freedom · God · Hiking · Hiking LInville Gorge · Hiking NC · Jesus · life · Linville Gorge · love · prayer · writing for children

Mountain Top

(courtesy of morguefile.com)

We all like to get to the  top of the mountain. We love the exhiliration of reaching the goal, feeling the refreshing wind on our face and knowing we are “there”! 

But it’s easy to forget about the climb that came before we reached the peak.

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know that my family and I have been hiking quite a bit this year. Most of the hikes have been in the mountains of NC and TN. Some hikes were easy, no effort needed. Some were hard, but worth the trip. Then there were the hikes that left me breathless and almost positive I was going to die right there on the side of the mountain.

Life is like that, too.

There are paths we take that are easy. Not much effort required. We just plod along taking in the scenery and keeping our distance from anything that seems to be too consuming.

There are paths that are hard. They make us think. They require our concentration more than usual. The paths are not as neat as we’d like – but we still make it to the end of the journey with all our brain-cells intact.

And then…there are the paths we take that leave us wondering if we’ll make it out alive.

Those are the paths that can take us higher and draw us closer to where we need to be…or can bury us in our tracks.

And the way I see things, the outcome all depends on who we have with us on our journey.

When my hubby and I hiked Linville Gorge, I thought I was going to have to spend the night in the gorge and wait for a helicopter to come scoop me out. Really, I crumpled in a heap and wept. Then, in a fit of self-pity, I said to my hubby, “Go ahead – I’ll catch up. I just have to rest for a while.”

Did he go on without me?

Nope.

Matter of fact, I think he was a little insulted that I even suggest it. “Are you crazy?” he asked. “You don’t EVER leave your hiking partner. Period. So you can just get that out of your mind.” Then he waited for me, encouraged me and helped me up.

See where I’m going with this?

God has said, “I will NEVER leave you NOR forsake you.”

If God is our hiking guide AND hiking partner on this journey of life, then we KNOW He’ll never leave us behind. He doesn’t grow tired and give up on us. He doesn’t leave us on the trail to rot in our misery. He lifts us up and carries us.

Looking back, I can honestly say I was ecstatic when Sean and I finally climbed out of Linville Gorge. Granted, I was a little too tired to do a backflip, but I could BREATHE again! But as happy as that moment was, I don’t ever want to forget how hard the climb was. If I do, I’ll also forget the lovingkindness I was shown by my hubby during the struggle.

And if I forget the struggles and hard climbs in other parts of my life, I’ll forget the lovingkindness shown by my faithful Father.

Have you had any climbs that were just as memorable as the mountaintop? If so, I’d love to hear about them. If you are struggling up a mountain right now, I pray your journey is a fruitful one. And when you reach the top, I pray you remember the blessings you received along the way!

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dry bones · Ezekiel · life · The REFUGE in Concord NC

When God breathes…

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.
He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Master God, only you know that.”
He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!'”
God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”
I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.
He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!'”
So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.
Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’
“Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.'”

Last night, I had the honor of attending a NIGHTWATCH service at the Refuge in Concord, NC. It was a 6-12pm worship service and folks could come and go as they so chose. I arrived around 8. I was there until almost 10, as childcare was only offered until then. While I was there, one of the worship leaders read the above verses from Ezekiel. And yes, I thought it was VERY cool that he read from the very book I’ve been reading! 🙂

God took Ezekiel to a place of DRY BONES. A place where death was abundant. There was NO Life…except for God and Ezekiel. And still – God placed on muscles and sinew and skin on the bones. But they could not breath b/c they had no life in them. And then…God. God breathed into them. And the bones?

The bones came alive! They were no longer laying in the dust, bleached by the sun. They were restored to life by the one who had given them life to begin with. He restored their relationship with Him by His power.

When I first fell in love with my husband, there was fluttering, exhilirating, butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling. There was an excitement that was addictive. I wanted to be around him all the time and my “feelings” were up and down and all over the place. Then we got married–and have had REAL ups and downs. There are times we’ve been in sync, completing each others sentences, and all is right in our world. Then, there are times when we’ve gone through valleys. And our valleys? Sometimes they’ve been those dry, dusty, “nothing can grow in this valley” sort of valleys.

Now that we’ve been married for over 13 years (yay!), yes, the love is still there- but it’s not the same. It’s deeper. It’s wider. It’s BETTER. The butterfly “feeling” has turned into a deeper desire. I want to know him on a deeper level. I still get the butterflies– but they are a different kind. THey aren’t the kind that race around the yard not knowing which way to go. They are the kind of butterfly you see that has a focus, a purpose and lands with grace on just the right flower, gaining nourishment for the journey. Of course, there are still times where we hit the dry places. The “can these bones live again” places. But we press into this relationship knowing that the deeper we go, the harder (and yet sweeter) it will get. Why? Because I love my pookie bear (whoops, my grill master) …and he loves me. And God is always there, breathing into my relationship with my hubby. Without Him, it doesn’t matter how much work we do. When need God’s breath. So why does the Lord continue to pore into us and our relationship? Because He loves us both…and we love him. We are His and He is ours. We are in a covenant relationship with the Creator of the universe – and it blows me away.

When I first decided to pursue a true, real relationship with Jesus, my heart was all a flutter, too. The funny thing is – He had been pursuing me all along! I was all over the place with my emotions (just like when I was first in love with my hubby). There are moments where I’ve been on the mountaintop…and moments where I’ve been in a valley. Sometimes, those valleys were too deep for words. I felt far away from the Lord…even though He’d never left my side. I’ve also had those mountaintop experiences. You know, the kind where all is perfect in my little world and I can’t imagine anything going wrong. Now, it’s been more than 23 years since I made a decision for Jesus – and the relationship is NOT the same. It’s deeper, stronger…better. HE hasn’t changed – but I HAVE. I want to linger in His presence, not flutter around looking for the next “fix” for my emotional roller coaster. I desire a relationship with him that is lasting, full of purpose and grace. I want get close and linger – gaining nourishment for the journey. I want to know HIM, not just know about him. I want to dig deeper, even though it is harder. ANd it’s harder b/c the deeper I go, the more REAL I have to be with HIM and with myself.

I don’t like to admit or deal with some of the dry places I find in my own heart. But God, He is a gentleman. He doesn’t leave me in those places with no hope! Once I’m there and have made the decision to get to the root of the issues, He is there to help me, pick me up and wash me clean from all the gritty stuff I find. Every moment is worth the effort. Why? Because I love HIM and He loves me. I am HIS and HE is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3)

The desire the Lord has for His creation is overwhelming. I can’t understand or comprehend it. He desires that sweet fellowship with us and breathes into our dry, dead places. He doesn’t leave when the going gets tough. He is tough enough to handle it all. Matter of fact, He IS enough.

He loves me enough to grab me up and take me to the dry, dead places in my life. Then He loves me enough that He then breathes into those places. Sometimes those places are known only to the Lord and me. Other times, they are in public view…and He restores my relationships with others in my life. Spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, relational issues… you name it. He breathes into it.

And when God breathes…the world comes alive.