No Night

As the younger three kids rip around the house before 8am deep in a game of hide and seek, I open the fridge to grab the milk for breakfast and discover an inspirational dollar store magnet stuck between the doors. I pull it out and pop it on the front, taking note of its message. 

“Love grows here”, it says. When it fell to the ground and broke long ago I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. It still fit together, though a few little pieces were missing, so I pulled out some clear tape and secured it before putting it back on the fridge. I like it better now; it feels more authentic to me.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories my kids will have of growing up in our home. Everyone experiences the same things differently, don’t they? Each one has a different personality, way of seeing the world, needs, wants, goals and dreams. With four young humans in our care, my prayer and patience muscles get a daily workout and my heart has grown many sizes beyond what I thought possible. Parenting can feel like one giant guessing game where you don’t quite know if you were right until years later. Praise the Lord that He is gracious, working and moving in the areas I simply can’t see or anticipate. Love definitely lives here, imperfect, but still secure in the One who made us and put us together in the first place.

We are in the stretch of the year now where night never comes; we just move from twilight to twilight throughout the wee hours of the day until the fiery, life-giving sun peeks over the edge of the city for another long, warm, slow journey across the sky. Late into the evening now, its light is never quite gone. Just as it dips below the horizon and the edge of the day disappears in the west, the hint of dawn begins to creep along the eastern horizon, stars winking across the inky blue zenith before they fade with the gradual return of the light.

So much beauty while we rest and rejuvenate for a brand new day, a reminder that the grace of God never stops even while life is bumping along at a grand pace and we’re running to keep up.

Love grows here, friends. Even when we can’t see it. Even when we don’t understand. Even when things go sideways and we can’t imagine how it’s all going to turn out.

And even when we’re in a season of no night – no true darkness – just light around the edges of each day marked by the warmth of the sun, God’s love holds us fast. We know without a shadow of a doubt that He is our light and our salvation; we have nothing to fear when trouble comes.

Psalm 27 reminds us:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

Love grows here

Remember

A mama house sparrow hops around our front lawn, looking for a bite to eat in the sunshine. Everything is alive now, with dandelions, saskatoons, apples and irises in bloom. Ants carry on, bees bumble from sweet flower to sweet flower, sparrows and chickadees flit here and there, robins diligently care for their broods. The hawks are back too, solitary hunters soaring and diving to fill their bellies.

Let heaven and nature sing!

In becoming what I like to call Noticers, we’ve caught breathtaking glimpses of our magnificent, carefully designed world right in our own backyard. I’m amazed at how many times I hear, “Mom! You’ve got to see this!”, an invitation to hurry out the back door to observe the shape of a spiderweb or quietly tiptoe across the deck to spy a house finch among the leaves.

For years I’ve thought that I was just one of those people who didn’t like change. We have this vintage book about opposites where the characters go to the circus and at the very end two of them are heading home. One says, “I’m sad that it’s over” and another one says, “I’m glad that it happened”. Guess which one I tend to be! I’m the one who sheds a few tears at the end of the Beatles Anthology every single time, even though we know from history how that story ends. It occurred to me this week though, that it’s not change itself I dislike but its hallmark sense of loss.

I find the slow rhythm of the seasons steadies me. Give me the first robin, the first handful of Saskatoon berries, the first pop of fall colour, the first blanket of snow and I feel confident in what lies ahead. These changes I welcome, although they’re bittersweet. New milestones, adventures and plans are exciting, but a sudden illness, unplanned large expense or unwelcome news can throw me for a solid loop unless I pause to remember not only who God is but also what He has done in the past.

This week I came across Psalm 116:1-7 — 

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion. 
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

Amen. Praise the Lord. He is good to me, even when my plans go awry, when interruptions come, when my energy is drained and I have little left in the tank. Even when the mundane is, well, mundane. Even when the day feels like an uphill climb or the pace of life is dizzying. Even when we have to say goodbye, and change brings its unmistakeable sense of loss.

Maybe, especially then.

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

(Psalm 116:12-14)

The foreshadowing of a fruitful year for our Saskatoon. (image: mine)

Even There

There are so many times when we just don’t have the words to pray, so many moments where we are heartbroken and don’t know how to let it out.

I love the book of Psalms for its honest treatment of the human experience and interaction with God. I’ve often found that as I linger among its chapters and verses, soaking in the language of poetry with all its imagery and metaphor, my heart is allowed to breathe. The prayers I didn’t know how to pray are written out before me. I’ve been revisiting Psalm 139 recently and I’m sharing it with you in this space, in light of everything we’re facing globally, in our communities, and in our own hearts.

Psalm 139 (NIV)

1 You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

As Christ-followers, may we lean into God’s Word and find the truth we so desperately need, in all seasons and circumstances. May we learn to abide in Jesus and discover that He is our true source of life. And may we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to transform us from the inside out, bringing His life-changing, eternal hope to our families, churches, communities and the world.

Psalm 139 in my well-worn study Bible

Where Does My Hope Come From?

I find myself wanting to hold my family close and speak the words “I love you” to them.

I’m listening to music from my childhood, calling my grandparents and parents to check on them and reaching out to my friends daily.

Why does it take a crisis to prompt me to do the things I should have been doing long ago?

Tears come easy these days. I’ve never been great at quickly adapting to abrupt change and find I need to let the grief flow at the strangest of times.

On Sunday morning, we showed the kids a few scenes from the Jesus film. I found my heart longing for the day when heaven touches earth in such a profound way once again – when the King of Kings makes everything right and sin and death are vanquished forever. This momentous, frightening time in history will pass. Fear will be gone. Sorrow and pain will be no more. Isolation will end. The body of Christ will be together, praising Him evermore! The breath caught in my throat and my heart swelled with hope as hot tears of relief filled my eyes. I tried to blink them away but a few escaped and slid down my cheeks.

My 2 year old noticed. “Do you have tears?” he asked, sticking his little cherub cheeks right in front of mine so I could hide no longer.

“Yes,” I said. He is just so cute.

“Are you sad?” he pressed, eyes wide with curiosity as he touched the tears on my face with his soft little fingers.

“I’m a little sad and a little happy,” I explained.

“I’ll take your tears and put them away for you,” he said as he placed both hands on my cheeks. He ran down the hall, opened my bedroom door and “threw” my tears in. Then he came running back to my side.

“I put your tears away in your room,” he said.

“Thank you,” I laughed through more tears.

Jesus, one day You will put away our tears. You will wipe our sad red eyes and hold us close. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain because the old order of things will have passed away, and You will make everything new! (Revelation 21:4-5)

As we look forward to that day, we are in awe of how we experience Your presence even here in the middle of the darkness. We see Your light shining unapologetically in the storm. We are filled with Your Spirit, bringing a bit of heaven to a very weary earth. We cry out to You and wait with baited breath for Your kingdom to come in all its fullness, Lord! We walk forward in confidence that You have not forgotten us, and that in fact, You have equipped us to serve You at this very moment in history. We praise You for strengthening us even now!

We fix our eyes on You, Jesus.

Have you experienced joy this week? Have you seen kindness in action? Have you felt connected to someone? Have you found comfort in God’s Word? Have you seen someone pouring out their life for the sake of another? Praise the Lord — He never stops working!

Meditate on Psalm 46 and find your hope in Christ today.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

-Psalm 46 (NIV)

Lighthouse Rachel Omnes

Image: Rachel Omnes

Made to Praise

It’s a simple song I learned when I was a child. I’ve sung it countless times as a lullaby to all my babies, and they each know it by heart.

Even my just-barely-two year old. He was singing it to himself in his sweet toddler-speak this morning as he played:

“I love you Lord, and I lift my voice
To worship you, oh my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King in what you hear
May it be a sweet sweet sound in your ear.”

He moved on to another familiar song:

“Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him
How I proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
O, for grace to trust Him more.”

It does this mama heart so good to hear the sweet voices of her children lifting up the One who created them.

As that thought occurred to me, another followed closely behind: If I love to hear my children praise the Lord, how much more does our worship bring joy to God the Father’s heart?

Worship is not just song; it’s an entire life centred around Jesus Christ, loving as He loved and serving as He served. And praising Him, out loud and in our hearts, is an essential part of that well-spent life.

When things are going well, it’s easy to give Him praise. But when things are going poorly, it can feel nearly impossible to lift our voices, let alone our hands, to the Maker of heaven and earth.

God is sovereign. And He is all good. When we go through difficulties, it feels like He has forgotten us. But Isaiah talks about how God does not forget His people (Isaiah 49:15-16 NIV):

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.”

Holding God’s sovereignty and His goodness in tension is crucial, especially when our circumstances are beyond our control. And somehow, an audible declaration of praise serves as the reminder we desperately need!

We’re called to praise the Lord as long as we live. Psalm 146 (NIV) begins like this:

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
 
I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Put it on the mirror in the morning. Write it on a sticky note and snap a photo of it so it’s in your camera roll. “I WILL praise the Lord ALL my life; I WILL sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Choose it, no matter what happens in the day.

Why? Because of what it says in the rest of Psalm 146. The plain-as-day warning that follows always makes me sit up and take notice. No beating around the bush here, just a straightforward message to take to heart.

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

What a stark image of the reality of human limitations. It pierces my heart! Where am I placing my trust, right now, today, in this moment? Is it in human beings? Am I hanging my hopes on likes and follows, or even opportunities for ministry? What about my job or side projects? Maybe it’s my husband or children. How about my church or my friends?

It’s enough to make me realize where I’ve begun to turn for validation and, essentially, salvation of some kind. And it’s enough to make me return to my first love, the One who loved me first (1 John 4:19 NIV – “We love because He first loved us”).

He is worthy, there is no question. Look at this beautiful picture of God that unfolds before us throughout the remainder of this Psalm.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,

    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

God is the Maker of all. And because He is the Maker of all, He is the one who sustains all life! In Him, we find the justice, satisfaction, freedom, vision, encouragement, love, protection and provision that we will never find anywhere else.

We were – all of us – made to praise the Lord. We were made to bring Him glory. When we put our trust in Him, we can be confident that He is who He says He is, and He will do what He has promised to do.

So I’m choosing it today. I’m writing it on my heart.

I WILL praise the Lord ALL my life. I WILL sing praise to God as long as I live. Only He is worthy!

Morning skies

Late summer morning skies reveal His glory!

I’m Not Choosing One Word This Year

There is this practice of choosing one word for the year to be a theme or point of focus and encouragement – and for a follower of Jesus, the idea is that you spend some time in the Bible, praying and asking God to give you that particular word. I’m such a chatty gal that I am not sure one word would suffice! But it’s interesting, nonetheless.

I actually did this as part of a team-building retreat at work a few years ago. It was in the middle of a very busy, stretching season (really, when am I not in a season like that?!) with two kids at home aged three and one. I was exhausted! And struggling to find the little joys in the day. The word I settled on happened to be DELIGHT. I think it was prompted by a verse I had memorized long ago – “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV84)

I put the word up on the wall so I could see it every single day, and it reminded me over and over where my heart should be finding its encouragement and joy! The amazing thing is, over the course of the year a shift was happening inside of me. Soon I was seeing more and more moments of pure delight right in the middle of our ordinary but crazy life!

I’m not choosing one word this year – but I think I’ve stumbled upon a phrase instead. Each month I put a new verse on our chalkboard by the door so we can see it as soon as we walk in. On New Year’s Day I was thinking of what I should write for this month, when the words of Psalm 46 drifted quietly through my mind:

…Be still and know that I am God… – Psalm 46:10a (NIV84)

I struggle with constantly being ten steps ahead, trying to figure out the outcomes of every situation and control where the journey is going.

This year, before anxiety reaches fever pitch – I will BE STILL.

When I start to feel overwhelmed and alone – I will BE STILL.

When the kids are crazy and the demands of our life scream for my attention – I will BE STILL.

When the temptation rises to control and control and control some more – I will BE STILL.

And know that He is God.

Thank you Jesus for this beautiful, soul-healing word of life!

be still

Fifteen Years Later

Recently  I came across a date written in the margin of my Bible, next to part of a Psalm.

It was my nineteenth birthday.

I can’t really remember much about the day itself, but I remember the season of life I was in. I had spent the year after high school working at a radio station and was looking forward to attending Bible college that fall. I remember the spiritual passion and how I was so excited to see what life with Christ would bring. There were a series of question marks that needed exclamation points: would I meet someone and get married? Could I launch a full-time music ministry, as I was so hoping to? Dare I believe there would be a recording contract or at the very least, an album and a tour in my future?

The year that followed was filled with disappointment and heartbreak.

When things did not go the way I planned, I learned a few hard lessons about life and love and the way the world works. And I discovered, eventually, that I had a choice. I could choose the exhausting path of bitterness and self-protection, or I could choose to trust the One who knew me better than I know myself, and rest in His unfailing love.

Fast forward fifteen years. In that time, I’ve moved provinces, gotten married and had four kids, and it amazes me that when I read this passage again, my heart still cries YES and AMEN!

IMG_1414

Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life.

Psalm 119:33-40 (NIV)