and I have trouble slowing down and being present with them. I give you my time with them. I give you my work. I give you my relationships. I give you my marriage. Help me to love you and stay here, with you, no matter what I am doing. Help me keep my eyes on you, my heart open to you. Let me see you wherever I go, wherever I am. Silence all the lies about needing to work harder to be loved. I confess I need you. I confess I am desperate for you. Help me stay forever desperate for you. I lay these burdens down. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Because You Want More of God

more God

[Y] ou remember yesterday, the day of waking early, indigo sky etching clouds with traces of cotton-candy pink. It was one of those normal days of wonder, when you rise when the house still sleeps–or you think it does, and you tiptoe out the side door into the writing studio/cottage a total of twenty steps out from the house and you find your eleven year old on the couch attempting to set up a video game when he is supposed to be under a thick comforter, tucked fast.

You climb onto the stationary bike because your calf is sore when you run, although you’re sad to not run because you’re afraid to disappoint your sister and your brother in the race you’re supposed to be running in a few weeks and you’re learning your body is telling you no, actually, you can’t. And you like to be out there, running in quiet, when clouds yawn and sun rises–brilliance stretching like a promise across the sky. But today you’ll be content with pedaling in circles, reading Proverbs from an app on your phone.

And it won’t be ’til later that you wonder about brilliance and glory and how it is that morning time feels so sacred, and nighttime too–and how it feels easier, somehow, to go to that place where glory is pursued, where Spirit is heard, like beauty rustling in a dark, quiet place too often too crowded to hear rustling or stirring at all. In the morning. Or in the nighttime. But not in the day.

Not in the day when you forget to stop and ponder and wonder–about miracles and brilliance and the way light tiptoes through tree branches and over the tips of leafless, black limbs in that same indig0-turning-peach-rose sky.

But you realize that you begin to think about God’s wonder and light–his brilliance, his love, when you are sitting quiet in the most regular and normal place, on the metal bleachers of the football field when your 12 year old warms up with his team. You sit there dressed in black, the color of the day, and you pull out a book that makes you cry when you read just the first pages and you realize why it is that your chest feels tight and the afternoon sun shines glory like a spotlight on a tired, weary heart.

It is a language you are yearning to speak, the first notes of lullaby sung from heaven during the immeasurable moments before you were born. And you sit, thinking about wonder and about light. You realize that you want more of these moments, the time of ordinary and miracle, the measuring of all that is magic, the curl of the crimson fallen leaf by your Converse toe, the trill of the three year old’s laughter, the notes carrying further than the boom of the announcer over the speakers as he tells you to cheer loud and hard at each down.

You are here, in this miracle of moment. You are here, in the middle of wonder and brilliance, and you want to stay. You want to stay here in the ordinary and track the wonders by staying in them, noticing them. And you know there is so much you don’t see–so much between the waking and the lying down at night to sleep that you miss. And you think aboutu what it would be like to go in deeper, tread without trepidation into faith, into beauty, into listening and watching and pondering and noticing.

For you want to want it more. You want to want God more. And you know that in the noticing and the waiting and the choosing God will pull you in deeper, deeper into Him, and that–of course– is the only place you want, really, to go.

So, this morning, when you wake again, you will practice the looking for wonder and you’ll remember the miracle of the moment–this very moment–is sacred space with you and your God, the Creator who sings and dances over you, delighting in His girl come home.

*The book I started reading at the football field is Timothy Willard and Jason Locy’s Home Behind the Sun. It grabbed me from the very first pages, and I can’t wait to read more. What books are you reading or what music are you listening to or what surroundings are inspiring you to think about–and want more of–God?

linking with Laura Boggess: Playdates with God

photo credit: picjumbo

Carry It On, My Love

carry on my loveFor T.

conversation 24

[G]od, remember me, your little girl? Those were the days of pursuing perfection, the days when she was sick and the mom I knew, the mom who laughed and planned, the mom who loved and filled a room with energy and life, lay prostrate for hours at a time. I missed her.

Me, this girl of hers, her only child, the one whom she whisked away from one side of the country to the other, the one whom she protected and shepherded and led to Jesus. She was my strength; she was my rock; she was my everything. And then her body began to fail. And I decided, when that diagnosis came in, that I needed to do what I could to make her better.

Be quiet when she was sleeping. Come home right after school. Get good grades. Don’t go to parties. Don’t get involved in sports. Keep my room clean. Be present. Be available. Don’t make her worry. Be the good girl and get everything right.

Carry it on my love

carry it on my love

I loved her, God. I loved her and I wanted her to stay. I loved her and I don’t understand why she had to suffer. She never complained. She never asked me to be perfect. That was my decision. I loved her with all my heart, and I didn’t know what to do to help her. So I tried to be the best daughter I could. Did it even do any good? Did she know how much she was treasured? Did she know how much she was adored?

I ache inside, God. I ache for her smile. I ache for her voice. I ache for her laugh, the laugh that would fill me up and make me feel safe and let me know, without a doubt, I was found and I was home.

With her, wherever I was, I was home.

I have spent years trying to find my way back to her, to feeling like I did when she was here. I was loved, God. I was loved and I was cherished and she was what I needed. I need her still, now.

Take this heart of mine, Father. You have been chasing me down, and I have trying, these past years, to turn, to listen, to not try to do everything on my own. I know, now, I don’t have to be perfect. I know now, I never did. But the part of me that still misses her, that still wishes it were all okay (because it doesn’t feel okay that she is gone), struggles to not try to do everything right. That little girl inside me wants her sons to know they don’t have to be perfect. She wants her sons to know their mom is strong and their mom is safe and they have a safe place, if they need to, with her, to fall.

When I was little I didn’t let myself fall. And I don’t know what it would look like to let my boys fall. I confess, I want to do everything in my power to not let them fall. (I don’t want to imagine what that would look like, God.)

So take this heart of mine, God. I give you all of me. I give you my fears and my little girl heart. Make me whole. Grow her up . .  . and can you tell her something for me? Can you tell her she doesn’t have to be strong?


carry it on my love

carry it on my love

[M]y daughter, take off your shoes. My daughter, come with me. My daughter, let me show you a place that is holy.

When I made you, you were crafted to look like me. You have within you my breath. My words breathed on you and in you. And what I see when I look on you, what I see when I stand with you, my shining one, is what is holy. You are pure and you are untarnished. You are shining now. You are glorious now. You are filled with light now. My daughter, I’ve never let you go.

I filled the room when I cared for your mother and I cared for you. I filed the rooms of your home, walked with you at school, guarded you while you slept. You are precious to me, and I know it was so hard when she was sick. I know how you were scared and you didn’t want her to worry. I know how you tried to be strong and do the right thing.

Do you know I am so proud of you? Do you know I stay with you and I watch you and I fill you with me because I love you? Do you know I have even more of me to give you? Do you know I have amazing things to show you?

So remember that little girl within you, yes. But do another thing, too. I want you to talk to her. I want you to tell her this, straight from me:

It is not your fault. It is not your fault your mom died. It is not your fault she got sick. It is not your fault and you didn’t do anything wrong. I am the one who carried your mom. I am the one who protected her heart. I am the one who guarded her and stayed with her and filled her with peace. That joy she had? That love she had, for you? It is because she knew me. It is because she trusted me. You know me. You trust me, too.

You carry within you her inheritance, the blessing of being known, the blessing of being loved, the blessing of being protected and filled with joy.

You are my joy-carrier, my darling. I fill you with my joy. Carry it on; carry it forward. It is me you are carrying. It is me you are beholding. It is me you are showing to your sons. Just point to me, living out freedom, not bondage. Living out joy, not striving to keep it all together.

Remember, I am the one who holds you together. Letting yourself go is the only way to carry that joy in you forth.

You can’t try harder now, love.


Song to listen to:  “Like an Avalanche,” Hillsong United


[T]his is day 24 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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How She Loved You

How she loved you

For C.

conversation 19

[I] watch these trees change outside my windows, God. The leaves turning from green to bright orange and red. There is quiet here, in this new place where all six of us moved. We are far from the city now.

The countryside sings tunes sweet and low—the creak of the branches in the wind, the frogs when night blankets the hills. There is music here I wish she could hear too, God. I miss her. I miss her voice and her smile and the way it felt when her arms were around me.

My mom.

She’s been gone now, twenty-one years. Remember how she battled? Do you remember how she believed—and we all believed—she would be healed? My heart aches for her. And I look at my daughters and my sons, three of the four whom she never met. Oh, how can I take it in how you let her meet my daughter, my firstborn, her first grandchild, in the same hospital where she was staying and where she died ten days later? Oh, God, you let her meet my daughter.

I wish she weren’t so sick so that she could have held her, too.

That daughter of mine is growing up so fast, Father. I can’t believe she’s moved out and on her own. Twenty-one years old, the same number of years my mom has been gone. How is it my daughter is already grown? Is this the same little girl I used to carry around and cuddle close? How is it so much time has gone by and I’ve raised these four and my mom has been gone this whole time?

Where am I going, Father? Am I doing okay? Am I raising these children in a way that would make my mom smile?

We’ve moved so far away from what I knew, and it feels right. But I still worry and wonder and hope this is all going to turn out more than fine.


how she loved you

[O]h, my darling how she loved you. She loved you with an overwhelming love, a love that came from my heart in her. And she showed you that love, because I adored her too, my love. I know what it is like to give up something you love. I know what it means to have a beloved suffer and you wish it didn’t have to turn out the way it did. But I have been present with you, my love. I’ve never left you. All the hours in the hospital. All the nights when you were at home alone. All the times when you stayed up late at night in your room, worrying and wondering how to fix this, how to pray hard enough to make her well.

I know.

I know it was so hard and your heart hurt and you didn’t want her to go.

I know.

I give you new beginnings, my daughter. Each time you turn to me, each moment you surrender to me, I begin again in you. I gather you up, my love.

Those were my arms you felt, too, when she held you close. Those were my words of love, too, when she looked you in the eyes and told you it would be okay, that she was there, that you could tell her anything, that she loved you and she would never stop.

That mother’s love is a fierce love. It is a love that would give anything for her children. And she hated that she wasn’t able to keep staying here, loving you. But she knew me, and you know me too. Her prayers, again and again, were prayers of love for you. Prayers of yearning for you. Prayers of desire on behalf of you.

She loved you with a love that surrendered you to me. She loved you with a love that would have given anything for you, because of me.

how she loved you

Those children of yours? This love is passed down, my darling. That love she showed you? That love I gave to her? You are showing it to your children. You are blessed with my presence. You are blessed with my love in you. You are blessed with my hope in you.

If you know me, if you hear me, if you follow me, believe me now. Believe I am here. Believe I help you to stand. Believe I am your steadfast anchor, your rock.

You are not slipping. You are not falling. You are not alone and fragile. You are given a love that holds you and protects you and goes before you. You are the one to keep leading, my dear. Keep leading them to me. Keep leading your children to me. By my love. By my words in you. By my whispers to you and my love upholding you. It is the only thing on which any family can stand.


 Song to listen to: “Majesty,” Caedmon’s Call


[T]his is day 19 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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