The Road You’re On

mystical-road

“Well, could it be that the many roads you took to get here
Were just for me to tell this story and for you to hear this song?
And your many hopes, and your many fears
Were meant to bring you here all along.”

 – Andrew Peterson, from “Many Roads” –


Let me tell you a story about a farm.

I grew up in the suburbs of America’s fourth-largest city. Major league baseball, giant rodeos, shopping malls, and miles-long lines of cars waiting in “rush hour” traffic are all stamped on my memory, normal facets of growing up in Houston, Texas.

I just wanted a horse like all the girls in the books had…and a farm to put the horse on.

But I got older and older….and older. My fanaticism about horses capped at around age thirteen and then started, gradually, to fade.

I gave up on the farm.

But when I was 18, my family moved to rural Arkansas and bought a 23-acre property nestled deep in the winding roads of the Ozarks.

And suddenly we had our farm.

Why Arkansas, of all places? Why when I was 18, and not when I was 8? Why here? Why now? Why me?

When I look back on our move, the winding roads of circumstance are even more intricate than the crazy twists and turns of the mountains.

I didn’t know what was going on then, but these days I look back in surprise at how God led my family through these crooked hills to the place where He’d use us best.

And that’s exactly what He’s doing. He led us home…and now He’s using us to lead others home too.

It’s my favorite place to be.

And, six years ago, I’d have never, ever guessed what was in store.


My favorite Old Testament character is Joseph. I know that the men and women in the Bible weren’t perfect, and their life histories aren’t meant to be moral patterns for Christian living, but something about this young dreamer-turned-slave-turned-prince touches my heart. I love his passion. I love his wisdom and trust in a God who led him down many strange roads. And I love, as the Message paraphrase records, what he said to the brothers who tried their best to destroy his life:

“Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people” (from Genesis 50:19-21, MSG).

Evil. Hate. Revenge. Anger. Jealousy. All of these conspire together against Joseph. And God turns the tables and rips the status quo apart, and life and good and joy spring out of the mess.

There are no dead ends for His children, only “many roads” that deliver us right to the doorstep of destiny.

Where are you in the journey?

Maybe you are at an intersection and can look back to see how God seamlessly fitted together all of the pieces to bring you to this moment.

Perhaps you are in the middle of a deserted road in the blackest part of the night, and you don’t think that it could ever intersect with anything good.

Perhaps you’ve been on the same road for miles and miles, and you’re just desperate to come to a crossroad so you can try something new.

Hold on.

I’ve been just dazzled by a tiny phase this past week–“the patience of hope.”

Wow.

The patience of hope.

I’m not very patient. Often, I’m ready for my hopes to materialize, right now. Immediately. Pronto. “Okay, Lord, now is good,” I pray. “Okay, this is perfect. Now’s Your chance…Lord? Don’t you think this is a good time for an intersection? Lord?”

The patience of hope.

When we believe that God is “up to something good in all our delays and detours,” as John Piper says, how can we rush the road?

Is it a scenic path? Enjoy it. Don’t be staring up ahead and miss what is, right now.

Is it long and deserted? Even there, something good waits. Seek the Lord first. Love Him with everything, and let it overflow. Love the people on your road. Love them hard. The long roads can be some of the most blessed.

Is it full of surprises and uncertainty? The Master Craftsman is in charge of making your road lead somewhere, and He’s promised that every turn will be just what you need (Romans 8:28.)

“But [The Lord’s] joy is in those who reverence him, those who expect him to be loving and kind.”

 – Psalm 147:11, TLB –

What are you expecting? Is your hope patient, because you expect Him to be loving and kind? Whatever you expect, He will be loving and kind. Your hope will not be disappointed.

You are on this one road, out of many roads, for a reason.

And it’s a good reason.


“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

 – Isaiah 41:10, NLT –

Advertisements

Dusting for Fingerprints

beautiful-flower-1366387899Zeu

“The thing about fingerprints is that they are subtle. What we would like is a finger pointing the way we should go. What we get, sometimes, is a tangible clue that wherever we go, He is with us. We would like to see God face-to-face. But in this life, where we walk by faith, we may occasionally catch traces of Him in our peripheral vision, so to speak. And when that happens, though it is only a foretaste of what is to come, it takes our breath away.”

– Garry Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God, page 284-285


In law enforcement television dramas or movies, finding fingerprints during an investigation is always great news. Now a criminal or witness can be identified. It could mean a break in the  case!

What about our daily dramas? What about our real life moments when we just can’t tell if God is with us? We can’t see Him. We can’t touch Him.

Is He even here?

Put on your gloves, girls. It’s time to dust for fingerprints.

As a child, I did what a lot of little girls do. I played with dolls, I dug in the sandbox, I made cookies with Mom. It was the life! (Except for the time as a five-year-old that I loved the cookies so much that I decided to give them a kiss….right on the 350 degree cookie sheet!)

As I grew up, things changed, as they always do.

We moved from a nearby church to one over an hour away, looking for a place to get solid Biblical teaching. I began to teach piano, as a high schooler. I read, studied, played music, taught. It was a time of learning–but for what?

Circumstances, my parents’ choices, our understanding of the Bible, my personality and preferences–all these have shaped my life in ways that I can’t begin to understand.

Sometimes, I stop and look around. Life seems normal enough. But then I look back. 

How on earth did I get here? I know this is where I’m supposed to be–but what was I thinking when I chose this direction?

With my limited perspective, I catch a tiny glimpse of God. He’s there, in my history. I can see the traces of His movements, the places where, though invisible, He is somehow easy to see.

I see His hand in the friend that broke my heart. I remember the encouragement of a teacher that affirmed my gifts, leading me into just the right place. That was Him too. I recognize His imprint when my family learned that a traditional college was not my only option. Looking back, I see unsought protection when I was just a naive girl. He was there. It really did all work for my good, even when I couldn’t see it.

Smiling, I see a mysterious thread of continuity in the things I’ve pursued from the time I was a child. When I was two, I’d pull out a box, stand on it, and perform one of a handful of songs I knew at the top of my lungs. Now, I forgo the box, but I still sit down at the piano and sing. As a little girl, I wrote a highly-inspired piece of poetry called “Swings,” which went into great detail about the repetitive pendulum motion of playground equipment. Now, I write blog posts for you. Growing up, I read so many books that my mom had to limit how long I spent reading each day. Now, all the words I’ve stockpiled keep flooding back out, usually faster than I can write them down.

It’s not like I sat down as a three-year-old and said, “Well, my personality obviously leans toward musical and language arts, so I’m going to start singing and reading every day to develop my skills.”  Are you kidding? Growing up, reading was playtime and music was just another part of school. But my education and my recreation both instilled in me tools that I use today.

After high-school, my life has turned again. I’ve gained a degree in accounting (of all things.) I’ve written a (so-far unpublished) novel. I’ve started a blog. I’ve moved from an area with 6 million residents to an end-of-a-dirt-road farm in the mountains. We now go to a church almost two hours away.

And it’s great.

Life is different now from what I ever imaged. Some days are wonderful. Some days, it’s not easy. I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

“O Lord, let me remember that I see You everywhere…

And oh, I long to see Your face, invisible, invisible God
All the works that You have made
Are clearly seen and plain as day…

O Lord, let me remember
Your power eternal, Your nature divine
All creation tell the tale that love is real and so alive…”

– Andrew Peterson, “Invisible God”

I’m dusting for fingerprints. It’s not something you can do in advance. But, as you walk in faith and act on what God has laid out for you to do in His Word–obey, rejoice, give thanks, trust Him–you can look over your shoulder and see the shining glow of God’s touch.

Girls, you are part of God’s fingerprints in my life. He has used many of you in ways that have delighted my heart and driven me back to Him to say thank you.

“Have you felt His merciful touch, like the caress of a cool shadow on a long hot day?…Have you felt the pressure of His fingers shaping you into someone who will reflect His glory for all eternity?

“What you have received, my friend, you can also give. So offer yourself to others….When you do, you become His touch. His touch shelters. His touch honors. His touch guides. And His touch restores. It may be within the hour. It may be in the middle of the night. It may be in a way you never anticipated, expected, or even considered.

“But yours is the skin He chooses, and yours will be the life He uses.”

– Jennifer Rothschild, Fingerprints of God, page 154 –


How have you seen God’s hand on your past?

Comment below and share the fingerprints He’s left on your life.


Hope on the Dark Side

barbed-wire-fence-closeup

“So you think that you’re the only one to cry yourself to sleep? That you’re the only one who’s scared they’ll all forget you when you leave? So you think that you’re the only one whose heart is black and blue? Listen, I’ve got news for you….

So you feel so wrecked and dirty He could never make you new? Man, have I got news for you, for you. I’m so compelled to tell you that it’s true….I’ve got good news for you.”

– Andrew Peterson, “I’ve Got News” –


Suffering. We’ve learned to run away from it, ever since we bumped our heads as babies. Ever since our childhood pet got hit by a passing car. Ever since our young hearts broke over the first person we knew that died. Ever since our adolescent souls were scarred by one-time friends that turned into Judases, Brutuses, Benedict Arnolds, betraying who they claim to love. It all seemed so unnatural, a blip in the happiness of childhood.

As adults, we see more of the pain. Our early immunity to the harshness of the world beyond has worn off. We see it all: the death mixed in with life, the tears that come as often as laughter, the hate that turns so much love sour.

Suffering. We recoil from it. We take medication for it. We know, instinctively, that pain means that all is NOT right with the world. Pain means something has gone wrong…crazily wrong.

Atheists say that the world has always been this way, that nature’s desperate struggle for dominance. We’re swept up in the unending pain, only to have it stop at death. We just have to survive till then.

Transcendentalists say that life is suffering–and only suffering. The only way to escape is to disconnect from the material, stop wanting anything, and join up with the cosmos. Let it swallow you. And hopefully you’ll come back as a being better than the one you are now–just don’t mess up the karma.

I have good news.

Jesus says that a better kind of life is possible. Unlike the meaningless suffering that other beliefs offer, Jesus says there is hope beyond the pain. Others can only hope for oblivion, a cessation of the bad. But the loved ones of God hold to a greater dream–the Biblical portrait of a Day when all is made new and clean and pure and empty of pain.

When Jesus came to earth as a man, grew up partaking in our pain, and died at the hands of His own creatures, His death lent value to suffering.

The cross said: Suffering isn’t pointless.

But, in three days, the rest of the message came clearly. If Jesus’ death gave meaning to pain, then His resurrection gave hope . Hope–the promise that one day this pain will be over. Our “three days” of languishing have the possibility of ending with the same kind of triumph–a rock-quaking, life-raising, never-dying kind of resurrection can be ours too.

Without Jesus, the world languishes. Suffering is pointless, pain leads to nowhere but a grave that levels all things to dust. But WITH Jesus, the difference is too great for words. Imagine a dark room, with the windows covered in heavy black cloth. Sun is excluded. The darkness is almost thick and the air is stifling with the absence of color or light or breeze. Then imagine someone came in and threw open the curtains. Imagine someone came and knocked out the walls. Imagine that the ceiling crumbled away and the sun’s full-noon glory pierced down.  It was dark, and now it is light.

But those words, simple and short, cannot convey the power of the change. The hope of God is not just a prick of light at the end of a tunnel. God’s hope is a total smashing of our room of darkness. We still stand in the same place, but now we see it differently. Before we saw only interminable darkness. Now, what do we see? Light flowing over, around, through us. Told another way, the blind cannot see the end of the pain. Only the opened eyes can perceive the reason to hope that stood as a crossroad of history and even now is rising again on the horizon.

“The good news breaks into a world where the news has been so bad for so long that when it is good nobody hears it much except for a few. And who are the few that hear it? They are the ones who labor and are heavy-laden like everybody else, but who, unlike everybody else, know that they labor and are heavy-laden….Rich or poor, successes or failures as the world counts it, they are the ones who are willing to believe in miracles because they know it will take a miracle to fill the empty place inside them where grace and peace belong….Maybe the truth of it is that [the good news is] too good not to be true.”

– Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, page 70-71 –

Do you see it? Christ, in you, the hope–the HOPE!–of  glory (Colossians 1:27). Hope of glory? Yes, hope of a glory beyond this world of pain. Hope of a life beyond what we know here. Hope that this present world is not how it was nor how it will always be. Hope hinges on what we believe (Hebrews 1:1). First, what we believe about Jesus. And, as a result, what we believe about suffering.

Our view of pain depends on our faith. Do we believe that all that goes wrong here will be–soon and gloriously–put to right? Do we believe in a God with an incomprehensible blend of grace and justice, a God who will make us, his rebellious creation, into His perfect creation again? Paul perfectly captured the hopeless view of most of our world:

“If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!'” (1 Corinthians 15:32b, NKJV)

If this life–this hard, often-agonizing life–is all there is to look forward to, we are right to despair. But Paul himself had another perspective on pain:

“….that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11, NKJV).

In his commentary on this passage, 17th century theologian Matthew Henry explains:

“Knowing him here is believing in him: it is an experimental knowledge of the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, or feeling the transforming efficacy and virtue of them….We are then made conformable to his death when we die to sin, as Christ died for sin, when we are crucified with Christ, the flesh and affections of it mortified, and the world is crucified to us, and we to the world, by virtue of the cross of Christ. This is our conformity to his death…..This joyful resurrection the apostle pressed towards. He was willing to do any thing, or suffer any thing, that he might attain that resurrection. The hope and prospect of it carried him with so much courage and constancy through all the difficulties he met with in his work….Observe, His care to be found in Christ was in order to his attaining the resurrection of the dead. Paul himself did not hope to attain it through his own merit and righteousness, but through the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ. “Let me be found in Christ, that I may attain the resurrection of the dead, be found a believer in him, and interested in him by faith….”

Here, we see that pain can be a tool for our good. No, pain is not good itself, just like every other product of fallen humanity. But our powerful God can work even these present hard things into glory to come.

This is my message to you today, sisters: We live in a dying world. Have hope! We live daily with the painful consequences of sin. Have hope! We live among people who see no answer, no end, no solution, to this suffering. But have hope!

Many of us have heard this tale until our ears are full of it and we cease to wonder at its beauty. But the cross is not just for the unsaved. The cross–and the resurrection–is for me and you, every day, just as it was for the apostle Paul. The cross proclaims that our horrible sinfulness has a potent cure. The resurrection announces that we have a good reason to laugh today, because this momentary sorrow is dying away. Yes, our world is crying out, like a woman almost ready to deliver her child (Romans 8:22). But soon the baby will be born. Do not fear. The pain is almost over. New life is on its way. Spread the hope to those who see no end to the pain.

This earth is being birthed into new life. Good news: Our God never miscarries.


“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”

– Revelation 21:1-7, NKJV –

Never Forgotten

home-1399130541ooj

Is there a scene more to despise

Than a sparrow forgetting the air where she flies?

Or a trout disdaining the river he breathes?

But, oh how much worse when I forget Thee!

. . . . . . .

But there is a scene that I recognize

The sparrow cannot forget her fledgling’s cries.

Or a trout forget to swim up the river

Your sweet, “I remember Thee,” standing forever.

. . . . . . . .

This sparrow is missing the glory today,

The trout has no joy in his watery play.

But I have now this unfading delight

That though I forget, my Savior will not.


“…they have forgotten the Lord their God.” (3:21)

Recently, I read through the book of Jeremiah. Israel was seeking things that do not benefit her (2:8), forsaking the fountain of living waters (2:13), forsaking God Himself (2:17,19). And, in all of that, proclaiming her own goodness (2:23). God’s charge: adultery (3:1) But, how merciful our God is! “Yet return again to me….” (3:1). What does she give in return? A brazen face, a refusal to be ashamed.

This leads up to that dreadful pronouncement–You have forgotten the Lord (3:21). And inside my soul, I tremble, for this is the sin that I dwell in every day. See, outright rebellion begins with that small choice to forget. “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1).

I seem to be a record-time forgetter.

I pray.

And God, to my amazement, hears.

He answers and I could shout.

Because of His awesome timing, His creative answers to my pleas, His mercies that span wider than I had dared dream.

And the next instant, I forget.

 I feel, in an moment, like a lost child in a monstrous world of enigmas. Situations are screaming at me. Questions of right are nagging me to decide between one desire and another. I can’t–or maybe I don’t want to– loose my death-grip on life. How can I possibly shudder enough at this idea–I’m always forgetting God.

My heart flies, undone, to the Rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2). I lean, panting against it, a child afraid of the dark and afraid of the Light. There is a voice, an ancient, ageless Word:

“I remember thee” (2:2).

Me! He remembers ME! In spite of my constant cycle of forgetting Him, in spite of my daily relapse into the things I’ve grown to hate (Romans 7), in spite of the sin that still clings like a rotten cloak–He REMEMBERS.

Over the many past weeks as we’ve studied love, I came closer and closer to the realization of my utter deficit of love. In the same way, as I see my heart’s forgetfulness, I begin to understand just how unbelievable it is that I could forget how much God has done. But dwelling on my lack of consistency will not solve my problem.

Only dwelling on Christ’s faithfulness, his totally reliable memory, will give me the strength to run back to Him again after another episode of straying. He has set his seal on us–graven our names into his hand  (Isaiah 49:16). There is a good reason for me to turn in disgust from my sinful forgetting–to repent and cry out for forgiveness. Our crime is not diminished by His mercy. But at the same time, I am not to continually live in sorrow over this error!

We have a glorious hope and a God at our side who wants to fill His dear ones with joy in Him. Like a lost child, run home! Whenever you see that you’ve gotten off the road, turn around and run back!

There’s a feast waiting for us when we get there!

“Go back, go back to the ancient paths, Lash your heart to the ancient mast,

And hold on, [girl], whatever you do, To the hope that’s taken hold of you,

And you’ll find your way, You’ll find your way

If love is what you’re looking for, The old roads lead to an open door,

And you’ll find your way, You’ll find your way,

Back home.”

– Andrew Peterson, “You’ll Find Your Way” –


“His Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” – John Newton

From the Roots of Grace

sunset-behind-trees-at-trail
“Love is a good thing…Do not fear…

Cause it’ll break your will, it’ll change your mind,
Loose all the chains of the ties that bind.
If you’re lucky you’ll never make it out alive, and that’s a good thing.
Love is a good thing…”

 – Andrew Peterson, from the lyrics of “Love is a Good Thing”


Join me for Part Four of my Practical Love Series! Today, I’ve shared my own struggle with understanding Love. To catch up on the other posts in the Practical Love series, check out the links below!

Part One: The Language She Knew By Heart

Part Two: Cedar-Lined Love

Part Three: To See Like You


The sycamore in our yard was huge. Broad green leaves unfurled like flag-ship signals every spring and shriveled into crunchy litter on the ground each fall. It was the kind of tree that just begs to be made into a tree fort, or support a swing. Generations could have grown up on that swing.

But, instead, one spring arrived and the tree never awoke.

Trees die many ways, I suppose. Insects or diseases can devour the leaves, or lightning can strike, or a drought can hit.

I’m not sure what did our sycamore in. Maybe it spent itself out. Maybe it had too much competition. Maybe it stopped drawing power from the earth. Roots have to dig deep, nestle into subsoil watering places, and seek out nutrients if a tree is to survive.

I’ve been thinking about that.

If Love is a tree, then its roots are Grace.

And right now, my Love feels a lot like that dead sycamore–powerless, decaying,unrooted.

Where do I even get the strength to Love other people?  How do I find the desire?

Because Love, it seems to me, isn’t as glamorous as they say.

It is dragging myself out of bed in the morning.

It is holding my tongue when I want to lash back to that family member’s thoughtless words.

It is trudging down the road to help out a neighbor even when I’m emotionally drained.

Sometimes, it is coaxing my silly little goats onto the milk stand when no one else has time.

It’s a thousand little things that I don’t feel like doing.

And Love hurts.

When a person gets serious about learning an important Biblical truth, it is amazing how quickly roadblocks will pop up. Since I’ve begun the Practical Love Series, Love hasn’t gotten easier for me. It has become harder.

I’m realizing what an immense, improbable, wonderful, and terrifying thing it is to Love.

Did the sycamore fear to stretch its fingers into the sky and grow up? Did it realize that each inch it climbed, the more limbs it exposed to whipping wind, the more bark it bared to the snow, and the more delicate leaves it opened to the scorching power of the sun? Did it shrink from the swinging sticks of the children who ran past, shouting and flailing in their antics?

There is only one way to Love.

That one, single, flaming way is to meet Him, Love Himself. To be submerged in Grace, swallowing it, swimming in it, inhaling it like an unborn child inhales amniotic fluid, the sea in which he moves. “Amniotic fluid is inhaled and exhaled by the [baby]. It is essential that fluid be breathed into the lungs in order for them to develop normally….Amniotic fluid protects the developing baby by cushioning against blows….” (Wikipedia.) This is what Grace does in a Christian: filling us, becoming our inhalation, exhalation. Divine Grace–inside, outside–is the fuel of our sanctification, the outer cushioning that also nourishes us.

So…you’ve  been waiting for three weeks for me to tell you what Love is, how to show it to others.

And, the truth is, I still don’t quite know.

All I know is that, to truly have Love, you  have to meet Jesus.

The tree doesn’t plant itself, the baby does not conceive itself, the Christian girl does not sanctify herself.

You will find the way to Love only through a Grace you cannot control.

Join me in praying, praying to really see. Praying for Grace to swallow me up, and for me to swallow Grace, so that I can see the magnificent Love poured out on my behalf.

Join me in reading, searching the Bible like the mountain of treasure it is, seeing how Love Himself dared to enter this mess of mine.

So….we really want to know how to Love?

First, we have to know the Grace-Giver.

And it is only from that Root of Grace that Love can bud out, a tree unafraid to stand in the sunshine.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are!

– 1 John 3:1, CEB –


  How has the work of God in your life shown you what Love is really all about? Has this changed how you see others?

Comment below and share!


Thanks to Yinan Chen at Public Domain Pictures for today’s lovely tree photo!

 

Charting Paths and Planting Trees

yellow-trees

“To be born is to be exposed to delights and miseries greater than imagination could have anticipated; that the choice of ways at any cross-road may be more important than we think; and that short cuts may lead us to very nasty places.”

– C.S. Lewis, emphasis mine –

You could say that I was raised to be a gardener, to plant little round specks of seeds that would grow comfortable and familiar in my dusty palm before I really understood. Young as I was, I didn’t know enough to wonder what they would sprout up to become.

With equal truth, you could say that I was born to chart paths. Taught to read enough signposts, though, a girl can become numb to the meaning of the places etched on the wood. Adventurous lands erode into formless names. What was meant to thrill can fade into the rut of habit.

True– to be born in a place where planting seeds and navigating cross-roads is commonplace, must be a privilege. I’m conscious of the voices, the onlookers that wish that they’d been born in my place. Yet I still find the sacred ebbing into merely commonplace.

I, born to a call, wake up one day to find that “There” has grown to be a dull place to be.

And I wonder why opening up pages of God-words doesn’t knock me over with glory.

It bothers me that in the morning I can blink open my eyes to the orange-gold sun and not be flooded with speechless wonder.

When the people I meet are…just normal. Something I accept, without an accelerating flutter of my heart.

When my view of family disintegrates into “those people who live here with me.” When dear people’s embraces are expected, usual.

When I accept a day’s pattern with no more excitement than a shrug and a nod.

It’s not that love–life, the glory–is dead. I feel it, deep inside. But muddy, work-hardened fingers have gotten so stiffly mechanical that dropping the seeds into the soil no longer stirs dreams of what will sprout. “This is just what I do. I plant.”

Rattling off the proper turn to make on the journey has become patently logical. “I ought to go this way. It’s the correct way.” Never mind that I used to lie awake nights smiling to myself about the uncharted geography over the next rise. The crinkles in the old maps, the tracks of ridges and beloved valleys and heart-welling childhood glens hidden with faded-ink X’s on old cartographs–these used to quicken my pulse. Imaginings of the sweet, new-land air, the orange-and-spice thrill of mountains and falling waters and trees that stretch on and on to the sun. But now my feet simply go forward. I’ve forgotten how to stop and wonder.

Wake up!

“Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.” – Psalm 57:8

I shake the shoulders of my slumbering soul. “Wake up!” Tears start to my eyes.My skin bristles with a chill. I’m fearing vision eternally fogged with dream-sleep. Oh, that the charted paths would clear of dust and glow gold again. That the seed would slip again through tender hands, smooth of callouses. I ache to see the glory.

Frantic, wild attempts at self-stirring finally spiral into a gliding calm, a prayer to the only Heart-Awakener.

“Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:12, CEB –

Sleep fading from long-still muscles leaves a tingling numbness. But I am–so slowly–beginning to see the dawn.

A compass atop a faded map, waiting at the doorstop, beckon. An adventure waits for my feet to follow. A Friend lingers to walk at my side. He’s already pointing the way to the next rise. I can see He’s come this way before.

The Gardener calls and I realize, as if for the first time, what can spring from the seeds He holds out. Tiny in my palm, yet they may be trees.

Deeds, planted–today. Journeys, started in faith–yes, today I can step through the door.

Tucking potential deep into loamy furrows, I close my eyes and He lets me see the glorious things that may be.

At the beginning of my trek, He leads me to a mountain’s crest and I can see, in dawn swirling on low clouds, dim shapes of the wonders that await in the miles ahead.

“Restore to me this joy.” This time the words are full and breathless. He is so marvelously good to call back this life.

Storyteller Andrew Peterson paints it all in bright words, what this planting, this stepping out, is for us:

“We chose the spot, we dug the hole
We laid the maples in the ground to have and hold
As Autumn falls to Winters sleep
We pray that somehow in the Spring
The roots grow deep

And many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn…

…So sit down and write that letter
Sign up and join the fight
Sink in to all that matters
Step out into the light
Let go of all that’s passing
Lift up the least of these
Lean into something lasting
Planting trees…

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless someone”

lyrics from “Planting Trees,” by Andrew Peterson

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
        I will awaken the dawn

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.”

– Psalm 57:8-11, NIV –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Thank you, Public Domain Pictures and Larisa Koshkina, for today’s image.