I recently saw a bumper sticker that made me laugh out loud.

images

Genius.

Yes, I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.  I like the idea of running…the cool shoes, the fancy workout clothes, the amazing body that probably comes with it, and the sticker you can put on the back of your car announcing the courageous distances you have conquered.

But I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  I have some pretty decent flip-flops and a new shirt that says, “namaste in bed.”  I am slowly beginning to accept the extra 15 lb. around my middle and now I can have a sticker on my car…0.0…and proud.

I am realizing this morning, that I also don’t like to run spiritual races.  I have a hard time with it.

This morning’s verse hit a nerve in my soul, like most morning verses these days:

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

run

Bleh.  Run.  With endurance.

“With endurance” implies that the race will necessitate endurance.  Which means I probably will have a hard time with it.  This is not a promise for an easy, uplifting Sunday jog.  We are promised vigorous races that we have to “endure”.

Again.  Bleh.

My current house buying experience is asking me to endure changes, instability, lots of waiting, and unending unknowns.  As soon I think I see the finish line ahead of me, I realize I’m only entering a hillside and my vision has been deceived.  As the horizon line swells, the optical illusion is revealed and I watch the finish line disappear behind the mountain.  This race has tricked me, pricked me, and left me exhausted, barely able to catch my breath.

Do you remember the first time your mom or dad stood in the swimming pool and asked you, a trusting child, to jump off the edge into their arms?

As a mom, I now realize what was really happening in that water.  Often, my parent, or older sibling, slowly stepped back forcing me to swim further and longer than I ever expected.  And usually, I ended up a little upset, even if I just doggie-paddled half the length of the pool.

This is me and God right now.  I jumped.  He’s backing up.  And I’m finding my water-legs.  And I’m a little ticked off that now I’ve no option but to learn to swim.  I feel like the whole world is watching, (though I know this is the farthest thing from the truth).  And I feel like God is playing some kind of mean prank…just for laughs.

This season of “homelessness”, living with another family of 6, (two of which are toddlers who have made it their passion to NOT share and to tattle-tale on each other)…this season of multiple closing dates that come and go, all while storing our stuff in 4 places across the city…this season of school supply lists and uniform orders that have no place to be stored except for the front passenger’s seat of my car…this season of suitcases and the same two outfits for over 3 weeks now…this season has tossed me into the race without water, into the pool without a floaty.

I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.

But last night, the couple who has been so generous with us, sharing their home with us, “crazies”, sat down across from us and shared much more.  They shared encouragement from God’s word.  They talked through the decisions that lay before us.  They gave perspective, hope, and most precious of all, witness to God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Today’s verse hit a nerve in my soul.

I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and therefore, I can lay aside all my weight and all my fear and all the doubts that are entangling me.  I am not alone.  And now, the word “endurance” doesn’t stick out and prick my heart quite as much.  It’s a little two letter-word that now catches my eye: “us“.

Let “us” run with endurance.  I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  But my wobbly legs and flailing arms are being supported and encouraged and I don’t feel alone.  We run.  We don’t have to have as hard a time with it.

And God stands at the finish line, encouraging me to push through, telling me, “look, you’re doing it!” And, though I’m still a little miffed at the process, I realize I’m finding my legs, my breath, my stroke, and my pace.  I don’t know when I will reach the finish line.  But I do know that struggling along the way will only produce good things, if I allow it.

There are benefits to running.  Cool outfits, slimmer waistlines, and stickers that bear witness to the lengths that have been endured.  Spiritual running is no different.

romans 5

 (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

This morning as we left the house for school, I was determined to make it in record time.  Due to the recent flooding in our area, our morning commute had increased dramatically.  I’ve had the Waze app on my phone for some time now, but have only been using it for trips into downtown Houston, (because attempting to drive into that without help is downright scary).

When I typed in the address of the school, Waze reassured me it could lead us there in 35 minutes.  (The day before, it took us an hour and a half).  The kids and I laughed.

“Do you think it will work, Mom?”

“If this works, it will be a miracle from Jesus.”, I said.

So off we went.

If you’ve ever used Waze, you soon learn that it requires an incredible amount of trust.  It will send you in the opposite direction, down dark alley ways, through someone’s backyard, and then ask you at the drop of a hat to turn around and retrace your tracks.  But any user of the app will tell you, “you’ve got to just trust the wisdom of Waze”.

See, the app keeps track of traffic, accidents, inoperable lights…all of it.  Plus, it knows how fast you and other Waze users are moving.  So, in an instant, it knows when changes occur.  Immediately, it calculates when changing your route all together is time-efficient. And sometimes, it sends you in the opposite direction to have you arrive at your final destination faster.

This morning, Waze led us through small winding streets, on the Hwy headed south (when ultimately we wanted to go north), and zig-zagging neighborhoods I didn’t even know existed.

As we turned off one little street onto the next, we suddenly saw it: yard after yard filled with rolled up carpet, dismantled wood flooring, piles of sheetrock, and couches stacked upon one another.  Kids were waiting in their front yards for the school bus next to piles of destroyed belongings.

It took us by surprise.

The car fell silent.

All the air was sucked into our lungs by our gasps.

Eventually, someone broke the quiet.

“I wish we could do something.”

Suddenly, our commuting challenges of the past few days didn’t matter.  The unacknowledged rains of last night (the ones we slept through), now seemed cruel and  senseless.

“Kids, if it hadn’t been for Waze, I wouldn’t have even known this was back here.”

“Maybe Jesus is in Waze, Mom.”

Maybe.  I don’t think He is literally living in the phone app.  However, I think Jesus absolutely used Waze this morning to guide us down a path of humility, compassion, and gratitude…the ways of Jesus.

As we continued to follow the directions offered by my phone, we saw house after house, family after family in need.  We discussed plans to come back after school, maybe toting pizzas, or cleaning supplies, or just prayers and consolation.  The kids were no longer arguing about who ate the last breakfast bar or debating whose fault it was that we left 10 minutes late that morning.  Our hearts had been shifted.  Our perspective had been flipped.  My words came back to me: “If this works, it will be a miracle from Jesus.”

Jesus, in all His ways, miraculously turns our selfish hearts outwards towards others.Tweet: Jesus, in all His ways, miraculously turns our selfish hearts outwards towards others. #WAZEofJesus  The Holy Spirit guides us down paths previously unseen.Tweet: The Holy Spirit guides us down paths previously unseen. #WAZEofJesus

But if we don’t trust Him, in all His seemingly awkward and backwards-pointing directions, we just might miss the opportunity for a dramatic change of heart.  We might miss the hurting and the broken.  We might miss a whole world of opportunity to serve as the Church.

When we don’t trust His promptings, we find ourselves taking our route back into our own tight-gripped hands, only to be frustratingly locked in a spiritual stand still.Tweet: We find ourselves taking our route into our own tight-gripped hands,only to be frustratingly locked in spiritual stand still #theWAZEofJesus

Think of Noah.  Think of Jonah.  Think of Lot.  Think of Jesus!  “Go towards the cross…”, even when Jesus asked the Father for a different way.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit to act in specific ways–to head in a specific direction.  But I’ve been putting action off, straight-up ignoring His voice, and allowing myself to be distracted by the selfish conveniences of life.  Today’s little adventure to school not only filled our car with compassion, launching us into a plan for service, but it also helped fix my eyes on Jesus…His voice, His direction, and His ways.

(And we got to school in 35 minutes.)

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4).Tweet:

 

hiatus: a pause or a gap in a sequence, series, or process.

As this new year begins, I’m going on hiatus.

It’s not unusual during this time of year, to pause and reflect on the goals and resolutions we’ve set before us.  Many of us have made a routine of reestablishing priorities and healthy habits.  We’ve set aside time to make lists and action plans.

This break, however, takes pausing to a whole new level.  A hiatus takes a full leave of absence.  One disappears from the face of the planet while on hiatus, and the intention to plan forward to future goals isn’t necessarily reason for the departure.  In fact, by definition, a hiatus takes pause in the midst of something happening…It potentially stops something: a plan or a process.  Rather than planning for something, I’m taking a hiatus to pause something.

Social media gurus and bloggers would tell me that now is the worst time ever to hit the pause button on blogging.  I’ve received good traffic due to an article recently published in the winter issue of a magazine.  Recent speaking engagements and worship leading have brought interested ears to read and hear more.  Retreats are on the calendar and they will likely generate more online followers.  I’m waiting and hoping that a publishing company, one which has been passing my book around the office, will come to this site, be interested, and ultimately decide to pick me up as an author.

While on hiatus, visitors to the blog will see nothing new.  They will potentially stop following.  They will eventually forget about the blog’s existence.  Their interest will not be sustained.  (This plan is opposed to every Michael Hyatt article ever written.)

Now is a horrible time to take a hiatus.

Well…it’s horrible only if media traffic, publicity, and strategic online plans control my fate.

I have fallen victim to the lies that elevate these methods and strategies above God’s sovereignty.  In and of themselves, these aren’t bad things.  God has and will continue to use them for His purposes.  But, when all hope is set in them, it’s time to take control out of human hands, and back into the Father’s.  He has told me to let go, yet my fists clench a little tighter.  My trust in His provision and plan for me has been rocky at best, so this is not an easy leave.

Therefore, I am forcing a self-imposed hiatus.  If God has plans for me, He will have to work…not my computer screen, the words on the tips of my fingers, or masterful networking.  Quippy analogies and post series’ schedules won’t be able to contribute to His purpose.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

Proverbs 19:21

I will take myself out, so that He can be credited with anything and everything that happens, whether following my desires or not.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  I need to pause, create a gap, so that He can establish my next steps.  See, I have been busy creating my own dance moves…and apparently, they are only spinning me in circles.

He is greater.  Greater than the number of followers, retweets, or shares.  This is a terrifying act of trust.

In the time spent away from the blog, I will be praying, meditating on His word, and loving my family and home.  I will focus on all that has already been given to me–all the ways that He has already been faithful.  I will spend time praying for friends and family.  I will put dreams and goals for 2016 into Jesus’ hands, freeing mine up for service.  And all of this will remind me that God’s main concern is not my success or how He will use me…but rather His chief resolution is for my heart.  He wants my affection above all else.

And when I hear Him say, “return”,  I will.

I appreciate the encouragement and kind words many of you have shared regarding my writing and music.  I look forward to returning with a renewed heart and mind, excited to magnify the Lord with you.

 “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” 

Psalm 34:3

“‘Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks.  For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.  But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female.  Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.  Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.’  Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:16-22).

There is a man in the Netherlands who had a nightmare in 1992.  Johan Huibers dreamt that his low-lying country would flood.  As a result, He decided to create a working half-sized replica of the ark that would tour the canals, not to escape a devastating flood, but rather to lead people to see God through the story of Noah.  Years later, in 2008, he began a 3-year project to build a full-scale replica.  Today, this Dutchman’s “bible museum” contains life-size plastic animals, a petting zoo, a theater, sleeping quarters, a restaurant, and a conference room.

Can you imagine?

“Honey,  I had the craziest dream last night.”

“Hmm….”, as she stirs her coffee and rubs her eyes at the kitchen island.

“I think the boys and I should build an ark…We could devote the rest of our life to it’s construction, fill it with animals, and then wait for God to do something with it…what do ya think?”

“Oh, okay, dear…”

WHAT?!?!

Reading the specific directions of God to Noah in the verses above (which included a promise of death), then hearing of this crazy Dutchman pushes me outside my comfort zone.  Both men heard God and obeyed.

What has God been asking of me…and am I willing to obey?  What if His instructions end with “and there will be certain death for everything around you…”?

Back up…like this man in the Netherlands, am I even willing to entertain my dreams?  Am I willing to consider that God has legitimately spoken to me in my sleep?

Lately, our house has been filled with dreams.  Early this week, 50% of our children ended up in our room at some point having had a nightmare.  Over the past month, both Paul and I have been having dreams…and not flying-naked-down-the-middle-school-hallway-on-finals-week-after-realizing-you-forgot-to-attend-the-class-all-semester kind of dreams.

We’ve been having prolific holy-cow-there’s-no-denying-that-was-from-God kind of dreams.  (Now, we haven’t gone all Dutchman on those dreams).  Needless to say, Noah, Huibers, and these dreams have been challenging me.  They’ve been pushing the boundaries of my belief, my preset limits on God’s modern day communication methods, and my line-in-the-sand markings on reasonableness and comfort.

I’ve often read the end of verse 17, “Everything that is on the earth shall die,” and thought that must have been incredibly scary to hear.  How fear-filled Noah must have been!  How terrified his wife must have been!

However, this go around, I read the verses above and wonder if Noah was terrified at all.  God spoke to Noah.

In the midst of chaos and a world gone mad…God spoke to Noah.  He gave him some specific directions.  He warned him that it was about to get rough, real rough…like everyone-is-about-to-die-rough.

Rather than be filled with trepidation and fear, I now wonder if Noah was filled with the peace of a grandiose God who was relational enough to speak, give instruction, and give a “head’s up” about what was coming.

Of course, God doesn’t end his words to Noah with doom and gloom.  He makes a strange covenant with Noah: “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you”…and then on and on about animals and such.  At first glance, God’s covenant looks like nothing more than additional directions.  He doesn’t say: “I will save you”…”I will keep you out of harm’s way”…”I promise to never ask you to do such an outlandish and crazy thing ever again.”  He gives more instruction.  YOU and your family will come into the ark, YOU will gather a whole bunch of animals and food, and YOU will keep them alive.

As soon as God tells Noah to build an ark because He’s about to wreck the place, He “promises” that He will ask more of Noah.

This rubs me all kinds of wrong.

Our family’s midnight dreams of late have not been pie-in-the-sky visions of the future.  They have most assuredly included the promise of some heavy lifting and intense rain.    Noah was given instructions for monumental manual labor and then told that his neighbors, the trees in his backyard, everything and everyone apart from his family would be destroyed…then he was asked to do MORE!  And he still obeyed!

Nowhere do we read that Noah pulled a “Moses” and argued with God to save the people.  He didn’t go all “Jonah” and try to escape the responsibility and call laid before him.  He didn’t try his own way, fail, and then run away to hide like Adam and Eve.  He simply obeyed.  He followed the directions and got to work.

Noah was asked to DO, not to pray about it or cry about it.Tweet: Noah was asked to DO, not to pray about it or cry about it. #NOAH #WorkingCovenant

Mysteriously hidden in his to-do list from God, in a very ambiguous and implied manner, rests a covenant promise.  Therefore, Noah trusted and obeyed.

Here’s my main struggle with this:  I want a better promise.  I want a clearer covenant.  I want to know that after all the building, herding, raining, and waiting I will get to have a little farmhouse away from it all…with cute restored furniture, chickens, and a sweet pool…and my children will all learn to play a musical instrument and have their own band…and our neighbors will trade us homemade wine for eggs.  That’s what I want.  I want the promises made to me to be as clearly outlined as the details of what is being asked of me.  God gave Noah no such promises, just detailed directions.

I want a clean cut covenant that caters to me, not a mystified one that only asks me to do more.Tweet: I want a clean cut covenant that caters to me, not a mystified one that only asks me to do more. #NOAH #WorkingCovenant

I wrestle with this Genesis passage because God doesn’t seem to work my way.  However, He must still be trustworthy, because Noah trusted and obeyed…even when the covenant seemed to promise nothing but more work.  I’ve got no resolution to the friction between the promise I want and the promise God gives.

After a month of strange dreams and aggravating Noah study, I am only left with this thought:

If God can push through my pre-drawn conceived notions of Him, than surely He can push past my wildest expectations of Him.  Therefore, I trust and obey, even if the only covenant promise I hear Him speak is a command for more.

Yesterday morning, I dropped my two-year old off for preschool.  This is only his second week of school, and we have yet to make a full M/W/F three day week.  He is still adjusting to the new routine, and due to Labor Day there hasn’t been much consistency to help with the transition.  Today was the first time his class experienced chapel.  Rather than taking him directly to his room, on chapel days we go to the big auditorium first.  (Or after yesterday, I’d like to refer to it as the big-ominous-overwhelming-room-of-tears).

Seriously, I don’t know how these teachers do it.

My little guy was fine sitting in my lap during the fun song, short message, and repeat prayer.  It was the scary rainbow striped ribbon that flipped a switch in him.  At first, he headed over to join his class in line.  He grasped the brightly colored rainbow cord used to keep the line of children all together. He was hesitant at first, but complied simply because that’s what everyone else seemed to be doing.  Once the line started to move towards the exit doors, and his section of ribbon tugged, he looked back at me with complete terror in his eyes.

In short, what followed included, but was not limited to: screaming, tears, death grips, etc.

In a moment like that, all a seasoned parent can do is laugh.  They all do it–every kid has moments when separation anxiety overtakes them.

At some point, we all have to get by our line-buddy and take steps away from comfort toward the unknown.  It’s much, much harder the older I get, though the level of risk hasn’t changed.

As much as we try to plan and prepare, none of us knows what the future holds.  Even with great job security, or a firm family foundation, we cannot predict what lies ahead.  We were not given that breadth of vision sought by Eve in the Garden.  Humanity wanted it then, and we want it now…but the good Lord knows having the ability to see what lies outside the doors of our present circumstances will never be good for us.

We, like my son, have to learn to trust the rainbow that ties us all together.

(I know this is starting to sound a little pie-in-the-sky unicorns and rainbows, but hang with me…I will limit the glitter and butterflies.)

Any good Sunday-School-goer knows what a rainbow represents…God’s promise to Noah and the rest of creation.

“When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:16

We must learn to grab hold of the promises of Jesus and trust that they will guide us to the next thing, out of the current scary and overwhelming circumstances.  It’s a preschool lesson that will produce a lifetime of confidence, peace, and joy.  It’s necessary to trust that what lies around the corner, even if equally scary and overwhelming, will be good for us and our maturation.

If we merely trust when we assume the hard stuff only leads to happiness, then we are still not completely trusting Him.

I looked at my son struggling to trust that rope and where it was leading.  He fearfully doubted his safety and well-being.  I knew his fears were unwarranted.  His teachers love him. Toys, snacks, and only good things were waiting for him on the other side of the hallway.  He probably had to learn to share yesterday, which most likely wasn’t fun, but will prove one day to be a valuable experience.  There’s a significantly good chance that he ran into a wall yesterday and got hurt.  (It’s kind of the platform he’s riding right now).  Even so, I had no doubt he would be loved and tended to.

Dare I say, ALL my fears are also unwarranted.  After all, God has made a covenant with me as well:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 Hebrews 13:5b

Trusting His promises and blindly grabbing hold of them as we are tugged down unknown paths into new territories takes practice.  Every two-year-old learns to trust the rainbow ribbon connection eventually, but only after consistently being put in situations that require them to join others and find their place in line.

Undoubtedly, we are all in a situation or circumstance that requires us to trust God and His promises.  Should we not take the opportunity and grab hold?  Though we feel alone, we are in reality with a multitude of others, shuffling our feet through life side by side.  Though we are scared, the truth is that our safety is not in question.  Though we feel overwhelmed and ready to cry, we have hope-filled promises running as a safety line right in front of our snotty noses.

I leave you with some promises.  Stand by my side and let’s cling to them together.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 14:12-14