Back up the mountain?

Somewhere along the road, we learn to cope with the things that knock us down, don’t we? We figure out how to do life again, maybe limping, but we keep going. We kind of have do, don’t we? Life doesn’t give you an option, but you can always figure out a way forward, even if its not what you expected.

I was was with a friend yesterday, someone with whom I have walked with for the past year or so, ever since she was diagnosed with a number of health issues. A group of us prayed for her, that God would bring healing; she has three young kids and they need her desperately. Dad’s unfortunately not very present. At that time, it seemed she’d be gone in a few months.

That was a year ago. Her health issues continue, she has more blood clots than anyone can imagine. Constant pain, a blood disease that renders surgery not an option, and failing lungs. Every day is hard. Yet she keeps going, she keeps leading her kids in faith, she keeps her home bakery business going to support her family. Doctors cannot explain why she is still here – and her answer is always “Well, I have a big God”. Yes, yes she does.

After I met with her, I kept thinking of a story in the book of Exodus (note: not because it described her, but because of the encouragement it could bring her) where Moses has just come down off the mountain and dropped the commandments God had given him, in anguish over the idol the Israelites had formed. This God that had delivered them from their slavemasters had just promised to be their God and lead them. He had spoken purpose over them – going from being slaves to being priests and a light to the world. They had agreed! But they so quickly went back to their old ways, not yet knowing how to trust in the God that had met with them nor how to follow his ways.

The description of them is as a “stiff-necked” or “obstinate” people, and Moses had the great task of leading them. I cannot imagine how frustrating it was for him as a leader. I can imagine if this happened today, his social media post would read something like:

COME ON, PEOPLE – GET WITH THE PROGRAM! Pay attention to what is being offered to you! Seriously. (#frustrated #leaderprobs #arewethereyet? #getmeouttahere)

I have a feeling that for those of you out there in leadership, or those serving in the body of Christ, or those helping your neighbors, or those raising teens – many of you get this, you feel the frustration Moses felt. You wonder “why me, God?” Why do I have to put up with this stubborn people, these kids, this situation? I’m trying to lead them, teach them, do my best to steer the Titanic away from disaster……

Maybe we can learn something from Moses. And friends, I do not say this lightly, because I need to hear this as much as you. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t need to be reminded of this very truth.

(I know I am skipping over a bunch in the text, but bottom line:) Moses asked God to show himself, after crying out for God to go with them into the promised land…. and God answered:

“Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, Jehovah….”

Can you imagine what that would have been like?

THIS IS WHO I AM. Not just “el”, the other gods people speak of. I AM YAHWEH God, that speaks.

God first reminds Moses who He is, before he reminds him of his character:

“Yehovah, Yehovah, the God merciful, gracious and slow to anger, abundant in goodness/loving kindness, and truth/faithfulness”

My friend, I know – you have probably asked God to show up, and maybe He has, or maybe God seems silent. Or maybe you haven’t had the heart to ask.

Yet the question remains – and will always be, no matter what trial you are facing, what stubborn people you are dealing with – are you willing to go back up the mountain, and let your soul be reminded of the God you serve? Will you let the Holy Spirit, in that mysterious way He comforts and speaks to us, bring these words to life again in you? Let the character of the God we serve, embodied in these words, wash over your tired and frustrated heart, and give you courage

“Yehovah, Yehovah, the God merciful, gracious and slow to anger, abundant in goodness/loving kindness, and truth/faithfulness”

He has not left. You are not alone. And He goes with you. That is his promise to us!

For the love of… what?

This is Oliver, our Maine Coon. He’s about 21 pounds, looks like a little lion when we have him trimmed, and he’s a “spiritual cat”….. Haha, just kidding – he lays pretty much on any piece of paper or book around :-). Yesterday was the day I dropped Oliver and our youngest off at CSU for her second year of school – and his first. It was hot, and because he doesn’t like traveling, he decided to poop in his crate half way to Fort Collins. Needless to say, Oliver got a bath the minute we got to school. He smells like coconut now, Maia is moved in and happy to see her friends again. All is well.

Me, I’m taking a few days to explore the northern part of the state that I always drive by on the way to and from Fort Collins. Benefits of working from home mean that you can pretty much work from anywhere – so today and tomorrow my office is a quaint Airbnb with great wifi and not too far from Estes Park and Boulder. Oh, and the house has this KILLER bookshelf with a ladder that leads to a loft!

Can you get any cooler than that?? I want one!! Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a book nerd…but if you have read any of my other posts you saw my bookshelf. This would definitely be a nice upgrade – with room for growth! (Hey, a girl can dream, right??)

So today after work I decided to head on up to Estes Park. The drive was gorgeous – although the down side is there are so many turns I couldn’t sit and just watch the scenery because, well, I was the one driving to make sure I’d get there. Side note: If you visit Colorado, do it with a friend. Or me. Or someone to drive FOR you so you can enjoy it all.

Anyway….the town is darn cute. Who knew you could fit that many taffy shops and ice cream shops in a 1/2 mile stretch? I found a great photographer’s art gallery, one that takes pictures all seasons – this guy can actually capture the purples and pinks of the sky. He’s amazing. I wanted one of his prints for my house but the $750 price tag was a bit steep. I treated myself to a small 4×6 matted one instead.

On a riverwalk behind all the shops you can just stroll and listen to the mountain spring that rushes through the town. There are benches every few hundred feet for you to sit and relax, so I chose one away from much of the crowd and closed my eyes for a bit just to be quiet. It was one of those times where I realized I had set these days apart for searching, for seeking, and my soul was definitely longing to hear from the Lord.

What I need, I don’t really know. I’m not asking a particular question, there is just this sense that I’m … waiting. Ever have those times? Those times where the something bigger in the universe, the something bigger in God calls out to the well of deep in your own soul, and just won’t leave you alone.

“Deep calls to deep….” the psalmist says (Ps 42:7)

It’s one of those moments when you know that no matter the noise in your life, no matter the chaos swirling around you, no matter the mundane things, the ridiculously bothersome things, and the unanswered questions…..your soul KNOWS it was made for more. It cries out for its creator and there is no stopping it.

I think sometimes we forget to stop and listen to that longing, even maybe unconsciously without realizing why. Yet the longer we push it aside, the more our heart starts to justify maybe it was just our imagination, or we’re just being too sensitive, or we tell ourselves why would God want to just sit with us anyway? I know, I talk about this a lot…. listening to the very voice, seeking the very presence of the One we call God. But how can I not? This is where LIFE within life is found. And when we can tune and re-tune our hearts, minds, and souls to that presence, we begin to see Him everywhere.

I love how Audrey Assad puts it, in the chorus of her song “For Love of You” (2010):

You are my deepest longing

and so I see you everywhere

It’s you I’m chasin’ after

‘Cause I am captivated by who you are

and how you move

I’ll follow you forever

So that would be my question to you tonight .. What is your heart and mind captivated by lately? Is it leading you to life, or away from it? I know there are seasons of faith, my friend, and I know that some of them can seem dull, too long, too difficult. Some of you may be ready to walk away or give up because of the pain. But God is so more faithful than you realize. Know that HE is captivated by you… so take the time and let your soul breathe!

Hidden glory

…..

There are three horizontal windows in the front of our house. They are about three feet wide and 12 inches tall, and they are stacked on top of each other. From the outside of the house, they provide some pretty cool visual detail on the 2nd story (as you can see above the front door). From the inside, they are at the landing where the steps turn from the kitchen and living room open space to go to the third floor bedrooms.

I have my cedar chest sitting there on the landing, mainly because… well… its a huge landing and it seemed to be the right piece of furniture to set there. Because it has a padded top, it is often a resting place for Oliver. Other times, its a barking perch for Gracyie as she surveys her domain for the neighborhood watch.

One morning recently I decided I would sit there for a bit and watch the sunrise as it crept over the horizon. The colors I could see were going to be just brilliant.

There was just one problem.

The other houses in the neighborhood blocked my line of sight. Pretty badly. All I could see was some of the pink and tangerine hues peeking out on either side of my neighbors houses. Bummer.

But, eager to have some peace before the busyness of the day started, I sat there, hugged my knees, and started praying. ‘I wish I could see the whole sunrise,’ I thought. It would be so much better.

Then quietly I heard a whisper, as faint as ever:

Sometimes my glory is hidden by the things of earth

And although I knew what the Lord was saying, and although I had a very visible example of what He was talking about, I felt immediately like Jesus’s disciples, just like in the gospels where they would pull him aside after a great parable or analogy and ask him what the heck he was talking about. Have you ever felt like that?

All I wanted to do was ask ‘Can you explain it to me better, Lord? What do you really mean, and how does that relate to life in the real world?’ The house blocking the sunset is perfect. I get that. But you know I have trouble thinking outside the box, Lord. Help me understand what you are trying to get me to see.

I find myself coming back to this question often, especially when I am with people. I find myself asking the Lord to open my eyes to see His glory at work in their lives and what they do

It has made me wonder if its because I tend to dwell in the practical that

I struggle to see the glory.

I know I can’t be the only one who has that struggle.

Scripture is full of verses about the glory of the Lord, and most of them probably make us think of His beauty in creation, His beauty in the cross and his self-sacrificing love for us. Maybe they make us think about stories of how He has held us in the deepest, darkest times in our lives. Those are all beautiful examples, and those I get.

But a book I have been re-reading lately has made me remember this:

God’s glory is ALSO like fingerprints of his work in the world to redeem and change lives.

Like … when people work together in a community to save children being taken for sex trafficking, and bring down the systems that facilitate such injustice. Or when someone figures out, even if they aren’t in church, (or, even if they are of another faith) that forgiveness is a good thing. Or when people work to have an honest conversation about difficult topics like prejudice and bias, or do the hard work of healing relationships. Or when people overcome addictions through groups like AA, or rally around their friend or neighbor with a mental illness.

The more I look around, the more I am convinced of this fact: God is not limited to working or showing His presence, his reality, and his impact in the world to just people who claim Jesus as their Savior. Does He use those who call him Lord to show his Glory? Absolutely! That is part of God’s call to us as believers, as reflected in two well know verses in both the Old and New Testaments:

Isaiah 43:12 “You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘That I am God’”

1 Peter 2:9 “….you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”

But for those of us know know the Lord, my question is this: Can we see and call out the truth, maybe even the fingerprints of God, that are sometimes hidden….

Behind the things that dazzle and steal our attention

Behind a religious facade or a theology we might not resonate with

Behind people we don’t understand

Behind a wall of fear, in ourselves or in others

Behind a mountain of insecurities

Behind hurt and pain that seems too difficult to let go of?

Or are we too afraid?

Is our understanding of God too small?

If God’s glory is to be found in the hidden places, maybe we who know Him still need to ask for our blind eyes to be allowed to see.

May you see the glory hidden by the things of the earth in your life around you today!

Two worlds in conflict

I heard a term the other day on the radio that I had never heard before: FOBO.

Now FOMO I know: “Fear Of Missing Out” – you know, the sense you get when you look at everyone else’s Facebook page or instagram post and feel like you are missing out on something really, really fun. Or that somehow YOUR life is less amazing than someone else’s because you don’t post as much, didn’t have great pictures from vacation, aren’t as creative, or aren’t as good at finding “spiritual” applications in your bowl of breakfast Cheerios like they are.

We can all sit and admit we know what we see online is only a slice of real life. Yes, there are those that post goofy pictures of themselves and their family, or they show a slice of their reality that mirrors your life (shock – everyone probably has clean laundry piled on a couch somewhere too). With as optimistic as a person as I can be, I too have to be careful to remind myself that I am not missing out on life just because I can’t or don’t feel like posting about everything as if it were the NEXT BIG THING. Heck, I can go weeks without posting and never feel like I missed anything. Sure, Facebook reminds me shamefully that I forgot someone’s birthday, and maybe I missed knowing I needed to pray about something or be happy for someone about their new job…. but the world continues on when I don’t check in. And guess what? No one cares. Life where I am, right in front of me, continues to be the biggest thing and where I want to put my attention.

So when I heard about FOBO I had to laugh. Of course we are going to find another acronym for our social fobias:

“Fear of Better Options”

Now, maybe this is just a thing for the younger generations. I have no idea. But the radio announcers were going on about how bad everyone is at RSVP’ing today because… well.. there might be a BETTER OPTION socially. So people wait to the last minute to decide what to do that will be the MOST fun.

Sounds like an extrovert thing (says the extrovert).

I wonder how much of God we miss because we are looking for better options?

I know, there are a million ways I could go with this one… but this time I wll start with a Psalm I read recently.

The writer of Psalm 19 starts off with this:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words, no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world”

I know this waxes poetic, and I am not the poetic type. But sit and think about this for a minute.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all over the world – from the North Pole to the Sahara Desert, from the mountain ranges to the vast amounts of farmland, to tropical beaches, all of creation is screaming out about God’s beauty and the complexity of the world he set in motion. Shouting, without words, for us to slow down and sit in the mystery and beauty of what has been created.

The other day when I read this Psalm, it made me think of the endless news cycle we are faced with today. Day and night, it too pours forth speech, as we are inundated with stories of every kind, from nearly every country. This too, reveals knowledge, as Twitter spouts the latest gossip or social media trend, brings awareness to the latest tragedy or thing to stand behind. It has speech, words, language – sometimes too much. Its voice goes into all the world – even developing countries.

Its not all bad, I know that. Yet looking at the two side by side, it begs us to look at what takes the space in our lives, doesn’t it?

When do we slow down to let the voice of creation speak louder than the news cycle, the twitter feed, or the need to post about everything you are doing? When do we slow down to be reminded of the One who created us as well?

Sure, I know I live where there are mountains and it’s beautiful. But you can find that same voice of God over the cornfields, the rolling hills, the city scapes and night skies, I promise. I might hear crickets, and you might hear waves or car horns and the bustle of a city that never sleeps.. but creation still shouts pretty loud if you will turn everything else down a notch.

This summer…. I challenge you to find the time to sit and just listen. Invite God into the space you have carved out, and let His love wash over you as you enjoy the work of his hands in the piece of creation where you live!

Who does your thinking?

I have this little post-it note sitting on my standing desk beneath my monitor, mainly so that I can see it front and center. Right now, it’s about as close as I am going to get to God hand-writing a note to me… but lately it’s something I have needed to remind myself of more than I’d like to admit.

In case you can’t read it, it says “Who does your thinking for you?”

Have you ever had a season in life where maybe you were in a rough spot, you were working through things, and eventually you get to a place where you are feeling ok, and then something happens and your mind gets thrown out of whack?

Yeah.. I just caught myself in that place this past weekend. You see, I would like to think I am a pretty positive person, always looking on the bright side of things. Even when life gets hard. I dig in, trust God will get me through, and keep plugging. I guess you could say my default thinking kind of runs like this:

  • Default: I’m doing well!
  • Default + hard stuff = I’m doing ok, keeping my head up and believing for the best
  • Default + hard stuff + outside voices = well maybe I shouldn’t be ok? Am I missing something here?

It’s this last part that I want to talk about today. Somehow I have this weird guilt feeling that I shouldn’t be doing so well when things get hard because everyone expects certain types of reactions from us when we hit hard things in life. Sure, sometimes we DO feel the “expected reaction” – like if you lose someone you love, you are going to go through some serious loss and grief that only others who have been there get the depth of. Or if you are betrayed by a friend, or you lose a job or house, or you are diagnosed with an illness of some kind. Anger, denial, numbness, hopelessness, disillusionment…. you name it, any of those would be considered “normal” in cases like this, right? So you work through them. You process with people, with counselors, with God.

Eventually you start to see rays of hope, pieces of joy that seemed just a bit too far at the start. Then maybe you start to feel better – like really better!

At some point, voices will surfaces that will lend their thoughts, wanted or unwanted: people who didn’t know what was going on, social media rants or blog posts, books or articles or songs that speak to whatever hard thing you are dealing with. Now, sometimes voices can sometimes be good and help you along – challenging you with hope, kindness, patience, forgiveness….. or they might give you permission to feel something you were afraid to feel.

Then there are the times that these voices might make you question how well you are doing. You sure you are ok? You’re not just hiding/avoiding/ignoring? (Which sometimes is totally ok, don’t get me wrong!)

The reality is that when you serve a living God, whose very breath fills your lungs and spirit lives inside of you… there is something that is net different as you walk through difficult seasons.

A few weeks ago I was reading again in Isaiah and ran across this verse, which I had not read in a while:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….”. (Isa 41:10)

And I sat and thought about that for a minute. This doesn’t have a qualifier on it like “I’m with you only in the big stuff”, or “ I’m with you when you don’t know what to do”.

Iam with you, so do not fear, God says. Period.

What about God being with us should make us not afraid? The easy answer is that, well, he’s big and he’s God so … there. But the reality is that we have to dig pretty deep to be aware of that presence and let it change our experience, don’t we?

Just knowing this in our heads doesn’t necessarily crowd out the voices that tell us we should be afraid, or make us recall the past, or that what others think makes more sense, or even a zillion other things that our mind might concoct to instill fear….. because to just tell ourselves “don’t listen to that voice” is like saying don’t look at the elephant in the room. Sometimes it makes us think about it more!

We have to move beyond head knowledge alone to more of a deep knowledge in our soul, one that is born of His Spirit, reminding us of God’s actual presence and power with us to get us through.

As I have been studying the Old Testament, the very presence of God is one thing that we keep coming back to. Every battle, every hard thing – God always reminded them “I’ve got this”. It didn’t mean they didn’t have to fight or chase the enemy to keep or capture land. But God being with them was huge. His presence was the deciding factor on whether they won or lost the battle. For us today, our battles are different. Often we don’t know the outcome, and what we want isn’t always what happens – but God’s presence with us SHOULD change how we experience whatever we’re going through. It’s time to stop thinking just “yep, I know God’s with me BUT…. “

No. “God IS with ME”. Not just the world, not just everyone when they are together in church. Me. You. Personally. Right there as you walk through whatever you walk through.

Are we still going to go through seasons and have hard times? Of course. Jesus says we will have trouble, but that his peace is real for us in the midst (John 14:27) of whatever we face.

Dear ones, this active knowledge of God with us takes practice. We don’t always get it right, but we have to start somewhere. I challenge you today, to ask the Holy Spirit to make you more aware of the truth that God is with you, so that His presence changes how you experience what you are going through.

After all, if he can hold the world together, don’t you think he can hold you together too?