My Jericho

(from Joshua 6 and 1 Kings 16: 34)

God tore down these fortress walls;
My dirty hands rebuild them.
He commands, He warns, He whispers, He calls;
My willful heart ignores Him.

I pour the foundation and bury my Lord;
I raise the gates and nail Him high.
The bricks are whetstones to sharpen the sword
That pierce His heart and mine.

He destroyed what once held me.
I build it back in zealous lust,
Too proud to kneel, too blind to see
The mortar is made of blood and dust.

Dear Lord, I wish to let my hammer drop,
To let the fortress lie,
To let green grass cover the barren spot,
And rivers fill the streets so dry.

 

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Enough

Habakkuk 3: 17-18a

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor the fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord , I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

The picture painted here is one of utter desolation. The trees and vines produce no food, crops aren’t growing, the livestock are gone…it’s a bleak, hopeless outlook, especially for people whose lives depend on agricultural output (which, really, all of us do). But there is no hope here, no joy in a dead farm.

Nothing is growing, nothing is going right. Despair, destruction, hopelessness, failure.

Life.

Tell me, where’s the joy in that?

I don’t believe there is any.

But Habakkuk doesn’t find joy in that life. He finds joy in God:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

God is enough. He is our joy. No matter how dismal my life is, I can still find joy in Him. We need nothing else; He is our joy.

Even when we are the lowest of low by the world’s standards, when we have absolutely nothing, when life is the most barren desert we could ever imaging passing through, just look at the position God puts us in. Look at verse 19:

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

I like how my footnotes explain this passage:

“The Lord God”: Here the divine name Yahweh is tied to the term Adonai, which means “Lord.” “my strength”: God will strengthen those who trust in Him [….] He will give those who live by faith the same confidence that a surefooted deer has  in climbing mountains [….] like a victorious army, the righteous with God’s strength will occupy the high hill.

God is the Strength I need to face this life.

He makes me able to maneuver the crags and crevices and predators and danger zones.

And He gives me the victory. Oh my goodness, He gives me the victory to stand tall with Him, no matter how Satan attacks.

God is my Everything.

When God Doesn’t Answer — Rambling Thoughts

Did you know that I have a heck of a lot easier time trusting God when I feel Him telling me exactly what to do and assuring me that everything’s going to be okay?

The other night God called me to send a text which I normally wouldn’t send. No details, but it just wasn’t something I would typically be comfortable doing. But I felt so strongly that God wanted me to send it that I obeyed. Granted, for the rest of that night and into the next morning I was completely fretting about the decision, wondering if I had made a fool out of myself, worrying if I had completely stepped out of bounds, and basically chewing myself up over it. Even though I kept feeling God tell me, “It’s going to be okay.”

You can probably guess how silly, ashamed, and relieved I felt when everything worked out perfectly. Just like God said it would.

But what if God is silent?

What if I’m begging for an answer to a question and He feels entirely distant about it?

What if I’m totally confused about a situation and I have no idea what to expect, and God doesn’t say a word?

What then?

It’s at moments like this when it’s harder for me to trust God. I grow impatient, I want an answer now, I want to know what in the world I should expect in the future, which hopes to hang onto and which to let go. And when God doesn’t give me an exact answer, I can be very tempted to take matters into my own hands and/or assume God wants things one way or another when I really don’t know what He wants.

I’m a high-energy, let’s-get-up-and-go sort of person. I like to move, to be active, to go do something. I don’t care for waiting.

But maybe that’s exactly what God is calling me to do right now. To wait.

And yet to also do more than just wait.

To wait patiently. To sincerely trust Him, even when I have no idea what He’s doing. To continue to serve Him whole-heartedly while I’m waiting.

There’s probably a good reason I’ve recently been listening to John Waller’s “While I’m Waiting.”

Why does waiting have to be so hard?

Maybe that’s just a rhetorical question. It’s hard because trusting on God and waiting for His direction requires my being patient, killing off my own desires, and choosing His will over mine.

As I read somewhere, nothing of value is easily earned.

My journey with Christ, my daily decisions to follow and trust Him, will be hard fought. But I know that they will also be entirely worth the battle.

Unpredictable

Psalm 40:4a – Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust….

I guess that if there is one thing that I have learned in life, especially over the last few years, it’s that I really can’t trust anybody here on Earth. As harsh and critical as that sounds, it’s true: people are simply untrustworthy. But God isn’t. When He does things in my life that I don’t want, or when He doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want Him to, He is actually working in my best interests. He has not, does not, and will not let me down in the same way people are bound to do.

God is not untrustworthy. He’s just unpredictable.

It’s like riding a horse. I can trust my mount to always act like a horse. That doesn’t mean that I can trust her to do what I think she should do, or what I’ve asked her do, or what I think is the sensible thing to do. My horse doesn’t think like a human, so she won’t act like one. Simple, right?

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Neither does God think like I do:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 8-9

God will always think and act like God. Scripture tells me that God is trustworthy and always working in my best interests. I might not understand His ways – oftentimes I won’t – but I can always trust that His ways are ultimately better than mine and that even if I feel like He is letting me down, He is actually building me up.

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Because I can always trust a horse to act like a horse – which includes being unpredictable – I always have to stay alert when I’m riding. If I don’t then I’m probably going to get dumped. I wasn’t prepared; I wasn’t watching; I wasn’t listening to my horse’s cues; I wasn’t ready to respond….

My relationship with God is the same way: I can’t just go along for the ride. God is unpredictable, and He might throw something at me I’m not ready for. And then what will happen? If I’m not prepared, my faith might be shaken. I might not handle the situation to the best of my abilities. I might mistake His unpredictable nature for untrustworthiness.

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I have to be prepared; I have to be ready to ride. My relationship with God isn’t like my relationship with people, whom I tend to relate to at arm’s length so that I’m always somewhat protected if they somehow break my trust, and to protect them from my breaking theirs. My relationship with God is more like my relationship with my horse. I can’t work with my horse at arm’s length if I really want to know her well enough so that we can both grow as a team. The only way for me to understand her nature and to be prepared for her unpredictable ways is to be as close to her as possible, both physically and emotionally. To ride with close contact on the bit rather than on a loose rein. To watch her ears and not the clouds. To learn her reactions, her habits, her means of communicating. To build up our trust in one another. To create a relationship with her that nobody else has.

That’s when trust in the face of unpredictability is enacted. That’s when faith comes to life.

And that is how I want my relationship with God to be….How it should be….

The most beautiful, trusting, epically-glorious, and truly unpredictable ride of my life.

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Love Is a Wildfire

[So I can’t seem to get off of these verses. The message they carry is so powerful – so amazing –so unfathomable…. I was going through them again this morning and God definitely talked to my heart, so the following post is basically from my devotion.]

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.

Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Not a candle flame. Not a fireplace. Not a campfire. Not a flare of a match.

Love is a wildfire.

A wildfire brings destruction, pain, and terror to everything in its path. Trees. People. Animals. Sometimes horrific, maiming pain, like the burned horses we treated at the vet clinic. But sometimes killing pain – it comes so fast, swift, sudden – bringing death. Our neighbor’s sheep. The fawn skeletons another neighbor found on her property. All of our trees.

But it kills something else, too – the places that we knew before the fire. I remember going back to our old home for the first time after the Dahl Fire. I have never heard such silence – like that instant after you are absolutely terrified by something and it seems as if you can’t hear a thing. And black – it was all crumbling black or gray, some yucca roots still smoldering, giving off white-gray wisps. It was as if the world I remembered – the world I had loved, the world of our “Twenty-Acre Woods” – was a dead friend.

Today, nothing can bring it back. When I go up there now, with the charred remains of the buildings all buried and the burnt trees hewn down and hauled away by loggers, I see a changed world – a different world. A world that is dead in some ways, and yet alive in others. Dead in all the ways that I knew it. Alive in the new grass, the new flowers, the new birds, the new plans God has for it.

Death brings rebirth.

“For love is as strong as death.”

(Oh my gosh, God, I get it. I get it!)

Many times, death is not the end; it’s only the beginning.

Love as strong as death. As strong as Your death that gave me salvation. As strong as the death of the hen who burned in a fire, sacrificing herself so that the little chicks hidden under her wings might live. As strong as the death of the trees in Yellowstone whose pinecones seeded more trees than there had been before. As strong as the death of the ram that took Isaac’s place as the sacrifice on the altar. As strong as the death of our twenty acres – our home, our trees, our hide-and-seek crevices, our riding trails, our favorite haunts, our thought-to-be-forever home – that brought us new life – Spanky, Jubilee, April, restoration of family relationships, resolution of personal issues, deepening of friendships, a new home.

Death changes things. Death can completely turn lives around. Apparently so can love. Because, when I think about it, God’s love for His people is honestly what brought about a lot of those deaths I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Love can change everything. For the best.

But it has to be love that burns like a wildfire, not one that flickers like a candle. It has to be passionate. Passion: “strong and barely controllable emotion.” Maybe it’s even stronger than that, because a wildfire isn’t controllable. It can’t be held back. It is unstoppable until God wills that it be stopped.

(I get it, God. I’ve been holding back; so often I’m afraid to love. Dear Lord, please help me to have love like a wildfire…as terrifying an idea as that is.)

And You…You love me with this wildfire love. Oh God, thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

But God, what do You want me to do with this love?

My God Is Beautiful

10 My beloved is white and ruddy,
Chief among ten thousand.
11 His head is like the finest gold;
His locks are wavy,
And black as a raven.
12 His eyes are like doves
By the rivers of waters,
Washed with milk,
And fitly set.
13 His cheeks are like a bed of spices,
Banks of scented herbs.
His lips are lilies,
Dripping liquid myrrh.

14 His hands are rods of gold
Set with beryl.
His body is carved ivory
Inlaid with sapphires.
15 His legs are pillars of marble
Set on bases of fine gold.
His countenance is like Lebanon,
Excellent as the cedars.
16 His mouth is most sweet,
Yes, he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved,
And this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem!

Song of Solomon 5:10-16

 When we are in love with somebody, we see how beautiful that person is. And all of their beautiful attributes seem even more glorious through our loving perspective.

 Do I see God as beautiful? I see Him as Masterful, Wise, a Faithful Father, Perfect, Just….and sometimes I do realize how beautiful He is. But probably not often enough. Like recently. I’ve been complaining about the snow, the mud, the soggy critter pens, the flooding river, the potential issue of not being able to get back to Dillon on Friday….all I see is the dullness of the situation. Sure, I see God’s power, but can I also see His beauty in all of this?

 The beauty of the sound of the rain, which is probably one of my favorite sounds in the world.

 The beauty of the unusual weather itself – only God could give us -20’s one week and 50’s with rain the next.

 Gray rain cloud skies. They are truly beautiful in their hue, expanse, and impermeability.

 A cup of tea. *laugh* — it’s so simple, but it truly is a beautiful thing right now!

 He makes everything beautiful in it time. So maybe it’s hard for me to grasp the beauty in all of this right now, especially when so much destruction is imminent. But I know God will bring something beautiful out of all of this. He always does.

 

Acts 27 “The Sin Ship”: Part 2 of 4

Acts 27:13-38

Do you see the point God is making here? When we heed the world’s advice rather than God’s, we head off on our own like the ship and its crew. At first things seem all right, with just a gentle wind to blow us along. But then we find ourselves trapped in the Tempest of Sin, doomed for destruction. And we passionately wish we had listened to God rather than to the men of the world.

I notice how much the passengers had to lighten the ship. Three times they throw items overboard. We aren’t told exactly what the first items are – I’m guessing they were sundries that were not necessary for the voyage, very possibly the merchandise to be sold at the journey’s end. Secondly, the crew pitched out the tackle – the means of making the ship travel. Lastly, the food – human sustenance – was thrown into the sea.

From one perspective, the point being made here is that the only way to get back with God – to become right with Him – is to get rid of everything in our lives which is ensnaring us in sin.

  1. The merchandise – the material things which are distracting me. They’ve got to go. The crew members were distracted from obeying God because they were more concerned about the material wealth and satisfaction they could gain by selling this merchandise than they were about attaining heavenly  joy and satisfaction through obedience to Christ. Do I have any material idols which are distracting me from serving God? Then overboard they must go.
  2. The tackle – whatever aids my journey of sin. If there is something that is supporting my sinful lifestyle, and that is basically enabling my sin, I have to get rid of it. How can I become untangled from my sin if I have numerous crutches which make it easy for me to remain in wickedness?
  3. Food – human strength. Food’s not bad, and even Paul mentions that we need it. But food only supplies human strength, which is not sufficient for freeing me from sin. I desperately need God’s strength, not human resources and human power. If I want to be completely cleansed of my sin, I must turn to God and rely on His strength rather than on mine, because only He can rescue me from this storm.

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 “And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let if fall off.” vs. 30-32

When we have strayed from God’s will in order to accomplish our own, we can’t try to sneak back into the Way of Life. That’s what the sailors tried to do – they didn’t want to be shipwrecked with the rest of their companions to face the consequences of their mistakes. So they pretended to be doing the right thing – stopping the ship – while they were secretly plotting to abandon ship.

Deceit will not work…at least not for long. Truth always – always – comes to the light. God has a knack for gifting godly people with the ability to see right through ungodly deceptions. Lies and cover-ups are exposed, and the deceiver’s chance of escape is cut off.

Once we’ve taken the wrong path, we can’t abandon ship and sneak back into the presence of God. Instead, we have to ride out the storm. Not that it will be easy – on the contrary, riding out the storm can be the most painful, terrifying, and humbling thing that we have ever done. But if we want to get right with God, we must ride out the tempest. That painful, humbling, terrifying process is what purifies us and helps us to become right with God once again.