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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.

 

 

 

Resurrection Within

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
-John 11:25-26

 

Resurrection never proved so daring.

My dead heart, and how I search for any sign of life within.

But You are in the business of miracles. Of new creation, restoration, calling forth what once was waste now into wonder.

How to hope? How to hold my dreams in my hand? How to believe You see all of me and yearn to breathe fresh feeling into my bones? For so long I’ve been stale of heart, glossed it over, shrunk it away. This life has burned its flesh, scarred my soul and terrified me to try living with my heart again.

To know no emotion is to know nothing at all.

For so long I have merely existed, no nod to beauty that You bring before me, no allowance of lips spread in smile, or true joy full in the springs of my soul.

It is torment to trust You with my most delicate pieces. I am so afraid that You will learn my secret desires and struggles, coax me from my fear, and shatter me again. And so I sit and watch the world go by, each sight seen without eyes, each sense felt with no touch. Scar tissue grows on me like climbing ivy. If I do not allow You to intervene, soon it will wrap around the throat of my heart and choke me. I ask to live; I don’t want to fall asleep breathing toxins of indifference into my lungs.

You say to trust You with all my heart. Its frailty, its hurt, the past that has stung and the future that has not yet touched me. Faith fixed on You, imploring me to bare open in nakedness once more.

I do not know how to live without detaching head from heart, how to stop myself and listen for the quiet beats, its voice stirred alive by the promise of who You are. How to gently stroke its sleeping form and whisper, “Awake, my heart.” Pull back the curtain on a new day that dawns with whatever You choose to share with me, hand in Yours, steady breath, willing to bleed and break and build back up because You offer soothing balm.

Let me listen. May I not forget my heart in the madness that is life. May I remember to let it lead the way, the route that finds its journey with You.

The wind stirs soft beneath my breast. To feel is to face the true grit of grace. Here I plunge from the ledge, leap into the abyss. Hand over my heart, fall onto You to carry every pound of my weight. And as I slip with no ground beneath me, I pry the lock from my stone heart and give permission to venture forth with feeling. To encounter it all, to be known by You in the marrow of this risk. It is a daring faith to let You lead. But I am ready. I am willing. It is time. It is time long overdue.

Come, awake, my heart. Speak your mind. Tell me what I dream to hear. Wander free. Raise in me a greater depth to share the ebb and flow of God’s pulse along my currents. Come awake so I may live, and live in full.

 

 

My heart has been on standby for a long time. Stuck in autopilot, keeping quiet for fear of being hurt and broken again. So much disappointment, disbanded dreams, pain and surprises. My fragile heart longs to lift in hope. Lift my heart, Lord. Open it to listen, to hear Your gentle voice full of truth and grace. I long to place my full weight of trust on You once more. Amen.

Longing for Life

The Spirit of the Lord shakes the pillars, rattles the roof where we reside. Meet us here, in the whirl of the wind. Rattle our hearts, shake our souls awake.

Bare branches sway in the sky. Bare, but they will bloom, bear buds and leaves and flower petals—each unique to the type of bush and tree.

Bring them to life. Bring us to life, for this is a beginning. We are longing for life, even if we don’t yet know it’s life in You that we are looking for. We seek in all different spaces, each heart moving to make a way for what is missing. Will You make Your way in us? That we may be filled to the measure of Your love, a depth that knows no end?

You have sent Your Spirit to speak the Good News of new life. From death and burial comes newness, breath. From thirst to satisfaction. Dry bones manifest flesh, become whole.

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

His Light, A Loosening

In obedience to the Lord, you may find yourself in the darkness, but do not panic, for He will bring you the light you need at just the right time.
-Warren Wiersbe, Be Comforted

I struggle with where I am, fight with a tightness in my chest, a veil over my heart. This dim light of a season of fatigue, head fog, and anxiety stretches on, longer than I ever would have imagined. This is not something of my choosing, but God knows this. He knows the inside of my heart, the private corners I don’t even like to share with myself. He sees my scared heart, my fears that force their way into my head, the patterns of thinking I can’t seem to stop.

But there is hope. He has guaranteed it. And I am an active participant in this stretching, this suffering. These growing pains result in my good, even in the middle of this process. Even when there’s no timeframe that shows the end. But it will not last forever. He is providing for me right here, right now. Holding on to me when I have no strength to cling on my own.

I lift my heart, my mind, to the sky that is a settling blue today. It’s been so gray for so long, low-hanging clouds dampening the view.

 

For with You is the fountain of life;
in Your light we see light.
-Psalm 36:9

Your light, the glow that brings illumination in the darkness. You have led me into this darkness, the bleak caverns that cover my sight, but You have also given me Yourself, a guiding light that leads me out into the life You have in store, one that results in my good and Your glory.

Every day, I have a choice. To curl up and feebly live through the day, or fight for the faith I know is there despite what I cannot see. Faith becomes sight, and the sliver of light He gives today will grow brighter tomorrow. It’s the mindset of more, more trust, more faith, more of Him making a way. With the God of the universe beside me, what can I truly fear?

Today I am choosing to hold to the light, to stay my eyes on a blue sky. God is faithful. The dark does not last. I open to that tightness in my chest, acknowledge my fear, my disappointment, and I give grace to myself that I have not allowed in a long time. Grace grows to acceptance, a release of burdens I was never meant to bear.

Believe His presence is the fountain of sustaining waters springing forth in my soul. Believe His light is strong enough to penetrate the blackest night.

When I don’t understand, I choose to obey anyway. At just the right time, His light breaks through and goodness will once again flood my soul. Joy will come in the morning. Sorrow gives way to singing. In my weakness, His strength becomes my lifeline. He brings His light, right on time. I take hold to this comfort and let my chest expand a little more, allow a loosening, release.

Heart on Display

I am still confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

-Psalm 27:13

 

Why can I not open up to God with the deep, close things of my heart? I know I want to, but I hold Him at arm’s length at times, keeping my fears and hurts well hidden. There is a link between hoping and waiting. Hope involves groaning, longing. And those longings are stretched and laid bare in the waiting; I am helpless to cover up and hide them. As I wait, I hold open my heart, into those deep places where I want to find comfort and healing and answered prayers.

How much longer can I keep my heart on display? How much longer can I believe that God will make a way, that He will respond and show me His goodness here in the land of the living?

What does His goodness look like?

I turn on a podcast my friend Molly suggested I listened to. Molly, in all her counselor wisdom, points me to the sharpness in my spirit and gives words to the pain.

Hope is letting yourself want.  -Adam Young “Why Your Story Makes It Hard To Hope” podcast episode

Does it make sense to hope? Do I let myself want? Do I use my guttural cries to make myself expectant? Believe? I don’t think so. But part of me desperately wants to, so I keep listening.

In Psalm 27:13–it is before I die, in this life, God will hear my cry and give me what I long for.  -Adam Young

Life within the life. But what about my desires for my life versus God’s? Could they ever match up?

Adam continues to present truths and my ears sharpen to the list.

Living in hope requires three things to happen at the same time:

  1. Bringing our specific longings and desires to God
  2. Expecting God to meet those desires
  3. Wrestling with how He can be a good Father when He hasn’t met the desire yet

 

When disappointments pile up, it creates questions about God, doubts, anger, and resentment. When repeated disappointments make longing for something painful, the tendency is to kill the desire. 

He’s speaking right to me. Yup. I’ve tried to deaden my desire. Over and over.

His next words shake me: But it’s also a deadening of hope in God to do the miraculous.

This hits me sharp, sudden reminder of what I’m inadvertently cutting off. Adam follows up with how when we repeatedly have disappointments, they automatically build to cynicism. Thinking it won’t happen, whatever “it” is.

What can I hope for from God in the here and now? I war against hope–I try to stuff it down or kill it, but somewhere deep down won’t let me. God has put a safety switch in my heart so when I am down at the bottom, my dear, broken heart can realign and grow again.

It begins with barrenness, then buds, and then the bloom.

 

***

This is part of an ongoing series that will share excerpts of my book-in-progress, tentatively titled Grappling for Good: Revealing grace to light the dark. It’s my journey through a year of unexpected circumstances and soul excavation to discover the goodness of God in surprising ways.

Come and Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

There’s a settled quiet in the bedroom. An occasional car passes on the main street outside the window. I am waking from a nap, my husband, Eric, asleep on the living room couch: a merciful calm from the wild savagery that is COVID-19.

Though it’s late afternoon, dark is already deepening shadows through the apartment. I feel it in me, the cold and black beyond the curtains.

This soreness runs deep as I try to catch my bearings, breathe. Reprieve, I pray, lifting my heart to God, with no strength left. Mercy. Jesus, Your rest.

COVID-19 came for us swiftly and mercilessly. As we do what we can while waiting to be healthy again, one of the things we crave most is that elusive rest that is part of the healing process. We long for an alleviation of the virus and are reminded of the fragility of our bodies.

Craving rest is natural. We all run around and work ourselves into a frenetic pace that will eventually forcibly slow us down or cause our inner “check engine” light to turn on. Whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual rest, we know there has to be another way.

Jesus has been imploring us for years to find this way. It’s fairly easy to find if we pause and hear the words He’s whispered for centuries:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

He doesn’t ask us to do anything other than to simply come to Him, however burned out or burdened we are, and spend time in His presence. Who isn’t weary? Who isn’t in need of this rest? Jesus is the right refreshment and nourishment we crave. He’s well aware of our overworked hearts and stretched lifestyles and has a softer, gentler way for us.

**

I’m beyond humbled and honored to share about my need for deep soul rest at Proverbs 31 today: will you join me and hear about the rest Jesus offers?

 

Snowflakes and Sunlight

Out for a run on this mid-March day and it’s a balmy 30 degrees here in Wisconsin. Lungs burning in a good way from being outside, fighting the wind, giving my legs room to stretch and move. It’s cloudy, mirroring my season of what seems like an endless winter. Snowflakes swirl through the sky. As I round the turn in the park by the river, ice still half frozen on the water, with some space open to house ducks and geese, I feel an odd sensation on my face. I look up: sunlight and a patch of blue sky between the gray.

Spring is coming, both to this earth and to my spirit. I am in-between the seasons, and it’s symbolic as I run, pound my feet on pavement, believing God will make a way. I have still both the snow and the gray and the cold clouds in my life, through the anxiety and fear and fatigue. But a new sky is growing in me, making a way for warmer life ahead. The blue breaking through the clouds, the stream of sunlight amidst the snowflakes, this is where I am inside. This is where God is growing me and taking me from this season of suffering not that is yet finished. It is still present, but bringing hope, renewed joy as I lift my eyes and look to the Lord, these blue skies parting to pull in puffs of white again in the sky. It is good. He is here. He is doing a work, a good, deep, growing work. Within the bad, He is blending beauty.

I believe He is making a way. I am standing on His Word, His truth, His character, His promises, and His Spirit, alive within me. I don’t know what He’s doing, and we are not done in this season of scarcity, but He is creating a supple bounty in my soul and spirit. As I look ahead and thank and praise Him for taking me from where I’ve been.

I’m living in the not quite yet, but longer am I planted in the what has been.

Snowflakes and sunlight.

Suffering and strength.

Brokenness and beauty.

Everything rolls together like the cadence of the clouds, mixing and moving like a choreographed dance of dichotomy.

 

Spring is coming. Here comes the shift of my heart and mind, making a way for blue beyond these clouds.

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.

 

Heavy Winter, Hopeful Dawn

This has been a heavy winter. It’s felt especially dark, challenging, confusing, and stacked with suffering. This whole world heaves its weary chest, ragged breaths drawn from a rundown stretch of months, years.

We all have our pain, our heaviness, the rise and fall of fear and anxiety, the spread of questions gone unanswered, relief seemingly far off. Where do we run to find our way? The way seems run down.

But hope will not stay buried. Even when it’s piled down, hope still springs, still gives a lift to the weight. It shifts the heaviness from our shoulders, loosens the grip we have on weariness, angst, anger, grief, and confusion. Like the turn of light now in the later evening sky, God stays illuminated longer. We lift our eyes to the streaks of color turning in the sky, trace the outline of pines and oaks in the distance and choose to say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Be our refuge. Give us Your yoke you promise is easy.” He promises to exchange our heavy for His lightness, His Spirit gentle as He soothes our sores.

We’ve all been so sore for a long time, and we are done with it. This heavy won’t subside, but we can hand it off to the One whose shoulders are meant to carry it.//

Yes, it’s been a heavy winter. But up ahead holds a hopeful dawn. Spring is coming. The light is here. We’ve been waiting for weeks and months, and now, true to the natural rhythm of this world, time shifts, light shifts, and the biting wind and ice subside. Hallelujah, let that light come to melt this frozen world, melt frozen hearts, and warm the ones who just want to get out of the elements and stop their shivering.

Give us relief, our great God. We shouldn’t feel this heavy. We long for the softness and strength of Your arms, the pastel promises of the sky that brighter days are ahead.

 

 

**

Continuing my attempt at the Five Minute Friday weekly writing challenge. Five minutes to write on the assigned topic. Raw and unedited. (Yikes!) This week’s topic: Heavy.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

Carry My Burden

I am tired of all the exhaustion. Of all the confusion and feeling upon feeling that leaves me like I’m living underwater. I am sleep walking and long to wake up. A real wake up, where I am clear in mind and light in heart. Where I experience deep joy that wells up in me and bubbles up and out. It has been such a long winter, and the beginning of the messy March and spring still streak my soul with muck and a layer of heaviness and uncertainty.

But You are with me, even buried under the weight of my struggle. You often can do Your best work in the waiting, in the underground. Breathe in me, Lord, let Your oxygen fill my lungs and revive me again. It is not enough to long for it; I ask in faith for You to move in me. In every sinew, every cell, every stem of my brain and beat of my heart. Lift me from the mire and place me on sure ground. To whom else can I go? You hold eternal life out towards me.

//Carry my burdens, Lord. Take them from my sagging shoulders. I am weary from holding a weight I’m not meant to carry. You say to come to You and find rest, to attach to Your yoke and walk beside you, learning from You what it means to be gentle and humble in heart. Lord, I long for Your voice. I tune my ear for Your frequency; please don’t disappoint me. Please be here, in the middle of my mess, in the middle of my meltdown and confusion and strain. God, do a work. Carry me through this valley that has closed in on me in the middle of the night. Let me rest in Your arms, take comfort under the shadow of Your capable wings. There, I find my protection. There, I find my answers. There, I find my love. For You are strong, and I am weak. But Your power is made perfect in my weakness and I long to be revived by Your breath. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, make each day a little better. Be the God of hope who fills me with all joy and peace as I hope in You, by Your moving Spirit.

Carry my burdens, carry my fears. The deep-rooted fears that fester, but I now recognize for what they are. Uproot them, Lord. You are the great Gardener of my faith and heart, and replant Your truth firmly and deeply in my soul. Where there is fear, respond with love and gentleness and truth. Only You can carry this weight for me; only You know in my barest being exactly what I need.//

The wait is long, weight of it all holding me under. But God is able. Always able. And always good. Keep coming after me, Lord. Keep fighting for me, keep healing and growing me as I make my way up through the soil. It takes a long time for the sun to reach underground, but when it does, my heart and mind will spring up in the hope of Your care, unraveling the weight which I no longer carry. You have gone before me, bearing me up, carrying my burden to bring me more to life in You.

 

**

Continuing my attempt at the Five Minute Friday weekly writing challenge. Five minutes to write on the assigned topic. Raw and unedited. (Yikes!) This week’s topic: Carry.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.