Try that One on for Size


“Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act.”  

Several years ago, a dear friend of ours, Pastor Jeff Rudd, was preaching on Psalm 37 our church in NC.  I wish I had my notes from that day, but seeing how my journals prior to last April are in storage 1200 miles away, I’ll have to rely on my not-so-reliable memory.

I remember Jeff said the word translated “commit” means “to roll off onto,” the idea being to take your burden off and give them to someone else to carry.  It’s like when you have a heavy pack on your back, and you have to let gravity pull it off your shoulders.  In this case, the clear picture being to give our way, our lives, to Jesus and let His more-than-able shoulders carry us.

(I know Jeff shared this, and I am also sure he shared what I’m about to say, but the discrepancy in my mind is whether or not he shared it the same day.  If I’m wrong, please forgive me, but I do believe it applies to this very verse)

I remember Jeff saying how he really liked that idea, how it spoke to him.  Then he said the Lord was like, “Really?  You like that do you?  How about you try that one on for size.”  I remember us all laughing at the notion while, just as I can remember Jeff smiling as he said it.  Yet, at the same time, there’s an unease in those words, cause while we all like the idea, the reality is a bit tougher than the concept.  For one, it means you have to let go of  your own ideas and desires to another, to truly give up your way in favor of Another’s.  It means we relinquish control, and there aren’t many folks I know who have done that.

On this journey we’re on, I’m finding that we’ve also had to “try that one on for size” and see how it works for us.  And not just this one.  I was talking to a good friend yesterday about how many of the things I’ve preached, shared, or blogged on over the years are now having to be fleshed out, lived out, put into practice in our lives…how I’ve had to try them on for size myself.

For example, in no particular order:

“The God that brought you this far is not going to leave you now.  You can trust Him.”

Don’t let your job define you.  Do whatever you do unto the Lord, trust that He has you where He wants you, and if He wants to do something else, He’ll make it clear. You can trust Him.”

“I don’t believe God will allow us to miss His will for our lives.  If we are truly seeking Him, He will bring us to the place He wants us to go.  It might be the long way around, but He’ll get you there.  You can trust Him.”

“Even in the hardest times, no matter what comes your way, if you have Jesus, He’s enough.  You can trust Him.”

“You always have a reason to sing, to praise God, no matter what you’re going through. Even in our hardest times,  Jesus is still worthy.”

“Stand still…be patient…wait and see the salvation of the Lord.”

I could go on, but you get the point.  I feel like we’ve been on a crash-course in trusting the Lord this year.  I believe that 19 years of marriage have all been preparation for right now, for this moment, as God is working out His good pleasure in us.  And while that all sounds well and good, it sounds so spiritual and such…it’s not easy.  There are many tears, many moments of “loud fellowship” with the Lord, many moments of doubt, of worry, of fear.

But then…peace.  He never leaves us.  Like a good, patient Father, I can see the Lord standing back while we throw our little pity parties, not too far away, just waiting for us to tire out, before coming in close, picking us up, dusting us off, and embracing us yet again.

Last week was one of those hard weeks.  I have often said how thankful I am that, through this whole journey, we’ve never had a day where we are both struggling at the same time, but when one of us is up, the other would be down.  Well, last week that didn’t happen.  Like a wave crashing on us, we both struggled mightily all week with our emotions, with worry and doubt.

And then yesterday morning, Sunday, we went to church.  I told my wife that I still don’t know why we’re in Oklahoma City, but I know one thing, God is using the ministry of Frontline Church in a powerful way to work in our hearts.  From the opening prayer in Lamentations:  “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the should who seeks Him.” 

The tears started flowing immediately…the Lord is good to those who wait for Him.  Wait.  Be patient.  Hope.

We began to sing together, “Before the throne of God above…” and I was reminded of who I am in Christ, the hope I have in the Gospel.  “My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Savior and my God.”  Secure.  Safe.  I belong to Him.

We sang about the surety of God’s promises in Jesus being “yes and amen.”  We sang how the Lord is good…how He will never fail.  Then we sang the amazing, mind-blowing truth that we are, because of Jesus Christ our brother, the sons and daughters of God.

Yeah…I was a wreck.  We opened the word together, and Ecclesiastes chapter 2 reminds us that our hope and joy lies not in anything found under the sun, but only in One who is beyond the sun, the Son of God.  And as we broke the bread and drank the wine in which the Gospel is proclaimed anew, I wept like a baby for the goodness of the Lord to me.

I may not have it all figured out.  I may be “trying on for size” a lot of things I might have sadly said flippantly over the years, I’m learning of the love and mercy of God through Jesus in ways I never have felt before.  I told Amanda I feel like I’ve been deconstructed, completely laid bare, and now the Holy Spirit can begin the work of rebuilding me from the inside out.

If you’re still tracking with us, if you’ve been following along and praying for us on this journey, we thank you.  We simply ask that you continue to pray for the Lord to reveal His will.  We ask that you pray He will provide the right job for me, and the right home for my family.

We know we’re just strangers and sojourners here, just passing through, no matter if we spend the rest of our days in OKC, or if He leads us on at some point.  It’s just another thing God is having us try on for size.  And as we wait for His leading in these next things, I’m learning that I can trust Him with it all and that, in His time, He will act.

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More than You Think


A couple months ago, my wife wrote a great post about sharing our stories with our kids.  She wrote of how important it is to be honest and open with our kids about what God is doing in our lives, the blessings and the trials.  I know I’m biased, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever read on the subject.  You should read it, if you haven’t yet.  And if you have read it, read it again.

Sunday afternoon, we were blessed to get a glimpse of some of the fruit of “story sharing” in the life of our youngest daughter.  Late in the day, Amanda and I were sitting together talking through our emotions in this season, sharing our hearts with each other.  A few minutes in, Hannah appeared with her copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible and her little journal.  She stood there for a few minutes, politely waiting for us to finish our current line of thought, and then says, “Look at what God showed me.”

Do I have to even attempt to say what that does to the heart of a dad?  Of a mom?

First of all, if you haven’t picked up a copy of this wonderful little book, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, you need to.  The book tells the story, THE story of the Bible, the story of Jesus found in all the stories, beginning to end.  Even if you don’t have kids, get one!  If you’ve been a Christian for your whole life and think you have arrived, definitely get one and find the joy of a child as you discover that, truly, “every story whispers His name.”

She showed me what she was reading:  the story of David, the shepherd-king.  It contains a paraphrase of Psalm 23, that oh-so-familiar psalm of God’s loving care for His kids, His sheep.  She flipped the page over and pointed to a few lines:

“He is getting wonderful things ready for me, especially for me, everything I ever dreamed of!  He fills my heart so full of happiness I can’t hold it inside.  Wherever I go I know God’s Never Stopping Never Giving Up Unbreaking Always and Forever Love Will go, too!”

She looked at us both and said, “I think God’s getting us ready to do something big!”

She then showed me how she wrote these lines down in her little journal.

At this point, and I think I can speak for Amanda here, it got a bit dusty in there!  It’s not just the fact that this kid is an old soul and sweet enough to rot your teeth, or that she has a heart that has always been tender toward the things of God, or that she is genuinely kind and loving.  Those things are what make her who she is, and we see them in her and rejoice in them.

What got us was watching our daughter seeking God’s will in His Word, on her level, on her own.  We saw her reading the story of the Good Shepherd and then relating it to how God cares for her, how He loves her, how He’s working in her life, too.  This wasn’t just a kid along for the ride on her parent’s story…this was a kid seeking to know God’s part for her.

Is there anything better than watching your child’s faith bloom?

For me, as a husband and a father, there’s another part of it, too.   I see the faithful fulfillment of prayers my wife and I pray for our kids, that they would know Jesus and seek after Him on their own.  I see the fruit of Amanda pouring into these kids every day, giving of herself through home school, loving them on good days and on the days they’re not-so-lovable, and above all, trying to show them God’s love.

My daughter didn’t get that prayer journal idea from thin air…she saw her momma writing in hers, every day.  She didn’t wake up and think, “Oh, I need to read the Bible.”  She saw her momma reading her own Bible, seeking God’s will, often times through tears, every day.  She heard her momma sharing her story, our story, every day.  And she saw her momma continually returning to the hope of God’s “Never Stopping Never Giving Up Unbreaking Always and Forever Love” in Jesus.

Every.  Day.

For me, it was a beautiful reminder of something the Holy Spirit showed me last year, just as we were getting going on this journey.  He made it clear that this move, this change, was not just about a job or a location.  It was about what He was doing in my kids, and would do in their kids one day.

“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18

He’s working in these kids, just like He’s working in us.  He’s drawing them to Himself through circumstances, speaking to them in their trial, just like He is doing to Amanda and me.  I don’t know the plan He has for their lives beyond the fact that He wants them to know Him, to know His love for them, and to share that love with those who don’t know.

And that’s enough.

So in our frail, broken way, we’re trying to show them He’s in control, He’s good, and He loves us and them. We’re trying to show them that for all our feeble attempts to figure all this out, all our failures and doubts, in the end, only Jesus matters.  Only what Jesus asks matters.

He’s everything.

And you know what?  They pick up on more than you think.

Know what else?  Your kids do, too.

So what are we showing them?

 

 

 

Letting Patience Work


That’s my boy, camped out in front of my parent’s door, waiting for me to come home from visiting some friends before we left NC.  For a kid who repeatedly says, “But I don’t LIKE to be patient!” he sure seemed to exhibit it that day, waiting so long that he finally gave up and fell asleep.  I talk to him all the time about being patient, about waiting (Lord knows, we’ve had plenty of examples of it lately).  My little man is a mini-me in more ways that his looks, its seems.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, but let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

I’ll be honest…this is not one of my favorite group of verses in the Bible.  Truth?  I’d like to pretend it wasn’t there, but that’s like wishing the sky wasn’t blue or that water wasn’t wet.  It’s there, whether I like it or not.

This morning I told my wife that I must not have grasped the lesson I needed to learn over the past 6 months, because here were are again in a period of waiting.  As I’ve said before, waiting is not a passive thing, but it’s an active hope of what is to come.  Waiting, it seems, is part and parcel with faith, the substance of things hoped for, but not yet seen.  James’ words above serve to reinforce this idea.  The trial, whatever it may be for you and me, comes and tests our faith.  The testing of our faith, the examination of it’s quality, serves to help us learn to be patient, and patience works in us to make us perfect.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

For months, the journey involved waiting on the Lord to show us the where of this journey, the place He was sending us, and He has indeed led us out of North Carolina to, quite literally, a broad and spacious land (Psalm 118:5) in Oklahoma.  Yet now that we are here, we are waiting again, this time on the why.  Why move us from the home we loved?  Why take me out of a church and a ministry that I loved?  Why bring us here to, essentially, start over?

I’ve found that I’m in a place where it is very easy to rely on the flesh, to lean on my own understanding, to try to use my own means, instead of being patient and relying on the Holy Spirit to lead, as He has all along this journey.  As a man, providing for my family weighs heavily on me.  I’m putting in job applications, doing the “Linked In” thing for the first time (I seriously always thought it was just spam…you learn something new every day), putting out feelers, as they say.  Scouring job openings wondering how in the world I could fit into them.

In the midst of this, the still, small voice whispers, “Patience Matthew…patience.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

Letting patience work is not my strong suit, and yet James says I’m to count it all joy.  I struggle not to go crazy in the waiting, and I’m supposed to consider it joy?  The only way I know how to handle this is to continually remind myself of what God has already done.  I’m so thankful I’ve kept a journal through all this, because I am prone to forget.  I try to remember how far He has brought us, both in actual distances and spiritually.  I return to those little stones of remembrance that I set up in my mind, those little monuments of His faithfulness up, again and again.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

In the waiting, in the patience, God is teaching us to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us in the Word, and in the day-to-day circumstances of life.  To really stop…wait…and listen.  He is teaching us to trust Him, even when the way doesn’t make sense to our human minds.  He is teaching us to obey when He says “go”, and to…sigh…sit still when He says to stay.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

I’m not there yet, y’all.  I suspect you aren’t either.  I have to remind myself daily this journey we are on is not primarily about moving to a new city or finding a job, or about any of the myriad things we all deal with in our day-to-day lives.  Above all, it’s about Jesus.  It’s about His will, not mine.  It’s about how the Holy Spirit is doing the work of making us more like Jesus through the journey, through the trial.

And it’s also a reminder that we never really arrive in this life, but continue on a long journey that will only be complete when we see Jesus face to face.  As John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, wrote:

“…and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

I long to see Him, more and more with each year of life.  And one day, I will.  One day…but not yet.  One day, faith will be sight.  One day, the waiting will be over.  One day, I won’t struggle with doubts, with fear, with worry.  One day.  Until then, like my boy waiting on my return, we wait for Jesus to come and make all things new.

We go on letting patience do it’s work in us so one day we, too,  may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.  

Stay on the Path

 

This is another post by my amazing wife, Amanda.  Watching her draw near to the Lord through this journey has been one of my greatest blessings.  I knew she was an amazing woman already, but my love for her has grown exponentially as we’ve walked this road together.  She is the kind of wife Proverbs 31 speaks of, and I am unbelievably grateful. – Matt

Well, I’ve accomplished a first.  After 20 years of going back and forth from North Carolina to Oklahoma, last week I drove the entire distance by myself!  Of course that may not sound like a major feat, and granted it wasn’t one of our marathon straight-thru drives like we’ve done so many times in the past, but never-the-less it was 1,172 miles all by myself.  We loaded up both the cars with barely enough room for even our own kids, and set out on our great adventure.  Matt and one kid in the “White Mamba” & me and the other two in “Silver Streak”  (Yes, we’ve named our cars).

Whew!  Y’all!  That’s a long time behind the wheel of a car!  Thankfully, it’s a pretty straight shot.  Head west on Interstate 40 all the way to Oklahoma City, just follow the signs.  However, I knew this would be a difficult trip, not just because I was driving the whole way myself, but also because I was leaving the only home I’ve ever known for completely new territory.

A little over nine months ago, God made it abundantly clear that we were to take our family and move, to step out into the unknown.  And now, finally, after months and months of waiting and more confirmations the day had finally arrived.  We were to “get moving”, “break camp and move on”, go back to the land we had “scouted out”..back to Bethel and dwell there.

Tears were shed as we took that right turn onto I-40 West, but I also had an incredible, unexplainable peace that only comes from The Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit.  Although day two rolled around and came at me with a vengeance, and it wasn’t long before the tears started flowing and the doubts started flooding my mind.  “What in the world are we doing?  I’m 40 years old!!!!  I’ve left behind family, friends, familiarity….I’m 40 years old and starting from scratch!  Who wants to do that?!  What if… what if…what if…”  Over the two day drive, I wrestled back and forth, up, down, and sideways with every emotion possible.

It was about the time we crossed the Tennessee/Arkansas border that we landed in the middle of a sea of 18 wheelers.  For at least a solid hour and a half we were literally the only two cars in the midst of those big trucks.  I have mad respect for those people who drive those things (my brother being one of them).  They work crazy long hours, driving in all kinds of weather and traffic but I do NOT want to be driving neck and neck with them for any length of time.  This time was certainly no different.  In my mind I thought, “if only there was another way, a different route.”

And just like that, that still small voice reminded me of a verse I had read just the week before.  One of the many verses The Lord had used to confirm it was in fact, Oklahoma.

“Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow.  Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.”  Deut. 5:33

Stay on the path, Amanda.  And in this case, not just I-40 West.  Remember what The Lord, your God, has shown you through His Word, confirming over and over these last nine months. And what about nine days ago, heck, nine hours ago?  I walk by faith not by sight (or my feelings).  Keep on the path, Amanda.  For He who hems me in on every side and carries me each new day in His arms Who goes with me.  Repeat after me… “God said it…I believe it…That settles it”.

You know it wasn’t long after that when the sea of 18-wheelers parted and I was able to breathe a little easier again,  and just up ahead I noticed the Ozark Mountains for the very first time.  I don’t think I’ve ever really seen this stretch of land before on any of our previous trips, and it was beautiful!  Green rolling hills, trees growing tall, sweet farms with red barns, mama cows with their babies…like a pastoral painting in the middle of Arkansas!  Of all the places!  If we had gone a different route other than the tried and true path of I-40 West I would have missed that peaceful scene.  Yes, it was a little scary and nerve racking for a while, but oh! The beauty that was to follow!

I want to stay on the path!  His path.  His way might not be the easiest but it’s always the best.  Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and Your Word, the promises and whispers you’ve spoken to me!  Not just to those who have gone before me but to me, 40 year old, Amanda, who’s starting from scratch.  So I press on, by the grace of God, aiming to stay the course, looking to what’s ahead.

Follow Me


How do you explain the feeling?  How can you find the right words to convey what is going on within you?  How is there a way to really get someone to know what it feels like?  How do you really explain when Jesus calls you to follow Him?

I have wrestled with this question for a week now.  I have thought over the last year as I read through my journals and over this blog.  I have worked through it as I’ve talked with my wife and kids, and as I’ve tried to share with family and friends.  Even in person, even when time is not an issue, even when your words aren’t limited by how much someone will read (or not), it’s so hard to tell exactly what it feels like.  It’s so hard to convey the truth of it all.

Thinking through all of these things, I was reading in John chapter 1 tonight, and verse 43 jumped out at me:

“The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ” 

Think about that.  Jesus found Philip (not the other way around), and then spoke two words to him.  Now think about how those two words changed Philip’s life forever.  Think about what this call meant to Philip.  He could ignore it, right?  I mean, he could have just stayed in Bethsaida and continued his life as it was.  That’s comfortable, right?  That’s what we all want to do, really…be comfortable…keep things where we can manage them, keep the status quo.

Or, as crazy as it sounded, Philip could follow this Man into an adventure unlike any the world had seen before, an adventure that would literally change the world. He could follow in the footsteps of the Master, trusting Him, learning from Him…being completely transformed by Him.

Is there really even a choice between those two things?  Really?  When Jesus calls us and says, “Follow Me”, do we really even want to consider the option to stay where we are?

Well…yeah. We’re human.  We have family here, family we love and are extremely close to, and leaving family is never easy.  We have some incredible friends, friends who have been with us in trial and blessing, thick and thin.  We have been a part of the work that Jesus is doing in saving the lost, equipping the saints, and expanding His kingdom.  Our kids were born here, made friends here, learned to ride bikes here, started growing up too fast here.

And then one day, a day like any other, Jesus says, “Follow Me”, and He begins to stir something new in me, and in my wife.  From that day on, that stirring grows and grows inside you, like the light grows in the east when a new day begins to dawn, from the first sliver of grey until the bursting of the burning ball appears at the edge of the horizon and the entire sky is blazing with it’s light.  You can’t ignore it; you have to respond.

And you have to go.

I could share all the ways that Jesus has done this in us, and Amanda could do the same.  We could list all the times God has blown our minds through His Word, or when He has spoken in a still, small voice by His Spirit working in us.  We could write out a day-by-day time line of how the call to follow Jesus grew and grew and grew until we either obeyed, or stayed.  But staying really isn’t an option, not really, once Jesus has your heart. 

So no matter how much it hurts to go, we must.  Though the goodbyes are more painful than we’d imagined, we must go.  We no longer have to wonder where He has called us, because He’s made that clear to us.  We’re moving to Oklahoma City, to a place I once called home, and while we loved to visit, I never thought I’d return there to live.  This city that was home to my parents and all of their 5 kids for just over a decade is where, nearly 3 decades later, Jesus is calling my family to.

There is no job that is calling me.  There is no house with a down payment waiting.  There isn’t an assurance of anything but this:  that Amanda and I have within us the assurance of a peace that passes all understanding (because we don’t understand!) that this, this city and this time, is where Jesus is calling us to follow; that this is what He has been stirring in us for over a year now, that this is what He has for us…right now.

Philip didn’t know what was in store for him that day Jesus called him to follow, and neither do we.  But the cool thing about following Jesus is this:  He goes in front of us.  We just have to follow in His footsteps.

The Journey is the Destination…Sort Of


I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty good with directions.  I know…I know…most guys think that, but ask my wife, she’ll tell you it’s true.  Even in a new city I can usually find my way around pretty quickly.  I can always figure out north, south, east and west and get my bearings.  And before you ask, I was like this before we had GPS and smartphones.

The trick, you see, is keeping my eyes and mind on the destination, the place we’re heading, and not letting other things get in between me and that goal.   Keep the main thing the main thing, if you will.  And that works, most of the time.

For most of my life, and all of my kid’s life, we have made a periodic journey to visit family in Oklahoma.  I’ve made that trip more times than I can count, but one thing I know:  I have never just taken my time and enjoyed the journey.  For the most part, my mind was set on the unspoken gauntlet that all of my family has  thrown down, the gauntlet of “who can make it the quickest.”  For what it’s worth, I had the record in hand during college…only to have my alternator go out 2 hours from Oklahoma City.  That’s a technicality.  But I digress.

The trip along I-40 is 1200 miles through some of the most beautiful country in the world.   We pass through western NC and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It goes across the entire length of Tennessee, from the beauty of the Smokies, the glam of Nashville, until crossing the mighty Mississippi.  Then there’s Arkansas.  I’ll leave that there, although they have finally finished most of their road projects, and there is a Taco Bueno in Conway, which is definitely a redeeming factor.  Finally, you cross into Oklahoma and through the Ozark mountains (hills, really) and onto the majesty of the Great Plains.

Most of this I experienced only through the windshield or in brief pit stops over the years.  I saw it, but I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t take it in.  I would usually make the trip straight through (18 plus hours of it) only stopping as needed.  If we had 7  days to spend, then 2 of them would be spent driving out and back, two of them would be spent recovering from the drive, and 3 would be spent with family.  I jest…but only sort of.

Until this last trip.  For the first time in my life, I had no timetable, no urgent occasion to arrive for, and nothing we had to get back in a hurry to.  It was literally open- ended (I have never, ever traveled like that before).  We decided to take our time, to see the sights, to “stop and smell the roses”, only it was late January, so there were no roses…speaking figuratively, you see.  We took our kids to see Chimney Rock in NC.  It was closed, but we skipped rocks in the river and sipped coffee in pretty much the most beautiful surroundings you can imagine.

We took in the lights of Nashville and showed my boy the home of the Nashville Predators (his new favorite hockey team…sorry Hurricanes).  We walked around historic Franklin, TN on an insanely cold and blustery day, showing our kids the places their folks had visited a month before.  We had a good portion of the Natchez Trace parkway to ourselves, and as we drove along it I marveled at the size of this wilderness so close to Nash-Vegas.  We stopped at the largest Bass Pro Shop in the world, housed inside the Pyramid in Memphis, and Si and I rode the elevator to the top (see pic above), and gazed out on the wonder of the Mississippi.  Even Arkansas looked pretty from there.

The whole trip only took 2 days, but it was so much more fun, more relaxed, and more enjoyable than any we had made before.  All because we decided to make the most of the journey and not get so hung up on “getting there.”

Hmmmmm….application?  A big smack upside the head.

On the bigger journey we’re on, it was a reminder not to get so hung up on the place we end up that we forget to take in all the amazing things happening along the way.  It’s incredible easy for me to elevate our destination to the ultimate goal, but when I do that, I miss what Jesus is doing in and for us today.  The big picture can make me forget  the little things that are happening along the way.  It’s easy to forget that all those things we go through in our lives, every little leg of our journeys, is designed to drive us to Jesus, to show us His glory, to show us His wonder, His power, His goodness…His love.  In the big and the small, the routine and the extraordinary, the triumphs and the trials, we are being shaped and formed, molded into the image of Jesus.  Paul, wrote to the church throughout Galatia:

“Oh, my dear children!  I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.”  (Galatians 4:19, NLT)

And that’s what I meant when I said the journey is the destination…sort of.  Christ fully formed in us…that’s the real destination, the one I’m looking for, but it happens one day, one hour, one moment at a time.  When I get in a hurry, I’m liable to miss Him, just like I missed all those sights along I-40 for years.

Now, let me be honest:  We cannot WAIT to find out where we are going.  It would not be a stretch to say there is not one hour of any day that goes by in which we are not thinking of where we’ll end up, talking about it with our kids, day-dreaming of it, or praying about it.  With each passing day, the tendency to dwell on it increases, the longing for a home grows, the intense desire to finally be there, wherever there is.

The waiting, however hard it is, is not the worst thing.  Even if we have to continue on waiting (Lord, please don’t let that be, though!), the worst thing that could happen to us would be to find out where we’re going, to get, and to think “this is it!  We have arrived!” For us to get to that point and miss Jesus…that would be the worst thing.

So we’re learning to take each day, each moment as the Lord brings it (thanks Ms. Deb for that reminder!), trying our best not look too far ahead, but at the same time keeping the end goal in sight.  And just like that trip to OKC, it’s so much better this way.

 

 

Even in the Storm


When I was 12, my family went on vacation to California. It was the only time I’ve been to the Left Coast in my life.  One evening we all trekked down to the beach for a swim. At the time, I was only familiar with the “waves” of the Gulf of Mexico which, it turns out, are mere ripples in comparison to the stuff the Pacific was churning up.

I remember going in to body surf, all 100 pounds of my scrawny self. The first wave caught me, flung me forward and slammed me down into the sand. At that point, for the first time in my life, I understood undertow. It began dragging me back out, then I’d get flung forward again and slammed into the ocean floor.

I don’t know how long this lasted, but I remember thinking “I’m not going to make it.” At what seemed like the last possible moment, a pair of strong hands reached down, grabbed my arm and leg, and flung me back towards the shoreline. It was one of my brother’s friends who somehow got ahold of me and pulled me out.

And though I escaped with only a few cuts and scrapes, I’ve never forgotten the feeling of helplessness as those waves broke over me again and again. There was nothing I could do to get out, nothing I could do to stop the relentless crush as they pounded on me. All I could do was get drug along.

When you step out like we have, there is an accompanying pressure that travels along with you. Whether it’s from without or within, I feel it.  Like those waves pressing down on me in the cold pacific long ago, I feel the crushing pressure to make something happen, to do something, to get results, to prove that I’m not really crazy and I really am following the Lord’s leading.

There’s the pressure to read something into every situation, every verse of Scripture, every song during worship and every line of every sermon.

There’s the pressure to go just pick a state, find a house and hunt for a job when you know He’s telling you to wait.

The pressure to give up and go back. I can’t begin to tell you how huge that wave is. That one comes in pretty frequently.

“Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.” (Psalm 42:7)

That verse is in the middle of a famous song.  It begins with “As the deer pants for the water books, so pants my soul for You, O God.”  If you’re like me and grew up in church the 80’s, your mind probably goes right to the old chorus we used to sing.  My mind always went to some nice and peaceful scene, of a meadow and a deer bending down to take a drink from a cool mountain-fed stream.

In reality, the psalmist is crying out to God, begging for the Lord to show up, to save, to quench his thirst.  He’s in a dry and thirsty land devoid of water.  It’s not the tranquil mountain scene I used to think of.  It’s a very real place where so many of us find ourselves:  when the rug gets pulled out from under us, when the diagnosis comes back, when the job ends, when the child goes prodigal.  It’s the place when the waves just keep pounding and pounding and pounding, and you don’t know what else to do.

“I will say to God my Rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?’ ” (v. 9)

Last week, the waves came in so quick and so heavy I was literally overwhelmed.  I did the only thing I knew to do:  I got in the car and went and found a quiet place where I could just cry out to God. And though my words weren’t as eloquent as the psalms, they came from the same place.  It’s a place of complete and total helplessness, like when I was caught in those waves as a kid, just being pulled along and hoping that someone would get to me.  I poured out my soul to the Lord, my fears, my anger, my anxieties, my complete inability to “fix” this situation, and my absolute and total dependence on Him to rescue.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted within me?”

Why?  Well, see the previous 4 months of blogs, but that’s not the point. In my desperation, in my need, the Lord was right there with me.  Psalm 42 ends with this reminder:  “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” 

You see, in that storm, in that moment of complete desperation, Jesus reminded me that He was right there with me.  He had never left, in fact, I just took my eyes off Him and focused them on the waves.

It’s easy to do.  Peter did it (famously).  I’ve done it more times than I care to admit.  And Jesus knows.  Every time.  He knows.  And He’s there.  And like Peter crying out when the wind and the waves grew “boisterous”, when I cried out “Lord, save me!”  He did.

There’s another story about Jesus and waves, found in Luke 8.  Jesus is with the disciples out on a boat in the Sea of Galilee.  After a long day of ministry, He’s worn out and He falls asleep.  Well, a great storm blows in, and the disciples are freaking out as the waves grew and the ship took on water, so they ran to Jesus and exclaimed “Lord, we’re dying!!!”

And Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and waves…and they stopped. And then the Lord looks at His friends, the guys He chose to do ministry with, the guys He was going to use to change the world forever, and says “Where is your faith?”

I used to hear that in a condescending tone.  That’s because I didn’t know Jesus.  I now hear that in the voice of my Lord, the One Who loved me so much He gave His life for me.  I hear in those words nothing but Love, and a reminder of where my faith lies.

Jesus is with us in this boat.  He’s the One that told us to get into it.  He’s well aware of the waves, of the wind, of the uncertainty, of the storm.  He’s with me, and He just wants me to trust Him, to keep my eyes fixed on Him and not on the waves, and to walk out on the water He’s led us to.