A quick story… when I was a little girl, my friend and I got it in our heads that we needed to save the whales. We attended a rather smallish church and not one that had a particular vision for whale-saving. We decided to make a poster and put out a jelly jar to collect the funds. After about a month we’d collected about $2.75. I confess that those funds may have been abused, and were probably used at Dairy Queen. My bad.
You’ve heard the phrase ‘the favor of God’? It’s jargon, really, but it probably refers back to Scripture. Some might call it ‘good karma’ but as Christians we believe that God is behind the good things that happen to us and we give the credit to His heart toward us instead of chance or electromagnetic airwaves. That’s mainly because we’re in this personal relationship with Him and, as His children, we watch for Him to provide for us… to open doors of opportunity, to grease the skids relationally, and generally make things go successfully. That’s our reality. We have God’s favor as His beloved kids.
There’s another climate in which we interact with God which I’m going to call permission. You’ve been there I’ll bet. You get this great idea in your head, ala saving the whales, or you decide ‘I’m going to become a yodeler.’ Beautiful. Nothing wrong with yodeling, or saving the whales incidentally. It’s just that when the idea is our own, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation where Father God nods and seems to say, ‘Go ahead. S’ok. I’ll catch you on the other side of this thing.’ Nice. It has $2.75 in a jelly jar written all over it but out of our determination we make our poster ‘Save the Whalez’ when in fact its really our own program and He’s just waiting for us to get a grip.
Last, it seems there is a place in our journey with God which is that of commission. Commission is easy to spot because a person starts the explanation of their plan with words like, “You know, I never thought in a million years I would find myself doing this BUT…” This is the place where somehow we’ve gotten a hold of an idea that originated in the heart of God, and we’re getting on board with Him. We’re bumbling our way through each step, looking to Him for help and direction. We certainly enjoy what we’re doing but we can never seem to quell the amazement that the idea didn’t first begin within our own heart. In times like these I submit to you Father’s words, ‘Ah, kiddo. I see you’ve got My heart here. Ha! I love this! I’m prepared, Girl, to move mountains as you step into the free-fall of a trusting walk with Me. Take a step. I promise I will be with you. I will provide for you, and I will give you nations.’
Nations. When we shift out of save-the-whales mode and take on the dreams that were founded in His heart, we will never lack for resources, comfort, courage, or fruit. Reader Beware: These things may not come in our timing! They may not go the way we are convinced they should, believe me. But being given over to His purposes will result in His renown, His glory being made known to throughout the earth. Whole nations are presently coming to God, coming into deep relationship with Him, and it’s a result of the obedience of ordinary people like you and me. We can truly expect Him to accomplish the purposes of His own heart.
Not long ago you trusted me with some rather heartfelt questions. I’ll be honest. The questions caught me a bit blind-sided and my answers were small, I thought. I just wanted to say thank you for trusting me enough to express them. With your permission, I’d like to try to answer them again, having given them more consideration.
Understanding the purposes of God can be a bit tricky. As I navigate this turf I want to point out my frame of reference – or starting point – for this response to you. I truly believe that there is a God. If we wanted to talk about the proofs of the existence of God, we could. But I think that you know – deep down – as well as I do, that He most certainly exists. I also believe that our God has feelings, just like you and me. The Bible says we are created in God’s image. There’s a whole lot of meaning to that statement. Just as you or I wrinkle our brow or feel a tear drop on our cheek, why shouldn’t God do the same? Every single thing that we know about ourselves, we can know that our God is wired similarly. Simply because you cannot see Him wrinkle His brow, or shift His gaze doesn’t mean that He hasn’t the ability. And so, this God who has feelings has deep feelings for you, and for me, wants to be in relationship with you.
He wants to know what *you* think, Friend … even your ugliest thoughts. He can take it. In fact, He’s better at fielding the questions that I am. I find that He doesn’t even care if I use rotten, un-ladylike language. (Yes, I did balk at your language. But it’s because I love you, and want you to become a fierce and lovely lady; one the world must reckon with.)
But, I digress…
I think it will help you in your discoveries to know that absolutely everything about God will be upside-down from the way you think it should be. That means that the reasons why He does things will often confuse you at first glance. But when you look a little deeper, and you ask Him about it, He will show you the deeper meanings and reasons of His ways. But you have to ask Him. He’s the kindest Person you’ll ever meet. He waits for you to look at Him, for your questions. And, once you ask, He will answer.
It will also help you to know that when we become followers of Jesus Christ we actually transfer our citizenship to the Kingdom of Heaven. In doing so, we suddenly realize that our priorities and focus has shifted as well. Remember that God created all things – all things – and through Him all things hold together. So, that means that He created time. And space. And stuff. And people. He created the enemy – satan and his household- that antagonizes us and, for a time, they rule this world. Knowing that there are two kingdoms at work sometimes helps me understand the conflicts
Whenever I get bogged down with the questions, “Why did You leave me here?” “Why was I born into this family?” and “Who are You, anyway, and why don’t You speak to me?” I really only do one thing… I sit quietly and ponder God’s big-ness. Smile. I become like a first grader, and expect that, as my real Papa, He’ll explain everything to me. So where do I look to understand God’s big-ness? I might look at Scripture. I could just look at the horizon, or the night sky, and see the stars and all the things around me that He’s created. But I happen to like Scripture and usually after I read the book of Job, or even just the chapters 38-42, I almost always get a sense of the magnificence of the one true God.
Ciao! Until next time…
Recently I drove through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest – at night. It was pitch-black, mountainous driving and Motel 6 was nowhere to be found, let alone having left a light on for me. I knew that my drive was going to take me into the late evening hours yet I was completely unprepared for the narrow roads flanked by rock sheers, and the hair-pin switchbacks every 50 feet….so 360 degree turns first left then right. Left, right, right, left. Each one dropping or inclining at 6%-10% grade…that feels almost vertical. I kept my white-knuckled hands on the wheel and my eyes glued to the road. At anytime there could be deer, bear, rabbits or a tree. Mostly trees. Big trees. Do.not.miss.the.turn. The drive to Redding took 6.5 hours. By the last 75 miles I was almost bleary-eyed with exhaustion.
This past year, I have had the privilege of walking with friends and loved ones through some very dark places in their lives. The deep valleys they are walking through are not the same as those I drove through in the forest. But dark is still dark .. and lonely is, well, as lonely as it always has been. The correlation is unmistakable. If I had been traveling with a companion, we might have stopped to look up and see the stars that were certainly there. Yet, unlike the capable and content person that I typically am, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more small and alone in my entire life. We might have paused to contemplate the incredible beauty I’m sure I drove though and yet missed for my concern of reaching my destination. Nevertheless. Deep was my certainty that I was on the right track, and to turn around would have been impossible and unthinkable.
‘Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out’ … ‘At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out; they kept the LORD’S charge, according to the command of the LORD through Moses.’ Numbers 9:22-23
I enjoy reading this rendition of the Israelites experience more so than where it is first recorded in Exodus 13. If you take a look at the chapter you’ll find a cadence, an unmistakable lilt in the repetition of the phrases, “at the command of the LORD they camped” and “at the command of the LORD they set out”.
What does the command of the Lord have to do with a journey through the forest or the dark, uncertain trials experienced by friends?
The intentionality in my decision to complete the trip that night might be considered by some to be bull-headed, I suppose. Yet that same strong determination and confidence are a way of life for me, founded on a deep certainty that I’m following the command of the Lord. I know, deep within myself, that I hear Him speaking to me: about the path to follow, the way to sort through my experiences, the way to show His love to those around me, a moment-by-moment dialogue between myself and the God of the Universe. His words, spoken into the deep places of my heart, are never at odds with His written Word or with His character. Yet, no matter how sure that foundation, there will always be the deepest of valleys, the darkest of nights. Walking alone on a path lit only by His Word need not be our concern but being on the wrong path must.
I was fortunate to arrive at my destination that night. I later learned that locals drive a completely different route. They spoke somberly of the numerous people that have been killed along the route I took. It’s not unlike life at all, which can be so very short. Choose wisely.
There are sights I’ve seen as I’ve travelled through life that simply could not be replicated with a camera or words. No matter how hard I would try to show you what I saw and how I felt when I saw it, the breathtaking Caribbean sunset or the snow-covered Swiss countryside would remain truest in my own mind’s eye.
Something unexplainable happens when we perceive a thing of beauty, and attempt to capture its image or our thoughts of it on paper. Expression of its beauty is mostly about me … what I felt, what I saw, what I was thinking when I saw it. It’s an entirely different thing of beauty when you see it, and capture your own thoughts.
This is also true in one’s journey with God.
No one can have that relationship with Him for you. Each of us stands alone before Him. With regard to my journey, I can show you what I see, what I hear, what I say, but in the end it’s still my experience.
I have had the pleasure and challenge of walking with the Lord through many decades. I recall learning to be in relationship with Him as a very young girl, and then coming to understand the thoughts and intentions of His heart. Then of course there was the tricky bit of letting Him see my heart, my thoughts … and being real with Him. There was nothing sophisticated about it and no flashy terminology to describe the priceless exchanges between us.
Even as the years have flown by, I find that nothing has really changed from the time I was a little girl. The most important things remain. He speaks. I listen. I speak. He listens. He acts on my behalf, and I’ve been learning to obey Him. There is no one closer to me than He, and that won’t change. When I look into His face I can feel, and even see what is on His heart.
It’s my desire to share with you, as I write, my glimpses into the realm of the Holy Spirit, the realm of God. I find He makes His home among ordinary things, a stable, a manger, a cross. And so we have to look twice sometimes to see things the way He sees them. It takes courage to see the unseen, and to walk with God. My challenge to you then, Friend, is that you would look around you and begin to see things as they really are.