Tag Archives: follow

the clarity that winter brings

Two of my favorite worship leaders, Jonathan and Melissa Helser, have a song called “Sing Winter” and in this video Melissa explains the heart behind that song:

“The [trees] get the necessity of seasons, of rest and barrenness, to the fruitfulness of the spring and their harvest.”

This story consumed my heart as I took a walk through the snowy woods today. I had gone out to find a place to sled, and was drawn into the woods by a curiosity for adventure. I was struck by how quiet it was. I could hear every sound. The crunch of my footsteps in the snow, birds landing on a branch, the wind blowing through the barren trees. I walked through the trees for probably close to 45 minutes, but it seemed as though time had stopped.

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I found myself pausing every few steps, looking up, and all around. Every tree was unique, there were lots of fallen trees and branches, twisted trunks and thorny bushes. Everything looked beautiful covered in snow. Normally I would not have gone just trudging through the woods, but the snow was so clean and bright, and the trees so bare – I was captivated. This is the clarity that winter brings.

Everything might look dead, or asleep. But it’s quietly waiting. And there is such peace. I felt safe to explore, caught in the wonder of it all. As I walked, I noticed some deer tracks in the snow. Just for fun I decided to follow them. For all I know I was following them backwards…the deer was probably tracking me. But the possibility of seeing one out there, and being quiet enough to catch her off guard – I just kept going. There were many different sets of tracks; they are probably the only ones who walk through those woods.  There was some barbed wire that stopped me at one point, but I slipped through a break in the fence and kept going.

Only a few steps in, I realized I was surrounded by thorned branches. And I mean surrounded. They were stuck to my pants, and I was quickly becoming entangled. Thankfully I was able to step backwards and go back the way I came. I don’t know how the deer managed to get through there, but I sure as heck wasn’t going any further. This made me stop to think – when we run into thorns in our path, sometimes we don’t see them right away. Sometimes we get entangled in sin, or doubt, or confusion – before we realize there was a way out before we ever got stuck.

I kept going, following the tracks as I found them (I would be the worst tracker ever…I probably followed the same sets of tracks in every direction), and stopped to breathe in the crisp, cold air every once in a while. I imagined what kinds of creatures lived out there, every time I saw a tree stump or nest. This is their haven; away from people and cars and noise. For me today, it was my haven too.

I kept having to stop and go a different way, whenever I worked myself into a group of trees and branches that was too difficult to walk through. It was interesting to me how there were clear paths almost, where it was easy to walk and free of thorns, yet venture a few feet off and you’re stuck. Much like walking with God – sometimes our curiosity gets the best of us, and we wind up someplace we never intended to be…

All of a sudden I realized I no longer had any idea which direction I had come from. I was doing really well following the same path, but I had turned too many times, just haphazardly exploring, and I realized I was actually lost. I didn’t think this was possible at first, because there was a major road at one border of these woods, and some apartments along another side. I couldn’t hear traffic anymore, so I knew I wasn’t close to that end, but nothing looked familiar from where I had started. Yikes.

I tried to find my own footprints to follow back, but I had walked in a circle and crossed back over the tracks (again, I would be the worst tracker), so it wasn’t clear which direction I had come from. I just picked one direction to follow and went for it. Within a minute or two, I realized I was almost right back where I had originally entered the woods. I literally laughed out loud. What are the chances?

I had entered the woods with no plan, just wanting to explore a little. I was tentative at first, and didn’t go very far, but then I decided to walk and see how far it took me. I got distracted by deer tracks and thorns (I may or may not have pretended I was in the Hunger Games for a second…) and ended up very lost and confused. Thankfully I didn’t get to full on panic mode before I figured out where I was.

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This is much like my walk with the Lord to me. We enter every new season of life with no plan (or I might think I have a plan, but let’s be honest, I have no clue). Sometimes that is exciting, but most of the time it is scary. I am going to be seeing my first clients in the next week or so. This is uncharted territory. Just like the barren winter trees, I wonder, will I bloom again? Will I succeed? Just when I get close to panicking, He reminds me I am safe. I choose to trust in the season, and stay rooted in what I know for sure. The necessity of winter is that it provides preparation for new life in the spring. I am safe when I follow my guide, my Helper – the Holy Spirit. I may have the freedom to explore, but when I get stuck, I know to go a different way. When I can’t hear His voice, and I have gone too far, He helps me back to the path I was on. This may lead me back to where I started, but this time I have footsteps to follow.

I am thankful for His grace, and for the healing clarity that winter brings.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow” Isaiah 1:18

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fear no evil

Last night, I went to a worship concert with several friends. It was an amazing time, worshiping with friends and singing some of my favorite worship songs. One of these songs was Oceans, by Hillsong United. While this song has been a bit overplayed in the last year, its words were just as meaningful last night as the first time I heard them.

Until last night, the last time I had seen Hillsong live was in Cape Town. They came to South Africa as part of their Zion tour and that was the first time I heard “Oceans.” It had incredible meaning for me then, because I had been in this foreign country less than a month, and there were still a lot of unknown things. I had to trust God a whole lot more than usual because I was way out of my comfort zone. I wrote another post about this last year (you can read it here), so clearly it was a significant memory for me.

Hearing the song last night was a bit surreal…which may seem strange because I’ve heard it countless times in between. But the presence of God was so heavy, and when I closed my eyes it was as if the thousands of people disappeared and I was alone with Jesus.

I was reminded of a moment last month at the beach with my family. Anyone who knows me knows that the beach is my absolute favorite place to be. One of the days I was out in the water with my sister and cousin. The water was perfect; fairly calm spells followed by HUGE waves which were perfect for riding. We were floating along enjoying the swells, when I tried to stand up and check to make sure we hadn’t floated too far down the beach. But I couldn’t touch the bottom. A mild wave of panic briefly fluttered through my head as I calmly told the girls to swim inland a little bit. We had simply allowed the swells to carry us out past where we could touch. This wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but with all the shark attacks happening this year it was a little scary being out that far.

As we got to the bridge of the song, I understood why God had brought this memory to my mind:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

Deeper than my feet could ever wander. Hmm. Do I tend to panic when I get too far out and forget to trust in God’s sovereignty? Do I really believe those words, asking Him to take me deeper? I am much more comfortable where I can touch the bottom. That’s where I am in control. I can direct my movements, I can stand on solid ground. I feel safe. But these words I was singing…I was asking Him to take me deeper than my feet can go – that requires trust. And surrender.

If I am afraid, I will never get to the place where I fully trust Him, where I can most be used by Him. If I am in control, that means He is not. It’s time to pick up my feet and let Him move me.

This is not an easy thing to do – there are so many unknowns. Which way will the current flow? What if there is a storm? But I hear Him say, “Trust, my love. I will never let you drown.” He owns the ocean, He formed it’s every wave. Who better to trust with my life than the One who gave me breath? Fear may try to creep in, but His love is stronger.

I will admit, the crazy amount of shark attacks in North Carolina this summer has been quite unnerving, but that still didn’t keep me out of the water. My love for the ocean is stronger than the fear of something bad happening. The same is true for any risk I take for the Kingdom. Of course there is fear that I will fail. But His love covers me. I am accepted, loved, and chosen by the King of Kings. Yes, there is evil in the world. There are sharks in the water. There always will be. But that shouldn’t keep us from diving in. I don’t want to be afraid to go where He asks me to go, and do what He asks me to do. I think a lot of times I keep my feet planted firmly on the ground so long that I forget what it feels like to float freely along. I can no longer hear Him calling me out into the waves. Fear is faith’s greatest enemy. And often the things that take the most faith result in the greatest reward.

If Jesus can walk on water and calm the storm, He can surely keep my head above the waves. With a new season ahead of me, where I will most likely feel as though I am drowning in reading and homework – I will fix my eyes on my life preserver, the One who saved my soul and continues to do so. He alone is worthy of my trust, my love, and my life. It is in His presence where I am safest – even if my feet cannot touch the ground.

my heart’s perfume

I have recently been obsessed with Kim Walker-Smith’s song “Waste it All
The chorus goes,
“I’m gonna waste it all on You,
I’m gonna pour my heart’s perfume
I don’t care if I’m called a fool, 
I’m wasting it all on You.”
 
This has been striking a cord in me, and seems to be a common theme that God is teaching me. Last Sunday, JD preached about the story of Elijah calling Elisha. I didn’t know much about this story, but Elisha, being very well off, got rid of all his oxen, and burned his plow upon being called by Elijah. He left nothing behind at the invitation to follow and serve this man. Elisha risked everything; he went from boss to servant, and served under Elijah for 18 years. That’s a long time. This story was a reminder that Jesus wants all or nothing – when He asked His disciples to come and follow Him, it was either yes or no. No halfway in between. 
When Elijah was about to die, he asked Elisha what he wanted. And Elisha asked for a double portion of the Spirit of God that Elijah had. And he received it. When we surrender all to God and follow Him, He is faithful in return. As we follow God and live for Him, we begin to understand more of His character and His heart, and the things we ask for start to change. We are able to boldly approach the Creator of the Universe because He trusts us. You don’t earn that kind of trust by halfheartedly, sort of, sometimes following Him.
 
And let me be clear: following Jesus does not mean going to church and keeping the commandments. The Pharisees did that. Many people do that. I did that. 
There is so much more than that.
 
Following Jesus means pouring out your most expensive bottle of perfume at His feet. It means burning your plow and not looking back. It means letting go of things and people that cause you sin. It means laying down your life and accepting the invitation to allow the Savior to become Lord and King of your heart. There is no co-pilot. Either God is on the throne of your heart, or you are.
 
I have been listening to Mike Bickle’s series on Song of Songs, and it is absolutely incredible. At one point, he talks about how we are made for pleasure. God created us to enjoy life, and enjoy the pleasures of life, because we reflect His character. Nothing brings more pleasure than the love and presence of God. But when we allow something to bring us more pleasure than God Himself can, we lose sight of the actual source of pleasure. We can’t pick and choose the moments we want God, and then ask Him to follow US the rest of the time.
 
We were not made to be 80% committed to God.
 
We were made to be wholeheartedly, 100% surrendered to Him. Living for nothing else. He is our breath, and our life. Of course, in our flesh this is impossible. Jesus was the only one ever completely surrendered and committed to the Father. But that is why He is our example. That is why we continue to lay aside things in this world to follow Him with everything we have. There is so much of Him to discover – endless mysteries of which we will never reach the end. He has so much to show us, so much to teach us. Yet, we get bored and stop looking for more.
 
This is something my heart is learning and becoming more passionate about. I feel that the Church as a whole – mostly in America unfortunately, has become comfortable at 80%. Or even 50%. Why?? Why have we decided that it’s not worth it to give our all to Jesus, when that is what He asks? And there are countless parables and examples in Scripture of why we are called to this. We are called to something greater. But if we are holding onto half of ourselves, with one foot still in this world – how can we expect to inherit the Kingdom? How can God trust a people who refuse to let go and trust Him?
 
And why, oh why, do so many people “grow out” of passionate fellowship with Christ? I understand that young people have a passion and zeal for life that is unmatched by any other generation. Many young 20-somethings throughout history have been the ones to start movements and bring change. But the Kingdom of God should work differently. The peak of our relationship with God is not at age 25. We should be on a constant journey, always anticipating the presence of God, and seeking to see heaven touch earth until the day we arrive at the golden gates. We were made for that. I really believe that God’s desire is to set a generation on fire, and then continually see that fire spread and grow as that generation gets older and disciples the next ones. So many fires are being put out because the Church is falling asleep. This world needs more than just a bunch of fired up 18-25 year olds, that lose their passion by the time they reach 30. It needs a fired up CHURCH filled with the wisdom of the elderly, the skills of the middle-aged, the passion of the young professionals, and the innocent faith of the children. Each one, pursuing the vision of God’s Kingdom with everything they have.
 
Spirit of God, awaken EVERY generation, and bring the Church to life again.