Tag Archive | life

Hiking with God

Halfdome, Yosemite Copyright © photograph By Gene Rose Special to The Fresno Bee Copyright © 1997 The Fresno Bee

Halfdome, Yosemite
Copyright © photograph By Gene Rose
Special to The Fresno Bee
Copyright © 1997 The Fresno Bee

So, I’m going on a hike in 3 weeks. Not just any hike. This hike is 16 miles total: to climb Half Dome in Yosemite and back to the trail head. When my brother offered me this opportunity, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes”. I am thrilled to see God’s handiwork from that lofty view point! At the same time, it is daunting to think I will carry my pack of supplies and climb to over 8000 feet! I’m 52. I live in Houston. It is sauna – I mean summer. There are no mountains nearby to “practice” hiking for the altitude. Did I mention I’m 52? I haven’t done any serious hiking since I was 16. My heart and soul keep thinking of the communion with God during the hike: no TV, cell phone, ipad, etc to interrupt. Just hiking with God as my tour guide. It’s pretty awesome to be able to do this with one of my brothers – they are ALL older brothers. If he can do it, so can I. Selfie stick photo at the summit? Maybe not – I’d have to carry it the whole way. Did I mention I’m not a serious hiker? So all these thoughts are running through my brain, but how do I train? My brother is retired. He can hike 13 miles a day. I go to work for 6 hours of daylight. Did I mention it is summer in Houston? What to do, how to train, how not to die from the heat? I purchased the necessary equipment and borrowed a few things. First, break in the hiking boots. Check. Next, I put bottles of water in the backpack. Check. Find a good friend who will walk with me at 6 A.M. while I look like a homeless woman carrying her life’s possessions – and walking 2 dogs. Check. Add more weight to the classes at the gym. Check. Next, take backpack and hip-pack (btw: loaded) spend 1 hour on the treadmill or stair-climber before class at the gym. Check. Did I mention I’m 52? OK, I’ve done that and I can still move! Ask same good friend to walk inside (sans dogs) at the local hospital’s inner mall. It’s air-conditioned. Check. “Dear God, please don’t let me have an injury from training! I SO want to make this trip.” This has been my process. I know I can talk with God anywhere, anytime. Life can be busy and distracting. Reconnecting with Him while in nature is restorative, at least for me. It reminds me that He takes care of the birds and He takes care of me and my family. It gives me time to peel back the layers of everyday stress. So, my countdown has begun. I leave in 18 days. I have several theme songs: Superchick- “Go One More”, Tobymac – “Give Me That Funky Jesus Music”, and the song lyrics “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking cross the floor, put one foot in front of the other, and then you’ll be walking out the door” (from a Christmas kids’ special). For now, I am still 52 and going to hike Half Dome. Stay tuned for the aftermath!

Img-Activity-1.6.3.1-Climbing-Half-Dome[1]

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Pruning is good for me!

Pruning

A good farmer knows how to prune his fruit trees, rose bushes, nut trees, etc. It’s work that’s done in the non-growing season. The tree ends up looking quite bare, almost dead. This past winter, I pruned my rose bush down to a 6 inch stub. Afterward, I was concerned that I had pruned too much and actually had killed the rose bush. Within a few weeks, I saw new shoots coming out of it! Now, I have beautiful roses blooming.

This is what God does to us. We aren’t always in a growing season. When the “off” season hits, that’s our pruning time. God is the Master Gardener. He uses skilled hands to tenderly and lovingly remove branches for maximum growth. And when spring comes, beautiful blooms. He takes off the things that are holding us back: complacency, un-forgiveness, hatred, gossip, etc.

For me, this pruning is not always fun. In fact, I like staying in my comfort zone. I have come to realize, that He knows what is best even when I cannot see spring on it’s way. Sometimes, I don’t get it until much later when I can look back at the difficult pruning.

I pray that I allow the pruning and it produces His beauty in me.

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OH RATS!!

 

Swiss Cheese heart

Sometimes life provides insight in unexpected ways. Currently, we are working on evicting the “upstairs neighbors”, code for rodents living in the attic. This began a couple of years ago when we first discovered there were squatters in the attic. We hired a company to help. They put out poison and that’s about it. (Ideally, the rodents – this case rats – eat the poison, get thirsty, leave in search of water, and die outside somewhere.) Because the access points weren’t sealed, we have the same issue again. Now the treatment is to bait/catch the perpetrators and seal the openings. Anyone see where I’m going?

God wants my heart – ALL of it; NO SQUATTERS! When I let God into my heart, the current inhabitants must leave. Things like fear, doubt, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. BUT, if I am not diligent in keeping God’s promises, His words and His fellowship in my life, the old inhabitants can easily creep back into my heart. I strive to seal the access points with prayer, fellowship, scripture, and worship. Matthew 12:43-45 comes to mind:

43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

 

Let us strive to keep God occupying our hearts.

 

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Afraid of the Stench? Jesus Isn’t!

Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”  Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”  John 11:38-44

Most of us are familiar with this account of the miracle-working, life-giving power of Jesus when He raised Lazarus from the dead.  There are a few interesting nuggets of truth buried in the details of this story.   Jesus had deliberately waited two days after receiving the message of his friend’s illness before setting out on the journey to Bethany (see verse 5). When He finally arrived, Lazarus had already died.  Prior to heading to the tomb, both Mary and Martha, sisters of the dead man, remarked that their brother would not have died, had Jesus been there (see John 11:21, 32).  They understood that Jesus had the power to heal Lazarus and were disappointed that He had not come to them sooner.  However,  expectation was still high, as Martha expressed her confidence that whatever Jesus asked of God, God would do (verse 22).  Others who followed the bereaved sisters to the tomb also reasoned, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (verse 37).

However, in the midst of the expectation and heightened hopes of Lazarus’ family and friends, faith faltered when Jesus asked that they roll the stone away from the mouth of the tomb.  Martha, who had been confident God would give Jesus whatever He asked, now warns:  “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days” (verse 39).  Her confidence that Jesus could do something began to waver when faced with the reality of death’s effects on her brother’s lifeless body.

Often, I implore God to intervene in a situation.  I even imagine various ways He most likely could or would choose to redeem that situation.   However, it seems He always comes up with something I never could have invented myself — a plan so unusual, that, when confronted with it, I begin to protest.   When God (finally!) begins to direct a solution to the problem, I am capable of thinking of all sorts of reasons not to do it God’s way.   If I am honest with myself, I am afraid of the stench of my own humanity.  Sin brings death, and death brings a stench — the stench of rotting flesh.   This is no surprise to God, as He sent Jesus to die for me when I was a sinner unaware of my need for redemption.   He knew I would die in my sin and that the stench would be great — and He chose to face sin and death on my behalf and face the stench fearlessly.   In fact, the Bible says that Jesus literally BECAME sin for me (2 Corinthians 5:21); since the Father cannot tolerate sin, Jesus was separated from the Father on our behalf as He hung on the cross.   Our sin was crucified with Him there.   He paid for every sin for all time.  Jesus was NOT afraid of the stench.   He KNEW God would give Him power to vanquish sin and death, and the stench along with it.

As we receive His life, we should remember that we are NOT odious to our Savior — SIN is repulsive to Him, but we are not.  He has set His love on us.    Similarly, we should not shrink back in the face of the sins of others God is rescuing.    They may reek in their lost condition, but God loves them anyway, just as He loves us.   Let us trust Him enough to use us to truly love others with His love and power and thereby rescue many who are longing to be resuscitated.  Don’t be afraid of the smell of death!

The Power of the Seed

While I understand that not everyone is equally thrilled at the thought of a pregnancy, in my own case, being pregnant was a profound sign of God’s kindness.  Since I had feared I would be unable to have children, a positive pregnancy test was cause for great rejoicing.  While I must confess that nothing compared to the thrill of seeing my newborn baby face to face for the first time, the sense of joyous expectation in the months prior to the birth was unlike any other sense of anticipation I had ever experienced.  Suddenly, I began to view everything in my life through a different, albeit unfamiliar, lens — the lens of motherhood.  I became a mother before I ever saw my child;  that simple positive pregnancy test transformed my point of view in an instant.  My heart began to rejoice before any outward signs of my new role were evident.   My excitement was so great, that,  the first time I was pregnant, I was convinced that my condition was immediately evident to the entire world.

Years later, I am keenly aware that many women do not feel this sense of rejoicing over a pregnancy.   Of those who do, many have suffered miscarriage or disappointments or sorrows in conjunction with the circumstances of their pregnancies or deliveries.   For many, the season of expectation that should be joyous turns into a season of painful trials and challenges.

However, I believe God wants to teach us a lesson about Himself.   He sent Jesus Christ to us as the holy Seed of Himself.  Paul writes in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”  Although God created man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), the image of God in man was marred by sin.   God sent His Son to restore and redeem what was lost — us!  As we believe in the atoning work Jesus completed on the cross, we receive the gift of eternal life (which, by the way, starts NOW — not just after we physically die).  That life is evident in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  The life-giving Seed, the Presence of the living God, dwells in us by His Spirit!

Every seed contains the blueprint of the plant it is designed to become.  In the sense that God Himself lives in us by His Spirit, we literally carry the DNA of God in our spirits.   In that DNA is every quality of our heavenly Father:  all the fruit of the Spirit, His very nature.   Just as an acorn carries the DNA of the oak tree, believers carry the DNA of God.   In 2 Corinthians 3:18, we read that we are progressively being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit.  THAT is the power of the Seed, a Seed which NEVER fails to produce fruit.   (“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  Phil. 1:6)

So, what is the point, you might ask?  The point is that we need to remember that what God has planted in us is truly HIMSELF, a Seed far more powerful than the seeds we plant in our backyard garden plots, a Seed that never fails, that never returns void (Isaiah 55:10-13).  What great confidence we can have in Him, the lover of our souls!   What great rejoicing we can and should have over His harvest in and through our lives, even before we see physical evidence of that harvest!  Just as I rejoiced with tremendous expectation over the baby I had not yet seen, God wants me to rejoice over His life in me before all His promises are evident to my human eyes.   He wants me to rejoice over the Seed in the same way I rejoice over the Harvest, to retain my sense of expectation of His amazing love and life-giving purpose to be made evident (Jeremiah 29:11), to remember that the Creator of the universe loves me personally and passionately and will keep His Word.   He WILL transform me and redeem the broken places in my life.

God promises that “those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.  He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”  (Psalm 126:5-6)  God sees our trials, our sorrows, our labors, our challenges, and He wants us to remember Who HE is and power of His Presence in us.   Father, I ask you to download in me the joy of the harvest and allow me to see my fields from Your perspective!