A fourteen year old girl goes hiking with her friends. They explore parts of northern Arizona and discover a creek with a box canyon. You know the type, where water gathers in various spaces to make swimming holes for adventurous teens.
Once they discover the canyon, kids begin crawling and jumping into its small 9 x 9 foot pool of water. For safety, one person does a test dive to decide its depth, easily 10 feet or more.
They begin jumping off an 8 foot cliff into the pool and shouting their enthusiasm. Soon, this minor adrenaline moment doesn’t satisfy. What next?
Eyes venture higher. A twenty-foot cliff. One by one the teens burst off the higher rock into the chilly pool below. They invite others to join. “Come on!” they say, “You can do it!”
Eventually the teens all venture up to higher ground. But what about that one 14-year-old girl?
The whole time, she timidly explored her personal unknown. She has no hiking experience. She internally grins at her moments of bravery, no one knowing her challenge.
She wears contacts. For this journey, she knew it would be unwise to wear them. However, insecurity required her to leave the glasses at home. She can barely see.
Everything dances before her in shapes and shadows. She checks out the pool for herself, holding her breath and forcing her body down as far as possible, to find its depth. She doesn’t touch bottom. It’s deep.
After an hour of hearing the laughter and splashes, she slowly creeps to the low cliff, which is already higher than she’s ever jumped. Blindly trusting friends and water, she leaps. Yes!
It’s all she ever hoped for! The thrill of the leap, the cool of the water, the enjoyment of her friends. She contentedly remains at the lower cliff exalting in her moments of courage. But then she hears the call.
“Come on!” they say, “You can do it!”
Are they crazy? This has already been the biggest adventure of her life, why mess with that? Why risk more?
Her friends tell her she’d feel bad if she left and never accomplished this goal. She doubts them.
She cannot even see the cliff from which they’ve jumped. Though it stands only a few feet from her current location, her cloudy eyes mask its location. She hears the shouts and looks up knowing it’s much more than she’s ever done. But she has no image to grasp.
Because of peer pressure and the clear enjoyment of others, she decides to hike to the other side of the cliff, to move upward. She’ll think about leaping. Maybe.
She crosses the creek and climbs up the trail to the higher cliff site. The air feels different. The breeze pushes more. She steps out to look over this daunting precipice. Her heart thunders in her chest. She feel exposed and vulnerable.
She cannot see the pool. To her eyes, it’s a giant, fuzzy, open space. Her brain knows the water would catch her as it caught her friends, but her eyes don’t believe. She shakes.
The teens encourage their fearful friend, they remind her of their success. She remains frozen glaring into emptiness, dreaming of success but nailed to the ground with fear. What if she’s the one who misses the pool? What if she simply goes splat on the rocks?
When people speak of a leap of faith, they forget the reason we don’t easily leap. They fail to remember our fear of going splat. Trusting in the unseen God of the Bible can feel like jumping off a cliff into the unknown, but He has proved Himself over and over, and like the water below, His depth is capable of catching us when we imagine our rocky doom.
What happened to that young teen?
After an hour of staring, imagining and fearing, she moved forward. Into the air blindly, she left the safety of the cliff. Less like a leap and more like a step, she found herself midair, falling. As she flew through the air, still the fears grabbed at her heart, but the water caught her as smoothly as a catcher at home plate. She did it!
And so can you.
Whatever your leap is, whatever splat you fear, the Living Water wants to catch, comfort and refresh you. May you know His comfort and care in the midst of your struggle.
“Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;” Psalm 86:2
I wrote a guest post on this topic in seven short sentences, click here to read for yourself.
My choice today:
Jump into the arms of Jesus when fear attempts to capture my heart.
Have you ever sat down with a friend for conversation and that friend just kept talking and talking and talking? Whenever they pause, you attempt to speak but discover your mistake, because they quickly stomp over your idea to insert their idea again and again.
You find yourself wishing for a polite way to say, “Haven’t you heard, less is more?”
In the world of blogs, Geoff Talbot cuts to the chase better than a greyhound hunting down a rabbit on an Arizona track. He created a short and sweet blog presence called, www.sevensentences.com .
Each post limits itself to seven sentences worth of content. The topics include creativity, filmmaking, social media, holy filth, writing and poetry.
Tomorrow, he adds a certain choice chicka to his blogging collection of friends.
That’s right. I decided to simplify.
When he asked for guest bloggers, I accepted the challenge to succinctly communicate within his seven sentence boundary. The result is a guest post entitled, “Think, blink then leap“.
Be sure to visit and comment profusely. Tell your friends, neighbors and family to check out this short and tasty nugget of inspiration. I plan on hanging out over there and responding to anyone who wants to chat.
In our house, whoever holds the television remote control, “has the power”, as we define it.
As we seek to make faithful choices, we need to realize who has the power.
Jesus spoke here: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16
In my earlier post, I mentioned how I struggle with certain Bible verses. Matthew 6:28-30 bothers me because I cannot imagine how God supplies clothes. But because God invites us to test Him in the arena of money in Malachi 3:10, my husband and I decided to let the testing begin. Many people I know don’t test Him with their money though, why is that?
Why don’t we test Him?
I’d like to say it’s because we’re so capable, and we don’t really need His help. But in truth, we doubt He’d really come through. It comes back to my question above, “How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily?”
What would we do if He did flood us?
Maybe we’d drop our lower jaw so far down, it could pick up dust bunnies. Our sense of awe would be monumental. We’d want to tell other people to test Him too, because the pluses are that great. We might even feel embarrassed at how inept we really are and appreciative at how completely apt He is.
Our knees might buckle, and we’d find ourselves on the floor looking up at His immense aptitude wondering why we didn’t do this earlier.
Years ago, my husband and I decided to call God’s bluff. We put our money where our faith was and watched intently to see what would happen. It wasn’t some grandiose university study, but we took it seriously. On pay-day, the first 10% of moneys brought in went directly to our church. Occasionally, we gave more if a special need came up, but always 10%.
I was skeptical and nervous but viewed it like a weight loss regimen. Instant results might not show the depth of long-term gains.
We’ve seen results we never imagined.
Some results appear subtly, like a connected relationship that keeps growing stronger between us and God as well as between each other. Other things jump out, like checks showing up in the mail a day before a major payment comes due.
Many friends have made the blessings possible because of their generosity, but over time, when it happens again and again, we’d be deceiving ourselves if we didn’t give God the credit.
Cars last longer than they should, clothes show up at our door step (nice clothes), and much-needed dryers and lawnmowers get donated out of the blue (thanks John and Kelly).
The picture attached shows how the flood gates of heaven pour out on my kids, and I’m humbled to be along for the downpour.
How can you receive these blessings?
I can’t say I totally know, because I don’t decide the gift, but I trust the Giver. Here are choices our family makes, and we see God’s blessings in the midst:
1. The tithe thing works. We give to God our tithe and offering (aka 10% of our money), because He gave us the ability to earn it. It’s our expression of gratitude.
2. We accept any gift with a smile and a hug. Pride jumped out the window years ago and we found the blessings of a prideless life. Sometimes we don’t need an item someone gives, but we search for its proper recipient.
3. We don’t attempt to control what gift we receive. (as if that were possible) We trust God to supply, even if that means we don’t get to see a cool movie or go to restaurants all the time.
4. We always say thank you to the person who gives and the God who inspired them.
What about the lilies?
Now I begin to understand the meaning of this verse. If God so chooses, He could clothe us all. He could give however He chooses to give. If our eyes are open to His actions, we’d be stupid to claim any credit for the deal.
My two little lilies find themselves fully clothed for fall and school without a single store visit. For that I say, thanks to my amazingly generous friends. But I also say, “Praise God, thank You!” to the King of my life.
My choice today:
Recognize how much more God can and will do, when I surrender my skills and power to Him.
Certain Bible verses stump me. They pose a thought or idea my mind cannot fully grasp. Over time some of them have become clearer with practice, persistence and patience. These are some of those verses:
“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” Matthew 6:28-30
The first time I read those words, I pursed my eyebrows together and thought, “What on earth is this talking about? How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily?”
I didn’t get it.
I couldn’t fathom how God would cloth a person as easily as he decorates a flower, it’s so much more complicated than photosynthesis, right? I mean there are styles to consider and fit.
I could easily spend an hour in any given store trying on item after item and wind up not buying a thing. How would God carry out such a feat?
I’ve spoken with many people about how they assume I shouldn’t take scripture literally. They’d tell me it’s an example of God’s strength and capacity, not His fabrication methods.
But in other parts of scripture, He’s darn literal. I mean Jesus didn’t figuratively die on a cross, He really sacrificed Himself. Peter didn’t figuratively deny knowing Him, he outlined it in detail. So, what if God truly desires to cloth us?
I never imagined I’d be testing this, but God does invite testing in one arena. Our money.
In other stuff, He repeated points out, not to test the Him, but monetarily He says, “Go ahead.” Actually, He put it this way:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,‘ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Malachi 3:10
Now that’s a lofty promise onto which we often attach our own expectations. We think He might give us more money, and He might. We imagine He could grant us a better job, and He might. But often, we get so concerned with our own capacity to make a buck and pay off our own debts, we fail to put Him to the test.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about this test, but for today:
What if you walked into the movie “Tangled” and heard the line, “Frying pans, who knew?” You might assume the movie is a kids cooking show and leave. You would miss the story of an innocent girl successfully defending herself with a frying pan and finding deep inner courage.
That’s what happens when we read parts of scripture without knowing or connecting to the whole.
I knew someone who decided to pick up a Bible and read only the book of Ezekiel. Why that section caught his attention, I’ll never know. This prophetic book has some outrageous imagery, which I cannot yet fully understand.
He found himself stunned and decided the entire Bible was absurd. How sad he had no one to guide him at this vital corner of his life.
Due to the depth of info found in this humble book, people spend their whole lives searching to discover its mysteries. No matter how long we’ve studied, we need to surround ourselves with people who’ve known God and His story longer. It doesn’t guarantee perfection (which is found in only in Christ), but it provides a guide for the road ahead.
In the same way, those of us who’ve been on the road (that is reading scripture and living it) longer need to be brave enough to share our experience.
I went hiking with some friends in our local mountains. Another group passed us on their return trip. As we crossed one another, the second group shared, “Be careful, we saw a snake ahead.”
Rattle snakes often sun themselves in the morning hours on desert, mountain trails. We decided to heed their advice, found a walking stick, and banged the ground as we walked. In retrospect, we probably appeared stupid to anyone with binoculars aimed our direction, but we didn’t care.
We aimed our eyes down and remained alert. Then, we saw a head peek out from some bushes near the trail. Because of our awareness, we easily startled the snake, waited for it to pass and continued our hike. Without the warning of others, our morning activity could have ended differently.
One section of scripture could be seen as Christ calling for cannibalism. This section would make no sense to my very literal 7-year-old. I wonder what would happen if someone picked up a Bible and flipped to this page without ever seeing the rest or seeking guidance.
Many parts of scripture say what they mean and mean what they say like, “Don’t commit murder.” Sounds clear, right?
Other portions need more story to explain. Like one line from a movie, these verses tell part but not all. The Bible is full of moments where it compares hunger and thirst to our desire for God. The psalms says,
“As a deer pants for water, my soul longs for you.”
For people who lived predominantly on bread and water, these things defined their ability to live. Israel’s history shows the need for bread. For example, when they wandered in the desert, God provided bread from the sky (called manna).
God sustained them in a miraculous way. Bread had great history for them. God also provided water from them in outrageously unexplainable ways.
Jesus knew the history and used it to redefine bread.He called himself the Bread of Life.
He also knew the need for sacrifice. The Israelite experience involved real blood sacrifice. If we’re honest with ourselves, we do it too. How do you think we get meat?
With our eyes open and our ears ready, we can read the verses below and see more than what is written. We see a sacrificial love and willingness to give all for those He loved.
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” John 6:48-56
Can you see how someone might assume cannibalism ?
My choice today:
Devour God’s word and seek guidance from others who have munched more than me.
Have Bible verses ever thrown you? Share what you thought and where you read it (if possible).
In fifth grade, I stood 4 foot, 5 inches. One of my closest friends, Lorenda, grew well over 5 foot 7 inches. I spent nights at her home,we giggled together, played and even carpooled. I really loved spending time with her.
It was easy to forget she was the biggest girl in our school, because she was my friend. If other kids didn’t her, they might be intimidated.
The same could be said for Andre the Giant, pit bulls and bees.
Andre the Giant
He found the limelight as a wrestling superstar standing 7 feet tall and weighing 520 lbs. The mere mention of his name sent chills through his WWWF competitors. From 1971 through 1984, he remained undefeated. Today, he’s listed in the WWF Hall of Fame.
And yet, he’s also called the gentle giant. Across the internet, we find stories of how he loved to pay for dinner when he went to restaurants. People found him enchanting. In the bonus features found on The Princess Bride DVD, his costars share their admiration of the big guy. Robin Wright Penn told how he used his huge hand to help keep her warm on cold shooting days by placing it on top of her head like a hat.
You can read more stories of his gentleness on the official Andre the Giant website.
Want a dog with an intimidating reputation? The pit bull stands alone.
But there’s a soft and tender side to this maligned bully.
According to www.DogBreedInfo.com,”The American Pit Bull Terrier is a good-natured, amusing, extremely loyal and affectionate family pet, which is good with children and adults.”
People fear bees or bee stings for multiple reasons: pain, allergy, unpredictability, etc. For those
with a severe allergy, we’re talking life and death.
Stick one bee in a room, and you’ve found a great equalizer. Young and old, small or tall, skinny or muscled or fat, almost everyone jumps or
freaks out in some way if a bee lands on their arm.
But we need bees. If we want food, we want them and their pollen carrying legs working their hearts out daily.
Hundreds of plants need bee intervention to produce food. According to New Agriculturalist Online, “Bees pollinate about one-sixth of the world’s flowering plant species and some 400 of its agricultural plants.”
One of the owners of Bennett’s Honey Farm in Fillmore, Ca, Ann Bennett, shared with me how often they sting her. I felt shocked, but she confidently made me aware that it helped to build her immunity not just to stings but other things as well. It didn’t bother her a bit.
Like going to the doctor for our vaccinations, even the sting serves a value.
Because she enjoys her bees so much, located inside their little honey store sits a clear, glass panel exposing a real hive to any observational types. Visitors view the inner workings of the beehive with fascination. She knows that hive well and befriends it.
As a honey lover, I happily receive the gifts they give too.
What do these three have in common?
Reputation. The reasonable human being would feel fear if they found themselves face to face with any of those items listed above.
And yet, each of those items stands as a true friend to those who know them well. For the close friend,they bring joy, confidence, and beneficial return.
In the same way, I enjoyed being friends with Lorenda and forgot about the differences in our stature because of our friendship.
Why it matters
The same happens to lovers or fearers of God.
Some people who love God and have befriended Him have become so close to His beauty, they forget His power. Others catch glimpses of His power, but have no desire or understanding of how He longs to befriend them.
We see and know His power because of Bible verses like this:
“The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it.” Nahum 1:5
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Proverbs 1:7
But we see and know His kindness and love because of verses like this:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 1 Corinthians 13:11
My choice today:
Embrace God as my friend, while recognizing and appreciating His strength.
What about you? Are you a lover or fearer of God? When you think about Him, what aspects of His character do you most embrace?
When I moved to the big city, I became very aware that within one hour I could do practically anything under the sun. One hour or less to the beach, one hour or less to the mountains, theaters, major artistic venues, clubs, restaurants, museums, etc. I became overwhelmed with all the choices at hand.
Whether we hide in a corner or go for a rodeo ride, the choice ultimately sits at our feet and stares up expectantly. That’s why this blog began. A simple spot to think through one choice at a time.
As a person of faith (that would be Christian faith), I think all our choices affect or reflect our faith. But we can’t always see it. We don’t want to see it sometimes.
Then life smacks us around, and we find ourselves spread out on the floor (literally or figuratively). All those choices glare into our ankles willing us to make a move. What do we do?
When faith hits the fan, our choices matter…let’s take time to see the choices.
Be part of this story. We pause for a moment each week day to think through or share with a friend one simple choice. That’s enough for one day, don’t you think?
Choices on facing our choices:
1. The random pick and go approach.
2. Hide and assume they’ll go away, while they grow like weeds who’ve been fed fertilizer.
3. Write out our thoughts each day and take note of choices we make, for better or worse.
9. Put Paula in one of your circles on Google+ here.
10. Close this window and move on.
If you’re seeking perfection in counsel, this isn’t the place for you. Here, we walk forward, occasionally stumble and look toward the One, True God whose perfection surpasses our imaginations. If you seek challenge and strength for your spiritual and cranial tissues, then you’ve arrived on good ground.
As you know, each post contains a choice for the day. Looking at the choices which you read the most, these posts stood out from the crowd. You can click the link, if you missed it the first time. If you think these choices matter and can help someone you know, pass them on.