From Barriers to Beauty

I’ve been looking at Job 28 for last couple of mornings.

There is something about these verses that resonate with me:

“The miner uses a flint tool
and turns up ore from the root of the mountains.
He cuts out channels in the rocks,
and his eyes spot every treasure.
He dams up the streams from flowing
so that he may bring to light what is hidden.

But where can wisdom be found,
and where is understanding located?
No one can know its value,
since it cannot be found in the land of the living….(9-13)

But God understands the way to wisdom,
and he knows its location.” (vs 23)

The hiddenness of wisdom

I think what draws me to this passage is that it reminds me of some of my favorite words in Proverbs 2

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
listening closely to wisdom
and directing your heart to understanding;
furthermore, if you call out to insight
and lift your voice to understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (1-6)

*****

The miner digs and searches and looks. He pays incredible attention to the details. He is resourceful. He sets to work to remove barriers. He finds or creates ways through that which is hindering his ability to discover and connect with the treasure buried below the surface.

The miner doesn’t stop searching for treasure just because he is confronted with a barrier.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jer 29:13

The Lord, once again, is our example of going to extreme measure to find ways around and through the barriers…

“This is what the Lord says—
who makes a way in the sea,
and a path through raging water,
who brings out the chariot and horse,
the army and the mighty one together
(they lie down, they do not rise again;
they are extinguished, put out like a wick)—
“Do not remember the past events,
pay no attention to things of old.
Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43: 16-19)

He creates channels through chaotic seas and paths through parched lands.

“Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

We were separated
there was an obstacle standing between us and Him.
But Jesus found a way around and through. 

“Build it up, build it up, prepare the way,
remove every obstacle from my people’s way.”
 For the High and Exalted One,
who lives forever, whose name is holy, says this:
“I live in a high and holy place,
and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and revive the heart of the oppressed. (Is 57:14-15)

“I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ.  In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3

But get up and stand on your feet…

But get up and stand on your feet…Acts 26:16

It’s these particular words in Acts I’ve been savoring this week. Paul’s eyes had just been opened to the fact that he was way off course. Paul had just been informed that everything he had ever done in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, throwing followers in prison, chasing after them with vengeance, harshly punishing them, and even supporting their deaths was horribly misguided.

In that moment, Paul discovered he had not been traveling down the path of truth. And, as a result, all the pain and suffering he had inflicted was persecution on the very Lord he said he was doing it all for.

Just think about that for a moment.

Think about being told this shocking truth one moment and then the next moment the One who you are actually persecuting says this to you

But get up and stand on your feet…

I can’t think of a more beautiful response Paul could have received from Jesus.

He didn’t say

I condemn you and you need to be punished sufficiently and then we can talk.

He didn’t say

You can follow me now but I am going to hold this mistake against you for the rest of your life.

No!

And, when our eyes and heart come face to face with Truth,  Jesus offers us the same grace!

But get up and stand on your feet… 

Follow me!  

I have incredible plans for you.  

“The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use

It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours” ~ Matthew West, Broken Things

 

When Hope Stirs

Was reminded of something tonight.

More often than not when I feel a burden to pray for someone going through a rough time, my first prayer isn’t that God will make their situation better. (Although I do want that.)

Instead, the cry of my heart is always that God’s goodness and greatness will show up in the middle of the suck because sometimes knowing (TRULY KNOWING) that He is there with us, in the midst of it, is all the hope we need to take the next step.

Keep blowing us away with your goodness and greatness, Lord.

*********

I shared those words the other night on Facebook.  I was prompted to write them after spending my drive home from work praying for a stranger I had encountered earlier in the evening.

I don’t know his situation but could tell from our interactions and conversations that feelings of being lost, depressed, confused, stuck and trapped were his current reality.

My heart breaks whenever my path collides with this combination of suck. Regardless of what may have brought the person to this season, whether it was the result of multiple unwise choices or actions or whether they made all the “perfect” decisions and choices in life but still find themselves in a valley of discouragement and pain.

My heart breaks…and yet… something else stirs within my heart at the same time as the breaking.

It’s this strange, and often unexplainable, sense of hope and anticipation.

Where our earthly eyes see only pain, our spiritual eyes see potential, purpose, and the opportunity for His presence to come in and transform the heap of ash left of our soul into a beauty beyond what we ever imagined.

I know what God can accomplish in all hope seems lost moments and seasons.

Oh that we have the eyes to see, the feet to follow, and the faith to hold on and trust in the God who is greater.  

Locking Eyes with More

This Friday will be the 26th year anniversary of my mom’s death.  As I sit here and think about that number, I have a hard time believing it.

26

Somedays it feels like 100.

This morning as I thought about that number and the memories, I thought about “The Chronicles of Narnia” by CS Lewis. It’s been years since I’ve read those books but I do recall how Susan, the eldest girl, forgot about Narnia and dismissed it all as a childhood game.  As years passed, the memories and beauty of Narnia faded away, she distracted herself with “nylons and lipstick and invitations.”

She stopped remembering and believing in the hope of more, the beyond, the other side. 

I guess this is one reason I remember all the time. I want to remember. I need to remember.

That Sunday night, so many years ago, through the eyes of another, I caught a glimpse.

For the briefest of moments time stood still and that wardrobe door swung wide and rays of Narnia light poured in.

I locked eyes with the more, and that more compels me onward, expectantly.

I move forward. I hold on.

One day that door will swing open again.

One day.  

 “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13: 12-13 Message

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

That Power

“You haven’t believed God until you’ve attempted to do something that can’t be done without his power at work in your life.”  – Rick Warren

I read these words the other day in my quiet time. I love words that instantly take me back to that season in my life when faith became sweet sight.

God is bigger than ____________.

It all started with those four words.

I filled in the blank and instead of dismissing it as a nice idea or overused phrase (like I did countless times before) I decided I would begin living, and moving, and acting as if it was true. 

Transformation

It didn’t happen overnight but it did happen.  There are days/chapters when we simply have to make the choice to hold on through the dark and make the choice to take the next step with Him.

We choose

to trust

We choose

unyielding hope

God is bigger

His power at work in our lives. 

That power will bring you to your knees.
That power will lift you up with joy, His Joy
That power will sustain you with peace, His peace.

“You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

The Silence After the Split

He breaks rocks to let us hear the silence after they split.” Paul Pastor 

I still had the above quote on my mind when I read through Psalm 107 this morning, story after story of redeeming love can be found in this particular Psalm.  Humanity…wandering, lost, rebellious…broken…then they cried out to the Lord… and the Hand of mercy and justice and deliverance rescues again.

What struck me as I read the Psalm this time around was how, in a couple of the stories, the Lord allowed and even caused the situation to get worse before it got better.  We actually see this in Scripture all the time. Lazarus’ death and the death of Jesus are the first two big examples that come to mind immediately…things got much worse before things got better.

“He broke their spirits with hard labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.” 107:12

“He spoke and raised a tempest
that stirred up the waves of the sea.”  107:25

But in all instances, the purpose of the suffering is to bring them (and us) to a place of knowing who to run to, who to thank, and who to depend on.

The strength, the joy, the peace, the hope…comes in the knowing. 

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and gloom
and broke their chains apart. 
Let them give thanks to the Lord

for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.”(vs 13-15)

“they reeled and staggered like drunken men,
and all their skill was useless.
 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
 They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.
 Let them give thanks to the Lord
for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.” (vs 27-31)

Maybe because I’ve been spending the week vacationing at the beach but this verse is the one that resonates with me this morning.  

“He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for”

They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet. 

The turbulent sea, allowed and caused by the same One who they eventually ran to, surrendered to and thanked.

“He breaks rocks to let us hear the silence after they split.”

He breaks…us

to let us hear that sweet silence too.  

Trouble ->Truth ->Triumph

Lord, how my foes increase!
There are many who attack me.
Many say about me,
“There’s is no help for him in God.”

But You, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the One
Who lifts up my head.
I cry out to the Lord
and He answers me
from His holy mountain. Psalm 3:1-4

David acknowledges the trouble
David turns to the truth.

I think this is the main reason I’m drawn to the Psalms. It’s this acknowledge and turn sequence in David’s actions, this honest posture of David’s heart that encourages me over and over. It’s a reminder of what authentic faith journeys and authentic relationships look like, not perfect, not pain-free, not without conflict, but a life-long lesson on how to trust even when we go through seasons and situations that threaten to consume us or fill us with hopelessness. David reminds us to bring it all to the foot of the cross, to hold on through the dark, and to keep going through the valley.

Struggling today?

Acknowledge and turn, acknowledge and turn, acknowledge and turn

Breathe!

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Gen 1:1

“Out of formlessness, form was made. Out of chaos, order. Out of emptiness, filling. Out of barrenness, fruit. Out of the abyss, a place to stand, to know and to be by the power of the Spirit of God.” ~ “The Face of the Deep” by Paul Pastor

It’s meditating on ideas like this one that fill my heart with cups of cascading joy and hope.

The beauty of beginnings, the potential of stories yet to unfold, yet to be.

The unending grace and mercy of new beginnings…of fresh starts and restarts.

The sun bursting onto the scene.

The sky being painted in rejuvenating colors.

The bright beginning, taking our breath away and pouring life back in us to overflowing capacity.

Breathe Your new beginning on us and in us today, Lord.

Breathe!

 

Looking Through the Right Lens

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
~Matthew 5:6

It’s those words Jesus spoke to his disciples during the Sermon on the Mount that came to mind while out on my run the other morning.  They popped into my mind several times since then too.

Hungering and thirsting are postures of weakness.  This morning I thought of another verse that I’ve been sharing with volunteers at church the last couple of Sundays.

“You have given me the shield of your salvation;
your right hand upholds me,
and Your humility exalts me.” Psalm 18:35 

It’s the last line capturing my heart lately.  Your humility exalts me. 

Just think about that for a moment.

It is His posture of weakness, His posture of servant, His posture of low that lifts us up. He doesn’t use his position of power to woo us to Him, or at least not in the traditional sense.

This is so drastically different than the world’s idea of power, success, and leadership.

These verses remind me that if we are looking through the right lens, humility is a type of strength. Need and dependency becomes a strength.

And if we are to take our cue from Jesus.  Our humility, our low position, our posture of weakness should be used to exalt others too. 

**********

This morning I read Psalm 28.  I’ve always been particularly drawn to verse 9, the last verse.

“Save your people, bless Your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever.”

Again this verse seems to be the opposite of what the world often shouts at us.  The world tells us we don’t need anyone to save us, that we are capable of navigating life all by ourselves, and to be our own boss.

But this request from David is full of humility.

My paraphrase:  Lord, we need You. Save us.  Bless us. We were created by You and we ultimately belong to You.  Lord we need You to guide us. We need Your direction and Your wisdom. Lord we can’t do this life alone, we depend on Your strength to hold us up. 

We are hungry and thirsty.  Possessed and carried by a humble power greater than ourselves.

If we are looking through the right lens, this is the most spacious place we could ever find ourselves.