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.

All the Questions. 

I ask a lot of questions. I like context and clarity. It’s something as I have gotten older that has provided me with both, and saved a lot of time assuming something else or misunderstanding a situation/comment/task. 

When I was fired from a job, I had a lot of questions, none of which have ever been answered. For a while that unknown, that “no-cause” just left me deflated and assuming a lot. It welled up anger that had to be dealt with, and it also took me to God asking Him a lot of things about how He could let that happen and so on. 

We take a lot of questions to Him, maybe not all of them because we are human and we often try to answer the majority of them on our, in our own thinking, instead of laying them before Him. However He answers in His time and His way. But I find that some questions I ask, and this may hold true for you too, just don’t get answered. 

We hold some elite company in the Bible as well with this. When we look at the life of Joshua we can see his ordainment to lead the people of Israel into the land that was promised. Confidence and influence are with him, as is God. We see him lead them across the Jordan, obedient to the commands of God. 

Then he meets a Man. The commander of the army of the Lord as a matter of fact. Joshua doesn’t know this, only that this Man has His sword drawn. Joshua asks Him a question, of whether He is for them or heir adversaries (Joshua 5:13-15). His question, it goes unanswered. What follows in that very brief synopsis is God meeting Joshua right where he is at, and that’s all that mattered. 

You see I believe that often it’s not our questions being answered that we are in deep need of, but that we need to encounter God and be obedient in humble worship. That we need that time with Him far more than our future revealed or a question deeply answered. He tells us over in Jeremiah that His ways, His thoughts aren’t ours. The sovereign Lord of all is answering our questions so often by giving us what our limited understanding couldn’t comprehend-time spent with Him. 

It took me seeing Joshua and Job (Job 42:5,6) have their direct questions go unanswered to see they were answered by the loving, caring and reigning God for what their deep need was, Him. To know that when I take all of that to Him, He gives what He knows is needed…more of Him and less of me. 

A Lesson from Shop Class

In middle school, if you weren’t in chorus or band, you were required to take the other electives through a rotation every six weeks. Those of us less musically inclined would navigate through computer class, art class, music appreciation (where I learned All Along the Watchtower, thank you music teacher!), study hall and shop class. The shop instructor was one that had been around since my dad had roamed those halls. As much as I hated the way he talked down to me as the only girl who opted to stay in the class (I am nothing if not stubborn), I am grateful for what I learned in those six weeks every year in rotation.

Our 8th grade year found us drawing up blue prints, designing our own model homes. I don’t know about you all, but that’s something as a homeowner I can go back to as pivotal knowledge on square feet, dimensions and reading schematics for homes. In putting them together as a 13 year old though was quite the mess. As mildly OCD, eraser lines on blueprint paper drove me insane as I reworked the layout and design of my home project. By the end I had a mess on my hands between the drawings and cutting of foam board to mock up my design.

house-blue-printOur teacher kept after me though in the design and final mock-up because he knew I would be able to see it through to the end result, based upon the early design I had shared. There were cuts here, there…eraser lines to rework the staircase and door sizings. Ultimately I can remember presenting my final, completed project with some reservation as I noticed the flaws from mess. But he took note of the aspects I had not given a second thought to at the time-sticking with the design I had originally desired to construct regardless of the challenges I faced in the midst. We weren’t given specifics, only general instructions. Therefore I had to fill in with my design and control, putting myself into the design and giving it my stamp of ownership.

Joshua has a similar task before him, as Moses has passed and God looks to him to lead the way into the Promised Land. It’s there, the promise of deliverance before them, yet Joshua now has the lead. They are a mess, journeying 40 years in the wilderness, complaining, idolizing, doubting, questioning. Joshua could’ve easily said “Thanks God, but I think someone else can do this better.”

He could have settled for less than what God wanted because of the mess. But he didn’t. In the course of nine verses, God reiterates the strength and courage Joshua must have in this role. He had been a part of the first party out to see the new land, only to be overshadowed by the fear and doubts of the people. He had seen what they’d face. He knew the plans and promises.

Joshua knew in order to get to the promise fulfilled the mess would need to be faced. It would need to be journey through and not around. God was breathing His truth into Joshua, a promise of courage and strength in the journey ahead to see a plan fulfilled. There would be eraser marks. There would be cutting, trimming and pieces needing redesigned.

As much as I want clear instructions on the plan ahead, with His word before me and His Spirit with me I have to live into courage and strength to complete the plan set by God, just as Joshua did.

Will it be messy? Absolutely. Will I understand it all? Most assuredly not. But instead of me trying to fill in the gaps of the story, of the mess and the journey, I want to be present with Him in obedience to what He has given.

He has given me this, right now. He has told me to be strong and courageous in the blueprint where I only see one millimeter of a corner that He has designed for my life. So I put down my own pencil, and ask to be the implement for His story to be crafted in and through. To be of use to Him and not through my own hand. Knowing it is messy, knowing there will be things trimmed away, but fully believing the final product will be well worth the sacrifice of self.

Extraordinary Faith

There’s an afternoon radio show I like listening to as I drive home here in Nashville most days. If you happen to have WAY-FM in your area, I highly recommend you check out Carlos & Joy in the afternoons because I find they dig into some stuff sometimes that gets your heart moving in a different way. And because they are super funny…

I had been wrestling with a couple of thoughts on faith recently as I was seeking obedience to a God call. Carlos brought this up through the lens of Joshua 6, where the walls of Jericho were to come down. I had not thought of what might the people think when God commands them to march around with instruments to bring the walls down.

For so long I looked at as this great victory not won by force but by God’s hand. I didn’t think about that superimposed on my life would look quite different if the story was told now. It would look like God blessing me with the ability to march, to play an instrument and commanding me to use that because of Him (not because of me). But I would start replying back to Him telling Him all I could do beyond that, ways that I could see it going better if He’d just let me do it.

That’s the thing, when it is in my grasp it’s my strength at work-not His. It’s faith in myself, and not in Him (ugh…that one is hard to admit and know). It’s choosing me, myself and my human self over the God who is sovereign and in full authority. When I start to manipulate God’s call for obedience-no matter what that looks like or the means in which He lays before to use to obey Him-I tell Him that His faith isn’t extraordinary, His power isn’t matchless, and that His love for me isn’t quite enough to cover me.

It takes choosing extraordinary faith over my less than ordinary self. It takes humbling of self, dying to self, in order to say “Your will be done” and not seeking my own means of accomplishing that will. It means believing in an extraordinary faith and living that out each and every day. Because if I am honest, I don’t do that. I don’t live out an extraordinary faith. Most of the time it looks rather diminishing or average at best. But God tells a different story over our lives, a story of unfailing love, redeeming love, power to move mountains, and defeat hell. When I choose Him to put my faith in, instead of telling Him how it should go, when I don’t try to muddy the story with my own slant, He brings down walls with the sound of a horn.

I am praying today for extraordinary, incomprehensible faith over situations and people, including myself, for forgiveness without understanding, peace and love extended in ways only God could manage, extraordinary healing and hope in the life of those battling doubts and illness. What would it look like if we lived that out today? If we allowed God to breathe that into someone else’s life? Into our own lives?

“So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat.”-Joshua 6:20 (NKJV)

May our walls come down flat at the shout of faith in an extraordinary God.

Datenailing 33

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon an interesting find at the flea market. I just love a good flea market don’t you? Let me say that Nashville has one of the best too. Then again, I am biased.

I found these nails from old railroad ties that had been replaced. They are actually called datenails. Call me a geek but I was truly intrigued by these nails. On the top is stamped the year in which they were put into place on the railroad ties. It would give aid in knowing what year the perpendicular track had been laid as support for the main railway track. They serve as a marker and time stamp, a point of staking into the ground to guide future maintenance and repair.

I found one marked 33 in the pile of datenails, and quickly purchased it. I keep it positioned on my desk, where I sit many days. I even snapped a photo of it a few weeks ago to carry with me. Why?

Because I have been marking this year of 33 as my Jesus Year. Often we need memories beyond the ones in our mind or written on a blog to carry as reminders. For me, it sits as a marker that this year is drastically different than the ones before it. The datenail shows me that 33 is and will be one to be marked. In so many ways. But mainly as a year of difference. A different attitude, a different perspective, and a different approach.

I have left the past where it should be and am supporting the track that is laid out in front of me. It’s putting the first supporting beam down and looking ahead.

In reading Joshua currently I am seeing a reflection of that same shift. As they crossed the Jordan, led by Joshua who was doubting his ability to lead the people as Moses’ successor, they were commanded to pick up stones to carry with them. This was a moment to remember, not only for those present but for the children who would ask questions later. It would serve as instruction beyond the moment. Those stones would put a stake in the ground of their lives in the wilderness, and serve as a reminder of the miracle God performed in drying up the Jordan for their crossing into the promised land of Canaan.

How beautiful to put a stake in your time in the wilderness and use a marker to remind you of the miracle God performs in bringing you out of it, and into a land He promised. Today I carry this datenail with me, as it sits as a reminder of the promised land ahead in the journey of this year, and as I leave the wilderness behind.

And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’  then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:21-24 (ESV)

 


Do you have a marker or a memorial piece of a time when God brought you out of the wilderness and into a promised land of your own?