SOJOURNING AND THINGS THAT DECAY

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(Sherrie St. Hilaire Photography)

There’s plenty of time for pondering and ruminating on a 6,800-mile road trip. So I do.

We stay on the back roads when we travel. Back roads offer an older version of life; life the way it was before Big Box gobbled up Mom n’ Pop; when time was more a slow waltz than an ER code blue.

For three weeks I have been viewing some absurdly spectacular views, iconic cities, sprawling farmland, popular attractions, historic battlegrounds, famous monuments and chatting with interesting people.

There are thousands upon thousands of decomposing homes, farms and businesses dotting the prairies and planes of this nation, peppering the backwoods and hillsides of this land where dreams are made of. As we pass I picture them in their robust years—when a dream, some ambition and a lot of hard work hit the right note and made a mark.

Little towns like Kennear, Wyoming–population 40—appear out of nowhere and I wonder: How do they do life here?

How do we do life anywhere?

Life lived in 1730 and life lived in 2015 have many things in common. People then, as people now, whether carving out a nation or carving out a name for themselves, are prone to fixing our eyes and placing our hearts on the temporary right now.

While we are building and accumulating and striving and feuding we forget that the end result will be, at best, a study in decomposition. As is evident in cemetery after cemetery across this land, time will not only claim our lives and erode our kingdoms; it will eat away the name and epitaph of the very stone that marked our existence.

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PHOTO CREDIT https://www.flickr.com/photos/8569015@N02/16914307221/in/dateposted/

As Psalms says, “Even the memory of them will vanish.”

I get it. We have to occupy, right? We can’t just sit on our haunches and wait for our heavenly home and eternal gloriousness. God placed within us dreams and callings; He made us in his image as creators and called us to inhabit.

Traveling reminds me that life really is a sojourn in temporariness. Those of us who journey in Christ are reminded that we actually do just have this 1 day and that the big picture is much grander than we imagine. Cloistered in our castles and kingdoms, striving to make our mark in this world we can easily forget that our soul’s were made for the world to come.

At nearly 10,000 feet a road winds toward the Grand Tetons. The sun illuminates the eastern face of these stone mountains. We stop at the Continental Divide and I am reminded of the brave pioneers who pushed through this way on unpaved trails in an untamed wilderness. They pressed toward a dream against elements and limits, they lost lives and limbs because in them was what is in us. We are longing for a place our hearts call home.

But home is not here. Wherever it is you call home, it’s just a meager sampling of what we were created for–a citizenship and kingdom not made with hands, a treasure this world can’t measure, where our identity is not contained in skin.

This 22-day road trip has been full of reminders about dwellings. Living in 220 square feet reminds me that I don’t need much and the much I receive isn’t measured or marked by worldly standards. My home is in Him–wholly and fully in Him. The only mark that truly matters is the mark on his palms—where he has the whole of creation held until that day we shake off the dust of this life, this planet, this universe and we see Him face to face.

What lies within us is the pulsing gestation of our eternal home.

Yes.

LIVE!

Let’s live every second of our lives with every cell of our being. Let’s dream. And build. And discover. Let’s push the envelope. Let’s redefine normal. Let’s add words to the dictionary. Let’s lay down new roads and raise the bar for the next generation. Let’s write our name in granite. Let’s leave a legacy of grace.

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(Sherrie St. Hilaire Photography)

He is our dwelling place, our only true home.

I want to fill my lungs with the atmosphere of His presence and leave my mark written with indelible grace.

Rock Harvest

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My family teases me about my proclivity for word pictures. Sometimes they’re useful in communication, other times I find I’ve applied a five-pound metaphor to an eight-ounce idea. When my youngest son was in high school I apparently used too many football metaphors to drive home my points because he’s a grown father now and he’ll still tease me. “Mom, it’s like you’re 3rd and 9 with 34 seconds left in the fourth quarter and….”

Well friends, today’s word picture is brought to you by the letter R.

I’m a city-girl who married a farmer. Like most farmers, my husband is outstanding in his field. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!)  Farmers mark their anniversaries by harvests rather than years. Though we are the quintessential example of the attraction of opposites we have successfully marked off twenty-four harvests. For farming families, life revolves around the seasons and few people better understand the principles of sowing and reaping than farmers. Can you imagine the fodder for word pictures here?

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49502994797@N01/2609223069/

A short drive around our large farm will reveal a number of rock piles. They represent years of cultivation, planting and harvesting.

Each spring, as soon as the ground is dry enough for tractors, the fields are worked in preparation for planting. Spring work involves a two-step process. The fields, which were disked after harvest the previous fall, are roller-packed and then harrowed in preparation for planting. Harrowing (no, it’s not scary) is like combing the clumps of dirt with rows of metal teeth. It’s like a giant earth comb. At first glance, the fields can appear nice and smooth after this process.

However, by the time the field has been planted the ground will have been worked over three separate times. This vigorous working of the soil brings large rocks to the surface, rocks which damage equipment and implements. You would think that after sixty years of working these same fields we’d have come to the end of rock harvesting. Not so.

No matter how smooth the ground appears prior to the growing season rocks are churned up every single year. It’s critical they be removed. No doubt, you’re already beginning to see where I’m going with this.

Whether we’ve been a Christian four weeks or four decades, the Holy Spirit’s cultivating process in our hearts will continue to uncover obstacles that are damaging to both ourselves and others. We can become discouraged when hidden things are continuously being revealed. I can. “Lord,” I lament, “where did that come from? I’ve worked so hard to overcome and here I am again, still dealing with the same old stuff.”

My rock pile consists primarily of shame and insecurity boulders. My heart intention is to live a cultivated, fruitful life to the glory of God but I still stumble over the same rocks–and their cousins. Two things can happen to me when those rocks crop up. One, I can get frustrated. And then, in my frustration, I can become vulnerable to deception and the temptation to throw up my hands. I’ll never be free of this. I give up!

When I’m working at something so strenuously and feeling frustration in the process it’s a good indication that I’ve moved over from grace-living into the dangerous territory of pride. I entertain the notion that I have what it takes to present a better version of myself. I think that by improving myself, even if it’s a pretentious show, then I will have the approval of people and therefore provide myself some security. (I can’t believe I just said that.)

Self as the prefix to anything is dangerous ground!

The undeniable truth is that transformation is always a work of grace and divine power. The bible says that it is God who is at work in me both to will and to do of His good pleasure. It clearly states that God will complete the work He has begun in me. I am His workmanship. (Phil. 2:13; Phil. 1:6; Eph. 2:8)

I didn’t initiate this transformation process and it is certain that I will not accomplish it under my own power. My role in this process is not that unlike the ground on our farm. I yield. I yield to the initiation of God and His transforming power. When we step out on our porch at night, we don’t hear the ground grunting and groaning in an effort to bear fruit.

Humility yields to the work of Christ in our lives. It can be my only response to the transforming work of God in my life. Transformation requires humility; humility allows acceptance and surrender. Like the men in our fields, God wants to remove those rocks from us so that we aren’t encumbered by them but also so that we don’t become a stumbling stone for others.

King David earnestly prayed:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24)

My husband made peace long ago with rock harvesting. Rocks are part of the storyline in farming. And they’re part of the story God is writing of us. I have yet to hear him come in from the fields yelling, “You’re never going to believe the boulders I found out there!”

Friends, can we make peace with two things?

  • We need to regularly pray David’s prayer. We can be so easily deceived by our own hearts. “A man’s ways are right in his own eyes, but God weighs the heart.” (Pr. 21:2)
  • Secondly, let’s not be surprised (or frustrated or angered) by what is revealed in answer to that prayer!

My husband wants to find those rocks. He wants to know what is lurking beneath the surface so he can avoid a breakdown and prevent expensive repairs.