Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In The Course of Living, We Die Multiple Deaths

We must die multiple deaths this side of heaven. Death to dreams, agendas, plans, relationships, reputation, ideals... Pain is inevitable on this life-journey. Surrendering our agenda to God brings freedom, in that we don't bear the weight fully of the myriad of decisions we must make daily. He promises mercy and He promises to bring good out of the deaths we die if we love Him. Only God has the power to bring resurrection. Surrender is freeing, but never easy.
Not surrendering is to die those deaths and have no blessing from the losses we experience. With God is always hope. With God there is promise for redeeming our losses. With God, there is strength to face the future with joy that He is about the business of fulfilling us as only He can. Fully, perfectly. For the joy of being with Him, every pain endured has great value.
The seed must go into the ground in darkness and die in order for the plant to grow and bear life-giving fruit. Through painful labor a baby is born. These are parables for us to glean from in times of pain. Saying, "Hope!"
When we embarked on this journey with Jesus, when He held out His hand and said, "come." We didn't know what was ahead. We have died many deaths. Not nearly as painful as many who are close to me. Not death of a child, not death to our health, but small deaths. For me personally, a death to a season of life due to anxiety induced depression. I look back and see myself lifeless in my mission. Like an over-boiled noodle. 
Today saying goodbye again to Dale at the airport, a little death. Life has been a strain for him at work these past six weeks. He is quiet. For anyone who knows him...not his usual self. The job is hard. the surrender of the farm dream is hard. Not having control over the future is hard. And all we have... after letting go of everything familiar...well, it is more than enough, for we have God. And God is all we need. We can trust that He holds the future. He has always been good. He has a secure plan and knowing that is enough. 

Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Time to Be Still and Listen

I spent several hours near Belt Creek in Montana a few days past now, and as I prepared to fly home to Wisconsin, my heart longed to stay for this place right here. I was FREE to come and sit, and read, and hear the Lord speak to me...
The water was sheer-clear and so often I see something in nature that makes me want to engage with it in a personal way somehow. I want to see from the top of that mountain! I want to hold that baby lamb! I want to walk in that water! This day I reached my hand in. I wanted to remember how clear it was, and it was cool, refreshing. In touching it, do I engage with it's Creator in a more intimate way? Is that why I have that desire, like the desire to touch a painting?
As I drove away on Friday, I was feeling sad for leaving, not wanting to lose this new place of quiet and peace. It struck me as I was thinking sad, that I have such lovely places right at home! Even closer than Belt Creek to where our camper is, I have the Apple River within a mile of my house. WHY have I not taken time to go and sit? WHY have I not spent more time listening to the sounds of contentment? Birds singing and waters rushing over rocks?

It's the "to-do" and the "must-keep-ups"...and as I consider the simplicity of my 9 Montana in a little place, leaving the bed messy, washing dishes once a day. Eating simply. I wonder at the race I have been running for all of these years...where have the moments gone?
For what? For who? What has been the benefit? (besides my sanity...but why is that so difficult to maintain?) Here I have made a sitting spot in my yard. I have gone there, but not for more than 20 minutes. Ever. In my own yard...and that river, when I run over it-it beckons me, but I never have time to stop (really? why?)
Perhaps today. This day, we can all make some time to cut away from "to-do's" and "have-to's" for a little silence to hear the voice of God, the voice of contentment that sings in His creation. Enjoy your weekend, may you find joy in the stillness and be refreshed!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Faith is Risky Business

This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 
1 Samuel 17:46
The word for today is RISK. 

This seems to be a theme with me for the last several months. I have been given opportunities to face fears and to take risks with flying, traveling up mountainsides, selling our home with no clear plan, and closing my shop with nothing on the horizon.

Then I read this book, "Soul Print" by Mark Batterson. And I listened to a sermon "The Establishment of the Spirit" (from byPastor Timothy Porter)...both confirmed to me I'm right where God wants me to be. 

"Grace calls us into fear." That was the word from Pastor Tim.

Feeling awkward is evidence that you are doing things that require faith. That was one take-away from Soul Print.

Grace being God's power available to us, calls us into fear, fear because we know our own weakness to act, then faith is the joining factor from my fear to God's power. And it's risky.

Faith is risky business.

As I study the life of David, I have been parked in his words to the giant that had taunted the mighty wimpy soldiers of Israel. They were wimpy only because of where they placed their confidence. In themselves. 

David's bold-confident words, "This day the Lord will hand you over to me and I will strike you down and cut off your head." Those words, they strike me. I'm imagining a five year old boy saying this to a grown man to get perspective on the risk that David took. Really? How did he say with such confidence these words to an armed, intimidating giant?

It is where he placed his confidence; that confidence coming from where he placed his sights. If I look at myself and my weakness or my giant problem or feat, I shy away from risks. I fail at moving forward in faith. If I look at my God and His power and promises, I have confidence in something Unfailing, Almighty.

I'm seeking to watch my thoughts, and where they land often is on me. No wonder I feel shaky-kneed so often when God says, "go". And did David have any thoughts of himself while running toward the giant? Did his knees feel weak while running?

Seeking more grace to lift up my eyes and have them stayed on God for courage to take risks. We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 There is no pleasing God without faith. Hebrews 11:6  Faith is uncomfortable and awkward because it is risky business.  We who are called to live by faith will have to embrace awkwardness and get used to feelings of fear but never let them stop us from taking risks.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Home is Where Your Family Is and Friends Complete The Full-Life Package

It is finally up to 64 degrees after a windy-rainy overnight into the morning, and I have been sitting here much of the day reading and writing and sipping my Caribou blend, perhaps one too many. Occasionally I look up to glimpse the campsite of my young friend off to the left side of my window. The mother of three, ages 9 months to 5 years with one little Noah in between.
I wonder how my young friend is holding up with three little ones, a dog, and a simple tent.

When I met her little girl in the laundry area, she was close behind. I learned her husband is interning as a lineman working on electricity in the mountain where my husband is working building the wind turbines. They decided to take their little family on the road. 

I marvel at her pliability. And think about the blessings of being pliable. I was a home-body. I liked routine and predictability. I thrived on it and I still do. Having routine brings me comfort. Not having it...well, mayhem in my mind. I'm not sure I would have I would not have had her enthusiasm or apparent contentment for this type of adventure with kids that young. 

She talks of perhaps homeschooling to accommodate their lifestyle. I could encourage her there! Some of my favorite years were the years I home-schooled my two, so I shared stories and later brought her a list of resources to help her get going.

I ventured out to discover how things were going, thinking they might like to join me in my little hovel-with-a-heater. As I approached, she had just packed the three in the Suburban and was going to go for a drive. 

I found out she was in no hurry to go. She needed a change of pace and I was it . (I noticed since returning to our camper that she never left.) The kiddos watched a movie in the truck while we chatted. They are enjoying their tent-life. No complaints whatsoever. 

In this new lifestyle that I have been living intermittently, I've discovered that compared to the one I have lived all my life prior to my husband working on the very little we really need. I have my farmhouse with our things, fine and fancy country that we have collected over the years, the cupboards, the couches, the bedding, the dishes, etc in WI and then here we have our little set of mugs, plates and cheap silverware from Walmart and our old raggy towels in the camper.

One bed. One mini bathroom. One kitchen/dining/living area of about 8'x10' or 12' (size includes the bathroom) and as long as I have electricity for my blow dryer and flat iron and computer, I'm quite content. For now. But I know as time passes that I will be missing my kids, my grandson, and my extended isn't really about how much or how little, or even about what you are doing, it is about "who" you are with...

Always, whatever our living situation, simple on the open road, or more stationary in a comfortable home...wild adventures or reading a book at night together...

Home is where your family is and having friends completes the full-life package.

And my mind wanders to God, to His love and His Story. The Redeemer, the Cross..... 

Ultimately that is why Jesus subjected Himself to the cross...He wants His family home.

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, 
we may live together with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:10

Montana Mountains...and Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed Can Move Them?

Facing fears in the journey of life. It's nothing new to me to find fear surfacing, and especially in this wild land called Montana. I am familiar with the strangle-hold and tripping power of fear. I've had run-ins with that evil one more often than I care to recount. Even thinking of past fears brings fear to the surface.

Since I am a woman of faith. One who speaks of God, and His power, of Jesus and His presence living inside of us when we ask Him to wash us clean from our is hard to reconcile these two realities. A woman of faith who experiences fear.

On Saturday, I made my husband turn around instead of going around this corner: (it looked WORSE in person, trust me!)
The road seemingly continued to narrow with the "look-out-below!" getting deeper and having rolled in a car once when I was a passenger while we were going around an outer curve, I simply didn't want to feel the fear. We were looking for a lake, the road was going on forever and we wondered if we had already seen it in the pond we had just passed since we were going UP. (And who thinks a lake might be UP a mountain?) So he graciously pulled the truck into the expanded area on the left of the photo and I got out to take pictures. Soon a little truck came around this corner and slowed as I approached to talk to me. "YES there is a lake, it's beautiful... just spittin' distance are almost there! GO!"

I considered walking up for a brief second. Really I did! But I got in, them having come around the curve giving me courage. It really was no big deal, but my mind...

Here is what we would have missed due to my fear: (I am learning that there is grace for my fear)
You see, I used to think God would be severely irritated with me for not honoring Him with faith enough to overcome my fears. I used to think He had a short fuse; that He had little patience. (EVEN THOUGH I read love is is kind...and God is love.....) But He is enabling me to experience his loving kindness, tenderness and patience in facing my fears with such grace. My husband was understanding and not frustrated with me. The couple came at just the right time to encourage me on up. And the best was yet to come.

Our plan for the next day was to go to Red Lodge and visit my cousin. I had driven from MN to Red Lodge when I was 16 years old with my younger sister and my cousin of the same age as me. I had experienced such anxiety driving up the narrow mountain road with no guard-rail and a trail of (I imagined) irritated drivers behind me anxious for this rookie to get out of the way, that I acquired hives upon my return from the trip. Stress causes them the Doctor said. 

Just thinking of that experience on the way down this time made me feel anxious and feel short of breath! Little did I know that my cousin, who once had worked at the Red Lodge ski area had been working on the top of Beartooth Pass for the greater part of 30 years and would invite us to ride up that pass with him and his wife. 

I thought, "how bad could it be? He commuted up there daily after all..." 
And then when I saw the road up. And how high it was. And how scary it looked. I sucked it up as best as I could. It helped immensely that I was in the back seat with his wife and my experienced cousin was driving (I kept reminding myself of that fact). My husband agrees that had he been driving, I would have made him turn around. (and he said he was proud of me when we got down, that I had done very well. :))

What I would have missed had I let fear dominate. But by the grace of God I didn't. You see, my cousin was gracious with me too, and his wife a comfort. We talked about fears and fears being from past experiences, and fears being from becoming a mother and not wanting to leave this earth so we are the caretakers of our babies. And do you know what is really cool? The way down was not nearly as difficult as the way up for me! Having gone up, having faced the fear with grace, I had more confidence going down. I could look at it differently. Plus I felt on top of the world at 11,000 feet! (and God knows how much I love the sky!)

So a woman of faith who has fears finds grace in a God who is loving and patient and who lovingly orchestrates opportunities to show her that very thing.

Now I want to shout it from the mountain, I'm not the same as I used to be....

and I will continue to wonder about the power of faith and how little I must have if it only takes a teeny amount to move one of these Magnificent Monuments of God's Might.
 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. ~Matthew 17:20

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Strange Thought Or A Divine Promise?

One day. Not so long ago while I was praying, I heard the Lord say, "I'm going to take you up on a hill, high and holy." ...I know, that is exactly what I thought..."who talks like that?" What kind of imagination must I have?" So I told a friend just in case, you came true! He could have said, I'm going to take you to a high mountain, or a high hill, but  "a hill, high and holy"???
(That one day was before I knew my husband was going to be working in Spion Kop, MT)

Since that day, I have been on the "lookout" for this day...or rather last night. Last night we drove up this county road to the peak of a mountain. From the photos, it seems like more of a hill, but for the life of me, I cannot get photos that look like the real thing. 
We sat from 9:11pm until the sun set about 20 minutes 
later and with a panoramic view, we watched in silence 
with a few, "Oh my!"s. 

On our way down it occurred to me that if Dale hadn't been on this job building wind turbines, we NEVER would have made our way to this place! It isn't commercialized like the National Parks. Not crawling with gawkers like us. It is just a high mountain, with a gravel road and old buildings and wild lupine and majestic sunsets. 

Hence, the holy seems to fit this description. That 'one day', this 'day'... (or rather yesterday).

Synonyms for holy: blessed, chaste, clean, consecrated, dedicated, devoted, devotional, devout, divine, faithful, faultless, glorified, god-fearing, godlike, godly, good, hallowed, humble, innocent, perfect, pietistic, pious, prayerful, pure, reverent, saintlike, sanctified, spotless, sublime, uncorrupt, undefiled, untainted.

 Check out the bird on the post. He stayed there for several photos!

Could it be that word you heard really was from God? Maybe you are waiting for it to come to pass. Keep watching, wait in expectation for Him to deliver on His word. He's perfect like that. One day...may be tomorrow.

Then they believed his promises

    and sang his praise.

Psalm 106:12