Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Caught In-Between the Yes and the No


The dirt road underneath my shoes feels better than pavement. The birds singing and squirrels chattering sounds better than car horns.  

 How many walks will I take before I have the answers I want?

 A brook bubbles, and the water looks cool and the sun on my back is hot. I could take off my socks and shoes and dip my toes in, make them shiver in the water the sun has yet to warm. I could sit on a rock and wade my feet and no one would care if I did. Or I could keep walking.

 I could pause my walk and get my feet wet- something that requires no permission and has no consequences and would require no thought. I could just go wading or not go wading as I pleased. 

 But most decisions are not as simple as stopping by a peaceful stream.

 A familiar dirt road, a familiar brook, a familiar longing to test the temperature of the water, and familiar questions I want answered. Still. 

I never realized before how much I crave simple yes or no answers to the many decisions I have to make in life. 

 But like this road, I have been here before. Caught in-between the yes and the no, what I want and don't want, what God may do but has not promised me. 

 The waiting when you just want to know whether you should take a step forward or backward.

 In my Bible reading, I have reached Exodus again, a time where Israel was waiting for God to act. And in God's perfect timing, my church is now going through Exodus as well. 

 In the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites are all enslaved by Egypt. They fear God has forgotten them. But God calls a man named Moses to deliver his people from slavery and lead them to the land He has promised them. They have been given hope and they are beyond excited and ready to leave their oppression. So in Exodus chapter five, Moses goes to Egypt and confronts Pharaoh, telling him that God has commanded him to let His people go. 

 And instead of agreeing, instead of being scared of the signs Moses does with God's power, Pharaoh laughs, saying he does not know God. Then he makes life even harder for the people of Israel, and they grumble against Moses and this God of theirs who will not save them.

 I know what comes next. I know the plagues God will send to the Egyptians, all examples of His power. Though tragic, I know that God will show His authority to all of Egypt by causing all of their firstborn to die. I know that God will save the firstborns of His people Israel because of the blood of a lamb painted on their doors. I know that is a beautiful picture of Jesus' sacrificial death for us on the cross, something far beyond what the Israelites could have imagined or hoped. I know that God will humiliate Pharaoh and the Egyptians. I know God will part the Red Sea and lead His people to safety and eventually to the land He promised them. 

 I know all of these things. But the people of Israel did not. They were caught in-between the yes and the no, in-between what God had promised to do and what He hadn't done yet. 

 I think they were tired. I think they wanted to know whether they could hope, if God was going to deliver them from their enemies, if they could start packing, or if they should curl up and die in Egypt as slaves. 

 I think they felt like how I feel now walking this dirt road. 

 I am not enslaved. I am happy and free. But this dirt road has seen my confusion, my desire for a yes or no, how badly I handle being caught in-between the yes and the no.

 If I could go back into the time of Exodus, I would tell the Israelites, "Be patient. I know this is hard right now, but it is part of God's huge, amazing plan. Just wait until you see what He does."

 And the trees above me shake from the wind, like they are lovingly laughing and scolding me. So I tell myself, "Be patient. This is hard right now, but it is part of God's huge, amazing plan for my life. Just wait and see what He does, for He has never been unfaithful."

 It may take a long time or a short time, but eventually I will get a yes or a no. And either way, God will be good and faithful to me, the one who put my Jesus on a tree. 

"Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for possession. I am the LORD.'"
~ Exodus 6:6-8, ESV

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

To the Night Writers



 I want to pause time, hide in a log cabin in the mountains, and write my novel. I want to spend three months there and write my novel in one intense swoop with only a mountain breeze and wild flowers for distractions. 

 I think that is what it will take to finish this novel of mine.

 I am about halfway done with my novel, and I have been floating in this halfway point for a while. 

 Forty hours a week at the chocolate factory. Summer in full swing with trails that beg to be walked and mountains I long to climb. Friends to connect with. Books to read. Church activities. A room that looks like a fourteen year old lives there. A car to find and buy.

 I hear stories of writers typing late into the night. And I would. I like writing at night. I am more creative at night. But I would fall asleep at work. And I can never be the person constantly doing and going; it is not me.

 And this novel of mine stays only half done.

 But you make time for what you love.

 So to the night writers, please share your drive. Share your motivation, your energy, the speed in which you write. Share the secrets the night whispers to you that somehow feeds you and lets you still wake up in the morning and go to work at the job that pays the bills.

 God, let me start writing again. Let me make writing into a habit. Let me not give in to my tiredness. Force me to make writing dates at the library. Let my book be written in spite of me.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When My Weakness is My Strength



 ~First written while in Medellin, 
Colombia as a dispatch to our church back home~

One thought that has continually come to my mind this week in Colombia has been my weakness.

 I feel weak walking around a foreign city with traffic and busyness. I feel weak when our leaders rightly demand that women stay in the middle of the group when on the streets so the men can surround us for protection. I feel weak watching the men skillfully build things out of wood then hoist sheets of flooring up to the mezzanine. I feel weak having to ask people what a specific tool looks like. I feel weak not being able to communicate with my brothers and sisters in Christ at the seminary and the church, staring at them blankly, not sure what they are trying to tell me. I feel weak as I try to cross the street without being run over by motorcycles in a city that doesn't seem to have or obey traffic lights.

 So this morning, when I was asked to help some of our Colombian brothers and sisters to prepare our mid-morning snack, I was excited. Finally there was something I could do that I would be good at, and I could feel strong again! They put me to work squeezing tangerines as big as our oranges back home to make the most amazing juice I have ever tasted. But even in that task I didn't know what I was doing. One man, probably after watching me struggle, showed me where to properly cut the fruit, the motions my hands should make, and even how to tell if the fruit was bad (all impressively without words). He put his hands over mine, twisting the fruit to squeeze out the juice, and in that moment I realized something very simple: from construction work, to the language barrier, and even squeezing tangerines, I am clueless and weak.

 There are many things I cannot do here because I am physically weak and unskilled, and that is exactly how I am before God. I am nothing compared to Him. But 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "...My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  God uses our weaknesses, my weaknesses, for His glory.

 So yes, I will sweep. Yes, I will collect bottles. Yes, I will hammer this nail thirty times into the wood despite the fact that any guy here could do it with two strikes. Maybe simply because God is seen in my weakness, and in my weakness I am forced to rely on Him.