Verb Tenses in the Wilderness

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in yourname I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Maybe it is the elementary teacher in me, maybe God was just trying to show me something, but when I read this Psalm a couple of days ago, the first thing that jumped out at me was the verb tenses.  Weird, huh?  Verb tenses don’t normally jump off the page at me like that.
Past Tense Verbs:
have looked upon you
have been my help
These are looking back to God’s faithfulness in the past.
Future Tense Verbs:
will praise you
will bless you
will lift up my hands
will be satisfied
will praise you
will sing for joy
These look forward with anticipation to a time of future joy.
Present Tense Verbs:
I seek you
I thirst for you
my flesh faints for you
I remember you
and meditate on you
My soul clings to you
These verbs offer an honest appraisal of what David is feeling at the moment.  There is no pressure to put on a good face or to just dive in and pull himself up by his bootstraps.  There is no chastisement that he would get over it if he would just serve the Lord more or better.
There is one more verb that has not been addressed yet.
God’s verb:
your right hand upholds me
When studying the Bible, it is said that when God repeats himself you had better take notice because it’s important.  Considering how God spoke to my heart when I was studying Psalm 42 a couple of weeks ago, I think I’ve gotten the message.  When living through a time in the wilderness, look back and remember God’s past faithfulness, look forward and anticipate a time of future joy, and just hang on.  It is God’s part to uphold you.  I want to be very clear that I am not talking about clinical depression.  That is a medical illness that requires medical treatment and to neglect that aspect of taking care of yourself would be as foolish as someone with diabetes neglecting to take their insulin.  Sometimes we are just faced with a wilderness, a time of prolonged grief and sadness that is not biochemical, but you can’t just get over either.
I love that we have a God who says to Hagar “I see you and I hear you”when she was in the wilderness. (Gen. 21)  I love that when Elijah was ready to give up and die, God did not tell him to snap out of it; but rather tended first to his physical needs for food and rest and then to his emotional need for encouragement. (1 Ki 19)  I love that Jesus fully knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but cried at his funeral anyway (John 11)  I love that we serve a God who tenderly cares for those who are hurting without pretense or expectation to put on a good show.  This is only more powerful because He is not the one dimensional, feel-good God-who-is-only-love; but that He is also the righteous, holy Judge and omnipotent Creator of the universe and still chooses to tenderly care and comfort me in my distress.

Morning Confession

I woke up today tired and poured out. I just wanted to climb back into bed with my blanket and let someone else be the mom for awhile. It has been such a difficult week and I just didn’t think I could bear up anymore. Alas, such thoughts are only a fantasy because responsibilities are waiting and I must bear up and press on, so I went to the computer to turn on a song which speaks to my heart and pour out my troubles in song to the Lord. When I did, this picture was waiting for me on the desktop.10712722_892717707405914_1318212237148835834_n It was God the Father, waiting to meet me at my point of need. He sees me. He knows. He loves me and is for me. He is waiting for me and we will face this day together.

From time to time, people will say to me, “You are _______________. I don’t know how you do it,” and I recoil because I am not, I really am not. Can I get a witness? I AM NOT. But God…. The Great I AM, HE IS.

I don’t like being this raw, this exposed; but 2 Cor. 1: 3-4 says

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

No matter how alone I feel, and trust me there are days when I feel utterly alone, I know I am not alone. There are many others struggling to find the strength to face this day and I say to you, we are not alone. God sees you. He knows. He loves you and is for you. He is waiting and you can face this day together. And you know what? I am rooting for you too.

 

Hope for Messy Families

This is the article that started it all.  It got me thinking; took me down memory lane and about some lessons that God has taught me.  But what good is it to learn lessons the hard way, if not to share your stories with others so they don’t make the same mistakes you did?  So here goes, this is a word for the young moms and the tired moms and discouraged moms: TAKE HEART.

I have been a born again Christian for over 30 years.  I have been a stay at home mom for 22 years.  I have been a homeschooling mom for 15 years.  (Did I really say those things out loud?  Now I feel old.)  One would think that with a resume like that, I would have this parenting thing down and our family would be the picture of love and tranquility.  Did you hear that sound?  That is the sound of God and all his angels laughing at what I just said.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We are a very messy family.

When I began homeschooling, I went with my friends to the annual homeschooling convention.  These days were promoted as a time of encouragement and refreshment.  At these conventions, I would see other homeschooling families with their children:  Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect ; all wearing matching, homemade outfits.  I came home to my own messy family:  Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient, wearing clothes that may or may not be stained, have holes, or match. Rather than encouraged and refreshed, I was discouraged and disheartened.  I don’t go to homeschooling conventions anymore.  (Please note that this is not in any way intended to be critical of homeschooling conventions.  The people who put them on work very hard and many people are blessed by them.  They are just not a good fit for me.)

But this is the good news:  God, does indeed, specialize in messy families.  Messy families are the perfect place to learn forgiveness and grace, the heartbeat of the gospel.  Those things don’t take place in a perfect, sanitized setting; they can only happen surrounded by messy, sinful people who trust in a gracious, forgiving God (Eph. 4:32).  God is not done with us yet, but He is faithful to complete the good work that He started in each one of us. (Phil 1:6)

Comparison is a trap that we set for ourselves.  So what if that mom at the convention has Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect?  God did not give her the grace to raise my family.  He gave me the grace to raise my family.  He gave her the grace to raise hers. (Eph.4:7)  And if I was honest, sometimes Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect turn into Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient too (Ro. 3:23).

If you are a mom who woke up tired and discouraged this morning, take heart.  God’s grace is new every morning.  He does not grow tired or weary and in His strength you can meet the challenges that this day holds (Isa. 40:28, 2 Cor. 12:9, Heb. 4:16).  So have the courage to be real, think Biblicaly, and live the gospel.  And you have my permission to let your kids wear the play clothes.  They are the perfect attire for messy people like us.

I Want You to Know…Revisited

April is Autism Awareness Month and yesterday my newsfeed was filled with posts calling for acceptance of neurodiversity and contending that autism is not a disease, but rather a difference to be celebrated.  While I support and cheer on each and every one of my sister-moms, to a large extent I find myself on the outside looking in because their experiences are not my experience.  As my friend Laura rightly pointed out, “If you know one kid with autism, you know one kid with autism.”  each of our journeys is unique.

This morning seemed like a perfect time to revisit something I wrote four years ago.

I Want You to Know…

In a Facebook world where we share a status for an hour to show we care, there is something I want you to know about me.  Being a parent of a child with disabilities isn’t just about the disappointment of altered dreams for what your child could become…although there is that.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities is also the heartbreak of seeing him not included; not because his peers are mean, but because they just don’t know how to relate to his world.  It’s seeing friends move on and leave him behind and there is no one to get mad at because they are just growing up normally and your child is not.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities means making a thousand hard choices every day; sometimes in the blink of an eye.  It means choosing carefully which hills to die on and accepting the judgement of friends and strangers because they would never make those choices and knowing that now they think less of you as a parent because their child would never act that way.  I want you to know that I am acutely aware that your child would never act that way and that makes the world a lonely place sometimes because when faced with the choice of explaining my actions so you will like me or protecting her privacy, I will choose her privacy every time. It means knowing that in my fatigue I will sometimes make poor choices and it means asking her forgiveness and forgiving myself and moving on.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities means remembering that there are other children in my family who have needs too and making sure those needs get met.  It means knowing full well that there is not enough of me to go around and trusting God to enable me.

I want you to know the words I dread most in the world are “You must be so ________.  I could never do that.”  I take them in the spirit of the encouragement they are intended to be, but I dread them because I know that I am not.

I want you to know that although my child has cognitive disabilities, he is not stupid and he is aware that he is not like other children.  I want you to know that she feels deeply and her pain is real and her joy is real even when it is not something that would move you at all.

I want you to know that I celebrate small accomplishments and victories and that I know the value of a really good day.

I want you to know that the greatest gifts you could give me and my family are genuine love and grace extended freely, being included, being invited, and providing a safe place to be weak when necessary.

Four years later, I still mean every word.  Four years later, there are a few words that I would add.

I want you to know that I have become quite adept at discerning true friends from those who are just polite enough to stay out of trouble.  If you belong to the former group I want you to know that I owe you a debt I can never repay and I pray that God rewards you richly for your kindness.  If you belong to the latter group, I want you to know that your condescending smiles and utter lack of room in your world for him are daggers in my heart.  I know, I get it.  He can be weird, she can be exasperating, you don’t know how to relate; but it still hurts…a lot…every single time.  But I also feel sad for you because you are missing out.  God has lovingly created each one of us in His image and He makes no mistakes.  That means God made him the way he is for a reason.  That means that if she is in your life, she has something to contribute to it.  That means by dismissing him, you  have missed out, in some small way, of seeing the glory of God.

To those who have befriended our family and included us in your lives, I want you to know how deeply I treasure your friendship; because I know we aren’t always easy to love.  I know that your friendship has come at the cost of forgiveness and grace extended on more than one occasion.

Finally I want you to know, I want ME to know, there is hope.  The mind is a mysterious thing and we are so much farther than I could have ever imagined four years ago.  Life is still hard and there will never be any escape from that in this life; and some days hope all but disappears.  But no one knows the future but God and He is good.  I want you to know, I want ME to know, there is hope.

God at Work

On the afternoon of Tuesday, January  28 a fire began in the attic of our home.  By the time the fire trucks left at 8 p.m. our home was unlivable and our lives were turned upside down.  But in the midst of all of this, my crazy, control-freak, doesn’t-like-to-be-overstimulated heart remains calm.  When friends ask how we’re doing, all I want to do is tell them about all that God has been doing.  Our house burned.  We are so blessed.  These two statements should be incompatible but they are not.  Praise God, they are not.

 

Praising God for His Protection….

Nathan’s classes were cancelled for the day.  Since he was home, I asked him to help me rearrange the furniture in Emma’s room.  Because we were working upstairs, we were able to detect the fire much earlier in the middle of the afternoon.  The epicenter of the fire was right above Anna’s closet.  If the fire had gone undetected or had broken out at night, we might have lost one or both of our daughters.  We are all safe.  Everything else is just stuff.

 

Praising God for His Provision…

Before the fire trucks left our yard, my friend Lisa was texting me with an offer to stay in a house they had not yet sold while our home was being rebuilt.  She could only do this because months earlier, the Lord had laid it on her husband’s heart not to pursue selling the house because someone may have need of it.  It shouldn’t surprise me.  I believe and teach that God is omniscient—He knows everything and that God is eternal—to Him all moments are “now”.  But I have to admit, every time I think of it, my heart skips a beat to know that God was at work providing for my needs long before the first spark.

My brothers Justin and Jason were on the scene the next day to begin the process of clean up and demolition.  They are both highly competent men of integrity and God has gifted each of them with unique abilities that work well together.  It has been so comforting to me to have them at my side, not just because they are my brothers, but also because they are good at what they do and I know it will be done well.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Health…

While we wait to move into the rental house, we are staying with my parents, their dog Molly, and their five cats.  I am highly allergic to cats.  To be fair, four of them live in the basement waiting to be relocated in the spring; but as we learned the year we hatched baby chicks and kept rabbits in our basement, basements count when it comes to breathing.  I am very thankful for a warm place to stay while we are waiting, but by all rights my health should be a wreck.  To the contrary, I can count on one hand the number of times I have needed to take an OTC medicine.  I can only attribute this to God’s sustaining grace.

 

Praising God for The Body…

John and I have been overwhelmed by the love of God as expressed through His people toward us.  Our church, my mom’s church, our homeschool group, our community, saints near and far, we are a part of the Body of Christ and every meal, every card, every collection, every prayer, every hug, everyone who stops to ask “how are you?” is God saying “I love you…I love you…I love you…I love you,” and we have been so loved!   I think this is how the Body is supposed to work.  They have wept as we wept, they have rejoiced as we have rejoiced.  They have held us up in prayer, cared for our needs, and done good unto us.  We live in a time when the Church is ridiculed as being hypocritical and dysfunctional.  From my perspective there has been a sacredness in being part of the Church functioning exactly as it was designed to and to quote Eric Liddell, “I can feel God’s pleasure.”

 

Praising God for His work in our Lives…

“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Ro. 5:3-5)

“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.” (Ro. 8:28)

“Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

“God always looks upon me and treats me with gracious favor, always working all things together for my ultimate and eternal good.  God’s grace abounds to me even through trials.  Because I am a justified one, He subjugates every trial and forces it to do good unto me.” (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, p.63)

I have to confess it is not my natural inclination to exult in this trial but I can exult in my God.  I do not know what God is doing in our lives, but I know that He is at work and that it is good.  I am confident of this because I know that He is faithful and His Word cannot fail.

I’m not sure where this quote came from. Maybe when we move back in our house, I can unpack my box of Bible studies and give the author proper credit; but in the margin of my Bible above James 1 are written these words, “When we endure trials by faith, with joy, it brings glory to God.”  That much I can do.  I don’t know what God is doing, but I know that He is at work to bring about my good and bring Himself glory.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Himself…

When we came back to my parents’ house the night of the fire, my youngest daughter asked me, “Why did this happen to us?”  That is a totally normal question and we talked about Job and how he never lost his love for God or his hope in God and how God restored all that Job had lost.  But for me, the question “Why me?” is very unsatisfying because the inevitable answer is “Why not me?”  As I have been reading the books Be Still, My Soul by Nancy Guthrie and Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian  (I highly recommend both of them), I have discovered a better question is “Who?”

“Thankfully, the good news of the gospel is not an exhortation from above to ‘hang on at all costs or ‘grin and bear it’ in the midst of hardship.  No the good news is that God is hanging on to you, and in the end, when all is said and done, the power of God will triumph over every pain and loss….(God) loves you; his chief concern is to be himself for you….we don’t need answers as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering itself.  For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true:  God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.”  (Glorious Ruin, p. 10-11)

This is a great and glorious gift and it is the one theme which keeps coming back to me over the past several years—that God is my Enough and my Enough is more than enough.

 

 

Morning Gratitude

Is there any symphony as stirring as the one God plays for me each morning outside my window?  If I visited the great museums of the world, would I be surrounded with any more beauty than I am outside my door?  Could I visit any spa or take any vacation which would bring more peace than dwelling in the shadow of His wing?  Truly I am blessed beyond all measure and I sing with King David:

 “Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? …How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you.”  2 Samuel 7:18,22

 

The Palm Sunday Mistake…

From Matthew Ch. 21:

The Triumphal Entry

1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet : 5 “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David ; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD ; Hosanna in the highest !”

The Crowds shout “Hosanna!” and rightly cheer on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; but their eyes are still dim and their hearts are not yet given new life and by Friday these same Crowds who praise Him will scream with blood lust for His crucifixion.

“Hosanna” literally means “save now” and that is what the Crowds wanted.  They wanted a little-k-king to ride in on his war horse and deliver them from Roman rule.  What they missed was that Jesus was, is, and ever shall be the KING of KINGS who came to deliver them from their sins.

So as we enter this Holy Week 2011, I am pondering how often I make the Palm Sunday mistake and cry out “Hosanna!  Save Now!” begging, sometimes demanding, that God save me from my circumstances; when my real need is to be saved from my sins.  It is far less pleasant to think about, but far more needful.  Have your way in me Lord Jesus!