Planted Along the Riverbank

Jeremiah 17:5-10

5This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
 who rely on human strength
  and turn their hearts away from the Lord.

6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
 with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
 in an uninhabited salty land.

7“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
 and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
  with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
 or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

9“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
 and desperately wicked.
 Who really knows how bad it is?

10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
 according to what their actions deserve.”

Years ago, during a Sunday morning worship service, God showed me a vision of a tree planted along a riverbank. It had incredibly long roots that were reaching deep into the water, but some of its roots were also climbing up the bank, towards a cluster of trees planted on top of the ravine.

The above mentioned verse immediately came to mind when I saw the roots that reached deep into the water, but it would be many seasons later before I discovered why some of the trees root system was reaching away from its life source.

After recording a horrible sketch of the mental image in my journal, I didn’t think any more about it, until a few months ago when I was praying about moving my blogs to another site. God reminded me of that tree and when I finally dug out my old journal and flipped to the sought after page, I realized that tree was ME….with roots that are often divided.

I’ve been a follower of Jesus for nearly 15 years. In the early days of my pilgrimage, I tried to do all the “right things;” read my bible, pray (alone- NEVER in a group!), attend worship services, serve on a ministry team, join a bible study….which were all necessary disciplines that I needed to submit to, but they caused me to only know God in an intellectual sense. I was learning to love God with my mind, but my soul and strength were climbing up the riverbank towards the other trees. My desperately wicked heart was torn between surrendering my will to my Creator and surrendering to what I wanted.

Once I chose to submit to Jesus’ call to repent, my heart softened to the revelation that in order to truly love God, I must obey His commandments- all of them. In surrendering my will to His, I began to fall in love with the Lord and He began to show me the barren wildernesses of my soul. In what has been a supernatural, marvelous journey of restoration and redemption, God has retracted some of the roots that were going astray and retrained them to turn back towards His living water.

Despite life’s circumstances, when I choose to reach deep into the water and trust the Lord (not mere humans) with my life, marriage, parenting, etcetera, I am not bothered or worried by long months of drought. Instead, I am blessed AND able to remain confident that He alone is my refuge and my fortress.

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
 for God is our refuge.

Psalm 91:1-2

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
 will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
 my God, in whom I trust.”

(originally posted to my previous blog site on April 29, 2014)

At this table

Luke 22:21 New Living Translation (NLT)

21 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.

Yesterday, after our son and his friends (two brothers) played a few games of tag football & Minecraft on the WiiU he asked if they could stay for lunch. We said “sure, but you’re going to have to bake some more rolls for sandwiches.” With a little help from his dad, lunch was served and my man returned to the living room to join the rest of our family. The three boys talked and ate at the kitchen table until they left to go play in the neighborhood creek. A few minutes later, they came back to retrieve their bikes for a ride.

Meanwhile, it was time for a –day- after- Christmas- I’ve –eaten- too- much- and- laid- around- in- my- pj’s- for- 24- hours – walk through the neighborhood. Off with the jammies and into my yoga pants! I go to grab my iPhone from the entry table (near the side door that our son and his friends always enter/exit the house), but it wasn’t there.

“Honey, can you please call my phone…”

Silence.

The family joined in the search through the entire household

No phone.

Radio our son on the walkie talkie “have you seen my phone?” “No, mom.”

Login to iCloud on my MacBook. Find my iPhone. Offline. Locate. Maps begins searching… Resume search through the house. Walkie our son again. “Can you ask the boys if they’ve seen my phone?” “They’re gone. They said they had to go to their dads” Sucker punch in the soul. “Come home… now.”

(in my head) No. NO. NO! One of those boys wouldn’t betray me. Our son has been their friend. We’ve welcomed them into our home. We’ve conversed with them. We’ve feed them. We’ve driven them home at night after playing all afternoon. No. NO. NO!

Our daughter yells “Mom, your phone has been located.” Not our home address. Last known location: near the boy’s home. My man and our son drive over. The bikes are in the front yard, but no one answers the door. They follow the iMap last known address to an abandoned house nearby and search the area. No phone. A friend of ours that works with the Sheriff’s office joins in the search. Still no phone.

Send “lost” signal & place device in lost/stolen mode. Delete content. Suspend usage through Verizon. Report theft to credit card companies (Apple Pay).

Realization: I have been a victim of a crime…in our home….while at home….betrayed by a “friend!”

Revelation: I am not a victim- I am a child of God (identity). I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. God will use this for His glory and my good.

Call the police.

File a report.

Officer returns from questioning the boy’s mother (she said they had been at their father’s home all day).

Gather our family into the living room to pray.

Forgive.

Ask the Holy Spirit to bring conviction & confession.

Rebuke the enemy.

Declare God’s goodness!

My man and I finally made it out for that walk, but within minutes of our departure an unknown car follows us, parks, and an angry, embarrassed mother calls to us. She prompts her son to speak. He confesses. After several minutes of conversation about Jesus, character, friendship and betrayal we tell him he is forgiven and we won’t press charges. I ask to hug the mother and whisper blessing and encouragement into her ear as she cries. My man shakes the young man’s hand and says “this is finished. You owe us nothing. Don’t do it again.”

John 13:21-27 New Living Translation (NLT)

21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”

22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. 23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.”

The phone was returned and has been completely restored through Apple and Verizon. But there’s a place in my heart for that young man- that child- that isn’t restored. Forgiven, but no longer trusted. While sitting at this table, Image 12-27-17 at 2.12 PMeating bread with our son, Satan entered… and when he was departing, he was tempted: His eyes saw my iPhone. His flesh wanted it. His pride convinced him that he deserved it. And he made a choice to steal it. He made a choice to betray me. He made a choice to betray the family that has loved him as a neighbor, as Jesus commands.

But we will choose to continue to love this broken young man. We will choose to continue to pray for him, his mother and his siblings. And if the Lord prompts us, we will choose to pursue a relationship with him with the understanding that our love is free, but our trust must be earned.

A Special Rest

Hebrews 4:6-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts.”[a]

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest[b] still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Rest.

It’s almost become a cuss word in the American culture.

“Take a day off? Are you kidding me? ! I have WAY too much to do! There’s so much work and so little time!”

From the beginning of creation, God made a way for His people to rest from their labor. As a good Father does, He led by example. God didn’t need to rest on the 7th day, (He’s all sufficient in Himself!) but He knew that we would need rest for our body and soul.

Earthly rest.

Before the foundations of the earth God also made another type of rest. Scripture refers to it as a “special rest.” When our earthly bodies cease to exist and we move into our heavenly home, we will enter eternal rest as we worship God all day and all night, forever and ever.

Eternal rest.

But what about today? Why does this earthly rest elude us? The writers of Hebrews give us the clue, which unlocks the mystery: the word of God exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Failure to rest on the 7th day exposes our disobedience. Our actions speak what our heart believes:

“I’m more than able than you, the Creator of the universe, to work 7 days straight.”

“I don’t trust that you will provide all my needs (and my wants), so I have to get my hours in to pay the bills.”

“I don’t love you with all my heart. I love others more, so I refuse to say “no” to what what they ask or expect of me.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, exhausted, or over worked, I encourage you to be still. Know God. Ask the Lord to cut between your soul & spirit to expose your innermost thoughts and desires. Then confess, repent, be forgiven and enter in to His perfect rest. IMG_2397 copy

Matthew 11:28-30 New Living Translation (NLT)

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.