Thursday, October 2, 2014

How Big is Your God?

I climbed a mountain recently.  Literally.

Not Everest, but a mountain nonetheless.  

After saying for years that I wanted to attempt the Chimney Tops Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains I did it and nothing could have prepared me for the experience.  I'd been told by family members who had hiked it in the past that it was steep, it was brutal on the heart and lungs going up and brutal on the calves going down.  I winced when the hikers cringed with calf pain the next day, but still nothing could have prepared me for the actual feeling of the calf pain until I experienced it for myself.

What on earth was I thinking?

But....this out of shape, more gray hair than natural color, woman did it.  Climbed a mountain.  

Now some of you may not think this was a big deal, some may even think the Smokies aren't anything like the Rockies or the Alps or the Himalayas, but to me this was a mountain.  (And according to the information board at the trailhead - the Chimney Tops Trail is 1400 feet in two miles, which is very steep!  Even if you're not out of shape and have all your original hair color!)

If you've ever driven through the Smokies, or any national park, you know how big nature really is.  And how small we are in comparison.  As we were driving to the trailhead and climbing higher in elevation, I began to feel really small.  And the problems and concerns and the earthly junk that is forever harassing started to get smaller as the mountains grandeur got bigger.

But then we started hiking and the view got more contained again.  I could only see what was in front of me (mostly on the ground as I looked down to make sure I didn't trip) and once in awhile as I looked to my right - ah, steep, straight down with big tall towering trees that you couldn't see the beginning or the end but just the vantage point of eye level - and looking to my left was mostly rock and dirt and bushes. And more rock.  

When it was still easy.

Thankfully my husband, who sweats profusely kept us at a slow pace to keep his sweat pumps at bay so my heart and lungs thanked him as we continued the climb with stops every few minutes to look back at where we'd been and look up and see how far we still had to go.

The first sign we got to after starting the trail said 1.1 miles to the top!  Ugh!  You mean to tell me we haven't even gone a mile???????!!!!!!!!!!!

But as we kept climbing and stopping and climbing and thinking surely we're almost to the top, I kept thinking more and more how big this *$%^&$^&(* mountain was and how (*^&%&^$$# small I really am.

My daughter and son-in-law, both in awesome shape and with their original hair color stayed a good pace ahead of us with the promise that we were "almost there."  Then there were the climbers coming down the mountain, those who had already made it, who were refreshed, who were smiling, who were talking without thinking their lungs would explode - thooossee people - they'd meet us and say, "you're almost there!"

Show offs!

Only a gazillion steps to go

Don't tell me I'm almost there if I'm not five steps from being to the top and still have a million to go! I thought grudgingly to myself.  Oh wait, I think I did say that aloud a few times after they had passed.

But finally, finally, we made it to the top.

Well, almost.  Not technically THE top, but pretty close.

This is where we started hearing we were "almost there".  Not!

Not "there" either


We scaled a little of the flat rock which was the ONLY way to the very top, but the thought of having to come down the same flat rock, which by the time we got there was very HOT from baking in the sun did not appeal to me.  And I had a little bit of a thought that I really didn't want to be on the news that evening as the lead story, "out of shape gray haired woman falls off the top of Chimney Tops Trail coming down." 

As close to "there" as we were going to get

The real "there"

The view from our "there" 

We didn't make it to the top but we sat and enjoyed the view from our "there."  And as I sat, I saw how big a mountain really is.  And I thought about how much bigger the One who made the mountain must be.  And if the One who made the mountain is so much bigger than the mountain itself, then the worries and problems and harassment that took a ride up the mountain on my shoulders with me that day really are small and they were the ones that got thrown off the top of that mountain that day.

God, the creator of mountains and trees, really tall trees, and life and all things that make life worth living, is bigger than any small thing that I carry around with me. 

My worries.

My fears.

My disappointments.  

He's bigger.  Much, much bigger.

The things we're facing in this country and this world now seem very, very big and very, very scary.

But you know what?

God is bigger. 

I thought I was small, imagine how he feels!

 Now we can be the happy ones who made it!

Sometimes it's good to look back at how far you've come so you can keep climbing.

Keep climbing.  Stop to catch to your breath and enjoy the view.  Don't stand too close to the edge, but keep your eyes on the trail.  Look back once in a while to see how far you've come, and when you turn around to look to see how far you have to go, just keep going.  One step at a time.  One foot in front of the other.  The view and the sore excruciating relentless calf pain for a week after is worth it!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hold on tight and no matter what, don't let go!

A few years ago my husband worked in New York City with some of the members of the NYPD.  One kind police officer offered to take my husband and I and an entourage of college kids smack dab into Times Square on New Year's Eve without having to wait outside in the cold all day long.  Our only instructions were to meet him at 10:30 on the corner of 8th Ave and 42nd street and he would get us up close and personal.

The college kids had spent the day exploring the city and at 10:30  our group of ten and another group of about 4 or 5 met our escort at the designated area.  If any of you have ever been in NYC on New Year's Eve you know what it's like to be surrounded by millions of people for blocks and blocks and blocks.  It is absolutely crazy.

When we surrounded our escort his only words to us were, "lock arms and no matter what, don't let go."  So we did, forming a human chain, following the man in blue.  As we bumped and jostled and stepped on the toes of people who had been standing in line for hours in the cold, and we heard the disgruntled complaints of more than a few as we all kept going by, with our humble "excuse mes", we finally arrived at a blockade that the police officer opened up for us unto a quiet, abandoned street.

The noise and the swearing and cursing and bumping melted away as we entered into this surreal block of silence.  The man in blue let us all go through and stopped those who were trying to ride the wave of our tails as he quickly closed the blockade counting us as we passed by.  We laughed and high-fived and skipped our way behind the police officer who walked us that quiet block and into the heart of Times Square.  Within seconds we were in the middle of the most exciting place on the most exciting night in America.  It was awesome!

We had access.   And we didn't have to do a thing, except show up.

I remembered that night this morning as I was just paging through the words God has given mankind to see them through this dark and lonely world and I came across a passage that jumped out at me when I saw the note I had written in the margin of my Bible.  So I do what I do, got out my tools and started digging and this is what I found.

This is the Greek literal translation of Romans 5:1-4.

Having been justified therefore by faith
 peace we have with God
 through the Lord of us Jesus Christ 
through whom also the access we have
 by the faith into the grace
 this in which we stand
 and we boast in hope of the glory of God
 not only that moreover
 but also we glory in the tribulations 
knowing that the tribulation perseverance produces 
moreover perseverance character 
moreover character hope
 now hope not does make ashamed
 because the love of God has been poured out into the hearts of us
 through Spirit the Holy the One having been given to us.

When I write, when I get behind the screen and my fingers touch the keys I never know quite how it will all pour out and settle.  I see the words standing at attention and waiting their turn to come down and make sense of the pictures I see in my mind.

Somedays I just have one word blaring like a loud siren trying to get my attention and so that is how I write on those days.  I look up a word, using a dictionary, my exhaustive concordance, and I just start researching and trying to lasso this wild word running back and forth and up and down in my brain.

Then there are other days, like today, when there are no sirens, no words jumping inside, and I'm enjoying a peaceful moment with God in His word, not really looking for anything special, just paging through His precious pages and a verse catches me, a word or two, or as in today, a note I had written in the top margin of the page.

When we believe with the faith that God has given us that we are justified and made righteous because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross we GET access, we have our ticket, our VIP passes, to approach God, to speak to the Creator of trees and stars and cells.  We don't have to leave a message and wait for him to get back to us.  We don't have to set up an appointment with him for 6 weeks from now or two months or a year.  We don't have to stand in line for hours in the cold waiting to see something from a distance.

We get to be in the middle of the celebration that is part of the believer's life.  We get to be made better by tribulations, not made worse.  We get to bask in hope, not be ashamed of our sin.  We get to have God's love poured out on us (remember He likes to lavish us).  He pours out His best on us.  He doesn't save His love for those better,  those holier, those more religious than us.  He pours it out on all of us.

Whether we "feel" it or not, we are drenched in His love.

Whether we "see" it or not, we are marinated in His love.

Whether we "hear" it or not, we are soaked in His love.

Shame can't dry what God pours on us.

We have access, in the tribulations we are facing, to the God who pours out His best continually on us to produce in us perseverance, not defeat; character not wickedness;  hope not despair.

We can't do it alone.  But He's done it for us.

Your access card is valid.  For all time.  Even today.  Even with the memories of your past, your access is still active.

You may be getting jostled and cursed at and accused by those who stand on the outside rejecting Him, but your access card is still active.

Hang on tight and no matter what, don't let go!


 dikaiothentes - having been justified -  to show to be righteous, declare righteous, I make righteous, defend the cause of, plead for the righteousness (innocence) of, acquit, justify; regard as righteous

pistes - faith - faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness.  Faith is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people.

eirenen - peace - peace of mind, God's gift of wholeness

echomen - we have - I have, hold, possess

pros -  with - to, towards, with

 kyrios - Lord - a person exercising absolute ownership rights

prosagoge - access - approach, access, admission

 kataischuno - does make ashamed - I shame, disgrace, put to utter confusion, frustrate

 ekkechytai - has been poured out - I pour out, I shed, bestow liberally.  Used of other things usually guarded with care which are poured forth or cast out

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate

I saw that quote on Facebook the other day so I thought I'd give it a try.

I love God.  I love that God loves me.  I love that God loves the world.  I love that God is a God of grace and mercy.  I love how God is humble and a gentleman and doesn't feel the need to put on a show and to make Himself known in loud and powerful ways like we demand of Him.  I love that He doesn't give in to our demands.  I love that He's a good dad.  He lets us throw our tantrums yet He isn't moved to not protect us from that which is bad for us.

I love that He has created each of us so different yet so much alike.  I love that not all women are girly and not all men are manly.  I love that we don't all share the same interests but that He created us with common interests intermingled in gender and age.

I love that He created the world so perfectly and so meticulously, putting things in for us to discover, like oxygen and gravity and neurons and photosynthesis and how much pressure a tank can hold if its designed a certain way.

I love thinking about Him creating the animals at the beginning.  I love thinking about Him coming up with the giraffe's neck and the zebra's stripes and thousands of butterflies that he painted perfectly. I love that He has order to His creation.  That we get to observe the process of life being formed in womb.  I love that we get to see how a cell divides and multiples and turns into a muscle or a tissue or a bone or a heart.

I love wondering what He thinks about.  I love thinking about how He knows all, sees all,  all in one swoop yet still is filled with mercy and compassion and makes a way for us even when it seems so dark.

I love His word, yet I love Him more.  I love knowing that He walked on the planet, that He felt the sun on His face and rain on His hair.  I love knowing that tears fell because he cried and He jumped for joy when He was happy.  I love that He was tough when He had to be and soft when He needed to be.

I love wondering about what His eyes looked like when He smiled as He watched the sunset and sunrise.

I wonder what His voice sounded like when He told the woman to leave her life of sin.

I love listing all the things I want to ask Him when I meet Him and I wonder how in the world are we all going to get his undivided attention at once?

I love thinking about the way he preserves His creation when His creation seems to be destroying it.

But it's not about what I love about Him.  It's that He is love.

He is love that is patient and kind and not rude, not boastful, not proud, not jealous, not selfish, not quick to get angry, and doesn't keep a list of things I've done wrong.  He doesn't rejoice in evil but rejoices with truth.  His love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I love that His love is that kind of love.

When it's all said and done it doesn't matter that I love any of these things I've listed.  He doesn't love me less or more because I do.

What matters is that He loves me.  And He loved me first.  Anything I love is because He has given me the ability to love it.

I love that about Him.

He loves us.  As messed up and as fearful and as crazy as we all are, He thinks we're great!  Now that's crazy.

But that's what real love does.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bruised reeds and smoldering wicks

A road we travel frequently has a patch of cattails and tiger lilies that all summer I have been enjoying as I drive by.  Often this summer I saw redwing blackbirds sitting on the thin stems of the not yet blooming reeds and was amazed at how strong those stems must be as thin as they are to be able to hold up a bird.  The reeds bend some with the weight of the bird but the birds never seem to be in a hurry or worried they will lose their footing.  

Isaiah 42:3  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

These words were said about Jesus Christ, Savior and Friend to the world hundreds of years before He was born and fulfilled while He walked this earth.  He does not crush those struggling in sin.  He does not break the bruised souls oppressed by hurts.  He does not take his thumb and finger together and wet them on his tongue and press them against a wick that has a smolder of orange still glowing.

Jesus doesn't.

The world does.  The world surrounded in darkness.  The world that judges faith based on what it can see and name and the strength or weakness it sees.

Jesus does not measure our faith to see if it's bright and glowing and strong, or weak and faint and dim and then determines if one is better than the other.  He sees faith, no matter the size, no matter the brightness.

Jesus does not break the weak faith, burdened by sin and the world's oppressions.  He doesn't press on the bruises of our pain and make them hurt more.  Jesus stands underneath the reeds that are bent, the reeds bruised and holds them up.

He fans the flame of the smoldering wick, blows on it, gets the smoke rolling, the flame burning.  He straightens the reeds bent down by storms and stands them tall so they are again a refuge for one seeking rest or shelter.

Your faith may be smoldering and bruised, but it's still faith.  And it still counts.  Don't give up, don't be afraid.  Call out to him to fan your wick into a burning flame that gives light and warmth.  Beg him to straighten your bruised and bent heart to healing.

Your bruised and smoldering heart is not a heart that is worthless or faithless.  It is a heart that is strong and beating and filled with the hope that the Savior put in it when He called you His child.

Don't let anyone or anything measure your faith by what can only be seen with the eyes, but instead let God use the immeasurable, the unseen to bring light to this dark and hurting world.

If you feel you are being broken or snuffed out, it is not Jesus who is doing it.   How do I know?  Because the Bible tells me so.


A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
Matthew 12:20


Sunday, August 24, 2014

When Trust Meets the Road of Rubber

A number of years ago when we were facing a move that we knew would have us moving again in less than six months I was new to reading the Bible.  I actually wasn't even reading the Bible as a whole, I was more or less just taking a peek here and there, too afraid to look too closely for fear of what I might find it saying to me.

Even though I had been a regular church goer I had come to a place in my life where I needed to put shoe leather to what I said I believed, rather than just let someone tell me what I believed.  I believed I had reached the point, to use several vernacular, "given my life to Christ, surrendered to Christ, believed Christ."  I don't know what you would call it.  Some are very offended by any words that reflect any action of faith on the part of a spiritually dead person, but there was something different I knew deep down I needed to do.  God had wrapped the gift and was handing it to me, I had to ask him to lift my hands from my side so I could take the gift and unwrap it.

Something was happening in my life that would end up rocking the very foundation I thought I had in Christ Jesus, but it was something that was a specific action during a specific time in my life where I had to let the rubber meet the road and say either, "I will follow wherever you lead," or "I will try and manipulate and figure my life out on my own."

It was during this time period, when my circumstances for living, for my family, my children, my home was totally out of my control.  We had to move and it sucked.  We tried everything we could to stay where we were for just four more months but we hit a wall every time.  We had to move.  For four months.  And then, move again.

It sucked.  It really, really sucked.

But during this time, during this struggle not only of physical circumstances, it was a spiritual struggle most of all.  Do I trust God enough to take care of this situation?  Am I willing to trust Him even though I can only see the inconvenience, the difficulty, and the stress of the situation, will I trust Him to take care of this for me?

It was a day of choices.

His way or mine.

I'm humbled to say now, that I "choose", yes, I made the choice to follow His way, not mine, to follow Him and the reason I did, was because as I wrote above, I was just peeking in the Bible, just kind of playing with it at that time, not really wanting to take it seriously, when one day, when I was crying and praying and whining I decided to try this Bible thing and my eyes fell on this verse.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Trust.  In the Lord.

With all my heart.  Not just some of your heart, Ronda, all of it.

Don't lean on what you think you know, lean on me.

In everything you do, from here on out, try to see me in the circumstances.

And you know what I'll do, I'll make it all work out just fine.

He got me with that verse.  Just that one verse.  (Smile).

It's been a wild ride ever since.  We moved.  We moved again four months later.  And a few more times after that.  If I've learned one thing from my life as a Navy wife, it's this:  The Navy never moved us.  God did.  Every time.

But He got my heart that day.  He got my attention to see the attention He pays to every detail of our lives.  He wanted me to live the moves and the pain of them and the sadness and sense of loss and heartache because He wanted my heart.  All of it.  Not just a portion, not just the part I was giving him on a Sunday morning.

He wanted all of it.

And He wants all of yours too.

Not to be mean to you or to make life less fun and sufferable, but because He knows how painful it is for us to try and figure things our for ourselves, NEEDLESSLY, when He's right there.  Waiting to take you by the hand and walk with you through the crap that this world brings.

It's only one word that will change your life and your thinking and your behaviors and your beliefs.


You may think your circumstances are dictating your life, but they're really not.  God has an intricate, detailed plan in motion from the minute you are first formed in your mother's womb to the last breath you take on this earth.

Trust in Him with ALL your heart.  Don't trust your understanding or your logic or your rational thinking.  In everything you do, get to know Him through everything, see Him in everything you do, ask Him to guide you in everything you do, and your paths, your plans, your desires will work out better than you could have ever controlled or manipulated or planned.

Trust Him.  He's got you.

And boy, does He think you're awesome!


Proverbs 3:5-6