A Mother’s Prayer

The Lord bless you, and keep you,

The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.

The Lord turn His face toward you, and give you peace. Num. 6:24-26

My His blessings rest upon you and a thousand generations, for your family, and your children, and their children, and their children. Generation after generation.

When you wake up, when you lie down, when you go out or come home, when you cry in pain or laugh in delight, know that He is with you. Always with you.

May His presence go before you, behind you, and beside you, surrounding you forever, and filling you deep within. He is for you, like I am for you.

May He show you His face, and turn your ears to His voice. May you know Him, may you seek Him, may you find Him, and may you love Him.

In your triumphs and your failures, in your weakness and your victories, in your wandering and your resting, He is working goodness for you.

Dwell in His lovingkindness, search out His wisdom, walk empowered by His breath, rest in His promise.

Yahweh, bless them. And keep them. And make your face shine upon them, and be gracious to them. Please turn your face toward them, and give them peace. Let your favor rest upon their shoulders, generation after generation, to their families, and their children, and their children, and their children. May the legacy of the gift and inheritance of renewal be to them a promise that endures and a blessing that multiplies. Give them a home and a life in the realm of your glory, a house along that mighty river of life, and a spirit made whole.

 

 

 

*Portions of this prayer were inspired by Kari Jobe’s song, “The Blessing.” Highly recommend!

The Wilderness of Coronavirus

The weight of weariness is heavy.

Four of my friends have experienced panic attacks this week. Another two reported they cannot get the medical care they need for painful, urgent issues due to medical staff furloughs and decreased appointment slots. Some people in my community are struggling to manage two or even three businesses, without childcare for their kids all while being prohibited from actually operating. I have friends who are still waiting on stimulus checks and others who have yet to see payment for the unemployment they filed weeks ago. And this is just in my town.

People around the globe are exhausted, scared, and angry. They don’t know what to do amidst the trying times we find ourselves in. They’re worried for their health. Their lives have been completely uprooted; their livelihoods in serious jeopardy of permanent collapse. Government aid has fallen short while local elected officials sit powerless to do much of anything under the current orders. For one reason or another, everyone is afraid.

Yes, the weight of weariness is heavy. When the system you rely on collapses and all the things you hoped would come through for you don’t, the shadows get long, the road ahead becomes confusing, and even sleep deprives you of rest.

My friends are praying people. They cry out in their exhaustion and anguish to a God they know loves them, hears them, and provides for them. But He couldn’t feel further away. They emerge from reading the Psalms with the courage to face the day, only to have their peace snatched up and their hope fainting within hours of closing their Bibles.

Their hurt is stingingly real. Their pain is long suffering. Their confusion is justified.

And their God is deafeningly silent.

It reminds me of Elijah, weary and outrunning death at Mt. Horeb.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

15The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 1 Kings 19: 9-16 NIV

Ah, that still, small voice, calling at the edge of the cave. But it is not the comforting sweetness we might expect. In his weariness Elijah loses sight of the plan to the point God removes him from his vocation as prophet and sends him home.

In this time of great trial and despair, perhaps we too are like Elijah. In our searching for answers, have we missed our God passing by? Have we looked for Him to change our circumstances or remove our burdens, even while faithfully doing the work He appointed us to? Have we cried out longing for Him to take away our pain and bring justice on our enemies without the wisdom to see how He works?

To my suffering friends, my heart is burdened in heaviness for you. What our world is facing is unfair on so many levels, with human evil at every one.  But to attempt to offer you cheery answers would be to fail you now. And so I can only sit alongside you in your suffering and offer this ancient story of a broken man in the wilderness at the foot of a mountain.

The truth of this story is that so often our Maker does not remove our hardship, even for his most trusted partners. He never promised to rescue us from our circumstances. Rather, He promises that no circumstance could ever change His plan to rescue us. And He asks us to be faithful regardless.

“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18

Our God will never relent on His people. Even in the face of unspeakable horror, He is faithful to His plan to restore His Kingdom.

So we may bleed out. We may suffer oppression, disease, terror, and heartache. We may fight the vicious monsters, and we may even lose the fight. But take heart if you can, because God has not lost His fight.

When the global system collapses, famine breaks out, plagues fall on the entire world, poverty threatens our children, and imprisonment and warfare linger on the horizon, His Kingdom is still at hand. And we are still His. (Gen. 37-50)

And so like true exiles, we must seek the peace of Babylon to the best we can. Live in harmony with our neighbors, take care of those who need us, breathe out kindness and generosity, and if the day comes and we can no longer abide under the law of the land, we remain faithful knowing only evil is burned up in the end.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jer. 29:7

Weary friends, I will not fling another out of context Bible verse of hope at you. But know that your burden is not unseen. (Gen. 16:13) Your wilderness is not desolation. It is where your God will meet you and teach you how to be His own. (Ex. 40:38)

There’s Enough

Lately the entire world seems to be running out of things. At first it was the toilet paper. Carts so overloaded with the stuff that entire warehouses ran out in minutes. Then it turned more serious with food shortages. Bread, eggs, frozen pizzas, and cleaning products–all the basics in low supply. Last week the headlines turned to the shortages of masks, gloves, ventilators, and oxygen tanks. Experts predict that next the terrifying deficit will be hospital beds, doctors, and God forbid, morgues. Leaders are slamming other leaders; not enough medical help, not enough federal aid, not enough money.

If you are not working in an under-resourced hospital or other essential service that’s squeaking by on the bare minimum to keep things running, then you are probably one of the millions of Americans truly stuck at home with no job, no paycheck, and no idea of when those things will return.

Both as a nation and a world, we’ve come up painfully short. We are short on hospital space, lab technicians, and tests. We are short on ideas. We’re short on cash, and we’re short on time. To address one problem only worsens another. We either doom people’s lives or doom their livelihoods.

Our knee-jerk reaction during times of crisis is to protect ourselves. All it takes is a walk down a Walmart paper goods aisle to see that. We look for ways to keep our own families safe. In the face of scarcity, we stockpile. Turned inward, we conserve what we have, and damn others when they get in our way.

It’s easy to see the world through the lens of scarcity right now. However, as a follower of Jesus, that lens doesn’t fit in what should be my frame.

The worldview which supposedly defines me is one of abundance. God plants a garden. He gives it to humans as a generous gift and tells them to eat freely and go make more of it. An astute reader will notice an undercurrent of unrestricted fruitfulness–of endless resource and bursting potential–that runs the whole length of the Bible. And while we’d like to think in times like this that sin has messed all that up, Jesus himself operates under the worldview that there is enough.

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on…Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet, your heavily Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they…If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?…But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt. 6: 25-33

The truth is that humans love to dwell in worry. We love to think of ourselves, worry about us and our clan, and take advantage of things to get the upper hand.

In the mind of Jesus this is how the world works, but it’s not how the Kingdom works. In the Kingdom, there is enough. There is a generous Giver who bestows everything lavishly on everyone. There is a cloud that rains down manna, a rod in the hand of an old man that parts the sea and swallows our enemies. There is a garden and a tree, and a new Vine bearing enough fruit to feed the entire world. We can’t see it, but it’s here. Jesus told us the Kingdom is at hand. Abundance is at hand.

In this time of global crisis where everything is scare, I’m challenged to wake up and look at the world through this lens of abundance. But when people are separated from their loved ones or when the system we count on collapses under the pressure, this becomes a hard ethic to embrace. When the paycheck stops and money is weeks away, what are we to do?

And I am no saint here. It wasn’t long ago that questions like these would have sent me into a panicked frenzy. In my own home right now, this virus is affecting our family. Our source of income is on hold, and we have no idea when that will resume or what damage this shutdown will cause. Like many we are healthy now, but for how long?

And so our grim situation creates the atmosphere the world is currently running on: anxiety, desperation, and fear. But in my spirit I am wrestling against those natural responses. While all very real, they are at odds with my new humanity in Jesus. When the world tells me there isn’t enough, He calls me to live in the abundance of the Kingdom.

Brothers and sisters, I will not downplay the gravity of the COVID-19 situation. To do so would be a grossly insensitive and frankly, unhelpful, move. Instead I urge my fellow Jesus followers to see this as a time to dig in. It’s a time when we are called to live by Kingdom rules when the Kingdom is hard to see. We must choose to live as though there is enough, even in scarcity.

This means radical generosity. It means unwavering trust. It means purchasing the extra bag of groceries for a friend or assisting a neighbor when they’re in need. It means leaving a larger tip, being unusually inventive, choosing to exercise extra patience with our families, and spending the extra ten minutes at bedtime going to war in prayer for those on the front lines. It means we reach out wherever we can, however we can, as often as we can. And it means that when we are down and out, we lay down our shame and guilt and ask for help.

Kingdom living takes grit. And grit is hard to come by when the tragedies once on the other side of the world are now pounding relentlessly on our doors. But Jesus words echo loudly in my mind. “You of little faith!” Matt. 6:30

It is with great faith we must step forward into the Kingdom. We live by its rules and hold fast to the truth that our jobs, our money, our children, the food in our pantries, the gas in our cars, and the very breath in our struggling lungs is a gift. An abundance mindset should define us all; it should be the light in this uncertain time. May we have the faith to give freely and use our resources wisely, trusting that the God who provides for the birds provides for us. Because in the Kingdom, there is enough.

Shelter in Place

I woke up today feeling as though I live in a novel. Some historical fiction piece set in the wartorn 1940’s where people have to dive into a bomb shelter, not knowing if the world will be there when they emerged the next day. Or maybe its more akin to a sci-fi thriller where civilization survives a biological event of epic proportions when everything around them is contaminated. The truth is that neither of those two scenarios are far from the reality I woke up to today.

Today our governor shut down everything nonessential in our state and ordered everyone to stay home.

Our world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Things I’ve only ever seen pictures of in history books are now my daily concern. Take the empty grocery store shelves. Basics like bread and eggs are in short supply, and I had to swallow a lump of guilt as I took the last two packages of tortillas last week. Local businesses have shut their doors, many truly worried that they may never open them again. Office buildings sit empty, all the workers sent home. Our schools are closed. Our gyms are closed. Our churches are closed.

Meanwhile people on the other side of the world are dying terrifying deaths, alone, separated from their loved ones. And they say it’s only a matter of time before we see that here too. To open everything back up–to go on with life– would mean putting countless lives at significant risk. But to shut life down means many people will never recover from the severe economic repercussions of our current reality.

And so we find ourselves in Psalm 23, a shadowed valley with mountains of ruin on either side. There is no good choice. No right way to tackle a pandemic–everything has a consequence and everyone thinks they are right.

Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil.

For those like myself, the irrepressible urge to help others is the worst part. I want to save every small business. I want to pray for every sick person, hand a cup of coffee to every exhausted medical worker, and make every weary trucker and grocery clerk a sandwich. Instead I slap on a smile and work hard to keep my own little people busy and entertained as we pass the time away. But deep down, my heart is breaking for the loss and hatred that is tearing our world apart.

How do we respond? What do we do when “shelter in place” is our only real option? I find myself looking to the ultimate shelter.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD “He is my shelter and my refuge. My God in whom I trust.” Surely He will save you from the fowlers snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find rest. His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Ps. 91:1-4

God does not promise that we will never suffer or live without times of dire uncertainty. He does not promise an easy, carefree existence. But He does promise life–abundant life–that no virus can take away. He provides a shelter that no state governor can match; a provision that makes a trillion dollar federal bailout look like a foolish joke. And He promises a salvation no human could ever acquire on their own.

To be fair, now is not a time for flinging Bible verses at scared or bitter people. It isn’t a time to pat friends on the back and say God’s going to make it all better.

But for those who follow Jesus, it is a time to genuinely trust–to go all in with our faith–and live in the abundance, prosperity, generosity, and healing that Jesus demonstrated to His followers. Because when God strips away every cure, every security, and every mortal attempt at hope, the only thing left to cling to is the everlasting promise that our King will return to rescue His Kingdom.

So hold fast, my friends, wherever you are. Have courage. Be kind. Shelter in Him.

Christmas in the Tabernacle

We all sat together in the rare quiet of the morning, weaving little strips of $0.39 felt together. I cut the purple and red pieces, and showed them how to arrange them in a simple basketweave pattern before we hot glued them together. Such an easy project but so fascinating to their young minds; taking something singular and making it come into a whole.

They moulded the clay diligently, as if each piece of bread and the stone tablets were meant for something greater than their simple little purpose. I watched as my daughter meticulously painted every spec of the little dish destined to be the bronze laver. To my mother’s eyes it was a beautiful sight to watch her work so carefully, as though she took great pride in her task. The little sheep and goat figurines stood nearby, as if they were watching her, knowing the laver she was making was there to cleanse their pretend blood.

Our felt curtains done, the alter and other furniture made, the stone tablets and rod safely inside the ark, our tabernacle was finished. It was just a simple art project. But my children knew its significance. They knew how important it was to treat the whole thing with respect because the place they were making represented God’s presence among His people. His dwelling place. His home.

Cardboard and glitter glue were just the vehicle. Eventually they’ll end up sitting out on the curb in the recycle bin. But the process of making the tabernacle will continue. I wonder how many times they will stand before the alters in their own lives, dying to themselves and offering themselves up. How often will they stand before the golden table and pray for manna, enough just to get them through a day? Will they remember the beautiful menorahs and how they lit up the dark? Will they smell the frankincense and say a prayer of thanksgiving? And how often will they go behind that veil torn in two and visit with their Maker? How much time will they spend on their knees, humbling themselves in His glorious presence? And when they leave, will their faces radiate like Moses?

For us in our home, Christmas is a season for celebrating light and God’s generous presence among us. Two trees of light bathe our home in a glow; one Christmas tree lighting up our tradition and one menorah shining light on our adoption. Like the two trees of light in the tabernacle, these symbols remind us to praise Yahweh for tabernacling in our midst, revealing that He is the life and the wisdom we seek.

For many in my faith community, this year has not been one of certainty or praise. It has been a long haul through a barren and chaotic wilderness. It has been a time of brothers bickering, grumbling, and slandering each other. A time of mistrust and doubt, and I’m certain some have questioned if leaving Egypt was really worth it. Broken people leading broken people in a very broken world, the enemy in hot pursuit waiting to devour us outside the door. And we wonder who is there to step in and stop it all? What happens when we have lost sight of the fire before us? Where is the mighty leader–the promised prophet–to stand in the gap in intercede on our behalf when we have failed?

As we gather around our nativity sets and our Christmas trees, as we light candles in our windows and homes and sanctuaries, may we come to see the reality of the good news proclaimed to the shepherds. When we fail, we when break the promises we made, when our friends, family, or leaders who we trusted let us down and deceive us, when we fail to be a blessing, when we fail to live out the good news and deceive ourselves, when we fall so incredibly short, Yahweh comes and stands in the gap Himself.

He comes to our wilderness, and shows us a little blueprint for making Eden in our hearts, and fills us with His glory.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory…full of grace and truth. John 1:14

We are so unworthy of the gift that we celebrate at Christmas, and recognizing that is what brings the great joy.

The tabernacle was just a symbol of God’s presence with us. But the lesson it teaches is far reaching. Because the tabernacle is not out in the wilderness anymore; it’s right here. Right in the heart of all who call upon the Name of the God of Israel. His Spirit dwells in us, ready to make us new. And so as I teach my children about this mysterious ancient temple, I pray over them. I pray that the symbols of the tabernacle find their way into the makeup of my children. I pray they seek their Father, that they look to the old paths and find rest for their souls.

By the light of the two trees in our home right now we play with our humble little cereal box. We rehearse the rituals, arrange the furniture, and take turns descending the sparkly felt that represents the glory cloud. And I show my children how our nativity set means the exact same thing. Eden here. Yahweh bringing salvation. “Come!” I say. “Come and see what God has done.”

Immanuel, God with us. Here in this tent in our wilderness, providing for us, standing in the gap of our failures. Both blessing us and waiting to bless us with His presence and ready to remake us in His image.