Run With Me

 

woman-girl-silhouette-jogger-40751I was supposed to be hanging out with one of my dearest friends to run a 5k race tomorrow, but the coronavirus stole that plan.

So I’m left to daydream about the race, knowing we would have kept the same pace to encourage each other to keep reaching for the finish line. And if I would have wiped out on my face, I know my dear friend would have stopped to help me. That’s just the kind of friend she is. (Love you, Dawn! 😉 )

We all need someone to help us when we stumble and fall, don’t we? We need someone to help us see the markers, to know which path to take, to know which way leads to the finish line.

We don’t want to wander off, get lost, and find ourselves in the dark at the end of the day wondering where we went wrong.

Maybe you already feel that way. Maybe you feel like you’re running all by yourself and the road is treacherous and you don’t see any safe places to stop and rest. Maybe you’re broken and you would never trust any of the other runners to help you because you’ve been hurt before. You’d rather limp along and do the best you can.

But what if there’s a better way? What if I told you the world is full of runners who are all aiming for the same finish line. They’re not perfect. They’ve got sprained ankles and scraped-up knees, some from their own stumbles and blunders.

But they keep going. They don’t quit. For years, they’ve run. They can’t see the finish line, but they know it’s there. They know they’re getting closer. And each one is keeping an eye out to help you. That’s just the kind of people they are. (It’s the kind of people they’re supposed to be.)

And the pace is increasing. It’s just a matter of time before the finish line comes into view; when we all round the corner and see that glorious ribbon appearing as a beam of light, separating top from bottom, past from future, life from death.

Are you struggling in your race, in your life? Dear Soul, you don’t have to run alone.

You can run with this great big group of runners known as the Church.

Oh dear, Soul. Please hear my heart. I am a part of the Church. I am SO imperfect. But I keep aiming for the finish line, focusing on the prize. I keep running.

And I hope you’ll run with me.

If you’ve stumbled and fallen, I’m reaching out my hand to you right now. Run with me. Let’s finish this race together, breaking through the finish line and right into the arms of Jesus Christ as He and all those who have run before us wait to welcome us home.

I can’t think of a better prize.

 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 NIV.)

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1b NIV.)

 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV.)

And the race is marked out for us beginning here:

“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10 NIV.)

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

God Is in the Darkness

 

brown-grass-field-under-black-sky-during-nighttime-976907

I was lying in bed last night, listening as the wind roared. It was as if there were a thousand mighty horses stampeding through the woods surrounding our house, bringing a powerful force with them. Hail hit our window and lightning lit up the room as the horses came closer.

I prayed, remembering a time when Jesus was with His disciples in a boat and a terrible storm raged.

“He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:39-40 NIV.)

The lightning faded from our bedroom walls and the power went out. The glowing lights from our alarm clocks were gone, the light illuminating our backyard, also gone.

It was completely dark. The thunder rumbled in the distance, the rain continued to pelt the window and our roof.

And somewhere in the midst of the darkness, I fell asleep and slept peacefully.

When I got up this morning, I thought about that wind. I went to Scripture and read about Elijah hearing the voice of God after the wind.

“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 NIV.)

I believe God spoke to me after the wind of last night’s storm through His Word this morning just as He has done for so many of us so many times.

What He revealed to me was this: God is in the darkness.

“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:21 NIV.)

“Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” (Psalm 97:2 NIV.)

We don’t need to be afraid. We are in a storm, a darkness of uncertainty.

But we can be certain God is with us in this darkness.

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:11-12 NIV.)

Darkness is simply another place where God is, another place where we can trust Him. There is no place where we can escape His presence. No storm too great for Him to reach us. No home or room too isolated where He can’t meet with us.

We must have faith and believe God is working all things out in the darkness, in the place where our eyes fail us, the place where our faith is tested, the place where we are still and listen for His whisper.

Stand fast in the darkness, stand firm in the faith, and cling to the King of Kings.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV.)

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NIV.)

 “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8 NIV.)

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” (Revelation 19:16 NIV.)

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

 

 

There Is Still Screaming in the World Today

 

adult-alone-black-and-white-blur-568021

This world can be a painful place.  Cancer is ravaging our loved ones.  Alzheimer’s attacks without mercy. Children are suffering from hunger, neglect, and all sorts of horrific abuse.

And the coronavirus is out to steal, kill, and destroy our peace, lives, and finances.

Somewhere in all of this, there is screaming.

Can you hear it?  If you quiet yourself, you can.  Those suffering are screaming from the depths of their souls, crying out for help.  Just a word.  Something to give them hope that it will get better, that there is more than pain, fear, and lack.

They need to see that God is moving. And if they’ve never experienced Him before, they need to know He is real.

And sometimes God will choose to use you to show them. Sometimes He will use your mouth to encourage them, your creativity to be present in their lives while keeping socially distant, and sometimes, yes, your money to provide for them.

Are you letting Him?  Or are you keeping your mouth shut when you should speak up?  Are you so preoccupied with surviving the quarantine that God can’t possibly use you? Maybe you’re keeping your hands wrapped so tightly around your money “just in case” that He can’t use that either.

So while you’re keeping quiet and holding on to your checkbook, someone is screaming in God’s ear.

Of course, God hears it all. He sees it all. He sees one child hurting and crying out for help while the other with a heart too hard, too stubborn and self-absorbed to help.

Which child are you?

If you are one of those who are screaming, please know I’m praying for you. Don’t give up. Keep crying out to God. He hears you. Your rescue is coming.

You see, I’ve also screamed in God’s ear, begging for His rescue. And I’ve seen Him move in my life in miraculous ways, sometimes choosing to use others to reach me.

God knows how to reach you too.

Perhaps you are not screaming, but you can hear those who are. You can do something about it. Don’t let the enemy trick you into believing you are stuck at home with no options to reach out.

You can help by allowing God to use you to speak encouraging words through a phone call or to share kind words through a text or social media post; your words can offer hope to someone struggling. Your tender words are the closest thing to a hug you can offer right now. (Maybe you can even be creative in the approach – God will lead you.)

Perhaps you can provide financially for a need. The amount you can share may not seem like much to you, but to someone who is screaming, it is the answer to an agonizing prayer.

And regardless of age or location, no matter if you are completely isolated at home or cooped up with a few family members, you can pray for someone suffering physically, lifting them up to the One who continues to comfort and heal today.

Will you let God use you to ease the screaming in the world today?

Or will you wait until the screaming has stopped and hope seems lost?

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6 NIV.)

“Kind words heal and help.” (Proverbs 15:4a MSG.)

“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT.)

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16 ESV.)

“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 NIV, emphasis my own.)

This is an updated version from an earlier post

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

Isolation, Depression, and Hope

agriculture-alone-barn-clouds-259618

For years I’ve been fascinated with tiny houses and how the kitchen table lowers from the ceiling or how the staircase can hide against the wall like a bookshelf. I’ve seen the shows, even visited small structures and imagined trying to live in one.

One day I hope to have one, not necessarily to live in one unless I want to live alone since my husband gets claustrophobic and doesn’t like the idea of climbing a ladder to go to bed, and frankly, I can’t say I blame him. But I would love to own a tiny house or “she shed” as my own little writer’s nook.

I could decorate it in all things Christmas, leaving a tree in the corner all year long. I would string white lights in the rafters and have a tiny fireplace in the corner. It would be my escape, my Christmas wonderland, inspiring Christmas tales I’d tap out on my laptop while the coffeepot gurgled in the corner.

I’d play songs by Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole and tuck Christmas books on the shelves, leaving a special place for “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern which became one of my all-time favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’d throw a furry rug on the floor and fill the space with the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, of course, and the scent of spiced apple.

I get so excited daydreaming about it (as you can tell!). And I hope one day that daydream will become a tiny, lovely reality in our backyard.

Having hope is so important in the world we are living in today, especially when we’re all homebound for the duration of the coronavirus.

We may have to stay put in our houses or in our yards, but our minds are free to soar and fixate on whatever we choose.

Me? I choose God. I choose to have hope in Him when everything else is screaming at me that I need to be anxious and afraid. I’m choosing to believe the promise that Jesus is preparing a place for me in heaven, and He will come back for me. And I’m looking forward to it.

Having hope in the promises of God brings my mind peace at a time when depression, like a venomous spider hiding in a dark corner, threatens to bite.

Not many people know this about me, but when I was in college, I was treated by a counselor for clinical depression.

Depression was like that awful spider and its web covered my thoughts, keeping me from having hope. I felt alone. Isolated. I had no joy. I felt numb and yet deep pain all at the same time. I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. And when I was awake, all I wanted to do was cry.

It was an awful place.

Years later when I quit my job to stay at home with our daughter, depression tried to attack me again. I was more isolated than what I was used to and I would sob at the back corner of our yard where my husband and daughter couldn’t see me.

But God saw me.

And He sees you too. If you’re struggling during this period of isolation, with the “culture shock” of staying at home for days and weeks at a time, please call out to God, reach out to family and friends. Seriously, reach out! You do not have to suffer, and you do not need to go through it alone.

When you’re feeling alone, that’s when the enemy will lie and tell you all sorts of nonsense.

Here’s the truth: God will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). You don’t need to be afraid or discouraged because God is with you (Joshua 1:9). You were created for a purpose and God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).

You are not alone, my friend, and your mind is free to soar even if you feel stuck in your living room. So go ahead and let your mind visit Christmas songs and tiny houses, far away dream vacations, and future plans.

You can, and should, think about lovely things (Philippians 4:8).

And let your mind stay fixed on God and His promises. He has given you His Holy Spirit, so you are NEVER alone. You have eternal hope in Jesus Christ, and He is preparing a place for you. And your place is going to be so much better than anything this world has to offer.

It’s going to be even better than a Christmas tiny house. 😉

“Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 43:5 NIV.)

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5 NIV.)

“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:1-6 NIV.)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV.)

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

 

 

 

 

Focus

silhouette-photography-of-hanging-rosary-2081128

Calling 911 and telling the operator our propane tank was leaking put a lot of things into perspective. But first, let me explain something.

The coronavirus is a thief and has been trying to steal my focus. (Is it trying to steal yours? Your peace?)

I was finally going to my first writer’s conference in Georgia at the end of March. I’d been hoping and praying about conferences for years, knowing it’s the best way to meet an agent.

Of course, roadblocks popped up in front of me concerning this conference, so I prayed about each one. And I watched as God made a way for me, removing each roadblock. (Conference cost, plane ticket cost, traveling alone, hotel cost, and our daughter’s school schedule – God provided through some lovely individuals who blessed me beyond words.)

But then came the coronavirus. (You know, the one we keep seeing pictures of, those little blobs floating around wearing spikes – a synonym for corona, by the way, and according to my medical dictionary, is “crown”). And so the conference was canceled.

I’m being honest here. I fell apart. I sobbed and questioned why God would move all of the other roadblocks and yet allow this one to stay. I wondered if I should still go to Georgia; if I might bump into the agent I was hoping to meet. When I asked God, I heard in my spirit:

Don’t look for the agent, look for Me.

So when this virus began stealing everyone’s focus, I fought to look for God. (Not an easy task when the focus of the world all around seems to be on this virus!) I looked for God and saw Him in some pretty amazing ways. (Just look at the surge of scripture on social media!) But I had no idea I would see Him the way I did yesterday:

I realized I’d left our mudroom light on while backing out of the garage, so my daughter got out of the car to turn it off. That’s when we smelled it. I didn’t know what it was, but when she said it smelled like eggs, I knew I needed to check our propane tank.

Our propane tank in the backyard was hissing and the smell was strong. I rushed back to the car, called 911, and drove to the end of our driveway.

Silence. I watched our house in the rearview mirror as we sat in the car and waited for the fire department.  And I cried out to God to protect everyone and our home, my voice breaking, the words falling short.

But I was looking for Him. In that moment of complete helplessness with my mind wanting to fixate on our house exploding, I looked for God in that moment and cried out to Him.

And He showed up.

He came with the roaring siren of a fire truck and four firemen to turn off the tank and inspect our home. God protected everyone involved, and He kept our home safe. And when I walked side by side with those firemen back into the house, I knew God was already inside and there would be no explosion.

When things leave us holding our breath, anticipating tragedy, look for God, my friends, and cry out to Him. Don’t allow those microscopic blobs wearing their tiny crowns to steal your focus or your peace.

Fix your eyes on the King of Kings who wears many crowns and has you in the palm of His hand.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV.)

“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.” (Revelation 19:12a NIV.)

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28 NIV.)

“That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13 MSG.)

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)