He winnows your path

old road path“You scrutinize (winnow) my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.”  Psalm 139:3

Winnow.  1:  to separate chaff from grain by fanning 2:  to separate desirable and undesirable elements

 

Ever feel like there’s a road block in your life?  Maybe your focus is on the roadblock and not the path – or Christ Himself.

Remember the game where someone blindfolds you and guides you thru an obstacle course?  My brother and I played this when we were little.

You listened to the voice of your guide, “step to the left”.  You followed their lead, “Okay, now you’re at steps.  There’s 7, go slow.”  Sometimes my baby sister would want to get in on the game, so I’d have to go pick her up out of Ben’s way so neither of them got clobbered.

Jesus leads us on our path.  We need only follow Him.  We focus on His voice; He leads us; scrutinizing our path.

He walks us up steep ridges of stepping stones though it may mean taking us the long way around; avoiding stumbling blocks.  He draws us thru narrow passages averting the wide open passes of dangerous traps.  Sometimes He removes elements, and sometimes, He directs us step over delicate things that we might otherwise crush.

He guards us from our enemy as we remain in the shadow of His presence.

Though we may turn from His chosen route, He will never leave us or forsake us.  He knows what it best for each of us, and He doesn’t throw His hands in the air with exasperation, giving up.  He’s intimately acquainted with all our ways!

And always He provides all that we need along the way.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on you own understanding. In everything, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”   Proverb 3:5-7

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/winnow

God Takes You Back

Today was my long run day.  I run with my iPod off the first half of the run so I can listen to what the Lord may be speaking to me.  About half way, I turn music on to break up the run.  I didn’t hear anything so I ran in silence.  I rounded a corner passing this beautiful statue; the face of which looked like look one remembering days gone by.sbstatuemar2014 - Copy

As I turned on my iPod, the words “Do you remember?” flooded my mind with a download of memories.  I knew it was the Lord.  One scene after another passed before my mind’s eye of a time in which I really hated my life about 20 years ago.

My marriage was all but shattered.  The only reason Brad and I didn’t divorce is we couldn’t agree to part with our little boy Jake even for shared custody.

We were in heavy debt financially, emotionally and relationally.  We had nothing to give one another.  Jake was our only joy.  We both knew that wasn’t healthy for each other or our son.

I had allowed my past to dominate my life.  It was my identity.  I wallowed in a dark and depressing pit seeing myself as neglected, forgotten, abused, rejected, worthless, useless, unintelligent, incapable, ashamed, guilty, and hopeless.  I was on antidepressants (but still depressed!) and told I would be for the rest of my life.  I was a pathetic mess.  Anything we tried didn’t help; it all just heaped up in a pile of tried this, tried that; NOTHING WORKS!  It was such a dark and painful time.

The scenes flashed in my mind as I ran.  Another song started; Jeremy Camp’s “Take You Back”.

You’ll take me back always
And even when my fight is over…
You’ll take me back always
And even when my pain is coming through

You’ll take me back always.

I had known who the Lord was.  I had “asked” Him into my heart years before.  But (a VERY BIG BUT) I had not walked with Him.

I was so angry at Him.  How could He let so many bad things happen?  Why hadn’t He intervened?  Where was He when I was rejected and left alone?  What kind of a God let’s His children suffer?

I hated Him.

One day I was so tired of fighting just to breathe the breath of life.  I resented seeing Jesus answer prayers for others around me.  He even answered some of our “courtesy” prayers as we dabbled in prayer with new “church” friends.  (We didn’t dare share what was really going on in our lives with the church people.  We were only going for our son’s sake after he started asking “God questions” following a recent death in the family.  A new neighbor invited us to church so we tried it for Jake.)

It was another miserable day.  I looked around me and saw no life except in Jake -and he was asking all these “God” questions.  How dare God answer our little prayers when we were suffocating, even hemorrhaging inside!

I didn’t get on my knees. I locked myself in the bedroom, flung my fists in the air and started yelling at God.  “Why don’t YOU just do something with my life, my marriage?  I don’t want it!!  I can’t leave it.   I’ve screwed it up so bad – just TAKE IT!!  But You know what?!  I don’t think You can, cause You haven’t done a &%^^% thing for it!!”  I fumed on.   I remember feeling like my blood was boiling.  I was so mad, so hating God and so ALONE.  But for the first time maybe ever, I was truly addressing Him stripped down to who I really was.  I wanted to punch Him and kick Him.  Why was He so invisible?!  “I can’t even see You!!”, I ranted and wept until I was absolutely empty.

In that moment, that silence, I felt His presence.  “I’m here.  Follow me.”  It wasn’t audible, not really even words, but it was REAL; as real as my raw emptiness.  He was present.  He spoke to me.  He didn’t offer anything but HIM and an invitation to follow.

You satisfy this cry
Of what I’m looking for
And I take all I can
And lay it down
Before the throne of endless grace, now
That radiates what’s true

I knew then my life would never be the same.  Nothing in my life changed.  But each day I sought to go about seeing life WITH Him; following His lead in every matter that previously perplexed me.

It was difficult.  He had me take steps I didn’t want to take.  He was there, always there.

I remember too, that at first, when I took steps I would turn to Him expecting to be done; finished and ready for a reward.  He only led me to take yet another step each day.

Over the course of about 2 years I learned to live following Jesus on a daily basis in the smallest tasks (that seemed really big).  It was difficult, but it was different than the past.  He WAS THERE WITH ME.  My marriage was restored.  My identity was no longer what I came from, but who I live for.  I am a follower of Christ.

The song continued:

I can only speak
With a grateful heart
As I’m pierced by this gift
Of your love
I will always bring an offering
I can never thank you enough.

Jesus rescued me from the pit of hopelessness. He walked me THROUGH.  He showed me compassion and taught me grace.  He showed me that it’s not enough to be free from the past or circumstances; rather, it is to be free to BE WITH Him.

When we are living with Him our focus becomes like His and our perspective changes from self to caring more for others.

When that happened, my life truly began to change.  What an immeasurable gift.

I still have so much to learn about caring for others above myself, but the every time I fall, Christ is there picking me up, showing me grace and teaching me to extend it to others.

There’s more to this story, and I can’t wait to share more as it all comes together in my book.  Most importantly, remember, God will always take you back!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, for He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-7

Beautiful Mess

My life, a beautiful mess: written last fall, but that’s ok.  My life is STILL a beautiful mess.

Saturday we took our son to the airport after a great 5 day visit.  I hate goodbyes. They make me want to cry.

Sunday I was responsible for portions of a big Back to School event, complete with snow cones.  I miscalculated the departure time of the snow cone vendor and didn’t realize it till they had to leave before our fourth service got their free snow cones.  I was mortified knowing I was the one responsible.  Children cried.Photo by Scott Adams 2005

Today I had an exhaustive list of “to do’s”.  After finishing number 5 on my checklist, I began to drive off.  I looked down at my list.  Suddenly I felt and heard a jolting crunch of metal as I rammed into an empty parked car.  No!  Seriously?!  I want to SCREAM!Thankfully the car was the only one hurt.

Once again, I found myself throwing my hands up in the air,
“Jesus!  I’m a MESS.” 
His faithful response is, “I know child.  You’re a beautiful mess.” 
“Yeh, Lord I know.  And YOU’RE the beauty in my mess.”

This has been a year full of challenges.  Even so, I’ve come closer to Christ in all my messiness this year than I had been for years coasting in perceived “success”.   Each mess, heartache and challenge has brought me closer to reality in my relationship with Christ.

I’ve heard it said that when a jar is shaken, what’s on the inside will spill out.  Is it sweet or sour?

As my life was getting shook up, what began to spill out of me was a heaping portion of sourness; I was full of SELF.  I had become confident in my own abilities, confident in years of being in ministry, confident in doing right, striving for excellence.

There is nothing wrong in well doing, UNLESS Christ is not the center of our focus.   We are out of balance when Christ is the goal but not the means.  We are in danger when we become our own source.

It’s just as important to “press into Christ” when we are heavy burdened, scrambling just to breath or at the top of the mountain conquering new ground.  The truth is, we need Christ ALL THE TIME, no matter what season we’re in.

When we’re at the top of our game, we need time to be transparent with ourselves and check if our perspective is truly Christ centered.

When we’ve fallen face first for the umpteenth time, it’s the same; we need to take time to get alone and really focus on Christ.

What season are you in, and where is Christ in your season?  Where is your focus?  Is it on Him with everything else in the peripheral?

Are you hearing His voice, recognizing His presence in your life?

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and loose heart. Hebrews 12: 1-3 (bold and italics added)

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sadams/12860434/”>Scott Adams</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

Carpe diem, seize the day!

Carpe diem, seize the day!  Whatever day you are in, whatever season; make the most of it.  You can’t go back and get a redo!

I just ran 8 miles today.  That’s nothing to brag about, but this morning my alarm woke me from an especially good dream.  I was tired and I wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep and finish my dream.  The last thing I wanted to do was get up, and I definitely didn’t feel like running.   Once I finished though, I was so glad I hadn’t slept in and missed my time to run.   sb running shoes

Isn’t that just like life? Some days we just don’t want to DO what we’re called to do, but we do it anyways; and then we’re so glad we did.

Who wants to send a child off to kindergarten or summer camp or college?  How difficult is it to give away your daughter’s hand in marriage or see your son land his first big job in another state?  Who wants to say goodbye to loved ones who move or a friend who passes away?

It’s difficult to turn the page on an especially good season.  There are some seasons we just don’t want to leave.  We don’t always get to make that choice, and life is not always fair.  Time and life rolls on.

And yet more often than not, each new season turns out to be richer than the last, just in a different way.

The truth is we don’t really know what lies ahead.  Our best plans rarely turn out the way we envision they will.  If we keep Christ the center of our focus, then everything ~EVERYTHING else pales in comparison to the amazing wonders He reveals in each passing season.

Find the treasures of the season you are in, and recognize that you only have it for a timeAppreciate what you have now and welcome what is yet to come.

 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.    James 4:13-14