It’s Saturday. I’ve had a moment to breathe (and do some house-work) and think about the last few weeks. My little baby boy (ok…he’s not a baby, he’s 17), but he graduated from high school this past weekend. So many emotions are involved in this celebration. It’s been like being on a boat in the sea, heading in one direction for so long, just enjoying the ride, when all of a sudden the boat turns in a completely different direction; the view changes completely. I have been very comfortable seeing the water, enjoying the wind, laughing and playing with my family beside me. When the boat turned directions, it was an adjustment because now I’m seeing a new scene in front of me. The sentimental part of me wants to turn the boat back around to what I am familiar with, but there is a knowing inside of me that even if we made that happen, that it would not look the same now. The boat was supposed to turn. I sense that my son will be charting his own boat soon. I knew this was the plan from the beginning, but it sure did seem like a quick ride together. I see ahead of me, an ocean bigger than I imagined, full of beautiful sunsets and adventure. In the distance, I can also see clouds. There may be storms. I’m tempted to worry. As I look over at Jordan, I see that he’s strong, full of life and faith; very capable to handle his own boat. It’s only the eyes that resemble the baby in my memory. I know he has and will learn from every minute. He has been given strength to manage any storm. I know this because I know the God that made him for this journey. He’s promised not to give him any more than he can handle. As a mother, I’m so grateful for that. It is hard to imagine my child in a storm. I must picture him as the man God made him to be. I guess that this is also a chance for me, to once again, TRUST. He’s headed for territory designed by the master of the sea. How awesome is that!
I love Jordan. He’s a thinker. He asks questions. He’s quite complex. What you see in him is real. He doesn’t throw words out mindlessly. He initiates adventure. He’s loyal. His commitments are thoughtfully considered. If you are fortunate to have him for a friend, you are blessed. He loves music and writes from his heart. I honor and respct him. Congradulations, my “baby” boy!
Jordan was explaining to me the process in which people in general deal with difficult circumstances. The process is: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. To be honest, I haven’t given much thought to the actual process, but the last word “acceptance” keeps lingering in my mind. In a book called “Respectable Sins”, Jerry Bridges highlights some of the thoughts of Amy Carmichael on this subject. She says that it is neither resignation nor submission but in acceptance that we find peace. We’ve all seen people who have resigned or submitted to something, but not accepted. I see acceptance as something close to trusting God. To accept by definition is “to consider or hold as true”. Am I far off to see this word so closely related to trustug God? The word accpetance seems peaceful. I am reminded of the serenity prayer…
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Today Brooke and I began reading together the book called “The Hiding Place”. Corrie ten Boom is a survivor of Nazi brutality. It’s hard to go on through the rest of my day and not give thought to this story; this peice of history. I find most amazing that it is the story of such cruelty that we see the scope of God’s forgiveness. Corrie ten Boom survived the concentration camp and later finds herself face to face with one of the guards from the camp. She is there given an opportunity from God to show His grace. It is easy for us to speak of forgiveness until we are the ones hurt unjustly. Corrie had been teaching in Germany in 1947, when she was approached by one of the cruelest former Ravensbrück camp guards. She was reluctant to forgive him, but prayed that she would be able to. She wrote that,
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.
She also wrote that in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, it was those who were able to forgive who were best able to rebuild their lives. Wow! Forgiveness is more than a mandate from God. It seems to be the root of the flower we call life. There is no beauty apart from this.
On Oprah the other day, I saw a segment on “beauty around the world”. There were very unusual things in far away places that were considered “beautiful”. In one place, rings were placed on young girls necks beginning at five years of age. They increased the number of rings yearly to elongate the neck. The most beautiful in that culture looked giraffe-like. OK, that was weird. In another culture they made cuts that would turn into scars on their body…sounds painful. This was considered “attractive”. (I’m thinking more like ‘brave’) Anyway, the prize winner was a place where the very obese were exalted to star-like status. The women would even force-feed their young girls to expand their stomachs so they can become large. It was all pretty strange because we are so influenced by our own cultural mindset to gain a sense of what looks good and what is acceptable. (stomach-stetching, scars and giraffe-necks aren’t in our list of ideals). All cultures seem to “compare” to something/someone around them to define their beauty. Beauty truly is “in the eye of the beholder.”
This prompted my thinking about spiritual beauty. How do we know what is beautiful in Gods eyes? What should we look like? Do we do the same thing on a spiritual level that we do in the natural world? The logical thing is to look around us to find comparisons to make us feel good about our “spiritual looks”, but in reality we should be looking up and letting God define us and teach us what we should look like, smell like, live like…
In II Corinthians 10 we are warned about comparing ourselves among ourselves. You can see the scenario take place as the believers in Corinth get this letter from Paul. Obviously, Paul had heard about people criticising him because of his physical problems and “contemptable” speech. He first has to address the fact that this is not a way to judge spiritual maturity. I can see them discussing this letter among themselves when a child raises his hand with a question…”didn’t God use a boy instead of a soldier to kill that giant Goliath?” “Wasn’t it the unlikely onethat God used so many times?” GULP. Ok, this child has a point. We can’t know how God will use the weak, sick and lowly. We assume that God wants us “earthly polished”. It seems like God actually gets all the glory when so mysteriously the unexpected happens. I don’t know about you, but that is a huge encouragement to me. It is not because Paul was “all that” that God used him. Yet, so many people were drawn by the Spirit of God through this unusual man. God makes the usual unusual, the ordinary extra-ordinary, the sick healed and the broken whole. He adjusts the vision of the searching ones to see His way. We may feel boring and dark and He can make us salt and light to those who are searching. It’s Gods beauty they see.
It will always be easier for us to gain a sense of “having arrived” spiritually by comparing to something other than Gods perfection. No doubt humility can only come from a comparing to perfection. God knows how to s l o w l y and patiently let us see Him so we can grow and change into His likeness. It is a journey that isn’t orchestrated by our design or timetable. This makes sense. Our nature is to have everything NOW, and the only way to manufacture that sense of accomplishment in our spiritual journey is to compare to the wrong person…other failing mortals. We will get a false sense of “arriving” in our minds, but never in our heart and never to the ultimate judge.
So I am encouraged to know that these verses remind us of what a pitiful (unwise) person we become if we compare to each other for the purpose of self exaltation; and how beautiful and vibrant we can becomes to God when we let Him decide what is pleasing to Him. God wants to increase our faith in Him, not ourselves. We can boast all day long…on HIM and He, in turn, will make us beautiful to himself; beautiful to to the only one who really matters.
My thoughts have been in I Kings 17 this week. I’ve always loved Elijah. Through his life I have seen a great example of obedience. Our youngest child is named Brooke Cherith, after the place where God sustained Elijah’s life by having ravens feed him. After this scene we find him being sent to the widow at Zarephath. The Bible says that God had already commanded her to care for him. I wondered if she felt relieved when at first he only asks for a drink. She’s happy to get that for him. But on the way to get water, he adds the “little request” about bringing him food. This is different. She immediately tells him of her plight. She’s either a very dramatic person or she really thinks she and her son will soon starve to death. Elijah assures her that if she will feed him, she and her son will eat until rain falls. All seems pretty good at this point. One might argue that her faith is in this prophet, but he says he is speaking for God. Maybe a seed of faith is planted in her heart. She has to know this is definitly supernatural. Maybe she is wondering if God is blessing her only because of her care for Elijah. Everything seems to come to a screeching halt spiritually when her son gets sick and dies. She lashes out at Elijah as if he killed the boy. She questions whether or not he’s come to call her “sin to remembrance”. She no doubt thought she was being punished. What happened next is so amazing. Even though it wasn’t customary for anyone to touch a dead body except for family, Elijah says “Give me thy son”. He took him up to his loft and laid him on his own bed. He literally begs God for his soul to come back into his body. The Lord heard Elijah and the boy was revived. It was in that moment that the widows faith blossomed; she knew that what Elijah had been saying was true; that he was speaking words for the God of heaven. I’m guessing that she truly felt loved by God personally. He gave her the gift of her sons life…again.
There seemed to be a progression in Elijah’s life; a time of testing (Brooke Cherith), a time of provision (Zarephath)and then a time of powerful proclamation (Mount Carmel). He seemed to be obedient in each of these phases of life, but I’m sure he learned important things about God in each season, just like we do. It’s a good thing we are not in control of the “wheel of life”. It would be boring–maybe easier on us, but surley not a life that requires faith and dependence on God. The story of Elijah continues on to the victories at Mount Carmel, but my mind is still in Zarephath; the place that means “smelting place”. It was a place where metal-work was done. I can see the metal being heated and molded into something useful. I feel like I’m in Zarephath. God is showing me that he sustains the meal and oil of life. I’m called to obedience and trust. The fireworks at Carmel is beautiful and amazing, but I can also imagine amazement in the eyes of Elijah, the widow and her son as they tipped the vessel each day and food was again supplied. They witnessed a miracle every single day; every single meal.! Let’s take time to bask in the miracle of the daily blessings and provisions that God so faithfully gives. Let’s enjoy the close fellowship and love God gives us in our Zarephath.
Sometimes the hand of God is so visually evident and so “experiential”. It reminds me of the ocean. To be at the ocean and to experience it in all of it’s glory is to feel the wind, taste the saltiness, and hear the mighty rushing roar of the waters. I love that. You can close your eyes and know exactly where you are. There is no guessing. In the same way, we are sometimes so blessed and overtaken with all of the awesomeness of God; all of our senses are involved in knowing Him and experiencing Him.
Then there are other times. He is no less involved in our lives, but our earthly senses are limited. It may be dark, cold and quiet. We glimpse only a shadow; just enough to cause us to believe that He may be there. Shadows are illusive and quite questionable. Did I really see a shadow? I think so. The dart of doubt flies. Oh, those horrible darts. They are only squelched with the shield of faith and I can’t even see what I’m doing. How can I use this shield? I only know to hold the shield out in front of me…by faith! Even having that piece of equipment was a gift from God. He’s so good.
I have seen Him in the shadow and I’ve doubted. I picture Gods saddened face. He is not sad for himself, but sad for me and my missed opportunity to fellowship with Him in this way; to trust Him at a deeper level. If I don’t believe He was there, I sure won’t give Him the glory. Our relationship is shortened unnecessarily. I have made him seem smaller, not bigger. I know there will always be the “faithless” because shadows are easy to explain away. But there will also be the opportunity to live “faithful”. The ones who will see the shadow and undoubtedly know that there is light close by. God is near. He has not left us. He sees me in the darkness. My prayer today: Lord, I want to see you in the shadows of life. You are all in all. My trust in you is not limited by my earthly senses. You want me to know you in the shadows, in the quietness. I long for my faith to be full because of who you are!
The last part of John 20:29 Jesus says…”blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”. He was speaking of Thomas seeing Jeusus physically. I think God is calling us who are not standing at the ocean, to still believe and trust; to know that there has to be light to cast a shadow.
I have to blog about yesterday, but I almost don’t know how to start. It’s like a train has been headed for this destination for quite a while, and it has finally arrived at the station. It looks nothing like what I expected. Being sick for some time now, I have prayed for healing. I have done research, spent hours online, desperately looking for answers. I’ve gone to doctors who are smart; who then send me on the next smart “specialist” doctor. I’ve been waiting for the diagnosis so we can get on to the “cure”. This all sounds normal enough in the physical realm, but what about the spiritual? I kept feeling like I was on a treadmill and I couln’t find the “off” switch. Where is it? While I’m weary on this machine. God is still caring for me and sends brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage me, bring me food and water. They become a lifeline. But the wearier I become, the more a silent battle rages within. I’m just so tired. If I can just find that switch. It’s all up to me. I have to find it. The longer I can’t find it, the more doubtful and fearful I become. It swirls around me until it’s all I can see. I can even hear it, feel it. Fear is quite a motivator; not always a good one. Frantic might better describe the state I’m in. While searching for the “off” switch, I find a few other buttons that help me function. There’s one to slow things down. Why haven’t I seen that one…and one to bring down the incline. Another checks my heart rate. Somehow I’m still moving, but I’m getting angry because I just want OFF. I fast-forward to tomorrow thinking “I won’t be able to keep this up, what am I going to do”. I rationalize my panic behavior. This is a natural, understandable response, right? Yet a still small voice whispers “you have all you need this moment, all you need to get off”. I start to scream “No I don’t! I can’t find the switch”! I know in my heart that this voice speaks truth, but I don’t understand. I just want OFF this stupid machine!
Then yesterday came. I woke up with my fever (the devils little taunting device) and gave in to doubt and fear; fear of what I know; what I don’t know…Discouragement followed. My cell phone rang. A few friends wanted to come by and pray with me. “Yes, that would be great”. In my mind I could see the finger of God slowly descend from heaven and rest on the “off” switch. This is good; a miracle in the making.
I really don’t know if I can describe the miracle that did happen. As my friends shared and prayed with me, read scripture and shared truth, God spoke mightily. A flashlight shone into my heart. I saw the doubt and fear for what it is-sin. I know in my heart where I’d gone. Holding out for healing (getting off this treadmill) was what I prayed for, what I longed for. The only solution that I could see to fix this was finding that “off” switch. That was not the solution. Guess what God told me to do? He told me to repent and jump; repent and jump off the treadmill. He said that he never put me there in the first place. What? Can this be true? Was this really the devils prison. The truth is…that this treadmill isn’t the sickness after all; it’s the prison of fear. Perfect love gives the strength and stamina to jump right off. I know Gods love is perfect. I can obey and trust. It’s my choice. On the devils machine, there is no “off switch”. I’m there until I jump. I didn’t even have to think about it. I repented and jumped with all I had in me and found myself cradled in the arms of a forgiving God. I can’t believe this freedom. The healing that took place was a miracle. It was a healing of my mind; a surrender of another area of my life to my Savior. Who knows that this may be the missing ingredient to my physical healing as well. I ran fever again last night and I smiled because I had such peace. This is not about me figuring something out. God is doing something. I’m not doubting him. He has given me direction and peace about the things he wants me to do to help my body heal. He has all power. He delivers! God mercifully met with me and three godly friends yesterday…I will never get over that.