Monday, February 20, 2017

It Is Well


  "It is well".

     The true meaning of these words must almost be experienced rather than understood...but there are few things that "it is well" does not mean.

     It is well doesn't mean everything in life is alright. It doesn't even mean that everything will be 'ok' someday. It is well doesn't speak of the absence of pain or promise that our circumstances will resolve themselves in a way that pleases us.

     Saying "it is well" is a choice. Choosing to live in those words means choosing to proclaim that light will win even when darkness seems to be prevailing.

     When Horatio Spafford penned the famous hymn It is Well with My Soul, the situations in his life were far from what any earthly mind would consider 'well'. He wrote the hymn while on a ship heading to England to meet his wife...the only survivor of a shipwreck that took the lives of his four daughters. It was with this unspeakable grief covering him that he wrote the words "When peace like a river attendeth my way//when sorrows like sea billows roll//whatever the cost, thou has taught me to say//it is well with my soul."

     This response is not a human response. Only divine intervention can break through the chains of extreme grief enough to bring the supernatural peace that Spafford was experiencing.

    Praising God when our emotions and situations don't line up with our expectations of His goodness is difficult to do; however, it is these times that are the true tests of faith. When believing doesn't come easy, we must choose to believe. It is during these times that we must hold intentionally to the truth of God's goodness.

     God's goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. God's goodness is not dependent on our emotions. When peace like a river flows through our lives, God is good, and when sorrow threatens to drown us in darkness, God is still good.

     When life is falling apart around us, we have two options. We can sink with the ship and drown in the denial, despair, depression, and anger that our circumstances bring with them. Or we can cling to the Lord as the sea billows swell around us and allow Him to lift us from the waves.

     Grief is real, and it's important to acknowledge and deal with those feelings (read The Mud of Grief). But proclaiming in our hearts and soul that "it is well" acknowledges a goodness and a power greater than ourselves. No matter what our earthly circumstances, the Lord is still good and He still loves and His will be accomplished. He is good. It is well.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Lessons from a Horse

They say every little girl goes through a ‘horse phase’, and at age 12 I was no exception. The only difference is that my phase never ended. Most of my happiest preteen hours were spent in paddock boots and jodhpurs, and I would have traded flowery perfume for the musty smell of a barn any day…and many days, I did!

     As a skinny, gangly middle schooler, I was obviously no match for a 1,000+ pound animal... but riding has less to with strength than it does with precision. From my first lesson onward, I learned to be aware of the movements in my hands, legs, and shifting weight. Each sends the horse a message about what you would like them to do.

     One of the most important body parts to be aware of is something you may not suspect. Eyes. If you are wanting to turn left but your eyes are drifting right, the horse may not follow the reins through the left turn. Why? Subconsciously, your body is responding to the direction in which your gaze is focused. Without even realizing it, your weight and posture are telling your horse to follow your eyes.

     I function as a devotional leader on my floor at college. During our last weekly devotion of fall semester, the girls were asked to suggest topics that they would like to cover in the spring. Several of the girls expressed frustration at learning to prioritize and staying focused on the things that matter. So the following spring, I sat down with my notebook and started to jot down some thoughts and discussion questions relating to balance and direction in life.

     How do we train ourselves to stay focused on the things that matter in life? Everyday life is overwhelming. Friends, family, work, sleep...not to mention some precious seconds of time for rest and creativity. It's easy to get so caught up in the routine that we forget why we are actually doing what we do and where that road is ultimately leading us. It's important not to forget the "why" of life...but keeping priorities straight in order to live a godly life is not easy. It's frustrating when the way we are living doesn't reflect the way we desire to live and the God we strive to serve.

     There are certainly rules and systems we can put in place to keep ourselves on the ‘right track.’ We can set devotion time in the morning. We can write verses on the bathroom mirror. We can read every book on the shelf about time management and drill every instruction the Bible has to offer into our brains…and yet, that day as I sat outside brainstorming for devotions, the only things I could see when I closed my eyes were two ears in front of me and two reins in my hands.

     The truth is simple; when our eyes stray from the Lord, our lives will also. Our focus will determine our direction. We can go through the motions every day, but if our gaze is focused on something other than His face, we will inevitably begin to drift. Just as straying eyes can change your course on horseback, a shifting gaze can take us bit by bit away from the Lord and life we are trying to lead.

     However, if we keep our eyes fixed firmly on the Lord, the rest of life will slowly fall into place behind us, just as a weight shift begins to subconsciously direct a horse in the direction the eyes are looking. Discipline is important. Hang on to that 15 minute morning prayer time; it helps re-orient your eyes every day!  But rules and routines do not necessarily correlate with life change. Living for the Lord isn’t neat and organized; it’s messy. The only way to truly live a life that reflects His purpose is by being willing to follow anywhere He leads. And in order to see where He is taking us, we have to keep our eyes planted firmly where they belong.
     Pointed straight up toward heaven.