March 31, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 121: God of the Now


God of the Now

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ASV)


God is God of every season. He is God of every time for every purpose under heaven. 


If God has us in a season, it is for a reason.

I can think of no more succinct reflection of how God works in the seasons of our lives than a single phrase from the starkly beautiful Lauren Daigle song  "Love Like This": 

"When I am the winter, You are the fire that burns."

I cannot tell you how much I love that this does not read, "When I am the winter, You are the spring." When God has us in a season, our job is not to ask Him to get us out of it nearly so much as it is to trust Him to provide what we need while we're in it, so that we can accomplish the purpose He has for it.

When we are in a "winter" season, what we need even more than spring is God's fire to warm and comfort us during that winter.

If God has me in a season, I need to be IN it, not just hovering at the periphery, trying to get out of it. 

The God of Time has a reason for every season, and whatever else might be murky about that, this much is clear: all His reasons are good, and all His reasons are love.

"When I am a wasteland,
You are the water.
When I am the winter,
You are the fire that burns.


When I am a long night,
You are the sunrise.
When I am a desert,
You are the river that turns
To find me.

What have I done to deserve love like this?
What have I done to deserve love like this?
I cannot earn what You so freely give.
What have I done to deserve love like this?


Hallelujah."


(From "Love Like This;" Lauren Daigle; songwriters Lauren Daigle, Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br1q_i1RHPU.)

March 30, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 120: God of Passion

God of Passion

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."
(Romans 12:9 NIV)

I've heard it said that hate is not the opposite of love; indifference is.


To me, this rings true. Love and hate invest emotion, time, energy, and commitment, but indifference withdraws. Love and hate press in close, but indifference stands off at a distance.

Of all the true things we can say about God, one, surely, is that He is not indifferent. He loves passionately and hates passionately. 

We pull back a little from hate, perhaps, feeling it is an ugly word, but our Holy God hates what He hates because He loves whom He loves. 

Sin, idolatry, injustice...these things God hates either harm those He loves or get in the way of relationship between Himself and His beloved.

As we begin to make our way back to the main road on our names of God journey, we glimpse in the distance the most passionate display of love and hate ever witnessed. 

The final period in Jesus' earthly life that began with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ended with His crucifixion is referred to as "the Passion," from the Latin word "patior," meaning "suffer." 

What passionate hate fed, passionate love starved.
What passionate hate birthed, passionate love put to death.
What passionate hate began, passionate love finished. 

Indifference says, "I couldn't care less." But our God of Passion, in love that took on hate and won, says, "I couldn't care more, because I already care most."

March 29, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 119: God Who Speaks


God Who Speaks

"Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3:9 NIV)

God has been speaking since the beginning.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:1-3).

God said.

One of the things God says is that there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. 

When I'm thinking it might be time for me to speak, I need to pass my words under the confirming light of God's Word.

L—Is what I'm thinking of speaking loving? "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." (
1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV)

I—Is it instructed? "The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary." (Isaiah 50:4a)

G—Is it gracious? "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (
Proverbs 16:24 NIV) 

H—Is it helpful? "
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

T—It is true? "T
hen we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church." (Ephesians 4:14, 15 NLT)

In the Old Testament, God often spoke through His prophets. But in the New
 Testament, He spoke through His Son, the Word. Jesus spoke of and for His Father until the day Abba went silent...the day darkness was given its hour of reign...the day the Light of the world spoke the words that changed everything.

"It is finished."

It is finished.

Oh friends, one day, this same Jesus—the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End—will say, "It is done"...and we will see the beginning to end all beginnings.



March 28, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 118: God of Silence


God of Silence

"The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2:20 NIV)

One of my favorite examples of a time to be silent is found in the book of Job.

Our beleaguered main character has just finished a lengthy discourse, during which he says things like, "Oh how I long for the days when God watched over me...when I was in my prime...when the Almighty was with me...when [this is the part I like best] my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil" (from Job 29).

He's gone on like this for several chapters (just when you think he might be done, our Bible translations helpfully inform, "And Job continued his discourse"), and then, at the beginning of Job 38, my Bible heading reads, "The LORD Speaks." 

You can almost picture God standing patiently with His arms folded, listening to Job go on and on, and when "the words of Job are ended" (Job 31:40), God says (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Are you finished?" 

In fact, Job 38:1 tells us, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm."

When the Lord speaks, He doesn't mince words (from Job 38-41).

"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? Who shut up the sea behind doors? Have you ever given orders to the morning? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, 'Here we are'? Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!" 

And, "Then Job answered the LORD: 'I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more'" (Job 40:3,4).

Can't you just see Job clapping his hand over his mouth? Can't you hear his muffled response? "Um, I'll just be quiet now."

There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak. I usually err (and I do mean "err") on the side of speaking more than being silent, which is why I often have to remind myself of the classic children's church object lesson about words. Students are asked to squeeze out the contents of a tube of toothpaste. They do this successfully, of course. Then they are asked to put the toothpaste back in the tube. They fail miserably at this, of course. And so it is with our words. We can always speak them later, but we cannot unspeak them.

Sometimes, a time of silence protects us from saying something harmful. And sometimes, it allows us to hear something helpful. Then too, when we hear more, we see more.

Oh, Almighty God, give us the humility and wisdom to know when it is time for us to be silent. And out of that silence, help us to echo the words of your servant Job (42:5): "'You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak...' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.'"


March 27, 2019

When My Teen's Moods Are Swinging, She Needs Me To Stay Steady

 

I’m never quite sure what version of my teenager is going to come downstairs on any given morning.

Depending on my beautiful girl's hair, the weather, the tides of social media, and her level of satisfaction with her outfit, I can expect to see happy, cheerful, grumpy, anxious, edgy, or any other of the seven-and-then-some dwarfs of adolescent moods sitting at my breakfast table.

And I understand. I get it. Oh, how I get it. 

For one thing, I was once a teenager. For another, I am a pre-menopausal woman. I’ve climbed aboard the mood-swing rollercoaster many times myself. I know this is part of the package deal of life with older kids.

But I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if I didn’t figure out how to navigate these choppy emotional waters so that I can help my teenager learn how to steer through them, too.

(I want to be very clear, though, that I am talking about typical teenage mood swings, not about far more serious anxiety or depression or other illnesses that require intensive attention and specialized treatment. My heart truly goes out to parents who are fighting those battles on behalf of the teens they love so much.)

I feel like I go back to school on this every day, but here are a few lessons that seem to be sticking.

1. I need to remember the hard.

My mercurial teen needs me to remember what it was like to feel awkward and uncertain and self-conscious. She needs me to remember the constant battle between wanting to stand out and fit in all at the same time. She needs me to remember that her brain is still under construction. And she needs me to remember all this, because she needs me to love her through all this.

2. Sometimes, I need to blame the hormones.

Out-of-whack, up-and-down influxes of chemicals with names ending in “-gen” and “-rone” certainly don’t give our big kids free license to be insufferable with no accountability or personal responsibility. But hormonal surges are the real deal, and they can wreak havoc on mind and emotions. Sometimes I need to remind myself, “That’s the hormones talking.” (Or not talking, as the case may be.)

3. I need to feed the right fire.

When my teen is testy, my natural reaction is to react in kind—to give what I’m getting. Of course, this is effective approximately zero percent of the time. I’m learning that a better approach is not to feed the fire of moodiness, but instead to feed love, patience, and understanding. Sometimes this means asking if I can give her a hug. Sometimes it means saying “good morning” even when it’s clear it’s not. And sometimes it means not saying anything at all (which leads me to my next point.)

4. I need to zip it up.
Years ago, I came across an object lesson to teach kids about the power of our words (which later became a viral social media post.) You were supposed to squirt out a tube of toothpaste and then ask the kids to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Of course, they couldn’t, and the point was that our words are like that, too. I need to remember this lesson when I’m trying to ride out my teen’s mood swings. I can always say something later, but once it’s out there, I can’t unsay it. In general, the tumultuous teen years seem like a good time to err on the side of silence.

5. I need to soften the edges.

I do lots of things for my teen every day while she does all the things only she can do. But sometimes I’ll throw a little extra sweetening into the mix, some small nicety that smooths the rough spots and diffuses the mood bomb a little. Her favorite Starbucks’ iced tea in the car when I pick her up from school, maybe, or an iTunes gift card left on her desk. And the mood-modulating power of pancakes at the end of a 16-hour day simply cannot be overstated.

6. I need to rehearse the good.

When ornery, grumpy, et al, show up at my breakfast table, it’s easy to forget that there is more to my daughter than her moods. While I’m not talking (see “zip it up,” above), I can be reminding myself of all the personality traits, talents, gifts, and strengths I love about this child.

7. I need to prioritize relationship.

I’m not just trying to get through the days with my teen, although sometimes that does seem like challenge enough (Mondays at 6 a.m., I’m looking at you.) What I’m really doing is making a deposit on a future I’m dreaming of, one where this child I’m raising becomes a young adult who chooses to keep her relationship with me. 


If I’m tempted to say or do something in the heat of the moment that could potentially undermine that relationship, I’d better make good and sure it’s serving some higher purpose. And frankly, I can’t imagine what that would be. Because whichever way my teen’s moods are swinging, I want us to ride them out and get to the other side together.



*   *   *   *   *   *   
A version of this article first appeared on Your Teen For Parents.

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 117: God Who Mends


God Who Mends

"Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. (Hosea 6:1 NRS)

I've mentioned in the past that I'm not a gardener...but that my mom is a master at it.


I'm not a seamstress, either...but my mom is brilliant at that, too. 

I do, however, own a sewing box (a hand-me-down from my mom outfitted by her with the basics), and I can perform small sewing tasks with great mediocrity...which is how I have some point of reference for Ecclesiastes' "a time to mend."

In sewing terms, the elements of a mending job are the pieces of fabric to be sewn together, the thread, the needle, and the hands to do the job.

In our lives, the fabric often looks like ripped relationships, torn promises, and broken hearts.

These pieces are brought back together with threads of unity, forgiveness, and trust.

Needles of humility, repentance, and prayer draw the thread back and forth.

And God uses us as His hands to guide the needle.

I've done enough sewing to know that there's some painful poking involved with mending. Sometimes, it's hard to get the needle into the fabric. Sometimes, it's hard to see to thread the needle in the first place.

But when the mending is done—when what was torn has been repaired—we have new clothes to put on.


"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1,3 NIV).

March 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 116: God Who Tears


God Who Tears

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" (Revelation 21:5 NIV)

I've been a fan of the "Little House on the Prairie" books since I was a girl and pretty much have them memorized, on account of rereading them many times during my growing-up years and now, as an adult, listening to them every fall on CD book. Which is how, when I came to "a time to tear" on our journey through the seasons of life, a relevant passage from one of the "Little House" books came to mind.

The scene takes place in "Farmer Boy," Laura Ingalls Wilder's semi-biographical account of the boyhood life of the man who would become her husband, Almanzo Wilder. Laura writes in the chapter titled "Cobbler" that Almanzo's older brother and sisters were getting ready to go to boarding school and were preparing their wardrobes.

"The girls were ripping their old dresses and bonnets, sponging and pressing them and sewing them together again the other side out, to look new."

Oh, friends, isn't this how it is when God is remaking us?

When we're being remade, doesn't it feel as though God is ripping and tearing us...cleaning us off...pressing us...and turning us inside out?

But then, just as I imagine those sisters must have looked with delight and pleasure at their like-new dresses, we hear the voice of our King and Creator, seated on the throne: "Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5 ESV).

If you're in a ripping season right now, how I pray you'll trust the tender heart of the God Who Tears...and hang on for the beautiful beholding.

March 25, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 115: God of Letting Go


God of Letting Go

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV) 


I'm not great at physically being still, so I was relieved, delighted, and intrigued to learn not long ago that a more direct translation of "be still" from the original language in Psalm 46 is "let go." It carries the idea of dropping or slackening. 

I like to think (don't take this to the Hebrew bank, though) of an unclenching of the fists. I picture my hands tightly clutching something—a longing, a worry, a relationship, a project, a problem, a task—and the God of Letting Go prying my fingers open and asking me to turn my open palms over, surrendering whatever was in them to Him, then lifting my now-free hands in praise and worship and sacrifice and offering to Him.

This interpretation provides us with some sure footing for a few stops along our Ecclesiastes side trip.

We let go...and scatter stones.
We let go...and cease embracing.
We let go...and stop searching.
We let go...and throw away.

But this kind of "being still" is a lot more uncomfortable than simply not moving. What if we love those stones? What if we love what or whom we're embracing? What if we love the object of our searching? What if we love what we're being asked to throw away?

These are hard places of faith.

If what we're being asked to let go of is a person, we can know that God loves him or her, too..and more. If it's a desire or dream, we can know that God's plans for us are always for our good. And covering all this, we can know that God's first priority is always for us to know Him best, because that is for our best—and for the best of whatever or whomever we're holding onto. 

Let go, my hands. Be still, my soul.

"Find rest, my soul
In Christ alone.
Know his power
In quietness and trust.

When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
I will soar with you above the storm.
Father, you are king over the flood.
I will be still and know you are God."

(From "Still;" Hillsong Worship; songwriter Reuben Morgan; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAdwX8HypJM.)

March 24, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 114: God Who Holds


God Who Holds

"He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart." (Isaiah 40:11 NIV)

Ecclesiastes' seasonal Scriptures make several mentions of getting things and of holding onto them.

There is a time to search. There is a time to gather. There is a time to embrace. There is a time to keep. 

We search for God: "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13 CSB).

We gather stones of remembrance to remind us of God's past faithfulness, which feeds our present thankfulness: "Then Samuel took a s
tone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far has the LORD helped us'" (1 Samuel 7:12 NIV).

We embrace wisdom: "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you" (Proverbs 4:7,8 NIV).

We keep wise teachings close to our heart and at the ready on our lips: "Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips, so that your trust may be in the LORD" (Proverbs 22:17-19a NIV).

And while we take hold of what we have sought, gathered, embraced, and kept, we remember that before we hold onto anything, we are first and foremost...held.

"The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded...He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me" (Psalm 18:13,16,17a NIV).

"Faith is not merely you holding on to God—it is God holding on to you" (E. Stanely Jones).

"Hold me now
In the hands that created the heavens.
Find me now
Where the grace runs as deep as Your scars.

You pulled me from the clay,
You set me on a rock,
Called me by Your Name,
And made my heart whole again.

Hold my heart
Now and forever,
My soul cries out.

Once I was broken,
But You loved my whole heart through.
Sin has no hold on me
‘Cause Your grace holds me now."

(From "Whole Heart (Hold Me Now);" Hillsong UNITED; Songwriters Joel Houston, Aodhan King; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRUM70CPYls.)



March 23, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 113: God of Dancing


God of Dancing

"You changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy." 
(Psalm 30:11 CEB) 
"The motions of the universe are to be conceived not as those of a machine, or even an army, but rather as a dance, a festival, a symphony, a ritual, a carnival, or all these in one. They are the most perfect impulse toward the most perfect object." (C.S. Lewis)
Four months after my younger daughter started taking her first dance class, our family lost her paternal grandfather. My husband's father, confidante, business mentor, woodcutting partner, fellow college sports fan, and best buddy was young and healthy, and his death was utterly unexpected and shocking.

As we wound our way through the early days of a time to mourn, I quickly realized that my daughter's dance recital would fall on the night before Father's Day...my husband's first Father's Day without his dad on earth.

I began to envision a day we would merely get through, would merely survive. But I wanted more for our family, so I began to ask God to redeem the day. 
I asked Him to make something of it beyond what it would be without His intervention. I asked Him to make it more than just a day we would grit our way through.

On Father’s Day Eve, our family took over a row in the auditorium. We watched my daughter's class come on stage. In their electric-blue tutus, they had the audience before they'd even started dancing.

We beamed proudly as our little ballerina steadily performed each movement. At the end of the night, she was awarded a scholarship we had no idea was coming, and we all gasped in surprised delight. It was glorious.

The day after the recital, as we celebrated Father’s Day without my father-in-law physically present among us, I knew God had said yes to my prayer: He had redeemed the day. He had bought it back from mourning and purchased it for dancing. Abba had given a gift to my husband, who had lost his earthly daddy but still found joy in the careful steps of a little girl in a blue tutu.

Sweet friends, do you have something you need God to redeem? If you do, there is a Redeemer for it—the Lord of the dance, God of every season. Ask Him to buy whatever it is back from mourning, to take off its funeral clothes and dress it up in joy.

And when He does, I pray you feel like dancing.

March 22, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 112: God of Mourning


God of Mourning

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4 NIV)

I read an article the other day that made this rather arresting assertion: everyone is grieving. 

Everyone is in a time to mourn.

I agree. 

Oh, friends: I am not in any way saying all or even most of life is grief. I am not saying we are all trudging about in a constant state of sorrow. After all, "this is the day the LORD has made. We will [I love the intentionality and determination of that word!] rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24 NLT). But if mourning is a way of honoring what we have loved and lost, and if losing is part of loving in this broken world, then it does seem we must all be mourning something or someone.

Here is the thing, and this is so, so important: our God of compassion does not ask us to rate our loss or heartbreak or sorrow and decide if it merits mourning. His tenderness and love are wide, deep, long, and high enough to have room for anything that causes us to grieve.

I also don't believe mourning happens in some nice tidy compartment of time. I think our mourning mostly has to happen right in the middle of normal life, even when normal life no longer exists. 

So we mourn, and we laugh. We mourn, and we plant. We mourn, and we build. We mourn, and we heal.

I've had the costly privilege of learning about mourning from people who have done it well…which is just to say, they've done it at all. There is no right way to mourn, but God is clear that there is a time for it, and so it must be given its due.

From my hurting friends, I've learned that grief is not some sort of race to see who can cross the finish line first. As near as I can tell from watching them, "done" is not a point you get to when you're mourning the loss of someone or something you love.

From them, I have learned that grief is not a straight line but rather a squiggly knot with twists and turns and snarls and loose ends that you're trying to make sense of while you're in the middle of the middle of the middle.

From them, I have learned grief is a bumpy, uneven road that you hope eventually takes you to places where you can see you have made progress from where you began.

From them, I have learned that grief must just be done. It cannot be skipped over or avoided. It cannot be gone around but must be tunneled through.

From them, I have learned that joy and sadness, hope and despair, pleasure and pain, delight and misery can coexist and be real and true all at the same time.

To my grieving friends: thank you for being my teachers in a class you never wanted to take. Those you grieve so bravely, you honor so beautifully.

And to all of us: when grief grips our minds and hearts, we can know that God is both there with us in that dark night and on up ahead of us, preparing a new day—for He is both the God of mourning and God of the morning.

"
There is a strength that rises up in me,
To know that You've been here before me.
A strength beyond what I can see,
Jesus, Your love,
Jesus, Your love.

So let my heart tell You again,
When seasons change and stories end,
Your steady love,
It will sustain me through it all,
Jesus, Your love."

(From "Jesus, Your Love;" Kristene DiMarco; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STlxdghSczI.)

#morningbymourning

March 21, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 111: God of Laughter


God of Laughter

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." (Job 8:21 NIV)

At the end of her eighth-grade year, my younger daughter looked as though she'd lost her best friend. 

And in a way, she had. Actually, she'd lost her two best friends. 

Both girls were, thank goodness, still very much alive, and both still, thank goodness, wanted to be my daughter's friend. But her best school friend was changing schools, and her best church friend was changing churches. Both of these losses came at the same time, and I'll never forget the look of grief on my daughter's face the day she got confirmation that her school friend would no longer be part of her daily life. 

I couldn't tell her everything would be okay, because I wasn't sure it would be, and I didn't want to disrespect my daughter's feelings for her friends. I knew I needed to let her have her time of weeping. But when we got home from school that day, my older daughter called her sister to come into our living room. She went slowly, weighed down by sorrow, but a few minutes later, from an adjoining room where I was working, I heard howls of laughter from both my girls. The laughing continued rather raucously for several minutes. 

My older daughter, anticipating what her sister needed, had dug up an old camera, and the two of them were looking at pictures and videos from their younger years, making fun of themselves and each other and their outfits and their hair. I listened to their laughter and thought to myself that I was hearing the truth of Proverbs 17:22 in action: "a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength."

Later, I thanked my older daughter, and she said, "I knew that would make her laugh." Her sister's sadness was not over, of course, but in the intermingled seasons of our lives, weeping and laughing often pile on top of each other. Sometimes, if we wait to laugh until there is nothing to cry about, we never do laugh at all.

In case you need a little laughter therapy yourself, I thought I'd leave you today with a few prescriptions for it. And if you don't feel much like laughing at the moment, that's okay, too: just note that small third word in today's key verse. Hold on for the "yet," and wait for the laughter that will be yours when you get there.

*Christian comedian Tim Hawkins: https://m.youtube.com/user/timhawkinscomedy

*Christian comedian Anita Renfroe "William Tell Momisms" song:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YYukEAmoMCQ

*John McPherson comics: https://www.gocomics.com/closetohome/

*Family-friendly comedy movies:
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-family-movie-laughs

March 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 110: God of Weeping


God of Weeping

"God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. (Luke 6:21 NLT)

Don't cry.

As parents, this is one of the first things we tell our newborns. It's not that we want them to hide how they're feeling; it's just that we don't want them to feel whatever it is that's making them cry in the first place. We want them to feel safe, secure, happy, and content. We continue to want these things for our babies no matter how old those babies get to be. And we want safety, security, happiness, and contentment for ourselves, too.


Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep. I'm the mom of two daughters—one young adult and one teenager—so I've seen my share of crying. I understand that there are chemicals in tears that get purged from the body during crying, so sometimes I will tell my daughters I think a good cry is what they need for release and repair.

God's story is filled with examples of weeping in due season.

Jacob wept in grief (Genesis 37:35).
Hannah wept in longing (1 Samuel 1:7).
Nehemiah wept in regret (Nehemiah 1:4).
Peter wept in shame (Matthew 26:75).
Jesus wept in compassion (John 11:35).

Maybe today is a time for weeping for you, too. Or maybe today is a time for you to sit with someone while they weep, not to say to them, "Don't cry," but rather, "Go ahead and cry. I'm here with you and for you."

Joy comes in the morning, but first, we give weeping its night.

March 19, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 109: God Who Builds


God Who Builds

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1a NIV)

Yahweh is the God who breaks, and Yahweh is the God who builds. 


Whatever He's building in your life right now, there's a good chance these components are involved...

*The blueprint of His Word. "Fix these words of mine in your heart and minds...write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 11:18,20).

*The foundation of faith. "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (Isaiah 7:9).

*The framing of trust. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).

*The walls of virtue. "Therefore, God's chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (Colossians 3:12).

*The roof of love. "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14).


*The door of Jesus. "
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture" (John 10:9).

God not only builds for us, He also builds with us. We are living stones being built into God's spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).


And in true redemptive fashion, God often builds with the broken. 

With broken hearts, He builds healing.
With broken dreams He builds hope.
With broken relationships, He builds love.
With broken spirits, He builds compassion.

God is building something in us, for us, and with us today. May we be on the lookout for these construction projects, even as, like Abraham, we are "looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10).

*   *   *   *   *   *
Song suggestion: "Build Your Kingdom Here;" Rend Collective; songwriters Chris Llewellyn, Gareth Gilkeson, Will Herron; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbdJXKqVgtg.

March 18, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 108: God Who Breaks


God Who Breaks

"The One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their King will pass through before them, the LORD at their head." (Micah 2:13 NIV)

The first time my husband's maternal grandmother saw the 100-year-old barn that came with our 100-year-old house, I was starting to tell her, "We're going to fix it up soon" but had only gotten out "we're going to..." before she filled in, "Tear it down?"


Her assumption was understandable: the barn did look pretty broken.

With human eyes, we see tearing down as a sign of defeat, but in God's game-plan, what is torn down often clears the way for greater victory. What is broken down often opens the way to greater freedom.

Altars to made-up gods are broken down so that God the Maker can be worshiped (Exodus 23:24).

False strongholds are torn down so that the true Stronghold can be sought (Micah 5:11).

Pride is broken down so that humility can be born (Leviticus 26:19).

And the greatest example of breaking and tearing: Christ on the cross. At the moment of His final breaking—when His sinless body was torn from the top of His thorn-pierced head to the bottom of his nail-pierced feet—the curtain of the temple was also torn from top to bottom, breaking down once and for all the barrier between us and God (Matthew 27:50,51).

Oh, beloved of the Lord, if you feel as though something in you is being torn or broken down today, hold onto this promise that restoration is on the other side of the rubble:

"The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated" (Isaiah 61:1, 4).




March 17, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 107: God of Healing


God of Healing

"This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says; I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you." (2 Kings 20:5 NIV)

There is a time to kill, and there is a time for war. But there is also a time for healing from wounds inflicted and losses suffered during those seasons of killing and warring. 


You've probably heard the adage "time heals all wounds." I do not believe this. I believe that the God of Healing acts through time to heal wounds. Certainly God is able to accomplish this healing in one fell swoop, in one miraculous moment in time. But more often, He works through extended time so that we aren't always aware when healing has happened. How do we know we're healing? How do we know that we're moving forward?

Counselors a lot wiser and more learned than I have written volumes on this, so I'll just share (with permission) one example from our family's history.

My daughter had something she needed to kill, something she needed to war against: unforgiveness. She knew she needed to fight this war but resisted being drafted for awhile. Finally, reluctantly, she enlisted but told God, "Okay, I forgive. But I don't feel it, and I don't feel like it."

This one moment of obedience a couple months ago was a turning point in a long journey that had begun a few years prior. And then just the other day, my daughter was able to encourage a friend with the healing my daughter herself had received. My daughter recognized that she felt in that moment what she hadn't felt in the heat of battle. She told me, "I'm really happy to have finally made it to this place."

Healing comes in many forms and takes on many guises. Maybe it looks like being able to encourage someone else's healing. Maybe it looks like realizing that what was put to death during a time to kill and what was battled during a time for war are no longer front and center in your mind all the time. And maybe, sometimes, healing looks like realizing you're not where you were...and feeling happy about that. 

Only God can accomplish soul-deep healing that sticks. He uses many tools, human and otherwise, but true healing belongs to Him alone, because He alone is the Healer. 

"God wants to bring us healing, but more than anything, He wants us to know our Healer. Only God can put the pieces of our heart back together again, close up all the wounds, and bind them with a porous bandage that protects from infection, yet keeps the heart free to inhale and exhale love" (Beth Moore, "Breaking Free").

March 16, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 106: God of Battle


God of Battle

"All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47 NIV)

How can Yahweh-Shalom (The Lord is Peace) prescribe a season of war?

How can the Spirit of Life say there is a time to kill?

Of so many possible answers to these questions, I'll offer two from my simple perspective:

1)We are not supposed to be able to fully understand a holy God with our human minds. But this should be thrilling and praise-inspiring, not frustrating and muting. "The point is not to completely understand God but to worship Him. Let the very fact that you cannot know Him fully lead you to praise Him for His infinteness and grandeur" (Francis Chan).

2)We all have wars against enemies of our souls we need to wage and sins and idols we need to put to death. We fight these battles and inflict these deadly wounds with spiritual swords and spears sharpened by the God of Battle Himself. 

Sometimes, we war against our own natures.
Sometimes, we know we have to kill a habit that's hurting our relationship with God and others. 
Sometimes, we war against injustice on behalf of the weak and defenseless.
Sometimes, we need to kill our vain imaginations when they lead us along dark paths.

We do this killing and this warring in the right way when we borrow the spirit of a shepherd boy who took on a giant but well understood the victory he gained would not belong to him: "The LORD owns this war, and he will hand all of you over to us" (1 Samuel 17:47 CEB).

"When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear.
The battle belongs to the Lord.
Take courage my friend, your redemption is near.
The battle belongs to the Lord.

We sing glory, honor,
Power and strength to the Lord.

We sing glory, honor,
Power and strength to the Lord."

("The Battle
 Belongs to the Lord;" John Michael Talbot; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M60Fr-GA9Mk.)

March 15, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 105: Lord of the Harvest


Lord of the Harvest

"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Luke 10:2 NIV)

We're only a few days into a side trip off our main names of God road, and I've already picked up a couple souvenirs. I hope you have, too. (And I promise to mostly quit with the traveling references for today.)


One souvenir is that all the pairs of seasons God breathed into Ecclesiastes 3 feed and finish each other: what one begins, its complement ends; where one leaves off, the other picks up.

The other souvenir is the comforting observation that no matter what might be going on in our daily lives, we can find a representative for it in the seasons God purposes. Birth and death, planting and harvesting, war and peace, and all the rest bring immediate literal interpretations to mind, but they also suggest broader applications so that we can, for instance, relate to a time to be born even though we are clearly not being born as babies right now.

On the way of faith, planting and harvesting and more planting and more harvesting lead us along toward our heavenly home.

We plant humility...and harvest confession.
We plant confession...and harvest repentance.
We plant repentance...and harvest forgiveness.
We plant forgiveness...and harvest relationship.
We plant relationship...and harvest love.
We plant love...and harvest joy.
We plant joy...and harvest strength.
We plant strength...and harvest endurance.
We plant endurance...and harvest hope.

And we plant hope...and harvest eternal life in the fields of the Lord of the harvest.



March 14, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 104: God of Planting


God of Planting

"My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD." (Jeremiah 24:6,7a NIV)

I am not a gardener. I've managed to grow two human children, but that's about it. My mom, on the other hand, can grow practically anything (including children). Every lovely green thing we have in our yard, save what came with the place, is a labor of love from the hand of my mom. (Thanks, Mama.)


In the community of faith, we often talk about "planting seeds." We aren't sure what might be reaped at harvest time, but we trust God has used our hands to plant something good. 

God sets forth seasons of planting, which means we have a job to do in those seasons. But what exactly is involved in planting? Maybe this process is a place to start. 

1. Look for some land. Your home, your workplace, someplace you volunteer...wherever you are today, be on the lookout for land that's ripe for the planting. 

2. Prepare the land. I don't know much about preparation for literal planting (see "not a gardener," above), but I do know the soil has to be worked up (aerated?) and that it needs to have the right balance of clay and sand and the nutrients necessary to the incubation of life. In spiritual terms, prayer is the most crucial preparation we can make for planting. Pray for someone in whose mind and heart you know you'd like to sow a seed. Pray for that person unknown to you but known to God who might come across your path. 

Relationship-building ahead of planting is another form of preparation. If you're going to dig a hole in someone's mind or heart (to put the seed into and with the best of intentions, of course), it will help a lot if they know you love and care about them first. 

Beyond these steps, the bulk of the preparation is done by God. We have no idea how God has gone ahead of us and prepared someone to receive what He has for them. Our job isn't to make the soil; our job is to plant a seed in it.

3. Get the seeds. Scripture you have memorized or stored in your phone or written on note cards you stash in your car, for instance. Songs that sing God's praise and truth. Your own story. A word of encouragement. Have these at the ready when the time to plant rolls around. 

4. Plant the seeds. Speak the Scripture. Share the song. Tell your story. Send a message of concern and encouragement. 

5. Feed the seeds. Check in from time to time. Pray, and pray some more. Ask the Living Water to fall on the seeds. Ask the Sun to shine on them and cause them to grow.

6. Trust the God of Planting. As with literal seeds buried deep in the ground or in little compartments in a tray of soil, we often can't see the growth that's going on with the seeds we plant. Here is where we have to trust the goodness of the Master Gardener. Sight unseen, we have to hold onto hope that the seed will grow "as God causes it to grow" (Colossians 2:19). Or, in the wise words of Elisabeth Elliot, "Don't dig up in doubt what you planted in faith."



March 13, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 103: God of Endings


God of Endings

"He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.'" (Revelation 21:6 NIV)

Whenever someone suggests a movie to me, I always ask, "Does it have a happy ending?"

I know this isn't how real life works, of course. Real life has many endings that cannot under any circumstances be considered "happy." But that's the point: I don't usually watch a movie to watch real life, so I prefer a happy ending, if you don't mind.

Off-screen, though, death is perhaps the most final ending of all, and it is heart-wrenching and heart-breaking when it brings an end not only to an earthly life, but also to life as we, the still-living, know it—and, more to the point, life as we want it. 

Yet God.

Through the writer of Ecclesiastes, God tells us that there is a time to die. And through His own names, He tells us that there is a time for endings.

He is the Alpha...but He is also the Omega.
He is the Beginning...but He is also the End.

If there were no need of endings, God Himself would not be the End.

We see death and endings with our finite earthly eyes, and God understands this. His great heart breaks for our broken hearts. But with his infinite, divine vision, God sees what death births and what endings begin. 

King Uzziah's death gave birth to Isaiah seeing the Lord.
Lazarus' death gave birth to God's glory being more greatly revealed.
The end of the Old Covenant gave birth to the beginning of the New Promise.

Doesn't death during one season often lead to the birth of new life in the next? Doesn't an ending during one season often make way for a new beginning in the next?

Oh, dear ones, this is why God in His perfect wisdom appoints cyclical seasons. He is always doing something new. But sometimes He ends the old first. 

How fitting it is that Jesus—the Beginning and the End—provides us with the most glorious example ever of an ending and a beginning, of a time to die and a time to be born. With the end of His earthly life, our hope for eternal life began, and with His triumph over earthly death, our hope for eternal life was born.

"You don't have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live" (John 11:25 MSG).

March 12, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 102: God of New Life


God of New Life

"Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is!" 
(Isaiah 43:19 MSG)

What seasons of life are you in right now?

I ask about seasons, plural, because even though we often talk about being in a season, 
singular, I think we mostly live life in several seasons at once. Frequently, we're in seemingly "contradictory" seasons: both in a time to be born and in a time to die, for instance. But rather than fighting against each other, I believe God intends for different seasons of our lives to balance each other, to complete each other, because He is a God of completion.

Too, I love that Scripture is both specific and general. Its Author wrote it with a fine-tipped pen and with broad brush strokes so that we would have clear truth as well as wide applicability. Such is the case with today's season: "a time to be born" (Ecclesiastes 3:2). So many things are born in our lives. Perhaps you're waiting for or have recently experienced the literal birth of a baby or grandbaby. (If so, congratulations!) But maybe a new job or new relationship or new ministry is what's being born in you, to you, for you.

I'm struck by the process at play in a time to be born.

Usually, there is prayer: we ask God for what we want Him to give birth to and for the wisdom to know what part we play in that birth.

Then there is preparation: we take action, get ready.

Next, a pause: we wait and watch.

Finally, praise: we celebrate and give thanks for the new life God has caused to be born.

Sweet friends, if you're in a time to be born, may God cause you to recognize His answers to your prayers. May He guide your preparations. May He give you patience during the pauses. And may He receive your praise.

"Be born in me,
Be born in me.
I'll hold you in the beginning,
You will hold me in the end.
Every moment in the middle,
Make my heart your Bethlehem.
Be born in me."

("
Be Born in Me;" from "Music Inspired by The Story;" Francesca Battistelli; songwriters Bernie Herms, Nichole Nordeman; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsXOP7aQeqQ.)