Hello friends! It’s been a while since I’ve added to my blog. For the last few months I’ve been in one of “those” seasons. Loss, heartache, questioning, along with so many conversations with God and His Holy Spirit. As James reminds us,
“Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
And ain’t that the truth.
We have a few roads from which to choose when we go through our difficult seasons. We can beg the Lord to go back to the familiar and comfortable. We can rush our minds to the other side of the trial either imagining an outcome far worse or far better than we hope or fear. Or we can learn a bit from Jesus’ brother and “let this perseverance finish its work so we can be mature and complete.” In other words, we live in this God-given moment right now, seeking His blessings, seeking His voice, and seeking the lessons to be learned.
The day I wrote this post my devotional reminded me to not work for food that perishes but for the food which endures eternal life. (Charles Stanley, Every Day in His Presence) I was admonished to change my point of view and not focus on the problems right in front of me but rather what God’s interest is in developing me for His eternal purpose. And very importantly, asking for help in learning His lessons quickly so that His peace and strength would again be my resting place.
During these last few months I’ve also been deep dive into Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah with my BSGs. As usual, God is using all of my life to teach me about standing firm in my faith and stepping forward in trust. And as I have prayed to God to reveal to me my next blog series I kept hearing the phrase: “Lessons from Cherith.” You see, Elijah had to spend a lot of time alone, facing his own trials before he was ready for the “big show.” In that time, some of which was in the area called Cherith, he had to choose to either trust God’s eternal plan for him or not. He had to remove so many well-honed cultural and religious thoughts of “the way things are supposed to be” and instead see how God works. And he had to decide to stand out amongst the crowd.
And although my “Cherith” hasn’t lasted for as long as Elijah’s or even as long as Jesus was in the wilderness, I learned some valuable lessons while communing with the Holy Spirit. In the next few weeks I’d like to share some of these with you. To hopefully help us realign our lives to be Christian lives, lived out for all the world to see. For our friends and neighbors and co-workers to be spurred to ask why we seem different.
Friends, we can’t keep wandering through the wilderness of this earthly world living up to its standards. It’s time to take our hard earned lessons from “those seasons” and put them to work for the glory of God.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
I’ve been thinking a lot about separateness lately. As the world seems to move farther and farther away from the message of Christ, I find myself feeling separated from so much of the goings on. Politics, social and moral issues that the world promotes appear to be so upside down. At times I’ve asked, “Where is God in all of this?”
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
“What on earth is He up to?” is, I suppose, the better question. Since the beginning of time God’s work has been about separateness. He separated the dark from the light. The land from the sea. The heavens from the earth. He even set apart man from beast. And when He commanded that there would be light it also meant He would set apart good from evil. From that day on He started working in our hearts to bring us into the light. The light that Jesus gave direct access to through His sacrifice.
I’ve been visiting a new church with my husband. The pastor is Adriel Sanchez. Some of you may recognize him as one of the duo from Core Christianity – a podcast and radio show heard around the world. His church has begun a new series on Genesis. And he spoke on the creation of light and dark.
God created beauty, order and light and He didn’t need ingredients. He made them out of nothing, darkness.
Pastor Adriel Sanchez
He went on to put the Jewish (and eventually Christian) creation story in to context. The Jews were most likely wandering in the desert when this story was possibly given to Moses from God. Their lives were dark and chaotic. And while other religions of the time, just like today, have their own creation story, those religions created gods out of what was created – the Sun God, Moon God, God of Nature, etc. You’ll notice in Genesis that the sun and moon aren’t called those names. Possibly to avoid man from elevating them to a worshipping status. God created all the things that these other religions made into little gods.
We weren’t created to serve the sun, the moon, or nature. They were created FOR man by God.
Pastor Adriel Sanchez
When you think about what God did for us humans it’s pretty amazing. Think about a gift you received that was the best gift ever. Do you remember how you thanked the person who gave it to you? Now imagine this gift that God gave us. The light, the land, the skies, the animals. How could we ever thank Him enough? All He has ever asked of us is to set ourselves apart from the darkness.
Our hearts are like the wilderness – dark and chaotic. And God says to our hearts, “Let there be light!
Pastor Adriel Sanchez
So let’s go back to C.S. Lewis’ imagery of rebuilding the house. God is working on rebuilding the world. God works on large scale projects while also working on our tiny little bathroom remodel. It’s the same work schedule He has maintained throughout history. There’s a lot of knocking down walls going on. And with that comes a lot of pushback from people who don’t want the light to enter in the room. They enjoy living in the darkness in order to put themselves and their desires at their center.
I’ve heard people talk disparaging about the Bible – its violence especially. Many uneducated about the Bible take issue with destroying whole towns and killing off all the residents. But put in context it was a major remodel taking place. Those cities were rife with termites and rot. Child sacrifices and unbridled sexual exploits all in the name of satisfying some fertility god were rampant. They were just plain evil.
And while God was using other people and the Jews to destroy those darkened places He made it a point to work in each and every Israelite’s heart. He cared about behavior but He cared more for bringing light to their hearts and minds. They were to act like people set apart from the darkness. He cared enough about us, as individuals, to first send His Son and then leave us with the light of His Holy Spirit to dwell in each of us.
It’s hard to live set apart from the world. It may cause our faith, at times, to wane. But I’m finding when I change my question from “Where is God?” to “What on earth is He up to?” it helps me to see His work in me and the world. For when I see my Savior I surely want to be remodeled, a house full of light.
So then, let us not be like others,
who are asleep, but let us be awake
and sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:6
I just finished a study on the book of Numbers. It finds Israel wandering about the desert grumbling, complaining and disobeying God at every turn. And God gives mercy over and over at Moses’ pleading. Until He doesn’t. There’s so much death in this book because of the unfaithfulness. Some because God allows the Israelites to try their own path, leading to deaths during wars. And some because God rains down His punishment with plagues.
It’s so easy for us to read what happened thousands of years ago and judge the Israelites. They were asleep to God’s ways and character.
At the end of one of my commentaries was the statement that from God’s point of view there are only three locations in the Israelite journey and only three locations in our own journey.
Egypt: the land of bondage
The Wilderness: the land of unbelief, doubt and falling short
Canaan: the land of inheritance
The question for us is, which location do we currently find ourselves in?
Throughout the Bible we find an underlying message about growing in our faith. The sooner we recognize where we are and why we are there, the sooner we can move along on our journey.
For I know that good itself does not
dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good,
but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18
This statement by Peter is so self-reflective. He has one foot in the wilderness while reaching with the other into the land of inheritance. He actively searches his heart and soul, asking God to reveal the blemishes and the blind spots.
We can spend a lot of time, like the Israelites seeing what God is and does. We can hear the good work He does in others. But do we, like Moses, truly understand God’s actions? Do we still ask “why” and wishing we could go back to Egypt? Or do we ask God to do even more work in us so that we are constantly changing, stripping away our old selves for His glory?
We want to be awake, vivacious, alive in our faith journey. We need to not just know “of” God but truly know Him – His character, how He works and how much He loves to see us grow.
You either obey, ignore or resist.
Warren Wiersbe on the will of God
We humans like to blame the outside world for being stuck. For not reaching our full potential. We blame our church for not inspiring us. We blame our circumstances for not having time for God. We blame fellow Christians who have hurt us. But the Holy Spirit resides in us. It is a personal journey lived out for all to see. King David, in Psalm 51 does some deep reflection on where he is in his faith journey.
For I know my transgressions, and my
sin is always before me. Against you,
you only, have I sinned and done what
is evil in your sight;Psalm 51:3-4
The Israelites blamed Moses and God for not quickly and without hardship reaching the Promised Land. They lacked David’s self-reflection. They sat for so many years in the Land of the Wilderness. It took me almost 20 years of wandering to finally wake up and begin understanding God. So, I have no place to judge them.
If you are stuck it’s time to look inward. It’s time to shake off your sleepiness and do a deep dive with God into your own heart. Only then can He lead you to the Land of Inheritance.
My friend Betsy is incredible. I first met her when I started working out at the gym where my daughter was a physical therapist. I instantly was drawn to her positivity and strength. On her 70th birthday, Betsy and another friend did 70 burpees without stopping, If you have ever done a burpee you are probably saying, “wow!!” She can hand-over-hand climb a rope to the top of the building. She pushes herself with heavier weights, all the while encouraging others much younger.
One day I was challenged by another friend to start a Bible Study. I had overheard Betsy mention her faith a few times. I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked her and another gym buddy to join my study. She instantly said, “yes!” When my Boldness Challenge commenced her list was impressive. At the top was her desire to walk a portion of the famed Pacific Crest Trail in California – alone. Now mind you, Betsy has been hiking her whole life. And, she has scaled Mt. Whitney multiple times (her husband, Jack, will hit his 200th Whitney climb this summer). I trust her judgement when it comes to being out in the wilderness. But she wanted to trust God, not herself. So, she prayed and asked for prayers from our Bold Warrior group. She felt God’s answer – “go.” She planned her trip between two others. Another Whitney climb and the trip she had planned with two other friends –the long-term dream of hiking the John Muir Trail. As I write this, she is on her way up to the Sierras for her three-week hike on the JMT. Did I mention Betsy has had two knee replacements? I call her my Bionic friend.
Boldness Trip Report July 22-24, 2020
I have been wanting to do this hike for around five years now. First because it is the “official” start of the Sierras, which is my first love when it comes to mountain ranges. And secondly, because this trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which I have dreamed about hiking for several decades. I grew up hiking in the Sierras every summer. My father brought my siblings and I there for backpacking trips. So being in these mountains is revisiting favorite childhood memories. But Kennedy Meadows is the southern end of the Sierras and lower in elevation, which makes this area hotter and drier. This is why I have not tackled this hike before now! According to the PCT Half Mile App, it is actually a 40-mile trip, with fewer sources of water than I am used to and these water sources dry out as the summer heats up.
My husband drove me to the trail head on July 22 and I started hiking at 5:50 a.m. to get miles covered before the sun heated up the trail. I was carrying 5 liters of water and planned to camp 12 miles up the trail at the south fork of the Kern River. I sang hymns and talked with God as I walked down the trail. I looked for flowers along the way and marveled at the beauty all around me. Because the elevation is lower here, there were many flowers that I do not normally see. My father taught us to try to identify flowers on the trail. I consider this one of the gifts I received from him! This helps pass the time and I was happy as I walked.
Having studied the trail descriptions, I noticed the changing scenery which marked my progress up the trail. And the sun stayed behind a ridge to the east for a very long time, so the hike was not as hot as I expected. From time to time there was a cool breeze, to which I said, “Thank you Jesus!” I passed a woman at the 5-mile point. She had come from Kennedy Meadows the day before for a one-night trip and was headed back to her car. She confirmed for me a water source 2 miles up the trail. I could hear a small musical creek when I got there. I stopped and filled up my water bottles. About a mile later, I topped out of the small canyon. There was a gentle descent through pine trees and when the trees ended the vista opened onto a gorgeous miles long meadow. It was stunning! The trail followed the edge of the meadow and it was a joy to walk along it! This is cow country, and I could hear the cows in the meadows mooing.
Time passed quickly and by 1:00 p.m. I was at the south fork of the Kern River and my camping spot for the night. I filtered water into all my bottles. I set up camp. I explored the trial on the other side of the river where I was to hike come morning. All chores were done by 4:00, and this is when I started to struggle mentally. I had 4 hours to go before sunset. I really missed my husband! I am used to having him as my exploring companion. Because I was carrying all that water, I did not bring anything to read or any other forms of distraction. I had to rely on a favorite mantra: “Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you!” One of my weaknesses is being still and listening for God. I am not particularly good at being quiet and listening for his words. So, I sat down on a nice rock and asked God to help me listen. My bible ladies will tell you that for months now, when asked what God is calling me to do, I have been unsure of the answer. I felt I was being led to call on shut-ins but was not sure I was hearing correctly. As I sat on that rock, names were coming to me of people to visit and as the list grew, I felt certain this is what God is asking me to do! It was wonderful to feel his direction! This day was also the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. So, I had a conversation with her, and I sang the hymns that she had picked to have at her funeral. It was a holy time. I was in my tent and dozing at 8:15 p.m. when I heard a voice saying “Hello.” It was a man and two women who had come from Kennedy Meadows. They had started hiking at 7:00 a.m. and were just now getting to camp. When I left camp the following morning, one of the women was just getting up. We waved as I headed out across the bridge over the river. I saw no one else for the rest of the hike.
The trail on the far side of the river was a little confusing. There were intersecting trails, poorly marked and an old jeep road that was mentioned in the guidebook. As I approached the river the day before I could see a portion of a trail going up the hillside, heading north and slightly east. And as I was almost to camp, I saw a person rounding a corner and heading in the direction of that trail. The trail description talked about being on the old jeep road for a short time before you were back on old trail. My sense was to follow where I had seen the other hiker. My back up plan was to turn on my phone and check the PCT Half Mile App that was on my phone. So, I turned right at the intersection, following the old jeep road and turned on my phone. But to my dismay, it immediately said, low battery, closing and it promptly shut down. My reaction, after the shock, was to say, “Okay God! It’s just you and me!” I continued down the old jeep road and about 30 seconds later out of my mouth came “Why aren’t there any footprints here?” But did I listen? No! I just kept walking around the corner where I had seen the other hiker, for about 10 minutes where the trail/old jeep road became a mass of cow hoof prints. I stopped and pulled out my portable phone charger, hooking it up to my phone. I reread the trail description, knowing I was not where I should be. I went back to the trail intersection and saw immediately which path I should have followed. The one that went north and slightly west. It made me stop and think about what other times in my life when I have had a preconceived idea about what I was supposed to be doing and was so focused on that idea that I totally missed God telling me that I was going in the wrong direction!! By now my phone was powered up enough to confirm I was on the PCT.
The rest of the morning passed as the steps became miles and the trail landmarks followed in sequence the trail descriptions in the guidebook. Beauty was everywhere! I stopped and sat on a fallen tree amidst many wildflowers to eat my breakfast — gorgeous!! I was filled with peace. The trail continued to climb and eventually rounded a corner to a hillside meadow. I have never been to Switzerland, but I believe it would look like this meadow. I could hear a trickle of water, so I dropped my pack and wandered until I found a place where I could collect enough water to pump into my many water bottles. I could have stayed there for hours! But old lady muscles get stiff when I sit too long, so back to the trail I went.
More climbing and the sun was heating up. Some portions of the trail became sandy. It was time to focus on other things, so I started at the top of my prayer list, being very intentional and specific with the requests for each person on my list. Next thing I knew, it was an hour later, and I was two miles up the trail, having not thought once about tired muscles, or sandy trails, or when was I going to stop and sit down! My last prayer for the last person on my prayer list was said just as I topped out over the ridgeline. It was utterly amazing! The body is an incredible machine. If you have done your prep work, as in going to exercise class regularly, working out and stretching, then all you have to do is get your head out of the mix and let the body take over. Your mind can defeat you every time if you let it. “This is like walking on the beach!” “That sun is making me hot!” “More uphill! Really?” “Shouldn’t I take a break now?” I will say it again, your mind can defeat your heart and your spirit if you let it. So, do not let it! Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18. This is one of my favorites. It snaps me out of the negative every time!
Over the ridge and down we go, into a forest of pines. Beautiful! Heading for the next night’s water source and campsite. That was to be twelve miles from the Kern River. The guidebook said, “Reliable, year-round, spring fed creek.” Except it was a mud hole!! My first thought was “Betsy, you are toast!” But a little voice in my head said, “Betsy, just keep walking.” So, walk I did, past the mud hole, and past Gomez Meadow, where I thought I was spending the night. Three miles up the trail was a “step across creek.” That voice was saying every mile I do today is one less mile for tomorrow. I was mentally reviewing the water I had left. Three- and one-half liters. But tomorrow was to be a fifteen-mile day and I did not like that ratio. I knew I was well hydrated based on how frequently I was having to stop to pee. And I knew it was better to keep going while I was hydrated. Fortunately, there was water to “step across” when I came to creek! I filled my bottles then reviewed the map and the trail description. The next section covered 26 switchbacks over 4 miles. I decided to listen to that voice that was still telling me to just keep walking. I knew this was a climb, but I could see from the map that there would be places flat enough to camp along the way if I became too tired to do all 26. I was still feeling strong, so, walk I did. I ended up doing 18 miles that day which just left 10 miles to Mulkey Pass, my end point for the trail, plus one-mile cross country to Horseshoe Meadow to get to the car. I camped at the top of the 26 switchbacks and had a lovely view!
I was on the trail early the next morning. With eight miles left to hike, I decided to give myself a treat. I pulled out my I-pod and turned on a Lauren Daigle CD. I was sitting on a fallen tree eating a snack when Love Like This came on. I am very familiar with this CD and love her music. But on this day, the words spoke to me in a very personal way. “What have I done to deserve love like this?” The tears started running down my face. And when her powerful voice sang out the Hallelujahs, I could almost feel the notes and words reverberating off the surrounding mountain spires! It was definitely a God moment!
Back on the trail, and a few songs later, her song, Remember, spoke to me as well. I have always known that God is with me wherever I am. And he is how I survived that hardest moments of my life. But on this day, these words and her voice had me sobbing as I went down the trail. “I remember, I remember. You have always been faithful to me.’ “You were there, always there, with me.” Is there any gift that can be greater than that?! Not for me.
The last thing I want to say is regarding fear. I put off doing this hike for 5 years out of fear of the unknown. Where is the water? What will the trail be like? Where will I camp? How long will it take me? Will it be too hot? Will I get dehydrated? Will I be afraid out there by myself? The answers are simple. This is an incredibly beautiful section of the Sierras and I loved hiking through it! I was never afraid, even when my reliable water was not so reliable! I have learned this lesson before and will probably have to learn it again in the future. What we imagine is often much worse than real life! We have nothing to fear but fear itself! God was with me and I was blessed!
In the darkest hour, when I cannot breathe Fear is on my chest, the weight of the world on me Everything is crashing down, everything I had known When I wonder if I’m all alone
I remember, I remember You have always been faithful to me I remember, I remember Even when my own eyes could not see You were there, always there
I will lift my eyes even in the pain Above all the lies, I know You can make a way I have seen giants fall, I have seen mountains move I have seen waters part because of You
I remember (I remember) I remember (I remember) You have always been faithful to me I remember (I remember) I remember (I remember) Even when my own eyes could not see You were there, always there
I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about Your goodness, goodness I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about Your goodness, goodness I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about Your goodness, goodness I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about I can’t stop thinking about Your goodness, goodness
I remember, I remember You have always been faithful to me I remember (I remember) I remember (I remember) Even when my own eyes could not see You were there, always there, with me