Salt of the Earth

Transitions aren’t easy.  Don’t let anybody tell you they are.  Even the “good changes”–the ones you chose for yourself on the way to a dream or desired future–exact a price in energy and adjustment.  The difficulty in making a change gets compounded greatly when we don’t trust the plans God  has for to give us  a “good future and a hope.” Here’s a blog by Stan Rarden describing the process God led him through to come to understand how to walk through this life and all its changes.

Salt.  It’s used so often in the Bible as a metaphor for good things.  Salt gives flavor, it preserves, it was in biblical times a valuable commodity, bought, sold and traded like gold. I do know that salt is one of the few things in creation that never changes.  Salt is always going to be NaCl, sodium chloride.  It doesn’t spoil, go bad, or deteriorate.  It just stays there, unless it gets spilled or trodden underfoot. Salt gives flavor, and it’s a preservative.  But in one instance, salt was used as a punishment, a consequence of disobedience… a death of sorts.  And I wonder about that.

God looked down on Sodom and Gomorrah, the twin cities of depravity, and he wasn’t happy.  He said, “These places are beyond cleaning up.  They’ve got to go.”  So he told Abraham to gather up his kinfolk and leave.  Abraham, model intercessor that he was, pleaded with God to spare the towns, because there must have been a few righteous people within the jurisdiction who didn’t deserve to get purged along with the sinful.  So God, showing His love and patience, waited on Abraham to come up with ten people who could qualify as good.  When Abraham couldn’t find a single righteous guy, God lifted his hand, Sodom and Gomorrah lit up, and all the citizens of these cities went up in the blaze… except for Abraham, his family, and his buddy Lot and his wife.  They got out in time.  Obviously, it paid to be tight with Abraham.

But in her heart, Lot’s wife didn’t really want to leave.  Maybe she just missed her house.  You know how women are about their homes.  Maybe she (like some of us) just hated moving.  Or maybe she liked the Sodom/Gomorrah lifestyle.  I don’t know.  But despite God’s instructions to “get thee out of here on the double and don’t look back,” she had to take one long last gaze at the old homestead… and she was turned into a pillar of… salt.  The good stuff.  The flavor of life, the all-purpose preservative.  Barring any big winds, rainstorms or geological disturbances, that’s where she’d be to this day.  Standing on a hilltop on the outskirts of Sodom, a silent, motionless monument to her own personal regrets.

I know someone like that.  I know someone who looked back constantly to What Was, and never, to my knowledge, gave a thought to What Is, or What May Come.  That person was my father.

I hadn’t been born yet during my dad’s productive days, but from all accounts he was doing pretty fine.  Good job, lots of money, all the stuff.  Then his illness came.  I don’t know much about that, and I won’t until we meet again in heaven, but the illness stopped my father right in his tracks.  Even thought he could walk, talk and do everything anyone else could, for some reason we could never understand, he became as immobile as a tree, rooted in the past, never looking forward, no vision, no hope for the future, only memories of the past.  I wondered why this was, and I prayed to God for years that dad would get up and get going again, but he never did.  He sat in his chair, or his favorite booth at Walgreen’s, and told stories about how things used to be.  I know he lamented his days as a strong, productive man, when he made big money, drove a nice car and dressed in nice suits.  He’d sit up all night, smoking cigarettes in the dark, revisiting past successes.  When I’d get up and sit with him he’d tell stories about his days on the road, or growing up, or his Navy days.  It was all about Back Then.  It was never about Now, or Tomorrow.  I guess Now was too painful, and he didn’t see any Tomorrow.

As I got older, I lost the ability to sit attentively and listen to his stories — I’d heard them so often I could actually recite them.  I lost patience with him, sitting there in the dark over-filling the ashtray and re-living 1950 over and over.  And I confess that I developed a deep, dark foreboding, listening to this man after whom I was named, that my father’s story was in fact my story, just preceding me by a few decades.  This forgotten person who never looked forward, to whom no one ever said “I love you,” this precious soul who somehow lost – or maybe never had – the idea that he was a precious creation of God, became a symbol of fear, loneliness and failure for me.  More often than I can recount, the words “You’re just like your father” rang out inside me.  For most men, that’s a compliment.  For me it was a curse.

But it wasn’t until today that I got a glimmer of what really happened to my dad.  Setting aside his illness, which I didn’t and maybe never will understand, I now have an answer for the bigger question, which was, “Why didn’t daddy ever get better?”  The answer lies in the example of Lot’s wife.  She had it good, evidently, in her hometown.  She and Lot had it all going on, so much so that the thought of picking up and leaving, with nothing but the clothes on her back, was too painful.  So she looked back instead of ahead.  She couldn’t contemplate that anything in her future could be as good as what she had just lost.

I believe this is what happened to my father.  He had it all going on, too.  He was successful, on the rise… and then there came this big bump in the road, this happenstance that took it all away, his job, his income, his status, his place in life.  And he spent the rest of his life looking back, angry at What Was, and What Might Have Been.  In effect, he became a pillar of salt, rock solid, unchanging… stuck.  And I believe in my spirit that had dad turned his head around and looked forward, supreme effort though it might have been, things would have undoubtedly been different for him.  Looking forward requires faith, and for some… maybe for dad… that’s more than he could manage.  It was easier… actually it required no effort at all… to look backward.

So I learned today that mourning the past, grieving the failures and the lost opportunities, ensures that we will never move one inch away from where we first turned our heads around to look back.   God lives in the Now, and He tells us that He has plans for us, to give us a future and a hope.  Nowhere in His Word does it say to be sorry for what happened yesterday.  Not only that but He also says to give no thought to tomorrow.  We’ve got enough to do today to keep us well occupied. 

It’s going to be a major mind-shift, but my task for now and for the rest of this walk is to live, love, experience, and thank God for all the beauty and blessings He has for me, in the Now.  And I notice with great delight that there are plenty of those.  More than enough, in fact, to hold my rapt attention until He calls me home.

Remarkable!

I want to share a beautiful testimony that was just given to me.  It speaks of an important, I would go so far as to say essential, step in any key transition in the Kingdom of God.  As you read it you will get a sense of the shift that is produced by a realization of the overwhelming love of God.  Every move forward spiritually is accompanied by an upgrade in our understanding of who God is for us and how great His love is towards us.  Be blessed!

REMARKABLE

 I was having another sleepless night, and then I had a remarkable revelation…  I am awesomely loved.

 Amid the thoughts that float around in my head all the time, this one pushes itself to the surface, and spreads itself all over the surface of my brain, like oil on troubled waters.

 I am awesomely loved. 

 Faster than all the “Yeah, but…” disclaimers can rise up to obscure this thought, my Father comes to me and says, “I love you.  Just that.  Let it be about that.  Don’t make it more complicated.  Just go with you are awesomely loved by me.

 I don’t deserve it.  I’ve been despicable to some people, a liar to others, an unfaithful servant even to my Father.  Yet there it is. 

 I am awesomely loved.  By my Father.  My heavenly Father, capital F, who made me and everything else. 

 This is different from the love I got from my earthly father (little f).  I got the best he had, yes, but it’s not the same as awesomely loved by my Father in heaven.  Not the same at all.  I’ve even heard this before, but for once it feels real.  A physical sensation even, like a solid rock that’s so light it can float in midair. 

 It’s even different from the love I get from my wife and kids and my best friends.  These wonderful people exhaust themselves time and again demonstrating their love for me.  But the “yeah, buts” rise up, determined to quash their most loving expressions, and sometimes they succeed.  I sometimes find it more comfortable to be uncomfortable, to turn my starving, needy back on all those best-intentioned expressions love and approval, for reasons I’ll never know.

But for tonight, my heavenly Father says, “Just go with you are awesomely loved by Me.  Absorb that, and it’ll be enough to get you through the night.  And when you wake up in the morning, remember it.  Take it with you.  You need to wear this like skin.  Not proudly, but confidently.”

He concludes (I can tell He’s done, because He only gives me as much as I can take at each sitting and this is a big one), “Confidence in My love will help you make a bridge to all that love from all those  people I put in your life.  So you can stop worrying about that, and take their love onboard too.  Then you can show love to others.” 

“That’s how we do things around here.  I lead, you follow.  Bring all the love you’ve got with you, mine and the stuff from the family, friends, your little-f father, your mother, all of ’em. If you do that, you’ll not have room in your bag for the heavy stuff that keeps trying to drag you down.  You will have only love to share, and that’s why you’re here anyway.”

“Now go back to bed.  It’s late.  I’ve got stuff for you to do tomorrow, and I need your best game.”

I’ll be turning out the light now.

How Dirty Is Your Windshield?

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12

It’s really hard to grasp the practical truth of the above scripture, especially when we’re in the midst of a life change and it’s so dark we cannot see the way ahead of us.  At times the road can be so  obscured we can’t even see the next step in front of us, let alone the upcoming intersections that will call for some choices and decisions on our part. Nevertheless, we have the promise that we will not stumble about in the darkness IF we follow Him. So let’s start with the question—“How do we follow Him?”

               It appears that many of us have had our heads down for a long time pursuing a line of work or life path diligently and with all we’ve got.  Now suddenly we find ourselves at the end of that pursuit and looking up, we find that we are lost. Or at least it feels that way to us. God, on the other hand, is not surprised or dismayed at where we have landed. He may even be rejoicing because now maybe, just maybe, we will put our focused attention on Him as we try to figure out where we are and what to do next. You see, here’s the revelation that came to me as I was contemplating the idea of providing a resource for believers in transition.  God is first and foremost interested in each one of us individually and in His relationship with us.  Any time we get to a place where we realize our need for guidance and perhaps, for Him, He will be found just outside the door waiting to be invited in for a chat! We may perceive that we have arrived at the end of one season in our work-life or family-life and that we need to figure out what we are going to DO next.  God stands beside us desiring an opportunity to talk to us about who we are going to BE next…and more importantly who we are going to allow Him to be for us!

So in answering the question, and at the risk of sounding cliché, the answer has to be “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)  Many believers read the “be still” part but fail to notice the rest.  “Know that I am God” is the ultimate purpose of becoming still.  If your windshield is so dirty that you can’t see Him, now is the time to take care of that! Focus on Him and see that He is wonderful, amazing, all-loving, all-merciful, everything you will ever need and so much more.  We have lost sight of the majesty and wonder of God.  He has been so diminished in power that we imagine He can’t possible keep track of all of us even if He cared to do so.  In your time of transition, sit still and contemplate the Almighty, miracle-working, covenant God of the Old Testament and the resurrected Savior King of the New Testament. Take your eyes off yourself, your past experiences, hurts, failures and disappointments.  You will never come out into the light if you continue to face backwards, peering into the darkness for answers and understanding!  The past is gone and your Good Shepherd is in front of you—turn around and face your future. That’s what you’re really interested in, right? 

But what if you’ are facing forward and you have given your next steps a lot of thought only to come up empty and confused? Read this scripture carefully. There are clues in it that will bring us into the light: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Like it or not, the message is clear.  If we are in darkness, we are not in fellowship with God.  If we are in fellowship with Him, we are not in darkness.  This doesn’t mean we will have all the answers.  If we did we probably wouldn’t stay in fellowship with God for long.  Most of us would shout our thanks and be on our merry way!  No, this time and this transition, God just might be calling each of us into relationship with Him for the rest of our lives.    

Our Creator has assignments for us but we have to spend enough time with Him to allow the Holy Spirit inside us to do whatever work might be required to get us ready to go out into that puzzling world of darkness and show others the way to the light.  That’s what we’re here for; that’s our destiny in Christ. Time is short and the sons of God have a big job ahead of us.  We are called to be so filled with God’s love and so clothed in His glory that the whole world will want what we have!  It’s time to stop thinking little, self-oriented thoughts about how we want to spend our time and talents and find out what God has in mind.

Let’s make it our top priority to get into His presence and soak up His word and His love. There’s nothing stopping us from imitating Christ in every little thing we do as we’re seeking Him.  We can practice walking in the light by listening for His voice; stepping out in faith as He leads. And we can give thanks to the One who will never allow us to wander far off the path if we keep our eyes on Him!  He has ordered our steps (1), set our boundaries in pleasant places (2), and prepared good works for us to walk in them (3). He will never leave us (4) and He has promised to complete the work He has begun in us (5).  We may be in a transition but we aren’t lost! As long as we stay close to Him, this is our truth: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10)   The best is yet to come!

Find those promises:

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