I wanted to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. My daughter and I set our alarms for 0-dark-thirty and walked out to the suggested look-out place. It was cold even though it was summer. We rested against a big rock and waited with a small group of others, cameras stalking the horizon for the first and best shot. Slowly the sky was lighter, soon bright rays were concentrated at the horizon, and finally the sun slowly inched up above the canyon rim. All the while glorious colors transformed the landscape around us: rocks, ground, and sky…minute by minute. Sunrise is short-lived, and beautiful. It was awesome to share that moment with my daughter: miraculous transformation from dark to light in one of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet. And then the day went on. We packed up our car and headed for home. I rarely see the sunrise, but what a great God-reminder that He is with us, transforming, clarifying, bringing light, hope, and beauty to land that seems unchanging.
Our beautiful birch tree survived the brutal spring snow. But with new growth over the summer it is leaning over the sidewalk and the driveway. The tree seems to be recovering but weak. I did my best to trim the lower branches but lacked the tools to trim bigger branches and higher parts. The tree service said the growth pattern needed to be corrected so the tree would grow straight instead of leaning toward the sun as it crests over the roof. “The trimming,” she said, “might seem dramatic, but the tree will quickly adjust.”
God has already shown me a thing or two about this tree.
That snowstorm was heartbreaking and beautiful. The largest segment of our 30 foot, 3-trunked birch tree was bent at a ninety degree angle with all its beautiful white branches collapsed into a foot of snow in our front yard. The trunk that had bent so many times broke beneath the weight of the snow.
One of my regrets, as I spent hours chopping the tree into recyclable pieces, was that I hadn’t trimmed more. Maybe it could have weathered the storm better. In life mirrors tree fashion, God has been removing things. His restoration process has brought loss and growth, strength and acceptance. It feels extreme sometimes.
Resisting the natural pull of circumstances and lesser visions for my life, I fight to abide with God so I can grow straight up into all He has for me.
In my right hand I was carrying the recycling container and in my left hand I held a stack of things that didn’t quite fit in the container. As I stepped down into the garage, my ankle twisted a little and I couldn’t balance the awkward load I was carrying. I flew across the garage floor landing with an impressive crash of cans and plastic.
The day I fell, I was carrying too much and couldn’t steady myself. In the past I may have occasionally said yes to one thing too many. I tend to notice the needs of those around me and act on them. But increasingly I’m aware of the risks of taking on too much.
If my hands are full I won’t be able to feed my sheep.
If I listen to what God is saying, and respect the boundaries of others, I’m safe. If God shows me a situation but gives no specific directions, I pray and leave the next steps and outcome in His hands. Not every situation requires my involvement but if I notice a need and God prompts me, I do my best to follow His directions.
My goal is an everyday surrender of my perspective, my agenda, and the resources God has given me.
In the grocery store check-out line God said, “be prepared to pay.” Huh? Then I noticed the two men and their kids in line in front of me. When the bags were packed they nervously swiped one credit card after another with no success. I was there, and I was ready, so I paid for their groceries.
Hey, I’m feeding sheep.
Some days I notice the opportunities to apply my experiences, gifts, and abilities in ways that are valuable to God and to others. It makes sense to me that I can deliver the light and life of God in places where you will never go. I am uniquely positioned to bring heaven to earth in this territory God has given me.
This “feed my sheep” vision of my purpose is simple and clear. Like the disciples inventorying lunch options for 5000, I can track what God is providing, and how I can best distribute it.
The question is, what does God want to deliver through me, here…today? It might be encouragement, resources, or some kind of service. Only in collaboration with God can I be a conduit of His resources to others.
And I have to be ready.
I was keeping score, if things worked out, if my performance was excellent, if people valued my contribution, I was satisfied. My dreams for my life placed me in the center of something cool that paid well and mattered to me. I was trying so hard, searching for answers, hoping for success and life-changing adventures. I didn’t know that I mattered to God, that He wanted me. My heart rested precariously on recent results and the opinions of others.
But one day that started to change.
People were gathered outside along the construction site ready to dedicate the land for our new church building. Each person was asked to write a personal vision statement on a wooden stake and drive it into the ground. The words God spoke to me were: “feed my sheep!”
God used that moment to begin an important new conversation about my true purpose. He gave me the bottom line in three simple words “feed my sheep”
I am shepherding the cool stuff that matters to God.
God, you accept me. You look beyond mistakes and sins and see me: perfected, beautifully clothed in Jesus. Accepting is who you are and how you love. And sometimes I feel You filling me up with that same acceptance power. I can ignore offenses, let words trickle down, stand there while it’s not ok…and then keep going. Out of a deep sense of Your approval I can accept others where they are: broken, beautiful, nowhere near what You have in mind for them. Together we are hoping for direction, new opportunities and momentum; hoping to look back on these days and smile at what was just then becoming.
Nine weeks into 2013, new perspective on my challenge to believe is emerging. In a quiet moment God said to me something like this, “believe in ‘me in you’, the same way you believe in me.” A long difficult season had already led me to connect with God like never before. So when God gave me believe as the theme for 2013, it threw me….I was thinking, I do believe you God, I believe you now more than ever. But now I see. If I really believe God, I have to trust, and expect Him to work in me and through me. This can only happen if I am willing to receive His Holy Spirit power and every resource He wants to provide in order to accomplish His purposes for His glory.
I’m not smart enough. That’s the sad old tape I caught myself playing when I was overwhelmed last week. Multi-tasking led to confusion over a meeting, and out jumped insecurity. I felt myself inching back from the complexity and awkwardness. I’m glad God called me on it. If I’m going to say I believe God it can’t just be a hypothetical, “God is good all the time” kind of refrain. No, on the contrary it has to be an, “I’m not sure why I’m here and I have a lot to learn, but I believe you placed me, so direct my steps today” kind of tune.
God has chosen us and given us purpose as sons and daughters of the King. When God works through us we don’t need to rely solely on our skills, experiences, and strength, because God authorizes and provides everything needed to accomplish His plans. We simply serve in His authority. But this can only happen if we believe God’s power to work in us despite our human limitations, and have faith in our God-reinforced ability to obey.
In John 14: 11-12, Jesus describes this God-in-us model: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
I’m not sure yet how to believe ‘God in me’ more, but God is the How.