The Long View of God

Have you ever been somewhere where you can see a long way? Picture in your mind the view from a mountain top. You can see a lot of landscape. Rivers, roads, tree lines, meadows. There are a lot of details and specific markers that help you identify where you are and where you have been.

If you are like me, when you look from the mountain view of your life, you can rattle off many markers that may have shaped your life. School, abuse, addiction, car wreck, divorce, bankruptcy, abortion, buying a house, getting new jobs, losing jobs, getting married, having children, death of loved ones, moving to new cities. These markers act as points on a map tracing our journey. But. There is more.

Here is one of those Holy Buts. If you look at your life and you only see those woundings or events, only see the hurt and scars, you might need to look again.

Many of us have long memories of past hurts and use them as stumbling blocks and excuses to stop us from moving forward. With great precision, we can articulate how this person did this and now we…. Or we say, “I chose this and now I can’t….”

When we do this, we need to look again because we fail to see God’s presence in the exact same life. Do we have a long memory of God’s faithfulness and help? With the same precision, can we articulate, this happened…but God…?  He is, in a word picture, the mountain that we move over and around and through. He is our rock.

God was there. God is there. God will be there.

Was working, is working, will be working for our good.

In the book, The Shack, they pose a question to Mack about why he looks to the future and makes up things that will happen, but he never sees God in the future with him. Our regret about the past, our fear of the day, our anxiety about the future might be radically altered if we zoom out and see God is here.

It is, after all, His world. And we are His people.

Take a moment to pray this prayer out loud over yourself and your loved ones. Take a long view at God. Learn how to recount His presence in  your life. It may help you see better.

O LORD, You have searched me
       and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;  
       You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; 
       You are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue 
       You know it completely, O LORD.
 You hem me in—behind and before; 
       You have laid Your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
       too lofty for me to attain.
 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
       Where can I flee from Your presence?
Psalm 139 1-7

There’s a Bigger Picture You Can’t See

I was praying in the early morning during that half awake, half asleep time. Praying for people and issues, questions and concerns, needs and desires. I ended my time with, “Lord I really need to hear from You. I need to know what  You have to say about all these things.”

I rolled over in the bed and heard this line from a song:

“There’s a bigger picture you can’t see
You don’t have to change the world
Just trust in me…”

I was fully awake, instantly.

Here I was mulling and turning over my plans. Could I — should I —how will I? And God was talking about His plan followed by one instruction: Just trust in Me.

I thought I was. I would have told you I was. But hearing that one phrase in light of all my murmurings made me question myself. Am I really trusting Him? Are you?

When I got out of bed, I went and found the song that had “magically” popped into my head. Then I listened to this song over and over for several days. It retells the old, old story of people just like me and you. People to whom God said, “Me and you are gonna do big things.” And the people responded just like us — with excuses and but-but-but. Here is my favorite part of the song. Each person laid out their objections of why God’s plan won’t work and questioned Him on how He was going to use them with all their limitations.

“It’s not your problem, God replied. And the rest is history.”

If you go back through the Bible, go back through history, you see His mighty hand doing things that don’t make sense to us. Achieving and completing great works that don’t add up to us. That part is not your problem. His ask of them was the same as His ask of us, “Just trust in Me.” That is your problem. Work on the ‘trust in Me’ part.

You can’t trust your plan until it is His plan. You can’t trust Him until you see, understand and relent the notion that somehow you can do it. Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Funny how we spend so much time trying to disprove that comment.

Go listen to “I AM” by Ginny Owens. You will love the beauty of His big picture.  Our trust in Him does change the world.

“There’s a bigger picture you can’t see
You don’t have to change the world
Just trust in me…
I am your Creator
I am working out My plan
Through you, I will show them
I AM.”

Pennies from Heaven

I had this great God encounter the other day.  Charis and I were at the pool and she wanted money for the snack bar. So I handed her a handful of change and she looked at the amount mounded in her hand and declared, “This is plenty.” When I asked her to count it, she didn’t see the point because there were so many coins in her hands. “But some of those are pennies,” I said.

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” she said with a wave of her free hand. (You know your kids were raised in the South when f-i-n-e is a three syllable word. It’s beautiful to hear.)

Anyway, we separated the coins into like piles and I helped her add up the quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Once she heard the magic number of $1.25, which is the exact cost of a frozen Swiss Miss Chocolate Bar, she scraped all the change into her hand and was off. Contented and provided for.

Five minutes later, I am talking to Beth who is preparing to go BACK to Zimbabwe for six months this time to serve at the youth camp. We were working on her financial needs, listing out the room fee, phone, airfare, etc. Her magic amount was a bit more than $1.25.

That’s when the God encounter happened.

“Beth, think about it. When Charis came to me asking for money, she was never one time concerned about whether I had enough money. Her only concern was a yes or no answer from me. And once my answer was yes, it was on me to make it happen,” I said.

“Don’t miss this. She didn’t even care about the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. To her, it was more about Mom’s got it taken care of. Sure for you, it’s not pennies and quarters but it’s $100s, $200s, $1000s. But to God it is the same. It’s all pocket change to Him. ”

He said yes. It’s on Him to provide the change. And that is what it is. Pocket change from our Dad. A day at the snack bar with His kids.

Ask Big.  You have a Big, Big, Dad.

Safe or Brave?

In Just Courage, Gary Haugen asked, “Do you want to be safe or brave?” And then ever so subtly, he asked, “What do you think God wants for you? Safety or bravery?”

These are disturbing questions if you examine them. Let me combine some of Haugen’s thoughts with some ideas of my own that have surfaced. Safety is about control. Safety is about doing life “just so” so that we can predict and determine the outcomes of our lives, our jobs, our families. The desire for safety for the Christian is like the boiling pot for the proverbial frog. It will be the spiritual death of us because it calculates and manipulates all the Life out of us.

We resign ourselves to these small endeavors that are easily managed by our own efforts and rarely tap into the need for an Almighty God. We call this spiritual success because we have planned and prepared, avoided and outmaneuvered any real threat to our well being. We are, deep sigh, safe. We pacify our hunger for more by applauding ourselves with being “responsible.”

Yet all through scripture the only place of safety is in God Himself. Do you think Jesus was calling the disciples to safety or bravery? He said simply, “Follow Me.” Was that responsible? Did they hit the safety wall while following Jesus?  You bet. But they also got to experience life beyond the grocery store and ATM. The feeding of the 5,000. The taxes in a fish’s mouth. You don’t need faith and miracles if you have everything under control.

So then is bravery a reckless abandon, without care or thought of future? Not at all. Bravery is following God where God is working and knowing that apart from God,  you cannot possibly make it happen.  Bravery is laying aside the comforts of life for the compassion of God. Bravery is dependence on God born of a desperate heart. It is the deep understanding that the attempted work is so much beyond the individual, that only God could pull it off. Yet the insanity is, being in His presence doing what only He could accomplish is beyond any man-made satisfaction. Talk about exhilarating.

You know the disciples were scared, but you also know they were blown away by what they saw and experienced of God. Sure it was hard, but our desire for “easy” is an American curse.

To make matters worse, Haugen asked, “How are  you raising your children?  To be safe or brave?” Safe in the cocoon of don’t-get-too-close-to-the-dirty-world because it might rub off? Or brave so that they are equipped and desirous of charging the gates of hell in the name of Jesus?

Assess your life. Ask hard questions and let God answer them. Do you want your lattes? Or do you want to see His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven?

“I run in the path of Your commands for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

We got trouble: right here in River City

Does anyone even remember this line from the musical, The Music Man?  All my life I have heard this when bigger-than-life problems hit closer to home than we imagined.  That’s what happened when I read last Saturday’s newspaper headline about sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking? You mean women who choose prostitution as a job? No. Sex slavery. These are predators who steal or buy children then force them to have sex with grown men up to 12-20 times a day. I’m talking 5-12 year old children.  These are predators who ship women across country borders with the promise of a better job. But in reality they steal these women’s passports, take them to places where they don’t know the language, and then beat or rape them into submission. They are sex slaves. Forced to do whatever their oppressors demand.

Now put all this horror right here in little ole Knoxville. Or Atlanta. Or Los Angeles. Or Thailand. When it is your daughter, or son, does it matter what city you live in?

I have been reading like a fiend and meeting people who are making a huge difference in this battle. Let me recommend you read: Just Courage, by Gary Haugen. He asks haunting questions when calling us out of the shadows of Christian apathy and comfort.

Do you want to be safe or brave?

We love, and are made in the image of, the God of justice. We rarely talk about Him like this, but He talks about it all the time.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8

1 million.

That’s how many children are trafficked for sex each year. That doesn’t include the helpless, defenseless women.

I want to just start the conversation. I want to ring the alarm. I want to ask you to ask God to show you what justice means in His opinion. Ask, watch and listen for His answers. Then ask Him what  He has put in you to help bring justice to the world.  If you are alive and you are free, then you have a mission.

Evil triumphs when good men and women do nothing.

Good Man Answer #462

You know, I love men.  In fact, I am married to one. Still. And they never cease to make me laugh — especially my man when we are in a snit. So we had been having a few tense days. (You know the ones I mean…) In attempts to kind of break the ice instead of each other, we decided to go get coffee. No problem, it’s public, it’s safe.

Well several minutes into our “Awkward-trying-to-connect” conversation an attractive woman walked by and her perfume left this small cloud as she passed. I said off-handedly, “I think I know that woman and I definitely still smell her.”

Chuck says innocently, “I like it.”

Stop the film. Now this is from a man who has stopped most scented products in our house because of his sensitivities to smells.  We move at church and movies because of perfume wafts that irritate his sinuses. I have abandoned my favorite cologne because he can’t endure it.

And he says of the green fog, as only a man can say it, “I like it.”

I just look at him. Blankly. Trying to decide if this is when I kill him or do I wait until we are in the car. He must have sensed the possible danger because he added ever so carefully,
“It reminds me… of something…you used to wear.”

We busted out laughing. I gave him a High Five and told him that was one of the best saves I had heard in a long time. I told him that he should write a book called “Good Answer Manual” and put that as entry # 462, under the CYA chapter.

I tell all my young brides the same thing. With men there are only two choices: Eat them with a spoon or hack them with an axe.

Things Are Not As They Appear

First. Let me say how thankful I am for hot, running water; electricity that rarely goes out; and computers that work. These are a few of my favorites things.

Second. I am so fired up about  the WGR class beginning Aug. 31 at Fellowship Church. This is going to be a great semester as we reach toward freedom.

Third. It is a good thing I get to blog every day because my cup runneth over. Zim stories, post Zim revelations, parenting growing pains, a disturbing trip to the mall, my post-it notes update, funny Man stories….I’ve got a lot of words to get out. Whew. Let me tell you what is burning most in my heart today.

As we were very first flying from Knoxville to D.C. on our trip, the sky was near impossible to describe.  It was as if we were floating in the “ocean” of air. There was a layer of clouds that looked like white crested waves, another large blue layer filled with small “fish-like” cirrus clouds moving slowly as if in schools.  It was a magical moment to be flying in a plane and have the sensation of scuba diving. Softly, I heard the Lord whisper, “Things are not as they appear.”

Hmmm.  I tucked that comment into my heart, feeling half encouraged and half warned. Later that night, three other people had similar impressions from the Lord, to not be deceived by appearances. In retrospect this is one of my greatest takeaways from this experience with God: we walk by faith and not by sight.

The sheer act of walking with God is one of close communion. Close enough to hold His hand, hear His whisper, feel His warmth. But it is also the sheer act of walking with God that invites us to lay down the need to know and control our own lives. Or perhaps, more importantly, lay down the arrogance that we can rightly translate our lives and circumstances.

Things are not as they appear. Here are some examples:

• The ticket lady had given us the cold shoulder. Our missed flight was not her problem. So while burning time in the airport, we began practicing our music. The three of us just sang out to the passing throng of internationals:  “Declare His glory  among the nations, For Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise. Declare His gory among the nations. Among all the peoples His marvelous deeds.”  A few moments later, the same woman who had completely rejected us, turned and put us up in a beautiful hotel and re-arranged our flights.

• I was prayer walking around the orphanage, asking God to renounce the evil that several of us had sensed was trying to gain a foothold.  As I walked the property, I saw the iron barred gates at the entrance.  I thought of the scripture that says the gates of hell will not prevail against them. I was intently praying this promise and walking toward the gates to touch them.  Out of nowhere, a small child appeared two steps ahead of me and closed the gates. It took my breath away. Not from fear. But awe. Was God showing me the answer to my prayer?

On and on we had these “moments” that seemed common, but a with a spiritual weight. I have come home with a greater confidence and greater calm.  It is one thing to sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” It’s another thing to actually live it.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1