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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I Sing Loud Your Praise

sing loud

For J.

conversation 26

Father, you know how I don’t mind telling the story. Well, that’s not true. I hate to share it. It’s hard to go back and remember what happened when I was so little. It’s hard to look someone in the eye and tell them what was done to me and how at the time I didn’t know it was bad, although it didn’t seem good, either.

I could be bitter, I guess. I could stay angry, stay wounded, let my heart become hard. But this world is too good, Father! You are too good!

Even though the abuse happened to me, over and over, starting when I was three years old. Even when I had to put myself in foster care, leave the home I wished were safe, at the age of 16. Even though I had no place to live. Even though I didn’t know how get back on my feet. You’ve given me strength, my Lord. You’ve given me resilience. You’ve given me a heart that is grateful. I am grateful for my circumstances. I am grateful for you being with me.

I have never been alone, through it all. When I share about the tough times, I can smile through my tears. I keep my heart focused on you. I want to be more like you. I want to love you more. You provide for me. You care for me. You catch every tear that falls. You bless me, again and again, with friends, with people who love me. You provide me with food, with a place to sleep, with work to do so I can love others.

Oh, Father, there is so much for which I am grateful! My heart will surely burst from the joy of being with you! I will keep following you, trusting you, seeking you with my whole heart. This life is not too difficult. My past does not deter me from loving and from following you. You are enough for me, my King, my Savior.


My lovely one, how I cherish you! Oh, how you make me smile! You stay close, always close, and I have walked with you, held you, loved you with an everlasting love. This life is so hard; there is so much evil, but so much good, for I am here. And oh, my darling, how you choose to see me! How you choose to see the good!

So I send you out, watching you go forward with strength and with beauty, with a warrior-strength, noble and beautiful, full of love and kindness and mercy. You walk with mercy, my love.

Every step you take is blessed with mercy, with kindness, with gentleness and love. I bless you, again and again. I love you and pour myself into you. I look at you, and I am glad! I look at you, and I say, ‘There, that is my daughter! The one who walks with calm, gentle strength, into situations that require much. She is not deterred. She know from where her strength comes.’

My lovely one, my precious one, I have more good for you in store. You delight in me, and I delight in you. You make the eyes of my heart smile.


Song to listen to:  “Our God,” Chris  Tomlin


This is day 26 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

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

Oh, 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


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

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

The Middle Place is an Okay Place to Stay

For P.

conversation 11

I keep watching those ocean waves, Father. I walk out there, letting sand push soft in between my toes. It goes on for miles; I can’t see the end. There are days I walk this sand and that clear blue sky above me can’t distract me from the storm I feel within. I think this storm will take me right under. These dreams, Father, are ones I struggle, so much, to let go.

Can the plans you have for me be the right ones, God? Are you sure?

I want a child so badly, and it’s a dream I just don’t know how to let go. How can I give up what I’ve always desired, since I was little? How can I believe you care about our desires and you want to know our prayers and you don’t hear my heart cries to be a mom? I don’t know who I am without the dream of mothering. I don’t know who I am without this dream directing my every step.

Isn’t it good, Father, to have dreams? Isn’t it good, Father, to be tenacious and faithful with our prayers? What is the give and take here? How do I trust you when I cry out, for years, and it feels that you are silent? What is this life you’ve given me, with so much goodness and richness and I try, truly, to be grateful for what I have but yet struggle to deal with the ache of wanting more? Why can’t I be satisfied and let this dream die? How do I do it? How do I pursue you more than any desires of my own? How can I desire you more than anything, so I realize I am not in want, that I have everything I need–everything, in fact, I desire?

How can I forget myself and yet know who I am and how I’m made and not pursue a dream I believe you’ve given me to pursue? How do I have faith and walk surrendered?

I am going to sit here on this sand and watch these waves crash hard on shore. You are powerful and good. You are my strength and my guide. You quiet me and bring peace to my troubled heart. There are so many things I don’t understand. So, I’m going to keep asking you questions. I’m going to keep pursuing you, and I know you’ll teach me how to wait, how to trust, how to be here with you when I feel my heart breaking. I know you understand and you love me. I know it’s okay that this place, right now, feels so hard.


Daughter I could walk this beach with you forever. Did you see those gulls swoop down over there? They are looking for fish. I love watching them, how they glide, wings spread, so beautiful. And then they dive, seemingly so unexpectedly. I love how they sing, and how they fly with confidence, steadfast, intent on where the fish are, what they need to do, where they need to go. The wind lifts them, as they glide, and they swoop down again, searching the waters for food. Those waves are what promise them sustenance, and so they return again and again, to what brings them what they need to live.

I could watch them this whole day, with you–as I stay, walking next to you, on our beach.

My daughter, you can hold my hand or you can let go. I will be here all the same. But I want you to look around and enjoy this place, this place right now, in the midst of the wondering and the searching and the questions–the beauty of where you are, even in the midst of pain.

Can there be beauty in pain? Can there be hope in suffering?

Can there be joy in the hard places, the places where there is no clear answer and this middle place is the last place you want to be?

Look to me, child. Look at where I am, in the midst of the hard things. Look to me, and how I am here, present with you. Look to me, at my truth that I place in your heart. For I am with you even when you can’t see me. I am with you, even when your questions aren’t answered. I am with you, offering my hand and my heart and my presence and my light when all around you is only night.

This beach can be where we go, where we stay, even in the yearning. My presence will bring you contentment, if you let it. My presence will bring you hope, if you want it. My presence will bring you joy, if you seek it. I am your guide, your landing place—and oh, daughter, I will teach you soon, to fly.

I will teach you, in this hard place, to look to me and to see me and to desire me above anything else. And your story will be a story of hope for daughters who don’t yet know me or know that, in this middle place, I stay.

And all those answers to those questions, my love? You’re going to know those answers soon. But I also know that soon, the question themselves, as you’re with me, will change.


Song to listen to: “Who Can Compare?“, Jesus Culture, feat. Mary Kat Ehrenzeller


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

 

I Know What You Miss

For H.

conversation 6

Dear God, it’s quiet here, and I think I’m okay with the quiet. But I miss him, that boy of mine who had to go to you, so soon. He was so little, God, and I’m not sure I understand why some people have to experience so much pain while others seem to go on, in this world, with little tragedy striking. Is that true, that some of us experience more pain than others? Or, do we each experience similar degrees of suffering, but just different kinds?

Why did he have to suffer, God? And is it okay that I miss him so much? Is it okay that I struggle to not be sad with his being gone? Oh, God, he was our son.

Do you know pain, God? Is it love that causes us to feel so deeply, to be filled with so much sorrow and distress, when someone we love goes away? Would we not feel this pain if it weren’t for love? Sometimes I wonder if I can bear this pain, if I can keep going—and I feel guilty about this when you have given us other children to love and raise. And when you have never left my side.

Still, why do some people’s children live long lives and others die? Why do some people not get sick and others suffer? Why do children die and why do their parents live?

It is interesting how we use words, so carefully, to describe something terrible happening. We use the phrase “tragedy striking”—like the experience is something removed from us. But this is not removed from me. This is not far away, but real. And I know it’s real to you, too.

You brought him to us and you took him and I know you have him but I miss him. I miss holding him, God. I also miss how he smelled. And I miss the feeling of his skin on mine. I miss his cries and his smiles.

Oh, God, you continue to heal this heart of mine. You have not given more than I can bear. But I miss him, and I know he is with you. Please, keep healing me. Please keep me close and protect my heart.


My daughter, there is something I want you to know: I never left him. I held him each day. I was was with him before he was born. I was with him the day he breathed his first breath. I am with him, even still, beyond the moment when he breathed his last. It isn’t over, my darling.

Your heart, I know, feels like it will burst some days. Your heart feels too heavy for you to rise, on some. But I made you, my girl, and I made him, too, and I am with you, from the beginning, to the end.

I want you to know something else, my dear: with me there is no end. This suffering, this pain and stretch of time when life feels so long and so hard . . . there will be an end to this pain. And I have come, and I have restored you, and I have called you mine. You are mine.

You have seen me hold him. You have seen me with him. You know you have never been alone, and that I’ve walked with you and that his laughter will never be forgotten by you, his smile will be what your heart, forever, knows.

But I want you to know this, too: I know your smile, and I know how you love, and I love your questions and your yearning. I love your desires and your dreams. Those dreams of yours are ones I want you to give me. You are made to be with me, trusting me, letting yourself believe in what feels possible because anything is possible with me. I have held you, in the hard moments, and I have never left you. I know his absence feels so much to bear, but you also know I’ve given you a strength that you recognize as mine, in you.

I give you faith. I give you hope. I give you the ability to dream and seek me. There is so much more I have for you, my daughter. Want to come and see?


Song to Listen to: “God So Loved,” United Pursuit Band


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

 

You Don’t Always Have to Be Strong

conversation 4

For S. 

God, I’ve known you since I was a little girl, since before I went away, packed two suitcases and got my passport and told my parents I was leaving for a while. I was fifteen years old. What does it take, God, for a mom and a dad to see a little girl? What does it take for a voice–a voice calling out as loud as I knew how to make it–to be heard?

It hurt so much, God, to feel unseen. And it was frustrating to not be able to stop the yelling, ease the tension, repair a family that was pushing and pulling in too many different ways.

I tried to pull them all together, Father. You know I tried. You know I felt alone and unnoticed and I wanted to see if they noticed–if they cared–if I left. Or, maybe I wanted to see if I could hurt them a bit, the way they were hurting me with the yelling, the discord, the noise that never seemed to ebb, even in my dreams, at night.

I don’t like to think about the past, about that little girl who didn’t know where she fit, didn’t know how to be heard, didn’t know why things felt so out of control and fast and loud. I haven’t let you show me where you were those moments when I felt so forgotten. I haven’t let you speak to me about the moments when I felt alone and it seemed like no one cared I was there. Until I left, decades ago.

God, help me to return.


My daughter, do you know that laughter inside you? Do you know how I love to listen to it? I gave you a smile that captivates. You captivate me and I hold your hand and I love how we get to be together, these days. I have been with you all the days, my love. I see you.

Are you asking me to show you where I was? Are you asking me to show you what I see in you? Now or then? It doesn’t change you know, my love.

I have made you determined. I have made you carefree and joy-filled, too. Have you forgotten? Your strength is practiced. You’ve chosen your strength when you felt there was no one else to be strong. You chose control, when you felt there was no one else present to direct chaos. You let your heart harden when you felt love wasn’t for you and you had to make things happen on your own.

You have spent your life choosing things, a way of looking at the world, that has made you carry burdens I didn’t mean for you to bear. You were never meant to carry those burdens, my child. I am sorry you felt you had to. I’m sorry you didn’t know it was okay to be weak.

don't have to be strong

I know you felt scared and overwhelmed and made a decision, long go, to not be weak, any more. Your determination and your strength helped you make the choice, initially, to work even harder to be stronger than you ever wanted yourself to be. You were going to count on yourself now. You were the one on whom things were going to depend. It’s been a long road since then, my darling.

Are you ready? Are you ready, now, to give each of those burdens to me? Can you give me your heart, now, as a little girl? Can you give me that moment when the world around you started to feel dark and you chose to stop eating? Can you give me that moment when all felt dark and you felt you couldn’t find your way out? Can you give me that moment when you were in your room and you decided, right then, to not be weak anymore?

Can I be your strong one, now? Can I come in and show you a new way of looking at this life? Can I paint new pictures for you to think about and know?


Song to listen to: Old Pine, Ben Howard


Dear sisters here, I’m so glad you’re reading. This is a series where a voice from this community calls out, a prayer of a sister stretched out from the deepest place in her heart–and then a response, as she listens to the One who loves her most. I have much to learn, as I listen to both voices. I wonder if you have, too.

To go back to the beginning of the series–and to read the introduction–click here. Again, I love that you’re here.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

I Didn’t Want That to Happen, Either

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

conversation 2

For K.

I feel lonely, God. And angry. And sad. And stuck. I know you’ve been close, in the past. I’ve felt you holding me close those years of feeling so fragile, the miracle of the baby in my womb, the baby I didn’t think my body would be able to carry. You brought us our children. You brought us our boys. All three. Not one did I deserve. Not one have I felt qualified to care for.

But I want to trust you, and I have seen you in the moments when I have felt completely overwhelmed with these boys. Oh, these children are such a responsibility, Father! They are mine to care for but yours, really. And I so much want to do a good job.

But it’s not the children that bring me to my knees, God. It’s the sorrow I feel, the weight of sorrow from that other dear boy’s death. Why did he have to die, God? Why did he have to die like that? He didn’t deserve it, God. He didn’t deserve to die alone, in the night, with those cars going by so fast. Why then, God? When there?

Did he feel you close? Did he know he was loved? Did he suffer? And did he know how sorry we are, so sorry that, before that night, he was in so much pain? Oh, God, where were you and where are you now?

I’ve never felt so alone, the pain of his death killing me again each day, as I rise. Why him? Why me? Where were you? Where have you been since his death?

I’m not sure you love me, God. I read your words to me, I read about you. I gather together with friends and we pray and I know there is something missing. I know I’ll forever feel not okay unless I know that you love me.

But how, God? How do I get there? How do I let go of all the pain of my past and hear you and see you, right here, and know, without a doubt, that I am yours? How can I possibly be fully yours when I feel so trapped, so forgotten, so broken, so alone?

I am tired of feeling so broken, God. I am tired of feeling afraid and lonely and broken. Take this, Father. I’m weary of carrying this alone.


My daughter, don’t cry. I know it is hard to hear me when you doubt me being with you, when you needed me most. Because it was earlier than his death when you needed me. It was earlier than the night he died when you cried out, pleading for rescue. I was there, my daughter, the whole time.

That doesn’t mean I condone what happened. That doesn’t mean those moments you endured are ones I planned for you. I don’t plan for evil, my daughter. I don’t plan for marriages to be broken, for children to have to grow up so fast. It is not my plan to have a little girl feel she needs to be the strong one in the family. It is not my plan for this world to be so broken, to be so unlovely, to feel so desperately alone.

I was there the whole time, my darling.

You are not alone, my daughter. And you, also, are not broken in ways that cannot be fixed. I know you feel you are broken, shattered in a million pieces. You want to collect all the pieces of yourself and offer them up but you don’t feel like they are worth much. So, when you hear the word, “surrender”, you aren’t sure it will do any good. Because you don’t believe your life is one worth surrendering. Because you don’t believe I’ve come for you, that you are cherished and perfectly beautiful and you shine, my daughter, you shine.

Do you know what I love to call you, in the night, when your mind is racing and you want to know–oh, you want to know–why this happened, and how this happened and when the pain will ever stop?

I call you my Cherished One. I reach out my hand and brush away your tears and I cradle you. For you are still that little girl inside, you know, my darling. And that is good. It is not bad that you feel fragile inside. It is okay that you don’t feel whole. Keep looking to me for your wholeness. Keep looking to me for all the broken pieces in you to be collected, made beautiful.

I am whole. You don’t need to try to make yourself whole. Let those holes in you be the places where I touch you. Let the pain of the past be what I hold as I hold you. I take this pain and I cradle you close and I cherish you, my darling. And it was never my plan for you to hurt like you do.


Song to listen to: “You’re Never Giving Up”, by Jonathan David Helser

Join me here each day, sisters. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice adventure slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

you are the beautiful land . . . and a giveaway

you are the beautiful land I sit on the couch, head throbbing. Day four of the flu. The pretty red chair from Justin’s grandma’s house we moved from the front room to the family room to make space for the Christmas tree is piled with clothes I will not fold tonight. There are schedules to sort for the busy last week of school and the to-do list isn’t even written. Well, I’m not a list maker anyway.

I’m in sweats and I haven’t showered and I’m in my not-so-comfy red cotton GAP socks that I’ve had since I was in college. I listen to Ellie Holcomb singing “I will lift my eyes from this fragile life, You will rescue me, You are my Prince my Peace”, while my dog who thinks he is a rug barricades me, sandwiching himself into the tiny space between the couch cushions and the ottoman. Our youngest son comes out again because he is having trouble sleeping and we take turns tucking him in. My husband and I feel our congested heads will surely explode. But we are together, and we know we will be healed soon. All will be healed.

When I thought of you, I knew who you’d be, this day. I knew the story, and the unfolding, and the journey, and how it has been hard.

This day isn’t the day that has been hard.

When I drove to Justin’s office last Sunday night to use a landline to be interviewed about my story of what I did when I was a teenager, I didn’t tell anyone the station of the radio. I managed to tell some friends ahead of time that it was happening, so they could pray for me. But then I refused to tell them the station so they could listen to it live. I can get tired of telling my story. I can get tired of sharing my mistakes and my shame. I can get tired of remembering the things I would do anything to change, if I could do my life over again.

But I do it.

I write and I speak the story because here’s the truth: it isn’t a story of shame anymore. It is a story of hope and beauty and new life.  But still, I forget. Pride makes me fearful and want to hide. So, I drive to my husband’s office on a Sunday night in the dark, running clothes still on, hat pushed down over ponytail, and I pray each word I say is translated in His truth. I want the story to do more than just make sense.

I don’t leave you here to wander forever. I come and rescue and lead you with my right hand holding you fast.

Every story ever worth sharing is never about us. It is the one whispered to us in the quiet, the one about a daughter and a Father and a beginning and a joy and a hope that never ends.

I had forgotten this truth when I felt shame welling up again and I wanted to keep the interview kind of a secret. I look at my sin and my self-imposed suffering and often stop there.

I am sorry it has been hard, but trust I don’t leave you here, in a place of desolation, in a place where it is only desert. I don’t leave you here to wander forever.

When I listen, I go to a place He has uncovered, a place He has seen. It is the place where He speaks. It is the only place where anything makes sense. Here is beauty: mess and regret and bad choices are what He delights to turn upside down.  It is His surprising love I will never tire of sharing, no matter how uncomfortable it feels to say the messy stuff, aloud.

Speak out truth now. Speak it out, even if you don’t yet believe it. I will help you believe. I will help you believe I will rescue you. I will help you believe I am here. I will help you believe, with your whole heart, I am enough.

And when the Podcast was available, and I listened to the story of a girl who felt alone and who let selfishness kill a life never hers to kill, I heard something I didn’t expect: the whisper of a Father, a Father who will bend low, on hands and knees and surrender everything for the love of a girl who He knows and who He created and who He encourages to be the full beauty He always sees her to be. And now, when He whispers this to us, I just have to believe. It is too beautiful to not believe and cling to with everything I am:

The land ahead is lush and you are cared for. You know how you are carried and valued and delighted in and seen.

You are the beautiful land, plentiful and rich and bountiful. Your heart is full and your life is full and your future is full and you are beginning now. . . You are beginning to see.

Yes, you are the land, my friend, you are the beautiful land, plentiful and rich and bountiful. He sees where you are and how you need healing, and He whispers,

Bend low now. See what I see. Quiet your heart and let Me show you what I see. Let Me speak truth into your heart that you may know who you are and know you are not alone and know how I lead you to new, fragrant places. See.

I may yet not see all in its fullness, but I am beginning to see. I may yet not be home, but I see glimpses of beauty in the path. I know I am heading towards good things. I know I am going  to a place where He is now. I know I am being held, with reassurance, resilience, fortitude. He is the rock. I don’t have to be.

Oh, my daughter, I see you. I like what I see.

Friend, can you believe it?

Here, my friend, is the link to the podcast, and here–what I am excited to tell you–is an opportunity to enter a giveaway for a special necklace below.

sarah ha pendant

Isn’t it pretty? Did you have any idea that wearing this pendant means you are wearing the entire Bible around your neck?

This amazing necklace was sent to me by Sarah Ha, a jewelry maker who uses nano-engraving technology (believe me I had never before heard that term before) to inscribe the entire Bible onto a single pendant. The charm is so beautiful, and protected by a mineral-glass window and hung from a chain of 100% Sterling Silver. The kids and I had a blast checking out the jewelry reader on their site that shows just how this all works. Check it out. It’s pretty cool.

Sarah ha pendant 2

I don’t do a lot of giveaways around here, but when I was contacted to see if I would be interested in being sent one of these beautiful necklaces, I didn’t hesitate. I was excited to say yes so I could give it away to one of you, here.

What do you think?

Sarah Ha pendant

You have until Thursday, at midnight PST, to enter the giveaway by using Rafflecopter below, and I’ll announce the winner on the blog on Friday.

xo,

Jennifersignaturescript

a Rafflecopter giveaway

after you have suffered a little while . . .

I have struggled here. With gratefulness. My eyes squinting hard to see beauty, to see miracle, to see all the obvious of what He has done. I have looked for more, for a better day to be reality now. I have throbbed with impatience.

That was just this week.

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Can I wake up? Can I live with gratefulness for who I am and what I have? False whispers distract, pulling me away from Home: you are trapped and don’t know how to make the most of a day. You are flailing and out of control. You are given much and are failing to measure up, still.

God’s words pull us back to Him, our minds open, expectant. We hear His words; yet, our hearts struggle to believe it applies to us, our situation, our life. What our mind desires to believe, our heart struggles to accept as true.

Do you feel even more alone when you hear God’s words for you and they feel like only words? What happens within you when you still feel stuck, alone, abandoned, crushed? What happens when the circumstances haven’t changed but God is telling you He loves you, He sees you, He is here?

Do you love Him, praise him, rejoice in the suffering, this moment, right now?

I hear questions from sisters:

Would a God who loves me continue to let me suffer? Would a God who loves me continue to let me stay here, on my knees, in the dark, the walls pressing in, letting me, once more, fall?

A friend of mine, last spring, put this verse on my heart. It has taken months for me to let the words sink deep:

Resist him [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your [sister]hood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:9-11, ESV).

This verse can make me uncomfortable. I squirm in my chair when I think about suffering–when I acknowledge my suffering (and don’t try to ignore it or push it down) and when I hear my God tell me He knows. He knows about our suffering. He knows what you, my sister, are experiencing, right now.

I want to skip to the end of the verse, when Peter, who knows suffering first hand (but who also, initially, did everything he could to avoid it), gets all worked up: The “God of all grace . . will himself restore, confirm strengthen, and establish you.” He knows what we are going through and we are not forgotten. He knows our plight, and He calls us to Himself. He knows every detail of our situation, and He promises to not keep us in this place of suffering forever.

You will not be in this place of suffering forever.

Twice this week I have joined my children and my friends at a national ministry for the homeless, called CityTeam Ministries. I did simple things, like pull up weeds and serve food and peel potatoes and place mandarins into plastic bags. And I listened to stories.

I heard the story of Miles, from Texas, just twenty years old, whose mother died of a drug overdose and whose beloved grandmother died soon thereafter. I heard how when he was a teenager he was addicted to drugs and had no place to go and lived on the streets. I heard how one day he felt compelled to buy a bus ticket instead of drugs and he joined his brother in California. I heard how he came into the front doors of CityTeam and his brother welcomed him and they gave him a job and a place to live. Brothers saw his suffering, and they showed him the face of Christ.

I heard the story of Tobias, whom I served next to in the kitchen, while I scraped potatoes peels of the floor. His blue eyes sparkled as he told me his gratitude of being surrounded by loving community now. He says he can do it this time–stay off the streets and keep this job and stay sober. And I heard the story of Reynolds, who is the boss of the kitchen and left a triple figure salary as the chief chef at the Hyatt Regency in town because he wanted to go into ministry. He wanted to love on people who are suffering. He wanted to speak the love Jesus has shown him into the lives of people who don’t yet know His name.

I go home and wonder at my life–the home I have and the family and friends God’s given. All gifts. All things I don’t deserve. And I get to write and listen to stories, doing something I love  . . . But He gives me the means to do it. And I didn’t merit it.

And I read the letters from you, sisters, of your suffering, of your waiting, of your longing for more and your longing for suffering to end. And I hold it up to God and wonder why . . . And I confess I want to have answers, and I confess I want to fix all these messes. I confess I want to have the right words and take all this suffering away. . . And then He leans and whispers, I know. I know. I don’t leave.

And His heart moves me to action.

For there is something we can do, sisters. We don’t have to lie passive, in our suffering. Our Father, with us naming us as His righteous ones, His chosen ones, His daughters, has equipped us for battle, has equipped us, in His name, with weapons to fight the suffering that could so easily steal our hope and our joy.

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There is an action for us to take here.

Do you see it? Resist. Resist Satan as he whispers his lies in our ear. (And we can be more vulnerable to believing these whispers, in our suffering.) Resist, as Satan tries to steal our joy in Christ, as he tries to steal our hope and keep the eyes of our heart focused on despair, on hopelessness. Resist, as he wants to keep us impatient and looking to the next thing to try to fix ourselves. Resist, as he wants to keep us tired and weary and busy and anxious. Resist, as he wants us to be blind to God’s goodness, deaf to His words of love. Resist, as he wants us to feel stuck and not free, hopeless instead of hopeful, sorrow-filled instead of filled with God’s joy.

Yesterday I was feeling the weight of lies upon me, stealing my joy, making me not want to be grateful for what I have. I seek a heart quiet in God’s love, strong and secure, not looking beyond what He has given.

Do you know, friend,  you are not the only one who listens to His words, reads His love letters upon the page, and doubts the words are for you? Do you know you aren’t the only one who can get herself to believe she is stuck, and that nothing will ever change . . . that she will never change?

The way you move, with Me, is a pace that feels like dance. You move with beauty and with grace and with light that cannot be contained. It is made to be seen. You are made to be seen by Me, and I see you, and I delight in you, and I love how you do it (Loop, “The Way You Dance”).

I’ve been reading Phillip Yancey’s book, The Question That Never Goes Away, and I love his reminder about Christ being enough to handle whatever we are going through–and how He knows, He knows, and He doesn’t leave us in the middle of what we are going through. He has done it. He has suffered for us all: “Christ is God crying I am here . . Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.”

What do we do?

Oh, Father, what do we do now? What do we do when we hear You love us, You are here, You invite us to dance . . . and we just have trouble believing it? What if the pain is too great, the wounds too deep, to feel like raising our heads, to believe a look into your eyes will help?

When will healing come?

Our heads hear God’s truth, but our hearts are desperate to see it realized in our lives. We cry out, “my heart feels like broken fragments. . . my heart is gasping for breath.” But we know our suffering isn’t too great. He suffered. He gave it all. His love is even bigger than any suffering we endure, ever.

So we surrender, and we bow low. And we pray, and we lift up our hands, for we know He is close.

Emmanuel. He is here.

Father, we know You are here. We know You know our hearts, our suffering, our aches and longings. And You are here. And You love us. And this is the reason You invite us to dance.  And this is the reason we know we can do more than endure.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18).

I am praying, friends. And for my American sisters, I pray you have the most beautiful Thanksgiving. 

 

sick and tired . . . and the sweetness of it all

We start this week on a slow roll, the weekend stretched long with all five of us sick. We staggered home from the boys’ football games, after sitting outside in 90 degree weather all afternoon, and plopped down on the big king bed. My husband first, then me, then our little girl and middle son. Our older couldn’t make it off the couch in the family room before running out the door to throw up again. (On my flowers . . .lovely.)  I can’t remember the last time–or if ever–we had all gotten the same bug at the same time. And it was brutal, but there was sweetness in it, too.

We didn’t know yet that the boys were getting sick with what Justin and I already had (and Abby got first, days before), on the day of their weekend football games, the one Jackson had worked so hard for all week, including having to change his diet to make weight as a bigger, older player on a younger team. It was an away game, almost two hours from home, but the first of the season. And these boys love football. So, we were going to get them there, even if we had to take throw-up bags in the car for Justin and me in the process.

We didn’t think we would have to use a bag–for Ollie–on the drive there.

I managed to be the driver, while Justin, who was feeling worse, tried to sleep. When we arrived, I was blessed with the ladies bathroom all to myself as it was my turn to get sick, hours before the first game started.

While the boy’s warmed up (as Ollie bounced back once he saw his team and was determined to play), Justin and I crawled over to some shade near a fence behind the stands and laid down on the coolest, most heavenly grass in the entire world. I will never forget its softness, the way it cradled my aching limbs and head.

And then my parents arrived to see the games. And my sister and her family, too. And the coach came over to ask Justin to help him videotape. And we stood up and tried to hold it together, while the sky was spinning and the sun beamed down. And we made our way to the hot metal bleachers, which, even under the shaded awning my heaven-sent sister brought, felt like grills used to cook meat in an oven.

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Our 42 (in the back) waiting for the handoff.

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Our 66 as defensive captain before the game.

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Justin and I decided that day, in the sun, feeling sick, and doing one of our most favorite things to do–watch our boys play football–was one of our worst days ever. . .We felt so terrible we didn’t know how we would make it home. And then the throwing up started again, in the car.

Yes, it was rough. . . and that’s why our bed was almost as nice as the grass, when we got home.

It feels silly, now, to admit how unpleasant this all was–especially since those moments of being sick this weekend were some of the most special, too. After sleeping for over twelve hours straight, the next day was filled with snuggles with my boys on the couch, reading aloud the book we didn’t get to finish over the summer. I had a tea party in the backyard with my daughter. We watched episodes of Myth Busters. I took a few short bike rides around the block with my kids as an easy way to walk our dog. Our weariness slowed us all down, and while, I don’t want to get sick again anytime soon, I loved how being sick together helped me appreciate the sweet moments of slowing down, together.

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I don’t know what you’re going through right now. I imagine it might be a whole lot worse than this silly stuff I just described about my family’s bout with the flu. And I would love to pray for you. I would love to be with you, help you find some soft grass on which to lay your weary head. I would love to listen to what is on your heart, what made your long weekend filled with beauty, or what made it make you want to run away and scream. I would love to let you lean on my shoulder, sharing the burden with you, while the tears fall. Or see you smile and hear your laugh as you tell the story of that crazy thing that happened that just keeps making you smile.

I would love to stand with you, praying for you, sister. When I write, I trust these aren’t just words on a computer screen, floating out into space when I hit the little blue button on the right that says “publish”. They are meant for you, right now.

Because we all get tired and need to know we aren’t alone.

Because we all get discouraged and need to know we are heard and someone cares.

Because we all get sad and lonely and mad and confused and wonder what it is we are supposed to do with this day and wonder how we will ever get through it.

Because we all know, sometimes, it is difficult to even raise our heads–that it aches to feel or see.

But I know this is true:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

And I know it is true that we are not meant to journey these tough days alone.

Looking forward to hearing from you, friends.

Love,

Jennifersignaturescript

Linking with Emily and Jennifer today.

When I pray for Oklahoma

Oklahoma

Father what do you see?

You could not bear what I see, what I know. But I stand here, amidst the rubble, putting together hearts that fear they will surely break.

I repair.

I stand amidst the rubble, the crying out, the suffering. I stand amidst the sweeping piles of things that were homes–places where my children laid their heads, where they felt safe, where they felt today would be a good day.

I stand in the middle of the hard places, of the moments where pain swallows all hope. I came and know what pain is, what sorrow and devastation look and feel like.

And I stand here, amidst the pain and the mess and the uncertainty about which way next to turn. I stand amidst broken dreams and lives upended. I stand here.

Now watch–watch how the upside down will be righted. Look, with Me . . how the pain will be washed away. Look how the children come and help, courageously, knowing I go before. I am here.

You are not alone. I am here. I stand.

Know that I stand and my heart splits wide again as my children cry out, ‘God, where are you?’ Know, I stand, when the winds wail and my children flee and all is vulnerable. All is capable of breaking and not being repaired.

Until I come. I will come.

And you will see Me. . . in the arms wrapped ’round, in the reaching in to grasp and save, in the tears and the sweat and the going back to work, and back again, even though it is hard, even though the needs feel too great, the mess too big.

I am here. I stand.

I do not cower in this place. Lift up your heads to see Me. My weary ones, my tired children who run scattered, come. Let me gather you up. Let me wipe away your tears. Let me shoulder this burden. Let me be your strong place, your hope.

Call out.

I hear you.

I stand.

Tree

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in it season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.  ~ Psalm 1:1-4

The sermon on Sunday is truth I drink with mighty thirst:  the tree, the streams of water sustaining the roots that plunge deep for nourishment.  I grab hold of the small disc around my neck with the form of the tree,  branches stretching, pressed into metal, and my chest tightens, tears trickling down.   I believe this, that we are this tree, this tree firmly standing through times of drought, sickness, suffering, war — for all roots dependent on the Father’s water and light for sustenance surge deep.  To live, to survive this world, hearts must root into the safety of the One.  Otherwise, we float away, hardened shells of corpse, shallow roots too weak to hold.  Seeking life beyond His word, His truth, sustenance besides living water, the leaves shrivel. There is no fruit.  Rather, the brittle trunk breaks, and finally falls. This world’s weight is too heavy to bear such sin.

My sin.  My heart.

My dear friend across the circle on Monday brings up the tree, our longings for the One uniting us.  “I want to be the tree!” she shares.  She wants to be the tree who weathers and stands and produces fruit in its season, despite passages of hardship, tragedy, and lack of rain.

Lack of rain.

And as the earth’s crust lies depleted in its dryness, floating in the wind and the children cry out, we will lift up these tired branches to the One who sustains, who loves, who does not look away or fail.

Oh, Father, bring rain to your children.  All provision comes from You.  We lift up our hands to the One who provides all we need, for our roots are always satisfied, always anchored strong.  This tree will not fall in this desert place, for Your living streams will sustain. And You will lift up these tired branches so we can carry your broken and depleted and offer what You give:  Your life, which does not weaken; Your arms, which hold us up; Your heart, which aches for Your children who lie covered in the dust of this world.   This world trembles for Your streams that lie deep, beyond our vision, Your heart below the surface.

Let us dig into these streams, Father, which You make available or us to live.  Let us drink of Your water to give hope to Your dear ones who need You.  Sustain us and remind us of what is true:  You are the mighty One whose heart aches for these children who lack food, water, shelter, care — and You say I am the hope, the life.  And the children who claim You go out, in Your name, our roots drinking You, to offer Your hope and life to the thirsty.  The thirsty, Father.  Please bring water.   Please, bring hope.

The lights do not go out on these nations.  My children cry, and I hear.  Cry out, my children, cry out, for Me.  I hear your voices.  It is not in vain.  The land’s dust settles in the dry places, and more dust collects, until the world aches with its burden.  Young ones, My sons and daughters, I see you.  Bring water to the thirsty.  Bring food to the hungry.  Bring shelter to the sick.  I am with you.  I am the tree who covers in the storm.  You are the tree who offers shelter, now, to my children.  The cries are for you, my trees who thirst for me.  The cries for you to hear, with My heart.  The cries for you ro respond to, with My provision. My love of this world is for you to respond to now, My Spirit in you mighty and bold and all you need.  Go now, with all you need, this living water for you to drink and be sustained by and rise with, so the branches of love stretch far and wide.  No one is forgotten.  See where I go, where I nudge you.  Your heart is good and knows what it should do.  Do not be overwhelmed and frozen.  Step forward now, young ones.  I carry your heart.

Cries of the Heart

To the Father who redeems, who restores, we loves us beyond what we can ever comprehend, we trust You.  We believe You heal.

In a hospital room lies an 18-month old little girl who wandered into the driveway of her home yesterday and was run over by a car.  She is in a medically-induced coma, her body broken, her parents’ hearts breaking.

In another bed, in her own home, a young mother lies locked in with her thoughts, blinking her only way of communicating, after suffering a stroke a year and a half ago that has paralyzed her entire body.  Her children hug her and she feels it but can’t respond.  She has words to say but cannot speak.

A woman’s husband who separated from her a year ago has a heart attack and her heart breaks with this love for him, for the family and father she hopes for her children.  She waits on Him and trusts, arms open and tired.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find  rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11: 28-30).

Your children cry out to You, Father, and You hear us.  Pain does not turn You away, make You indifferent, aloof.  You carry the broken-hearted, Your resurrection being our hope, Your life in us helping us bear the trials and suffering of this life.  Redeem, Father.  Your children cry.

My dear friend at SoulStops wrote a post this week that stirred my heart, as she explored God’s words in Romans 8:28:  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  She shares how Jesus knows each pain we suffer and wants to bring His ultimate healing to every wound.  With Jesus’ taking away all of our sin, we are redeemed, all sin wiped away.  And the Father does not turn away. He hears His children’s cries.  He comes.

Hard Love

In the orchard, cold ground, although just December in California, and she wants to end it here.

This choice, the weight of the decision before her is that she thinks she has no choice.  Her life, the self-absorbed focus on her life, only hers, creates the walls of the darkness.  This garden is not the garden where Jesus wept, heart shaking, for the journey His heart prepared to endure.

Her bare legs pressed into the dark soil and she thinks about herself, her dream, her image, the lies pressing in and choking her in the darkness.  The love of self, the desire to put oneself on the throne, above Him, has already squelched the life in her and then killed the chance of the life in her that was not hers to take away–and all she thinks, to survive.

Hard love.

It is not this.  Rather, it is choosing to sacrifice, to give it all, for another, no matter the cost, knowing exactly the cost, and doing it anyway.

Hard love.  And He came next to her in the darkness, 20 years later she sees it; she never knew He was there all along.  Kneeling there, bare almond branches overhead, and He loves.  Here, in the darkest places of the heart.  He loves.  He comes.  He rescues.  He redeems.

 

Above is what I wrote in a “5 minute Friday” with Lisa-Jo, at The Gypsy Mama.  She offers the challenge of  writing “for 5 minutes flat with no editing or tweaking”.  She encourages “let’s  just write and not worry if it’s just right or not.”  I encourage you to jump on over and join in!

Somersaults and Shadows

“My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;  My voice rises to God, and He will hear me” Psalm 77:1

“My children in the dust, I rise.”

Cartwheels and shadow games, somersault races and soccer kicks. The innocence – make us innocent.

But we aren’t.

Believe in the voice, children, the heart of the Father in you.

Make us innocent again, Father, that You may look on us as untarnished, unblemished, glorious and worthy in our unworthiness, our dust.

We are but dust, filled with Your Spirit, and as we rise and we appeal, in Your fullness, moved by Your might in us, let us rescue, in Your name.

Your children cry for justice, for peace, for absolution, for the terrors to cease — and You come, Father.  You must come.  Your heart cannot turn away.  We have been washed clean and Your eyes cannot turn away.

Father, we are Your children.  We rise from the dust, from the shadows, into the light and call upon Your mighty hand to lift up the despondent, the despairing.

Dear God, set Your children free.  You have, and we trap ourselves again in lies, deceiving, ourselves about who we are.

“Glorious Ones, rise!  Out of the desert I call you!  Rise, My darlings, and come help Me to gather them up.  Innocent as a dove, wise as serpents, go in with My power, your humility.  Don’t turn away from where I call.”

 

Do I Really Believe?

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The weary children cry out, in petition to their God, their Father who saves, their only hope and salvation.

He has brought salvation, the God who gave it all.  This God who knows suffering, who does not stand apart, aloof, from His children, but longs to “cover you with his feathers”, so that “under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 86:14-16).

What does it mean to stand, with my God, when a beloved suffers?  He looks at me and reminds me that He has saved us, but I am here to love His beloveds, especially in their suffering.  Do I believe He will give me what I need to love well?  Do I forget myself, not knowing who I am, who He created me to be, as His child, when I hear His word and do not act on it?

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23-25).

My Father, let me cling to Your hand.  Help me to remember who I am!  I lose myself, forget my identity, when Your words are not action in my heart. Transform Your words in me to action!  Let my heart awake and not sleep!  Let me rise up and go where You call.  Your word is life.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men (John 1:1-4).

Father, Your promises to us in Your Word are life, and we carry Your life in us when we let Your Word be in us, a living, active response to Your truth.  What does it show when I hear Your Word but don’t respond?  Of course, then, You tell me:  I don’t really believe.  I am not proving I am a doer of Your word.  You say that if I only hear and don’t act, I am one of the “hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). Am I deluding myself, Father, convincing myself that I am aligned with You, Your truth, but, in fact, I merely stand, unloving, on my own?

Do I believe, Father that it is “all joy”  when your “faithful ones encounter various trials”? (James 1:2)  You say the “the testing of [our] faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that [we] may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4).  I say I believe this, Father, knowing You are good and that Your plans are always good and perfect. But do my actions show it?  Do I,  indeed–in-deed– really believe this, if I don’t live with Your heart?  If I don’t love the ones who suffer–doing what You’ve modeled, in Your joy, in Your love–am I just a hypocrite, thinking I am a “believer” in what I hear, in what I say, but not in what I do?  If that is how I live, then I don’t truly believe.

Your Word lives in us when we respond to its truth.  It is not static, flat letters upon a page.  It is a living, breathing joy that comes when Your life is lived out.

Can I help those who suffer feel less alone?  Can Your beloveds feel loved by Your children if we don’t act, in love, with Your word in us?

You remind us, Father, “The Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.  They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off” (Psalm 33:3-5).  You are not far away.  You are in us when we believe what You say and step out, with Your love in us, and love, faithfully, completely, beautifully and with courage–in Your name.

Help us to go, Father.  Help us to love.  Help us to hear, to act, to believe.

In Your name, Jesus,

Amen