lessons from much-afraid {searching for flowers}

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One of the things that shows up often in this story is this one single, yellow flower. Much-Afraid will be traveling through an area that seems devoid of everything. Areas where it would seem impossible for anything to grow or survive. And her heart seems to be the same. Those times when she is feeling most overwhelmed or crushed under the weight of loss she finds this little yellow flower. And the flower sings to her a song of “acceptance with joy”.

This flower is her one thousand gifts.

I’ve struggled to understand how counting blessings can make a difference in the crushing weight of loss, depression or anxiety. But this flower reminds me that even in the middle of a dry desert there is a blessing to be counted.

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fmf {broken}

Five Minute Friday

Writing bare for five minutes on one word.
Hosted by the gypsy mama
Today word, this Good Friday, is broken.

go

When I think of Good Friday, I think of Peter.
Of all the 12, I am most like Peter.
So puffed up and sure in myself. Thinking that I’ve got it all under control.
And then a rooster crows and these eyes are on me.
Eyes that see right through me and into those places of truth.
The broken places that I’ve taped back together.

And then He is broken. And I see him and wonder what was it all for?
All this time following and believing.
And as He is broken there for me
and as I sit an question and feel abandoned
I do know, just as He healed the ear of the man that was ripped off in an act of supposed gallantry,
when those eyes see me and see those broken places, there is healing.
The brokenness is not forever.

stop

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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 {gift}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fridays
Five minutes
One word
Zero edits
Zero worries
host by the gypsy mama
Join in!

Today’s word is {gift}

GO

This week has been a gift. Nothing remarkable has happened, except that it’s just been a peaceful week.
But not in a “nothing to do but sit around and sip a cup of tea with a good book kind of week.”
This week has been overrun with a to-do list and an idea list that is running 12 feet long.
Things to do at home, crumbs all over the floor I just swept, bathrooms that are filthy, even though I just cleaned them. Business orders that keep coming in and covering me over and thunder in the middle of the night.

But all these things have been a gift. A gift because I’ve just taken them, let them wash over me and kept on going. I’ve stopped when I needed to stop. I’ve been filled with grace when I needed grace. And I’ve been mesmerized by the goodness of the God I serve.

And that’s the difference. I’ve spent this week emptying myself. My cup has overflowed with grace and peace because it’s been dumped of fear and anxiety. My sins have come to the surface like the junk that comes up when you cook chicken broth (yuck!) and He has gently skimmed that off and what’s been revealed has been amazing.

It’s been a gift.

STOP

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