The Super Moon

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah Psalm 66:4

This week I have been in Philadelphia for work. It’s been a busy week, with much time in meetings and being attached to a computer. The evenings have been spent catching up with friends and colleagues in different meals, sharing stories, catching up and laughing together, and lots of good food.

One night I was talking with the friends I was staying with, and one of them said, “Tonight is the biggest super moon on the year. Let’s watch it rise.” After a long day of work and people, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand and watch the moon rise. A moon is a moon, right? But I had repeatedly admired this friend throughout the week for the way she lives life with an “all in” attitude and with joy. So if she was suggesting watching the moon, I would watch the moon.

And it was glorious, friends.

It was a bit hazy, and we were in the city, so it wasn’t so much the actual moon (though it was beautiful!) but it was more the fact that I was standing in the cooling evening air with friends, watching God’s creation for no other purpose than just to be reminded of how amazing God and his creation is. I took the time to just watch, just be still. No agenda, no rush. I was thankful for the moment and for the friend who suggested it.

As I get older, I have been trying to be more intentional about what it means to be a person of steadfastness and peace. I realize that this only happens when I sit in stillness, when I abide in his goodness and love. It happens when I am aware of his fingerprint on everything and everyone around me. It’s hard to be angry or anxious when I am seeing my great Creator in everything. What a holy lesson.

Not the Captain

Each morning I read from a book called, “Every Moment Holy.” It’s a collection of liturgies, and there is one particular one I like to read in the mornings to ground me and remind me of who I am and who HE is. The first two lines read, “I am not the captain of my own destiny, not even of this day, and so I renounce anew all claim to my own life and desires. I am only yours, O Lord.”

As I read that out loud this morning I had to stop. I read it again, but felt the pang of conviction in my heart. As I tried to move on and read the next few lines, I realized that I couldn’t do that until I sat in this for a moment or two. Yesterday had had some drama in a few different areas, and I spent a big part of the day stewing in that. I had been anxious over things I could not control but wanted to. I took on the responsibility of things that I had no real ability to do anything about rather than handing the wheel back over to the Captain who had made the stars to navigate and guide me. It had sucked the joy out of my day and made me feel like my head and heart were in a million places all the while feeling a myriad of emotions – most of which were negative. I was ready to allow the ship to go down as I gripped the wheel, white knuckled and insistent that I could figure it out.

As the Spirit gently helped me see (again) how often I want to be in control, I felt the grip that had on me start to tighten. The enemy does not want me to surrender to the One who has already defeated him, and my flesh insists that I can do all things in my own strength. But I rebuked those lies and spent some time confessing and repenting of my desire to be Lord of my own life and steal God’s glory.

Often I can see this quickly in my own life and circumstances. I have learned to trust God more with those things as I have seen his fingerprints on my life over and over again. But this particular situation had to do with one of my kids. I often want to swoop in and save them, fix the situation, take away the circumstances, make everything “right.” But when I do that, I am attempting to take away the chance for them to turn to God and see his work in their own lives, thus deepening their relationship with him and their faith in him. While I believe my place as a parent is to help them navigate it, the best (and only real way) to do that is to point them back to the one who loves them even more than I do. I try to be the Lord and ruler (and hero!) too often rather than breathe deeply, pray with them, and then pray continuously for them to surrender to HIS plan and allow HIS redemption to being good to their lives and glory to him.

So today I confessed and repented, doing so in the knowledge that the he loves me now, he loved me in the middle of it all, and he will never love me any less. I renounce anew all claim to my own life (and anyone else’s) and step into the day in the freedom and peace that comes from sitting in relationship with and under the reign of the one true King. No condemnation, just peace and joy because I am his.

I am Here

When one of my children was younger he struggled a lot with anxiety and fear. He comes by it naturally. Both Shawn and I have struggled with these things. It has come out differently in each of us – Shawn tends to shut down and internalize while I talk myself into a frenzy and speak the lies out loud. Neither way is helpful if you continue to sit in them and allow them to shape you and the way you react. When I realized this child was on the verge of a full blown panic attack I knew I had to get him back to reality as soon as possible. I physically grabbed his face, put it right in front of my own, and said, “Look at me, son. I am here. I am right in front of you. I love you. Nothing will ever change that. You are my child.” I kept speaking these truths to him and slowly he started to breath at a more normal rate. As I held him in my arms I continued to pray over him. This didn’t stop the fear from creeping in again later, but in the moment there was peace. He looked at me. I looked at him. Truth was spoken and the power of that changed both of us.

I’ve spent years (decades) in counseling all over the world. Some of it was not so great, but the counselors that I connected with changed me from the inside out. They knew the words to say and the questions to ask to help me see truth. I am all for counseling. But now as I am older I see that it doesn’t help just to know the roots of my issues, or even to pull them out, but I need to replant in this soil that has sat empty. I need seeds of truth to sprout so I can be a person who not only survives in this world, but thrives in the love of my Father.

I need God to grab my face and point me to him.

Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I’ve called you by name, you are mine.”

God will always love me. I am his. No matter what happens or how I feel, nothing changes this truth. I am sealed with the Spirit, redeemed and covered under the blood of the lamb. When hard, or even unthinkable, circumstances come my way, I can stand firm in this truth that is stronger than and brighter than any fear, circumstance, or trauma I face. Even when I don’t feel it in the moment, this truth is still truth. Thankfully my faith is not defined my me but by the one whom my faith is in.

When I feel like I am being swallowed up, consumed by the things of this world me and brokenness is all I see, I can look back to this truth and know that God – the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, unchanging from everlasting to everlasting, the Papa who calls me to crawl up in his lap and will cover me in the shadow of his wings, the warrior who defeated death once and for all already – that God love me, Heather. He knows my name, the number of hairs on my head. He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb and already had my days planned out. My name is written in his book of life.

When everything around is out of control and I am dizzy and nauseous with uncertainty and fear, I can find this truth and focus on it alone. I can picture the Father grabbing my face and saying, “Focus, breathe. I love you, daughter, Heather. You are my beloved. Be still and know I am God. I am singing a love song over you that more beautiful and healing and whole than you can ever even imagine. I am fighting your battles. I am weeping with you. I am here. I am here. I am here.”

Feasting

Jesus answered, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes form the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4

As I do my devotions this morning, I am waiting on the coffee to brew and the smell makes me want bacon and eggs. I’m hungry! My stomach is growling, and I am looking forward to a hearty breakfast to start my day.

About six months ago I found myself making a deal with God that if he woke me up in the early morning without an alarm, I would get up and spend time with him. I hate alarms – they make me so grumpy, and I spend much of the night waking up and checking the clock, afraid that I am missing whatever I am supposed to be up for. I understand it’s a bit childish to make a deal with God, but I figured, I AM his child, so he would be ok with that.

And he has.

More often than not I find myself naturally waking up a couple hours earlier than most of my family and remembering, “the deal.” Sometimes I am a little grumpy about it still, doing it only out of obligation. But usually – more and more as I continue this pattern- I find myself waking up and anticipating this time with my Father before the day becomes busy and hurried. I pour my coffee, sit on my porch, and listen to the birds worshipping or the rain soothing, and I feast on the words of God.

Food has always been my addiction. Of course we all need food. But I have struggled over the years with the binging (and at times purging) of it to try to console, to celebrate, to mourn, to rejoice, to relieve burdens…you name it. Food was my go-to.

One day I realized, after pouring my heart out to God, that maybe I could use this impulse. God can redeem anything. As I find myself experiencing one of these impulses, I try to remind myself (and ask the Spirit to make me aware) that I might want to binge on the Word first. It satisfies me in a more complete and whole way than gorging on chocolate and eating a bag of chips. And because I believe God transforms our minds and hearts, occasionally I enjoy the chocolate after the feast of the Word. I think God likes desserts! 😉

Can I encourage you to figure out the rhythms that work for you to be filled with the life-giving word of our Father, who loves you and desires to make you healthy and whole? You won’t be sorry.

The Kingdom of Light

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Have you ever been in pitch-black darkness? The kind where light pollution does not exist and you literally cannot see your hand directly in front of your face? South Sudan was like that at night. Rural, no electricity for anyone except and occasional generator. We had solar, but when you walked far enough away from our houses, the dim light coming from them did nothing to dispel the deep darkness of the night. I had never experienced anything like that previous, and I have not again.

Often I would find myself walking back from the church office to our compound in the dark on just a tiny dirt path that had been hacked away by the man we hired to keep the “nature” of the compound under control. I knew there were snakes – lots of them and many of those poisonous. There we also scorpions and safari ants – both super small, yet excruciating if you stepped on them. Some of the other, bigger wildlife around were not things I wanted to see in daylight, let alone meet in the dark.

While I was usually on high alert, and I would use my phone or a head lamp for light, my view in front of and around me was limited. I would always feel a sense of relief as I stepped into the small beam of light coming from one of our windows.

We put up solar powered lights all around the house – hanging from the roof like little twinkling stars beckoning us home into safety. From a distance you could see them barely twinkling, but as you moved closer they looked like magic in the darkness. They were the talk of the town when we first put them up! Many people loved them and asked us to give them some!

I was walking in darkness- pitch black, inky, all-enfolding. Real dangers were all around. Sometimes I feel that way here – in the middle of the city or at camp – everywhere we go has dark spilling in and overtaking, it seems. Sometimes as I look at my kids and my loved ones I feel as though we might be in danger of being swallowed up in it, with no way out; all hope gone.

When I feel this way, I have one of two choices. I can allow the circumstances around me and the emotions they bring up to define who I think God is. I admit that this is often my initial response. It causes me to sink deeper into my anxiety and stay in bondage for much longer. Or I can believe his word. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) If I choose this way, then I am turning it back around and allowing God’s very word to define who he is. Then truth starts to settle in, dispel the dark and the lies, and peace takes root. The circumstances may not have changed, but I am seeing the light in the middle of the darkness.

Sometimes that light is a little bit like the twinkling fairy lights in the distance of a dark landscape littered with danger. I keep walking forward knowing that I am heading in the right direction. Other times it is a bit like I’ve been sitting in a pitch-black room and a spotlight is suddenly turned on directly in my face. I am startled, blinded by the sudden brightness, but slowly my eyes adjust and I can see the reality around me. Nothing is hidden, and I am safe and there isn’t a speck of darkness anywhere.

“In him was the life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) I am so thankful I serve God, who is the ruler of the Kingdom of Light.