Thursday, February 28, 2013

Comfort: To Ease the Grief Of

Are the comforts of God too small for you,
or the word that deals gently with you?
(Job 15:11 ESV)
My reading list seems sparse this month. As I was looking at books for Lent, two titles caught my attention. One a familiar friend, the other a new acquaintance. Both books encourage writing as a way of prayer.

Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy Through Written Prayer (Lynn D. Morrissey)

This first book is beautiful like its author. I've read it once before, and consider Lynn a dear friend and person who has fueled my passion for journaling.

This book is more than a guide to writing your prayers to God, it is an invitation to rekindle your relationship with God as the Lover of our Souls. As I enter the pages and the stories of Lynn's adventures with God, as well as her struggles, my heart finds rest and revival at the same time. My imagination is drawn to the garden of my soul, and I long to tarry in the presence of our Savior.

Today this line, prompted a prayer of examen: "Naming our grief is the first step toward healing." That one sentence opened up a floodgate of griefs that I have been ignoring, afraid to name them for fear of being consumed by grief. The crazy thing is that the more I try not to name my griefs, the more they come out in anger and despair.

In my journal, I wrote: "My grief is . . . regret, dismay, denied, unrealistic, unnameable, transitional, disappointment based on sin, sorrow, sickness, separation and simple doubts about God's goodness." This simple act of confession brought to light what troubles me. I don't have solutions, but expressing these on paper was the first step of reaching out to God for healing and comfort.

Writing to God: 40 Days of Praying With My Pen (Rachel G. Hackenberg)

I love the simplicity of this book. The prayers recorded in this book are poetic. They have inspired me to write poem prayers. Writing poetry takes my raging thoughts and distills them down into concise, raw expressions. When I read Rachel's poem prayers and my own, I am drawn to some phrase that feeds my soul in the moment.

On the facing page of each prayer, she offers a prompt to read a Scripture and to contemplate a topic, which spurs me on to more written expressions of my heart.

In the poem, Nighttime Prayer, she explores her fear of the dark, which leads to her real fear--the fear of not being in control or able to stave off disaster that might come in the middle of the night. Early in the morning she laments, "Wide-eyed in case the uncontrollable, unthinkable happens/So I stay awake/Stay distracted/Determined not to be caught off guard by the night."

Her prayer prompt for this entry explores fear: "Write a prayer about fear, and let the presence and encouragement of God surround you with holy comfort."

Combining this reading with the quote from Love Letters about healing and grief, I noticed a connection between grief and fear.

I wrote: "My fear is . . . bound up in my grief. I fear failure, disappointing others, not keeping up, other people's opinion of me, giving up on life, disappointing others' expectations of me. I am afraid of depression, cancer, pain, failure, rejection, hope, renewal, new paths, success, criticism, praise, pride, the future, boredom, apathy, cynicism, nothingness, death, living, making mistakes. . ."

These confessions were random, yet real. Something about confessing these on paper enlarges my perspective.

My conclusion today was that I am powerless . . . and that's a good thing to know and believe, because then I cry out, "I need you, Lord Jesus!"

And He comforts me.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Imagination: Creative Ability

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”
And it was so. 
(Genesis 1:14-15 ESV)
"Can you celebrate the unknown expanse of God's imagination?"
(Rachel G. Hackenberg)
As I contemplated the above question, and the truth that everything belongs to God, two poem prayers flowed from my pen.
stories untold
parables unfold
worlds above
kingdoms below
horizons expand
frontiers to explore
(borders, boundaries and limits)
transport us to lands unknown
everything belongs to God
the universe
the imagination
the narrative
the explanation
the soul
the seed
the expanse
the ground
the mind
the soil
the thoughts
the ideas (the toil)
the body
the fruit
the womb
the child
the strength
the growth
this miracle
called life

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Prayer for a Winter Day

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
(Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)
Lord of life and love, help us to worship thee in the holiness of beauty, that some beauty of holiness appear in us. Quiet our souls in thy presence with the stillness of a wise trust. Lift us above dark moods, and the shadow of sin, that we may find thy will for our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From the Book of Worship)

Monday, February 25, 2013


Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
(Luke 6:36 ESV)
I was reading today that the call "to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48) compares to being merciful. God's perfection reflects His character, which is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 103:8)
Perfection, which means moving toward maturity and completeness, seems more attainable in light of mercy. This added nuance of becoming merciful feels more practical. I can get a handle on being "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
I'm not saying it's my natural tendency, but becoming more like the God of mercy and love seems more likely than attaining a flawless life.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Never Fails

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.
(1 Corinthians 13:7-8 J.B. Phillips)


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Offer: To Make Available

Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men
when truth prevails.
(1 Corinthians 13:5-6 J.B. Phillips)
Offering some prayers of devotion to our Beloved Savior:
You Offer Me Life
You offer me patience, when I am edgy.
You offer me kindness, when I am cantankerous.
You offer me mercy, when I am rude.
You offer me modesty, when I am smug.
You offer me a way out, when I am selfish.
You offer me repentance, when I am resentful.
You offer me a change of heart, when I’m irritable.
You offer me an eraser, when I tally up wrong.
You offer me a song, when I want to pout.
You offer me love, when I want to hide.
Snow Day Predicted
I love you, O my God . . .
You are my snow day, my warmth.
You fill me with expectation
as I wait for the promised snow
that will stop the city for a day,
then melt away.
For this moment let me watch and pray,
as the snowflakes float to the earth; covering,
echoing birth,
muffling death's dirge.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Repent and Believe the Gospel Again

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
(1 Corinthians 13:4 J.B. Phillips)
Shake off your routines like bedcovers
Plant your feet on the ground
for the journey

Clear your eyes of sleep
Take in the sight of a new day
for loving your God

(Rachel G. Hackenberg)


I like my routines.  I get up every morning.  I brew a cup of coffee to sip and warm my hands, while I read my devotions. Then I find my pen and write in my journal.

In my journal, I start out with recording the day, the date, the time and the place.  I make some observation about how I feel or record something from the day before that stood out as important.  

And for Lent, I am writing love letters to God, which as I’ve said isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Last week as Lent began I received the ashes on my forehead. The words spoken that day jolted me.


And this week, the words, "Repent and believe the gospel," continue to confront me.


I was expecting “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” and instead I was startled by the word, “Repent!” 

And the charge to “Believe the gospel,” initiated a spiritual crisis. Do I really believe the gospel? What does it mean to believe the gospel? Or more accurately, what would my life look like if I took God at His word that I am redeemed and forgiven?

Maybe I wouldn’t reach for the TV remote as often. Maybe I wouldn’t doubt God’s love. Maybe I would be more gracious towards those who disappoint me. Maybe I could stop being so angry. (I made the rash decision to give up anger for Lent. It's not going so well. I need to get rid of it, but that's my dilemma, I tend to hoard anger.)
Maybe, just, maybe I would get out of bed and greet each new day with joy because Jesus lives and loves!
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Follow: To Engage in A Way of Life

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him,
“Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
(Luke 9:57 NKJV)
One of my Scripture readings for today included Luke 9:57-62. In response, I wrote a paraphrased dialogue that I imagined between Jesus and myself.
Me: I will go wherever You go.
Jesus: I am going, but I'm not staying. I will always be on the go. I have no roots.
Me: I  really want to follow you, but . . .I don't want to miss out on anything this world offers. I'm pretty rooted to this existence. What if someone I love dies and I'm not there to say good-bye or to give them a proper burial. Aren't these rituals important?
Jesus: My ways are not like yours. You don't get it. Everyone dies. I'm interested in the living. Life has its roots in eternity. Be concerned with eternal life and living. That's why I say, "Go and proclaim the kingdom of God," my kingdom is about living.
Me: Ok, I guess I can let the dead bury the dead, but what about my loved ones. The ones I live with, wouldn't it be nice for me to say farewell, let them know I'll be gone. That I'm picking up my roots and moving on.
Jesus: You don't understand. I'm not asking you to plow under your roots. I'm just saying your focus is on temporal things. One who plows looks forward, making sure the rows are straight. Looking back doesn't accomplish my purposes. If you look back, you can't really follow me. I'm moving ahead. I not concerned about establishing roots. I am the Root; everything grows and flourishes because of Me. Attach yourself to Me, and live. Then the kingdom of God will be your way of life.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Love Letters

But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
because he has been so good to me.

(Psalm 13:5-6 NLT)

I thought writing love letters to God would be easy. The frustration occurs when I attempt to write lovely letters, rather than true expressions of my heart, like Lynn D. Morrissey encourages in Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy Through Written Prayer:

It is the gift of the whole heart that God most desires-a heart without pretense and posturing; a heart in all its honesty, beauty, passion and brokenness; a heart pulsing with love, joy, sadness, delight, doubt, pain, anguish, even anger. True love expresses all emotions, and true love-God's true love for you-accepts them. 

I don't know why, but I feel awkward with God lately.

Am I struggling with accepting His love for me, yet again?  

So, I start thinking about the word, beloved, again. If I break the word apart it says, be loved.

Be. Loved.

The Spirit whispers, "Let Me love you. Don't shrink away. Don't listen to the lies that you're not measuring up." I whisper back, "Okay."

A Prayer of Response:

Here we are! Another day! Me curled up in my chair, with the cat next to me, pen in hand, ink on paper . . .I am listening. I am seeking. I pore over words looking for a phrase to move me toward and forward to Your heart, Your will, Your way . . . my heart is clogged with worldly angst. Desire for relief, comfort, even nothingness.

Yet You have all this existence surrounding me, begging me to exist, breathe, live and move within it. Sometimes I feel so alive, I could burst. Other times everything falls flat.

Help me to put aside my agenda for today. I just want to rest in Your presence. Imagine what it was like for you to become "word made flesh." You understand my fears and insecurities. Grant peace. Immerse me in your love. Let me be soaked with your love, joy, hope, peace, purpose and grace upon grace.

Your beloved- Kel

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Beloved: Dearly Loved; Dear to the Heart

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
This is love: not that we loved God,
but that he loved us and sent his Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
(1 John 4:9,10 NIV)

I started writing love letters again. I have been writing at God for quite a few years now in my journal, but for the next forty days, I sensed my Beloved invite me to write him letters.

A dear friend, Lynn D. Morrissey, wrote a book about this idea: Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer.  I picked up the book to read in sips, a few pages a day as I journey toward the most heart wrenching love story ever.

The story of a man, who used to live in heaven, and then took on flesh to live among us. A divine man loved by the Father.  The same Father who loved you and me so much, who gave his one and only to become sin for us. And Jesus not only took on our sin, but also suffered the penalty of sin: death.

A death that demonstrates the best love ever offered. To be called His beloved is to be treasured beyond compare. So I am attempting these days to write daily love notes to this God-Man-Spirit. The funny thing is I’m not sure how to address Him. And I’ve told him so. I’ve tried “Dear Jesus” and “Father God” and “Dear Friend” or “Lord Jesus” and they all are familiar, but not quite clear enough, when speaking to a Triune God.

Then today, this word “beloved”, was offered. And it seems to encompass the Father-Son-Spirit love that I long to express to HIm.

Beloved- I have been thinking of you today and how much you love me. I am yours and amazingly, you call me your own. Intimacy is frightening, yet to be close to you is really my heart’s deepest desire. I love you. I look forward to rekindling our love through letters. Love you-Kel
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love: Warm Attachment

Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
(Zechariah 1:3 NIV)
Does anyone really fall in love in the winter? Spring with its bursting song and backdrop of flowers and budding trees seems like a more likely season to fall in love. Summer with its long, warm days beckons us to stay in love, enjoying the pleasures of each others’ company. Autumn grants us moments to linger on walks through the fallen leaves holding onto those we love and have loved. Winter drives us indoors, sometimes to the warmth of the hearth and the comfort of snuggling up in our beds, but the cold creeps in and our passions wane. We begin to feel lonely, and to wonder if there will ever again be anything to look forward to besides cold floors, and bleak landscapes.
It is easy to feel stuck in the winter. I don’t really want to get up to face another day. I make little routines to propel me forward, but I lack the motivation that I have during the other seasons of the year. Yet love is love the whole year through. The unfailing love of God never changes. His love is constant. He doesn’t need a special holiday like Valentine’s to demonstrate His love. He has already sent His love. (Romans 5:8) And if God did send us a Valentine’s card or those little candy hearts with messages on them I think they would say something like “Return to Me.”
(Excerpt from  Defining Moments: Overflowing with Living Words)
Defining Moments: Overflowing with Living Words is my debut devotional, which my husband lovingly afforded me to self-publish the winter of 2011.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Repent and Believe the Gospel

Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
(Joel 2:12-13 ESV)

We offer You our failures,
we offer You attempts;
The gifts not fully given,
The dreams not fully dreamt.

Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
An offering of ashes,
An offering to You.
(Ashes, verse 2, Tom Conry)

As  the ashes were applied to my forehead, these words were declared over me:
"Repent and believe the gospel."
I was jarred. I reeled with tears stinging my eyes. I followed the procession back to the pews, smarting from this direct address. Jesus spoke with piercing authority to my exposed heart.
"Do you believe the gospel?"
That was the question caught in my throat. Of course, I believe the gospel. But today, I wondered to what extent do I believe the gospel? Hard questions. Questions that will deliver me into the season of Lent.
Lent, like Advent, is a season of fasting punctuated by a feast. Lent culminates in the Paschal mystery, the resurrection of the Lamb. Advent gestates and leads us to the birth of Emmanuel: Jesus, the Lamb who came to take away the sin of the world. A scapegoat who will die outside the city, in order to reunite us with our Father.
When I returned home, the beginning of answer greets me in this quote, 
"Looking at myself in the mirror I see the ashes not as death,
but transformation in the fire of love."
(Patricia Livingston, Turning Our Hearts to God)
The gospel is fiery, transforming love.
Will I open myself to the love that pours from His Word today?
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ennui: A Feeling of Weariness

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
(Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Acedia: Apathy or Boredom

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. 
(Psalm 42:5 NKJV)

I woke up in a funk. I didn’t want to read or pray. I didn’t want to bundle up and go out for a walk. I didn’t want to do anything. So, I just sat on the couch.

I can’t quite remember how I got up off the couch and over to my blue thinking chair. I think it was God reminding me to take care of myself. I did a mini collage, looked at my previous collages, and scribbled a poem using words found within the collage.


(or quince frescoes).

This made me smile. And it made me think. What false facades do I need to let collapse? When I do, what will this create? Unassuming decisions? What does that mean? Or would I prefer to create “quince frescoes”? Sometimes just being silly and creative can get me out of a funk.

This little exercise rejuvenated my desire to sit and listen. I listen by reading and journaling.

I browsed one devotion and then another, then responded in my journal, where I confessed to God that this time of year just does not motivate me.

I like to talk and rant and complain. God invites me to listen. In my listening time, as I often do, I picked up the dictionary. I wanted to know what it meant to listen. The three entries in my pocket dictionary outlined a handy action plan for listening.

1. Make an effort to hear.

A simple first step, if I am going to listen, I have to make an effort. I have to open my ears. Place myself in the presence of the One I desire to hear. Open the Bible, uncap the pen, listen as one being taught and given words for the weary. (Isaiah 50:4)

2. Pay attention.

Once my listening ears are tuned in, I have to pay attention. Record what I think I’m hearing, ask God questions, and clarify with the Holy Spirit as to where He is leading for the day. (Isaiah 28:23)

3. Take notice of and act on what is said.

And finally, once I’ve noted what has been said; act on it.  Of course, this is a lot easier said than done. As I listened to God invite me to take care of myself, this prompted me to get out of the blue chair, bundle up in some warm clothes and take a walk on this sunshine laden day. When I returned, my funk was gone. I was ready for some more listening. (James 1:25)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bare: Open to View; Exposed

I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7 NKJV)

Bare canvas, what will you reveal? Our potential placed upon the easels.

She asks, are you nervous?

I was nervous. How did she know? She's my sister.

At the art supply store, her canvas was grabbed up and in her hand.
Aren’t you going to look around?
Nope, let’s go. I want to paint.
I tag behind her to the checkout counter. We head home.

Barely in the door, I grab the easels, paints and brushes.

The bare canvas asks for paint, for brush strokes. We feel exposed. What color should we use? We close our eyes and then pick. She mixes gray. I decisively choose black. We try different techniques. The broad side of the brush, then the narrow, and then swish and skip the brush.

I pause to photograph our beginnings.

Little by little we unfold. Immersed in the process, we pause occasionally to peek at each other’s progress. We applaud; we interpret, adding meaning to each other’s work. I am glad she wanted to paint today.

How do we know when it’s finished, she inquires.

I don’t know. Just keep painting.

And then slowly, we come to completion. She adds a little more detail. We marvel at what we’ve done. We encourage each other to sign our work. We each add two little initials, claiming and saying yes to ourselves.

"Untitled" by Juniper Gillian
"Many Suns Rising" by Kel Rohlf

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