A Walk With a Gnarly Twist

Family and friends are here for spring break.  The house is in disarray.  There are two dogs instead of just one.  There have been some very surprising conversations to this point, but God has been right in the middle of them. The grandchildren and a friend have been delightful, offering help (well, maybe willing to act on our suggestions at least but that works for there have been no arguments!), adding their whit and whimsey to the wonderful mix of generations here this week.

family-outing-421653_1280All nine of us started out for a walk this morning, only to find that they had made a plan to hike about four miles away, onto a neighbor’s property.  I’ve been trying hard lately to get back into my walking habit, but this one I wasn’t quite ready for.  So, I marched part way with them and then took a turn to come back toward home alone.

March mountains

As I walked, I listened.  No noise, just a very slight whisper of the wind through the trees as I rounded corners in the trail.  The sky was pure azure this morning and not a single cloud in the sky, quite the contrast from the past few days.  I closed my eyes and thought of lazy, summer days at my favorite mountain lake and for a few seconds I was taken to that spot by the lake, looking into deep blue waters.

God is amazing.  He can take an otherwise regular day and turn it into something very special.  I didn’t think about the possibility of Him speaking to me in the ways He did this morning.  He spoke to me, not loudly, but as gentle as the rolling winds through the trees.  “I like what has taken place these past few days Linda.”

“Oh my, thank you Lord.  You have inspired me and you’ve helped me not react to a couple of potentially challenging situations.  Communication has just rolled lightly off my lips this week, as I realized I needed You to be in the center of these talks.”

I continued walking, feeling the warmth of the spring day flush my entire body.  This walk was definitely going to get my pulse up.  I came around a turn and noticed an old stump to my right.  It reminded me about life and how fragile it can be at times.  We can easily be uprooted in life by the unexpected trauma that sometimes awaits just around the corners of our lives.  We don’t see them, but they are there, awaiting the proper time to unfold.  Does God cause them?  I don’t think so.  I do believe, however, that He sometimes allows them to come, just like the story of Job. At other times, I think they come as the result of our own decisions tree stumpor unfortunately, as part of living in a fallen world.

The gnarly twists and turns of the stump reminded me that we can’t control how our lives will form.  The unexpected accident or injury might leave a scar or new alignment in our fragile body.  The hurts and emotional pains of our past may form some dark spots deep inside.  We often have a tendency to try to cover up those dark spots or perhaps even ignore them in the hopes that if we don’t acknowledge them to ourselves or others, perhaps they’ll go away.  The truth is, they don’t go away at all, but can become physical or emotional wounds that scab over eventually, but the reality of their presence remains with us.

“Oh Lord, this stump is working on me today.”

“It’s good Linda.  You need to look sometimes, because while the scars and twists represent pain in your past, they remind me how much I love it that you are willing to look at them now and, with my help, you are ready to move past them.  I won’t remove the scars, but I will heal their effects in your life and you will realize the true freedom I have for you on the other side of pain.”

Wow, I didn’t see that one coming!  I have often looked into the mirror and wasn’t sure I liked what I saw in the reflection these days.  Lines where there used to be none.  Spots of discoloration, a bump here, a flaw there, all representations of a life lived.  I didn’t want those marks and changes yet they came on their own, some marked by the passing of time, others as unexpected things happened in my life.  I realize I’m feeling more comfortable in my skin than ever before, lines, bumps and all.  I guess they, like the twists and turns of the stump, represent in their own ways the paths of my story.

woman-361541_1280A walk in the high desert on a beautiful spring morning.  Didn’t see Him coming toward me and yet He met me on the path today, bringing insight, love and understanding.  I so often forget that my Lord loves everything about our journeys with Him.  Whether I’m in the middle of baking raspberry crisp for dessert tonight or taking a walk with Him in nature, He is always there, willing to show me yet another slice of wisdom about my trek called life.  Thank you for a glorious walk through your garden Lord, walking with you in the bliss of this beautiful day!

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. Psalm 16:11 (MSG)

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Extravagant Dad

waterfall-141771_1280

We are told a story in Genesis, chapter two. God made Adam and then the Garden and finally He made Eve. When Adam and Eve were formed, they were given the Garden to live in, to tend and care for. They were given responsibility by God about this place. God told them to name every animal, bird and all the creatures. What the Lord did was give Adam and Eve the authority they needed to take care of everything in this place of beauty. Then God would come every day in the cool of the evening to spend time with His two favorite caretakers.  Can you imagine what this might have looked like?

The Lord, the God of the entire universe, came each evening and spent it with Adam and Eve. When you read the biblical account, it doesn’t go into much detail because well, I imagine that God knew He had a lot of territory to cover in this book for the ages, and He knew He couldn’t tarry with details. But it is in our pondering that I believe we receive clues as to what the heart of God is for you and I concerning our lives. I don’t believe He meant for us to read the Bible straight through like one reading a novel. Yes, it is full of fascinating stories and accounts of many different people’s lives but it is in the pauses that we learn about God’s intent for us from this most important book we call the Bible.

Adam and Eve were given the most productive, beautiful and flourishing place on earth. It was full of life and vegetation of all kinds. Therein we are told were rivers, four of them to be exact. Rivers bring water and water brings life. So I can make the leap to the fact that there were probably waterfalls as well as ponds and/or lakes.

Think back on the last time you were at a lake, perhaps taking a walk in the evening. Birds sing, talk and dart daringly through the trees. Fish leap out of the water. If you’re lucky you might see a deer walk down to water’s edge and take a deep drink. My last time at a lake was this past fall and while my husband and I were not the only people out there, it was a most peaceful place. It’s not a place we get to savor all that often and so when we go camping there, it is in these evening walks that I am propelled into the presence of my King.

Walking at water’s edge, I am almost instantly aware of God’s amazing creation. I love everything about being there. As we walk, we are mostly quiet. I often talk to the Lord as I go. I love hearing from Him in this place, His place, much unchanged from how it might have been so long ago. It is there that I realize how generous God was for our forebears. He gave them the very best of His creation. He didn’t give it with strings attached, save for instructions about one particular tree (I’ll tell you more about this in a later post). The rest of the Garden was Adam and Eve’s, to enjoy and oversee.

Our God is an extravagant God. He gave to mankind everything He’d created. This translates to the fact that He gives us individually everything as well. At the exact moment we accept His Son, Jesus Christ, into our lives, we are instantaneously brought into the family of God. We are adopted into the family of God, not as an outsider, but one with all the privilege of belonging to this wonderful family. In Ephesians we are told,

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (NKJV)

Do you hear this great and wonderful news? Although we were dead in our sins, when we accepted Christ, we were raised up and made to sit in heavenly places with Christ! In this passage is deep, deep mystery; we are given the same authority and responsibility of God as He gave Adam and Eve. When we say yes to Christ, we are brought into the family, given authority and responsibility now to carry on with the family business.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in God’s creation because this is where I hear God most often, and where I receive understanding of His ways. I believe you and I, once saved, receive the authority of God from our heavenly post to disperse His love and ways back here on earth. I’m just getting my head wrapped around this but I believe it is truth, His truth. As I understand more about His intent, my walk gets stronger and stronger and I begin to see evidence of God at work in and through me more and more.

During my childhood my faith was one of fear. I read OT accounts of God’s anger toward His people and somehow that translated into a fear I had of God Himself. In my 60’s now, I understand that God is to be feared yes, out of reverence for who He is, but not fear for my life. No, He’s my dad in heaven and He has nothing but good for me. Does He get frustrated with me? Of course. Does He discipline me? Oh yes He does. But I finally learned that God is for me, not against me and He has so much good waiting for me.  God is extravagant to me and to you.  He willingly gives because we are His kids and He gives good gifts to His children.

This is a truth that we must all learn. I pray my words today will help thrust you right into the lap of Papa God. When He adopted you on the day you said yes to Christ, He gave you the Kingdom, much like He gave the Garden to Adam and Eve. He gave you authority to walk in His ways, but it is up to you to find the path through the Kingdom. The path will be difficult at times because of our own decisions, not His intention. But every time we make a course correction and come running back, He will be waiting there, ready to swoop you up into His loving arms. We are the prodigals come home and our extravagant Dad put his ring on our finger, a robe over our dirty clothes, and new sandals on our feet. He loves me and He loves you.  He wants to walk with you in the cool of the evening and talk all about your day!