Strength in Stillness

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

The afternoon sun streaks through my living room window, and I settle into my seat, finding just the right spot for the light to warm my body. On my windowsill, books bend into one another, and pens spill from their holder; my daily Bible verse calendar shows an image of majestic mountain peaks and a scriptural assurance of faith I cannot see.

The call to faith in the unseen resonates deeper than I wish it to.

I’ve spent these past six months fighting for my mental and physical health.  I’m still wrestling with the lingering aftermath of COVID-19 and anxiety, comparing my state of exhaustion to where I was before I got sick.

When I see my life as it was, and I see the setbacks I’m battling, I can’t help but be tempted to spiral down the “why me?” rabbit hole. The daily battles leave me worn and wondering just how this will play out.

My camp is close to crumbling, and I need reinforcements. If I have the Lord of heaven’s armies with me, what is His tactic? What is His next move?

Is it to strengthen me supernaturally so I can take ground where I have loosened my hold?

Is it to storm my enemies and knock them down in one motion?

Is it to wait for me to say the right prayer or scripture and believe just a bit more for my faith to come to life and be “useful” in my healing?

Or is it possible God is calling me to something radically different? What if God’s will looks something like this: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)?

The more I meditate on this verse, the more I realize I’ve been carrying much more stress than I need to. I’ve hoisted the weight of my health on my shoulders, striving to learn answers, comparing what was to what is now, and holding heavy, unrealistic expectations in my heart and mind.

Maybe you are, too. Maybe we’ve all been holding on to our own designs of how life should be and having trouble wrapping our minds around reality.

What do we do with the vice grip we’ve put ourselves in?

 

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What a joy and honor to be over at Proverbs 31 Ministries today to examine what strength in stillness looks like. Will you join me there?

Good to Come

Plush grass cushions my body as I shift on my blanket, blue pearl of a sky wraps the dome of Port Washington, harbor full of hulls and bows of sailboats. Lake Michigan spreads wide and comfortable out to the eastern horizon, where a thin line of gray clouds gather low. Sparrows, red-winged black birds, and chickadees play in the air, plunging and rising around the park. Sun rests warm on the back of my neck; out in the distance, white-winged caps of wave flank and furl for speedboats flying across the open water.

This early June day is dipped in what it should be, the delight of a drowsy, sun-soaked slowness and as close to perfection as we can get this side of heaven. It’s also my 37th birthday, and the lightness of the environment matches me inside. I have been slow to embrace my birthday, but for some reason, perhaps for the first time, I see this day as a start to another year, a start I can—dare I?—believe will bring new healing and joy that haven’t yet been revealed? What newness is to come? What road to wisdom and wholeness and depth and life?

The wind shifts and blows from the southwest, covers the warmth from the sun with a thin blanket of cool breeze. But the sun still stays, and so does the light blue of the sky. Fishing boats still motor through the marina, make their way to the wild azure water past the lighthouse. Birds still dance and sing, and my heart stills stays open, ready, asking God to move my mind, body, and soul in a restoring direction, let this smooth, simple day be the start of His good to come.

 

Beauty, Here

There is beauty, here, now. In this season. Yes, even in this season of suffering. There is a good God who sees, who feels, who emphasizes and emphatically says all is good, because all is God. He is the Waymaker, Deliver, Strong Tower and Soft Place, the One who loves unfathomably and unconditionally. Here, in the dappled sunlight that streaks through the pines, the flash of wing in the cross of Blue jay from one branch to another, the gentle rhythm of the water that never hurries, always sets its course assuredly. There is no rush, no hidden agenda. The waves just move.

And I just move with it all, swept in the current, roll with it under the watchful eye of Him who pulls me close when I am over my head in the deep waters, enclosed by flames. He soothes when I feel scorched, overwhelmed. He is here, in this season, bringing beauty when I pull my heart to hear His heartbeat. Lord, keep showing me where You are in the hard, keep showing me the beauty and grace that gets me through.

You get me through, somehow, in the stillness that somehow suddenly appears, when I am unexpecting, when I am parched and drink my fill.

 

Toward the Sun, the Healing

Jesus, the sun—such brightness.
The birds—their song is loud; my ears pick up nothing else.
The grass has never looked so green, lush, full.
The flowers, coming into bloom sudden and striking.
I have never known a spring
so desired or welcome.

Can it mirror my mind’s healing, too?
Movement upwards, hope in a season
secure, here to stay?
Safety comes in the promise of
what arrives time after time.

Jesus, You’ve made the spring surge awake.
Will you surge in me and tend
to my mind and heart?
Awaken them to turn
toward the sun, the healing.

Untangle My Chest

I wake to a new day, sleep still lingering in my eyes. As my body stirs, so does my mind, doing a mental scan of my thoughts and emotions. I notice, again, the weight in my chest, gaining strength. It’s been the pattern for weeks, my constant companion in my waking hours. Frustration settles, as I prepare to battle through another day weighed down.

This invisible heavy hand has a hold of my heart, presses down, keeps joy from rising, from excitement growing.

I’m a tangled metal knot with no idea how to lift the oppression. It’s debilitating—how does it dissipate?

I share this with Eric as I brew the coffee, kettle boiling, beans ground into powder for my pour over. He takes me face in his hands and leans me in close, nuzzles my nose.

“It’s like a tangled fishing line,” he explains, the man familiar among open water. “There can be many knots—big ones that take a lot of line, small, tight ones that seem almost impossible to sort. But you work them out, massage the line. It takes time, and you have to be patient, but eventually the knots loosen and come undone, and you’ve got a full, clean line again. Sometimes you have to clip, sometimes you lose a hook, but eventually it works out, if you take the time and care.”

I stare into his blue eyes, still sleepy in their own right, but true and focused, soft. His next words are almost a whisper. “That’s what God’s doing with you. You are uniquely made and it’s beautiful. Something’s gotten tangled inside, and He’s sorting it out with His own hands, helping you untangle.”

I hold to his words, wondering. That’s a new picture I’ve never drawn before. The tender process of becoming undone to be pieced together. The strong and nimble fingers of my Lord, massaging out the clump of knots crimping my life flow. Bending close, breath on my face as He studies what has curled to choke me inside, maneuvers each strand to slip free.

It’s in this intimacy where I find my God Immanuel, the One who wants to be with me. If I lean in, allow Him His work, I find His presence, find healing strength in Him.

Make a Way in Me

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the 
afflicted;
You encourage them, and You
listen to their cry.
-Psalm 10:17

 

You are faithful, even in the midst of the raging storm. You are the God who calms the seas; surely, You can calm the sea in me.

Calm the raging sea in me; say to my mind and soul, “Peace, be still.”
Help me to be still and know Your goodness, Your timing, Your ways, Your presence. Joy and hope amidst the hard, my God. I ask for joy and hope, a sound mind and secure heart.

You are my firm foundation and I climb on top to stand, however unsteady my hands and feet. You are the One who sees and knows all the swirls within me. And You love me, though it’s hard to feel. But faith is not based on sight, but stepping one foot in front of the other in the unknown, choosing to trust You are over all, You are over me.

Be over me, my God. My good Father, whose plans for my life are good, for hope and a future. You are making way for my good future. Just help get me through the storm, get in the boat and soothe me to sleep as You slice through the waves, guiding me. God, steer me through. God, calm me through the middle of the water, when there is no shore in sight, when I tremble with fear and am frantic for land.

Be in the boat with me. You know these waters well. You know me well; call out my name and speak to my deep places where You know better than I do what I need. You know what I need, my Counselor and Comfort.

You are my fixed point on a shaky axis. Rescue me, out of Your great mercy. Restore me through the suffering. Give me Your grace for today, but bring hope to my heart and healing to my body, mind and soul. You are able, and You are near.

Faithful One, be faithful to me. I want to see You, hear You, know and experience You in deeper and new ways. I want a way out, yes, but I want You too.

 

**

Read the rest over at Awake Our Hearts!

Wait

It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
-Luke 23:54

 

We wait for You, we wait through the grave, the darkness, the disappointment. We wait holding our breath, the stillness of our lungs matching Yours. Such uncertainty in these moments, not sure how it will end.

You lay silent, also waiting. “It is finished,” You said, but we do not know what that means. So we wait with You, disbelief still pooling in our eyes, willing You to come back, evidence of otherwise rolled and sealed with a stone.

We prepare the burial spices with shaky hands, hearts numb with the weight of what we’ve seen. You were the One to save, and we are left bewildered, wanting.

We do not understand that it is finished means all is right, restored. Slowly, in the tick of hours as everything lay suspended, an unfolding begins, prepares.
You are coming again, like You said, and You are changing everything.

We wait, ready ourselves for another day, distracted by our sorrow. We forget to lift our eyes to the horizon, count the days and fasten to the dawn that draws near. “Hold on,” our hearts cry out, “just a little longer.” Our tears will dry; something shifts when we are least expectant.

Wait, You have reminded us.
There will come an exhale.

Resurrection

Jesus,
You are the resurrection and life.
So why am I falling apart,
unraveling?
You broke open
for our vulnerable frailty.
In my brokenness
I come, crumbling, to You.
When You lay in a tomb,
chest still, fingernails still flecked
with blood and wood, I, too,
slowed my lungs.

Yet here You are,
flesh and bone and spirit,
whole and free.
Where is my resurrection?
I still wait for lightness
in my soul and a mind
quieted with Your love,
long for joy and fullness.

Return me to life.
By your breath I inhale,
receive the same power
that burst open your eyes,
warmed your palms.
I, too, fold and break
to come alive.

Hosanna

They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting,
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
-John 12:13

 

What did the people think, as they saw You heading towards the Jewel City? What did they believe they would see? The survival of Your people? The placement of a new King? They had waited for Your arrival for millennia, and now You appeared, shifting Your weight on the seat of a donkey’s foal. How their eyes must have lit up, sparked to life by the glimpse of their Savior. How the whispers glided from mouth to mouth: “He is here! He has come! To free us from our chains of burden!”

Branches snapped away from trees, laying as pavement on the dusty road ahead.

“Hosanna!” They shouted, dirt-specked faces full of hope.

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Sandaled feet slapped the ground as the crowd ran beside You, arms and palm branches swaying in the air as You continued Your entrance into Jerusalem. How excited they grew. How expectant they were of Your reign.

You saw them coming from a distance. Felt their eagerness in Your heart. To fulfill Your Father’s words, the final stretch was spent on the back of a placid mule. The chanting reached Your ears.

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Sandaled feet slapped the ground as the crowd ran beside You, arms and palm branches swaying in the air as You continued Your entrance into Jerusalem. How excited they grew. How expectant they were of Your reign.

You saw them coming from a distance. Felt their eagerness in Your heart. To fulfill Your Father’s words, the final stretch was spent on the back of a placid mule. The chanting reached Your ears.

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

A bittersweet smile crossed Your lips. You had come to diminish darkness, but not from the seat of a throne. Rather, You would rule from the ruins of a tree, splayed in shame, broken for our burden. You would fight for Your people, without words, without lifting an arm in attack.

You knew what lay ahead, You knew what You would suffer. And You knew that the crowds welcoming You in with happy faces would turn sour and be among the first to seek to slay You.

Steadily You rode on, following the trail of palms and entering the city which waited to close in on You. To take You and beat You, drag You out and hoist You on a cross atop a hill.

Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

 

 

You took the fall for me. You knew what was in store for You and You rode on, into the grasp of darkness to turn it into light. Blessed be the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.