Standing on the mountain

Don’t you just love it when you read a story in the bible that you have read over and over and you know by heart, yet when you look at it again, there is something you missed? I love when that happens. It always seems to bring new insight, and, most likely, speaks to where you are in life at that very moment, doesn’t it?

There is a story in Exodus I re-read recently, the one where the Israelites have crossed into the promise land, and they are about to go into battle against the Amalekites (Ex 17). Moses tells Joshua to gather his fighting men and then the next day, he would stand on the mountain holding up his staff. So, Moses does just that, and the story tells us that whenever his hands were up, the Israelites were successful, and when they were down, they started losing.

If you have ever heard this story – you know that at some point, Aaron and Hur come up and sit Moses on a rock and hold his hands up, thereby securing the victory for Israel. I have always heard this preached about how important it is to have people that can hold up your hands in a battle, or stand with you when you go through difficult times. I belive that to be true. We can all probably look back on times in our lives when we are walking through something that we never could have without people by our side.

Yet this time — this time I saw something I have never seen before.

It occurred to me that God didn’t tell Moses to go stand on the mountain. Countless other times, God tells people go here or there and I will speak, or do this and that and you will win the battle. That is NOT what we see here. God did not tell Moses that night that his battle plan was for Moses to go up on the mountain and hold the staff . Granted, yes back in Exodus 4 God gave Moses the staff and told him he would use it to perform signs – but there wasn’t any particular guideline that told Moses the Israelites would succeed just because he held up the staff.

In the face of impending battle, with their livelihood and their future at stake, Moses did something we can all learn from:

He stood on the mountain, arms raised….and waited to see what God would do. He trusted in God’s power and in His promise to them.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? But we fret and worry, we spin our wheels trying to figure things out or try and understand all the possible outcomes or choices, because we know that to sit still feels like doing nothing. Sometimes its not even a battle we are fighting, it’s just life circumstances that are too overwhelming or we can’t see a way out.

God might not give a battle plan. He might not lay out the next steps.

Our act of faith is to go stand on the mountain and know our God is there… and then watch and see how He moves.

You might be surprised at what you find.

The Three Trees

I have a bit of a funny story to share. Earlier in December as we were decorating for Christmas, I was talking with Maddie about Christmas traditions and how we should start some new ones now that we are here. Out of curiosity, I asked which of the traditions we had that she remembered the most (or something like that).

“What do you mean? We dont’ HAVE any Christmas traditions.”

You could have hit me over the head with a 2×4. We have a ton! Small traditions, sure, but still there are things we do every year. Like “Ornament Day”, coined by Maia, the day after Thanksgiving when the tree goes up and at least the lights go on, if not decorations too. Christmas baking. Advent calendars to count down in December. Dances with Jon to our favorite Amy Grant Christmas songs. Tacky light tours (although out here in Colorado the lights and decorations really are not that tacky so… that one might have to die). Then there are my cousin’s famous caramel rolls Christmas morning, and the new tradition we started last year: Chinese food on Christmas day, in honor of Jon’s traditions growing up Jewish (since those were the two ethnic groups that didn’t celebrate Christmas in his town).

And we can’t forget the reading of the book “The Three Trees”, a traditional folktale retold by Angela Ellwell Hunt.

Although I always misplace it, and have probably purchased a few copies over the years as a result, at some point we all gather around the Christmas tree and get comfy and one of us reads the story. The story is about three trees that sit together on a hilltop. They talk and dream about one day what they will do when they are grown up. One of them dreams about being a treasure chest to hold great treasure, the other, a mighty sailing vessel for a king. The third tree says he never wants to leave the hill, but instead stay there so that he can poing people to God.

One day, the three trees are chopped down. The first two are made into a feeding trough and a plain sailing boat. The third is left in the woodpile. Yet each in turn are used to do the very thing they dreamed about doing, just in ways they never expected: a feeding trough ends up holding the treasure of God come to earth. A plain sailing boat holds Jesus and his disciples as they are on rough waters, yet realizes he holds a King when Jesus calms the storm. The third… well, he becomes part of the cross.

The reason I love this story so much is because it’s the story of our lives in many ways, isn’t it? We may have great dreams when we are young, ones that may never turn out the way we expected. We may feel ordinary, plain, or left over in the woodpile. Yet that isn’t how God sees us.

You life, my life – we are like those trees.

Everyday ordinary people, yet carrying a great treasure in our lives. We all have hope to give, light to shine into the darkness of other peoples lives. We all can sit in the woodpile and speak to those who are not doing well, reminding them this is not all they were made for.

The hard part of the story that we adults get, and kids don’t, is that after the trees were cut down, they were chipped away at, bent, cut more, nailed together, and smoothed over…. which in some ways is what life does to us, doesn’t it? Yet this story is a reminder that not only in spite of but because of those things, the treasure of God we have found sometimes is more visible, more touchable.

More real.

Whether this Christmas season is a difficult one for you, or if it’s filled with joy and laughter – remember you are NEVER without purpose. You, my friend, are crafted and a beautiful piece of woodwork being carved. Your faith is not in vain, you carry the light of the world in you, even though you may not be aware.

“For we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this power is not from us”.. 2 Cor 4:7

Let that truth be born in YOU this Christmas!

Blessings,

Tama

What is freedom?

My new routine in the morning has me up, pets fed and out, by about 5:15 in the morning. Still dark, and pretty cold in the lower level of the house, I then like to curl up in a really fuzzy blanket, hop on the couch, and pray for a bit to start my day. Now granted, not every morning starts like this (especially NOT the ones where I forget I have a 6am meeting and have decided to “sleep in” til 5:30. Those are a bit more rushed!)

Anyway.. this morning I grabbed my daughter’s old bible and flipped to Corinthians. The verse they had circled and highlighted to focus on was one that brought to mind an old worship song:

2 Cor 3:17 “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”

I thought… yes… how true I have found that to be.

But my next though was how I could say that only because I had experienced it in my own life. How would someone who had never experienced the freedom of God read this? Yet I know we do this sometimes, don’t we? Its easy to read a verse you have read before and maybe mentally acknowledge it, yet never really GET it.

Kind of like the treasure in the field that Jesus talked about. You have to dig. You have to want it and set out to find it, and when you do, its fully your choice to find yourself back at that place.

So what was Paul talking about when he said there is freedom where the Spirit of the Lord is? Freedom from what? I’m not sure he was talking about strictly salvation.

In this same passage Paul is talking about how people can often have veils over their eyes or their hearts to understand the message that God wants to share with them. He is specifically speaking about the Jews hearing the message of Jesus, but think about this in your own life: haven’t there been times when you have just felt blind to spiritual truths or things about God that you didn’t get, and then something happened or you went through an experience and all of a sudden you feel like your eyes were opened to understand something new?

So think about the idea of freedom in this context. Whether its a veil over our understanding of God, or a wall we put up holding him at arms length – it’s to this place I think what Paul said made the most sense:

When you are in a place where God’s Spirit is, there is freedom:

– freedom to admit you don’t have it all together, and let Him hold you and bring His peace

– freedom to let go of an image you feel you have to uphold for other people

– freedom to ask questions you are too afraid to put into words

– freedom to set down burdens and guilt you have been carrying, and receive His mercy

– freedom to not have to be the one in charge any more, and breathe in His strength

– freedom to be who you were called to be, without any competing voices

– freedom to laugh and find joy in the face of circumstances that shout “you can’t have that now!”

– freedom to climb up into the arms of One who loves you no matter how big your daddy/mommy/abandonment/identity issues are, and no matter who thinks you are nuts for still believing in a God that is able to love this deeply

The most beautiful truth about this? God’s spirit is ever present. Yes, there are times when it might be more evident, like in a time of worship or silent reverence, but its also found in those deep conversations between friends. Or in places of natural beauty that iPhones and cameras strain to capture.

This time of year, as all sorts of voices shout at you for all sorts of reasons, I hope that you take time to remember it was a pretty dark and ugly world that Jesus stepped into… kind of like ours today. I also hope you can believe that part of His purpose was to bring your heart and your soul out of the darkness that it might find itself in from time to time.

So let his light shine for you today, and welcome His Spirit, as much as you can grasp, that you might be able to find some places of freedom this season!

The best is yet to come?

I read a verse a while ago where the Lord told Israel “I will only ever want good for you”. Of course now I cannot find it underlined anywhere in the 5 different bibles I have laying scattered around…but I know I wrote it down somewhere..

Anyway.

In reading that verse it struck me, that no one has ever run across that before, or, if they did, they ran past it and didn’t pay much attention. At this place in my life, and with so many people struggling with the idea that God is good, I wonder why this particular “word from God” is never mentioned?

I have been reading a lot of the old testament lately, and what stands out to me is that in spite of how unfaithful Israel was to the Lord, he constantly has a voice of justice, of love, and of defense of who they are. He always draws them to life, always challenges them to better, always points them to something in the future. On this side of things, we know that one of those “better” things was Jesus, the One that would forever change our fear of what God thinks of us.

When things are going well for us in life, it’s easy to say that we are blessed and that we are confident in God’s love for us and that He is good and wants good for us. Yet I am keenly aware it’s not like that for everyone. It hasn’t always been like that for me either. So the challenge in the walk of faith is to hold on to the belief that it’s true, that God actually DOES want good for us — even in spite of hard things.

What about when you lose someone you love, or a family member ends up in the hospital and your world turns upside down scheduling life around their care? What about when you lose your job, your kids make choices that leave you wondering, or the marriage you thought would last forever seems it might not? What about when you feel alone? Or when the dreams you had don’t come to pass, or life hits in a zillion other ways, and you are not in control of the outcome?

Does God still want good for you in that?

I know that for some of us, believing that God can bring good out of hard things seems impossible.

Sometimes life leaves us picking up our crown, dusting it off, and declaring to whoever will listen: I AM NOT DONE YET!

You see, for me, this goes way deeper than the verse everyone tosses around – well meaning, of course: “God is able to use all things for the good of those who love him”. Why? Because in the midst of the struggle and pain of life, its hard to see that there is good to come, that life AFTER the loss or life AFTER the pieces are picked up could ever be better than what we had.

But what if we could hold onto that hope? That the best YOU, the best [whatever your challenge is], the best understanding of how God walks with you through it all, is YET to come? It seems impossible, I know.

Yet I can firmly say I have two living breathing daughters as proof.

Saying the best is yet to come for YOUR life, I believe, is casting hope and trust onto the very arms of Jesus and acknowledge that HE is the better treasure, and that whatever you are going through might not seem like part of “the best” right now….. but that what He sees of your life is beautiful, and in His eyes it will only grow to be even MORE beautiful.

That’s glory

Pea Soup

IMG_4694Earlier this week, I woke up one morning at 4:30. I had not planned on waking up that early, but I was wide awake – and for some reason I could not wait to get out for a run.

It was a cool morning – in the 50’s – and still completely dark, save the few street lights in our new neighborhood. As I turned the corner and headed out towards the new high school being built nearby, I realized it was foggy. Very foggy. It was so dense that all I could make out was the muted glow of the lights around the high school.

It was glorious.

Silence, all around, save the sound of the wind whipping the flag on the flagpole as I ran by.

I felt like I had entered sacred ground in a way, because across from the new high school was a huge plot of land that was not yet developed. There was a sidewalk on the outside edge, but behind that – nothing.

I had to stop and look at it for a minute, and stare into the thick nothingness that I could not see. This is the perfect picture of where I am and where I am headed, I thought. Fully confident of the presence of God, yet fully unaware of what waits beyond the next few steps in front of me.

I have come to love fog for that very reason – because it is such a perfect visual of what the presence of God is like – what it can seem like, I guess I should say – at different times in our lives, or even just at different times in worship. It is a reminder that we can breathe him in and stand in His very presence. It’s beautiful, mysterious, satisfying…and promised to us, if only we will pursue Him and do the work of waiting.  

The only thing I could see in the midst of the fog was the white line of the bike lane on the road, so of course I kept my eyes on it the whole time. It kept my footing sure and my path going the right direction, even though I still couldn’t see much.

Isn’t that just like faith? There are times in our lives where things get foggy, and the next steps are not always clear. Maybe we can barely see the road in front of us – or maybe we cannot see it at all – but as we all know, life doesn’t just stop. Neither does faith.  In fact, that’s the point of faith, to keep walking with God, knowing he is your plumbline, even when you don’t have directions and can’t see where you are going or what’s up next.

I like how The Message puts it: “… this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living…” (Heb 11:1) Other translations use words like “evidence of what we hope for” and “substance of things unseen”.  But you see, this isn’t just vague faith that eventually things will get better, or that things will work out.

Faith, grounded in the work of Jesus love for us on the cross and his ability to raise our lives from the dead even as we still walk this earth – that kind of faith is trusting He will never abandon you, even when things seem foggy. It’s holding to promises God has made of his provision, ability to comfort and counsel, even when evidence might seem to speak to the opposite.

Faith sometimes involves walking forward in the next thing without the daily reassurance that you made the right decision… but resting in the One that called and promises to go before you.

So today, I leave you with one of my new favorite songs, it’s called “Steady Heart” by Amanda Cook….. (but you can search for it yourself on YouTube or Spotify) 🙂