lessons from Much-Afraid {the Falls}

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After riding the chairs to the precipice, Much-Afraid is almost to the end of her journey. While outwardly she hasn’t changed much, inwardly she is not the same little Much-Afraid that began this journey. As Paul declared in his letters, there is so much less of her and more of the Shepherd. Every step of the way she has had to build an alter to sacrifice more and more of her will and human desire. And every stop of the way she has become more and more at peace with the direction the Shepherd leads her.

They arrive at the top to see the beginning of the great waterfall. The Shepherd asks her to just sit and watch the water. Have you ever sat and watched water fall? And then have you ever seen a waterfall that is forced to move upward? When we were at Disney World a few weeks ago there was this water feature that was squirting up. It was fascinating to watch it, but it looked so forced. You knew that the water was going against it’s nature. Especially when you would walk to another part of the park and see a fountain that was falling down. Water is intended to flow down. To cast itself forward and over. Self-giving.

This is what the Shepherd says to Much-Afraid:
At first sight perhaps the leap does look terrible, but as you can see, the water finds no terror in it, no moment of hesitation or shrinking, only joy unspeakable, and full of glory, because it is the movement natural to it. Self-giving is its life. It has only one desire, to go down and down and give itself with no reserve or holding back of any kind. You can see that as it obeys that glorious urge the obstacles which look so terrifying are perfectly harmless and indeed only add to the joy and glory of the movement.

This water flowing is a reminder of what flows through us. This love of God which He desires to be an outpouring.

Hannah Hurnard writes that this love, this outpouring, this giving happens through
humility: pouring oneself down lower and lower
giving: the poured out life gives life and power to others. The more love it gives, the more it fulfills itself
and service: waterfalls serve beyond anything we can imagine. The can make power happen. They can supply water to places that would die without it.

This is love. This is service. This is the divine calling that our Great Shepherd has called us to.

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lessons from Much-Afraid {the aerial chairs}

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There is a small part of Much-Afraid’s journey that after I read Hannah Hurnard’s journal I was shocked that 1. I seemed to just brush through it and 2. that she didn’t write more about it.

After the mist clears the Shepherd leads Much-Afraid into the Valley of Loss. Again, he has brought her through and then away from the mountains. It seems beyond heartbreaking to her as she walks down into a valley to give up all that she had gained from climbing the precipice. Yet again, she makes it through the valley only by giving up another part of her human desire and will only to be led to another precipice. This one seems even more impossible to climb than the first one. But before she loses heart the Shepherd shows her some aerial chairs that they can sit in and ride to the top. The chairs lead her to the top of the waterfall and to the beginning of the end of her journey.

This whole section of the book is only a few pages. But in Hannah’s journal she writes for pages and pages about her experience with the aerial chairs where she is staying in Switzerland. They are called the Sesselbahn and they lead riders up and over this great chasm to this chateau at the top. I tried to look up some pictures of the original Sesslbahn in Switzerland from the 1970’s when she was there, but I couldn’t really find any. Her description was so fascinating to me.

There they were -those tiny chairs with no sides or backs – only a couple of bars. The cable by whose power they traveled overhead and at a great distance, was quite invisible. Underneath there was nothing but the abyss and no earthly ground of support. All one saw was two moving chairs, apparently hanging in the air. But they were supported from above!… One had to be willing to trust the invisible power, sit down on a chair and abandon oneself completely.

She doesn’t travel on these chairs the first time she sees them but has arranged a time to go up to this chateau with companions she was staying with. Only the day comes and she misses the group. She arrives at the station only to see that they have gone on without her. She must travel alone or not go at all. Then right when she gets the nerve to go, the operator informs her that the chairs are having maintenance issues. She can go up as they bring down the last group and then wait to come back down after the cable had been fixed. This was her last chance to go. If she didn’t go that day then she would miss the chance. So she goes on alone. No one to talk to her, reassure her or hold her hand. And for fifteen minutes she was suspended in air up to the heights. There was nothing she could do but enjoy it and revel in the creation, for where could she go if she panicked? She arrives at the top and she knows that the Lord brought her through in order to speak clearly to her a message. Had she not faced her fears and gone on as the Spirit was urging her she might have missed it.

So many times in my life I have let fear run it’s course. Instead of listening to that urging of the Spirit I have listened to fear. I have let anxiety and worry and control take over. How many times have I missed a calling because I have ignored where the Lord was urging me to go?

And, oh the times when I have gone or have done what He has called me to do despite the fear. When I have gotten on a airplane by myself and traveled miles into the mountains with 500 women I don’t know? What amazing things did He do then! When I continue to answer the call to stay home. When I continue to write in this space…

Had Much-Afraid not ridden to the heights with the Shepherd she would have missed her anointing and the beginning of her transformation. May I not ignore the places the Lord is calling me to despite the heights for the heights that He leads us too are beyond our imagining.

 

giggles on an April Fool’s morning
“indeeds” on an Easter day
egg hunts through a lens with memories of years past
a week ahead with time to give
a new month
mornings without tears
forgiveness
prayer cards
lessons to be learned
mist in the morning that gives way to sunlight and clearing
cleansing
anxiety washing away into excitement






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lessons from Much-Afraid {into the mist}

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It seems Much-Afraid goes through this cycle of wandering towards the Promise and then being turned away from it. Following the path irregardless of where it leads as she sacrifices another part of her will; only to be faced with another direction that seems in opposition to the path she desires.

She makes it up the precipice only to be led into the Forests of Danger and Tribulation. She meets with the Shepherd, sacrifices her will and finds this place of contentment with the path he has chosen for her. Then she wakes up ready to face whatever and walks into the mist. She is energized to keep following.

This mist that she and her companions journey through is deep. They cannot see anything beyond a few footsteps in front of them. So quickly her enemies pounce upon her, whispering at her in the mist: Resentment for leading her here, Bitterness at the way she has to go, Self-Pity at giving up so much of herself for what seems like a failed path. The more she listens the harder the way becomes. Not only has it been hard to see where to go, but now she slips and slides all over the muddy ground. She has a choice: To continue to listen to her enemies or to call out to the Shepherd.

So she sings. She worships and he comes.

As Much-Afraid walks through this mist, as we walk through unseen directions, it is a reminder to remember. To remember what she, what we, have seen…to ask ourselves “what is true here?” Because what is true is always there even though it can’t be seen.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things which are seen but to the things which are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18

Much-Afraid’s story grew from an experience that Hannah Hurnard had while staying in Switzerland in between burying her father and journeying back to her mission in Jerusalem. She was staying in the Swiss Alps and throughout her visit there she wandered along mountainsides, in and out of rain, clouds and sun. She tells the story of a visit to a hillside one day and it started to rain. She started to be depressed in spirit because she no longer had the amazing vista of the Alps in front of her. Quickly she was reminded of a message given to her from a friend:
“‘Go through each day praising and thanking God for everything that happens!’ Nothing can take from me the memories and and beauties and lessons.

The Lord speaks to her and reminds her that this is life: seeing and not seeing. There are times in our lives where we will see clearly and then times when everything seems shrouded in darkness and the unknown. But despite whether we can “see” or not, the reality is always there. The darkness will pass away and the promises will still be there.

Today and tomorrow are days in darkness. But despite the arrest, trial and death of Jesus, despite the denial and fear of the disciples, despite the hours of darkness tomorrow, the reality is still there.

God never turns His face from us. We may walk through mist. We may walk in and out of darkness. But His way is always good and He always loves us.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

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lessons from much-afraid {the first lesson}

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Much-Afraid begins her journey by meeting up with her guides. She is almost immediately set with disappointment because this journey is not going the way she had planned. Who would want to journey with guides named Sorrow and Suffering?

In chapters six and seven she experiences even more frustration. She starts her journey going up a mountain. Although the way is hard, she stays with it because it seems to be going the way she wants to go. Then the path leads them away and away from her heart’s desire. It leads her away from the promise the Shepherd had given her. The path leads them into a desert; just about as far away from the High Places that the Shepherd could lead her and there is no prospect of turning back towards those peaks in the vision that she sees. The Shepherd comes to her and asks her: “Do you love me enough to accept the postponement and apparent contradiction of the promise and go down into the desert?

Down into the desert she goes giving up another part of her will and adds another stone of trust to her bag. Here the Shepherd tells her the stories of all the others that were led through the desert. He gives her the pictures of the wheat being ground almost to dust in order to make it perfect for it’s use as flour and the picture of the potter molding and shaping the clay into a vessel perfect. The pictures of submission to the greater will of the one who knows best.

Leaving the desert they move in a westward direction. She comes through the desert with a will to follow wherever the Shepherd leads and he leads her directly away from the High Places. Oh poor Much-Afraid’s heart! How hard it is when we come to places in our lives where we offer up our will and then the Lord asks for even more!

But he tells her: “remember it is always safe to obey my voice even if it seems to call you to paths which look impossible or even crazy.” So now Much-Afraid has left her green valley, walked through the desert and now walks along the Shores of Loneliness. She grabs the hands of her companions and they walk, but something has happened to her. Acceptance has blossomed and as she walks
she doesn’t go cringingly or complainingly. Indeed, gradually an impossible thing seemed to be happening. A new kind of joy was springing up in her heart, and she began to find herself noticing beauties in the landscape of which until then she had been quite unconscious.

She discovers what Ann Voskamp calls the Ugly-Beautiful.
Much-Afraid is finding the Ugly-Beautiful in the midst of lost promises. She can’t even see the mountains from these shores that she walks along, but she walks and takes in the beauty of where she is.

This Holy Week is a week of finding the Ugly Beautiful. As we sit on the edge of Maundy Thursday and the story of Christ’s betrayal and arrest it is a reminder of this way of the impossible. To the disciples this week becomes an ultimate loss of the promise. They don’t understand what happens in the Garden and how it could even lead to anything close to what they had thought would happen in their minds. They are like Much-Afraid being led into the Shores of Loneliness.
They sleep, they deny and they run away in fear.
They grab the hands of Sorrow and Suffering and cling desperately to the Promise that they can’t even see.
Thankfully it’s not the end of the story.

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fmf {remember}

Five Minute Friday

Joining with many others in a practice I’ve sort of given up on. Today I write again for five minutes on a word prompted by the gypsy mama. Writing with grace, freedom and no edits.

GO

Funny that the day that I decided to join in on FMF the word is remember. I’ve been reading Hinds Feet on High Places and it seems that is the theme of the book.

Remember.

When the path seems to take you away from where you were headed…
When the way is unseen and shrouded in mist…
When it’s too much; the voices of the enemy whispering, the constant giving and going…
When the way is filled with sunshine and flowers and amazing beauty…

Remember where you have come from, what you have come through and who leads you by it.
Engage with life and cement that in your head.
Stop and be with those around you and be in.that.moment.
Forget the camera, forget the status updates, forget the potential blog post and just be there.
For the pictures are great, sharing with friends is so much fun and “giving” a taste to the world can be such a blessing too…but it’s that moment; the right here and the right now that really can stick in your mind. When you engage with the here and now, you don’t have to depend on the photo or the blog to help you remember. Because it’s there, because you were there.

STOP

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