Repost: Flip-Flop

You better believe the Desilets are living their best flip-flop life this summer! (Although the pair featured in these photos sadly met their demise last week 😭.)

Like my flip-flops, the older I get the more I’m reminded of my “softness,” vulnerability, and complete dependence on the “solidness” of God!

(Originally posted November 2017)

If you see the Desilets family walking around with glum faces these days it’s because of one thing: November. No, we’re not getting the lack-of-daylight blues or dreading the cold winter ahead – November for the Desilets means it’s time to put our flip-flops away 😥. We’ve stretched their convenient, comfortable, non-confining use to the last possible days – but with temperatures falling into the 30s this weekend, we must finally surrender!

One day this spring I was at church, attempting to sing along in worship, but I couldn’t focus because something was bothering me. There was a sharp object jabbing into the bottom of my foot. I tried to ignore it, but every time I shifted my position (which happens often with some songs!) I would feel it again. Since I was, of course, wearing flip-flops, I tried to just shake whatever it was out, but that didn’t work. Then I took the sandal off my foot and shook it with my hand. That failed, too! What in the world?

I finally gave in, sat down, and upon closer examination, found the culprit – the sole of my flip-flop had somehow completely absorbed a small piece of wood! Ouch!

We are natural born measurers. From the first time our sibling gets the “bigger” piece of the cookie to the day we throw on our dad’s giant boots and claim to be “taller” than him, we compare and quantify our world in order to know where we stand.

Our favorite thing to gauge may be sin. Like the New Testament Pharisees, we naturally survey the behavior of others in our world and, in most cases, decide we’re doing pretty well. Since we don’t struggle with certain sins, we perceive that we must be standing on some thick, sturdy soles.

But really we’re more like flip-flops! We are softer and more vulnerable to temptation than we like to believe.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” The solid shoes we perceive we’re standing on are only self-constructed stilts of our personal “sin ranking system” – we’re sure certain temptations will never trip us up, but Paul urges us to beware!

Though we see ourselves as unique, we are “common” and therefore capable of absorbing sin in all of its many forms. Because we narrowly perceive our invulnerability to be a result of our own “good choices,” we miss out on the broader picture of sin and its extensive infrastructure in our lives. Yes, some of our sin is straight-up going-our-own-way pride, but much more of it originates in weaknesses woven into our personality type and the particular pains and pressures this world has laid on us.

I’ll never forget the day my friend (who is one of the most loving and caring people I know) said to me, “I must believe that I’m just as capable of murder as the person who’s already killed someone.” A statement like this may sound shocking at first, but not accepting its truth is dangerous. I’ve seen it happen in my own life and the lives of others – the sins we judge most harshly (because don’t currently struggle with them) could, given the right combination of circumstances, easily become our struggle.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul shares that he was given a “thorn” in his flesh. We don’t know exactly what this “thorn” was (if we did we might measure ourselves ‘better’ than him), but we know it was there “in order to keep [him] from becoming conceited”. We’re flip-flops on purpose because it’s the only way we’ll learn how utterly dependent we must be on the grace we’ve been given only through Christ and the strength we are given only through His Spirit.

As I was pulling the “thorn” out of my flip-flop that Sunday, I felt around and found another one not far from it. I hadn’t noticed the second one because it hadn’t started to cause me pain yet – but it was there, ready and waiting!

The more I know Jesus, the more aware I am of how little I know myself. The more I worship Him, the more He reveals those thorns that are so absorbed into the roots of my being I can’t see them. And God is faithful, not only to provide a “way out” as the second half of 1 Corinthians 10:13 states, but also to “keep (me) from becoming conceited” by daily reminding me of my vulnerability. I may be a flip-flop, but thank God that His “power is made perfect in weakness”! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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Repost: Tension

It’s Ninja season – not only on television, but for our constantly-climbing-or-hanging-from-something children 😉! Summer is a time we’re tempted to “slack” in our relationship with God, but it’s also an opportunity to “up the tension” by reading a challenging book, studying a passage you usually avoid, or intentionally researching a world or cultural issue that makes you uneasy. How are you upping the tension this summer?

(Originally posted October 2017)

From the first episode we watched, our family has been obsessed with “American Ninja Warrior”. This action-packed obstacle-course competition challenges athletes’ agility and strength – especially their upper-body and grip strength.

Our children, desiring to follow in the footsteps of newfound heroes like Jessie Graff and Meagan Martin, could be confused with monkeys based on the large amounts of time they spend “hanging” out on the obstacles in our backyard. Having small bodies that haven’t proportionally caught up to their arm muscle limits yet, they make a row of monkey bars or a trip across the “ninja line” look like a breeze!

Knowing we have no chance of keeping up with our kids, Tim and I have begun issuing each other daily “ninja challenges” – the first of which was to hang (yes, just hang) from the ninja line for 10 seconds (yes, just 10 seconds). It sounds easy, but hanging from this slackline is no simple feat!

And that’s because there’s too much slack. This line is adjusted to hold up our children, but our adult weight and height require us to work that much harder to stay off the ground. There’s not enough tension to hold us up!

It turns out a little tension can be a good thing.

A relationship is defined as the connecting line between two things and the relationship between God and human beings has a long history of tension. Most of the time, we think of this as a bad thing because, after all, tension = tense = stress = bad. And as Christians, we expect our connection with God to be good, not bad! But since He’s God and we’re not, some level of tension is always going to be present.

Here’s how it happens:

Many of us grew up learning Sunday School truths about a God who is mighty and powerful and who uses that power to do supernatural things to help people. We hear stories about His great love for us and His plans to guide us, care for us, and meet our needs. Even those of us who came to know Him as an adult, get a “WOW!” first impression of this God.

But inevitably there comes a point where these truths don’t seem to be holding up. That supernatural power didn’t show up when you needed it. The “love” and “care” you’re supposed to be experiencing is noticeably absent. Instead of guidance, you hear silence.

The Bible is filled with examples of this tension:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Isaiah 40:27

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
Psalm 130:1-2

Why have you wounded us past all hope of healing?
We hoped for peace, but no peace came.
We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror.
Jeremiah 14:19

These cries echo our own experience today. We look around at our world, our circumstances, and our struggles and wonder: “If You really are ‘in control’, why aren’t You fixing this?” or “If You’re as ‘good’ as you claim to be, why aren’t You showing it?” The tension mounts as we attempt to reconcile who we believe God to be with what we’re seeing of Him in real life.

If you read on a bit further in these passages, you’ll find that they all end in the same way:

Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain?
Does it fall from the sky by itself?
No, you are the one, O Lord our God!
Only you can do such things.
So we will wait for you to help us.
Jeremiah 14:22

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31

The Hebrew word for “wait” in these passages means more than the “passing of time” we might think of. It’s rooted in the idea of “twisting” or “stretching” and describes the “tension of enduring, waiting”*. Waiting on the Lord means to remain in the tension – to stay in that place of discomfort and disagreement in your relationship with Him. Because it turns out too much slack is actually the problem.

Slack in our relationship with God happens when we avoid the tension. It develops as we start dismissing the things about God we don’t like or that don’t make sense to us, forming our own “comfortable” view of Him. It grows as we close our eyes to the world around us and sprinkle a spiritual sugar-coating of “God is good” on the situations we don’t want to accept. It may feel good for a time, but if that relational line between you and God has too much slack, it’s not gonna hold you up!

Today’s “ninja challenge” involved setting up a slackline (the kind you walk on like a tightrope) in a local park and standing on it for 10 seconds (yes, only 10 seconds – it’s much harder than it looks!). After several very wobbly attempts, we finally cranked up the tension. A couple tries later and an 11-second victory was mine!

If you’re feeling comfortable in your relationship with God, that may be a red flag that it’s time to up the tension. Maybe you need to open your eyes to the events going on in our world, find a mentor, and start asking some hard questions. Maybe turning the crank looks like opening your Bible and studying some of those passages you’ve avoided because they don’t fit with your theology. Maybe it looks like opening up to a trusted friend about your doubts. Or maybe it means you stop sugar-coating and get brutally out-loud honest with God about a situation in your life.

Tension in my relationship with God may not feel good, but it is good. It’s in the tension that I am pushed to learn things about Him that I otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to. It’s in the tension where I allow Him to put His finger on the nerves, revealing areas of my life I need Him to do some work on. It’s in the tension that I start seeing faith as a choice to put my life in God’s hands even if He doesn’t come through in the way I expect Him to. Embracing the tension may seem counterintuitive, but it’s in the “waiting” that He holds me up!

*http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6960.htm

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Repost: Hydrate

A few days visiting my sister in the Texas heat was a great reminder of my need to drink water! Sometimes I need little ‘sips’ of prayer and sometimes a full bottle of communication with Jesus is in order. How will you ‘hydrate’ your soul today?

(Originally posted October 2017)

13.1 miles is a lot of miles. So when my friend Maddie asked me if I was running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this fall, I laughed. Having never run more than 9 and never raced more than 5, the thought of even signing up for this race made me sweat!

I gave in, though (Maddie can be very convincing! “It’ll be FUN,” she said 😉) and the training commenced. Beginning with 4 and 5-mile “long” runs in May, we gradually added on miles, hoping to reach 13 by mid-September.

One day, after running 6 miles in 90-degree heat (and being sure I could never.go.any.further), I got on my phone and ordered one of those little hand-size water bottles I’d seen ‘real’ distance runners carry. If I was going to do this, I could never run that long without water again.

And it worked – my 7, 8, and 9-mile runs were much more bearable when I was hydrating along the way!

HYDRATE (2)-01

In John 4, Jesus encountered a woman who knew something about thirst. First of all, he met her while she was collecting water at a well, but further, while most women would have made the trek in the cool of the morning or evening, she was there in the heat of midday. And when Jesus, stepping outside the social boundaries of His time, asked her for a drink, she revealed a deeper thirst – a thirst for truth:

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) (v. 9)

Jesus, knowing that He Himself was the gratification of this thirst (see John 14:6), replied:

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (v. 10)

Confused (and probably frustrated that He didn’t seem to answer her question), the woman continued to question Jesus – in the end revealing an even deeper thirst – a thirst for unconditional love:

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (v. 16-18)

As the conversation progressed, Jesus patiently and deliberately exposed her thirst – not to shame her – but to show her how desperately she needed His “living water”. Though the water from this well was sacred to Samaritans (see v. 12), it was only a cistern of standing, temporarily-refreshing liquid. But what Jesus had to offer was the constantly flowing “bubbling up, gushing forth”* stream of His life-giving Spirit.

I love the innocence of the woman’s response to Jesus’ offer:

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (v. 15)

We chuckle at her misunderstanding, but maybe she was on to something. Her thirst had led her to this place – both physically and spiritually – and the thought of being free from this daily chore was appealing! She just didn’t (yet) have the eyes to see that Jesus was freeing her from the greater chore of trekking to “wells” that would satisfy her desire for truth and love.

Life with Jesus is a marathon and the gulps of water we take at weekly visits to the well (or from other sources) aren’t going to keep us hydrated for the long-haul. God has given us the gift of His Spirit, whose constant flow is constantly available to us. Like my running bottle, He’s always right there and little effort is required to access His “living water”. Every time we simply engage in communication with Him by acknowledging His presence and submitting our needs to Him, we are taking another hydrating sip!

HYDRATE (1)-01

I was feeling confident the day Maddie and I began our 10-mile practice run a few weeks ago. Water in hand, I was ready to accomplish this milestone distance! But my small sips were not enough and when the nice lady in my phone finally told us we had reached our goal, I almost fell to the ground. I felt completely wasted – I couldn’t go another step, let alone another mile – let alone another 3.1 miles!

I learned my lesson, though, and the next time I ran, I drank a full bottle of water beforehand and still carried the small bottle with me. I felt much better at the end of that run and went into race day knowing what I needed to do.

Unfortunately, my strategy backfired. In my pre-race anxiety I drank two full bottles and then had to deal with the *consequences* of my actions. Five miles into the race I couldn’t take it anymore and had to make the dreaded port-a-potty stop, which was not only disgusting, but also a total waste of my valuable time!

Our bodies need more water than we think – and if we want our relationship with Jesus to be “living,” we need more communication with Him than we think!

This week I’ve had way too much to do and not enough time to do it. So this morning, I opened up my Bible, read through the passage I’ve been studying, closed it, checked “time with Jesus” off my list, and got ready to move on to the next task.

But as I started to stand up, I felt a very clear nudge to pause (part of which may have been that the six-year-old on my lap was working on a ‘very important’ coloring project and couldn’t possibly move) and pray. It occurred to me that I had read and studied God’s words, but that didn’t mean I had engaged in communication with Him. At first it felt like a waste of time, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed!

Not a single ounce of your communication with Jesus is ever wasted – you can’t over-hydrate your relationship with Him. In fact, if you’re not receiving hydration from Him throughout the day, it’s likely that what’s being wasted is time spent trekking around to other wells looking for something to satisfy your thirst. But gallons of truth and unconditional love are just a prayer away!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/2198.htm

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Repost: See

Summertime = memory time = photo time! Two adventures in and my kids are already rolling their eyes at my attempts to get the ‘perfect’ shot 😉. Like God’s kingdom, our actual experience of a moment will always be better. How are you “seeing” the kingdom of God in action today?

(Originally posted September 2017)

The camera may be my favorite invention ever. Having the ability to capture what I see in front of me and share it with others is revolutionary. As a mom and adventure-junkie, my photos are my most treasured material possession! I never have to worry about forgetting those smiling faces, panoramic views, and milestone moments.

But no matter how good my high-tech DSLR or the latest-greatest smartphone cameras claim to be, the images always seem to fall short. Whether it’s inaccurate coloring, distorted faces, or warped perspectives, I’m always disappointed – because what my eyes saw was so much better! And even if it looks spectacular on my screen, it may look totally lame on yours 😕

SEE-02

In John 3, a Pharisee named Nicodemus “came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.'” (v. 1-2) While most Pharisees would have publicly criticized Jesus during the day, Nicodemus’ curiosity led him to have a private discussion with Him at night. And he began the conversation by letting Jesus know what he had seen – signs and wonders that were out of this world.

But “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'” (v. 3)

To the Pharisees, the “kingdom of God” (His present, active influence and rule on this earth) was seen through physical eyes – it was measured in capture-able acts of outward obedience to laws and regulations. Jesus’ signs seemed (at least to Nicodemus) to be visible evidence of more of God’s work. But Jesus wanted him to know that what he saw with his physical eyes was nothing compared to what he would perceive if he looked through the eyes of belief. Though Nicodemus thought he was seeing God’s work, it turned out he was only viewing snapshots of it!

As physical humans living in a physical world, we put a lot of stake in the things we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. If we experience something in one or more of these ways, it becomes real to us. When it comes to spiritual things, we long for those senses to be our evidence of God’s presence – if we can see, hear, taste, smell, or touch, then we can believe He’s real and really working!

But, as Jesus informed Nicodemus, the opposite is true – we don’t believe because we see, we see because we believe. Belief doesn’t happen as a result of evidence, the evidence is only visible as a result of the belief. Though we may see apparent glimpses of a spiritual world, the only way we can truly perceive God’s work is if we are “born of water and the Spirit” (v. 5). Your sin, in its self-interest and resulting shame, must be washed away so it no longer blurs your lens and distorts your view, and the Spirit of God Himself must then renew and regenerate you with His presence – giving you new eyes to truly see.

This summer our family had the incredible opportunity of viewing the solar eclipse from inside the path of totality. As we prepared for the event, I readied my cameras and studied up on how to best capture the moment – there were so many people who couldn’t be there and I wanted them to be able to experience it, too!

The moment was spectacular, but I’m sorry to report that I don’t have much to share. I tried using video to record the daytime becoming dark, but my camera automatically adjusted and added backlighting. I couldn’t seem to find the appropriate DSLR settings to represent how eerie the sun’s dimming light was. And I had no telephoto lens to capture the actual event of the moon blocking the sun – which means you’ll just have to experience the next one for yourself in April 2024!

Screenshot_20170821-144745

The Greek word for “see” in John 3:3 means much more than to view with the eyes, it means to “experience” or “to become a partaker of”.* Notice how Jesus first used “see” but then in verse 5 clarified by saying no one could “enter” the kingdom of God unless they were born again. The “snapshots” Nicodemus had seen could never depict the depth and dimension of the Holy Spirit’s uncapture-able (see v. 8) work – it could only be experienced in person!

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve been “born again” because you’ve received and believed the truth about Jesus – that He was God in human flesh, that He gave His life as a sacrifice, and that He rose again to rule His Kingdom in victory. Although many times we think of this “kingdom” merely as our eternal home in Heaven, the “kingdom of God” is something we are given the opportunity to perceive and partake in now.

As author Brennan Manning states, “A fleeting, incomplete glimpse of God’s back – the obscure yet real, penetrating, and transforming experience of His incomparable glory – awakens a dormant trust. Something is afoot in the universe; Someone filled with transcendent brightness, wisdom, ingenuity, and power and goodness is about. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, somewhere deep down a Voice whispers, ‘All is well, and all will be well.'” (“Ruthless Trust” p. 65)

My belief in Jesus determines not only my future in God’s eternal kingdom, but my experience of it today. The visible evidence may be lacking, but if I, in any given moment, acknowledge that He is good, that He is love, that He is present and working, and that He is over and above all things, then I will “see” His Kingdom. It’s not a magic formula, it’s the trust that opens my eyes. This kind of trust sees coincidences as divine appointments, watches and waits for hard hearts to become soft, and crops discouragement right out of the picture. “Jesus moments” are all around us if we have the eyes to see them!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/3708.htm

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Repost: Look

We love walking to school and we’re proud to say that after eight years at Caley Elementary, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat…” stopped us and we accomplished our goal of walking (almost) all year long! We kept our crossing guards in business and were reminded that “Trust is taking the step that’s in front of you, not because the situation is secure, but because your confidence in the One leading you is.”

What step of trust might Jesus be leading you to take today?

(Originally posted September 2017)

One of the perks of our little suburban life is the ability to walk our kids to and from school every day. It’s only two blocks, we get some fresh air, and they learn important skills about things like crossing the street. Over the years we’ve grown from regular reminders of “You must be holding an adult’s hand!” to the “Look both ways!” stage and now all three of our girls are independent and capable street-crossers.

Well, mostly. One of our children, who shall remain nameless, is a lover of all things “rules”. Not only do rules make her feel safe but rules also give her the ability to rule and be in control (which she may have inherited from a parent who shall also remain nameless).

Even last year, at an *upper elementary* age, our safety-conscious girl would not cross the street alone. I remember telling her to “Go!” one day, but she refused to move and kept looking to the right, to the left, to the right, and to the left again. I was telling her this while standing in the middle of the street, so it was obviously safe, but she still wouldn’t cross!

Over the past several months, I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah. This book is filled with God’s words to His chosen people about the corruption of their hearts and the misplaced focus of their eyes. As you read, you’ll notice that the people’s greatest sin was not their obsession with pleasure and self-fulfillment, but rather their constant search for security.

Isaiah details a cycle of God making His wisdom, power, and protection available to His people, but in their perceived vulnerability and need for control over their destiny, they repeatedly looked to other sources of security. They looked to the right toward armies, weapons, rulers, and fortresses. They looked to the left at wealth, land, counselors, and fortune-tellers. And they turned those things into (abstract and concrete) idols*.

Isaiah 30:15-16 summarizes it well:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
     “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
     in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”

Vulnerability gives rise to fear and when we assume control, fear leads to panic. When we see ourselves as the end all, we see no other option but to look to the right and to the left (and to the right and to the left, and to the right and to the left) for some assurance of safety.

But as the prophet points out in Isaiah 26:3:
“You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.”

Last week, Tim, Anna, and I were on our way home after dropping Amelia off. Since Amelia rode her scooter to school that day, Tim – yes, I said Tim – was riding it home (he lives for this stuff 😉) and Anna was following him, riding her bike.

One of the roads we use on our way home from school has much less traffic, so Anna is allowed to ride her bike in the street – as long as she pays attention to any cars that might be coming or pulling out of driveways.

At one point, after hearing the revving of a starting engine, she stopped and pulled over to the side. Tim, knowing the car was not going to pull out anytime soon, zoomed (well, as fast as you can “zoom” on a child’s scooter) past her. Without hesitation, Anna pulled right out and began to follow him down the street.

It’s easy to think you’re “trusting” God when a situation feels secure – when, with your own two eyes, you’ve looked right and left and found what you believe to be assurance. But trust is taking the step that’s in front of you, not because the situation is secure, but because your confidence in the One leading you is.

Just this morning I had to make a choice that put my overly-sensitive self in a potential danger zone. (Why do I write these words when I know I’m going to have to live them?!?) As I stood at the crossing, I started looking to the right and the left – I began sorting through my feelings, common sense, culture’s social etiquette, and the latest “self-help” advice for something secure. There were plenty of easy ways out, but when I realized what I was doing, I threw them down, looked ahead, and followed Jesus straight across the road.

There’s no guarantee that it’s going to end well. There’s no guarantee I’m not going to get (or at least feel) hurt. Every step I take to follow Jesus may only lead to more uncertainty and His protection may not look like what I want it to look like but “perfect peace” can’t be found in any other direction!

*See Isaiah 2:6-22

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Repost: Location

In case you missed it in my last post, I’m taking a break for the summer. I’ll be reposting from the 2017-2018 year and here’s the first one. Oddly enough, just a couple weeks ago we were in this same situation! After attempting a ‘loop’ hike, we found ourselves bushwhacking back to the car (thankfully, this time our kids weren’t with us 😜). Where are you “at” in your relationship with Jesus today?

(Originally posted September 2017)

It was a sunny, warm, Easter Sunday in southern Vermont and adventure was calling our name. There was no better time to check out a trail we’d never hiked before!

After Googling and mapping our route, we set off from Little Michigan Road and headed up the hill with enthusiasm – what a grand thing to be playing in snow piles while wearing t-shirts!

About an hour in, though, with the enthusiasm level quickly fading, it was clear our family was not up for the challenge of completing the intended loop. The increase in whining signaled the alarm to get back to the car pronto, but the usual dilemma was raised. You see, we Desilets have this thing – we never go back the way we came. I mean, what’s the point of seeing everything you just saw again?

“The creek is in that direction,” Tim suggested, “so if we bushwhack down this hill we’ll shortcut to the other end of the loop.” Concerned, I pulled out my phone to check the accuracy of this claim. (What would we do without Google Maps?) “Yep,” I replied, “as long as we head in that direction, we should be good.”

It’s important to note here that Vermont has a fifth season. It’s called “mud season” and it falls somewhere between winter and spring. As all that mountain snow melts, the water level in creeks and rivers rises and unpaved roads and paths can become impassable.

And what Google Maps could not show us was that between us and our destination was a giant mud-season generated swamp!

After a miserably failed it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time attempt to cross this swamp, our even more whiny (and now cold and wet) crew wound through several groves of dense pine trees (in our t-shirts – Ouch!) and finally arrived at the other side.

Having a relationship with Jesus seems like it should be a well-marked path. Thousands – even millions – of people have done this before you, leaving their example. You look at the lives of believers you know and they seem to make it look easy – as if you should just be able to point your GPS in God’s direction, take a few steps and you’ll be there!

But like the Vermont woods, a relationship with Jesus is not drawn on a two-dimensional map. There are no predictable, paved paths and everyone’s journey looks at least a little bit different. Unexpected twists and turns, miles of bushwhacking, and, of course, the occasional swamp can leave us wondering where we’re “at” and what may lie ahead.

In John 1:45-46, after being ‘found’ by Jesus (v. 43):

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

Nathanael didn’t know Jesus (and obviously had some preconceived notions about Him), but Jesus did know Nathanael:

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (v. 47-49)

Step inside this story for a moment and picture yourself in a crowded place. At some point, you’re introduced to this guy and he’s like “Oh yeah! I saw you a little while ago over by that tree!” Would you be impressed? Not really. You might think he had some memory skills, but you certainly wouldn’t call him God in human flesh.

But when Nathanael heard Jesus say “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree,” he reacted by declaring, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” And that’s because Jesus didn’t just “see” Nathanael, He saw Nathanael. He saw whatever was going on in Nathanael’s head and heart at that moment.

Something significant was happening in Nathanael’s life under that fig tree. Maybe he was desperate and crying out to God for help. Maybe he was doubting. Maybe he was sinning. Whatever it was, it was something only God could know and Jesus in His fully-God self knew it, too.

No matter where Nathanael was “at,” Jesus knew his location. He knew exactly where Nathanael was at in his faith, his circumstances, his heart, and his mind. He knew what Nathanael had been through to get to that point – and He knew all that lay on the path ahead of him.

No matter where you’re “at,” Jesus knows your location. He knows everything you believe (or aren’t sure you believe), every doubt, every fear, every joy, every stress, every circumstance and how it’s affecting you. He sees you under your fig tree and He’s reaching out His hand to say, “Get up! Follow Me!”

A few weeks after Spring Break, our family was on another hike (this time on our home turf in PA) when we, yet again, decided to take another path that we thought would be a ‘better’ way back to our car. It wasn’t, of course, and after some backtracking and random-trail-guessing, we found the trail we were looking for – or so we hoped.

Concerned again, I referred to my handy dandy Google Maps app to make sure we were at least headed in the right direction. I was surprised to find that according to the map, we were lost in the middle of the forest!

But where we were standing was clearly a path!

Your GPS on your own life may not be as accurate as you think. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Our own hearts have the ability to deceive us on the condition of our own hearts! We are stuck in a two-dimensional map – while the world around us feeds us regular, just as off base, information on our location.

Only God knows where you’re “at”. He’s the only one who can view all the dimensions and pinpoint your exact location. You may think you’re miles from home, but maybe that fig tree you’re under is right where He is going to do a mighty work in your life. Or maybe you think you’re on the perfect path, but that pile of snow you’re standing on is about to turn into a foot-deep puddle of mud.

The only way to know is to ask the One who does know to “Search me, God, and know my heart”. (Psalm 139:23) If you’re like me, you spend enough time evaluating your soul, but not enough time asking God what He has to say about it. He knows where you’re at, so be still and listen!

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Manual

When we give our children gifts, we see these gifts not as an end, but as the means to an end. Each year at Christmas, we give an “experience” gift which has either “family-bonding time” or our girls’ own “personal growth” in mind.

This year we accomplished both!

After putting up with used single-geared “kids” bikes for many years, we decided an upgrade was in order and purchased all three of our girls new multi-geared mountain bikes. We knew the concept of shifting gears would be new to them, but the challenge is what this was all about, right?

Well, our first few rides have certainly been family-bonding time, but not for the reasons you might think. Our idealistic dream of off-road adventure has been a constant stop and go of: “My bike isn’t working!”

The other day, we finally came to the realization that, having been raised in a digital world, our kids expect to push a button and have the thing they want to happen, happen. They’ve never searched for a radio station with the slight adjustment of a knob, fast-forwarded and rewound a VHS tape 20 times to get to the exact spot they’re looking for, or had to follow an encyclopedia rabbit-trail of “see page ____” to get to the information they need. When they twist the arrow to “3” they expect their chain to slip perfectly into third gear – and when it doesn’t, they don’t know what to do!

As experienced riders (and non-digital-natives), Tim and I know that shifting a bike (especially the budget-friendly versions we purchased) requires a “manual” mindset. Moving the arrow to “3” spot might not put you in third gear, but a few slight up or down adjustments will get you there eventually!

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I’m a huge fan of the “next big thing,” not in terms of what’s trending, but in terms of what’s going to “fix” my relationship with God. Whenever I experience a dry or apathetic season, I find myself looking at that “3” over there and thinking, “If I can just push that button, it’ll take me right where I want to be!” Sometimes it’s a book I think will have all the answers. Sometimes it’s a practice I know will finally kick me into gear. Sometimes it’s a return to an old discipline that worked before and will surely work again.

But as I wrap-up my 25th year of this relationship, I can say for sure that it’s anything but digital. Every “button” that promises a specific “outcome” is only a vague guideline which, over time, may lead to a broad range of results. Because I am not an automated human and my God is not a programmable God.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
(Psalm 42:1-2a)

A relationship with the “living God” is just as much a “relationship” as my relationship with my husband or my children or a friend. A relationship with another “living” being is not something I will ever be able to manage with a button. The definition of life is that a thing has the potential to move, grow, and change and movement, growth, and change happen in fluid, subtle variation.

Every move I make with the hope of knowing Jesus more is a manual adjustment. It’s never a steady ride – there will always be ebb-and-flow, up-and-down, and back-and-forth shifts required as circumstances and seasons change. I regularly feel disappointed that my next big thing is “not working”! But that’s probably a good thing because a deer-panting, soul-thirsting desire for God isn’t something that can be selected from a screen.

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This is my last post before I take a break for the summer. School is about to end and I’ve got a few short weeks to prepare for our SERVE 2019 high school and middle school trips! And after that, as I shift out of “writing” gear, I’ll be shifting into “learning” gear. My project for the summer is prayer and a giant textbook-size manual called “Prayer Portions” my friend Jess finally convinced me was worth the investment.

In the introduction to the book, author Sylvia Gunter says, “You will miss the essence of this resource book if you are looking for formulas.” She makes sure her reader understands that she doesn’t teach “‘Domino pizza praying’ – thirty-minute-guaranteed delivery” because intimacy with God is not for the “quick inquirer” but is cultivated in daily practice over long periods of time.

This time, and maybe for the first time, I’m not expecting this book to be my “next big thing”. I’m not hitting the “Awesome Prayer Life” button and assuming I’ll get there by September (or ever!).

Intimacy with God is not measured in whole numbers or even half-sizes – but it sure is an off-road adventure!

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Happy Summer – see you in September!
Until then I’ll be reposting from the 2017-2018 year and I hope you’ll follow along 😊

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