Beautifully Settling Dust

The beautiful Tusheti mountains.

The distance and silence in between now and then was honestly never meant to be. Gosh, one thing led to another and now here I am: more than a year since my last post.  So… yeah…sorry about that.

Oh, trust me— I’ve been writing, that’s for sure, but all my energy and efforts have gone towards a different goal, one that’s been more or less “achieved” as now I’m writing from a totally different place on the planet! As of March we’ve been living overseas and working for a European-based NGO! Talk about a life-change of scenery! Now that’s a long story I will likely be sharing more of in the future. But not yet. 

First I must tell you a quick story about a fast horse. 
I mean fast and maybe even a little wild. 
Probably. 
Yeah.

The shortest version goes something like this: hubby and I along with several others were in a remote village for a language immersion experience. Our hosts planned an afternoon trail ride with a local farm. Like many others we’d seen coming and going that week, we got on our horses and clippity-cloppity away we went. Until four of the horses took a still-unexplained detour and wide-open galloped down the mountain towards home. We were on two of those horses. He and two others got thrown and injured. And me? Well, I swear I’m not bragging, but I just leaned in and held on. 

With every ounce of energy and courage— all my physical and psychological strength— sucking wind, gulping air and prayers—
breathing with the horse because it was really all I could do–
I. Held. On. 

Until… the horse just stopped
I held on until the horse was home. 
It was awful. Thankfully everyone is ok now but trust me, it was not the plan.  Let me be clear: I’m not a rider. It was only the second time I’ve been on a horse in my entire life. I held on because God helped me to. Period.  It’s still a shock.

So I guess you could say the proverbial dust has settled and I’m finally beginning to see things more clearly all around.  While a great deal won’t be seen with absolute clarity until I meet Jesus face to face, it’s amazing how the shadows and lights shift when you are taken out of the “norm” of your life-long, personal existence. 

Some call it
“culture shock”…

I guess it’s an accurate term but for me it’s not the shock of a “here” or  “there”… I mean change— any change is just shocking I suppose.  And you know, shock is sometimes just what we need to get our flat-lining heart, mind and soul to start thriving again.  It’s often what can help us to really see and feel again if we allow it to. It can mean real growth and a complete change of perspective through the bone-deep testing of everything you say and deeply want to believe in.  

And I do. 

I’ve said it a lot recently: the words of those songs I once sang in church, the studies I once freely engaged in and all the places underlined in my Bible were somewhat theoretical…up until now. Now… they are— and had better be— my hoped-for reality and my daily, feeble practice. It all means what it all really means:

Truth. 
Life. 
Eternity. 
Sustenance

There also is nothing quite as shocking as taking in “your” culture’s news from a distance…

I honestly can’t summon up the courage to write in specifics about how I felt about hearing the news of two major Christian personalities and their recent public display of apostasy.  In general I’ll just say it  made me deeply sad but then I must summon the courage to recall the Bible says the last days will be like this. I remember John also said something about the ones who walk away from the Truth.  But I can’t judge their situations.  Jude reminds us to show mercy to them while we persevere. I also know Jesus welcomes doubts, anxieties and fears with open nail-scarred hands and called blessed those who struggle and hang on to the end. It’s enough for me to know how to live today.

Oh and yes… I’m fully aware that it really, really REALLY matters Who and What we’re holding on to. I’ve got some personal experience here—joy and sorrow, success and failure— enough of each to know that THIS matters most of all.  I also know with all my heart: it’s not easy. I’m certain you do as well.

On some days, this walk ya know is going to be your simple average, picturesque “trail ride”. On others, it’s just so hard. Those are the days when you’re just gonna have to lean in and with every ounce of your courage, energy, hope, mind and strength… sucking wind, gulping air and prayers… breathing only by the power of the Holy Spirit… because it’s all you can do…. It’s all we’re asked to do…until we find ourselves on the other side of whatever it was that day…or season. Through the doubts. Through it all.

Holding on- it matters. 
What we hold fast to is important.
Enjoy this life but honestly? Check your grip.
What are you really holding on to? I have to ask myself that question a lot these days. Make sure it’s Jesus.
And then persevere because one day…it’s gonna end. One day… well, like that ridiculous horse… we’ll be Home. 

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How Free Can You Get?

God bless, it’s “Murica” time!

Come on out and wave those banners and flags! Pull out the graphic tee, gather with the Fam, and find a spot on the grass for the annual fireworks display! Let freedom ring from the mountains to the prairies— if only for a day.

I can’t say much about what I knew as a child regarding freedom’s call or price but I surely knew the taste of it. The occasional family gathering at my grandmothers or the local lake seasons my memory with bluefish on the grill, some meat on the whining spit and lot’s of running wild in all directions. Sparklers and fireflies and the nylon-webbed aluminum chairs that clanked together as we took our place on the blanket spread before them. There the musky scent of rotting apples at the base of the tree, some sulphur and magnesium wafting through the air, blended together with the sharp smell of OFF! mosquito spray.

This only happened a handful of times but in my soul I felt cared for, loved and strangely free as I sat with my childhood family eating and watching the bursts of color spread over the sky above and rain down in streams of light.  I could relax in their presence if only for a moment. On that day, we were a family. We were Americans… citizens of “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” But the truth of the matter is that none of us was then truly as free as we could get.    Not yet.

It has made me ask: how free is free?  How free can you get? Is freedom based on where you’re born? Where you live and work? What your passport or driver’s license says? Is freedom based on a document? A constitution? A pledge, a vow or a good score on a citizenship test?

No doubt there are some places in the world where documents hold the key to our freedom and security. Those of us born into a world where this is never questioned cannot truly understand the inner workings of the heart and mind of those for whom this has never been true.  However, we owe every bit of our understanding to the ones who came before us, making the journey from wherever it was and deciding to walk towards the light of the freedom they dreamed could be a reality.  A “leave your kin, ticket-punched” kind of freedom purchased, no doubt, using all the guts and courage anyone could ever imagine. Fought for in various ways on various battle fronts both public and private, foreign and domestic, we live life in a “better country” someone else fought for…. and likely died for.

But is freedom an address? Is it simply where we get our mail? How free can you get? Is there still a freedom worth fighting for, sacrificing for, and on many levels, dying for?

Considering the past, the present and the future, I am grateful to know that the Holy Spirit has revealed a greater freedom in my life. The moments of celebration in my childhood were brief, sweet and precious few— shining against the backdrop of deep dysfunction and abuse. The family-styled celebrations of these moments in our nation’s collective history that provided these private highlights grow strangely dim in the light of that singular moment at the age of 12 or 13, when God revealed himself to me through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and showed me how to begin the walk of True freedom.

I was a child when it began. I spoke as a child and understood things through the eyes, mind and worldview of an American-born child. But now I’m grown… I’m growing… and I know that whatever rights and privileges I’ve ever known have only been granted to me in order to serve the cause of the Greatest Freedom there is as a citizen of Heaven.  No matter where in the future I may get my mail, I am grateful for the representative flag and banner I’ve been privileged to live under all my life but most especially, for the freedom it purchased so that the REAL FREEDOM I’ve come to know through Jesus as a result— can frame and foundation my life and future choices. It’s as free as one can get here on Earth at any address, in any capacity.

Free from guilt.
Free from sin.
Free from the demons of the past within.
Free from pain.
Free from loss.
Purchased by Christ’s heavenward cross.

This time next year, we will be living in another place where the 4th of July will merely be a date on the calendar. It will feel weird and bittersweet on some levels. Will we still celebrate? Most certainly. Because while our citizenship won’t change on earth we will still have reason to celebrate our freedom in Christ for, at the end of it all… it’s the only freedom that counts.

How free are you? Freedom is no small matter because God says so.  I am compelled to remember the many times I’ve flown across the continent or ocean hoping to shed some light for myself, but also for others in the name of the Gospel. Each time, the safety speech given about the oxygen mask procedure grabs me. I don’t ever want to use it! But it’s also the part where we’re told to secure our masks first ….then do so for another. Likewise, with our freedom in Christ. Once our freedom is secure, we must  do all we can to secure it for another.

Here. There. Everywhere.
This is the freedom  worth celebrating 24-7-365

Nothing is Wasted

God speaks. I just want to go ahead and say that right off the top because it’s the greatest truth a person can ever attempt to grasp and this truth is so personal and precious to me.

I don’t believe in coincidence. Not at all. I’ve seen too much in my lifetime to back away from that statement: there is no such thing. While it may take years and even seasons to understand the connections, I’ve seen it time and again. Everything is connected and nothing, if we allow, nothingnot a shred or a tear or an experience… is wasted.

This is a ridiculously crazy season of life–wonderful, terrifying and beautiful. I know I seem kinda “spiri-tchool” and  all but lemme just tell you– I can be one HUMAN being.  Ya know? Lately,  I am so full of every emotion you can imagine and sometimes, just for the fun of it, I just go on and experience them all in the same day even at the same time! A few months ago I summed it up like this: “It takes a boatload of endings to make a new beginning.”   Do you feel me here?

There’s that whole “empty nest” label thing (which we are refusing to wear), the “fix up, sell all, finish and tie up loose ends and go” thing and then the real, physical emotions that accompany the letting go as gracefully as possible. It’s the effort required to let things naturally come to a beautiful end so we can embrace the beginning God has set before us. There are a bazillion unknowns and the things that we might be permitted to know are not yet made clear. The only thing— the only thing we can hold fast to at all is our speaking God
THE in our midst,
with us and for us,
Emmanuel…. God.

So when I find myself here… this place that causes me to sit down and start typing it all out… I must choose to cast aside Every. Other. Method or Mode for coping with the emotions and uncertainties. Whatever it takes, I have to choose to lean in to the One Who Knows. Obey. Trust.    When it’s hard… lean harder.

Today is just one of those days. I’m so grateful to be doing ANY of this at all, but sometimes I feel a little loose and crazy. Know what I mean? Like my feet aren’t connecting with solid ground and my heart wants to grab my head and fly out the door hollerin’ “See ya!!” So… I did the very thing I must do: I leaned harder. Asked for GOD’S affirmation and to remind me what it’s all about one more time.  He did.

Remember that story we love to tell the children in Sunday school? The version in Matthew 14 is the one we seem to like best because it’s where Jesus sends the disciples out to the other side of the sea while He hangs back to dismiss the crowds. Then, late at night, He decides to join them… walking across the water to the boat. They are naturally afraid and He says, “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!.

Peter, (we love this part don’t we?) full of bravado says, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Jesus tells Peter to come and well, we know that Peter starts out great.

Then he looks around.
Maybe he looks within?
Maybe he looks down and back or at others…but he isn’t looking at Jesus anymore.
Nope.

We read then that Peter begins to flounder and cries out “Lord save me!” and Jesus, chastising him gently pulls him into the boat with the others who then worship Him in awe as the Son of God.

VOLUMES have been written on this passage and I’ve heard many sermons from many different angles. Oh, but nothing comes close to the deep understanding you need to keep from going under when you’re the one gladly answering the call to “Come.”

Then the wind whips up and the spiritual attacks and distractions begin. Oh man… you’re drifting off center because the logistics are not lining up yet and gee,  it’s getting very lonely out here…There’s just so much to do!  You’re feeling a bit over your head and well, you’ve never been this far out before… and the shoreline still seems so far away. Ugh… now you’re sinking.  Aahh! “Lord save me!”  And He does.

Think about it for a moment–He does.   Bless Peter’s heart, we often imagine that Jesus might be scolding Peter with His response: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” As if Jesus might be pointing to Peter’s doubt more than his faith. Well, I wasn’t there so I’m not sure what Jesus’ words were pointing to…but I can wonder. Imagine…what if Jesus was in effect saying, “Oh Peter… look at your little faith. I’m glad to see it. Did you doubt I’d stay so near to you right now? Why?”   One can imagine…

I’d like to believe that, if the very next day the same scene was reenacted, Jesus would allow for Peter’s little faith to come to Him all over again even though eventually Peter would flounder, cry out and need to get pulled up again. I believe this because Jesus is allowing me with my little faith to do the same.

The beautiful gifts I’ve been given during this season from our Speaking God are sometimes subtle. Today it was deeply personal. In the midst of an inner meltdown, I got a call out of the blue to help a neighbor. Taking our son’s car, I was sure to plug in my phone for the call from Boot Camp which could come at any time. Equipped with a bluetooth thingie, it picked up on my music playlist and randomly played this sweet song by Jason Gray entitled “Nothing Is Wasted”.

Wow. I wanted to pull over.  I first heard that song during a season of deep pain when I wondered if God would ever lead me back out of the wilderness and show us the path of His call. Say what you will but this was a reminder… His reminder that He is near. He is faithful. He is leading and guiding and that nothing… not a shred, or a tear or an experience is wasted in the hands of our Redeemer.      I can lean as hard as I want.

Here: give it a listen.