Sunday, August 24, 2014

Beauty Between the Valley and the Mountain Top

Life has it's mountain tops and it's valleys and it's monotonous lonely desert highways...  Lately I feel like I am set on cruise control down a very straight and not so scenic road.  On one hand that is good - no tragic circumstances...but in these times I don't recognize my God much, which makes me feel sad and lonely.  I keep dealing with the same issues, failing in the same places and vowing to do something different which doesn't last long.  It's comfortable here...not exactly exciting, but comfortable.  If I make some changes it will disrupt my flow and cause me to have to pay attention - turning off the cruise control - adding discomfort to my life.  But, oh how much prettier it is on those mountain tops and down in those valleys!  How I stop at both of these places and just acknowledge the Creator and His awesomeness!

Last weekend we went on a tubing trip on the Green River in the foothills of North Carolina.  We turned off
From Wilderness Cove's Website 
the interstate and then turned onto a road that had eight or more hairpin turns straight down, down, down, into the valley, into the gorge, into the cove where this mountain river babbled along.  We did NOT have our cruise control on going down this road and I was definitely in discomfort as Jeff was going a wee bit faster than I would have liked as I looked over the edges.  Once we got our inner tubes, walked out into the freezing water and plopped down, the current carried us along.  I imagined a leisurely 'lazy river' float but realized very quickly that the many rocks, downed trees, and shallow areas in the river would give us quite a work out.  There was no 'lazy' about this trip!  Four days later my arm and stomach muscles were still telling me that they were used more than usual!  During the parts of the three hours that we did float slowly and peacefully I admired the canopy cover of the trees, the wildflowers along the banks, the way the water rushed along the rocks...beautiful.  Leading me to immediately acknowledge the Creator -- in this valley we were in.  I wish I would have been able to take pictures, but considering I started out with a plastic bottle of water and realized two minutes into the trek that it was gone - I'm glad I didn't have anything with me!

During our mountain top highs in life we turn and thank God - we reflect on how He has gotten us there - and we enjoy His presence.  During our valley lows in life we cling to God and rely on Him and commune with Him more than any time - and we enjoy that close presence.

How...on the straight, day-in-day-out, 'normal' roads with our cruise set do we find that closeness to God?  I'm writing this for me right now, because I need to know.  How?  How God?  Where did You go?  First of all, He went no where.  He is always with us.  I am the one who has changed since He is unchanging.  Sigh...  So, what has changed?

I have realized over the past few weeks that I have become lazy in so many areas of my life this summer. (Maybe that is why I wanted a 'lazy river' ride on the river??)  Undisciplined.  I offer the excuse that, "I just have no self-control."  But that is a lie that Satan would like me to believe and feel defeated by.  Guess what?  The Fruit of the Spirit includes self control.  And the Spirit lives inside of me.  His power is available to me.  Laziness in my eating habits, my quiet time and prayer time, my exercise (non-existent), making dinner for the family, being consistent in discipline with the kids has also made me feel rather much like a failure lately.  Overwhelmed by the extent of things I've let slide I feel powerless to make changes.

So timely this morning, Pastor Shane said, "The presence of unconfessed sin disrupts our prayer life."  A light bulb went off this morning as I asked, 'God, is that why my relationship with you has seemed so blah?'  I see a lot of sin admitted in the paragraph above.  And it has been unconfessed.  I've complained about it, seen myself doing/not doing the stuff...been aware of it and hated it.  I've tried to make changes with my own strength which have lasted at longest two days.  I've not confessed it with a repentant heart.  The sin of believing lies about myself is present too - I'm a 'failure' and I'm 'powerless to change' and I'm 'defeated.'  Those are lies that make Satan smile and make me not much good as a witness to the power of Christ living inside of me!

I've continued getting up early this summer to have my daily quiet time with God, but it has been anything but satisfying.  I've grappled with what I've been doing wrong.  I pray and feel like there is a ceiling that my prayers hit and fall back down on top of me.  I feel so far from Him and I miss that close relationship that I have when I'm on the mountain tops and in the valleys.  And as I miss that sweet communion with Him, the long, boring, dry, straight road I'm taking seems very lonely and non-colorful as I travel along.  I just set the cruise control, become as comfortable as I can, and cruise on...not doing anything about my behaviors...just complaining about them every so often.

Beauty in between the valley and the mountain top.  Just our backyard.
So, right now, I am going to brighten up my path because God gave me the tools to do this.  I just needed to be reminded of them this morning during the sermon. I can't control the circumstances that would put me on a path on a mountain top or a valley.  But I can control how I view this straight road I'm on right now.  First things first...the sin that is in my life is disrupting my relationship with God.

 Father God, please forgive me.  Help me to grieve over things that grieve You.  I'm sorry that I've eaten the bread of idleness for months and allowed myself to believe the lies that I have no self control.  I'm sorry that my time with You has been short and boring and dead almost.  Ugh.  I miss you!  I'm sorry that I've treated my body poorly by giving it anything that it sees and moving it rarely for exercise and health.  I'm sorry that I've not been what my family needs by providing them with good meals in the evening and by wasting a lot of time on the internet.  I'm sorry that I have let the kids do a lot of whatever they want, just so I didn't have to deal with discipline and consistency.  Lord, I feel like a failure in so many ways.  I know that it is a step in the right direction to confess my sins to you and turn away from them.  Help me to draw from the strength of the Spirit living inside of me.  I'm thankful for 1 John 1:9 that says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  I'm standing before you cleansed and free from the weight of my sin because of your Son and I'm so thankful.  Please let this open my eyes to the color and beauty on this road I'm on, whether it be the same day-to-day-to-day stuff or not, because it is still Your creation and Your creation (even the stuff between the mountains and the valleys) is amazing!