Friday, October 5, 2012

Desert's End

The desert is hot, dry, and boring.  Flat land stretches to a flat horizon, the distance deceptive from the haze.  Some sparse vegetation breaks the otherwise unending dullness of the terrain.  There is nothing here.

Or is there?

Slowly, as I travel, I find the hidden wonders of this barren place.  Beauty I find, unlooked for and unexpected, in the stars at night, in the shadows by day.  The plants that thrive in the harsh environment, content where they are placed.  The broad stretch of the sky; so vast and yet, as the hymn writer said, “nor could the scroll contain the whole [of God’s love] though stretched from sky to sky.”  How great then is His love?

Yet I still act as a foolish child, hoarding the Sweet Water.  I often fail to remember that though I walk through the desert, the fount from which I drink is unending, unfailing, unfathomable.  Drink! comes the cry on the wind and my thirsty soul responds.  What madness was mine that I would not take advantage of this wonderful gift?

The land begins to change, growing rockier, steeper.  Great cliffs loom up out of the haze, hemming me in, narrowing my way to a single path.  Always there is a whisper of laughter ahead; the delight of one who has a great surprise in store.  A hand on my own, pulling me along as though unwilling to wait any longer for the revelation.

And the cliffs open.


A valley, as green as the desert was brown, lies at my feet.  Tall trees and bright flowers stretch out of long grasses.  Down from the cliffs winds a rocky path that leads boldly into the midst of the trees.  I cannot see where it leads nor tell where this valley goes but the sheer unexpectedness of it takes my breath.



I take a step forward.  Here?

Here.  Would this valley be so pleasant if you had not gone through the desert first?

I shake my head, still wondering.  It would not.

A strong, gentle hand rests on my shoulder.  Always I am with you.  Each place to which I lead has its own dangers and temptations.  Follow Me and I will make your paths straight.

Straight paths.  Here in this valley, I cannot see far ahead – unlike the desert where all around was clear.  Now it is one step, one day that is revealed.  I have begun to learn to trust Him to provide nourishment in barren places, now I must learn again to follow His lead when I cannot see the way.

Can I?

Not of my own.  But He who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” also said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Day by day, I will learn.

Trials will come; I will struggle.  There will be days when I fail to drink of the life-giving stream.  But for now, I am content.  My God is so good.  He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or think – and more than that, He does do it.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him

Both in this life and the next.

Never forget.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Six Weeks

That’s how long I’ve been recording things in my journal.  Six whole weeks.  I never actually thought I’d manage that.  Really.  I’ve never written more than a few days at a time in a journal.  Never regularly recorded anything.  But for six weeks I have written down 1-7 different things from that day that I am thankful for.  That makes 168 separate ways God has shown His graciousness to me and others.  Some entries are similar, but not one is identical to another.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, are the easiest days now.  Sonday and Monday don’t have enough entries and Friday and Saturday are still more difficult but I hope that before the next six weeks have passed to find that those are the best days.

Yet for all that, I don’t want this record to become mere habit.  A habit, yes, but not just a habit.  I want it to be instinctual to look for God’s hand in daily life but I don’t want to write things down simply because that’s what I always do.  I want this exercise to be part of my heart, not just my head.

Some days, I find myself recording things that are not blessings to me specifically, but to others.  Things that have happened that have encouraged others.  It makes me more aware of others, this being thankful for God’s blessing on them.  And that is something that we should be counting on.  “Rejoice with those who rejoice” we are told in Romans, so I shall.  I don’t think I’d ever taken the time to consider blessings on others as something to thank God for.  At least not the “little” blessings.  “Big” blessings, like a new baby, or recovery from illness—those are easily remembered.  But the “little” ones, like feeling useful when planning an event or getting off from work sooner than expected—I hadn’t thought to thank God on someone else’s behalf for such things.

The “little” versus “big” things has been something I’ve been more aware of too.  We—I—don’t mind thanking God for the “big” things, as it were.  But I forget about the “little” things.  The “daily bread” as it were.  A life full of gratefulness goes beyond rejoicing over a significant gift.  It is recognizing and acting as though each and everything that happens during the day—indeed the day itself!—is a grand gift.

Because it is.

We don’t deserve anything but death and destruction.  Those who ask how God could possibly be good when there is so much evil in the world fail to consider that if God were not good, then the very fact that good things happen should be what is marveled at, not the presence of evil. 

The Great God of the universe gave us life.  We betrayed Him. 

He gave us hope in the stories of a kingdom where we would be with Him again.  We ignored it.

He gave us Love in the form of His only begotten Son.  We killed Him.

And yet He raised His Son and turned again and offered us life and hope and love.

Day by day, He reaches out and plucks people from the depths of sin, be it that which even the world considers depraved or the deceitful traps of pride and sloth.  Day by day, He restrains His righteous wrath and indignation and withholds justice on those who defy Him, showing instead mercy, grace, and kindness.  Day by day, we are not destroyed but are given the wonder of creation, the joy of human affection, and the chance to honor the true Gift-Giver for His bounty.  Day by day, the world turns its back on God and even we, His children, neglect to give Him the honor due His name.

We have been given great gifts.  Jesus Christ.  Salvation.  Sanctification.  Creation.  Eternal Hope.  Unfailing Love.  Abundant Grace.  Rich Mercy.  Full Joy.  True Peace.

Let us not waste them or take them for granted.

To the King of Grace, the Living Hope, be thanks and honor and glory forever from my heart and mouth.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Growing Purposeful Thankfulness

Over last December, I saw many people posting “30 days of thanks” type statuses on their Facebook pages.  Most of them started right after Thanksgiving and continued up to Christmas.  “That’s a good idea,” I thought.  “But I don’t want to just do what everyone else is doing.  I should try something different.”  So I decided that I would start keeping a journal in which I would record every day for the entire year, something during the day for which I was thankful or which brought my attention to God’s glory.  Then I thought “Why only one thing?  Why not more?” and the project morphed into writing a steadily greater number of things each day.  One thing on the first day of the week, two things on the second day, three things on the third, and so on until I’m recording seven things on the seventh day of the week.  “That shouldn’t be too difficult,” I thought.

I was right.

And I was wrong.

I’ve completed my first week and it was definitely different from what I expected.  The first few days were easy.  After all, I only had to remember one or two things throughout the day.  By Wednesday, I was scratching my head.  By Saturday, I had to sit and think for a while before I could get all seven without repeating myself from earlier in the week.  It wasn’t that I am not abundantly blessed by God, but rather than I wasn’t paying enough attention during the day to notice the little gifts He gave minute by minute.  I have to be ever so much more purposeful in my daily actions and thoughts in order to keep up with what I want to do.

And therein lies my problem.  Purposefulness.  Or rather, a lack thereof.  Since I came back from Denton, I really haven’t known what to do with myself.  What am I supposed to be doing?  What is my task?  Why does God have me here and not there?  Yes, there is the Awana ministry and tennis team that I’m working with—but I’ve done those for years and am part of them because I can’t imagine not being involved, not because of any particularly strong calling in that area. 

Because of this uncertainty, I’ve drifted about, not really committing to anything, not getting too deeply involved.  But that kind of life is truly only half a life.  I need to fully engage, not just in my thankfulness, but in daily life.  Yet I don’t know how.  Or where.  My prayer is that God will reveal His purpose for me to me so I can follow.

But until then, I’ll count my blessings and keep trudging through this desert.  After all, the Fountain of Living Water is with me and I’ll never go thirsty.

Thankful list:
  1. Fun co-workers while at Horn Creek
  2. The chance to spend a week in the mountains away from the pressures of daily life and the distractions of computers and the internet
  3. Clean bathrooms.  Especially the fact that I only have to help clean one at home
  4. A dad who deliberately chooses to seek God and lead his family after Him
  5. Sleep and rest.  A time of renewal and relaxation
  6. Clean clothes that still smell fresh from laundering
  7. The chance to spend some time with my dad early in the morning with no distractions
  8. The Gift of God, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us
  9. A room of my own to play and to study in without distractions
  10. Brothers who desire to seek after God even from their youth
  11. Cold, crisp mornings to walk in
  12. Hot showers (to warm up after that walk)
  13. A beautiful day to admire and revel in—given despite my sin
  14. Discussing and explaining stories with my littlest brother
  15. The ability to type fast and serve Dad by preparing documents for him
  16. A job.  Even if its not the one I would choose for myself, I’m glad to have source of income again
  17. Technology!  Particularly in the form of my new Kindle
  18. Ripe apples and the delightful crunch they make
  19. God-fearing young men in sports who boldly proclaim Christ as their Savior
  20. Friends and family watching football together
  21. The mind and ability to decorate our house
  22. A new purse that fits everything in it easily.  Plus some
  23. A mom who cares enough about my spiritual well-being to challenge my apathy
  24. Laughter with my family at silly things said around the supper table (Ex: “My tongue should be bulging with muscle.  It’s hard to clean your teeth out with braces.”)
  25. Thick blankets to snuggle under on a cold night
  26. Glasses and contacts that bring the world into focus so I can see
  27. A God—THE God—who never stops loving me even when I am a lazy fool and to not truly seek Him with my whole heart
  28. A car that does all I ever wanted and looks cool (to me)

Huh, I as I typed that list, I realized how frequently “no distractions” featured early on.  I think I’ve been distracting myself from the important things—like the study of God’s Word—without even realizing it until those distractions were no longer in place.  Something to consider.

I think I’ll have to consciously use this blog as motivation to be more purposeful.  After all, it’s easy to write in a journal that no one sees.  But everyone can see if I’ve updated this recently or not.  J

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mission Impossible: Replaced

The mission was impossible
(At least, that’s what was said)
The people were so long enslaved
They’d never understand

Despite this thought, the Prince, he went
And took the human guise
In stature and in wisdom grew
Won praise before our eyes

The mission went full well at first
The Prince he walked the land
Until betrayal from a friend
That seemed to end the plan

But treachery was not unseen
He used it for the best
Stormed through the fortress of the fiend
And stole the keys of death!

Now he walks into the room
That holds people full of fear
He frees the slaves and saves the doomed
And gives his life for theirs

But he who holds the keys of death
Can never conquered be
Three days it was and then returned
The Prince in full glory

The records now exchanged have been
Replaced by him, the Prince
Not just erased, but full exchanged
For his of truth and grace

Despite this all the enemy
Still thinks that he can win
He guards the broken fortress walls
To keep his prisoners in

But therein boldly strides the Prince
Ignoring dark and gloam
Penetrates the heart with ease
And brings his people home

The mission was impossible
(At least that’s what was said)
Until the Prince stepped into life
And let us understand

Back in May, when we finished the Program, we all had to make a "Stone of Remembrance" that represented something that we learned over the year and would take away with us.  For me, it was the picture above, albeit a very much rougher and uncolored picture.  Recently, I re-sketched and colored a new picture and wrote the poem to accompany it.  Together, they make up my "Stone of Remembrance."  A reminder that when Christ died and rose again, He did not simply erase my sin but rather replaced my record with His own.  I do not work from the emptiness of my own strength but from the fullness of His righteousness!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beyond the Fork

The fork in the road is behind me now.  I walk along a path I did not expect to tread.  The trees cast long shadows over my course; the world is quiet.  Then, suddenly, the trees stop, ending with an abruptness that startles me at the edge of a barren desert.  The earth is baked to the hardness of iron, cracked for want of water.  Harsh sand blows through the air scouring the ground flat.  I look up, hoping for a glimpse of beauty in the heavens, but even the sky is bleached by the heat.  Where I long to see vibrant azure I see only washed out, pale, and dull blue.  My heart quails within me again.

“No, Lord!  Surely this cannot be the path you want me to follow!”  I look back to the richness of the forest, remembering the streams and wells to be found in the cool green depths.

“But it is,” comes the soft reply.  “You made this commitment long ago.  Will you yield your proud will to Mine even in this?”

My gaze drops to the ground at my feet where grass gives way to sand.  Tears start to my eyes.  “But why, Lord?  There was so much for me there.  On that other path…Here, it is so barren and I don’t understand.  Why?”

A gentle laugh touches my ears and a soft breeze caresses my cheek.  “Oh, My child.  Don’t you know?  Because the Water is sweetest in the desert.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rubik's Cube

I’ve frequently heard our understanding of God described as being like looking at a diamond.  Turn a diamond this way and that and you see different facets of the same jewel.  Look at God throughout the Bible and you see different aspects of His character, but still the same God.  I, however, have come to look at my understanding of God as being like a Rubik’s cube.

Allow me to elaborate.

When you first get a Rubik’s cube, all the colors are jumbled together.  You have a mixed up picture of what it is supposed to look like. Maybe one side is mostly scattered yellow blocks while another is predominantly green.  You can look at all the pieces, but it doesn’t quite make sense.  But you know it can and will.

Now, once you get that Rubik’s cube, you’re not going to just put it on your bedside table for display in its mixed-up state.  No, you’re going to mess with it, try to figure out how it works, try to get all the colors in the right spot.  And if you’re anything like me, you’ll work on it for hours without success.  At this point, you have several options.  You can put the cube down in frustration and decide it’s good enough as it is.  You can turn to the instructions and spend a good many more hours doing and undoing and maybe eventually getting it right.  Or you can turn to a master and have them teach you.

Similarly, when we first come to know God, our picture of Him is incomplete, jumbled.  Maybe we have a greater view of His love than His justice or of His holiness instead of His grace.  We have all we need to get a complete picture, the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but we don’t yet know how it all works together.

We’re not going to be content at first with our mixed up understanding of God.  We’ll try to figure Him out on our own, using the resources available to us in His Word.  But there is so much there, it is easy to get confused and frustrated and want to just say “Forget it!” and go on with an incomplete grasp of God’s character.  But if you turn to the Master, He can show you Himself.  Slowly, bit by bit, He arranges the pieces in their proper location.  Sometimes, you find that what you thought was a good picture of something, wasn’t really and it was actually still mixed up.  Sometimes, the arrangement doesn’t make sense—then with a quick twist, you see the design.  Day by day, as we study under the Master, we can see how all the pieces fit together.

Obviously, it isn’t a perfect analogy.  Some people can do a Rubik’s cube in seconds. And each side of a Rubik’s cube is a single color.  But if you imagine it as a 7x7 cube and each side as a magnificent painting, you get a better idea of the complexity of God’s character and the difficulties involved in attempting to sort it out yourself.  Especially if the picture on the box is torn and impossible to see clearly—something that happened to our grasp of God when Adam sinned.

So stop a moment and think: when was the last time you turned to the Master to have Him show you how the Rubik’s cube of His character is supposed to fit together?  Have you bothered to try to rearrange the panels to see the true picture?  Are you tired of trying to do it on your own?  Remember, there is only one Man who ever completed it on His own.  And He was God incarnate.  If you want to understand God, go to God and He’ll happily guide you on your way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Fork in the Road

With Program coming to an end, I’m more and more wondering what I’m to do next. I’ve never had to figure out something of this magnitude. Do I stay in here and commit to living here? Or do I return home to my family and start anew in my life with them? Would going home just be taking the easy route? Would I be able to hold true to what I’ve learned over this year or fall too easily into old habits? Can I live on my own, knowing that I’m not going back home at any particular point in time? What would I do for a job? It is all very confusing. Every time my life has changed, it has been as if I came upon a bend in the road and just went the only way I could. This time, I feel like I’ve come to a fork instead.

The road is overshadowed with trees and both paths disappear within a few yards. I’ve been along one path so I can guess what lies beyond sight. But I have changed so my footing is not as certain along the beaten way. The other road is new to me and I’m not certain if I am prepared to walk it. A hand descends on my shoulder and I look up into the face of the One who gave His life for me. “Follow Me,” He says.
“But how?” I cry. “I don’t know the way. I don’t know how to follow through the woods. I don’t know what You want me to do!”
“I am the way,” He says. “My word is the light for your path through darkness. Follow Me.”
“I don’t get it!” My heart cries back. “I’ve never had to do this before. I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to trust You but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of both paths. I don’t want to abandon my family but neither do I want to fall into old habits and lose sight of what You’ve taught me.”
“I will teach you in the way in which you should go. Come.”
With that, He is gone, though I know He has not left me. I stand still at the fork, trembling, wondering. Which is the path set for me?