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I have come to realize as of late that I have been searching in vain for God in places I cannot find Him. I’ve known for some time of His absence which I found discouraging.

As a Christian I believe in God. I believe He is FOR me and not against me. I believe He wants to guide me by providence or through the gaining of wisdom or the advice of counselors or through Holy Spirit. (Yes, the “the” was omitted on purpose … we don’t say “the Jesus” because we perceive of him as a person, not an entity. So isn’t Holy Spirit the third “person” of the Trinity?).

If only God would meet me in my future. I have spent so much time looking for Him there. In my planning, my hopes and dreams, my anticipation of how my life will play out over time I pray and seek for God to show me His plan only to hear nothing.

The silence has at times caused fear, anger, doubt, confusion, condemnation, and a host of other elements not conducive for healthy growth. A darkness unexplainable. Has he abandoned me? Have I sinned against Him and He has turned His face away? Is He punishing me for something of what I know not of?

Then yesterday I realized what was amiss. It was my perception of God, companioned with my expectations of Him. i keep looking for God “out there” along my timeline of life. I keep listening for and looking for some grand plan or design that shows me the path He has chosen for me to follow into the future.

His response to all my efforts for His input? Silence.

And my response to His silence? Why?

Yet why have I been so surprised at His silence? How have I let this silence define me? How could I have overlooked one of the most basic tenets of our understanding about the nature of God? When God described Himself to Moses, did He not call Himself “I AM?” He did not describe Himself as someone from the past nor someone from the future. He described Himself as the eternal present.

I AM

God is the eternal present … not the future. He dwells in the present. He lives in the present. He speaks to me in the present. His concern for me is not what am I going to do tomorrow, it is rather what am I doing today, in the present.

Remembering that He is The Great I AM immediately impacts both time and location. He is forever now. And He is forever here in the now. When I jump into my future to look for God, I leave Him behind because He is the I AM living in the present. And when I ask Him to speak to me regarding the future I am met with silence. And when I look for him out there He cannot be found.

When I am looking forward in search of God down the road, He is standing behind me.

So rather than expecting God to meet me out there, I will choose to meet with God here … now … in the present. And if I listen to His guidance or words of truth to me today … tomorrow will take care of itself. Indeed, all the tomorrows will be erased in this life one day at a time.

And herein is the life of faith. A belief in the goodness of God coupled with an assurance that He will guide my paths for the future … one day at a time.

And He can be stubborn … theologians like to call Him immutable, meaning He does not change. If I choose to persist in demanding He meet me in my future, He will simply wait me out. And He has much more time to wait than I do. He has all the time in the world. Eventually I am going to die; He never will. I cannot win to change His mind. He is and always will be I AM. Nothing I can do or say can change that.

So if there is any changing to do, it needs to come from my end. I need to settle in my heart and mind that if I want to meet with God, it has to be today, not tomorrow. One step at a time. Step by step. Day by day. Meet with God. Listen to what He says. Then follow through.

Tomorrow? It doesn’t exist. All that exists now is today. And since God only deals with reality, this is where He is. This is where I find Him. And where He seeks to find me.

I realize it is my nature (as is most of us) to make plans for the future. Relationships and occupations and finances all call out from beyond today telling me I better be prepared. And while there certainly is some element of truth to that, this must be tempered with the only reality I have which is each “today” as I am given one.

Today. Only here will I hear from God telling me which way to go … for that day. Some of my todays will have more far reaching impact than others. Some of His words to me one day will effect many more todays in the future. But each and every day the goal is the same … Listen today for what He says, then follow through … today.

Help me O God to reign in my desire to set my own course in life. To determine my own fate and ask You to bless it. Give me the wisdom to follow You today, and trust You for tomorrow. You will speak to me for what I need to hear today; I cannot find You in all the tomorrows You have for me.

 

We don’t usually think of ascribing sin to an animal. We reserve such classifications to the human race. But one day, on the way to our old 1840’s era wooden barn, I looked at Jax our duck and realized he was in sin.

Originally we had two ducks; Quacker and Jax. Quacker was our female and was one loud little duckling. Jax the male was the quiet one. Alas, in time some predator took Quacker away and we were left only with Jax and about one hundred chickens.

In time, Jax began to hang out with the chickens. The only time he would leave them would be towards dark. When the chickens would go to roost he would finally leave to spend the night in our small pond. But at first light he was back with the chickens until dark returned.

In time, I began to realize that Jax was no longer foraging for food along the banks of our small creek that flowed out of the pond and past the old barn. He wasn’t splashing himself in the pond as if taking a bath in the middle of the day. He wasn’t burying his head in the pond shoveling his bill along he bottom like a little motorized bug filtering machine. He was acting more like … well … a chicken!!

It was after some time that I made the discovery of Jax’ sin. Jax had set aside his internal nature of a duck, choosing instead to walk around on the ground all day like the chickens. Jax was missing his calling in life.

And that was how I was led that fateful morning to believe Jax was living in sin. In the Greek language of the New Testament, to sin meant literally to, “miss the mark.” It was the image of someone shooting an arrow and the arrow missing its intended target. Jax was certainly not hitting the target of what God intended for him. Jax was in sin. Perhaps due to confusion, possibly for lonliness. But whatever the reason, Jax was missing his mark.

I wonder how much in my life is like that? What are the areas God intended for one thing but I’m living like something else? How many of my values have come from our culture instead of from Him? What are the gifts He has given me that I never use? Jax never flies anymore. After all, chickens don’t fly. He used to fly a lot.

God, may you so orchestrate the events of my life or people in my life to help me see those areas where I have abandoned or overlooked gifts You have given me for a purpose to which I am blind. Help me know how to show Jax he is a duck; and help me see what You would have me be as well.

Turning the fresh earth in our vegetable garden, I met a new  teacher today. On my knees with a small hand spade, digging up weeds that were trying to get a head start in the garden, I began to notice a pattern. Dig around some plants and the roots, those shallow and broad-spread came willingly and allowed themselves to be tossed to the side with little effort.  But others were determined to hold on to life and would fight hard to not let go. In time, pulling those pernicious plants out of the ground, I would find one last tiny root dangling with one hard lump of clay surrounding it’s white sliver. Left alone even in that abnormal state, that plant would survive for days. For inside that hard clay is the moisture the plant could survive on if necessary until the rains came again.

The next time I find myself wondering why God allows me to live through some tough times and endure some hard days, I’m going to remember that root that had dug into the hard soil knowing that the hardness is exactly what would allow it to survive hard times. Plants growing in hard soil must grow some deep roots to survive. And so too with my own soul.  Loose soil will quickly fall away when shaken; but the hard soil, once embedded with roots of persistence, can sustain life through some difficult times. These days, I find even the soil has something to teach me about life. May it keep me humble to know how simple a teacher I only require.

Resurrection

It was barely past six this morning when I walked down our quarter-mile driveway toward our barn closer to the road. I had some hens out on pasture to feed in this early light. Stopping in front of the large sliding door that opened the barn, I looked back south out over our orchards as the sun, just barely over the horizon, was climbing down the tree tops toward the lightly frosted grasses. The grapes and apples, pears and peaches all seemed to be stretching to find the sunlight. The morning air was crisp like newly washed sheets hung out to dry in the sun. And my thoughts turned toward resurrection. Just last Sunday we gathered with friends and strangers to celebrate the pinnacle of the Christian faith, the miracle of Jesus, the hope of our faith, the only reason why our faith is not in vain.

But this morning was different. All week long, memorizing John 11:23-25 about the resurrection, I am struck this day with a new reality. Jesus said to Martha as they stood beyond Lazarus’ grave, “I AM the resurrection.” He didn’t say He had resurrection power, or that He could call it down from heaven. He said He WAS the resurrection. Looking at those budding fruit trees, and the greening of all the surrounding hills as life was returning to the woods and valleys, I saw a resurrection right before my eyes. A resurrection that occurs about this time every year, possible only because of it’s Creator … the Resurrection. And just as all creation goes into an annual death only to return with the warming air and lengthening days, so to do some things in my life necessarily die, trusting that my Creator, my Resurrection, will renew life into those things that I must let go of if they are ever to live again. Hopes, plans, aspirations must all be held lightly enough to grasp, but strong enough to bury when the time comes. But because I have a faith in the Resurrection, the One who brings life into what dies, I can let things go in my life and live the days that follow by faith. But not a faith that is an assurance that I will in some way receive what I desire, but rather a faith that He will bring all things Good back into my life. So it is not my need to make some things happen; it is my need to trust.

Resurrection goes far beyond the grave. It is something to be lived out regularly in our lives.

Well, it’s taken us 15 months, but on July 21st Danika and the kids will be moving to Tennessee. I’ll be flying down to help load the truck, then driving them back up in the van. (The truck will be driven by ABS, the company we’ve contracted with). My but what a long ordeal this has been for us all. We are all excited about finally being together and being able to have a single focus regarding our future. It has been very difficult not only emotionally and psychologically, but also financially. Imagine these days having to maintain expenses for two separate homes, and then add to that that we’re doing all this in the midst of a complete shift (on my part) to some new paths career-wise! It has been difficult.

But we are glad to see the lights at the end of the tunnel, and look forward to the new adjustments we’ll be making. Meanwhile, we have a home in FL to rent out (won’t sell in this current market). We pray it will rent soon.

Life on the farm is going well, just not as quickly as we would like. Some of that though is due to the uncertainty of our own future. But we look forward to working together on the farm to make it all we dream it can become.

May the Lord guide us in the days ahead.

I have thought several times that, given time, I would like to write a book on many of the things we learn about God and life through creation. This is one of those observations.

Most of us enjoy a quiet, scenic drive in the country where we see green pastures with cattle or horses out in the field. It creates longings in many of us. Oh, for such a life of serenity.

But look closer at that pasture and what you will see is something that is abnormal … something that is anti-creational. Whether it’s a green pasture or a corn field or soybeans or cotton, this is known as a mono-crop. Conventional farmers work hard to get such results. Now, compare that to an open field that hasn’t been touched by the modern farmer and you will find scores of plants, flowers, and weeds all growing together. In other words, it’s not a mono-crop; it’s a field of diversity. This is how God grows things … with great diversity.

But why? Is there something wrong with mono-crops? It sure looks good. Yes, there is something very wrong with mono-crops. That pretty field with the horses? The only way to get such a mono-crop of fescue or rye or bermuda or orchard grass is that one plant draws certain nutrients from the soil while ignoring others. In time, those nutrients get depleted in the soil and the only way to replace them is to buy chemicals. Otherwise, you can’t keep whatever mono-crop you’ve grown, alive and growing. In other words, it makes that farmer chemically dependent on manufacturers. (Don’t we spend millions every year trying to get people OFF chemical dependency?). Oh, I guess it depends on what kind of chemicals we’re talking about. Illegal drugs mean the manufacturers aren’t getting their financial shares. But when it comes to fertilizers, that’s another story. And don’t those fields look pretty?

But with a field of diversity, the plants all complement each other. What one plant removes, another replaces. So the soil stays healthy. It might not look as pretty to someone who has been trained to see the mono-crop as beautiful. But then, God isn’t into “beauty” as much as the world. Remember? Isaiah said of Jesus, the Savior of the World, in chapter 53:2, For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground;He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Jesus was a plain, ordinary-looking man. Not a handsome, GQ kind of guy.

You have to dig deeper to see the beauty of God’s work. And you have to dig deeper in the soil too. Like the world in which we live, our culture is focused on making the outside look pretty, even though it may be destroying what is going on beneath the surface, down in the soil. But the beauty of God’s work may look plain on top, but down below there is a symbiotic relationship going on with all the micronutrients that keep the soil rich and fertile. Jesus would call this the Good Soil, in a parable about the heart.

So how does all this relate to God in creation? Visit almost any church in America and you will find … a mono-crop. Basically the same socio-economic band of members. Oh, there may be a few token differences regarding race, but there are more similarities among such people than there are differences. But when you get a church filled with a mono-crop, you have the same people who have the same basic outlook on life, the same basic life experiences, the same financial or educational goals, drive the same kind of cars, live in the same kind of houses, and on and on and on. It may look good on the surface, but it stifles the genuine health of such a body of believers. Want to have wisdom in now to relate to other people in your community? Have a church filled with people who cover the gammet on the socio-economic spectrum and you can get it. You’ll hear from someone you know in Bible Study class of their struggles … whether you’re looking up the socio-economic ladder or down it.

Perhaps this is a big part of the reason why the Church as a whole is becoming increasingly irrlevant in society. It looks good on the surface to walk into a growing, blowing church. But if it’s a mono-crop, the soil is pretty poor. We can’t see it, but the world around us senses it; there’s something missing.

We would do well to look at a field being grown by God and follow His lead in our churches. Perhaps then, when the world sees the Love for each other that Jesus said we are to have, a love that crosses all the socio-economic, racial, historical, and lifestyle differences to find our common ground at the Cross, they will see a “field of believers” who, while not looking very pretty on the surface, will have a depth that is rich in all the qualities found in the person of Christ.

Thanksgiving

Sitting around tables all across America, people (hopefully) took a moment to consider all the blessings they were thankful for over this past year. But I wonder how many people included in their list, things that made their life more difficult? “I’m thankful for the difficult season of my life this past spring when ….” Often when we think of things we are thankful for, we only bring to mind those pleasant events. But most of our growth in life occurs not in the times of plenty but in times of lack. It’s a drought that causes trees to dig deep with their roots in search of water. But when water is near the surface, they don’t bother trying. We are the same way. Hard times make us dig deep. So this Thanksgiving, Danika and I stopped to consider one thing this year, one event, or one season of difficulty for which we are thankful, and why. It helps to keep difficult times in perspective to remember that God is still  in control of all the events of our lives. If He is good, and He is, then whether we can see it at the moment or not, even hard times can be a blessing. Sometimes we just may need to be thankful as an act of faith. But other times, as we grow to appreciate the role such times play in our lives, we learn to thank God for the hard times as readily as we do the pleasant.