Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Big Rocks and an Altered Landscape

No matter where we lived,
     no matter the climate,
              or how short the growing season,
      no matter how many rocks,
                                 big or small,
my grandmother worked the soil
              and created beauty in its place.

She shouldn't have done it,
     such a vast amount of energy expended
     at her advanced age.
She shouldn't have been able to do it,
     struggling with rheumatoid arthritis
     for forty-five years.
She did not walk;
                  she hobbled.
When we even insinuated
           for her to sit down,
she would give us a look that
       would cause an army to surrender.

This pioneer-strong woman did not wake up
      a-moaning and a-groaning every morning
      with arthritic knees and stiff hands,
   saying, "O my LORD,
        how am I going to face today?"     
But she welcomed each dawn
     with a prayer and an attitude,
"Ok, LORD,
what do we conquer today?"
She followed Him
                     into His day for her.

She didn't see big rocks blocking her way,
   or even the need to maneuver around them,
         or pretend they weren't there,
but she embraced her difficulties as they came
                               and let Him redeem them.
They weren't a hazard to her,
           nor a hardship,
    nor a "Woe is me!"
        but instead,
                 "Wow, what can I do with that?"

She knew that her strength was too limited
               and challenges too overwhelming
      to carry along a burden of anxious thoughts,
                                or the chains of despair,
         those things that siphon one's strength
               and stifle the very breath out of creativity.
She saw the big rocks of life with different eyes,
          because she knew what God can do.

She also knew as she hobbled along
          that everyone struggles with something,
     hers just a little more obvious than others.
The difference is
        what you let God do with it.

Create beauty.
Let God redeem the hard stuff.

Ah Lord GOD!
It is You
    who made the heavens and the earth
by Your great power
and by Your outstretched arm!
Nothing is too hard for You...

                        Jeremiah 32.17 

(This poem was originally posted  on NightlyTea on February 13, 2014)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What am I supposed to be doing?

Some time ago,  I had HUGE misgivings and second thoughts about a major decision, finding myself uneasy and looking for an exit sign.  What am I doing HERE?  Did I not listen closely enough?  Did I get my signals crossed?

Show me what to do, O LORD. Give me Your peace, or give me Your direction.   

I sat silently before Him.  But I still held tightly to the self-made dilemma in my lap.  Waiting and listening for Him, my death-grip began to loosen.   My excuses began to melt in His Presence, my justifications crumbled, and my cobbled-together escape plans evaporated into thin air. 

I moved from asking “why and how and where” to asking what God would have me to do in this.  I don’t even have to know His purposes or His reasons why.  Just to follow Him into it.  The true sense of the word “obey” in both Hebrew and Greek means “to hearken and to heed.”  Bags packed and shoes tied. To listen expectantly for and be ready to respond. In God’s eyes, responding to Him is not an impersonal doing, but the most intimate form of being.

Being in the center of God’s will
     does not mean
that I am always right,
or I am never wrong,
                   but that God redeems.
No crumbs left over.
Nothing random at all.

“God has you where you are for a reason.  He has given you success this week for a reason.  He has sent hardship into your life this week for a reason.  In everything, the invisible hand of providence is lovingly directing your life – behind the scenes – down to the smallest detail,” says Kevin DeYoung in his awesome book Just Do Something.

I am aware that I am to seek God in this, not just an answer.   The decision will not suddenly arrive with a thud on the front porch like a package from Federal Express. 

God’s desire is for relationship in all and above all.

God reassures me that He can work even in this.  Even if I made a mistake, He can redeem, if I seek Him in it.   He rises above my wrongdoings, my sin, my blunders, my likes and dislikes, my desire to avoid risk, my need to be right, even above my discomfort.  He is never restrained by time.  He has all the time in the world, because He created it.

I want to rewind and start again.  God wants to redeem and use it for His glory.

And maybe that decision was not a mistake at all, but God purposed it to bring me into a new understanding in my relationship with Him.  Whatever brings me closer to God is fully and completely within His will.  Even in mystery.  Even in this.

This week as I was re-reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom for the billionth time, it appeared that a short passage was written in BOLD, enlarged and capitalized with my name on it, jumping off the page and into my heart.  Standing in line in the Ravensbruck concentration camp, Corrie was full of fear, fully aware that she was carrying a small Bible in a pouch hanging around her neck.  Prison guards were inspecting each and every inmate.  What was she to do?

“And all the while I had the incredible feeling that it didn’t matter, that this was not my business, but God’s.  That all I had to do was walk straight ahead.” (The Hiding Place, page 193.)

And that is what Corrie did.  Each and every prisoner was inspected head to toe – in front of her and behind her.  When it came to her turn, the guard just screamed at her to move along and not hold up the line.

And so, God impressed in my heart that this mystery may not be mine to know His purposes.  I have only to be faithful to Him and walk straight ahead.  He’s got this.

What am I supposed to be doing?
        Trust Me.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
       great is Your faithfulness.

                          Lamentations 3: 21-23

Friday, November 10, 2017

And oh, the familiar

There are many mornings, particularly at the beginning of the week, when I am up well before dawn for appointments and meetings.  The house is dark as if huge black sheets are draped over the windows.

I silently inch my way across the bedroom floor and into the kitchen like a blind person who does not see but knows, who is sensitive to stumbling blocks beyond my sight, those things that have the potential to trip me up.  The obstacles are invisible to my eyes, but I know they are there, the chairs, the table, the countertop.  I am not seeking an exit, a way out from this darkness, but a way through to the light switch.  I can find it in the dark, because I know where it is, and how to get there.  I have been here many times before. 

That which is familiar is visible even in the deepest darkness.
I remember this.
I have seen it before.
I know what lies before me,
      like a map already memorized.
I still have a strength and vision
          that is not mine.

I often encourage young people to keep a chronicle of God's faithfulness to them.  You know, those divine appointments, doors already opened, the mountain pass through impossible places, glimpses of His grace, the awe of God's fingerprints, the intricate layers of His provision, the "I can't wait to tell Mom about this!" kind of encounters. Verses claimed.  Prayers that have changed the trajectory of my life. You know, those supernatural things that I boast, "I'll never forget!" 

But unless they are written down, they fade from our memory.  And they do not remain to encourage those who come behind us.  Of all the things passed on to the next generation, I would have loved to know specific ways God was working in my grandparents and great grand parents, even those family members I will not even meet until the other side of life.

By keeping the faithfulness of God engraved in my heart, by walking daily with Him, when the crises emerge, when the storms overwhelm, when I am weak, when I am in a very very dark place, I remember not just the stories, but I recall that which God has trained in me: 
          What did I do before? 
          How did I trust God through it?

Those stories equip me for the next time life is tough... and for when life is harder still.

Do not be afraid of sudden panic,
or of the storms of the wicked,
                    when it comes;
for the LORD will be your confidence
        and will keep your foot
                from being caught.

                                Proverbs 3. 25

The lights in our basement, when we lived in Cincinnati, were controlled by a main switch at the top of the stairs.  Inevitably in the course of the day, one of the girls would be doing something in the basement, and someone upstairs would innocently switch off the lights, plunging the lower level in total darkness.  Instead of being paralyzed by it, I told the girls, "Wait just a second for your eyes to adjust.  And then, if you walk towards any available light, you will find your way out."  Light comes through the cracks in the exit door.  But only if you are seeking it.

Darkness can send me into a panic...
or I can use that trigger to remember:
             how to trust God through this.
He may not pluck me out of this wilderness,
             but deliver me through.
God provides and delivers in unexpected ways
            and always in multiple layers,
   touching more lives than I can know.
He never works in singular outcomes.

You've been here before,
        keep walking with Me.

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not afraid,
               for I am your God.;
I will strengthen you,
I will help you,
I will uphold you with
         My victorious right hand.

                            Isaiah 41. 10

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

It is not just halloween today, not the wearing of disguises, but the taking off of masks

Today is not just halloween day, but the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.  It was the simple action of one man, convicted by what he saw around him.  For the love of God, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.  He had no idea the impact of that simple act of obeying what God had placed in his heart.

None of us have any idea the incredible way God redeems even a single baby step of obedience, even in whatever we face today.

What stood out to me, when I looked up the contents of those papers nailed to that old church door, was that these words were not of violence against the church. These theses were not a manifesto to scream "rebel" or "revolt."

But repent.

The very first of Luther's theses states:  "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

There was, in the established church at that time, the practice of indulgences, whereby a sinner could simply buy his way out of his transgression by basically purchasing a "get out of purgatory free" card. Just throw a money at the church for your guilt.

And 500 years ago today, on October 31, 1517, Luther's cry for personal repentance was what started the Reformation.  No more covering up sin.  No more disguises.  No more masks. But what does the Word of God say about it?

The sound of that hammer on that Wittenberg door still resounds in the hearts of all believers, right at the core of what we believe.

God always redeems a repentant heart.  Repentance is where the redeeming begins.

Repentance does not mean saying, "Oh sorry, God," and going about your merry way.  But repenting is speaking the three hardest words ever, "I was wrong."  The word repentance literally means "turning around and going in a different direction."

What is even harder than admitting and confessing, whether a wrong heart or wrongdoing, is realizing that God's forgiveness is already there.  He already has that covered through the death of His Son Jesus.  If there was any other way to forgiveness, Jesus would not have had to die. for. you. You cannot make up for your wrongdoing. You don't have to. Jesus has already been there.  No more guilt.  No more shame.

Sola scriptura.
Sola fida.
Sola gratia.

By scripture alone,
by faith alone,
by grace alone.

That is the core of Reformation teaching.

I don't have to nail anything to a church door, because my sins were nailed on the cross.

And so, as revealed in Scripture, our relationship with God is based not just on a heart of repentance, but on God's heart of forgiveness.

Make sure your children know what this day signifies for every one of us:
               In Christ alone my hope is found.

 The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
...He does not deal with us
              according to our sins,
nor requite us
              according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is His steadfast love
              toward those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does He remove our transgressions from us.
                                         Psalm 103. 8, 10-12

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

From here to there and even now

In the margins of my Bible are written dates and places and names, when I have claimed a verse or two for someone, for a impossible situation, for a seeking of God in this.  Sometimes I have seen how God has answered, sometimes I have not yet.  Some things now, some things later, some things belong to eternity.

This morning as I noticed a number of dates next to a particular verse in Jeremiah.  It was like a parade of our many moves as a nomadic family, a variety of dates and places.

But what stood out to me was not the memory of moving yet again, but God's faithfulness, even in what we could not understand at the time, even into what only appeared as wilderness, even then, even there.  His steps were revealed in unexpected ways and in the most unlikely of places.  And God changed us through them.

I cannot know what is ahead, even today, but I can know Who is with me.  Be not afraid. Don't miss out on the wonder.  God is faithful.  I can stake my life on that.

...that the LORD your God
       may show us the way we should go,
and the thing that we should do.
                                Jeremiah 42. 3

Am I willing to follow God into this?
Am I listening for Him,
    am I listening to Him?
Never ignore
        the power of the supernatural.
God is at work in you
    and extraordinarily around you,
His purposes deeper
                than you can ever know.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Excuse me, but there is a dead body on your living room floor

A slight break would occur usually in the early afternoon, after the extended rush hours of the morning and before the next tsunami wave crashed through her schedule.  It was not a noticeable gap in her day, not even a predictable or reliable pocket of time.  It was almost imperceptible, easily missed if she hadn't been listening for it.

If you have ever driven a car with stick-shift, there is a reluctant moment between the release of one gear and the engaging of the next.  That was the momentary gift she was looking for.

My mom was a master of those snatches of time.  She taught violin lessons to high schoolers in the early morning darkness before the school day, during their study halls, and then again, after school into the evening hours. It was a grueling schedule for her, to say the least, but you know, sometimes you just have to roll with what is needful.  Sometimes, life is just hard.  She was tired, and half-empty cups of cold coffee decorated our home.

As a result, it was not an unlikely sight to come into our house and see my mom prone and unmoving on the floor, right in the middle of the living room in the middle of the day.  Dead asleep, barely breathing, unaware of anything going on around her, even the dogs racing around her stirred up no response at all.

"I'm taking a nap," she once explained to me.  "Why don't you just lay down on your bed?" I asked.  She looked at me with a bit of shock in her eyes.  "Oh, I would get too comfortable.  I just need ten minutes on the floor, and I'm good to go."

And seriously, she would become comatose for ten minutes, awaken refreshed without an alarm, and proceed energized into the rest of her day and sometimes deep into the night.  It was quite simply "a power nap."

It is not unusual for any one of us for our load to become heavier through the day.  

But what if we treated our own languishing souls in the middle of unworkable situations and among impossible people, not with a power nap, but ten minutes of prayer?  Laying not on the floor to sleep, but laying out our troubled hearts and heavy burdens and stormy circumstances before the LORD?  Right at my desk, right at the counter, right while I am mopping up someone else's mess.

The truth is that we spend a lot more time stressing out than praying about it.

When I am anxious and overwhelmed, I don't know what to do, but God Almighty does.  As God's Word says in 2 Chronicles 20.12:
                      "For we are powerless against this great multitude
                                                        that is coming against us.
                      We do not know what to do,
                                             but our eyes are upon You."

I can hurtle through my day, or I can listen to God's way in this, and pray my way through. How can I think differently about this? 

A little power prayer in the middle of the day. 

Weary?  God invented something even better than a power nap.

...it seemed to me a wearisome task,
      until I went into the sanctuary of God...

                                           Psalm 73. 16-17

As my friend Brad used to say,
    "Stop. drop, and pray."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What is next stands on the shoulders of what has been

I have been through hard places
           and rugged terrain.
I found His strength.
I will find it again.
And because the ways I have traveled before,
      I can have no fear.
Even in the wilderness,
     I find His grace.
His faithfulness rises out of the very ground.
Not that "it will work out,"
             but God works it,
    that which He has already
                               intricately designed.
I have seen the impossible.
Guide me,
    O Thou great Jehovah.
We look back some day
                       and laugh.
We can look ahead even now
    and without even seeing the outcome,
delight in Him.
Heading straight into His glory,
   that point of letting go,
even on the most obscure street,
                       His way revealed,
His footprints yet unseen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Not-So Mountaintop Experience ...and Yet

Image result for mt sterling trailhead imagesMy husband and I love to explore our favorite trails, over and over, where cathedrals of trees rise up around us, and rushing creeks sing endless ancient choruses. But even on those familiar trails, something new always emerges, the seniority of an old growth tree towering overhead, or suddenly, the sun's rays slicing through the thick canopy like a prophetic vision of God.  Always we return to civilization with a story or two, and sometimes the resounding silence of the woods even follows us inside.

But last week, we hiked a trail we did not know, realizing that the beginning of a familiar trail is in hiking a new one. Our now-preferred routes were once strangers too.

This trail was on our way to see some herds of elk, gathering at Cataloochee for a little autumn party. A little side hike was a welcome break after navigating fifteen miles of potholes on a lonely gravel road. 

The carved wooden sign at the trail head stated in bold print:  Mount Sterling Trail 2.3 miles, a morning's journey, not daunting at all. Another trail would intersect in a half mile.  All I knew from my limited experience was that when the trail name includes the word "mount," count on it being steep.

Immediately, the path started upward. We were on our way.  "Do I need a heavier long sleeve shirt?"  I asked Bill, as I shivered in the early morning coolness.  "Not likely," he said. I was still skeptical.

In the first quarter mile of the ascent, I was down to a tank top.

When we reached the other trail branching off, the sign repeated:  Mount Sterling Trail 2.3 miles.  The same as a half mile ago.  Hmmmm. Not what our map said.  What else don't we know?

The path became even steeper.  Sometimes a little ignorance is a grace, I justified. But the truth was  we hadn't read the guide book.  We hadn't asked anyone about it.  We didn't know the "story" about this trail. It was another mile longer than expected, not unbearably steep, but it was a continuous climb. Each switchback vaguely promised a break, but as we climbed and approached yet another turn, the path was relentless.  It will flatten out at the next bend, I lied to myself   But no rest area was to be found.

Just keep on, I said to myself. Think about the view from the top!  That is always worth it. The rocks and the roots threatened to trip me on every step, but gradually I began to see them as footholds, at times almost like steps carved into the side of the mountain. 

We came around yet another bend, and quite suddenly, that was it, the end of the trail.  We looked around us, and then, at each other.  There was no view.  There was nothing but some scrub trees and another trail sign that pointed down the mountain in two opposite directions.

A mountaintop experience without a view?  We climbed all this way, and there was nothing here.  "I can see why this is not a popular trail," I said to Bill.

"Well, it was a nice hike on a beautiful day," he said.  And indeed it was, view or not.

On the way down, back to the car, we passed quite a few hikers on the way up.  "Should I tell them there is nothing there?" I whispered to myself.  They looked so excited.  I hated to discourage them.

And of course, as I hiked down, my mind began to find a story in this journey.  Don't climb for just a view.  There may be some other purpose in it.  It may just be about the conversation, the being together, the just getting out and trying new paths in life.

That could have been the tale on this hike, the purpose for this trek.  But I should know better than to guess how the story turns out when I'm still in the middle of a saga.

A young high schooler was coming up the trail towards us, keeping quite a pace as she ascended.  She obviously didn't know about how her hike was going to end.  About twenty yards behind her was a man with two teenage boys, evidently her father and brothers.  As we passed them, the father asked us excitedly, "Was it so amazing at the top?"

Ummmm.  "Well," Bill said.  "There really wasn't anything there."

"Isn't this the Mt. Sterling Trail?"  Yes.

"There is an historic 60-foot fire tower at the top," the man said with great anticipation in his voice, sweeping his arm upward, "the tallest fire tower east of the Mississippi."  Like, didn't you see it? They proceeded in their excitement upward and onward.

We shook our heads. There was nothing there.  Boy, are they going to be disappointed.

But later,we discovered that indeed there is a 60-foot historic tower, standing tall less than a quarter mile from where we lingered at the top. If it had been alive, it would have bopped us on the head.  If we had read the guidebook, if we had explored the summit even a few dozen yards, if we had even looked up, we would have had a much different experience.  No doubt about it.  We missed out.

Image result for mt sterling fire tower

There was more than a view at the top, but a panorama. God designs the awe.  I can look at the images on my computer screen, but that is nothing compared to what is real.  We missed out on the poetic view.  We missed out on the wonder.
Image result for mt sterling fire tower

It was a gentle reminder that there is a incredibly strong connection between what I know and what I see, what I read and discover in God's Word, what I pray, and what I end up doing that day.  Over and over, Scripture profoundly influences my vision and orders my day-- what I see around me, who I notice, how I respond, and Who I'm walking with.  It matters.  It matters a lot.  Read the Guidebook.

What else don't I know?  That which God has placed right before me. 

God's faithfulness helps me know that the wilderness is a place of flourishing, not despair.  Silence is a place of His fathomless Presence, not His absence.  And that reality takes my breath away.

Same trail, different outcome. Ordinary day, extraordinary day.  His Word does not just influence my expectations, but helps me watch for the unexpected that God Almighty always brings.

I am yet in the middle of the story.

Thus says the LORD:
"Stand by the roads,
             and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is,
and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls."

                  Jeremiah 6. 16

Friday, October 6, 2017

There are no small things

"Never tire of doing even the smallest things for Him, because He isn't impressed so much with the dimensions of our work as with the love in which it is done."

--Brother Lawrence
   The Practice of the Presence of God (1691)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

How much we miss
because we are not even looking,
how much we miss
because we don't pray.

"If you don't pray,
you are not expecting
     anything different."
        -- James MacDonald

...it seemed to me
     a wearisome task,
until I went
   into the sanctuary of God.

                    Psalm 73. 16-17

Don't miss out
   on what God can do.
"Trust Me in this.
    Follow Me into it."

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The reality of it all

Circumstances are not
        out of control after all,
just out of my control.
Only in His.

... for God is
          at work in you.

          Philippians 2. 13

Monday, September 25, 2017

I had no idea where I was going

I headed out for an early run last weekend, as the forecast promised another day of August heat at the end of September.  I parked my car in its usual spot with every intention of doing my Saturday routine run along the river.  I started my run along the road, heading to a meandering asphalt path with a view of the lazy river.

But as I approached, I saw tents, cars and crowds.  There was a race in progress.  I immediately turned to the right and took another path that slipped along the back fence of the high school, and then another sharp right turn onto a familiar trail through the dense green of the woods.  I began to pay a bit more attention as this unimproved trail is "paved" with rocks, roots and the slippery places of life.

As I approached the end of this particular trail, I had the opportunity of crossing a busy road and continuing on the other side where I often see cross country runners practice in the green fields.  I have always wanted to run like that.   They appear to be merely floating and not sweating at all.

But on the other side of the road, I could see colorful triangular flags strung from tree to tree and hear the announcers for a cross country meet over to my left.  And so, I took another right, crossed a small wooden bridge, and continued to run on a trail through the woods that I didn't know.  I had no idea where I was going.  The trail was bordered by a late summer overgrowth of weeds, the deep green of a million leaves overhead.  But it was shady and silent.  I ran. 

When the trail turned, I turned.  I was in unfamiliar territory, not where I expected to be, not my usual.  But you know, God brings about the most unexpected blessings when I have no idea where I am, or where I am going.  He knows exactly where I need to be.

And it made me think of one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, speaking through his character Jayber Crow:  "I have made plans enough, but I see now that I have never lived by plan... I don't feel that I ever have been quite sure what was going on.  Nearly everything that has happened to me has happened by surprise.  All the important things have happened by surprise."

After one big hill that stretched before me like a magnificent aisle in a cathedral of trees, I emerged from the woods and found a trailhead I didn't know before, a different parking lot, and a whole new place to run.  I suddenly knew where I was.

God did not spell out my route, my destination, time, pace, and space. He did not hand me a route to take, marching orders, or directions printed out in indelible ink.  But He brought me to someplace new and to a different way of thinking through the thicket.  I did not just get through it, but He infused it with the wonder that only He can bring.

Our stories would be pretty boring, if we were the ones writing them.  God brings the awe.

I may not know where I am going.  But He does.  God is the one bringing me there -- to a new dimension of knowing Him, a new way, a new awareness of His Presence, even here, even in this.

God always reveals Himself when we seek Him.  Start where is proximate and "follow Me into this." His way may not be obvious, each individual step may come to the surface one at a time, I may not understand -- indeed I probably won't -- but there is always His profound design to it with no detours, interruptions, or dead ends. There is not "a reason for it," but God's incredible purposes in it, His faithfulness too deep for me to know.

Why does God not reveal His path for me?  Does He not trust me enough?

No, because I do not trust Him enough.

Where is He taking me?

To Himself.

And your ears shall hear a word
    behind you, saying,
"This is the way, walk in it,"
when you turn to the right
or to the left."

                     Isaiah 30. 21

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Press "reset"

Whenever I come to a stalemate with an electronic device, my husband advises me, "Back all the way out, and start again."  Whether faced with a frozen screen or an appliance that is not cooperating like a three year old child, I question the effectiveness of that process.

But it works.

A couple of months ago, an ordinary Monday was a reset to me.  As I rose in the morning, I needed to just to do something different to gain perspective, nothing catastrophic but simply to ease me out of a mindset that was stuck in a continual loop.   What could I do differently?  Back all the way out, and start again.

I felt God's nudge to fast for the day.  I have fasted before -- in seeking God for an answer, direction, solution, or purpose.  Or for His voice in a crazy situation.  Sometimes seeking God for loved ones, hard times, and impossible relationships.

When I started that specific day, I was not planning to fast.  But I did, just wanting to seek His Presence, just to hangout with God,  just because I could. 

Very early in the day, I questioned why anyone labeled this discipline as a "fast," because it is anything but that.  A fast is always slow.  Time does not drag, but it elongates.  I felt the moments come as in slow motion.  I prayed for others as I went about my day, while I worked, having to concentrate as if driving on the highway through a thick rain. I glanced at the clock.  It was only 8.30 in the morning, nothing more.

A little later in the day, I thought about how fasting prepares you for a hard time ahead, because through it, as hard as it is, you learn that you will not die. You will get through this difficulty. And God will change you by it.

I had no particular reason to fast that day.  Or so I thought.

Later on in the afternoon, little did I see it coming.  I ran full speed right into a perfect storm, an old problem.  Boom.  I was like the cartoon character with little stars spinning above my head.  It was like being hit broadside by a car I did not see.  I consciously thought, "Breathe.  Breathe. Breathe," even when there appeared to be no oxygen, and my heart ran out of words.

And then I knew why I had fasted.  It was not "for no good reason." God stood firm around me.  My heart did not explode.  My life was not reduced beyond restoration.

I did not see it coming.  I didn't have to. God knew.  And He knew what I would need, an extravagant package of His strength, already delivered and dissolving into my bloodstream.

I refuse to live as a practicing atheist, as if fasting and praying and trusting God does not matter, as if God does not matter, as if the supernatural does not exist at all.  Because He does.  God is alive and well and working powerfully.

I did not fast for something.  I fasted for everything.  There was an ache buried deep in my heart that while at the end of the day was still there, it shifted just a little bit.  In the momentary crisis, I did not die, I was not buried alive by it, but a strange sense of peace passed over me, not an emotion, but a sense, a Presence.  And with it, a profound urge not to despair, but to pray in that place, to not miss that opportunity to pray, to take a different trail in this, a higher road, not insensitive to what was happening, but deepened by it.  It is not that my wounded feelings could not touch me, but as if I was even more aware of every nerve ending, what steadfast love feels like, what shalom does, a completing of what had begun, a new dimension opening and then another that does not end.  Not an outcome, but excavating a quiet place in my soul.

I did not fast for any reason than to be with Him. And that is exactly what happened, in ways I would never have chosen, in a place I could not have imagined.

At the end of the day, I came home and ate.  Was I starving?  No, not really.

Quite filled, actually.