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When the Waters Don’t Part

This week, we were waiting on news that we had been praying and fasting over.  During the waiting, I waffled between peace and panic.  Some moments I was desperate and on my knees, and some moments I was fully confident in God’s hand being in the situation.

Except when the news finally came, it was the opposite of what we wanted.  Despite our fasting and praying, our preparing and our planning, we were met with the devastation that we were praying against.  

I wish I could say that in my shock and sorrow, I was immediately filled with peace because, well, God.  

I wish I could say that immediately my mind was filled with Bible verses about how God was going to be with me during this next stage of my life.

I wish I could say that my mind and my heart recognized God’s hand in our situation despite how it looked and sounded.

I cannot say any of those things.

Instead, if I can be honest with you, I sat down and cried.  And cried and cried.  I cried for three days straight.  And I am crying now.  

My heart is broken into pieces and my mind is so confused.

I do take comfort in knowing that I am not alone.  I know we all experience moments of heartache in this fallen world because of sin.  But right now?  I just want to crawl into bed and sit in my sorrow.

This morning, as I was huddled in my bed with my weighted blanket covering my head, hidden in my womb-like cocoon, I heard the Lord whisper, “I’m still here.”

I didn’t respond.  It didn’t feel like He was with me, despite the promise that I teach to anyone who will listen.

“I will never leave you.”

I looked down at my hand.  Over the years, I have taught thousands of people in many countries about this promise, using my hand.  Pulling out one finger at a time, I said out loud the words that God had just reminded me.

I.

Will.

Never.

Leave.

You.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see this promise.  It’s in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I could go on and on.  But right now?  Right now, I don’t FEEL any of these verses.  

In our sorrow, we can’t rely on what we feel.  We must rely on what we know. 

And we know that God’s word is true.  

So in these moments, when I think about how God parted the water for Moses, I also realize he filled the seas for Noah.  That doesn’t mean that God wasn’t with Noah.  In fact, the opposite was true.  God sustained and protected Noah while the world around him fell apart.  

So today, I am choosing to look for peace that comes from knowing that God is with me during the storm.  That His protection and provision are enough.  That even if I don’t FEEL it, I KNOW it.  And that? That is enough to get me through today.

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Battle Posture

Last week was a hard week. 

For reasons all of us are already aware, it was a hard week for our country.  Personally, it was a hard week for me too.  Have you ever felt like you were circling the same mountain, only to end up in the same exact place that you started?  We all have those things in our lives.  That lingering argument.  An unresolved hurt.  Some unspoken tension.  

For me, those moments are so frustrating.  By nature, I am a do-er.  I want to DO something about the things that aren’t right.  In ministry, in parenting, in life, this has served me well….. most of the time.  But sometimes, even I can’t plow through a mountain.  

As I was facing one of those mountains last week, I decided to take a new tactic.  Instead of the usual tools of pleading prayers and nights spent worrying, I decided to fast and pray.  In general, I do normally fast at the beginning of every January.  It helps me listen in to what God is trying to help me focus in on for the year.  But this time, it was a little different.  I felt God gently prompting me to lay this mountain down in surrender as I worked through this fast.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were actually pretty easy.  I studied, I prayed, I read the Word, and I listened.  But Thursday?  Not so much.  By Thursday, I was frustrated with the fact that I had not yet had the break through I was hoping and praying for.  In fact, I was even more frustrated than I had been on Monday.  Praying through this, the Lord reminded me of something very powerful.

Some battles are fought in the posture of prayer, and some battles are fought in the posture of praise.

I was reminded of the story from 2 Chronicles 20, when King Jehosaphat was getting ready to fight the Moabites and the Ammonites.  These were enemies of God’s people.  So King Jehosaphat called God’s people together to fast and pray, to ask for God’s help.  This was very much the same place I found myself, facing an enemy that was bigger than myself.  Like many of us, it wasn’t that the King didn’t fear the battle he was facing.  It was just that he feared the Lord more.  When we speak of Biblical fear, we mean that in terms of awe, honor, and respect, knowing that God is bigger than anything we could face.  The last part of verse 12 is a prayer that was echoed in my own heart this week.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Oh Lord.  As 2021 has already proven rocky…….we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

As we carry with us hurts that we don’t know how to forgive…… we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

When we face these mountains that refuse to move…..we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.  

In response to the King’s prayer, the Spirit of the Lord responded in a way that only God can.  

15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 

Do you hear that sweet friend?  The battle is not yours, but God’s.  

The response of the King was praise.  Had the battle been won yet?  No, it had not even begun.  But the confidence comes when you can stand in a place of surrender to the only one who can win the battles we cannot yet see.  What that meant for me, was that it was time to lay down the weapon of prayer so I could pick up the weapon of praise. Praising God for who He is, recognizing how weak I am.

In our weakness, we are not the ones that are called to fight. Instead we are called to surrender to the only one who can.  

In King Jehosophat’s story, we read that his battle did not, in fact, get fought by him.  Instead, the Lord’s hand moved in a powerful way as the Lord proved Himself faithful once again.

As I mediated on this word that was so closely aligned to everything I was feeling, I heard God whisper some powerful words into my own heart.

The God of Moses……

The God of Daniel….

The God of King Jehosophat….

Is the God of Rachael.  

And guess what? That means He is the God of you, too, friend.

May you rest this week in the knowledge that you are incredibly loved by the one who fights our battles.

Be Blessed,

Rach

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A Season of Hiddenness

“I have had enough, Lord.”  The words of the prophet Elijah, from 1 Kings 19 could easily have been written by me.  Overcome by discouragement, exhaustion, and grief, Elijah’s prayer communicated his desire for the Lord to relieve him from the pressures of his life.  Weary from battle, from ministering to a stubborn people, and from being a lonely voice for God’s truth, his discouragement came from a place that desired for God’s standard.  

The response to that prayer?  God’s provision and a journey to a place where he would be hidden in a cave. 

Like the prophet Elijah, I feel like I am in a season where God has hidden me in a cave.  Elijah wasn’t hiding, but he was hidden.  He was hidden for his own protection, and for a season. He was hidden so that God could prepare him, give him rest, and strengthen him so that later he could use him to fulfill his calling. 

This wasn’t the first time that God hid Elijah.  Earlier, in 1 Kings 17, Elijah was hidden by a river, and God promised to send ravens to feed Elijah.  Ravens.  That made no sense.  Elijah had never experienced or seen that before.  Others would not have predicted that God would work in that way.  Yet, that is exactly what God did.

Like Elijah, in this season, God has been sending ravens to nourish and feed me.  As I am in my cave, or my river, or whatever you want to call working from my bedroom during the coronavirus, I feel so different than the life I have lived for the last 7 years…. The last 17 years…. Normally I am with the public every day.  Now I am with myself every day.  My children are at school, my husband is at work.  Even church is no longer a space to be fed in this season.  It makes no sense.  I have never experienced or seen God work in this way before.  My mentors and friends would not have predicted that God would work in this way.  Yet it is exactly what God is doing.

So I wait for the ravens.

I don’t recognize them when they come.  But after they have gone, I feel fed, nurtured, refreshed, pastored.

The ravens come in the form of professors, counselors, spiritual directors, books, articles, assignments.  I thought that starting my masters degree during the pandemic would help me to feel like I am not wasting the time.  It certainly does that, but it is doing something else.  It is bringing to me the nourishment, the soul care that I need.  That I have needed for quite some time.  I am slowly learning that our hearts become restored and healed in our seasons of hiddenness.

Last week during a moment of worship, God showed me a picture of a sonogram.  It was clearly a sonogram, much like the ones I got when I was pregnant with each of my children, and the Lord used that picture to reveal to my heart that I am in fact expecting.  Just because what He is doing is hidden, doesn’t mean He isn’t working together a miracle.  Preparing internally for what will eventually be seen externally.  Just like when you are expecting a child, preparations need to be made.  The Lord helped me to understand that I need to prepare like I would if I was expecting a child.  When you are expecting a child, you get the room ready, you prepare your heart, you purchase the tools you will need to handle the responsibility that God gives you.  It’s a temporary season of growth and pain that will eventually give birth to new life.

So I prepare.  I expect.  I receive.  And I wait.  

The way that Elijah comes out of the cave is different than what you might imagine.  The Lord did tell Elijah to expect Him, that He was getting ready to pass by.  But He didn’t come in the obvious.  He came in the stillness.

A great and powerful wind, but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

After the fire, came a gentle whisper.  It was in this whisper that the Lord spoke, giving Elijah direction, pulling him out of his season of hiddenness.

As I wait for the Lord to pull me out of this season, I recognize that it’s in the stillness that I will hear His voice.

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Praying in the New Year with Wisdom

Every year, as the Christmas season winds down and we start to get a glimpse of the changing calendar, I always pray for the Lord to lay on my heart a specific word for the year. In years past it’s been words like refuge, rest, and abide. This year, the word that the Lord gave me was wisdom. I encourage you to do the same, to pray for a specific word as we head into 2021.

In the past, I have always thought that wisdom was something that would come with age. To me, it seemed as if I was almost too young to not just pray for wisdom, but for me to even to expect God to entertain the idea. So this year, when the word wisdom was firmly planted into my heart, I sensed it was from the Lord in such a real way. Even still, I sat on it for a while. I certainly prayed for wisdom, but I didn’t share this word out loud like I normally did. You could say I “fleeced” it a bit, taking a page from Gideon’s story in the book of Judges.   

The first confirmation I had was during a moment of worship. Our retired Senior Pastor (senior as in he is old, not in charge), whom I love and respect dearly, sensed the Lord drop a word in his heart for me. As he came over to pray for me, the words he spoke over me almost took my breath away. He was praying for wisdom. As he did, I felt the presence of the Lord as He used that moment to speak an echo into my heart.

Pay attention to the echoes God speaks into your heart.

For most people, that might have been enough of a confirmation, but I tend to be stubborn. I almost held my prayers back as I wondered if it wasn’t humble of me to ask for wisdom. Almost as if I hadn’t yet earned the right to.

The second confirmation came a week later. I have three prominent leaders in my field of ministry that I admire and respect. Through various ministry opportunities, the Lord has opened the door for me to have the privilege of direct contact with them. From time to time, the Lord will prompt me to reach out to them, in order to offer them prayer and encouragement. As I was in the Word studying, the Lord prompted me to reach out to all three of them. That wasn’t typically how He worked in that area, at least in my life, so I was quick to obey. Within minutes, all three had responded, asking me to pray for them to have wisdom. Wow. All three were roughly my age, and yet they were boldly asking for the same thing that I was timidly approaching in my own prayer life. As I got down on my knees to pray for them, I included myself in the prayer. I prayed for an outpouring of wisdom in every area of their lives, in my life, and in our respective ministries. It was such a powerful moment for me because God allowed these leaders to speak to my place of insecurity, without them even realizing it. As I prayed for wisdom on how to even seek wisdom, I committed to making my year one that would be a quest for what this meant in my own life. I wish I could say that immediately God dropped a word into my heart, or led me to a specific scripture. Instead, there was stillness.

Part of the process of seeking wisdom is being ok with the stillness.

We tend to busy ourselves, oftentimes over-extending ourselves, so stillness feels foreign. Yet it’s in those moments that the Lord can work if we allow Him to.

As we approach a new year, it is my encouragement to you, to seek a specific word from the Lord to guide your heart and mind as you grow in Him in the new year.  

Allow the Lord to speak to you, and be open to what He has to say. He loves you. No matter your age, your position, or your past, you are incredibly loved by the author of wisdom. 

James 1:5  But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. NASB

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A Different Kind of Peace

Every year at Christmas time, the images of peace start to pop up.  More than any other time of year, the message of peace resonates in the hearts of believers because of the reminder of who we are soon celebrating.  The peace giver.  The promise of peace that comes with the celebrations of sweet baby Jesus lying in a manger is a decade’s old tradition that we love to revel in.  Even now, I think of warm cups of cocoa, mittens, and the backdrop of Christmas carols.

Except this year is so different.  This year, amidst all the chaos that was 2020, we are now faced with lonely holidays to keep our extended families safe.  This year, instead of gathering for tree lightings and Christmas Eve services that focus on bringing us together, we will be intentionally staying apart.  To me, that doesn’t feel the same as every other Christmas.  It certainly doesn’t feel like something that resembles peace. 

The thing about peace though, is that it isn’t dependent on my circumstances, it’s dependent on my Savior. 

 The way things are going doesn’t nullify what has already happened. 

In fact, some of the brokenness and helplessness that we are feeling right now might even lead us to a place where we can experience peace, true peace, in a new way.  Perhaps more so than ever before.

I am reminded of a story from the gospel of Matthew.  In chapter 8:23-27, we read about a different kind of peace.  

                        Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked, “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

If you aren’t familiar with the story, let me remind you of a couple of things.  First, many of the disciples were experienced fishermen.  These were the very waters they grew up on.  They were used to harsh weather, it was part of life.  But this wasn’t any ordinary storm.  The words you see, “fierce storm” actually refer to a storm more like a hurricane.  And think about this…. Hurricanes were not normal for the Sea of Galilee.  This was no ordinary storm.  As the disciples started to worry, you can hear the desperation in their voices as they are overwhelmed with the fear of drowning.  It felt like they were going to drown.  Fishermen.  Who knew these waters.  Who were familiar with storms.  Who were experienced in keeping boats afloat.  What it felt like was that it was all going to fall apart.  

As Jesus gets up and calms the storm, the fear that they had was now replaced with peace.  They at once recognize his power over nature.  There is something more I want us to consider though.  These were Jewish men who knew the Torah.  All Jews knew the stories of the Torah.  What they knew was that Yahweh, God, was the only one who had control over nature.  What they were witnessing was God’s presence in that very boat with them.

What does this tell us?  Well, it doesn’t tell us that there won’t be storms.  It kind of tells us the opposite.  There will be things that surprise us.  Things that don’t make sense.  Things that we feel like our experience and our community have prepared us for.  Things that feel scary and overwhelming.  Things that we will be helpless against. 

The promise in all of this?  Jesus.  Jesus is with us in the storm.  Even when it feels like you are going to drown, His very presence is enough to calm our hearts.  I don’t think the promise leads us to a place where we can just hold onto the boat and hope everything will be ok.  Instead, I think the promise leads us to a place where we can truly experience peace because He is with us in the storm.

So this year.  2020.  The year that makes no sense.  The year that keeps surprising us with each news cycle.  The year that has brought division and fear, and loneliness. 

He is with us.  Yahweh.  God with us.  That’s the promise of peace that comes with Christmas.  

Jesus.  He will never leave us alone in the boat.  And for me?  That’s the only gift I need.

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The Promise of Hope

Promise.

The promise of hope is something we have all been longing for this year.  Hope that next month will be different.  Hope that this virus will go away.  Hope that our efforts with social distancing and masks will be worth the effort.  Hope that a vaccine will help things get back to normal sooner rather than later.  

The promise of hope, as much as it keeps us going, also has a downside.  

Waiting.  

The thing about a promise is that it also means, “not yet.”  If there is a promise that something is coming, something will be made right, it usually means eventually….just not right now. 

A promise is sometimes hard to live with.  There is a tension between longing for something that hasn’t happened yet and still dealing with what’s happening currently.  

The promise of hope that we celebrate at Christmas, however, is a little bit different.

As Jesus came to earth to rescue us from our own mess, He also left us with a promise.  He will be back.  But in this case, He left us with the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us until He gets back.  Because of that, the promise goes from being “not yet” to the “already, not yet.” 

What does this mean?  Well, exactly what it says.  We already have the presence of the Holy Spirit, even though we are still in this fallen world.  It is not yet redeemed.  So while we wait, we can already stand in the confidence of knowing we don’t have to do it alone.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”  John 14:15-21 NIV

Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit to help us.  This means that we don’t have to wait in the same way the world does.  As we wait, be can have the confidence to know that He is with us, helping us in the waiting.  

The promise of Christmas is the presence of Christ.  

As we look ahead, in the waiting and the hoping, let’s remember that we already have access to the one that holds our hope in His hands.

Be Blessed,


Rachael

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