The Firm Foundation

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Today, I asked my friend Liz to share about how a building in downtown Seattle taught her something about God’s love. I hope you enjoy her story!


“It is the most sweet and comfortable knowledge; to be studying Jesus Christ, what is it but to be digging among all the veins and springs of comfort? And the deeper you dig, the more do these springs flow upon you.

~John Flavel~

Located in downtown Seattle, Space Needle’s height taunts the very essence of gravity. The tower’s delicate construction elicits from thousands of observers both the elation of Anne Shirley as she balanced upon a ridge pole and the terror of Diana Barry as she witnessed such a precarious victory.

Shaped like a flying saucer, the Space Needle’s observation deck pokes into the clouds on a thin base 520 feet above the ground. Visitors brave enough to ascend the 848 steps from the tower basement to the rotating deck enjoy a panoramic view of Seattle from high above her stores, waterfronts, and busy highways. This dizzying perch atop the building allows tourists to glimpse the far-off peaks of Mount Rainier, the sparkling night lights of downtown Seattle, and tiny blood vessels of cars as they snake silently through vein-thin streets.

When darkness falls, a looming night sky envelopes visitors who feel close enough to stroke the cheek of the man on the moon. Hovering high above the earth on the thin, single stilt of the Space Needle, they marvel at a view provided only by such height.

But the Space Needle Tower does not begin on the observation deck. Its foundation is buried thirty feet below Seattle’s streets. Weighing 5,850 pounds, the tower’s foundation contains 250 tons of reinforced steel, ensuring that the tower is neither shaken by wind or shifted by rain. Seventy-two bolts, each thirty feet in length, stretch from the base of the foundation to the tall needle perched atop the observation deck. Majestically, the 605 foot tower soars high above the city by sinking deep below the city, all the while connecting its deepest place to its highest height.

The Space Needle reminds me of myself.

Have I ever felt that a giant drill, removing dirt deep down in my heart, will be the only way for me to stand tall? Have I welcomed that possibility into the building of my character?

Not really.

In fact, I often find myself cringing when the faintest hint of a challenge, an ache, or a sandpaper circumstance threatens to create ground zero in my day. No, I do not practice the spirit of the Space Needle tower. I do not often linger over my choices, praying for lessons of self-sacrifice or solitude to make way for my faith’s firm foundation.

But God does.

With a hard hat larger than the Milky Way, God leans over the cordoned off areas of my life, His finger pressing surely over the place where the drills will land. He nods to Himself, His face filled with the fixed attention of a meticulous engineer. His finger hovers, His hand dips, His palm lands. And the digging begins in my soul.

Squirming in discomfort, I embody the words of author Thomas a Kempis.

All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.”

Am I willing to let the roar of a hefty backhoe break into the comfortable spaces my unbelief creates? All too often, I let my desire for false security and momentary  tranquility to distract me from the shovels of God. When I ask God to follow my blueprint rather than His, my own ideas of peace utterly miss the mark.

I ask to meet Him on the observation deck. He asks to meet me at the foundation.  

I want to see Him in the 360 degree panorama. He wants to see my eyes just one degree away from His.

I ask for the unconditional guarantee of paved streets. He plans to guide me where excavation and salvation meet.

I tend to want a disconnected life, one which isolates my fragile heart from a harsh city and a hard world. Christ wants to connect my foundations to my pinnacles. He wants to strengthen me with steel beams that have been reinforced, planted in concrete, and laid to rest at His feet.

I may wish to see Him at the highest peak of a mountain range, the cheeriest part of a cheery day, or the happiest laughter in a spring-laden May. I wish He wouldn’t dig so deep, wouldn’t scratch away at the rocks in my thoughts. But He does.

For He says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine (Isaiah 55:88-9, NLT).”

And I’m so glad.

Author Emily Freeman writes, “Let’s dig deep, not to create meaning where there isn’t any, but to see Christ, our companion, where he actually is, not where we wish he was.”

Though my dreamy heart wishes for spiritual heights, my adoring and thirsty soul longs for Him.

Him in the heartache; Him in the mistake; Him in the earthquake; Him in the stomach ache; Him in my soul…Him…even when He digs a hole.

He digs a hole to make me whole.

He wants to dig deep into my heart, pour Himself into my character, and build my faith on the bedrock of His Son’s ever-present, unmovable Gospel of Love.  

“That’s why growth in Christ is never going beyond the gospel, but going deeper into the gospel. The purest waters from the spring of life are found by digging deeper into the gospel well.”

~ J.D. Greear~

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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. 

When God Doesn’t Show Up

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“Our sorrows are all, like ourselves, mortal. There are no immortal sorrows for immortal souls. They come, but blessed be God, they also go. Like birds of the air, they fly over our heads. But they cannot make their abode in our souls. We suffer today, but we shall rejoice tomorrow.”
– Charles Spurgeon –

She didn’t have John 11 in her Bible.

And she didn’t understand.

Maybe, as the quiet, cold countryside air drifted through the house, she leaned against the wall and held her breath, waiting for her sick brother to inhale one more time.

A slow breath just beyond the thin wall.

She exhales, waiting for the next sound of air in fragile lungs.

It doesn’t come.

Her throat tightens. Hands go still where they’ve been digging a thin place in the hem of her skirt. Oh God, let him breathe.

It still doesn’t come.

A thin, reedy wail bubbles up from her chest, rising into deep sobs.

It didn’t come.

And neither had Jesus.

Other cries begin–her sister’s weary, husky choking, the softer wails of watching friends, a baby stirring on her cousin’s hip.

She closes her eyes and tastes the hot salt wetting her lips. “Why didn’t you come?” she whispers in the dark. “You could have stopped this.”


Have you seen a night that dark?

A death that tore out your heart. A friendship that melted away in the forge instead of being tempered by the flames. A dream that withered again and again.

We all ask this question, don’t we? “Why weren’t You there, Lord, when that happened? Where were You when I needed you?”

There’s the theological voice in our heads, telling us that God is omnipresent, that Jesus promised to never leave us, that He sent us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and be our Comforter.

But…honestly? You can’t always feel truth. That theological voice can tell me all it wants, but there’s no doubt that sometimes we cry and it seems like there is no reply. No comfort. No easing of the pain. Just silence.

I think that’s how Mary felt.

She sat, perhaps, in the dark and wept for her lost brother Lazarus, and wondered why, why on earth, did Jesus fail them.

He could have stopped this. He’d done it before–healed so many. Healed those that didn’t even follow Him, healed beggars on roadsides, healed servants of Gentiles long-distance.

But the man he loved, whose sisters he loved? He didn’t show up for him.

Don’t you know that Mary cried in the dark and couldn’t wrap her mind around the lostness. It was bad enough that her brother was dead.

But the ache of Jesus failing them…that must have been a thousand times worse.

She’d sat at his feet (Luke 10:39). She thrown her soul into following Him. She’d tossed everything aside as unimportant, secondary to knowing Him.

And yet He hadn’t come.

So Mary buried her brother, perhaps helping her sister Martha wrap him in spice-soaked cloths. So Mary cried until her eyes were red-rimmed and swollen, until her heart felt drained of tears, and then she kept crying.

It was another four days, four days after the tombstone was shoved across the cave’s mouth, when Jesus finally showed up.

Late. Too late to heal. Too late, even, for the funeral. Just too late.

The Bible records Jesus’ reaction to Lazarus’ illness this way:

” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (John 11:5-6, NKJV).

Wait…what? This seems like a bad joke.

He hears about Lazarus…and stays away?

So, when he comes four days after the funeral (John 11:17), I wonder if Mary had stopped looking for Him? The passage doesn’t say. It only records,

“Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house” (John 11:20). 

Did Mary hear? Why did she stay at the house? Perhaps she she was too swallowed by her grief. Maybe she didn’t know Jesus had arrived. Or maybe she had given up on Jesus, because He hadn’t been there when she needed Him most.

But Martha–strong, capable, warm–went running in her tears and met Jesus as He approached:

“Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

But then, as Matthew Henry suggests in his commentary on the passage, she seems to regret her hasty, grieved words. Thought probably still asking “why” inside, she corrects herself:

“But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (John 11:22).

This is a grief-stricken, somewhat-shaken faith. “Lord, I don’t understand,” she seems to be saying. “I still believe in you. I still know you have power. But I don’t understand.”

Under Jesus’ gentle questioning, she affirms her conviction that He is the Messiah, even the Son of God.

Then he sends for Mary.

Remember, Mary hadn’t read John 11. She didn’t know what would happen. We who have the whole Bible, who have grown up with the narratives, become numb to it.

But this wasn’t a flannel graph, two-dimensional story for Mary. This was real.

Her brother was dead. Her Savior had abandoned her.

Then He called for her and she hurries to meet him.

“Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).

The same words as her sister–this same theme that resounds in our own hearts when God doesn’t show up in our pain.

“If you had been here, God…If only You had been here.”

And what does Jesus do? He had given Martha the theological answers. For Mary?

For Mary, He cries.

With Mary, He cries. Yes, God in flesh sees her tears, the tears of her sister, and He openly weeps (John 11:35).

What comes next?

A glorious rising. A heart-stopping, mind-blowing resurrection right on the fringes of Jerusalem. The world was shaken up that day.

Because Lazarus rose and walked out of that tomb!

But if we walk away from Mary’s story with the idea that Jesus will immediately come along and undo all our griefs, set it all right, make it not hurt anymore–then we’ve not learned our lesson.

You see, Mary didn’t know what Jesus was going to do. 

But, behind Mary’s grieving, Martha’s questioning, Lazarus’ dying–behind all this was a much larger Story at work:

The Story of God glorifying His Son in the world (John 17).

In fact, in the very next chapter, we see the results of Lazarus rising:

“Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:9-11).

The Bible never tells the end of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha’s story.

But that passage–rather than scaring me, or making me worry about Lazarus’ safety–reassures me.

See what God did?

The whole mess of grief and then wonder, death and then life–all of it was a master-design to point the world to Jesus. Lazarus was such a testimony to His God that the Jews wanted him dead just to get people to stop believing!

God doesn’t always ride in and fix our problems. He doesn’t always come and heal our loved ones, raise our dead dreams, or mend our broken relationships. (One day, yes, He will! He will make all things new!)

But Mary’s story teaches me to hope.

Because whatever God is doing in the pain–however silent He seems to be–I know two things.

I know He knows my sorrows and is moved by my pain.

And I know that He is up to something glorious.

Grief is hard.

Pain hurts terribly.

Prayers don’t always feel like they’re going through.

But whether my Lazarus rises or not, I know that “God’s absence”–when He decides not to intervene in my hurt–is part of plan that makes God look amazing.

When He doesn’t show up, I will cling to the knowledge of His love and presence. He won’t always tell me why I have to hurt. He doesn’t owe me an explanation.

But I will believe.

And then I will watch His beauty be put on display.


 “And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone

All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God.”

– Andrew Peterson, “The Silence of God”  –

* All Scripture verses come from the New King James Version