Tag Archives: choices

From Valleys to Mountaintops

I enjoy hiking, even though I don’t go very often…life, you know? Also, I don’t enjoy hiking alone, so coordinating schedules can be a bear… still though, I like it. When I get the chance to hike, I admit I’m not always in the best of shape, so I have to take it kind of slow… and I kind of like to know what I’m getting myself into before I start.

That said, let me tell you about this hike that I took once with friends. I went into it blind, but I’d actually been doing pretty well about walking and hiking pretty regularly, so I was pumped and ready to take it on. The beginning of the hike wasn’t bad and honestly we reached the top pretty quickly and it was beautiful. We took all the photos to post and high-fived each other on our accomplishment. In short, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves.

And then we started down the mountain and that’s when we discovered that we had climbed the mountain backward (or at least against the recommended trail direction). And we quickly learned why. The way down… this direction… was steep. Like super steep. We were only halfway down when my calves started their initial complaints, so by the time we’d finally reached the valley, my calves were legitimately cursing (who knew they had such a colorful vocabulary?), and I was pretty much done.

Except, we weren’t done. We were far from done.

So. Very. Far.

We looked around for the parking lot, but it wasn’t in the valley. And that’s when we discovered that the real reason our hike to the top had been so, well easy. The parking lot was halfway up the mountain and we’d done the end in the beginning. So, to get back to our car, we had to go back up. This time stairs.

So. Many. STEEP stairs.

(Oddly, if we had started on the stairs going into the valley in this direction, our calves would have been saved. Someone had really thought this hike through; those someones were not us.)

Have you ever seen the old cartoon Cinderella? You know that mouse, Gus-Gus–the little chunky one who is so incredibly cute, but not in the best shape. Remember when he has to save his beloved Cinderella from the tower and looks up at those steps in front of him and they just seem to grow bigger and taller?

Actual footage of me looking at those stairs.

Yeah, that’s what these stairs looked like from the valley edge after coming down the steepest trail from the other side of the mountain.

I may or may not of asked my friends to call me a med-evac half way up (and I may or may not have been kind of serious about that…). At one point, I stood there halfway up the stairs, exhausted and in actual pain (for some perspective: my legs were physically shaking when I stood still and I literally couldn’t make them stop. I mean I can be kind of a baby about physical exertion, but seriously. Shaking. Trembling, if you will), I considered that maybe I’d just live in that valley the rest of my life. I could pitch a tent and be super happy away from society and never having to climb up another set of stairs. I’d just give up.

Yeah, there were no flaws in that plan at all, right? (Like where was I going to get said tent anyway?)

Obviously, I did not stay in that valley. I kept going, mostly with the encouragement of my friends (maybe a few threats). And when we got back to the car, I’d never been more grateful for modern transportation and combustible engines that don’t require any leg movement.

That taught me something, though. I got to thinking about how sometimes when the valleys in life come at us in unexpected ways, it’s really tempting to just stay in the pit. Especially when climbing out is a lot of work — painful, exhausting work. Work that when you start, you want to give up halfway through because it feels that bad. We want to just pitch our tent in the valley and spend the rest of our lives feeling sorry for ourselves when we don’t get to experience anything new or exciting. When we don’t grow. When we don’t feel the wind on our faces or see the land stretch out before us, we blame the valley, not ourselves, because, after all, it’s not our fault we are in this valley, right?

And, sure, we don’t always choose the valleys in our lives. They come at us hard and fast, or we fall into them sometimes. Sometimes they are a result of our making poor choices. Regardless of how we ended up there, we do have a choice about coming out of the valley. We can put in the work, we can lean into encouragement of friends and family, we can work through the pain. We can choose to trust that God has a good, sovereign plan for our lives.

Because one of God’s many promises to us is to meet us in our valleys and help us back to the mountaintop.

But it’s not magic. It’s a choice. We can pursue the promise, or sulk in our sorrows. As it did many years ago for Habakkuk the prophet, our choices will determine the scope and enjoyment of God’s promises in our lives.

It’s not magic. It’s a choice. We can pursue the promise, or sulk in the sorrows.

Habakuk the Prophet

Though not as well known as Isaiah, Jeremiah, or even Jonah, Habakkuk and his short book (3 short chapters) is one of the most relatable struggles in the modern world. His very name is somewhat of a paradox, meaning both ‘to embrace’ and ‘to wrestle’. The basic premise of the story is this:

Habakkuk begins by looking at the corruption that has absolutely infiltrated the Jewish nation. People are living how they want to live, turning a once holy nation into a hedonistic hot mess. He knows they’ve been warned because Jeremiah’s been singing that tune for about 40 years, and still the nation refuses to turn back to God. And God? Well, Habakkuk wonders why God refuses to fix the problem himself. So the questioning begins. God, how long? God, why? God, where are you?

I told you it was relatable, or is that just me? At different points throughout my life I have whispered and yelled these words to the heavens, wondering these same things. How long do I have to wait for healing from this crushing depression? Why do I still not have a family of my own? Where are you, God, when there is so much suffering all around me in the world? Why didn’t you heal my incredibly brave and beautiful friend?

Now, granted these questions are on different levels of intensity, but the sentiment is still the same.

There are times when I know God is good; I know God is faithful; I know God is sovereign, but it feels like he is indifferent to my situation or the world around me.

I mean, just look at the world we live in. Habakkuk points out the violence in his society (um, hello…according to the CDC, in the US alone there are at least 1.2 million reported assault related emergency room visits each year and over 19,000 homicides…violence is definitely a staple in our society). He mentions iniquity, wrong, destruction, strife, and contention, ending with an all-encompassing statement about the law and justice having been so corrupted they are ineffective, ‘perverted’, and ‘paralyzed’. Are we reading the Bible, or social media? I mean seriously, verse 4 seems like it could be straight off someone’s news feed these days.

So the law is paralyzed and justice never goes forth, for the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted (Hab. 1:4).

Habakkuk is confused and frustrated by God’s lack of intervention, so he hits his knees and asks all the questions. Then, God answers, and it’s kind of surprising. God assures Habakkuk that he sees and that he’s got a plan—a plan to use a more violent group (the Babylonians) to execute judgment on the people, overcome them, and teach them a lesson about their own violent ways.

There are times when I KNOW God is good; I KNOW God is faithful; I KNOW God is sovereign, but it FEELS like he’s indifferent to my situation or the world around me.

Um…yikes. Not the answer he was looking for, so this does not comfort Habakkuk. In fact it worries him to the point that he begins to wonder and question God’s nature. If God is good, how can he use such a violent means to teach his people a lesson? If God is holy, how can he allow such evil in the world, let alone use it? And he says all this to God. He begs God for a different answer. Habakkuk hoped for a revival, not for a violent and bloody downfall.

Yeah. Relatable. At least to me. I’ve certainly asked similar questions about suffering and evil in a world where God is supposed to be perfectly holy, good and sovereign.

Unfortunately, we may never really understand this side of heaven. Romans 11:33-34 puts it this way:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? 

Now, don’t read this the wrong way. I am in no way saying that all the evil of the world, the diseases that people suffer from or even the violence is God’s judgment on mankind, but what I am saying is that God knows more than we know and we may never know the exact reason why he allows for such things to continue. But we can be assured that God cares about his people, but he also cares about justice. And justice isn’t always pretty and rarely can you put it in a box and label it because there are too many abstractions that factor into what justice looks like and means. What gives me the greatest comfort here is that God hears Habakkuk’s concern, and He responds with kindness and wisdom.

First, he tells Habakkuk to write what he is saying down in plain words so everyone will see, hear, and understand what he is saying. God pronounces woe to ALL people who participate in iniquity and he lists 5 that are still very much prevalent today, and honestly encompass most, if not all, the iniquity of humans.

  1. Selfish ambition – getting to the top no matter who you have to lie to, stomp on, sleep with, or manipulate; that encompasses a lot of wrong-doing by pretty much anyone’s standard.
  2. Covetousness – keeping up with the Jones’ to the point where you act selfishly, gossip, steal, lie, manipulate, or even impersonate others; wanting what others have just because they have it and you don’t.
  3. Exploitation of people – human trafficking would be at the worst part of this spectrum, but not paying people an honest wage or taking advantage of people also fall under this heading.
  4. Drunkenness & violence – drunkenness doesn’t just mean alcohol either; drugs and other addictions can lead to poor decision making and iniquity and violence. Well, we’ve already talked about how prevalent that is.
  5. Idolatry – putting any creation above the creator; money, power, social media; anything you give your time, attention, and devotion to can become an idol.

In the end, God points out, humans will eventually reap what they sow. God had tried many methods to get the nation’s attention and to urge them to turn back to him and his perfectly holy ways. He’d offered them forgiveness, protection, and even prosperity. They said ‘no thanks’ and continued to take part in and feed the corruption of their society. God could have protected them from the Babylonian invasion. He was always capable of it, but they stepped out of the umbrella of his protection and God, having given humans free will when He created them, let them go. He wants us to choose Him, but he won’t force it. And when we step out of that umbrella, there are consequences. And it isn’t usually pretty.

Again, I’m in no way trying to explain all of death and destruction and disease in this world through this post. I am summarizing what we see recorded in Habakkuk and pointing out how we can relate to what we see. Death, disease, destruction, corruption, iniquity, all that came about when sin entered the world and will continue until the New Heaven and New Earth reign, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Back to Habakkuk.

He started off the chapter in the valley of despair, calling out to God and desperate for answers. God hears him and responds. Habakkuk doesn’t like the answer, so he enters into a debate with God.

God isn’t afraid of our questions, by the way. He welcomes them. We see this in how He responds to Habakkuk. God reminds his prophet of the consequences of sin, dating back to that fateful moment in the Garden when Adam and Eve decided to take a bite out of the fruit from the tree of life. Sure, they got knowledge, but they also got death. The consequence of sin is death.

But what’s really interesting is how Habakkuk handles that response. He could have pouted and whined about it being ‘not fair.’ He could have walked away and given up on God. He could have stayed in that valley of despair. But he doesn’t. He sings of God’s past mercies and holiness. He reminds himself of what all God has done to bless and uphold his promise to his people. He praises God for his power, might, and protection.

Then his body trembles, and he feels all the weight of the coming future in his very bones. He is emotionally spent. Weary. He is uncontrollably shaking because of the exertion. But he doesn’t give up.

He chooses to rejoice in the Lord.

He chooses joy.

And God meets him there, giving him strength in his faith to “tread on my high places”, out of the valley and onto the mountaintops.

The Promises

There was a lot to unpack in that story and I may have been a little long winded, so I’m sorry about that, but it felt important to give you the full scope of what Habakkuk was dealing with because I’ve been there (and not just out of shape on a hike). I’ve been in that valley of despair and I didn’t always choose to rejoice in the Lord.

And that, my friends, is not fun and there is little to be gained by pitching your tent in the valley and avoiding the process of moving back up toward the mountaintop. I’m sure you know what I mean.

So how did Habakkuk get from the valleys of despair to the mountaintops of joy?

With discipline.

And that’s God’s promise to us. To take us from the valleys to the mountaintops when we seek to follow and obey him.

Habakkuk gave us a little roadmap too. Mind if I share? Great. Here goes.

The Discipline of PrayerThe Discipline of Solitude & SilenceThe Discipline of Reflection & Discernment
Habakkuk prayed for God to see the violence and iniquity, bring justice to the nation of Isreal, and turn them into a holy people once more.Habakkuk remained isolated from the people, stopped talking, listened, and expected God’s response. Habakkuk listened to what the Lord said, and reflected on his own knowledge of who He knew God to be. Discernment is wisdom making a choice; he chose to wait for God to answer before acting again.
Discipline of Reading/Knowing God’s wordDiscipline of Humility & SubmissionDiscipline of Worship
When God gave him a vision, Habakkuk reminded himself of God’s sovereignty and reviewed all the mighty works and power God had displayed and how he’d always kept his promises to the people.Habakkuk accepted God’s word and direction and put faith in God’s plan rather than his own idea of what is right.Habakkuk rejoiced in the Lord and chose joy rather than brooding or pouting or rebelling.

So for us it looks like…

Our circumstances may not change, but we always have a choice in how we live in those circumstances. When we practice spiritual discipline in the mundane, everyday moments of life, they become our defaults for when we are going through the valleys that threaten to overwhelm us. Those same disciplines help us choose to live life more abundantly, just as Habakkuk discovered. In the end he says,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord is my strength (Hab. 3:18-19a) 

Despite his confusion and bewilderment, he still chooses to trust in the promises of God.

And we can too.

Our circumstances may not change, but we always have a choice in how we live in those circumstances.

Holding Patterns

There are some times in life when you feel like life is moving forward. You get a new job. You meet someone new. You get married. A baby is born. You travel to a new place.

There are other times in life where you seem to be in a holding pattern. Nothing moves forward, nothing catastrophic pulls you under, you aren’t going backward—you are just…marking time. You get up. You go to work. You do your thing. You come home. On repeat.

I don’t love holding patterns. I find them a little depressing. No, not depressing. Frustrating. Kind of like, okay God, have you forgotten me down here? Kind of feeling.

But then I reflect back on times when life is crazy, moving forward and changing, and I realize that in those moments I was wishing for something a little more stable. I don’t like change…and yet I need change to feel like I’m really living my life. It’s one of those geeze, Ash, could you stop being so darn human for one second and just be satisfied with all the ways you’ve been blessed…kind of situations.

So the more I mark time in this holding pattern season of my life the more I start to realize it’s actually a blessing—“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) —or in the case of a holding pattern a season for every inactivity as well

A Time to Listen

I am actually a really bad listener. If I had a nickel for every time I said “huh, I think we’ve had this conversation before”, simply because I asked a question I should have already known the answer to, I’d be able to retire. Most people forgive me for this, because despite the fact that I have the same conversation sometimes multiple times, it is not out of malicious intent—and most people know I really do care—but I don’t always listen with the purpose of remembering or internalizing. I think this evolved as a way to keep me from losing my mind. I’m naturally very introverted, but on average in one day I have hundreds of conversations…that may be an exaggeration, but I’m really not sure that it is (math…I have 25-30 kids in each class and I try to personally talk to most if not all of them at least once during the class period, though I’m not always successful. Then there is the mornings when I open my room for students because I get there early before the library even opens and kids like to have a place to sit. I’d say a good 15 or 20 are in there, then at morning duty I talk to people in the halls, then at lunch my room is never empty. Never…so okay hundreds is probably an exaggeration, but still. That’s a lot of conversing).

The point is, I’m not good at listening, because although I have these conversations, listening but I am very good at hearing. (As a caveat I should say I’m not good at every-day listening, but when something is really important, I’m much better able to tune in and internalize what is being said).

Holding patterns are great for learning to listen. There aren’t as many distractions and honestly it’s a skill we all could use some practice at. This semester I’ve had the privilege of teaching a creative writing course, and it has been so incredible. Just having the time to actually talk and listen to seniors as they prepare to enter the ‘real world’ which, if we are being honest, they’ve already begun the process of by this time in the semester, has really shifted my focus. Sure, I’m in a personal holding pattern, but these young adults are just getting started and the listening I do…I mean, it’s great.

But that also gives me time to just listen at home to…if I can put away the distractions long enough (Netflix is truely evil in the sense that it can be such a time suck…and Gardenscapes…Heaven help me). God puts us in holding patterns sometimes to get our attention. It’s not that he has forgotten us, it’s that we have forgotten him and he just wants to give us the time to listen.

Get up. Listen. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen. Come home. Listen.

A time to kill

No, I don’t mean to plan out the serial murders of all those who have hurt you. I mean I time to kill self-doubt. A time to kill worry. A time to kill all those little lies that have crept into your consciousness during those busy times.

Sure, this kind of killing off should be happening all the time, but during the holding patterns they become more evident. That’s when you have a choice: listen to the lies, or kill the lies and replace them with truth. You’ve got the time to really build that truth storage, so take it.

Photo by Aljoscha Laschgari on Unsplash

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen Come home. Listen. Store up truth.

A time to heal

Along those same lines, holding patterns give us time to heal from the wounds, changes, surprises, disappointments etc. of the moving forward time. It’s funny we don’t really think we are that wounded until we have time in life…a holding pattern…in which we can reflect. It’s in these moments that if we allow God to enter in we can start to heal.

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen Come home. Listen. Store up truth. Heal.

And in that pattern, God reveals his wisdom, love and plans…that’s when I notice the healing really starts. At least for me.

A time to build up

A holding pattern gives us time to grow and learn. We aren’t as worried about time, people, or things so we focus on our own healing and growth. Organisms that can adapt, change, and grow survive. Those that can’t, don’t. God blesses us with holding patterns to give us time to breathe and adapt.

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Build up & store knowledge. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen. Come home. Listen. Store up truth. Heal. Build up knowledge.

Photo by Ryan Fields on Unsplash

Because the truth is, holding patterns can be frustrating or they can be blessings. It’s up to us (me, sigh) to decide how we are going to use each season God grants us. When we start to see the potential in every season, that’s when we truly start to live.

Authentic :: Tamar part 1

A Tale of Two Tamars

Two women of the same name are perhaps among the most tragic stories in the Bible. Well, there are a lot of tragic stories, but these really do make a person sit up and go ‘what now?!’

So let’s set the scene for part 1:

Tamar the Canaanite (Genesis 38)

Once upon a time, in a land far away from his brothers, a man named Judah settled down with a Canaanite woman. Together this delightful couple had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. They were a perfect family. The three boys grew older and Judah realized his eldest son, Er, was just incomplete. So he found him a wife. Her name was Tamar.  

Photo by Artsy Vibes on Unsplash

Now, like most little girls, Tamar dreamed of the day she would marry and have children. She would be the perfect wife and mother because she’d been dreaming and preparing for this day her whole life. Unfortunately, about 3.5 seconds into the marriage, it was clear that her husband was not the Prince Charming she’d been dreaming of. In fact, the LORD found him to be so evil, that he struck Er down. Er died, and just like that Tamar became a widow.

Now, Jewish tradition dictates that if your husband dies before you are able to conceive a child to carry on the family name, then the closest male relative must perform his Levirate duties and produce offspring for the dead relative and the widow. Sooooo, Onan was required by law (and his father) to lay with Tamar. As it turns out, Onan was about as delightful as his brother and while he did sleep with Tamar, he made sure that his, well you see he spilled his…well, let’s just say he made sure Tamar would not get pregnant. So, seeing his wickedness, God struck down Onan too (seriously, I mean really you’d think he’d learn from his brother’s mistakes, but no.)

Tamar was still a widow with no children so Leviate law dictated that Shelah (the third son) sleep with her next. However, Shelah was kinda still a kid so Judah sent Tamar back to live with her father until Shelah was grown…or so he said. However, like most stupid fathers, Judah didn’t see any fault with his own sons, but rather blamed Tamar for his sons’ deaths. So he had no intention of allowing her to sleep with Shelah—thus condemning her to a life of solitude and shame.

The Jerkface.

Sometimes things happen that are just completely out of our control. What do we do when life seems unfair, unjust, or just plain wrong? If we are wise, we trust in the Lord and let him direct our decisions and our plans.

Right or wrong, Tamar devises a plan, and personally given the cultural context, I can get behind her extreme actions, and evidently, God directed them given the ultimate outcome. According to Jewish tradition, Tamar was most likely a Canaanite woman who converted to Judaism either before or after she married Judah’s son. When she devises the plan, the narrative takes on a positive tone, not condemning her, but confirming that she is doing what is righteous because Judah was being unrighteousness. Rather than living in the shame her father-in-law saddles her with, Tamar decides to take the future into her own hands, but trusts God will ultimately vindicate her.

Photo by Kyle Loftus on Unsplash

Genesis 38:20-23 we see that Judah has never been very good at the whole ‘personal responsibility’ thing. This is actually an echo of Genesis 37:26-27, where he wants to do the right thing, makes a comment or a suggestion or a half-baked action, but doesn’t really follow through. What it boils down to is Judah takes the path of least resistance–knowing what is right, but refusing to stand up for it. He sleeps with a woman who he believes is a ‘cult prostitute’ (or a prostitute for a religious sect), which is pretty heavily frowned upon in God’s law. He gives this prostitute some pretty personal items (kind of like giving her his driver’s license and social security card) as collateral and then, rather than tracking her down, he just shrugs off the items as stolen and goes about his business, never recognizing the sins he himself has committed.

Judah is quick to judge Tamar when it comes out that she is pregnant “immorally”. She’s been living in her father’s home, ignored and forgotten by him until he believes she’s made a mistake and then suddenly he’s all fired up–to burn her at the stake. Nevermind his own sins which he thinks has been forgotten and hidden. But yet again, God proves that he is just and righteous and not only will our sins be found out, but there is also always a consequence to those sins.

This story is not as tragic as it could have been. While it is not exactly a happily ever after kind of situation, it is a beautiful picture of conviction and grace, on the part of Judah, who when he does realize that he was wrong actually admits it and does his best to make it right. After all, Tamar’s life was literally in his hands. He could have ignored the message she sent him and had her burned at the stake–his honor forever in tact. But he didn’t.

Photo by Hello Lightbulb on Unsplash

On the surface, this appears to be condoning Tamar’s deceptive acts, but I think it’s actually highlighting her determination to follow God’s law no matter the consequences to herself. Let me explain.

  1. Despite the fact that her two previous husbands were jerks, she never curses God, the men, or even Judah. She had every opportunity to be bitter and surly, but instead she is obedient and compliant. She bides her time and takes action only when she sees that there is no other choice.
  2. When she devises her plan she is careful to still bring honor to bother herself and Judah. She targets him specifically, and strategically placing herself in his path. She covers herself with a veil, which shows an unusual amount of modesty for the ‘prostitute’ role she is playing.
  3. Tamar is thoughtful and cunning, making sure that she can prove who the father of her child is–securing identification tags rather than money, or other forms of payment that might have been tempting.
  4. When the scheme is found out, she does not go public. She doesn’t shame Judah (or herself), she trusts Judah and God to do the right thing, by privately addressing the issue (unlike Judah who rants to anyone who will listen about burning her at the stake).
  5. She is gracious to forgive, only grateful to be vindicated and justified in her own moral character.

All of these elements prove that Tamar was not just acting out of selfish ambition, but with a desire to honor the Lord, Judah and herself.

And we can learn a valuable lesson from her example in how to deal with those who have wronged us–a lesson that is hard to apply but valuable to remember, because at some point we will all feel taken advantage of, lost, or forgotten by the world. So, what do we do?

  1. Be thankful for what we do have, not bitter over what we have lost or think we deserve. After all, if we truly got what we deserved, we wouldn’t be any happier (death, we all deserve death and punishment because we are all sinners)
  2. Check your motivation. Always ask yourself if the actions you are taking will bring honor to God, and if the answer is ever no…take a step back and think about another plan, or just wait to hear from God. Jealousy, revenge, and bitterness do not bring honor to God, but obedience, justice, and thankfulness do.
  3. Think things through. All actions, even rightly motivated, have consequences so it is highly advisable that you consider all the possible outcomes before acting.
  4. Keep things private. I know posting your business and beef with others on social media feels good in the moment, but it causes way more damage to you and the other person when you go public with any kind of conflict. If you truly want to bring honor and justice to a situation, keep it private. Don’t “vent” about to others either. “Venting” is usually just a nice way of excusing your own gossip. Trust me, I know this from personal–heartbreaking–experience.
  5. Forgive. You’ll never truly bring honor, glory or peace if you don’t learn to forgive the wrongs. I’m not saying that it’s easy–I’m sure it was a struggle for Tamar, but forgiveness is the only way to move forward. They don’t call it ‘holding’ a grudge for no reason–it holds you back as much as it does anything else. Let go. Let God. Move on.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

Tamar’s story might be weird to the 21st century mindset, but despite the differences, there is always a human connection to be made and if we are wise…we won’t just hear. We’ll learn.

Grandma Says: My journey through Psalms (78-81; 83)

I love history. It’s one of the few things that I understand the universal importance of learning. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t know if anyone really needs the specific dates of when Washington blew his nose right before he took office, but the older I get the more I realize history does, in fact, repeat itself.

In Psalm 77, the poet recounts all that Israel has been through in the recent past. The poets cry is understandable as he just can’t fathom the waitresses of a people who have witnessed so many wonderful things.

But it’s easy…in the moment of crisis, when you are stressed, and weary, and tired of yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich…to resort to complaints and curses..neither of which are productive.

Yeah, grandma said there’d be days like this.

And maybe Grandma even told you a few old stories about how God is always faithful. You want to believe her, after all bread falling out of heaven is pretty cool, but you’re tired and you’re sure she is exaggerating. After all, that can’t really be literal, can it?

It’s important for us to know our history and listen to the previous generation. They have lived through a lot. Maubr they’re out of control with their need to share their input, but really they are behaving as God intended. Generation to generation, guiding, teaching and learning. In theory.

But as they say, sometimes you just have to learn for yourself no matter how many times you’ve been warned.

I used to think the Israelites of the Old Testament had to have some kind of mental hangup or processing disorder to be so foolish and unwise, but we are really not all that different. We want results…now! We want answers…now! When we don’t get answers… we make them ourselves.

Generation after generation after generation.

So we have a choice to make. We can cry out to God with our complaints and worries…great, but do we follow after him DESPITE the circumstances, or are we just fair weather followers. Oh sure, it’s easy to follow God when he is sending plagues and parting seas, but how about in the desert? Do we still look for him, or do we abandon him, because we think he’s abandoned us?

Although history can teach us how to be successful followers of Jesus, we have to be willing not only to just hear, but to embrace the lesson. Otherwise our history repeats.

Grandma said there’d be days like this…because she knows. Are you listening?

The Pavement Ends

I was driving a couple of weeks ago, rushing from one place to another and not paying attention like I should. As a result, I missed the sign.

Pavement ends.

At 45 miles an hour this is an especially important sign to not miss, but just as I realized what was about to happen, it was too late–off I flew into a dirt and gravel road.

I won’t repeat all the words or thoughts that raced in my head or out of my mouth as the dust flew up around my car, but as I finally came to a grinding, horrifying halt–surrounded by a cloud of dust and miraculously unscathed–I ended with:

“Thank you God for protecting me even in my stupidity.”

What an appropriate expression of gratitude.

We live in a world of narcissism and self-promotion. A world that screams “Me! Me! ME!” and then “More! More! More!” and sometimes we get so wrapped up in that we forget to pay attention. Until the pavement ends.

Until something gets our attention.

Often there were warning signs, but we either ignore them or don’t see them in our ignorance. Those are moments of truth where we can either learn something or continue on a path of destruction. It’s time for us to stop allowing distractions keep us from the truth that is right in front of us…before the pavement ends.

After praying my thanksgiving, I turned my car around and got back on the pavement, but this time I slowed down, put away the distractions, and continually praised God as I drove out of my studpidity and into his arms.