When There Seems No Way

Have you felt stuck? I don’t mean stuck on a crossword problem. I’m talking at your wit’s end (overwhelmed and not sure how to proceed) because you’re…

Stuck in a rut, wheels spinning. 

Stuck in a tunnel, no end in sight.

Stuck in a wilderness, longing for green pastures.

Stuck in a spiritual dry spell, waiting for God to drench your spirit. 

Stuck with the consequences of poor decisions. 

I’ve been bogged down with all the above at some point. But lately, I’m stuck for words!

Perhaps you’ve been there. Searching for words to encourage someone who’s stuck in a barren land.

Words seem inadequate. So there are no words.

What can I say to the sister-in-law who mourns the death of her parents? The friend who lives with chronic pain. The dad hospitalized with COVID. Grown children crippled by anxiety. The young man looking for a job. The mom about to give birth after losing a premature child last year. Not one, but two recent widows, who ache for their husbands. Need I go on?

Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for these dear people. That’s when I rely on “the Spirit to intercede for me with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8: 26). 

Shutting my mouth and listening to someone who’s hurting often speaks louder than words. Besides, how can I share a timely word that lifts someone’s spirit without sounding trite? Fear of saying (or writing) the wrong thing kept me stuck for words until God’s Word reminded me.

When there are no words—there’s God.

God is TRUTH!

God’s Word is TRUTH!

Must we walk in someone’s shoes before we share the balm of truth? Scripture reveals God’s character by His actions. “Fear not. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

Not if, but when we go through difficult times—God is with us. Why would we not want to share God’s goodness and mercy with someone whose hurting?

God makes a way when there seems no way.

Doubts, anger, grief, loneliness, pain, fear will try to convince us we’re stuck. There’s no way out of this situation . . . this heartache. But our feelings can’t eliminate facts. 

“Behold, I’m about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

When the way seems impossible, God makes a way . . . even in this.

Photos by Jennifer Wrede

Why Pray if I Can’t Have My Way?

When I was raising my three children, I’d ask them what they wanted for Christmas. If it was within my power…and budget…their heart’s desire would show up beneath the Christmas tree.

Birthdays were no exception. Ask and it shall be given to you.

“Make a Wish” became the norm in our household even though giving/receiving gifts isn’t my love language. I prefer acts of service. However, what parent doesn’t enjoy playing fairy godmother where their children are concerned?

My grown children plead the fifth. They’ve often said, “Just because I say I like something, DOESN’T mean I want it.” Then again, they didn’t have to ask for anything because I was the one askingWhat do you want?

It was no different when I was a child. Our family didn’t have excess income, but I was pretty much guaranteed (within reason) to get what I wanted twice a year. Christmas and my birthday.

My parents delighted in giving gifts. My dad loved photography, but he gave me the 35 millimeter camera. However, this display of sacrificial love and giving was passed onto my children and probably explains why….

I’m surprised or upset when I pray and ask God for something and He doesn’t give me what I want.

I justify being disgruntled and blaming God when he says, “NO or NOT NOW!”

“The purpose of prayer is to get ahold of God, not of the answer.” (Oswald Chambers)

My Christian mentor, Loretta C. told me. “Prayer prepares our hearts so we can meet with God and receive His Word.”

I know from experience her words are true. Prayer effects my attitude. Softens my heart. God’s Word becomes more clear, more applicable to my current circumstances. There are hallowed moments when the Lord speaks directly to my heart.

Prayer

Yes, prayer prepares our hearts, but can we be honest?

I’m still tempted to skip prayer (or rush through it) when I’m staring at a busy day. Besides, reading the Bible seems more tangible to me than praying.

For instance, I can tell you what I’ve learned after I’ve read John 17. Whereas prayer can feel like a one-way conversation where I’m either whining about life or dictating a laundry list that God “needs to do” to meet my needs.

When in fact, the only thing we really need has already been given. Have you received it?

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“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”

John 3:16 shows up on football players’ foreheads and the bottom of fast food cups. When I worked with the homeless, they recited that verse because they felt it was the prerequisite to a hot meal.

Only to say, God knows our needs. He’s already given us the greatest Gift…His Son, Jesus…who offers us abundant life.

“Wait a second!” Some folks might say. “I received the gift of Jesus and I still have needs.

I need that job. I want a spouse. I need a baby. I want a bigger house. I need my adult child to be rid of depression.

I need…I want…

Isn’t that how we tend to pray? Like beggars desperate for crumbs.

And then wonder why we come away from prayer as though we’ve drank a flat soda. No fizzle, no joy, no aha moments.

That’s why, it’s imperative to get ahold of God in our prayers, and not the answers. To prepare our hearts. Get our focus off ourselves. And that begins with worship.

Sing. Praise God for Who He is. Thank Him. Meditate on His wonders.

When our prayer life is wanting more of God…instead of the means to get what we want…we will see a difference in ourselves and our day.

Because then, we’ll have what we truly need. The abiding presence of the Triune God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Words Matter

Love my morning coffee.

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Yesterday, however, I grimaced after the first sip. Too much Half n Half.

The flavor overpowered the coffee. So I brewed more coffee. Poured it into my mug to dilute the Half n Half. Didn’t help.

At the end of the day, a mug of cold coffee sat on the patio table where I’d left it.

That evening, I noticed there were two similar cartons in my refrigerator. Turns out I’d poured Whipping Cream instead of Half n Half into my coffee.

Words matter.

This isn’t the first time I’ve used or bought something without reading the words on the label. Ever tried Unsalted Pretzels? I still have them if you’re interested.

Lately, people need Google Translation to figure out what I’m saying:

Me: “Hey, I’m going to Home Depot for groceries.”
Friend: “You mean Holiday Market?”
Me: “Didn’t I say that?”

I don’t mind poking fun at myself, but,

Words Matter. They’re more than letters and phonetic sounds.

Just look up “word” in a Bible concordance.

  • “A harsh word stirs up anger.”
  • “How delightful is a timely word.”
  • “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.
  • “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.”

Add mouth or tongue to the word search; you’ll have a field day.

I wonder how many words are in the English language?

file000278512533As a child, whenever someone bullied me, I’d respond, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

This rhyme worked about as well as rubbing my rabbit’s foot for good luck. But I’m no longer a child; my skin is thicker.

I’ve spoken, heard, written, and read more words than I can count. Good. Bad. Some words I can’t spell or define, but I know that….

Words have the power to ignite wars, civil strife, family feuds. And crush individuals.

Words also have the ability to challenge, inspire, and heal.

We get to choose our words.

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Years ago, my friend’s husband was brutally murdered by three male strangers. They broke into her home—intent on stealing—and were surprised by her husband’s presence. I won’t say more.

Justice was served. Those men were condemned and sent to prison. However, it didn’t alleviate my friend’s heartache.

So she prayed and sought the Lord for counsel.

Eventually, she wrote each of those condemned men a letter in which she shared the Gospel of Christ. 

She included the words: “I forgive you for murdering my husband.”

One of the men wrote back. He said he’d been praying for a sign to know he’d been forgiven.

Her words were like a balm to that man’s soul. His words made my friend weep for joy.

How is it possible for a grief-stricken widow to rise above her sorrow and share the Gospel with condemned men? How was she able to forgive?

By God’s grace, and a willingness to obey God’s Word.

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28.)

Christ’ Words, not mine.

And His Word matters. Even in this…especially in this …volatile world.

Martha or Messiah?

There are words written in pastel chalk on the cement leading to my front door. Drawn at the brink of our family celebration, the words became a welcome mat acknowledging my son’s high school graduation, my parent’s 60th anniversary.

“Congratulations!” “Welcome to California!”

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 Chalk words that gladdened hearts now fade in the summer sun. The family members we welcomed have gone.

I mop the kitchen floor, erasing dusty footprints and sticky crumbs where people gathered to eat and laugh. Now the only reminders of my guests are photographs nailed to the refrigerator with magnets. Moments captured. Smiling faces preserved on matted paper.

Has it only been a week since I felt my eldest son’s strong embrace, smelled the fresh scent of my daughter’s hair, listened to the voices of my parents who have loved me well?

While they were here, I cooked, served, and smiled. I rose before dawn like the woman in Proverbs and saw to the needs of my household. Adrenaline, and love for them, kept me going till the midnight hour.

The family called me Martha (woman mentioned in the Gospels). They urged me to sit still and rest. But I’m wired to be a Martha…catering to other people’s needs.

Did you sleep well? Are you hungry? Can I get you something to drink?

Are you hot or cold? Need a pillow for your head?

How can I encourage you, pray for you? Make you feel loved?

I don’t mind being a Martha, but in assuming to meet their every need, do I act like their Messiah?

·  Do I urge them to rely on Jesus, or depend on me when there’s a problem and decision to be made?

· Do I mislead when I share what I think is best, or encourage them to consult and obey God’s Word?

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Some days, I balk at being Martha when I think of what Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things…” (Luke 10:41)

Then I read His Word, “Jesus loved Martha….” (John 11:5) And I’m reminded He loves me too even when I’m worried and distracted by many things.

I know Jesus loves me because even in this….aftermath of celebration…He’s teaching me that a Martha can best serve her family’s needs by letting go, and leading them to Jesus.

Unlike the chalk words on my cement, HIS Word never fades away.

  

Not What but WHO

The house is robed in darkness when I slip away from the warmth of my bed and my slumbering husband. I’d rather brew a cup of tea and pray than toss and turn.

I weave my way through the dark and around the furniture until I find the kitchen light. While tea leaves steep, I notice my hungry cat waiting at the back door.

Open a can of food for her, open the Bible for me.

I’m not a morning person, but I love the silence where God is able to speak without interruptions.

If only I can keep my mind from distractions. My year that began slow has picked up speed. The winds are changing.

I tell myself “rejoice in the Lord” because my joy is not based on What is happening in my life, but WHO is ever present.  

El Roi, the God who sees me, even in the dark while I sip tea.

How odd…or is it…that I open my Bible to Psalm 143 where my words were once scrawled in the margin: February 2001: anxiety attack and winter depression.

What happened long ago that caused me to underline emotions that King David experienced: “persecuted, crushed, overwhelmed.”

I can’t remember why those emotions held me hostage, but the solution remains underlined.

“I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul longs for Thee as a parched land.” (verses 5,6)

On that winter morning, I lived in dark places. (vs.3)

But I knew then…as I know now…the ONE True God who could and would …

·        Revive me.

·        Teach me.

·        Deliver me.

And bring my soul out of trouble.

Even now, as I write these words, night has slipped away. Daylight is here. And on my window sill, a cross with the words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”    

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If anxious thoughts woke me, they are gone.  Not because my circumstances changed, or God fixed my problems overnight.

My soul is at rest because the Lord is my hope and refuge.

And He never changes…not even in this.