Monday, December 31, 2018

the day i climbed over a mountain

A couple of years ago, I went on a hike to a place called Diablo Lake. It's a beautiful slice of Gods creation here in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, it is nestled in one of the most beautiful pieces of landscape in the U.S. called the American Alps aka the Northern Cascades. It's absolutely stunning there with the snow peaks and the beautiful, lush valleys and pristine glacier lakes.



This hike was brought on after a year of me revolutionizing my health. I had started eating differently and became more active. Running was now in my vocabulary, which is crazy because it was something I scoffed at and purposefully researched the hazards of, just so I could have good reason to not do it. Now, here I am, years later, still participating in 5k's. It just boggles my mind how quickly perspectives can change.

So, in my attempt to remain active, build upon my core strength and all that healthy jargon, I decided I wanted to hike. The outdoors were calling my name. I knew it would be wise to begin with a rather easy hike and so, upon my very quick and, rather careless, research, I found Diablo Lake.
It began all well and good. I felt challenged. I felt pushed. Not to my limits but, I definitely was breathing harder, feeling the pull on my body and energy; knowing that I would feel it the next day. The view was amazing and I was in complete awe over God's creativity and ingenuity. The mountain peaks, the valleys and how He purposefully placed each tree and plant to create unity, rhythm, variety, line, and texture. He painted a masterpiece with nature and I got to take it all in.

The thing that I was not aware of, or maybe I was just in denial about, was that the hike was both up and down. Not just up and then down. But up and down both directions with very comparable inclines and declines. As we began the descent to the lake, I remember thinking, and dreading, that we were going to have to hike back up this to get back. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew it would probably stretch me. And I was not looking forward to it.

I tried my best to ignore that reality while I sat by the lake and took it all in. The water was clear and pure and refreshing. The butterflies we saw were huge and beautiful. The sounds of the birds and water lapping up against the rocks was so peaceful and soothing. This was God's land. This was His fingerprint. His masterpiece. His creation. And He was proudly displaying it for me to see.

Now, let me stop here for a moment and let's just discuss how intriguing it is to me that, one of God's beautiful creations has the name Diablo Lake. Diablo is the Spanish the word for devil. Nice, right? It can even be used as an expletive in Spanish. When it's taken from the Greek, it means to throw apart or scatter - to divide. Interesting, right?

The reality of having to begin the steep climb had now arrived. We barely began and I realized this was not going to be good. It was not going to be easy. My breathing, immediately, became labored (I suffer from mild asthma) and I felt the twinge in all my climbing muscles. No, this was not going to be good. After I caught my breath, we took a few more steps. I had to stop again. Then, a few more steps. Stop. Few more steps. Stop. Pretty soon, I realized I wasn't going to make it. This was going to be impossible and I should never have gone on this hike. How could I have ever thought I could do this or thought I was ready for this? The incline was steep and we weren't even close to halfway. No, I wasn't going to make it. But, what was I to do? We were in the middle of nowhere. I had no choice but to keep going.

Finally, at some point and that point I do not remember exactly, I silently pleaded to God, "please help me! I can't do this on my own God. I need a miracle. I need a miraculous touch from you to push me forward. I can't do this." Well, I didn't feel a magical push or sudden burst of divine energy. Instead, I felt more pain and breathing became more difficult. I felt my heart pounding in my chest and my head began to feel detached from the rest of my body. My thoughts began to lead to, "what if I die up here? what if I don't get to see tomorrow?" I finally called out to my hiking buddy, "I can't do this! I don't think I can do this!" Hello, can you see how the lakes name was living up to it's meaning here? My resolve and my energy was being divided, scattered and thrown apart.

God has an interesting way of doing things. Sometimes we don't know what He is doing until a few days later when we are in a more right mind and can look back at a moment with more reasonable thoughts, clearer heads and open hearts. In the heat of a challenging moment, for me especially, I'm not open to everything. All I know is how I feel in that exact moment and what I want. In that exact moment, I wanted a helicopter to appear and lift me up or I wanted that magical push and surge of energy. I wasn't getting either of those things.

So, did God leave me? Did He ignore my cries?

It's easy to think so but, no. He absolutely did not and, as I type this through my tears, I know and realize that He was closer to me than I have ever let Him be before. I was in the most vulnerable place I have ever been in my life, when it came to my physical strength. Whether I'm a dramatic sort or not, I literally thought I was not going to make it. I was filled with fear for all the "what ifs" and I hated every moment. The trees were not beautiful, the mountain peaks were not majestic and the sun was a complete nuisance and evil presence. I can giggle, through my tears, at all that because at the time of writing this, I was sitting comfortably on my bed. I had a fan pointed at me that pushed a delicious breeze over my body while I sat quite snug up against my fluffy pillows. The sun was not evil but, it was lovely warming my skin. The trees were beautiful and Mt. Baker was showing off and quite magnificent off in the distance.

My how my perspective changed over those 48+ hours. Multiple times, at that!

So, where is the lesson in all this? Where is the sermon illustration? What does this all mean and how can it possibly relate to anyone reading this? I don't know but, I'm going to share with you what it meant for me personally. There is a song that I love to lead at church called Oceans (Where Feet May Fail). I always call it a dangerous song to pray because the bridge has the following words:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will become stronger, in the presence of my Savior
There is a reason I call these dangerous lyrics. Do you realize what you are asking God when you are singing this? Lead me without borders. Wherever. Deeper. Make my faith become stronger.


Those are deep requests and God does not take them lightly. If this is a song you want to cry out to God then, you better be ready for His answers. Without borders means just that. There is no negotiation. There is no "without borders buuuuut could you not make me do that God? Or go there or do that?" Without borders means everything is game. Think about the phrase "Deeper than my feet could ever wander." When we wade in a shallow pool and our feet are touching the ground, that usually means our heads are still above the water. We can see what's around us. We are still breathing in oxygen. We still feel in control and stable. But, the minute we reach the depth that has our heads bobbing under water, we know we better turn around and head back for the shallow end if we want to keep walking. But, this song, these words we're saying to Jesus, requires TRUST. A big, humongous bucket load of trust! You are trusting Him to be your oxygen. To be your guide and strength. You're asking Him to take you somewhere you can't go on your own. There is no compromise or negotiation with this one either!

And the end part of this prayer is the outcome: we want our faith to, ultimately, be stronger because of what we are asking the Holy Spirit to do.

Whoa nelly. I bet you'll be singing that differently, in church, the next time won't you? I actually went through a brief season of not singing it when that song was done because of these very reasons. I was not in a place where I was ready to fully let go. I wasn't doing very well, spiritually, and just didn't have the faith or the strength to let go. The last time I led it, though, I sang it with gusto. I fully believed in and trusted in God with those requests and words. I figured, I know this is a gutsy request and would probably test me to the limit but, with God all things are possible!!!

Little did I know how He was going to fulfill this request. My oh my how taken off guard I was going to be to experience something that would take my faith to a another level.

You see, God answered my prayer through that song in a way I never could have imagined. I'll share that near the end of this but, this brings up another important piece of scripture, that I have been "safe praying" through the past eight years. It's a passage from Ephesians that someone once prayed over me. I have since declared it my personal prayer and have been secretly waiting to see how God was going to answer it. There have been many moments, since then, that I thought were His way of answering and I certainly believe they were! But, they were also building up to the next thing and the next moment and the next thing and the next.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom wevery family3 in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to xthe riches of his glory yhe may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit zin your inner being, 17 aso that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being brooted and cgrounded in love, 18 may have strength to dcomprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and eheight and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ fthat surpasses knowledge, that gyou may be filled with all hthe fullness of God.
20 iNow to jhim who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, kaccording to the power at work within us, 21 lto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:14-21

Let's focus on two parts of this prayer. In verses 18 - 19, it speaks about grasping how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Then, in verse 20, it begins to draw a close to the prayer with the truth that HE is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Do you truly understand how big and powerful our God is?

Do you?

Do you really?

Seriously?

Are you sure?

I thought I did. I thought I knew. Now, I'm not so sure anymore. I think He is bigger than I could ever understand. It goes beyond my comprehension. And that was proven to me on this hike.

Now, to bring this all together.

We can never fully understand how mighty our God is. It is too big for our human brains and hearts. I truly believe that, the day we are able to count the number of stars in the sky, the hairs on our heads or the grains of sand, will be the day we get it. And when will that day come? I don't know that we'll ever know those things but, I believe it won't happen until we are in Heaven, worshiping Him with all the angels. And we will be worshiping Him because we will know... it will suddenly make sense and we won't want to do anything else but fall at His feet and worship and sing and praise and exalt His name forever and ever and ever.

I was given a tiny glimpse of this with this hike.

It was not me that climbed back over that mountain. It was not by my strength. God took me deeper than my feet could ever wander. He guided me somewhere physically, that I could never go on my own. I lost all my physical strength. I had nothing left. And I'm not being dramatic here. I'm being very real. My legs were not moving by my own strength. My heart was not pounding because I kept moving. The breath I was taking was not because I was controlling my diaphragm. All of those tiny moments were happening because of God. He was doing immeasurably more than I could have ever asked or imagined.

I climbed a mountain. If you want to get technical, I climbed it twice. My "water" was a physical act of moving. Trusting that God DID give me His strength to get me over the hump. While I didn't feel that sudden surge of energy or whatever, I know that was so that I wouldn't get caught up in my own strength, as I so easily do. God knows me so well! He loves me too much to answer my prayer that way!

Here is what I'm taking away from all this - God is real. He is strong. He answers prayers. He is big and powerful and mighty and just and merciful. It's interesting that, through that whole ordeal, I had peace. At the time it was unexplainable but, now... now I know. In my most vulnerable moment to date, the Holy Spirit breathed life into me during that hike. He gave the exact breath I needed. The exact strength I needed to get back over that mountain. Not more. Not less. The exact amount so that I would have to continually rely on it.

Wow.

WOW.

Here is the truth that I know: God wants every single part of us. He wants us to fully trust in Him. He wants us to find JOY and PEACE in knowing that He is faithful and true. We don't need to have fear or shame or anxiety or doubt or worry because those are NOT from God! When He moves and when He answers our prayers those feelings dissolve. Peace washes over us. Maybe, like in my situation, we're still feeling the physical pain and it's hard for us to see the other part of what we are experiencing until the pain subsides. I knew I had peace because I kept going. I remember, in the midst of my labored breathing and physical pain, that I had a peace. And now, that the pain and all the emotion that came with that, has dissipated, I remember that peace.

I know who was with me.
I know who walked beside me.
I know who walked behind me and in front of me.
I know He IS and will continue to do immeasurably more than I could ever conceive to ask or imagine. And now, that faith I requested in the song Oceans - it has grown. Now, my prayer is that it would never leave me and I can always remember the day I climbed over a mountain.

May HIS PEACE rule over your heart today and forever.