Sunday, April 17, 2011

Longing for Egypt

"It would be better if I had never come here!"Arabian Desert by Bilal /\/\iRza بلال ميرزا

Whoa....that is a pretty strong statement, don't you think? One that hints at bitterness? Well, it happens to be one I uttered not long ago.

See, I'm not a native Texan, I grew my roots right along side those of the many trees I love in the great states of Minnesota and South Dakota. Most of my extended family, childhood memories, playtime haunts and home church are all thousands of miles away.

I love the trees, I love the water, and yes, I even love the snow.

So how did I end up HERE?!

Texas was truthfully the last place on earth I wanted to live. But
here I am-- I made the move kicking and screaming (on the inside) with my family close to three summers ago.

I'll admit, I hated it. Hated this state, hated the accents and cowboy culture (God has a sense of humour because my homechurch here is a cowboy church and I love it!), hated the wild life (I STILL hate snakes!) and I hated the heat and dead, flat, dry desert landscape.

This was not home. This was prison. This was exile.

I lived that way for a long time. I resented being here...resented those who brought here, and I held resentment towards God for this cruel and unusual punishment and taking me away from what I loved.

All I wanted was to go back. Back to my home, back to the way of life I knew, back to what was

Hmmm, does that remind you of something?

Numbers 14:3 NIV- Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?"

Believe it or not, I didn't see this connection until only about a month ago when the Lord brought this contrast sharply to mind during a time of prayer. Feeling out of place and discontent here, wanting to "go back" to the way things were before, He broke through my thoughts and spoke to me...

"Why do you want to go back to Egypt?!"

The thought struck me hard. It has been here that I have gone through the toughest trials, deepest heartbreaks, and darkest hours...shaken to my very core.

BUT, it has also been here that I have shed the cloak of shyness, grown deep the roots of faith, wrecked walls of spiritual barriers, had the biggest victories and learned to fall in love with Jesus! I am truly a completely different person than the young girl that came thousands of miles in bitterness and tears.

"Look what I have done," He whispered to my heart. "See how far we've come."

The truth settled into my heart, I was able to really admit that there was nothing back in 'Egypt' that could hold a candle to what the Lord had worked in my in the desert. Now isn't that ironic?

The Lord brought back something He had spoken and shown me several years before. It was the vision of a beautiful, vibrant pink flower...growing...thriving...but all alone, in a barren...dry...crack riddled desert soil. And the words He had spoken to me with that pictures was this.

 "The flower that grows in the desert is the most beautiful of all. Any flower can grow in the safety of the garden."  How appropriate that He would 'transplant' me to Texas?

I praise God that I only had to wander around in my desert for three years. He opened my eyes and spoke to my heart. And I responded. I dealt with my sin, broke strongholds of looking back, grumbling and complaining, and longing for Egypt.

Now the promised land, the land of His blessing and provision, is in sight.

The change came when I decided to fight for what God has promised me (like the cities the Israelites had to conquer even though they had been promised the land) and not play the victim that wants to run back to the familiar, 'safe' ground.

How many people are still longing for their Egypts when the promised land lies before them? Let's not be among their number!

Genesis 26:3 NIV- The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.

The Lord has shown me that it isn't so much where I live, but where His Spirit is.

When the Israelites left, they were lead out by His spirit. His Spirit was with them in the desert and His Spirit lead them to the boundaries of their promised land.

I know without a doubt that The Lord brought me and my family here. I followed my earthly father to this land three years ago, but today I choose to stay and LIVE, not simply survive, in this land because my Heavenly Father lives here....He's working and moving, and I'm not gonna leave that for all the comfort in the world.
It's funny, since I choose to stop longing for Egypt, I hear myself developing a bit of an accent y'all! I guess as my heart was softened, my tongue got a little lax too. more grumblin', no more mumblin'. Goodbye Egypt!

This song goes along perfectly with the journey I just described to you, it is called "Have Your Way".

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bitter Brew

Coffee by Phil Monger
Coffee a photo by Phil Monger on Flickr.
It had been a long day. I was needing something strong and warming…coffee!

So I kicked off my heels, dumped my purse and headed for the kitchen. It wasn’t long before the small pot I had prepared was engulfing my senses with its tantalizing aroma. I pulled a very large mug from the cupboard and began to pour that wonderfulsteaming brew into it. Mmmm, bold and strong, just like I like it.

I emptied the entire pot into my cup, and it came right up to the rim. room for creamer. (I don't know about y'all, but I like a caramel-hued cup of coffee, not one I can see my reflection in!)

There was no getting around it-- my cup was out of room, but I wasn't about to dump it out and waste it! So… I had to make room. I took the first sip....yep...I had made it strong all right! It was bitter stuff..."more like a tonic" I though to myself. Far from the calming, comforting effect I had been after.

Forcing myself through the first few sips, I managed to gulp down enough so there was a little bit of room to add some creamer…but it was room enough, it was still too strong. Once again I began sipping away thinking of the irony that I was forcing myself to drink a few gulps of coffee..a drink I usually savor!

With each sip, I was able to add more of that pure, creamy liquid I was quickly coming to appreciate in a whole new way...and with each amount added the following sip was sweeter and easier.

And then it hit me.

Like my coffee mug, we all hold things inside us...bitter coffee like hurt, disappointment, fear, unforgiveness, ugly habits…we've all had to drink the bitter brew we make for ourselves at one time or another.

It is never pleasant and I guarantee we've all wanted to give up and give in...wished we could dump the coffee and start over because it seems too much to swallow.

But God doesn't waist anything...even the bad things in our lives, he uses all for good.

And we know that all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.- Romans 8:28 NIV.

Many of us know that verse by heart, it is well known and well used. But do we believe it?

There are things in life we have to press through, bitter issues we have to deal with. It is hard to swallow the reality of our sins and sometimes their painful consequences...we can't run from them but rather must swallow our pride and move through them.

Remember how each time I made room in my cup, it meant that much more room for creamer?

Remember it got easier and sweeter?

It is hard to face disappointments, sins and hurts in our lives, but when we choose to face them, choose to let the yuck be removed from makes room.

The more we remove from ourselves, the more room it frees for Jesus to come in. He brings true life.

John 3:30-He must become greater; I must become less.

With each step we take to remove the offensive things in our hearts, do the hard things He calls us to like forgiving, loving, obeying, and letting go… the more grace flows, the easier it will be...and the sweeter your soul.

It’s been said before the only way to the other side of something is through it. Have you noticed it takes much more energy too avoid something you don’t want to do, than it does to actually do it? And oh, the relief you feel when you finally do?!

Sweet surrender…

Mmmm, now that is a thought worth savoring.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Thief of Our Energies...

You’re excited!
A brilliant new idea, some creative light bulb has just sparked a surge of energy and you set to work.
You eagerly go about making your mental masterpiece become a reality. Pen out the words, sketch the scene, thread the needle, mix the ingredients, snap the shot, build the structure, play the notes.
Only wait….
Something isn’t right.
You try again.
It still doesn’t sing to you.
Maybe if you just…
Grrrrr! THAT isn’t going to work.
Before long…
Scratch that!
I’m done, I give up.
It’s not PERFECT!!!
Do you ever feel like that? To be so exuberant and excited about something new, only to abandon it in utter frustration because you can’t make it turn out the way you had envisioned in your head?
Well I do that a lot. Especially recently.
My life isn’t perfect.
FAAARRRRR from it in fact. Sometimes I wish there was a restart button. I want a do-over, like in those wonderful old Nintendo games, you know? If you missed a coin in your quest for the ultimate score, or didn’t beat the clock, you got to restart and attempt your perfect run once again. Man, do I wish life was like that!
Is it just me or does it seem the more your life is imperfect, the more we seem to strive for perfection in the little things?
Take this blog for instance. Since its creation I have been frustrated with it…it doesn’t look the way I want it to, I can’t make the design do what I want, it’s not as impressive as so and so’s…and I get discouraged. What was first a source of excitement and creative energy fast became an annoyance and had me throwing hands in the air in surrender to my frustrations.
But then I stop and think.
My quest for perfection is keeping me from the real purpose of this blog….to write!
Perfectionism is a thief to your energy.
Rather than devoting my energies and precious time to writing for this blog, I found myself obsessing about the color of the texts, the width of the margins, the placement of boxes! When it comes down to it, who really cares?
I was allowing my time and my joy to be stolen by a drive to be perfect.
But you know….I never will. At least not in this life.
That’s when I hear the whisper…  “I am your perfection…I became perfection for you.”
2 Samuel 22:31- As for God his way is perfect…”
Hmmm, “the way”, now doesn’t that sound familiar?
John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “ I am the way and the truth and the life.’”
Life. When you think of a perfectionist, do you think of life…full, joyful, overflowing life? Hmmm, nope, sorry, those two don’t seem to mesh in my mind.
The definition of perfect is “without defect or blemish.” Wait, I’ve heard that one before too.
1 Peter 1:18-19 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
Christ became what we could never be…perfect. That is why we have a Savior.
Mmmm, breathe that in…you don’t have to be perfect because He has become your perfection!
But just a second, there is another verse…Matthew 5:48  which says “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Didn’t I just say we don’t have to be perfect, and here I bring up this verse?!
Think of it this way. What is perfect?  “Without blemish” right? That means holy…clean…pure…like.. Jesus.
Just be like Jesus.
Just walk in His way…The Perfect Way…The Life…The Truth…the truth that sets us free. The truth is we aren’t perfect. The truth is…HE IS.
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.”- Isaiah 26:3.
Peace. Not frustration. Now that IS perfect.       

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oh the Possibilities...


That is what I often feel as a writer who knows I posses the talent, ability and desire to write good words, but alas is often faced with the dilemma of WHAT to write about.  Lack of the inspiration of subject.

Give me a reason to write, an idea, a thought, and I go like the wind. But the wind that blows through my mind is here one moment and gone the next so that I cannot seem to snatch from it a singular subject for which to focus my attentions on.

Much as an artist might be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of beauty and possibility that surrounds him, I can be so overwhelmed with the vastness of possibility that I am often impaled and bound, maybe even more so than if I didn't have anything to write about at all.

Possibility is one of my greatest enemies.

It can be that way in life too….

Too many possibilities can be so crippling they make me crumble in a heap exhausted before even embarking on the journey. I picture it rather like an enormous maze: there are so many winding paths and concealed twists and turns that it nearly short circuits your mind to consider them all. Do you ever feel like that?

I am one of those people that wants to know what is down every road. Choosing one, I would follow it to end's meet simply to know that I have exhausted that one possibility, to have found the end of something, to know it fully is certainty. There is comfort in that.

Absolute freedom of endless possibilities, when it comes to creating, is rather frightening. How much more can it be when it comes to our lives?  

It makes me think….

God has given us unlimited possibilities with what we can do here on this earth. There are so many different ways that each of our stories can turn out.

Just by changing a single note in a song, you can change the feel and direction of everything to follow. If you go up, you can make the song sound bright, encouraging, uplifting, hopeful; but by going down, you take the song down to a deeper feeling, possibly sad, melancholy, or foreboding.

The possibilities are endless. Off of each road, there may be another path, which again splits. Each will hold its own challenges, rewards and heartaches.

Jeremiah 6:16- “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”


Rest for my soul. When I begin to look at the empty canvas of my future, that tends to be the last thing that comes to mind. So what am I missing? What else did that verse say?


Sometimes it all comes back to simple principles…”be still and know that I am God”…”ask and you shall receive”….”wait upon the Lord….”.

“Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” -Isaiah 30:21.

When I read that verse, it calms my fears. Fears of what could be or what might not be. He's already been there, because He knows which way is the good way. It He leads me in good paths, doesn't it make sense to embrace the possibilities instead of fear them? 

In this world of endless and overwhelming possibilities, it is comforting to know there is One who has walked before us. On each path He knows what will be required of us and He knows which ones we are ready to explore and those which would break us and lead to harm.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Oh the possibilities….