For When a Flicker Lights a Way for Hope to Come (Word of the Week)

isaiah 9-2Longing for a word from The Word to guide me through the week, I come before Him expectantly.

He leads me through a labyrinth of anticipation. Of yearning. Of hopefulness. Of waiting.

Of Advent. The Coming of all our hearts long for. Both those things of which we are quite aware. And the fullness of abundantly more that He promises as our inheritance.

We long for a Messiah — our salvation. We long for Emmanuel — God with us.

We long for an experience of His love. A taste of His grace. A promise of His peace.

We long for the days of no more tears and no more pain.

Because the world, so often, is dark and cold. I have heard its stories on the news. I have listened to its echoes in the aching words of those I hold dear. I have read its reports across the blogosphere. I have harbored its weariness in my own soul.

We long. We are restless. We wait.

In the waiting, I am at a loss for words.

And maybe silence is the only proper response. The only appropriate action for the anxious anticipation. The only prayer that makes any sense in the lighting of Advent’s first bit of light in a world full of darkness.

The candle of Hope. advent

Those who walked in the dark     have seen a bright light. And it shines upon everyone who lives in the land     of darkest shadows.  (Isaiah 9:2)

Just one light in the blackness. Just a flicker of hope. It is enough to push back against despair.

It is enough to awaken our hearts. It is enough for us, the waiters — the Advent people, to declare the coming King.

And by its light, may we find our way to all the corners of darkness, until the Light of the World, shines fully on us all.

If you have 10 more minutes, please watch this message about Hope from Ann Voskamp. It’s powerful, darkness-shattering stuff.

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I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

a person I used to be

stone-angelThe tattered remains of tissues rest in my lap. Another clenched in my fist.

My young world has turned on its axis. For the first time really. The tough realities of death. And loss. And unfairness. And vulnerability.

My grandpa’s passing. Two dear families leaving my hometown. Being called a cheater by a teacher. The Junior High locker room.

I am 13. And nothing feels the same anymore.

If this is what lies ahead on the path of “growing up,” I want none of it.

Maybe that’s why on many days, in many ways, I still feel like that girl.

The calendar pages turned. My braces and glasses came off. My hair has been cut and grown again and cut and grown. I’ve lived in four additional states since then. My name has changed.

But have I?

For the remainder of this post, click over HERE to where I am guest hosting at Kelli’s Chronicles of Grace and kicking off the linking party with Unforced Rhythm friends.

For When I Tap my Toes & Trust the Driver (Word of the Week)

psalm 20-7In the days before SUVs and seat-belt laws, I spent my days in the back of a station wagon. Exploring the country’s interstates and landmarks in carefully planned summer vacations.

Mile after mile. Four people in a Ford.

Often you could find me ticking off the exits on an atlas. (Even then, I needed to know my place in the world.)

But there were also hours upon hours of car games, singing, caring for dolls, naps, and just laying back watching the sky surround us.

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My feet are on the dashboard. Toes tapping to James Taylor. Or The Beatles. Or an 80s pop mix where he quizzes me on band names while we ride.

I had been used to driving myself along these roads. Now I am a wife. And a passenger. I learn to relax and pass the time unconcerned with traffic and other drivers and the gas light.

But it’s not a natural reaction. Letting myself be led. Accepting there is more than one way to get from Point A to Point B. Forgiving the passing up of the parking spot I would have selected.

Not being in control.

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I awake every morning this week with Tim McGraw on my mind. “No other shotgun rider beside me singing to the radio.”

He wrote it as a love song. I hear it as a daily reminder of my positioning on this planet.

Stay in the shotgun seat, Beth.

No need to grab the wheel. I’ve got this covered.

Bridges. Tunnels. Mountain passes.

Snow. Ice. Rain. Tornado-like winds.

We travel together.

He drives.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

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I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

For When He Pushes Past my Resistance and Holds Me Close (Word of the Week)

isaiah40_11-blogsizeI did not expect anger to be the first feeling to find its way past the numbness.

As the pumice stone of grace and truth crossed against my calloused soul, I had some understanding that sensation would someday return. I even suspected it might be uncomfortable. Painful perhaps.

Even so, I caught myself surprised when a series of relatively innocuous events left me in a rage of seething words. An avalanche of sharp edges thrown carelessly towards anyone who dared move past me. A day that left me shaking — literally, yes. But emotionally as well.

A bitterness that bubbled and boiled until hot tears burst forth. I could contain them no longer. Words and weeping flooded out simultaneously. Hurts I didn’t even know I was hiding. I didn’t edit. I didn’t numb. I let myself feel it all.

Addiction recovery is surgery without anesthesia. A deep, deep digging out of the things of life you’ve been trying to avoid by masking them. Numbing them. Stuffing them.

And when you stop masking, numbing, and stuffing, everything is magnified. Like a southerner’s first Minnesota winter, your blood is thin and your skin is raw. Vulnerable.  Exposed.

And that is a scary, scary place to be.

If flight is no longer a self-preservation technique, fight takes over.

There is an approach in psychology for children prone to rage called Holding Therapy. To wrap oneself firmly around the angry one until they settle and learn to trust and attach to their holder. It is not without controversy, and it is not my intent to dispute that here. Because my only frame of reference is that God uses it with me.

I shout and flail my limbs about, unwilling to surrender my right to be angry. I want to keep any more pain at a distance. The outrage inside is raw enough. I cannot risk anything or anyone getting close enough to pour salt in the wounds.

But my Jesus takes His chances. He is not discouraged by my flying fists or foul words. He holds. Oh, how he holds. Firmly. Tenderly. Without weariness. Without rebuke.

He takes care of his people like a shepherd. 
He gathers them like lambs in his arms 
and carries them close to him. (Isaiah 40:11)

As He gathers me in His arms, my spirit, indeed settles. And then it starts to sing. Softly at first. And pleading by the end.

Hold Me Jesus

Well, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small 

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace
  (Rich Mullins)

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I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading. 

Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.

What “Fall Back” is Teaching Me about the Dark (Five Minute Friday: Turn)

stock-footage-full-moon-emerges-from-spooky-cloudy-night-sky-pEven the full moon hides its face in the clouds. It’s darker than it could be.

The clocks turned back only an hour.

It feels like a complete reversal of day and night. There is so much more dark in my day.

I ache for a summer evening. The kind where the light lingers well past dinner and into the late innings of a baseball game. Where you can pack it in at the first sign of dusk. Plenty of time for life before the dark catches up to you.

And even then, the fireflies dance — forcing the blackness to back off and serve only as a backdrop to their joyful display.

But now that the days have been surrendered to the shadows and the haunted hallows lurk beneath the barren trees, I cannot escape the absence of light. It comes before the worker’s whistle blows.

I cannot outrun it. I can only get home by going through it.

And it weighs heavy on my soul. This darkness. This valley.

This place of limited vision in which I must shorten my stride to avoid a hidden hazard. In the void of light, I trip even on the path so easily blazed what feels like moments ago. Before the change.

I am left with the knowing that the darkest days are still ahead. Steadily the blackness will invade the light until the shortest day of all. Until the dawning of the morn where there is more day than night. Dark and light. Day and night. They weave together and dance their steps again and again.

And I let myself be led by them.

What if, rather than succumbing to the season, I seek traces of light. Adjusting my eyes to allow in the flickers that get missed during the bright days?

What if the darkness is here to lead me to the light?

Updated: Or maybe the work of the dark is meant to be surrendered to. On the same day I publish this, my dear friend Amber graces us with these words on her own darkness (READ HERE. I’ll wait.) And how not to be afraid of it. And I find myself wanting to make sure the darkness does its full work more than I want to have the light come back. Because the dark is stealing my ability to see, but not to hear or taste or smell or touch. And there is much to be learned when I let go of the seeing.

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Sharing today at Five Minute Friday.

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