Tag Archives: darkness

Waiting Room of God

Grief blinds and deafens the heart. Scripture does not record many of Jesus’ followers being at the Cross…but some were there. Others perhaps buried under confusion, fear, discouragement and deafening grief fled the scene of horror. Overwhelmed by a situation they could not control, Jesus’ followers found themselves locked them in a prison of darkness. The truths they heard, the truths they believed were – for the moment – out of reach. Have you sat in darkness like that?

Take heart. Jesus anticipated that happening. Isaiah 53 speaks so beautifully of Jesus and His understanding of grief:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not…Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Isaiah 53:3,10

Jesus told them that when He, the Shepherd, was stricken, the sheep would scatter. He is never surprised by our ‘failings.’ He is never discouraged by (or for) us. His faith does not rest upon us. Jesus knows the depths of despair will give way to unshakeable hope. He knows the pleasure of the LORD will break forth.

I like to think that that evening, those who had been at the Cross found their friends and shared the passage Jesus spoke from when He said, “I thirst.” Throughout the horror, the Living Word drew upon the written Word for guidance.

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” John 19:28

Fulfilling the Word compelled Jesus even in His dying moments. The vinegary drink would have helped make His final words audible: IT IS FINISHED!

Jesus didn’t die as a martyr, He died as a victor…and knew it. But some of His loved ones were blinded by grief. The passage He quoted from is an imprecatory Psalm. Those Psalms beg God for justice…they cry out the grief that blinds to the One who heals. Those Psalms confront the evil, the wrongs endured but they deliver you to victory. They take you to praise. In the dark waiting moments, consider the power of these words:

“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth note the prisoners. Let the heaven and earth praise Him, the seas, and everything that moveth therein. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit: and they that love his name shall dwell therein.” Psalm 69:29-36 

At some point(s) in life, every disciple finds themselves in the despair of the ‘day after’ – in the darkness of waiting. In Jesus, there is Light and Hope. May we be the disciples who speak the words of hope to the deaf and the blind!

As we draw close to the glory of Resurrection, ask yourself:

• Am I stuck in a time of darkness and waiting?
• How is Jesus the Light for my time(s) of despair and confusion?
• Who needs words of encouragement in the waiting of COVID-19?

 

 

Too Much Love to Leave Us in Our Mess!

Years ago I read a story of a little boy who defiantly responded to his punishment with,

“I’m sitting in time out but my heart is standing up!”

There is profound truth in that—and it is the reality of many adults (especially those in Church).  Obedience is not the same as being engaged in a connected relationship.  In our faith walk, God’s goal is never simple obedience.  External action without heart engagement is a sham that God will press through.

I love to watch my daughter work with her horse, Scooby.  He is a high-spirited horse…rebel-scoobyand she is a high-spirited girl.  His attitude does not intimidate her.  The dynamics of their relationship reveal the physics law of equal and opposite reaction.  In their interaction, I see a picture of how God works with His kids.  Riesa does not object to Scooby’s personality; she embraces him even when he is a ‘hot mess.’  She meets his enthusiasm (and even his rebellion) with the force needed to achieve what she asked in the beginning.

God has standards, plans and purposes for everyone—the moral standards are the same, the plans and purposes are for the good of all.  Yet, He crafted every one of us uniquely.  Our personalities, life experiences, and cultures assure unique expressions of God from our lives.  Until we surrender our personal control, the only thing we express is our self—and without God that is an expression of death.   The moment we release our ‘self’ focus, God supernaturally blesses in both the natural and spiritual realms!

When Scooby lets go of his own agenda, he and Riesa become a team.  Their personalities blend into a unique, abundant expression of life.  In the natural realm, they are just a ‘girl 13118959_1133635346699739_8904573366461875584_nand her horse.’  New skills, greater partnership and fun in the field become realities.  In the spiritual realm, growth in understanding and insights into deeper truths evolve as well—bearing seeds of eternal hope in many lives.  It has been and will continue to be a journey, just as the life of faith is a journey.  God loves us right where we are at…but He loves us too much to leave us where we are at!

Genesis 21 and Galatians 4 give us insights on this Truth.  In Genesis, we read how Abram and Sarai sought to bring about the promises of God with their own best efforts.  Their intentions were good; they were not rebelling against God.  Neither were they trusting in Him.  His promise seemed to distant; they decided 15 years was long enough…must be they needed to help Him out.  Paul goes to the heart of the matter in Galatians:  law or grace.  Law focuses on my performance; grace trusts God’s performance.  The Christian life is to be Christ’s life…not what I can drum up on my own.  But in the magnificent creativity and power of God, He empowers me to give unique expression to the life of Christ.

The Father loves each of us and wants to see how we will walk out relationship with Him.  He doesn’t want to see our best effort at ‘being good.’  Our best imitation of obedience is nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Like the little boy who sat in timeout with a heart that stood up, many appear to serve God 14076958807_fcee53117d_zand walk in obedience.  The service produces things they want:  acceptance, belonging, praise, freedom from the hassles outright sin creates.  Many of these folks sincerely believe they are serving God in the process…blind to the reality that they actually serve the god of self.  It is an empty sham that God will press into.

Here is where the glory of God shines through in a magnificent way.  In the face of what is actually rebellion, self-glorification and rejection, He looks with love.  He maintains His call to come to Him.  He uses whatever pressure is necessary to move individuals out of their dark deception and into His light!  It’s a journey worth embarking on and one surrounded by love.

Will you let His light pierce your dark places

and lead you to Himself?

Light Over-rides the Dark

Reality includes ugly, hard truths.  Mistakes, evil and hardship touch every aspect of every life.  But contrast creates beauty…and against the backdrop of darkness, glory shines!  I am always looking for stories that illustrate such Truths of God.   Recently, I saw such a story at a local state park.

Every story, whether that of a business, a country or a person, has a mix of good and bad in its history–and its present.  A walk around Chester State Park reveals some incredible good that came in the midst of both sin and stupidity.  I take great encouragement in stories like this because darkness can sometimes deceive us into thinking nothing good is happening.  As a Christian, the Park story reminds me that ‘stuff happens’ but my good and powerful God has a way of bringing good in the midst of bad.  Take a stroll with me through the history of Chester State Park and be encouraged!

According to history documents, in the 1920s, the land of Chester County was severely over-farmed.  Some say South Carolina had the dubious distinction of having the most15742990546_5cbd1c4f35_m depleted, eroded land east of the Mississippi.  Undoubtedly, a lack of knowledge and a surplus of greed joined forces to mine the land for every cotton dollar available.  The result paralleled the mid-west experience and the great Dust Bowl horror.  The present day park land was a prime example of the dark reality of those years.  An old cotton field with a history of crop failures, it was worth little.

Into the darkness came the flickering light of a dreamer.  Carlisle White looked at the
dried up property with two trickling streams converging into one and envisioned a lake-side housing development.  He set about sharing his vision, purchased the land and formed Lakeview Corporation.    The corporation built a dam, created a lake and sub-divided the property into building lots.  However, no homes were ever built there; no lots were ever sold.  The Great Depression crashed down and the developers’ dreams never materialized.  Instead, necessity forced them to turn the property over to the federal government.  The light of the dreamer wavered precariously.

But darkness can never overcome light.  A new federal government program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was about to fuel the flame that would redeem that plot of land.  Part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the CCC put people to work re-building the infrastructure of America.  The State Park system across the US owes its beginnings to the CCC.  Chester State Park is one of the treasures that shines out of the dark years of the 20s and 30s because of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Darkness, though, does not surrender easily.  The first CCC crew sent to Chester actually abandoned the project because of the severity of the erosion.  Their inability to see beyond the difficulties joined forces with the darkness of another community to deliver the right team to Chester.  The work crew which did most of the work at the park was originally assigned to another county.  The ignorant racism of that community led them to reject the crew based on the African-American heritage of its members.  The fortitude of that CCC Crew, Unit 4475, conquered the darkness and became the primary tool of restoration for the land we now enjoy as Chester State Park.

Unit 4475 built an impressive array of structures–some of which remain today: the roads, a larger dam, shelters, a boat house and a residence for the rangers.  All of that construction was on top of the ‘camp’ the members built for themselves to live in while they created the Park!  Sadly, per federal law, every camp structure had to be removed when the CCC crew left.  Their camp included a chapel, store, barber shop, barracks, mess hall and administrative buildings.  This same crew also initiated several other projects to combat further erosion, including planting 400,000 trees and building additional dams.  Almost a century later, their labor continues to bless the County and countless visitors.

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Debbie Blakley, Photographer

Today, the Park is a picture of abundance and beauty.  It serves as a place of recreation and respite for many.  But its history includes a mixture of good and bad:  vision, discouragement, greed, racism, fortitude, foolishness and hope.  Goodness and light won out because that is how God designed this world.  The law of sowing and reaping means there are consequences from every action.  In the goodness of God, He deemed that curses are limited to four or five generations while blessings pass on for thousands.  May this picture of sowing, reaping and redeeming encourage you to rejoice in the goodness of God.

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’  Hosea 10:12