When Planting Leads to Uprooting and a Reason to Lament

Bible open to the PsalmsToday’s guest post, When Planting Leads to Uprooting and a Reason to Lament, written by Anthea Kotlan, first appeared on antheakotlan.com.

Snow in South East Texas?

In the middle of February 2021, my area of tropical southeast Texas experienced a significant snowstorm. We awoke to find a crisp blanket of snow, inches deep, as far as the eye could see. In the midst of this deep freeze, I wondered what plants and shrubs would re-emerge once the snow went away?

If you had asked me at the end of March, I would have told you that it wasn’t looking good. However, the next thing I knew, green shoots surged up all over my front and back garden. These green bursts were a mixed batch of weed and plant. I have systematically worked over various flower beds by trimming back the overgrowth and pulling out the weeds.

As I began the removal surgery on one particular bed, I spied a tiny oak sapling. I tried hard to gently remove it but failed. I pulled and pulled and pulled even though it was a relatively small sapling, its roots sunk deep down into the bed.

Finally, I managed to excise the tiny tree with a shovel in hand, with most of its roots still attached.

Uprooting and Planting

Something nobody tells you about church planting is the uprooting that occurs right before you start. Leaving behind the familiar and comfortable and exchanging them for the new and uncertain is exactly where I found myself in the summer of 2021.

My husband and I have felt a call to church plant for a very long time, but it never seemed quite the right season. Finally, months ago, God made it clear to us that it was time.

However, obedience is costly and painful, and my wise daughter told me just days before our final Sunday at our old church, “Mom, you’ve got to feel all the feels.”

The Untethering

It is challenging to feel uprooted and untethered as we launched out and away from the wonderful group of believers we have worshiped alongside for over two decades. So I am going to have to leave some room for lament in this season of transition.

In the second half of Psalm 42, (I looked at the first half of Psalm 42 last month on this blog.) David started with a desperately thirsty deer, and he circles back to the subject of water again by calling to mind the sound of waves and waterfalls.

7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

(Psalm 42:8 ESV)

Waves and Waterfalls

Waves and waterfalls move with power and loud sounds. A simple flow of water carved the Grand Canyon. Water is indeed the universal solvent. Waves wear down inches of sand from beaches around the world. However, God’s love is steadfast and unchanging. It does not get worn away by the ebb and flow of tides or water flows.

In times of deep sadness and lament, I have a profound need within my soul to cry out to the only one capable of plumbing those depths. This level of need requires a supernatural remedy. Only God can handle such profound wounding in me, and when I try to call other people to meet me in the depth of my suffering, they may be pulled into something that will overwhelm them.

Songs in the darkness

Sometimes I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night with worries and concerns. In the darkness, a song about God’s faithfulness can encourage me. The familiar lyrics take me on a journey to the refrain carrying truth deeply down into my heart.

Music is a powerful reminder and force to lift moods and provide comfort. Singing a praise and worship song or listening to Christian music can transform the atmosphere in significant ways.

9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9-10 ESV)

Waves of Grief

Verses 9 and 10 vividly reveal the cyclical nature of grief. I believe I have moved forward, and yet a fresh wave of grieving hits me hard again and again. My enemy, sometimes my own inner critic, gets louder in these moments. I have to counter all this with God’s truth.

I choose to stand on the rock of God’s word by intentionally recalling to my mind what I know for certain. I can counter the enemy’s caustic narrative and endless questions with God’s promises to me.

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11 ESV)

This final verse acknowledges the pain and then states the truth worth standing on in the midst of the storm of grief. “Hope in God…” In response to this truth, I shall choose to praise God as I grasp a rung of the ladder out of the pit of grief.

I will likely find myself here again, but I have a map contained in Psalm 42 to guide me back to the only one capable of handling all my deep feelings. He is my salvation and my God.

Let’s pray:

Lord, thank you for your kindness in providing a remedy for grief. You know me, you see my tears, and my despair is not too much for you. May I always run to you and entrust you with my sadness. Help me to take time to lament today. Keep me from stuffing down sadness and denying my loss. For in the leaving and the letting go, you have even more for me than I could ask for or imagine. You alone are my hope. Amen.

For over thirty years, Anthea Kotlan has served as a women’s ministry leader in the church and community. She has a passion for discipleship and encouraging women to walk confidently in their God-given calling. She designs women’s retreats, teaches Bible studies, writes, and enjoys speaking at events. Recently, she began serving on a church plant team in Conroe, Texas with her husband, a bi-vocational priest. Every chance she gets, she spends time laughing with her two adult daughters or snuggling her two grandchildren. Check out Anthea’s blog for weekly soul-tending devotionals from the Psalms. antheakotlan.com 

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

You can find my July Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Giving Margin for Lament

Bible open to the PsalmsToday’s guest post, Giving Margin for Lament, written by Anthea Kotlan, first appeared on antheakotlan.com.

Everyone I know experienced loss in recent years. Job loss, death, illness, cancellation of special events, long months of separation from loved ones, financial struggles, depression, the strain on marriages, anxiety, and more rained in abundance. After loss, I am often surprised by the unrelenting nature of grief.

What do I do when faced with a sad situation, a significant loss, or a painful transition?

I believe there is a need, hard-wired into our soul, to grieve, process, and lament pain. Stuffing it down only lengthens the healing pathway or avoids it entirely.

Psalm 42 is written as a lament. It begins with the vivid picture of a thirsty animal.

1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
 for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 42:1-2 ESV

The Master Designer of humans created me with a need for Him—my soul thirsts and hungers to be in God’s presence. Yet, shame, guilt, sadness, and depression far too often keep me from running to the only one who can fill my needs. I might even try to satisfy myself with people and things, but only God can water my parched soul.

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:3-4 ESV

In times of deep grieving, my tears have genuinely been my food day and night. Sometimes well-meaning friends offer empty platitudes or pointed questions that provide no hope or encouragement. While I long to gather in God’s house, I’m pouring out what little energy I might have left on my grief journey. The steps in processing grief must be taken one by one. Rushing back into a festival or celebration would be disorienting until the work of grieving is completed.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
[c] and my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Psalm 42:5-6 ESV

Part of any grieving journey requires soul searching and exploring why. Asking God hard questions can help. My feelings surprise me. Hope is found in God and serves as a handhold on the dark pathway.

Can I call to mind times of God’s faithfulness in my life? Making a list might bring a fresh spring of encouragement. The psalmist recalls the unchanging landmarks in the land where he lives as he travels the uncertain territory of processing grief. What are the places where God has shown himself large and active in my life? Shall I place a stone of remembrance to bear testimony of what He has done for me?

How about you? Do you need to travel a journey of grief? Do you need to mark the pathway with stones of remembrance?

PRAYER

Thank you, God, that you provide a map for traveling the pathway of grieving. You give abundant margin for me to bring all my deepest and darkest feelings to you. You are always available to hear my cries. You never tire of reminding me of what you have done for me. Help me to travel the grieving pathway at your pace. Not running ahead or giving up but moving ever forward to great healing that can only come from you. AMEN

For over thirty years, Anthea Kotlan has served as a women’s ministry leader in the church and community. She has a passion for discipleship and encouraging women to walk confidently in their God-given calling. She designs women’s retreats, teaches Bible studies, writes, and enjoys speaking at events. Recently, she began serving on a church plant team in Conroe, Texas with her husband, a bi-vocational priest. Every chance she gets, she spends time laughing with her two adult daughters or snuggling her two grandchildren. Check out Anthea’s blog for weekly soul-tending devotionals from the Psalms. antheakotlan.com 

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Processing God’s Promises in Psalm 4

Bible open to the PsalmsToday’s guest post, Processing God’s Promises in Psalm 4, written by Anthea Kotlan, first appeared on antheakotlan.com.

My husband and I often tucked them into bed with prayers when my daughters were little. One of our prayers was from Psalm 4.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 ESV

This declaration reminded us of God’s watchful protection and availability. Twenty years later, I can still hear two sleepy little girls putting their hands together and praying this verse with me.

Sometimes I need to declare the truth of God’s word over myself. Actively reading, writing and intentionally taking it into my mind and heart begins a conversation. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me to the treasure hidden in plain sight. The truth contained in God’s words applies to my life every single day, no matter what I face.

Psalm 4, like so many of the Psalms, takes the reader on a journey from recalling God’s faithfulness to reaching a place of complete surrender and certainty.

Using each psalm verse as a prayer prompt provides a map to peaceful rest.

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! Psalm 4:1 ESV

Lord, I thank you for hearing me. You are always available, day or night. You help me when I am afraid. You overflow with grace to me, and you have a never-failing track record.

2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Psalm 4:2 ESV

God, sometimes it feels as if those around me are mocking me and trying to reveal my faults and failures. As they continue to seek flattery and things that are not true, help me refocus my attention on who you say I am. Flood my mind with truth.

3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.  Psalm 4:3 ESV

Thank you that you have set me apart for your purposes. As I walk in that, you are always close by my side and ready to hear my calls of confusion, distress, fear, and cries for help.

4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Psalm 4:4 ESV

Lord, please help me. When anger tries to rule my heart and lead me into temptation, guide me back to you. Please teach me how to hold my tongue. It is far too often the weapon used against me. Help me to practice the discipline of silence and rest.

5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. Psalm 4:5 ESV

Show me what is pleasing to you. Help me give up and give away what is not needed, even when I think I want it. I know you alone can satisfy all my needs when letting go of something. Help me put myself and those I love in your hands every minute of every day.

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” Psalm 4:6 ESV

Help me to testify to your goodness. Help me point others to all the ways you’re working and displaying masterpieces before our eyes. Help me daily to see your face.

7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. Psalm 4:7 ESV

While others may feast on food and wine, let me find all my soul sustaining satisfaction in you, alone. You are my abundant provider.

8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

As I lie down tonight and surrender myself to your care, help me to demonstrate how amazing it is to trust you even in my slumber. Only you can keep me safe in this world and into the world to come, forever.

Amen

Anthea KotlanFor over thirty years, Anthea Kotlan has served as a women’s ministry leader in the church and community. She has a passion for discipleship and encouraging women to walk confidently in their God-given calling. She designs women’s retreats, teaches Bible studies, writes, and enjoys speaking at events. Recently, she began serving on a church plant team in Conroe, Texas with her husband, a bi-vocational priest. Every chance she gets, she spends time laughing with her two adult daughters or snuggling her two grandchildren. Check out Anthea’s blog for weekly soul-tending devotionals from the Psalms. antheakotlan.com 

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

You can find my May Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!