Into the Wilderness

Photo cred: Mackenzie Crumpacker

Sometimes you go. Sometimes you’re sent. 

Does anybody see you? 

Does anybody care? 

Is the Lord even there?

You didn’t choose this desert space, this wilderness place. 

Or maybe you did. 

However you land there doesn’t really matter, it can be horrible yet the most hallowed place you’ll ever be. 

In the last blog post, Forcing the Pieces, we met Sarah who desired to have the children God promised her and her husband. But God’s timetable wasn’t hers so she suggested they get the party started with a romp in the hay between her man and her maidservant. Alas, it worked and Hagar (AKA Fertile Myrtle the maidservant) does indeed get pregnant. 

Sarah gets angry about the whole thing, blames Abraham. Abraham throws his hands in the air and says you deal with it. So she did. 

Then Sarah mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:6 NIV

Hagar ends up in the wilderness of the desert.

Sometimes you have no choice but to flee for your own well-being. You choose to take a stand and with such courage and bravado say, Enough! Sometimes you have to leave behind the familiarity of community, a job, a home, drugs, comfort, provision, abuse, friends, tradition, others opinions. Walking away from what you know, all you’re familiar with and what makes you fit in can be one of the toughest and best things you do.

Sometimes it’s simply the season of life you’re in. You run your kids around like you’re an Uber driver at Kentucky speed way and you miss adult conversation. GNO? What’s that? Or you’re an empty nester who gave all your time and energy raising a family and now what do you do? You’re a student who lives, eats and sleeps studying, classes and tests…social life? What social life? Your child has special needs and demands time and energy, doctor appointments and round the clock care. You love them to pieces but could sure use a break. 

Dry desert air makes for a thirsty soul. Thirsty souls wander and wonder.

Flip over a few chapters and we’ll see Hagar had gone back (in obedience to an angel), had the child and once again, because of Sarah’s jealousy, got banned, this time….for good. 

Sarah said to Abraham, “get rid of that slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10 NIV)

So Hagarwent on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:14 NIV)

Sometimes the choice is made for you. A husband walks out. Kids rebel. People distance themselves. A diagnosis is made. A death happens. And don’t think for a minute this century doesn’t have “Sarah’s” in it…using you for a means to an end manipulating and mean, then tosses your butt out like a rag doll. 

Either way, here you are. According to Brene’ Brown, The wildernessis an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. (Braving the Wilderness)

The wilderness is full of uncertainty and certainly feels like you are the first and last one to blaze this trail. Surely nobody gets it. Or you. Check out my journal entry for January 18th

Twice Hagar found herself in the wilderness, the unknown, the scary place. The first time she was seen by God; the second He heard her cries. Both times He brought comfort and provision. Wilderness has wild in the word because it’s a crazy time of walking with the One. 

Hagar’s time in the wilderness, that time of searching and solitude, allowed her to experience things she never would have otherwise. She is the only woman, a slave woman at that, who names God. You are the God who sees me, for she said I have now seen the One who sees me. That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi, it is still there. (Genesis 16:13-14NIV)

He continues to be the One who sees. Now and forevermore.

Don’t be afraid. Keep moving through. 

You’re among good Wilderness walkers. It’s where the prophets and poets live for inspiration. It’s where the risk-takers and trailblazers thrive. It’s where Jesus beat the devil at his own schemes. 

He sees you. He hears you. Lean in and listen. Walk in the wild and be free.

kw

From Where I Stood

The view from my daughter’s house in New Mexico

What are you up to Lord? Ever asked yourself that question? Ever wondered how he would work all things for the good when all seemed lost? (Romans 8:28NIV)

That’s where I found myself a couple years back when a friendship was severed like an amputated limb. Hacked off. Gone. Replaced with phantom pains and confusion. 

From where I stood, I thought for sure God was messing up somehow or angry, trying to isolate me and take away things (and people) I thought was good for me. All I could see was destruction. All I could feel was hurt and heartache.

From where I stood the mountain seemed too steep, too rocky, too unapproachable, too desolate, too lonely. I was in need of too much faith to maneuver. I was all out of mustard seeds. 

North Crest Trail, New Mexico

From where I stood, the trail back to who he would have me be meant an uphill climb. Sometimes the path twisted in ways I didn’t want to go and seemed impossible to walk on. Tree roots tripping, forks on the path, rock-slides, thinner air. 

From where I stood I had to learn (again). Rest here. Walk this way. Be still. Listen. Trust me. One step forward. Inhale him. Exhale grace. Don’t look back. Look up child!

You see, God’s view is different. He can see further ahead because he can see from on high the mountaintop. Past the pain, the hurt, the heartache. He sees into the future, my future, and knows exactly what I need (or don’t need.)  

He is the Maker and the Shaker of every mountain that’s in front of us. He is the God of impossible climbs when we cling to him for our next step, our next breath, our next direction. 

He alone is trustworthy. 

I’m learning.

And when you get to the top. My, my, my, such a show off. 

On a plane in Utah

Sometimes he allows you to see that the purpose in the pain was for your protection. Not to harm you but to help you. Not to isolate you but to draw you closer to him. He showed me that recently on this particular adventure. What a different view than the one I had at the beginning of the climb. 

Three Guns Trail, New Mexico

Moses knew a thing or two about climbing and trusting, even when (especially when?) he could not see. One such time, the air was alive with thunder and lightning, the mountain was covered in a thick smoke. Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21) and climbed.

If the mountain before you is clouded over with darkness, maybe it’s to show you things he wants no one else to see. For you to walk by faith with your hand on his shoulder, keeping pace with his pace, trusting each step of the path like never before. 

He is there, in the darkest of places. He will teach you what you need to know. Trust him. 

I’m still learning.

I can’t help but think that each mountain is a preparation for the next one. As long as there are people involved, there will always be more mountains to climb because we are human. Frail, fallible and forever in need of a Savior.

From where I stood, the mountain seemed un-climbable. From where God stands, the view is spectacular. Trust him on the climb. He’s got this. 

My Man and middle daughter on the top of Sandia Peak, New Mexico

kw

The Grumpy Gardener

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It’s January 2ndand I’m already done with winter BUT I’m on track with reading the Bible through in a year. (Celebrate the successes, even if it’s only the second day!)

Day 2 was kind of brutal. Anytime God shows us the ugly in us it’s rough. My journal looked like this:

Read Genesis 4-7 God favored Abel over Cain and Cain killed Abel. Cain, the gardener, felt slighted, jealous(?) and perhaps not good enough. He wandered restlessly, apart from God. The familiarity is haunting. I am Cain and I don’t like it.

Things I’m thankful for 4. Revelation 5. Admission 6. Forgiveness

Anger. It can get the best of us, can’t it? Have you ever been there? I have. Dang, I hate being like Cain. But I’m grateful for this…

A Warning and a Way

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. (Genesis 4:6-7NIV)

Why are you angry? Great question God!

There can be so many reasons (excuses?) to the question God asks. Some may even seem justified. I can be angry if I’m wronged or feel like I got screwed out of something that should have been mine. Anger can bubble just below the surface as a secondary emotion of hurt, confusion, rejection, insecurities, or insufficiencies.

I asked my man if maybe Cain felt the above things like hurt and rejection. His reply? He’s a dude. He’s pissed he didn’t get picked. So maybe you came out of the womb with a chip on your shoulder.

No matter the reason, when left unchecked it can cause us to do things we wouldn’t normally do; behave in ways we wouldn’t normally behave. React impulsively and lash out with no take backs available.

I know how restless I can be when all I want is to get my hands in the dirt but there’s another polar vortex in the forecast and spring seems years away. Maybe Cain was experiencing an extra long winter and he was just a grumpy gardener. Probably not.

It leaves us as a restless wanderer on the earth. (Genesis 4:12NIV)

God doesn’t tell Cain to not be angry but to check it before it gets the better of him. According to Carolyn Custis James, anger is a symptom not of how wrong God has gotten things but of our need to know him better. (When Life and Beliefs Collide pg 65)

 When we believe He is for us and not against us, when we know His character and the love He has for us then we can trust that He will work things out for our good and His glory.

The warning: check yourself before you wreck yourself. (Don’t even open the door a crack!)

The way: master your anger by getting to know Him better.

Giving In and Getting Even

Did Cain listen? Nope.

The very next verse tells us that Cain took him out to the field and attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8NIV)

He opened the door wide and allowed the enemy to waltz right in. I would love to tell you I have nothing in common with Cain and that God got it wrong that morning he opened my eyes to being just like him. But I can’t.

No, I haven’t killed anyone in a fit of rage but boy have I let my words wound out of anger. I’ve allowed anger to rise above my covered up hurt and insecurities to treat others poorly. I choose to hold back (love, writing, kind words, sympathy, forgiveness…) out of resentment. I’ve even done a couple of I’ll-show-them things; things I cannot take back and the damage is done.

Lord help me.

Mercy’s Mark and Grace Given

Cain recognized his punishment of being banished as too hard to bear on his own and is afraid for his own life so he cries out to the Lord. God put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. (Genesis 4:15NIV)

That’s the mark of mercy. Cain did not get what he deserved. Grace was given.

There is another who, on a cross, bore mercy’s mark on His hands and feet, who keeps me from being destroyed by my enemy, who forgives my sins, who sees me, knows me and loves me in spite of myself. He provides a way so I don’t have to wander restlessly, apart from Him. Now that’s Grace.

Oh to know Him more and more so when anger rears it’s ugly head I can check to see where my theology is lacking, then thank Him for mercy’s mark and grace given.

I am Cain. I am forgiven.

kw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let There Be…Night

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Beautiful moon photo is courtesy of the gorgeous Dianna Dickson

Show me what I need to see today Lord.

This simple prayer is how I’ve started each morning since January 1st. It’s something I’ve never done…reading this ancient script in it’s entirety over the course of one year. Just me and Thee. Bible and heart open. Pen and journal in hand. (I say this with some sarcasm because, while this sounds uber spiritual, I’ve already thrown a couple fits, not liked what he’s shown me, and well, I’m getting ahead of myself…)

I’m 20+ days in and He has yet to disappoint. Granted I’ve not made it as far as Numbers and read those long genealogies but still. Some days there are more questions than answers but that’s okay. I’m finding the joy (?) of trusting that He will show me what I need to see today.

Take for instance the first few verses of Genesis 1….

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)

 My journal entry looked like this:

January 1, 2019

Read Genesis 1-3 God separated light from darkness right away. *Live as Light*

  1. Coffee
  2. Quiet
  3. Rose Bowl win for the Buckeyes

I closed my Bible and my journal satisfied that Day One was in the books. The message was to shine bright…after another cup of coffee of course…because he saw that the light was good. So light=good, darkness=bad. Right?

Not so much. But we often equate it that way. Maybe it’s because we can’t see as well at night. Maybe it’s because as soon as our head hits the pillow our brains have nothing else to occupy the thoughts we’ve been too busy to think about all day. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe it’s because the moment we’re still, grief pours down over us.

He could have made the sun to always shine but instead gave us night with a dimmer light to lead the way. Often times when life is all sunshine I have a tendency to think I know where I’m going and get completely lost. My arrogance leads me down a path I wasn’t meant to take. Once again I’m reliant on the Maker of both day and night to put me back on the right road.

God shows us things at night.

Take Abram for example. He was discouraged in his inability to produce offspring and was talking to the Lord about it. So God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:1-5NIV)

This offspring thing kept Abram up at night. God didn’t wait to address his concerns until the sun came up the next day. No. He showed Abram the stars so when the darkness of doubt set in again, Abram could simply look up and be reminded that the God who put the stars in the sky does what He says He will do. He was right there with him. And he’s right there with you and me. In the night. When the doubt creeps in like the shadow of death.

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Photo courtesy of Dianna Dickson

God likes to wrestle at night.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. Esau is the brother from whom Jacob stole his birthright. They haven’t seen each other in years and Jacob is a bit…nervous shall we say. Jacob sends his family on ahead and…

a man wrestled him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Then a few wrestle moves and a name change later the man…blessed him there. (Genesis 32:22-29NIV)

I’m not sure what all Jacob was wrestling with God about but I do know it was night once again. That time when you lay your head on the pillow, exhausted from a full day of running, working, kids, husband, appointments. You can’t wait to fall into the bliss of sweet dreams…

Instead you start thinking about running, working, kids, husband, appointments. Worry, doubts, wonder, fear…

But instead of grappling with God we grab our phones and Crush some Candy or scroll through social media and wonder why everyone else has it better than you do. Other people’s families don’t seem to be falling apart. What will the test come back as? The list goes on and we get angry at God but we don’t engage with him. Our noses get out of joint instead of our hips.

Could it be that we miss the blessing because we run from the wrestling?

Living a life of faith is not lived in the light but discovered in the dark. While I don’t want to live in utter darkness all the time, I also don’t want to fear it. What can light mean if we never experience dark?

I do want to live as light like I wrote in my journal. But that may mean allowing Him to show me things by way of moonlight and stars with just enough light for the step I’m on. My light may shine brighter only after I grapple with God for the blessing in the darkest of night.

There was evening and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5 NIV)

And what a day it was too!

To be continued…

kw

PS Disclaimer: the darkness I am talking about here is things that trouble or scare you or refers to a trial or hard time you are going through. I am NOT talking about the darkness of depression or other mental illnesses. Please seek professional counseling and take any prescribed medicine to help you. I have and there’s no shame in it.