Where Do Miracles Come From

Monarch Butterfly Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

you want the pain to stop
the emotional pain
caused by the physical
the mental
caused by the emotional

you want to live again
the way you used to

but used-to’s
don’t come too frequently anymore
and you’re left
stuck in the circumstances
you never signed up for
and you try
you try so very hard
to make the best of it
but your best
measures so much lower
than it once did

and you think
there is no God
you are sure
for how could God –
a God full of grace and mercy –
do this to you?
to one you love?
and you don’t understand
and you are confused
perhaps
angry
bitter
grieving
despairing
and you’re lack
of understanding
doesn’t mean
there is no God
or that He is cruel

you hope for a miracle
but where do miracles come from
if there is no god?

do they float out of nothingness
a just become
because we will them to
or do they come from that God
you say doesn’t exist

or does he?

your answer may not come
in the way you are expecting
it may not come
at this very moment
when you are desperate for it to come
it may not come for years
it may not come at all

but still there remains
a real Father
you can run to
fall into
and find rest
and peace
and strength
and if you think about it
isn’t that a miracle itself?

In the Midst of Sorrow and Suffering

 A man is taken to the ER for breathing issues and is looked after in the ER and sent home the same night. After being at home for a time, he has breathing problems again, this time accompanied by a headache. He closes his eyes to get some rest and passes quietly that evening in his sleep.

A young woman is making wedding plans, only to come home the other evening and find that her fiancé has taken his life.

A mom, 32, goes to ER for the flu. She is a wife and mother of two little girls under three years. She never went home.

A tornado hits in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It claims three lives and destroys much of the William Carey University where a friend is attending. She says that the chapel is heavily damaged but inside, there still stands, in its regular place, the word of God. The tempest has not been able to destroy the Book or its message. The president announces that its pages, after the winds have blown them hither and yon, lay open to Psalm 46. A message God wants all to remember. Desires all to hear.

“Listen to me… you whom I have upheld since your birth,
 and have carried since you were born.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
 I have made you and I will carry you;
  I will sustain you and I will rescue you…

“Remember this, keep it in mind…

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
 I am God, and there is no other;
  I am God, and there is none like me.

I make known the end from the beginning,
 from ancient times, what is still to come. 
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
 and I will do all that I please.’

…What I have said, that I will bring about;
    what I have planned, that I will do.

Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
    you who are now far from my righteousness.

I am bringing my righteousness near,
 it is not far away;
 and my salvation will not be delayed.
I will grant salvation to Zion,
 my splendor to Israel.”

Coincidence?

For those who have lost loved ones, to those who are grieving, to those who are deeply hurting, to those who carry sorrow that is weighing them down…

His righteousness near. It is not faraway. His salvation will not be delayed. He is God. There is no other – no one like Him. He will sustain you. He made you and He will carry you. He will sustain and rescue you.

He will. He will.

He will.

 

What Jesus Knew and Peter Forgot

The Son is Always There
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

He tells them to get into the boat. He tells them to go on ahead. Go to the other side and He will would dismiss the crowd.
He knows what he was doing.

The crowd, little by little disperses. Some continue to hang around and chat. Ponder collectively over what they had just heard. The words that had just tickled their ears. Spoke to their heart. Changed their lives.

While some remain, pondering His words, He hikes up the side of the mountain. Alone. To pray.

The air begins to cool. The sun begins to set. And there He is. Sitting, kneeling on that mountainside, alone, 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 that vessel grow fearful.

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

He knows. He is God and, He knows.

He knows who is in that boat which sways more fervently with each sharp gust of wind. It bites at their flesh. The cold water 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 them. Sink bury their hopes. Their faith. Their trust. Their belief for a better way. If it has its way, it will leave them for dead.

And He knows this.

It is the fourth watch of the night. It is almost sunrise. They have battled through the night with a ship destined for destruction. 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 around His ankles.

He. walks.

On. the. water.

How many times do we read stories from the Bible – hear stories from the Bible – that they’ve become commonplace seem to bring nothing into our humdrum lives?

“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 it 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. 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 suprise. 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 that pride that coursed 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. But, as he looks at the waves and feels their sting against his legs, and looks to the horizon and watches the clouds rush toward him, the 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. That the storms in life are pounding 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.

Running Into His Arms

IMG_7318.JPGWhen my son was born, until the age of almost three, he had constant ear infections. After the third or fourth time, it became easier to identify that another was coming on and I could get him to the doctor before it became too painful. Most of the time.

I do recall one experience, having that motherly instinct of knowing he was getting another and taking him in to the doctor. His regular doctor was out and another doctor saw him. He assured me after checking him briefly that there was no cause for worry. I wanted to assure him that I was most certain he was wrong.

At twelve o’clock that night, my son woke up screaming, his ear filled with pain. I did everything I could to help him. I gave him Tylenol. I held him. I rocked him. I cried with him. He screamed in pain until morning.

A few weeks ago, I had an ear infection. It began with a gradual achiness followed by intense pain and pressure for about five days, at which time I felt it was going to burst and to be quite honest, I almost wanted it to just to relieve the pain and the pressure.

No one ever gave me Tylenol. No one held or rocked me or saw me crying in the dark when I could not sleep because the pain was so intense, but then, they did not know because I was not crying out in agony.

This is what I learned…

When my son, at the age of two, was in pain, he writhed in discomfort and screamed for release from the grip of his ear infection. Oh how I wanted to comfort him and hold him tight so that he knew he was not alone. I rocked him to try to soothe him and as I held him closely, I cried with him, wanting badly to be able to take his pain away.

When I was in pain a few weeks ago, for the most part, I kept it inside. No one else needed to hear how much it really hurt. No one could rock me and comfort me and it made me think… Isn’t that what God wants us to do with him? Yet, we try to keep the pain in our lives and the heartache we experience hidden deep inside, when all the while He is waiting for us to cry out to Him for help.

A friend was saying that another of her friends was not going to be able to do an event that they had planned for this year. She said the other person had been having some recent struggles and had to cancel. Then she withdrew and ‘disappeared’ (not literally) from her network of friends. My friend made a comment that went something like this: “I’ve told her there’s still a spot for her on the team, but she’s got to walk through the door.”

I liked that.

Do I sit and suffer, failing to run through the door crying out to God for relief? The only One who can truly subside the pain? Do I writhe in pain when it hurts so bad inside that I think I cannot tolerate it for another minute or do I run quickly, first, to the One whose arms are always open wide and waiting? The pain of life can come in a foreclosure on the only home you have known. A divorce. An illness. The loss of a loved one. You lose your job. The list goes on.

Sometimes that is the only thing we can and should do. Sometimes that is the best thing to do. To become like a child and run into the arms God and just let Him hold you and rock you. Let Him soothe you and wipe the tears as He wraps you safely in His arms.

He is waiting to love you. Are you ready to be loved as only He can do? Then… Run!

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.

Skipping Stones

A friend and I took a walk the other day on a bridge that was above a waterfall. The power of the water rushing beneath us was incredible. So powerful, in fact, I believe that were we to fall in, the chances of survival might be questionable. We walked up the river a ways and there was a quiet, calm and serene spot where you could skip stones. No rushing water, no rocks rolling around hitting each other below. Just a peaceful calm.
As I stood there with my friend, smooth stones in hand, I had a thought of how people are like those stones I held in my palm.  We were often once sharp and made smooth by the rushing, powerful circumstances that come passing through in the river of life. Hit by other stones as we tumble downstream, our sharp corners constantly chipped away, one by one, until eventually we were made smooth.
A stone doesn’t become that way by sitting in the calm waters or by trying to dodge the effects of the white water. It is made smooth through the constant tumbling down a winding river, often bumped by other stones along the way.
Many people love to carry a stone in their pocket. A nice, smooth stone. It is often used to relieve stress as you roll it over and over again in your hand. A sharp stone would not even be given consideration to accomplish the same goal.
In the midst of trials and heartache, the people who are the most comforting and encouraging to us are those who have endured great struuggles and pain. They have been made smooth because of them. They are the ones who have had the rough spots softened by the hard places in life.
I want to be a smooth stone. The kind that has had the rough edges chipped away. The kind that sparkles. And, as someone who is struggling in life walks along a sandy shore trying to find hope and peace in their place in this life, they would see me and be drawn to pick me up and put me in their pocket.  I want to be the kind of stone – the kind of person – that brings comfort and encouragement.
The calm waters are peaceful, restful, and inviting. But you can’t really appreciate them unless you’ve been through the rough waters and have been made just a little bit smoother by them. It’s not a painless process, but often needful. It makes us more approachable, more understanding and compassionate. And, it makes us more sought after for skipping stones on a calm lakeshore. What more could you ask for?

The Seasons of Life

Sometimes I think it would be easier to approach life as our lives were made up of seasons and yet, it is, isn’t it? The seasons of life.

 

In nature,  we experience Fall. It is the season of harvest. The season when things begin to die back (or die completely). There is a chill in the air and the wind blows mightily as it whips though the trees. The skies seem darker, the days shorter. In the fall, we finish up our preparations for winter. Canning, wood chopping, gathering bales of hay and storing them in barns. We cut some things back, we cover some things up and we close some things down. We know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And so it comes. Winter. 
It can be harsh. Deadly even, if the storm is weighty enough. The hail and the rains and the unending days of heavy snowfalls. Ice so slick that you slip and you slide and sometimes you fall. You don’t want to go outside. You want to hide in the comfort of your own home where you have built a nest of protection, warmth, and safety. After what can seem like forever, you awaken one morning to a glowing sunrise that states Spring has arrived. 
You pull back the curtains and open the windows to the crisp, fresh air that still has a bite to it. But, oh! The hope and joy of a new season has finally come. You daily watch for flowers to emerge from the soil where snow once lay and threatened to hold captive that which lay underneath, crying out to be set free. And as these – now just seedlings – begin to grow, the days grow warmer and longer. The air is quiet with gentle sprinklings of rain that you welcome with a smile. And then comes summer.

 The sun beats down warm and you are even convinced that as it warms your body, healing is taking place within.  Where spring brought new life, this is the season where you’re actually experiencing the growing, the full blooming of it all. Your energy has been renewed. You delight to let your toes touch the water of the vast ocean or lake that is spread before you. This is the season where you, without hesitation or thought of troubles, lift your hands in unabandoned praise to God. Life cannot be better.

But looking back, you can now see how each season had its purpose. And each season gave you the opportunity to prepare for the next. Experience has told us that in the course of nature there will undoubtedly be good with the bad, life will not all be sunshine and roses, and that the storms and the sunshine will come in different degrees, sometimes with nary a warning.

That is the course of nature. Of life itself.  Many flowers cannot bloom unless they endure a harsh frost from winter’s bitter cold. Many will not thrive without the water the storms of winter brought upon them. Many flowers  cannot grow unless they die first, scattering seeds in fall. Some must be pruned, cut back, in order for the healthy growth of spring. I’m sure if flowers could talk, roses would express their deep disapproval over being pruned. Over and over and over again. 

 Our spiritual lives are so much like the cycles of nature. We endure the longer days of summer and early fall, move into winter with reluctance (and often kick and scream while there), but spring always comes with the welcome reprieve of summer. Each has their purpose. Each has their pain. Each has their reward.

God prunes where at times we feel we have felt completely uprooted. We feel we’ve been closed up from the rest of the world, shut down from life and covered in muck. There is a deep darkness but little do we feel, and often we forget, that we are being prepared for something more. All the while, we are being called to come and lean into Him. To come into His shelter, experience His warmth, hide in His arms.
It is throught the Falls and the Winters in life that we are actually being strengthened and refined. When the time if right, He gently dries the tears of winter, lifts our chin and gently says, “Look and see.”
Green is now emerging where snow once lay smothering the ground underneath. New life. The sun is breaking though the clouds. We are stronger. Our hope has been restored. We are no longer resisting that which comes, but are walking hand in hand with the Master Gardener, cultivating new life. We’re pulling weeds of sin, making room for new roots to go deeper and deeper into HIm. We no longer feel the need to run to a better climate to escape the torrents of winter, but look ahead with anticipation at what God is going to bring forth. Summer is coming. The harvest will be plentiful. We have learned that Springs and Summers are only made possible by going through Falls and Winters. 

  Instead of longing for a better climate, a place where winters are mild and summer days are plentiful, why not embrace the call of God to come and rest in Him during the hard times and sit with Him on the patio on the warm, healing days of Summer. Either season is an opportunity of lfting our hands in praise and thankfulness to God for what He has brought us through and where He is taking us now

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 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, 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. What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
sherri