Part 4: It’s Really ONE BIG Story!

As I referenced in the Intro, somehow I came away from my adolescent years of church and Sunday school with a very fragmented view of the Bible. I am embarrassed to say it was closer to my mid 20s when, through studying on my own accord, I began to connect some of the dots, particularly of the Old Testament of the Bible. 

I figured I would start by making myself vulnerable so that no one need feel inferior. Wherever you’re at in your Biblical knowledge, you have nothing to be ashamed about. 

For example, I was definitely older before I ever connected that the story of Joseph directly connected to the story of Moses. As in, the Israelites end up in Egypt in the first place because Joseph brings his family there to save them from a famine. Then the Israelites become enslaved later on and Moses is the man God chooses to help free them. I think the first time I pieced that one together, my mind was blown. Likewise, it was most certainly only in the past 5 years that I realized the kingdom of Israel, God’s chosen people, actually split in two at one point! It became two nations, mad at each other! I’ve led Bible studies for 15 years and it still took time to figure some of those things out– and hey, no judgment! It’s a big Bible, ha!

Now, some of you may be laughing at me wondering, how did you not learn that earlier? As I said to my husband, I will now say to you: we didn’t all have the privilege of attending Christian school growing up. So seriously, count that a blessing and don’t take it for granted if you did. But I will also assume that there were others of you, like myself, who went “OOOOOHHHH! Now I get it!”

As I prepared this, there were so many MORE things I wanted to include, but it was just too much for an already lengthy topic. So we’ll dive into more overarching Biblical themes and important events in the future. Today, the purpose is to lay the groundwork and understand the larger picture.


The Bible is really one big love story about a Creator God wanting to restore relationship with his people and creation. Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus, and at least ⅔ of the New Testament references the OT, so it is so important to understand both. They do not exist within a vacuum. Each informs the other. 

In the beginning, God created this world and mankind, all operating under his shalom (peace). Then man rebelled and broke that peace, bringing about suffering and chaos. But almost right away, in the book of Genesis, God already kickstarts his rescue plan. It begins with a man named Abraham. God establishes a Covenant with Abraham and says “I will be your God and all nations will be blessed through you.” 

Descended from Abraham comes the people of Israel. When they first make their exodus out of slavery from Egypt, they no longer know Yahweh God, whom their descents followed. So God again establishes his Covenant with them and says “I will be your God, you will be my people, all nations will be blessed through you.” God promises to be their God and secure blessing upon them, but Israel is supposed to live in a way that reflects the heart of God. For their side of the Covenant, they are to be a beacon to the nations around them, displaying the generous and compassionate heart of their Lord. 

The rest of the OT is waiting to see if Israel can hold up their end of the Covenant relationship. Can they be ambassadors of Creator God to the surrounding nations? Can they bring redemptive living to the world? We, of course, know they fail in this mission. They abandon Yahweh and live in the most detestable of ways, and the Covenant relationship is broken. Yet even in the bleakest of moments, when impending Babylonian conquest is upon the Israelite people, God already speaks of his continued rescue plan, of sending a Redeemer and establishing a new covenant, which will not be written on tablets of stone but on their minds and hearts. 

When we open the book of the New Testament, the rescue story comes to a pinnacle. The Creator God, knowing his creation cannot rescue and atone itself, humbles himself and comes to the very world he created as God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. Jesus, fully God, but also descended from the line of Abraham and the Israelite nation, is for all people what they could never be for themselves, never able to fulfill the Old Covenant. He presents a New Exodus, where now all peoples of the world are invited to come out of slavery from sin and into freedom under a New Law, a New Covenant. For the first time since the fall of Adam and Eve, Jesus restores right relationship between God and man by becoming their sacrifice, the final slaughtered Lamb,the last atonement needed. He dismantles the Old Law and establishes a New Covenant. 

The most central part of the story has occurred, but it is not over. Jesus’ death and resurrection was the bridge to restoring the relationship between people and their Father God, but the final restoration of the world has not yet come. We will not be swept off to heaven someday and this world destroyed in a final judgement. One day, Jesus will return, and this world that God so lovingly created, he will make new. Heaven will come down to meet earth, and our Lord will dwell among us. And the ultimate peace, the beautiful and orderly shalom that God always desired for this world and for his relationship with his children, will be restored. 

In the waiting, Jesus makes it very clear in the Gospels that we do not have to wait for God’s Final Restoration. When Jesus came, he ushered in the Kingdom of God. He displayed and taught what it means to live in a such a way that reflects the heart of the Father. And so in the meantime, while we wait, we can bring the Kingdom of God to this world each and every day by choosing to display God’s shalom, by choosing to reflect his love and mercy and compassion. In the same way the Israelites were supposed to be a light to the nations around them, but failed without access to relationship with their Heavenly Father, we are invited to partake in God’s story by being ambassadors of King Jesus to the world around us. 


Now that we have the plot of the story and ultimately know the ending, where God restored relationship at great cost to himself and where God’s love and peace will prevail, we can begin to fill in some of the details along the way. 

Below you will find a bullet-point, cliff-notes version of the major events in the Bible. It’s like reading it in fast forward and it can make it easier to see how the pieces fit together. This isn’t all-inclusive, but it provides anchor points. A downloadable pdf of this will be at the end. Following that, there will also be a printable Timeline. I find it to be handy to reference, because even the best of us can forget things along the way. 

Major Events of the Bible:

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2)
  2. People repeatedly sinning against God (Genesis 3-11)
    1. Fall of Adam and Eve, and decline of descendants 
  3. The Flood
    1. God spares Noah and the animals as a remnant
    2. Makes a Covenant with creation to never again destroy it (rainbow)
  4. Man again turns corrupt; the Tower of Babel- God confuses the languages and people scatter (Gen 11)
  5. God’s solution: God makes a Covenant Promise with Abraham (Genesis 12-17)
    1. Promises to make him into a great nation and to give him land
    2. Millions of descendants 
    3. All nations will be blessed through him 
  6. Patriarchs of God’s people (Gen 21-50)
    1. Abraham→ Isaac → Jacob 
      1. Jacob’s other name- Israel, which means “wrestles with God”
      2. Jacob’s 12 sons become the 12 tribes of Israel
      3. Jacob’s son, Joseph, is sold into slavery in Egypt, which leads to his eventual position of power in Egypt
      4. Joseph saves his family, Israelites, during a great famine→ family moves to Egypt
  7. Israelite population rapidly grows in Egypt. When the old generation dies and new pharaoh no longer remembers Joseph, Israelites are made into slaves as a means to subdue them (Exodus)
    1. Moses’ life is spared, raised by Pharaoh’s daughter
  8. God delivers his people out of Egypt in Exodus and enters Covenant relationship with them (the Mosaic Covenant) (Exodus 19 & 24)
    1. I will be your God, you will be my people; I will dwell in your midst
    2. Israelites are meant to be God’s image bearers, to represent God to the world, to be set apart
    3. Israelites know little about Yahweh before this point; they have to learn how to live as people set apart (hence, The Law)
  9. Deuteronomy (just prior to entering the Promised Land)
    1. God restates their covenant relationship and details their blessings if they obey him and worship him alone, as well as the terrible judgments if they do not (see Deut 28)
    2. Israel vows to keep the Covenant, but of course they do not
  10. Joshua through 2 Kings follows the Israelite’s story of entering the Promised Land and seeing if they keep that agreement (clearly they do not)
    1. They gradually conquest the land and then lose pieces again as they fall into sin
  11. Time of the Judges
    1. Israel’s attempt to have a leader; someone representing God, to guide the people
    2. Judges were political military leaders but also a judicial role (like a Supreme Court)
    3. It goes horribly and by the end, it’s written, “in those days Israel had no king: everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)
    4. Outrageous moral decline- rape, murder, neglect of widows/orphans/poor, worshipping pagan gods
    5. Samuel is the last judge
  12. The Cycle of Judgment: they do this all through the OT
    1. the people are faithful and enjoy peace→ People get complacent and rebel→ God gives them into the hands of their enemies→ People turn back to God and cry out in their oppression→ God rescues them and people are faithful under that leader→ Until that leader is gone and the people rebel again
  13. Israel enters monarchy- a new strategy of trying to lead the people via a king (1 Samuel)
    1. Saul is the first king- starts okay but can’t remain faithful to God
    2. Samuel is instructed to go to Bethlehem and anoints David as the next king
    3. David is the one who takes Jerusalem and establishes it as the capitol
      1. David finishes conquering the Promised Land
      2. Israel’s land being established; wants to build a permanent temple for God
    4. Solomon is the last king of Israel in its entirety– cursed because of his unfaithfulness (1 Kings)
  14. The Division of the Kingdom (1 & 2 Kings)
    1. The Northern Kingdom- referred to as Israel
      1. There are no good kings here in its history; they turn to idol worship
    2. The Southern Kingdom- referred to as Judah
      1. Where Jerusalem is located
      2. Where we get the term “The Jews”
      3. Has a few good kings mixed in with the bad
    3. On-going civil war between the kingdoms
  15. The destruction of the northern kingdom, Israel, by the Assyrians (722 BC) – 2Kings 17
  16. The destruction of Solomon’s temple and the southern kingdom, Judah, by the Babylonians (587 BC)- 2Kings 24 & 25
  17. Exile in Babylonia and Egypt (550-450 BC)
  18. Return to the land- Ezra & Nehemiah
    1. Persian age (538 BC)- In his first year of rule, King Cyrus frees the Israelites
    2. Rebuilding of the temple- Nehemiah
  19. Intertestamental period (also referred to as the “400 Years of Silence”)
    1. Greek empire from 336-165 BC
      1. Brings the Greek language (common trading language), making for one common language
      2. Greek cultural influence
      3. Greek preference for aesthetics over content
    2. Roman Empire in rule by the time Jesus is born
  20. Jesus’ Birth, Life, Death & Resurrection (The Gospels)
    1. Jesus ushers in the Kingdom of God and establishes a New Covenant
    2. Jesus becomes the final sacrificial Lamb of atonement for sins
    3. Jesus’ death & resurrection restores right relationship with God
  21. The formation of the early church (Acts)
    1. Jesus’ disciples become the first missionaries
    2. The Holy Spirit arrives at Pentecost
    3. The invitation to be God’s people is opened up to non-Jews (referred to as “Gentiles”)
    4. Saul is converted on the road to Damascus and renamed “Paul”
  22. Nero comes to power in the 60s AD
    1. Intense persecution- causes Christians to spread out and ultimately spread Christianity to other parts of the world
  23. Revelation: One day Christ will return and restore all things; the earth will be made new and heaven will meet earth, and God will dwell among his people. 
  24. ….Until then, we eagerly wait and see what role we’ll play in God’s story.

I know this was a lot of information today. So take this week and simply familiarize yourself with it all.

~Renee

Part 3: Why Context Matters

What comes to mind if you hear: “It’s brick outside.”? 

What about: “Can I get those fries animal style?” 

Or perhaps: “that’s sick!”

Well, the way you interpret those words will largely be dependent on where you live and the generation in which you were born. If you live on the East Coast, you know it to mean, “it’s freezing out, like a brick of ice.” If you’re from the West Coast, you can assume someone is ordering fries with cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and grilled onions. And again, depending on where you live or your social circle, “that’s sick,” could mean something is really gross, or it’s totally awesome. 

Those examples confuse you? Let’s try again.

Tell someone who doesn’t live in Michigan that you need to “run into Meijers and grab some Faygo pop,” or that your sister is a “troll,” and they may look at you cross-eyed. But locals here all know precisely that Michiganders love adding an “S” to everything, “Meijer” is a Michigan-based grocery store, and that Faygo is a local carbonated beverage called “pop”, never “soda.” You also aren’t using an offensive slur toward your kin, you’re merely saying your sister lives in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, under the Mackinac Bridge, hence from which the term “troll” is derived. 😉 

Putting that into perspective, if there can be that much contextual difference within the same time period, just from region to region, how much more would we need to be mindful of contextual differences with Biblical accounts written thousands of years ago on the other side of the world? Jesus was not preaching in Mid-Western America. He was speaking to Jewish audiences in the Middle-East over 2,000 year ago. 

We want to be mindful of the cultural context we are bringing to the table when we open our Bibles. We can very quickly interpret scripture incorrectly when we view it through 21st Century Western culture. Our natural tendency will be to view things through our own cultural lens. So before reading a passage or chapter, take a moment to stop and think about the original context first. 

Let’s look at some examples from the Bible. In the NIV translation of the Bible, Jesus addresses his mother in John Chapter 2 as “Woman!” Understandably, I’ve witnessed people react to that as Jesus being disrespectful and misogynistic. Well, gee, when we read it within our cultural context, it does appear that way. But while the NIV often provides a literal translation, the cultural equivalent of what Jesus said would actually be like saying “Madame.” Do you see the difference in the level of respect by understanding just one word within its original context?!  

Now let’s address an oh, so popular verse: 

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13 

This is a classic verse taken out of context. Our Western, 21st Century culture loves this verse. It fits in perfectly with the cultural notion that 

“You can do anything!”

“She believed she could and she did!” 

“Work hard enough and you can achieve your dreams!”

Philippians, most likely written while Paul sat in a prison cell in Rome, was written to encourage the church of Philippi as they may face further persecution. 

Let’s look at verse 13 in full context of the paragraph: 

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” 

Interesting. When read all together, what is the main subject Paul is addressing? Is he talking about climbing the corporate ladder or killing it at a presentation or stashing away enough money to build that dream house? Paul is talking about contentment here! Not quite what is typically associated with that verse, now is it? 

I love that the NIV has actually updated the wording of verse 13 to read as “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” By merely changing “things” to “this”, it directs your mind back to the aforementioned verses, as opposed to reducing Paul’s words into a motivational chant. 

Begin to practice pausing before you read scripture to consider that the original context was not 21st Century Western culture, and therefore, how would the original context have impacted its meaning? Below are some ideas for what to ask or pay attention to regarding context.  

Some study Bibles offer contextual info at the beginning of a book. Utilize that!

You absolutely do not need to answer every single one of these every time. They are merely meant to guide and assist, to provide you with some direction, not to bog you down. Again, don’t expect perfection from yourself pertaining to context, and certainly don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. This coming Sunday we’ll return for Part 4 about the Bible as one big story and that will really help create some anchor points. 

Have a great weekend and I hope to see you here in a few days for Part 4!

~Renee

Part 2: Why Genre Matters

Now it’s time to look at why paying attention to the genre you are reading is helpful. Genre is another way of saying the category or classification, characterized by the same form, style, or subject matter. Genre is one of the first things I make sure to pay attention to because it can shape your entire reading of a verse, chapter, or book. 

For example, if I read a parable of Jesus but forget what a parable means, we could have a big problem on our hands when I interpret Jesus’ words of “I am the vine, you are the branches” to mean that literally. Jesus is not actually some weird anthropomorphic grape vine. Likewise when Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grew and became a tree, it isn’t really a mustard seed. There are lessons embedded in his words there. 

On the flip side, if I fail to see the book of 1 Samuel as an historical account that happened to the Israelite nation, I may only regard David’s life as a nice story with a lesson. It becomes easy to take for granted that these were real people, at a real point in time. 

We know that in all literature, the genre affects our reading of it. Reading a poem by Dr. Maya Angelou is going to be absorbed much differently than reading the Diary of Anne Frank. Knowing one is poetry and one is historical informs our interpretation. 

As for the Bible, some people will break them into even more specific categories, but there are certain overarching genres that are typically agreed upon: 

  1. Law: The first 5 books of the Bible are typically considered books of Law, also referred to as “The Torah” and “The Pentateuch”. They include the story of how the Israelites became God’s people and the laws that were given them. These laws were meant to be the standard by which they lived under the Covenant made with God; a display that God’s people did not live like the rest of the world. The laws also served to show that no one was capable of earning God’s love. The Moral Laws (such as the 10 Commandments) are what most people are familiar with, but these books also include the Civil and Ceremonial Laws put in place to govern the Israelite nation. The Civil and Ceremonial Laws were very specific to their people, place, and time within history.
  1. Narrative: This tells a story or provides an historical account. This is found throughout the Bible, as entire books or as chapters within books. 
  1. Poetry: These use imagery and figurative language. They often express emotion and repeat phrases for poetic flare. The books of Psalms and Song of Songs (also called Song of Solomon) are included here. However, poems and songs are found in many books throughout the Bible. 
  1. Wisdom: A collection of wise sayings, meant to influence the moral code of its readers.
  1. Prophets (Major and Minor): Written by prophets living in a specific period of Israel’s history, these were written as reminders and warnings to the Israelites. These need to be read with an understanding of the Covenant relationship between God and his people. 
  1. Gospels: The term literally means “good news.” They were a proclamation of the new king, Jesus. These include the life of Jesus. A sub-genre, Parable, is found here. 
  1. Letters: Written about a specific circumstance to a specific group of Christians in the Early Church. It is crucial to understand those things first in order to reach appropriate conclusions regarding application. 
  1. Apocalyptic/Prophecy: Revelation and parts of Daniel are included in this genre. These are urgent messages meant to warn and/or comfort the original audience. Apocalyptic literature uses a lot of symbolic language that must be understood through the lens of similar preceding Biblical texts. They are meant to evoke emotion; not necessarily to speak to the cerebral side. 

For a handy visual, download and print the Genre Guide. As with the Inductive Bible Study Guide, this can be helpful as you get started. Keep in mind that multiple genres can be found within a book of the Bible.

This week, keep practicing! I’d love to hear from those who are giving it a try. What have you learned? What seems challenging? What questions have you run into?

Later this week, we’ll take a look at Context.

~Renee

What To Do With All The Feels: A Lesson On Lament

Last week I shared my feelings with you. Not my sugar-coated, this has all been so fun feelings. But my sincere acknowledgement that some days have been hard. Some days have gone well, and sweet family memories were made. But other days everyone’s emotions have run high, and things have been….interesting…to say the least.

Now I want to turn to scripture to examine what we can do with all those “feels”— all those spiraling feelings.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is a poetic style of writing that shows up again and again when God’s people need to lay out their pain. They are songs of sorrow called “lament.” It shows up in books like Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Lamentations, and the minor prophets. Nearly a third of the Psalms are songs of lament. In these you will find a pattern of protest, petition, and praise. The authors lay out their sorrow to the Lord, then ask the Lord for help, and finally you will see an attitude of praise or trust based on their knowledge of what they know to be true of God.

In Psalm 22, King David, described as one after God’s own heart, but no stranger to pain, writes:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

By night, and am not silent.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.

In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.

They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed….

You who fear the Lord, praise him!…

For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;

He has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

 

David presents his brokenness and humanity to the Lord, and with the frequency at which it appears in scripture, it does not seem to be something God frowns upon. In psalms such as chapters 13, 88, and 102, David asks the Lord to hear his cry, answer him, and restore him. Also take note at how David reflects on Israel’s history for assurance that his Lord is still to be trusted. If this same God was able to part the sea and provide food in the desert, surely David can trust him now.

A few years back I heard a sermon on lament where a pastor from Detroit referenced the 3 Rules of the Dysfunctional Family.

  1. Don’t feel
  2. Don’t talk
  3. Don’t trust

Lament, on the other hand, teaches us to feel, to talk, and to trust. Lament teaches us to bring our anxiety, our confusion, our questions, and our despair to God, rather than running away and withdrawing from him. It teaches us just how healthy it can be to cry out to God and lay out all that emotion; all those feels.

The key however, is not ending the conversation after “feel” and “talk.” We don’t merely unload and walk away. That’s when we remember the character of the God we serve. We remember that he is good and compassionate and just. We remember all the times in our lives he has already proved faithful. And because we can be confident in who he is, we can trust, even when we’re still in the waiting; the pain; the unknown. We choose to be like the psalmists, who take time to lament but ultimately choose to trust.

20200331_081109.jpg
One of my favorite Christian authors/theologians/leaders. We were apparently thinking along the same lines.

The truth is, we could probably each write our own song of lament at this point in time. We’ve all lost something. We’re all grieving. Whether it’s senior years, class trips, end-of-year goodbyes to our students, or sports seasons. Sisters’ weekends, family vacations, baby showers, or weddings. Maybe it’s lost wages and layoffs, postponed doctor’s appointments, hugging loved ones, or a sense of security……and maybe even your sanity.

While we wait in this unknown of how long and how bad, we can lean in to our Heavenly Father. On the especially bad days, we can accept those emotions and offer them up in petition. And then we can rest in the knowledge of a sovereign God who is big enough to handle both our feelings and this heartbreaking situation. We can echo the heart of David when he says,

“But I trust in your unfailing love;

My heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

-Psalm 13: 5-6

And we can rest in the knowledge that we serve a God who is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)


As for me, I’ve gotten it all out. I’ve had my moment and accepted the situation at hand (as much as one can, I suppose).  I’ve asked the Lord for discernment and to help me bring a sense of peace to my little people at home. And I’ve raised up the white flag on homeschool. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns in my household. But with what now looks like a lengthy stretch that my children will be out of school, it’s what is needed right now. So by golly, if I have to homeschool, I’ll at least do it well.

Let’s continue to pray for each other. Let’s continue to feel the emotional ups and downs and not feel ashamed. Let’s continue to extend grace. Let’s continue to talk to one another and to our God. And always, always, let’s continue to trust him to carry us through. ❤

Grace and peace to you all this week,

~Renee

An Update and My Object Lesson

Sometimes life hits so fast and so hard. And just as I’m launching a 5 part series on trust, one of the greatest object lessons regarding trust smacks me square in the nose.

It left me wordless. Fingers paralyzed to type anything of sense. Some days it was enough to breath in and out and shuffle through the duties before me, let alone to sit down and let my mind creatively flow with text.

Then there is always the dilemma of what is too much to share. I want to develop a platform of genuine faith and honest emotion of the rawness of life’s ups and downs. But I also want to protect the privacy that those so precious to me deserve.

So my blog went dark for a season. Most of you in the busyness of your own agendas probably didn’t take notice. But for those of you who did, that is why. I have a heart for this ministry but my family is also a ministry, and my family will always come first.

Most recently we faced the parenting challenge of telling our kids about a hard transition. We heard desperate pleas and saw tear streamed faces, but our decision had to hold strong. It’s been one of the harder moments of parenting to date. Our kids only see the present pain which is directly in front of them; the struggle and inevitable discomfort which accompanies change. But my husband and I see the future pain and risk from which we are protecting them.

There is so much we can’t explain to them; so much they should not be allowed to be exposed to or asked to carry. They should not be forced to see the full ugliness of sin or our fallen world and asked to carry the burdens of an adult. They need to be allowed to be 7 and to be 5. They deserve a childhood.

We’ve provided what answers we’re able, but for the rest, we simply ask them to trust us. We’ve asked them to have faith that they have a mommy and a daddy who ultimately want what is good for them. That we love and cherish them and at times have to make hard decisions which protect them from that which they cannot see.

Oh how God challenged my heart later that night. After tucking my daughter into bed and assuring her that though it would be hard, I would hold her hand tight through the process, God began to prick at my spirit. How much is our walk with our Heavenly Father like that?

We seldom fully understand why he asks us to walk through the deep waters. We do not always understand the present pain and suffering. I don’t understand any more than my children why we were dealt this trial.

But God cannot, or does not choose to, always tell us why. Like my little children who deserve to be just that, God knows that there are times we deserve to be his children. Some things would be too much weight for us to bear. While he, on the other hand, has already been willing to bear all the weight of sin on our behalf. In the same way God didn’t tell Job of the spiritual battle at play behind some of his suffering, and in the same way that God’s original plan was to spare Adam and Eve from the knowledge of the evil which existed in contrast to his goodness, there may be times God chooses not to tell us all the “whys” for our own benefit.

Who of us has the mind of God? And who of us can expect that we can understand the grand happenings of this life in the way our Majestic God can? It’s not that it is wrong to seek to understand, but there are moments God simply asks us to trust him with a childlike faith, ultimately trusting in his goodness and provision. Blindly and loyally trusting, one step at a time.

That is the season in which I find myself presently. Faith not shaken, but blindly trusting my Heavenly Father. Knowing this upcoming season of change and transition will continue to be hard, but knowing I can face anything with him holding us as family. How glorious to serve such an intimate Savior God who does not leave us nor forsake us.

 

Stories of Trust: My Dream Deferred

Growing up, our church had the tradition of reading The Tale of Three Trees every Christmas. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Book Cover- Trees

I was always drawn to the 3rd tree. In the story, the 1st and 2nd trees had more material ambitions. The first tree wanted to hold beautiful treasure; the second wanted to be the strongest ship in the world. Ah, but the 3rd tree, all she wanted was to grow so tall that whenever people looked at her, they’d look up and think of God. My little girl heart wanted so badly to glorify God; to point to God in everything I did.

Sadly, in the story all three trees get axed down and thrown into lumber yards.

I seem to be finding myself sitting in the metaphorical lumberyard as well. Nothing has quite gone as planned so far, at least not in regard to how I thought I’d point to God.

As a girl, I always imagined I’d bring glory to God through singing. I didn’t have any grand aspirations of fame, or even earning an income through music, but I thought I’d always use that gift of voice for Him. A shy little girl who hated speaking in front of people, singing was a platform for me to share my heart for God. I would carefully select songs that conveyed truths I found important to share. During my teen years, God opened so many doors for me to sing at church, school, and in the community, it made sense that I’d continue to serve God in that way.

From the moment I graduated high school, went to college, and began to spread my wings, however, God seemed to frustrate all my attempts. Every time I knocked on that music door, it seemed to slam shut or creak irritatingly. Nothing seemed to work out. I was either too young or not classically trained enough or wasn’t friends with the right crowd or people dragged their feet on promises made….and so on and so on. At one point I was so humiliated by certain feedback regarding my apparent lack of expression on stage, I almost gave up singing altogether.

Then about 10 years ago I felt God tugging at my heart to go into ministry. I can still remember the exact chapter I was reading in a book and the precise spot I was sitting on my couch when I told the Lord, “Okay, I’m in.” So in tandem with being a mother, I directed the energy I had left toward women’s ministry. Zeal in my heart, fire in my soul, I set out on my journey for the Lord. Surely that was how I would bring glory to Him!

Yet a decade later I am lacking any direction.

I’ve read oodles of books by Christian women, many of them in ministry, and I am always amazed at the apparent ease with which their path guides them into teaching, preaching, writing, nonprofit ministries and so on. Two ladies in particular graduate college, decide to start up a blog and next thing they know they’re reaching tens of thousands of women through a bona fide non-profit. Another lady decides to write a book, as if it’s so easy to even get published in the first place, makes friends with a nationally known speaker, and the  next thing she knows, she’s part of another nationally known women’s ministry. I can’t even find a niche in my local church while big things seem to just fall into others’ laps. It’s hard not to be left feeling a little dumbfounded or to question your calling altogether.

“Am I missing something, Lord?” tree 3- confused

Earlier this summer I was having some much needed quiet time with the Lord, perusing through some old journals. Suddenly my heart stopped when I came across a poem I’d entirely forgotten about, written 4 years ago. Somehow it still seemed so relevant to my heart’s current condition:

The 3rd Tree

Girl of eleven wished to be that tree.

Heart pure and sweet, with a zeal for the King.

“May all I do point to you.

May I grow tall and free so they lift their eyes to you.”

 

Then life had its way and cut her down.

They spit, they mocked, they pushed her to the ground.

“Maybe I’m not enough.

Perhaps I heard wrong.

Maybe I’m not called.

Maybe I’m not an appointed one.”

 

Dreams lay dead in the lumberyard.

A broken spirit blackens her soul.

But the King so sweetly raises her head

He dries her tears and comes to make her whole .

“Don’t you know the rest of the story?” he whispers.

“Don’t you remember that tree did bring me glory?”

 

Still your heart, sweet child of mine

Wait on the Lord.

Still your heart, little child of grace

Let the Sovereign One sit on the throne.


You see, as our story of the Three Trees concludes, it does not end with the trees rotting in the lumber yard. The tree who dreamed of holding treasure became the manger in which Christ lays at his birth. The 2nd tree who dreams of being a strong ship becomes the fishing boat who carries Jesus and his disciples through a storm.

And as for the third tree, who lays in that lumber yard the longest, she gets put together only to have the nails of Christ’s crucifixion pounded into her. Sounds real nice, right?

Yet thereafter, every time people looked at her, beams formed into the cross, they would think of the Savior God.

I wish I could say that I have reached that beautiful ending. That I could tell you, “Aha! This is what God had planned all along and why so many things seemed like dead ends along the way.”

But I can’t.

The truth is, I’m still in the part of the story where I’m laying in the lumberyard, wondering what in the world God is thinking. Too often we only hear peoples’ stories once they can be wrapped up nicely with a pretty bow. But I think it’s important to share about the time in-between.  The waiting. The uncertainty. Otherwise we’re left with a false sense of how easily everything is supposed to go.

Only God knew how badly my heart needed to hear the truths I penned in that poem all those years earlier. More than ever, when we’re in the valley, when we’re in the waiting, we need constant reminders of God’s truth. I need only to wait on the Lord and let Him sit on the throne. As for the rest? I guess that’s part of the adventure of life.

“But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

Psalm 13: 5