Good Bones

Challenging Thought for Today:    By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.  Proverbs 24: 3-4.

“Do you have the guts to take on a fixer-upper?” Joanna Gaines (no relation) asks this question in the introduction to the hit HGTV show co-hosted with her husband Chip.  After their introduction in each episode, Chip Gaines says they take the worst house in the best neighborhood and make it into their client’s dream home.

One thing I have learned from my HGTV fetish is that no matter how bad a house looks on the outside or even on the inside, it is rarely un-salvageable. If the foundation is still good and it’s structurally sound, it’s considered to have “good bones.”  In that case, the value of the home does not lie in the appraisal of its present condition but in its potential for restoration.

I often think of this “fixer-upper” concept in light of 1 Samuel 16:7b  …for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”   Just as a contractor sees past broken windows, damaged walls and cracked foundations to the real potential of a home, I am so glad that Jesus sees past our crushed spirits, dashed hopes and deteriorated dreams to the wonderful temple that we were created to be.

The Full Life Study Bible commentary on the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 states that the vision was given to assure the exiled Israelites that they would be “restored by God’s power and again become a living community, in spite of their seemingly hopeless circumstances.”   Israel would not only be restored physically, but spiritually.  After the physical restoration, they would be infused with breadth of life through the Holy Spirit.  (p.1230)

This is a wonderful example because the actual bones referred to here had no flesh, marrow, or sinew.  They were just dry, brittle bones.  However, at God’s command, they were restored, given new flesh, new breath of life and were as powerful as a mighty army.

During an episode of Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna referred to one dwelling as the “Three Little Pigs” house. It was in such bad shape that it looked like a strong wind would just blow it over.  Have you ever been there?  Teetering on the verge of collapse?  Afraid that one more demanding phone call, one more hurtful, thoughtless word from a friend or coworker, or one more rejection from a loved one, just might send you toppling over.   I know I have.  I imagine most other people have also.  You may even be there now.

Know this.  You are not alone.  Many of us know what it feels like to live in fear of what will happen if we are forced to start over from scratch… again.   Maybe the thing to remember is that you don’t really have to start from scratch.  Even when a fixer upper is stripped down to the studs, the foundation is left intact.  Damages and cracks are repaired.   A solid foundation is key and it’s the strongest, most important part of the house.  Remember, Matthew 25:24 – 27 admonishes us to build our homes upon the solid rock of Jesus.  So that when (not if) the storms come and life’s winds and rains leave you damaged or dilapidated, you will be able to stand.

I am reminded of a particular moment when I felt pulled in many directions, disappointed at the path my life “seemed” to be taking, and just emotionally exhausted from carrying the weight of it all.   I literally collapsed on the bed and said, “Lord, give me strength.”  My spirit immediately received Nehemiah 8:10 b…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.  At that moment, I knew God was showing me that I would always have the strength I needed as long as I didn’t lose my joy.

Granted, there are still times I feel emotionally drained and pulled in many directions, but I always go back to what I call the “bones” of my spiritual foundation : complete faith, hope and trust in the word of God.

One hymn writer took it a step further, “On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a word of caution here. Dream homes don’t magically appear out of the rubble of the old one.  It takes months of hard work of the contractor, carpenters, structural engineers, decorators, and owners.  There is a high price to pay to restore a home to its former grandeur and add new life and character.   Likewise, scripture reminds us that faith without works is dead.

Here’s the good news.  Our savior has already paid the price and the only work required of you in this restoration is to trust and believe in his ability to save and keep you.   It is not too late.

What shape is the natural and/or spiritual foundation of your “house” in today?  What is it leaning on?  What are you holding onto that is damaging your relationship with the God?   Are you digging through the ashes of an empty burned out shell, holding onto broken promises from untrustworthy people when God is prompting you to give him those fragments and allow him to make something beautiful.

Do you have the guts to let today be the first day of residence in your “new house”?   Why not tear down the walls of protection you have built around your heart and open it up to Jesus.  Let him create a clean heart.  Strip away old doubts and fears and replace them with faith and hope.  Trust God with the foundation of your soul and it won’t matter if the physical location of your natural home is in the worst neighborhood or the most desirable area of town, because you will be standing on solid spiritual ground.

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Traveling Shoes

Challenging thought for today:

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Ephesian. 6:15

After snagging an opportunity that her colleague had been starving herself for months to have, Anne Hathaway’s character in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, justified her decision to steal the trip of a lifetime from said colleague by claiming that she didn’t have a choice because her job depended on it.

Her colleague’s response (paraphrased here) went something like this. “Girl, please, you sold your soul the minute you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choo’s.  For those of you interested, you too can snag a pair of “plain” patent leather Jimmy Choo pumps for around $600 at Neiman Marcus, but I digress.

If there is one area in which most women can find common ground on, it’s shoes. Every fashionista knows that the perfect outfit is not complete without the perfect shoes.  Even a trip around the track or to the gym calls for “cute” shoes.  The old clunky “tennis” shoes or sneakers having long been replaced with sleek lightweight walking or running shoes in every color and price range.  Even a simple pair of rain or snow boots can be the height of fashion.

In today’s challenge verse however, the analogy was to Roman soldiers and the footwear they chose to fight in. Though they wore sandals instead of boots, the thick soles protected them against hot sand, rough terrain, rocks, thorns, etc.  This verse continued the apostle Paul’s discussion on the armor God has equipped us with to fight any spiritual battles we encounter.  It also reminded me of a simple song a lady we knew sang with conviction every time she was called upon.

Travelin’ shoes, Lord,

 got on my travelin’ shoes,

Travelin’ shoes, Lord,

 got on my travelin’ shoes.

 I can travel now,

got on my travelin’ shoes. 

I can travel now,

got on my travelin’ shoes.

Travelin’ shoes, Lord,

Got on my travelin’ shoes.

I hope you will let this simple example inspire you to allow the spiritual steps of your life’s journey to be ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23) and be content wherever it takes you.  If you do that, it won’t matter if you walk around all day in stilettos or flip flops, the Holy Spirit will keep you on the right path.

Take a moment and think about your own “travelin’ shoes”.  When you walk into a situation, do you bring peace or confusion? Do you buy every pair of shoes that calls your name and patiently wait until you find the right outfit to wear them?  Why not have the same attitude when God leads you to a path that may call for a rugged pair of work boots?

My prayer for you today is no matter which road you are traveling on your life’s path, that you will dust off those travelin’ shoes and hit the road.

Take the next step:

Stop walking in the footsteps of your past mistakes.  Follow the path that God has put before you.  Lace up those sneakers of faith and run this race with patience and endurance and find peace.

 

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Mountaintop Experience

Challenging Thought for Today:
He replied, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
You can’t see forever, but if you are willing to take the half mile hike, straight up the mountain from the parking lot, and then scale a 54-foot observation tower, you can see a 360-degree panoramic view that expands over a 100 miles.  At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi.  Even when clouds and air pollution limit viewing distances to twenty miles, the views are still picture worthy.

I don’t remember if it was clear or cloudy the day my husband and I drove up a couple of years ago.  I just remember exquisite, breathtaking views from the valley to the top of the mountain.  Fall foliage painted scenes no human could create.

It’s a slow drive up because few people can resist the urge to stop and pull their car over to appreciate the many scenic viewing areas on the way.  One website called these treasures “scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys.” I know we stopped at least two or three times before we completed the seven-mile trip to the end of Clingmans Dome Road.

The road ends in a parking lot that signals the beginning of the trail that leads to the observation tower.   The trail is pedestrian only.  While it is paved, the incline is too steep for bikes and wheelchairs, let alone cars.   There are benches for resting along the way and posted signs advise visitors to take advantage of them.

When we arrived at the walk ramp to the tower, we saw a woman who had decided not to venture the final leg.  I think the rest of the people in her party seriously considered doing bodily harm to her. As someone pointed out, the trek up the winding ramp of the tower was nothing when compared to the half-mile incline she walked on the way.  Anyone who could walk up the ramp to a stadium could easily handle the final lap up to the tower. However, no amount of reasoning swayed her. She patiently waited while others moved past her to the destination, content to bask in their satisfaction on the return trip.   While I sympathized with the fact that she had hip surgery some time back, it saddened me that she came so far and missed the whole point of the trip.

So much about that trip reminded me of the spiritual mountains we try to tackle on our own.  When we look with our natural eyes at the monumental challenges of our daily life, they often seem unconquerable.

I wonder if we would have as many regrets in life if we move our focus from the mountain to the climb.  Mahalia Jackson sang a song, Lord, don’t move the mountain, but give me the strength to climb.  Lord, don’t take away my stumbling blocks but lead me on around.”  If we’re honest, there are so many times we want God to make it a lot easier for us by removing stumbling blocks and mountains from or paths rather than teaching us the valuable lessons of learning to climb and maneuver around those things of the enemy that would block our path.

I have noticed that when you are at the foot of a mountain and look up, the trees loom overhead as if they are hundreds of feet tall.  However, when you get up on the mountain where they are, you will realize they are just plain old trees.  They haven’t changed.  They are the same trees you see from the valley, but your perspective changes when you see them close up.

So, whatever mountain you are facing today, no matter what situation you find yourself in, prayerfully keep climbing.   Don’t be the one who gets so close and then stops.  Be the one to go the whole way and see whatever is waiting for you from a new perspective.

I often wonder how the woman who stopped below the observation tower would have felt if she overheard the conversation between two friends who followed us down.

“Man, I’m glad you didn’t tell me how much walking and mountain terrain was going to be involved in this trip,” one of them said to the other.  “I would have stayed in the room, but I’m glad I came.  Yesterday, I saw black bears in Pigeon Forge, and back there when I looked off that mountain… I saw God.”

Today, I pray that when there are mountains in your life, that God will give you strength to climb them, but keep you mindful of my own times you spent in the valley.  Not so that you will look back with regret, but so that you will consider others who may still struggle in the climb.  Lift them up in prayer.

Why not take the next step?  Instead of asking God to remove every difficult situation from your life, why not ask him to show you where he is in the situation, what you need to learn from it, and how he wants you to overcome it.

Be Blessed.

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Moving in the Right Direction

Challenging Thought for Today:    Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:21

“Just because you don’t know where you are doesn’t mean that I don’t.”

This was my husband’s not so subtle reference to my non-existent sense of direction when I inquired about the final destination of one our weekly dinner outings after church.

The profoundness of that statement made me ponder our response to God as we travel this road often referred to as our spiritual journey.  I thought about our attempt to justify ourselves when we “get lost” along the way.

“Directionally-challenged” is a “kind” phrase for someone who does not have a good sense of direction or gets lost easily and often.   The hard thing about being directionally challenged is the fact that you don’t have to be in an unfamiliar place to get lost and you often go in the same wrong direction each time.

It’s easy for someone who has a good sense of direction to become irritated with someone who is directionally challenged. In the natural sense, it is easy to look at someone else’s struggle and say, “why are they having such difficulty with that?”  We think of simple solutions and just move on.  Yet, in our own spiritual walk, we are not able to see simple changes that need to be made.   We would rather wander around aimlessly in our own understanding instead of turning to God and asking him how to get where we are going.  I have certainly been guilty of looking at someone who seems to make the same mistake repeatedly and wonder why it’s so hard for them to see they are on the wrong path.  Yet in my own spiritual walk, I have wandered aimlessly along a path of my own choosing instead of turning to God and asking him which way to go.

On the Sunday afternoon in question here,  I was unfamiliar with the area my husband was driving through and it looked as if he was not going to find what he was looking for.  So, I naturally wondered if he was lost.  Likewise, when we don’t trust the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can allow this same type of fear to interfere with the journey.

If we focus on how many turns we’ve already taken, how many other “restaurants” we pass on the way to where we are going, we can miss valuable lessons that can be learned from the trip.   Especially when God takes us into areas we are unfamiliar with, challenging us to move out of our comfort zone.  We look around and see people we don’t normally associate with, rocky paths we feel  ill-equipped to travel, and roads that have previously been closed to us, it’s looks like we are lost.  But, we aren’t.

Memorize our thought for today and accept that God knows where he’s taking you.  Heaven’s GPS location is already locked in and we can start from anywhere.

My tagline for this blog is “finding my way: living my purpose”  because I know the best way to be assured that I am moving in the right direction is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate GPS, consistently listening for that guiding voice to speak to me  through his word, his people and my life and  say “this is the way, walk in it”.

Thank you for stopping by my blog.  I solicit your prayers as I move in this new direction following the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Follow me as I follow Christ.

Be Blessed.

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