Backcountry Provision

Back Prov

We were well above the tree line and I could feel my steps becoming heavy, as if I was trudging through cement. My husband several feet ahead of me felt like a million miles away as we slowly snaked up the side of a mountain. The cold bitter wind had chilled me to the core earlier on our trek but I was thankful to be hidden from it for now behind this hill.

Jason and I love to backpack through the Colorado backcountry and we try to make several trips a year if we can. This particular trip we had decided to do a loop through Indian Peaks wilderness that lead us right over the ridge that neighbors Sawtooth Mountain.

As we neared closer to the ridge the wind began to whip with a greater force. I pulled the hood of my jacket around my face hoping for some refuge. It took me back to the time I was about 5 or 6 years-old walking to school in the winter against the wind and snow in good ol’ windy Wyoming. I remember being able to lean against the wind with all my weight and still be held up by it, as if it were a physical wall.

The moment I stepped on that ridge I was met with such a force that it nearly knocked me backwards. I dropped to my knees. Jason squatted next to me and hollered instructions like “keep your feet wide,” and “drop your head and shoulder to cut through the gusts.” I attempted to take his advice, but ended up crawling over the ridge on my hands and knees. “One wrong move and I could die” I remember thinking, “I could blow right off this mountain.”

After we came down from the peak and began our descent I remember turning my head back over my shoulder and just being in awe of what I had just come over. I love backpacking, but sometimes I can’t believe some of the places I end up going.

I feel as though sometimes our life can be a lot like that. We end up going places that leave us feeling like we might die if we make one wrong move, or worse we’ll get stuck there forever. Sometimes those places make us hit our knees, and we may end up having to crawl just to get through.  And as we continue on we might even look back and be in awe of what we just survived.

What I’ve recently discovered within my own life is that sometimes God doesn’t want us to walk, crawl or wrestle our way through such seasons. Sometimes He wants us to sit through them. Now I certainly do not mean that He wants us to sit on the couch, numb ourselves, and ignore our circumstances.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11: 28 NIV

What I mean is that once we are believers in Christ we have his life and our spirits are renewed and filled with the Holy Spirit. When we walk and journey through the hard parts of life we are to let Christs’ life work in and through us. Not roll up our sleeves and try harder. One verse that hits this home for me is when Paul is writing his letter to Christians in Ephesians.

And God raised (past tense) us up with Christ and seated us (past tense) with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:6

So not only does the Holy Spirit reside in our hearts but we are seated IN Jesus IN heaven, and it turns out it’s already happened, this isn’t talking about going to heaven in the future. (Mind blown.) The point is, Paul is instructing us to know and believe that Christ has us seated. When you are participating in sitting you are relying on that thing of which you are sitting on.

We are seated in Jesus. Which means that we are called to be fully reliant on Christ Jesus to do the heavy lifting, and the navigating. In times of doubt or if we are not sure how he is going to pull it off, we can have confidence that he will and we can rely on his ability to do so.

We need to put away our belief that we must be self reliant and instead find rest in him. It’s much like when Pastor Jim says, “If we could fix it ourselves we already would have.” No matter what season of life you are journeying through, whether that be a windy mountain ridge or a peaceful valley, resting in Jesus only means a richer life.

Do you find it difficult to rest and be fully reliant on God? Why?

What are some things that you have learned and are reliant on in order to get life to do what you want it to do?  Are you willing to surrender these to Jesus?

 

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Don’t Touch. Wet Paint!

 

DON'T TOUCH

Just last week I took my two stepsons to the batting cages. My youngest, Eli has been playing baseball for the first time this past fall and his older brother Scott of course get’s to tag along.  Scott and I had found a perfect spot where we could watch and encourage Eli safely behind the cage.  I leaned back on the cold concrete wall and firmly pressed against it while slowly sliding down until I was sitting on the floor.

Scott found a comfy spot on a really big industrial sized storage box with two locks on it. One was a lock that required a key, the other was the key box that required a code to unlock. For several minutes Scott messed with the key box taking his best guess at the possible passwords.

After a few minutes he threw the the lock against the box and with his hands in the air he exclaimed “I JUST WANT TO UNLOCK THE BOX!”

“Why?” I asked.  I could see in his facial expressions that he didn’t really know why. Feeling a little like the Oracle talking to Neo in the Matrix, I challenged him asking, “If there was no lock would you have wanted to open the box?”

He crinkled his nose and laughed. He knew that if there wasn’t a lock that he probably wouldn’t have even bothered with the box. It was the lock that made it interesting. It was the lock that sparked his curiosity.

I mean how many of you have seen a sign that says “Don’t Touch, Wet Paint” and in that moment you just felt like you had to touch the wall, just to see. Me too. It’s where you do one of those look over your shoulder make sure no ones watching and then quickly touch the wall. I know that if the sign wasn’t there in the first place I never would have considered touching the wall.

The Law out of scripture (including the 10 Commandments) creates the same tendency that the Wet Paint sign creates. Scripture points this out in Romans 7:8

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.

In other words where there is law, there are more opportunities for sin to sneak in and cause us to stumble. However if we recognize that we are free from the law then we can have victory over sin.

Similar to the wet paint post this has also been the case with any kind of diet I’ve ever tried. I remember a few years ago I took the Whole 30 challenge. I prepared diligently and studied recipes that were “Whole 30” approved. When day 1 finally arrived something happened. I had the most intense cravings for things like Taco Bell, (which I never eat) Soda, Candy, and a bread bowl from Panera! These were all things that I never even ate regularly, but because I had laid down law, the cravings flooded my brain for several days.

I believe this happens when we decide that we want to repent and change and fix our lives. From now on I’m going to ________ in order to make me a better person! Whatever you fill in the blank with, when you make it law- you are setting sin up for a way to find opportunity in screwing up your plans.

Paul in Romans 7:5 reveals

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

We can’t be saved by our behavior or our ability to keep the law,  because quite frankly it’s impossible to keep. But why then do so many of us thank Jesus for saving us by grace, and then insist on living by the law the rest of our Christian life?

I lead a group of high school girls on Tuesday nights and we were talking about their thoughts on if they think God liked them. Most of them had a religious answer on why they know God loves them. Then I asked them “on a scale of 1 to 10 how do you think you rank in God’s eyes?”

“2” one girl said. “6” another replied. “Depends on the day 5 usually, sometimes maybe an 8.”

How did they come up with those answers? How many times they read their bible? How many times they didn’t sin that day? Or maybe how many times they came to youth group and church this past month?

I giggled and revealed to them that whatever rating system they’re using, they can forget about it. God doesn’t save us by grace and then ask us to perform in order to be good behaving Christians. He gave us grace to save us, and then he heaped on more grace by giving us a new life, his life.

It’s true, the law was brought to us by God so that our sins would increase, not decrease.

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Romans 5:20)

Have you ever considered that our struggle with sin might be directly tied to the religious shackles we place on ourselves?

So we can either exhaust ourselves trying to perform for God. Or, we can join Him and recognize what it says in Romans 7:8 as truth- that apart from the law, sin is dead! We can have freedom from sin if we choose to let go of religion. Once our problem of being spiritually dead is healed and we have Christ as our life, we are free from the grasps of sin. We are called Kings and Queens and more than conquerors.

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

Take A Leap of Blind Faith?

blind faith

 

There have been several times in my life when I have surveyed my current circumstances and thought to myself, how on earth am I going to get through this one?  This past January my shortly lived six month “grace period” ended after I graduated college and Sallie Mae began sending me emails about paying back on the atrocious amount of student debt I had acquired over the past five years studying and becoming a well-educated citizen.  I remember looking at the dollar amount and feeling so overwhelmed. At the time, my full-time job was paying me a below poverty line wage and my part-time job was demanding that I work late hours often getting home around 2 a.m.

I remember venting to a friend and her reply was to “have faith.” Have faith?! I’m sure she meant it as words of comfort but to me it sounded like, sweep your problems under the rug, cross your fingers, close your eyes and pray that one day good ol’ Sallie Mae would call you and say “Never mind we don’t need your money go on and live your life.”

This is a blind and terrible way to live your life, and yet I feel as though as believers we often walk as though faith means following God the same way, blindly.

I’ve been reading a book called Stomping Out the Darkness that compared some people’s perceptions to following Christ a lot like a scene out of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the film the last clue leads him to a ledge where he must take a “leap of faith.”

 

Is this the kind of faith that God desires from us? It is no doubt that faith is both vital and central to being a follower of Christ. In Hebrews 11:6 it says Without faith it is impossible to please Him. And in Colossians 2:6 Paul wrote “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” How did we receive Christ? By faith. How are we to walk in him? By Faith.

But what is faith? Is it a blind leap into nothingness as in the Indiana Jones clip? Not at all. Here are three main ideas around faith that might change the way we approach our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

  1. What are you putting your faith into?

Every day I drive by faith. I have faith that the cars in the other lane are not going to decide to take their hands off the wheel and run into me as I drive into and from work. I put my faith in my Husband that he’s not going to go home to another woman and that when my friend invites me to coffee that she’s going to show up. But what happens when our faith in an object fails? Sometimes it can take years to repair when our faith in a person is shattered. Other things are more reliable. We all have faith that the Earth is going to continue to rotate on its axis and that the sun will continue to rise each morning. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” He has been eternally faithful to us meaning that we can put our faith in Him.

  1. Strength of Faith is Determined by Depth of Knowledge.

I know that the bible says that Jesus never changes but He didn’t seem very reliable when my dad got cancer and still hasn’t healed him completely. He didn’t seem very faithful when my mom tells the story of her two-year-old sister getting ran over which eventually lead to a nasty divorce between my grandparents. He didn’t seem very faithful when my friend and her husband have had several miscarriages even though they keep trying to have a family.

It’s easy to look at God in these ugly circumstances and tell him to “get lost.” But we must know that our faith doesn’t get shaky because God is insufficient, but rather because what we think we know about God is insufficient. If you have little knowledge about God and his word, you will have little faith. The greater knowledge and the deeper the relationship, the stronger the faith in Him. It’s no different with my relationships in this life. If I don’t know someone very well, why on earth would I put my faith in them during my greatest times of need? It would be silly to expect that from anyone you barely knew.

  1. Faith Is A Verb

I’m sure we’ve all heard the verse from James 2:17-18. It says So also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.  I’ve never particularly loved this verse. Not because I don’t like service but rather because I’ve heard too many sermons on our performance earning God’s love and grace. I know that I can’t earn God’s grace or his acceptance or his love. That his love for me knows no bounds, but this verse still never sat well with me until I was shown a different way to look at it.

I have two step-sons with my husband their names are Scott and Eli. The youngest was four-years-old when I met him and typically was quite the adventurer. I remember one time we took them ice skating for the first time and I will never forget how white their knuckles were- clenching on to the side of the wall, wobbly knees shaking and barely standing on both feet. Jason took the oldest between his legs and grabbed his hands and skated alongside him with ease. However, Eli refused to let go of the wall. “Do you believe that I will hold on to you?” I asked him. Yes. How did I know that he believed me? Because finger by finger, he let go of the wall and put his hands out in mine and eventually we went skating together. Imagine that he would have said yes and then continued to clutch on to the wall. Would he really have had faith that I was going to hold on to him? No. Faith involves action. To have faith in God we must do what he says, otherwise do we really believe him?

During times of hardship do you push into your relationship with God looking to grow in your faith? Or do you question him or have a hard time believing that He is good? As a team, I challenge all of us to lean into Him. If we lived like this, and had such a relationship with the one who created us, how would your life look different?

A Trust Without Borders

Without Borders

It was a warm spring day and I could feel Winter melting away with every gust of wind that made my hair wave wild as I traveled home from a long day at work with the windows down. To my right was the big blue reflective Lake Tahoe that appeared to go on forever. In that moment, I was knee deep in a long conversation (argument) with God.

The year I lived in Tahoe had been one of the worst years of my life. I had moved a thousand miles away from anyone that cared about me to attend school.  My then boyfriend was going through a depression. I couldn’t seem to make a single reliable friend. I had a roommate of whom I could not see eye to eye with on almost everything, and I was living in the worst apartment complex in town. On top of that my Dad, who was six years into his battle with cancer had discovered a new form of cancer growing that was already considered stage four, which in case you don’t know, means the doctor basically said- enjoy the last few months of your life because your clock is ticking.

Needless to say I felt a little lost and a lot like God wasn’t paying attention to me or my life. I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world and hating every second of it. As God listened to me patiently rant about how he didn’t care, how he wasn’t paying attention or listening, He threw me a curve ball.

“I have some amazing plans for you, and if you don’t pay attention you’re going to miss it and cause yourself more pain in the long run.” 

It reminded me of my family’s favorite verse that we meditated over the past few years:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord “plans not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I was so focused on my own life that I hadn’t even taken the time to ask God what His plan was for me because I wasn’t trusting Him!  After lots of prayer I felt God’s push for me to move back to Colorado. I ended up choosing to transfer to the University if Colorado, Denver and I was terrified, but I was surrendered.

I can recall God’s voice whispering in my mind…“Just look at me.” It felt like I was risking everything in order to obey God and His will for my life.

This week we’re studying Joshua. God’s call for me to trust Him reminds me of Joshua’s spies who navigated their way into the walls of Jericho and met Rahab, a prostitute who also trusted the Lord. They risked everything by staying surrendered to the Lord and his plan.

Living surrendered to Christ is not always easy but I promise it is worth it. And just like in my own life, God continues to direct my steps and I can rest in Him, especially in my weaknesses! It means that as believers we are actively seeking first Jesus Christ and resting in his Grace and taking hold of his promises, even when the ocean’s rise and we may feel like we’re drowning in life.

Have you ever felt like you had to take a huge risk when it came to trusting God with your life?

The song Oceans by Hillsong United paints a beautiful picture of what it means to constantly live surrendered and seek and trust the one who has never failed- check it out!

 

 

 

 

…but who am I?

but who am i-

Several years ago, I met my (now) husband while working at a skate shop. We had gone on our first date and things were going well. We had both shared that we were believers- which in this day and age of dating was a huge relief. Especially since I had only lived in Denver for like a month. On our second date, we took laps around the Colorado Mills Mall just talking and talking. After what seemed like our 12th lap around the mall he had spilled some breaking news to me. He had two boys. At the time, I was Twenty-Two years old. I remember smiling really big and saying “that’s really cool! Tell me more about them.”

It wasn’t until I went home and told my roommate about our night that it really hit me. This guy had two kids. Not little little kids either, we’re talking almost elementary aged kids. I remember being filled with a large amount of doubt. How could I have met such a perfect guy, and yet he was so far ahead of me in his life journey. I felt ill-equipped, like a five-year-old wearing arm floaties in the middle of the ocean. In this moment, I could hear God saying to me-

“Don’t you trust me?”

He asks that of me a lot.

I called one of my best girlfriends the next day and verbally vomited over the phone.  I spilled all my thoughts and emotions in real projectile fashion. Bless her, she stayed silent on the other line being a wonderful listener. I expressed the doubt that literally felt like it was consuming me like a wild fire in a dry forest. She let me finish and then said very calmly…  “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” A little cliché but it was just what I needed to hear.

As I was prepping for the teaching this past weekend I read this small passage out of Exodus 3:11-12

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said “I will be with you.”

The answer to Moses’ question is that he was a nobody. He could have NEVER gone to Pharaoh and rescued the Israelites out of Egypt. …But God… was with him.  This passage washed over me like a refreshing wave. As a newly married wife and step-mom sometimes I feel just like Moses asking the same question.

“But who am I to raise this family? To be a mom? To be a wife?” and God’s reply is,

“I am with you.”

In other words, I am no-one. Out of my own strength I can not step into that role and be successful. John 15:5 says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

In our American culture, it’s so easy to take on the I’ll just work harder approach. Let me just say that it doesn’t work. We can’t fix anything, we must rest in the grace of Jesus Christ to do what only he can do. Our strength should come from him, and if we tap into him he will provide this for us eternally.

Maybe you’ve felt just like myself or Moses, questioning God’s decision to let you bat for his team. This emotion can be stirred up from a promotion, a fight with your teen, a new born baby, and yes especially being in kids ministry. Friends, I encourage you to continue to seek Christ and let him sit on the throne of your life, he will do the impossible. But without Jesus, you can do nothing.

The Misfits.

misfit

There he was, sitting in the corner, bright yellow headphones hugging tightly to the sides of his head. His tongue poked out from behind his lips and his eyes narrowed as he focuses in on his clipboard that wears a bright white piece of paper. Slowly, methodically, he focuses on each stroke of his Crayola black marker- which he definitely snuck out of the coloring room.

After the transition of 2nd graders, soon to be 3rd graders, moved into our room a few months ago, I’ve loved getting to know the new faces, names and a whole mixed bag of personalities that paint the walls of our room.  And maybe you’ve met the young boy that I’ve described above. Every week he comes into our classroom and harmlessly writes number after number, and his favorite number? 366,663. I told him mine was the number four. “That’s 366,629 numbers away from mine.” he replied matter a factly.  Uh, that’s right, it sure is.  Needless to say this boy is a little different than the others.

Over the course of my time coming on staff I’ve had a few one- on- one small group sessions with the boy and his brilliance continues to astound me. However I know that although he is smart, small groups with other kids are far outside of his comfort zone. That’s why when last week’s small group was a board game meant to be played by at least four people, I wasn’t sure how he would feel about adding some other kids into the group.

I met him in the corner with my small group bin and asked him, as I always do, if he wanted to play the game with the rest of the third grade boys. “No. I want to play with you,” he replied without blinking an eye, almost annoyed with the idea of playing with a group.  Off in the distance I noticed three other kids, two boys and a girl, both being in service for the second time. They found their way to Peter, our door key leader and were discussing the lesson in their own small group.

In this moment I could have done a couple of things. Asked the kids to go join their normally assigned small groups, or recognize that Peter had a handle on them and I could have let them be. But I had another idea. I excused myself for a moment and headed over to the three kids.  When I got to them the little girl defensively blurted out “We’re having our own small group, please don’t make us split up.” I said “I have another idea.” I told the kids about the little boy in the corner who wasn’t very good with groups but we need three more players and I think it would be great if they came and tried to play with us.

They were all very reluctant, until one agreed and the other two followed. At first the single boy looked at me a little frustrated and made the comment that he no longer wanted to play but rather was going to draw his numbers.  The other three were all a little awkward but we kicked off the game. Over the course of the small group the three kids learned how to speak differently, play gently, and be kind to someone a little different than them. The transformation was amazing.  My little small group of misfits played through the entire game and the little boy even ended up playing with the others without flipping the game board after every roll! And even though he did squeal with excitement a little too loud a few times, the others handled it so lovingly.

That moment has stuck with me all week as I’ve worshipped and thanked God for such a beautiful moment, but then I began to realize something. At one point we have all been classified as a “misfit”. We are all born with a dead spirit, separated from Christ and ultimately a misfit. But God…in all his Grace and Mercy continued to pursue human history and sent us a savior to save us from our sin and flesh.  The best news of all, He changed our identity from misfit to sons and daughters. I pray that as we continue to come along side of the kids in our rooms that they too will find a new identity in Christ and someday know that they can belong to the God of the Universe, if they choose to.

Friends, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve along side you and love on these kids and give parents some time to pursue their own spiritual journey.  I can’t wait to see you again soon! Love You All.

Keala