The first day of school jitters. Ugh, it felt ridiculous. "I'm a grown woman...I'm too old for this nonsense", I kept telling myself. Yet there I was, standing in line with a thousand others, probably thinking the same thing.
The older we get the more responsibilities we carry. Our family, our children, our jobs, our future, our retirement, we fight for these things our entire lives. I have been a mother for 25 years! From a pastoral perspective, I have been the mother of a church for many years too. Charged with keeping a close and careful eye on all who were a part of my church family. It was as if God connected wifi to the precious people there, and only a few of us had the password. What a privilege to carry the code. As I watched with my natural eyes, He supernaturally downloaded to my heart the encouragement and exhortation they needed to grow.
Now there I was standing in line to register for school at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and it just felt awkward. It felt like I just did not fit. I did not have the wifi password for these people! That overwhelming feeling began making me think about all the people who enter churches for the first time all around the world, and how they must feel. Perhaps it feels like stepping into a secret club where they don't yet know the customs or language of that community. It takes a lot of courage to stay.
We as Christians carry heaven within us. We are to carry the very nature of God, the culture of heaven into every situation we walk in to. It is absolutely counter cultural to society around us. Least is greatest, first is last, week is strong. to the normal human, it is upside down. In fact, Jesus was constantly instilling heaven's culture into those around Him. He said to enter the Kingdom, we must become like children.
Well, I did that this week. I became one of the kids. As I stand back a survey my first day, I am left with 4 thoughts:
1. When I feel off kilter, I can lean on the One who knows me by name.
2. I don't have to carry the weight of the world, I can cast my cares on Him.
3. He wants me to come to Him as a child and begin to delight and wonder as only a kid could.
4. Be patient with myself, fitting into a new family takes time.
1 John 3:2 says it so well, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (NIV)
Maybe you are like me, maybe you have a tendency to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Today I would like to encourage you. Take just a moment and get alone with God. Close your eyes, see yourself as a child and climb up on Papa's lap and just sit there. Let Him hold you close. It is in His presence that peace comes, that your true identity is revealed as a son or daughter of this Father who loves you so very much. He is for you! He is cheering you on. Let Him be strong when you feel weak. Be the kid you were created to be.
I think His greatest desire is for us to enjoy His presence, let Him be in charge, and simply enjoy being one of His kids.
When it was my ministry to lead worship, I became one of those abandoned, crazy loud, holding nothing back kind of leaders. I was compelled and determined to practice what I preached. To teach about the importance of surrender, and then not exhibit it would be complete hypocrisy in my mind. All in. Every time. Putting my heart on display every single time. Vulnerable. Tenacious. Determined to cut through the junk of the world and drag people straight into the throne room. Some would not go. No matter what, surrender seemed beyond their desire or capability, but I went anyway.
After I left that assignment, I remember vividly the first time I sat in a worship service at my new church. I was a just another face in the crowd, just the way I wanted it. But when the worship set began, I knew I had a choice. Just because no one knew me, didn't mean that God didn't see me standing there, about 12 rows back, tucked in between strangers. I was not a stranger or invisible to Him.
Have you ever noticed that the lifting of hands usually means one of two things? One is surrender, of course. As kids we all grew up playing with our friends, mimicking what we saw on tv, we'd play cops and robbers and say things like, "This is a stick up, put your hands up," or "Stop, In the name of the law! Put your hands up," or we'd play war and say, "get your hands up and surrender, or else!" Open palms is actually a universal sign of honesty. It shows we have nothing to hide, no weapons. That's where handshaking came from - I extend my open hand with nothing concealed and no weapons up my sleeve.
So when we worship, hands up often signals surrender, both to heaven who is watching, but mostly to your own heart. Nothing concealed. No hidden motives up my sleeve.
Hands up can mean something very different though, especially seen in sports. When an athlete wins, it signals victory. In DailyMail.com, David Matsumoto, professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, is quoted saying: 'Triumph has its own signature expression that is immediate, automatic and universal across cultures.'
Could the raising of hands also mean the same thing in worship? I believe so. As an act of faith, when times are hard, when we are heartbroken, or confused, or even exhausted, raising our hands can be a signal to the enemy that we have the victory because we are in Christ and trusting Him to complete the work He has started in us.
Remember when Moses was watching the Israelites in battle and as long as he kept his hands up the victory was theirs. But when he got tired and put his arms down, they began to lose! I believe that our hearts need to be postured in this way everyday, we worship from a place of surrender and trust, but also from a place of victory!
(As a side note: for pete's sake, surround yourself with people who will hold your arms up when you get tired. Tell somebody you need help!)
Jehoshaphat was leading the people of Israel against a frighteningly barbaric enemy and the Lord instructed him to do something remarkable.
"The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs! They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa.
As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!” After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,
Give thanks to God,
His love never quits.
As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead."
2 Chronicles 20:18-23 (Message)
So as I stood there, lost in the crowd, I willed myself to worship. I determined in my heart to live the same way hidden as I had lived on the stage. Full on, battle ready, fully surrendered, totally engaged. The victory was mine. Not because I won it, not because I deserved it, not because I earned it. Victory is mine (and yours) because HE WON IT!
Jesus fights for you and He sees you hiding there in the crowd, and He even now, is watching over His word to complete it in your life. Lift your voice and your hands and shout to the God who saves, who's love never quits.
Let this video inspire you to live in victory today. Will to RISE. (That's what I'm doing.) Come on, we can do it together.
Have you ever written a song? It can be an incredibly vulnerable experience. I suppose one gets better at it, more comfortable with having their innermost thoughts exposed for public scrutiny, but song writing has never been my favorite thing.
I am slowly learning about the kind and attentive nature of God. When times are really tough, (and they have been), when things don't seem to be moving in the right direction, (and the haven't), I was reminded how important it is to convince myself of who God really is. The Bible tells us that He has counted every hair on our heads. That He takes such attention to detail to clothe the lilies of the field and that He will also provide for us. It says that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
So I realized if I am not experiencing His provision at this moment, it's not an indictment on His character, it MUST be something God wants to mold and change within me. Something very deep He wants to etch upon my heart.
So I stopped my complaining spirit. I ended the worry and fear. Surprisingly, it wasn't a huge thing I had to do to change this habit. You may be wondering what I did.
I began to sing a new song to the Lord.
I began using my voice to declare His goodness. His provision. His care for me. His love and kindness. It encouraged my heart. It changed the atmosphere around me.
Honestly, I have been practicing this new habit for about a week. By myself. No one but my dog Lily can hear me. Oh, except my own spirit, and God, of course. I have not been particularly impressed with the melody line yet, and my words have been intentionally simple and descriptive, far from eloquent. But what a difference a few days of singing a new song can make!
Not only has my atmosphere shifted, but financially things are starting to shift as well. Yesterday I had two lovely surprises from unexpected sources. One was as simple as a friend buying one of my books, but padding my account so I could get a Starbucks. How sweet and kind is God to care for me in the smallest detail?
At Bethel Church, every time the offering is taken, we hold our money in the air and make some extravagant declarations. They put the words on the big screens and we recite together, declarations of "jobs and better jobs... unexpected blessings... checks in the mail..." I must admit that at first I felt like a phony reciting these profoundly wild declarations. In my head I would be asking, "do I even believe these words? Is God really this crazy-good?" But then I thought, well, it couldn't hurt and week after week, I have felt my own hope rising and my own ideas about my Father changing.
Today I want to encourage you to try it. It doesn't matter how it sounds to your ears, God loves the sound of your song. No one else can sing it but you. Could He be waiting to hear your song to release what He has been storing up for you? I will close today's blog with this amazing passage of scripture out of the Psalms.
"O my soul, bless God.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!
He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence."
Psalms 103:1-5 (Message)
Sing these words with your own melody. Release God's presence into your situation. Release your own heart and feel hope rise within you. Things will begin to shift. I promise.
Regardless of your genealogy, who your parents were, what town you came from, or how much (or how little) money you make, you have a destiny to fulfill. In America children grow up hearing about men who did great things, or became amazing people. These rags to riches stories provoke a kid to wonder, "What am I going to do what my life?" Men like Trump, Gates, Walton and Jobs. There are historic names like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford and Hershey. Examples of men who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and made something of themselves.
No pressure though.
Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, when writing "To Be Born Poor Doesn't Mean You'll Always Be Poor" for Forbes .com, wrote,"... developing ability and ambition is a challenging, uncomfortable, even scary process. Relatively few people in any era choose to do it, and as a result, few capitalize on life’s unlimited opportunities."
Unlimited. Think about it, after you passed the age of puberty, did you ever once think your possibilities were limitless again? We just begin. Life comes at you hard and fast and one thing leads to another, and you hope for the best. Why is it, that unless we are forced by a life circumstance such as death, divorce, or losing a job, we choose to play it safe?
An article in Forbes Magazine states, "The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that."
I found that number to be staggering. I know from experience it's never just about money. And it's never that cut an dry. With a career change typically worry, anxiety, fear, sadness, shame aren't too far away. But it doesn't have to end that way. What I'm talking about is purpose, passion, and calling.
Many times your job pays the bills but it doesn't give you a thrill to get up in the morning to run out and do it. So back to the beginning, "...few capitalize on life’s unlimited opportunities."
I want to be one of those few.
Today I read such an interesting quote by Lou Engle. He said, "God does not create a man and put a dream in him. He creates a dream and wraps a man around it." We spend much of our lives trying to get to that core dream, don't we?
Maybe you haven't thought about this stuff in a long time, and truthfully, maybe I wouldn't be asking these questions all over agin unless I had to, but here's a start:
1. What issues in life make you the angriest?
This is often a good indicator of what you are passionate about and it rarely has anything to do with your current job. Is it social justice? Is it politics? Is it customer service? Whatever it is, you should write it down and start giving it some attention. If you are passionate about it, chances are, there's a solution in you.
2. What is you most favorite hobby?
You know that thing, maybe no one else in your family gets it, but it lights your fire. It could be sports, or needle crafts, it could be fishing or stamp collecting. You should begin asking God to help you think outside the box. There is probably a way to make money doing what you love.
3. When you were a kid, what was your favorite thing to play?
Did you play house? Play store? Play office? Play teacher? You just might find that dream you were wrapped around when you think about the childhood you.
Whether you dislike your job or not, ask God how you can love those around you really well, even the unlovely ones, because once you start asking these questions, you will be given answers and your time could be very short where you are.
I hope this got you thinking. Our limitless God created you in His image and wants you to live in freedom. Let this be the era, let us be the few, as we learn to live unlimited.
Lately I have been filling out job applications every day. Seriously, every single day. The last time I actively looked for a job the internet barely existed. (By the way, happy 25th anniversary, internet!) Back then it was a different ball game entirely. It was more like hand to hand combat, less like a computer chess match. You physically had to put on your pantyhose (do they still make those?) and your 4 inch pumps and you went from place to place, actually talking to people. Nowadays nearly all applications are submitted online which has its' pros and cons.
The pros? You can stay in your pajamas all day long, and you don't have to nervously psych yourself up to go introduce yourself to people.
The cons? The computer program Du Jour may have glitches and you may have to start over. Again and again. Like I did today. You also may never hear from the company you apply to. You may take it personally. You may not.
Also, this is the first time I have job hunted as an old person. Really old. (That comes with it's own list of pros and cons.) The whole procedure is hard on the self esteem. You have to ask yourself not just where you've been and why you are here, but also where do you want to be. More importantly, WHO do you want to be. The process of applying for a job introduces the most unwanted influence. The very thing most of us try to avoid in life. Rejection.
Fear of rejection causes us to wonder, "Am I good enough? Do I have what they're looking for? Am I too old? Too young? Am I too fat? Too experienced? Not experienced enough? Not educated enough?" That thing you do becomes your identity, and that is not what God intended.
The application process reduces a person's identity to a list of qualities, highlighted only to expose the things that person chooses to disclose, leaving the whole of who they are neatly tucked away somewhere. Neat. Tidy. Truthful but inauthentic.
I think I approach God that way sometimes, especially when I need something. I have thought, "Let Him see how good I am, yes, I will build my case as I stack up my list of spiritual accomplishments to display how much I deserve that thing," as if I am applying for His approval. As if He can't see right through those disingenuous prayers of mine.
Aren't you glad that isn't the reality of what we can expect as we approach our Father, God? The reality is that there is no need to hide. Anything. Let me tell you what I have learned, He sees you completely and He loves you unconditionally. Who you are is NOT what you have done or what you do. You're identity is found in what He has done. Romans 3:24 tells us that we are, "justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (ESV) Justified means that the way He sees you is just as if you had never sinned. God views you through the blood of Jesus, and that means God sees you as perfect. You do not need to tippy toe around Him to show Him your good side, all the while carefully disguising the ugly. He has made you beautiful. He calls you qualified. Fully known and fully loved. Genuinely. All of you.
The Message translation says it so well, "It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." Ephesians 1:11-12 (Message)
So no matter what you are gearing up for in life right at this moment, remember:
1. He planned for you.
2. He has designs on you for glorious living.
3. You must get your identity from Him.
4. Go ahead and get your hopes up. In His reality, you've already got the job. Run with it!
Stay posted for news of my ongoing earthly job hunt...
If you could do anything, what would you do?
That's the question my family posed to me a few weeks ago.
My mind swirled with possibilities ranging from the absurd to the practical. My top three choices if I could do anything? Travel. Open a store. Hang out at Bethel. All three seemed difficult with no money. But isn't it true that God can do the impossible? Remember the little boy's fish and bread? Jesus can do miracles with very little! (And that happens to be exactly what I have!)
I traveled a lot this year, in fact I sold my car and spent every penny to do it. I have a love affair with Europe. I know it will be in my future so I felt no urgency to choose this as my 'anything'.
Opening up a store might take some time. The name took no time at all. The name seemed to be already in me. Crown Cottage; An eclectic mix of antique treasures, unique home furnishings and European finds. I would shop there! However, I am not in a position to take out a small business loan right now so this 'anything' will have to wait.
And the other thing? The Bethel thing? Well, let me just say, when my life exploded I felt surrounded by death. The last few years have been so difficult that one of the most constant places I felt life flowing from was Bethel Church in Redding, CA. From prophetic words, to positive, faith filled messages, to powerful worship, I knew there was life there.
The anchor holding me fast is the unchanging, never failing Word of God. Ephesians 3:20, "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!"
That constant reminder helps put courage in my heart and strength in my spirit.
My 'anything' turned out to be enrolling in Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry beginning in September. So I sold everything and moved to Redding, California. In the past few weeks I have asked myself, "How did I get here?" After all, it was almost an instinctual response to move to Redding. It is HOT here! I mean really hot! I only have one acquaintance and I don't even have a job yet. I could get caught up in counting what I do not have, but I choose to fix my eyes on what I do have. Most of all, I have peace. And yes, 'anything' could happen!
As I attempt to make a fresh start here, I'm working on my blog, this website, some new things, as well as my social media accounts. In just a couple days some more of the old will go away as I embrace the new. I want to invite you to follow me.
I have social media links available on the side bar of this page, but if you want to connect on these social media platforms, here are some links.
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013254843451 (Look for Connies Crown on Facebook.)
https://www.crown.cottage@conniefriend on Twitter
https://www.instagram.com/crown.cottage/ on Instagram
I want to thank you for sharing this journey with me. I also want to ask you, "If you could do anything, what would you do?" We serve a God who makes 'anything' possible!
When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. Brene Brown
Summer is a time for road construction all across the United States. You thought you were on your way. Smooth sailing ahead! But now you sit. Hungry and thirsty, your kids have to go to the bathroom, and you are waiting on a pilot car that doesn't come. The delay is gobbling up precious time, and all you want to do is MOVE! Has that ever happened to you?
Sometimes life feels that way. You are filled with lots of questions and very little answers. Did I go the wrong way? Was there an easier path? Did I miss a sign? How did I get here?
I have discovered that my thoughts have formed neat little rows in my brain. Grooves, you might say. It takes time. A LOT of time and intentionality to retrain your brain. Those grooves have to be dismantled. The carefully formed paths of thought processes, all that you thought you knew, all of your plans and expectations, becomes very hard ground. Like a well known freeway. All of those roads have to be painfully grated away. It makes you sit up and take notice. To really lean in and listen to God for the next turn.
I have decided, from now on I only want good roads in my head. God roads.
I think as human beings, we struggle for control. We have an innate desire to feel safe, to be protected. Most people go to great lengths to isolate themselves from discomfort and pain. We wrestle for control. In my struggle to re-imagine life, much has been revealed about who I have been and who I want to be. I want to live as though God is my source. Because my heart knows that He is. (Again, it's those darn grooves in my brain!) My employer is not my source. Neither are my charitable friends, not my husband, not my family.
All my worry, my fussing and moaning, my tears and tantrums, pleading my case as I tell Him how it should work out is absolutely worthless. When His delay of "maybe" turns into "no", you've got to rely more on God's mercy than ever. The bottom line is, life is unpredictable and only God has the ability to control everything.
I am learning that I am not God. I don't know the future, and I certainly can't control it. He quietly says, "Do you trust me?"
Um... I'm trying. Help me be a quick learner, God. Then within a period of 2 days, I received scriptures of encouragement from multiple friends. All about TRUST. (of course) Maybe you need to be encouraged today too.Psalm 91...I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91...He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart
Psalm 91...For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Psalm 61....From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 62...Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God[c];
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
I pray that through God's words, you have felt His presence. Here are 5 bits of wisdom for today to help you learn to trust and rest in His care. These things are helping me.
1. Remind yourself how BIG God is.
2. Know that He sees you.
3. Get away from the noise and listen for the still small whisper of God.
4. Embrace the posture of humility.
5. Express your gratitude.
Change is hard. Good change, bad change, it makes little difference, it's always a bit of an adjustment. It used to get on my nerves when people around me had a hard time with change. "Why don't they get on board already?" But I understand it better now after living through a traumatic change. It seems to be a natural part of the process of moving forward; you have to grieve the past.
I believe that a key to breakthrough when the pain of change hurts a bit to much, is gratitude. I have learned that I must stop the treadmill in my mind of all I will miss, or what I have lost, and the only dependable cure I have found is to start giving thanks. It messes with the wiring of habitual thought and it actually instills hope!
I have this quote written in my calendar, "Thanksgiving positions you to recognize the abundance that is available to you. It builds faith that can recognize the greater reality." If you re like me, you want to recognize the abundance available you.
Don't you love that? I think all of us want to be in that position. To recognize abundance, to see and hope for a greater reality than what we see, we are called to be people of faith, after all!
If you are going through transition or any kind of change, let me encourage you; gratitude is the key that will let you through the next door. Use that key!
Write down your top 3 things to be thankful for. Every day. Make it a habit that you'll never regret. As I sign off my old Connie Friend Facebook account for the last time, these are things I'm grateful for.
1. Reconnection with old friends has been a joy and delight to my spirit.
2. The instant availability to encouragement, scriptures, and stories from friends lives has given me courage too many times to count.
3. The honor of sharing my life with so many of you on a daily basis is something I am truly grateful for. You have been a blessing to me.
Recognize the abundance available to you right this minute by writing down your gratitude list.
One month ago, on the first day of July, 2016, my life blew apart. One moment I was the pastor of a beautiful group of people; people who I had the pleasure of pouring my life into, people who trusted me, people who turned into teams that had become family, family that I thought I would be with until I became too old to serve. One moment I was the chief cheer leader, pointing the way and the next moment, charges had been leveled against my husband and at once, everything shattered.
Our church had endured so much already. We had gone through financial hell since the 2008 recession, then suffered an embezzlement by a trusted accountant, and now this? This was just too much.
The leader of our organization looked at me and said, "This has nothing to do with you, but you are not allowed to go on campus, you cannot talk to anyone. Until an investigation has been completed, you must stay away."
It was a Friday. The end of the business day, the end of my world.
All I could think about were my plans for a patriotic celebration on Sunday. How strange, the things your mind attaches itself to in times of sudden trauma. How silly. How insignificant. Plans and people had to be abandoned. "No contact".
I was left with so many questions. How would the people respond? What would they think of my abandonment? Will the accuser be given a voice, but not the accused? Did my leadership even count for anything? Has it all been a waste? Why? Why do I have to be relegated to collateral damage?
By the time we stepped out of the meeting and into the parking lot, cracks in my facade had appeared, and tears were flowing. All I wanted was to protect our beloved friends from more pain. "We resign!", we said, "Let us simply slip away and spare them the pain."
But it was not to be.
The past 45 days have been a blur. Admittedly, the thoughts come along with the sobs, in fits and spurts. As messy as the process may be, I feel urged to at least try to record my journey.
I learned many years ago a lesson taken from the journey of Lewis and Clark. Every supply they brought with them on their trek across the country was carefully and painstakingly recorded and protected. They took an inordinate amount of ink. INK! Why bother? What was the point?
It comes down to one monumental mantra, "It's not enough to take the journey; you must be willing to mark the trail!"
I know people are coming up behind me. Through good times and bad, am I willing to mark the trail? This is my attempt. It may be ugly, it may be strewn with broken promises, shattered dreams, blood and guts, but I pray God will use my journey to help someone else. After all, I'm not the first to experience the pain of betrayal or abandonment or just plain misunderstanding, and unfortunately, I won't be the last. The truth is, we all go through difficult, unexpected hardships in life.
Matthew 5:45 says it in a rather in-your-face style, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that." (MSG)
A situation such as mine will test your love, that's for sure. Those dear ones I always thought would be by my side, aren't. Some I hardly even knew have proven themselves to be faithful friends. To "respond with the energies of prayer" is something I am working on.
My lessons so far?
*Be slow to judge - desperate people do desperate things.
*Guard your heart - everything in life flows from that place.
*When chaos abounds - do what you know you heard from God last.
The compass may be shattered, but God remains constant. As I shake the broken glass from the instrument in my hand, I see that He is still faithfully pointing the way. I welcome you to follow my journey.
"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a
voice behind you, saying, "This is the way: walk in it." Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)
If you have been married to someone for any length of time, you are bound to discover little habits and quirks that drive you crazy. My husband has this thing with trees in our yard. He prunes them. All the time. In every season. He trims back leaves, chops off entire branches and cuts off the tops. Just when I start to enjoy the flourishing growth, he whacks away at it. He says things like, "It will produce bigger fruit! It will grow taller. Trust me!"
But I don't want to trust him! "Let 'em be!", I say.
In time, I forget about the clippings on the ground, and go on with life. Until a day like today comes. Today was a day that I went out to check on our cherry trees. When I looked up I was treated to a pleasant surprise. Bright red, shiny, plump cherries hung in huge clusters from the branches. I couldn't even wait to get a bucket. I just enjoyed eating them right off the tree.
John 15 tells a parable of Jesus, when He said, "And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more." I think there are periods in life when we feel really good about what we are producing through our lives. Everything is clicking, our personal time with Father is meaningful, our relationships are flourishing, then all of a sudden, WHACK! And we cry out in astonishment, "But God, I am doing everything right! But God, don't you love me? But God, I deserve more, not less! What is happening?!"
I like to trust in the mystery of God when He gives me unexpected, pleasant blessings. But when I get cut, I bleed, just like you! But to trust God in the mystery of unexpected pain, that is another story. Can I set my eyes further than my pain, and see that He will produce more through my life as a result? I am trying.
Maybe today you are asking "why", through tears, through injustice, through devastation. I believe that the Father of your heart, the Gardener of your life, is creating something beautiful. He is tenderly caring for your limbs, seeing glorious fruit to come. It will come. He has not abandoned you. He is with you. Let your tears become the water that will nourish the soil of your life. Let the strength He has already placed within you sustain you as you stay planted. Lean on Him as He props you up with His caring hands.
Through the pain, trust in the promise of fruit to come. He loves you so much, too much to leave you mediocre. He has placed greatness within you, in the very seeds of your DNA and when He prunes you, He is calling the greatness forth. So rise, my friend. When He subtracts, it brings multiplication. God math. Crazy God math.
Know that the pain won't last forever, but the promise will.
So I will trust Him. I still may not trust my husband with garden shears in his hands, but I trust God. He is a good Gardener. His promises are worth the pain. I have to believe that. Maybe you should too.