7 Things I’ve Learned on the Road to Restoration

A home destroyed nearly five months ago during the landfall of Superstorm Sandy is pictured in Mantoloking, New JerseyOne week before my world changed forever, my pastor said these words in a sermon: “At any given time, people are usually going into a storm, in a storm, or coming out of a storm.” I remembered thinking, “Wow, we’ve been on a pretty good run here. It had been about four years since we had encountered a major storm.”

And then the hurricane that would be called autism rolled in without warning for our curly-headed little boy, not yet two. But the waves kept coming and crashing relentlessly it seemed over our family–dreams knocked down, childhood joys knocked down, finances knocked down, work life knocked down, relationships strewn about, rest rooted up, marital bliss torn down, the sight of God’s goodness in the land of the living mangled. Nothing seemed simple any more. How do you recover?

I’ve often thought that as bad as a fire is to go through, it has a different energy to recovery than what’s left to be faced on the other side of a flood. Fire means it all has to start over. Clean it up, get creative, and rebuild with new things. A flood means you have to deal with soggy memories, and figure out what has to get trashed and what is worth the effort of restoring. Many measures have to be taken to gut, to find all the mold and dry up the water, to take things back to the studs. Mostly, it feels like moving water-logged chaos from one pile to another for quite some time. Some would contend the wind and waves don’t recede for long enough to even recoup.

This month it’s been seven years since the hurricane hit our lives. Everybody understands what it’s like to encounter storms. It’s all relative. There is no use in comparing one person’s storm to another in efforts to either feel better or feel worse about your own storm. Can we just validate that our proverbial storms, fires, floods affect us deeply and collide with our very real humanness?

But if there is one thing I’ve learned in these past seven years, it is this: God’s intention for us is always to be moving toward restoration. Always. Storms will stun us, that’s a given. But, I contend that if we’re not then being restored, we are being consumed.

Our lives cannot be lived wishing that what happened wouldn’t have happened. Because it did. Our lives cannot be lived saying that we have no choice but to be a victim to our circumstances. God set up humans to always get to choose regardless of their circumstances or surroundings. A traveling female pastor told me something I’ll never forget. She said, “Remember, you can pass through the Land of Why, but just don’t stay there.”

The language of restoration is no longer “why” but “what now?” To play the “what now” game with God can become the most amazing adventure you’ve ever been on. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:15, “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?”

Here are few things I’ve learned about “what’s next” restoration:

  1. Restoration is a journey, and no one can tell you how long or short that road could or should be. That is between you and God. God can arrange short cuts that accelerate you from one place to another, but your own short cuts will usually land you into quicksand. Many of us will want a “fix” or a “rescue” from God, but His idea of bringing us wholeness means restoring us completely–and that could take some time. Even more than a journey, you could look at it as a “pilgrimage” of the soul (read Psalm 84). On this pilgrimage, God is with you, and you are going somewhere. You will more than likely encounter trials, set backs, resting spots, beauty, storms, hills, valleys, rain, drought—all of it. But through it, this is what Psalm 84:5 says, “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (God’s presence).” Restoration usually happens on the way, not upon the arrival.
  2. There is a reason that Jesus was sent to “save” you because we all need to be saved from something. He is Savior, and that means our whole person—body, soul, mind, circumstances. Shame, hurt, offense, and frustration will try to get you to hide from His saving. Salvation is not just a one-time event. Salvation is available every day and in every way. The moment we try to save ourselves, we cannot be helped. The gap is too great. So, drag your butt and your sorry situation to Jesus. That’s all you have to do to get things rolling. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Grace means getting something that you don’t deserve (earn). Mercy means not getting (the punishment) that you deserve. He is up for both. Just come confidently.
  3. Give God 365 days. Admit it. We’ve all been there. We get on a high that we’re going to have faith and trust in God, and then something bad happens or worsens, and we throw up our hands and say, “See, God can’t be trusted! It’s all emotional hype.” But I’ve seen that it’s important to stretch out your commitment to seeking God and seeing God work in you, for you, to you and through you. You will likely fall off your commitment. Just get back on through repentance and go again. Commit to God that you are going to learn how to do it His way for 365 days. Ask Him to prove to you that He can be trusted to hold up His side of the bargain while you follow His lead, not your own. I picked up the Bible one day and said, “God, this has to work. Your claims are too strong to just be a warm fuzzy to read about over my Wheaties. I will stick with You, but You have to prove what You say is true.” He loves to be challenged in this way!
  4. Keep a journal of questions to ask to God that you want answers for. Do your studying of the Bible, books, sermons and podcasts based on getting the answers to those questions. Get real, get raw, lay it all out there, and then ask God to show you what His perspective really is on each of those questions. I did this with about seven questions early on in my journey to restoration, and I was amazed that as I kept those questions before me, the answers began to jump out. I also consciously pursued them. Write those questions down and get them out of your head. Don’t assume God really thinks the way you’ve been taught to believe He thinks about your situation.
  5. Turn outward to other people to help them. This is one of the very best things to do. It slices self-pity in half when you just stop thinking about yourself and your own problems for a while and serve others. I don’t care if it’s random acts of kindness, getting involved in a religious or secular organization, or just offering to pray and encourage other friends consistently. “Pray for others that you may be healed” (James 5:16). You pray for others, and God heals you! What a recycling program. This is the beauty of flowing water, not a stagnant pond.
  6. Granting and asking forgiveness has to be part of your lifestyle. So, you’ve had some people hurt you to the core. That deserves justice—but justice doesn’t come from you—justice is the Lord’s job. You might think that if you forgive them, and if you forgive yourself, that you are giving them a free pass to say that what they did was okay, not wrong, and excusable. That is not what forgiveness is. So, basically, when you choose to take responsibility for your own actions, to ask forgiveness, to forgive yourself, and to forgive others it releases the power of that offense off of you so you can walk in freedom.  A position of forgiveness is the most powerful position you can have. Honestly, one of the most powerful things I’ve done is “forgive God” for not protecting me. Now, I’m not saying that He needed to be forgiven. I am saying that I was holding offense toward Him because I felt like He didn’t protect my family. A wall came down when I forgave.
  7. Learn to hear the voice of God. What does God really sound like? What does Satan sound like? What do you sound like? Just like a football coach reviews the tapes of the opponents before the game is being played, you have to get to know the character and strategies of those at play in your mind. God will never lie, play mind games, contradict His Word, shame, punish in anger, etc. If God corrects, it comes with peace and freedom attached. Satan likes to blame, to accuse, to cause self condemnation, to keep you in fear, total bondage, confusion, disorder, and chaos—yet, he is good at deceiving. Learn to smell a rat and take care of it immediately. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice—the voice of a stranger they won’t hear.” Say that scripture out loud so that you learn to tune your ears (inner and outer) to God. He really is speaking all the time to you, usually we just pass it off as us or we are so pounded with fear that we can’t hear it. This takes practice. If we tune in, God is faithful to confirm that it’s Him.

I am still on a journey of restoration. Most days still hold some pain of the aftermath of the storms that have damaged. I still really would love all of the circumstances to be awesome so life could be “easy, happy, and shiny.” But, I’ve realized the greatest part of restoration is this: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12).

It is the main thing that destroys the lingering scent of mustiness while we co-labor with God on making things new.

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The Goo to a New You

ImageGoo. They turn to total goo, all zipped up in a little dark sleeping bag that they weaved by their own mouth’s silk. Caterpillars think they are worms, yet from the moment they show signs of life and then start eating themselves big and silly, God says, “Look at My butterfly! Isn’t she beautiful?” The caterpillar is like, “Munch, munch, munch. Huh? What’s a butterfly? Does my butt look big in this outfit?”

It’s easy not to be awed by nature as we are taught to identify, label and define so matter-of-factly from the time we’re small children. But, seriously, the butterfly is mind blowing if you think about it. Oh, we know that they start out as caterpillars and yada, yada, yada, they become butterflies. Wait, now–as an adult, have you reviewed what happens in the yada, yada, yada part? This is important.

Similarly, as the Church bandies about the word “transformation” to measure spiritual growth in Christians, I don’t think we really discuss the part where it’s dark and lonely and silent and freaky–and you helplessly turn to goo. That doesn’t usually make it into the brochures.

If I’m being real, I think I have tried to be the best darn caterpillar I could be. If the goal is to be really awesome at being a caterpillar, many of us are willing to sign up for this journey, and simply try to eat all we can as we are trying not to be eaten. We believe this is the whole of life, and we will schedule our activity around it. One day something inside triggers a strange thought. “There’s gotta be more. Doesn’t there?” Yes. There does.

In a world of “before” and “after” shots, the “yada, yada, yada” part is not the sexy phase that sells. Frankly, the majority of people are not willing to venture that far at all, or will give up from disillusionment and fear before they will surrender to the cocoon of transformation.

The strange thing about a cocoon is that it is simultaneously a tomb and a womb.

Why should this surprise the Christ-follower? We have been told in the Bible many times that we have to “die in order to live.” Ironically, as we draw nearer to Christ, the cocoon is a sign of Him drawing nearer to us. However, it is in the cocoon that it seems like we have been utterly abandoned, confused and helpless, and probably a bit uncomfortable being that we are TURNING TO GOO, and all.

Why should we think that being transformed should be something of our own doing and work, hopefully linear, organized and logical? This is the difference between “self-help” and simply surrendering to the process we were made to go through. Die to live. It is what we were born for. I would venture to say this happens often, and not just once, for us. In the cocoon, God says, “Though it looks like you are just hanging on by a thread–and you technically are–you are protected here. Just rest here. Just release here. Just trust being out of control here. It will be painful and uncomfortable, but wonderful, I promise. And by the way, you’re beautiful.”

“Really? Gooey me is beautiful? Where are my friends? Where’s my support system? Why do I feel so alone right now? Where are we? Where is this headed? Can I go back? Who am I? How do I get out of this? When will this be over?” Folks, I believe that there is a time where we have to individually go by ourselves into a cocoon and let God do what only He can do. Few people talk about this place because you are caught between two worlds there–one you know, and one that you have heard of, but didn’t really think was for you. Strange things happen in there–things that if you told people they would think you’re crazy.

More and more, I’m encountering people talking with me about what I would call a “cocoon” experience. Usually it includes a dark night of the soul and some disillusionment about God, and yet an odd wooing to experience the more of His love and goodness in this bizarre place where He melts us down and puts us back together, forming us into the something different that He saw all along.

How in the world does something go from being a worm to having the most beautiful wings? How does one go from belly-crawling and leaves to flying and nectar? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Do you know what the word “transformed” is in the Greek? It is metamorphoó. It means “to change after being with, and to change form in keeping with inner reality.” Inner reality. God has seen it and said it all along–caterpillar, you are a butterfly inside, and after being with Me in this place, you will be changed.

To re-new is not to become a really awesome caterpillar by working harder at it. It is to surrender to the process of becoming the butterfly you were always meant to be. The process is not pretty, but it is necessary. Embrace the goo. Talk about the goo with others. Don’t be ashamed of the goo. It’s okay, you’re normal, and not crazy during the goo. Eventually, somehow mysteriously, a wing emerges. It wouldn’t have happened at all without that goo.

3 Things to Do While That “One Thing” Is Unresolved

I'm on my way to brighter days“Life would be so much better if I could just remove this one thing.” Do you find yourself saying that? It’s that present problem that you never planned for, but it came. And it’s usually something that you don’t have much control over no matter how hard you try. Like a chronic health issue, an ailing parent, a wayward child, a disengaged spouse, long-term unemployment, a financial crisis.

If you truly have a “one thing,” you don’t have to um and ah to conjure it up; it’s an instant response. Because it’s the thing you wake up thinking about and go to bed praying about. No matter how much you pray or change yourself, that “one thing” can still persist—maybe even for years, maybe for life. With that “one thing” persisting, how can you even experience that “life to the full” that Jesus came to give? Do you wonder sometimes if that simply wasn’t meant to be for you?

I’ve faced some tough stuff in my life and even some close calls, but most big things were resolved. Even when my father died suddenly at 55, that was hard, but it was final; resolved. When my brother passed away from a sudden illness at age 47, it felt like another crashing blow, but there was no reversing what happened, only moving through the process forward. When my son Josiah was diagnosed with autism at age 2—a neurological disorder that doctors say has “no known cause, no known cure, and is lifelong”—I encountered my first big wall in life that I couldn’t get over, naturally heal from, or work my way out of. It’s open-ended, unresolved. Uncomfortable. Morphing from one season of unresolve to another type of unresolve. My one resolve is that I desire for him to be whole, and I won’t stop pursuing that.

I had no grid even in my spiritual life for a problem that didn’t have a foreseeable expiration date. And worse, it affected my only child before my eyes…and not one area of our family lives has been left untouched by it. Still, God says, “I have good plans for you and for your child”… “I work all things together for good”… “I do good work in you.”

You have your up days, your down days, and even your frustration over supposed-goodness-and-hope days as you still grapple with that “one thing” that seems to be the kingpin linked to a lot of other things. In fact, I’ve heard my friend, who also has a son that we’re believing will overcome autism, acknowledge the days “when autism was king” in their lives. I know this feeling totally. And yet, whenever that “one thing” takes over as king, there is no place left for Jesus in that spot. That “one thing” will be a tyrant king, believe me. Jesus, though, is a really good King, releasing love and life and help in real time and in real places. Most days, I will wrestle with my choices that will keep Him in that spot.

Years of unresolved circumstances will try to keep us from being “fully persuaded” that God truly cares about the stuff we face. But He wants to bring solution and restoration, for He is forward moving and always intent on getting us unstuck. One day, when Josiah began communicating through spelling on his iPad, I didn’t get a full resolution to our “one thing,” but I did understand this verse: “You, O God, did send plentiful rain, by which You did confirm Your inheritance when it was weary” (Psalm 67:10). He gave a big sign, and continues to, that He is at work powerfully and I am so thankful.

But today, I need some confirmation again. The inheritance is feeling weary. I’m feeling weary. I think God is totally cool with us going to Him, and saying, “Remember all of those promises in that covenant You have with me? I’m gonna need You to review all that with me again, because it seems too flimsy right now. Tell me again how You see this.”

Faith progress is believing that He just is Good News that eclipses the power of that which is unresolved right now. He is the Solution to every unanswered question in our lives, and He does care about them. I find that I have to remind myself of that every single day.

So, how can we live with resolve while that “one thing” is still unresolved (according to Colossians 1)?:

1. Tap into God’s supernatural strength. God offers us a strength accessible by faith that is not our own. It is more than mere day-to-day survival; it is filled with enduring hope and expectation despite the present circumstances. It empowers us to persevere in prayer, worship and praise and speaks to us, “Never give up. Keep walking. Keep trusting.”

2. Cultivate joy and thankfulness. We have to practice these responses by reveling in what we have been given through Christ and engaging His promises instead of succumbing to despair and complaining. The best practice is giving away to others the very thing that you need yourself—like encouragement, prayer, or time.

3. Relentlessly pursue your destiny. God has bright and beautiful things planned for us, and equips us to do each one. The devil would love nothing more than to trap us in the “Land of Why” so that we become embittered to pursuing our God-given purpose, and begin to question the validity of the whole thing. Instead, I dare you to move, to risk, to dream with God again! He is always forward moving—God of the Breakthrough, Restorer.

We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. Col. 1:11-12 (The Message)

You Get a Gold Star…First

ImageWhen I was young, I went to a Christian grade school. This program was really big into publicizing each student’s level of achievement. We had “star charts” on a corkboard within our little cubicle-style desks displayed in plain view for any passerby. In you got a B or above on a test, you would get a small star on your chart next to that subject. If you scored 100% on a test, you’d get a BIG gold star. Anything less, you got an understated green dot on your chart, which meant, “Way to pass, but don’t get too excited about your bald little dot.”

Thus began my relationship with performance.

Though my parents weren’t ones to ever pressure me with school work or activities, I quickly learned to love achieving. I became one of the best students who had tons of “big” stars and at the end of the school year walked home with an armful of awards. I would study hard so I could be best. And if I underperformed on a test, I’d pretty much fall apart. It wasn’t until those memories came to mind this year that I started thinking about all of the kids that got dots and who didn’t walk home with any awards.

I’m sure the people that ran this school had good intentions. Goal-setting and public-reward programs certainly pervaded the 1980s, and don’t get me wrong, it’s good to challenge yourself and be rewarded for your efforts. But, I’m convinced that there are two dangerous roots called INFERIORITY and INSECURITY that can start growing in us even as little children. They gain power when our personal value is based on the episodes of how well—or not so well—we measure up against some set of societal standards.

Why did I even start thinking about all of this? Well, this girl who worked hard to get good grades that reinforced “worth” has a 7-year-old son with autism who does not yet speak and rarely gets “stellar” reports.

With reports and evaluations I’ve gotten from his therapy center or school that detailed all the areas of deficiency, I have felt like I had myself failed. And yet, no amount of my hard work or performance could control his ability to learn. So, I had to look at my beautiful little boy, and ask myself some real questions about a person’s value, worth and destiny.

At the same time, God was showing me who He says I am. He was revealing to me what I can do because of what Christ did—completely apart from what I can prove in my own power. This is grace. Since then, God has surprised me with how He can be trusted with our gaps. Josiah has taught me that not only is God a good gift giver, but He is also a gap filler.

As God’s child, I am being liberated by receiving what He says about me. As a parent, I am speaking and exuding value and confidence into my child more intentionally, and the smile on his face shows me he is receiving what I say about him. The movie “The Help” inspired me with a simple blessing that I speak over my son many mornings to remind him of who he IS. It goes like this…

“Josiah, you are special. You are kind. You are important. You are smart. You are 100 percent loved by Jesus, by Mommy, by Daddy. And, remember, the word of the Lord is near you; it is even in your mouth and it is in your heart (Rom. 10:8).”

This is one way our Heavenly Father models to us how to raise amazing kids—it starts by telling them that they automatically have a gold star simply because they belong to you. And then, that child can become all that you say he or she already is. Does your child need to hear that? Do you?

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us to be holy and without fault in his eyes…because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” Ephesians 1:4, 11

I Had to Stop Digging Up My Seeds

sowerI’m not a farmer. I’m not even a gardener. I don’t even have houseplants because I have either neglected them or over-watered them to the point where they just said, “Goodbye, cruel world.” Let’s just say, I know what it’s like to be very removed from the simplicity of the seed, the soil, the rain, the sun, the sprout, the weeds, the stalk, the bud, the bloom, the bugs, the fruit, the harvest…and all of the waiting in between!

I buy my stuff at the grocery store real quick before I have to beat it back home to get my son off of the bus. I’ll probably have to go back again tomorrow. I know the grocery store will always be there for me. If I want my food, I go, I get. I depend on others to do all of the work up to the point of my picking and choosing. I even grumble a little bit about having to bring it home and also fry it up in a pan! Sheesh.

I miss something by not knowing the process. In modern times, we’ve messed with the process so much that we barely recognize what is genuinely matured and tended anymore. If we do see it, we don’t value it enough to want it most days. I find myself wanting the wisdom of deeper things, though, these days–the old ways, the ancient paths.

I came across this verse one day in Psalm 126:5-6: “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” I wondered why these farmers were boohooing as they planted their fields.

I found out that after the harvest, farmers will keep back a bag of seeds to plant for the next year’s crop. But, there is usually a dilemma that is represented by that bag of seeds. The grain used to feed the family and also sell to others usually starts running out about that time and the family is faced with scarcity. They could take that bag of grain, grind it into flour, and make a final cake for themselves as to not feel hungry that night, or they go out hungry and unsure, and they put that bag of seeds in the ground. They cry because it’s hard to give up the hope that they hold in their hands and toss it into the soil…and wait.

The conditions may be unpredictable during the growing season, but they have decided to believe in the law of the harvest. It’s not without its anguish because instant gratification is not how this law works. It is faith to believe that releasing those seeds into the ground will yield the intended results, and if they don’t, the disappointment would be devastating. It’s all they have.

I would call up my mom crying sometimes, feeling like my prayers and confessions and study and labor don’t ever seem to amount to anything. It’s hard to hope so much. I can see why most will resort to figuring out the modern ways of coping rather than the ancient paths of hoping. She said something I will never forget: “Tahni, quit digging up your seed to see if it has grown yet. If you leave it to the process, you will one day see that the roots have gone down so the sprout can come up.”

Interestingly, one day I was conversing with my cousin whose son was doing a project to see which corn kernels will grow the best in controlled conditions. She was saying that they should almost get together with other farmers to start a seed bank to store seed from their own previous year’s crops because the genetically-modified Monsanto seeds that are the standard these days won’t reproduce–their offspring is barren. They are good for only one crop, and then the farmers can’t save their seeds from the harvest to plant for next year, and they have to go buy the seeds all over again. Many farmers, especially in poor countries, can’t afford that and are committing suicide because they hold no hope in their own hands.

Friends, this is why a spiritual journey has to be made without always looking to someone else to do it for you. It’s a trap. The things of God are not cheap, they’re not easy, they’re not won without crying and battles and nail biting and wrestling, but through it all, don’t forget there is law that God Himself set into motion. It is the law of harvest. You will reap what you sow. He’s okay if it includes tears. He knows He will exchange them for joy after a season of growth. But, may I challenge my brothers and sisters in the faith, you have to get in the Bible for yourself. You have to feel and dialogue and cry out to and enjoy God for yourself in prayer. It is the only way you will have seeds stored up to offer up for the next planting season. What crops are you looking to plant?

 

 

 

When You Find Your Tent Up a Tree

windy-dayFifteen years ago, when my youthful husband and I were more adventurous, we bought a little tent. We were going to a Christian music festival in Willmar, MN, and thought we could save a little money by camping out on the grounds. Now, neither of us really had much camping experience, but the tent just kind popped right open and was ready to go–so a no brainer, we thought. We could do this. It would be fun, right?

Tent and sleeping bags got nicely tucked in the trunk, and we headed off on a very ambitious four-day trip. It was a crazy mixture of business and vacation. We arrived the first night and stayed in a hotel, because I had an interview a couple hours away in the Twin Cities that next morning. It stormed and rained like crazy all night and into the a.m., and that put my nerves on edge already. But, we had been looking for the opportunity to move from North Dakota to the Twin Cities and I just felt like things were lining up. I had already had two interviews for one job that I ended up not getting, but this would be the second interview for another job opportunity at a performing arts theatre. So exciting. My husband also had an interview lined up at a community TV station that would be the “bookend” of our trip. I just knew God was moving.

The second interview went great, and they said  I could call them the next day (this was before cell phones). So, we travelled back two hours to our music festival, full of optimism and ready for some good tunes. The ground was still a little soggy, but no matter. We found a spot for our tent and got it all set up so after enjoying hours of concert sets, we could just fall into our little nest. Well, we had a hard time finding the car in the dark–and the Kumbaya campfire antics by younger campers didn’t make for great sleep–but we made it through the night just fine.

Day 2 of the festival. Wow, it was windy! Really windy. But, the tunes were great so no matter. I found a pay phone to nervously make my phone call to my potential employer in the afternoon. While I did that, my husband ran back to our tent to get something. Within 10 minutes, our tune changed. I didn’t get the job. Brutal! (I had played the tape forward, confident this job was the answer to prayer I’d been waiting for.) And Joe showed up to reveal that our tent, along with our sleeping bags inside, was in a tree. Seriously, the little L-shaped tent “stakes” that came with the tent were not made to withstand a soggy ground and gale-force winds, apparently. Our tent was IN A TREE, and my new career dream was buried, as far as I could tell. This trip didn’t seem so fun anymore.

We pulled our tent down, and headed into town to find some real tent stakes and get some food. We nabbed the last tent stakes in the entire town at a local K-Mart, and then had some Sbarro’s pizza. We contemplated just forgetting the festival entirely and heading out. This was too hard. It wasn’t what we signed up for! But then, we bucked up. We decided we were not going to let this lick us, and we were going to enjoy the rest of the festival. Joe still had his interview, after all. We got back with a new resolve and replaced our 3″ stakes with 6″ stakes hammered in good. I decided I was going to worship God that night, even if I didn’t feel like it, and until I felt like it. RESOLVE!

It’s been many years later, and I can’t tell you how many times I have felt secure and settled, only for my “tent” to end up in a “tree” again! I’m beginning to wonder if this is life. Perhaps we yearn to be forever settled and secure, but a Christ-follower was made to be a responsive, flexible nomad. I came across a great scripture in the Message translation that reminded me of our tent episode:

I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.
I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
 I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope… 
You’ve got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.  Acts 2:25-28

I feel like I have pitched my tent in the land of hope. But, some days, I come back and find my tent in a tree. I want to live in a sturdy, secure house, not in a stupid TENT ever again, I sigh. But, here’s the thing about tents, they can be more willing and available to be moved or enlarged.

Wouldn’t you know it, even when you’ve become so fed up with how many times you have pulled that tent out of a tree, and have moved around to find your lands of hope, God will always continue to say this:

Clear lots of ground for your tents!
Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
Use plenty of rope,
drive the tent pegs deep.
You’re going to need lots of elbow room
for your growing family…
Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed.
Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.  Isaiah 54:2-4

And I say to God, “Really?… Really? Okay, I believe You. My hair is a mess and I’m pretty weary from all this wind, but hand me a mallet.”