Monday Morsels: Grabbing Onto Those Never Ending Mercies

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
     they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)

How do you respond to the unexpected interruptions in your routine? Perhaps it depends. A call from a friend who is from out of town may be a welcomed break. Quickly, you find a way to re-arrange your schedule in order to meet. The brief stress in altering plans is countered by the benefit of engaging with a friend.

However, when unpredictability becomes the norm, the interruption is no longer perceived as a respite. Illness, job loss, and divorce are situations that can create days in which you feel blindsided by the force of changing winds. Doctors appointments, tracking meds, caring for your family, managing your moods as well as helping your children process theirs., negotiating with bill collectors..…, It takes every ounce of energy to move forward with every detail of the day. There are seasons in our lives when these days, which beat to no rhythm in particular, seem to continue day after day. For some, it’s a matter of weeks. For others- months or even years.

During this season, how easy it can be to be vulnerable to our own sinful choices: snapping at another family member, impatience with medical staff, not giving your best to your spouse…Yet, in the midst of the challenges, we are offered the compassions of our merciful God. This was the hope clung to by the writer of Lamentations. He writes these words as he is in the midst of a life of despair, exhaustion and fear. At the beginning of each day, when the alarm goes off and the uncertainty of a new day greets you, the Lord has already bestowed you with the mercies to get through another day. Receive them…. and let them transform you.

What is the rhythm of your life like right now? Erratic? Steady?

How do you feel knowing that you are granted God’s mercies everyday?

Dear Lord,

We receive the promise given to us in your Word. We claim your mercies. The same mercies offered to those who have struggled before us. You know our struggles, our physical and emotional abilities and our temptations. We thank you for your unending mercies and grace which intersect the often unpredictable rhythm of our lives. .

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Developing an Eye of Support

Why does it take a catastrophe to rally support?

As my heart broke for the people trying to navigate through the storms of the last two weeks, I found hope. We, the image bearers of our God, broke out of the rhythms of our lives to love each other.

As I saw the images streaming the television and internet, the sacrifice involved in support was evident. Helping one another can fall on a spectrum. Sometimes, simply offering a few moments of time is all that’s required. Other times, it demands giving up something we value: time, money, an agenda, possessions, reputation, physical state, and even life.

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  1 john 3:17

It comes as no surprise that our nation is fractured. Watching people respond to the burden of literally keeping people afloat demonstrated that there is an inherent recognition of our connection.

Yet, seasons of catastrophe occur everyday in the lives of those around us. Sometimes we, ourselves, are the ones drowning.

But those storms are not always visible to the observer.

In the normal daily routine of our lives, we interact briefly and many times behind a keyboard. We aren’t often aware of the daily havoc surrounding others.

Perhaps, we can pray for a discerning eye.

I have taught workshops to support and empower families with a child who has a mental/chronic illness. Of course I expect parents to come to learn but I am amazed at the “others” who attend. These are the neighbors/friends/church members who want to know what they can do to help.

Their eyes prompt their hearts.

Who do you know is struggling? What particular challenges present themselves in your community? What will you do?

*for a terrific way to open your awareness, check out “Praying A to Z” by Amelia Rhodes. It will transform they way you see and engage with people in your community.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/

Why I Feel Like I am Sharing in the Israelites’ Journey

Why would anyone be upset with God when their prayers were answered as they had hoped?

For years, the Israelites served  the Egyptians under oppressive conditions . But God was aware of their suffering and the deliverance they longed for was about to take place.

“The Lord said, “I have seen how my people are suffering in Egypt. I have heard them cry out because of their slave drivers. I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to save them from the Egyptians. I will bring them up out of that land…” (Exodus 3:7-8)

Getting what we wish for can be a dangerous thing.

Lately, I find myself resonating with the Israelites’ frustration and perspective. Recently, our family received deliverance. For over a decade, we sought release from financial, work, and medical burdens. It seemed that every time that an impending release appeared possible,  another problem arose to counter the feeling of freedom.

Finally, we entered into a new place. After years of praying for respite from a continuous string of unexpected stresses, we felt rescued and embraced the peace found within it.

For the first few months, we rejoiced. We knew it was God’s hand that brought this blessing. It’s not that we didn’t thank God for anything during the previous years, but this dramatic transition brought physical awareness for where we had come. Truthfully, some of the sources of worry had disappeared. Health had stabilized. Financial issues were resolved. My husband was released from a long difficult job experience. Celebration commenced.

When the Israelites were finally released from captivity, they too praised God. There had been many close calls that seemed to threaten the fulfillment of God’s promise to them.

“They said to Moses,’Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 14:11-12)

But when it happened, they celebrated. They sang, danced, and relished in the gift of a respite.

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
  The Lord is my strength and my might,[a]
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him…”(Exodus 15:1-2)

But, unbeknownst to them, the release was not without it’s own set of challenges. They were not done moving.

Our expectations of how God will work and preconceived notions of God’s character can result in disappointment. We look at our narrative unfolding through human eyes.

 The Israelites said to them, “We wish the Lord had put us to death in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat. We ate all the food we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert. You must want this entire community to die of hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)

God was moving them to a better place. But the in-between space did not match what they envisioned.

Couldn’t the comfort have lasted a little longer?

Currently, we are moving toward a new place again. Not a new home but new jobs. Our transition doesn’t feel as euphoric as it did in the beginning. God’s hand doesn’t seem to be moving as quickly as we wished. The feast has ended. The provision is appearing in forms different than what we planned. Our bodies are growing weary.

The journey seems long and, at times, discouraging. But we know that God never forgot the Israelites. And we are not forgotten either.

We are aware that the vision we hold is not complete. And we will keep trusting (clinging at times) to the promises given to the Israelites along their way.

Because God always wants to lead us to a better place than we were in before. Even if we don’t understand the stops along the way.

Monday Morsels: Embracing God’s Promise for Navigating Detours

 

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever go.  Joshua 1:9

How do you feel when you are driving along certain of your location and suddenly, without warning, you find yourself forced to take a detour?  Many times the detour takes you to your destination through a series of streets with which you are unfamiliar.  The confidence you felt in pursuing your destination has changed to anxiety.

“I don’t know where I’m going!”

The daily life for a family facing the realities of a chronic illness or debilitating situation can; at times, be filled with moments of unpredictability-a loved one makes an impulsive decision with life altering consequences, a sick child takes a sudden turn for the worse, a new medication is introduced. Any pursuit of stability in your life seems to be thrown off with a detour into the unknown. Our human desire for control seems to have slipped out of our hands. Traveling into the unknown brings a sense of fear.

The Israelites were no strangers to traveling into unknown territory.  The physical terrain was not always familiar.  Sure, they knew they were headed to the Promised Land but how exactly do you get there?  Along the journey, sinful beings made poor decisions and struggled with trusting in the promises God made to them in the beginning.

How does this promise encourage you as you face the unknown?

Sovereign God, you have shown us through your actions in your people before us that  we have nothing to fear.  You are greater than any challenges we face here on earth.  Please fill us with your peace as we claim your words through Joshua as our own.  Amen

How Buying Bologna Became My Work

 

When my daughter was a preschooler, she was asked to fill out a worksheet which identified her “world.”  As expected, she was asked, “What does your mother do?”

Her answer? I go to the store and buy bologna.

After a chuckle,I had to let that one settle.

Really? That’s what I do?

I thought about my identity. For several years, I found fulfillment in my career in ministry. I had followed God’s leading on an unexpected journey. With it, came dreams and goals. And I saw the fruit of those seeds placed on my heart. Yes, it was my work but it was also my calling. God gave me that name (pastor) and that purpose for “such a time as this.”

At the time my daughter identified my new name (mom-who buys bologna), I was in the midst of recognizing my new calling. It was also work. Harder than I expected. Long hours of physical and emotional investment with few immediate rewards. And no pay. In fact, it cost us money.

But, this work was also a calling for “such a time as this.”

It took me a while to acknowledge that truth. Because our culture doesn’t.

We tend to be a culture that prides itself in work that reaps visible material fruit. Identities are largely defined by what we “do.” What we possess symbolizes how well we “do” it.

But what if, instead, we focus on who we are? Because who we are ought to dictate what we do. No matter how visible “it” is. Regardless of how much “it” pays.

It’s been thirteen years since she filled out that worksheet. And during that time, I have learned to embrace the work God gave me. My daughter is about to enter her senior year and is thinking about her future. She feels led to study culinary arts and maybe own a cafe.

Maybe she will. But she also may be called into a similar place of work as I. When asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she responded, “I want to go to the store and buy bologna.”

If that’s the work God has called her to, then I say “Amen.”

“A person may have many plans in their heart. But the Lord’s purpose wins out in the end.” Proverbs 19:21

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come write with us. http://fiveminutefriday.com/

Monday Morsels: How We Receive Strength For the Ride

 


 But those who trust in the Lord
    will receive new strength.
They will fly as high as eagles.
    They will run and not get tired.
    They will walk and not grow weak. (Isaiah 40:31)

From a purely human perspective, it was an unpleasant season of life.

My daughter’s medical expenses had drained our bank account. Leisure time was consumed by long hours of struggling through school work and our involvement in a new project with our church. Food choices were reduced to the bare bones-not much room for extras. Our daughter’s illness was in a chronic stage: no breakthrough. The emotional roller coaster she was on seemed to drag on day after day. It seemed as if anything that could possibly allow for a pleasant escape from this season was taken away. (To read more about that, read here: https://stephaniejthompson.com/2016/08/31/if-god-can-raise-a-man-from-the-dead-why-cant-he-keep-my-crockpot-from-falling-2/)

Yet, in the midst of it, I was reminded that hope ultimately cannot come from anything outside ourselves. Sure, God wants us to enjoy all that has been given to us. But, as we know, hope will only be found as we find refuge in our God-our Creator and Sustainer.

Not in full bank accounts. Not in a trouble free life. Not in good health. Not in people.

Did you know that the images here refer to the transformation that takes place as an eagle matures? God already knew what they needed. Their fluffy “baby” down becomes feathers as they develop. These stages of “strengthening” enable it to have the resources to thrive; to sustain the varied elements which may threaten it’s survival.

So it us with us. God continues to strengthen us by infusing us with his character so that we can sustain through varied elements which threaten to paralyze us.

I will continue to carry you even when you are old.
    I will take good care of you even when your hair is gray.
    I have made you, and I will carry you.
I will take care of you, and I will save you.
    I am the Lord(Isaiah 46:4)

Sovereign Lord,

We lay ourselves before you; exhausted. We long for answers and comfort. But remind us that our endurance during these trials comes only from what you offer us. Help us to turn from sources of comfort which only give us short term gratification. Make us aware of what you have given to us in order to fly forward. We ask for clarity, strength and peace. . Amen

Who Are the People in your Neighborhood?

 

 

 

The word “community” makes my heart skip a beat.

I am passionate about the beauty found in life together. So it’s no coincidence that a certain song from one of my childhood television shows, “Sesame Street echoes in my head as I run errands.

“Who are the people in your neighborhood?” (if you don’t know it, you tube it)

Truthfully everything about the setting of that show resonates with me. As children, our world seems small. We find comfort in identifying those figures who we see each day and with whom we build relationships: the postal carrier, the cashier at the grocery store, the garbage collector, teacher, etc…

As our world has progressed and our lives seem to move at frantic pace, those relationships seem to diminish in quantity and quality.

I’ll admit that it’s much easier to pay my water bill at the drop box rather than in person. But last month, I made a concerted effort to go in. I interacted with the woman behind the counter, if even for a few minutes. She was a familiar face. I’ve paid in person a few times. What if I pledged to do it more often? What would I learn about her? Would small talk eventually morph into deeper bytes of her life?

Do you know your neighbor?

Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39). It’s hard to know how to love them if you don’t know who they are.

My husband is notorious for going inside to McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts on our weekly Sunday morning trek to church. He likes to talk face to face.

But it’s so much easier to go through the drive through  (not always the quickest). 

But he is on to something. Even those weekly encounters with people in casual interactions builds our community. They provide a familiar rhythm and maybe even a sense of peace when all else seems to be falling apart.

So I’m working to be more intentional about expanding the boundaries of my “community.”

One interaction at a time.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come join us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/