Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Valley

I love to go to places that are new and exciting where something new will intrigue me, and I particularly like to see valleys. I have no idea why, I can't tell you if it's because they are usually beautiful in color and design or if its just because they are easy on the eyes. I don't know if its because when hiking with friends and we finally make it to a clearing and there in front of you is a beautiful valley with, maybe, water or lush grass and flowers, some full of trees lining the valley and masking it. It is all of these things that I love about pictures of valleys and walking into valleys. They are one of the most drawing things I see in pictures and some hold the most intense secrets of the world...don't you agree? It is almost as tho valleys beckon me to  come and walk through them, enticing me to venture toward an end that may be miles away or to see what is hiding around a small bend. Valleys are beautiful to me. Would you agree?

I am drawn to valleys in pictures they seem to call to me whenever I see them in gallery or in a building when I walk past them. This morning I saw a valley, much different than the one in the picture above, a valley that painted a picture that I would have never thought to be beautiful or enticing...the valley of bones was introduced to my imagination.That's where it grew when I was reading about it; have you see this valley or  read about this valley? It is one that probably most of you who may read this know of but one that I had vaguely heard about but never really read or even really knew about. I am not a major prophet reader, the books at the end of the old testament seem to be dismal and destructive, about God's anger and somewhere in between the lines about His restoration...well, that seems like just too much work to read through, come on, you agree too! Ezekiel is no different in the message that he wrote about - in his visions he listened to something that God wanted him to do and without hesitation or fear he did it, even in the dismal and destructive moments. Ezekiel 37:1-14 (paraphrased) "The hand of the Lord was upon me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.... I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me "Son of man, can these bones live?"...then he said to me "Prophesy to these bones and say to them ' dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.... I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life, I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you...I will put breath in you and you will come to life....So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound and the bones came together, bone to bone....and tendons and flesh appeared on them...but there was not breath in them. Then he said to me "prophesy to the breath...say to it "this is what the Sovereign Lord says: come from the four winds, o breath and breathe into these slain that they may live." So I prophesied...and breath entered them, they came to life and stood up on their feet.... Then he said to me "son of man, these  bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off...This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them....I will put my Spirit in you and you will live....then you will know that I the Lord have spoken and I have done it..."  When I read this it was not  what I wanted to read at 645 a.m., and I'm sure its not the most pretty picture of a valley that you are reading about. So I wondered what was meant for me to really read about in this passage? I don't believe that this passage is about a valley of ugly bones that lie dried and dead on its floor, although that's exactly what I saw when I read this ugly, scary valley...but is it really?

I wonder if the bones of this valley are those bones that are in my body; I wonder if the bones that God is referring to are those of me that are not filled with life or love. I know that I know that this passage is a reference to God speaking to the house of Israel before Christ's arrival but what does that entire passage have to do with me? Probably a lot but I don't know if I really in truly care about the whole picture, what I do care about is the valley of bones that need life spoken back into them. I have been, in all honesty, a valley of bones not unlike the one the Ezekiel describes, a valley of non-living ...well life, and in this passage this is what I read. "These bones are dry and dead but I, the Sovereign Lord will speak life into them, giving them tendons to my heart, flesh that is not unlike my son's, and breath that will bring new life to you. I will open up the grave of your closed spirit and bring you up from its hold on you and I will put my Spirit in you and you will know that I have spoken and have done it." I know that my bones are dry and  lacking breath of life, I know without a doubt that even tho Ezekiel was delivering God's word to Israel, in this passage He was clearly speaking of my bones, lying without desire to breathe, and this was His word to call me back from the place that I choose to lie. So what will I do? How will my bones react? I am right now jittery and shaking, not unlike those bones that Ezekiel spoke to, and I am willing and full of a new  life that I can only attest to is not of my own will. What I allow to fill those bones that are, I hope, no longer dried and lying on the valley floor with, well that's a climb out of the valley that has begun and that I have to complete. I hope you are not familiar with this valley but if you are do not give up hope, the Spirit of the Lord will breath upon you, when I don't know, how I have no idea, but your little faith, not unlike mine, is enough that God knows when His breath is coming. The valley is not that scary, although it is not that pretty either, it is the valley that I am in and the one that I am climbing out of, with a spirit in my bones and a new destination that's unknown.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

1 New Life, 1 Growing Life

I sit here this morning and look back at my mom and mother-in-law, the times that we would visit and get ready to leave and they would cry, and I think "what in the world are they crying for its not like we are leaving forever, never to be seen again." I remember hearing Lee say that when he left for college his mom cried, I remember hearing about my mom crying when I left for boot-camp and when Kaleb and I moved to North Carolina. And I remember thinking "its not that big of a deal, we're just moving to North Carolina." And yet here I sit, holding back tears that seem to be flooding my eyes, holding back fears that seem to be filling my mind, and I think "well this is just stupid!" If you haven't made it to this point in your life, don't worry, do not fret, you'll one day find yourself sitting on the couch saying "well this is stupid" just like me. Just go a head and accept that - its just a matter of time.

So I as I was trying to stay busy this morning at 6 A.M. I was trying to think of something to do that would keep these thoughts and times off my mind when I thought "why don't you write about this". I don't know if this will come as it always does when I sit down to write, I don't know if this will be  forced or flowing, so in advance I apologize for any ranting, missed message and well let's face it, tears. And at this moment I find I have two daughters who are full of two new lives, one a new life a new start and the other a growing and changing life. It has taken a lot be see these two little girls in a new light, the other day I caught a glimpse of Jenn's new life, she was sitting on the couch and turned just right and all of a sudden she was no longer the little girl I watched grow up, she was a woman. It was just a second, only a small moment and glimpse that I got to see a courage in a her that I hadn't noticed before. I have wondered over the past week how she is doing with this move from home, to a new life at college 4 hours away. And in that few seconds, I saw the answer.  Matt 9:21 Then Jesus reassured her "Courage daughter. You took a risk of faith and now you're well." (MSG) This, as you can tell, is not the standard Bible verse, it is from The Message Bible and I think it fits my beautiful courageous daughter perfectly.  The new life I saw in her, in that moment of seeing her grown up, should not have been a surprise, I saw courage. In the past week or more she has endured something of untreaded territory for her. This summer she ventured out of her comfort zone and opened her heart to a young man to have it broken, she became the first child to go away to college and found that she probably missed her brother more than she thought, and today she will enter a new chapter in her life maybe little reluctantly.....Courage.  While Jesus may have been speaking to a sick woman who was trying to get healing from the passing Messiah, He knew to well that she what she really needed was  encouragement that her faith alone was what she needed for the healing she so desired to find. I don't know if Jennifer is really prepared for her new life, I have no way of knowing for certain, but I know without doubt that the courage she has is derived from her faith that gives her strength. I know without any hesitation that she is ready to begin this new life she is treading into, and I know she does not go alone, she goes with a courage that is built on her faith.

And still in my reach is the growing life that is happening every day, the one that is shaping into a different young woman every time I see her. She is here in this house now alone with a teary eyed mother and a father who sometimes seems distant but who is more the leader of this family than she realizes. I feel for her, I was not the baby in the family, I got to leave well before my younger brother, but this young woman, has changed somewhat - all of a sudden she became a junior in high school and changed her direction in life.  She is and always has been full of heart - she is more than compassionate, she is heartfelt, something greater than compassionate. You can not get her to say something bad about someone, although it has escaped her she immediately feels bad and apologizes for her hurtful words, even when those words are spoken outside of the ears of the one she is speaking about.  Her heart is overwhelmingly filled with love and strength. And as she enters a life that is in some way forcing her to grow up,  I see her heart still steadily the same, still full of love and life. Matt 11:29 "Take my yoke upon you...for I am gentle and humble in heart..." There is more to this scripture, most of us know what it is, but the words that struck me this morning are these words. My beautiful Sydney is struggling with  her faith and while most  parents would make her venture to church and move toward those things that are faith filled, I have decided to let her heart lead her. (Go ahead gasp, I know you want to.) But in these moments that I am seeing her grow up, I see a gentle and kind person, a heart so humble that it hides itself under some of her sarcasm but it is there. I know that more than things that I can force upon this growing young woman that her heart is full of life and love, gentle and humble. Her mind may be faltering and not ready to go toward faith, it may be hidden deeply, but there in this growing life she is full of heart, one that was carefully bestowed upon her.

So here I sit, no more tears, I don't know where they went really, but they have ebbed for now. And I looked back at this blog, probably long and wordy and noticed that god so generously gave me two scriptures from the same book.  It was not planned or made that way, at least not by me, and each of these two places fit my daughters to a "t".  A new life filled with only courage to take a step forward and a growing life filled with heart. I'm so very proud of these young women, each for their courage and each for their heart, two things that they share in common, two things that each taught the other. So on today I go, my heart sad and courage failing, and as these wain in me, these things are strong in them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Part III

So here I am ... at the end of my lengthy first title. And after the praise and distractions, where have I landed? What am I standing in now? Smack dab in the middle of a fight. A fight that is not one that you can see (unlike the one Syd and I saw at the high school open house last night between two parents!) but one that you may miss seeing me entangled in, one that you probably won't even know exists. What kind of fight am I entangled in? A fight between flesh and spirit; a fight dug deep within my soul that pulls me in ways that I can not explain, a fight that only I am involved in, a fight over my heart.
I don't know how long this fight will last and I have no expectation that I will suddenly and unexpectedly win this fight. There are many deceiving moves that my opponent has been armed with, moves that I am not prepared to defend, so how do I fight? How do I get through this fight? 2 Cor 10:3 "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh." There are many scriptures like this one, actually more than I thought I'd find when I started to realize that this fight was going on and I was in the middle of it. Were they all encouraging, supportive and full of great help...NO! I'm just putting that out there in case you were wondering. I think that most Christians would tell you that is not true that His word is full of encouragement and words of wisdom, and they are right, but most of those words are taken out of context. Wouldn't you agree? I mean if you read every part of scripture that was encouraging and full of life either before or after that is a section of strife, discouraging moments, anger, and faithless moments. So why do 'we' give someone all the good in scripture to encourage them? What do 'we' expect to accomplish? I think 'we' believe that  if we give encouraging words that those we speak to will be able to be lifted. But are they really lifted? Are we really encouraged? Well, I don't know, I never really was, but something does help me feel encouraged. The fact that every one of God's chosen went through a battle, a fight, a faithless walk that ended, somehow, in life of the spirit and encouragement. That is where I find comfort, in the fight that those He knows have walked through and won.
The fight that I am in is over my heart, just like all those who we read encouraging words from in the word. My fight is a set back, one that I wasn't expecting, one that literally sneaked up on me. I can't be certain how this battle will end up, I can not foresee how this fight will be different than those that I have been through before. What I do know is that this fight, like those I have read over, is the same fight, the same struggle that many others have walked through without receiving any relief. There is only one way to get through this fight, by going through it. I didn't even realize that I was in a fight until 3 days ago, so how did I get here - how is is possible that I ended up here without seeing the first blow? It is meant to be that way, really in the heart of it, the enemy (no matter what name you give it, anger, fear, depression, loneliness, etc) doesn't want you to see the first blow.  It usually hits you when you least expect it and can take you down before you even know you've been hit. There are many ways to fight, my favorite way is to run. I don't think that I will be so lucky this time to run away, although that is my preferred fighting technique, I don't think I can outrun this one. So how do I fight this war? I need to first realize that this fight is a struggle but not of the flesh, don't get me wrong sometimes it feels like it is of the flesh and sometimes it really is against the flesh but not this time.
I can only remember and hold true to the fact that this fight will be a battle that I fight with faith, placing the full armor of God on (Eph 6:12-18) and knowing that this fight is not a war in the flesh and I can not win this fight in the flesh but through faith; no matter how far away that faith is, no matter how little or faint, faith will be on my side if I chose walk with it.
I wonder what fight you are in, what fight has drug you backwards to the middle of it, setting you back to the place you thought you were through? There is not doubt that I am in the middle of a fight, it happened without me even seeing the first blow, probably the same way it happened to you. Now, more than ever, I need to fight. Now more than before, I need to realize that this fight is going to be longer than I wanted, desired, or expected. Now, I have to fight. I wonder what you will do?