Category Archives: Spirituality Slice of Life

Believe It or Not?

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The story of Jesus’ birth, as told in the book of Luke, started about a year before the Nativity scene we celebrate occurred. Instead, Luke began with the story of John the Baptist’s birth, who was a cousin of Jesus’ and would grow up to preach and teach to the masses and baptize Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry. John’s father, Zechariah was a priest, and both he and John’s mother Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes. They were considered “very old” by the standards of their society and had been unable to have children. One day, Zechariah went into the temple alone to burn incense to the Lord when an angel appeared before him. He was “startled and gripped with fear,” but the angel said, “do not be afraid.” The angel told Zechariah that Elizabeth would have their child, and he would be “a joy and delight” to them. That he would be great in the sight of God and would prepare a way for the Lord. (Luke 1). 

After the angel completed his monologue about how amazing John would be, Zechariah said, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel didn’t take kindly to Zechariah’s question, and responded, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” So it was that Zechariah didn’t speak until eight days after John’s birth when they arrived at the temple, and he confirmed in writing that the baby was named John. Only then was Zechariah’s tongue set free, and he began to praise God. The people were in awe saying, “’What then is this child going to be?’” For the Lord’s hand was with him.” 

I’ve always wanted to believe that I would be like Mary in the story of Jesus’ birth, and willingly agree to follow God’s plan. I’ve always thought it must’ve been nice to receive such wondrous signs of God’s presence and be told the exact will of God in specific circumstances. But I’m pretty sure I would’ve actually played the part of Zechariah. A magnificent being appeared before him and had only good things to say about his unborn child. But after Zechariah got over the initial terror, he basically said, I don’t believe you. And I, being a person who will overanalyze the slightest details and silently question someone when they give me a compliment, would’ve said the same: “I don’t believe you. I don’t trust you. I don’t think you’re telling the truth. I don’t think that’s really going to happen.” 

God tells us he knows us, he loves us, we are his children, and he only wants the best for us both in his Word and through other people’s actions. That God wants us to seek him for guidance and comfort. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we may admit that while God’s sentiments are lovely, we secretly don’t believe them. God couldn’t love us if he really knew us. God wouldn’t want a relationship with us. Why would the God of the universe care about us? We don’t usually speak our doubts aloud but sit in silence like Zechariah and continue to harbor the thought, “I don’t believe you, God.” 

Zechariah came to believe, but maybe it wasn’t at the moment John was born and the angel’s words came to fruition. Perhaps Zechariah began his journey to accept God’s good word after he confessed his unbelief. That God used the next nine months to teach Zechariah that God loved him and only had the best interests of his family and his child at heart. So maybe we should take God at his word. When God tells us how much he loves us, we can say “I believe you, God. At least, I’m trying.” Let us pray that God helps us believe his good word to us today and every day.  

Holding Hands in Faith

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Last Sunday, we experienced a wonderful worship service at our church Faithbridge Presbyterian. Pastor Cheryl Taylor delivered a thought-provoking and uplifting sermon. The Praise Team led us in contemporary songs and a couple of hymns. Sometimes, it’s not always obvious when we, as Presbyterians, feel the Holy Spirit moving because we are pretty staid for the most part, but the enthusiasm with which we sang “Blessed Assurance” offered a good clue. After we finished singing, Pastor Cheryl suggested that we hold hands as we prayed. Pastor Cheryl came to our church in 2021, after we returned in person from the Covid shutdown. But even then, we didn’t return to all our traditions. I don’t know if Pastor Cheryl knew that reaching across the aisles and holding hands had been our custom before Covid, but the second she asked us to hold hands, the gaps between us closed. I was almost giddy to return to this tradition. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Holding hands with my church community symbolized the connection we share. We share strong and abiding relationships that we’ve built over the sixteen years since our family moved to Texas. We may not agree completely on every single specific question of faith or politics, but we share a bond based on God’s love. We’ve spent countless hours talking, laughing, learning, and serving together. We’ve experienced some difficult times together as well. We’ve cried through grief. We’ve disagreed. But we’ve forged ahead through the tough parts of the journey and continued to be faithful to God and one another. We are a family, plain and simple. 

But I don’t know that I tell my church family how grateful I am for them on a regular basis. They do so much to make our church run smoothly. We are a relatively small congregation, so everyone has a function and role to play. Without everyone’s participation, we couldn’t worship well, educate our children, care for our members, or manage the church’s business. We also wouldn’t be able to serve others through our mission work. We like to say that we are small but mighty when it comes to helping people. We wouldn’t be a sanctuary for all who walk through our doors if we weren’t tied together by God’s love. 

In a passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he compares the church community to our physical bodies, in which each body part plays a designated role so that the body functions as a unit. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. God has put the body together… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 24-27). 

While these verses are familiar, when I read them this time, the phrase “its parts should have equal concern for each other” jumped out at me. This is not always easy to accomplish, but when we find that synergy in which our relationships are built on a foundation of God’s love, we can share that love among ourselves equally and then give that love to others. God’s love is not limited and ours doesn’t have to be either. 

I don’t share our church’s story to boast, but to remind myself to be thankful and not take anyone for granted. To appreciate the community that God has built and encourage everyone to search for a community in which God’s love is at the core of the relationships. God welcomes us into relationship with him no matter who we are or what our individual story is. I pray we all find a faith family that will do the same. Thanks be to God.  

Mistakes – We All Make Them

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The Dallas Mavericks played the Brooklyn Nets this past Monday night. Jed and Ben went to the game, but because it started late, 8:45pm on a school night, Alex, Clay, and I stayed home. Clay had a 6:30am wakeup call time for basketball practice the next morning, but that didn’t stop he and I from watching the end of the late game after Alex fell asleep. It was going down to the wire: the Mavs were three points ahead when we fouled the Nets’ Kevin Durant as he went to shoot a three pointer. The plan had been to foul him before his shot was in motion, but Durant is too smart for that and began his shot as our player grabbed his arm. That meant he had three free throws.

 As KD stood at the line, the announcers told us that he’d made 62 free throw shots in a row. That number is insane – 62 free throws! The assumption was that Durant would make all three shots and tie up the game, so the question was what the Mavs’ strategy should be after that inevitability. Durant hit his first shot as expected. Then, Durant, the man who has ice in his veins, missed the second shot. Simply missed it. Clay and I screamed. We couldn’t believe it. KD, who is known to be unflappable and clutch in the last seconds of any game, had choked. He missed the third shot on purpose so that his team could try to get the rebound and put it back up to tie. But the Mavs got the rebound and won the game. Even though we were happy our team won, Clay said, “I feel kind of bad for KD.”

Kevin Durant made a mistake at a crucial moment in a game and broke his streak of successful shots. Honestly, I was glad to witness it. Not because I wanted KD to fail, even though it benefited our team, but because it reminded me that we all make mistakes. Some are small and inconsequential, and some are bigger and reverberate longer, causing more hardship. But either way, none of us are immune from making mistakes. 

And yet, we often react to mistakes by beating ourselves up instead of giving ourselves a break. When I say something or act in a way that is not consistent with how I want to be in the world, I revisit the scenario over and over, thinking about what I wished I’d done. I overanalyze and tell myself that I’m a failure. It takes a long time for me to overcome the regret and shame. Maybe overcome is too strong of a word. Some of the mistakes I’ve made even though not overly egregious will haunt me forever. 

So, what do we do when we’ve owned up to our mistakes and have taken responsibility but can’t dismiss the fact that we made the mistake in the first place? I think one way to help ourselves is to believe we can and will do better the next time. The problem with dwelling on the mistakes we’ve made is that we decide, consciously or unconsciously, that they are indicative of our character. We make a million choices that are right and good, and we don’t give ourselves credit because that was what we were “supposed” to do. But when we make mistakes, instead of giving ourselves grace for the screw up, we may absorb it into our minds and bodies and tell ourselves the falsehood that “These mistakes prove I’m a bad person.” In most circumstances that is far from the truth. Just because we make a mistake does not mean we are forever flawed or rotten at our cores. We must remind ourselves that making mistakes is human and that we can make better choices. We have the power to decide how we view our mistakes. That is a hard truth for me to accept, but my hope is we can give our mistakes their due without using them to cut our self-esteem to the quick.  

Kevin Durant was not happy with himself the other night. He said, “I went up there and missed one. It sucks. Nothing much else I can say about it.” But he didn’t decide he was a bad basketball player as a result. Instead, he scored 29 points the next game. Let’s decide our next mistake will be an opportunity to learn how we want to act in the future, not a permanent indictment of our character.

Coachable or Not?

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My son Jed, a junior in high school, and my son Clay, an eighth grader, are gearing up for their school basketball seasons. My husband Ben sent them a tweet from Coach Jon Beck that said, “Three types of athletes: uncoachable – do the bare minimum/doesn’t listen or communicate; somewhat coachable – will give some effort/occasionally listens/rarely communicates; completely coachable – never stops working/determined to improve & won’t accept less/great communicator.” This was a great reminder to my boys about how to be coachable and strive for success on the court and in life. We want and expect our kids to be coachable and teachable. But I started wondering, do we reach a point as adults when we become uncoachable?  

In school, in college, and in our early working life, most of us try to gather knowledge and work to master certain concepts. But sometimes, as we mature, we become more “set in our ways,” as the saying goes. We stand firm in our beliefs based on what we’ve been taught combined with our experiences, and we don’t waver. In some ways, that sounds good because we know our own minds and aren’t easily swayed. In other ways, though, this is when we become uncoachable. We do the bare minimum, in that we don’t investigate, analyze, or think critically about what’s going on in the world. We don’t have an open mind to receive new information. We won’t listen to other people’s opinions or their life experiences. 

Our vision can become myopic, worried about what is right in front of us, instead of caring about the wider population and their needs. We can develop an “us against them” mentality and dive into fear and defensiveness. We don’t communicate with anyone except those who believe the same way we do. Our knee-jerk reaction is to reject change without wondering about the reasons for the change or who is asking for it.  

When we become uncoachable, we become closed off to the possibilities that life has more to teach us. That God has more to teach us. In one of the familiar stories in the Bible, the “children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.’” (Matt. 19:13-14 (MSG)). We want our children to soak up knowledge and experience and revel in the delight of learning more about things and people. Maybe God wants us to be like children in that way. To come to God and ask for insight into how God sees the world. To open our hearts and minds and realize that God is constantly at work and wants us to love and care for all of God’s people. To be aware that we don’t know everything and need God’s guidance. 

Perhaps we should realize that being uncoachable is undesirable. Instead, listen and communicate, and attempt to improve our understanding of others. God is always available to coach us in God’s ways. Let us strive to be completely coachable. 

Simply Serviceable

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We were listening to playoff baseball on the radio during a recent road trip. The announcer was talking about a player and detailing several teams that he’d played on. The broadcaster said, “he’s turned himself into a serviceable player.” But the way he said it almost sounded like an insult. The player was not a superstar, not a name everyone would know, but he’d obviously made a career playing baseball at the highest level. Looking at it objectively, this man’s career was successful considering how hard it is to make it in the major leagues in the first place. Just because he wasn’t the most famous player didn’t make him a failure.

The use of the term “serviceable” bothered me, so as is my custom, I looked up the definition. I liked what one source said, “helpful, useful” (merriam-webster.com). But then I found a definition that captured the negative connotation I’d picked up on from the radio because it said, “good enough to be used for a particular purpose but not very attractive or exciting” (macmillandictionary.com). It seems like it’s natural for us to be drawn to people and things that are highly attractive and exciting. Our celebrity culture demonstrates that it’s possible to be famous for being famous. Our social media lives are distorted and manipulated to show only the best, whether the images are authentic or not. We feel like we are less than when we compare ourselves to people who are more successful by society’s standards, more money, bigger house, fancier cars, nicer clothes, better careers. Being “good enough” in our world often equates to failure in our eyes. We feel like we’re “nobody” if we aren’t a popular or well known “somebody.”  

But maybe being serviceable should be our goal. To be helpful and useful to our families and communities means we are dependable and stable. To have a particular purpose suggests we have reasons that inspire us to be proficient and capable. We are asked to serve multiple roles in our lives. To be of service in so many areas is a great accomplishment even if no one highlights us as the best or most successful. Most of us will not achieve flashy titles or over-the-top headlines, but we will create caring homes that support our children. We will help our senior parents navigate the aging process. We will be team players at work and school. We will volunteer our time and effort at church, at our kids’ activities, or for causes that we value.

We will demonstrate devotion and dedication when we show up day after day. We can take pride in being reliable, loyal, and committed to others. We can find contentment in serving others well. We should strive to make the term serviceable a compliment, not a slight. Many of us may never know the extent of the positive impact we have on people, but that doesn’t make us any less important to the world. Seeking to be serviceable is a worthy way to live. Being good enough is simply good enough. 

The Course of Belief

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Last Sunday, the weather finally turned chilly in North Texas. I was so excited that sweater weather had arrived (at least for a few days), so I grabbed a pair of boots I hadn’t worn since winter. I gingerly reached into one of the boots because it seemed like something was inside it. I pulled out a bracelet that I hadn’t realized I was missing since I don’t wear as much jewelry in the summer. I was so excited to find the bracelet that had been hidden away. I immediately put the bracelet on and wore it to church. It is from the company Luca + Danni and has the word “Believe” stamped on it, but the word is jumbled, not linear as written words usually appear. 

I loved the bracelet the first time I saw it because my journey with belief has not taken a linear path. Our belief in God does not steadily increase in predetermined increments over the course of our lives. Instead, our experiences with faith tend to ebb and flow. Sometimes, we feel grounded in our faith, sure in our convictions, certain that we know what we believe. We feel our faith growing stronger and deeper. We feel authentically connected with God through prayer and service. 

At other times, though, we may feel completely lost. We may be confused about what we believe about specific matters of faith. We may feel that all our prayers fall flat and that we are disconnected from God. We may not know what we believe anymore. We may feel stuck in a desert place, tired and dried out. Life circumstances may become so trying that we wonder where God is. 

Faith does not lend itself to being wrapped up in a neat and tidy bow. Belief can be scattered and messy. We often feel ashamed to admit that fact, assuming everyone else feels confident in their beliefs. And some folks do act like they’ve never had an ounce of doubt. But we can take comfort in knowing most of us have felt our belief slipping at times or felt our faith is hidden so far below the surface, we may never find it again.

Our belief in God can always expand and strengthen. There is always room for growth.  Often, this happens by asking hard questions, exposing our misgivings, and stretching our understanding of God’s work in our lives and in the world. Engaging in those exercises will necessarily create some chaos in our beliefs. Perhaps a linear path in terms of what we believe wouldn’t work anyway because linear faith could be static and stale. 

We can rest assured that we can bring our muddled beliefs to God seeking guidance about how to put our beliefs back together. Having faith that whenever our beliefs become scrambled, God is willing and able to help us find it again and again as long as it takes. Even if it takes a lifetime. 

Let’s Go

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During the opening act of a recent concert, I was sitting in the middle of a row trying to figure out the best route to the ladies’ room when I overheard the group of women next to me say they were going to the restroom. I told my husband Ben that I was going too because everyone in the aisle would move to let them out. I started to feel a little weird though following them so closely. So, when I ended up at the sinks beside the woman who had been sitting in the seat beside me, I felt the need to explain even though in retrospect I’m sure it was completely unnecessary. I said, “I think we’re sitting beside each other. I got up when you did so I could get out of the aisle more easily.” Thank goodness she was nice in response to my rambling. She said, “We should’ve grabbed you and said let’s go.” 

I was surprised and delighted by her response. I thought, that’s the attitude we all need, especially one woman to another. My respect for her statement only grew over the course of the concert – we didn’t say another word to each other – but the group we were there to see was The Chicks, who are very into women’s empowerment. What if we as women stopped comparing and competing and instead adopted the woman at the concert’s approach? A new version of the old mantra of military soldiers, “no man left behind.” 

If we said to one another, when you’re in a tough place, I’m going to come to you, grab you, and say let’s go. Not because we can fix each other’s problems but because we decide to be present in times of trouble. We promise that we won’t abandon our friends. We take care of and encourage them. We won’t let them isolate and hide in their misery. We insist on sharing their burdens. When a woman’s children are hurting, we rally to support her.

But we don’t limit our attention to those we know well, we also care about our community. When we see others suffering, we pour out our compassion. We stand with women who are disadvantaged or abused and don’t immediately blame them for the circumstances in which they find themselves. 

In the Biblical book of Ruth, this oft-quoted verse appears: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16).  Many times, this verse is used in support of spousal relationships, but these words are from Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi after the deaths of their husbands when Naomi planned to return to her homeland. The story of Ruth and Naomi is about solidarity among women. Ruth stands by Naomi, and Naomi helps provide for Ruth. They are in it together. 

Sometimes it’s hard to reach out to others. We worry that we’re reading the situation wrong or that our help won’t be welcomed. Maybe we need to merely let others know that we are open and available to support and encourage them. But sometimes we need to follow the concert woman’s advice: grab someone and say let’s go … to coffee or for a walk or to get help. What would happen if women stood up for other women on a continual basis? I, for one, would love to watch that world unfold. 

Win or Lose

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My ten-year-old son Alex decided to run for President of his elementary school’s student council. I was a little worried because Alex is tender-hearted, and I didn’t want him to feel sad if he lost. But he seemed determined, so we made posters, and he wrote a speech. His platform was all about kindness being the most important thing. We talked about how it didn’t matter if he won or lost, we were proud of his willingness to try. 

One day though, Alex came out of school crying. Someone had defaced one of the posters with his picture on it. Of course, I flew into mama bear mode and marched into the school office to deal with it. Thankfully, the administration and teachers were already on the case, and the principal talked to Alex about moving forward even if another person acted cruelly. We told him he hadn’t done anything to cause the situation and encouraged him to continue his presidential run. Fortunately, he received an apology from the student who’d made the bad choice. After all of that, we were especially proud when he persevered and gave his speech to the students in fourth and fifth grade. He had to wait another day to find out the results. We reminded him that he’d done the best he could and that his effort was the most important part of the process. He’d put himself out there and had done a great job. 

On the same day that Alex gave his speech, I was racking my brain for a writing idea. When writers can’t come up with ideas, we tend to descend into doom and gloom fairly quickly. I began to wonder if my blogging was a fruitless endeavor. Had I been wasting my time for the last three years? Was I wrong to think that God had called me to write in this manner? And that was when it occurred to me. I’d told Alex that effort was what mattered most, but I didn’t apply the same standard to myself.

As adults we don’t give ourselves credit for our dedication, commitment, discipline, or hard work unless we see positive results. If we aren’t successful by the world’s criteria, we consider ourselves failures. Recently, a couple of friends and I were talking about a viral video, and one friend mentioned that the last time she’d checked, a site must have 100,000 followers to monetize. If that’s the mark of success, I’m far from it. But if I celebrate my effort, then maybe I can at least pat myself on the back.

The day I started writing this piece, we still didn’t know if Alex had won the election. He came out of school and told us we would receive an email with the results later in the afternoon. But before and after school, we reminded him that we were proud of him, win or lose. And that was the truth. I was so impressed that he’d taken a chance and followed through on it. So, when Alex found out he’d won the election for Student Council President, we were delighted because he was so excited. But our pride had been present the whole time. Perhaps we can remember that the next time we feel like we’re not measuring up. We can choose to be proud of our efforts, win or lose. 

Asking for Help

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A friend and I were texting about her role leading an elementary school PTA this year. She explained that it was like having a full-time job without the pay. Currently, she is working feverishly to make sure her school’s fundraiser launches successfully. I shuddered at the thought that she probably was asking people to do things constantly – sponsor the fundraiser, volunteer to help, ask for donations, etc. I realized that while I often encourage others to ask for help, in person and in my writing, I don’t do so well asking for help myself. Actually, I kind of hate it. 

I even hesitate if I offer to pay someone to help me. In fact, I was procrastinating when my friend and I had our conversation. I needed to return a call to get a quote for a particular service, and I needed to go to a vendor’s store to ask whether they could help me develop some merchandise for a group for which I was volunteering. But I kept putting it off. My husband Ben can attest to my reticence to make the phone call, whereas he will immediately call and ask for help if it’s on his list or on his mind. I make the list, which includes items that require asking for help, and then try hard to avoid them. Why am I so hesitant to ask for help? How can I tell people to seek help from others when I have such a hard time doing it myself? 

The more I thought about my reluctance to ask for help, I realized this pattern is emblematic of a deeper reality. I live with anxiety – thankfully it is not debilitating and is managed with therapy and medication. But that underlying sense of apprehension is always there at some level. I fear being rejected because that would feel like failure. Like most people, I don’t love being vulnerable, which is a requirement of asking for help. I don’t want to feel weak or like I am burdening others. I can talk to people all day long, but if the conversation requires that I request help, I balk. 

I’m taking a class that focuses on listening to others, but in the process, I’m learning to listen better to myself. Dissecting the reasons for our own behavior is hard but important work. I’d never connected my underlying anxiety to my inclination to put off asking for help. I just chalked it up as a character flaw. Because I now understand the connection between my anxiety and procrastination, I can give myself grace instead of beating myself up. I can show patience with myself as I work up the gumption to request assistance. I can remind myself that this is my normal “process,” and that I will eventually do what I need to do. That there is no shame in asking for help and that most of the time, people are happy to help. 

I know that going it alone is not always an option or the best course of action. While I may never be enthusiastic about asking people to help me, I can make my life easier if I remember anxiety is at the root of my reluctance. And I need to remember that when other people struggle with seeking help, they may be anxious or afraid too. We are all in this together – we all need help, and we can all be helpers. 

God Is Near?

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One late afternoon a few weeks ago, my husband Ben and I walked out to the driveway as he prepared to take one of our boys to an activity. We were in the middle of our conversation when he exclaimed, “look at those clouds.” I turned around and was astounded by the big, fluffy white clouds hovering just above the rooftops of the houses around us. The sun highlighted their beauty. I felt as though they were close enough to touch. 

In that moment, I felt closer to God as well. Amazing how viewing the mountains or the ocean or a gorgeous sunrise can make us feel that God is near to us. Nature is not the only way we feel God’s presence obviously, but it is a common source of awe. The Psalmist was also inspired by God’s handiwork: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-4 & 9). When we sense God is close, we may be filled with peace, wonder, and admiration. We may feel small in comparison to God’s magnificence, but still feel like an essential part of the larger universe.

At other times though, we may feel distant from God. We may feel isolated, weary, and abandoned. We wonder if God hears our prayers or cares about us. The Psalmist understood those emotions as well. Bluntly, he asked, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). Nature provides the imagery for these times too. We may feel we are wandering in the dry, unrelenting heat of the desert or lost in the tangled maze of the wilderness. The people of God experienced the confusion and despair of the arid desert when they escaped slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 16). And Jesus knew what it meant to feel separated from God when he spent a challenging time in the wilderness. (Luke 4). 

When we start to believe that God is absent, we must remember that almost everyone has experienced similar episodes. We are not alone in our feelings of frustration and anger. It’s okay to reach out to others and ask for their support and encouragement through the times when our souls feel empty. And we must remember that God is not gone even though it may feel that way. God will help us find our way back. When I couldn’t feel God’s presence, one of my favorite verses has helped me: “This is what the Lord says— ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’” (Isaiah 43:16, 18-19). 

We must hold on in times of desperation and believe that God will restore us. That God is still in relationship with us when we feel darkness only. God has provided us with his creation in nature, which includes both beautiful and harsh environments. When we feel we are trudging through the desert or the wilderness, let us know that God is working on new ways to reach us so we can once again feel the nearness of our God.