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Archive for October, 2016

bare-trees-quote

Some days I would rather stay home.

Today is one of them.

Chilly winds whip through the trees stripping leaves clean off, rain relentlessly pounds the earth – much needed, but far from pleasant at the moment.

Courage flees at the thought of leaving my warm home and stepping out into this blustery, miserable day. I try to justify leaving – do I really need to go? Do those things have to be done today? Yes, and yes, so step out, I must. I muster up, bundle up, and step out into the cold, dreariness that quickly engulfs me.

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As I stare out my window and cower at the thought of leaving my warm sanctuary, I see how God sometimes calls us to step out into unpleasant, blustery moments – even seasons. Hard situations that are way out of our comfort zone make us want to withdraw and retreat into the safe and the familiar. We wrap ourselves in the security of what we know, but it’s really fear that holds us tight, trying to ignore what we know we must face. It takes courage to step into the winds of change that whip around us, and bear the pounding rains and cold winds that chill us to the core. But step out, we must.

God doesn’t call us to go into the unknown alone – he walks close beside us. When we need to muster up courage, He bundles us up with the strength to take that first brave step and then another and another. Warmed with his love and constant presence, we take each day as it comes. We wear it brave and do the day, remembering his promise that this storm and these pounding rains will be for our good. That though unpleasant, they may be much needed. Rain can cleanse, rain can restore, and rain makes all things grow. There are blessings in the midst of storms and he is the calm amidst it all.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

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Blessings

Tracy

 

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Grace Under Pressure

grace-gateSome things are so beautiful, I can’t help but stop and admire.

The other night it was the huge crescent moon hanging low, glowing harvest orange. Almost home, I drove past my driveway, in a race with time, to reach the clearing and capture it before it was gone.

Moon.

Blossom.

Sunset.

Usually it’s things of nature that catch the eye and steal the breath with unnatural beauty.

Last fall, this wrought iron gate (shown above) had the same affect – caught the eye, pulled off the road, had to get closer to take it all in. Graceful curves, white aged to yellow, chipped and rusted, but to me it was awesome. What struck me most was the contrast – strong iron shaped into gentle curves. How many years had it stood here? How many storms had it endured? Strong yet so graceful. How hot was the fire that softened hard iron to form swooshes and swirls?

I see the same beauty in someone close who battled the ugliness of cancer with such grace. Keeping her eyes focused on the ultimate Grace-giver was reflected in her response to  what life had handed her. Through the firestorm, her strong faith unwaivering was beautiful. Grace under pressure.

Long seasons of testing and trials are made up of small moments that define us. Like fire, they can refine making us stronger or they can consume weakening our faith.

How do we respond when in the midst of everyday fires?

to the heated moments of a stressful day?

to personal attacks on faith or political  views?

to gossip that surrounds, or pain that hounds?

to words that sting and tempers that flare?

It’s in our nature to react to these pressures of fire with more fire: to be unkind when treated unkindly, to give anger when shown anger, to lash out when lashed at, to break under pressure. But what if we respond with what’s unexpected: kindness. What if we respond with what is undeserved: grace. What if our response is to find one small thing to be grateful for whatever situation we are in.

Each small moment fire is an opportunity to reflect the undeserved love and grace God has shown us. When we react to moments of pressure or a season of trials with a bit of that grace, our unexpected response could stop fire’s fury, catch the eye, and in a small way, be unexpectedly beautiful.

Grace under pressure.

Amazing grace hung on a cross so long ago – arms stretched wide, hands pierced with hateful nail, beaten body weighted with malice of a sin-filled world. Yet Jesus spoke words of love: ‘Father, forgive them.’ Ultimate grace under pressure shown by ultimate Love. That catches the eye, steals the breath, and humbles the heart.

May God use whatever fire is in our moments to make us stronger and be a reflection of his grace.

‘Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’.  2 Timothy 2:1

blessings,

Tracy

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stillness-lake-quote

‘Mama, I don’t feel good’.

I look at her pale face, thin body lying in bed. It had been four months of this unknown illness wreaking havoc and robbing her of youthful joy. Four months since she had been in school, missing friends and fun of seventh grade.

As her days filled with pain and loneliness, my days filled with frustration and helplessness of a mama who would do anything for her daughter, but powerlessly could do nothing. Endless doctor visits, each adding only more questions to this enigma. What else could I do to make her better?  Myself sick with worry and stress. Daily pleas turned into constant state of prayer: ‘Please, God, heal her.’ ‘Heavenly Father, please lead us to the answer’.

Nothing.

Only silence.

Or so it is seemed at the time.

Standing in the now, I see with faith-filled eyes that God was not silent during those anxious days eleven years ago.

But wrapped up, consumed in those moments when time stood still, it sure seemed like he was.

Silence can be deceptive.

Unanswered prayer baffles – does God really care? Day after day waiting for an answer – is God really listening? Does he hear? Why doesn’t he show some sign that he is there? Why doesn’t he make this better? Why is this happening? Why? Why? Always the why.

Silence can be deafening.

It deafens so all we hear are our own thoughts, drowning in doubt and confusion. It limits his greatness and goodness, and it masks what he’s really trying to tell us:

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

When God seems silent, he’s actually calling us into stillness.

But how to be still when the world spins upside down?

Where is stillness when the heart sobs in brokenness?

How to find stillness in the tumult of mind’s questioning?

Yet with those words, be still, he calls us into a quiet calm.

How did he come to Elijah on the mountain? Not in wind or quake or fire, but in a gentle whisper. And how can we hear the whisper if we are not still?

In the stillness he whispers:

I love you. I will never leave you.  Joshua 1:5

I have plans for you, so trust me. Jeremiah 29:11

I need you to wait, because the time isn’t right yet. I have something better in store. Psalm 37:7, 104:27, Eccl 3:11

In the stillness he calls us to wait and to wait patiently.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

So we wait.

In the waiting, he is at work. Earthly eyes cannot see or understand his mysterious ways. But with eyes of faith, we trust. His ‘no’s’ may be ‘not yets’. His ‘no’s’ may be a lesson in the now here, teaching us to rely only on him, to lean into him and his promises.

For his love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

So with whatever strength the soul can muster in the midst of the storm, be still and cling to him.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

blessings,

Tracy

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