Elsewhere

Earlier this year, I came across two articles, pieces on Christians who live in a Muslim culture. They attend mosques and pray but they do so in the name of Jesus.

The stories of two of these Christians stuck with me. One experienced a real-life five loaves and two fishes miracle. The other experienced the purest joy for something simple that I’ve often seen made complicated.

The articles stay in my mental file cabinet. I pull them sometimes to remind myself that God’s power is still at play, here and elsewhere. 

Garden

This isn’t a garden.

Gardens are gorgeous green playpens for nature to blossom.

Living bouquets of sweet daises and soft roses.

But this isn’t a garden.

Gardens are where pearls of dew slide off ripe tomatoes and grapevines.

Where flower scents sweeter than vanilla and thicker than caramel rise into the air.

But this isn’t a garden.

Gardens are vibrant and viewed, clipped and cared for.

Exquisite displays of maintained earth.

But this isn’t a garden.

This is brush.

Tall thick straw that barely sways when the wind blows.

Bushes of branches with shredded leaves.

Trees of varying sizes in every direction.

Hard black soil that’s pockmarked with pebbles, stones, and rocks.

Fog as far as the eye can see.

And I’m in the center.

This is not a garden.

It is a wilderness.

Loneliness can feel a lot like this.

A place that is untouched by human elements.

Possibly unknown to anyone else.

Unattended.

Unapproached.

Undisturbed.

Neglected.

Forgotten.

We wander this wilderness, leaving footprints that we think no one can see.

Tracks that no one will notice.

Traces that no one will follow.

But Someone is following.

Jesus is incapable of leaving or forgetting His children.

He says,

“See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.”

And He has.

The nail scars in His hands form names, mine and yours.

An incredible testament of how enduring His care is.

An indestructible reminder of how permanent His love is.

Loneliness can feel like a dead empty space.

We wonder,

How’d I end up here?

How did the path from the pretty garden lead into such an ugly wilderness?

How could someone in such a deserted place be on anyone’s mind?

But the God who seessees you.

And you, me, we, are never forgotten.

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“Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.”

“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?

 Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?

But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!

See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.”

-Isaiah 49:14-16

Grow

“…When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow…”

I had a dream recently where I was standing alone in a dark room.

I was praising God while being beaten by an unseen force.

I was slapped in the face while saying “Hallelujah.”

Someone sucker punched me when my face was turned up toward heaven.

It was when something pinned me against a wall that I could no longer hear my voice.

But my lips were still moving so I knew I was still praising.

I’m entering the third quarter of a year that’s proving to be a trying one.

My faith is stretching like chewed bubble gum. 

My spirit feels like a old snow shovel that’s seen one too many blizzards. 

It is tough.

It is uncomfortable.

It is a place I’d never dreamed I’d see.

But I know God doesn’t bring difficulty without development. 

Something is brewing.

Something is evolving. 

So in spite of the pain … it has to grow. 

So let it grow.

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“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

-James 1:2-4