Who Brings You Rain?

N.B.: I wanted to share with you this timely post from my friend, Ty Hoad. May it be as meaningful to you as it was to me.

Like some of you, my family has been praying for rain here in Southern California for a while now.

For those of you unaware, California is in the midst of the worst drought we’ve faced in 100 years.

After months of praying, it rained Saturday night.

Twice.

And then again on Sunday morning.

Did I ever rejoice in the rain!

Anyone who can remember the last time we had measurable precipitation in August in Southern California can attest:

It doesn’t just happen.

It truly was a miraculous answer to prayer!

Standing at the end of my driveway on Saturday night in bare feet and head back letting the warm drops spill on my face, it was hard to tell my tears from the rain.

The rain was a promise from my Heavenly Father, you see.

No, I do not think this weeks’ rain will, nor was meant to, end our drought.

I believe it was meant to encourage us in the midst of it.

God’s presence is like that sometimes.

He allows us to go through the hard, cracked, challenging, dry spiritual seasons — not to be cruel, or to cause suffering and loss (though sometimes an amount of loss is necessary) — to bring us to a place to get our attention.

To bring into focus the things He wants us to see in the way He sees them.

Drought is an interesting metaphor for the human heart.

Some I see around me have yet to change their patterns of consumption of water at all even though they are aware there is very little usable water available. In similar fashion, so many friends of mine refuse to accept the Truth about God because it might mean they’d have to be honest about the quality and quantity of real living resources in their own lives…

Without God, my heart and own resources look so much like the reservoirs I see on TV with no water left in them: Dry, cracked and caked with yesterday’s residuals and nothing much to expect tomorrow.

Supposing the rains did come, I’d live with the knowledge that at the depth of my own reservoir, it does eventually come to an end having no spring or “source” to replenish it.

I’ve tried to live life on my own terms and while materially I did “okay,” without a natural spring, there wasn’t much to depend on in times of drought.

There wasn’t much to hope for past the pool I could draw from.

So, like my friends who have yet to change their water usage in the midst of this season, I would pretend not to care or trouble myself with the actual condition of my heart… And just keep on keeping on… Spraying down the walk and watering my lawn…making sure everything looked good to the passers by… and “Hoping” there would always be rain — even when it wasn’t “supposed” to fall… I find it interesting that a life without God produces the same need as a life with God: reliance upon Him to deliver what is necessary even though we don’t deserve it.

So what’s the difference?

Posture and attitude.

We can choose to believe everything is well and good, and we’re doing it in our own strength and power…

or we can choose to acknowledge Who it is that really sends the rain.

I, for one, have turned my eyes and hopes to Heaven.

Not just for the hope of ending the drought in California, but for the drought in the hearts of all humanity as well.

You?

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Lessons From Moving: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

ImageAs I posted some months ago, this year has been a year of transition for my family and I.  We’ve recently moved from being in the center of suburbia to the edge of it.  And while my proximity to the woods and mountains of southern California is a definite plus (why, yes, that is an AWESOME view out of my bedroom window–thanks for noticing), I don’t think I completely realized all that a move entailed.  Sure, there was the reservation for our U-Haul, collecting boxes to start packing, getting rid of old stuff in our old place, change of address forms with the Postal Service and then getting amazing friends to help us move on the big day (you know who you are and how rockstarish you really are!).   

But the settling in afterwards has been a bit more of a surprise.  Boxes are all gone now.  The new routine is basically set.  But what I’m realizing is how much to a town one learns over time.  In our previous home, we’d lived in the area for about fourteen years.  The nuances of our town and the surrounding towns—known.  The time it takes to go from home to a certain place—known (more or less given southern California traffic).  In this new place, all of these things—and others—are still being learned, and will continue to be so.  And my Type A is showing in that now that we have been here for six weeks, I should have it altogether and figured out, and tied nicely with a bow.  No, friends, the reality of it is that I’m still learning, and even though the surroundings in the previous home were more known, I was in that state of learning even there.

It’s been a reminder to me that all of us are on a journey—one that provides things to see and learn and adapt to along the way.  God’s desire for us is to press into these places of learning, not cower in fear, utilizing all He gives us to our fullest potential. 

The Apostle Paul put it this way to Timothy: “God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible” (2 Timothy 1:7, The Message).  Boldness that helps us push forward with bravery into the unknown, love that brings patience and margin, and sensibility that gives us reason in making the right decisions. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  It took eons, reliance on one’s fellow man and courage.  And moves don’t have to be either.  Wherever your journey has you in transition as of late, take heart, be malleable in your learning and rely on all God provides in the process.  

Look, Dad! The plane! The plane!

The year was 1978. The location was a mysterious island in the Pacific where visitors came to live out all sorts of fantasies at a sort of hotel. The proprietor of this hotel was a Mr. Roarke, whose assistant, Tattoo, would shout, “The plane! The plane!” upon the arrival of these guests by air. And it was here that the episode began. Visitors began to live out things they had only dreamed of—reconnecting with lost friendships, finding large hidden treasures, discovering new parts of themselves they had never realized, and the like.

Fast forward twenty-two years. The year was 2000 and I was in southern California studying at a private Christian university. My summer plans involved a mission trip to Romania and our team of eleven needed our last bit to purchase plane tickets, yet another chunk to cover our costs in-country. As a college student, I’d seen God’s provision before—tuition payments were a regular opportunity for Him to show that He was truly the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. But this trip was important (didn’t He know that?) and an airfare purchase to Europe for roughly a dozen of us was a bit larger of a purchase than this kid had seen, or made, before. Our travel agent had found us a great deal, lower than we had budgeted for, on KLM, that wonderful Dutch airline with its Smurf-blue planes. Tickets were purchased. Sure enough, that daily Smurf-blue flight was easily spotted from the skies of my school, which happened to be right under the LAX landing path. As we prepared for our trip, the appearance of KLM Flight 601 into Los Angeles was a regular reminder of God’s provision, the fact that I was under His care and that worry was not needed as I lived in His plan.

Fast forward to 2012. This week actually. Living in the same area still, that Smurf-blue flight still makes itself known on a daily basis. And I happen to see it just when I need it most—at a time when I begin to once more doubt God’s goodness, His presence in my life, His protection over me and my family. Then, out of the blue (pun unintended), there it comes. And it’s a reminder just the same as it was before—that God is present, that He is with me, and that He is calling me to things I’ve never dreamed of. For many of the last few years, the appearance of that flight comes just when it’s needed. So, as I wondered this week about what lay ahead for my family as we approach the holidays, property tax bills, a fiscal cliff and the like, I hear my baby girl say to me, “A plane!” as we’re by the window. Could it be? Sure enough, I look up and it’s my Smurf-blue reminder of the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God, from His care for His children and from the knowledge that I am His.

Now, the fun begins in translating this to my little one, of God’s provision for us, and how He reminds us of it in the most inconspicuous of ways.

Grace as the Ingredient to Righteousness

Sara Groves, a favorite artist of ours, has a song on one of her albums that talks about grace. Specifically, she says that “this is grace—an invitation to beautiful.” The song, Add to the Beauty, goes on to talk about the places of grace, oftentimes places we wouldn’t expect to be grace-places, but they are there and God uses them as places of redemption where we wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be. And so our role in these places is to receive the grace that God gives.

I’m intrigued by this concept, and yet as I look at my own life, I can look at the hard places in my own experience and see that they were more often than not places of grace. Places where God reached into my misery or frustration or anger or pain and did something with that situation to bring about His plan. Christians serve a God of redemption, and yet He is also a God of the weird.

While this is strange, it’s the way the Lord has used the pain in this world for millennia past, present and—we could assume—future. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time when God would redeem all peoples during His year of favor. Then, He would “provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” These, God says, will be called “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

While I long to be an oak of righteousness, I sometimes wish that ashes, mourning and despair were not the way to get there. Still, are not these the people we long to be? Aren’t these the people we see as being close to God. Consider one young Dutch girl’s captivity by her Nazi-occupied government that would lead to her imprisonment as well as her future ministry to promote peace and the Good News of Jesus. Or someone I know who went through a terrible divorce years ago and now has a thriving grassroots ministry to those in similar situations.

God’s ways are strange, yet holy. Whatever our own situation, wherever we find ourselves—may each of us drink more deeply of the God Who Is and plant the roots of our being in Him to display His splendor and find ourselves made more whole by His grace.

T-Minus Ten Days and Counting…

Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that we were up to our elbows in turkey and dusting off the Christmas decorations from the garage rafters? We’re now two weeks in to Advent, the time of preparing for the coming of Jesus, and Christmas is just around the corner. This is most evident as one drives the roads between 4 and 6 in the evening—it seems that there is just not enough time to get all the things done done, nor parking spaces at the local shopping center!

Take heart, however. Martha’s begging of Jesus that her sister Mary serve their guests during a dinner party of their own is an important reminder for us to remember during this busy Christmas season. What was it that Jesus told Martha in response? He said that “Mary has chosen the better part” which would not be taken away from her. The better part, for Mary, while her sister was distracted by much serving—errands, hustling and bustling—was to be with the One for whom their own party was for.

Take a moment and reflect on your own Christmases past—what memories do you recall? What presents do you remember receiving? If you’re like most, the memories of spending time with family and friends are more vibrant, fond and worth holding onto. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, may we remember the example of Mary Magdalene, and for Whom Christmas is all about, and choose the better part.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving. Amidst turkey, football and conversation, today is a time to reflect on the goodness of God, His blessings to us of friends and family, to remember those who made a harsh journey across the Atlantic in search of freedom, new beginnings and hope. Today wherever you are may you know that I am thankful for each one of you and am praying that God shows you something new about Him today.