There Be Mountains

There be mountains out there which I find lovely unless I’m flying over them in a small airplane.

Instead of embracing the spectacular birds-eye view, and trusting the person who’s flying, I squeeze my eyes shut. Cowering beneath my jacket, I hold my breath waiting till we get to the other side.

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Even now, when my husband suggests flying somewhere, I ask him, “Will there be mountains?” Living on the west coast, it’s hard to avoid them.

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I prefer flying over the Sacramento Valley where the flat land is an earthen tapestry of rice fields and almond orchards. Cattle graze on carpets of green grass, and Interstate 5 stretches for miles like a runway. If need be, we could land the plane without too many bumps.

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Given the choice, I’d rather stay in the peaceful valley, but even in life…there be mountains.

Sweet moments in life might be called a Mountain-Top Experience like the breath-taking, ethereal beauty that comes after an uphill hike when we’re standing on top of the world.

But there are also treacherous mountains where the trees don’t grow and the steep elevation seems insurmountable. Only, our circumstances leave us no choice but to go up and over. Not knowing if we’ll survive the experience of….

  • Debts
  • Disease
  • Disabilities
  • Divorce
  • Disasters
  • Death of a Dear One.

Whether the mountainous problem looming before us is 5,000 feet high or a 14,000 peak….how should we respond?

  • Cower in denial like an ostrich hiding his head in a hole?
  • Pull back into our shells like a frightened turtle?
  • Forge ahead faithfully, one step at a time?

Fear—and a lack of trust—is my first response whether I’m flying in the mountains or facing life. I wonder if I’ll ever change. However, I did something on my last flight that changed my perspective.

As we took off towards the hills, I closed my eyes to avoid looking down and listened to Christian music on my iPod. Only this time, I meditated on the Biblical Truths behind the lyrics.

  • Does Jesus love me?
  • Is His grace sufficient?
  • Will He forsake me?
  • Is God sovereign?
  • Can I trust Him?

I thought about the geography of my life: Sunny beaches and lush meadows interspersed with barren deserts, hazardous mountains, and the vally of the shadow of death.

20160902_105006The ONE constant navigator and comforter in my life is Jesus. He never disappoints.

When I embraced that truth, and everthing I know to be true about God’s character and my relationship with Him, the fear vanished. My body relaxed knowing His Spirit is present within me. I opened my eyes and beheld the wonder of His creation.

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Knowing even in this…no matter what “this issue” happens to be in my life….

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2).

 

When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

 

I begged God to come to the rescue.

My prayers weren’t for me, but someone else who needed to know that God is real. He cares about every detail of our lives.

Please God! Show Yourself in a mighty way that will remove all doubt; strengthen faith.

I stopped praying when a wail rose deep within that person and hit the room like a Tsunami.

God didn’t step in to save the day.

So it was left to me—or so it seemed—to make My presence known and comfort a crushed spirit.

Although God’s purposes (Romans 8:28,29) are certain, I knew these words would fall on deaf ears. For even I struggled to make sense of the situation.

When the person’s pain morphed into anger…
I made excuses for God; explained why He might have allowed this “unfair thing” to happen.

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Have you ever had to defend God?

Or fortify someone’s faith instead of allowing God to do the work—how ever slowly?

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

I know this to be true. Multiple miscarriages once left me flailing like a fish out of water.

My faith remained intact, but anger and bitterness enslaved me. I kept God at a distance because my unmet expectations had led to disappointment with Him.

However, that season of pain showed me that God remains faithful even when I am faithless.

The Lord also used my miscarriages to eradicate my misperceptions of His character, and the false beliefs that I was….

–Entitled to get what I want, when I want, because I’m a Christian.
–Able to manipulate God with my “good deeds.”

Years of trying to earn God’s love and approval had also led to the assumption—God doesn’t love me when bad things happen or He appears silent.

Finally, sick of my own belly aching and missing the Lord, I confessed my anger and false accusations.

I asked God for His peace and claimed Psalm 27:13,14

“I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

Those faith lessons came to mind as my friend clenched fists and spewed venomous words. But my own experience told me, “This wasn’t the right time.”

Besides, spoon-fed faith won’t result in spiritual maturity. Eventually, folks have to learn for themselves that…

  • God is near,
  • He’s able to save
  • He uses all things to teach and mold us

Until we come to a place we can submit to God’s sovereignty. And trust Him even in the senseless, worst of times.

 

My Mistake

 Cat lovers know there’s nothing like snuggling with a soft, purring feline. Unless that feline is a feral cat like mine in which case, snuggle is not in their dictionary.

 My son, who was eight at the time, chose her from a litter of free kittens at the post office. While the other kittens slept, she romped and batted my son’s index finger with her paw. “I want that one,. She’s feisty.”  

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He called the kitten Target because there was a white ring on the side of her grey fur. But soon, we called her Mistake. She did not want to be held. She hid under furniture, preferred the outdoors. Never purred. My son’s interest waned. So for ten years, I’ve been the caregiver for a cat that could care less I exist.

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Sometimes Mistake jumps into my lap while I’m sitting outside, but her rule is “hands off” which is why today was a marvel.

A clear blue sky, oak leaves rustling in the summer breeze, made for a lazy day. My hammock beckoned me…rest. So I did, and felt my eyelids grow heavy.

Hammock

That’s when Mistake brushed the edges of the hammock with her tail, pestered me with her meowing. I assumed she was hungry and fetched canned cat food. When I returned, Mistake was prowling for field mice.

Here, Kitty, Kitty!”

Like a mother coaxing her toddler to eat, I walked towards Mistake waving the bowl, purring words of affection. She turned away, showing me her plump, grey haunches. I set the bowl on the grass, hoping she’d venture over to eat. Instead Mistake shunned my offering as though it belonged to Cain, and walked away.

Wasps circled the dish and dove in to eat. I grumbled. “Be that way! I’ll let the wasps have your food.”

Is that how Jesus felt when he came to the Israelites? He was their Messiah. He offered them eternal life, abundant life, but the nation refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. So He invited the Gentiles, who were detested among the Israelites, to come and eat the Bread of Life.  (Luke 13:34, Matthew 15: 21-28)

Okay, maybe the spiritual lesson behind my cat story is a stretch. But that honestly went through my mind as I begged my self-satisfied cat to come to me.  I sank back into the hammock.

Meow! Meow!”

Mistake had returned. She put her paws on the hammock and stretched towards me. I helped her up, expecting her to push away from me. Instead, Mistake rubbed her head on my chest, kneaded my forearm with her paws, and curled up on my stomach. Was this the same cat?

I guess you can’t force relationship on cats, or people. Even God knows there’s the fullness of time before some folks seek Him.  Meanwhile, God is patient, waiting for individuals to heed the Divine call and follow Him.

Mistake and I dozed in the shade of the tree until she decided enough was enough. Perhaps I was too lumpy or she needed her space.

My coral t-shirt was covered in grey cat hair and burrs, but I remembered why I love cats.

This sinner saved by grace is grateful the Lord never calls me a Mistake. His love and mercy endures forever, even when I’m faithless and can’t sit still like my feral cat.

Remember When

Miles and miles of asphalt stretch like black ribbon across the arid land of southern Arizona.

As my vehicle transports me westward through Tucson, memory carries me backwards when I called this city home. Its mountain range was the scenic backdrop during the bulk of my childhood. I dream about it still.

If time wasn’t a factor, I’d spend the day searching for landmarks, hoping my memories remained reality. Is the rope swing still hanging from the tree? Are the neighbors the same? Would Buttons, our black and white cat, be sitting on the backyard fence?

Remembrance brings tears.  Wishing I could travel back in time. Knowing I can’t.

Sweet memories rise like creme to the surface, negating any bad remembrances. But is anything gained by looking at yesterday? Lessons learned? Friendships made? Turning points …

My heart flutters. Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior when I lived in Tucson. It was here I received my first Bible: a white leather, King James Version, with my name engraved on the front cover. I remember the desire He planted in my twelve-year-old heart to follow Him, know Him.

Not remember?

How could I walk this earthly journey “by faith and not by sight” if I didn’t recall God’s faithfulness during my life?

His Word repeatedly says, “Remember”…

  • The deeds of the LORD and His miracles of long ago” (Psalm 77:11).
  • God is our Rock; that God Most High is our Redeemer” (Psalm 78:35).
  • Life is fleeting” (Psalm 89:47).
  • To obey God’s commands” (Numbers 15:40).
  • Words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive‘ ” (Acts 20:35).
  • Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…” (2 Tim. 2:8).
  • The poor” (Galatians 2:10).
  • Each other in prayer” (2 Tim. 1:3).
  • Those in prison” (Hebrews 13:3).
  • Your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you...” (Heb. 13:7).

Plus the multitude of scripture which saysGod remembers.” He remembers His people, His covenant, His promises.

A highway patrol car passes on my left, pulling thoughts back to the moment. New homes and freeway overpasses show the city is expanding. In my mid-teens, I moved away. But Tucson isn’t a ghost town or stuck in the past. It’s progressing, thriving like me after all these years.

And God, the Redeemer who sought a twelve-year-old girl in Tucson, is still leading me on the highway of life.

Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. 

That’s something to remember every day.

Remembering Him, even in this……

Road Trip

Sun rises over southern New Mexico, painting the canvas sky lavender and pink. On the horizon, a train chugs along the tracks against the backdrop of a rocky plateau shaped like a sleeping dog. My mind records the scene, soon etched into memory.

Our car on cruise control, heads 10 West through a parched land, the property of roadrunners and rattlesnakes. We are not alone. Dozens of heavy-weight semi trucks lumber beside us in the right lane, driven by faceless men behind tinted glass.

I’ve traveled this highway twice before, heading from Texas to California. It’s a long, mostly desolate journey, broken up by welcomed rest stops and remote gas stations. Small towns, hosting McDonald’s yellow arches, are an oasis to weary travelers.

By noon,  our black car bakes beneath the sun’s rays as the dusty wind slaps the car. We pray for safety, and God’s leading as we travel home. Who knows if the car will hold up. Or what’s waiting around the bend. Even the best-laid plans and preparations can go awry.

Confirming our fearful what ifs, we see vehicle mishaps along the interstate. An overturned truck lying in a ditch, an RV stranded on the side of the road, and someone changing a flat tire. Could be us…..

We check directions on the GPS.  How much longer till we’re there? Is there cell phone service? Enough gas?

The cab of a semi truck is being towed. It’s windshield smashed, and written on the passenger door in giant ink: JESUS IS LORD AND SAVIOR. What happened? Is the driver alright? Did he also pray for travel mercies?

Nerves tense. Being a Christian doesn’t prevent “bad things from happening” on the road of life. But like Simon Peter told Jesus when others walked away, Lord, to whom shall we goYou have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68).

Not knowing the future, we press on because we know Who holds our future. And we know that  Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is present even in this…………..

A road trip in a dry, desolate landscape littered with small cacti that remind me of sheep grazing  in a brown field.

And the knowing makes me rejoice.

Homecoming

Announcement: Company is coming. Someone we haven’t seen in years is coming to spend the night.

Can’t wait to see him and reconnect our hearts.

Clear the calendar, plan a menu, purchase groceries, vacuum the house, put fresh sheets on the guest bed, and clean towels in the bathroom.

At last the sun sets, but it’s no ordinary day. Someone special is coming. He’ll be here at any moment.

Pumpkin pie bakes in the oven while the New England Pot Roast simmers in the crock pot. My mouth waters as I stir the Luau cocktail wieners bubbling on the stove.

As if there weren’t enough scents lingering in the air, I light the Evergreen scented candles on the mantle; the glow of their flickering flames emotes warmth and an invitation to relax. Husband turns on soft jazz while I turn on the front porch light, and ……

Wait at the kitchen window, searching for headlights to turn into the driveway. Heart flutters when the doorbell rings. He’s here!

Time is fleeting. We wave goodbye to Someone special and enter our home. Rooms feel empty, but hearts are full.

Announcement: I read the red-lettered words of Jesus in John 14:2, Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in MeIn My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

My heart flutters as I look out my window and search a clear blue sky. Someone Special is coming to take me home. I don’t know the hour, but I know HE will come, but first He must prepare a place for me.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself readyBlessed are the those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7,9).

Meanwhile, we get ready and wait………………

 Resting on His promises, clinging to His Word: “I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20)