I, too, thirst.

glass-of-water

“If I’m thirsty, I don’t want you to bring me a glass of water. I want you to sympathize. I want you to say: “Gloria, I too know what it feels like to be thirsty. I, too, have had a dry mouth.” I want you to connect with me through understanding the concept of drymouthedness.” – Rosie Perez as Gloria

I watched a movie so long ago and though I don’t remember many scenes, it was the above speech that sticks with me. The character was thirsty and voiced it. And of course, her partner wanted to fix her ailment. An easy remedy, he thought, as he set out to get a glass of water. But that’s not what she needed from him. She didn’t want him to minimize her complaint and offer a quick fix. What she wanted was empathy. She wanted to know that someone else felt just as she did. And when I consider why I set out to write, I think it’s for this very reason. One, I thirst. I long. I ache for more. And it’s in my heart to share. Second, I know I’m not the only one. I’m not. There’s someone else who hears my complaint of thirst. And rather than offering me tap water to shut me up, she nods her head in agreement. She looks me directly in the eye and says, “I, too, thirst.” And this comforts me. For I know I am not alone in my state of dryness. She, too, understands the concept of drymouthedness, for she is my fellow sojourner in the wilderness way.

At times, I’ve questioned what I do. In fact, I’ve shrunk back because of comments and what other people may think. Because in the course of the past year, there have been so many ups and downs. Mainly downs. And the last thing I wish to do is dishonor God. I dare not sully His name by reflecting badly on Him. For here I am, a child of God, and it seems as if I do a lot of complaining. And whining. And bellyaching. So, does this bring Him glory? Am I actively working in His kingdom plan, or by sharing my heart, am I errantly acting against it?

But this morning, it’s His very word that gives me confidence. It’s the Holy Scriptures that come to mind, and through those precious words I see people just like me. I am not the only one. And through the Psalms, I find the empathy I crave. Amidst beautiful words of hope and encouragement, I also find despair. And agitation. And fear. And heartbreak. And oddly enough, it’s those words that comfort me the most. For I know there were others who traveled before me in the wilderness way.

As a deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for You, God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while all day long people say to me,
“Where is your God?”

I remember this as I pour out my heart:
how I walked with many,
leading the festive procession to the house of God,
with joyful and thankful shouts.

Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.
I am deeply depressed;
therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan
and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls;
all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me.
The Lord will send His faithful love by day;
His song will be with me in the night—
a prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to God, my rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why must I go about in sorrow
because of the enemy’s oppression?”
My adversaries taunt me,
as if crushing my bones,
while all day long they say to me,
“Where is your God?”

Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.  Psalm 42

If I were to encounter the writer of Psalm 42, I think I would shake my head in agreement. I’d look that person directly in the eye and say, “I, too, thirst.” Because I understand. The writer of this Psalm was going through a dry spell. He had tasted the living God, and nothing else would satisfy. But for reasons I don’t know, he felt desolate the moment he set pen to paper. He was depressed and his insides ached. And clearly, he felt as if God had forgotten him. But when I look deeper, I see more. Despite the heaviness, hope remains. He cried out to God in sorrow because he knew God alone was his help. And though times seemed dark, the lightness of days gone by encouraged him. He reflected on previous encounters with God… and His faithful love. It’s evident the writer was distressed, but God was still his God. And God was still his rock. Oh, he was dry alright, but he still had hope. For in his valley low, he recalled mountain highs. And he knew… highs would come again. And so, he praised Him still.

The Psalm writers didn’t hold back. They poured out their hearts but it wasn’t all light and glory and joy. They wrote about reality. Struggles. And I’m so glad they did. Because through them, I know I am not the only one. I know that they, too, thirsted in a dry and barren land. And that gives me hope. For through their steadfast faith, I am encouraged to hold fast to my own. And through their unswerving hope, mine which was lagging is bolstered. And just as they reflected on the mountain highs, I am inclined to do the same. I remember Him. I know He is faithful even when I’m not. And so, I am once again expectant. I endure the dry spell and wait. For the mountain high will come again.

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. Psalm 27:13-14

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FacDkraAvlI 

 

 

 

Does she know?

I’m studying the book of Esther. And through the second chapter, I learned that this young, Jewish woman (who became the queen of Persia) was beautiful in both form and face. Basically, she was a knock out. And not only that, her beauty was more than skin deep. There was just something about Esther that made her so likeable… to both men and women. Because she won the favor of everyone she came into contact with. It sounds like she had it all, doesn’t it? But no, if you read closely you see that she must have had some sadness in her life, for she was orphaned. Because she had no parents, her cousin adopted her and raised her as his own. And not only that, because the king put forth a decree, she was taken to the palace along with all the other beautiful women. So Esther, who had lost her parents, was then abruptly taken from the only one she knew as a father. So realistically, she didn’t have it all. She only looked like it. And the amazing thing is that despite her less than favorable circumstances, she retained a sweet soul. She had to have, for she gained favor wherever she went. She must have positively glowed… inside and out. Do you know anyone like that?

Yesterday, I wondered if there was someone like this in my life. But sadly, no one came to mind. Because I must be honest… if I know a drop-dead, gorgeous woman, there may be the smallest part of me that feels a little bit jealous. And maybe, I feel a hint of intimidation. So, really, no one readily came to mind yesterday. But this morning, I thought of someone. See, I’m memorizing a new verse…

I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living…       Psalm 27:13

“Lost heart” captured my attention. Another version of the Bible says it this way… “I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness.” This verse is all about faith. This verse exhibits such hope. The psalmist who wrote this fully expects to see God’s goodness in the land. And this made me think of a woman I know. She happens to be exceedingly beautiful. Not only that, her beauty is more than skin deep. Whenever I am in her presence, I feel happy to be with her. She is sweet and authentic and lovely… but in reality, she doesn’t have it all. See, her circumstances are less than favorable. This woman has two boys, both with a disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Her days are hard, and her heart must positively ache at times. But you would never, ever know it. For her attitude is always uplifting. This woman gains the favor of all those who see her (Esther 2:15). And coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), this woman posted something on her Facebook page yesterday that moved me. Perhaps this is what brought her to mind today:

“I want to thank God even for the afflictions, pain, hardships and discouragement I have met with over the years, for through them I have realized God’s ever-loving presence no matter how hard things may be.”

Amazing. I just bet you this woman has faith that runs through to her marrow. I’m sure that with each new dawn, she has fresh hope. Because she has to… for her boys. They are her life. This woman has to look to God. She must believe and never give up… or else she would lose heart. But for her boys, she will endure. She will not lose heart for she believes that she will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. I’m sure she feels that way… she must. But I just have to wonder… would I be that strong? Could I be?

And so, today, I find it’s her birthday. Perhaps that’s why God brought her to mind this morning. And today, on her birthday, I wonder if she knows. Does she know how much she inspires the people who know her? Does she know what a light she is in this dark world? Does she know that she gives hope to each one of us? Does she know that I want to be just like her… and that I admire her… and that if I am ever surrounded by such circumstances, I hope and pray that I could stand in faith… as she does. I would hope that I could follow her lead, and be of good courage, and that I would wait on the LORD… as she does. And, does she know how very, beautiful she is… both inside and out? Does she know??

Today, it’s her birthday. And so today, I ask you to please surround her. Bathe her in prayer and lift her up. Because she deserves it. Pray for those boys, I implore you, and pray for this woman, who is exceedingly beautiful. Pray that she will rejoice and that she will endure. And pray that she will see the goodness of the LORD. Pray, so that she’ll know. See, I want her to know, for her birthday, just how beautiful she really is… to all of us.

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

mother and child reunion

Mother and child

I think we’ve all heard it at least once in our lives. I believe we have all been cautioned by some well-meaning person with the phrase, “Don’t get your hopes up.” And perhaps in accompaniment to the words of wisdom, their heads shook back and forth, or maybe their faces displayed the most severe expression to fully demonstrate the foolhardiness of one who hopes. Because any sound person can tell you… hope surely will be dashed to the ground. And the well-meaning person… likely a loved one… was really only trying to help you when they told you what they did. But truth be known, after hearing it so many times, a person who was once full of faith may fall into the same mindset. Despite the faithful’s best intentions, she may sink down into that grim sort of outlook on life, expecting the worst out of circumstances… and of people. But then, when least expected, hope glimmers and faith renews. And those are the times, for me at least, when the words, “Get behind me, Gehazi,” come to mind. Believe it or not, this will make sense by the end of this blog. After reading this, may we all cry out, “Get behind me, Gehazi!”

It was three years ago that I had great hope. I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew that God was going to return me to my hometown in Virginia. I felt it in my bones. I had come across Scripture, and I felt assured that it was a promise to me, despite being written to the children of Israel so long ago. And so, I was fully expectant, full of faith, and full of hope that my God would bring it to pass. No one could tell me otherwise. And believe me, some tried to. You know those cautious phrases, “Don’t get your hopes up,” and “I’m just saying,” and, “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

And so, in reflecting on those nay-sayers of days gone by, I cannot help but think about the Shumannite woman in contrast. It’s in the fourth chapter of Second Kings that we read about her, and we find that she was wealthy with no needs. She even took care of others’ needs, including Elisha the prophet. Whenever he passed by, she would urge him to eat. And so eventually, after some visits, she asked her husband if they could prepare a room for this man of God to rest in. And so it came to pass that the man of God wanted to do something for this kind woman who had no needs. When asked, she said, “I dwell among my own people…” Translation, “I’m fine, I don’t need a thing.” Elisha turned to his assistant, Gehazi. It was Gehazi who named something she didn’t have. He knew that the wealthy woman had no son, and not only that, her husband was old. Translation, chances of a child were slim to none. But see, with God all things are possible. Elisha informed the Shumannite woman that she would indeed have a child. He said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my Lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!” Translation, “No way!”

Elisha told the woman who had no need that she would indeed have a son and it must have seemed impossible. Could a baby have been a long forgotten desire that had been buried deep away? Or could it be that this woman had yearned for a baby for years, the longing never extinguished… the burning ever fresh? We don’t really know, only that she in fact conceived and gave birth to a son. And as any mother today knows, this woman had to have loved him with all her heart and soul. And so, what happened next came as such a surprise to me. The child grew, but one day his head began to hurt. So, he was carried back home to his mother. And you know, that Shumannite woman held him on her knees until noon, and then, he died. He died… right there on her lap. Here is a woman who didn’t ask for a child, and yet, the man of God promised her a son. And she bore that son and loved him. But then… death? How could that be?

The woman laid her son’s body on the bed she had prepared for the man of God, and she called for a donkey and her servant. She said, “Drive, and go forward; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” Translation, “Go as fast as you can and do not stop!” And so she departed, and went to the man of God. When Elisha saw her from a distance, he sent his servant Gehazi. He told Gehazi to check on her well being. But that Shumannite woman had none of that. She answered Gehazi’s questions, but left him behind as she reached for the man of God. See, it was Elisha who made the promise. It was he who was the man of God, and it was he that she was desperate to reach. And as she grabbed hold of him, Gehazi tried to push her away. But Elisha saw her anguish, he saw her pain…

Here we see a picture of a woman… a woman who dared to hope for a son despite the odds. But then, he died… and yet, the woman seemed to have held on to hope. Because afterward, she didn’t stop moving until she reached the man of God. And when Gehazi tried to deter her, she didn’t let him slow her down. When she reached Elisha, she said, “Did I ask a son of my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?” Translation,”I never asked for a son, and yet you told me I would have one. And so why, now, does my child lay dead on your bed?” Elisha then said to his servant, Gehazi, “Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way.” But that wasn’t good enough for this woman. See, her faith lay with the man of God, and so she clung to him and said she would not leave him. And so, He arose and followed her. And Elisha indeed performed a miracle that day. He did what Gehazi could not accomplish, and he roused the child.

I admire this woman because she never gave up hope. And it was at a ladies’ conference last fall that I first heard of the Shumannite woman and her persistence. It was Beth Moore who paralleled this woman’s trek to Elisha as our own trek to Jesus, and she said that there are just those times when no one else will do but Him. Beth said that when those “Gehazis” try to get in our way and block our path, we just need to push them aside and say, “Get behind me, Gehazi!” And essentially, that’s what the Shumannite woman did. And in addition to her unswerving hope and persistence, I also admire that she fully expected the miracle… She dared to hope against all odds. And more than once. When things looked the darkest, she didn’t lose her faith. Because she believed the man of God when he told her that she would have a son. This woman never gave up on her child… not once. And isn’t this what mother’s do today? Don’t we all hold to hope when it concerns our children?

You know, it would be way too easy to shut down. It would be pretty comfortable to keep one’s hopes low, so that hopes would not be dashed to the ground. It would be so easy to just close oneself up tight and to not hope for anything else, ever again… because that would be safe. Because when the Gehazi’s of the world tell us over and over, “Don’t get your hopes up,” we eventually start to think that way. And who wants to risk heartache, right? But that’s not biblical… at all. Because God is the God of hope! And without faith, it is impossible to please Him! And although with man it’s impossible, with God all things are possible! And let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, because He who promised is faithful! Believe Him. Just take Him at His word.

In all my life, there have only been a handful of times that I have felt assured of a promise by God. The first was that He would return me to my hometown. And upon return to my homeland, I felt sure that all of my people would one day be His people (those that are not already His). I felt confident of that when I read a particular verse in Isaiah, and I still believe that today. I claim that promise. And it was the fall of 2011 that I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew that I would have another baby. And sure enough, it was December 13, 2011 that I learned of my pregnancy. You can imagine my surprise when the sonogram showed that there was no heartbeat, and I had a miscarriage shortly thereafter. I didn’t understand… because God promised me a baby. And I did all the right things… I believed it, I hoped it, and yet, no baby. But the truth is, there is a baby. Just not here on this side of eternity… just not here where I can hold him or her on my lap.

It was a few days ago that I came across a note in my Bible placed beside Psalm 30:5. It says, “1/23/12, sonogram 1/20, no heart beat.”  When I read this portion of Scripture over a year ago, I felt assured of a promise: “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Yes, I’ll claim the promise I find here. For I’m promised God’s favor for life… And I’m told that joy comes in the morning. And so, that’s mine. I’ll believe it and I’ll hope for it.

You know, God promised me a baby. And he fulfilled that promise, for I’ll meet that baby one day in heaven. And so, for today, I have the hope of a mother and child reunion. And as of today, I will always choose hope. I shall always believe… for “blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45

And to all those nay-sayers out there… to all those who wisely tell me to not get my hopes up, I forever shall say, “Get behind me, Gehazi.” For I’ll let nothing stand in the way of me and my Jesus.

The Eve of Destruction

Today, I wonder about Eve. What must she have felt like? She started off well, right? She walked in the garden not just with her mate, but also with God. And as she walked with the God of all creation, she knew no shame. Because she was innocent. But, Eve made a mistake. A big one. And it was through her mistake that sin entered the garden. And I find it ironic that Eve, whose name means “life” or “living,” also became the mother of death. Because the wages of sin is death, right? Eve, who was the mother of all living, actually became the Eve of destruction when she made her error. How in the world did this this woman feel?

Did Eve realize as soon as her teeth broke the skin of the forbidden fruit that sin just walked in? Did she feel sick as the sweetness of the fruit slid down her throat? Or did she become soul-sick after she gave it to her husband to eat? Did she feel fear when she realized she did the one thing God told her not to do? Or did she fear later, when God came calling and she hid? Did shame introduce itself before or after she ate? Or did she feel its full impact as her husband said to God, “The woman that You gave to be with me – she gave me some [some fruit] from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12. Perhaps she didn’t feel the full gravity of her error in judgment until she answered God. She said that she had been deceived by the serpent… did God surprise her by the severity of His punishment? He said, “I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” Not only that, God said to Adam, “The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”

The Garden of Eden… that garden of delight… was no more. Because sin walked in. Because Eve did what she knew she shouldn’t, and because Adam followed her lead, it cost them dearly. Life as they knew it was changed forevermore. Eve was deceived by the serpent, and after being tempted, she found that what looked good was not. Because what looked good led to the fall of man… it led to the eve of destruction. And ever since that day, sin has abounded on the earth. Look around, and what do we see? The news is filled with story after story, one more heinous than the next. Today’s headlines shout, “Police arrest boy, 12, for stabbing his eight-year-old sister to death at home.” Sin gave birth to violence and destruction and it blazes an ever widening path. Did Eve have any idea what was to follow? Could she have known the impact of her mistake? She must have, because she gave birth to Cain and Abel. Her own son killed the other. Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground… and it hasn’t stopped. Blood spilled upon blood. Ever deepening.

I hope that Eve knew the truth. The other truth, that is. Oh, she knew the reality of violence. But I hope Eve realized her true worth and how much God really loved her. Because although she bit into the fruit, and gave way to sin, God didn’t love her less because of it. And despite her costly mistake, He still provided for her needs. And here’s the best part… God in fact said the woman would have pain in childbirth, but there is hope in simply that. The hope of childbirth. Despite her grievous sin, Eve, the first woman, got to have babies. And with each child, there is hope. It’s the woman who experiences a baby as he grows in her womb. It’s the woman who quickly forgets the agony of delivery, when she hears her newborn’s first cry. It’s the woman who knows the closeness of a babe at her breast, drinking in what only she can offer. It’s the woman who gets to be the mother. What great mercy God showed to Eve, the very first woman, in making her what she was… a mother.

This morning, I read, “For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth— A woman shall encompass a man.” Jeremiah 31:22. This intrigued me, as I have been contemplating God’s plan for women lately. I have felt downcast, and well, quite frankly feeling less than… if you know what I mean. So, I just had to know what this “new thing” is. What exactly does God mean by saying, “A woman shall encompass a man”? “Encompass” has several meanings, and with each version of the Bible, the verse reads differently… shelter, compass, surround, protect, guard, and return to, among others. So, what? A woman will shelter a man, protect a man… what was God saying here? And as I began to see, I just have to wonder if Eve, who lived so long ago, knew the promise of this statement.

It may be true that sin entered the world through the fall of man, via the mouth of a woman.  And though this stigma may trail after woman, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because the fact is, God chose women to have babies. That’s part of His plan. And because of God’s mercy and grace, it was through a woman that salvation made entrance into the world. By the hand of God, a virgin conceived. And the baby Jesus grew inside that young woman’s body. He was protected in her womb. See… Mary, the mother of Jesus, encompassed The Man. She surrounded Him… she sheltered Him… she guarded Him. And our Savior and Lord was delivered into this world through a woman. And it’s by Him that we will can all truly be delivered. Praise God for that.

Ironically, although Eve’s name means “life” or “living,” the dictionary gives the meaning as evening, night, sundown… basically darkness. And although the world looks that way now… dark and scary… there is hope. See, the dictionary also gives the meaning of “Eve” as: the evening or day before a special day, or the period immediately preceding. See, as dark the world seems right now, we are in fact living during a period immediately preceding something special. That something special is the Day of the Lord. And so we find… in more ways than we realize… we are truly living through the Eve of destruction. But we know the other truth… the real truth. We know the hope of a Child.

He who testifies of these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20