When darkness makes it hard to see…

As a small congregation stood to sing your praise one clear November morning, Lord, surely you were there.

As little ones snuggled in their mother’s laps while the pastor offered a prayer, Lord, surely you were there.

As a husband leaned against the pew to ask his wife what she was planning for their lunch, Lord, surely you were there.

And as a madman burst through the doors of a tiny country church, Lord surely you were there.

And yet, it is hard to see anything but pain, destruction, evil and senseless loss.

It is almost impossible to not ask Why? How? Were you really there?

When bullets were flying, God were you still there?
When children were dying, God were you still there?
In the midst of the violence, God were you still there?
In the deafening silence, God were you still there?

Jesus, it’s easy to “see” you while the worship songs ring out. It’s easy to imagine you right beside us as your Word is preached. It’s easy to feel your presence with us as the communion plates are passed. And it’s easy to observe Your goodness on the faces of little children as they scurry to show us their latest Bible craft.

And yet…..

When evil comes—when darkness tries to overwhelm the light—it becomes much harder to see you, to feel you, to trust that you are still there.

And yet You are.

You say that where two or more are gathered in your Name, you are in the midst of them.

You say we are not to fear for you are with us.

You say that you will never leave us or forsake us.

And so we trust that just as your presence filled that little church from the first words of that first hymn, your presence also filled that church from the moment the first evil shot rang out.

Oh that we could see with heaven’s eyes for just a moment. That you would give us just a glimpse of what lay just beyond our view that day.

For as evil walked into a worship service, Love leaned into twenty-six lives.

As shots of hatred and madness ricocheted through wooden walls, the arms of the Almighty wrapped tightly around His children.

I AM still here, He whispered.
You are not alone, He assured.
Welcome home my sweet children, he greeted.

Oh God, we cannot understand the why, but help us trust the Who.

Help us trust You. Help us see You. Help us love each other through You.

And God, right now, when all we want to do is crawl in a hole and stay there with those we love, fill us with your Strength. Anoint us with your love. Indwell us with your peace. And illuminate us with your light.

Lord, the darkness seems to grow stronger every day. But we know—we know—that light is stronger than darkness. We know that one day you will make all things right. It doesn’t seem that “one day” is much of a comfort for those who are mourning and grieving and hurting now, but I pray that the “one day” will soon be a comfort for them—and for us.

Jesus you are light. You are love. You are good. You are the light that no darkness can overcome.

Today, as we question, cry, and grieve, would you allow us to see even just a glimpse of your unfading light. Let us see you—more and more of you. Oh LORD, how we need you.

Even in our grief and fear, let us shine your light into the darkness.

And help us fight against fear. Help us love each other well. And help us lean into you.

It is in your everlasting, all-sustaining, most trustworthy Name I pray, amen.

Much love,
Jen

 

-The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it-

A familiar story with an unexpected twist…

I stare into my coffee cup willing inspiration to waft from the steam. Sometimes teaching a class of ten year olds who have been raised in the church can feel far more daunting than teaching a group of kids who have never even heard the Gospel story.

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I stare at my open Bible as I take a sip of my favorite dark roast blend. The kids have heard this all before: Hannah prays for a son, God hears her prayer and gives her Samuel, then God calls young Samuel and makes him a prophet. It’s a fascinating story full of glorious truth and powerful lessons, and yet the last thing these kids need is more head knowledge. What they need is application—what they need is heart engagement.

I wrap my hands around my favorite mug, and breathe in deeply. God, show me how to reach these kids. Show me something different in this story. Show me…

Ding.

My phone alerts me to a text.

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Without conscience thought I grab the device and begin my reply. My reply leads me to my calendar. An email dings. Another reply, followed by a quick Google search. Oh! Did anyone like the photo I posted last night? Facebook informs me yes, a few did.

I raise my mug to my lips and take another sip, only to spit the offending beverage out of my mouth. When did my coffee get cold??

What was I doing? Oh right, planning the lesson…

My eyes return to the text:

“The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD…Then the LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times…Samuel answered….Speak, for your servant is listening.”

I read the familiar text, but yet, what I see in my head is an unfamiliar and distressing image:

There Samuel lies in the dim light of the temple, snuggled on his side in the quiet holy place, with an iPhone in his hand.

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The image is jarring in it’s ridiculousness for obviously Samuel’s young face would not have been illuminated by a screen, and yet the image grips my heart and soul with a barrage of what-ifs.

What if Samuel had been scrolling through social media that night?
Or captivated by a good book?
Or binge watching Netflix?

What if he had been so distracted that night that he had missed God’s call?

My heart sinks within my chest as awareness mingles with guilt.

Oh Lord,” my soul cries out.

How many times have I missed your voice?

How many times has the glow of my screen distracted me from the glow of your presence?

How many times have you stood by my bed and called out my name, only to have me turn my back to you as I scroll through my newsfeed?

I lower my head. I confess. I repent. I beg for divine help to stand strong against the slave-master of distraction.

My gaze falls back on the lesson I am soon to teach. And I am suddenly so grateful for a familiar lesson—a familiar lesson with a twist. A familiar lesson that I pray will find its way into the hearts of a group of ten year olds, and stay with me forever.

Especially tonight as I choose to set my phone aside and simply listen for His voice…

Much love,
Jen

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