Sandstorm

Everyone tends to talk about storms and rain as pictures of something negative. I never understood that. Rain is beautiful. It’s cool, cleaning, refreshing, reviving. Without water, there is no life. So I never thought rain was a bad thing. Recently I’ve been in a desert of sorts. So many things in my personal life seem so dry, dead, and hopeless. Rain. Rain is all I want. Just a few drops of clean, cool water to rinse away some of the dust and give me a chance to breathe. But rain never comes. There’s always just enough seemingly stagnant water showing up at just the right moment to keep me alive.

Still I stand. I stand and raise my hands high to praise God. I know it’s only by His grace that I can stand here at all. I force myself to thank Him. I choose to believe He has a good purpose. I train my heart to trust even in this. Still… I can’t help but wonder. I see so many people around me so full of joy. It can’t all be pretending. There must be more to this life than just struggling to make it through each day. I can’t believe Jesus was willing to come and walk the earth just so we could have the chance to limp along beside Him. There must be more.

Lord, what would it take for me to feel alive again? What am I doing wrong? How can so many months go by like this? I just need a few cleansing drops of the water of Your Spirit… a momentary brush from Your healing hand… just to touch the hem of Your robe… but it all eludes me. I read Your Word. I pray. And it feels like words on a page and petitions made to the ceiling. I lift my head, despite the pain and exhaustion. I look up, forcing my heart to hope. And what do I get? Another face-full of burning, stinging sand.

Will the sandstorm never stop? How long do you expect me to keep walking through this? I don’t have the strength… but then I never did. I already said I’m only standing by Your grace. And I guess that means You’re still here with me, whether or not I feel it or see Your hand working.

Advertisements

Not Writing

It’s really a rather ironic thing about loving to write… it seems like it must come with the gift of dreaming up an unending list of excuses for not writing. It seems like there are plenty of ideas, but none of them good enough to write more than a paragraph about. Or they only come when I’m busy. Or when I’m feeling down. Or when I’m too tired. Or when I can’t get to my computer. Or sometimes I set time aside just to think and write, and no good enough ideas come. And I end up writing a post about why I don’t write.

Thankfully, writing a post about why I don’t write has proven something to me: Despite my many excuses, I do still love it. Maybe I’ll visit more often.


Thoughts on Jonathan Edwards and Witnessing

So, in my American Literature class the last week we’ve been looking at Jonathan Edwards and the inevitable Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Something the (very atheistic) prof mentioned was that when Edwards delivered this sermon, it was done in almost a monotone. He likely read it directly from his notes and hardly made eye-contact with his audience at all. It’s a little mind-blowing that it had that effect it did when you consider that. Then again, there was another factor he mentioned that might help explain it.

To the modern reader, Sinners is filled antiquated language and illustrations and obscure Biblical references. To the congregation Edwards preached to, it was completely different. That was their everyday English, slang and all in one or two places. The illustrations of arrows and rotten coverings over deep pits would have hit very close to home for an American congregation in 1741. And the way the Puritans, even at that point when they were (in Edwards’ mind) backslidden, puts this Bible college graduate to shame. The audience was familiar with what Edwards had to say. He was speaking their language right at their level.

Then it hit me that the same thing probably answered something that had confused me about my classmates. You see, despite how the professor was teaching it- basically analyzing the style and surface meaning and breaking down the concepts of the sermon- it had a far deeper impact on me. From prayer and self-examination to intense conviction about the need to be witnessing, the study affected me like a sermon. For my classmates, they were just bored with it. I couldn’t understand at all how they could miss the significance of what Edwards was saying to us from hundreds of years ago. And then it hit me. They were totally unfamiliar with the ideas being discussed.
I may not be a Puritan, but I have enough of a background in the church that Edwards’ preaching impacted me much as it did them. It was at a level that I could understand and grasp easily and that effected me because of that. But for my classmates, it went right over their heads. They didn’t have the tools they would need to really understand it.

Which brings me back to my own conviction in the whole thing. Witnessing isn’t as simple as it sounds. I remember one of my teachers back at CCBC saying that if you can’t explain the Gospel in terms that someone with absolutely no religious background could understand, you probably weren’t being much of a witness at all. Telling people the truth in a way that I feel is powerful isn’t good enough. If it doesn’t reach them at a level that they can truly grab onto and understand, then they’re no better off than my classmates: people who can have an educated conversation about the idea that we could die and go to hell and any moment without ever wondering if they should do something about it.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22


Sometimes…

Sometimes, our Heavenly Father asks us to let go of things, even things we treasure. It is never out of spite or cruelty, but always out of love and concern for our wellbeing. Sometimes something that we think is so very valuable can really be harmful. God only does what any loving Father would in asking us to give up the dangerous things to Him so we will not hurt ourselves. Sometimes the things we are holding onto really are good things, even things He has used to bless us. But if we hold onto those good things too tightly, or if we try to use them for something they were never intended for, He may have to take them away. He loves us too much to let having a good thing get in the way of having the best thing.


It’s Not the End

Abraham was told he would be the father of a great nation and then waited decades, watching as he and his wife aged until the fulfillment of that promise seemed impossible. David was anointed as king and spent years running for his life, even despairing and leaving the land of Israel. The disciples believed they had finally found the Messiah only to watch Him be brutally killed. Throughout the Bible and throughout history, great men of God have been given a vision and then have watched it die. But that’s not the end.

The son of promise was born to Abraham and gave rise to the nation of Israel. David was crowned the king of Israel and ruled well for many years. The disciples saw their resurrected Lord. God allowed it to become impossible for His promises and the vision He gave to come to pass. Impossible for man, but with God all things are possible. And when God left it so that only a miracle could answer the confused prayers of His people, none but Him could receive the glory for the promises being fulfilled.

So often in my life it seems like I’m running in circles. It seems like God says go, only to stop me and say to wait a little longer. It seems like I’m getting nowhere and nothing is happening to bring the promises He has given me into reality in my life. He’s promised to sanctify my life and make me like Him, and still every day I find myself falling to the same temptations. He’s promised to give me a loving, forgiving heart for His people, but there are still offenses I can’t bring myself to forgive. He’s promised me things about my future, yet year after year passes and I can’t see how any part of my life is moving toward those things.

But I know that He is faithful. I know that when He has spoken something, it will never fall fruitless. And I know that His timing is infinitely better than my own. It can be painful to see the impossibility of bringing His will to pass in my own life… but then how much sweeter it will be to see Him do it in a way far better than I could have ever imagined!


Sanctified Common Sense

“You can’t always expect a sign from heaven. Sometimes God leads in the most simple, natural ways. Sanctified common sense is one of the ways that God leads us most often. Take in the options. Think and pray them all through. Step out in faith. Often that’s the best any of us can do.”

I came across this in my file of quotes from classes, I’m not sure which of my teachers said it, but it seems to fit my life perfectly right now. It can be so easy to use “waiting on God” as an excuse to do nothing. Although there will be times when we are clearly called to wait, often what we need to do is simply step out in faith and trust God to guide those steps as we take them. Sanctified common sense can have much more to do with God’s will than we often give it credit for. It seems like every time I’ve just prayerfully started walking in a given direction, either everything has fallen into place or God has changed my path so naturally I hardly realized it was happening. It’s such a relief to know that if I simply trust Him with my future, He will guide and direct it.

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9


“The Heavens Declare…”

Written the afternoon of Sunday, April 24, 2011

The plane starts shaking and I glance up from my book, it’s only the turbulence of flying through a cloud. But before I become thoroughly engrossed in my reading again, the plane clears the cloud and I catch my breath. Spread before me is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life.

The sky is a pure, brilliant blue. It spreads to the horizon, broken only by an occasional wispy cloud. Those high clouds are not white, but are colored a deep rosy pink by the sun as it begins to set. Below, instead of seeing the ground, is a vast expanse of fluffy, blue-white clouds broken only by the occasional brown mountain peak breaking through. Somehow, the brilliant blue, deep rose, pure white, and harsh brown mix in perfect harmony. The breathtakingly beautiful scene is almost otherworldly, yet somehow perfect at home in its setting. And I wonder how many other paintings like this are hidden away in nature, under the earth, above the clouds, beneath the oceans, where God has created something beautiful that humans may never see. How many pictures has God painted just because He can? How many majestic scenes are hidden away, glorifying God when humanity refuses to?

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1