Where I Meet Him

hiking-the-sand-dunes

“It’s hard to walk in shifting sand. I miss the rock and find I’ve nowhere left to stand.”

 – Grant, Smith, and Chapman, “Arms of Love” –

Life has a way of changing up on us.

Uncharted lands show up beneath our feet and we realize that these sands are slippery and the old ways of walking don’t work so well.

I know a lot of truth in my head.

But has it made it’s way down deep into my feet? Does the truth infiltrate my walk?

In shifting sand, I learn to appreciate solidity. Somewhere beneath my slipping steps is a solid rock, and I believe it. I cling to the foundational truth with all my being.

Life is, at least on the surface, normal. I cut up bell peppers and put them in a skillet. I still take walks and fill my goats’ trough with hay. I wake up. I go to bed.

But all the learning and growing and changing in between are new things, new paths. My feet don’t know the way. The maps I’ve made–the way my life is supposed to look, supposed to play out–aren’t matching up with the landscape. Perhaps I made a mental map of a place that only existed in my head. Now the real land has been reached, and…it seems that I don’t have a clue how to walk across it.

Except for this: I know who my Jesus is.

That truth is what I hold to when I have no idea what to think, what to do, who to be.

I’m not used to not knowing. And at times–most of the time, honestly–I don’t like it very much.

But I’m getting used to it, I hope. Because apparently God wants me to be comfortable with situations where He is the only Knower. He is the only Rescuer. He is the only One who has arms strong enough, a heart deep enough, and a mind wise enough.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work. For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.”

 – Isaiah 55:9, the Message paraphrase –

I’ve always known, at least in theory, that God is strong and I am weak.

So perhaps I have just never been this weak before. I’ve never had my soul drained so dry, my heart wrung so often, my communication tested beyond my skills. I’ve never felt the call of so many needs while feeling so incapable of meeting them.

At the end of my rope, though, is where I meet Him.

At the limit of my strength is where I run face-first into His unfailing grace. If He has never emptied me out so much, He also has never filled me this much before. Often, I have felt capable in my own power. Now? There is not a choice. I must have Him, or I will be undone. Things will fall apart if Jesus is not with me, right now.

Uncharted lands mean that I’m not in control. Slippery sand means I can’t place my confidence in my own steps.

And, as unsettling as the sand seems on the surface, it forces me to look to Him. Instead of trying to find stability in the sinking sand, I am learning to grab onto His hand.

“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    who took them in my arms;
    but they did not know that I cared for them.
I drew them with human cords,
    with bands of love;
I fostered them like those
    who raise an infant to their cheeks;
    I bent down to feed them.”

 – Hosea 11:3-4, NABRE –

His purpose lies, like an unseen map, beneath the sands of uncertainty. I may not see the path I’m traveling, but I know I am on it.

Some athletes train on beaches, subjecting their muscles to the unrelenting “give” of sand beneath their feet. Instead of giving their muscles something steady to push against, they purposely put themselves in a frustrating position. Normally, they might be able to go much faster or much farther on level, solid ground. The sand seems to soak up energy and effort, making muscles work harder for the same results.

God uses beach training too. He sometimes takes away the smooth path and puts us in desert conditions. We give our all just to keep going. Our spiritual “muscles” flex more than they have every flexed before.

God trains his runners in the sands of uncertainty. Here is where I learn to look to Him. Here is where I take His hand and let Him pull me along the unseen course.

Here is where I meet Him.

Is your sand shifting? Do things seem out of control? Join me in running the sands and trusting the Mapmaker. You can meet Him too, on these sands.

“I am not in control, but I am deeply loved by the one who is.”

– Glenn Packiam –

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When God Digs a Hole

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You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.

– Gordon B. Hinckley –

What is God up to?

This past week, full of thoughts and struggles, I heard a story called “Skyscraper.” Part of a collection of thoughts about God, this story, in a few short paragraphs, taught me to hope.

In this story, author Sally Lloyd Jones tells about the building of a high-rise building. First, long before the steel skeleton of a structure goes up, the foundation is dug.

“They are digging down to go up,” she writes.

In the years after being freed, Corrie ten Boom shared about her experience with her sister Betsie in a Nazi concentration camp. In one of her famous quotes, she spoke of their suffering as a deep pit–but it was a pit that could not go down deeper than the love of her God. With every painful shovelful that sank her deeper into that pit, God was making a solid, spacious place for her life to grow out of. One day, she walked out of that concentration camp. She lived to tell about the fantastic love of Christ that not only saw fit to place her in a pit for a time, but the love that raised her up triumphant to new heights.

This is the parable of the skyscraper.

In the middle of an amazing life, I keep feeling the scrape of rocks as my foundation is dug. Only, foundation-digging does not feel like progress. It feels like falling. It feels like the solid things in your life are being removed. It can feel like fear.

When our neighbors built a basement beneath their house, they hoped that the dirt beneath would not contain too many rocks. Unfortunately, we live in a county full of rocks, some of which run in thick layers beneath the surface. We do live in the Ozark Mountains, after all. So when the neighbors hired builders to dig beneath the house, they were dismayed when they hit a slab of stone only 18 inches beneath the dirt.

This happens in my life. God is digging deep into me, and even though it hurts sometimes, I am thankful. Then He hits rock.

“Great, Lord!” I grin. “That means you don’t have to dig anymore, right?”

Maybe our neighbors thought the same thing–maybe a deeper basement was impossible. Maybe the digging was over.

Then the digging crew brought out the dynamite.

Have you ever felt God pull out the dynamite? Have you ever thought the painful digging was done, only to feel your roots shake with blast after blast?

Using dynamite beneath a house takes great care and skill. Do you think our heavenly Father uses any less skill and precision and concern when He lays the explosive charges all around us?

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

– Isaiah 43:2, NLT –

What does digging look like in your life? In mine, it looks like normal days at home that are anything but routine. It looks like deeper pains and joys than I have ever experienced. It is harder decisions and more impactful words. Digging looks like long talks and many tears. Digging means grabbing onto something solid when the soil is crumbling out from under me. It means feeling overwhelmed–and maybe that’s the point. “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2, ASV).

O taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8). 

I never realized that this tasting might be with a dry mouth, and this seeing might be with teary eyes. And that His goodness would taste so incredibly sweet.

I have many days of delight, when the digging is not frightening, when I trust the Architect. And you know…in a way, they are not any sweeter than the days when I am utterly unmoored, but Jesus carries me. Do I wish for the hardest days? No. But when they come, they are the bitter that makes the sweet all the sweeter.

And so the digging goes on. Some days, I don’t understand. Some days, I want to hide all the shovels and run from the growth. Sometimes, I forget what He is making me into.

But today, I choose to be grateful for the dynamite, and thankful for the chipping away.

Today, I will believe the Builder. He is laying the groundwork for something amazing.

I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well-built.” 

 – Luke 6:47-48, HCSB –

I step back to consider the wall that I have built,
A section of my castle where I laid my dreams in stone
Though the wall is new and short, the cracks already show,
And when the storm begins to wash it away, I fall on my knees and say

Lord, my Architect, come build me.
Lay my dreams’ foundation on the Rock of Christ.
Those words that broke off the stones around me
Can’t shake the castle You will build for me.
And one day I’ll wake up and see
The plan You’ve laid for me is the castle of my dreams.

I bring you dream stones glimmering with starlight from my eyes,
But stone by stone You clear away the best of the plans I have.
In Your strength I sweep the ashes, in the wind they fly away.
“My thoughts are not your thoughts,” You say.
I stretch out my empty hands.

The first floor is finished, the Builder’s strength undiminished
As the first golden plans begin to take place
New walls rise above me, my eyes shine with trust,
And my Architect keeps pressing on to build the life He has for me.


Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, by Sally Lloyd Jones (foreword by Timothy Keller), is an amazingly-profound book with gorgeous illustrations. Today’s blog concept of skyscrapers came from this collection of one-paged lessons on Scriptural themes, teaching poignant truths of the beauty of our God. Written especially for children, this book has encouraged me again and again. The wonders of God are for all ages! I highly recommend this breathtaking book–and the only reward I get for recommending it is the pleasure of seeing my friends love something I love. 

Never Run Dry

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“The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage.”

– Tullian Tchividjian –

It was faith that allowed the widow to pour out the last of her life. A dot of oil. A pinch of flour. It was the only safety left, the only comfort, the only final vestige of control.

She poured it out.

With her hands perhaps shaking, she formed a small cake and baked it, because she believed.

She believed that, in pouring out, she would be filled.

Lately, I’ve been feeling stretched thin. Divvied up between people and activities and responsibilities, I’ve felt the pull of every desire in my heart. Recently, these desires pull me tight as a drum in a hundred directions.

I’ve felt a bit like a caretaker of rationed bread, handing out a sliver of time or energy or joy to those in line, as they file past me. I keep looking over my shoulder at the store of bread, dwindling. I fear it will run out soon.

This is how I have felt with my relationships, with my efforts. I’m loving everything I’m doing, yet often feel surprisingly drained. In my journey to welcome, I have invited so many new faces into my innermost heart. Gladly, I welcome them. Each one is a gift, not a burden. In fact, I wouldn’t change anything. 

Imagine if someone handed you a chest of gold. You might feel blessed beyond imagining. And you might also stagger under the weight of the gift.

What I’m discovering is that my greatest calling is something I am not capable of on my own. I am not enough for these things. My oil is running dry. My barrel is down to the last traces of flour dust.

The widow was at this very point when a hungry prophet walked into her city. She probably had a lot of good excuses not to give: I’ve already given what I could to all the other widows on the street. A homeless boy took the last of the dried fruit last week. I’ve got a son to think about, not just myself. I’ve given and given, and I just can’t give any more. This is a famine! We can’t give it all away.

But the prophet asked for her very last reserve of energy, her last vestige of control, her final claim to independence. He asked for all of her (1 Kings 17:7-16.)

She said, “This is all I have left.”

In reply, he said. “Don’t be afraid.”

How can a cup keep pouring out water forever? It can…if someone else is pouring water in  at the same time.

In this season, I am learning to say “No” to many nonessentials. I am learning to prioritize. I am balancing friendships and events and possibilities with the very real challenges of a new season. This may be a time for different things, and for giving of myself in undiscovered ways. So in embracing being “poured out,” I am not saying yes to every request or denying myself the things I need to stay healthy.

I am only recognizing the the abundant life begins with being filled, but it doesn’t end there. After Jesus fills my heart with His love, I am not designed to hold it in. Abundant means overflowing, and one cannot really overflow alone. The overflow has to go somewhere, has to touch someone. So Jesus has placed circumstances and people and new struggles and fresh joys in my path…and I am not up to the task.

But, when I am stretched thin and fear that I will not be enough, I forget that I belong to an infinite God who cannot be stretched thin. In myself, I am not able. In Him, I can do everything He asks of me today. I do not even have to be enough for tomorrow. I can just depend on Him to make me enough for this day, pray for Him to be enough in me. “This job has been given to me to do, ” Elisabeth Elliot said, “Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

My Jesus emptied His vastness of wealth into me. I can give, then, when I feel there is nothing left. I can scour the storeroom and hand out that last scrap of bread. I can scrape out the last drop of oil and tip the last pinch of flour onto the counter.

“I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.”

– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Paul said, I have shown you in all things that by working hard in this way we must help the weak, remembering the words that the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving’” (Acts 20:35, GNT.)
Giving is dangerous.
But I can give because I believe His filling will come just when I need it..and maybe not an instant sooner. Our Father likes to remind us where the filling comes from. He also likes to remind us how good He is.
So I will not be afraid. When I am stretched thin, I hope His glory shines through.
“He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?”
– Romans 8:32, HCSB –

When Life Knocks You Down

snowball-in-hand2.jpg“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”

― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief ―
Last week, the snow was light on the ground, drifting only in sparse piles on top of the vehicles and the edge of the driveway. I looked out the kitchen window, and this is what I saw.
Around the driveway drifts, two young friends of mine gathered, rolling snow into lopsided balls in an attempt to build a snowman. Somewhere along the way the lure of the snow was just too much for one of them and snowballs began to fly.

Before you knew it, the round snowman torso was being plundered for ammunition. One of my little friends, laughing in the thrill of the moment, suddenly caught a huge wad of snow in the head. He went flying backward into the snow, his red coat a streak of color against the blank palette of yard.

It was one of those magical moments.

Laying on his back, he grinned, laughing at being bowled over. Soon he was up again, and before long, not a trace of the original snowman remained.

This is the joy I seek.

To go down laughing when this world bowls me right over.

The boys playing in my snowy yard plowed through the cold like it was a joy to do it. They lay down in the stuff like it was comfortable. They took hits like troopers. It was all a blast–a game without risk or reason to fear.

Life seems a little more heartless. Its snowballs are packed a lot harder, carry a little more ice inside them. Adventures we once craved, we now see in their true light: cold, wet, hard things that we really don’t want to go out in.

No wonder so many of us stay inside ourselves, where it is warm and comfortable.

But there was something marvelous about my little friends trouncing through the snow. Their exhilaration in the beautiful discomfort. Their embracing of being swept off their feet.

So I think I know a secret, how life can be like a snow day. You can get cranky because the snow went down your neck and into your boots, and your gloves are soaked clean through, and your nose is dripping off. Or, when the big snowballs of life knock you off your feet, you can lay there a while and laugh at the sky above you.

Maybe that’s the best place to see the sky–when you are flat on your back. Sometimes it takes being knocked down to get you to look up. 

Maybe that’s when you can stop trying to prove how well you can stand up to the barrage, and you can just flop over and laugh into the cold sky.

“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.”

 – Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, p.31 –

I think that hope teaches us not to take ourselves too seriously.

Life can be very, very hard. It is true.

But when we are knocked down, we can cry over our smallness and weakness…or we can laugh at it. We can marvel at a God who loves the little person bowled over by the snowball. And we can trust that the God of the snow knows all about snowballs…and He knows just how much we needed to take a long look at the sky and ponder what kind of Creator would gift us with such blue beauty.

“This is why we do not lose courage. Though our outer self is heading for decay, our inner self is being renewed daily.”

 – 2 Corinthians 4:16, CJB –

The God of snow days and of little boys and long, happy falls into snow banks is also my God. He has promised to make all this world into something fresh and new one of these days.

Until then, He gives grace for the days when we are knocked right off our feet. His redeemed daughters “smile when they think about the future” (paraphrase of Proverbs 31:25, The Voice.)

It is easy to be discouraged when life knocks us down.

But take a deep breath and look up at the blue, blue sky and laugh. Your Father is making it all come out perfect in the end.

That’s why snow days are worth celebrating.

As cold as everything looks in winter, the sun has not forsaken us. He has only drawn away for a little, for good reasons, one of which is that we may learn that we cannot do without him.

– George MacDonald –