Oh! I thought you left me. Oh! There you are!

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“Mom? Where are you?”

Those few words coming from such a timid voice caught me off guard.  That tone is rarely emitted from my middle child, my 10 year old boy, Ben. He is definitely the most confident of my three children.  He seems to know who he is and be proud of it, never sorry for his limitations, but fully embracing the things that make him unique.  I absolutely love this about him!

We had stopped about three-quarters the way through an evening bike ride at a small park.  He took a turn on the swings and I rode around the little bike/walk path.  As I got to the edge of the playground, I called to Ben telling him it was time to go.  I saw him jump from the swing and grab his bike as I rode to the driveway waiting to get back on our route home.  There was one lonely car in the parking lot, but it was positioned in just such a way that Ben could not see where I was.

“Right here! At the driveway.”

With much relief Ben replied, “Oh!  I thought you left me.”

What?!  How did this boy think I left him?  I would never do that!  I have never done that! And yet, this was his fear, the reason his voice was unsure as he called my name.   Almost immediately, after reassuring him of course, I thought about how often I, we, might respond to God in much the same way.

He gives us assurance in His word that He will never leave us.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. –Deuteronomy 31:8

Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. –Psalm 9:10

For the Lord will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance. –Psalm 94:14

In addition to verses like the above, there are numerous accounts of his faithfulness to His people.

He fulfilled his promise to Abraham to make him the father of many nations.

He helped a shepherd boy named David defeat the warrior giant Goliath.

He kept Jonah alive in the belly of a fish.

He shut the mouths of hungry lions when Daniel was thrown in for praying.

He delivered His people through an unlikely queen named Esther.

He led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

He lifted up the marginalized.

He strengthened Paul.

He continues to show His faithfulness today.  Experiences can be read in biographies of people who faced great challenges and yet God remained, people like Corrie tenBoom, survivor of the Holocaust, or Brother Andrew (you should totally read the book “God’s Smuggler”) who smuggled Bibles, preached, and encouraged believers behind the Iron Curtain.  Added to those are our very own experiences of God’s love, mercy, compassion, and kindness.  And yet…

“Oh! I thought you left me.”

While I admit to having felt this way, and can slip into it quickly if I am not careful, I have learned to stop at “Mom (in Ben’s case), God (in mine}? Where are you?” and then look for Him in the places I know I can find Him.

  • in a gorgeous sunset
  • n the morning songs of the birds
  • in a gentle breeze in the quiet of evening
  • n the forgiveness of a friend (because that’s just like Jesus)
  • in memories of the past
  • in the lessons of my children
  • in His words to me (the Bible)

As I look, something changes…

“Oh! There You are!”

…and although circumstances may not have changed, this is much better place to be!

 

 

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Dirty Feet

feet

I just got done with a week of camping, Family Camp to be exact.  What’s Family Camp?  Well, it is an annual event where people from all of the churches in Southern Michigan Conference of the Free Methodist Church (other conferences have their own, as do other denominations) get together for a week of camping at Somerset Beach Campground (SBC). Each year is different.  People come and go.  There’s a new preacher every year, new Bible study topics.  Some years the weather is unbearably hot and humid, while other years we pray for the sun to shine amidst a week of rain.  Every now and then there’s a year chilly enough that the Trading Post sells out of sweatshirts, most campers not packing a week’s worth in mid-July.  Some years I can stand on my tippy toes at the raft and touch bottom in the lake, while other years the water reaches over my head  (I know, I know, not a great feat).  One year campers may be eaten alive by mosquitoes, while another those pesky things are near forgotten as you try to belt out an old hymn (don’t worry, there’s contemporary music too, I’m just an old soul, more likely to belt out hymns if I belt out anything at all) without swallowing a gnat. Over the years, the grounds have changed, new buildings popping up to meet various needs.  There is one thing that never changes though, one thing that can always be counted on from year to year…Dirty feet!

While SBC offers a lot—beautiful lodges, modern bathroom facilities, a nice field house, a well-kept beach, hand-scooped ice cream, a petting farm, a zip-line (I bet I could dedicate a whole blog to my experience with that) occasionally working wifi—a couple things are lacking, paved roads and grassy campsites (there are some, but plenty are comprised of dusty soil, shaded by so many trees the grass does not grow).  Now, I am not complaining, the dirt roads and dusty campsites serve great purposes.  The roads connect one place to another on a surface usable by feet, bike, or car.  The campsites offer a respite from the normal busyness, providing a place to set up the simple life of living for a few days in a tent or camper, the noise of tv and traffic replaced with the morning songs of birds and the nighttime chirp of crickets.   They are good, but they mean dirty feet.  There is just no escaping.  The minute you walk out of the shower, feet protected by dollar store flip-flops (because barefoot in a shower used by hundreds…GROSS!), it begins collecting, flipping up as you step out onto the dirt path, walking through your dusty site to hang your bath towel on the line.  You can take a dip in the lake on a warm afternoon, only to be covered in sand on your way out.  Oh, there is a foot wash of course, but as soon as you manage to get the beach sand off, you set off on the dirt road to your dusty campsite.  You get it, dirty feet!

As I was walking the camp roads, seeing dust begin to cover my newly painted toenails, insanely bright neon orange (yep, I totally have a wild side…ha!) turning dull, I was reminded of sin and the Law and Christ.   Just like dirty feet at camp, sin cannot be escaped.  Since Adam and Eve first rebelled, choosing to be gods of their own lives by eating the fruit from the tree that God had forbidden, rather than letting Him be Lord of their lives, this sin thing has plagued us all.

Psalm 51:5

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 5:12

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned

Just like there are temporary fixes to the dirty feet problem at Family Camp, God provided a way to bring people back to Himself.  Dirty feet can be clean for a moment in the shower, lake (that might be questionable), or foot wash. For the sin problem, God gave the Law.  I have noticed that the Law sometimes, often, gets a bad rap.  I mean, merely mention the book of Leviticus and immediately there is a collective groan (except from me, self-proclaimed nerd here, I love Leviticus, and the other books of the Law too), but really the Law is such a beautiful thing.  Sure, it was tedious.  There were a whole lot of rules, but they were God-given to set apart a people for Himself, and that is enough to make them good.  Then, because they weren’t always followed, God gave instruction on what to do bring people separated by sin back to Himself, sacrifices of many kinds.  What a gracious God!  Just like stepping out of the shower, exiting the lake, or leaving the foot wash, the Law only fixed the sin problem for a bit.  Feet become dirty and sin abounds.

There is ONE way to permanently fix the camp dirty feet problem…go home!  There is ONE way to permanently fix the sin problem…JESUS!   While I absolutely love camp, there is something lovely about coming home and taking that first shower that washes away all of the grime knowing that it is for good, confident that seconds later my feet won’t be covered once again in dust and dirt. This, this is Jesus!  No more tiptoeing around, unable to ever keep every rule  (not to take away from obedience to His example).  No more sacrifices.  Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection mean we can be can be cleansed from our past sins and have power over sin too.  It is a permanent fix.

Romans 8:2

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I’m not sure this post is very profound, but I always love to see spiritual truths illustrated in ordinary things.  While I didn’t delve into the nitty gritty of the Law, I hope that perhaps you will.  Just like I relished the times when I got a temporary reprieve from my dirty feet at camp (loved, loved, loved every shower I took), we can read those first few Old Testament books without a groan and instead take great delight in God’s provision, in the ways He chose to set His people apart, in the celebrations He ordained with the feasts (s’mores anyone?), in the graciousness and mercy of providing ways to make atonement through sacrifice.  While I didn’t cover all of the theology of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I hope and pray that if you have never explored what that means, that these words will serve as a prompting.  If you have, take a moment to be thankful.  Sometimes we get so caught up in other things that we forget the “joy of our salvation.”  Sit there for a moment and enjoy.