Love That Endures Forever

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This morning as I was spending time doing my devotional, one of the readings was Psalm 136:1-12.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who alone does great wonders,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
 and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;”

As I finished reading through this it struck me to how many times the Psalmist reminded us that God’s “…steadfast love endures forever” If you finish through the rest of the Psalm you find that 26 times the Psalmist says this phrase.

It got me thinking about this.  Specifically in my own life.  I realized suddenly as I sat there, that deep down, I worried that God would stop loving me.  This actually kind of shocked me because I didn’t think that I felt that way, but reading scripture and asking God to speak to you through it has a way of bringing out thoughts that we really didn’t even know we had.

Coming from a background of abandonment I guess it isn’t too unheard of for me to feel this way.  When you are left by a parent, who is supposed to love you all your life, and instead walks out and denies you exist….that can really make you wonder about love.  When your husband, who is supposed to love you till death parts you, suddenly just leaves after 13 years of marriage stating he doesn’t love you…that only adds to your doubts. But honestly, the funny thing is that I really never realized I felt this way until this morning as I read through those verses.  I wonder if that is why the psalmist wrote it so many times.  It is as if he realized that we would all go through hurts in this life that would leave us feeling unloved and then question who God is and if God would continue to love us.

Now as I thought about this, I said I don’t doubt on a daily basis that God loves me…but I realized that if I was honest with myself  it is just this very quiet foreboding sense deep in the back of my mind that one day, he just won’t love me anymore.

I didn’t doubt on a daily basis that my husband loved me…but I always had a future fear that one day he wouldn’t love me anymore.  Now I don’t entirely know why that is, but as I have studied and learned more about my family of origin and my thought process through my life, I realized that being abandoned as a child really had an effect on how I view most of my life and up until that moment this morning, I didn’t think that it had transferred to my thoughts about God…but deep down it had.

If you were to ask me today, “do you believe God loves you”…I would say yes…and I really do believe that! But after that thought came to my mind, I could no longer deny that it was there. God revealed something deep inside me this morning through reading His word.  As soon as the thought came to my mind, I cried out to God.  I asked for him to help me…to forgive me for even thinking that way and to help me to know that He is NEVER going to stop loving me.  And as usually He answered through His word.  As I looked at the verse of the day…it was Romans 8:39

nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a great reminder.  The truth is, things in this world are going to bring us to a place where the people we count on to love us are going to let us down.  It may not be as drastic as what I have experienced or it may be far worse, but the reality is that no human will ever be able to love us the way only God can and the way only God always will!  Does this mean we shouldn’t trust that people will keep loving us?  Of course not, what is does mean is that our life, our heart and all that is in us needs to be ultimately built on God…when He is our foundation, when we are firm and secure in His love, we have a confidence because we know that no matter who on this earth stops loving us, He NEVER will.  AS we go throughout our day, let us be like the psalmist, reminding ourselves that ” the steadfast love of God endures forever”

 

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Beneath The Surface

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Behind my house is a small stream. In the winter time when the weather gets very cold it freezes and allows us to walk on the surface, play ice hockey, or just slide around on the ice.

Recently, we had a huge January thaw.  The weather turned unseasonable warm for a couple of days.  Since we had a lot of snow that melted in those 2 days, our tiny stream turned into more of a rushing river.  Then, as quickly as the warm weather came, the frigid temps returned and the stream refroze very quickly.

However, the other day when I was hiking and went down to the stream, although on the surface everything was hard and very icy, beneath it I could hear rushing water. I followed the sound and found a place where the ice was not as thick and I was able to break it and beneath, was a rushing current pouring over the rocks.

As I sat there watching the water through the hole I had made in the ice, it reminded me of our lives.  Sometimes, things around us look frozen in ice…like nothing is changing and our circumstances look grim.  However, if we take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit, we can hear the “water” rushing.  If we ask God to help us look beneath the surface, we find that the rushing power of His presence is at work all around us.

We have just finished 2 weeks of fasting and prayer at my church.  During that time, God continually kept bringing me back to one theme:  Keep your eyes fixed on Me. Stop looking at what is going on around you and look at me.  Even the things that look like failures, don’t look at them that way…look at me…I am at work, I have a plan, LOOK AT ME!

As a friend of mine was praying with me, she brought up the story of Peter walking on the water….throughout the week, other people also referenced that story from Matthew 14.

In case you aren’t familiar…

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way[ from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind  he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Peter was able to walk on the storm while his eyes were on Jesus.  However, as soon as Peter looked at the storm raging around him he fell in.  But that isn’t the end of the story.  Even though he was looking at the storm, Jesus saved him…and then it tells us when they got to the boat and got in the storm stopped.  That means that Peter must have walked the rest of the way back to the boat on the water with Jesus.

From my time at the stream, to my times in prayer, to the people in my life who pray and do life with me…I have seen clearly that God wants me to remember something, God wants all of us to remember something….

No matter how things look on the surface, His power is always running strong beneath, and even when we fail to keep our eyes on Him, even when we allow fear to overtake us, He doesn’t leave us there, he picks us up and helps us.  Because He NEVER leaves us.

 

 

 

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Contentment

contentment

Content makes poor men rich, discontent makes rich men poor”  Benjamin Franklin

I came across this quote the other day.  It really struck me as to the truth of it.  Especially as we head into Christmas week.  As a single-mom, when holidays arrive, it is easy to focus on what we don’t have and on what I can’t give my kids, rather than on what we do have and what I can give them.  I talked a little about this in my Father’s Day post this year.

As I read that quote this morning I immediately thought about what Paul says in Philippians 4.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:11-13

So many times people use vs. 13 to talk about how they can do anything with Christ’s strength and that is true, but what Paul was really talking about is in the verses that precede vs 13.

Being content with what you have is not easy.  In fact Martin Luther said

Contentment is a rare bird, but it sings sweetly in the breast

This day in age, contentment is hardly seen.  Everyone is always looking for the next best thing, the newer this the latest that etc. you get my point.  Add to that having something or someone very precious taken from you and it can be hard to focus on what you have.

As I was wrapping presents yesterday, I was going through many different emotions.  Mainly gratitude at the way God provides for my children and I, but even in the midst of that gratitude was the sliver of discontent pricking me.  The sliver that says, “this isn’t enough, you are not enough and you never will be. ”

When that happens, I need to stop and remind myself that nothing on this earth will EVER be enough unless we have allowed Christ to be our center, He IS enough!  He is all that we need and when we have Him we have everything.  I believe that was what Paul was really talking about in Philippians 4:13.  I can be happy in little because Christ is enough and He gives me the strength to remember that, especially when the discontent I feel is more about me not feeling like I am enough for my kids vs. that what they have isn’t enough.

So no matter what you are putting under the tree this Christmas, whether plenty or little, no matter how much you feel like you are not enough, remember that you don’t have to be enough because Christ is!  He gave up all the riches of heaven to come to earth and be born into a life of poverty and in that He made us rich.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”       2 Corinthians 8:9

After all Jesus is who Christmas is really all about. So be content in that knowledge and may that contentment sing sweetly in you this Christmas!

 

 

 

 

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Looking Back

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Here we are at another November, and for me November often lends itself to a time of looking back.  Soon, the anniversary of the day my whole life changed will be upon me.  Four years ago, on November 26th, my husband walked out the door, leaving my three kids and I in a state of total devastation.  You never think that this kind of thing is going to happen to you until it does.  I remember well those first few weeks and months and the torrent of tears that I cried.  I remember crying out to God with all that I had to fix this.  I remember feeling that I was sitting in the bottom of a deep pit and the light would never shine on me again.

But I also remember God drawing close.  I remember His light shining into that dark pit and realizing that falling in that pit hand land me right where I needed to be, in the arms of Jesus.

A few days ago as I was reading through the book of Isaiah I came across this scripture,

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;  he gently leads those that have young.”  Isaiah 40:11

I immediately remembered how God had led me to that scripture not long after my husband had left.  It was funny, because I had read the book of Isaiah many times, but I never remembered reading this verse.  God always has a way of showing us the scriptures we need when we need them.  I remember reading that verse and feeling a peace come over me, knowing that my kids and I were being carried, close to our shepherd’s heart and that He would gently lead me through the  very dark times ahead.

Now, nearly 4 years later I can look back with a sense of awe and just how well God keeps His promises.  Obviously, it has not been an easy road.  There have been many times where I have felt like I just don’t know how I can keep going.  Being a mom is a tough job, being a single-mom isn’t just tough, it makes you question everything about yourself and often makes you feel like the biggest failure around.  However, each step of the way, my faithful savior has been present, carrying my kids and I through the darkest moments, leading me when I can’t see the path ahead, and letting me know that His love for me is more than enough to make up for anything that I have lost.

 

 

 

 

 

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Heart Drift

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A few years ago, when I was doing a devotion I remember clearly having a picture in my mind of an anchor, a boat, and the rope that attaches the anchor to the boat.  The boat was me, the anchor was Jesus, and the rope was The Holy Spirit.  I saw in my mind that the shorter the rope was, the more I could hear the Holy Spirit and the closer I stayed to Jesus.  I also saw that the longer I let the rope get, the less and less I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit and the further I drifted from Jesus. I went on to envision a stormy sea with a rocky shore.  When the rope was taut, I stayed close to Jesus and although the storm was raging, I was led safely through the water because I was close to my anchor.  I also saw that the longer the rope was, the more the boat was tossed around, smashing into rocks and leaving me in a state of panic.  I thought of what a great illustration that was for people who wandered away from the faith, prodigals, people who chose the temporary fun of sin over the permanent peace found in Christ.

I hadn’t thought much about this illustration until this morning.  I was sitting doing a devotion and it was talking about worshiping well.  I felt really convicted that I had really not taken time to worship much lately. In fact, as I sat and thought about it, I realized I have been allowing a lot of other things in my life to take precedence over time alone with the Lord to worship.  Immediately I thought of that boat illustration and realized that it isnt just running from God and running after sin that makes that rope too loose.  It is the state of our heart.  Lately, my heart has been drifting.  Not drifting in the sense of running from God and longing for sinful things, drifting from the peace found in Jesus.  Drifting from the knowledge of who God is!

I have been overwhelmed lately with fear.  I have allowed it to push me out to sea into the rocks and rough waves, I have allowed it steal my peace.  I have allowed it to set my heart adrift and loosen the rope that holds me close to my anchor.

I know I have mentioned before that after our kids were born, my husband and I made the decision TOGETHER that I would resign my position at my job that I had been at for 15 years and stay home to raise out kids.  Of course when you do this, you are doing it with the knowledge that one day you will return to work, but that you will have the support of your spouse and it won’t all be on your shoulders.  However,for me, that is no longer the case and this is what has been causing me so much fear as of late.

I have been allowing fear of how I am going to support my family once I no longer receive spousal support from my “Ex” husband to take control of my thoughts.  I have projected a future for myself that puts me in the lap of poverty and I see no way out.

Now you might be thinking, well just get a job!  Well, I have a job, a job I love. A job that I know God has placed me in and as I look back I see the hand of God in getting  me to where I am. It allows me the freedom to be here for my kids, who though they are older now, still need their mother, specifically one of my children who deals with anxiety, depression, OCD and some post traumatic stress. But the truth is I don’t make the kind of salary that my “Ex” husband makes by any means and the truth is, I have found myself trusting God less and less and trying to find the solution myself more and more.  I have found myself getting angry and resentful of how things have gone in my life.  Even as I write this, I see how far adrift I have let my heart get!

I have allowed worry to replace worship.  I have allowed fear to replace peace.  I have allowed resentment to replace my security in Christ.  And what has the result been? I have been being tossed around in the rocks and waves rather than feeling the calm that comes when we allow Jesus to lead us through the rough waters.

The truth is while I have to do my part, God already has a plan for me.  He knows every day of my story.  He knows my hopes and dreams.  He knows what I love and what I hate and while that doesn’t mean that I won’t have to do things that I may not want to do, it does mean that He will give me the strength to do them.  I never wanted to be a single-mom, but God has walked me through each step of it so far and why on earth would I ever think that He is going to stop doing that?

So today, I cry out to the Holy Spirit to come near, to shorten that rope, to draw my heart back close to my anchor.  I cry out to Jesus for the peace that only He gives and ask the Father to help me to walk out His plan for my life whatever that may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Searching For Rest

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Summer has almost come to an end and before you know it, school will be back in full swing and the “leisureliness” of summer will be long gone.

Summer is normally a time of rest and relaxation.  A time to recharge from all the craziness of the school year, with homework, sports, clubs, etc. A time to just relax a bit and enjoy the sun, stay up late watching movies and sleep in when you are tired.

Summer started out that way in my house, but sometime along the way, it all changed.  So many things started happening at once.  Car troubles, stolen credit card #’s, stuff breaking around the house, projects that need to be done before the cold weather arrives, all piling up around me.  Then on top of that, one of my kids is really going through a tough time and it is causing a lot of animosity in the home and specifically with me.

I come from from work and am immediately met with fighting, arguing, and complaining.  No matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to be the right thing and honestly it has taken its toll on me. I have literally spent more time locked in my car this summer than I would ever have imagined.  Those who know me are probably giggling at this right now, because if I call them and say, I am sitting in my car…they know exactly what that means.

One day as I was sitting outside, trying to recoup from another fight, I was talking to my mom and came to the realization that I was being robbed, robbed of rest.

John 10:10 says

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  NLT

The enemy wants nothing more than to steal from me, to kill and destroy any rest that I can find.  And truth is, He has been succeeding.  Somehow it seems at times, we only remember one half of a bible verse.  All I kept thinking of was that I was being robbed of rest.  That everything inside me was being destroyed by the hurt and pain of everything going on around me.

BUT!  There is a second half of that verse.  The part that tells us that Jesus came that we will have a rich and satisfying life.  In other translations it say “..life to the full” Why is it that in the midst of hurt and pain, we so often forget?

It was then that I realized that if I wanted rest, I need to seek it, I needed to search for it.  Search for it in the only place I can find it.  In the arms of Jesus.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  
Matthew 11:28-30

Now I would like to say that it was just that easy, that I just gave everything over to Jesus and rest came.  The truth is I have had to fight for that rest…I know that sounds crazy, kind of like an oxymoron. But right now, it is how I feel.  I literally have to purposefully seek rest.  I need to fight against the lie in my head that I need to be doing something else.  Need to be cleaning, or getting stuff ready for school, or painting the side of the house, or finishing the painting in my daughters bedroom or cleaning the car or washing clothes or trimming trees.  I need to remind myself that I need rest, and if I don’t fight against the lies in my head that I am not enough, that I am a terrible mother, and I need to work harder, than I am never going to find rest.  I need to remember the truth.  The truth that Jesus came to give us rest. That I am always enough, apart from what I do, because Jesus died for me.  It isn’t ever going to be about anything that I do, it will always be about everything that Jesus already did!

That holds true with the issues going on with my child as well.  Nothing I do is ever going to change this child’s heart…only the work of the Holy Spirit can do that.

So in the midst of chaos, in the midst of hurt, of pain, of lies, I search for rest.  In the midst of literally feeling like I am falling apart, I search for rest, for strength, for peace.  Whether that is sitting outside crying out to God, listening to worship music or pouring over the scriptures to remind myself of truth, whatever allows me to carve out rest, that is what I need to do.

 

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I Would Rather…..

 

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Everyone has probably heard of the game “Would You Rather?” It is a funny game where two choices are given and you choose which you would rather do.  From things like Would you rather have extra long arms or super short legs? or something along those lines.

Today as I was reading my part of devotions in Psalm chapter 84, and I began thinking about this.  In the message  translation vs. 10 says

“I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God
    than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.”

Now I have read that verse many times, but today it really struck me and I just felt that it really had such application in my life.

Many times, as a single-mom, I get angry and frustrated with the struggles I go through while my kids father lives a seeming life of luxury.  I do not like when I look at things this way and I don’t like to get angry about them, but the truth is, at times I do.

As a single-mom, I spend every day doing the work that was meant for 2 people.  Working, taking care of the house, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, mowing lawn in the warm months, snow-blowing and snow shoveling in the cold months.  Taking care of the kids and dealing with all the drama of a house that has 2 teenagers and a tween.  Paying all the household bills with half the income.  Sometimes it is very overwhelming.

On the other hand I see the life my “ex”-husband lives.  Traveling on vacation across the country, spending money on whatever his heart desires at the time, no real responsibilities besides taking care of himself.  The only thing he seems to worry about is how many concerts he is going to be able to go to or where the next place he can go hiking is.

But as I read Psalm 84 today, as I read vs 10 today it really hit me.  Would I really want the roles reversed?  Would I really want to choose a life of luxury in the “palace of sin” rather than hard work living the life God has for me?  Would I rather be running from the truth and running from God than sitting still in His presence? Of course the answer is NO!

When I sit back and allow the truth of God to seep into my soul, I see that I would rather be where I am now, I would rather “scrub floors” than walk away from God and live life without him.  The beginning of Psalm 84:10 says

“Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;”

That statement is so true! It makes everything I do seem so much more vibrant and alive. We were never promised that our lives would be easy following Christ, in fact we are pretty much guaranteed the opposite, but as we are reminded by the apostle Paul,

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”  2 Corinthians 4:17NLT

While what we go through may not feel small…in comparison with the future that God has prepared for us they are.  Just think of the things Paul went through!

As I finished my reading in Psalm 84*, I felt my perspective change.  I was able to see things differently and feel a joy about the things I have to do rather than  anger.  I was able to see the beauty inmy life and the ugliness of walking away from God.  We are reminded in the end of this Psalm,

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

 Lord Almighty,  blessed is the one who trusts in you.”     Psalm 84:11-12

Lord, I trust you and Lord, I would rather be with you!

*After reading this Psalm it reminded me of the worship song written by Matt Redman “Better is One Day”, My favorite version of that is by the band Kutless. you can listen to it here

 

 

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