We have a new dog. So I’ve been taking a lot more walks in nature. So now it’s me, the dog, my son, and sometimes if I can manage one more thing in addition to a pocket full of treats, water bottles, poop bags, cell phone, and car keys, I bring my camera too.
I’m finding that dog-walking is actually God-walking. I’m walking with God as I enjoy all the good things God has blessed me with.
We walk together, my dog, my son, and I– sometimes talking, sometimes quiet, all the while finding amazing things to sniff, pick up, explore, and take pictures of. I feel joyfulness in nature’s solitude and joy in fellowship with those that I love. And it feels as if there is someone else with us too. I can’t see or hear Him. But it’s more than a feeling or intuition. It’s just a knowing.
On one of our walks I saw this amazing tree. I was immediately drawn to the tree. For it is a co-joined tree. Or at least that’s the term I gave it. Is it one tree or is it two? Have you seen one like this? The base spreads out and out pops another tree, but they share the same roots, the same source of nourishment. I looked up. Oh my! Look son, this tree is holding hands with that one! Or at least that’s how it appeared. They are not connected at the branches, but they certainly look like it.
The tree was at a concrete reminder of what I’m learning in my current bible study.
Right now I’m elbows deep in another amazing Beth Moore bible study where we are studying the book of James. James was the brother of Jesus (actually half-brother if you count the fact that God was Jesus father and Joseph was the father of Jesus, his three brothers and unspecified number of sisters).
The entire book of James is the one of my favorites because it is hard-hitting and puts the gears in motion to the words of our faith. James teaches us about:
- Not just enduring trials, but rejoicing in the process of the trial because of the way it refines us.
- Being doers of our faith, not merely hearers of the word.
- How our tongue is a source of both blessings and cursings and it is the rudder that guides our ship (tell me about it!)
- How we are to eliminate all prejudice in our life and be active in works of mercy, especially regarding the poor.
- How we are to yield, not show partiality, do good deeds, and to sow seeds of peace and goodness.
- There are warnings about judging others, warnings about arrogance, and putting too much stock in “our plans” for our lives.
- There are also warnings about riches and money. If we lose our humility, then what good is our money anyway?
- There is great wisdom about being patient while we suffer. Oh yeah, who doesn’t want some of that? It’s okay God, just take your time on this one, I’ve got all LIFE! Seriously though, like we have a choice during our trials?
- He concludes his six-pack of wisdom by talking about the power of prayer and how we are to help others who wonder away from the truth.
- The whole book, all seven pages of it (in my bible anyway) is easy to read, but takes a life time to fully grasp. But my favorite part might simply be this small nugget of truth:
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8
In this same chapter we learn how we don’t get what we most want in life because we don’t ask God, who created not only the whole universe, but also our tiny little self. We spend our entire lives as if we want to be remembered like Frank Sinatra’s song: I did it……”My Way!” Or we ask God for something, but we ask with wrong motives. Oh come on, who among us hasn’t chuckled as we identify with the little kitten on Facebook who woefully prays, “Lord if you can’t make me skinny, can you at least make my friends fat?” Do we not sometimes pray for God to exact our rendition of fairness and justice?
So what to do about all in life that ails us? Inequities? Relationships that go sour, or worse–end in abandonment? Sickness? Lack? Trials of every kind? Stress? People who can’t seem to get it together, understand us, or do what we want them to do in order to get along? Are we supposed to just totally surrender all?
Well, I read James and the answer is one I don’t like sometimes: Yep!
But that means the other guy wins, I don’t get my way, I won’t be understood, it will hurt, or I can’t fix this. Right. Now you are where you need to be.
Believe me I can write this better than I always live it out in my own life, but it really is true. We waste so much valuable time we could be living, doing what we really love or at least finding out what that is, by trying to either manipulate or persuade people or situations to our liking to make life more tolerable.
It just doesn’t work like this. In an odd sort of way James is a structured way to a sort of Zen-like happiness. When you can truly rejoice in your trials because you know God’s in it, when you can let go of outcome because you know God will work it to the good (even if not here on earth or in your lifetime) then you can truly be at peace. You can be at peace and find joy as you suffer. That’s what it means to share in Christ’s suffering. This is how we become “strong in character and ready for everything!” (James 1:3)
We ultimately have to make peace with our own demise. I believe God teaches us (by giving us plenty of opportunities) to let go of everything else first. Control really should be a synonym for futility.
I always say: We are all just renters here. At the end of the day, we own nothing, for tomorrow is not assured.
It’s good to lean on true friends and family sometimes. But some things only God can fix—in His own way, and His timing. Lean not on your own understanding, we are taught. We can take it a step further—we can lean into the one who made us and loves us as if we are the love of His life. That’s because we are.
We are all on a journey in life, trying to navigate through trials, learn a few lessons along the way, experience blessings, and hopefully be one to others too. Like the trees in the forest, we are each unique with our own family branches and occasional nuts (but that’s another blog) and fruits. Some of us are in full-bloom and some of us are watching the last of our leaves blow away. But as we each draw near to God, not only does He draw near to us, he draws us closer to one another too. Like co-joined trees, maybe where we each of us ends, is the place where God begins. God, our home base—He is at the core of our roots that nourish us and grow us, and when the storms come, though we sway, He helps us to still stand tall.