The Truth About Complaining: Thoughts On Job 6 & 7

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“I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. I must complain in my bitterness.” 

Uh…okaaay.

These words could actually have been mine.

But they aren’t.

They’re Job’s and they’re recorded for us in chapter 7, verse 11.

In my NLT, verse 5 in chapter 6 reads, “Don’t I have a right to complain?”

Uh…yeah. Like I said. This is soooo me.

Job asked this question after he patiently endured his friend’s assessment of his present suffering.

I admit.

I’m a reforming complainer.

I’m not proud of it.

I’m learning to do better. Be better.

To redeem myself, I’d like to think I can say like Job even in the complaining,

“I have not denied the words of the the Holy One.”

I think our personalities have a lot to do with how we respond to trials.

In all honesty, sometimes I just need to vent. This is how my personality is wired.

I just want to release my emotions or express my thoughts.

Sometimes I just want someone to listen and I’m not sure I even want them to respond.

I’m not saying complaining is okay.

It’s not a godly thing.

It can look pretty ugly.

It can hurt people.

Even push them away.

Worse, it can hurt my relationship with God.

Because whining, grumbling, and complaining is just a lack of trust in the Sovereignty of God.

A few years ago, as I was studying for a message I was to speak for a woman’s conference, I found something in Scripture that changed the way I thought of complaining.

So many times we experience toxic emotions because we’ve not been able to make peace with the fact that life hasn’t turned out the way we planned. Whether we’ve been betrayed, treated unfairly, lived through unspeakable acts of cruelty, walked through the fire or survived the flood, we forget that God still wants to get in the midst of it with us.

Because if we don’t let Him help us root out those toxic emotions it carries over, it festers and spreads, to other areas of our lives and we don’t even realize how angry and bitter we’ve become.

I’m sure you remember the story of the miraculous parting of the Red Sea in Exodus.

The Lord delivered His people by parting the waters so they could escape the Egyptians by crossing over on dry land. He parted those waters Himself and allowed every single one of the Israelites to cross over in safety. They saw God close the waters over their enemies and witnessed with their very own eyes the dead bodies on the shore. They sang a beautiful song of praise to the Lord and worshiped Him for His greatness.

But it wasn’t enough for them.

Three measly days later, the Israelites forgot God’s great power.

They came to a place in the wilderness called Marah where the water was so bitter they couldn’t drink it. Marah means bitter and all they could think about was how thirsty they were and how inconvenienced they were. They began grumbling, whining, and complaining against Moses. Instead of remembering what God had done at the Red Sea, they wanted to run back to Egypt…the very symbol of all that was wrong with their lives.

Moses cried out to the Lord on their behalf and God told him to do something very strange. He told Moses to throw a log into the water and miraculously the water became sweet. They were able to drink to their hearts’ content.

So, the Israelites witnessed yet another miracle.

After God gave the Israelites that saving, sweet water at Marah, He led them to a beautiful oasis called Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees. They camped there by the water and refreshed themselves.

This blows my mind: In spite of their whining and complaining, God still blessed them and what did they do with His blessing?

Exodus 16:1-3 tells us they started whining and grumbling against Moses and Aaron again.

I looked up the Hebrew word for grumbled in my Blue Letter Bible online. It means, to stop (usually over night): by implication, to stay permanently; hence to be obstinate (especially in words), to complain; to abiding (all night), continue, dwell, endure, grudge.

Do you get the picture?!?

I got to thinking…over and over again in Scripture, God calls His people stubborn, rebellious and stiff-necked.

They were never satisfied because they focused more on what was wrong with their lives and not with what was right. And they just plain got stuck there. 

It wasn’t enough that God miraculously delivered them from Egypt–never mind that He had brought all those plagues against their oppressors to prove Himself. It wasn’t enough that He had parted the Red Sea and drowned all their enemies. It wasn’t enough that He had sweetened the water at Marah and given them an oasis at Elim.

There were stuck in their whining, their grumbling, and their complaining. They may have been delivered from the Egyptians, but they were still oppressed by the hardness of their hearts.

That’s what happens when we get stuck in our complaining. We don’t just make ourselves miserable. We make everyone else around us miserable, too.

I’ve seen it in my own life. How my complaining has made the people I love miserable.

It’s toxic. I don’t want to be known as a bitter person. I don’t want to be remembered as a  whiner. I don’t want God to say of me what He said of the Israelites, She’s stubborn, rebellious, stiff-necked. 

I don’t want to forget all the good and wonderful works God has done in my life. I don’t want to question His Sovereignty by dwelling on things that are so far from the truth of Who He is.

And so often, what flies out of my mouth is far from what’s really true, yet…

I so get Job.

“I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. I must complain in my bitterness.”

Job said it.

I’ve felt it.

The musts.

The need to speak.

Like if I keep it bottled up I’ll just explode!

But I’m letting God change me. Change how I see my circumstances, change how I respond to the bad things that happen in life, change how I relate to God in seasons of hard things.

Because He knows me better than I know myself.

He knows what I need to hear and I don’t want to deny His words.

He speaks truth because He is Truth.

So even though I’m pretty sure my complaining isn’t pleasing to Him, I think He’d rather me vent to Him than someone else.

And you know what? There’s something about taking it all to God that puts me in my place. I may think I have a right to complain, but God is after my heart. He doesn’t want me to get stuck. He doesn’t want me to dwell in misery.

God has this way of revealing the heart of the matter and it’s this: I’ve taken my eyes off Him and I’m not trusting Him to be God.

There is so much more that’s right with my life than what’s wrong. And what’s right is that God has never let me down. He has parted seas for me, sweetened bitter waters, given me rivers in the desert and streams in the wasteland. What He’s done in the past He will do in the present and in the days to come.

Somehow taking it all to Him puts my focus back where it belongs and the truth of who He is will silence my complaints Every. Single.Time.

Uh…okaaay God.

Okay.

 

Faith, Faith Journey, Faithful Followers, Faithful God, God is Trustworthy

How To Be A True Encourager: Thoughts On Job 4 & 5

Encouraging others is something we need more of in this broken, messy world of ours, but it’s not always something we give freely or receive gracefully.

Some of us are gifted encouragers. And I do believe it’s a gift. We know just what to say and how to say it.

Some of us mean well. And I do believe we have the heart. We just don’t always know how to express ourselves well.

And then there are some who just don’t seem to have a clue. Like, are you even on the same planet?

One of the things that I can say about Job’s 3 friends: They came when Job needed them most. They showed up. They wailed loudly, tore their robes, and threw dust in the air over their heads to express their grief over all the terrible things that had happened to their friend.

And then they sat on the ground with Job for 7 days and 7 nights and said not one, single word because they saw Job’s suffering was too great for words.

Gosh. Those are what I call true friends.

But then, Job began to talk. To share his heart. And I guess his friends just didn’t like what was pouring out of his mouth. Instead of hearing a man who was deep in grief and living out an absolute nightmare, they heard a man who didn’t sound anything like the wise friend they’d always known.

I can’t help but wonder…did it frighten them?

Bless their hearts, they had started out so well.

I love that Job’s friend, Eliphaz, saw Job as an encourager.

“In the past you have encouraged many a troubled soul to trust in God; you have supported those who were weak. Your words have strengthened the fallen; you steadied those who wavered.” Job 4:3-4

Job cared about people.

But what happens when the encourager needs encouraging?

It’s just so sad Job’s friends weren’t as gifted at encouraging as Job.

Eliphaz says some really cool things about God that are true,

“He does great works too marvelous to understand…

He performs miracles without number…

He gives rain for the earth…

He gives prosperity to the poor and humble…”

but he didn’t have a lot of sympathy for his friend.

Even though he knew what kind of man Job was he still assumed Job needed correcting.

That all Job’s suffering was because Job had sinned.

While it’s certainly true God will bandage what He wounds, He will heal what He strikes, He will rescue again and again,

He doesn’t attack us the way Satan attacked Job.

Eliphaz wasn’t seeing Job and His circumstances through God’s eyes.

I thought, Hmmmmmm….

Sometimes I may have all the right words, but I’m misguided in my assumptions.

If I’m not mindful, I can be like Eliphaz.

I won’t have eyes to see.

Ears to hear.

A heart to understand.

Truthfully? None of Job’s friends had walked in his shoes.

They couldn’t empathize, but if they’d asked God for a heart like His they could’ve sympathized.

They could’ve spoken from God’s heart instead of their limited understanding.

They would’ve seen what God really saw in Job…a humble, righteous man of complete integrity and they would’ve sought to encourage him the way Job encouraged others.

This is what I hope for…to see the suffering as God sees them.

To look deep.

To encourage a troubled soul.

To support the weak.

To strengthen the fallen.

To steady the wavered.

‘Cause even if I haven’t walked in their shoes, I can have a heart that truly cares.

So can you.

With God’s help, I believe we can all be encouragers. Whether we cry along with a hurting friend or just sit in silence, sometimes our presence is the greatest gift.

But when we open our mouths to speak I believe God can give us words of truth, words to inspire, words to comfort, words to uplift and words to spark courage when needed.

I believe that.

Because it’s a gift.

Straight from the heart of God.

All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Cor 1:3 &4

 

 

Faith, faith journey, faithful followers, grace, mercy, comfort of God, encourage one another, lift one another up, positive words, gift of God, comfort in suffering

The Answer To My Why’s: Thoughts on Job 3

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Why?

Six times in my New Living Translation Bible Job asks, Why?

Why was I not stillborn…

Why did the knees receive me,

and Why were there breasts for me to nurse…

Why was I not hidden like a miscarried child…

Why is light given to one burdened with grief…

Why is life given to a man whose path is hidden…

These were the why’s Job asked, questioning his very existence. His very life.

Who can blame him? He’d lost just about everything but the beat of his heart and the breath in His lungs simply because God chose to preserve his life.

And, my friend, no matter what you’ve lost, no matter what you’re going through, if you’re drawing breath then you can believe God still has a purpose for you on this earth. You may not know what it is right now, but God never abandons the work of His hands. He will not leave you in your hard forever. 

I’ve heard Christians say we shouldn’t ask God why. It’s a lack of trust in His Sovereignty.

Just to let you know, I’m not sure I agree.

Maybe it is a lack of trust, or unbelief, but I’m a very human, very frail, very imperfect person.

Not to mention I’m very emotional, too. I’d like to call it passion, but…(that’s a why for another day.)

Still, I’m not afraid to ask God the why’s. I may not always get an answer, but sometimes life is just hard. Or plain not fair. It’s in seasons of hard things we can’t help but wonder what in the world God is doing. What His plan is. What His purpose is in it all.

If I’m to be completely honest, I don’t just have why’s. There are when’s. And where’s.  And what’s. And how’s. I’m the queen of questions. A terrible what-iffer, too.

If I–who has never experienced the grief and trauma of Job–can ask why, then I’m going to cut Job some slack.

As far as I’m concerned, he could ask all the why’s he wanted.

I know God reserves the right to answer to my questions. I don’t believe He minds me asking. And I believe I can ask as many times as I want, but I’ve learned to be satisfied when He chooses not to reveal it all. Sometimes the greater purpose is just to build my faith in Him to see me through. Carry me through. Give me all I need to sustain me.

God has given us so much in Scripture to help us understand who He is and to help us through our times of trials and suffering, but seeking is all part of His plan.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near…

‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’, declares the Lord.

‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'” Isaiah 55:6,8-9

Even knowing God is Sovereign and above all things, He still knows I’m human.

Sometimes I think it actually grows my faith to ask.

Because I’m still talking to God. Instead of running from Him, I’m running to Him.

Somehow, in all the questions, in all the why’s, in all the seeking, I find Him.

Him.

The One who has all the answers I need.

The One who doesn’t just hear me. He listens. Because He cares.

I don’t know how it happens, but in the  midst of all my why’s He Himself becomes the only answer I need.

Because life and hard things just make no sense without Him.

There will be no peace in the storm.

No purpose for the pain.

No plan on the wilderness road.

No Presence through fire.

So if it’s okay with you, I’ll keep asking the why’s.

Because I’m a seeker and sometimes that’s what God-seekers do.

God has never let me down. I’ve never failed to find Him when I seek Him with all my heart.

And sometimes for me, it all starts with why.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on His, because He cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” James 4:8

Yes, I CAN Do This: Thoughts on Job 1 & 2

This photo isn’t mine. I found it on Pinterest so I don’t know who to credit, but it’s a simple mantra that I had on repeat throughout most of 2019.

My husband and I decided to sell our old farmhouse in a small town in North Carolina not far from Raleigh and move back to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where we would be near my parents and his mom.

Moving is no joke, but prepping a 119-year old farmhouse made the process even tougher. There were days I could hardly move my body hurt so bad, but   I look back on it now and undoubtedly know it was God who supplied my every need.

Because of Him, we did it. We made it. We conquered it.

And now I’m living in that sweet place of peace and saying,

“Well done, Lord. Well done.”

As I worked hard on our old house last year–hence, my absence here on the blog– I also worked hard digging into the book of Job. It seemed fitting.

Our 12 years in North Carolina didn’t go quite like we planned and we encountered some really hard things together. Some of the hardest things I’ve experienced in my faith walk, but I can look back and see so much growth.

I’ve processed a lot. I’ve professed a lot. I’ve compressed a lot.

But I want  you to know…

I have lived in the goodness of God.

I thought I would start my journey back into the blog world by sharing my thoughts on Job. Some of these thoughts I’ve written about on my Instagram feed as well as my ministry page on Facebook, Reflections On The Word. Somehow I did manage to share a few things here and there, but consistency wasn’t a discipline.

I’ve learned over the years that one of the most important things that keeps me grounded in seasons of hard things  is staying in the Word of God. It builds me up and encourages that “I-can-mentality.” Not only do I learn more of who God is and what makes Him God, but I discover who I am as His child.

And really…this man Job? He’s the stuff of legends. Even when it seemed he was losing all hope, he kept going back to what he knew was true about God.

If Job could get through the hard, just about ANYbody could, if the “I-can” is there.

Can you really grasp how much Job lost in so little time?

Boom. All the animals and farmhands. Save one messenger.

Boom. All the sheep and shepherds. Save one messenger.

Boom. All the camels and servants. Save one messenger.

Boom. All his children. Save one messenger.

Just like that.

In a matter of minutes.

While one messenger delivered the news another appeared.

No time to think.

No time to process.

So Job did the only thing he knew to do in that moment.

He praised.

And I realized…I am so not like Job.

‘Cause the first thing I usually do is whine.

Or complain.

Or get angry.

Or afraid.

Not Job, though.

Even God knew “he is the finest man in all the earth–a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.” Job 1:1, 8

God said that.

About Job.

And I thought…what does God say about me?

As if losing all his wealth and his children wasn’t enough, one day soon after, Job lost his health.

But even stricken with painful boils he maintained his integrity.

He maintained his fear of God.

He still held God in high esteem.

“He said, ‘Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?’ So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.” Job 1:22

No whining.

No complaining.

No fussing.

No anger.

No fear.

Just worship. In those first few moments, Job remembered the essence of what sets God apart and that is this…

God is Sovereign.

I’m completely humbled.

Because in all honesty, I can hardly process the hard things when they come one at a time.

How in the name of heaven would I process, with integrity, the boom-boom-booms of life?!?

But God knew Job.

His heart. His faith.

And God knows me.

He knows what I can handle.

He knows deep down in my heart I want to handle hard things with faith.

God will always be Sovereign.

Above all things. In control of all things. Creator of all things.

And He is holy. This is at the heart of worship.

There are so many good things to focus on about God, but His holiness?

It’s what sets Him apart.

There is no evil in God. No sin. If not for the blood of Jesus, I know my sin would separate me from Him forever and this just wrecks me. So when bad things happen? I know it isn’t because God has forgotten me or doesn’t love me or because He doesn’t care.

Hard things will come to us on this earth and bad things do happen to good people, but God stays true to His character. He never changes and even though we can’t always understand the reasons why bad things come to us, we can trust that God will walk beside us through every storm and every fire and He will give us all we need to sustain us.

I once thought nothing good could ever come from the loss of my eye and the loss of my hearing, but as I’ve grown up in my faith I can honestly tell you that God has been so, so good to me.

And I know He loves me.

Even in the hard things I still believe it. I’ve been an I-can-kinda-girl for as long as I remember. God has never let me down. He’s given me all I need to navigate my days in this hearing-seeing world with grace.

When the trials come, I go back to this.

His goodness really is a blessed thing.

“Every day I call to You, my God, but You do not answer, Every night You hear my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet, You are holy. The praises of Israel surround Your throne.

Our ancestors trust in You, and You rescued them.

You heard their cries for help and saved them. They put their trust in You and we’re never disappointed.” Psalm 22:2-5

YET, God is holy.

Even in life’s fiercest battles.

Even in the boom-boom-booms of life.

God is still God.

And in the hard things I want to be more like Job and remember this.

I want learn to praise first.

If I do nothing else, I know I CAN do this.

Oh, To Be An Encourager…

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For those of you follow me on Instagram or on my Facebook ministry page, Reflections On The Word, you’ll recall I’ve spoken a bit about my heart for building fellowship in the Body of Christ.

Over the years as society has changed I don’t think fellowship is something we easily maintain. In these days of busyness and distractedness it now has to be intentional. I also believe we have to want it bad enough to go after it.

I’ve heard recently from several women that they long for fellowship with like-minded women. They long for deep connection. They just don’t know how to go after it.

Women feel disconnected from one another in their busyness. Some feel lonely. Misunderstood. Even rejected which really breaks my heart.

Earlier this week a younger woman sat in my kitchen with tears in her eyes because she doesn’t feel like she has any friends. Life has been rough for her. I cried with her. I held her hand. I prayed with her. I’d like to think I encouraged her.

Because I know what that feels like. When you don’t feel like you’re part of an inner circle. We need to remember that even Jesus had an inner circle. He had many followers but only 12 apostles and of those 12 He had 3 that He kept very close to Him and poured a little bit more of Himself into them.

This inner circle of men Jesus chose were not found in the temple courts or on the palace steps. They were ordinary men that we might not have given a second glance, but Jesus looked deeper. Past the rough exteriors and rugged demeanors. Past the dirt and grime. Past the sun-kissed faces and leathery skin. Past their present life course and past lifestyles.

Jesus saw who these men would become after He poured His life into them. 

We have this idea in our heads that there are certain kinds of people we want in our inner circle. We don’t always look deeper. Sometimes we don’t even take a second glance and heaven forbid when we let first impressions be our only impression!

Thank You, Jesus, that first impressions don’t impress You.

I get it, though.

In the past, I watched from afar the way certain women would talk and act and laugh together and I’d think, They’re having so much fun together! I would love to be friends with them. What’s wrong with me?

How vain is that.

Sometimes I think we become so comfortable with our little “in” groups that we become protective. We like things the way they are. It’s hard to open our arms and hearts to let in anyone new. Because of the trust issue.

It takes time to build the kind of trust needed to develop true fellowship with one another. 

It takes time. 

I’ve been involved in women’s ministry in some way for a while. I’ve led prayer groups, taught Bible studies, mentored, shared fellowship meals in my home, participated in weekend retreats with other women and hosted weekend retreats of my own so I’ve heard often enough that women truly are longing for genuine connections.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that we all need someone we can trust in our lives who will listen to our hearts’ cries, who will be vulnerable enough to share personal experiences, who will strengthen us in our walk with the Lord, who will pray over us, and who will help us keep our eyes on Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve battled some serious discouragement in my own life and it’s just an awful place to be all alone.

Discouragement means, “a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.” 

I’ve been discouraged about family situations, about finances, and about ministry. To name a few. There’ve been times I just plain wanted to give up on my passions and forfeit my joy.

We are so easily discouraged. That’s why we need encouragement.

encouragement>discouragement 

I’ve been reading through Paul’s letters in the New Testament and highlighting passages that refer to this fellowship and encouragement of which he so fondly wrote. I’ve been amazed how often the two are united. 

There are several different words used for encourage in the original Greek language which the NT is translated from.

Some of the various meanings are: To call to one’s side, to summon, to call near; to come together, to exhort; to cause one to excel, to superabound (don’t you love that!); to speak to, to console, to calm.

When I think of the encouragement I’ve received over the years I can honestly say I’ve received all of that goodness in some way at some time and in just the right measure.

-I’ve sent out SOS’s for prayer knowing my prayer partners will pretty much stop what they’re doing and pray for me right then and there. I trust them completely.

-I’ve had these same women come together and spur me on, telling me not to give up on the promises God has given me.

-I’ve met with women in coffee shops, cafe’s and parks to talk, cry and pray together.

-I’ve had women in my home to share a meal and Bible study.

-I’ve even had pity-parties, y’all, and I’m so grateful God has given me a few girlfriends who will come to my parties. They let me get it all out, but they don’t let me stay there. They speak comfort over me. They speak calm over me. They speak the Word of God over me.

They make me feel all superabounded! This word means to prevail in greater measure or to excess.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but this kind of encouragement has a way of making me feel all Wonder-Woman-like.

Just sayin’.

Because encouragement renews my courage and gives me the holy boldness to keep on keepin’ on!

We’re not all wired the same, but I love that Paul tells us all to be humble, be gentle, be patient with each other and always keep ourselves united in the Holy Spirit so that we bind ourselves together in peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

I love how he tells us to let everything we say be good and helpful, so that our words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)

Paul reminds us we’re in this fight together (Philippians 1:30) and he tells us not to be selfish and don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than ourselves. Don’t think only about our own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Paul tells us his goal for the Colossians and his friends who never knew him personally was that they would be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. (Colossians 2:2)

He mentions more than once in his letters that he received encouragement and that he gave encouragement. He was also gracious to thank those who encouraged him. I can’t help but think so many of us are being short-changed.

We just don’t encourage one another enough and I wonder how many times we take it for granted when we do receive it.

Encouragement is a priceless gift when given from the heart. 

Even though Paul didn’t write the book of Hebrews I sill love this passage:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” Hebrews 10:23-25  

The word consider is a very intentional word that means to consider attentively, to fix one’s eyes or mind upon, to observe or to understand.

We are to intentionally fix our eyes or minds upon others so we can spur them on–or persuade them–to love and do good to others.

Encouragement is like a chain reaction…we encourage so that others will be inspired to encourage. Yet, how can we be an encourager if we don’t spend time with one another in fellowship?

…let us not give up meeting together…be intentional…

Be. The. Encourager.

Follow hard after fellowship.

Draw someone into your little circle.

Look deeper.

Take a second glance.

Consider attentively.

Go make someone superabound. Like Wonder Woman.

Just sayin’.

encouragement, Christian fellowship, build one another up, lift one another up, spur one another on, unity, love one another, be intentional, be the change, encouragement is greater than discouragement

Reflections On Psalm 16

IMG_6864I had a pretty good childhood.

From the time my parents brought me home from the hospital shortly after my birth to the moment I married my husband, I called “Parson’s Patch” home. My father was a Baptist minister so we lived in the church parsonage on a one-acre plot of land deeded to the church by the family who owned the farm that surrounded us.

Acres and acres of land. Fields and woods hemmed in on one side by a main thoroughfare heavily traveled and on the other by a small country road that didn’t get enough traffic to justify painted lines.

Ponds. Streams. Wildlife. Trees and rolling fields fenced in with hundreds of wooden posts and miles and miles of rolled steel wire to mark the boundary lines.

When the farm changed hands we were elated to have neighbors with children the same age as my sister and I. We became fast friends and the fields and woods were like a second home to us. We had at our disposal enough “scope for the imagination,” (to use a phrase from one of my favorite fictional characters, Anne of Green Gables), to keep us entertained for hours. 

I’m almost positive we explored every inch of those woods and fields by the time we were teenagers.

We built forts in densely grown thicket and brush, occasionally suffering the pricks of thorns that couldn’t be seen until after we started building. We walked barefoot on moss-covered carpet in the shade of a variety of trees that soared so high and grew so thick we could barely see the sun. We poked at fish eggs in ponds green with algae and heavily coated with yellow pollen. We walked across ravines on fallen trees that had become natural bridges for small bodies with tiny feet. We slid down red-clay cliffs on our backsides using the earth as a sliding board. We rolled our bodies like barrels down straw covered hills until we were so dizzy we made ourselves sick.

Most days, when we got home from school, we couldn’t wait to grab a snack and head outside. We didn’t even change our clothes. We played in our plaid dresses and knee socks not caring one bit about the scrapes and scratches our shins and knees endured. We only returned home at the sound of my mother’s shrill whistle that carried over vine and vale announcing it was time for dinner.

We were brave.

And fearless.

And hopelessly addicted to the outdoors.

I felt as if I had no boundaries. If not for the highway and the country road it seemed as if the woods just stretched on forever. The wire fence surrounding the fields couldn’t stop us. We crawled under the wire and went our merry way.

I knew those fields and woods didn’t belong to me or my family, but somehow…in my childish mind…they felt like they were mine, because I wasn’t just associated with the family who owned them. I was actually their friend and real friends share. They share stories and secrets, belongings and blessings, homes and happiness.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have known the Michie family.  I barely have a childhood memory that doesn’t have them in it. They didn’t just share their land with me. They shared their lives.

What was precious to the Michie children became precious to me because they opened their home and their hearts and their little piece of heaven on earth.

There are just some things money can’t buy. 

I think this is what Psalm 16 is all about.

The great psalmist, David, was so good about sharing his heart with God. I think that’s why we love the Psalms. Sometimes we just don’t know how to put into words the deep things of the heart.

“Lord, You alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land You have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” verses 5-6

Whether you are fortunate enough or not to own a lot of property, there’s something very profound about these verses. A secret every child of God wants to claim and grasp hold of.

I can’t say I felt any less rich living on one acre of land in the midst of hundreds that didn’t belong to me. I didn’t feel cheated because we lived in a house that belonged to the church. I didn’t feel like I was missing out because I never felt like a visitor.

My childhood was rich because I had parents who loved me and because I knew they loved the Lord. Maybe I didn’t understand it all as a child, but I believe in my heart…in the place where I didn’t know how to express myself…that God was preparing me early to have a certain amount of knowing that He alone is my inheritance, my cup of blessing. Even then.

There’s something so sacred about knowing and being known by the One who promises to go through life with me. Who shares it all with me…secrets, blessings, happiness…and who wants me to share my all with Him.

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.” verse 8

For the child of God there are just some riches that reach far beyond any main thoroughfare heavily traveled on this earth. No country road will ever lead me to the kind of blessings only heaven offers. No wooden fence posts or miles and miles of steel wire can keep me from entering my promised land…the inheritance that is mine in Christ Jesus.

My inheritance is far grander. Far greater. Far more glorious.

The kind of thing you can’t put a price on.

All because the Lord alone is my portion, my cup of blessing. When I let go and drink it all in, I am hopelessly addicted. I know “apart from Him I have no good thing.” verse 2 

Sometimes I wonder, if I didn’t have a home or a little tiny plot of land or a penny to my name, would He still be enough?

know it in my head, but would I know it in my heart?

I so want this to be so.

God has already shared so much with me. More than I’ve ever shared with Him because He gave me His Son. 

The Father gave me Jesus so I would have this hope…this inheritance…this forever home. There’s plenty of “scope for the imagination” in this truth to keep me entertained from now until my days on earth are over.

Sometimes there are no words…

In the end of the parable of the lost son as told in Luke 15, the older son was angry that his father chose to celebrate the return of his wayward brother. But, the father said to the older son,

“My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” 

I don’t know about you, but I get all teary eyed just thinking about it.

God is so good about giving me little pieces of heaven on earth and they really are wonderful things. He’s so good like that, but I know all the good He has given me here on earth just can’t compare with what’s to come.

Even when things aren’t perfect, even when there are struggles and frustrations and disappointments and heartache, I have this hope…in the depths of my soul.

Because I love His Son, the Father will share it all with me. What is precious to the Father has become precious to me and because He shares with me His heart, His home, and all that heaven holds I’ve determined to share mine with Him. 

All of it…the stories and secrets, the belongings and blessings, the eternal home and forever happiness.

Because true friends share it all.

“I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John 15:15

And because there are just some things money can’t buy.

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.” verse 11

faith, faith journey, blessings of God, riches of God, Psalm 16, eternal pleasures forever, path of life, joy in God’s presence, the Lord is my portion, the Lord is always with me, the Lord is my refuge, God is good

Leaving Moab Behind, Part 3

IMG_3744Rarely does life ever turn out the way we plan.

Sometimes it turns out good.

Sometimes it turns out better.

And sometimes it turns out abundantly more than anything we could ever have imagined.

After losing all the things she held most dear to her heart, Naomi came to the end of herself in Moab. Without her husband and her sons to provide for her, Naomi’s future seemed hopeless. In the eyes of the society in which she lived, Naomi was destitute.

Moab hadn’t changed. It was still a lovely place. It was still beautiful. Still filled with an abundance of food and drink. Things in Moab hadn’t changed, but things for Naomi in Moab had. She was no longer thriving in the land of prosperity.

Naomi’s sons had married Moabite women in Moab, even though God had told His people over and over again, “Don’t intermarry with the nations around you” because He knew if they did they would also marry into their philosophies and ways of life. They would become more and more like those whom God had said, “Don’t be like them.”

How can we expect to make a difference in this world–a difference for Jesus–if we’re not willing to live with a different spirit?

To those who can’t understand it, it sounds harsh. To those who don’t want to understand it, it sounds intolerant. To those who don’t know the true character of God, it sounds unloving.

Yet, the truth is…if God’s children look like the rest of the world, act like the rest of the world, talk like the rest of the world, and agree with the rest of the world, then doesn’t it make sense that the world would look at us and think, “Well, Jesus hasn’t made that much difference in you so what do we need Him for?”

Long pause….

Big sigh….

Deep thought…

Because that’s how I react to that question. Not with condemnation.

But with conviction.

God had called His people to have a different spirit.

To be in the world…not of the world.

To be in The House of Bread and The Place of Praise–even in a famine–and not in Moab.

When Naomi heard that the “Lord had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them” back in Bethlehem-Judah she no longer wanted to be in the world of Moab. When she took those first steps out of Moab with her heart longing for home, her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, wanted to follow.

But, on the banks of the Jordan River, with Bethlehem-Judah just over the hills, something happened that would change the course of their destinies.

One daughter-in-law would return to Moab. The other would stay close to Naomi all the rest of her days.

Orpah is symbolic of a woman who has to make the choice between the old way of life and the new, between the wide road and the narrow road, between the way back or the way forward.

Even though the choice was difficult, even heartbreaking, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, weeping loudly. She exits the pages of Scripture and we never hear from her again.

We journey with certain people on this earth for a time, for a season, but one day we realize we need to let them go because they just might hold us back.

Some friends just don’t want to travel with us on difficult journeys. They don’t want to go where God is leading us. They can’t understand it. Don’t want to understand it. They don’t know the character of God the way we do.

As difficult and heartbreaking as it is, sometimes we have to say good-bye. We can’t hold onto them. We can’t change them. We can’t save them.

The parting between Orpah and Naomi was painful. Just because Orpah chose to stay in Moab didn’t mean she didn’t love Naomi and Ruth. It didn’t mean she wasn’t going to miss them. It didn’t mean she was heartless or selfish or reckless.

Orpah just wasn’t convicted.

When God brings us to the banks of our own personal Jordan, it’s easy to stay there by the river with our idols still within our grasp. It’s easy to compromise our convictions. To give in to fear. To let our emotions, our tears, and sadness hold us back.

Letting go is never easy because…

…there’s a longing within each of us to be loved. Adored. Treasured.

…there’s a yearning within each of us to be needed. Wanted. Accepted.

…there’s a wanting within each of us for companionship. Friendship. Fellowship.

Letting go of good things is never easy. Some friendships are good for us, but they’re not God’s best for us in seasons of change and transition.

Oprah couldn’t follow because her heart wasn’t willing to go and if her heart wasn’t willing then she would only have made it harder for Naomi and Ruth.

We need to travel life’s difficult journeys with those whose hearts travel with us.

The road out of Moab led through a mountainous terrain. It was a road that would take Naomi and Ruth uphill. They would make their way through the Judaean hills to get to Bethlehem on the other side. The climb would be treacherous for 2 women. Dangerous. Hazardous.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling perilous terrain I don’t want a wimp beside me. I want someone with Strength. Courage. Conviction.

Ruth was so convicted that Naomi’s own discouragement did nothing to dissuade her.

Wow. I love that about her.

One of the most beautiful passages of undying love and affection in the Old Testament is found right here in the Book of Ruth as Ruth pledged her loyalty to Naomi:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” 1:16-18

Strength. Courage. Conviction.

Ruth had it. Orpah did not.

Ruth had lived in Moab her entire life. She’d known many gods, but she’d heard Naomi talk of the One True God and something deep inside of her wanted to know more.

Ruth’s heart was more than willing to go. She left it all behind to reach for Namoi’s God and she would be richly rewarded. Ruth would marry a good man in Bethlehem-Judah, a godly man, a man who–along with Ruth–would be listed in the lineage of Christ. (Matthew 1)

Ruth dared to believe that her prosperity wasn’t in Moab with all it’s flowing streams and abundant grain, but in the land of God’s chosen people, even though it didn’t look promising for her and her widowed mother-in-law.

This is where Ruth reveals the moral integrity of her heart and this is where Ruth sets herself apart.

This is the moment Ruth confesses a different spirit. Denying all but declaring all.

And how God would lift her up! As she journeyed with Naomi through mountain pathways, He would not let her foot slip. He would not let her fall. He would make her stronger than ever.

God would make Ruth the friend Naomi needed. Together they would journey out of Moab and into Bethlehem-Judah. Together they would find their way back into a land of great spiritual promise and true prosperity. Together they never looked back.

Scripture tells us Naomi left Moab with a bitter heart. We gamble when we step outside of God’s will for us. There are no guarantees we won’t lose it all, but even when life doesn’t turn out the way we plan and the future doesn’t look good or promising…

…it doesn’t mean it won’t get better. God is in the restoration business, my friends!! The whole message of Ruth is all about His redeeming love.

The story of Ruth doesn’t end with a bitter heart. If you read the rest of the Book, you’ll discover that Naomi surrendered her bitterness and God restored her joy. He made her full again.

From bitter to better.

Not just better, but abundantly more than she could ever have imagined!

I love, love, love it about God that there is absolutely nothing He can’t redeem. Nothing He can’t restore. Revive. Refresh. Renew. There’s just so much promise in all those RE-words.

And I love it that there are still Ruths in this world with a different spirit. Friends with Strength. Courage. Conviction. Friends who come alongside us in seasons of famine and help us to persevere in our House of Bread and our Place of Praise so that we won’t want to venture into the land of Moab where the grass is NOT always greener on the other side.

Because “it’s always better to be hungry in the will of God than to be full outside the will of God.” –unknown