I cannot stop listening to Ellie Holcomb‘s album, Red Sea Road. For almost two weeks now I have been playing it on repeat and having a good ol’ fashioned worship with it. Particularly I have been dwelling on the title track itself (Ellie shares more about it’s origination here). These very words are the prayer of my heart these days when it seems like everything wants to break the hope I have, even my own mind:

We will sing to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go, there’s a Red Sea Road
When we can’t see the way, He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone down a Red Sea Road

 

I am not facing a death, a health battle, a family falling apart…but there’s been a season of hope dying in many ways in my life. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it until recently when the dry bone season changed me to thirst more and more for Christ. When I had exhausted all of my means and went back to the God Who just asks me to be still. In retrospect I had decided to bury hope for some dreams I had carried, that I thought were God-given but felt were all but lost.

Prayers had gone unanswered, unaddressed, or they had simply been told no. I wanted to pack it all away and go on living with buried dreams, a hope left by the wayside. I didn’t want to see God as faithful and with me. In fact I was so dry that I just didn’t feign to look at all towards His direction.

I could write more on justifying how God used this song to convince those who may not believe He can do that, but I won’t. What I will do is say that I trudged through the dryness to a night in January where I was trying to give every excuse not to be at women’s worship night that I could. But a new friend from this last year was going with baby in tow, so I thought I’d better go if for nothing else than to be where I said I would. Then Ellie comes out to lead part of worship with Christy Nockels, and they sing this song they co-wrote. Y’all, I couldn’t…God was slowly reaching down to give me water with it. Then Ellie sings Red Sea Road. It was God’s heart cry to my hope, a Hope that is everlasting and unfading. One that I had attempted to bury was now calling me to sing, to unpack it and allow it to stand in the face of fears, doubts, lies and brokenness.

It reminded me of the very story Ellie wrote her song from, of the Israelites facing opposition chasing them and a wall of water before them. What could have easily been a dead-end for them, their hope and even their lives. He provided the way then, and He does so now. It may not be conventional, but the God who made a road out of the dry land of the Red Sea will be with us on our road we walk.

Is it easy? Absolutely not.

Are there days when I want to bury that hope? Yes.

But the last two weeks I have seen that hope that is Christ-driven, God-ordained and Spirit-led is Hope that cannot be buried. It can only be grasped fully in the obedient walk with God, knowing we only need to be still, He goes before us.

Dry Ground and a River

We are in a bit of a drought here in middle Tennessee, and across the South in general, this year. We are close to four inches below where we typically are for this time of year, and you can see the markers of it. Dry, cracked ground…hard soil…plants succumbing to the changing season with sighs of thirst.

I was thinking on this as I read a portion of Joshua recently. The children of Israel were again to cross a river to get to the Promised Land. They were the children of the ones who did the initial crossing out of Egypt with Moses as their leader. Now they listen to Joshua, the main ordained as the leader of Israel into the Promised Land. They didn’t cross by boat, or shear might.

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No, God led them through, with specific plans. It wasn’t on dry land that He showed up, proving once more that He was with them in this journey. While we don’t see much hesitancy here from the people as we do the first go ’round with Moses, I cannot help but think they are calling to mind the stories they’d heard from the prior crossing.

Even when we recall past faithfulness on God’s part, it’s hard to not desire the dry ground to walk on. It’s easier to walk on dry ground, what we believe to be sure footing and stability. We are able to see it for ourselves and know the path before us. But here God is, calling us to the river once more, to walk through the physical representation of Living Water for our lives to reach the Promised Land. He calls us to obediently walk through that water with Him, knowing His strength in it is far more than anything we can accomplish on dry ground.

Because let’s be honest, dry ground is good for nothing. You can’t till it, it doesn’t bear fruit, it’s not fertile and it most definitely will not take seed. But we go after dry ground, we long for it rather than the trust of the river…crossing the unknown with our only surety being that the Living Water is with us, flowing around us.

The more I am called to cross over waters the more I am seeing He is taking me through them to the land He promised. While dry ground may bring stability for a season, the damage of the drought will far outweigh the fears silenced in obedience.

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.

Spoiled, Rotten

There’s a story told of when I was a kid, mom had taken my sister and I out to dinner one night. For us, a dinner out was a big deal and especially if it was at Western Sizzlin’, because that meant Jello cubes. One night we go, and fried chicken was apparently ordered for me. I relished in the Jello cubes (and squirted them through my teeth as that is the proper way to eat said Jello). Feasting on everything but the chicken. My leftovers were wrapped up in a napkin and put in the car…then forgotten, as they chicken leg rolled under the seat.

Weeks roll by and a definite smell starts to pervade the black car my mom drove to horrifying levels. After searching high and low, the rotted, spoiled remains of a dinner I chose not to eat was discovered and extracted from the car.

I was thinking on this as I looked at the story of the Israelites this week in Exodus 16. We find them in the desert now complaining to God about their food source. Provision of deliverance wasn’t fulfilling as they journeyed. So God provides food for them, food that they are given detailed instructions on.

(Can we pause and revel in how God was specific to them in how to collect what He provides? It’s such a beautiful picture of detail and His care in us depending upon Him to provide)

Moses is intentional about pointing out that some gather much and other gather a little, but all have what they need. You miss it if you are familiar with the story or skim past it as it seems so minor but so soul-clenching good. What I need looks vastly different to what another needs, yet God provides each according to what He knows is the need. He meets me right where I am to provide-whether camped out in the wilderness or on the mountainside reveling in His teaching.

But it’s when we attempt to store up His provision, as some were prone to do even in Israel that we find our dependence is no longer on Him to provide but ourselves. We cast doubt that He will do as He said, that His promises aren’t good or sure, and that He is not faithful to complete. We question His ability, strength, character….who God is. We put our place above Him to provide for ourselves when that happens. We store up provisions that end up spoiling, because in our own minds we find it easy to pack it up and then let it roll underneath the seat of our lives…where it begins to rot, it festers and spoils. Pride, selfishness, ambition falsely founded lead to the rot. They lead to the trust being broken and provision coming from our own means and not His.

So we come back, we throw out that which has spoiled-cleansing our lives of the doubt and lies that He won’t provide for us in need, the need He knows and the need He meets, not our own definition of need. We wait for a new day, full of new mercies and the manna which He provides for that day. I know I try to jump ahead and point to  tomorrow, next week, next year while He beckons us to this day. Only this day, over and over again. Just. This. Day. It too is a provision for us, that we are given just this day before us.

Let us not spoil tomorrow with the doubts of provision when He has given us the joy of the manna of today.