Keeping Company

Keeping Company

“A great sorrow and a great fear had come into all the world, and the world was changing. Our minds were driven out of the old boundaries into thoughts of absolute loss, absolute emptiness, in a world that seemed larger even than the sky that held it.

nearness of God when we think we are alone“Time doesn’t stop. Your life doesn’t stop and wait until you get ready to start living it. Those years of the war were not a blank, and yet during all that time I was waiting. We all were waiting…moving in wide circles around our sadness.

“The pleasures that came then had a way of reminding you that they had been pleasures once upon a time, when it seemed that you had a right to them. Happiness had a way of coming to you and making you sad. How can you be happy, how can you live, when all the things that make you happy grieve you nearly to death?”

* * *

These excerpts from Wendell Berry’s moving novel, Hannah Coulter, beautifully reveal a woman’s deep reflections on life. Here she’s pining for her soldier husband in WWII, but the words touch a chord for any who have suffered loss.

What resonated with me is the “waiting” Berry describes, the suspension from living life, and how happy things sometimes intensify the sadness.Continue reading

Without A Prayer

Without A Prayer

“If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.” 

― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

My friend Robin and I had a long talk one morning about prayer. Going to God with a list of needs and wants brought some answers. Still, in her experience, many requests seemed unresolved over the years and left her discouraged.

I know what she means. I’ve been caught in that same cycle of disappointment. Some of that pointed to my own flawed beliefs and patterns.

fretful prayer is a revolving doorFor starters, my prayers were often a revolving door of fret. Instead of releasing concerns to God, I’d keep them and remain weighed down.

God spoke to me recently through the word “crease.” The dictionary definition says, “a wrinkle or furrow in the skin, typically of the face, caused by age or a particular facial expression.” Surely, fretful prayers produce wrinkles!

But a crease is also like a rut—“a long deep track made by repeated passage,” or “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” Fretting prayers can become a dead spiritual habit. We do it because we don’t know what else to do. But unanswered prayers can stoke the fires of discontent and unbelief.

Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding California said that many of God’s people are like a dislocated arm. They are alive but not functioning because of disappointment. And so our prayer life actually becomes another tactic the enemy uses to keep us dismayed and far away from God.

How did this happen? Prayer should connect us to God in ever increasing ways!Continue reading

Still The Mind

Still The Mind

Lord, I give you my creased brow and my gritted jaw. I hand over the rock in my stomach and surrender my fretful thoughts…how did I get in such a stew?

It starts like this…I met Amanda last summer. She’s a Canadian teacher who works with severely disabled kids. In particular, she described the ones who are permanently altered by their mothers’ alcohol abuse in pregnancy. They have “an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, low intelligence…and are more likely to have trouble in school, legal problems, (and) participate in high-risk behaviors.”[i] Her students are volatile, and can bite or turn violent in a heartbeat.

still willingAmanda has to enter her classroom wearing a Hazmat suit.

That one glimpse of the human condition can sink my boat for days, weeks, and then perpetually on a low simmer.

God, how can I trust You when suffering falls on the innocent? How can You bear the sorrow…

“But for the joy…”

His words distinctly interrupt my thoughts—if I’m paying attention.

Yet, God speaks in mysteries. I pondered that phrase for a while. It echoes what is written in Hebrews—“who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”[ii] He’s promised a time when all things will be restored…where each life is sacred.  

It always comes down to a choice between despair and faith. Or I can limp along, still tormented in limbo.

Let me explain from a different angle.Continue reading