Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The invitation to intimacy with God

God said to Moses, “Climb higher up the mountain and wait there for me; I’ll give you tablets of stone, the teachings and commandments that I’ve written to instruct them.” So
Bald Eagle in FlightMoses got up, accompanied by Joshua his aide. And Moses climbed up the mountain of God.   Ex 24;12-13  The Message

It seems I've tried to live healthier most of my adult life. I've gone through spurts of dieting,  exercising to improve my physical health, and  spurts of intense daily Bible study/Prayer to improve my spiritual health.  Usually, I've been able to keep up with these regimens with for a while.  But ultimately, I get frustrated or busy and end up quitting.  Then I have to get motivated again before plunging back into the battle for my spiritual and physical health.

During the winter of 1996-1997, we lived in northern NY where the winters seemed especially long and gloomy. When we moved there, I left my counselor and emotional support system behind that had sustained me during the beginning of my healing journey. After the move, I felt lost, like I was floundering and I wasn't sure what to do to regain my spiritual equilibrium.

That January, I prayed about making resolutions for the year.  Of course, my spiritual life and physical health topped the list. I committed to a daily regimen of praying and scripture reading,  but because of the snow and extreme chill weather-wise, I really couldn't walk outdoors to take care of my physical body. As I prayed, I felt a nudging by God's Spirit to walk indoors - after all, the church we pastored was right next door and the sanctuary was large enough to easily walk a mile by going around inside several times. It was a perfect place to commit to both the physical and spiritual regimen I needed.

So I got up early in the morning, went next door,  put on some worship music and walked. It didn't take long to realize that as I walked and praised the Lord, he was right there walking with me. I found I could talk to the Lord about anything, honestly and openly. And he would answer me.
For me it had become an invitation to intimacy, to "climb higher up the mountain," as I walked and talked with the Lord each day.  The hour spent walking, praying and praising each day soon became my favorite time of day.

I wish I could say that those lifestyle changes became a permanent part of my life. But like Moses, I eventually returned down the mountain to "real life." As spring rolled around, life got busier and  more things claimed my time and attention each day. Physical exercise took on a different form as it moved outdoors to include gardening and walking the dog. My spiritual exercise became a shorter morning devotional reading and prayer time. 

But the lessons I learned about worship and  intimacy with God during that wintertime walk stayed with me.  It was there in the quiet sanctuary, walking and talking with him that I heard the beating of God's heart. He became more real than  he had ever been and I learned to know his ways like Moses, rather than just knowing him for his acts like the people of Israel did. I am so thankful for his intimate healing touch in my heart. 

Committing ourselves to obedience, allowing God to do what he needs to do for us in this healing process ultimately leads to an invitation to intimacy - an invitation to "come up higher" where we can know God for who he is, not just what he does.

I'd love to hear how you have experienced this in your healing process.
Have a blessed day!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Committing to the healing and growth process

Moses came and told the people all the Lord’s words and all the case laws. All the people answered in unison, “Everything that the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down all the Lord’s words. He got up early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He set up twelve sacred stone pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He appointed certain young Israelite men to offer entirely burned offerings and slaughter oxen as well-being sacrifices to the Lord.  Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls. The other half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the covenant scroll and read it out loud for the people to hear. They responded, “Everything that the Lord has said we will do, and we will obey.”
 Moses then took the blood and threw it over the people. Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord now makes with you on the basis of all these words.” Exodus 24:3-8 CEB

Quick, get the Germ - X ® hand sanitizer!   I thought to myself as I saw two boys making a "spit promise." Though it totally grossed me out as an adult, I knew they were dead serious about the pact they just made. While it remained to be seen whether or not they could actually keep that pact, their intent was to fulfill their promise to each other.

When we think of the word, "covenant", however, it carries far more weight than these boyhood promises. It is generally a contract or legally binding agreement, initiated by God. It may be between  between God and man (or a group of people such as the nation of Israel)  or made by God as a promise of how he will act toward man.

In this case, God had already shown the Israelites his power of protection and provision in the miracles he had performed in the early days of their journey. Moses had written down an account of all these things along with answers God gave him  to the many difficult disputes which had arisen among the people (chapters 21-23). He also included the promises of God to be with them as long as they obeyed God's words. Now, he challenged the people:  "You've already seen what God can do. Will you trust him and continue to walk with him?"

It was time for the people of Israel to make a decision and commit themselves to it. Would they respect and obey the things God said; the laws he gave them? Had they learned to trust him enough to commit to the process of healing and growth?

In our healing journey,  we will most likely pass through a similar wilderness experience. There God will show us his provision and protection in some mighty ways. We should get into the habit of journaling about the things God does and how he leads us one step at a time through the lives of those he sends to help us and by the miracles he performs.  And we need to reread the journaling about those events often to help us remember what he's doing when the things get a little rough.

Ultimately though, there will come a time when we must stop and make a solid commitment to the journey. You see, unless a person wants to grow and heal from the effects of abuse, unless they commit to move forward after a great loss, they won't cooperate with the work God needs to do to bring about that healing. A spiritual and emotional healing involves hard work and a deliberate commitment to the process.

Moses built an altar and stood before the people to read all of things he wrote down on this "covenant scroll."  When the people agreed to  live by God's laws, the promise was sealed with a mass sacrifice.  Moses poured some of the blood on the altar to sanctify the altar and sacrificial gifts before God, and reserved the rest to sprinkle on the people to seal the deal. Not only had God committed to helping them, they had agreed to let him do the necessary work.

Will you commit your life to God and let him take control of this healing process? It won't be easy as we shall see in the lives of the Israelites in the chapters to come. But the emotional health and spiritual rewards we gain by letting God control the process are well worth it! And one thing is for sure, when God makes a covenant promise to heal and guide, there is no doubt whatsoever that he will keep his end of the bargain.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Overcoming our fear of the Father

All the people, experiencing the thunder and lightning, the trumpet blast and the smoking mountain, were afraid—they pulled back and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, “You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t have God speak to us or we’ll die.”

Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you and instill a deep and reverent awe within you so that you won’t sin.”

 The people kept their distance while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Exodus 20:18-21

Child developmental psychologists tell us that a
young  child  learns who he is through
???????????family interactions. By the time he's 4, he has formed a fairly concrete image of himself through relationship with his parents. If his parents have done the best they could in meeting that child's physical and emotional needs, he will usually have a pretty stable self-image as well as a sound sense of family.

But if a parent has neglected, physically or emotionally abused that child, the building blocks for future problems have already been stacked against him, including the development of his God-concept which happens between 6-8 years of age.

When I was a young child, I got mixed messages in my relationship with my father. He said he loved me as he showered me with  improper affections. But in the next breath, he threatened me saying  bad things would happen and I would be to blame if I ever told anyone what he did to me in the guise of that love. Because of my fear of his words, I kept silent well into adulthood. I stuffed my fear down deep inside and put on the happy face of a child in a model family.

As I grew up in Sunday School, I learned that God loved me too, but I had difficulty shaking the idea that his love was conditional, based on my performance. I always felt like I was hanging onto a string, suspended over hell's fires. If I messed up, God might just decide to let go of that string. Just like I feared my earthly father, I had a deep-seated, almost unshakeable fear of my heavenly Father. I strove to be the best Christian I could, putting on my Martha personality mask while secretly worrying that I wasn't doing enough.

I was much like the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai here in this passage.   From the time they were infants in Egypt, they learned that their parents couldn't protect them from the heartache, death and pain of slavery. Displays of power by their captors were generally followed by death and an increase of hardship as their enemies attempted to create fear and compliance in the hearts of the Israelites. 

This kind of emotional brow-beating had been going on for 400 years, spanning many generations.
In the wilderness God had showered them with love. He protected them and provided for them. But they had been conditioned through the centuries to believe that their God couldn't or wouldn't help them. In fact, they believed this display of  God's power in the wilderness was sure to be followed by an increase of death and hardship, just like it always had with their enemies. No matter how many times God  performed miracles to teach them that he was there for them, it was difficult to overcome their  sense of fear. It's no wonder they hung back and wanted Moses to deal with God for them. If they dared to seek after God themselves, who knew what God would do to them?

As we approach Father's Day this month, consider your relationship with your father and your heavenly Father. If you were hurt by your earthly father in the past, it may be difficult to trust your heavenly Father now. God's displays of might and power toward you, designed to encourage your faith and  "instill a deep and reverent awe within you," can easily be misinterpreted to be harsh or intimidating. Maybe you're waiting for the other shoe to drop in your relationship with Him.

Ask God, your heavenly Father,  to help you break those cement blocks of fear which were laid in your formative years so that you may receive his love and encouragement. He wants and deserves your worship, your praise and your deepest respect and awe. But it's not his intent that you should cower in fear before him. Or that you should keep your distance from him, waiting for others to tell you what he wants.

Father, help us to be fearless as we  come to you, to know you and to have a relationship with you. Help us to see for ourselves who we are in relationship with you so we can heal and grow into mature followers - true children of God! Amen.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Learning to rest during recovery

“Remember the Day of Rest, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you will do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a Day of Rest to the Lord your God. You, your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, or the traveler who stays with you, must not do any work on this day. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them. And He rested on the seventh day. So the Lord gave honor to the Day of Rest and made it holy. Ex 20:8-11

Along the back roads in early spring in Northern New York I enjoyed seeing stands of maple trees

maple syrupall linked together with plastic tubing and buckets as my neighbors harvested  sap to make syrup. Just remembering those days makes my mouth water for the taste of that real maple syrup and maple candy.

Each fall, the sap drained back down to the base of the tree;  the leaves turned colors and fell off in preparation for the winter  season - a season of rest for the tree. Without that rest, the tree couldn't survive the long, harsh, northern winters. Then as the spring temperatures rose above freezing once again, the sap started running back up into the extremities of the tree, allowing the leaves to bud out.

This sap was the life-blood of the maple tree. Its sweetness made it worth the effort to collect and boil it down into syrup. But in order to make the purest and tastiest syrup, my farming neighbors knew they needed to collect the  sap when it first started running back up into the branches of the tree, before the leaves came out right after the season of rest for the tree.

Resting seems to be a necessary part of life to help us be at our best, just like the maple sap. Without proper rest, our bodies have difficulty healing from illness.  We have difficulty "de-stressing" and getting back on track emotionally or mentally. We burn out.

The Children of Israel  were burned out, drained emotionally and physically from their four centuries of brutal slave labor to the Egyptians. For their first few months in the wilderness, God gave them a season of rest, carefully working with them to restore their trust in him. But once the crisis period passed for them, they needed to get back to a more "normal" routine which included productive work to build up their self-esteem and their  identity as a nation.

During phase two of the healing process, God  incorporated a balanced regimen of work and rest into their lives. This weekly Sabbath rest was about more than just ceasing from their labors on the seventh day. It was about taking time to rediscover who their God was and who they were in relationship to him.

Not only did God want to heal their hearts from slavery, he wanted to prevent such physical and emotional captivity from ever happening again.  He made rest a mandatory part of their law, sandwiching it between the first commandments about loving him and the last ones about how to treat others. It was to be a day spent in his presence, to build relationship with him so they could know how to live with the others around them.

Think about it. When we're hurting badly inside, we often become "workaholics" to try to forget our grief and pain. While the hard work does dull the pain,  it also keeps us too busy to work through it. The work prevents us from  spending quality time with our Creator.  And it often causes us to neglect or even harm relationships with those around us.

Quite often we don't want to spend time with God  because he is a God of truth, He loves us too much to allow us to wallow in lies and pain. We don't want to face the pain or hard work of healing. We don't want to face the fact that once we've been hurt, we have the potential to pass that hurt on to others. It's easier to nurse a grudge than to forgive.  So we lose ourselves in our jobs or busy-work, or we wallow in self-pity.

When we stop and spend time with our Creator, he will mirror the content of our hearts back at us so he can cleanse and heal us. We need to stop fighting him tooth and nail because he has our best interests at heart.

Lord, help us to rest in you so you can bring out the best in us!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Advanced lessons in Trust

 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning. A cloud covered the mountain, and a very loud horn sounded. All the people among the tents shook with fear.   Then Moses brought the people from among the tents to meet God. They stood at the base of the mountain.   Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord came down upon it in fire. Its smoke went up like the smoke of a stove. And the whole mountain shook.   The sound of the horn became louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder.   Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. The Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and he went up.   Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and tell the people not to break through to look at the Lord. For then many of them would be destroyed. Have the religious leaders who come near to the Lord set themselves apart to be holy. Or the Lord will go against them.”   Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai. For You told us, ‘Set places around the mountain that must not be passed, and set it apart as holy.’”   Then the Lord said to him, “Go down, and then come up with Aaron. But do not let the religious leaders and the people break through to come up to the Lord, or He will go against them.”   So Moses went down to the people and told them. Ex 19:16-25

little boy cryingIt's no wonder the Bible often refers to the Hebrews as the "Children of Israel."

Indeed, they were much like infants when they first came out of Egypt following 400 years of slavery. They had to relearn how to live as free men and women. They also had to learn how to grow up spiritually. That's what makes their wilderness journey such a powerful model for anyone  going through a healing process from life's hurts or abuses.

During the first few months of their freedom, God worked almost exclusively on teaching them to trust him through his presence, provision and protection. He didn't punish them for their groaning, moaning or complaining. They were no different than hungry infants squalling because they didn't know any other way to let their needs be known.

But  at Mt. Sinai, things were about to change. Lesson two had to do with obedience - establishing boundaries and understanding the consequences of their actions.  They had seen the power of God. Now they needed to learn to respect him and his power - to learn to obey him,  in order to grow in their relationship with him.

We've all stood in line at the grocery store and watched toddlers testing their boundaries while a harried parent tries to keep them out of trouble. While we can understand and overlook the behavior of a two year old throwing a tantrum in the middle of Wal-Mart, it's not so amusing when the child is twelve!

God didn't want a nation of twelve-year-old tantrum-throwers so it was time to move forward in their healing process. He drew a boundary around the mountain and instructed the people through Moses that they were not to cross it. The Israelites weren't mature enough spiritually to come close to God because of his holiness.  His holy presence would be like a mirror, reflecting back their sin, faults and failures, even to the point of causing physical death if they came too close.

The boundaries were established for their protection and personal safety, but also to help them define themselves and God more clearly. They needed to get a clearer picture of who they were in relationship with God. As time progressed, these elementary lessons would help them learn who they were in relationship with others, to prevent all the childish bickering that had started to erupt among them.

In some ways the experience here at Mt Sinai, was an advanced lesson in trust,  helping them understand that their God wouldn't swallow them up or control them. He had offered them true freedom of will and choice - but their choices would have consequences.

Can you remember a time where God set boundaries for you? It might have been a time when he confronted you with something sinful or lacking in your life? These times remind us of who he is and how naked or vulnerable we are in his presence. They help define us as finite and faulty in the presence of the perfect and righteous God of the universe. They also help us choose to obey his will.

The beauty of these confrontations is that God always offers us a way through Christ to cross those lines into his presence through obedience, repentance and trust. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Obedience to God's boundaries is an important key to growing up spiritually;  to avoid becoming a twelve-year-old tantrum-thrower and to move forward in our healing process.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Knowing God in the healing process

Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house where you were servants.

  • “Have no gods other than Me.
  • “Do not make for yourselves a god to look like anything that is in heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.
  • “Do not worship them or work for them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. I punish the children, even the great-grandchildren, for the sins of their fathers who hate Me. But I show loving-kindness to thousands of those who love Me and keep My Laws.
  • “Do not use the name of the Lord your God in a false way. For the Lord will punish the one who uses His name in a false way.
Ex 20: 1-7 NLV

For those who are hurting, victimized, lost and alone, healing begins with a glimpse of who God is. He is not like the ones who hurt us - but he is One who has our best interests at heart for survival, growth and thriving.

It may not seem that way here in this passage as we see the harsh "Do nots" of God's laws. But remember where Israel has been. They lived in Egypt where many cruel gods determined the everyday fate of the people. Everyone who camped around Mt Sinai grew up under their fickle thumbs. The people didn't really understand who this new God was, even though they had seen his miraculous works. Many of the people still thought of him as just another god, except more powerful, more able to crush them if he chose to.

In order to heal from their ordeal of slavery, the children of Israel needed to see God as distinct and separate from the gods of Egypt. They needed to build a relationship with him based on who he was rather than on their past experience. Here at the base of Mt. Sinai, God wanted to reveal himself to them as a distinct and unique God, not like the gods they've known.

So he laid out the rules of this new relationship for them - rules that are still applicable for us today as we heal:
  1. He calls us to seek him and worship him alone, above al others, because Jehovah God is all we need. Things don't need to be complicated. He can do it all - offering his presence, his provision and protection to his people.
  2. He is Spirit and Truth. Sometimes as human beings. we feel we need a "God with skin" that we can see, touch and hold to feel comforted - especially when things are at their worst. Yet, when we hold God in the palm of our hands, we limit who he is and what he can do for, in and through us. We take control of our own lives, rather than trusting in God. Letting go of that control and trusting the God who created the universe is a huge step for those of us who have been conditioned to fear because of the past abuse.
  3. The gods of Egypt controlled the people, preventing their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth both as a nation, and as individuals.. God doesn't control us - he provides challenges and opportunities for us to reach the fullest potential that he created in us.

    Sin cycles down through the generations bringing punishment and death. Did you know that a mother who was sexually abused as a child is more likely to set the stage for her daughters to suffer that same abuse without the Lord's intervention? But through a trusting relationship with Christ, those cycles can be broken, not only allowing us to experience true freedom to reach our full potential, but freedom for future generations as well!
  4. The fourth commandment places the burden of trust squarely on our shoulders. God cannot do anything for us unless and until we trust him with all our hearts. What is in our hearts will eventually make its way out of our mouths.

    The Israelites didn't know God - their complaints and grumbling erupted from the fear they still experienced. As we learn to know him and as we heal through this relationship, he will ease those fears. The joy. love and respect for our God will be the words that come out of our hearts because of our experiences. It doesn't happen overnight - it is a lifelong process that comes out of an ever evolving relationship.
It's easy to look at these commandments as rigid rules that choke our spirits. At the time they were given, God was confronting severe damage in the hearts of the people - damage and pain that was fresh in their hearts. They needed the strong words to force them to look at the God who had delivered them. Yet, there was love in the sternness as he gave them these words as guides for a relationship that would heal and rebuild the hearts of his people.
Today these are enriched by the visual picture of God's love through the gift of Jesus, sent to die for us to bring healing from the damage of sin and abuse. Jesus summed up these four important commands this way - we are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and spirits.
When he fills our hearts, there is no room for fear, pain and sin because the relationship we need most fills us completely.

Monday, May 6, 2013

God is investing in your healing

In the third month after the people of Israel left Egypt, they came to the Sinai Desert on the same day. They had left Rephidim and had come to the Sinai Desert. There Israel set up their tents in front of the mountain. And Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Say this to the house of Jacob and tell the people of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will obey My voice and keep My agreement, you will belong to Me from among all nations. For all the earth is Mine. You will be to Me a nation of religious leaders, a holy nation. These are the words you will speak to the people of Israel.” Ex 19: 1-6

Sunlight Shining Through ForestIt was a sunny day, early in my healing journey from abuse. We were visiting at in-laws' home and I decided to take a walk into the woods in the back field. The memories and hurt of the childhood abuse hung heavy on my heart and I needed to pray about the overwhelming shame I felt in my heart. When I was almost 200 yards from the house, I turned into the woods , being careful to stay hidden under the trees, away from prying eyes, but not far enough into the woods to get lost. 

There was a large log lying on the ground, a perfect spot beckoning me to sit, meditate and pray.  My heart felt heavy at first as I began to whip my heart with self-condemnation. "Lord, I know you say you love me. But how is that possible with all this darkness and filth from the abuse inside me?"

I felt so sorry for myself as I prayed. All the unworthiness and uncleanness poured  out. When I reached the end of my woe-is-me prayer, an amazing thing happened. I noticed a beautiful flower nearby and began praising the Lord. My mood brightened. I examined my surroundings and my heart warmed to his wonder. I started humming, "This is my Father's World." He had come into that little wooded vale and sat down with me on that old log, inviting conversation.

Hanging my head, still feeling the weight of  shame I carried, I asked the Lord the question that was burning in my heart. "Lord, why are you bothering to heal me? I'm too broken and shameful to be worthy of your grace."

In the loving way only he can speak to a hurting heart, he answered me there. "It has nothing to do with your worthiness.  I do it because I choose to. To me, you are worth the time and energy I am investing in you. Even if you never do anything with the healing. Can you accept that?"

I didn't have to be whole to  be valuable to God. I didn't have to be healed already. He could use me if he chose, any time, anywhere, even while in the midst of the healing process. I was valuable to him, simply because my heart  belonged to him. All he asked was that I let him work in me.

The Children of Israel belonged to God too. At this point, they weren't healed from the hurts of their slavery. No! They hadn't even learned to trust him fully yet.  But as they camped at Sinai, God renewed his covenant with them. God was speaking to them with this same message. "I have chosen you - you are worth the time and energy I am investing in you, to heal you and make you a nation of religious leaders." The only thing he asked of them was that they allow him to work in their hearts and lives without pushing him away and to interact with him through the healing process. After all, a doctor can heal our bodies, but unless we cooperate,  and obey his instructions, the healing process will be hindered.

Perhaps, God is sending you a message today - you are worth the time and energy he is investing in you. Will you allow him to work in your life and cooperate with his healing program?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Learning healthier ways of coping

The next day Moses sat to judge the people. And the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone and judge and all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” 

Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to learn God’s will. When they argue, they come to me. And I judge between a man and his neighbor. I teach them the Laws of God.” 

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will become tired and weak. For the work is too much for you. You cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will tell you what you should do, and God be with you. You speak for the people before God. Bring the troubles to God. Then teach them the Laws. Make them know the way they must walk and the work they must do. Also, you should choose from the people able men who fear God, men of truth who hate to get things by doing wrong. Have these men rule over the people, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. Have all the big troubles brought to you. But have them judge the small troubles. So it will be easier for you. They will share the work with you. If you do this and God tells you to do it, then you will be able to keep your strength. And all these people will go to their place in peace.”  Ex 18:13-23

When faced with difficulties, we often tend to cope with them by using strategies or unhealthy emotional coping mechanisms that we know rather than using new, healthier methods to deal with situations. I found that out recently when faced with a sudden onset of chest pain.

MP900337308Yep, I should have gone directly to the ER but fear caused me to deal with it the way I always had in the past - I waited  out the pain  in silence, alone, unable to open my mouth to talk about  what was going on in my body.

With a lot of prayer and introspection, I finally realized that I dealt with my current circumstance much like I had dealt with the childhood abuse I faced - by pretending it wasn't there. If I didn't acknowledge the chest pain, then it wouldn't be real and I'd be ok. Not!

When I walked through the healing process for the childhood abuse years ago,   I learned that silence and pretending were not healthy ways to deal with frightening life experiences.
Rather, I had to break the silence and chains of the hurtful secrets I kept by talking about those hurts with safe, supportive people. Those caring friends and counselors helped me to recognize and confront those lies of the enemy.

But sometimes as we uproot those damaging lies, a few pieces of the root are left in the ground and years later we find a new aspect of the old problem to deal with as I did with my chest pain.

Thankfully, things turned out all right - I lived to tell about the chest pain and to examine my reaction to figure out why I froze, unable to do what I needed to do to be safe. God sent several wonderful friends to encourage me through this time - all of whom were willing to read me the riot act about going to the ER.

In this wilderness journey story, Moses has reverted to an unhealthy way of coping with Israel's neediness. He was ruling the people alone, as if he had all the answers and there was no one else qualified to help them. In a sense, he was trying to be God to the people, just like the pharaoh had been.  

But the people had too many needs; too much emotional brokenness.  It proved to be too much for one man  to handle. Eventually Moses would have burned out and the people would have become co-dependent on him. Thankfully, God sent Moses' father-in-law - a trusted ally, to confront Moses. Jethro basically read him the riot act about trying to do things alone, using the faulty ways of coping he had learned. Then he modeled a healthier way which spread the responsibility out among Israel's clan leaders. There were people among them with leadership gifts who had learned the lessons God was teaching them on the journey. They needed to prove their leadership abilities and Moses needed to let them!

God's goal was to raise up a strong, independent people who would worship him and become a beacon to all surrounding nations of the glory and power of God.

What unhealthy ways of coping has God confronted in your life? How has he used others to confront you when you  used these methods? How did you react to their prodding?

Father, open our eyes to the ways our old nature still affects our lives. Use those trusted friends who are willing to read us the riot act and help us choose new, healthy ways of coping. Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sharing our stories

Then Moses went to meet his father-in-law. He bowed down and kissed him. They asked each other if all was well, and went into the tent.  Moses told his father-in-law all the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians because of Israel. He told him about how they had suffered on the way, and how the Lord had saved them.

Jethro was glad because of all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in saving them from the hand of the Egyptians. So Jethro said, “Honor and thanks be to the Lord, Who saved you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and Who made you free from the power of Egypt. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods. It was proven when they acted in their pride against the people.” Then Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, gave a burnt gift in worship to God. And Aaron came with all the leaders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.  Ex 18: 7-12  New Life Version (NLV)

Sometimes as I sit in church during the sermon, my mind wanders. Gasp! I know - I'm the
Mother and Daughter Reading Togetherpastor's wife and should probably hang on every word, but alas, it's true. My mind wanders. But inevitably, when my husband begins to tell a story that's related to his topic, my ears perk up and my mind reins in those wandering thoughts.

Why? Because stories are powerful. Stories have an interactive capacity to weave us into their web so that we imagine what the character is feeling and we experience the action in our minds like a virtual computer game.

Not only do they captivate us, stories unite, connect and heal us - both through the listening and the telling. 

Remember Moses?  He had married into Jethro's family after fleeing from Egypt 40 years before the time of today's Bible passage.   So Jethro probably knew Moses' history. No doubt Moses had shared stories of  the sacrifice of Jochebed, his mother,  with his new wife's family. He probably told stories of things that happened in Pharaoh's court - maybe even recounting the trauma that caused him to stutter.  When he killed the Egyptian task master and fled, he came to Jethro and eventually became part of that family. For the second forty years of his life, Moses was healing slowly through sharing his stories with trusted friends and family until he was ready to go back to  lead his people out of Egypt.

Here in Exodus, when Jethro meets his son-in-law this time, Moses begins to tell the new stories - the stories of the suffering of his people, the victories of God, the struggles in the wilderness and the miracles of God's provision.

During the healing journey, telling the story of our lives and experiences, especially the traumatic ones, is vital to the process. It helps us to recover our voice - to have words to tell about what we've experienced. Story telling helps us integrate our painful experiences into our lives and lessens the pain the more we share it.  Telling our stories helps us to affirm the reality of what happened to us.
It also offers a chance for others to give us feedback, revealing  things to us that we may not even see yet!

Remember, when Moses encountered the burning bush in the wilderness? He had doubts about his own ability to become the deliverer and leader of his people. He was afraid and  balked, telling God he couldn't do it because he stuttered.

But as Jethro listens to these new tales, he hears what Moses may not yet realize - there is no more stuttering. His voice is now confident and strong.  Jethro listened with interest and empathy; then he was able to affirm to Moses that God had indeed done a healing work, not only for the Israelites, but for Moses too: " [God] made you free from the power of Egypt."
Listening to life stories blesses the hearer as well as the story teller. As Jethro listened to Moses' story, his faith increased. "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods." And he worshipped God.  If there was any doubt before in Jethro's heart about the person of Almighty God, the I AM,   there wasn't any now.

What are you going through on your healing journey? And what is God doing in you?
Share that in some way, either through writing or verbally with someone you trust. We never know how our stories will affect the lives of others, but one thing is for certain - God will always use our stories to heal our hearts and to encourage others!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Creating a journey map

Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, “Because hands were lifted up against[a] the throne of the Lord,  the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.” Exodus 17:15 NIV

 After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her  and her two sons. One son was named Gershom,  for Moses said  "I have become a foreigner in a foreign land”;   and the other was named Eliezer,  for he said, “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” Exodus 18: 2-4 NIV

In the Scriptures, names help map the spiritual journey of  the people involved. Here in Exodus 15, following the defeat of the Amalekites in Israel's first  armed wilderness conflict, Moses built an altar and gave it a name: Jehovah Nissi - the Lord is our banner. It became a visual reminder of God's miracle of protection and speaking or hearing it's name was intended to trigger the memory of the story of what happened there.

As the next chapter begins, Moses family arrives. Forty years prior to becoming Israel's leader, Moses had fled into the wilderness after killing an Egyptian slave master. Jethro took him in and eventually Moses married Jethro's daughter and started a family. He gave each of his sons a special name as well - so that the boys served as audio/visual reminders of what God had done for him.
God constantly uses this type of spiritual mapping tool to keep the minds of his people focused on him. It also helps future generations to see and remember hos love, care and provision.

 Several years ago, I taught a workshop at a women's convention and used this spiritual mapping exercise to help them create a visual memory trigger of God's work in their lives.
We started with a blank sheet of paper and drew a lighthouse in the upper left-hand corner.
Lighthouse at Twilight This is represented the point where we began our journey with Christ, our personal Light. Then we drew a ragged coastline diagonally across the page to the bottom right-hand corner and placed another lighthouse there, representing where we are today. This became a  visual map and timeline of our Christian walk.

One side of the line represented the sea.  On the sea side, we named events or people that hurt  or troubled us on our spiritual journey; anything that threatened to overcome us spiritually. Some  women got really creative drawing rocks, whirlpools or great whales in their oceans, each with a name. LOL!

The coast side represented the solid rock of Jesus Christ.  Starting from the time we accepted Christ, we drew small lighthouses all along the coastline, corresponding to the troubled times. We named these lighthouses for people who  influenced us, prayed for us and supported us during the crises. I included the names of Bible women who had influenced my life as well.

Next, we drew a second set of lighthouses  and named them to represent events  like answers to prayer, major or minor miracles that impacted our lives, corresponding to the hurtful things on the sea side. We also included scripture verses or promises that were important during those stormy times of our lives.  

What I discovered by doing this exercise was  that the lighthouses I had drawn were spaced expertly down the coastline. There were no blind spots where the light or influence of Christ did not reach. Christ always sent someone or something to help light my way during the stormiest parts of my life, even though I didn't always realize it at the time!

I like to get this "map" out often - especially when I feel down or discouraged because it helps me see more clearly that Christ’s Light is always shining out across the  difficult waters I am experiencing.

What names would you include on a map of your spiritual journey? How has Christ met your needs or encouraged you along the way through people, events or his word?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Healing Words

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write about this battle. Write these things in a book so that people will remember what happened here. And be sure to tell Joshua that I will completely destroy the Amalekites from the earth.”

 Then Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord is My Flag.” Exodus 17:14-15 ERV

For generations, people have kept diaries and journals. I recently began reading The Secret
MP900440965Holocaust Diaries, written by a young girl from a well-to-do Russian family who lost everything, traveling with her mother to the slave labor camps (not concentration camps) in Germany during WWII. She kept her memories in thin journals and on scraps of paper, hidden in a pillow she tied around her waist, made of black and white ticking.

For years she kept her writings secret, Even when she came to America and experienced a safe environment for the first time in her life, she kept her writings and her past hidden. She made pilgrimages to the attic where she transcribed her  journals into English on yellow legal pads, processing the horrors she had experienced.  A lifetime passed before she was finally ready to share her memoirs with her husband and family. She wanted them to understand who she was; the events that had shaped her life and molded her future.  But she made him promise he wouldn't make her secrets public until after she died.

I am thankful that she chose to share her life because there is a richness of faith and the presence of God so evident in her life, in spite of the horror and pain.  Though my own "wilderness journey" seems harsh and difficult to me as I remember it, hers was even more so and helps me put things into perspective.

I became a writer for much the same reason - to make sense of my past and to share the lessons I learned with others so they might come to know the hand of God in their lives.

God "called" Moses to become a writer too - to write down the details of Israel's first battle as a nation so future generations could see and remember God's hand with them. Moses didn't stop there. He authored the first five books of the Bible which detail Israel's history from the beginning of time until they stood as a nation on the brink of the inheritance God promised their forefather Abraham.

God intended that those writings would become a historical record of his love and care for his people so that future generations would be able to know without a shadow of doubt that God loved them too. These writings have helped to heal the nation of Israel countless times through their history as they drifted away from God and then returned to him.

His writings still influence countless pilgrims as they take a journey to healing which leads through the wilderness. When I first began my healing journey, many of the promises I clung to came from the stories of Israel's healing journeys authored by Moses in Genesis through Deuteronomy. Their stories banished my feelings of aloneness on the journey and gave me hope to believe that God was the same today. If he loved and delivered the Israelites, he would do the same for me.

Today, think about all the stories you can remember from the wilderness journey of the Israelites. Which ones stand out to you and why? How has God used those same stories to influence your life or strengthen your faith? Write about these things.

If you don't already keep a journal, maybe it's time you should!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The power of a helping hand

When the Israelites were at Rephidim, they were attacked by the Amalekites.  So Moses told Joshua, “Have some men ready to attack the Amalekites tomorrow. I will stand on a hilltop, holding this walking stick that has the power of God.”

10 Joshua led the attack as Moses had commanded, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur stood on the hilltop. 11 The Israelites out-fought the Amalekites as long as Moses held up his arms, but they started losing whenever he had to lower them. 12 Finally, Moses was so tired that Aaron and Hur got a rock for him to sit on. Then they stood beside him and supported his arms in the same position until sunset. 13 That’s how Joshua defeated the Amalekites. Exodus 17:8-14 CEV

Several years ago, when I taught Children's Church, we studied this  passage. As a learning aid, I gave the class a dare/challenge. Whoever could stand with their arms raised the longest through the lesson would receive a prize.  I didn't think they would last long  and I was right.  Just a few moments into the lesson, the girls had all given up and were cheering the boys on.  But each of  the boys  was determined to be the last man standing, in spite of a lot of moaning and groaning.  I finally had to tell the remaining boys to sit down and gave them each a prize.

Hand ReachingThey got the message of the lesson though. There was no way Moses could have kept his
hands raised all day to help the Israelites win the battle. He needed help! He needed friends to find him a rock to sit down on and then he needed them to hold his arms up so the Israelites would win the battle.

The Israelites had no fighting skills at this point, being newly freed from slavery. So they needed to see Moses' staff to trigger their faith, reminding them of God's power in defeating their Egyptian enemies at the Red Sea. If their leader got tired and gave in, lowering the staff, they lost heart and gave in too, yielding to the Amalekites. It took the whole nation working together to win this battle.

Let's make this personal.  When you are in the midst of a recovery process, whether it's from abuse, grief, or some other hurtful circumstance,  how long can you  endure by yourself in the battle for wholeness? You might be able to stand for awhile like my macho church boys, but without the helping hands of others you will eventually succumb to your weakness and suffer defeat.

Asking for help is difficult for many of us.  And we do need to take care who we ask since we may be easily hurt or revictimized. Those we choose must be trustworthy - family, friends or counselors who will listen, encourage and pray for us. They don't need to have all the answers, but they must walk with God who does.

Moses' help came from two trusted men, Aaron his own brother who stood with him in Pharaoh's court from the beginning of the plagues and Hur. We don't know much about Hur, but in later passages  at Mt. Sinai, we see that he had become a trusted friend and aide to Moses. (Exodus 24:14)

Remember that God is walking with you through this recovery process. He has been showing himself to be faithful in his love, provision and protection for you. Even if there seems to be no one there to help you, he is there. But as you trust him, he can bring others into your life who will help hold up your arms when you feel too weary or injured to fully trust him.

How has God been doing this for you? Who has he brought alongside you to help you - to hold up your arms?  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Positive triggers for emotional healing

God said to Moses, Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I’m going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink.

Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said,  Is God here with us, or not?

Amalek came and fought Israel at Rephidim. Moses ordered Joshua: Select some men for us and go out and fight Amalek. Tomorrow I will take my stand on top of the hill holding God’s staff.  Exodus 17:6-9 The Message

We all have triggers - people, events, circumstances, objects, pictures  or words that activate wanted or unwanted behaviors/emotions in our lives. The trick is to identify those triggers so we can head off the undesirable behaviors or use those triggers to initiate new behaviors.

For example, why do later-evening TV commercials advertise pizza or burgers? To trigger
Man Eating Cheeseburgerthat gotta-have-one-now response to run out to the fast-food restaurant that's still open and satisfy that craving we've just been reminded we have. Been there, done that..... And for some reason, those commercials seem to activate that craving even more when I'm trying to diet.

When I recognize that "binge" trigger associated with the late-night TV fast-food commercials, I can take steps to keep myself from acting on those impulses. I can call my daughters for a chat if it's not too late. I can work on a project during the commercials so my mind is occupied or even use commercial time to do some exercises. I can also pre-plan a healthy snack and go to the kitchen for it when a fast-food commercial comes on.

The commercials are negative triggers  for a binge eater just like being around friends who are drinking alcohol could tempt an alcoholic to take a drink after being sober for months. But are there positive triggers as well?

Sure! Think of a particularly inspiring song and how you feel each time you hear it.  When I was going through my own painful time of childhood abuse recovery, I loved the upbeat kids' songs on our local Christian radio station. Those songs always lifted the depressing gloom and left me in a better mood - they triggered hope, enthusiasm and faith in my heart. So I listened to them every time I could. I even recorded them for later listening.

Being the "counselor" that he is, God understands the importance of positive triggers in the healing process. At Rephidim, things are about to become more difficult for the ex-slave nation of Israel.

They've faced hunger and thirst. Now, they will face their first human enemy - the Amalekites.  
God gave his people numerous indicators of his love and care. He provided a physical presence with them in the cloud and the pillar of fire. He performed miracles and repeated  his message many times in a variety of ways that he would protect, deliver, provide for and  love them.  God also gave them the staff of Moses as a  visual trigger that would remind the children of Israel of his power and authority:
  • God first used that staff to prove to the Hebrew elders that "I AM" had sent Moses to deliver them.  Moses threw down his staff and it became a snake. When he grabbed it by the tail, it became a staff again
  • God used it to signal the beginning of the plagues as Moses struck the Nile and the water became blood
  • God made a way where there was no way when he instructed Moses to hold up his staff at the Red Sea, parting the waters
  • And now at Rephidim, God instructed Moses to strike the rock with the staff, causing water to pour out of the crack in the rock
  • As they face the Amalekites, Moses  intends to take God's staff up onto a hill overlooking the battlefield so both the men who fight and the people who watch may see it raised up in his hands.
The sight of the staff is a positive trigger  of faith. It was intended to lift their depression, to remind them of the things God did before, to let them know he still intended to work on their behalf, to give them a sense of his power and authority and to motivate them to move forward in God's wake.

Think about your experiences on your healing journey. What kinds of ways has God proved his love, protection and care for you?  What positive triggers of faith has he given you?  (pictures, Scripture verses, music, books, people, etc.) How can you use those positive triggers effectively when negative events trigger the old behaviors of doubt, feelings of doomed or the urge to complain?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wounded healers

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”

The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the
split rockone you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you.  I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai.[a] Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.

Moses named the place Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?” Exodus 17:4-7 NLT

Moses wasn't immune from the abuse of slavery that affected his people. Though the Scriptures don't tell us much about his early life,, there are some hints that it wasn't a bed of roses. We know he had a speech impediment, possibly a stutter, which may have been a result of  traumatic events in his childhood.

Though he grew up in Pharaoh's palace,  he witnessed the harsh treatment of his people. He was taught to look the other way, which in itself is a form of abuse.  Children who are forced to watch one parent abuse another parent often have as much healing to do as a child who is beaten themselves.

One day Moses saw this mistreatment up close and personal, causing something in him to snap. He lashed out in anger, killing an Egyptian taskmaster who tormented an Israelite slave. In fear he fled to the wilderness, where God directed him to Jethro who took him in.

Though we don't hear much about his healing process, we know it took God 40 years to work with Moses in the wilderness before he was ready to return to Egypt. God used the process of shepherding to teach Moses  the lessons of trust and then of leadership as he kept the sheep for his father-in-law Jethro.

But Moses still had issues, even after seeing the burning bush and going back to Egypt to lead his people out of slavery. His issues weren't so much with God or his power. He had trouble with patience. The attitude of his people mirrored his own impatient spirit.

It would appear that at Rephidim, God was trying to teach the entire nation not only to trust him, but to trust the healing process. He instructed Moses to take his staff and go to the Rock where God's presence was waiting.  We are reminded that this was the same staff that God used to demonstrate his power to the elders of Israel and them to Pharaoh to prove God had sent Moses to deliver the people. First it turned into a writhing snake when he cast it down. Later he struck the Nile, signaling the beginning of the plagues against Egypt, turning the water into blood. Moses held it aloft at the Red Sea and the waters parted. It bolstered Moses' confidence to hold that staff in his hand because it was a tangible reminder to him of God's power.

The Lord told Moses to take that staff and gather the people. He was to call the elders out so they would witness God's power and Moses's authority up close, reinforcing the idea of trust once again - not only trust in God, but in their leader. It also reinforced Moses' trust in the God who led him as he led the people to wholeness.

God's presence rested on that rock at Rephidim, yet Moses was told to strike it with his staff. It was a  strong visual to Moses and the Israelites of how his impatience in the process and their continuing inability to trust  hurt the Lord, but his presence  still provided what they  needed because he cared for them.

The Lord often uses wounded healers to guide those who are suffering from similar issues. You see, the healing process isn't always about us as individuals, but about healing a "nation" of people. God continues to work in the life of the healer or leader, just as he is working in the lives of those who follow so that one day they can become the leaders, mentors or healers who trust him.

This is the trademark of our God and his power! He has the ability to work ALL things together for good and for wholeness - at the same time. We often are hurting so badly, we only see what he's doing in us. 

Take a look around you.  Where  do you see yourself in this process? And what is God doing in the lives of others as well as your own as you heal? 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Healing memorials

The people of Israel called it bread from heaven. It was like coriander seed, white, and tasted like bread made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Let a jar of it be kept for your children and grandchildren to come, so they may see the bread that I fed you in the desert when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 16:31-32 New Life Version (NLV)

Several years ago on HGTV there was a program called "Clean Sweep." People whose household clutter had become unmanageable would call in an organizer with a team of designers and carpenters who completely cleaned out, remodeled and organized two rooms of their house.

MP900309356Through the clearing process, all the contents of those two rooms spilled out into the lawn. Then the home owners handled each item, sorting it into a keep, sell or trash pile. At the end of the first quick sort, the most of the items ended up back in the keep pile since they were reluctant to let things go.

The professional organizer then went through the keep pile a second time, to pare it down to a manageable size. He zeroed in on items which seemed useless or frivolous; things which may not fit in with the design plans. Often the items he specifically chose had sentimental value to the family, but had outlived their usefulness. Most of the time, even though the family had items of great importance, they weren't being properly treated with regard to their value.

During these tearful scenes, the organizer helped the family to either define the importance and use of the item or to let it go after celebrating the importance of the relationship rather than the item. In some cases, he opted to keep the most important items and use them as design elements  in the renovated rooms.

In the end, the families made a large quantity of money through a yard sale,  the two rooms were completely made over and revealed to the owners.  The families  supposedly learned how to pare down and organize their clutter, while developing pride in their renovated spaces. The ultimate goal was to prevent that clutter from overtaking their lives again.

In a very real way, this is exactly what God was doing with the Israelites as they trekked through the wilderness. He was helping them get rid of the painful mental and emotional clutter of slavery. As part of the healing process, he replaced the old painful memories with new memories of his love and provision. When that happened, God often instructed them to do create memorials so they would always remember what he had done rather than what their enemies had done to them.

God instituted the  Passover meal as an official national holiday so they could remember God's deliverance. Now, here in the wilderness, God miraculously provided bread  (Manna)and  told them to keep a jar of it to prove his provision to their future generations. These memorials were designed to help prevent the Israelites from slipping back into their old ways of coping with life that resulted in their original slavery.

Through our own wilderness journeys,  God seeks to empty our lives of the clutter and pain of sin. He's renovating our lives and our memories, as he rebuilds our relationship with him. These renovations are designed to help us develop our confidence as his children.  There will be important events - milestones of God's provision, his revelation of himself to us or miraculous events which we will need to celebrate in order to remain emotionally whole.

It's important to keep a journal, to create memories through celebrations or to build altars (which we will talk about later) so we remember who our God is and what he's done for us.

Think about it for a minute. What important milestones have happened in your Christian walk? What events, people or circumstances have shown you his love or healing touch? Keep a journal or create memorials of those events so that whenever you look at them or celebrate them you remember and worship him instead of the past pain.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I'll do it my way....

One of the toddlerhood stories my mom used to tell me about myself was that I always had an independent spirit - that "me do" mentality. I didn't want anyone to help me with things, until I tried
to do it myself.

MP900438811I carried that "me do" spirit with me all through my school days. As a teenager in Girl Scouts, I refused to fall for the "left-handed smoke shifter" initiation, taking my little band of fellow initiates with me on a scavenger hunt to find objects to make one. When we finally came back, everyone was a trifle upset because we stayed away so long. Even the leaders were worried. Oh the secret glee I felt that we had "won."

Like a pair of well-worn pair of slippers, I brought my "me do" spirit right into my Christian walk. I didn't want to ask the Lord for help without trying to find the answers on my own first. Each time I prayed, I had my own Plan B as a back up in case he didn't answer me.

But ultimately as an abuse survivor, God had to confront that "me do" attitude, helping me to learn it was really an attitude of pride and fear rather than trust.  In the depths of my heart, I didn't believe I deserved God's help and feared that he wouldn't always be there for me if I asked him for the things I needed.

My good buddies, the Israelites must have felt that way too. Here in Exodus 16 God is trying to teach them trust and  to heal their abuse-damaged emotions. Still, they insist on doing things their own way. "Me-do, me-do,"  seemed to be their battle cry as they gathered their manna.

 Moses said to them, “Let no one save any of it until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it until morning. And worms grew in it and it became bad to eat. So Moses was angry with them. Morning after morning they gathered it, every man as much as he could eat. But when the sun became hot, it would melt.

On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two jars for each person. When all the leaders of the people came and told Moses, he said to them, “This is what the Lord said: ‘Tomorrow is a time of rest, a holy Day of Rest to the Lord. Make ready the food you will need for today. Then put aside what is left to be kept until morning.’” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses told them. And it did not become bad to eat, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, “Eat it today. For today is a Day of Rest to the Lord. Today you will not find it in the field. Six days you will gather it.

 But on the seventh day, the Day of Rest, there will be none.” On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather it. But they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How much longer will you go against My Word and My Laws?  See, the Lord has given you the Day of Rest. This is why He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Every man should stay home and not leave his place on the seventh day.30 So the people rested on the seventh day. Exodus 16: 19-30 NLV

God gave them specific instructions on how to deal with this heavenly bread.  Yet, they still didn't trust him to provide for their needs, even though he had shown them several times that he would!

But God knew their hearts. What they were really saying was, "We know God can take care of us, but we're just not sure he will always take care of us. Just in case God turns on us, punishes us  like the Egyptians and withholds food from us, we will take care of ourselves." Their pride and fear taught them  to become invisible to God - to step out of his radar, so to speak - rather than to live freely in his presence.

Do you trust God's provision and blessings? Or do you fear he won't be there for you? Do you always try to take care of yourself so you won't get hurt again,  "just in case" God doesn't help you?

God has a specific plan to help us  lose the pride and fear of that  "me do" mentality  that causes us to take control of our own lives and to refuse his help. But it requires our obedience to his plan. How has he done that in your life?


Friday, March 29, 2013

Baby Steps of Trust

From the time we come wailing into the world, our brains are ready and eager to learn new things. Stop and think about it for a moment - we are constantly learning, anything and everything, from how to cook a new dish to how to manage a new health concern.

God created us with a thirst for knowledge. He also designed the learning process so that we build our knowledge brick by brick, laying a foundation, then building on top of it. We do that by collecting information, creating theories and testing them, then cataloging the results. Even our failures teach us important lessons about how life works.

Picture a child playing with blocks. A baby will hold them, taste them and bang them
MP900309175together to understand what they are. As he grows, he applies what he learned about their size and shape stacking one on top of another. First, he stacks two, then three precariously upwards. When they fall, he stacks them again and again, eventually learning to put them on more straight so they don't topple. Eventually he learns to build them pyramid style so they  create a wall. And so on.

Learning to trust God employs that same process of gathering knowledge and applying it. After years of slavery, the Israelites were much like infants, needing to learn trust from ground zero.

God helped them to "discover" him with their senses -
  •  To see his power through the plagues and watching the Lord form walls of water on either side of a path at the Red Sea;
  • To hear the water come crashing down on their enemies
  • To feel the dry land beneath their feet as they crossed the sea, to feel the cooling effects of the cloud by day and the warmth of the fire by night,
  • To taste his power as they drank the once-bitter waters at Marah and the fresh water at Elim.
Now they come to the wilderness where they need food. The lesson becomes  a little more complex this time because they have to trust God to provide something to eat and  there is nothing available.
There's no possible way to gather enough for all of them to eat. With all they've seen, felt, heard and tasted so far, can they build on that knowledge and trust God to provide for their needs?

Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

 The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Exodus 16:9-13 NIV.

Notice how the Lord built their trust?  He showed them his glory so they would recognize that he was the one providing for them. Then He sent something they knew. Flocks of quail inundated the camp that evening. The people wanted meat for their pots and they already had recipes for preparing it. God just made it easy for them to  get ahold of as much as they needed.

But the next morning he sent the unknown manna - the new heavenly bread which would give them strength to travel all day if necessary.  God was building their trust in baby steps.

Think back over your relationship with the Lord. Are there any experiences that stand out to you where God led you in baby steps to teach you something or to build your faith or trust?

If you'd like to share, I'd love to hear about your experiences! Feel free to leave a comment below.