Mist

A Smoky Mountain morning was not something this family expected to see again until August of 2021. Though Tim’s parents’ cabin in western North Carolina is one of our favorite places on the planet, the 12-hour drive only makes it practical for us to visit every other year. So when the two-week school closure was announced, we immediately packed up and took advantage of the opportunity!

If you’ve never been here, perhaps you’ve seen pictures or know that what happens in the mornings here is how the “Smoky” Mountains got their name. It doesn’t happen every day, but very often the sun rises to reveal low clouds filling the gaps between the mountain peaks. Soft, cushiony blankets of white roll slowly through the valleys, the mist gradually disappearing into the blue sky.

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If I had read James 4:13-15 even two months ago, I would have brushed over it with ease: 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

I would have responded with a momentary wisp of repentance for my control issues, spoke a quick cliche reminder that “God is in control and I am only human,” and moved on.

But then March happened. And it seemed like every day something else was getting canceled due to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus. First it was school, then large gatherings, then smaller gatherings, then all gatherings. Social distancing meant all of our near-future plans were crossed off the calendar and as we got more information, all of our not-so-near-future plans vaporized as well. James’ words, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring” became our actual reality.

But it wasn’t just the first part of verse 14 that became real-real, the second part did, too: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Umm… Is there a skip button for that verse? Because I don’t like it. Especially not right now. With the statistics rolling in and case numbers multiplying exponentially, there’s no way to avoid being face-to-face with the reality that I or someone I love could die from COVID-19 or its long-term effects.

In recent times, technology and prosperity have lulled the vast majority of us – me included – into a false sense of security where we believe our life and plans to be a guarantee. In the great majority of our world’s past and in the great majority of our world today, this is not the case – ask anyone who lived through a world war or who currently lives in a war-, famine-, or disease-torn area. But COVID-19 has successfully popped the bubble of control we thought we had over our health and safety and we are shocked at the thought that tomorrow may not be a guarantee.*

The result of this shock is fear, which is only symptomatic of a deeper heart issue. A month ago it was easy for me to recite the words of James 4:15, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” believing that I really did believe in a God who is sovereign over all things, believing that I really did believe that all things are subject to His will, and believing that I really did believe that whatever He wills is the absolute best. But did I really believe it? I thought I did, but now that my bubble’s been popped, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

These words of James weren’t his first mention of the frailty of life (see James 1:10-11) and this was not his first effort to convince the church to, therefore, take a stance of humility before God. James knew that a person’s actions and lifestyle were the proof of their beliefs, so:

If they believed God to be good, they would take a stance of humility by remaining joyful in trials, persevering because they knew God to be using any and every trial to produce the good fruit of maturity in them. (1:2-4)

If they believed God to be wise, they would take a stance of humility by asking for and listening to His wisdom rather than trusting the wisdom of the world or their own thoughts (1:5-8, 3:13-18)

If they believed God to be the only righteous Judge, they would take a stance of humility by staying out of the judgment seat (2:1-13, 3:1-12, 4:1-12)

If they believed God to be merciful, they would take a stance of humility by showing mercy themselves. (1:27, 2:14-16, 4:5-10)

If they believed God to be sovereign, they would take a stance of humility by steering clear of presumption in making their plans. (4:13-16)

Every life, though incredibly and eternally valuable to the God who created it, is still but a mist on this earth. In contrast to His solid, enduring Presence, we are a passing vapor. We exist here on the terms of His will and will cease to exist here on the terms of His will – and it is incredibly presumptive for me to believe that my plans for tomorrow, my life, or the lives of my loved ones are any sort of guarantee.

In an interview on the Crossway Podcast, Dr. Bob Cutillo suggested that the solution to living in fear (and therefore unbelief) is to view our health (and plans) as a gift rather than a possession. When we change our perspective from “guaranteed” to “gifted,” we can confidently say “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” knowing that even in this darkness, the Father of heavenly lights is showering down “good and perfect gift(s)” (James 1:17). Whatever He allows is ultimately for His glory and whatever is for His glory is, by default, the best for us.

This is not a “Well, if we get the virus, it probably won’t be that bad” facade of security. It’s not an “I’m not high risk, so I’ll be fine” facade of security. It’s not an “As long as we stay home and protect ourselves we’ll avoid getting sick” facade of security. It’s a “God is God and I am not” ROCK of security. It is an every moment stance of humility that says, “I am not guaranteed anything” and a bowed-down acknowledgment that though I didn’t get the gift I wanted, I’m getting something better.

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When Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he wasn’t speaking figuratively. Writing from prison, Paul was face-to-face with his own mortality, but he was so confident in God’s goodness and sovereignty that He saw even death as a gift. Paul knew His life was a mist, but He also knew the vanishing of the mist was not the end. Choosing this joy allowed Paul to continue sharing the good news of Jesus in the thick of darkness.

I’m not Paul or James and don’t feel like I’m even close to being able to say the words of Philippians 1:21 or James 4:15 with confidence, but here’s what I’ve been doing to fight my fear:

  1. Acknowledge the fear, doubt, and grief. (I have no reason to sugar-coat my true feelings with spiritually-correct words when the God I’m talking to knows my every thought!)
  2. Ask God to give you a vision of the unspeakable JOY that is found in His plans and His will for you and your loved ones’ futures. Ask God to fill you so full of this joy that, like Paul, you can’t help but overflow it to those around you.
  3. Open your hands, release your grip, and as you do it, thank God for the gift of this moment. (I say “this moment,” because I have to do this about a thousand times a day 🙌)
  4. Worship, worship, worship. Here are some lines from my current go-to, “Sovereign Over Us” by Aaron Keyes:

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

 

* “A Christian Doctor’s Guide to Thinking about Coronavirus (Bob Cutillo, MD)” Crossway Podcast, 3/19/2020  https://www.crossway.org/articles/podcast-a-christian-doctors-guide-to-thinking-about-coronavirus-bob-cutillo-md/

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Skis

No one goes cross-country skiing because they think it will be relaxing and easy. Although the Olympic athletes you’ve seen appear to zoom around corners and skate right up hills, this sport requires a substantial amount of effort just to stay standing!

On our recent trip to Vermont, my mom took me on my annual attempt at keeping up with her on the Nordic trails. I layered up for the 20° temperatures, put on the special boots, grabbed my poles and clicked into the skis. But as we set out on the trail I remembered how much work this was going to be!

First of all, skiing uphill is more like “hiking on skis”. Your first thought upon hearing that phrase might be, “Who would ever do such a thing?” and to that I would respond, “No one!”. In order to prevent gravity (and your slippery skis) from sweeping you right back down the hill, you must dig the skis into the snow at a sharp angle and pray that it holds.

When you (finally) get to the top, you might be tempted to think, “Yay! A downhill! I’ll get a break!” But those are famous last words as you go careening out of control, engaging every muscle but realizing there is no good way to slow yourself down and praying (again) that you don’t hit an unforeseen bump and end up a twisted pile of limbs and equipment at the bottom.

Even on the flats – having the coordination to put one foot in front of the other in a fluid motion is no walk in the park!

The thought that consumes the mind of the novice cross-country skier is: “Why in the world do I have these things attached to my feet? I could have been at the top of this incline ten minutes ago if I had just taken them off and walked! Walking would have also prevented the spectacular wipeout I took coming down that hill, and overall, I’m just not sure if it’s worth all this work just to keep moving!”

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The book of James is a letter written to believers who were facing “trials of many kinds” (1:2). From context and history, we know these trials were mostly coming in the form of persecution for their faith in Jesus. And though it appears they were holding fast to their confession of faith, they were struggling to hold to the whole-life of faith that would bring them to the maturity God intended for them to attain (1:4).  

Faith can be a huge benefit during difficult times. Knowing there’s a God who is sovereign over all, who is actively present and working, and who cares for us can give us peace and be the thing that keeps us going. I’m not sure how anyone faces trials without Him!

But faith can also be a huge burden during difficult times. When the going gets tough, our instinctive lean is toward self-protection and the last thing we want to think about is taking care of others – which is exactly what Jesus keeps asking us to do. As if this giant uphill in my life wasn’t hard enough, now you want me to do it while wearing these?

James’ readers knew this feeling all too well, and everything he wrote was to encourage them to keep the skis on. He knew they were thinking, “This would all be so much easier…”: 

  • If I could just focus on me and mine and make lots of money so I could feel secure. (1:11)
  • If I could stop being expected to take responsibility for my sin. (1:13, 5:16)
  • If I was free to say whatever I wanted, about whoever I wanted, to whoever I wanted to say it to – especially when I’ve been hurt or offended. (1:19, 26, 2:9, 4:11, 5:9)
  • If I could just hang out with the people I want to hang out with and not have to use any of my limited emotional and physical energy to make room for others. (2:8)
  • If I could soak in all the promises of God’s blessings, but not be expected to give out any of that blessing to anyone else. (2:16, 5:5)
  • If I could be excused from considering others and just do what feels right for me. (3:17, 4:1)
  • If I could stay in control and not feel like I was at the mercy of Someone else’s plans. (4:15)

Most of us have never and will never experience the kind of persecution James’ readers faced, but we do have trials – which means the temptation to ‘take off the skis’ and put the actions of faith aside (at least temporarily) is all too real. Jesus said His yoke was “light” (Matthew 11:30) but it sure feels heavy when we look around at our non-believing friends who don’t have to wear it.

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If cross-country skiing is so much work, then why do people do it? Maybe it’s the peacefulness of the snow-covered forest apart from the busy chaos of a traditional downhill ski area. But really – it’s the exercise! Cross-country skiing is a full-body workout (which my sore muscles the day after could attest to) that burns loads of calories and boosts endurance. 

James is clear that, for the believer, difficult times are opportunities to “let perseverance finish its work” or, in the ESV, to “have its full effect” (1:4). Yes, you can take off the skis and walk instead – it’ll be easier getting up the ups and you’ll maintain your sense of control on the downs – but you’ll only get the partial effect. Self-protection and “mature and complete” faith can’t coexist! 

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Google?

The first time it happened, we were sure it was a coincidence. “I was talking to so-and-so the other day about such-and-such and now I can’t stop seeing ads for that exact such-and-such all over my phone! How weird is that?”

It wasn’t long before we figured out this was no coincidence at all, but Google’s brilliant marketing strategy. As technology progresses, we expect our ‘smart’ phones to be smarter, or in other words, more ‘helpful’ to us – and everyone knows a good helper begins by listening! 

Whether we’re talking, messaging, searching, singing, driving, or shopping, our phones and home speakers are getting to know us. They’re working hard to determine (or prescribe) our future interests based on our current activity. The ads in my Instagram feed shift topics daily depending on what I Googled the day before. Yes, I looked up a cupcake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I plan on becoming a professional food blogger or visiting every possible cupcake bakery in my area! 

It’s gotten to the point that every time something we recently mentioned shows up in another conversation, in a TV show, or even on a billboard we look around in fear and say, “Google…?” 🤨

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Desire is a fickle thing. From the moment sin entered the human body, our senses have ached for all the pleasure, comfort, satisfaction, promotion, and protection the things of this world seem to offer. My desires seem to know me so well, showing up in more-than-coincidence-level form. Taking advantage of that heightened awareness, my very own sinful nature convinces me that ‘coincidence’ is, in fact, destiny.

Though we try to blame our temptation on anything (and anyone) else, James reminds us in his letter that: “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (1:14) If our desires come from within, we can’t blame our giving in to them on anyone else (not even Google!). Our attention, and therefore action, naturally defaults to our ever-shifting whims.

Just a few verses later, James gives us the antidote to our wayward desires – a Father who is not of this world who is only and always giving “good” and “perfect” gifts. Unlike my drifting desires, with Him “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17). My Father knows me better than I know myself, better than my desires seem to know me, and yes, even better than Google knows me! He knew the whole me before I was born and will know the whole me at every moment for the rest of my life.

Because I have Him, I have everything I will ever need. When I’m being lured by my desires, I’m meant to remember that my Father has already given me every good gift. Positive or negative, joyful or painful, fulfilling or depleting, every circumstance has been prescribed by His desire to grow in me a greater desire for Him. That’s my destiny and there’s no such thing as a coincidence!

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1,000

My favorite subject in elementary and middle school was math. Numbers came naturally to me. I was in the special math ‘club’ and rarely got second place in the 50-problem  “Mad Minute” competitions. When 1 + 2 = 3 became a + b = c, I kept up, but after having an auctioneer for a geometry teacher (no joke!) and the introduction of equations that included words, math lost me 😮

You don’t have to be a math genius to know that 1 is a little and 1000 is a lot. 1 is 1 and 1000 is 1000 of those ones. 1 multiplies 1,000 times to get 1,000. 1,000 is 999 more 1’s than 1. 1 is a little and 1,000 is a lot more than that little.

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How lovely is your dwelling place,
  Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
  for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
  for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
  and the swallow a nest for herself,
  where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
  Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.  

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;      (Psalm 84:1-4, 10)

I am one person. I often wish I were more than one person because of the 1,000 things that are pulling for my attention. It feels like there are 1,000 things I could be doing at any given moment, but I can only do one of them. There’s work and writing and laundry and errands and scheduling and friends and keeping up with social media and texting people back and email and paperwork and bills and sleep and running and time with my kids – and oh yeah, I have a husband, too. Even at my multi-tasking best, I might be able to pull off two or three – but then none of them well. 

All of these 1,000 things are loud because if I don’t give my attention to them, there will be fairly immediate consequences. 

But one other thing has a much quieter voice. This voice doesn’t yell, demand, whine, or threaten. But this one thing may be more important – or in fact “better” – than all of those thousand yelling, demanding, whining, threatening things.

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;

In ancient Israel, the people met with God by physically entering the temple courts. They had no choice but to take the time to go there – sacrificing any work or gain they could have otherwise accrued during those hours. Once they entered, worship was the only thing they could ‘do’. There were no smartphones connecting them to what they left behind or buzzing to remind them of what they were missing out on.

In our post-Jesus world, traveling to God’s presence is no longer necessary. As a believer, the Spirit of God resides wherever I’m at and any 1 of the 1,000 minutes I’m awake each day can be a minute of worship. 

But spending time with God is exactly that – spending. Even though I don’t have to physically go somewhere, it’s still expensive. It costs productivity. It costs time with my kids and husband. It costs perfection in my work. Sometimes it costs sleep and entertainment and a clean house.

While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.  (Mark 14:3-5)

Every minute I spend in God’s word, prayer, or worship feels like that perfume: wasted. “This time could have been used for something more profitable!” yell the voices of urgency and efficiency, “Why would you choose 1 when you could have chosen 1,000? Why would you waste what could have been 1,000 on 1?” 

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  (Mark 14:6) 

Every minute you give to worship will cost you. On top of that, the minutes you invest will likely not return immediate tangible profit. And on top of that, there will always be 1,000 more-immediately-profitable “elsewheres”.

When you deposit money in an investment account, it can feel wasted – there are so many other things you could be spending it on! But interview someone who was able to retire comfortably and early, and you’ll hear them say that every dollar they invested was worth it. 

It may be costly, but it’s never wasted. In a world obsessed with tangible gain and instant gratification, there are 1,000 “better” things I could be doing at any moment. 1,000 goals I could be accomplishing. 1,000 tasks I could be completing. 1,000 good feelings I could be experiencing. But the numbers add up: Every one minute I invest in my relationship with Jesus now has a 1,000% return!

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;

 

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Wonder

We may have missed “foliage” season in Vermont, but we didn’t miss “frost” season. Last week’s Thanksgiving trip, during one of the blandest times of the year (as far as scenery goes), did not leave us disappointed! Though the trees had long lost their colorful leaves, those above a certain elevation had gained a shimmering layer of white that left us wanting to stop and take pictures around every corner.

On Friday morning, my restless husband convinced our family that, despite the below-freezing temperatures, it was a good idea to go for a hike. We layered up and headed out, parking at the base of a mountain, ready to trek up into the frosty heights!

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As we walked, the drab, dry, brown woods gave way to a winter wonderland. Yes, we had just seen Frozen 2 the night before, so yes, we all burst out in, “Into the unknown! Ah-ah-ah-ah!” as we gazed at the icy splendor around us. Every branch, down to the smallest twig, was coated in white. And good thing I had my camera because I never could have described what I saw when I got up close. Wow!

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Christmas is supposed to be a time of wonder. Mary’s troubling announcement, Joseph’s angelic dream, and the shepherds’ otherworldly experience were meant to bring us sensations of awe and amazement. We’re meant to be like the people of Bethlehem who “wondered at what the shepherds told them” (Luke 2:18). 

This word “wondered” is used dozens of other times in the gospels as people eyewitnessed the God-in-human-flesh Messiah calming storms (Matthew 8:27), casting out demons (Matthew 9:33), and healing all sorts of human conditions (Matthew 15:31). It’s used to describe the reaction of the crowds to Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 22:22), the reaction of Pilate to His silence (Matthew 27:14), and the reaction of the disciples to the empty tomb (Luke 24:12).

To wonder means to be awestruck by something. It means to be confused and therefore question or speculate about that thing and what it might mean. It only makes sense that the Bible characters we read about would have “wondered” – a once-in-all-of-human-history event was taking place in front of their very eyes! They were genuinely confused as they didn’t know what was happening and had a very limited understanding of what it might mean. 

But 2,000 years later, we’re merely celebrating that event, which most of us have done every year for our entire lives. We know what the birth of Jesus means. We understand the significance of God coming to earth as a human to show us Himself and give His life to bring us permanently into His presence. We get it!

My childlike wonder at the celebration of Jesus’ birth may have existed at one time, but like the Vermont trees, it’s long lost its color and gone dull. For many of us, the wonder faded when we grew up and stopped believing in ‘magic’. Or maybe it was when we started taking on the stress of shopping and gifts and decorating. Or when we sang the same songs and heard the same stories year after year after year.

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My wonder at the mountain frost was nothing compared to my reaction when I took a closer look. How in the world did those icicles attach themselves like that? How were they staying like that? How did this happen? Sure, I could have pulled out my phone and Googled it, but for the moment I was content to remain in wonder.

This Christmas, a friend invited me to take a closer look at Jesus by joining her in reading through an Advent devotional called “Unwrapping the Names of Jesus”.* We’re only a couple of days in, but I’m looking forward to experiencing wonder – not because I want the magical Christmas feelings, but because I want my worship to be genuine. From a distance, the manger holds a baby, but up close I see the Bread of Life, the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World, the King of Kings, the Man of Sorrows, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God!

*“Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional” by Asheritah Ciuciu

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Search

Despite my irrational fear of planes crashing, I love to fly in them. I love the anticipation of arriving at the airport, the feeling of hundreds-of-tons lifting like magic off the ground, and the temporary sense of bonding I feel with people who are all going to the same place as me 😊.

But what I don’t love are the lines. Especially the security line. Born with an innate fear of doing anything wrong, the security line is my nightmare. The possibility that I may unknowingly be breaking the law and that I may then be publicly exposed for breaking the law is unnerving!

Every time I set my backpack on the conveyor belt, I’m sure that it’s going to get pulled off for something. As a mom of three, my backpack just collects stuff. And in the last-minute-packing rush, dumping everything out to check for any TSA problem items isn’t at the forefront of my mind… until my bag disappears through the curtain into the luggage scanner.

Both Tim and I have had bags pulled off and hand searched, revealing giant pairs of scissors and pocket knives that we had no idea were in there 🤦. The funny part is that it’s always been on the flight home, which makes us a little concerned about the “security” of the Philadelphia Airport!

Before the first act of disobedience, all humankind knew was complete known-ness with God. Adam and Eve had nothing to hide and, had they heard them, the words of Hebrews 4:13 would not have induced even an ounce of anxiety:

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

“Of course!” they would have said. The fact that they were unable to hide anything from their Creator was no big deal because they didn’t have anything to hide. They knew of no potential hazards to their relationship with Him and there were no surprises in their bags!

But in our post-fall world, hearing that “everything is uncovered and laid bare” before God can prompt panic. We’re packed with a mix of sin we are fully aware of, sin we are semi-conscious (but also potentially in denial) of, and sin we haven’t yet been humbled enough to see (but we know may exist). Fearing the humiliation and loss that might come with everything being uncovered, we zip up our bags and hope maybe He won’t notice us.

Psalm 44:21 says: 

If we had forgotten the name of our God
    or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
    since he knows the secrets of the heart?

Our hearts may be packed with secrets, but the Spirit of God is packed in there, too. There’s no thing that can be “hidden” from His awareness, so even if we have “spread out our hands to a foreign god” in ignorance, He knows because He was right there when it happened.

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On our trip to Colorado last year, we took on a whole new endeavor: getting our entire family through airport security. We were as prepared as we could have been (minus the “water baby” doll I had to frantically squeeze the life out of over a trash can 😜). Regardless, my bag was so chock full of stuff, I felt like I should have just handed it to an agent and said, “You might as well search this, I’m sure there’s something in there!”

I didn’t, but of course my bag did get pulled off and a thorough search involving multiple agents and special testing tapes revealed our snacks to be the culprit! Yes, my bag of “Snyder’s Cheddar Cheese Pretzel Pieces” had traces of a substance used in bomb making on it. I mean, the amount of cheese in these could surely cause some *explosive* activity for some people, but who knew the Target cashier’s hand lotion could make such a scene?

As strange as a voluntary bag search sounds, a voluntary “heart search” is always in order. As theologian A.W. Tozer taught, God is “never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.”* God doesn’t have to search our hearts, but He is very willing to perform a scan for our “own good”. Especially if we ask!

Most of us know, like Adam and Eve probably did, that the “fig leaves” they used to cover themselves were not an effective way to “hide” from God. We know He knows it all, so when we’re hiding it’s not really that we’re trying to keep something from Him, but more that we’re trying to keep it from ourselves. Admitting there’s something in there means facing it, which makes us want to grab our stuff and exit the terminal immediately!

But what if? “Traces” of glycerin may not seem like a big deal, but what if there’s healing in my relationships that I don’t even know needs to happen? What if the particular weakness or temptation in me is something that, when shared, could help another believer who is struggling? What if it could lead someone to Jesus?

What if you handed your heart to God today and asked for a full search?

*A.W. Tozer, “The Knowledge of the Holy”

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Dance

I can’t dance. I was born, as they say, with two left feet, and the moves that look good in my head don’t seem to become reality in my body. That doesn’t mean I don’t love to dance (especially if it will embarrass my kids 😉), but fancy footwork is not my thing!

If you know my husband, you also know that dancing is not his thing either, as proven by our attempt at learning how to “floss” last fall:

When Tim and I were planning our wedding many (many!) years ago, we understood there would be dancing. Neither of us had a problem with dancing in a group where you can blend in, but we were slightly intimidated by the required “first dance as a married couple”. Trying to coordinate our uncoordinated selves in front of an audience seemed impossible!

So we did the logical thing and signed up for “Ballroom Dancing Lessons”. As the token “young engaged couple” in a class full of senior citizens, we were taught the basics of the Fox Trot and the Waltz. Tim learned to “lead” and I learned to “follow”. And though we may have spent more time laughing than dancing, we walked away feeling semi-confident we could pull this off. 

When the big moment came we used none of the formal steps we learned, but that “leading” and “following” thing came in very handy. After all that practice I had learned to sense Tim’s motion and then take my next steps in accordance. Our Ballroom Dancing instructors may not have been very impressed, but we certainly were!

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God is always on the move and our relationship with Him is a dance. We sense His lead and take steps in response. His action demands re-action! 

Psalm 30 describes it like this:

I will exalt you, Lord,
  for you lifted me out of the depths
  and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
  and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
  you spared me from going down to the pit. (v. 1-3)

What did God do? He listened, He lifted, He protected, and He healed. What did David do in response?

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name. (v. 4)

David praised. He worshipped God and invited others to do the same.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
  you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
  Lord my God, I will praise you forever. (v. 11-12)

Again, God initiated by doing the “turning” and the “removing” and David responded with active praise.

In her article, “Lead and Follow – The Secret to Dance Partnering,” writer Kate Swanson states that, “As you progress, you’ll learn that partner dancing isn’t about set routines… If you’re following correctly, you won’t take a step until your partner tells you to. He may do that by pressure with his hand, by shifting his weight or even by making a hand signal – but whatever the signal is, you must follow it instantly. Practice and you’ll be able to respond in a split second.”*

It’s tempting in our “Learn Anything In Five Easy Steps” culture to think of our relationship with God as a formal dance, where we simply practice the right routines until we’ve mastered them. But a relationship with God is not a predictable, pre-choreographed routine. Instead, it’s a practice of praise. He moves and we respond with worship. And the more we practice the praise, the more we’ll sense His movements.

This spring, I had the pleasure of attending a youth group student’s spring dance recital. I sat there mesmerized at the ability the human body has to move in ways that move our souls. Dance can move us to ecstatic joy or deep sadness. It can take us to a place of peace or an area of anger. Dance can be simple and silent or chaotic and complicated. The emotions may vary, but the movement continues.

There are moments in my dance with God when I am ecstatic with joy about what He is doing. There are moments when I’m mourning what He didn’t do. There are moments when I’m going with the flow because we’re good and moments when His silence frustrates. There are moments of slow and moments of fast, moments of close and moments of far. And in every moment, praise can be my response. 

God is moving. He is leading and waiting for you to respond with worship. Your relationship with Him is a beautiful movement – so dance on!

*https://hobbylark.com/performing-arts/Ballroom-how-to-lead

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