Sunday, December 31, 2017

Endings and beginnings

If you pay attention to the news - and I do - you might feel a bit like that cute puppy right now. 2018 is an unknown and filled with all kinds of potential for scary things.

On the other hand, it has the same potential for amazing wonders. All that matters is the lens you're looking at the world through. If you are holding tight to God's word and His promises, then there is nothing to fear, just as He says in Psalm 31:

How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
    from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
    from accusing tongues.  
Praise be to the Lord,
    for he showed me the wonders of his love
    when I was in a city under siege.
 In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help.

 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
    The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
    but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.

Let that be your battle cry tonight, as you look into 2018: Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. This may be the year He comes for us - but even if not, He will be there with us. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hopes and fears

We all have hopes and fears from the moment we wake up each morning. You know what yours are, and you know that some days - some years, perhaps - are worse than others. What I pray you also know is that God is waiting for you to turn all those over to Him. He can take your worst fear, and even if it actually happens, make it work for your good. And your hopes? His word says that He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. 

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
 Ephesians 3:20

As you finish your Christmas preparations or pack your bags to visit loved ones (maybe some you haven't seen in a long time), give your hopes and fears to God. He's the only one who can actually do something about them. May His peace fill your heart today and always.  

Monday, March 13, 2017


Keening is usually associated with professional mourners - people (usually women) who are actually paid to publicly express the sorrow the family can't or won't express at a funeral. In ancient times, it was traditional practice and showed respect for the person who died. Weird, huh? In the Middle East, they were the wailing women, and you'll find them in the Bible in several places, like Jeremiah 9:17-18:

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

“Consider and call for the mourning women,
That they may come;
And send for skillful wailing women,
That they may come.
 Let them make haste
And take up a wailing for us,
That our eyes may run with tears,
And our eyelids gush with water.

In Ireland, they were the keeners, and the sound they made was called "keening." It was a wail, yes, but more than that - it was a sound unlike any other kind of weeping. 

Keening, when it comes naturally, comes from a broken heart. It is beyond words - or perhaps in place of words -  that won't or can't come. It flows from sorrow so deep that there are no words to express it. You hold it in, because once started, it is so hard to stop that it leaves you panting for air. It is usually utterly private, something you try never to do in front of others. 

The Holy Spirit is actually very like a keener at times, who expresses to God, to our Abba Father, what we have no words for:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.
For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Romans 8:26
  It is no accident that Romans goes on to say in the next two verses:

Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, 
because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that all things work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose. 

"All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." Not some things. Not even most things. All things. Including those which may cause spontaneous keening. All things work together for good. Our Abba Father knows the end from the beginning. He knows far better than us what needs to happen in order for His purpose to be accomplished. This world, our world - our lives in this world - are the barest blip in comparison with eternity with Him. It doesn't have to make sense to us. It usually WON'T make sense to us. But all things work together for good, if you are among God's children. Somehow they do - in a way that we probably don't understand at the moment. 

When Jesus washed Peter's feet, He said, (John 13:7)

“You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

That is true of far more than washing Peter's feet. It's true for me, today. It's true for you, too. Trust is not a feeling. Trust is a decision you make based on all that God is and all that He has promised to you in His word. That trust comes from your head and your will. Your heart will catch up eventually.  

Sometimes the greatest disappointments in our lives come not from events or people but from thinking we knew what God was about and finding out we were wrong. Those "God is God and we are not" lessons can be painful, and yes, sometimes (at first) may result in spontaneous keening. It's basically disappointment with God, and where does that put you? There is no place to turn, and to fight it means you're fighting God. That, indeed, is a hard thing. 

I'm going to go out on a limb, here, and suggest that you cannot go through a life of faith without at least one of those occasions. We're talking big time wrestling with God, and something you need to deal with if you are going to keep your faith intact. Your mom died when you prayed for healing. Your spouse left you when you prayed for restoration. Your life fell apart when you were trusting God to make things work. 

Those are hard, hard things. They are the things that can push people to depression and despair, which, of course, is what the enemy wants. Do you trust God or not? Do you believe His word or not? Is He working for good or not? These are major "make it or break it" faith testers.  And, just writing that, I can see why He might allow such a thing to happen. As hard as it is to go through, our faith needs to be tested. 

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 

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. 

"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.