Designer Dungeons

027aa9fa73140da2048987f35b3e8b8cJeremiah is a great friend of mine. We have spent many days together talking about God and our dungeon experiences.

He comforts me. He sent me notes of encouragement from so many centuries before, yet his frustrations, are as current as yesterday’s battles.

Yes, he is a great friend of mine.

While he pours out his frustrations in Lamentations chapter three, I listen, and I nod “yes” in all the appropriate places.

A good friend does that.

His dungeon is quite different from mine. His—designed for him—mine designed for me.  And the God who sees and hears, and knows everything, knows just what we need to get us from anger and frustration, to hope and trust. Jeremiah’s is tailor-made for him. Mine is tailor-made for me.

Your dungeon? Yes, it is tailor-made for you and of God’s knowing and choosing.

I know, you think yours is the worst. Jeremiah thought his was. I think mine is. But no, each one, each captivity is designed specifically for the one it encloses; designed to bring us to the end of ourselves and face-to-face with God.

It is love that closes us in.

Oh, I know. I didn’t think so at first. Jeremiah didn’t either, but after the caterpillar begins to adjust:

⦁ to the tight space
⦁ to the dark place

After he has:

⦁ made his case
⦁ and surrendered his race

He searches:

⦁ for God’s face
⦁ and finds God’s grace

And he discovers his custom cocoon? His designer dungeon? Though snug in spots, fits him like a glove.

And remember little caterpillar. Though tight and dark your cocoon may be—it is the place where wings are formed!

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy.                Lamentations 3:7Lamentations 3:7
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7 He has walled me about, that I can’t go forth; he has made my chain heavy.

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A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, when life seems to close in around us; when the darkness of despair threatens to suffocate all that desires Your will above all else, then Father, then come to our aid! Remind us in the very tight places, that You love us with an everlasting love, and nothing can shake that. Remind us that this is the very place Your wisdom has chosen for us; our cocoon to transform us; to form wings of destiny for Your plan and purpose.
Oh Abba… help us, when we forget.

The Iron

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It is easy in captivity to focus on the “iron bars” that fence me in or the “iron chains” that bind me—my adverse adversaries.

They are there each day to mock my heart’s longing for freedom.
Adverse circumstances.
Adversities.
Adversaries.
We all have them.
Some to a much greater degree; some to a lesser.

But I believe our adversities are tailor-made for us by a God who sees us, who hears us, who knows us, intimately.

I am His creation after all. My life is naked and bare before Him. Certainly my adversity cannot escape His notice?

So why has this famine come and parked itself at my door?
Why is it that I still live in Habakkuk’s Vineyard after so many years?
Is my sin worse than someone else’s?
Why me?

Ever wondered?
(Of course you have.)
Me, too.

God told me this was coming… did He tell you?
He gave me two scriptures to act as my support through some of the first very dark days.

Isaiah 43:2Isaiah 43:2
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2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle on you.

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, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.

1 Peter 5:101 Peter 5:10
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10 But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

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, But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.
To me they said, “The fire and flood are coming, but one day, I will make an end. And you will be stronger than you have ever been before.

You know what? I am.
That is “the iron” I focus on now. Not my adversity.

Oh, it’s still there, but you know what it has brought?
Iron to my faith.
(Mine used to wobble a bit)
Adversity has taught me nothing can separate me from the love of God. There is iron in my backbone. (I once had so many fears.)
Nothing like facing your worst fear to conquer it!

Yes, the iron is there.

I am much stronger now, inside.
No one is more amazed than I am… and I am thankful… very thankful.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.          Isaiah 40:29Isaiah 40:29
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29 He gives power to the faint; and to him who has no might he increases strength.

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A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, there was a time I didn’t believe I would ever see any good in all the bad that has happened, but today I see, a little. Enough for my heart to whisper a tiny, “thank you.” It may be with eyes that are flooded with tears… but it’s a start.

A God Past Finding Out

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Why would God deliberately send a famine? To punish the guilty? But, what about the innocent? Is that a God of Justice or a God past finding out?

I remember when the famine began in my life—the captivity.

In one event, things were put into motion that turned my life from green and fertile into a wasteland. Like dominos falling, I saw my nice, neat, orderly life, dissolve into chaos.

Is that what happened to Joseph? David? Job? Jonah?

Why does God step into our sweet order and so rearrange us that the result is famine, captivity, confusion, and sorrow?

Dear Reader, were you as stunned as I was when the chaos descended?

Job was.

Dear sweet Job. Minding his own business. Living a life of holiness and obedience and, suddenly.

Yes, that’s it. Suddenly your nice sweet orderly world slips off its axis, and suddenly everything you thought you knew about God, about others, about yourself—all of it is put through the fire!

Did you try to understand it?

I did. Job did. But we, Job and I, were about to be introduced to a God “past finding out.” (Rom. 11:33Rom. 11:33
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33 Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!

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Have you met Him?

If you’re reading this chances are you have.

And, I imagine you’ve made some discoveries about Him, haven’t you? Like, “… My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…” (Isa. 55:8Isa. 55:8
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8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says Yahweh.

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I have a much different view of those words today.

Past finding out? Yes. Unsearchable? Yes! A God of Justice?Yes, but on His terms, not ours. His plan. His purpose. His servant. His way.

Even in famine, injustice, and captivity?

Yes, even that.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

… He called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread. He sent a man before them – Joseph – who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters* He was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.”

Psalm 105:16-19Psalm 105:16-19
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16 He called for a famine on the land. He destroyed the food supplies. 17 He sent a man before them. Joseph was sold for a slave. 18 They bruised his feet with shackles. His neck was locked in irons, 19 Until the time that his word happened, And Yahweh’s word proved him true.

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* a chain or shackle for the ankles or feet

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, this is some of the hardest stuff you give us. Famine. Our mind may look for Your plan, and try to see the good in all the bad stuff that happens… but our hearts? Oh God, how our heart’s reel under some of the things you hand us! It has taken me a long time to learn this very difficult discipline of singing: songs in the night. I confess LORD, for so long… there was no song in me… only stunned, dumb, silence… wincing and stumbling through the dark. Holy Spirit, come. Comfort every hurting heart reading these words today. Truly, You are the only One who has the balm to heal our brokenness. Heal us LORD. Help us. We lift our tear-full eyes to You ~ for You are our only hope.

Doin’ The Dailies While Waiting For Deliverance

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Is there anything harder than waiting for deliverance? My answer is “No!” I struggle so to do my “dailies” in captivity. To get up each day and face another day of restriction and handicap, and yet do what must be done anyway, and do it with a good attitude!

This tests my allegiance to Jesus like nothing else I know.

When all my heart longs for freedom, and choices, and ability to face my narrow sphere (yet one more day) and do it with grace and gentleness, and the compassion of Christ?

I don’t know about you, but there are days that my flesh screams in me; days I want to rebel. These are the days I see what a failure I am—what a rebel!

Habakkuk says, “I will stand my watch…”

Yes. My watch. The one God has given me. Narrow certainly. Unpleasant probably. But the freedom of how I shall do my watch? That is mine. God gives it to me each day and I choose to lay down my life, or take it back.

Simple when you think about it.

I can yeild to this plan I don’t like, and can’t understand, or I can rebel, and churn, and resist.

So there is freedom in captivity. Freedom to yield. Freedom to choose. No captivity can take those choices from me! I can stand my watch. I can accept God’s grace. I can do my dailies knowing the choices are mine and mine alone.

Yes, LORD, I will stand my watch.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.  Habakkuk 2:1Habakkuk 2:1
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2 1 I will stand at my watch, and set myself on the ramparts, and will look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

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A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father please, help me today to accept where I am; to say “Yes!” to where Your sovereign hand has placed me. Help me to do everything I must do this day with peace in my heart, courage in my steps, and above all, Your love touching each act of obedience to Your will. LORD, you see how I struggle to hope and believe… help me today to face (one more time) what must be done. I confess my failures to You. Correct me for my good, and I will trust that You will step into my weakness with Your almighty strength and power. I watch for You alone.

Why This Waste?

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That was my question. “Why this waste?”

I looked into my father’s face with the tears flooding down mine.

He wanted to give me an answer. (He didn’t have one.) At least not an easy one. Instead he tenderly responded, “…you are not the same person you were before all this began.”

(At the time that did little to assuage my anger and frustration.)

Why does God choose the wilderness for us?

My short answer: I don’t know.

But my bible says it’s a common classroom for the LORD.

It also says His deserts have graduated some distinguished bible heros.  Mega-men such as:  Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, the apostles Paul and John. Not to mention the Lord Jesus Himself who went straight into the wilderness after being baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit.

All of the above did a tenure in Desert-U.

I know The Church is fond of comparing “the wilderness” to our unredeemed and sinful state, but if that is so, then the above is even more unfathomable isn’t it?

Nope. Sorry. I think there’s just got to be more to it.

Personally I believe “the wilderness” affords God a place of exclusive one-on-one time with us; face to face and heart to heart. No distractions. Little interruption. And above all, a pure and haunting desperation to hear from Him.

There’s nothing quite like the desert to boil life down to the pure essentials!

  • Sand and heat.
  • Water and food.
  • Shelter and protection.
  • Life at its purest and most basic.

It seems a “no-brainer” to me.

The basics (and not much else) is a great and very effective attention-getter! On me, it works every single time.

It seems, in spite of myself—I learn.

Nowadays, The LORD may not choose a literal desert for us, but by own experience I can attest to the truth that God has no diffiuclty in clearing the chess board of my life, removing all distractions, and bringing me up-close and personal with the King Himself.

I find when He desires to take me into an intense time of teaching, or graphic instruction, the desert experience seems to be His MO.

God certainly does know how to turn up the heat.

When you are going through a time of great suffering (for whatever the reason) you do feel like your life has been turned into a hot and howling wasteland. A difficult “wilderness” might be my health, my finances, my relationships, or just my own heart’s lonely journey, but when God wants to speak to me, mono-a-mono, I find He prefers a desert of some kind, ’cause not all necessary skills can be learned via sweet harp music on “flowery beds of ease,” to quote Isaac Watts.

Unpopular, I know, but some things can only be learned via sorrow and suffering.

I say all of this for one reason: to encourage you.

I know. I can almost hear your, “Thanks a lot!” but here’s what I want you to believe.

The wilderness is not necessarily a punitive place of punishment. Lots of times it feels like it is. (Yeah, I know.) But perhaps it is something else. Perhaps it is for something good.

If you are going through a wilderness time know this for certain…

You are in exalted company number one; and two God is planning on using you and your experience or He wouldn’t be taking such great pains with you! You are a diamond in the rough and God is polishing His priceless gemstone… YOU.

(So be encouraged.)

The word of God says, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”  [Isa. 62:3Isa. 62:3
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3 You shall also be a crown of beauty in the hand of Yahweh, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

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Have you ever seen a diamond in the rough? Not much to look at. Just an old brown rock. Okay, so right now you may feel like a throwaway. Not much to look at, either. All of your life looks to you like you are drowning in an ocean of sand, but trust me, that is miles from the real truth! God is up to something with you. Something good.

Don’t give in. Don’t despair. And don’t give up.

God has a plan.

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The following resources have really helped a lot while walking through my own wilderness journeys:

School of Suffering

“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11John 18:11
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11 Jesus therefore said to Peter, “Put the sword into its sheath. The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not surely drink it?”

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This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God’s will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement. To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life–to be able to say in such a school of discipline, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?’–this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point. Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer. –Dr. Charles Parkhurst (emphasis mine)

***

To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him.

We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.

The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.

The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.

***

“Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.”

***

The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.

(from Streams in the Desert, by L. B. Cowman, Zondervan)

P. S.  For more help, I also encourage you to read Jamie Buckingham’s book: A Way Through The Wilderness

A Bruised Reed and A Broken Heart

broken-heart2

I have become good friends with my fellow captives from the bible.

Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Jonah, and of course, Job.

I can relate to their frustration, their questions, and their bruised hearts. I, too, have days where I bruise my heart against the stone walls of my captivity; the squandering of my life. It is hard not to question a God of Justice when I look at my chains.

My heart has learned to “hold it’s peace” (most days) as I review my life in this vineyard barren of fruit and dreams, but there are those days (you know the ones) when my heart wails, and my mind rails.

When the injustice of it all overwhelms my hold on a quiet patience.

My mind begins to search for an answer to all this waste… and my heart?

It bruises itself against the stones and iron bars longing for freedom and fulfillment. The dam of passions breaks, and out pours my distress, bewilderment, and yes, my anger with men and God. The only thing that keeps my faith alive on days like this is my belief in a God who cannot lie.

I look to a Heavenly Abba and take refuge in:

A bruised reed He will not break…

My tiny flame of faith finds fresh fuel in:

And smoking flax He will not quench…

And my bruised heart finds its necessary hope in the words:

He will bring forth justice for truth.

There is rest for the restless here; hope for the heartaches, and finally… peace.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.  Isaiah 42:3Isaiah 42:3
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3 A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth.

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A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Abba (Papa) you see all my internal struggles. All my outward expressions of frustration; the battles I fight within and without. Please help me today to internalize the peace of Your promise while externalizing the expressions of Your love and light to the ones in my life who need me. Help me… not to look at the walls that surround me, but rather to look up, and focus on Your love and faithful promises, that will see me through another day of frustration in this vineyard.

Dearest Captive, He Sees You.

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I begin to write these notes to you, with some reluctance, and not a little trepidation. You see, I am like you—a captive.

I write this, or should I say, I begin to write this in Habakkuk’s Vineyard. A difficult place. A barren place. A place “with no fruit on the vines.”

Tough stuff living in Habakkuk’s Vineyard.

Not for weaklings.

(But then you already know that.)

I just want to say one thing to you today: He sees you.

God knows where you are.

It may be a literal cell. The world may have actually labeled you “a prisoner,” but I have discovered that “prisons” come in all shapes and sizes.

Captivity is not necessarily limited to a one narrow room.

If you are caught in the vise of a diseased or broken body? You know what captivity is.

If you are buried under mountains of debt?

(You know.)

If your life has been sidelined by the caregiving of another who has no hope of recovery, you rise everyday to face the dawn of another day—captive.

Lifeless job? Loveless marriage? Our prison’s may be wide and varied. Yet, I have discovered that though our circumstances may differ? Our needs do not.

And I need to know today: He sees me.

God’s eyes are upon me.

One of my greatest needs, for though the world may forget me? God has promised me He will not.

“…He calls them all by name,”

(He calls you by name)

“…by the greatness of His might, and the strength of His power; not one is missing.”

(You’re not missing either—not to God)

He sees you. He sees me. Though the world, (even The Church) may have forgotten us? God does not! He knows all about it; our captivity.

He sees us.

(our tears)

He hears us.

(our sighs)

We are not “missing” in His accounting!

Take heart sweet captive. The Omnipotent Hand that led you into captivity?

(…you aren’t there by chance.)

He will “keep you” today.

“…by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power.”

(He sees you.)

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.  Isaiah 40:26Isaiah 40:26
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26 Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these, who brings out their army by number; he calls them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power, not one is lacking.

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A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, please seal this promise to my heart today. I am so prone to: feeling forgotten. Remind me over and over again, that even if the world forgets me, You never will. Teach me today… just how much you love me.

Part I ~ THE PLACE

Baja - 130 - Laguna Salada - Abandoned Vineyard

Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit;

though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren;

even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty…

Was there ever a more apt description of a place of dead dreams?
Our dreams represent our highest aspirations for ourselves. A place where we hope to soar with eagles on wings of vision and destiny. Habakkuk’s Vineyard on the other hand, paints a portrait where all has dried up, withered away, and died.

Not exactly the destiny we all dream of…

And yet if we are honest with ourselves a very REAL place that all of us have visited, or will visit, at least once in our lives.
Why does a God who loves us, I mean, really-really LOVE’s us (so much that He was willing to send His only Son to die for us…) why does a God who will do all of that, take us to dwell in a place as barren and bleak as Habakkuk’s Vineyard?
Why?
Notorious unfathomable question.
Could it be? Is it possible that there is The Place where “more” is born? Right there in that horrible desert of hopeless blight. Is that the “preparation place” for dreams that are far beyond our asking or imagining like Ephesians 3:20Ephesians 3:20
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20 Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

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hints at?

“Now glory be to God who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” [TLB]

Infinitely beyond? From a place like that? How is it possible?
These are some of the questions we will ponder in the coming pages.
Perhaps, just perhaps, in all of our shattered dreams and devastating losses, God is setting the stage in our lives for a MORE life. More joy. More fulfillment. More fruit. Greater compassion and usefulness infinitely beyond our highest prayers. Infinitely beyond all our desires, thoughts, or hopes.

Could it be?

From Habakkuk’s Vineyard?
Crazy. Improbable. Impossible!
Yeah, but what if?
Instead of a place of death, God intends to give us more of something Jesus called – the abundant life?

I don’t know about you, but when I arrived at Habakkuk’s Vineyard I was angry, and very, very, frustrated.

To my thinking, I had obeyed everything that God had asked me to do. Yet, everything in my life was in a shambles and I was feeling more than a little ripped off.

I just couldn’t seem to reconcile my present realities with His promises, and the more I tried and failed, the more frustrated and ticked-off I became.

There was something missing and I had to find out what it was, so I decided to thrash out these feelings with God in my daily journaling.

Here’s where I need to tell you that I am a prodigal-daughter who has returned.

When I did, God and I made a contract: no head-faking-baloney. Only straight talk. As gut-level honest as possible.

I say this because in the “conversations” that follow, you will hear me pour out my angry frustration many times.

But, I also hope you will hear a dreamer’s hurting heart. One that is genuinely searching for all of God’s right answers.

In this book God will often be referred to as: The Dream-Maker.

I am (of course) the caterpillar.

I chose this metaphor because this book is all about transformation:
⦁ Transforming our wrong beliefs about God.
⦁ Transforming our wormy-thinking about ourselves…
⦁ So that, in turn, we can transform our anger and confusion into prayers-with-power…
⦁ Asking The Dream-Maker, to transform our present devastation, into His destined purpose.

In short, let’s bring our Wilderness wandering to an end. Let’s give God all our confusion, anger, and heartbroken devastation. Let’s let Him transform our faulty thinking into the dreams and visions that are fit for His plan and His Kingdom purpose.

Want to?

Hope so.

Let’s pray.

Father I remember.

I remember how hurt, angry, and confused I was when I arrived at the end of my dreams, only to find myself living in Habakkuk’s Vineyard.
Help us, LORD. Help all of us who find ourselves living in this barren place. We need revelation. Faith-eyes to see what isn’t there yet. Faith-ears to hear Your Still Small Voice speaking truth to our hearts. Show us the way out of our captivity-thinking and believing.
You are our promised Comforter, Teacher, and Healer… and we need it all!
LORD, transform our hearts so that we can transform our asking. We need this, so that You, The Dream-Maker can bring about the plans You have for us. “Plans for good, not for evil, to give us a future and a hope.” [Jer. 29:11-14Jer. 29:11-14
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11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end. 12 You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says Yahweh, and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says Yahweh; and I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive.

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] Bring this “promised end” to pass in our lives. Get the enemy’s foot off our neck, so that we can place our feet on higher ground. We receive ALL the new dreams You have for us by faith. Give us the hope we need to trust in Your word and Your promises again. Help us to pray the prayers that open the windows of heaven. Take our tiny caterpillar-dreams and turn them into wings-of-destiny. The destiny You have planned for us from before the beginning of time.

We come humbly. We come hurting. We come desperate.

Transform us LORD.

We ask all this in the powerful Omnipotent Name of Jesus. Amen. (let it be done!)

A Caterpillar’s Lament

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A little worm
All drab and brown
Is all I’ll ever be.
But oh,
The dreams inside of me
That no one else can see.

Though every day
My life is spent
Down in the mud below.
I long with all my heart and soul
Up to the clouds to go.

To rise above
On wings of love
Where all is beauty bright.
To flit and fly,
To sail the sky,
To climb to rainbow’s height!

But here I dwell
In Self’s dark cell
A weakling frail and small.
Dear God above
The source of Love
Please hear me when I call.

With colors gay
Begin today
To make me something new.
Let me sing
On gossamer wings
To dreamers – not a few.

A song to show
That all things low
Can miracles believe;
If they will shed
All fear and dread
And new dreams now receive!

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Picture It: I’m Living My Dream!

redmond 1Picture it. I am living in my dream-city just a hop, skip, and a jump from Seattle, Washington. A city cut right out of the forest. Everything, everwhere, is GREEN. Tall lush evergreens cover most of the landscape with flowering shrubs, wild ferns, and thick lush mosses, carpeting forest floors. No wonder they call it the Emerald City.

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Redmond Valley

Rain? Who cares. I am living in the Garden of Eden, in my dream-condo perched atop a hill overlooking the serene and picturesque Redmond Valley.

My views look down over Lake Washington with it’s myriad of sailboats, and beyond that, Seattle’s high rise’s with it’s landmark Space Needle. Towering behind that, the wall of snow draped mountains rightly called, the Olympics.

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Every Saturday bright and colorful hot air balloons take off and land in the field across the road from where I live. I can hear the laughter of people walking or bicycling up and down the paths that run by my condo, to far down the valley floor, beyond my view. My small village is perfect in size; not too big, not too small, stores clean and tidy, accommodating all of one’s simple needs. Seattle’s big city lights twinkle just beyond, offering symphony, ballet, theater, and a rich night-life.

Yes, I am in heaven!

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Add to all of this… I am working my dream-job at a large Eastside church. It’s challenging work with people I love and greatly respect. Friends abound, and though I am not doing the “exact” work I had always hoped to do, still it is interesting, with loads of future possibilities. Not completely perfect… but I have a plan.

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I am single, in my mid-thirties, but content and growing in my relationship with Christ. Yet I am about to discover I still have a great deal to learn about this “Follow Me.” discipleship thing.

I am about to learn that God’s plan and my plan are on a direct collision course.

So I guess it’s not surprising when I tell you that one lovely spring day, God barged His way in on my beautiful plan and whispered, “It’s time to go…”
“Wait a minute!” I almost shouted it, “I’m living my dream Lord. Go?”

My immediate reaction was not the “willing and obedient” Isaiah teaches us. On the contrary, my first thoughts are, “No way. I can’t be hearing this right…”

The life I had, the life I was living here and now, was the answer to all of my prayers.

“…oh no, no! This can’t be right.”
God couldn’t possibly want me to give all of this up.

So I stalled. I argued my case. I presented all my grand reasons for staying right where I was.

God’s “whispers” got louder, and I kept stalling until one day, He finally took me by the scruff of my neck (maybe not literally but it felt that way) and made it absolutely, no-doubt-about-it, crystal-clear that if I stayed I would do so on my own terms without any of His blessings to count on.

I also understood that God was all DONE asking.

I will never forget His exact words to me, “Today you will decide.”

You have to have experienced that kind of ultimatum to understand how deadly serious those moments of decision actually are.

They are crossroad decisions with choices that will frame the rest of your life… and deep in your heart – you know it.

I can still see myself standing in that “impromptu” chapel service, tears pouring down my face choking back the sobs, as I finally let go of my dreams and surrendered to the LORD. It wasn’t a golden moment filled with all the shining light from heaven. (At least not from my perspective.)

I knew where I was headed. The place I dreaded. The place I had promised myself I would never go back to.

A very BROWN place; often drought-stricken, with scorching heat and choking smog. Jonah sitting under his weed wishing everyone in Ninevah would croak had an understanding and sympathetic friend in me!

When God whispered, “We are going into the wilderness…” I wholeheartedly agreed. Not a doubt in my mind. I often thought of the Sinai when remembering that valley!

Well, I obeyed. I returned to my Ninevah just as Jonah did with broken heart and dragging feet. I was about to begin my tenure as my mother’s live-in/full-time and only caregiver.

I told myself this new assignment would last three months, maybe six at the most. Surely no longer than that. Then I would head straight back to all I had just left behind.

Okay,” I whispered. “I CAN do this.”

God would undoubtedly let me return when this temporary job was finished. After all, hadn’t I given up everything that I wanted to obey Him and come back to this wretched place? Surely God would see all my great and suffering-sacrifice, and make this an easy trip through the desert.

I had a lot to learn about God… and myself.

My “short trip” through the wilderness was to last ten long and difficult years. My captivity was going to teach me lessons that, had I known back in the beginning when I agreed to go? Had I known where this wilderness-journey would take me? The changes and “education” God had in mind? I would have voted for less “blessing” and stayed in the land of the green!

And God and I both knew it.

But, here’s the thing.

I would have missed out on the dream God had planned for me. I would have rejected any chance for receiving answers to long-forgotten sleeping prayers. Dream-prayers I hadn’t considered for decades. Dream-prayers I had misplaced

If I had stayed in Seattle, I would have chosen a “settle-for” life rather than the ABUNDANTLY MORE God was longing to give me.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We need to go back to our desert vineyard.

A lot of things died there in that wilderness. Lesser dreams. Shallow hopes. Illusions about others. Contradictions and self-determination. Even well-meant “Christian” certainties. All were to be surrendered to that vineyard cemetary.

What was left was confusion, disillusionment, lots of anger, and daily battles with bitterness.

You see, Habakkuk’s Vineyard is a place where you believe it’s all over… dreams. possibilitieseverything. All over. Dead and buried.

It’s a soul-place. An inner place. A grief-stricken place. Where endings are all you see. It’s a place where all of God’s promises seem contradicted. Where you wonder why you ever followed God. Why didn’t you just say, “no.”

The enemy torments you daily with the reality of how everything has turned out. With accusations of “What a fool you are!” and of course, daily slander against the God you trusted and obeyed in the first place.

You’re left in the aftermath asking, “How is this life better than the one I wanted? How is all this mess and chaos a “blessing” from God?”

In Habakkuk’s Vineyard all the things in your life that can be shaken, will be shaken, so that that which cannot be shaken might remain. [Hebrews 12:27Hebrews 12:27
English: World English Bible - WEB

27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain.

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But, the remains?

To be honest with you I viewed “my remains” with contempt.

I wandered through the ruins of this vineyard thinking, “…so this is the reward for obedience.”

Endless questions tumbled around in my brain. “Why was I here? Why would God bring me to a place like this? What had I done? How was this place the blessing?”

I plainly believed, “I have been ripped off!”

Max Lucado once said, “When we’re out of options – that’s when were most ready for God’s surprises.”

Even in Habakkuk’s Vineyard?

Yep, but hang on.

I’m getting ahead of myself again.

© 2017 Martha (Molly) Gibbons blog text. All rights reserved.