Of kings, horses, politics, and hope

“Some trust in chariots, some in horses…” Psalm 20:7a (NIV)

I have known this to be true literally and figuratively. I still have a copy of the letter my mom received by the Old Order Mennonite couple who bought our buggy when mom left the church at age 47. With all sincerity and love, the letter includes chastisement for falling away from the faith (no longer driving a horse and buggy or dressing as a conservative Mennonite) and the immediate and eternal consequences one can expect when they do.

I can read past the judgement now, to see the love and concern they had for our family, but every time I think of this verse from Psalm 20, I simultaneously think of that letter.

Besides putting our trust in our preparedness, wealth, possessions, religious rituals, etc., we also tend to put our trust in our leaders and potential leaders. I get it. I have my own feelings about it all.

But to think that any one candidate alone can save our nation and ourselves, or to think that we are beyond hope and God cannot move or save if our candidate of choice does not win is preposterous.To put our trust in nations, kings, horses, and chariots, (people or possessions) is to miss the point of trusting God alone.

The second half of that verse from Psalm 20 reads, “but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Here is the verse altogether. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7 (NIV) Read all of Psalm 20 here. 

If we say our hope is in God, if we proclaim that we know and follow Jesus and his teachings, then we should “Let [our] conversation be gracious and attractive so that [we] will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NLT.) 

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)

 “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

Let us trust in the name of the Lord our God alone, for indeed, He is our only hope.

Anguish, Bitterness, Hope

Words stir deep within, swirling up to my head, but I have been unable to type or speak them.

A friend calls, crying, concerned about a loved one’s recent diagnosis. Another texts memorial service information for a small child. At church, we gather around a prayer quilt to speak words of hope and healing for a teenager facing a threatening illness. A friend’s marriage is falling apart. The news is reporting speechless acts of violence and terror.

This is just in one day. I am just one person.

To imagine that all around the world there are people in homes and hospitals pleading for more moments, begging for second chances, is beyond my ability to comprehend.

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I’m a firm believer that only light can drive out darkness, but my lamp is flickering from the winds of terror, injustice, violence, and disease.

I turn to stories of believers across the ages, finding solace in their honest confessions of fear, doubt, and unbelief.

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10 NIV)

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NIV)

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

The words of Jesus beckon me.

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“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

The soul longs for “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,”  (Matthew 6:10 KJV) and for the time when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4 NLT)

But until then we are here, smack dab in the middle of a messed up, broken, anguished world. I don’t have fancy words. I don’t have a master plan to fix the brokenness, but I hear the Master’s voice soothing, reassuring, comforting: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

May all whose hearts are broken, whose lives are shattered, whose worlds have stopped, know that I and many are collectively weeping for their sorrows and praying for their comfort.

And with their pain in mind, we are trying to be kinder, gentler, more generous to those within our own circle of influence.

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May these words of confession and pardon renew our hope and inspire us anew to share the good news of Christ’s love to all.

Prayer of Confession

(based on John 20: 24-29; Luke 24:36-43)

Wondrous God, we confess that at times our doubts and fears override our hope and faith. Forgive us when we lose sight of the joy of Your love and instead fall into despair and gloom. Lift up our spirits, Lord, and help us to remember the promise of new life here and now, not just the hope of resurrection for the future. We give thanks for Your Son, Jesus the Christ, who continues to offer us new life, who continues to turn us around and upside down, who continues to break down the walls of death in our own life. Forgive us, restore us and renew us. In the name of our risen Savior, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. There is no darkness now, only light. God continues to renew us and restore us. We are forgiven, loved and restored, receiving the gift and promise of new life and resurrection now. Go and share the wondrous news of God’s love in Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Words of confession and pardon written by Rev. Mindi, and posted on her Rev-o-lution blog. 

Amen.

Confessing my insufficiency and resting in Him

How do you do it all, people often ask. How do you balance everything?

I like to be busy, I usually respond, and I have a helpful husband.

But now, I am forced to sit on the sidelines as I wait for my voice to heal. This affects home-life, our non-profit, and my church work. Phone calls are left unmade, conversations are limited, quiet, and careful, contributions to group meetings and  church studies are weighed thoughtfully and shared only occasionally.

I’m becoming impatient. It has been seven months since this situation first presented itself, nearly two since the doctor ordered silence. The root of the underlying drive to do is emerging from the quiet. 

I self-diagnosed  an “insufficient identity.” 

Insufficient means, not enough; inadequate.

I have wrestled with an insufficient identity various times throughout my life.

As a child, I was certain if I had only done more, been more, tried harder, my family would not have been broken. No one ever spoke those words to me, it was a self-imposed notion that made me feel I had some responsibility in the matter and didn’t measure up. I struggled to handle some of the physical work expected of me and loathed when my siblings made it look easy. I was disinterested, and frankly quite terrible, at most of the recreational games we played, and math was an other-worldly language I was incapable of grasping.

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Never mind that I was a great cook, an engaging writer, and had a gift for memorization at an early age. I was focused on what I wasn’t and how I didn’t measure up to my siblings and peers. I had an insufficient identity.

 

The older I got, the more I overcompensated for the insufficient syndrome that plagued me. My façade became the girl who could do anything. I thrived on doing. I hated the thought of letting people down, of revealing my insufficiency. I cooked here, baked there, volunteered many places, and often as a young single adult I held two or three jobs at one time, because I didn’t want my insufficiency to show.

And still. I was. Insufficient. By human standards I was unbearably so and I knew it more than anyone. 

But then I began to grasp my identity as a child of God. I wasn’t loved based on what I could or couldn’t do, how well I did or didn’t follow the rules. I was loved because I was created in God’s image. Loved because the God of the universe created me for a unique and specific purpose. Loved because of amazing grace. 

It didn’t matter if I was insufficient to myself or others, HE became my sufficiency. There were no games and no façade in this new-found relationship. Just broken messed-up me finding unconditional love and acceptance in a merciful and gracious God. A God who knew my insufficiency full-well and was crazy about me in spite of it.

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I spent years building my new identity in Christ. I reveled in his goodness and rested in his sufficiency. When my old identity tried to reemerge, I told that voice where to go and how to get there.

 

In the meantime, I continued doing. I continued my much-ness and busy-ness. Only this time, not because it was my identity, but because I can’t help but care for others from whatever platforms I am given. I absolutely love and believe in the ways I have been called to serve.

It is not that (I) think (I am) qualified to do anything on (my) own. (My) qualification (my sufficiency) comes from God. 2 Corinthians 2:5 (Parenthesis mine)

 

rest in god Now here I am, forced to be “not doing,” and the insufficient identity is trying to tell me I’m letting people down; letting my family down, letting my non-profit down, letting my church down.

Resting doesn’t mean not serving. 

 

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I believe this quiet time is supposed to be a respite for my soul, a realignment of my faith, meant for good and not evil. But once again this insufficient identity is weighing on me and once again I am acknowledging my insufficiency so I can rest completely and confidently in His. 

If you have ever struggled with an insufficient identity, if you are struggling with it now, I invite you to rest with me in the sufficiency of God, knowing that HE is more than enough. Let’s find our identity and completeness in HIM.

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2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Amen and Amen.

 


Waiting

Waiting. I am currently waiting for a haircut appointment. I have someone else waiting on me for an appointment. But sometimes the waiting is more difficult. Sometimes waiting requires being present. Being present requires being still, reflective, looking deep within and acknowledging all that we are and then addressing that which is revealed.

Yesterday I waited for my grief to diminish. Grief that caught me off-guard as I anticipate the 6-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth and death this week. Six years. Haven’t I waited long enough?

I wait in anticipation of my upcoming licensing service this Sunday.

I can fill my waiting time with meaningless clutter or I can sit, be present, feel and acknowledge whatever emotions I am experiencing at that moment and pray that in the waiting I am learning and growing, emptying and filling.

And sometimes, waiting is done best by playing…

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Interruptions

No less than 20 inches of snow have fallen outside our window throughout the past 16 hours and it is still coming down. The winter wonderland is beautiful, but it has interrupted our lives in that my husband’s flight was cancelled and now he is making the treacherous journey home in a rental car. He has already spent one more night away from us than planned because of this storm.

Thankfully, we use a wood stove for heat and have firewood stockpiled next to the stove, we have a nice cozy house and I planned ahead to make sure our refrigerator and cabinets had plenty of food. So while we wish for Lee to come home safely, the interruption could be much worse.

It seems we’ve had our share of interruptions lately. Unemployment, job changes and a chronically sick child have been some of the larger interruptions, and then there are the small, everyday inconveniences of running late, running behind, and everything in between. The death of our daughter five years ago was a most unwelcome interruption that nearly destroyed me.

Interruptions happen. Life happens. Death happens. Most often I can point to these life-altering interruptions and see that is seems like something terrible is always involved, and indeed, in many cases that is so. But how we respond to the interruptions can destroy us or make us stronger. Obviously, some take a lot more time, practice, and working through than others, but they can all be tools that change and shape us into more loving compassionate and empathetic human beings or can harden our hearts with bitterness and anger.

One of my favorite Scriptures says…

“But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

These words have guided me, comforted me and sometimes were the only thing that carried me through my life’s interruptions. When I passed through the waters and felt I would drown in my tears, I was sustained and comforted by this ancient text written by another who knew about life’s interruptions. Although I can’t always see the other side of the river or I feel the heat of the flames consuming my flesh, I find refuge in the Holy One of Israel and know that if I live I live with God and if I die I die with God; either way, I am with God.

In this, I can know that these interruptions have a greater purpose than what my mind can conceive or understand.

If you are experiencing interruptions today, whether they are mere inconveniences or life-altering, I pray that you too experience the comfort of the Holy One of Israel.

I’m not a person of faith

I confess, I’m not a person of faith, not by nature anyway. It is not my natural response to immediately call on Jesus when our daughter is diagnosed with pneumonia and bronchitis or when I get a voicemail from my doctor on a Friday evening telling me she’s reviewed my sonogram and to call her first thing Monday morning.

I get there. I cry out to God. I do feel his presence and comfort in the midst of these storms, but I am the kind of person that needs the encouragement of my family and friends and fellow believers to remind me to trust.

I am Peter who has the faith to step out of the boat, but gets overwhelmed by my circumstances. I am David who longs to serve God wholly and completely and yet fall short in my sin. I am Abraham who hopes against hope that God’s “got this” and yet I am Thomas who can only believe by seeing and touching Jesus for myself. I am Mary, in awe and wonder of the work God has done and wants to do in my life. I am Martha who is so busy serving that I forget the “one thing” that is necessary; to sit with Jesus and to rest quietly in his presence.

I chastise myself for reaching out to others, then I read and listen to the messages of love and encouragement and support and I am thankful and overwhelmed at the beautiful friends I am blessed with. I can only pray I encourage others the way I am lifted up.

We are brothers, sisters, family and friends; sojourners in this difficult and joyful life. We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. In this togetherness, we experience a glimpse of the relationship God longs to have with us.

I am so thankful, so very blessed to be surrounded by people who constantly remind me to “Turn my Eyes Upon Jesus.” Because of you, my friends, I am challenged to be a person of faith.

My Pledge

This is my life-creed. It is original to me and therefore copyrighted to me, but feel free to use and post if you feel the reminders here would be helpful in your home or place of work.

“THIS IS MY PLEDGE”

I pledge to care for those around me as though they are my brother, my sister, my father, or mother, for indeed, they are that to someone. If perhaps, they are walking this journey alone, I pledge to demonstrate compassion and kindness with the reality that I might be the encouragement that makes their life worth living.

Continue reading “My Pledge”

He knows our name

Well, I have been so busy posting recipe on The Kitchen Chic Muse, that I haven’t posted here. But I’ve had many an inspired moment over the past few weeks. Amidst the chaos and monotony, Eli and Elsie never fail to entertain. As Lee was walking into the kitchen Saturday evening, he spotted this…

Eli wrote his name on the cabinet with permanent marker

Since Eli has learned to write his name, (he still gets it backwards sometimes,) we are finding it everywhere! Lee said, “Oh man, someone scribbled all over this cabinet with a permanent marker!” As I walked over to investigate, it was clear to me that this was much more than scribble, this was a signature. Every time I walk past that cabinet (multiple times daily), I see that name and I think of our precious 3-year-old.

Then the inspiration… I thought of the Scripture verse Isaiah 49:16 where God says, “See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hand.” And I love to think that every time he sees my name, your name, engraved on his hand, he thinks of us. So while we are working, sleeping, playing, our name catches God’s eye and he remembers us. We are not alone; ever.

A few more pictures for fun.

Eli loves being daddy’s helper
Elsie enjoyed “chillin'” in Todd Lake
Elsie and her cousin, Cooper, share their first kiss
We have spent a lot of time around the firepit Lee and Eli built for me for Mother’s Day

Births, Illnesses and 5K’s

What a crazy hectic week and weekend! Besides hosting our first-ever Annual Sadie Rose 5K, my mom, step-dad, Aunt Edie, Aunt Ruth had gone to Edisto Island with my sister, Amy, her husband, Michael, and their kids. Not having them with me to help coordinate the 5K was a big deal. They are always my most loyal Sadie Rose volunteers. (Check out The Sadie Rose Foundation.)

Things were looking good by Thursday as far as the 5K planning. I thought we had it all under control. Then, Friday morning, my brother-in-law, Michael, got sick. Very sick! The family was planning on returning from the beach Saturday, but headed home first thing Friday morning instead. They were 10 hours from home, but thought they could make it back to our area so he could go to our local hospital. With every passing mile, my sister grew more concerned.

Continue reading “Births, Illnesses and 5K’s”

Welcome

Well, I’ve “gone and done it” now. Welcome to my blog. The place where randomness meets contemplative-ness. (Excuse the home-made word there.)

Hopefully we’ll engage in “conversation” here and people will be inspired, encouraged and humored.

This blog has been a long time coming, now we’ll see where it goes. See the “About” page for my reasons for undertaking yet another project. This blog just might be the link that brings all my writings full-circle.

Cheers,

Regina