The Widow Lamp of the Journey

(photo credit) Each year on the first Sunday in March, the Iditarod Trail Committee lights a small gas lantern and hangs it from the Burled Arch. Called the Widow’s Lamp, it remains lit until the last musher is off the Iditarod trail. The extinguishing of the lamp by the final musher signals the official end of the race. (https://iditarodoutsider.wordpress.com/tag/widows-lamp/) Life is full of journeys. Physically, emotionally, or mentally we all experience periods that require endurance, patience, and growth.  The tendency to rush a process that refuses our advances and takes its natural time to develop, often unfolding longer than we expect or hope, is familiar to most of us. For some, the start and finish of the journey is perhaps the toughest. For others, the long stretch in between,  feeling alone on the trail, exhausted, with no real sign of advancement, is the most difficult stage. Seasons of transition or waiting can be a big part of a journey where there is little light or knowledge of what is to come. Every winter in Willow, Alaska, dog sled teams start the beginning of March on the toughest marathon trail with whiteout conditions and blizzard temperatures. It is not unusual for mushers (dog sled drivers) and their dogs to push through inky Alaskan blackness, unable to see clearly what lies ahead. Yet, on the final stretch of unforgiving ice after days of remarkable journey, competitors realize the finish line is attainable with the vision of one small hanging lantern: a symbol of completion. I imagine for the musher and his team, sight of the widow’s lamp is an unparalleled prize...

Show Up For The Fight!

“A great multitude [a huge force] has come against you from beyond the Dead Sea—there’s no time to waste…” [2 Chronicles 20:1-2] Having received this intelligence report, Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, was aware of the significance of the threat against his people. Conscious of his own frailty and the weight of his responsibility as leader, Jehoshaphat set himself to seek the Lord. [Pause] At first glance, it may appear that this account in 2 Chronicles is just another example of a leader putting their trust in the Lord in preparation for a battle. Yet, we’ll see that Jehoshaphat’s attitude under the weight of such a threat is worth paying attention to. First, we see his immediate devotion to the Lord in the word “seek” in verse 3. This word, which becomes a beautiful thread throughout King Jehoshaphat’s reign, means to discover God’s will in “worship.” While I consider Jehoshaphat’s posture in a moment of impending doom, I compare the gravity of this threat to my own life and the ones that I love. I think of a dear friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer, and the weeks and months of therapy and surgery to come. I think of another whose husband has lost his job. I recall the face of a precious sister who recently lost her baby and a conversation with another friend who is grieving the choices made by her daughter. I think of those who have been emotionally and physically abandoned. I consider those facing battles in secret. I contemplate my own struggles and how they take a toll on my mind and my...

In the Face of My Enemies

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5 Who are my enemies? I don’t have the kind of enemies King David faced every day. I don’t go into physical battle to fight other nations. I doubt my son will ever wage war against me, as David’s son did. But I do have enemies. My biggest enemy is the enemy we all have: Satan. Our accuser, the father of lies, the evil one. He’s the one who wants to steal from us, kill  and destroy us. I also face the enemies in my own heart: my pride, selfishness, apathy, jealousy, self-protective bent, and desire for comfort to name a few. Sometimes when I am struggling with these “enemies,” I have a hard time writing or sharing spiritual truth. I find it difficult to write out scriptural insights because my enemies accuse me and tell me I’m not worthy. As I was reading Psalm 23:5 one morning, it struck me that God wants to prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. When I come to Him in the morning to read the Bible, pray and write my thoughts, He has promised to spread a table before me, to give me truth and insight into His word even in the presence of my enemies of pride, selfishness and sin. Even in the presence of the accuser, the devil. When I come to Him with an open heart and mind, confessing my sin and seeking Him, He will give me truth. He will feed...

Feeding the Discontent Monster

I was mad. Discouraged. Ready to quit. In the span of a month, I’d been hit hard on every side—physically, emotionally, relationally. And to top it off, an area I’d poured my life into for over a decade seemed to be dying. It wasn’t fair. Wasn’t right. I knew God was in control, which meant—He’d allowed all this. That was what frustrated me most. It felt as if He’d intentionally led me to a painful dead end. These are the thoughts one has late at night, when sleep won’t come and negativity is fed by the predawn darkness. The more I thought about the events—and there were numerous—that had crashed into my nice, pre-planned, agenda-based world, the more upset I became. The heavier my discouragement felt. Until I became paralyzed by inactivity. In truth, by self-centeredness. That’s what it came down to. Entrenched in entitlement, I focused on the have nots instead of the haves. With thought after thought, I fed the Discontent Monster until her insatiable appetite overshadowed every good and precious thing Christ had given. The next morning, groggy, stiff, and still nursing a self-fed negative attitude, I opened my Bible and … read this: “…For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Phil. 4:11-12). Why had God allowed all these trials to hit? Why had He seemingly killed that which I was so certain, over a decade previously,...

No Ordinary Love

Matthew 27:45-46, 51-53 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I began the week wading in thoughts of the selfless love of Christ on the cross. The time between the famous “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” and his last mortal breaths was where I dropped anchor. I pondered the suspension. It is a picture of unprecedented darkness. A place where God seemingly abandons his son by placing humanity’s plight on his back to burrow. The darkest of dark. Abject abandonment and withdrawal of God from earth.  As I sipped my morning coffee, I let it sink in. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. A probing question circled up from my warm cup: “Why did Christ (who was above reproach) at the stygian hour continue forward in what must have been a most unusual experience for the Trinity— something completely unnatural— an unbearable separation?” As the only place in scripture where Christ’s words imply triune separation, I imagine it was a new experience for the Godhead. And I presume no person since has experienced that kind of complete withdrawal of God on earth. Hebrews 13:5b And God has said, “Never will I leave...

Our trials Are NOT Our End

“It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Psalm 119:71. It was good for me. Affliction is good for me? Trials are good for me? Tests and temptations are good for me? Why? That I might learn. That I might grow. That I might serve. The Scottish minister, James Stewart, profoundly stated, “In love’s service, only the wounded soldiers can serve.” The wounded soldier has felt pain, he has been hurt, suffered, maybe even had to crawl out of a hole to get back on his feet. He has had to dodge enemy fire; he had to keep getting back up, time and time again. But he does. Psalm 147:3. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” It doesn’t matter what caused the broken heart or how the injury got there, God is ready to heal us of our wounds so we can move on and help someone else. Psalm 51:17. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” He sees our broken heart and spirit and that is just what He needs to work with and work through! “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39. Our trials are not our end. The scripture doesn’t mean we will not experience difficulty or even suffer in this life. We will! He did! But He promised...

Little Things

  Tonight was one of “those” nights when everybody is ill and getting on everybody else’s nerves. I think I actually heard my little one say that her brother was breathing her air. It was more than I could stand. I thought I was going crazy, but just before I told my family that I was moving to Montana to grow Dental Floss Bushes, the Holy Spirit reminded me of something…. Trust that what Scripture says is true…like when it tells me:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) Does this verse apply when my children are fighting over stuff that they don’t even care about? Does this apply when everyone gets on my nerves, when my feelings are hurt, or I’m misunderstood? Does it apply when I’m just grumpy? The verse doesn’t say “Pray about the big stuff.” It says to present EVERY situation to God. So, tonight I did. I ordered my two precious bundles of joy to get their bottoms over to the couch “Before I count to three”, threatened to sell them to the circus if they so much as THOUGHT of touching each other, promised to tape the mouth of the next one that spoke a word, and, with both of them staring at me with that “yep, she’s finally lost it” look in their eyes….I prayed. For their benefit, of course. I prayed because they need to know how to ask for forgiveness.  I wanted God to...

Be the Right Kind of Warrior

Instinctively, I am one who loves to fight back. I resurrect walls to keep others from hurting me. I walk with a shield to keep things from getting past me. I respond with defensiveness to make sure the fortress stays secure. I grab my weapons so others know that I am a well-protected woman. Bottom line, I am a fighter. I am a regular defender of my own causes. But God is calling me to surrender. He is calling me to wave my white flag. To lay it all down. It’s not so much that he doesn’t want me to be a warrior, but that I have been going about it the wrong way. While I have thought arm up, he says, “Lay it down.” While I have thought keep safe, he says, “Go risky.” While I have thought protect, he says, “Let me be the protector.” He requests one position of me that is the ultimate military gambit.  It is one condition that changes the whole battlefield. He calls me to it. Will I lay down my plans, my armors to make this change? Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the LORD.  (2 Kings 22:19) What is this condition the Lord desires? It is an open, vulnerable, humbled and receptive heart. It is a heart where walls are down,  weapons are abandoned and doors lay wide open so the Lord can...

In silence, God’s love still remains

One of the reasons I love the Psalms is because of their raw, poetic emotion. The writer David laments, sings for joy, prays openly against his enemies, and confesses his sins all in back-to-back chapters. It’s good material for a TV mini-series; and I guess, with a heart fraught by important sentiments during middle school, it resonated deeply with me. It was during this time in life that I understood writing as a practice of authenticity. Today, I see a comrade spirit in the Psalter, one whose reactions are real, strong, and sometimes manic. David’s expressions of justice, assistance, praise, and regret are validated by a God who calls David “a man after His own heart.” Raw responses. Real questions. Battlefield praise. Authentic worship. Often vocalizing an uncomfortable faith, the Davidic heart is known by God and deeply loved through its courageous emotional investigations. Because of the writer’s open relationship with God, he does not parse words. David knows God can take his direct and unabashed communication. In the 22nd Psalm, David’s cries typify a common theme of God’s silence found throughout the book. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. If the first part of this Psalm sounds familiar, it should. These exact words were spoken by Christ in his dying moments. God’s own son, on the cross, cried out to his father in a way that indicated he felt abandoned by...

Tell It To My Heart

Remember that 1987 hit, the one by Taylor Dayne, ‘Tell It To My Heart?’ (I bet you’re looking it up now.) It’s like most other catchy 80’s tunes with a sticky chorus that’ll have you singing for days…or, in this case, decades. Anyway, I break into song in random ‘doings’ of the day, mostly when I’m alone. Recently, up to my elbows in dirty dishes, this was my little chant. It hit me. As of late, I’ve felt a real sense of losing in life. Just not dealing well, ya know? I typically deal with things in my head. I love ideas and information and putting lots of ‘stuff’ up there and reading and asking questions and seeking answers. And, I go to God. I really DO. But, my heart has been so, so heavy. Somewhere between the head and the heart, things just got spacey. It’s maddening. It came to a boil months ago. I had one of those hard conversations; you know, one of those ‘talks’ that are easy to put off, until you realize that they are inevitable. And it was GOOD. But it was HARD. And I was emotionally exposed. No amount of head knowledge or wisdom or experience can lift a heavy heart. I know this because I tried. Out of sheer determination, I TRIED. I still couldn’t be free. The heart. It’s like the emotional drum of the soul. Beat, beat, beating and longing and wishing and hoping and refusing to let go. I can decide in my head all day long NOT to be disappointed, hurt, or offended. But….Ohhhh my heart. I...