RECOGNIZING GOD

By Lisa Huddleston

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. … because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:42-44).

Much has been written about the great importance of recording in journals, passing stories on to others, and even building physical monuments that cause us to remember the great movements of God in our lives. The times when He has come, and we have joined Him in His purpose or at least recognized His hand at work around us.  And it is good to continue to write about such things.  We gain strength from the past, and our confidence grows on the stepping stones of God’s great faithfulness to His people.  Yes, it is a very good thing to commemorate the working of our God.  But that is not my purpose today.  Today I write about the times I have missed His coming, when He hasn’t registered on my radar, even when I have been in opposition to Him.  This is a monument to Missed Blessings and an admonition to remind me that I need to know Him more. 

How can a record be made of what never took place?  Truthfully, only God knows.  Only He can clearly state what could have been.  But in my heart I feel certain that I have missed quite a lot—often because of my own fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear that it might not be the voice of God that I heard.  Fear that I might hurt someone’s feelings.  Fear of not being listened to or understood.  Fear of placing my trust in someone else’s hands.  Even fear that others might follow me and that I could be wrong.  As one pastor once told me, “Lisa, you’re afraid of everything!”  They were words that brought the blood to my face at the time, but my ears were open to hear them.  And I have not forgotten.

So today I build a monument to my fear, to the blessings I have missed, and to many opportunities in which I have failed to recognize the time of God’s coming to me.  It is not a pretty memorial, but it is a necessary one.  It is a recognition of God’s power to do all things, and it is a reminder that it was never His faithfulness that failed me.  It is my fear that held back what could have been.  Sadly, I know that there are good things I have missed, times when I could have walked with Him; but, still I can gladly proclaim that I could not keep Him from accomplishing His will.  And this also builds my confidence in Him.

Therefore, let these words be engraved on the stones I place before you:  Here lie the great blessings that God prepared for me.  If I had known Him better, they would have brought me great peace—but now they are hidden from my eyes.  To God be the glory forever—great and perfect things He has done.

As my ears were open to hear my former pastor’s rebuke, as my pride was broken to accept Your gift of grace, and as my heart was crushed to weep over sin, please, Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see and know Your face.  Help me never again to miss the time of Your coming, and make me bold enough to follow wherever You desire.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

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READY OR NOT

 

By Lisa Huddleston

Ready or Not

Nine months times three

you grew in me

until the time arrived.

Did my body push you out or

did you choose to escape

the confines of a space grown

too small?

 

Eighteen years later and

the labor pains

begin again.

The time has arrived again

and again

I am straining to

let nature take its course.

 

Frankly, it hurts like hell

to rip you from my heart–

even more than the tears of

your first deliveries.

Natural childbirth this time.

No anesthesia.  No epidurals.

Just one big push and,

One, Two, Three,

You’re gone.

 

Bloodied, wailing, and

ready, I pray,

to face the

world.

ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE

 

By Lisa Huddleston

“For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

Foreknew, predestined, called—just the mention of these words causes my thoughts to start on a looping journey of unanswerable questions.  If God foreknew me and predestined me, then do I still have the ability to choose my own actions?  How can He hold me accountable for what He already knew I would do?  Can I do anything that is genuinely outside of His will if He has predestined my conformity to His Son?  My questions are endless, and there is no way that I can even hope to begin to answer them in 600 words or less.  Therefore, please, accept my following thoughts as simply ideas to ponder.  Not truths or absolutes but concepts and musings.  My thoughts at this moment in my life, at this speck on the time line.

Since I was a little girl, I have felt the hand of God on my life.  I suppose I owe that recognition to the training I received from my mother, my grandparents, and my church.  As a young child, I think I just had a sense of God’s being happy with me when I did good things and angry when I did bad.  But as I grew and faced more serious choices, even dangerous at times, I felt Him as protector and companion.  When I was lonely, He heard my cries.  When I was angry, He listened to my complaints.  When I willfully, even triumphantly, chose to sin, I sensed His sorrow and regretted my selfishness.  He knew I was better than my actions proved.  He expected so much more from me, His child.  In spite of everything, He was my guide, placing a hedge of protection around me, shaping my journey according to His plan.  I just couldn’t shake His presence.

Even now I feel Him.  Looking over my shoulder as I type these words.  Guiding me to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth yet with caution and discretion.  He says you don’t need to hear the stringy, bony details of my failures.  He knows and that is enough.  Yet, sometimes I want to tell it all.  To let everyone who sees me as a safe, middle-aged mother and wife know the truth of my existence.  I am a tempest of raging contradictions, a boiling pot of confused gumbo, a perfect storm of dissent.  See me and know that He is real!  Yet, I cannot shake the One Who keeps me in between His hedges.  Therefore, even my confession is tempered by His will.  His purpose is the thing and only that must be known by those around me.

My choices, my failures, my pain and suffering, my joy and exultation—all these are known by Him, covered over, and shaped by His love.  For those He predestined, He also called.  He calls me to bend my will to His, to obey, to honor and glorify the One who made me.  And those He called, He also justified.  Because of His Son in whose image I am being conformed, I am justified.  My jagged-edged rebellion is covered by His blood, pearlized by one magnificent coating of Truth, and I am as He is to my Father.  And those He justified, He also glorified.  To one day share His glory.  A past-tense, already decided, and completely undeserved transformation of Grace.

And there I walk.  Still between His hedges.  Still scraping stubborn elbows against thorny walls of love and scratching my rebellious heart on branches of desire, yet still on His path.  Muttering under my breath yet walking.  Believing against unbelief that all things will work together for the good of those He calls according to His purpose.  Whether I walk to the right or to the left.  Feeling the weight of His eternal hand against my back and hearing His warm, breathy voice in my ear, “This is the way, my child.  Walk in it” (Is. 30:21).

SORTING SEEDS

 

By Lisa Huddleston

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches” (Matt. 13:31-32).

Good things come in small packages—a saying that is often quoted but only sometimes true.  In the case of the mustard seed mentioned in the scripture above, it is true.  A tiny mustard seed will always grow into a tall, branching plant.  And the kingdom of heaven which began with only Jesus and a small group of followers has blossomed into a vast and still reproducing multitude of believers from every tribe and every nation.  Many from just One seed.  As in the case of the mustard plant and also the kingdom of heaven (and really of all living organisms), it is the seed that is the determining factor.  The seed that defines what will grow.  Plant a mustard seed.  Harvest a mustard plant.  Plant a seed of Grace and Hope.  Harvest a Kingdom of Heaven.  A very simple truth that we can understand and celebrate.  God’s perfect economy of reproduction.  All contained in a seed.

Yet, as in most things, there is a shadowy side to this sunny message.  An ungodly yin to the godly yang, so to speak.  Because we can always choose to plant a bad seed.  “The one who sows injustice will reap disaster” (Pr. 22:8).  “Those who sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8).  “For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Gal. 6:7-8).   It’s all about the seed.

Okay then.  What seeds am I holding in my hand today?  Honestly, it’s mixed bag.  I definitely have a few pumpkin-sized seeds of Worry, a couple of yellow kernels of Selfishness, and a whole handful of grainy Pride.  And, oh yes, there’s the deliberate, tuberous bulbs of Fraud and Deceit protruding above the floating, voluntary, dandelion-seeds of Doubt.  But, look a little closer, take your finger and move all that other stuff around.  Do you see it?  There it is, barely visible in the mishmash, but still there.  A tiny, white pearl of Faith from which will grow the power to move mountains. 

One little speck in the midst of all those other seeds.  Yet, it holds the power to change my world.  “I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).  Maybe a better visual for those of us living in the south is a kudzu seed—minus its destructive aspects—because once that seed starts to grow it covers all the other plants and smoothes  the landscape into one, sloping mountain of green.  A questionable example from an earthly gardener’s perspective, but a great spiritual metaphor for the power of faith to change our lives.

Yes.  It all depends on the seeds.  Some that we deliberately plant and others that we allow to haphazardly blow into the soil of our lives.  Not a random strewing of handfuls of unidentified grains, but a careful planting in spirit and truth.  Don’t forget—it truly is all about the seed.  Open your hand and take a look.  What seeds are you holding today?

MY PEARL

By Lisa Huddleston

 

 My Pearl

 Unknown, unseen, forever undisclosed

lies my pearl of great price

A piece of broken shell

A tiny grain of sand

A gravelly pebble in my shoe

A fleeting thought

A sweet dream

A tender brush against my arm

A look

A word

A touch

Covered with Truth

Layer upon layer

Coated until all the edges are smoothed

but not forgotten

To dull the pain of sacrifice

To bury the lie of possibility

To erase the hope of what can never be

An opalescent reflection of true love

and the costly creation of beauty’s compensation

The forever hidden treasure of

a life that is not my own

Yet is daily mine to live

A single, perfect, priceless pearl

HANGING BY A THREAD

 

 

By Lisa Huddleston

Hanging by a Thread

I knew I shouldn’t pull it

Just clip off the loose ends

and let what remained of

the seam be

Just keep it all together

 

But I couldn’t stop

picking at it

Until suddenly

Before I knew what

I’d done

 

It all unraveled

 

The wise woman builds her house,

but with her own hand the foolish

one tears hers down.

HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS

By Lisa Huddleston

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.” (2 Peter 5:6-7)

What a morning! I have felt as though I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. My youngest son has his first test in his College Algebra class. Two of my closest friends are dealing with very serious health concerns. And I said good bye to my baby girl as she headed off to Italy all by herself. Okay, she’s not really a baby. She’s nineteen years old. And she isn’t really alone. She’s with the choir from Cumberland University. But she is going to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean without her father or me, and she couldn’t even take her cell phone! These and other worries have weighed me down today. And despite my desire to be there for every one of those about whom I care so deeply, I can only be in one place at a time. And even if I could be right beside my son as he works his math problems, I probably wouldn’t be much help. And I can’t make my friends’ medical issues suddenly disappear no matter how hard I may wish to. And I couldn’t make my daughter’s plane stay in the air or keep terrorists at bay or protect her from every possible danger even if I tagged along on every trip she takes for the rest of her life. Like it or not—and at this point in time, it’s a big, fat NOT—I have no real choice but to place those I love and the concerns I am carrying into the hands of the One who is really in charge of all things.

Even as I write the words, I wonder how in the world I’m really supposed to do that. How does “placing those I love and the concerns I am carrying” into God’s hands translate into practical, hands-off, day-to-day living? My first thought is to cast all my cares on Him (2 Peter 5: 7). But when I read the verses preceding that admonition, I discover that “God resists the proud, but give grace to the humble” (2 Peter 5:5). I must admit that it is arrogance for me to feel as though I can take the place of God in the lives of my family and friends. Who am I to think that my presence should keep them safe or that it is somehow within my wisdom to know the best outcome for each of their struggles? Oh yeah—that’s pride. Therefore, my first step needs to be to “Humble [myself] therefore under the mighty hand of God” (2 Peter 5:6a). As Jesus modeled in his prayer, I need to say “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

That leaves “care casting” as step number two. As the eldest of three daughters, I grew up as my father’s only son meaning that I spent a lot of time learning to fish and practicing my casting in the front yard. I can still hear the zip of my Zebco reel as my line flew across the grass and eventually the lake only to be quickly wound back to my rod. But, this kind of casting is different. In casting my cares on Him, I need to learn to cut the line and let them go. Not the yo yo cycle of casting out and reeling in, but a once and for all throwing off of the burdens over which I humbly admit to having no control.

Finally, after humbling myself and releasing my cares, I need to trust in the One who holds all things in His hands. And I can trust Him, because “He cares about [me.]” Amazing really. The One who made all things, who holds all things together, and who works all things together for good cares about me. And He cares about my son’s test, my friends’ health, and my daughter’s safety. No, that doesn’t mean that my musical son will get an A in math, that my friends will be healed, and that my sweet daughter will always be safe. But it does mean that He loves them and holds each one of them close as they make their own ways around this planet without my holding their hands. Hard to believe at times, but true.

Humility, submission, and trust—three steps to take today when my burdens feel so heavy and every day that follows. No matter what happens, He really does have the whole world in His loving and trustworthy hands: myself, my family, my friends, and all who live on this planet. “To Him be the dominion forever. Amen” (2 Peter 5:11).