In the Details

Often I skim read to get to the crux of a paragraph, chapter, article, etc. I don’t much care for details unless they are pertinent to a story, a character, a situation directly. The indirect stuff? You can keep it.

But in the details is where most of the story is in actuality. It’s where the plotlines develop, the characters come from the page and into being. It’s where most of the story is actually.

And it’s most often where I’d like a bit more involvement from God in my own life-the details of the every day, the situation, the cause and effect. We tell ourselves that a big God wouldn’t care about the details of our day, of our work, that relationship or that conflict. That He’s got better, more important stuff to handle like poverty, genocide, creating life.

But He does.

The details do matter to Him because I matter to Him. You matter to Him. What we are doing every day, in the big and the small-and especially the small, they matter.

The worshiping, confessing, ministering and cleansing of the Israelites in their day to day lives was so important God detailed how it should happen, what they should do, where it should be done because it all pointed back to Him. Every single detail pointed to a God who cared about the work of the people, how they worshiped, the responsibilities of the every day. He cared so much about the details that He gifted them the resources by which to build it far before they knew what they’d need it for. He set into the hearts of some to be gifted weavers to make the robes that pointed to the gospel before the very mention of Christ.

I like to point to God saying I’d like more details about why this matters, or that task has significance. I cry out for the bigger picture, when He has invited me into the details already. He’s asked for obedience in this task, right in front of me, gifting me with this particular set of skills in order to accomplish it for His good and glory, to point to Him and even to the gospel.

He is in the details of my life, and in yours, but I think I have gotten too accustomed to skimming through life in this perpetual state of hustle and bustle that I don’t see Him in the details. Because He is there, in the threads weaving a story if I but take time to listen, heed and obey.

The Wilderness Way

“So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea.”
Exodus 13:18

Blink and you miss it in that verse nestled right before the crossing of the Red Sea in the Exodus of the Israelites. Right there, God led them out into the wilderness. It’s where John the Baptist would be called from before birth. It’s where Christ would spend 40 days. It wasn’t new for Moses to be in the wilderness, it’s where he met God.

God was intentional in leading His chosen people out of bondage and directly into the wilderness. There was another route, a more direct one along a road. But they would have encountered the Egyptians’ fortification for defensive purposes there, done long before the Exodus. God knew this, and He knew the Israelites were not prepared for battle…yet.

He knows this about us too. Knowing that the route we see as easier and exactly what we would plan out for our escape from slavery and bondage within this world isn’t for us. That route has a battle on it that we just aren’t ready for, so He leads us out into the wilderness just like Moses and His chosen people.

A few verses later we see exactly what was in store for the people of Israel on the wilderness way:

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.”

He led them out to safety, to security, as a safe place and trusting guidance on their journey. He would part the sea through Moses’ hand. He would provide a way of escape for them. This wilderness way would point directly to depending upon God fully in the journey, for provision, for light…for all of it. This wilderness way was so the Israelites would focus on Him, His Presence with them in the entirety of each step, each moment, each day. In everything.

How often do I even recognize His Presence with me in my own life? In my wilderness, do I see it as a way to be prepared by Him? To be led by Him? To fully acknowledge and depend fully upon His Presence with me in every moment? Do I stop to consider He goes before me, leading my way into and through the wilderness because that’s exactly what He wants for me, and knows this is the absolute best for me?

Your Burning Bush

Ever feel like God is calling out to you, in the middle of your daily life? 

I don’t mean on like the David Koresh level y’all (I have been catching up on the new mini-series Waco obviously) But in a way that only you would recognize? Maybe to get your attention or to remind you that you are noticed?

I was thinking on this as I read through Exodus 3 and 4 this week. Granted Moses got a burning bush and that would be pretty hard to miss, but it was done in the midst of Moses’ daily work. He was in the back of the desert, tending to his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. He wasn’t just in the middle of a desert, he was at the back of it. Doing the day in and day out of work, laboring for his family when God met him there.

burning_bush

But Moses had to take notice first. I love how intentional Scripture is in pointing this out, that Moses stated he would turn aside and see this great sight. He was able to take notice of God revealing Himself to him. But it came at a time that was pretty mundane-doing his work in the field, 40 years into his stay in Midian as an alien resident. He’d fled there as I wrote about earlier.

God is so intentional with us if we are willing and open to hear Him, to seek Him even in the desert, even in our every day lives. The things which we think are mundane? Well He will use us for. I often hear people talk about wanting their “burning bush” moments with God, where He acts in these large ways…but that moment was Moses taking notice of God in the middle of his day, doing his work as he had done for years upon years.

How do we take notice of God speaking to us in specific ways about what He would have us do? How do open our eyes, our hearts, our ears to Him speaking in our day-to-day lives? As we tend our own flocks? As we live out years upon years in a foreign land? As we find ourselves at the back of a desert?

He calls to us when we take notice of Him, His pursuit, His work in and through our lives. We have to be willing to turn aside and see the great sight of Him appearing to us in each moment, day, and way.

Where is it that God has lit a bush on fire specifically for you? Have you missed it? Would you turn aside to see it?

From a Resident of Midian

I acted rashly. Out of emotion. Feeling that I was right and seeking to address the injustice rather than my own feelings. I was in what you would call a personal crisis, reflecting on something that had been stewing under the surface for a while but unwilling to address it head on. Until it came bubbling up in a single moment.

So now I find myself here. In this wilderness land. In a desert of my own making as I fled the consequences of my own sin. Of my rashness of judgement and severity of words. Of emotions and feelings that I allowed to be the controller of my thoughts and life. I didn’t realize how well I’d gotten at running until I took off outside the borders and the walls that I thought were trapping me in. That were attempting to confine me, rather than define the work I would be doing to bust them down.

I ran until I felt I was furthest away from the situations, the people, my emotions and sin, and the consequences of my words. Here I am at a well. In my moment of flight, in seeking to not be known for what has been done by me and to me, I find myself thirsting to be known. Thirsting for water that can wash over what I have dirtied. What others have cast upon me too. Not for just a moment’s satisfaction of quenching this thirst, like I felt my actions were…like my emotions led me to believe would satisfy the thirst for justice.

This desert has left me desperate for water that can only come from a well found in Him. Found in my desperate attempt to cling to everything but Him. To flee and hide, only to be found content in my desperate need for only Him. I came with nothing, only myself, and that’s all He has wanted of me from the beginning-just me. Now I am an alien in a foreign land, feeling as if I don’t belong and yet knowing to be content in exactly that. That wilderness is preparing me for the next season, the next step. Preparing my heart and my mind, quieting the voices of doubt and lies and letting me hear Him speak deeply to me.

I don’t know how long He would have me be here, in this land of Midian, but I know it’s not for me to question why I am here but to only present myself over to what He would have me see, prepare for, work out and understand…to be silent and content before Him alone. He meets me here, in the place of Midian. In the daily. To live out my life in pursuit of a desperate need for Him and not myself, not others, not my plan, my emotions, or my sense of justice.

Current Midianite

 

 

 

Maundy Thursday

When I was around eight or so, I dropped the communion plate full of grape juice on the brand new light green carpet at my church…in the second row. Who thought that was a good idea to pass that plate around the pews FULL OF CARPET AND PEW STAINING GRAPE JUICE?

Thursday of Holy Week marked the first Last Supper. It marked the time when Jesus revealed the new covenant of living forward to the disciples. That each time we break bread, we drink that we should remember Him, that we do this as a remembrance to the body broken, the blood spilled for us.

I was diving into some commentary on the first Last Supper and found an interesting point from The Christ-Centered Exposition that defines how the Passover was the perfect time for the Last Supper, the reminder that one exodus long ago would also bring forth another, a lasting exodus freeing us from sin and enslavement to it forever. The lamb sacrificed then would be the One given of Himself for us all, so that we would take and remember it each time we ate or drank-which is every single day.

I think about the pew stains on carpet there in the church, how there’s still a hint of it almost 30 years later. And I think about the sin stain of the world, cast across the people that God loved dearly but that broke His heart. I see the eternal blood there in the wine cup, the blood of the Perfect Lamb covering us all in order to make us white. The red of Him made us white in His eyes. It took away our need to sacrifice at Passover, and replaced it with the covenant of bread-breaking, cup-bearing daily. It ushered in freedom where we were once bound by the marks of slavery, of stains cast all around us and on us.

As we greet and walk through Maundy Thursday this week, I find the Last Supper what draws me in, to see my desperate need for cleansing in Him, to be reminded of His brokenness and blood-rending that is coming tomorrow. The arrogance of Peter there, even as Christ foretells of his desertion and my own walking away at times. The need for prayer in the deepest parts, in the times where I feel alone and deserted, there’s the draw to my knees and communing with God alone.

The sacrifice for my stains awaits tomorrow.

I have been wrestling with thoughts of “Is this it? Is this what the next 40 years will look like God?

And I wallow in it y’all. I find it pulls me into a darker existence, questioning circumstance, a future and not allowing any room for hope in the midst. At times it can be all-consuming, filling and overflowing within and out. Sometimes it is just a passing whisper of a moment.

But it is there.

In my mind, rolling about like a pinball that keeps banging off the bumpers, and never quite hitting the pocket to complete the round. Instead it gets bumped into prayer in a light hearted way, then stronger into a frustration and then a cry of desperation to God.

“IS THIS IT?!!?”

Then I read a small phrase, blinking or hurrying through reading would make me miss it. In fact I did until someone pointed it out. There it stands, maybe not mattering to you in Numbers 21:4, but hitting me so hard that I had to sit in it’s power almost breathless.

“But the people became impatient because of the journey.” (HCSB)

That’s it. The mic drop moment God had with me. Oof.

The Israelites had just come from battle, and the journey was growing longer as we all know if you’ve looked at Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy or went to Sunday School as a child. The journey was dragging on, and their impatience in it grew by the day.

Right there is where I see myself. Where I see the thoughts of “Is this what it’s like from now on?” I am the impatient one on the journey. He doesn’t want me focused on the next thing, the next goal or project or the bump in my career (or a completely new one). He wants me focused on His leading, just as He led them with a cloud through the wilderness.

There’s a covenant and a hope of eternity in the promised land, just as He did with the Israelites. But in this time, season, in the now? He desires none of that extra. He knows me better than myself, and that the extra tends to get made into idols that are worshiped rather than Him. Idols of work. Idols of distraction. Good things in and of themselves that I then fashion into false gods that sit on a throne that is only made for Him.

Just as it’s guaranteed that a journey will involved mountains, valleys, and plateaus there is also the guarantee of rest, or I simply wouldn’t continue. Just as they came to a rest after the battle at Mount Hor, time dwelling on our own desires for ourselves instead of resting in the Presence right before us allows for impatience to grow. It’s part of the journey to take a rest, to give time to re-energize before taking up your pack once more to journey. While we often have maps or trails that allow us to see the destination, the end point, I must realize and trust there’s an eternity on this path with Him. I already know the conclusion, as His promise is sealed. The means by which to get there-a relationship with Him, is the end as well.

While I grumble in the moment, asking “What now?! Is this it?” He’s saying “Am I not enough?” He wants this moment, this season, this life with Him, in His Presence more than anything else we could fathom. Because He wants us. He wants good for us. He wanted a relationship with us so badly He gave Christ for it. It’s for this time when I would choose Him above the doubt of the next thing, the impatience of a slower journey, or the unknown of time that is not my own.

I may utter words of prayer that ask “Is this what it looks like?” while He is continually responding, “Isn’t it worth spending with me?”

Oof.

Stomach Bugs, the Wilderness, and His Presence

Recently my nephews both were on the sick bed with the stomach bug circulating around. One of them reacted a bit differently to the suffering by writhing around and wailing, “Why me Lord? WHY?!” (I have no idea where he gets the dramatics from, none whatsoever)

It got me thinking that I often (non-verbally) have the same reaction to anything that makes me uncomfortable, shifts my plans, or that just isn’t what I had in mind.

If I am really honest, I look alot more like the Israelites that Moses was consistently frustrated by in the wilderness than I do Moses up on the mountain with God.

God’s feeling far from me? I make work, friends, my plans idols instead. I do my own thing and point to His absence of presence in my life. (Which is NEVER the actual truth)

God’s not providing what I want? I complain about thirst or bread that I didn’t do anything to deserve and say it was better to have been a slave than where I currently find myself, which is with Him.

God has given me opportunity after opportunity and now He’s allowing my choice, my stubbornness to take me on without Him? Oh then, that’s when I say “You wait just a minute. I am not going anywhere without Your Presence.” While I believe that He’s going to rubber stamp my plans, my way of doing things.

As much as I want to judge the Israelites for their moaning, complaining and stiff-neckedness I find that especially when God says “Well have it your way then. I’m not in this,” is when I want His Presence. When He says He will not go with me into this is when I yearn all the more for Him.

Something I forget is that He is always with me, and will never depart from me. He won’t be okay with the choices I make without His counsel and guiding, He won’t approve that in my life, no matter how much I try to manipulate Him or the circumstances. Even in the midst of the wilderness, when I am given nothing but provision from Him, protection by Him and guidance in my journey I want to do it my way, managing His will for my life.

It’s in those tension points where I must find humility, seeking not my own but His. Knowing His Presence, Provision and Providence come before any of my desires for my own way. It’s difficult, that I won’t try to deny. It’s relinquishing control, of “I know better” and allowing His sovereignty to govern my life again and again.

I like to think that once I have addressed this, it won’t happen again. One and done. But just like those stomach bugs my nephews were battling recently, it circulates back around at some point. It’s moments of refining, discovering and understanding more of Who He is and being less of who I was.