Building, Burning and Killing

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It’s hard to move on sometimes.

Leaving behind yesterday in order to be present today and embrace tomorrow is hard work. Focused work. Diligent work. It requires great risk to let go of what is good in order to leave room for what is great.

It’s risky, because what if there’s no there there? What if what is there isn’t all that great after all? What if I really miss what was good?

And there can be pain involved — sometimes heartache, oftentimes fleshache and fear. Always fear.

And there’s a fine line, is there not, between remembering the past and moving on? Like, Abraham and Moses built altars of remembrance to acknowledge God’s handiwork — and to remember and honor that is good.

But where is the distinction between looking back and building an altar, and looking back and turning into a pillar of salt?

I struggle knowing the difference sometimes. Knowing when I’m supposed to not look back and when I’m supposed to remember. There seems to be a blurry line that differentiates the two chasms.

And I think the blurry line is called yearning.

When I look at Abraham and Jacob and Moses, and all the others in the Bible who built altars, they did so out of a desire to remember what God did in the midst of their crawling season. To acknowledge His divine handiwork and protection. To remember they couldn’t do it without Him.

And then when I look at Lot’s wife and how she turned into a pillar of salt because she had a desire to hold onto what she had instead of embracing what was to come.

She yearned for yesterday. Longed for it. Wasn’t ready to embrace change.

And it killed her.

Oh how I don’t want to be her.

There’s this little gem of a story in the Bible, hidden near the end of 1 Kings in chapter 19. This story is only three verses long, but those verses have preached thousands and thousands of words to me.

It’s the story of when Elijah finds Elisha, and anoints him as a prophet and his eventual replacement.

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Elijah finds Elisha in the field, working diligently. There’s nothing to suggest that Elijah is unhappy or frustrated — it simply says he’s working 12 pairs of oxen and was with the last pair.

When Elijah wraps his cloak around Elisha, he knew instantly what it meant. He was chosen and anointed to take the mantle of prophet from Elijah, and to follow him.

Elisha’s response is phenomenal to me — he kills the oxen and then takes all the equipment and uses it to make a fire. And he cooks all the oxen — all 24 of them — and celebrates with a feast of the meat.

And then Elisha says goodbye to his family and follows Elijah.

Walks away completely.

Here’s what is so fascinating about Elisha’s story: working in the field was good. Working for his family was good. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing, and working hard at it. He was probably even really happy doing it. He probably had no complaints.

But when the time came for God to call Elisha into something new, he destroyed everything about his old life. He gave himself nothing to come back to, nothing to fall back on. He wanted to be 100%, all in on what God had called him to.

My husband always says that God doesn’t just call us out of anything without calling us in to something.

And that’s what happened to Elisha — God called him out of his field work into his new anointing.

And Elisha was willing to follow God’s leading 100%. By killing everything that represented the old, it gave him the freedom to fully embrace the new. By giving himself nothing to come back to, he had no choice but to give everything he had to his new calling.

There have been times in my life when I’ve killed the oxen and burned the plows — completely let go of what I was doing before God moved me and never looked back.

There have also been times when I’ve built altars to remember God and Who He Is and What He’s Done to honor His work in my life.

But there have also been times when I’ve looked back. When I’ve yearned and wished and dreamed it could be the way it used to be. Times when I’ve resisted the necessary work of transforming and changing — and those are the times I’ve turned myself into murky and confusing pillar of salt, frozen in fear of tomorrow and unable to move forward toward my promised land.

Oh how I don’t want to be her.

When Abraham and Jacob and Moses were done building their altars and remembering, they got up, got going and moved on (Deut 2:24, The Voice). There were places they had to set their feet on and take and claim.

And after Elisha feasted and said his goodbyes to his family, he left and joined Elijah and became his right-hand man, eventually gaining a double-portion of Elijah’s anointing.

Building altars and killing oxen and burning plows frees me up to the transformation God is doing in me. It shows God I’m saying yes to letting the old die so the new can live. It shows Him I’m no longer yearning for what was — when it really wasn’t that great anyway — and am instead yearning for What Can Be.

And even though there might be heartache and fear involved — I’ll be more heartbroken to miss what God might have in store. I’m more fearful of not being obedient than I am of change.

I’d rather be a pillar of burnt yokes than a pillar of salt.

I want nothing to come back to, so that I can give everything I have to God’s next thing. (tweet that)

Oh how I want to be her.

What do you need to build and kill and burn in your life today? Are you ready to get up, get going and move on so you can take claim to your promised land?

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Story (FMF #44)

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays for a writing flash mob…throwing caution to the wind and gathering to share what a few minutes of free writing can buy.

Today’s topic: STORY

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I have it memorized and can call it forth at any given moment.

There once was a girl, and she felt pretty average and fairly inadequate in all she did.

And she would start new things and quit before she ever finished.

And she would shrink back and try to blend in and hide.

And she never quite believed she was anything special, though she wanted to be in the worst way.

So she lived life in the quiet and in the fear and teetered on the edge of What Could Be.

Oftentimes the story sometimes stays on repeat at the front of my brain and filters everything I say or do or taste or feel.

But sometimes it is way in the back of my brain, until one day I remember it’s there and then it moves itself to the front for a while again.

And we do this dance, me and this story, and sometimes I lead and sometimes it does, but usually it ends with me shrinking back and hiding.

Living in fear is exhausting.

The story is not a classic anymore. It’s not a fun vintage one with a golden spine and whimsical illustrations that make me smile.

Instead it’s just old and tattered. The pages are ripped and the cover is torn.

It’s time to throw it away.

There’s a new story waiting to be opened.

STOP.

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Five Minute Friday #23 – GRACEFUL

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays for a writing flash mob…throwing caution to the wind and gathering to share what a few minutes of free writing buys us.

Today’s topic: GRACEFUL

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I see her from time to time. She shows up in the ugly times — the times when I’m feeling low or snarky or combative or frustrated. She shows up in my mind and seasons salt all over the circumstances and shines brightly into the darkness of myself.

I see her from time to time. She shows up in the quiet times — the times when I’m feeling self-conscious and insecure and awkward and isolated. She shows up in my mind and has a graceful boldness that invites others in and speaks affirmation and walks in confidence and befriends strangers.

I see her.

I see her and I admire her and am jealous of her and wish she’d go away, too. She’s graceful and mature and wise and unselfish and is all the things I want to be but am not. And when she appears, she reminds me of how far I have to go to become her and she shows up uninvited almost every time. That’s her only flaw, really, and I like to call it rude but how can you fault someone for being what you’re not? It’s impossible.

So I see her and she is my mirror reflecting all the things God wants for me and I want for myself and I try to remember what she looks like when I’m living in the mundane. And I try to embrace her as I would a surprise visit from a friend when she appears in the snarky and combative and selfish and lonely times. I try to invite her in for coffee and sit to break bread with her, for if I spent more time with her then maybe she would rub off on me.

And maybe I’d become graceful, too.

STOP.

Five Minute Friday #22 – CHANGE

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays, where writing solely for the fun of it is the priority: “On Fridays over here a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes. Unscripted. Real. Your words. This shared feast.”

Today’s topic: CHANGE

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It’s a symphony of firsts and the instruments hit each note with intensity. I want to run but the front door is so heavy. I want to write but that first word escapes me. I want to read but opening the cover feels like work. Yet once the door is open and the word is written and the cover is opened, the score builds slowly and deliberately and reaches crescendos again and again.

The altos are the body and the sopranos are the spirit and the tenors and bass are the mind. And the altos sing ‘go’ and the sopranos sing ‘you got this’ and the tenors and bass pepper in ‘are you sure? maybe you should reconsider’ but blended together it’s a harmony of richness and enticement.

Verse one tells of birthing and verse two explains preparing and verse three shares the joy of flying, and the chorus that connects all the verses together reminds us of the process of emerging and how all of it…this process of becoming…can only happen when we choose to sing along.

This is my song and will be the message I share until the final bow — this is a life of becoming. We are always ‘ing’ and God always keeps us ‘in the process of’ and that’s His purpose. Today was the first day in many I actually opened that front door and ran again and God and I, we write when I run. And as we ran the butterfly with bright blue wings flitted past and God whispered,

“What would have happened if you hadn’t opened the door today? You would have missed this and missed us and you can only become when you participate in the song.”

And He reminded me that the butterfly only flies after the cocooning and the fruit is only ripe after it has been green and the seconds, thirds and fourths only come after the firsts. And the door is heavy and the words escape and reading is work because there’s only one who wants to keep me trapped in a bodily prison and a locked mind and a crushed spirit. And he is easily defeated after doing just the first.

So I replay the song again and again and memorize each note and swell and rest and measure. And I keep my eye on the conductor the whole time and the more I play the more I become.

STOP.