Jacob’s ladder of success

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The truth about me today is that I feel mad. MAD. I feel thwarted at every turn. There are so many things I want to do, that I aspire to do, that I plan to do… and yet, a wall. One delay after another. And so, today, I just stopped. I picked up the kitten I’m “baby-sitting” and laid on my son’s bed. MAD. And I thought to myself, fine. If I can’t do the things I need to do, then I’m just going to lay here and do nothing. NOTHING. And I lay there and seethed, dripping in fury. But as I lay there, and sleep beckoned me, I began to think. Well, there’s the cucumbers that need to be drained (canning tonight). And there’s the load of clothes in the dryer and the wet ones in the wash. And the sink full of dirty dishes, and there are emails to answer (for work). And lastly, but certainly not least, there’s my son who needs my attention. And so, I arose. But after arising, I had some new thoughts about my anger. Well, old ones, really, but those thoughts were brought to the forefront of my mind.

My anger. I know why it flares up. I see it every time. It’s when I don’t get my way. And when things don’t go my way, it’s my selfish nature that’s on full display for all to see. And yet, I think it goes a bit deeper… as I lay in my vegetative state this afternoon (which was really just a reverse tantrum), I contemplated my feelings of ire. And I realized that although my anger is derived from my selfishness, ultimately, it’s the lure of success that feeds the selfishness. And by not achieving the success I grasp at so desperately, I feel mad. MAD. And so, I climb up a few rungs, only to slide back down making little or no progress. And so I ask myself, what exactly am I trying to gain? What exactly am I trying to prove? What is it that pulls me to climb higher? And I see… it’s not God and what He would call success, but worldly success that woes me to climb, climb, climb. If I want to be truthful, and since this blog is called the Truth about God & me, I suppose I must, I have to confess that maybe my definition of success more closely resembles the 2nd one I read below.

  1. achievement of intention: the achievement of something planned or attempted
  2. attainment of fame, wealth, or power: impressive achievement, especially the attainment of fame, wealth, or power
  3. something that turns out well: something that turns out as planned or intended

Jacob, the Patriarch, has been brought to mind several times here lately. More particularly, that infamous dream of his… Jacob’s ladder. And I didn’t pay much attention at first, because I thought his story was old news as far as I was concerned. See, I thought I had already gained all that I could from Jacob’s story (since I had read it many times before). But today… today, I saw something new. Today, I saw something in Jacob’s life that aligns right alongside mine. I saw that Jacob did the same thing I’m doing today… grasping at success. And perhaps, he was trying to climb that worldly ladder of success, too. Because he sure did whatever he could to get there.

I had always been told that Jacob’s name means deceit. True, that, but my Bible shows another definition of his name… He Gasps the Heel. And I think this meaning sheds new light on Jacob. Blue Letter Bible (online) shows “heel holder” or “supplanter,” and if you go just a step further and look up the root word of his name, you’ll find “to supplant, circumvent, take by the heel, assail insidiously, overreach.” This was Jacob. The Patriarch. Abraham’s grandson. And perhaps it was his destiny to be deceitful, to be a heel grabber, to be a supplanter, for the LORD appeared to his mother and said, “Two nations are in your womb; two people will com from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23

Sure enough, it began at birth. Esau emerged from his mother’s womb, but afterward Jacob… grasping his brother’s heel. Even then, so young, did he think, “Me first!” Me first. Did Jacob know what the LORD told his mother? Did she share that information… that the older will serve the younger? Or did Jacob just do what came naturally to him? Did he enter the world with a me first mentality, and did he feel that he would do whatever it took to rise to the top? Did he care who he hurt along the way? And what about the path he chose? Did he overreach his bounds through his actions? Did he circumvent God’s plan to achieve his own as he supplanted his elder brother? Or, was everything Jacob did necessary for his life’s journey. Let’s go back and see…

Esau was hungry. Where was Jacob’s compassion when his brother asked for something to eat? Rather than graciously fill a bowl, Jacob took advantage of the situation and demanded that Esau sell him his birthright. And as Esau did, Jacob ascended a rung of the ladder of success. Worldly speaking. And the big one… the stolen blessing. What treachery… what trickery… what thievery… what deceit! Jacob actually dressed in goat skins so that he would be hairy like his brother. He pretended to be Esau before his elderly father, who had poor eyesight. And the ploy worked, and Jacob gained the blessing that Isaac intended for his eldest son. Surely this act alone propelled him up that ladder three or four rungs. He achieved what he set out to do… success. He, the younger, ended up with Esau’s birthright and his blessing. The older would surely serve the younger.

But then, reality set in. Oh, Jacob gained what he wanted alright, but his brother wanted to kill him. Esau was mad. MAD. And he wouldn’t forget. And so, Jacob did what most of us would do. At his mother’s prompting, he ran away. And so, he left his home and went on a journey. And darkness descended upon him. I would venture to say his heart was as dark as his surroundings.

He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place. And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. Genesis 28:11-12

I love this portion of Scripture. Because this is the moment that Jacob encountered the living God. This is the moment that the LORD God, God of Abraham, and God of his father became Jacob’s personal God. This is the moment that God became real to Him. It’s where God came down and met Jacob… right where he was. In the midst of the darkness and in the midst of the mess that he made of his life. God came to him, and made promises to Jacob. He promised blessing, and a future through his offspring, and God said that He was with him. God said, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob woke up from his slumber, he knew the truth. He knew God had visited him, and gave him that dream. And Jacob did what he should have. He did what we should all do when we encounter the living God.

Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. Genesis 28:18

Jacob marked the moment. For this was the real beginning for Jacob, when God became his own. And from that moment on, Jacob began gathering stones. But first, God gave Jacob a vision. He gave Jacob a dream. A good dream. And perhaps it was then that Jacob realized the ladder of success he had been climbing was not worth climbing at all. Because God showed him another ladder… one that reached to heaven.

See, Jacob was a ladder climber. Just like me. And it was Jacob’s nature to do whatever he thought necessary to climb to the top… rung by rung. He stopped at nothing to achieve what he purposed. And he didn’t stop long enough to think about who was hurt in the process. Not until it was too late. Am I any different? The truth is… as I ascend the so called ladder of success, rung by rung, I do the same thing that Jacob did. I want what I want. I want success. And I have a dream, so I lay aside so many things as I feed that dream. I do whatever I think is necessary to further the dream. But at what cost? Because usually, I don’t stop long enough to think about those I hurt in the process. Not until it’s too late. Like my little boy, who sits in the other room as I type. What about him? My dream is good, yes. I do want to write for God. But now, I have to ask myself… Is it for His glory? Or mine? Because it started out for Him. But as I ascended a rung, the next one didn’t look so high. And so, the original dream faded… my dream became bigger. But God’s gives dreams. And the dream He gave to Jacob is the one He gives to me.

Oh, I have a dream. But God’s dream is bigger. And the truth is, until my dream is God’s dream… I’ll slide right down that ladder of success I so desperately try to climb. Before I know it, I’ll be back on the ground. And so, I remember… the bigger dream. I remember a ladder, with angels going up and down on it. And I remember Him. Not me and my success. But His. It’s His dream. Always was, and always will be.

Then He said, “I assure you; You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

Set in Stone

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“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness,
You who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.” Isaiah 51:1

It begins when you determine it in your heart. When you purpose to know God, then things begin to change. What once seemed a chore (reading the Bible), becomes your favorite thing. You come to a point in which you cannot get enough of God’s word. You pore over it, and it is poured into you. You fill up with His words, and then a miracle takes place… words spoken so long ago begin to speak directly to you. God begins to lead you in what’s next. I believe it was the fall of 2011 that Isaiah 51:1 prompted me into action. How beautiful the verse that directed me to go back, back the way I came. This is the verse that made me think of my ancestors, and my upbringing, and the events that led me to where I was two years ago. Yes, I looked back – to the rock from which I was hewn.

And not that long ago, I was again led to my past. Again, I am looking to the rock from which I was hewn. But now, I think God means something more… I see that in reading the Old Testament. You know, God did amazing things with the children of Israel. Miracles took place, and a couple of times – those miracles involved crossing water. God led His people through waters, raging waters, deep waters. But, He stopped the water so they could pass. He did the impossible right before their eyes. The first time, God’s chosen people were enslaved. He delivered them from Egypt… saved them from their circumstances, and they crossed over the Red Sea. Afterward came the wilderness wandering. It was there, in the desert that God spoke to them. Moses approached the thunder and lightning, and entered the thick darkness where God was. And God gave Moses all of His commandments. He told Moses everything that was expected of His people. His commands were set in stone…

“On the day of the assembly the LORD gave me the two stone tablets, inscribed by God’s finger. The exact words were on them, which the LORD spoke to you from the fire on the mountain. The LORD gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant, at the end of the 40 days and 40 nights.” Deuteronomy 9:10-11

I’m sure most of you are familiar with what took place within those 40 days that Moses was away. The children of Israel became impatient, and turned away from God so very quickly. While Moses was receiving all of God’s commands, set in stone, God’s chosen people were turning away from Him. As Moses came down the mountain and saw what the people were doing, so enraged was he that he broke the stone tablets… the tablets that contained God’s holy word, inscribed by God’s own finger. The stone tablets were shattered, a picture of how God’s chosen people were shattering His laws by their actions. You know, in the next chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses was given that law again.

“The LORD said to me at that time, ‘Cut two stone tablets like the first ones and come to Me on this mountain…” Deuteronomy 10:1

Moses spent yet another 40 days and 40 nights with God, like the first time, and he received God’s words anew. Again, God wrote His commands on two tablets – His word set in stone. And again, Moses exhorted the people. He again brought God’s word to the people. In my mind, it’s as if the children of Israel were looking to the rock from which they were hewn. They again had to look to the stone… the stone that commanded them how to live their lives before God. They had God’s word to guide them. And they had the presence of the LORD Himself, as He moved them along the wilderness… 40 years.

Then the time came! The promised land was in sight, and God was ready to bring His people into the land. But, there was another river to cross. Another miracle to take place. And God was faithful. He stopped the flow of the Jordan River. An entire nation of people crossed over. Afterward, God spoke to Joshua…

“Choose twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, ‘Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests’ feet are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.'” In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the LORD’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” Joshua 4:1-3, 6-7   

God’s miracles, set in stone. Stones to mark the Israelites’ path, to remind them of God’s goodness, His faithfulness, His mercy and His power. Stones for future generations to see, and to learn of their forefathers’ God. A God to lead them, just as He led their ancestors. Notice God said to go to the middle of the Jordan. Perhaps it was there, in the middle, that the waters would have run the deepest. Perhaps it was the middle of the dry river bed that the people began to tremble in fear and doubt when they saw the wall of water that could come crashing down at any moment. It was there, in the middle, that they needed to muster the most courage… and faith. It was in the middle of a dry river bed that the Israelites witnessed God doing the impossible… for them. And they set up stone markers to remember His deeds.

And so, this is what I do today. In looking back to the rock from which I am hewn, I am gathering stones. I am setting up stones to mark the path I have already traveled. I can look back and remember, yes, God. When the storm raged its fiercest, when the darkness seemed the thickest, and when the waters threatened to overtake me… God. Markers, in journal format, to memorialize God’s miracles… set in stone. But wait, there’s more. May I not forget the most important stone. Yes, it’s true I come from a family here on earth. Yes, I can look back to the rock from which I was hewn in the form of my ancestors, but there’s the Rock. May I not forget Him:

For it stands in Scripture: Look! I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and valuable cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame! 1 Peter 2:6

This rock. This chosen and valuable stone is the stone. If I look to any rock from which I am hewn, may it be this One. For it is Him who gives me victory. Today, I can look back. I can look to God’s commands, which are set in stone. I can look to my past, and the stone markers along life’s highway that help me remember the great things He has done. And I can look to the Cornerstone – for I am cut from His quarry. I can have confidence, for whenever there’s a new river to cross, or a storm to pass, or darkness to overcome, or there are doubts that assail me, I will look to this Rock from which I am hewn. I will remember Him, and how He overcame. Jesus on the cross is the victory. And it’s through His cross that we can cross over at all…

And as for life… well, there will be many rivers to cross. But thanks be to God that we have the cross.

In the light

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From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live, so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:26-27

I’ve written extensively about the Summer/early Fall of 2010. Because as far as my relationship with God goes, that time period was a turning point. And all the years leading up to then brought me to that appointed time and place. It was in Pinehurst, NC, when I really turned to Him. Heart, mind and soul. It was a time when I sought God fervently. I threw myself into His word desperately seeking God. But alas, I turned away too quickly. And here I am today. And now, in my new boundaries, I again am desperately seeking God. And so, I live out Acts 17:27. See, in reaching out and seeking God, I found Him. And the truth about God & me is… well, in finding God, I also found myself. Because I approached Him, and I stepped into light. His light. And so, everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light (Ephesians 5:13). In seeking the truth about God, I also find the truth about myself. Thus, darkness.

Micah 7:8 is such a beautiful verse. It moves me. BUT, if I go just a bit further – things become clear.

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Because I have sinned against Him, I must endure the LORD’s rage until He argues my case and establishes justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see His salvation. Micah 7:8-9

Yes, there lies the truth about my darkness. There lies the truth about God & me. And isn’t that the whole point of this blog. Telling the truth. For whatever He tells me in the dark, I shall speak in the light. Whatever I hear in a whisper, I shall proclaim on the housetops (Matthew 10:27). See, I can color it any way I want to… issues, patterns, habits, strongholds… but when it comes down to it, a sin by any other name is still a sin. This is what has been revealed to me… in the dark. All of this is beginning to make sense now. In February, start a blog (me… a blog… crazy!) And I thought that perhaps the blog would be what I had previously written… that they may know. But soon into this writing endeavor, it was clear that I had to look back. I had to go the way I came… and not that they may know, but that I may know. That I may know. The truth.

Set up road markers for yourself; establish signposts! Keep the highway in mind, the way you have traveled. Return, Virgin Israel! Return to these cities of yours. How long will you turn here and there, faithless daughter? For the LORD creates something new in the land – a female will shelter a man. Jeremiah 30:21-22

Yes, go back… the way I traveled. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Retracing steps… the steps that led me to Him in the first place. And what I see clearly is perpetual sin. See, when God shows you something about yourself – over and over and over and over again – that you should turn from, but you don’t… well simply, that’s sin. That’s dwelling in sin. And it’s a choice. And my life is proof positive that the result of choosing sin is darkness. How funny. How often I’ve written about the darkness and depression that surrounds me, and holds me, but I just didn’t know why. Well, He shows me. He has shown me. Over and over again. Through His word. And I can turn this way and that until finally, finally… I relent. And then, I repent. There’s that word. A touchy word, right? No one wants to hear it. But, it’s what the prophets of old proclaimed. It’s what John the Baptist shouted when he prepared the way for Christ, and it was the first thing our Lord and Savior preached when He began His ministry. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! How lovely to hear that it has come near. He is near, God is near. For in Him we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28). It’s in the 17th chapter of Acts that I read, “God now commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Darkness, desert land, dry land, wilderness wandering… yes, I can color it any way I please, but if I want to tell the truth about God & me (and I do), then my darkness comes from my sin. This is my truth. But as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.” Yes, morning has broken on my path, and all things are made clear. And I am tired and weary. So tired… of myself. He’s told me over and over again, go beyond me. And yet, I’ve stayed right here in my own little hole with perhaps a little too much introspection (it can make you selfish, you know). And I’ve still not turned to Him… to what He’s told me to do. And so, there lies the key to my darkness. It’s sin. And I am ready to turn from it. Because I don’t want to dwell in the darkness anymore. And this is what repentance is… turning from what you know you shouldn’t do (the darkness), and turning to Him and what He says to do (the light).

It was not long ago that I thought, “a woman shall encompass a man.” It’s referenced above (Jeremiah 30:22)… “A female will shelter a man.” This is Jesus. Mary carried Him in her womb, and he was birthed into the world. God in the form of man. And the Son of Man walked perfectly… a blameless man. He was tempted in every way that we are, and yet, He knew no sin. And yet, He took on all sin. That’s the whole point of the cross. The cross is the biggest turning point in one’s life, because it was there that Jesus took on the sin of the whole world. He died for that sin so we wouldn’t have to. And do you know what happened? From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. As Jesus hung on that cross, cloaked in our sin, the darkness covered the land. He cried out, “My God, My God, why have forsaken Me?” See, God cannot look upon sin. But then, when Jesus finally died carrying our sin to the grave, the veil in the temple was split into – from the top to the bottom. It was this veil that separated the priests from the Holy of Holies. It was that most inner sanctuary of the temple that housed the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat. It was there that God’s presence would appear. But, upon Jesus’ death, the veil was split. In so doing, through Jesus, we have direct access to the Holy of Holies. And His light.

Jesus took our sin to the grave. And we can be forgiven that sin. But first, we must turn from it. We must repent. In so doing, we exit the darkness and enter His light.

“This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” John 3:19-21

Morning dawns

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God is within her; she will not be toppled. God will help her when the morning dawns. Psalm 46:5

It’s coming… the morning of my soul. I know it to be true, for He speaks to me through His word. And He helps me along my way. You see, I’ve been reading through my old journal… my first journal. And not coincidentally, it ends on July 19, 2011. Two years ago. And what I find written in my own hand is somewhat condemning. Because I find that I listed out strongholds. And what held me captive two years ago still holds me captive today. In that regard, not much has changed. This morning, I actually wrote out the word strongholds, bolded and doubly underlined. I know what they are. I know what I’m up against. And so, I know what my fight is. But you know… that’s half the battle right there. Knowing.

Do you know what a stronghold is? According to the dictionary, it’s a well-fortified place… a fortress. And so, it’ll take strength to overcome what holds me. Strength that I don’t possess. But, it’s not by human strength that I’ll overcome… and God tells me that He’ll help me. It’s through His strength, that I’ll gain victory. It’s Psalm 46 that gives me hope. I write out the Psalms every day, but I personalize them. I write them out according to how I feel. And you can imagine how encouraged I was when I came across Psalm 46:7 this morning. It was after I had written out my strongholds when I read… The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. And again, repeated in verse 11, the LORD of Hosts is my stronghold. Yes, it may be true that I have some things to overcome in life. And although they’re strong, He is stronger. He tells me to not fear:

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Some may think, how do you know that to be true. If I am writing about perpetual darkness, and still remain in the same rut I was in two years ago, what’s changed? How has God helped me thus far? And I can answer with assurance, infinitely. Immensely. For within the past two years, I am coming to know my God in a way I never have before. He’s not just something I do or think about at church on a Sunday. He’s with me. He’s real to me. He’s in my thoughts. And He speaks to me… I hear Him when He calls. And despite the bad… the strongholds that still hold me… there is good. So much good. In reading my old journal, I find that I have overcome one of my strongholds. I have gained a victory, and it was through His strength. And so, I am confident that I will gain ground in the other areas of my life. For He is within me. I’ll not be toppled. And it’s His righteous right hand that holds me up.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

Do you see? It is Christ who is at the right hand of God. It is Christ who will keep us upright. It is through His strength I can do all things. So I echo what I wrote last night, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will Rise!” Micah 7:8. I know I will. Because when I look back over the course of my life, I can see. I am not who I once was. I have changed. And it’s because of God. No matter how many times I stumble, He lifts me. And the reality is, if I let Him fight the battle for me (rather than in my own feeble strength), victory will come. This is part of the journey… letting God fight for me.

The truth is we have many battles. We have many enemies. This is just life. But He is with us. Let Him fight for us… let Him be our strength:

“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before all the multitude with him, for there are more with us than with him. He has only human strength, but we have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” 2 Chronicles 32:7-8

Light of men

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With me, it began with His word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5. How beautiful are His words. And how beautiful is He, for He is the Word. And He is the life. He is the light of men and He shines in the dark, for darkness could not hold Him.

The Word. God’s word. I feast on it. And thus, I feast on Jesus. But I haven’t always. No, for so long I nibbled on bits and pieces of Him. But eventually, bits and pieces grew to a steady diet. And now, I cannot get enough of Him. Because the more I read, the more I know about Him. And His word is transforming. See, through the pages of Scripture God begins to speak to us… directly and individually and specifically. And that’s where it all began with me. Reading the word. Reading Jesus.

It was three years ago that I had had enough. Enough of me. It was a turning point, really. And so, I sought God fervently… through His word. And He spoke volumes to me. For it was through the pages of Scripture that I found out what I needed to do to move from where I was. In order to move away from me, and the darkness, I had to purpose to know Him in my heart. I had to determine it, and then, move towards the light… towards Him. Because if I wanted to know God, it wasn’t just going to magically happen. I had to participate…

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10

This verse was a life-changer. But three years ago, I had a different version of the Bible. And then, I read it in light of God. Father God. But now, I see. To know Father God, I must first know His Son. That’s the only way to know God, for Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. And that’s what this journey is all about. See, upon finding Philippians 3:10 so long ago, I didn’t really know what I was asking for when I claimed that verse. Honestly, I simply purposed to know God… aside from His Son. But, oh, to know Christ is to know God. For they are One and the Same. And to know Christ… I mean really know Him… we must follow Him. All the way. And when we do, we begin to put off our old self. We begin to transform as we put on a new self who is renewed according to the image of Him who created us. Colossians 3:10. But this can be painful. For in order to be resurrected, we must first die. And just as Jesus suffered, so shall we. And not just in an eternal, end of life kind of way. No, it’s a daily thing.

I think most of us have heard, “WWJD.” What would Jesus do? Some people wear it on a bracelet, or a necklace. And it’s a nice thought… Jesus would help someone in need, or He would be kind to an unlikeable person, or He would heal the sick. You know all those great things Jesus did. But in reality, Jesus came to die. Ultimately, that’s what He did. He died for us. He put His life last, and put us first. That’s what Jesus did then, and that’s what He would do today. He died, and He expects us to do the same. The truth about God & me? I don’t want to die. Not all the way. Not like He did. I’m too selfish. The truth? All this darkness that surrounds me? Well, there’s layers to it. And one layer for certain is my selfishness. The darkness in which I dwell? Well, I’m still in the tomb. But that’s okay, for I know that I know that I know that He’s working on me. I will be resurrected. And here on earth, too, not on the other side of eternity. It’ll happen here where people will witness my resurrected life. Like Lazarus. Whatever suffering I may endure is simply me dying… to me. Following Jesus unto death. It’s what He would do. It’s what He did. For us.

It was Sunday morning as I walked up the steps to my church that a random thought came to me… “A woman shall encompass a man.” It wasn’t much later that my Sunday School teacher took us to Jeremiah 31. Although we read about the New Covenant, my eyes fell to verse 22… For the LORD creates something new in the land – a female will shelter a man. This is the verse that came to me earlier… different version. That day, I thought God was just telling me His eye was upon me. He saw me. But now, I wonder if it was something more…

Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.  A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child,she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. John 16:20-22

Labor is painful, but a new life bursts forth. Anguish and pain will turn to rejoicing. In the same way, dying to self is painful. But, new life bursts forth. We’ll receive beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. WWJD? He would suffer, and He would die. But He would also burst forth – new life. Remember… He told us these things so that we would have peace. He said we would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer… for He had overcome the world. John 16:33.

You see, with me, it began with His word. And through it, I found that life was in Jesus, and that He was the light of men. I found that He shines in the darkness, and that darkness did not overcome Him. And it will not overcome me, either. For I’m following Jesus. I, too, shall overcome.

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Micah 7:8

In the dark

Storm

I’m not sure how many more blogs there will be. Because it seems as if this blog has been a journey. And perhaps at some point and time, I may actually find my way. I’ve had that feeling several times now. Once, I even typed up a “Gone Fishin'” blog, and was ready to “hang it.” But, more words came. And I guess the reason I mention a possible ending is because of all the darkness. I keep going back to “dark times.” But you know, I think I already know the answer to the darkness. I’m quite sure God has told me what to do about that. But oddly, I see ahead to more twists and turns of this blog. And as I’m being led along, it appears that I’m in a holding pattern of sorts… for now. See, the light shines and beckons me. And if I can just make it there, I’ll be okay. I creep closer and closer, and drag myself to the edge of light, but then something sends me off in another direction. Delayed.

You know, I wrote a book in the fall of 2011. It’s my story… all about God & me. And at first, it was titled, “From Darkness to Light… that they may know.” But the funny thing was, the light was still out of reach. Because on the heels of writing it, I sank to such a depth of darkness, it took some time to rise above it. And so, it was last summer that I rewrote my story. As a matter of fact, I believe it was in July… one year ago. And so, the second draft was called, “My True Deliverance… Wilderness Wanderings of a Modern Day Woman.” And here I am today, still writing my story. But this time, through blog format. And what’s apparent to me today is that I’m still walking in the dark. And despite my best efforts, I persist in wandering through the desert. And so, I wonder. Perhaps what I originally thought was an offering to God… a standing stone to memorialize what He has done for me… is actually my “Farewell.” Because I am writing about what’s closest to my heart and mind. It’s everything that’s important to me… and it’s what I want for my son, and for my family, and for my friends to know. It’s everything I would want to pass on to those I care the most about. My fare ye well, so to speak.

This is what the LORD says: Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. Jeremiah 17:5-6

Do you know what the Arabah is? It’s desert. And this is such a picture of me. For there is still this part of me that places my trust in human flesh. There is still part of me that turns from God. And so help me, I cannot see the good when it comes. I have been dwelling in a parched place, a lonely place, a dark place… but it’s really my own doing. But you know what. I feel more hopeful right now than I have in a long while. I feel the stirrings of revival down deep in my soul. And I can sense the warmth of His light filtering through haze. Yes, hope is taking root. And it’s good.

You know… God called His people out of Egypt. He delivered them from slavery, and made Moses their leader. And after a dramatic deliverance from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, God led His chosen people through the desert on a journey to the land of promise. And at first, the people sang praises to God. But it only took a few days before praise turned to complaint. And then, complaint turned to distrust and disobedience, which kept them wandering the desert for 40 years. And it was through their wilderness wanderings that the children of Israel discovered just how much they needed God.

And then… there’s me. I felt that God delivered me from a place I didn’t want to be, and led me directly into my promised land of Virginia. But in looking back, I can see what really happened. For the footsteps that led me to my hometown really deposited me into the middle of a desert land. Because that’s how I’ve been living the past three years. I’ve been dwelling in a parched land, despite being in the very place I wanted to be more than anything. I could not see the good when it came. And so, praise turned to complaint, and then to distrust, followed up by disobedience to God! And thus, I am in the dark. And thus, God feels distant. And so, it’s here… in the midst of my wandering that I realize the truth. I know how very much I need Him. Because nothing else will work. Nothing. Because when you’re in the dark, well, quite obviously… you need a light. Eventually, you simply get tired of walking blindly.

And here’s the best part… I once was blind, but now I see. And because my sight is restored, I finally realize… there’s purpose to this darkness. See, if I never experienced the dark, how would I ever recognize the light? And the darker the days, the brighter His light burns. And so finally, this wretched soul can see. Because there is light… His light. And because His light is within me, I find that my dark is not so dark after all. And I finally understand that God has been here with me this whole time. Not just in the good times, but also in the center of the storms. He’s here in the midst of the darkness… right here with me… simply waiting for my eyes to adjust.

All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.” And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18, 20

The people feared the thunder and lightning. The dark smoke intimidated them, and so they stood at a distance. But not Moses… He knew it was God. He knew God’s nature, and did not fear the storm. And so Moses went forward… and approached the thick darkness where God was. God was in the darkness. And so, when I have those moments, I must remember. He’s with me… in the dark. And there’s purpose. It’s so that I’ll really see Him. Because when I’m at my darkest, His light shines the brightest. This is when I need Him the most.

And so, like Moses, I shall not fear the storm. Because I know God is in the midst of it. And the purpose of the dark is so that I’ll learn to trust Him. Because when I’m at my darkest, it’s then that I realize nothing else will do. Nothing but Him. Because I need Him, I’ll turn to Him. His light will draw me. For God does not intend for His children to walk in the dark. No, He calls them out of the darkness… into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light. 2 Peter 2:9

Farewell…

stars

“I am now going the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and all your soul that none of the good promises the LORD your God made to you has failed. Everything was fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed.” Joshua 23:14

Joshua spoke the above words to the children of Israel. He had served God well, and led the Israelites into the promised land. But alas, he knew his time was coming to an end. He himself said, “I am old, getting on in years…” And so, he was fortunate in that he could leave behind some words of wisdom for his fellow people. Before his body returned to the earth… ashes to ashes and dust to dust… he was able to say what was on his heart. See, the above was part of his farewell address. And farewell is a term you don’t hear too often in the modern age… “May you fare well until we meet again.” Perhaps it sounds a bit old fashioned, but in reality, it’s beautiful. Because farewell is really an opportunity to express good wishes before parting. Farewell is really the chance to say goodbye. Farewell is an ending… and the time to say something to someone who you may never see again. Fare ye well… And so, Joshua chose to do just that. And before he died, he reminded his people of God’s goodness. He reminded them that God keeps His promises.

Tonight, I was surrounded by people who didn’t get the chance to say “Farewell.” Because sadly, a man died too young… it was unexpected, and so, there were no good-byes. There were no last I love you’s. And there was no opportunity for this man to say what was on his heart and mind, had the opportunity presented for a farewell speech. And so, broken hearts abound.

But you know… God is close. So close. And His word is full of promise. It says: The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18), and, Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). And Jesus Himself said He was sent to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). And as Joshua exhorted his own people, I shall exhort mine… For it’s true that none of the good promises the LORD God has made shall fail! Everything He said shall be fulfilled and not one promise shall fail!

See, God is close… so close. And He can hear hearts breaking all around tonight. But He’s the One who can piece each one back together again… for He created the heart. And it’s God, the maker of a million stars, who can fit a million broken hearts into His hand. Because He’s so near… that’s a promise.

And as for me, I shall bid ye farewell, until we meet again…