I Hope You Dance

“Now is the time; now is the best time. Now is the best time of your life!”

Fans of Walt Disney will recognize the theme music to the wonderful attraction called “The Carousel of Progress.” This iconic moving-theater experience was originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, and then disassembled and reconstructed in Tomorrowland in 1975. The cheerful message of progress through the century is a reminder that the best time we are living in is right now.

Do you believe that you are in the best time of your life? I imagine for many of us the answer is no. If you are dealing with addiction, undergoing chemotherapy, incarcerated, going through a rough divorce, dealing with rebellious children, caring for elderly parents, etc., you may not consider this the “best time of your life.” And that’s not even adding a global pandemic to the mix. This could hardly be considered our best time…and that’s OK.

The writer of Ecclesiastes has an important reminder for us about the nature of time:

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

3 There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,

    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,

    a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,

    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,

    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,

    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,

    a time for war and a time for peace.

There is something comforting in realizing that there is a season for EVERYTHING under the sun. Everything has a place, everything follows an order, and everything has an appropriate and proper point on the space-time continuum. Even the things we dread have their own place. Death, war, mourning, plagues, and hate all have an allotted measure in the grand scope of our lives.

The best part is that it’s an allotted measure, i.e. something that happens for a specified period of time. This scripture teaches us that time is God-ordained and controlled and we should just relax and let life flow accordingly.

Does that work for you? Yeah, me neither.

When this doesn’t work for me is when MY timing doesn’t jive with God’s timing. Either I am being too slow to respond to his bidding, or (more likely the case) rushing into things with great enthusiasm without waiting for his direction.

Godly direction is the key to this whole thing. When we pray, discern, and yield ourselves COMPLETELY to God’s timing, he ushers us into the best time of our lives. Setting aside our preconceived notion of when something should begin or end allows God to act as Timekeeper, and sets life into motion according to his plan.

Is it time to do something? Is it time to change? Time to move? Has the time come to speak up, or be quiet and let others sort things out? Is it time to end something? Maybe you are entering a season of growing, re-inventing yourself, and leaving all kinds of heavy things behind.

This beautiful passage assures us that there is indeed a time for everything, and God is in each moment.

“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

I hope you dance.

Dancing Sunlight by Kathy Schumacher

We Do Recover

Two people whom I admire very much are hard-working advocates for addiction recovery. One is in her thirties, and is a recovered drug and alcohol addict. She has turned her life completely around, owns a fitness studio, and produces an addiction recovery podcast that aims to help others recover as well. (Check out Chasing Heroine) The other is a former High School chum who has fought hard to be sober for several decades. His encouragement to other alcoholics to join AA, combined with his own personal testimony, has made him an effective witness to the recovery movement. These two people inspire me and I pray for their continued recovery all the time. They both post under #wedorecover, and every time I see that hashtag, I am compelled to pray for everyone who is working to overcome the illness of addiction. If this is you, congratulations, and know that many people are rooting for you and are proud of you.

Our Psalm today puts recovery in a focused spotlight. The psalmist is recovering from some life-destroying illness or injury, and he lifts his weary head up to offer praise and thanksgiving for God’s intervention.

Psalm 116 (New Revised Standard Version)

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

Sheol is an Old Testament concept of a type of hell, a place where people went when they died. It is a word for the abode of the dead. Most scholars think that it is derived from a word meaning hollow. To the Hebrew mind, Sheol was a place of destruction and utter desolation. It was believed that Sheol was located deep down in the earth, as hell is often thought of today.

I don’t know a single person who has struggled with addiction who hasn’t experienced Sheol.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord protects the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
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 walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

What are you recovering from today? Do you have an addiction? Have you been sick? Suffering from COVID? Dealing with a failed marriage? Trying to pick yourself up from unemployment/disappointment/family estrangements/your own stupidity?

You are not alone. We are all trying to recover from something. So as you struggle, remember this: God will deliver you. He will walk beside you. He protects you and he will save you, but you have to call on the name of the Lord. ”Oh Lord, I pray, save my life!” Say this, and he will flee to you.

Thanks be to God.

We Do Recover by Kathy Schumacher

A Way Out

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, two men were having a conversation. The wiser one, JC, was attempting to explain to his new friend Nick how the Kingdom of God works. He had begun the conversation by stating that one had to be ”born again” to attain the kingdom, and Nick was thoroughly confused as he tried to imagine his adult self being birthed again from his mother’s womb. So JC took another approach, and shifted the conversation to God’s activity in the process.

He explained that God’s love for the world was so ginormous, he sent a begotten son to save it. That perked Nick’s ears up, as the phrase ”begotten” harkened back to his Jewish roots. Every Jew knew the story of the sacrifice Abraham was willing to make of his begotten son. Every Jew knew the surprise ending to that story. It turned out that the God of Love gives, and does not require, sacrifice. A ram was provided for the offering and Isaac returned home with his father. So Nick was onboard with the notion of a substitute begotten Son being given in sacrifice as an offering. Perhaps this JC fellow was on to something.

John 3 (The Message)

13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.

At this point Nick is beginning to realize that the Son of Man is the one who has come to offer eternal life to God’s people. But in his way of thinking, it was just another sacrificial sin-offering that would probably have to be repeated, just as all sin-offerings did. After all, the whole offering system was designed to expiate sinful actions, which of course were going to happen again and again. But JC went on to explain that THIS offering was different:

And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Nick was amazed to think that God SO loved the world that he offered up his only son as a once-and-for-all sin offering, whose sacrifice at the altar would put the entire world right again. This life, once taken, would be proof of God’s grace, not his condemnation. God’s love was so great, he created a way out.

Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

JC told Nick one more thing before he turned to leave. It all hinged on belief. Those who believe would never eternally die, but instead they would eternally live. Those who refused to believe have already condemned themselves by their unbelief.

The condemnation comes not from God, but from their unbelief.

Little did Nicodemus realize that this conversation would be recorded by a man named John, and would be repeated millions of times throughout history. It would appear on signs and posters, and become a mantra for believers. It even would show up at sports stadiums with the simple designation ”John 3:16.”

It all hinges on belief. Do you believe?

God So Loved the World by Kathy Schumacher

Wanting Tomorrow

A friend who is undergoing cancer treatment is finally having a good week. He feels good, he can walk without a cane, and he actually drove a car for the first time in three months. So he went out and bought green bananas.

I love that last part. It is a glorious sign of recovery. It is a act of hope. It’s what people do when they realize they will indeed live to see another day.

I wonder how many of us are leading our lives as though tomorrow won’t come. There are times when life can beat us down so hard we don’t have the energy, resolve, or desire to even lift our head off the pillow. Sometimes this feeling is situational, and eventually gets easier. Sometimes darker things are at play and we need help.

I’m sure we can recall a very hard break up with someone we thought we would be ours forever. Relationships ending can leave us feeling tremendously defeated. If you’ve ever been fired, you might recall a moment of sitting in the car with your hands on the wheel, unable to imagine a tomorrow. At the moment when the doctor came out of the operating room and told us that our daughter had cancer when she was a college junior, I could not see her tomorrows for a moment. Not seeing hers made me not see mine. Losing your parents, a spouse, or God forbid, a child, can leave you not even wanting tomorrows.

Hebrews 11 The Message (MSG)

Faith in What We Don’t See

11 1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

When tomorrows seem hazy and unattainable, it is good to remember what this verse is telling us. We have the firm foundation of a trustworthy God, which gives us a handle on what we can’t see. We can fix our feet firmly in a world called into existence by God. How amazing is it to know that God creates what we see, and what we don’t see. He is the creator of all of the tomorrows yet to comeWe don’t need to see it…God does, and that is enough.

The ancestors of our faith were content to allow their tomorrows unfold according to God’s design and will for their lives. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah…they all bought green bananas.

32-36 There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. 

There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. 

Our ultimate tomorrow is found in the resurrection. There is something better. There is hope. There is a reason to get up, get moving, and get on with it. In truth, tomorrow never comes, for each tomorrow turns into today, and each day brings new mercies.

Faith is the reality of what we hope for and the proof of what we don’t see. So let us walk by faith and not by sight, and go forth to buy green bananas.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow by Wende Pritchard

Screen Saver

Everyone knows what a projector is. A projector is an electronic device that can take images from a source and display them on a screen. Movie theaters use projectors at the rear of the theater to cast moving images on a giant wall screen in the front.

And then there is another type of projecting. This is when someone has a grudge, grievance, anger issue, or mental instability, and projects that onto another person. Projecting is a defense mechanism for coping with undesirable feelings and emotions. People project negative feelings onto others rather than admitting or dealing with the unwanted feelings. A husband constantly accusing his wife of cheating may be projecting his secret behavior onto her. A teenager, frustrated with his lack of accomplishment, may taunt and pick on a younger sibling rather than face his own feelings of inadequacy.

Bullying is a form of projecting. A middle school teacher and I were chatting last week and she talked about how much bullying takes place in school. She is working very hard to have kids understand their own emotions so that they can take ownership of what they are processing internally rather than project those feelings of anger and shame onto others through bullying. Sadly, some of them will grow up to be adult bullies and continue to project their unresolved issues onto others.

Bullies will probably always project. But that doesn’t mean you have to be their screen.

Luke 17 English Standard Version (ESV)

Temptations to Sin

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

If your brother or sister sins, rebuke them. Jesus never called us to be doormats. We can stand strong in the full armor of God and stand up for ourselves in his might. When the money lenders were defiling the temple, Jesus didn’t capitulate. He threw them out.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (The Message)

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. 

God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

If you have someone who continues to project their misery onto you, walk away. Bury yourself deep in God’s word, and pray for strength. Put on the full armor against evil, and stand up for yourself. Projectors need screens, so as soon as you stop being one, the show will be over and you’ll still be on your feet. God has come to be your screen saver! HE is strong, and he wants you to be strong. Take every weapon he supplies, cover yourself in prayer, and STAND FIRM. God’s got you.

Thanks be to God.

Keep Your Eyes Open by Michelle Robertson

Brightness Shines Forth

We continue our journey into wisdom literature with a deep dive into the Old Testament book of the Wisdom of Solomon. Biblegateway.com offers this introduction to this unique book:

One of the main lessons of Wisdom of Solomon is that retribution and reward are not necessarily received in the present life but are to be realized in the afterlife of the immortal soul. The Encyclopedia of the Bible says the book teaches that immortality, not material abundance, is the goal of the righteous, and one of the author’s contributions was the inauguration of an “other-worldly” perspective hitherto lacking in Judaism. The author also taught that individual righteousness is requisite for the enjoyment of blessing in the after-life of the soul.

Chapter 7 is probably one of the most exquisite examples of poetry in all of the Old Testament. In this passage, wisdom is again personified as a woman with special qualities. As you read it, try to make a word-picture in your mind. For those of us who are blessed to live on the coast, the images of bright suns, the arrangement of the stars, and the night following day speak directly to where we live.

What images do you see as you read this?

Wisdom of Solomon 7 (Common English Bible)

26 She’s the brightness that shines forth from eternal light. She’s a mirror that flawlessly reflects God’s activity. She’s the perfect image of God’s goodness. 27 She can do anything, since she’s one and undivided. She never changes, and yet she makes everything new. Generation after generation, she enters souls and shapes them into God’s friends and prophets.

There was no concept of the Holy Spirit at the time of this writing. It is easy for New Testament readers to make a connection between wisdom ”entering souls and shaping them into God’s friends and prophets” and the pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples. Perhaps we can view this as a precursor to what Jesus left behind as he was departing the earth.

28 God doesn’t love anything as much as people who make their home with Wisdom. 29 She’s more splendid than the sun and more wonderful than the arrangement of the stars. She’s even brighter than sunlight, 30 for night follows day, but evil can never overcome Wisdom.

8 She stands strong from one end of the world to the other. She is a marvelous governor over everything in between.

Solomon held wisdom in very high esteem. I think it is important to realize that wisdom in his mind was not so much about gaining knowledge as it was attaining righteousness. That changes things. It invites us to read the scriptures not so much for information, but for transformation.

Where is God calling you to transform your life today? What changes is he asking you to make?

Wisdom never changes, but it has the ability to make everything new. May we seek her, and make our home with her. Evil can never overcome Wisdom….thanks be to God!

Sunrise Seekers by Michelle Robertson

Wisdom Speaks

Think of the wisest person you know. It may be a former teacher, a grandparent, or your kindergartner. People who have the ability to quickly assess a situation and thoughtfully speak truth into a subject are a blessing to know.

A wise woman once counseled me to wait at least 24 hours before responding to a hurtful comment or email. This was very hard to do at first, as my hurt feelings needed to be expressed and validated with my angry, self-righteous response…and I needed that validation right away! But I respected her and admired how she handled herself, so I made it a rule. Guess what? About 75% of the time I realized that I didn’t need to respond at all after waiting a day. The other 25% of the time I did respond, but in a much more thoughtful and considerate way than I had originally planned out in my mind (one hundred times).

I also learned that when I ignored her advice and immediately shot off my unfiltered and ill-considered response, I regretted it 100% of the time.

What is the best piece of wisdom someone has shared with you?

Our lectionary this week focuses on different variations of wisdom literature. The Old Testament book of Proverbs is known for its nuggets of good advice and wise sayings. We use the phrase “proverbial wisdom” as an homage to this collection of writings by King Solomon.

In the second half of Proverbs 1, Solomon presents wisdom as a woman who speaks loudly in the streets, but apparently nobody listens. If you’ve ever been the parent of a middle schooler, you can probably relate.

Proverbs 1 (Contemporary English Version)

20 Wisdom shouts in the streets
    wherever crowds gather.
21 She shouts in the marketplaces
and near the city gates
    as she says to the people,
22 “How much longer
will you enjoy
    being stupid fools?
Won’t you ever stop sneering
    and laughing at knowledge?
23     Listen as I correct you
    and tell you what I think.
24 You completely ignored me
    and refused to listen;
25 you rejected my advice
and paid no attention
    when I warned you.

The language in this passage is a little startling. Solomon is not playing around. He draws a clean line between those who are wise and those who are stupid fools. His plea is for everyone to LISTEN. Do you ever feel like God is shouting that at you sometimes? ”Listen, my child. Just be silent and LISTEN to me, and I will get you through this.” Wise people pay attention.

26 “So when you are struck
    by some terrible disaster,
27 or when trouble and distress
surround you like a whirlwind,
    I will laugh and make fun.
28 You will ask for my help,
    but I won’t listen;
    you will search,
    but you won’t find me.
29 No, you would not learn,
    and you refused
    to respect the Lord.
30 You rejected my advice
and paid no attention
    when I warned you.

Those who hear God’s command to LISTEN and refuse him do so at their own peril. When we refuse to respect the Lord, reject his advice, and pay no attention, we reap what we sow.

31 “Now you will eat the fruit
    of what you have done,
    until you are stuffed full
    with your own schemes.
32 Sin and self-satisfaction
bring destruction and death
    to stupid fools.

But mercifully, God provides a way out. If we change our attitude and listen to him, we will be safe and secure. We need not fear:

33 But if you listen to me,
you will be safe and secure
    without fear of disaster.”

So listen. What is God saying to you today?

Listen by Janet Owen

Who Am I

When I was in college, a funny story circulated around campus during finals one semester. It seems that a professor was monitoring a large class that was taking their final in an auditorium. He could see a young man about half way up the room who was blatantly cheating off the papers of those around him. The professor decided to wait until the student walked his test down to the desk before confronting him.

As the student came forward to place his answer sheet on the stack of the other sheets, the professor held up his hand. “One moment, young man. I can’t accept your test. I watched you copying answers from everyone around you, and I am going to have to give you an F.”

The student hesitated for a moment, his test held against his chest. “Do you know who I AM?” he yelled. The professor was taken aback, and shook his head no. The student then spun around and yelled to the startled students who were still finishing their exams, “DOES ANYONE IN THIS ROOM KNOW WHO I AM??? They all looked around silently, and nobody answered.

With that, the student lifted up half of the exams on the desk, shoved his in the middle of the pile, and walked away.

I always think of that story when I read about the time that Jesus was traveling with his disciples and he asked the same question of them:

Mark 8(The Message)

27 Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?”

28 “Some say ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”

29 He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”

Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.”

You just have to cheer for Peter right here. Peter was beloved by Jesus, but sometimes he missed the mark. He got it right this time, and Jesus was pleased. Indeed, Peter’s correct test answer earns all of them a new teaching that Jesus went on to deliver. They were worthy of the truth, and it was time for them to receive more of it.

30-32 Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.

32-33 But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”

Well, that didn’t last very long, did it? Peter slides from first in the class to almost expelled. His love for Jesus was so great, he had a ‘Jack Nicholson’ moment where truly couldn’t handle the truth. But Jesus knew that it was only the truth that would set them all free.

So he continued his class, and we would do well to lean in and learn from this:

34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

You are not in the driver’s seat. Embrace suffering…Jesus will show you how. Self-help is not the way, but self-sacrifice will gain you everything.

Whatever you do, don’t sell your soul.

38 “If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”

Several years ago I taught a Bible study and a 90-year-old retired pastor signed up. On the first day, I expressed my surprise and delight that he was taking a Disciple One class, given his age and experience. He smiled and said, “Oh, I had to come! I am studying for my finals.”

May we all continue to learn and grow, right up until the final exam.

You Are the Christ by Kathy Schumacher

The Heavens Tell

Labor Day in the United States is an opportunity to take a brief respite from work and enjoy a rare weekday off. It signals the end of the summer rush here on the Outer Banks, and when the weather cooperates with a lessening of the humidity and heat, the tangible promise of fall is nothing short of glorious. We are having that kind of weather right now, and our minds have turned to college football, fall festivals, and all things pumpkin spice-flavored. Forget about Christmas! This, right here, is the most wonderful time of the year.

Psalm 19 is the perfect reading for today. David draws us into a vibrant and lyrical praise song of all of God’s creation. He begins by directing our attention to our surroundings. He invites us to see what the heavens are doing. What does the night say? Can anything compare to the glory of the rising sun?

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
    and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them;
    and nothing is hid from its heat.

You probably have noticed that I post a lot of sunrise pictures. I have friends who have practically made it their life’s work to be up at dawn with cameras and cell phones ready. I have another friend who sends me sunset pictures almost every night from her deck overlooking the sound. We are blessed to live on an island that affords both east and west views of the sun’s activity in the sky. “Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them” perfectly describes the sun moving from rising over Atlantic Ocean to setting into the Albemarle Sound. David unknowingly captured Outer Banks living at its best.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
    and drippings of the honeycomb.

In addition to his affection for creation, David also loved the law. He understood that the clear and unadulterated precepts of the Lord are right, sure, perfect, and true. As a king, he appreciated the structure that the law provides for society. As an individual, he was less successful in keeping the law, and it brought him great pain.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
    Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
    do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

The challenge for us today is to spend a moment reflecting on the beauty of all these things. Take a walk if you are able and dwell in the glory of what God created for you. Search your heart and see if there is any “hidden fault” that is causing you to stumble in your walk. Where is God trying to correct or even rebuke you for departing from the law…and from him?

May we rest today, knowing that when sins are revealed and confessed, we can offer our repentance and know that we are heard, loved, and made new.

Go and make it a great day!

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Heavenly Sunrise by Michelle Robertson

Anxious Hearts

Do you ever experience anxiety? Anxiety is a biological reaction to external and internal pressures and threats. It is the body’s way of alerting you to hunker down or flee a threatening situation. According to the National Institution of Health, this is the definition of anxiety:

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress. For example, you might feel anxious when faced with a difficult problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. It can help you to cope. The anxiety may give you a boost of energy or help you focus. But for people with anxiety disorders, the fear is not temporary and can be overwhelming.

Our passage from Isaiah today speaks directly to those who have an anxious heart. It is a beautiful reminder that God is always with us in every situation, and we can count on him to come and save us:

Isaiah 35 (English Standard Version)

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

The times we are living in right now are filled with anxiety. You can’t go through a day without experiencing some anxiety over the pandemic, driving in heavy traffic, the climate crisis, violence in our streets and across the world, worry over the economy and jobs, raising children, marriages falling apart…the list is endless.

A friend shared that after several life-challenging events, she is struggling so much with anxiety that she realizes she needs to find help. She said that this gave her a sense of shame and disappointment. I know that those feelings are real, but I countered that if she were experiencing symptoms of diabetes, she would see a specialist and possibly go on insulin. It is the same with anxiety…getting professional help puts no shame in that game. That is the smart move.

When anxious thoughts overwhelm you, close your eyes and imagine Isaiah’s vision of the waters breaking forth in the wilderness, streams flowing in the desert, and burning sand turning into a pool of cool water that brings life to the animals who drink there. Take a few deep breaths, pray and meditate, and go for a walk. And if anxiety is persistent and pervasive, a good therapist is in order, just as you would seek help for a heart condition. God can use ALL things for your good if you let him.

Behold, your God will come…he will come and save you.

The Burning Sand Shall Become a Pool by Amanda Williams