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Because He is my Refuge

Over the last week or so, I have been in observation of the Lent season in preparation for Easter Sunday in April.

Lent was something I always grew up around, but I more saw as a time to maybe shed a few pounds before the summer if I gave up sugar, gluten, or some other type of food that is considered to be “bad” for you. Lent, as of recent years, has become much more to me. It is a time to be present with the Lord, to grow in my prayer, and to be in relation with Him as I prepare my heart for Easter.

This year, I decided to take it a step further and I purchased myself a $1.99 daily devotional on iBooks to do in preparation for Easter Sunday. I am currently on day six of this devotional (written on Monday, March 11) titled Lasting Hope: Devotions for Lent 2019. We have begun this devotional by reading scripture from Psalm, one of my favorite books in the Bible.

The scripture for today’s devotion was Psalm 91:9-10 “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation, no evil will befall you, not shall affliction come near your dwelling.”

Prone to Wander: A Comparison Driven Life

If I’m being completely honest with myself, much of my misery comes from wanting to live out someone else’s story.

Yes, I am a single woman, living on my own, with a job I enjoy. I have a terrific sister who allows me the latitude to play a large role in my nephew’s lives. I like that I can play the piano and worship God through music.

But comparison seeps in and the lovely aspects of my life lose their luster. What gives me life and light grows dim in the looming shadow that is Comparison.

It’s more than comparing my life to someone else’s. The comparison that gets to me are the “what could have been” and “what should have been” narratives.

I should have been more loving.I could have been a lovely wife.
I could have been a great parent.
I should not have to carry this burden alone.
I could have been more if I had more money, time, space, etc.

Sometimes I want to be all of these things, have all of my wishes, live my best life. And in the depths of my desperate thinking, I protest God because I don’t like the story he’s writing for me.

And I audaciously ask for different one.

Stillness After the Storm

I’ve lived in the Northwest nearly all my life. In this place where the weather is typically a bit on the boring side, our responses to anything out of the ordinary can be truly dramatic. I love the way we embrace sunshine like it may never come again and treat snowstorms like hurricanes. And this year’s snowstorm did not disappoint. The snowflakes arrived at almost exactly the moment they were supposed to, piling up inch by inch just as predicted.

Most years, when February rolls around, I am in full-on hibernation mode. If I could join the bears and sleep from Christmas until Spring, I probably would. Once the Christmas tree comes down, the long, slow wait begins. I never learned to appreciate the short days, mud, and general dampness that accompany our Northwest winters, and last year was no exception.

When the Storm Rises

Photo Credit: Sara Sandefur

In January 2018, I was promoted to a new position at work. It came with a nice raise and exponential increase in responsibility. Last winter flew by in a fog of long hours, countless meetings, thousands of emails, and long, sleepless nights. My fear of getting it all wrong was completely overwhelming. I constantly replayed each day in my mind, second guessing most of my decisions and wondering if I was even coming close to what was expected of me.

A Time to Mourn

To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn…

I grew up in a household where I recognized those lyrics by the Byrds before I knew them as words from scripture. It’s a catchy tune that is fun to sing along. But the reality of what scripture tells us isn’t so soft and sweet.

The writer of Ecclesiastes starts off telling us that everything is meaningless. Many of us have felt that way at times. But when tragedy strikes, that’s not the answer we’re looking for. We want to know that there is some meaning to what is taking place, what we’re going through.

And the writer continues on with this at the start of Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Pretty words. But too often, that’s all they are. Words alone are not very comforting.

Even the Gentiles

I remember the first time I saw a confederate flag in Tacoma, fixed to the back of a pickup truck and driving down 6th Ave without a care in the world.

I gasped of shock. It was during the 2016 presidential election and this memory crystalizes the division for me. The Other. The Right Christian and the Wrong Christian. Unfriending online and in reality. Everyone says, “We’ve never been so divided.” Perhaps we have never been this divided as a country (although the Civil War might beg to differ), but as a group of faithful following the teachings of Christ, we have certainly been this divided.

So then, even to the Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life. ~ Acts 11:18

Peter is speaking to Jewish people here, assuring them that Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew) could experience the gift of the Holy Spirit as well and should be treated with the same respect as fellow Jews. But it’s not really this verse talking about inclusion of people who were from different ethnicities and backgrounds that tells me there was division, it’s the word even.

Even the Gentiles. . .

That little phrase says so much to us about the conflicts of the time.  It invokes a little shock, the idea that the original listener was going to be the tiniest bit horrified and would need some reassurance. Yes,

Even the Gentiles.

Quest for Generosity

How do we become generous people?

Some people make it look so easy, like they do not even have to try. It is like they have generosity hardwired into the forefront of their mind.  For others, it does not come naturally and they need to work at it in order for generosity become more natural.

I am definitely in the latter camp.

Whether or not we are in the first group or the second group, like all things, generosity is a choice.  However, as striving followers of Christ, when we look and see what God has to say about generosity, generosity becomes a pretty easy choice.

The Practice of Plugging into God’s Word

Last Sunday, Pastor Jon challenged us to unplug from our distractions and plug into God’s Word.

So, how is it going?

If you’re like me, sometimes reading the Word is life-changing. Beauty drips from every verse, fills my heart, and leaves my soul in peace.

And then there are the days when it’s just…dry.

Sometimes reading the Word of God is a time when I remember all that we say that He is and discover all that I am who He says I am.

But what about the times, the days, the seasons, the years, when life is hard and difficult and the last thing I want to do is open a book that reads like a text book instead of the Living Word? What happens when God’s Word falls on the dry ground of my heart?

We read any way.

As I write this, tears prick my eyes. My heart is so tender, bruised, torn, bleeding. All the words that describe: wounded.

How am I supposed to read the Word of God when I feel nothing but pain?

Keep Reading.

What He Says of 2019

As what happens at the close of every year, we begin to look back on the 365 days we lived and we reflect on what that year held.

We think about the highs, the lows, the mountains, and the valleys. And in more recent years, our social media accounts, which begin to reflect those things as well. Our Facebook accounts pull up memories from three years prior. Our Instagram show us our “top nine” photos of the year. Spotify tells us our most streamed genres, artists, and songs.

I personally enjoy seeing these year-end round-ups; my Instagram top nine included photos of my 21st birthday, my transformation photo after losing thirty pounds, and photos when my best friend from Boston came to visit me after the tragic loss of twelve lives in our hometown. It truly showed some wonderful mountains and some really low and dark valleys, but in the end, it reminded me of some wonderful milestones that 2018 held for me and made me excited for what is to come in 2019.

My Spotify account reflected a similar round-up: a mix of songs that got me through some serious waves of grief, a tough break up, and a multitude of other events of 2018.

You Say

I was not surprised to see my top song of 2018 was “You Say” by Lauren Daigle.

If you haven’t heard this song, drop everything right now and listen to it. I discovered this song in August when I began my senior year of college, a year that I truly did not think I would make it to, after the hardships that 2017 and 2018 brought to me and my family. As I went through the first semester of my senior year, I was constantly bombarded with questions, doubts, and anxieties about things in daily life, things from the past, and the unknown of the future.

Love Covers…

I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.

I am certain that I am not alone in this. There may or may not be breaks from work, travel, lots of food, time with family. And there is where the rub occurs for many of us.

Family.

I love my family, except in those moments when I don’t. We all have these moments. Someone says or does something that raises your ire. Maybe harsh words follow. Feelings are hurt. Then comes the awkward dance trying not to make things worse as some tiptoe around the eggshells. I am fairly certain that all of us have experienced some version of this.

I am perfectly willing to take some of the blame within my own family. I can be pretty opinionated and not always sensitive to the feelings of others. And why can’t my family see things the way that I see them? It is such a selfish position. Why doesn’t everyone else feel the way I do, why don’t they see things the way I do, why don’t they believe the same things, and more. In those moments I add to the struggles, because all I am focused on is myself and what I want or care about.

The Bible is pretty clear that relational strife has been around for a very long time. It is actually part of the curse for Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit. In fact, the first books of the Bible, which tell the history of the people of Israel, are filled with stories of dysfunction. Lying, cheating, adultery, abuse, murder and more–and that’s just in one family over multiple generations. The really crazy part is this is all part of the family heritage for Jesus.

That is where things get even more complicated. As followers of Jesus we are now called part of the family of God.

What?

Advent: Looking into the Unseen

It was a sunny day, the kind that is perfect unless you are running around in heels, setting up for an event.

Which is exactly what I was doing, regretting the heels and starting to sweat–just a little bit. That evening, I was trying to make sure my three kids weren’t bothering the actors who were also trying to get ready for their performance. It was an event like any other event; if I’ve done one, I’ve done a million. But this time, as I watched my kids fold programs and chat with the actors, I knew this was different and I was especially grateful for the experience. The actors, who were eating pizza and getting their mics fitted, were members of the homeless community, here to share their experience of what it means to be unseen and unknown in Tacoma.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining

Our family has tried to serve people who are in the midst of poverty and homelessness for quite a while now. We’ll donate turkeys, even assemble a meal. We have served at Tacoma Rescue Mission, bought socks for clothing drives. We often will purchase a water bottle for someone outside of Target, say a prayer for people as we drive by in our car, and carry extra gloves and blankets to hand out if we see a need.

 

But to be honest, anyone can do those simple actions. My heart was not affected – these actions cost me little. But about a year ago, I committed to do something simple, but much more costly. I committed to stop what I was doing, look into the eyes of the person, and acknowledge their presence. It made a world of difference and it brought me to the performance on that hot sunny day.