Starting On My Knees

(Originally posted in 2003)

The other day I woke up to the sound of my radio alarm: discouraging news and singing cowboys. I don’t care much for that kind of music and I don’t like depressing news. Both get me shutting the alarm off quick.

I walked out of my bedroom and as I neared the top of the stairs, I could hear music coming from my daughter’s room. I listened to the CD she had playing, and as I could clearly decipher the words, it confirmed the theory formulating in my head: it was rather loud. I asked myself, how can you listen to that much noise in the morning? I would have gone in there and demanded she turn it down except that, besides the fact that everyone else was up and awake, I liked the song she was listening to.

It did, however, make me think about how mornings begin for many people. NOISY! We wake to the sounds of high-pitched beeps and screeches from our alarms or to the tunes of musicians who more than likely should have put their guitars to rest long ago. Then, reluctantly, we pull ourselves out of bed and begin our day.

We sit in cars, wait at stop lights, fiddle with radio stations searching for just the song, listen to the clamor of our minds rattle back and forth as to all the things we need to remember to do, people to call, places to go and the list endlessly goes, on and on.

When we get to work, if it isn’t high powered machinery that fills our ears and empty crevices of our brains, it’s the rattle of computer keys, the cries of children or adults, the needs of customers, and ultimately, our own thoughts of what we’re going to fix for dinner, what we need at the store, or whose turn is it to pick up the kids.

As I took a moment to listen to the song coming from my daughter’s room, I wondered how little we actually fill our mornings with quietness. How little we fill our mornings with the whispers of God. It made me wonder if God spoke to me in this morning, here and now, would I hear him through the clatter of all the other noise?

There are days I know that I definitely miss the mark. And I find that those days are usually the messiest. There is little peace, no direction, much confusion, lots of frustration. Those days readily take me to my knees in a cry for help and forgiveness.

Do we stop to listen to the voice of God? Do we stop and enjoy His overwhelming tenderness towards us as we seek His heart? Do we let the early morning alarm go off and allow the voices of others to blare over what God has to say to us in that day? Do we make time for the morning paper, but no time for His word?

It is my prayer that I do make the time, by making it a priority to be with the one who waits for me to draw near to His heart and feast on His unfailing love. Unless I do, I will walk through the day in my own strength and land where I have landed so often before – on my face.

Though the hard way, I have learned, I would much rather start the day on my knees.

I Think I Can Breathe Again…

This was originally written in 2013…

Puddle Jumping

Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

I don’t even wanna breathe right now
All I wanna do is close my eyes
But I don’t wanna open them again
Until I’m standing on the other side
I don’t even wanna be right now
I don’t wanna think another thought
And I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.”

Today was a hard day.

Let me back up.

Three days ago I waved good-bye to my son, his wife, and my two grandchildren as they drove down the street, on their way to Northern Idaho to a new home, to new jobs, to a new life. Now instead of twelve minutes away, it’s fifteen hours.

My two grandchildren, one five and the other, one year old. My two grandchildren, who I have watched almost since day one. Every day. All day while mom and dad were at work.

I helped them learn to walk. Eat with a spoon. Drink from a cup.

I sat in that rocking chair over there, and rocked them to sleep. Sang hymns to them. Read to them about the “pants with nobody inside of them” (Dr. Suess). Held them when they were sick or healthy or when they just wanted to be held.

I sat at that table over there and played games with Boo, colored, painted, had tea parties.

And then one day, not long ago, my son announced a new job opportunity and you can guess the rest and that’s why I stood outside on Sunday morning, waving good-bye to a car filled with precious ones.

And Sunday, after they left, I went to the rose garden and everywhere I walked I heard Boo. I saw her chasing the blackbirds. And I could hear her excitement upon finally seeing the elusive jack rabbit we’ve been tracking for months – if only she had been there.

And Monday I worked in the garden and watered her garden – a garden filled with volunteer larkspur, bachelor buttons, poppies. She was so proud of her garden. I worked out there most all day. I worked out there until I couldn’t move. I worked out there so I didn’t have to think.

And Tuesday, yesterday, I still couldn’t move. I moved too much on Monday and paid for it on Tuesday. I had lost mobility and.. gained pain in its place. I sat on the couch and worked on my pictures and cried. My digital albums are filled with children’s smiles and I could almost hear the giggles behind them.

And then there was today. At one point I felt like I had been locked in a blackened room – hopeless, lost, empty. And I wept. For something lost. And it felt as if my heart was literally breaking in two. The crack I could live with a week ago became a bottomless crevice. The strength that held me together a week ago had become jello.

And I wept.
God, how am I going to do this?, I whispered through tears that hadn’t spilled out so hard in so long.

My head told me those two little ones were not mine to hold onto. I was not even their parent. Can a Grammy love her little Grammy grandchildren so very much?

Yes. Yes – she most definitely can.

As I sat on the bathroom floor, I cried some more and through the tears whispered, God, I lived for those kids.

They were my daily dose of laughter, love, smiles, hugs, joy. God used those two little ones to bless me over and above in so many ways I never deserved. I viewed them as my little disciples and we talked about God everywhere we went. In everything we did.

How I found the energy to do it every day, only God knows. I napped with John and napped when they went home. I fought through the pain within my body and refused to not hold my grandkids or change diapers even when I didn’t think I could stand it another minute.
My body was screaming to let go. My heart was screaming to hold on. My head was saying it was time. Time to listen to the body. The disease that strives to claim more ground with each passing day. Time to let go.

It was the grace of God that intervened. But oh how it can hurt.

And then I heard it. That still, small voice that you can hear when you’re sobbing uncontrollably because your not busy talking and making incessant, un-needful noise and chatter. The comforting, life-giving voice of God.

God, I lived for those kids, I had whispered through tears.

And before I could go on to the next thought of despair, He whispered back.

“Live for me.”

The uncontrollable sobbing became controlled. The tears dried up (for that day). A tiny ray of sunshine, a tiny grain of hope took hold deep inside my heart and the crevice began to close and return to a crack. A few more tears fell. Not from grief but because of grace. The grace of God. The trustworthy grace of a merciful God.

I don’t know what living for Him looks like in the days ahead – His plans, His dreams for me – but as I live for Him, I will trust Him completely. I’ve been through too much in my lifetime to do anything less.

Like I said, Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.
It feels like it’s all I’ve got, but I know it’s not
No, I know You’re all I’ve got
And I will trust You, I’ll trust You
Trust You, God, I will
Even when I don’t understand, even then I will say again
You are my God, and I will trust You.
Trust You. I will trust You.

Even when I don’t understand the physical, emotional, or mental pain, I will trust Him.

In the Dark of the Morning

the dark of the night
in the valley of the shadows
of this disease
i will fear

nothing

though it surrounds me
invisible
relentless
from every side

still

i will fear nothing

in the dark of the night
though my body trembles
and my heart shakes
still

i will fear nothing

in the dark of night
when my mind dances
as a winter storm
loosed from its chains
and playing the game of what-ifs

still

i will fear nothing

when the dark of the night
threatens to consume my soul
to lay me outstretched
emotionally naked before the world

still

i will fear nothing

for the dark of the night
will turn its ugly face
to the Light of the morning
and there

there

i will feel no more
i will see no more
i will fear no more

for there will be
no more
shadows

there will be no more disease

in the Light of that morning

A Christmas Story

a young woman
a man
a donkey
and a very long ride

a stable
some straw, a mouse perhaps…

what’s going on
inside?

a trough
a cow
some sheep
and a quiet, sleeping baby

a woman
a man
trying to get some sleep
well… maybe

a star
some shepherds
some gifts
and a few traveling kings
gathered around
a baby born
to save the world

of all things

One God
as the Son,
came from heaven
to earth
to reign
heaven rejoiced
angels sang
over this precious baby’s
miraculous birth
again
and again
and again

All You Need

Oh soul,
why do you weep?
why do you want,
when everything you need is right here?
right here in front of you –
always has been,
always will be.

Oh soul,
why do you despair?
why do you fret
when everything that can calm you is right here?
right here before you –
always has been,
always will be.

Oh soul,
why do you fear?
why do you anxiously await what may never be,
when peace awaits you –
right here,
right now.

I,
the Lord your God –
I am all you need.
And I am here,
before you –
now.
Always have been.
Always will be.

Trusting While Fear-filled

He tells them to get into the boat. To go on ahead. Go to the other side and He would dismiss the crowd.

He knows what he’s doing.

The crowd, little by little, disperses. Some continue to hang around and chat. Ponder collectively over what they have just heard. Words that have spoken to their heart. Changed their lives.

While some remain, pondering His words, He hikes up the side of the mountain alone. He is going to pray. The air begins to cool. The sun begins to set. And there He is. Sitting. Kneeling on that mountainside. Alone. He is praying to his Father.

In the meantime, the boat, now a good distance away from the shore, begins to rock back and forth. Those inside the vessel begin to grow fearful.

Meanwhile, up on the mountainside, He continues to pray as the cool breezes began to blow past Him.

He knows. He is God and, He knows.

He knows who is in that boat which is swaying more fervently with each sharp gust of wind. Wind that is biting at their flesh.

They are doused with ice cold water that washes over them, drenching their hopes for a safe return. It threatens to fill the hull that holds them in what little refuge they have. It mocks them. Its intent is to sink and drown them. To bury their hopes. Their faith. Their trust. Their belief for a better way. If it has its way, the storm’s crushing waves and chaotic winds will leave them for dead.

And He knows this.

It is the fourth watch of the night. Almost sunrise. They have battled through the night with a ship destined for destruction in the wake of disaster.

He has battled all night in prayer. Were His prayers for their faith to increase and their fears to subside?

There are boats by the shore. He could probably get a ride. But instead, He walks. Right onto the water. And the waves lap high around His ankles.

He walks.

On the water.

How many times have we read or heard stories from the Bible that they’ve seemed to become commonplace and bring nothing into our humdrum lives? Our response?

“Oh yes. I’ve read that one – Jesus brought a little girl back to life. Pretty cool.”

Cool? COOL? It’s miraculous! It’s incredible. Incredibly miraculous. And if I think about it for any length of time, at any depth, I realize – it isn’t cool, it’s unfathomable.

And so He walks. And fear rocks each disciple as the waves rock the boat. Then they spot Him. When that fear has clawed its razor sharp talons into the depths of their beings – they see Him. But through fear-tinted glasses they don’t really see Him.

They see a man.

They see a figure.

They see…

“Peter! It’s. a. ghost.!!!”

But He is not a ghost. He is the One who will save them. Now. At this moment. And three years later. And every day after that.

Immediately He calls out. “Guys – it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. It’s me – Jesus.”

Peter gathers his thoughts.

“Lord, if it’s really you then…”

Should he risk it? Should he sound and look foolish should the far-off man really be a ghost? Will his request make him look brave so that when he appears foolish in three years on that day of denial, his companions may overlook his shame?

He risks it.

“Lord, if it is you, then tell me to come out there to you on the water.”

Does Peter, at this point in time, have an inkling as to who Jesus really is?

There is no bravery here. There is no foolishness. But, there is relief. Relief that Help has come. But still the winds toss the boat about. And in the tossing and the rocking and the swaying, Jesus says, “Come.”

At this point, Peter may have wished it was a ghost he had seen for now he had to show by works what his faith meant to him. Could he walk over to Jesus, who had been coming to them but now waited for Peter to come to Him?

I don’t think Peter jumped. I think it was more like he wanted to jump ship as he slowly, cautiously, put one leg over the boat and then the next and then with both hands anchored tightly to the rim on the side the boat, with eyes closed, he lets loose. And he is standing.
I can imagine his surprise. He really is standing!

He probably smiles a sheepish grin to no one in particular and turns around and begins walking toward Jesus. You couldn’t wipe that grin off his face. You couldn’t squelch the pride coursing through his very being.

His shoulders are broad and he could have moved a mountain. If only the waves at his feet would settle. If only the wind would calm. As he looks at the waves and feels their sting against his legs, he looks to the horizon, watching the clouds rush toward him, while his faith flees and fear fills him once again and… he begins to sink.

Because that’s what fear does. It pulls you down and makes you feel like you’re sinking. The storms in life pound down so hard upon you that you will drown and no one can save you.

But Jesus knew. He knew what was going on in that boat while he was in prayer up on that mountain. He knew what they were thinking while he was intervening. He knew their battle with fear while he was battling for souls. And He knew what Peter would do.

“Lord, save me,” Peter cried out as he began to sink.

Jesus knew.

He knew the very second Peter quit looking at Him, is the very second Peter would begin to sink.

Peter didn’t sink immediately, but instead, “when he saw the wind”, we’re told he began sinking and cried out for Jesus to save him. And what did Jesus do?

Immediately He reached out and caught him. Not down, not under the water, but out. It shows Jesus was ready for that moment. Because He knew – before he even sent those boys across the lake, before he spent the entire night in prayer – He knew what was going to happen. Peter didn’t have time to sink because Jesus was in the process of saving him before Peter knew he needed saving. Before he cried out, “Lord, save me,” Jesus was in the process of reaching out before Peter had time to go under.

And Jesus meets Peters fears and faltering faith with tenderness.

With an arm around Peter’s shoulder and steadying his weak knees, Jesus asks, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

What do you say to that?

What could Peter say? What could he do? He said nothing.

The story goes on…

‘When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.’

The wind died. In the mere presence of Jesus, the wind died. Not a word was spoken.

And, as the wind died, the disciples were saved. As the wind died, their faith grew. As the wind died, they began to live. Really live. And in their living, they worshipped Him. Why? Because they realized who they were hanging around with. They knew this Jesus – their Jesus – wasn’t some mystical, magical being that appeared as a ghost upon stormy seas. They knew this was the Son of God. The One that had the power to change hearts and minds. To change lives. To turn fear into faith and worry into worship.

There are a hundred and one things I could list that could cause me to worry. And fear. And many things on my list I have granted permission to cause fear and worry. Health issues. Financial issues. Family issues. Failures. On and on.

But God doesn’t want us to live there. We can’t live there for Jesus showed us that to live in fear is to sink in the storm. And His way is much safer: keep my eyes on Him, reach for His hand, and trust Him.

Above all, trust Him.

Something New

When I think of Moses leading the Israelites into the wilderness, I always get this picture of a large group of people surrounded by mountains, going around and around in circles within a deep valley.

Lost.

Frustrated.

Looking for a way of escape.

That’s not quite how they had pictured their freedom. They weren’t planning to escape from one form of captivity into what they considered another.

Captive and lost is how I can often feel. Stuck in a place where I’d rather not be, lost and walking in circles, trying to find a path out of my wilderness.

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth: Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert…. Because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people. The people whom I formed for myself, will declare my praise.” Isaiah 43: 18-20 NASV

For years I felt stuck. The routine and structure that I had known so intimately up to that point was turned upside down, leaving me to form a new routine in life. For years, I wandered around in circles, in my own wilderness, trying to find a purpose that I could grasp. When I felt it would never happen, I often found myself dwelling on the past – the “what if’s” and the “why’s”. You know – the standard reactions in life to the things we cannot understand.

Told in Isaiah not to call to mind the things of the past, we are, instead, to be aware of the ‘something new’ that God is doing in our lives. Roadways are being carved. Rivers are being formed. Both the roadways and rivers promise to lead to praise and thanksgiving.

When a baby learns to walk, he doesn’t look down at his feet and watch the steps he takes or he’ll lose his balance and fall. He is focused on, his mother or father who eagerly awaits a few feet away, ready to intercept him when he makes it into their arms. The child doesn’t take his eyes off his goal, that of reaching the parent in front of him.

Remember Peter walking on the water and Jesus is waiting for him? Peter stepped out of the boat and started toward Jesus, a little ways off. It was only when he took his eyes off the Lord did he began to sink.

Goals can keep us afloat, giving us a purpose, a mission. They give us a reason to press forward. However, if we look down and if we look back, that is where we begin to sink and we can feel as if we are being held captive from our greatest potential. We focus on the sorrows, the mistakes, the hurt and the pain instead being aware of the something new He is doing now in the present.

Being aware doesn’t necessarily mean we will always recognize the ‘something new’ when God brings it into our life, but it does mean that we should be looking, watching, waiting – expecting Him to work. His promise is that the new will spring forth and in response, we will, with thanksgiving, declare praise to Him for all He has done, who He is, and what He is yet to do.