Tag Archives: God

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.

the apple of His eye

“He found her in a desert land,
    and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled her, he cared for her,
    he kept her as the apple of his eye.” Deuteronomy 32:10

Today, Jesus asked me to take a walk with Him. I was sitting in a stable at a horseback riding lesson for the little girl I babysit. I was going to sit and read my book like I usually do, but I felt the Lord ask me to take a walk with Him instead. I knew He had something to show me, but I was reluctant. I sat there for a minute still trying to read…but it was literally like Jesus was standing in front of me with His hand extended, waiting for me to take it. So I did.

I walked out of the barn and began to head up the gravel road, along the fence of the pasture where some horses were grazing. I got close to the fence, and two horses trotted over to me, thinking I had something yummy for them. I patted them each on the nose, apologizing for my lack of treats. Once they realized I had nothing to offer, they moved back to grazing. I kept walking, just enjoying the breeze in the trees and the clouds and the perfect temperature. I followed the road as it curved up the hill and took a path between two more pastures where there were more horses. There were about four horses standing under a tree right by the fence. I petted each of their velvet noses and talked to them softly. Then I met the eyes of one of the beautiful brown creatures and time seemed to stop. His eyes were huge, and he held my gaze for a surprising amount of time. I saw my reflection in his shiny pupil and then I knew why the Lord had invited me to take this walk.

I heard Him say, “Beloved daughter, you are the apple of my eye. I see you. I never take my eyes off of you because I love you and I am so proud of you.” Just like a shepherd keeping watch over his sheep, He never lets me out of His sight. He sees the deepest parts of my heart, my dreams and my desires.

I realized I was surrounded by horses. They had all come up over the fence, sniffing for any treats I might have hidden in my pockets. One of the horses turned around and nipped at another one, sending him galloping off to the other side. Just minutes ago I was looking into very gentle eyes, but I was quickly reminded that horses are incredibly strong, wild creatures. To me this was a picture of my Father’s love. It is fierce and wild, but it is also gentle and strong. He comes swiftly to surround me with His love, and He will turn and snap at anything that tries to hurt me. His love encircles and protects me.

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I am glad that I listened to the Lord’s prompting and let my heart listen to what He had to tell me. I needed to be reminded of His strong, unfailing love for me. He is constant and faithful, and so powerful.

“Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17:8

looking for a rainbow

Something happens to me when it rains. And I mean when it RAINS – like torrential thunderstorm style. My heart flutters when I think about the power of the Almighty God who makes the heavens open up. I stand glued to the window watching tiny drops of water hit the ground, feeling the thunder pound my chest, and blinking as the flashes light up the room. And no matter how long it lasts, as soon as the clouds begin to clear and the sun peeks out, I run outside to look for a rainbow. Or, if I happen to be driving, I almost wreck because I’m spinning around in my seat trying to see out of every window, just to make sure I don’t miss it.

Rainbows are precious to me because of the promise they represent – but also because of the awe they inspire. You can’t see a rainbow and not be awestruck for a moment. It’s such an amazing phenomenon in the sky – a picture of the entire spectrum of light on display. Normally all the colors of light appear white all together – but when spread out they display an array of beautiful, unique colors. It’s as if God is saying, “remember not only the promise I made, but who I AM.” His personality is multi-colored. He is every color of the rainbow – He is love, He is gentle, He is fierce, He is strong. He is everything. He made it all. And whenever I see a rainbow, I hear “I am with you.”

But sometimes I don’t see a rainbow after the storm. And today I realized I have to be careful not to EXPECT a rainbow. Because the rainbow is only a reminder of the promise – it is not the promise itself. And if I get too caught up in looking for a rainbow, then I miss seeing the promise in the midst of the storm.

 “And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”  Genesis 9:12-15

Clouds always come before the rainbow – sometimes we have to endure storms in order to fully understand the promise God has made to us. The storms will still come, but we will not be destroyed. I will not drown – I will stand. The promise remains true even in the middle of a storm.

Storms come in many forms in our lives – but there is always a purpose. I think of a garden, and all the plants who desperately need rain in order to grow. Sometimes rain comes in a soft drizzle, and sometimes it comes in the form of a hurricane. The flowers may get beat up by the pelting rain, but when it’s over they are grateful for the thirst quenching downpour. I think we forget sometimes that God is present in the storms. That He wants us to lean on Him when we cannot stand under the pressure. We must change our thinking of “when will this be over” to “Lord, let’s endure this together.” He wants us to notice Him IN the storm, not after. We can enter a place of rest even during the rain, knowing He is here now, and He is also waiting behind the clouds.

“Therefore since the promise of entering his rests still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” Hebrews 4:1

He promises rest in the midst of the storm. The truth is, the rainbow is there whether we can see it or not. So take heart. His promises remain.

day by day

Right now our church is in the midst of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. During this time, I find myself praying through things in a much deeper way than I normally do. I strip a lot of other things away, spend a lot more time in silence, and learn to hear His voice again. It is a precious time of pressing in to my Father.

When we gather for prayer each morning, we often reflect on pieces of the Lord’s prayer to guide us. One of these phrases is “give us this day our daily bread.” Daily bread. Not weekly, or monthly…but daily. Why did Jesus include this when He was teaching the disciples to pray? I think it’s because He wants us to rely on Him every day. Not just pray once a week at church and hope we’re sustained throughout the week. That would be like eating one meal a week and expecting to stay full for the next 7 days! In the same way, Lamentations 3 says His mercies are new every morning. We don’t have to wait for New Year’s resolutions to start over and get our lives together. This thing is day by day, step by step. God knows that we are constantly bombarded by this world and all its temptations. He knows that we have a tendency to mess up, lose our temper, or make the wrong choice. And in His great mercy, He allows us to daily choose Him. He wants us to start every day saying, “Lord, I need you today. I needed you yesterday, and I’ll need you tomorrow, but let’s just do today. Thank you for Your grace and provision on this day.”

He wants us to realize our need for Him. If we only acknowledge Him once a week, or whenever we have a difficult situation, He is not our first resort the rest of the time. In the same way we cannot survive without breathing, our hearts cannot survive this world without Him. I want to live in such a way that missing time with my Jesus is like skipping a meal. When David wrote “my soul thirsts for God, for the living God,” I think he truly meant it. So many people are starving their souls by only feeding them once a week or less. What would our lives be like if we fed our souls every day? The best thing about living in desperation for God’s presence is the more we feed on His Word, the hungrier we become. Like tasting a delicious dessert for the first time – we just don’t know what we are missing until we have tasted and seen. He has SO much more for us, if we would only come and sit with Him. 

One thing I’ve been struggling with lately is praying through. Even when I don’t see God moving, to still pray through it. Even when I start losing faith that what I’m praying for will ever happen, or when a situation seems hopeless…still pray through. Because faith is not based on what we can see. It is based on believing who God is. And honestly, no matter what happens, He does not change. He is still good, powerful, sovereign, and perfect. He loves us. And if I am praying within His will, I have to have enough faith to keep praying until it happens. No matter how long it takes. Because His promises are true! So I will meet with Him daily, even if I can’t always feel Him, but because I know He is there. My need for Him exceeds my desire to feel something. What I feel does not change who He is! He does not hold out on His children – He simply wants us to hold on to Him. 

Give me this day my daily bread. 

“I will seek you in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days”