That’s Clearly the End…Right??

mountain path 1Last year I had a dream that I was a passenger in a bus driving on a mountain road. The brakes went out and, straight ahead, there was a wall of a mountain and nowhere to turn. The chaos and swirling panic focused into a sharp moment of clarity – I knew in my head this was the end.

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
Psalm 34:7

I actually love dreams like this these days. There’s been a shift. Instead of surrendering to feelings of fear and despair, I find myself burrowing into my center. Into inexplicable peace and strength. I started praying for miraculous rescue. When we reached the side of the mountain, the road didn’t lead us to an unavoidable and disastrous end. Instead, it opened up and continued up the slope.

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
Isaiah 45:2

Maybe that was a miracle. Or maybe the road was always there and I just couldn’t see it from where I was sitting.

This dream was brought back to my mind yesterday as, yet again, something looked completely hopeless from my point of view. I do this way too much. I get focused on how things look without realizing I am only seeing a sliver of reality, filtered through my own past experiences and my own understanding. Lord help me break free of myself!!

He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Proverbs 2:8

I am thankful that He still speaks to us. That He uses words and methods we understand. That He reminds us of past lessons. That we are not alone here, and there are perspectives other than our own. That His truth is bigger than any one of our perspectives. I’m seeing more and more beauty in relationship.

Battlements of Rubies

Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel.
Proverbs 25:4

This has been a year of refinement for me. Round after round of being melted down so that a few more impurities can be skimmed off. It’s been hard. It’s been humbling.

I have felt so small, so confused, so powerless, so out of control. Those are the scariest feelings in the world for me! But he is teaching me patience, and trust. He is showing me my courage.

It takes a lot of courage to walk willingly into the refiner’s fire.

Each one of those beautiful awful meltings has left me a little clearer, but it’s taken a good 15 rounds to breathe deeper (must be some kind of super-metal). In my last post, I mentioned feeling like I had jumped across a canyon and hadn’t landed yet. Today I am sitting here wide-eyed and smiling as I realize…I have landed…? Yes oh my gosh. I have landed!!

God-hugs are my favorite. This past week I have felt wrapped in an extra special one, with a heartbeat constant whisper of “You are mine. You are mine. You are mine.”

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
Isaiah 43:1

He isn’t just saying that I belong to him, that he is trustworthy, or that he is protecting me…although those are very comforting realities. He is simultaneously reading and declaring a truth about ME and MY heart that I needed to be reminded of. My heart has chosen him. I am his! I am his! I am his! And he is mine.

I am my beloved’s,
And my beloved is mine.
Song of Solomon 6:3

Throughout this journey, I’ve been encouraged with story after story of endurance, patience, protection, and victory. In Isaiah, the Lord promises a rare and magnificent new creation.

I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
    your foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of sparkling jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.
Isaiah 54:11-12

Even in this stunning new city, there are walls, gates, and battlements. We are not finished by any stretch of the imagination, but I am not afraid. Thanks to this year spent in the fire, I know who is with me and that he is good. That he does not leave, and (somehow even more encouraging to me) neither will I. That he really is stronger than everything. That he is infinitely patient and will let me learn at my own pace, but continues to invite me deeper.

I’m excited to see what this next level has in store. He makes me brave.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
Isaiah 43:2b

Flood of Great Waters

This month, I’ve had one crazy phone call after another. The kind of phone calls that threaten stability: one from my boss about a looming contract expiration, one from the school counselor, one from the vice principal, one from a friend. Calls about things that are legitimately uncomfortable and even scary.

Each one of those calls was like an ice cold tidal wave coming to take me out. Thankfully, I was prepared.

I have mentioned “middle parts” before, but I’m not sure I explained them very well. The “middle part” is what I call that time in life where we wander, question what we know, run into God, and choose life with or without him. We all walk through a middle part…some of us walk there much longer than others!

It’s one of the hardest things to watch people you love go through this time. It was for me, anyway, until I learned to see it from God’s perspective. He LOVES this process! It is where we step out of mindless conformity and where we are eventually confronted with truth. With HIM. It’s where we reach the end of ourselves, and realize with joy all that he is. That he is all that matters. Where we come to know in our hearts how much he has always loved us.

And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.
Isaiah 62:5

God taught me about the middle parts last year when I watched another family go through it. Where I would normally fall into hopeless despair watching yet another person choose the wrong path, God showed me the beauty of the season. I know that sounds weird – but he reminded me how much fuller my love for him is because of that time I walked in the middle part. It turned what was once pitiful fear-based religion into true relationship. He taught me this lesson last year for two reasons – to encourage the family going through it, and to tuck it away for the time I would watch my own loved ones walk through it. Ah.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

A miracle is something only God can do. That I not only have peace in these days, but can actually embrace them as stepping stones closer to true joy and awakening for my children, is seriously a miracle.

Today, I realized what a difference being prepared for these waves of life makes. They are coming, but he is here. He is bigger.

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

When we take the time to press pause and see things from his perspective, they lose the power to overwhelm. He – who didn’t panic when I walked into my 20-year long middle part, who brought me my job and who will protect it until it’s time to move on, who is breathing life into my family, who holds tomorrow in his hands – is my life preserver!

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.
You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32:6-7

The key here is calling out to him before the wave takes us out and under, before we are washed away by fear and the circumstances of today. His peace is astounding.

Lamplight

I hate the dark…especially when I’m going somewhere. I’m always afraid I’ll walk into a spider web, or a hole. Into danger.

This has become irritatingly clear to me lately, as the winter days get shorter. And I see it is very much a reality in my spiritual walk as well. I really hate walking in darkness.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

His words are truly lifesavers for me, but they aren’t always as bright and clear as I’d like them to be. There are times I feel like I’m stepping into the darkest night. With only the tiniest clue that I’m moving in the right direction, I get frustrated with the lack of illumination.

I like to know where I’m going, what I’m walking into.

I have been known to take his words and shake them, try to squeeze meaning out of them before their time. Manipulate them to fit the plans I have in mind.

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
2 Peter 1:19-21

The room can seem pitch black but, in time, our eyes adjust to the available light. This is where I am now, learning to walk without panic in the light I’ve been given. Learning to trust that his words are enough without my interference. Resting in the truth that he is walking ahead, and behind, and right beside.

For You are my lamp, O Lord;
The Lord shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
2 Samuel 22:29-31

The Precious Things

Blessed of the Lord is his land,
With the precious things of heaven, with the dew,
And the deep lying beneath,
With the precious fruits of the sun,
With the precious produce of the months,
With the best things of the ancient mountains,
With the precious things of the everlasting hills,
With the precious things of the earth and its fullness,
And the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.
Deuteronomy 33:13-16

That is an amazing blessing right there, spoken by Moses to the line of Joseph, 400 years after Joseph’s life.

Sometimes you listen to a blessing or prophetic word and feel happy for the person receiving it. Sometimes that word jumps straight into your heart and you know it is meant for you as well. Tonight, I feel that word is spoken to our region, or pockets of it anyway.

There are lots of weird stories in the news lately, and lots of signs that even weirder things are on their way. I am burdened, but not afraid.

I love the story of Joseph – how he endured tremendous trials and passed several tests to fulfill his destiny. How he thrived in every circumstance, no matter what was thrown his way.

He was successful when he was sold into slavery:

The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man…Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.
Genesis 39:2-3

He was successful when he was wrongfully accused and thrown into jail:

But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.
Genesis 39:21

He KNEW God, and always gave him the glory for his successes. He learned somewhere along the way that heartbreaks, major setbacks, and even persecution were ultimately being used to benefit them all (Genesis 50:20). They positioned him to realize his dream.

I am praying for and believing in the Lord’s protection and provision, thankful for his words and blessings, and overjoyed at his companionship. What a different world it is when you are mindful of the precious things we are blessed with!

Fig Leaves and Skins

It’s been a rough month.

I am a new runner. I had just hit my stride, was picking up pace, and someone stuck their foot out as I passed. No wait, it wasn’t nearly that subtle. Someone actually singled me out on the track, came barreling out of the stands, and tackled me at full speed.

Do you know that awkward feeling when you fall in front of a crowd?

I’ve been down for three weeks now. Trying to regroup and assess damages. I’ve been feeling hurt, embarrassed, and unsure of my footing. Paralyzed! Wondering how in the world to get back into the race. The more I sit here, the angrier I get about it.

I was in a group last week and the topic of fig leaves came up. We did a little exploration into the Genesis story. The first thing Adam and Eve did when they were side-swiped was scramble to find themselves a covering. They recognized a need, grabbed some fig leaves, and tried to cover themselves. Judging from my own recent experience, we have not improved at all. My first instinct at any hint of trouble is to jump into control mode. I feel like I need to take care of it before I present myself, even to the one who knows me better than anyone. Oh, I need a covering? Then let me make that happen!

The problem with that is…a fig leaf won’t help you in the long run. It does provide a temporary shield but, after a while, you get a rash.

A true covering requires a sacrifice, a death. In Genesis, right after He has a chat with Adam, Eve, and the serpent, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” ~Genesis 3:21

The biggest part of my struggle is knowing what is my job, and what is NOT. It IS my job to recognize needs, ask for His provision, and receive it. It is NOT my job to manipulate my circumstances to create the illusion of His provision. That human instinct in me has to die, if for no other reason than it simply doesn’t work.

In case you’re worried that I am injured physically, my attack was spiritual…it was well-aimed and a nice tackle by the enemy. I was way too easy of a target. It distracted me from the goal ahead longer than it should have. But here’s the deal. Instead of paralyzing me, it pissed me off. Instead of taking me out of the race, it woke me up and has reenergized me! I am actually encouraged – to have been so targeted must mean I am doing something right. I am thankful for the lesson. I am not a quitter. Lord, give us a spirit of perseverance and vigilance!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

Run, walk, limp – do whatever it takes! Just get up. Keep moving forward. Finish the race!!

In the Safety Zone

I have been having some dreams! Lots of dreams about walking out of an area of protection, of being unsheltered, of needing a man’s covering.

Now…I don’t even want to tell you the inner turmoil this has caused for me the last couple months! “My man” is simply not here and, honestly, I don’t know that he ever will be. This desperate, urgent need to find him crept in to my peace. I started looking to every event I attended as the potential place where (as I saw in one of my dreams) I would be doing my thing and then see him across the room watching me with intensity, he would lock eyes, and then pursue me as his own. Bam, mine! Like a real man.

It’s been a strange mixture of relief, disappointment, and almost a sense of failure (and disobedience!) to leave each event without finding that connection. I finally shared this with a friend because I have almost started wishing there was someone who would just arrange the best partnership for me. As we talked, I realized a couple things that have changed my life.

  • Having a male covering does not require marriage or romance. While I have so diligently sought out and built relationships with spiritual mothers and sisters, I have completely avoided men. (Well, it’s been mutual – I’ve been invisible to most of them for over two years!) I am way out of balance!
  • I have had this strange notion that women are more than welcome to ask for a spiritual mother, but spiritual fathers were off limits.
  • I have not fully allowed my own father to perform his role as a covering in my life.

Ouch!

So in the matter of one day, I asked my daddy to more intentionally cover me in prayer, and I have agreed to let him step into that role. Through appropriate channels, I have approached and been accepted by a couple from my church who will provide an additional male covering for me.

And that intense pursuer and protector from my dream? The Lord has shown me something so sweet and amazing. It’s HIM! I have not missed the man at all – He has found me, set his eyes on me, and is pursuing and protecting me like crazy! Argh, that’s so good.

I’m learning a lot about covering through all this, and submission (eek!!). We have got to allow those men to do their jobs. Otherwise, we truly are stepping out of our covering and placing a target on our foreheads. I revisited one of the most difficult passages for me today, and thank God I see it in a new light. (Remember, if you don’t get something in the Bible, it’s just because you don’t get it yet.) Here is the passage in the Message translation:

In a marriage relationship, there is authority from Christ to husband, and from husband to wife. The authority of Christ is the authority of God. Any man who speaks with God or about God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of Christ, dishonors Christ. In the same way, a wife who speaks with God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of her husband, dishonors her husband. Worse, she dishonors herself—an ugly sight, like a woman with her head shaved. This is basically the origin of these customs we have of women wearing head coverings in worship, while men take their hats off. By these symbolic acts, men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God.

Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.

Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission?
1 Corinthians 11:3-16

I know it’s specifically pointing out husbands and wives, but I think it applies to all of us. No matter what our situation is, we all HAVE multiple coverings and we also ARE a covering to others. It’s equally important to choose your covering well and to allow that person to do their duty. No one is perfect…especially without practice!

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