Musing on Waves of Pain and Grief

 

Well, this morning learned of news that put my dad under a new intense wave of grief.  Janie’s beloved bird Vick died. My dad obviously is under a flood of grief and loss and pain.  Sitting hearing and praying this morning God impressed on me to reflect on the waves of pain and grief.  As praying and reflecting on my father’s pain as well as others in grief including: those spending today mourning the loss of David Wilkerson, those touched by the sudden lose of Darren Boogaard (former forward for the Minnesota Wild), a friend whose mother been informed of having breast cancer that spread, and unspoken others in world of pain; that each of us encounters varied waves of pain and grief.  We live in this fallen world. Many days and seasons are calm. Other times, pain and grief is overwhelming. God knows it all.  Yet, God gave us a picture of dealing with the storms and waves.  The pictures is of Jesus sleeping in the boat, at peace and content.  He is asleep for he knows the reality, the waves come and go. Now the disciples were so distraught they demanded Jesus do something, which He did to demonstrate God’s power. The storm and waves were stilled.  God is in control. 

The truth is we live in a world restricted by pain and loss.  It confines us. We have a lot of emotion around the times of pain and loss. In that storm, Jesus did indicate that it is our faith in who God is, our trust that He will see us through. All to often we easily focus on the waves.  In another picture, Peter walked on intense waves when focused on Jesus, and sunk when focused on waves.  So, God gives us an answer when we are overwhelmed and the waves appear to be that which will overwhelm and flood us. When the waters rise, when things seems to be at a point of drowning us, God is there. Cast our eyes to Him and His victory assured by the open grave.  For He is risen.

Storms are but a moment.  Stand firm in faith and endure. Looking to Jesus and looking ahead, to what is yet to come. These waves of pain and grief are but part of the preparation. We are to stand firm and endure in faith.  Pain and grief come but for a moment.  Embrace what God has before us, not to simply endure but to walking in transforming peace and joy that is found in knowledge of who God is and surrender in faith to his working through the waves of pain and grief. Sure, He could command them to stop, but doing so misses part of what God may have in store, for there is blessings and gifts in the waves of pain and grief. Meditate on God’s creation of the pearl. Something precious born out of one creatures initial irritation and pain. Now with those words said, God placed two Psalms on my heart. If you are in pain, please take time to read and thoughtfully meditate on the words and see what God has to say to you on this day while you are going through waves of pain and grief.

 

 

 

Psalms 42

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God;

for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from thelandofJordanand of Hermon, fromMountMizar.

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

 

Psalms 69

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. Of David. Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.

I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.

For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.

For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.

When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach.

When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you.

Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.

They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.

Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually.

Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them.

May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.

For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.

Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you.

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.

For God will saveZionand build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.

Joy Comes in the Mourning

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Palm Sunday Musings: Moving Beyond Great Expectations

Today, Sunday 4/17/11, is Palm Sunday. It is the day that we remember and celebrate Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem where people placed palm fronds before Him. Palm fronds historically mean triumph and victory[i] and the act of laying them down before someone was a common welcome for a coming king or hero.[ii] The crowd was anticipating Jesus arrival. Part of the great anticipation stems from the resurrection of Lazarus. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Church recognize the Saturday prior to Palm Sunday as Lazarus Saturday with belief that Lazarus was raised from the dead on that day.[iii]  The palm Sunday account in John 12 does suggest that the resurrection of Lazarus was fairly recent as the crowd and followed him and those conspiring to kill Jesus also want to kill Lazarus. 

 So the scenario is that Jesus shown Himself to have power over death in resurrecting Jesus and approached Jerusalem.  The crowd was rife with anticipation. Jesus showed himself to have power over death. Expectations soared. The thoughts had to be The Messiah had finally arrived as who else has power over death. Finally the Son of David is coming to claim the throne, set all things right, and set them free from home and establish the reign of David.  They expected great and big things.  God’s plans were quite different.  Soon the crowd would turn.  Many who proclaimed “Hosanna” later proclaimed “Crucify Him!”  What changed? 

God’s plan was not what people expected.  They were expecting immediate relief and victory. They were focused on this life and the political tyranny they lived under.  They looked with eyes of this world, not eyes on the eternal world.  They looked for a conquering king, not a lamb to be slain. God ways did not meet the human expectation. Even those who did not join in the refrain to kill Jesus did not get it.  So the retreated and withdrew not having a clue what was going on.  They gave everything to follow Jesus, for what? To see him die?  They didn’t sign up for that, even though told over and over that was the plan, they didn’t get it.  No rather, on Palm Sunday, expectations were great.  Lazarus was alive and who could stop Jesus. He will bring victory.  

Guess what, we often still do not get it.  We have expectations. We get caught up in this world. God does not do things the way we expect. We fail to see His way and His victory. We often get angry when God doesn’t match our expectations or withdraw when we have no idea what God is doing as it does not match how we think things should play out.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  God did bring victory. He used the events to follow to redeem all that will surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Jesus is making all things right, but still we can miss it. We can still get distracted with the ways of the world and what we want God to do in this world, in the here and now. Life can be focused on what is going on “immediately” and the varied “tyrannies of suffering” we live under. We want all made right and want to see God working now.  Ah, but God asks us to surrender in spite of all before us.  Whatever pain, whatever struggle, whatever is going on in this life. The call is to trust Him and surrender to Him.  This is day to day moment by moment. We each need to get past our great expectations and surrender. 

And here is what is worth focusing on today, and the true celebration. Jesus is soon coming to make all things right.  He will be coming back as the Lion of Judah.  He will be coming to set all things right. He who has power over death is coming and will conquer all. Every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord above all Lords, King above all Kings.  At that point, it will be truly Hosanna in the Highest, for there is none like the Lamb who was slain who comes forth as the Lion of Judah, He above all others.  He who is both Lamb and Lion.  The time is coming, rejoice. Set aside the thoughts and expectations of self, for God has His ways. In Him alone is victory.  Look to His life, and let go of whatever you hold onto. While it is still Today, let go and surrender, for there is no other way.


Holy Week Musings: The Ascent

Tomorrow 4/16/2011 is Palm Sunday.  It is the day of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem with people proclaiming Him as King. A lot of time is spent remembering that day as it is celebrated in churches throughout the world.  How much time is spent thinking and talking about the approach to Jerusalem?   There are several events and teaching that transpire as Jesus approaches the city and the enfolding of His mission with the suffering that will soon follow.  Each gospel account references different things that happened as Jesus moved with purpose from Jericho to Bethphage to Jerusalem.  He approach the city knowing full well what was to come.  He did so faithfully without wavering.

Outside of the actions and teachings of Jesus leading up to Holy Week, my mind is going to what Jesus was experiencing during this time,  as He knew what was to come, that suffering, betrayal, and death awaited.  Here is one incredible thing, as he ascended to Jerusalem, to that which God set before him, He experienced a wide range of emotions and maintained his course. He did not shrink back, pull back, or hold back. He moved ahead.  Think for a minute Jesus focusing on Psalms 120 through 134 the Psalms of Ascent and knowing that what He was about to do created the help, peace, and salvation.  Jesus kept the focus and surrender and moved ahead, knowing what He knew, He still followed and surrendered.  Jesus knew the personal cost to him, but He also knew the purpose and intent of what He was to endure. He knew the victory and salvation it would bring.

Now in our life and call, we do not know the details like Jesus did, but we do know that there is victory.  We do know that God is faithful even when we do not understand what is before us.  If we follow God’s leading, we will receive His blessing in God’s time and in God’s way.  For we know that God is love and while there is pain, suffering, and threats untold, God is greater.  Sure, we may endure great suffering for a time, but as we walk the road God set before us and approach that which He has called us to, God’s purpose will be fulfilled always.  There may be great pain and suffering getting to where God calls, but His will and His love will always be served. Whatever are the evil intents, if surrendered to following God and His ways, He will always bring the victory.

Yet, folks do and will lose out.  The losing out happens when any one of us leave the path of ascent.  We when go down our own way and leave God’s path there are consequences. When we do not surrender, trust, and obey there is loss. Loss that can impact many more than just our self.  This is seen over and over in scripture as deviation and distrust bring choices that have great impact.  The choices is ours minute by minute, as we are all in the ascent, approaching that to where God want us, until we reach the final moment when “It is finished” for this life and we move on to New Jerusalem.

Superbowl Sunday Musing: True Victory

The day of this commentary is Superbowl Sunday. The day the “big game” is played. The games serves as the end of the football season where one team comes out on top and achieves victory. It is the cultural apex not only in the United States of America, but the world as well. No other contest, no other game gets the attention and the notoriety worldwide.

This game and the ultimate victor is one of many such contests, with one gaining the victory and coming out on top over all others. It is really a contest to determine who is the best and is the essence to how things function in the ways of the world. It is all about “reaching the top.” Be it career, politics, athletics, games, contests, and so on, in the world it is all about rising above the rest. Then once that is achieved, the contest starts all over. The victory is temporary and fleeting, lasing but moments.

There is a victory though that is not about “rising above” others. This victory is not fleeting or temporary but endures. This victory is that which occurs when one enters in to the Kingdom of God and recognizes Jesus as both Savior and Lord. For the true victory was already won, already declared when Jesus cried “IT IS FINISHED!” This victory is about victory over sin and the return to relating and depending on God. It is the setting in motion that of untwisting what was twisted when life apart from God was chosen. In this victory the least are the greatest and loss is gain. It is contrary to the world system and the constant striving to come out on top. It is simply victory through right relationship with God and having a place in His Kingdom. No granted, this victory is one that does not appear sound to the normal eye.

If I let go of that which is of self and look to God alone, how gain I gain. This because all we know of victory is the crawling, scratching, and fighting to come out on top. But see, the worlds way, the fighting to be on “top” there can only be “one” victor. In the way of God, the way of Jesus, there are many winners, yet it is hard to grasp. This victory is called the narrow way for many will choose the road that appears right with confidence they will make it through on top. It is a way of self-effort and self-determination. It is a way of losing. God’s way, the way found in Jesus and the victory established of the cross is the way of surrender. It is the way of growing up in righteousness while both transformed and renewed. It is the way of letting go and giving up of self. The cross started things moving and the course is set, victory is assured for all those who accept Jesus as both Savoir and Lord.

The time of victory is coming closer every day. The day is coming when all will be made right. It will appear for a time that the powers of darkness win and the schemes of the devil prevail. But the time is but limited and soon all will be made right, not by our efforts or strength but in surrender to Jesus and bringing all things under His authority. It is not done by our striving or effort, but will happen upon His return. True victory is assured. Victory over death. Victory over suffering. Victory over all that ails all of creation. Those entangled and engrossed in the twisted things of self and darkness will be death with and true life will be known. When Jesus does return and claim victory, the war cry will be sure “HIS LOVE ENDURES FOR EVER!” For it is by His love alone that all is made right. It was His love alone that established the way. It is His love alone that assures the victory. Imagine if you knew today the outcome of the game ahead of time. This is what it is like in terms of the true and eternal victory. We know the outcome, we know Victory is assures. So no matter what the struggle of the day is, as long as you remain in Him, remain true to the Kingdom of God and continue to surrender to Jesus as both Savior and Lord, then Victory is assured. So stand firm, endure, and surrender to him. Then rejoice in the Lord, for Victory is Won for it is HIS LOVE THAT ENDURES FOREVER!

On Ebbs and Flows: Musing on Seasons of Life Including Grief

Face, this life we live sometimes is very difficult, other times everything seems to work out right.  One minute we can be on top doing well, everything working out as hope. Next minute things are difficult, painful, and filled with pain and loss.  Good or bad, gain or loss, beginning or ending,  and happy or sad are all words used to describe the varied season of life.  The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” So the ebbs and flows are part of the seasons of life. 

Here is the deal, while the seasons of life exist, while there is that which hurts and that which heals, it is all a result of living in a fallen world twisted by sin.  Of course, those at face value are simply words, words that do nothing to ease the difficult season such as when face any number of losses.  Now while sin created the twists that bring on the seasons and the resultant ebbs and flows there is an important note, God is still in control and at work.  Romans 8:28 (ESV)  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  It is a verse known and quoted whenever facing the difficult life seasons such as one of loss. Sometimes even the sharing of that verse though ends up as just words and not really touching the core.  The impact of these words sometimes can be missed.  

The point and impact is God is not passive.  If we are actively in relationship with the creator, whatever we do, he actively works to bring things in accordance with His purpose. So the question becomes what is God’s purpose that he brings all things into cooperation with? Is it no undoing that which has been twisted?  At the cross the path to being in right relationship with God, to be in a loving relationship with creator has been established.  His purpose is for use then to be more and more refined and cleansed.  As such, whatever happens in our lives, the ebbs and flows, serve the intent of making us grow more toward His intent for our lives in relationship with Him. 

There will be difficult seasons. There will be loss.  There will be ebbs and flows. This is a fact.  The fact is even outlined further in Romans 8 with a list of “negative” things that will happen to people in various seasons.  The fact is bad stuff happens. One way or another, the difficult seasons are related to the twists of sin; be it original  sin, our own sin, or the sins of others around us.  But we have a promise that for those that love God, we bring things inline with His intent. When we are in right relationship God is in the process of untwisting the twist.  And before God it is a finished state, yet we are in the ongoing process of getting to that finished state.  Before the promise just mentioned is the statement in Romans 8:25 (ESV)  “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  See, the God working things out for His intent is not what is always seen or perceived. What we know are the difficult things, the painful things, the things that trigger the ebbs and flows.  Much of what God does is beyond what we can perceive as he working in the midst and what God is doing also does not just resolve around one individual, but all of creation.

And with what God has done, the hope in Jesus as Lord and Saviour,  in the God with us, there is another promise.  Romans 8:37 (ESV)  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”   See, in all the pain, in all the things that can come against and cause pain, in all of which is twisted and horrendous. In all, we are told that no matter what the appearance there is the assured victory, that all these things just are not defeated, but obliterated.  In Christ is all hope and the victory is an overwhelming blow-out.  And again, we can look at that and simply see the words.  But if let the word take effect in heart and life it change how manage the ebbs and flows.  They still come, but when the focus is not on the pain of the moment but in the faithfulness and surety of God’s love and purpose, one can find the joy and peace amidst the ebbs and flows.  So let the words of God sink deeply, beyond words, beyond the fickleness of the emotions in the ebbs and flows, into the peace that passes all understanding with the strength coming from the Joy in the Lord.

Video Selection: Our God is Greater- Chris Tomlin

This morning during worship at Church we were introduced to a new worship song. The song fits personally with where I am right now and where my family is at.  Already have posted that Janie Blake is now facing a renewed battle with cancer.  It is up to God the results. But whatever God wills he will do.  In my own life there is the ongoing pushing through to move forward and facing own personal barriers.  The key line in the song for me is if God is with us, who can stand against.  Now that phrase is one that can be mistaken for advancement for whatever we want in accordance with our will. The key though here is “If our God is with us.”  If we are standing in accordance with God and in His will, nothing can stand.  God is capable of much more than we can even hope to know.  So take time, view this video and let God touch you where you at in your own struggles be they simple making it through daily stress or facing giants and difficulties like a deathly cancer battle.   If our God is with us, what can stand against?

Musing on Moss returning to Minnesota: The Joy of the Return

For readers of the blog it should be no secret that this writer is a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. Yesterday was a day that had most Vikings fans feeling good.  It is the day that Randy Moss came home.  Sure, Randy Moss can and will display a selfish attitude.  Yet, when he is motivated he is a wide receiver like no other.  Yesterday’s trade is one that brought feelings of happiness and hope.  The season looked to be headed in the direction of failed expectations, to one of excitement and a desire to see how things play out. The trade was one that uplifted the fan base.

In thinking about the Randy Moss homecoming, thoughts go to how God reacts when we come home.  Each of us at one point or another go our own selfish ways. We leave God’s path and go our own way.  Yet, God always provides a way of return.  When anyone who has been away from God returns, it is a time of great joy and elation.  This is true for all. Each step of return and repentance brings elation and joy.  And unlike the return of Randy Moss, the end result is no.  When anyone returns to God, the victory is already assured.