It Is Well…


When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul. – It Is Well with My Soul, hymn written by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

 

I feel for you. Maybe your day is going a direction you didn’t plan for, or you are feeling the dull thud of disappointment inside right now. I feel for you. Let me give you a little background… Today started off quite well. It’s my husband’s birthday. He’s sleeping in because he works at night. The older kids are off to school. The 2 little ones and I are enjoying a peaceful morning…but then…

The 4 yr old started calling in that tattle-tale tone “Mooooooommyyyyyyyyy! Look what the baby did!” I look up from my coffee. It’s not pretty. The baby has thrown her breakfast over the floor. Did I mention I fed my kids sweet rice with cinnamon, sugar and milk? Yeah, it’s not pretty.(Did I seriously expect something different? Come on it’s a toddler with a bowl of potential nasty-mess.) We shall be referring to this in the future as Rice-Pocalypse. Then, after I am just getting over my pity party for that, I decide I would treat myself to a bathroom break and getting dressed in daytime clothes before the kids get home from school. I think indulgent thoughts sometimes. I get the occasional wild hair. Well, you can stop shaking your head because I was appropriately humbled and chastened. When I returned to the living room, feeling quite accomplished and ready for whatever the day might bring, my toddler one-upped me yet again. My desk, you see, is a staging area for all kinds of wonderful things. Usually, I will admit, it is a class action MESS! I recently cleaned it. BUT my precious notebook with tenderly scribbled notes for a pet children’s story lay open precariously close to my cup of warmed-over coffee, as did my keyboard, mouse, and speakers.

Sometimes, I like to take a little trip back in time to the moment before something truly terrible happened and live for a blissful moment in the ignorance and innocence of that moment. However, as I faced the sweet, brown puddle that was growing on my desk, seeping into every nook and cranny and POURING out of my keyboard when I turned it at an angle, I came to a hard realization. All the heel-clicking, no-place-like-home wishing, time travel to the time of Morlocks and Eloi, or plugging my ears and saying “lalalalalalala” would help me. I don’t know if it was the coffee in the keyboard or the growing stain of it soaking into my precious story, but something inside of me sprang a leak and it started to trickle out of the corners of my eyes as I tried to sop up the mess. Again, I felt sorry for myself. Again, I grudgingly admitted that this could have been prevented. The crush of disappointment for the day I hoped for was heavy on my chest. I did a stand-up impression of Eeyore for a few minutes. But then, words gradually came into my mind that I have heard a million times at church and funeral services: “It is well, with my soul.” 

It is often ridiculous to me when the “peace that passes all understanding” comes my way in insane situations. While I was cleaning up the soul-sucking coffee spill, my kids were fighting with the door of the movie cabinet and the toddler was asking for food, when her breakfast had only just been distributed across the floor, mind you. All of the above was done at high decibels, I might add. Still, I felt the words “It is well, with my soul.” God really has a quirky sense of humor sometimes I think. Naturally, I tried very hard to remember if I’ve prayed for any kind of personal character growth and maturity for myself lately. I always have a very fuzzy memory when it comes to things I decide to do that will be good for me.

So, in spite of the hurricane that blew through my morning, much of which I could have prevented myself, I find that it IS well with my soul. He’s got my whole mess in His hands. He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6), even in the middle of a fit. He’s not going anywhere, and he can get me through anything I face, whether it is a serious tragedy or just the day to day million straws that break the camel’s back kind of days. In the words of one of my very favorite preachers, I had to get on with it already. I cleaned up the mess and shut down my computer because my keyboard may be headed for that ever-growing pile of electronics in the sky and wouldn’t work a lick. I also put My-Lady-mess-a-lot down for a blessed, blessed nap. Now I’m typing this on hubby’s computer and enjoying a bit of respite as I am reminded that God’s got this. The world continues to spin and my life with it. Time to put on the big girl panties and be thankful.

God is, nonetheless, very, very good.

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

The Trap of Offense


The fox condemns the trap, not himself.   William Blake

If you happen to look up the online Merriam-Webster definition of the word “offense” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/offense), you will have quite a lot to chew on. An offense is more than just a feeling of outrage, anger, insult, etc. An occasion for offense is an invitation to step into a trap. Offense, like unforgiveness, is something we hold on the inside of us to our own detriment.

We always, of course, have perfectly good reasons (read excuses) for the things we might or might not do, which offend others. People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? Others, naturally, do not receive such largesse. They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!

Additionally, when we are offended by someone, a business, government, church, etc., we tend to want to tell other people all about it. Offense is catching. Now the offense has grown. Don’t try to kid yourself. you haven’t done the newly offended party any favors. Offense is a stumbling block that keeps people angry and closed off from others. When we are offended our relationships suffer, all of them. We turn a critical eye on everyone and everything. We even shut out God, the Lover of our souls. It only makes sense that the newly offended are also keeping God and other people shut out. Then they share their offense with someone else, and so it spreads, like a cancer, like gossip….the only truly appropriate medium for so much badness.

The Bible says in Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, [Psalm 120:2, 3.] A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren.”

When we give in to our offended, hurt feelings instead of reserving judgement, being merciful, and trying to see things from the other party’s point of view, and moreover share these hurt feelings with others, we become proud, deceitful, violent, scheming, and evil in our hearts, the place where God looks. (1Samuel 16:7) Now wait, don’t throw out what I’m saying, aka, don’t be offended. 😉 Pride tells us that we are capable to decide what is in another person’s heart and mind AND we are perfectly within our rights to be upset because WE are much too important (them, not so much). We lie to ourselves (or listen to the enemy’s lies) and convince ourselves that we have been wronged, so much that we hold it against the other party, like a weapon behind the door. We might possibly forgive but we will never forget. (Ouch, that one hurt a little; it’s OK, me too.) All of this holding on to offense tends to make us stew or mull the situation over and over in our minds. We hold a grudge. We come to the conclusion that other people should know about it so they too can hold their secret weapons. We cause trouble between other people. The reason we are separated from God is because when He looks in our hearts to see who we really are, He sees a festering, stinking mess. Remember the Golden Rule and that whole thing about being forgiven as we forgive others? Yeah, He actually meant it. (Ouch some more.)

It’s not all about finger pointing and bad boy this and bad girl that, though. God truly wants our hearts to be healed and our spirits free from the traps we enter of our own volition. Unlike us so many times, God understands the naturally mucky tendencies we all have: and He wants to help. (Psalm 103:14)

First, He gives us instructions: “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” 1 John 1:9

Second, He gives us salvation: “And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” Ephesians 2:6-10

Third, He gives us Himself: ” But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. [Mal. 3:6.] They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. [Isa. 33:2.] The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. [Num. 18:20.] The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26

For these reasons, we need to revise the previous statements: [People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!]… The attitude that these statements, and similar ones, display is unseemly for a child of the Living-Giving-Loving God. Instead, we should change things up a bit.

I should understand that they have extenuating circumstances. Why am I so touchy?? What’s my problem? I have no excuse. I should have known. I should know better. Who do I think I am? They don’t have to put up with that! See the difference that makes? Now, maybe other people will see us the way we would like them to see us. All of this, truthfully, is difficult. Sometimes there are definite trespasses it’s hard to get past. That is where the amazing and free grace of God kicks in. (Amen!)

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving-kindness. [James 5:11.] He will not always chide or be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever or hold a grudge. He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children–[Deut. 10:12.]” Psalm 103:8-17

More Than Fine


TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real !   Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

The Psalm of Life – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

———————————————————————————

Sometimes we need a reboot. There are situations and circumstances that bring us down. People will disappoint us. We will fail. In life, we have to know there will be good with the bad. It’s all wrapped up together in the package called LIFE. As we adjust ourselves, recuperate, and pick up the pieces, we learn, improve our understanding, and grow. As many people have experienced first-hand in the last few years, financial troubles can lead to desperation, despair, and giving up on dreams once held dear. It’s not that we can’t undergo trials without falling completely to pieces. There are times, however, when the road we attempt to take on the way to our dreams actually leads us nowhere. We actually need these detours to lead us to the places we need to go in order to be ready for the grand dreams we all hold in our hearts.

Maybe you’ve forgotten your dreams, or laid them down due to outside pressure or difficulty. Perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that real life has no place for your dreams, or maybe even gotten the mistaken idea that the magical fantasy land of your dreams holds no place for you! I need to let you know right now that as long as there is life, there is also hope.

You are not finished. You are not defeated. Every moment is another chance, another choice. Don’t give up. You can do this!

“Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?— and treat your servants with kindness for a change. Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long. Make up for the bad times with some good times; we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime. Let your servants see what you’re best at— the ways you rule and bless your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!”

Psalm 90:11-13 (The Message)

Deep as an Ocean


“I have seen the sea when it is stormy and wild; when it is quiet and serene; when it is dark and moody. And in all its moods, I see myself.” Martin Buxbaum

Moods are funny things. They can make things seem easy or they can make things seem hard. Moods are like shadows, shifting, and insubstantial. They are untrustworthy, unrealistic, and fickle. It is unwise to base your life on moods, whether positive or negative. Sometimes it is important to remember that no matter how we feel at any given time, reality has not changed, and the moods will pass.

Like the sea, moods can be frightening. Like a tidal wave, they can threaten to swallow us whole, leaving nothing but destruction and chaos in their wake. Where moods rein there is anarchy, pain, uncertainty, and all kinds of trouble. When beliefs, however noble, take a backseat to moods, trouble results.

“Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods”  C.S. Lewis (British Scholar and Novelist. 1898-1963)

When dealing with confusing circumstances, it is important to be able to know that some things are certain. Some things are sure. If the tide was going out, and you were caught in the undertow, what would you do? If you were smart, you’d find a big rock and hold on! Sometimes, our lives can be uncertain, stormy, and full of doubt. If we are not anchored, we can be washed away.We need stability, security, a Rock to cling to in these frightening and uncertain times when the waves of life threaten to wash us away!

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. Psalm 31:1-5