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?

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.

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.

 

 

 

Appearing in the Flames

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 
Exodus 3:2

The Lord, appearing in the flames, the fire.

To refine, protect, to show up in the scorch of suffering.

He’s all about intimacy, desirous of deeper relationship. He will use all situations to draw us to His heart. Including a bush that burns deep in the wilderness, where there seems to be no way.

But He has been here, with me, even when it’s been intolerable, unbearably painful.

He is here with you, nestled in the bush, bearing with you in your burden.

Take off your sandals, for where you stand burns holy.

Open up your heart, bare your worry, your struggle, and let the flames purify.

He is here, with us when we can no longer feel our way through. The flames do not go out; they burn but will not consume.

God is faithful through our fears; His flame flickers holy. Be bare before Him; there is purpose in this pain. The Holy One transforms the hard to holy ground.

 

Treasures in the Dark

“I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”
-Isaiah 45:3

 
You hold treasures in the dark,
where I grope and stagger 
my hands and feet to feel those
gems you leave for me.
My faith is not from sight,
and while this valley spreads its
shadows, You shed Your light 
within these secret places
that urge and nudge me
closer to Your heart,
the murmur of Your voice
that summons me and
breathes my name.

Out of Place

Everything is out of place.

The breath in my lungs,
beat of my heart.
Vision now: shapes and shadows.

Jostled, shaken, stirred
and pressed back in sideways;
nothing’s like it should be.

All I wanted was to
make sense of things;
here, there is no knowing,
no moments understood.
Just a picking apart
of what pieced me together,
a stitch undone,
a snip comes uncurled.

Is this mess or mystery?

Everything is jarred, loose,
unsettled, restrung.
A shedding of soul,
carving of bones.

Just Believe

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
-Mark 5:36

 

It’s a simple thing, You say. To have faith. Faith in the smallest measure moves mountains, makes a way. Faith is honored, acknowledged, and in faith, I can come closer to You.

But I believe I have a brittle faith, one that still shakes and tremors. I pull into myself, bow my head and make myself unseen, not daring to lift my eyes and open my mouth to agree with You in faith for the deep things of my heart.

Why can’t I just believe? Why am I afraid to believe? I am afraid that if I release myself into freedom of believing You, I’m just tricking myself into creating an excuse to go after what I want.

I cannot equate the way I feel with anything that could be from You.

“Do not be afraid; just believe.” Your words, meant to soothe and build trust, strengthen faith. In context, You raise a man’s dead daughter. You do the impossible like it is simply Your everyday way. Because it is.

I can feel like the man’s dead daughter, lifeless, unmoving. Frozen in fear that what I want doesn’t line up with you, and if I open up to my deepest desires, I’ll be falling into sin and away from Your best for my life. I do not want to sin for the sake of my desires. Though what really calls to me the deepest are those places of desire and need nestled carefully in my tender heart. You tell me to believe, to follow You, and You give me just enough light to see the next step. But how do I know if it is You I am following when where I’m going couldn’t possibly make sense, couldn’t possibly be a part of Your plan? Even when my heart cries desperately otherwise.

Slow down. Remember to breathe. I am still breathing, and You are still here. You tell me to stop thinking, just believe, that I am missing the mark when I manifest my fears and diminish my faith.

Look to You. Look to who You are, who You have shown Yourself to be. Faithful. True. Loving. Kind. You do not want me to torment myself with wondering where I should draw my line on belief, how I should rate myself on my perspective of faith. I’ve already spent too much energy on worry that won’t come to life because it’s all in my thoughts, nothing has happened. I make it a mess and don’t sit still long enough for you to untangle me.

I am tangled, yes; my heart has slowed, yes. But I do not want to stay like this. I will sit still for You to carefully pull apart my confused thoughts, quiet me with Your love, and remind me I am fully Yours and because You are, I am.

You bring my belief back to life when I quiet myself and choose to believe my desires and heart align with Yours. Because we are connected, because I long for what You long for, because my heart beats for what Yours beats for.

It is a new awakening, holding on to hope. Lifting my face and meeting Your eyes, my heart jumping with expectancy.

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

 

Sometimes, my faith falters and I find myself doubting. But You know my heart, and You know who I can be in You. Thank You that You love me enough to still my racing thoughts and untangle the mess I make in my disbelief. Thank You that You fill me with trust in You, to remember Your character and how You love, and that You align my heart with Yours. Help me to hold tight to You, to stretch my faith and choose to believe Your truth over any fears I may have. I love You. Amen.

 

Awake, O Sleeper

“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
-Ephesians 5:14

Awake, O sleeper.
Lift your eyes,
arise from the depths
and touch your heart
to the light that lies within.
Come to life
in a whisper of breath,
lean into wonder.
Listen, believe, stand true,
the Light of this world
shines in You.

 

For Me

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
-Daniel 4:2

 

For Sarah, You kept a promise to fill her barren lands with fertile soil, producing an heir and assuring her heart of hope.

For Moses, You made his mumbles move Egyptian mountains, pulled back the curtains of the sea to let Your glory gleam a path of rescue.

For Rahab, You sent Your spies into her sultry lair and softened her heart to save her life, to keep her family from crumbling with once impenetrable walls.

For David, You took a shepherd boy and anointed his head with dripping oil, sealing his service to the power of Your kingdom.

For Esther, You held an orphan in Your arms and presented her as Queen of a nation, Your mouthpiece to save Your people.

And for Daniel, You sealed the mouths of mighty beasts and kept their claws from the skin of one who refused to bow before any name but Yours.

For me, You heard a lonely cry and caught my tears pulling me to Your protection and the warmth of Your light.

For me, You walked across the universe and slipped into a waiting world, speckled Your sandals with dust and dreams and took the trail to my redemption.

For me, You called my name upon the cross, carrying my soul through the cosmos to touch the door of death, so You would keep me at the threshold, never allowed to enter.

For me, You reached towards my trembling mouth and set Your speech upon my lips, growing my gladness at Your grace.

For me, You claimed me as Your own and bound me to Your side, where I will stay with sweet certainty and promised peace.

 

Father God, the Most High in the heavens, I thank You for the miracles and wonderful works You have done for Your people! Throughout history You have had Your hand upon Your servants and have led them to You. But what is unfathomable is that You remembered me through the generations, that You called my name to make me Yours. Let me marvel at Your grace and make my life point to You. Amen.