Who doesn’t want to feel God’s presence?

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Are you struggling with depression, loneliness or fear and wondering where God is? You’re not alone, my friend. Even David asked in one of his psalms, “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?” (Psalms 13:1)

It’s on dark and weary days that we desperately want to feel God’s healing presence more than ever.

Growing up with my mother taught me many lessons. I saw her overcome being homeless and jobless while having little means, education or so-called working skills to do so. I saw her conquer fear and uncertainty as she moved across country with her daughter following a difficult divorce. I saw her work her way out of poverty one day at a time — without government help I might add. One precious lesson can be summed up by the following Scripture — often quoted by my sweet mother: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8)

Of course — actually — God is always close by as the Psalmist concluded. “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me.” (Psalm 139:7-11)

God is forever near — holding us, leading us and lighting our path away from dark troubled roads. So since we can’t really be out of God’s presence, I think it’s more about us needing to direct our thoughts God-ward that helps us feel and experience His presence.

I was reminded of this recently as I listened to a song by one of my dearest friends. She and a friend produced a beautiful CD titled, “Inhabiting Eternity.” (cdbaby.com) I’ve listened to their CD on numerous occasions, and every time a certain song begins, I have to stop whatever I am doing and get very still so I can be fully embraced by its message.

The song is titled, “I will come before the Lord.” Its lyrics describe God as “my song.” It reminds us, much like the Psalmist did, that whether in the stillness of morning, brightness of day, hush of the evening or darkness of midnight, God is our song — forever near giving inspiration, strength, hope, guidance, peace.

This is comforting news. So whether I am looking for solutions, clarity, calm, or freedom from stress, sorrow or pain, I know there is a powerful divine presence that can meet any need. And this gentle presence is so palpable that when I divert my thoughts to the divine whole-heartedly, I feel the angels of His presence assuring me all will be well — that all is well.

It’s sometimes far too easy when overwhelmed by problems and worries to give up or give in to whatever doom is on the horizon. But I’m learning not to do it!

When I don’t know which way to turn or what to do, my first step these days is again to get very still in order to tune in to God.

Whether we have hours or only a few moments, we can be filled with the nearness of His presence, power and love. We can feel the might and majesty of His goodness. And we will experience the power of His presence giving us the spiritual light we need.

You are never alone or forgotten, my friend. Turn your mind toward God and you’ll find He’s right there by your side lifting you up so you can find the answers you need. May you feel God’s love and presence in every moment during the upcoming holiday season and the New Year ahead!

A mother’s hug

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

There’s nothing like a mother’s hug!

Remember the days when the only thing that would console you was being held tight in your mother’s embrace? It didn’t matter if you were afraid, sad, hurt, disappointed or sick, once you were tucked into your mom’s arms, everything suddenly seemed much better. You felt safe, loved, comforted and protected. And you knew that somehow, in some way, everything would be okay.

Of course, we don’t always have our mother around to give her miraculous hug. She may live a thousand miles away or maybe she has passed on. It could be that your mom now needs you to care for and comfort her.

Maybe the child you thought was happily married, suddenly comes back home not so happy and in need of your encouragement and guidance. Or the spouse you’ve depended upon for support and strength unexpectedly needs you to take charge. Or perhaps you have other family members and friends looking to you for help.

You want to help. You want to be whatever anyone needs you to be. But sometimes it all just feels a bit much — more than you can handle. You find yourself longing to be safe and snug in your mother’s hug.

I’ve been reminded that “mothering” isn’t limited to adults or exclusive to mothers. I remember when my daughter was very small. When she saw me sad or upset, she would put her little arms around me and pat my back and say, “It will be okay, Mommy.” And in that moment, I would know she was right.

There have been many times I’ve walked into my house and plopped down on my sofa feeling discouraged or frustrated. About that time, my dog would jump into my lap and lick my hand, as if to say, “Don’t worry. I’m here for you. Everything will be okay.” And in that moment, I would know it would be.

And certainly there have been even more times when all I needed to feel reassured was the tender — dare I say motherly — embrace of my husband.

Maybe we can’t always have our mother’s hug. But that doesn’t mean we can’t feel the same assurance we felt in her arms.

The Bible says, “For thus saith the Lord, As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you…” (Isaiah 66:13) I love thinking of God as mother — especially when I really need a hug.

Like as a mother, God is right there with us to pick us up when we skin our knee, when we have a bad dream, when we feel picked on and bullied, and when we have a tummy ache. His comfort — or perhaps I could say Her comfort — is a promise. In fact, the Bible verse in Isaiah continues, “…and ye shall be comforted.”

So what does it mean to be comforted by God?

It means fears are allayed, worries are relieved, anxieties are put to ease, and burdens are lightened. Outlooks brighten, spirits refresh, faith is reassured, hope is restored, solace is revived and courage is bolstered.

God meets our needs just like an attentive and ardent mother. We are never alone or without help and support. Realizing God’s gentle ever-presence — feeling His motherly love for us — will make all things better.

Whether it’s our mother’s hug, our child’s arms around us, our puppy snuggling with us or our spouse’s embrace — all are wonderful examples of God’s mothering love for us. We can never be separated from God’s love. And we can feel this love embracing us right now — wherever we are — assuring all is well, all will be well, all must be well.

Basking in God’s love — His tenderness, compassion, wisdom, strength, protection and warmth — is like getting a big hug from your mom. And there’s nothing like a hug from your Father-Mother God!

The road to romance

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Looking for your Mr. Right may sometimes seem like a futile journey. Some “experts” suggest that too many of us are clueless about what we really want or need and explain this as the reason we don’t find a permanent partner.

Perhaps your love life has not been a bed of roses. And if you’re like me, you’ve been dumped more times than you want to say. I wish someone had told me, “He’s just not that into you!” These words of wisdom might have kept me from wasting so many days (or weeks) pining over what I thought was lost love.

I had seven years of dating prior to meeting my husband. And during those years I traveled many miles on the road from rejection to romance.

Rejection can leave you feeling devastated. It can seem impossible to get past the hurt. At such times I usually wanted to withdraw into my little burrow and hide away from the world. But time truly healed all wounds, and I found myself back in the saddle — at least until I was thrown off the horse again!

After a fall, most folks advise: “Dust yourself off and get back on the horse.”

This reminds me of the time Jesus told his disciples to “shake off the dust of their feet” (Matthew 10:14) when they were faced with folks who didn’t welcome them into their communities or want to hear what they had to say. He seemed to be telling them to just move on in those instances, to not make a scene, to not hang around and try to force the situation. There were plenty of people who would be interested in them elsewhere, just as there is someone who will be interested in each of us.

Some people promise you’re most likely to find Mr. Right when you’re not looking for him. And I suppose this is what happened to me. But just because I wasn’t specifically looking for my husband at Six Flags over Texas that hot summer day, doesn’t mean I wasn’t a hopeful romantic and very expectant that Mr. Right would cross my path —eventually.

I had spent my dating years implementing the “Are you my husband?” method. Remember the Dr. Seuss book, Are you my mother? A baby bird is hatched while his mother is away. After falling from his nest, the confused little bird sets out to find his mother and asks everyone he meets the big question — including a dog, a cow and even an airplane.

Every man I dated was evaluated with my big question in mind. And, frankly, after years of unsuccessful hunting by this method, I came to the realization that too much analysis caused me to miss out on a lot of fun and friendships, and in the end, I still had no husband.

A few months before I met my husband (of 28 years now), I decided I needed a new approach to my pursuit of lasting romance.

Friends advised me to focus on living a full and happy life rather than searching desperately for a husband. “Do things you like to do and you’ll meet others who love to do the same as you.” Good advice!

Psychologists say the key to getting off the dating merry-go-round requires nothing more than taking the time to get to know yourself before you try to get to know someone else. Also good advice!

So take heart my single friends. I believe God peoples the world so none of us have to be alone. We’re walking this life journey together — side by side. And we’re never really alone because our Father is with us.

Don’t waste time in dismay when your Mr. Today turns out not to be your Mr. Forever. I met my husband when I least expected to. The same thing could happen to you, too.

In search of a happy ending

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Who doesn’t want a happy ending? I want to see the bad guy punished, the hero and heroine together and everyone getting exactly what they deserve. Some call this a craving for justice. I prefer the proverb — “All’s well that ends well.”

This is probably why I generally ask my daughter if I will like “this” book or “that” movie. (My daughter has her Master’s in English Literature and is a book and movie connoisseur.) She knows what I’m really asking — does it have a happy ending. If she answers “yes” to my question, then I know I can handle whatever problems the characters will face because I know the outcome will be good.

Even when I’ve been assured I will like the conclusion, the challenges characters face can seem so insurmountable that I begin to think my daughter’s definition of a happy ending is somehow different than my own. But it always turns out as she promises it will, even if the course to the happy ending is completely different than I expect or want.

I’ve heard it said that Cinderella doesn’t always get her happy ending, but I wonder if perhaps this is because she has concluded there is only one possible happy ending. And just maybe there is more than one way to find the happiness and satisfaction she seeks.

I recently finished reading Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, and I must admit I read these four books faster than any books I’ve ever read. I had not read book reviews or commentaries, so I was completely in the dark about the story’s finale. But my daughter assured me I would be happy with the conclusion.

Even still, I read as fast as I could because I wanted to see if she was right. And now that I’ve finished the books, I’m actually wishing I had taken more time to ponder the unfolding saga of the story.

This wish has me contemplating my own life story. I know without a doubt that the author of my story is the best writer of happy endings. Actually, since God promises us eternal life, our story doesn’t exactly have an ending. “And this is the promise that He made to us — eternal life.” (I John 2:25)

Believing in eternal life is perhaps the best ending we can hope for — an ending that never comes. The promise of eternity pretty much dismisses the idea that it’s ever too late or that there is no hope.

Many aspects of my life journey have not turned out as I first imagined them. But I’ve learned, and continue to learn, that there is more than one way to obtain the “happy ending” in any circumstance. This has always required that I remove my own preconceived notions and limited expectations and remember that God has happiness as part of His plan.

God said, “I have it all planned out — plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I believe in a happy ending — or future. It’s just that simple. I don’t want to ever buy into the idea that the world is cruel and dark and people are damned. So expecting and anticipating a happy ending gives me hope.

Lately I’ve been thinking I need to slow down and enjoy my journey more. What’s my hurry anyway? If life is unending, then what’s most important is the journey. I don’t want to miss anything. Every moment needs to be cherished, every lesson treasured, every triumph celebrated.

So I guess I’m not really in search of a happy ending after all — but rather a happy future and journey along the way. And I’m learning that the more I understand that happiness is a God-promised present possibility and not something obtainable only in the distant future, the more happiness is within my grasp right now. The future is tomorrow as well as the next hour or moment of our day.

I’m beginning a new book, and this time I hope to take more time to enjoy what I’m reading. Of course, my daughter says you know it’s a good book when you can’t put it down until you’ve finished it. But as part of my new goal to relish every moment in my life journey, I do plan to try.

The appeal of “Twilight”

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

Unlike my daughter, I’ve not read Stephenie Meyer’s book series — yet. But I was probably as excited as she was to see the first movie in the saga. And now I look forward to reading the books. I don’t think I can wait to see the next three movies to know the rest of the story.

I can understand how Meyer’s books have become a cultural phenomenon. Forget the intrigue of an unorthodox love story between a mortal and a vampire. My husband wasn’t able to get beyond that image and didn’t go with my daughter and me to see the movie.

The concept of a forbidden love affair between two people worlds apart has been around for centuries. My daughter says we can thank Shakespeare for that.

But perhaps the idea of wanting what you can’t have is natural to human nature. Even a toddler is passionate with that desire.

I’m not about to give away any details from the story. You’ll have to read the books or go see the movie yourself — if you are, like me before today, one of the few left in the world who doesn’t know the story. But my daughter said something after the movie that possibly sums up the extreme appeal of Meyer’s story. She said, “We all want to be loved that much.”

I can concur that by Twilight’s end, I had an overwhelming feeling of the love that had just been portrayed — a love that protects without regard for one’s own safety. A love that cherishes every moment shared with the object of one’s affections. A love that wants what is best for another even if it means sacrificing one’s own happiness.

In spite of the conflict the story begins to unfurl, this movie ended with my sigh as I basked in the deep love shown by someone who loves another more than self. Interestingly enough, I found myself contented and satisfied by pondering the purity of such love.

And why not?

Who doesn’t want to be loved by someone who gives love without conditions?

I feel loved in this way by my husband. But after watching Edward’s love for Bella, I’m compelled to ask myself if I show my husband the depth of my love for him every day of our life together.

With the holiday season upon us, I can’t help but also think about Jesus’ teachings on love. He taught us to love others regardless of how they treat us — even our enemies. He said, “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior. Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!” (Luke 6:31)

A good guideline for any and all types of relationships!

In other words, if we want to be loved unconditionally, we must give our love unconditionally.

As I anticipate the next movie in this love story, I’ll continue to think about the love Edward feels for Bella. I’ll put Meyer’s books at the top of my Christmas wish list. And I’ll do my best to show my husband how unconditionally and passionately I love him.