It would be awesome if I could come up with something wise and wondrous to say about the new year and new decade.
In the past 24 hours I’ve spent quite a bit of time praying for multiple people who were in absolutely crazy and even dangerous situations. One of them even commented that it was as if 2020 decided to go out as insanely as it’s been.
No, I don’t expect things to change dramatically overnight, though I do look forward to the new. I’m just glad. I’m glad I’ve grown this year, instead of the opposite. I’m glad I’ve learned this year, instead of stagnating. I’m glad I’ve loved people this year, instead of…yeah.
I’m particularly glad that my God has been with me every step of the way, because He never leaves me or forsakes me. At one point this year, when I was having a rough moment, He said, “You never walk alone.”
That’s the answer, and I thank Him for it. Whatever comes in 2021, whether it’s as crazy as 2020 has been or is truly a whole new era, I’ll be ok because He is with me.
I recently had to stop in the road because two little dogs had dashed into the street. One crossed the road, but the other got confused and was wandering. I prayed for the poor things, but then I realized what they’d been after and was floored.
A large dog was jogging beside a woman. He stayed right at her side, never seeming to even notice the little yapper that was chasing after him. He never broke stride, never looked away. He was doing EXACTLY what he’d been trained to do.
And he was carrying his own leash. Literally. He held it in his mouth as he jogged down the sidewalk beside a woman who obviously had total trust in him. And the two made me think.
In a sense, we’re all like that dog. God calls us to run along beside Him, but though He gives us a guide (the Word and the Spirit) that He could use as a leash to control us, He ultimately leaves the decisions up to us. What do we do? What do I do? Do I actively choose to walk faithfully beside Him, not turning to the right or left?
We all face mountains. The question is, how do we face them? One man starts up the mountain without worrying about its height or terrain, trusting God to lead him every step of the way. Eventually, he pauses to glance around and sees he’s made it halfway up without even realizing it.
Another man stands on the dark side of the mountain, with no light to reveal its features or face. It is fearsome and he shivers at its base in terror, not daring to put one foot in front of the other. Yet if he waits for the sun the truth of the mountain will be revealed and his path become clear.
It is not the mountain itself that matters, but how we face it. If we trust in God with all our hearts and refuse to rely on our own, faulty logic, if we turn to Him for direction at every step, He will show us the right path to take.
A friend asked me to tell her, in one sentence, what God has been saying to me recently. The question caught me off guard because He’s been saying so much on so many different topics that, for a moment, I had to think. How to put it in one sentence?
Then I saw it. Other than the times He’s come to encourage me and help me through something, or to answer one of my myriad random questions, everything He’s said has ultimately been about me getting ready – ready to be used.
I’m not talking about being used as a speaker or writer, both of which I’ve done before and loved. I’m talking about being used every single day of my life.
I’m to stick close to Him, constantly listening for the Spirit’s whispered, “There. He needs help,” or, “Stop. She’s crying out for someone to listen.”
I’m to be prepared and able. For those two nudges, anyone could respond, but He’s calling me to more. I’m to truly grasp who and what He is in me and who and what I am in Him, to understand the authority I have as a believer when it comes to dealing with demonic activity.
I am to have His Word firmly planted in my heart, ready to be brought out and used as the Sword of the Spirit that it is. There are two important things about a sword. You cannot use it if you don’t have it (I’m talking memorization, not just carrying a Bible) and you can’t use it if you don’t know how to use it.
I’m to stay on the offensive. This is something that’s been churning in me for a while, that as a Christian I’ve been living my spiritual warfare life on the defensive. No military leader wants to fight battles defensively. He knows the best chance of winning any battle is to stay on the offensive.
I am to live thankfully trusting, because this is where peace lies, and peace – His peace – is one of the most vital elements of all.
I am to love with compassion. I am to love like never before, being intentional about expressing the love of God to the people He puts in my path – whoever they are.
So, almost everything He’s been saying recently falls into one of these categories. Really, there’s nothing new here. But that’s the point, isn’t it? We never know what’s coming, but He does, and He wants us ready to face it head on.
Only a short distance from this bridge, over which I’ve passed numerous times through the years, lies the entrance to New Hope Cemetery. This is an old cemetery with a fascinating collection of aged headstones. This is a rustic cemetery and it holds the earthly remains of some of my nearest and dearest.
Too many times, we’ve followed a hearse over this bridge, taking a loved one to their final resting place. Several times, we’ve crossed the bridge to visit the graves of those we’ve not seen in so very long. The last time I was there–the day I took this picture–we were “visiting” Mother.
You’d think this bridge would represent loss to me, would inspire pain, but it doesn’t. Why?
The answer lies in the cemetery’s name–New Hope. Yes, we’ve laid our loved ones to rest here, but I know that in each and every case they were born again and destined for Heaven. For them, and those of us who expectantly wait to see them again, this place offers hope indeed–hope of that new life, true LIFE that will never end–eternal life in the very presence of God, surrounded by those we love so much…HOME.
So this picture shows a path of hope, a man-made construct that bridges the past and that glorious future as we follow the road home.
Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
God taught me the truth of this verse in a way I never would have anticipated, and will never forget.
I was in prayer. I don’t remember what I was praying about, but considering the lesson He gave me, I was probably complaining about not being able to see what was coming down the road. I’m not proud of the fact, but it’s true – I am Tammy Plan-ahead Cardwell and not being able to see what’s over the next hill has been known to drive me nuts.
So there I was, pacing, which I often do when I pray, and God answered me. “Tammy, you don’t have to see the road ahead. You don’t even have to see the next step. I see it all clearly. Trust in Me instead of your own sight, lean on Me instead of your own understanding and I will make your path straight even when you walk in darkness.”
My response was, of course, both brilliant and inspired. “Sir?” Thank God for His patience!
Have you ever felt God smile? I did, then. I could easily sense His loving, understanding amusement. “Close your eyes and walk.”
Now, it’s a scientific fact that one side of a man’s body is dominant over the other. Close your eyes and start walking and, given enough space, you will walk in a circle. I was in our church and didn’t have that much space; I veered and walked into a pew.
“Okay,” He said, “you’ve seen what happens when you walk in your own understanding. Now close your eyes and walk again, but this time listen to Me as you take each step. If you let Me lead you, putting your feet down where I tell you to, I will make your path straight.”
I followed His instructions exactly, though it felt terribly strange. In putting my feet down exactly as He told me to I felt as if I were taking each step wrongly – very wrongly. I had to fight my instincts, literally, every step of the way. He eventually told me to stop and look behind me, to see the path I’d taken. I had gone further this time – taken more steps – and the path I’d walked was as straight as if I’d had my eyes open and a line to follow.
I wish I could say I learned the lesson right then and there. Well, I did, but it seems I have to keep learning it. Just as I had to fight my instincts with every step I took in that walk, I must fight my fleshly instincts with every step in the walk of life. Sometimes it’s hard to trust in the Lord will all my heart, not letting even a small part of it hold back. I must continually remind myself that my own understanding is faulty and can’t be leaned upon – that it will lead me to walk in circles (like the Israelites in the wilderness!). Finally, flesh fights for what it considers its fair share, insisting I acknowledge it in all my ways, rather than Him. Still, I’m making progress, and every once in a while I’ll sense God smile as He says, “Now stop and take a look behind you, and see that I have made your path straight.”
So…no…I do not have to see the road ahead. I can even, as I trust in Him with all my heart, lean not on my own understanding and acknowledge Him in all my ways, walk a straight path through total darkness.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5-6
Trust seems so simple – until God asks us to take a step we don’t understand. We naturally want to see the path ahead, but God doesn’t want us to walk naturally; he wants us to walk supernaturally.
One day, when I was grumbling about not being able to see the path ahead, God taught me a shin-banging lesson. He told me to close my eyes and walk from where I was to a specific spot. I tried, and of course I swerved off course and bumped into something. Then He took me back to the beginning, had me close my eyes again, and told me exactly how to place my foot with each step. It was awkward. It felt all wrong. I was hoping no one would walk in because I knew I looked stupid. But…thanks to His detailed directions, I ended up exactly where He told me to go.
God did exactly the same thing for Gideon in Judges six and seven. From the point at which He had Gideon’s attention and willing obedience, God gave him specific instructions for each step he would take. In Judg 6:25-26, God didn’t merely say, “Sacrifice a bull.” Instead, He told Gideon exactly which bull, precisely how to pull down his father’s altar, and in detail how to sacrifice the bull.
This was only the beginning, of course. God continued to give Gideon detailed directions. Had Gideon chosen to bypass any of them, or fudge on even one, the outcome would not have been the same. Israel may not have received her deliverance.
Nothing great in our Christian walk, outside of a supernatural move of God, comes of itself. It comes as a result of the individual starting out on the right path and taking each and every step along the way exactly as God commands.
One of the responses I received to a One-word Challenge I offered on Facebook, “trust” is a word I couldn’t resist blogging about. I recently finished reading The Complete Jewish Bible, and it tends to use “trust” where most other translations use “faith.” It took me a while to notice it, but there is almost an easier feel when you read “trust God” as opposed to “have faith in God.” Perhaps it’s ridiculous, since they mean the same thing, but it’s true for me. “Trust God” seems easier somehow.
When I think of the word “trust,” I also go pretty directly to my life verse: Prov 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord…” I have broken this passage down repeatedly, looking at it from various angles, yet interestingly enough I’ve never looked up the literal definition of trust before. So today I pulled out my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible to learn more about the Hebrew word.
#982 – batach – a primary root; prop. to hie for refuge [but not so precipitately as 2620]; fig. to trust, be confident or sure:–be bold (confident, secure, sure), careless (one, woman), put confidence, (made to) hope, (put, made to) trust
It’s interesting that it says this trust is not quite like “chacah” (2620), in that the latter word indicates fleeing to protection. Instead, this trust is more about finding our permanent refuge in God, knowing that in His presence we are as safe as a child in his father’s arms. A child riding securely in his father’s arms is confident and sure; he’s bold, secure, and free from care. Having put his trust, as well as his self, in his father’s arms, he has hope that all will be well.
This, then, is the trust our Father wants us to have in Him. He not only wants us to come as little children (Luke 18:17), He wants us to live with Him as little children in this sense, trusting Him so implicitly that we do what He tells us to, all He tells us to, when He tells us to…knowing that, when we do, everything will be all right.