How to Not Drown in Your Crappies

fall-1Samuel is napping while I fluff up our home with festive touches of fall and consider the season of Thanksgiving that’s approaching. I don’t know about you but I often fight gratitude with reasons. With cold hard facts and cruel reality. I have my reasons for being bitter and resentful and unhappy.. Don’t we all? Life can be a real beat down. But I’m learning that truly being grateful for my life isn’t just giving thanks that my “happies” outnumber my “crappies” – it’s often a fight for the right priorities. What things, of all the list of happies and crappies really matters? Long term. Big picture. Eternal perspective. That shift in focusing on priorities helps me so much when I’m struggling to be grateful. It also helps when I remember that I’m not supposed to endure crappies all by myself.

Listen to me – You will drown in your crappies if you’re trying to go it alone.

Here’s what you do to avoid drowning:

1. Get to know God. Study Jesus. – This sounds so “woo woo wacko” if you’re not someone who thinks about or cares much about who God is or isn’t. It also may sound like 2 steps but they’re one in the same. This is a crucial step. Why? Well, if for no other reason than you were made in His image. He put you together so if you have beef with Him or questions about stuff that’s true of you/been done to you/you’ve done to others – start the conversation by pursuing Him. *Spoiler alert – He’s already and always pursuing you. So, you’re about 15…20… FOREVER years behind. It’s OK though, totally worth jumping in and getting to it. I recommend picking up a Bible and reading the book of John – it’s in the New Testament, 4th book down if you’re looking at the Table of Contents.

The more you learn about God, the more you understand about yourself. I do this by reading the Bible on a regular basis, praying, and talking to other people about just about anything from God to parenting to careers to hobbies etc. Which leads me to my second tip to avoid drowning in your own crappies

2. Let yourself be known by other people. – Full disclosre: I’m bad at this. All of my closest friends (spouse included) will tell you I’m bad at this. I have a tendency to hide behind all of my happies, sweep the crappies under the rug until they explode and then it’s like a shitstorm. Pardon my french but it’s a quite accurate metaphor is it not? When you let other people know when you’re hurt, angry, lonely, scared, or confused you may be amazed to discover they still love you any way. EVEN ALL OF YOUR CRAPPIES. Use caution with who you let into your shitstorm though because it ain’t a pretty place and you need the real troopers who will wade in and pull you out without feeling the need to pinch their nose.

fall-2So if you’re like me and you’re so super excited about Fall and PSL and OMG CRUNCHY LEAVES but you’re kind of feeling a little (or a lot) like you’re drowning in crappies, it may behoove you to dive into the aforementioned steps and see what happens. Maybe by the time Thanksgiving rolls around you will be able to lift your glass at the obligatory “thankful toast” and experience in your heart – real and abiding gratitude for the life you’re living right now.

Uncomfortable

imageHave you ever been in a place in your life when you think, “Maybe one day I’ll look back on this and see God’s fingerprints all over it and it will be grand and I will encourage people and it will be so lovely and I will summarize all of God’s faithfulness over a cup of coffee and isn’t that nice ?” But as you wade through that season of life you’re just thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

That’s me right now!

So much of me longs to gird my loins, put on the armor of God and storm into this season with gusto and enough faith to drown out all of the anxieties and doubts. Oh but friend, I am tired. I am longing for respite. I feel stretched, weary and weak. I want to withdraw, to quietly pack up the armor of God, to pull out of every battle raging internally and around me and just wait for Jesus to clean it all up. (Try not to be too bedazzled by the tenacity of my faith.) If there’s anything you may learn from my spiritual journey it’s that trusting an invisible God does not come very easily to me. I guess the beauty is, it doesn’t have to.

My head knows the truths about God and His promises, but in times of adversity or confusion my heart swallows the truths with an obligatory gulp – and it often takes a while for it to be digested. Maybe you can relate?

Becoming more like Christ often means surrendering parts of your human nature that are familiar and easy – and crippling. I am a sucker for creature comforts, for happily ever afters, for “ignorance is bliss” and for the American dream. Every time any one of those things is gently rendered from my tight fists, I am left with open, empty hands. Which is (not surprisingly) exactly what enables me to connect with God and with others. How can I receive and enjoy the Good News that Jesus is who He says He is, when I am preoccupied with what other people think about me or how my life adds up compared to someone else’s (aka: things that don’t matter. ever.)?

My small piece of the world feels very unsteady and uncertain and I am uncomfortable in it. Yet it is my reality. Yet God has placed people in my life who remind me of His steadiness and certainty and the comfort of His Presence – even as all of those things seem tucked into a pretty sermon rather than winding through my story.

In addition to the uncertainties that plague my small corner of the world lately, my head has been spinning the last few weeks with questions about race, racism, and reconciliation. It all feels so big to me. Like too much. My pride bristles at ideas and perspectives that challenge my own, yet my spirit within me is restless for unity and peace and the mission of God. I have entered into conversations that require me to listen and reflect. I have walked into territory that is new and scary and humbling. This season of my life is uncomfortable, guys. Have I mentioned that? The issue of racism in America is uncomfortable. The searchings of my heart have led me to dialogues that have challenged and moved me to uncomfortable, refining places.

The firmness of my faith is being tested as I walk out, unwillingly, onto the waters of this season. moms flowersAgain I find myself looking at a future that doesn’t look like what I thought it would. Again I surrender to God and again I find it all difficult to do. Oh! To present to you the face of a woman who is so confident in her God and in her future. But honesty is too precious and saving face costs all of us too much.

Instead I am resolved to take a deep breath, one conversation at a time, one step at a time and wake up tomorrow knowing that the same God who sent His own Son to die a brutal death on my behalf, and live a resurrected life also sends me into my corner of the world with purposes He will fulfill through a life lived honestly, imperfectly and uncomfortably.

Life is hard. God is faithful.  Amen? Amen.

Farewell, Fanny

John’s grandma died yesterday. She was 95 and managed to live like she never passed 50. I didn’t know her in the way a grandchild knows her grandma. We don’t share many memories together and our conversations, though sweet have always been brief. Yet, her faith and her hands have shaped someone who has become the most important person to me. Apart from his mom, John’s grandma was the most influential woman in his childhood. She lived with him for his first 12 years of life and raised him and his siblings. She disciplined him, loved him, and prayed for him.

I owe a great deal to Fanny Gialdo, a woman from Trinidad who had faith that burned ferociously. The ferocity of her faith did not leave people scathed and wounded however, but rather drew people towards her… towards Christ, with warmth and wisdom. She had her faults, like all of us. I don’t know them in particular so I have the happy job of remembering how her example changed me in profound and beautiful ways.

I met her on our wedding day. She wore a lovely blue dress, comfortable white shoes, and a warm smile. She was the one who made John break down in tears that day. Not his blushing bride, mind you. Looking as radiant as a thousand freaking suns while vowing her undyng devotion to him. (I am totally over it, by the way.)

There was a bet going among the groomsmen concerning when John would cry because (bless him) he’s a crier. I thought for sure he would break down at the vows. He was a little shaky but there were no tears. Enter: grandma. There we were in the recieving line right after being pronounced Mr. & Mrs. –  I saw John stoop down as her tiny, strong arms looped around his shoulders, speaking of her love and affection for him. He straightened up with a shining grin and tears streaming down his face. “Way to go, grandma!” I thought. It is only appropriate that a woman so deeply nestled in the heart of my new husband would open the floodgates. No hard feelings, Fanny. Nothing but love.

A little over a year into marriage, I saw her over Christmas. These are where some of my most favorite moments with her were unwrapped and tucked into my memory.

One day, I saw her sitting on the front porch, hands folded in her lap, looking out at the road. I was a little intimidated by her, I’ll admit. John told me stories of her voice carrying with it a thousand daggers when he would get in trouble as a boy.  She was a sweet woman, but not to be messed with. I approached her and commented on the weather because that’s what you do when you come into the presence of someone you want to be like, but you also want to be cool about it so they like you back. I’m certain she would have laughed if she knew my palms were kind of sweaty. Once we talked about the weather I just jumped right in with, “If you could give me any marriage advice, what would it be?” (I’m so good at transitions.)

She continued to look out at the road and while I can’t remember her exact words, here was the gist: “Forgive. Let it go. Know when to hold your tongue and keep your peace.” It sent all these red-hot flags flying in my brain, “I WILL SPEAK MY MIND SO HELP ME! I hope you tell JOHN to know when to hold his tongue too because he’s not perfect!” Instead I smiled and nodded and (God help me) dismissed her notions as maybe a bit dated or old-fashioned. Full disclosure: As it turns out, her advice comes straight from a heart that actually understands the gospel of Jesus so if you need me I’ll be eating crow until… forever.

The next morning, I walked into the kitchen and saw her at the small breakfast table, hands raised, face lifted, and thanksgiving spilling from her lips like the sun spilling across the kitchen floor. When she instructed me to “hold your tongue and keep your peace” she was most certainly not referring to my prayer life! Fanny did not hold her tongue when she was giving thanks to God. She had a relationship with Jesus that I could almost see emanating from her. She loved Jesus. Unapologetically.

She kept company with her Savior in such a peculiar and compelling way. As if he was there, eating breakfast with her – wrapped in all of the intimacy and familiarity we feel when sitting with a close friend and sharing a cup of coffee. Yet she was worshipping him. He was familiar to her and holy to her. She revered him and she trusted him like a bosom buddy. The two were inseparable. It was awkward for me because I sort of felt like I had stumbled into a moment that was supposed to be just between her and Jesus. But Fanny did not bend to her surroundings or the people around her, she bent her knees and her will only to Jesus. So if her praying out loud made you uncomfortable that certainly wasn’t her intention but she certainly wasn’t about to stop. Political correctness be damned, Christ be exalted.

Gosh I want to be like her.

The final memory I have of Fanny during that visit still makes me cry. We were all gathered, a bunch of family, in one of the large rooms in the house. People were sporadically sharing about what was going on in their lives when someone asked John about seminary. At this point we were about halfway through that journey. John answered honestly – seminary was hard. One of the most exhausting and draining seasons of John’s life. Fanny could sense it in his answer and responded to it with singing. Because, of course.

john at weddingIt started sort of soft and low, then grew stronger and louder. Fanny stopped all surrounding conversation, ushering everybody into a thick silence and we listened as this woman’s love swept over her grandson. Her john-boy. John and I’s tears poured out as our ears opened up all the way down to our hearts and one promise found it’s way in: God will take care of you.

“Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

God will take care of you;

Beneath His wings of love abide,

God will take care of you.

 

God will take care of you,

Through every day, o’er all the way;

He will take care of you,

God will take care of you.

 

All you may need He will provide,

God will take care of you;

Nothing you ask will be denied,

God will take care of you.

 

No matter what may be the test,

God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast,

God will take care of you.”

She ignored the squirming in the seats and the darting eyes that didn’t know what to do with this old woman filling up the room with notes that may not have found the right place but words that certainly did. She was about doing God’s work and she never asked for your permission to do it. Again – never from an aggressive posture but in a surrendered and obedient one.

She finished up and the room exploded in “Amens” and “Thank you Jesus” and I sat, her words covering me like a warm blanket, assured that God will take care of me.

Fanny meets SamuelOur paths would cross a handful of times after that. She “met” our darling Samuel thanks to the wonders of the internet. Oh! How she smiled and laughed as she said his name and told him how beautiful he was. I told him over and over, ‘That’s great-grandma Fanny, buddy! She helped raise your daddy and boy do we love her A LOT!’ He smiled and reached for the computer screen as she leaned in so close to the camera I thought she might fall right on through and land in our laps! (if only!) Many times I have talked with Fanny over the phone. Many times her words, steeped in a rich Trinidadian accent, wouldn’t be fully understood by me (essentially the most un-accented person on the planet. thank you, central Virginia) but her meaning would come ringing loud and clear: “I love you. God bless you. God bless your child. I pray for you, take care.”

FannyI will miss your prayers, Fanny. Your impromptu worship and your frank wisdom have left in it’s wake a legacy of faithfulness, service and joy. You changed this world. You did it gracefully, amidst adversity and trials I know nothing about. You did it imperfectly, with your own baggage and prejudices that tripped you up along your journey. I will never fully know, this side of heaven just how much your prayers changed the course of my life by changing the course of my husband’s. Thank you. Thank you for showing me that following Jesus means loving people even when it’s weird or (especially when) unreciprocated. Thank you for all of the times you approached the God of the universe and laid John, me and Samuel at His feet. Asking for His love, His wisdom and His protection over us. We are left to grieve you, but we look forward to seeing you again.

I picture you now at a breakfast table with Jesus. Talking as friends, learning more about Him than you could have ever imagined. You are happy, whole, vibrant… and home.

The Dark, Cold Waters of Depravity

On the day I should be humble, Lord

Stricken with grief and despair

I find myself looking up at You and

mocking you with my stare.

“If you are the son of God,” I yell

“then get off that cross. Do SOMEthing.

Save yourself. Call the angels. How foolish

that you do nothing!”

I watch you speak to the criminals as your lungs start to collapse,

offering a seat in Paradise? Please. You’re nothing but a man.

Eventually you die and as the sky and ground split in two,

I shrug off the scream of creation, my eyes are fixed only on you.

You are dead, Jesus. That’s what I see.

I feel nothing but disappointed.

What a joke I played on my heart, to think you were somehow anointed.

Now here I am, generations removed from the actual moment that you died

and I am so so angry Lord. I want to do nothing but scream and cry.

At You.

It alarms me because I have always been for you, with you, trusting every move you have made.

Now I find myself retreating from the wings that gave me shade.

Do you see what’s happening around here, God? Do you hear the bombs and screams?

As girls are ripped from their innocence and the heads of children fill the streets?

I’m back at the foot of the Cross and I am yelling at you again to move, to ACT

my voice catches in my throat because it’s actually desperation I feel. Not anger.

I am so tired of holding out nothing but hope. It seems so not enough for that mourning mother.

What of that child who watched themselves become an orphan? WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THEM?

For years I have recited the rhetoric. I have looked at the cross with deep sorrow yet JOY.

But this year, God I am struggling SO HARD to believe this isn’t just a big ploy.

I have broken down for the broken down and feel entirely spent.

I know you offer eternal life, but does it matter when this life, for so many, is hell?

Yet, before your eyes close in death on the cross, before you surrender your life,

You look down into my hateful heart and am compelled, for me, to die.

You know that I will doubt you, that I will try and flee from your presence.

You have gone with me every place I am, You will continue into the next one.

God I weep at my unbelief, at the doubt I have nurtured, coddled and kept

But just as you saw me, clear as day on that cross, you saw billions and billions… and wept.

So even though sometimes it’s hard to swallow the truth lodged in my imperfect, wayward spirit,

I will proclaim to the nations, to neighbors, to friends, to anyone who will hear it:

God saw and He moved and He entered into our hate. He suffocated under our darkness.

Today, RIGHT NOW, the Enemy tears through flesh and nations to convince us that our God is absent.

Oh friend, skeptic, critic, and saint – do not be deceived any longer.

The glimpses of terror we have seen in our time, are a fraction of what laid on Christ’s shoulders.

We will not ever fully know the dark, cold waters of our depravity, as Christ has known them.

The Enemy likes to make us think those waters will drown us in despair and pain,

But Jesus’ death gives every soul the chance to come up for air, and remain.

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Addressing the chronic dreamers

Do you know what separates the dreamers from the doers? – Action.

Dreamers live in the ethereal. They are often visionaries and they’re motivational and inspiring and their ideals are beautiful. We need dreamers! We need people who can see what is and dream about what could be.

But we need more dreamers to become doers.

Doers write down their dreams and then they try it. They go. They work. And doers fail a lot and cry a lot and doubt a lot. And doers WIN a lot. Just by showing up and trying. Doers have tasted the bitter bile of disappointment. They have swallowed it and they have tried again.

I have always been a dreamer. I love to wonder and think big and describe great truths and marvel at how great God is.

But I am often too scared to be a doer. Because I’ve “failed” a lot with dreams. My plan A’s are so often turned into Plan “WTF”’s. At least that’s how I’ve seen my efforts since the beginning of this year. I haven’t written 15 minutes every day, I certainly haven’t blogged consistently and my efforts to train for a half-marathon have been completely reset by 2 weeks out with an injury and nasty head cold.

I’m paralyzed by how imperfect my dream-doing is. I’m so tired of making promises I haven’t been able to keep to myself – there’s only so much self-inflicted shame one person can handle. So instead of trying I’m tempted to just stop everything. Give up. I cannot disappoint myself or anyone else if I stop making promises altogether, right?

But here’s what I’ve been missing about the dream equation – a setback is not a broken promise. It’s not a reason to give up on a dream or beat myself up. A setback is just that. It sets me a little farther back. It causes me to re-trace my steps.

New Kicks! Taking it one step at a time.

New Kicks! Taking it one step at a time.

Failure is not found in the working out of a dream – it’s found in the premature abandonment of it. If you want to dream – dream! If you want to change your life – DO. Go for it. Get back up again, reevaluate, tweak, and push forward.

The process of a dream is such a mess isn’t it? I know people who are aspiring authors, nurses, marathoners, and musicians and if you peek into the middle of their “doing” it looks nothing like the end result. The first nursing shift began after countless hours of burning through highlighters and flashcards and studying. The finish line started at 5am, day after day after day, months before race day. It was achieved through uncomfortable, tiring, focused, effort.

We need less “A dream is a wish your heart makes” and more “A dream comes at a cost, and you’re heart may break a thousand times in the process.” No Disney princess jumped on that rendition. I mean, what rhymes with “process”? And no way that can fit on a pillowcase. Let’s be real.

This is all part of me trying to process what I learned from a women’s conference at

2016-02-05 22.13.56my church last weekend. Nobody explicitly talked about dreaming and doing but there were enough exhortations to make my head spin by the end of it, “Drop your water jar! (you had to be there) Take up your cross! Love your next-door neighbor! Reach the world! Free the captives! Sponsor a child! Give! Go! Be!” So I’m working on untangling all the truth I heard by pulling on one strand at a time.

Today I pulled the thread that examines my inactivity towards my dreams. My tendency to be paralyzed when I’m faced with missed expectations. I know now that I have permission to dream but a responsibility to DO. What does that look like in my life right now? Well on Sunday, I laced up my running shoes again and got back out there. Nevermind the herds of women in matching outfits and free-flying ponytails who breezed by me while they chatted. UGH. People who “chat” while running past me. Ugh. I just. You are hard for me to love. But nevermind all that!

My doing looks like running and writing. What’s yours? Could I encourage you to get

2016-02-06 18.24.03back at it? If you are a chronic dreamer like me, let this act as a swift kick in the rear to get at it. To stop circling the dream over and over in your mind, analyzing all of the potential heartache that comes from going for it and just deciding once and for all that it’s too important to let it sit dormant in your mind and it must make waves in your actual life.
ONWARD!

Googling & Talking to Yourself and other stuff I want to tell new & expecting mamas

I’m still a new mom. My son isn’t even half a year old yet so me writing to all the

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future new moms out there seems a little ridiculous, I’ll be the first to admit that. But at church on Sunday John and I had a friend ask us what it was like to be new parents – we told him the usual, “It’s hard but worth it etc.” but I really wanted to find his wife who was only a few months pregnant and sit down with her and share a few things. Maybe I feel compelled to share with you now because I’m not so far removed from it so I don’t really have the luxury of sugar-coating my experience thus far.

Isn't he TOTES ADORBS?! #hangry

Isn’t he TOTES ADORBS?! #hangry

I want to share with you (new mama and soon-to-be mama) some mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’m currently learning as a mom who is only a few small steps ahead of you. You could even say I’m just a few BABY STEPS ahead of you. Get it?! HA!  I need more sleep, I know. I KNOW.

1. Google with caution – Trust me on this. When your child gets his first cold, the internet will convince you it’s whooping cough and he’s in grave danger of hyperventilating. Even if he isn’t coughing – you’ll find yourself sort of gravitating towards the dramatic options because your brain is now attempting to  anticipate every need of your child. It’s exhausting. I still haven’t quite figured out how to control my “worst case scenario” reflex as a new mom. Lots of prayer (see point #3).
2. Create a “Mama Bullpen” – Bascially, your bullpen is full of other mamas who you know are going to shoot straight with you, who are for you as a mama (and as a human being of value, sometimes we forget we’re more than a butt-wiper at this stage), whose advice you can take without feeling judged, and can make you laugh when you feel like giving up. Make the bullpen a diverse one if you can – moms of littles and bigs, nursing moms and formula moms, cloth diaper moms, chicken nugget moms, organic moms, stay at home and work at home moms, just find them and put them on speed dial.
These are the moms you text during crisis. The moms you chat with or grab lunch with between naps because seeing them is life-giving and hearing from them reminds you that you aren’t crazy and you CAN do this. The bullpen idea came from some discipleship sermon John heard about creating a bullpen of mentors who could help you with various issues in life or something. I don’t know. I just love telling you to create a “Mama bullpen” because oh the imagery! Am I right? Go find your bull mamas. I would be lost without mine or out to pasture, as it were. HAHA! Ok I’ll stop.
Showing Samuel how to pray. OBVIOUSLY. #holymama

Showing Samuel how to pray. OBVIOUSLY. #holymama

3. Pray all the time – This sort of happens naturally because the moment you hear your child announce himself into the world you think, “Oh God. That’s mine. What am I doing?” If you have a personal relationship with God then it’s like starting the longest and greatest conversation with Him. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Him, let me just encourage you to think about it. The gospel of Jesus sets you free. It doesn’t mean you won’t screw up, just that when you do, you’ll have the Living God to hold onto and move forward with. It’s mind-blowing.

 
4. Monitor your inner dialogue – As a woman you know what I’m talking about when I say “inner dialogue.” It’s that never-ending conversation you have with yourself. Sometimes that conversation turns into imaginary conversations that you have out loud with your loofa or steering wheel, but either way, you’re talking to yourself. Listen to what you are telling yourself and be very very careful.
This is all new. ALL of it. This person that you’re holding in your arms with the squiggly eyes and chubby limbs (or gangly limbs if you’re my kid 😉 ) is brand new to the entire world. The world doesn’t know him and he doesn’t know the world. Guess who gets tasked with facilitating the long introduction between the two? That’s right, mama. You. It feels too big and too great for you to handle and it is. So you have GOT to remember to give yourself grace.
Let me just say that grace feels painfully absent in the middle of the night when you’ve slept 2 hours in the past 8 and your kid is crawling all over you crying about only God knows what (seriously). Your body and soul take a beating those first few months – acknowledge that. Being honest is the best avenue to really healing. Again, I’m still learning this. I have a lot to process from Samuel’s birth and am still processing this whole mothering thing.
But start that positive, moving-forward conversation with yourself. Here’s a glimpse into mine when Samuel was 2-3 weeks old, “This is unbelievable. He hasn’t slept for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Man. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Get out of bed and go get him, Rachel. He needs you. One foot in front of the other. Yep. You’re doing it. You’re getting it done. One foot in front of the other.” So it’s not the next Agatha Christie novel but you know what? It’s also not beating myself up and feeding lies.
Lies become more and more believable when we give them a platform to stand on in our minds. KNOCK ‘EM DOWN, SISTER. If the lies have grown so big that you can’t see past them — see point #2. Call on your bull mamas to help knock them down for you. Melt down, yell, cry – but let someone else know that you’re doing it.  Too many solo breakdowns can lead you to believe that you’re alone and nobody cares about how hard it is and how hard you’re working and trying and guessing and praying.
Case in point? Last week I called one of my bull mamas. She answered with, “Hey. Is everyone ok?” (she’s usually someone I text so a phone call is normally a sign of SOS/911 stuff) And I responded with, “No. I’m not.” and proceeded to sniffle and snort my way through my strange emotions with her. I got off the phone and felt like I wasn’t crazy. My heart didn’t feel as heavy and my life didn’t appear so impossible. But if I had continued to listen to the lies that I was worthless, ill-equipped, unloved, and isolated I wouldn’t be in a place to write this blog now would I?
There aren't enough words to describe my love for you, kid.

There aren’t enough words to describe my love for you, kid.

Moral of the story is, you aren’t supermom. You are your child’s mom. Your child needs you desperately – warts and all. You will mess up. You will slip and fall while caring for them both literally and figuratively if you’re lucky like me. You are perfect for this job. If nobody else is telling you – I will! And I hereby grant you the freedom to indulge yourself in truth, good people, prayer and caffeinated beverages. Never ever be afraid to ask for a caffeinated beverage.

“Yours also the night”

Iraqi refugees

Iraqi refugees

This morning my Bible reading included Psalm 74.  All of the “Why’s?” and “How longs?” jumped off the page and settled into my mind as if they came straight from the lips of the persecuted Iraqi people.

Psalm 74 isn’t a  praise-God-from-whom-all-blessings-flow-type Psalm. It begins with the Psalmist telling God what’s happening — the destruction of His holy temple, the persecution of His people, the scoffing of the enemy as he runs rampant. The Psalmist lays out the desperate situation and exhorts God to act and to move. However, in the center of this Psalm the Psalmist tucked in a few verses to acknowledge who God is.

The first verse of this section begins with the word, “Yet.” It grabbed my attention because as I was reading I was getting overwhelmed at the startling accuracy with which the Psalmist seemed to be describing the situation in present-day Iraq.  I thought to myself, “‘Yet’ what? There’s nothing to “yet” about this situation! It’s hopeless, shameful, and unimaginable. That’s all there is to it.” Ahhh but I’m always wrong about that. I always see one small piece of the chaos and assume the rest is impossible to restore, impossible to glean hope from. And Yet.

“Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” (v.16-17)

It hits me, “The enemy lives in a world established by God. God did not establish sin and evil (see Genesis for how that mess came about), but everything is God’s. The air breathed by ISIS soldiers, the weather that causes them to wear more layers or less, the turning of each day, the inevitable settling of night. ISIS has no control over the God who controls all things.”

Granted, when I think about 9-year-old girls getting trafficked and women living in shipping containers, it sure seems like evil has total control. It seems reasonable not to hope. To give up and assume that God has too.But the Psalmist doesn’t stop at acknowledging the power of God, he moves to the promises God has made to His people — our only source of Hope. The end of the Psalm closes with phrases such as “Remember this, O LORD; Do not forget; Have regard for the covenant; Defend your cause.”

As I lifted up prayers for the persecuted people of Iraq this morning, I came like the Psalmist, with His promises in my heart and mind. “Lord, you have promised persecution to us but you have also promised us Yourself. Be near to my Iraqi brothers and sisters. Make your presence known. Remind them of your deliverance, not only from the hell they’re living on this earth, but a deliverance to a new earth where no man can steal their daughters, their dignity, or their very lives. You promise to restore, You promise to heal, You promise to save. Don’t forget those promises Lord. Remember your people who are suffering and remind your people who are not suffering of their responsibility and privilege to love, serve, and give.”

Beyond just the physical realities of night and day belonging to God, I’m reminded that He is just as present and 800px-Summit-lake-wv-night-sky-reflection_-_West_Virginia_-_ForestWanderreal in the joyous days of our lives as he is in the dark nights of pain and terror. God doesn’t reserve his everlasting love and hope of salvation for the days where our lives are humming along. He offers it in the stifling stillness of night, because He is acquainted with sorrow as much (if not more) as He is with joy. God has not forgotten Iraq. He has not turned a blind eye to the work of the Enemy. He is alive and working in ways the news  will rarely cover. Even in the darkest of nights, because the night belongs to Him.

Check out this website for how you can tangibly help the people of Iraq by partnering with an organization that has been effectively serving the Iraqi people for the past 10 years: Preemptive Love.