Truth

I don’t know what to say, and I certainly don’t know what to do about all the turmoil in our country.

So much anger. Travesty and injustice.

An uncovering of the evil in human hearts.

A sadness at the wickedness in mine.

So many voices clamoring. Enough opinions to fill the sky.

Pandemic or politics or current events–you can find someone to say what you want to say, what you want to believe.

And you can find someone to make you doubt what you thought was true.

We all have bias because of our circle of influence. No one is exactly right.

So I can’t believe everything someone else thinks. I can’t believe everything I think.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Is anyone else just tired of all the words?

How are we to navigate the distortion of facts? How are we to find truth?

This is what God’s wisdom looks like: Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

He is our truth, our light. His words are alive and powerful, eternal and right. It is only as we align ourselves with Him that we can walk a straight path, a path of truth.

So I keep turning my face to the hope of the gospel, the good news that changes us and changes our future. I love the core of it, the truth of it. God looked down on our evil, straying hearts. Hearts that continually pushed Him away, running and turning and seeking anything but Him. He looked down on disobedience and faulty thinking and rebellion. He looked down on murder and deceitfulness and sin of every kind.

And He loved us. Every one of us. Enough to send His only Son to pay for it all.

Let that be the beginning of turning your heart and face toward Him.

Let that pierce your deepest gloom.

He says, Come.

Come with your weariness. Come with your thirst. Come with your sin and brokenness. Come with your struggle.

Bring your bias and your evil heart and just come.

Come and find rest.

Some day He will rule with strength and kindness. Some day every knee will bow to Him. Someday peace will flow like a river.

How I long for it more and more.

Until then, He will continue to do a work in me. He will teach me and stretch me and grow me. He will use all this earthly chaos to make me more like His Son.

This trouble is His intended, refining fire.

And what does He want of me? The world’s problems are not mine to solve. He doesn’t expect me to have all the answers. In my sphere, He wants me to be just. In my story, He expects me to love kindness. In my life, I can walk humbly with Him.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

I can seek Him and His truth. I can fear and obey and follow after righteousness. I can strive to love Him with my soul and strength and might.

And as I learn to love Him, I understand a little more about the truest, best kind of love.

As I learn to love Him, He teaches me what it means to love my neighbor as myself.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The long road

I find a healing strength in being outside.

Out of doors, away from floors and ceilings and furniture. Close to fresh air and sunshine and creation. It brings me to deep thought and a clarity of thinking. It refreshes. Seeing God’s workmanship helps me put in perspective all of the circumstances that are under His rule.

The fresh air eases my mind, soothes my soul.

I’ve had many years of walking and running outside in the early mornings. It’s been much more than physical for me–the musing on scriptural truth during this alone time has grounded me, inspired me, and encouraged me. I have prayed and wept and grappled with doubt. I have gloried in the goodness of God.

All of my best thoughts come in the early hush of day.

A few years ago when several studies showed that interval training was actually better for the heart than longer, slower runs, I started doing intervals some days–sprints interspersed with walking. I began to love the short, fast runs.

But eventually I realized that almost all my runs had become shorter runs.

It had been quite awhile since I had just kept going. And when I did, I was surprised at how hard it was.

Physically–my breathing was heavy. Mentally–I was impatient and bored with just plugging along. I had lost my endurance.

I’m reminded that most trials are over quickly. They bring pressures that push us hard but then are gone. We can bear up under those sorts of things. We are sobered and stretched but not wearied. A burst of faith and answered prayer and then we are back to our comfortable living.

But sometimes a longer road stretches ahead. Trouble that will last awhile or trouble that is not going away. A disappointment, a grief, a diagnosis. A difficult relationship, a sorrow. A circumstance we cannot escape sitting heavy and close.

It takes discipline and perseverance and more than a little faith to keep moving forward. It takes commitment and grit to face the steep hills when you are already tired.

What is your long road? What wearies you, making it hard to breathe?

What impossible thing stretches out in front of you?

Some places feel too hard, and you would give almost anything to be done. To turn right around and sprint back to the before. I understand that longing.

But this appointed path is yours.

I’ve learned that long runs require a different pace. Steady and slower, one stretch at a time. It helps not to think about the distance yet to go. It helps to focus on the steps right in front of you.

Let go of the heaviness of regret or bitterness. Keep your eyes open to the beauty along the way–all the lovely, good gifts God gives. Let your heart be drawn to Him. Keep your face turned toward the Path Maker–the only One who knows the intricacies of the course. Let Him anchor you, nourish you. Let Him carry you when your strength is gone.

He gives sips of cool water from a living stream.

Allow joy to settle deep as you embrace your path. All of its valleys and tight places are uniquely yours. There is purpose in the running–perfecting your patience, proving your faith, preparing your heart. There is a prize to win. When you crest that final hill and the road opens up to reveal the finish line, you will be so glad you kept going.

There is not one step you will regret when you are finally home.

Let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the shadow

We’ve been memorizing Psalm 91, and I’ve been repeating the first verse over and over. This psalm was dear to me when Marissa was fighting her battle, and it comforts me now.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 

A beautiful picture of safety and rest.

But that shadowed place is not always pleasant. It can seem restrictive–claustrophobic, even.

That protected shelter can be filled with darkness.

Every person in the world is being touched by this virus in some way, and each one has his own level of suffering.

Lonely, or wishing for time alone.

Jobless, or facing risk by working each day.

Fearful, disappointed in changed plans, bored or frustrated.

Sick and even dying.

We understand that God is moving, but we just don’t know what He is doing.

We are longing for a sense of control. For freedom from a cramped place. For an end to pain and suffering.

We are crying out for light.

And here is the blessed truth–all of this darkness is light to Him.

Can you cease your struggling long enough to let God be God to you?

Will you trust the Author with His story?

Each character, every detail, all the individual narratives are working to further His kingdom. He is not surprised by this plot twist.

Only God can take this mess of tragedy, fear, and upheaval and make it good. This shadowed place is meant to stretch our trust in the God who sees it all. Our struggle is intended to make us like His Son, to ready our souls for an unimagined glory.

We need to remember that the story ends well.

This week is called the Passion Week–the days leading up to Christ’s death on the cross. Though He compassionately taught and prepared His followers, I can imagine the darkness of that day for them. The gaping chasm between what they knew and what they felt.

I can hear their wondering. Where is God? Why this darkness? How can this possibly be the plan?

I can understand their fear of failing faith.

But Sunday is coming.

In spite of shadows, in spite of dark fears, in spite of all the wondering, the resurrection is sure. The cave will be empty. The plan for our redemption will be secured.

Let that brightness of grace seep into all your shadowed places.

He is risen, as He said.

Hallelujah!

He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble

We’ve been plunged into trouble, haven’t we?

I once had my raft overturn while white water rafting in the early spring–the shock of sudden submersion in the freezing water, the fear of the jagged rocks all around, being briskly carried toward the unknown and dangerous–it all feels familiar right now.

I had a life jacket on, but I certainly didn’t feel safe.

Are you struggling to feel secure? Protected? Sheltered?

Does it feel like the weight of fear might pull you under?

Courage, Friend.

This story was written long ago. Every detail is exactly as it should be.

You are not alone and not forsaken.

Fear has a way of making you forget who God is and who you are in Him.

When everything seems out of control, we remind ourselves. We get up each day and put on our armor–the belt of truth and the shield of faith. The breastplate of righteousness. We carry the sword of the Spirit–God’s very words which are alive and powerful and sharp. We engage in a spiritual battle in order to bring all of our thoughts into captivity.

We continue to love and worship the One who controls it all.

And we do fear. But not as the world fears. We don’t fear sickness or dying. We don’t fear loss of income or the disappointment of our best and dearest plans. We don’t fear a changed world or a changed life.

We fear God. And we pray that many might come to fear Him.

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

And we trust Him to do good. To work every moment and every detail for our eternal good and His glory.

Because we remember who He is and what He has done. We have already been snatched out of deepest darkness and utter despair by His beloved Son. We are already rescued, already safe.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

Every part of this story is already written.

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? Ecclesiastes 7:10,13

So we humble ourselves under His mighty hand. We do the work we are given to do. We cry out for mercy to the only One who can straighten this crooked path.

And we rejoice that He alone is life. He died to conquer every kind of death.

Just breathe that in. Deeply and confidently. Rest fully in the truth of it.

You are held by the Creator, the Savior, the Eternal God.

You are held by the Death-defeater, and He will hold you fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to rest

Marissa Alice Bundy – October 2, 1990 – March 6, 2017

How can it be three years?

Three years since I saw her face or touched her skin or smelled her hair. Three years since I heard her speak or saw her laugh.

Three years since she left this world for another one, so far away from here.

My husband and I still stand by her grave and feel a stunned disbelief.

Grief is a little like wandering. Some days the path is gentle and peaceful. You wouldn’t have chosen this way, but there is enough beauty and joy and strength to keep moving. You have at least emerged from the thorny beginning to a level place.

But there are still days that bring you to a low point of struggle and longing and unrest. There are still mountains that seem impossible to climb.

I have been reading in the Psalms again. I used to think of this book as easy reading, but now I see deep emotion worked out in faith. From the lowest depths to the highest peak, a truthful power of believing that God covers everything.

He is big enough to surround it all.

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 116: 7-9

I love when the Psalmist speaks to his own soul. He reminds himself of God’s bountiful grace to him. A deliverance from deserved death, a comfort in raw, tear-filled sorrow, a holding up, a carrying in the rugged places.

Return, O my soul, to your rest.

And I am so thankful for the returning.

For faith given to repeatedly turn my soul back toward God, toward rest.

It is a choice I make–turn to God. Hold onto hope. Rest.

Soul work to be done every day.

And as I choose, I am enabled.

Return, O my soul, to your rest.

Disappointment will come. Life will overwhelm. There may be sickness and never-sweet sorrow. An aching of body and heart.

And it’s all just part of this beautiful but weary road. Part of this path that leads to glory.

I remember that long day three years ago, death hovering around us as we waited. Marissa somewhere between this life and the next. As she neared her normal bedtime, I whispered to her that it was time to sleep. Time to go.

And at 9:55 she rested.

He shepherded my little one all the way.

She has been delivered from it all.

Her soul has returned to a beautiful forever rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep water

It is early morning and a heavy rain is falling.

I am thinking about a far away country. A place filled with both people I have read about and people I know. Marissa is there. My mother and father are there.

My Savior is there, my King. He is all the light there.

I am thinking about the sea of life that leads to that forever kingdom. The sea is rarely smooth, and it’s not meant to be. The waves–sometimes gentle, sometimes menacing–teach us to balance, to focus, to trust the helmsman.

Do you feel your legs getting stronger as you brace for the waves?

It is all grace that we are not falling down in the choppy waters, in the storm.

It is all grace that we are being strengthened even as our hearts are quaking.

Struggling to stand is not at all the same thing as falling.

My prayer list is full of struggling sailors.

I don’t understand why many are called to such deep water. Constant turbulence and waves that won’t stay calm. Fears turning into reality. Crippling squalls.

When they prayed, “Lord, send me anywhere,” they didn’t know that anywhere could be here.

The whys and their answers don’t belong to me.

But I see a steady light of faith in these ships all around me, and in the dark I hear songs of deliverance. It seems the most overwhelmed are singing the sweetest, melodic praise.

Hope settles around me, filling my heart. I am grateful for the light, for the singing.

My soul has an Anchor. It is safe and kept. Eternal. Secure. Loved.

Jesus is near me, with me. He can walk on the deepest water. I am not alone.

His love will never fail.

This storm is equipping me, strengthening me, preparing me.

This deep water is not meant to destroy.

This deep water is simply the path to home.

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Stedfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.  Priscilla Jane Owens

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:7, 11

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January

I’ve been doing my best to make friends with January.

New starts and new charts and a new me–I’ve never been good at channeling that into one month. I do evaluate my life and move toward change, but I’m more successful if I don’t try to alter too many things at one time.

And January memories are hard. So many cold and harsh moments in that January three years ago. A battle so intense that we didn’t fully realize that our sweet girl was slipping away.

Memory flares into emotion that I cannot will away.

But I can speak truth into it.

The burdens of the year are already heavy–so many battles to bring before the Lord each day. I sympathize more now with the weight of suffering and try to help bear the burdens of others in prayer. I have found the best way to relieve the heaviness in my own heart is to pray truth back to God, to recount to Him what He is like and what He has promised. To sit still with the enormity of who He is.

And that’s what we can do with the new year in front of us. Speak truth to our fear, to our heartache, to our expectations.

Move toward right thinking and right doing.

Be patient. Be grateful for mercy. Be confident in hope.

Cling to the One who planned and knows and is present in every tomorrow.

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:25-26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calm and bright

It’s early morning and the house is quiet. I love this time of day best. Fire burning and tree lights twinkling. My heart settled in truth.

Before the frenzied rush of day, my soul stilled and filled with God.

I know that all of my living and doing and striving can take me far away from peace. My memories and anxious thoughts can distance me from these calm and hushed moments.

Do you feel it in your busyness? In your distress? The stretching and groaning of your soul?

I think back to that Christmas three years ago, when life was growing dark.

https://tracinghisgoodness.com/2016/12/15/immanuel/

But even there, a soft, calming light of truth was near. We were never alone, never forsaken. We were strengthened for every hard moment. We were blessed to see God through it all.

He was very present in our trouble. And He is here in all of the mundane of today. Still speaking light into all of the corners of my life.

We pass a house in our neighborhood that is decorated profusely for the holidays. In the bright light of day, it looks cluttered and a little shabby. But in the night, the lights shine over it, making it cheerful and bright.

We are a little like that house. Examined closely, we are faded and worn, weary and run down. Rooms of sadness. Rooms of fear. We are sitting in such darkness.

But into that darkness has come a marvelous, glorious, gentle light.

Emmanuel. God with us.

Jesus.

He has enough light for all our darkness. Enough joy for every sadness. He speaks peace to all our fear.

He came to give us an eternal hope. To transform our tattered gloom into radiant joy.

To be our King. To save us.

O come, let us adore Him.

The Sunrise in our shadowed darkness.

Christ, the Lord.

Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:78-79

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perspective

Summer turned to fall so slowly this year, reluctantly letting go of its warmth. It is a surprise to be at the end of November. The frosty morning air and the quickly darkening afternoon sky still startle me some days.

Each season has its hard and its lovely. We can resent the cold and darkness or we can embrace them. I like to make friends with the new season, changing my rhythm to fully experience it.

But there is an adjustment. A change of thinking. A putting away of picnics and pools and gardens. A pulling out of sweaters and blankets and candles.

Exchanging the color of dancing flowers for the color of dying leaves.

All change requires adjusting, accepting, settling. Letting ourselves sit with the way it is rather than the way we want it to be.

Perspective is everything, isn’t it?

Some life events are big, changing our direction and our expectations.

The wind shifts just so, and we are in the middle of a storm. Not just a quickly moving squall, but a tempest that changes our course.

Perspective lets us cling to what is good: the anchoring of our souls, the promises of God, the friends alongside us. Even when a storm threatens to sweep everything away, the Creator is near. A very present help in trouble.

He is piloting our boat, steadily and silently. He is taking us somewhere safe.

This is Thanksgiving week, and many layers of memory surround me. Many happy, carefree remembrances, but some shadowed and dark layers. I miss my mom and dad. I ache for Marissa.

But I am clinging to what is good.

Thankfulness is simply a faith-filled perspective.

I am grateful for my reconciliation with God through His Son. For His every-day mercies, His powerful promises, His gentle, constant presence. I praise Him for the beautiful people He has given me to love, and for His bountiful provision of every needed thing.

I am looking for my future home where all the shadowed layers are turned to light and the heaviness of grief is lifted. Where all the broken things are healed.

Where the Lamb is all the glory.

Where I will sing forever of His faithfulness in the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures

For Rissa on her birthday

I was just looking through all our apple-picking pictures over the years. I remember how you were the one to insist on all the photos, how you would gather the groups and make sure all the various combinations were taken.

Those pictures represent some of our happiest memories–all of us running away to the mountains together. Feeding the sheep and eating hot doughnuts and drinking apple cider.

I think of the kindness of our Father when I see them. I look at you, your joyful face. I touch each picture with gratefulness.

We have our last family picture hanging on the wall, taken in January of 2017. I love it because we are all together, but I can see the strain behind our eyes. You had just gotten home from the hospital where we had received the worst kind of news. You had oxygen waiting in the car, and we wheeled you to the field in the wheelchair. The unspoken pressure was there to capture the last family portrait. All of the siblings took a picture alone with you. We laughed (as we do) and did the best we could.

When I see that picture, I see your face full of grace. Your hair is short and your face is puffy from the steroids. You have endured more than many 80-year-olds. You are tired and sad and maybe a little confused. But you are standing straight, and I see your unwavering heart in your face.

I love your heart, Beanie.

Today is your birthday, and we’ll do our best to celebrate the things you love. We’ll take new flowers to the cemetery. We’ll look at old photos.

And even though the pictures only reflect a snippet of your life, a fragment of your time here, they are precious.

They help us remember all the days of you, all the ways of you. How blessed we are to be your people, your family.

I think about heaven and how little we really know about it. God only gives us glimpses of its beauty. It doesn’t always feel like enough, and we are left wondering and longing and reaching.

But that’s how pictures are. Just snapshots of the whole.

Your smile does not reflect the whole of you, the fullness of your story. And my small assurances of heaven cannot reflect the majesty and power and glory in your present, unseen picture.

But I cherish the pictures, those I can hold and those I can’t. The glimpses of past joy and the promises of the future. I’m grateful for all the pieces.

And by faith, I believe in the whole. The glorious expanse of what God has prepared for those who love Him.

Unknown and unseen, but as real as your smile. As real and as eternal as you.

Today I am touching all the pictures with faith.

I am touching them with full assurance.

I am touching them with gratefulness.

Happy birthday, Rissa. I love you forever.