Posted in Living this Life

Wilderness Wanderings

I pulled the plug this morning. On my pool.

It’s not a great pool – it’s pretty little, just about 36 inches tall and about 10 feet across. Nothing you can cannonball into, and stuck on the end of my patio, it certainly doesn’t do much for curb appeal. Just a big blue blob that has served as a sort of lifeline to my kids on those oppressively hot summer days that wouldn’t seem to end.

I’ve watched that blue blob deflate all morning – and I’m feeling all sorts of conflicted.

It seems to mark an end to something – but to what? The end of summer? I’m really ok with that, since this summer was just plain hard. The end of the challenges of 2020 – I’d like that to be true, but am not that naive. Maybe it marks the beginning of something? A fresh season – I’d gratefully embrace that! But deep in my gut I know that although the weather is fresher and cooler, not much is really changing in my life yet. Still kind of wandering in this desert we call 2020.

Just another day – only today, we pack away the pool. And I find myself reminiscing.

I won’t drag you into all those convoluted places with me. Some bring smiles, some bring tears – so here I sit, trying to find the words. A couple months ago, I asked the Lord where I should read next in my Bible. I don’t often have strong leanings on this – I kind of stumble around in my Bible until I find something that ignites a fire in me. Well, this time I felt very strongly that He wanted me to go through the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy? Really? Have you checked your calendar God? I’m thinking I need something a bit more encouraging than Deuteronomy. Funny thing is, as I flipped on over to towards the front of the book, I find myself identifying with what I was reading a whole lot more than I thought I would. We find Moses reminiscing through the first few chapters. And it’s not pretty. There’s been alot of God performing great miraculous acts – and the people of Israel failing Him. Again and again.

I read through this list of failures, and I’m grateful I’m not as bad as they are. You know, with the grumbling and complaining and wanting to go back… Then that familiar nudge hits my spirit – like when the Holy Spirit seems to be squinting His eyes, tilting His head and saying, “really?” Maybe I need to read this again.

How many times have I found myself rolling my eyes at those forgetful Israelites who just wanted to go back to Egypt. Back to slavery? Really?! Don’t you remember how God got you out? Don’t you remember all those tears, the agony of a life lived in oppression?

Then I hear my own voice, bemoaning all the changes 2020 has brought to my life, and I’m saying “how soon can we go back to ‘normal’?” Now, there’s nothing wrong with “normal”, but what if it holds layers of oppression and slavery that God is trying to shake us free from? Maybe “normal” is code for “Egypt” in my life. If I’m really honest with myself, I don’t sound much different than those forgetful Israelites.

Maybe I don’t like the changes to my life in 2020, but the changes He has wrought in me are for good! What lies in the dust of the past that He is trying to move me out of? Sometimes it’s easier to do what we’ve always done rather than take the big steps towards change … but He has parted the Red Sea of our habits and brought us into a new way of living! I think of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis musings: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Do you find yourself longing for the mud pies? Let’s not lose this opportunity by constantly wanting to go back to our “normal”.

Then this verse hit me like a brick wall: “Now, when the last of these fighting men among the people had died, the Lord said to me, “Today you are to pass…” Finally moving on! But why now? Why did the Lord wait until the last one died before calling His people on up? I always thought it was about the lack of obedience that ran through them – and I know that’s a great part of it. But this time, as I read it, I realized that God is bringing the Israelites into a new world to fight new battles with men who have never fought a battle in their lives. They couldn’t depend on the strength or prowess of their army – they could only trust in the power of God.

I say I trust in God. But somedays it seems like I’m leaning on the things of earth a whole lot more. There are so many patterns in my full time ministry life that rely on the power of man – from fundraising to connecting with people around the country. And none of them have happened this year. At least not in the way we’re used to. It would be easy for anxiety to creep in. It would be easy for me to run ahead and try to figure this out. It would be easy to try to “fix this” in my own strength. And yet my God still stands as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night.

Could it be that God is calling us out of our patterns and habits to each day look to see if the pillar is moving? Can you imagine how the Israelites lived for 40 years – peeking out of the tent each morning to see if the pillar has moved yet? Maybe we need a little more of this…

Rather than relying on the month of the year and what we “normally” do to keep life moving, maybe we should start looking to see where He is moving and wait in the shadow of His pillar. I find this altogether terrifying and exceedingly freeing at the same time. Because we’re really good at giving this concept lip service in the church, but how good are we at living it? I construct my to do list, and then I get frustrated with my kids when they interrupt my “progress”. Maybe the Pillar is moving in a different way today. Will I listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudge to simply go there? Without argument. Without complaint. Without my own agenda? Oh, it’s hard to unlearn a lifetime of self-sufficiency – thank you, 2020, for bringing me to this place!

And what about that manna?! My kids think it’s hilarious that the word “manna” simply means “what is it?” . Sometimes when God’s blessings show up in such strange and unexpected ways, you simply look out and say, “now, what would you call that one?” – kind of like a modern day “Whatchamacallit”. It seems this year has brought a daily supply of Whatchamacallits to my doorstep. But every. single. day. God’s provision shows up.

And I must confess – I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to my favorite things. I’m the one who will tuck my goodies away until they go bad rather than indulge in them all at once. I’m not proud of it. I just never want to run out of goodies. How I can relate to the Israelites on this one!

When you live in the daily insecurity of never knowing what the next day will bring, you want to hoard the familiar. The things you can depend on. What little control you have. And here God issues a resounding, “no”. He’s not giving into my whining. And when I overstep and try to take his provision into tomorrow, I find it has lost it’s flavor. Even turned rotten. I need to savor His goodness today, and expect fresh blessings tomorrow. “His mercies are new EVERY morning – Great is Your faithfulness!” Lamentations 3.

So these wilderness wanderings have me brought me right here. To this place of utter dependency. To a place of acceptance. To a place of peace. There is still plenty wilderness ahead of us – and battles to fight with untrained hands. But His pillar – it’s there! It leads us day by day. So let’s stop looking back. Let’s stop complaining about how life is different, here in this wilderness. Let’s start finding our manna.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

Posted in Living this Life

Hope

I was going to bed the other night and noticed my “hope” sign was still on.
Not much more to say – let’s keep remembering that hope is not based on headlines or numbers, but on the deep, reassuring promises of a God who promises to walk through the fire with us!


“… tribulation (suffering) brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us”! Romans 5

Posted in Living this Life

Sinkholes and Chickens

It rained a lot around here recently. Like, a lot. State of emergency type rain – flooding in towns all around us.

And in my town – a giant sinkhole opened up in someone’s backyard.

So, you know to do when a giant sinkhole opens up in your small town? You go take a look, of course! And as we drove by, the realization hit me and my husband at the same time – this was a house that we had looked at possibly buying a few years ago when we were moving. In other words… this could have been our house, with a sinkhole for a backyard!

sinkhole

I have thanked God many times for the home He has blessed us with – but this time I thanked Him with an extra degree of awareness. Because I saw what He had saved us from.

It all kind of got me thinking. We all know how sinkholes work. There’s something wrong under the surface. Unstable soil, a cave or a hole underground faces sudden or unpredictable pressure. And the surface gives in – the pressure takes advantage of the weakness and causes a collapse.

Sinkholes happen all around us – everything looks fine on the outside, but inside where no one sees, our souls are slowly being eroded in immeasurable ways.

Confidence seeping away in the barrage of lies thrown at us by the world.

Mired in insecurity because we can never seem to measure up to what is expected of us.

Trapped in a life we never thought we would live. Decisions we wish we could change, but how does one undo the mistakes of the past?

Paralyzed by fear and choking on darkness.

Most of the time we can keep up the façade. No one can see the gaping hole inside threatening to consume us.

And then I think about Jesus. As He laments “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Mt 23:37.

chicken 2

Jesus sees her guilt, her sin, her filth. And He longs to gather her up and protect, heal, nurture. “But you were not willing,” is His cry.

Does He not weep even more over our stubborn hearts? The pride that keeps us from letting Him gather us close? The stubbornness that keeps us broken when He is so eager to heal? Hear His heart for you… let it sweep over you and fill in those empty places in your soul.

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.” Deuteronomy 33:26

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:25

I don’t know what you see when you look over the landscape of your life today. Maybe everything looks okay, but you sense a sinkhole coming. Maybe you see what you’ve been healed from (or saved from) and are holding fast to the One who keeps your life intact. Or maybe it’s all you can see when you look out of the portholes of your soul – sinkholes scattered like landmines, leaving you trapped and isolated.

Hear this, my friend. There is no chasm too great for Jesus to bridge. It all starts with one step – letting go and letting Him in. To those places you can’t admit are there. To the gaping insecurities and holes that you have spent your life trying to fill. And let Him gather you close, and heal those broken places.  Nestle in tight under His wings, and He will give you rest.

Jesus hen

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91

Keep reading – His promises are true and so beautiful!

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:16

“But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. Isaiah 49:25

 “The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you. He drives out the enemy before you; he cries out, ‘Destroy them!’” Deuteronomy 33:27

“And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

 ““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 43:18-19