Just a little Spark.
Just a little Spark.
When I was a little girl, I loved Christmas so much I’d sulk when it was over as I headed back to school. There was a vacant spot in our family room where the Christmas tree had been with a few abandoned pine needles stuck to the carpet and mere crumbs staring up at me from the bottom of the cookie jar. My young life seemed bare and gray without all the decorations and sugary goodness.
But now I’m a little more grown-up (a little!) and there is such excitement with a new year stretching out before me because I know the Author who is going to write the next chapter in my life, giving me the tiniest glimpse in the form of a single word to ponder and pray about. (And if I know anything about God, it’s that I will never know all there is to know about Him; that alone leaves me biting my bottom lip in anticipation and wide-eyed with wonder.)
I’ve learned that when I ask God to give me a clue about the upcoming year, I’m like a little girl again only I’m not wearing pigtails and I’m not waiting to shred wrapping paper to get to a new toy. Instead, I’m sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to pounce on the “new” and follow God on some grand and amazing adventure.
Funny, the word “adventure” leads me right into this year’s word, but it’s important to look back because the words are connected just like the chapters in a book.
Previous words: obey, new, wisdom, hope, and perseverance. And last year’s word: bold.
I smile when I think about some of the things God called me to do last year and how I needed to be bold and rely on Him for His strength – start a women’s group, speak to two groups of ladies on the same day (yikes, I was nervous!), submit my novel to an amazing agent, preach, let go of the past, ask for more of God, loosen my overprotective-momma-bear grip on our daughter knowing God’s gentle touch is always going to be better, and start speaking up about things I don’t like and things I know God doesn’t want me doing. (I’m really not supposed to have a garden or a bakery; the little pig-tailed dreamer in me has her pouty lip out.)
As I began praying and asking God weeks ago in the middle of December for the next word, the chapter title for 2019, God whispered it so profoundly to my heart:
Oh my, what a big word! It could mean anything, really. A spiritual journey, a physical journey, a journey of healing… The list could go on and on.
Thankfully, I don’t have to have it all figured out, but I know I’ll need to be bold (see how the words are connected!). And I know God will walk with me, step by step, into this new year as He and I set out on this journey together.
And really, my friends, there is no toy or cookie that could ever be as sweet as the excitement and anticipation of drawing close to God as we begin the new chapter He has for us, revealing the abundant life He’s planned all along.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.)
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NASB.)
When I was MUCH younger, I went with friends to a popular amusement park where screams and the smell of greasy French fries hovered and the lines for the rides stretched on and on. Ever experienced that sort of thing?
Ah, yes. There’s nothing like waiting in line with some of your favorite friends for three hours to hop on a ride that will last approximately ninety seconds. You’re sporting your favorite sunglasses with a wad of money crammed in your front pocket, and you made sure to wear your comfortable sandals because you knew you were going to be standing in line for a long, long time.
Maybe your feet get a little sore as the day goes on and you regret not lathering on a healthy dollop of sunblock as the sun begins to bake your forehead and scalp, but you hardly mind.
Why? Because you’re spending time with some of your best friends and there is a lot to talk about. There’s lots of elbowing and wrapping arms around shoulders. You’ve all mastered a secret code when it comes to inside jokes, so the people weaving around you in line won’t have a clue that you’re discussing something personal and maybe even a little embarrassing. Perhaps you don’t even need the code but a certain look; the raising of an eyebrow, side glance, and the tiniest smirk leave you busting up uncontrollably in a fit of laughter and wishing you could step out of line just for a moment to find the restroom.
It’s a great thing, really, and you don’t mind the long line because you’re with friends and you know you’re waiting for something thrilling, something that will probably take your breath away.
You’re not ignoring your friends, focusing solely on the twists of the ride or the screams of those ahead of you. You’re not shushing your friends when they want to share their latest story of tripping and wiping out in a crowd or the last time a joke forced milk to come shooting out of an unsuspecting nose. And you’re not standing there with your arms crossed and a scowl on your face because the waiting is just killing you.
That’s what it’s like when you and I focus on what God is going to do for us and where He’s leading us instead of just being with Him.
How do I know? I’ve recently been convicted of this. A LOT.
I spend so much time complaining about the long wait in line and staring at the “ride” up ahead that I’m not even enjoying the One who is waiting with me. I’m not enjoying our inside jokes, laughing with Him about the time I tried to make a snow angel for Him and got stuck, looking like a turtle on its back with legs flailing. I’m not connecting with Him, recognizing those personal glances where we don’t even need to say a word to each other. I’m not standing in awe at the very idea that God Almighty chooses to wait with me in this line.
I’m too busy trying to figure out what the ride will be like. I want to understand it, study it, prepare for it, and then even plan how I’m going to respond. (Am I the only one who does this?!) Will I scream with delight or am I going exit the ride, pout, and complain, “I waited all that time for that?!”
But what about God? How does it look from His perspective? Is He standing by our side, watching us as we focus on the ride? Is He trying to speak to us, but we’re too busy shushing Him because we want to hear how others are reacting, what they’re saying after they exit the ride and walk away?
Forgive us, Lord.
Maybe instead of focusing on what God has planned for us, what the ride up ahead is going to be like, we can fix our eyes on Him right now. Right here in line while we’re waiting. Sure, we can be aware of the ride. We know it’s there. We’re not oblivious to it. But maybe we can stop staring at it, stop trying to figure it all out, long enough to really see Who is standing with us; to appreciate His gentleness, to see His smile.
Maybe we can spend the time in line to relive some favorite memories with Him, to remember one of His many rescues in our lives. Maybe we can share with Him how much we appreciate the fact that He never leaves us to stand in a long line of strangers all alone. (How difficult would that be?!) Perhaps we can talk with Him about the ride, expressing our joy and anticipation, but remember to thank Him in advance; knowing He’s the Creator of the ride and it’s not only going to take our breath away but will leave us leaning in closer to Him as the air comes back fuller, deeper.
And when it’s our turn to hop on the ride and buckle our seat belts, we wouldn’t even think about not scooting over to make room for God to sit with us. We wouldn’t even think of not sharing this ride with Him, not wanting Him to be a part of it, of leaving Him to stand on the platform while we ride alone or with someone else.
We want God to be right there with us as we climb higher and higher and as the twists and turns leave us breathless. We want Him to be right there, holding our hand when the thrill shifts to fright. We want to laugh with Him and experience the view with Him.
Really, we can’t imagine riding this ride without Him.
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11 NLT.)
If you’re running out of steam, God may stop the train you’re on altogether. He’s not doing it to punish you or hold you back. He’s doing it to protect you. He knows derailment can happen if you push forward too fast or out of sheer exhaustion.
As the train stops and sits idle, you feel antsy as if you’re wasting precious time staring out the window until God asks you to get off the train. He reaches out His hand to you and whispers, “Come to me.”
You take His hand, step down, and take a deep breath. Perhaps God wants you to look around because you may never pass this way again, and you don’t want to miss what He has for you in this very moment.
Maybe these tracks are leading you to something new, a new adventure with God, and you’re about to go through some major changes in your life. Take a moment to relish the excitement, to hope.
Maybe it’s just been a long time since you’ve stepped away from the train to rest. Take some time to catch your breath. Breathe deeply.
Or perhaps the clinking of the wheels on the rails and the lonely echo of the whistle have been blocking out the still, small voice of God and He’s been trying to tell you something. Take a moment to still your thoughts and listen for His voice.
As you’re holding His hand, standing a few feet from the tracks with the train at your back, relax. The train is not going to leave without you. Focus on God. Feel His hand gently holding your own. Memorize the scent of autumn leaves mixing with the cold winter’s wind as it rushes to you from the horizon, the sunlight kissing your forehead.
Change is coming. A new season is approaching. Take it all in and cherish this time you have with God.
That’s why He stopped the train. Not to discourage you or stop your momentum. He simply wanted to take your hand and spend a little time with you. He misses you when you’re rushing full steam ahead.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV.)
It’s a great feeling to scrape off old paint and watch the thirsty wood drink in a fresh coat or to demolish an old deck that was nothing more than an eyesore and a disaster waiting to happen and watch as new boards begin to reach into the backyard.
Renovation. Taking the old and broken and restoring it and making it new.
Is God renovating your broken spirit?
Perhaps your spirit is a like a run-down house that’s falling in on itself, and it’s exciting and uncomfortable at the same time to watch God work; He may be doing things you don’t understand or things you’re not sure you’re going to like. But you gave Him permission, even cried out to Him when you were in trouble when your spirit, your house, was crumbling. No matter how hard you tried to fix it, you couldn’t.
So you step aside and take a seat on a hillside not too far away. The scent of the sun warming the grass and the cool breeze on your skin comforts you as you rest and watch God work on you.
Still uncomfortable because change makes you squirm? Remember, this is God. The Creator of all things, and He knows how to build you. He did it in your mother’s womb, and He can do it again.
Only this isn’t like creating or building you for the first time. This is rebuilding you. Renovating, remember?
He’s going to pull all those rusty nails, so He can design something new. He’s going to scrub away the dirt from your past, scrape off the peeling paint of your failures that you keep focusing on, and rebuild your brokenness; He sees how others have hurt you and He’s going to permanently fix that crack in your heart that you keep trying to patch. He’s going to wash away the black spots, the anger and bitterness, to stop them from spreading.
And when the demolition is complete and there’s nothing left but a mound of rubble, you can take a good look at your own hands and admit you can’t rebuild by yourself. You need God. You realize your sad attempts were like building a house out of wet cardboard and tape.
God has so much more for you than the soggy shoebox contraption you’ve been fixated on and tried to maintain.
As you trust Him to keep working, to gather the materials He’s going to use to rebuild, He will also dig up the painful things you have buried deep in the soil right outside your door; the place where the brown grass crunches underfoot. That’s where you buried all the junk you didn’t want to bring into your house but couldn’t stand to look at anymore. You know, the stuff you needed to deal with but didn’t. God’s going to touch and heal that spot and plant a brand new seed.
And when He’s finished rebuilding and you stand from your place on the hillside to move in closer to see all His handiwork, you’ll realize all the brokenness and ugliness have been replaced with many wonderful changes and exciting, fresh starts.
And just wait until you see what He’s planted outside your door.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NIV.)
It’s exciting to walk with God. You may not see where you’re going, but you know it’s going to be good.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV.)
“We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV.)