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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Tamarisk Series: Part I

I want to examine what he did, I want to dialogue through the actions we know Abraham performed that were pinnacle moments in his becoming/being generational. I immediately want to jump to the matters of the land, the children, the planting, but I cannot pass by the complexity of belief; for it is indeed the first thing he did.

"And He brought him outside and said, 'Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.' Then He said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' And he believed The Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness."- Genesis 15:5-6

This is what I have the hardest time grasping. Planting makes sense. Commitment makes sense. Raising children makes sense. They all are logical and seemingly obvious pieces in the puzzle of becoming generational. But belief? Yet at the same time that it doesn't make sense, it most certainly does. Because although I think, "How can belief change anything? Just because I believe doesn't mean that it is going to happen." I know that, although belief on its own doesn't change things, it does, however, change the way we live and move and that is what changes things.

If I believe that I am beautiful, it doesn't change my appearance, but it does change my perception of my appearance; it changes how I treat myself, how I talk about myself, how I conduct myself, and how I allow others to treat me as well. It changes things. Believing didn't change the physical, but it changed everything around and about the physical.

Abraham and Sarah were a couple of expired potential; they were well in their old age, having children was an idea that would have been easily believable 50, 60, 70 years ago. But Abraham believed The Lord. And that belief changed things. It changed his perception, it changed his attitude, it changed the way he spoke, it changed the way he lived, it changed the kind of husband he was, it changed the way he prayed, the way he thought, it changed the way he gave, it changed the way he worshipped. It changed him. Believing had to be the first step because without believing I don't think his later actions would have come about. Would God have still fulfilled His promise to Abraham? Of course because God said He would do it. But would Abraham have invested in that promise as he did without believing in its truth? Probably not.

So for us who desire to be generational, to do things that impact the generations after us, the first thing we have to do is believe that it can be done. Because after all, you may scatter the seed, but The Lord makes it grow 1. Do you believe that God can touch the generations through your life? Do you trust Him to do it? Do you trust Him as the steward of your legacy? Do you believe that he can and will do it? Do you believe that He wants to?

We have to believe. Even though we have no proof, even though we have no grasp on the future and no hold on our children's decisions, we have to believe. It takes faith to invest generationally; it takes guts and it involves much risk. If we do not believe how can we expect to arrive on a shore we doubt is waiting for us? How can we build homes on doubt, raise children on doubt, make investments in doubt, plant tamarisk trees with doubt? No. We must first believe. We must believe, not because it changes everything, but because it changes us.

 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Tamarisk Series

In the book of Genesis you find out about a man Abram who is invited into this crazy covenant with God where The Lord God promises to make him a father of many nations, that his offspring would be as the number of stars 1. And Abram believes Him 2. He believes Him though it go against logic, science, and understanding. And so God gives him a new name 3, Abraham which means, "father of a multitude"; and He extends the same promise to his wife, Sarai, and blesses her saying that she shall become nations and kings shall come from her, giving her a new name, calling her Sarah which means "princess" 4.

When God made His covenant with Abraham it says that "he believed The Lord" 2, but we can read and know that he doubted; how could he not? Here is this incredible promise weighing against expired potential. But on some level, Abraham and Sarah had to believe for the sake of belief and regardless of the strength of their confidence, that promise was fulfilled throught the birth of their son Isaac 5.

What Abraham does, following his son's birth, is what proves, not only that he now truly believed, but that he understood what it meant to be Abraham, a father of a multitude. He makes a treaty with the king of the land in which they were living 6, swearing an oath to live in kindness with each other. They make their covenant at Beersheba 7 and the king goes his way, but Abraham stays and plants a tree- a tamarisk tree 8.

Now a tamarisk tree grows rather slowly and must be carefully pruned in order for it to develop into a tree rather than digressing into a shrub 9. What is also interesting about this tree is that a mature tamarisk can and will produce hundreds of thousands of seeds within a few months of the year and those tiny seeds are then carried by wind and water dispersing them across the land 10. Abraham didn't plant that tree that he might reap its benefits in his lifetime, but that the multitudes, the generations, after him might enjoy its shade.

Abraham got what it meant to be a father of multitudes. Abraham understood what it means to live generationally; to live a life of investment that blesses and impacts the generations that you'll never meet. He planted a tree that would serve as a living representation of both his responsibility as Abraham and the promise made to him; that with every new tamarisk shoot that pushes up from the ground, fruit of his planting at Beersheba, he may be reminded of what The Lord is doing through him- multiplying.

I want to know what got Abraham to that point. I want to know how he went from being a father of none to thinking and living like a father of generations. I want to know what got him there. I want to know how to think generationally; to live a life of investment for my children's children's children- those generations I'll never meet.

So that's what this blog series is about, hashing out those questions and seeing if we can't unveil the secrets within the stories of those who were stewards of the tamarisk. I invite you to not only take this journey with me, but to dialogue with me as we search.

 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Melody Found In Waking

I had a serious moment of vulnerability tonight while leading worship that I didn't expect. I've been leading worship for my small group for the past year and tonight was no exception. Although tonight I did what every worship leader hates to do- I messed up.

I was transitioning from one song to the next, the next song being "How He Loves" by John Mark McMillan, and for some reason I just couldn't find the melody of the song to start singing; I tried- sang off key, I was even playing the chords wrong. I can't tell you how many times I have sang and lead worship with this song; I must be getting into the 400s by now. I've even done bloody covers of the song! So there's no excuse to choke now. I know this song like the back of my hand...

but that's just it...I know the song, but do I know it?

I had to stop playing right there in the middle of worship. I was on the verge of tears. Not because I messed up- I've messed up a 1,000xs and I'll mess up a 1,000xs more- but because as far as The Lord has brought me in this year, in the revelations of His love, I still don't know the song. I take those truths for granted. And here I was about to coast into the most powerful words a soul could hear, "He is jealous for me..." and amidst all the practice, all the times sung before, I couldn't find the melody.

The Lord had to give me a public heart check saying, "Do you know it Steph? Do you believe it baby girl? Are you aware? Are you awake to the fact that I am so deeply in love with you? Do you know it?" The song may be under my belt, but the truths within it are not. It's not my default setting to live and walk and breathe in His love for me. It's that truth that I'm used to being there that I forget how beautiful it is; it's like a ceiling fan that you're so used to being there, so used to its breeze, that you never notice it until you really direct your attention to it's detail and it's like seeing it for the first time.

Tonight I had to fix my attention to the source of the breeze. After that, the melody flowed and I found myself singing along with the powerful current of the truth within that song. "Oh how He loves us." I would rather be deaf to the melody of that song than to ignorantly coast over the immensity of His love.

Let the melody be forever found in the waking.

 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rest

Rest•less- |ˈrestləs' | adj. 1. Never resting; unquiet; uneasy; continually moving; as a restless child. 2. Not satisfied to be at rest or in peace; averse or repose to quiet; eager for change; discontented; restless schemers; restless ambition; restless subjects. 3. Deprived of rest or sleep. 4. Passed in unquietness. 5. Not affording/giving rest.

Have you ever tried to put a baby to sleep? It's so obvious when they are sleepy; they have all these tells that they begin to perform when they grow tired, however, despite their obvious signs of needing rest, they don't always want it. So you as the caregiver must pick them up and hold them close. They wiggle and writhe, attempting to break free from the hold they think binds them, thinking they know what they truly want and need. But you know what they need, and so you hold them closer revealing your strong arms. You hold them just close enough, not so as to hurt them- of course not- but for them to feel you and realize that it's better to not fight it. And lo and behold they don't struggle for long, it doesn't take them long before they find that comfort that was waiting for them in your arms and they give into the design laid out for their rest. And those strong arms relax and loosen, and move on to doing what they only ever wanted to do in the first place- comfort.

Today marks the one year anniversary of my leaving Australia. I came back with strict instructions to rest, but not knowing at all how to do so. In my heart I wanted to remember what it was like to have a "No-Worries-Lifestyle" and I wanted to have it again. In my heart I knew that everything was on the line and that I had to rest or risk loosing it all. I was restless, far too restless.

My restlessness started showing its ugly face in Australia, but it was encouraged on many levels. People told me it was "a holy restlessness", "a holy discontent" that lived within me, driving me. But it was a weed, a disease, fueled by a faulty understanding of the character and love of God.

I had this picture of what I thought was the utmost goal; it was a picture of a worn out, tattered, stained, dirty, messed up, old rag, an old rag so worn out and used that it was good for nothing else than to be tossed. And it was my greatest ambition to be like that rag, that I would be so used by the end of my life that I would be fit for nothing else than to go home. It was around the time that I stopped wiggling and writhing, refusing my rest, that I was able to hear the Father say, "That's not how I treat what belongs to Me."

I thought that contentment stemmed from apathy and stillness its kin. I had no concept of how to be a human being because my being was consumed by doing; I was a human doing. And somewhere along that road my value and my worth became tangled up in what I was able to produce. I was a machine in a factory bound to a god of industry, not a friend in a garden serving a God of Love.

What I thought was only going to be a month-long sabbatical has turned into a jubilee year, and I am neither sure nor concerned of when it will end, for I am more content now, on every seen and unseen level, than I have ever been. I am finally at peace.

To get to this point, serious alterations had to be made. First thing I had to do was STOP what I was doing.

In Genesis 2 God makes man, Adam, but Adam had something he wanted, something he felt he needed- a helper. So it says that God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and that while he slept He took one of his ribs and from that rib God made Adam's helper, Eve. In order for God to give Adam what he wanted, what he needed, Adam had to stop.

At first I didn't think I could afford to stop, but then I had to realize that I couldn't afford not to stop. If I didn't stop, I'd never get the help I needed. I was looking at the immediate present while God was looking at my life and telling me that I would ruin myself if I didn't stop now. We think we can't afford to lose what, in the grand story of our life, is only a few pages or a chapter to stillness and sabbath, but we can't afford to shorten or cheapen our story by making our life a game of endurance.

The next thing I had to do was STOP fighting. I was like a baby fighting off sleep. I had to stop. I had to stop trying to take on responsibilities that weren't mine to take. I had to stop owning social and cultural pressures. I had to stop trying to be productive. I had to stop trying to be useful to God.

The truth is that it wasn't about being useful to God, it never was; not for Him. It was about being.

I had to relearn, indeed I am still learning, what God values and why. And at the end of my strength I find time and time again that it is I whom He values simply because I am. The most supreme and indescribably precious truth anyone could know. A truth I think only can be found and understood by being craddled in His strong arms, feeling Him hold you closer, surrendering and feeling His arms loosen to comfort you- which is all He ever wanted to do in the first place. And the greatest perk to serving a God Who is outside of time, is that it never has to end.

Once we stop fighting we can find the comfort that was waiting in His arms all along and the design that was laid out for our rest and the rest, the rest will follow.

Selah

A year ago today I began a journey of rest. Today is just another page of, what I hope, is a long chapter whose emphasis and power will echo on through all of my remaining gifted pages.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul..." - Psalm 23:1-3

"...In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength." - Isaiah 30:15