Safe

From the pebble beach of Blue Marsh Lake that yellow September day, I gazed at the sky above the vicious locust trees and asked Jesus what he had to say to me.

“A storm is coming.”

That’s what I thought he said.

Had I just imagined the words? A wisp of mare’s tail cloud hung low in the sky above me. Had the cloud placed thoughts of a storm into my mind?

0919191629b_HDR

I held still, waiting for more words from Jesus. It was a hot day, with skies as blue as blue could be, so why were the birds all darting for cover in the low forest underbrush? “Prepare for a storm.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I kept those words in my heart. And I prepared.

Two months later in a riverside campsite under the pines, I tucked the first clean pot into the dish hammock and clearly heard these words in my heart, “Leave here and find your teammates.” I glanced at my watch. My co-guide had asked me to find her if she wasn’t back in an hour, but only half that time had passed. “Don’t overthink,” I told myself, “Just finish the dishes and find the group after the hour has passed.”

I heard pounding steps on the trail just as the final plates were being rinsed. I stood up and jogged out of the campsite before the panting messenger could ask me to. I wished I’d have listened to the Holy Spirit when he told me to find the group. I could have saved this messenger a lot of effort.

We waged war for hours, and by the time the war was in recession, our stuffed-crust campfire pizza was stiff and cold. The sun had set, and the moon had rolled out of bed to take his turn in the sky. One by one, the headlamps blinked out in the campsite. This war was not over, but the soldiers all needed rest.

I sat under the pines facing the tents and watched, and prayed. Many animals roam the woods at night. As snores rose up from the solo tents around me, the noises in the forest rose to rival them.

Owls hooted back and forth across the river in their comically quizzical way, and a grouchy ibis squawked at his unwanted neighbor in terse, short sentences. Rustling leaves told me the toads were a’hopping.

A howl broke out on the riverbank, downstream, and then moved closer. Panthers pass through this area, once in awhile. This noise wasn’t made by a panther, but it made me think about a hiker’s story of meeting one nearby.

Black clouds winged across the sky, sometimes revealing a handful of very bright stars, sometimes dropping bits of rain.

Silent, unseen battles swept through the campsite, passing, then receding.

All alone in this black campsite, palmettos poking my neck and mosquitoes nibbling my ankles, I wrapped a tarp around my shoulders and stared up at the sky. I asked Jesus for things, and gave him other things, and thought about the unusual fact that I wasn’t  scared.

I felt so cozy, all alone there under the pines, in the middle of that active battleground.

Relieved, and comfortable, like showing up at a spring when your body has just traveled 25 miles under a hot sun.

The girl who could never sleep without her head being buried under a pillow– who could not walk outside at night without both a light and a big dog, was sitting cross-legged in a campsite at 2 a.m. with more peace than most people feel at church on a Sunday morning.

It was Jesus, obviously.

I’m not always so good at receiving love from Jesus, or from anyone else, but under those pines, in the short recess of that war he’d told me to prepare for two whole months in advance, I was recieving love from him like there was no tomorrow. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to spend a night sitting cross-legged in the woods with Jesus. But it fills you up inside.

When my watch beeped for the 5:30 making of coffee, I felt alive.

We human beans are pretty good at finding earth-things that make us feel safe. But a gun, or a dog, or a flashlight, or a man, or a can of pepper spray—these can’t know two months in advance that you’d need to prepare for war, and teach you how to prepare in exactly the right way.

A gun can’t answer the questions on your heart. A dog can’t tell you to drop what lies you are believing and what truth will set you free. A flashlight can’t fight the battles going on in unseen places. A man can’t protect the minds of the kiddos from bad dreams while they sleep. A can of pepper spray can’t make you feel so joyful in the middle of a battlefield–so secure that you could fall asleep.

It is a good place to live, with your spirit seated in the presence of Jesus and your body joining the armies of heaven in their battles on earth. I have much to learn about it.

But I’ve learned this so far: When you live in Jesus, life is 100% unpredictable. But it is 100% empowered. And 100% safe.

beyond the GALAXIES

Last night–er, morning–, I laid out on my roof in my -20 degree Coleman sleeping bag and watched a meteor shower.

I counted twenty falling stars….. and then I stopped counting and just gazed at the glory of the skies and tried to figure out the meaning behind it all. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t come to any monumental conclusions.

I stared up at the galaxies twinkling far above the hectic earth, and asked the Father, “Why?”

He said, “My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts the same as yours.”

My heart shivered, and I nodded, “Yes. I already understand that, Father.”

No. You really don’t. As FAR as the heavens are from the earth, so are my plans different from yours. You cannot understand how far the heavens are above the earth. You cannot understand me. You haven’t lived to see a thousand years come and go as swiftly as one of these shooting stars–look, there goes another one now!”

It was over in an instant, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t begin to fathom a thousand years passing by so quickly.

Then today arrived, and 20 (plus who knows how many more) lives were lost, and hundreds of hearts were shattered into dust, and the nation reeled with pain and the depressing implications behind it all.

When life crushes all but the very last 1/100th of an ounce of breath out of you–and you really don’t care whether that last bit of breath is snatched from you as well or not–there are no answers. There just aren’t. You cry and breathe and sometimes find the strength to hope for better days, and sometimes don’t.

Tonight I thought of the stark contrast between those people’s worlds and mine as I goofed off with two of my precious nieces.

What if it had been me?

What if I was the one who got the call, or saw the blood-splattered walls, or heard the last gurgling yet piercing cries of desperation? What would I do?

What if I was the one who had that split-second chance to stop all of this, and missed it?

Life is short… so effortlessly, terrifyingly, short.

I decided to live recklessly in the moment. We hugged and ate cookies and acted crazy. We danced around. We laughed at our own jokes. We dressed up in weird clothing and shot pictures.

100_5303

We LOVED.

And we didn’t find a reason to explain away the pain that stood so hauntingly close every time the news came on. They weren’t our questions to ask, because the wounds are not our own….

this time.

But in the past, they have been. And then I was the one who cried, and breathed and sometimes found the strength to hope for better days, and sometimes didn’t.

And when the wound had been given time to heal just a bit… just enough that I could move again, I was the one who had to make a choice. Where was I going to run?

To blame?

To denial?

To numbing it out of my head?

To the reckless belief that there is something more than what the eye can see?

I tried them all, believe me. It was a rocky path. But in the end, I chose the Father, and crawled to Him on torn up hands and knees like a little baby, slobbering and crying and sometimes spitting up in His face.

He was patient, and carried me when I couldn’t walk.

He offered hope, which was a dangerous gift to recieve. It meant laying down my ideas of how my life should be, and accepting the unknown. But the peace that came was unbelievable! It can’t be understood by logic… only felt with the heart. Because his love was woven through it all, and love is a heart thing.

He offered hope in return for trust, and I was loco enough to recieve it. And that is where the process of finding answers begins.

But sometimes they never show up.

Not in this life.