Learning to Lament

Lamenting isn’t something Americans do well. We know how to complain, whine, throw pity parties, but lamenting is completely different.

Lamenting is taking our deep sadness and trouble and bringing it to the only one who can help, God Himself. Realizing the God who made us is the only one who can sort out our difficulty. Admitting that we are helpless without Him.

So here is a very private letter to God. I don’t think he would mind me sharing it with you.

” Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

Dear Abba Father,

My heart is so heavy. I feel like a bush in the desert, not like the tree by the river.

We are isolated and alone. Forbidden to gather or meet. Grieving the loss of contact.

A handshake, a hug,

NOT ALLOWED!

And a little bit of us dies every day.

We are becoming more inward focused. We weren’t made to be alone. We were made to interact and come along side. To work hard for the common good.

Instead we are turning on each other. Friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, disagreements over how we should move forward, what to do, what not to do. Anger is close to the surface, ready to boil over if you don’t think like me, if you don’t act like me. We each have our own “expert”. Woe to the man who listens to the wrong one.

Father, please open our communities back up. I pray that those who have an evil agenda would be thwarted. That those who are ignorant would gain wisdom, that those who are deceived would see the truth, that those who are sick would be healed, that doctors who have answers would be heard, that leaders grasping for power would be put down and removed.

Most of all that those who need the gospel would be receptive, that they would seek and find, that we would speak boldly about the hope within us.

Punish evil men and forces that would do harm to our families, churches, cities. I pray that truth would prevail, that the veil of deception would be swept away.

I ask these things not because we deserve it for we are a wicked, sinful people. We fail to turn our faces fully to you. We rely on ourselves, our leaders and our governments to “save” us.

We turn in repentance. You alone give us life and breath. It is through you that all things hold together. I pray that you would show yourself strong in defeating this enemy. They are nothing to you. With a word you can dismiss the virus. With a word you can expose the proud and corrupt.

I pray that you would do it in a way that is unmistakably you. Do a new spectacular thing.

Today the birds are still gathering, the sun is still shining, the trees are springing to life. The wind is calm, the waters are still.

I believe you will act. I know you hear. I know you see and take notice. Bring salvation to many through this. Soften hearts to finally see you. Bring repentance and a renewed commitment to you and your ways.

Thank you for being a God who is not sleeping or silent. Thank you that you are already at work in this world gone mad.

Today I will honor you with my mind, with my actions, with my voice.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it Helps to Cry

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There is an ache in my soul. I’m trying to be positive… trying to be encouraging to those I am around… trying to calm my spirit lest I start crying and can’t stop.

My God has been faithful again and again. What is different about this time? This time it involves the whole world. We aren’t at war like WW I and WW II, but we are certainly in crisis. The widespread trouble has gotten our attention, finally.

So what do we do now? Maybe it is time to lament. If there was ever a time to do what David did on several occasions it is now. Here is one of his laments below. I have listed a few more in the “For further study” section.

Psalm 13
How long will thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Notice that laments follow a pattern. They usually start with utter discouragement and invariably they end with a change of heart and mind, looking to the God of their salvation.

I would encourage you to write your own lament.

Here are a few questions to get you started.

  1. Have you been through a crisis or life changing event? What have you lost as a result of what happened? Be as thorough as possible. Don’t minimize the loss. Don’t pretend there wasn’t a loss. Be honest in your assessment. What do you still struggle with?
  2.  Bring this list to God. Tell Him what you are thinking. Face this with Him. Cry out to Him. Ask Him any questions you have been afraid to ask.
  3. Be quiet before God. Let His Word speak to you.
  4. Take the things you have written here and write your own lament psalm. Use the outline in the link below as a guide.

Lament Outline

I’ll check back with you in a few days. I need to go work on my lament.

 For further study: Psalm 22, 28, 44 & 69

Let My People Go (Wilderness Journey #5)

We are all tired of staying home. Days have turned to weeks and it looks like it could be months. Let me remind you of a group of people who had been enslaved for 400 years.

The children of Israel were in Egypt because of a famine. God had put Joseph in place there through a chain of extraordinary circumstances. They came to find food, found their brother and prospered until a change of leadership brought a change of mind.

God had a plan. It started with the obedience of a mother who couldn’t put her son, Moses, to death. It continued with him being protected and raised by the daughter of Pharaoh himself. Moses, who had the benefit of a topnotch education, was intimately involved with the culture of the Egyptians and the Israelites. Who better to bring about a change to the sorely oppressed. But it wasn’t the right time and his initial efforts were an utter failure.

Spending 40 years herding sheep had quite an effect on his character. He had been proud and hot headed, now he appears humble and reluctant to act.

God sends him back to Egypt with careful instructions, a staff in his hand and a brother, Aaron, who will do the speaking that he is now afraid to do.

You see God had heard, God remembered, God saw and God took notice. (Exodus 2:24-25)

When they meet with Pharaoh they get right to the point.

Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go…’.” (Exodus 5:1)

Pharaoh’s response – “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice…? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” vs. 2

Because of Moses interaction with Pharaoh he decided to withhold the straw they needed to make their quota of bricks. Now they were forced to gather it themselves without a reduction in the number of bricks required.

Look at Moses conversation with God in Exodus 5:22-23. To say he was unsure of his usefulness is an understatement.

Look at how God responds to Moses in Exodus 6:1-8. God’s plan was still in place.

Moses tries to comfort the people after his assurances from God. How did they respond and why? (Exodus 6:9)

God gave Moses 10 signs to give Pharaoh. Here is a quick list. (Exodus 7:10 – 10:29)

  •  Moses staff becomes a serpent
  •  Changes all the water to blood
  •  Swarms of frogs
  •  Dust becomes gnats (Magicians warn Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”)
  •  Swarms of insects (Goshen excluded, where sons of Israel lived.)
  •  Livestock killed (Goshen excluded)
  •  Soot becomes boils on man and beast. (Magicians unable to stand on their feet.)
  •  Heavy hail, warned to bring in man and beasts. Those left out were killed and early crops were ruined.
  •  Locusts to cover the surface of the land. Will eat the rest of the crops, fruit, everything green.
  •  Three days of darkness that could be felt.

These were difficult days. They had lived through difficult years, but those difficult years and days would have their purpose. They have one more plague to live through and a long journey through the wilderness. These difficulties were a preparation.

How does what they lived through give me courage to face another day of whatever I am going through? How can I learn to trust God more in the midst? How have I seen God work in the past? What could God be preparing me for?

 

 

 

 

Hymn #2 – Like a River Glorious

 

Like a River Glorious – Frances R. Havergal / James Mountain

1. Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,

Over all victorious in its bright increase

Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,

Perfect, yet it growth deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest. 

2. Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,

Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;

Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,

Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

3.  Ev’ry joy or trial falleth from above,

traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love.

We may trust Him fully all for us to do;

They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest. 

 

 

Hymn #1 – Day by Day

I’ll be posting some hymns from time to time. I’m choosing things that are over 100 years old to avoid copyright infringement. The words will be posted so you can sing along with me. I wish I could hear you.

Day by Day – Sandell Berg / Oscar Ahnfelt

Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here.

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best,

Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour.

All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.

The protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid.

“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation So to trust Your promises, O Lord,

That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Your holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a Father’s hand,

One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the Promised Land.

 

Wilderness Journey #4 – Called to Service

 

Moses has spent the last 40 years tending sheep. He seems to have forgotten his former zeal for his brethren, but God had a plan that involved Moses. God had not forgotten. Read the following passage and work through the questions.

Exodus 3:1-22; 4:1-17

  • What did God use to get Moses attention?
  •  When did God speak to Moses? (vs. 3-4)
  •  What is God doing in your life to get your attention?
  •  God’s word is our burning bush. If we turn aside God will speak to us through it. See II Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 4:12
  •  God introduces Himself in vs. 5 & 6. List the verbs God uses in verses 7-9.
  •  What was the problem? What was God going to do?
  •  How does God want to include Moses? vs. 10
  •  How does Moses respond in vs. 11?
  •  The argument continues. Take note of Moses’ misgivings and God’s solutions.
  •  How has Moses changed? Compare Exodus 4:10-13 with Acts 7:22? Why the shift?
  •  Our confidence needs to be in God, not our own abilities. At this point Moses had lost confidence in both. Did God write him off?
  •  What is God asking you to do today? How can you be faithful? Is there an area that you feel inadequate? Is that a good or bad thing?
  •  Learning to trust God is a daily process. Pray that you don’t get so busy arguing with God that you never move forward in obedience. The road ahead is uncertain, but our God has never been uncertain. Our God has never been more faithful. Our God is bigger than the problems we face.  He is there with us.. Believe it.

 

Wilderness Journey #3 – Preparation

white sheep on farm

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Waiting. I don’t wait well. Today we find Moses sitting by a well in Midian.

Read Exodus 2:16-25 and Acts 7:29-30a and then work through the questions.

  • What trouble did Moses witness in verses 16 & 17?
  •  What did Moses do?
  •  Does this remind you of the incident in vs. 11 & 12?
  •  What did the priest of Midian do for Moses?
  •  What do we assume was Moses job for the next 40 years?
  •  Why would this have been good training for his next position?
  •  Meanwhile what has been happening in Egypt? (vs. 23)
  •  List the verbs associated with God in vs. 24 & 25.
  • How does that bring you comfort?
  •  These few verses cover a 40 year span. He will be almost 80 when we see him next.
  •  How can I learn to wait well? What can I be doing while I wait?

Just a reminder that our timeline is not God’s timeline. He is patient towards us.

I have pulled out an old hymn book. I’m reminded how rich the words are. I need to do more singing. I might post one or two next week. Time will tell. Let me know if you have a favorite.

Until next time.

Karen

 

Wilderness Journey #2 – False Start

sand desert blue sky egypt

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Mid-life crisis. We’ve all had moments when we realize how old we are and fret about missed opportunities or determine to change the direction of our lives.

Today we catch up to Moses when he is almost 40. Notice the two worlds he is a part of. Read Exodus 2:11-15. There are two New Testament passages that would also be helpful. Acts 7:22-29 and Hebrews 11:24-26.

  • What has he been spending his time doing up to this point? What kind of man had he become? (Acts 7:22)
  • Unlike the movie version he knew what his roots were.
  • What did he think his destiny was? (Acts 7:25)
  •  What did Moses do when he saw a Hebrew being mistreated?
  •  Whose job is it to take vengeance? (Deuteronomy 32:35)
  •  How did the sons of Israel respond to Moses the next day when he tried to be a peacemaker?
  •  What did Pharoah try to do?
  • What did Moses do?
  •  What or who had he been looking to for the freeing of Israel?
  •  Who am I looking to for help in trouble? Do I ever overstep my role in trying to fix things?
  • How do I get ahead of God?
  •  How was God using these circumstances in Moses life to prepare him for service?
  •  What difficulties in my life is God using to prepare me for service?

God’s time table is not the same as ours. Forty years old seems like a reasonable age for someone to start their ministry or leadership, yet God had other plans. We will learn more about that on Friday.

 

Wilderness Journey – #1 – Background

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“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.” Genesis 15:13-14

It had been 320 years since God had said this to Abraham. If anyone was counting that meant they had 80 years to wait.

Today we will learn about Jochebed. Her story is found in Exodus 1:22-2:10. The names of her and her family are found in Numbers 26:59. Take some time to read through it and then answer the following questions.

  • Why did Pharaoh decide to murder the innocent baby boys? (Exodus 1:8-10)
  •  How did Jochebed manage to hide Moses for 3 months? (Talk about social distancing.)
  • When that becomes unmanageable what does she do? Who does she involve?
  • Who is she trusting? (see Hebrews 11:23)
  • Who does God send to protect and care for Moses? How is this ironic?
  • What role does Jochebed continue to play in Moses life?
  •  What does she eventually do in verse 10?
  •  What impossible situation am I facing?
  •  How can I live each day well? What can I do today to trust God?

This is the last we hear of Jochebed. I don’t know if she never made it out of Egypt, but because of her faithfulness a nation was delivered from bondage.

This series will be looking at the next 120 years in Israel’s history. It is an amazing story. I hope you come on the journey with me.

Karen

Hollow of His Hand

When I was a little girl my Father would sing to me. Often encouraging me to sing along. One song in particular sticks in my memory. When I was afraid he would pull me up on his lap, put his arm around me and lean his head towards mine as he sang.

The words and melody are from my memory. I can find no record of it in my many searches. If someone knows the name of the composer please tell me so I can give them credit.

Somehow late on this Good Friday  it seems like the sort of song we need to hear.

Here are the words and a short recording.

  • ( chorus) In the hollow of His hand. In the hollow of His hand. I know my Lord will hold me in the hollow of His hand.
  • One day as I was walking along this pilgrim way, the Savior came and spoke to me and then I heard Him say.  (chorus)
  •  Well I may not preach like Peter and I may not pray like Paul, but I can tell the love of Jesus and say He died for all. (chorus)

 

Take courage …Sunday’s coming…