“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
My mother is an identical twin and my father looks a lot like his brother. Growing up I have numerous stories of when I couldn’t keep them all straight from one another. When I was 8 I have a vivid memory of such a time.
I was with my Dad, his brother and my cousins. We were walking down an unknown wooded path towards a beach. I had never been in this place before and it all was confusing, I wondered constantly if we were actually lost and they weren’t telling me. In my fear and nervousness, I grabbed my Dad’s hand and walked along with him for a little while.
At one point, looking up to my Dad for further reassurance, I became quite startled. I hadn’t grabbed my Dad’s hand at all… it was his brother and I had been holding the wrong hand all along! Now I felt really anxious and just wanted to go home.
My Uncle had a good chuckle when he saw me realize my mistake. No harm was done and I recovered from my little error. This moment, though, is very vivid to me.
David had such moments constantly because he knew the human heart. In times of fear, distress, uncertainty and anxiety God designed the heart to grab the hand of the one we trust. This is all heart warming until we have those startling moments that the one we trust is not our good Father but false idols that learned to trust in times of ease, peace and safety.
In Psalm 121 David famously says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?”. David wasn’t just having a lovely moment of reflection on the beauty of the horizon. In David’s time, the tops of the hills was where all the temples to the idols sat.
The Old Testament repeats this ad nauseam, “Look to the hills, do you trust those idols or the God who made not only the hills but the wood those idols are made of?”. David reminds himself, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
The reality is, in times of distress and when we need help the most, this is when the idols of our heart are exposed. The human heart has a tendency to build idols in times of peace, prosperity and self-sufficiency. We discover what those idols are when we lose control of our lives.
God desires us to be free from idols. Not because he randomly is trying to punish us. Idols enslave, bring anxiety and cannot save. Shouldn’t we all want freedom from that?
“I life up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? The question of the hills is, “What or whom do you trust instead of the creator of the heavens and the earth?”
I know, for me, this global pandemic is revealing to me the idols of my heart that were hidden in better times. When we are anxious or fearful, it is the human instinct to reach up and grab the hand of the one we trust. Sometimes, though, we realize the hand we grabbed is not our good Father but a false imposter.
In this time of distress are you grabbing the hand of your father or do you realize there are other hands you grabbed? Are there other places you had trusted, that can’t really save or help? Realizing this is not a place of condemnation, it is a doorway to greater freedom.
What or whom do you trust instead of the creator of the heavens and the earth?
Additional Resource: Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon has a wealth of teachings and podcasts that I have benefitted from. In this season of the Covid-19 Pandemic they are doing a series called, “Bridgetown Daily“. Each podcast is a 10 minutes or less devotional with a daily meditation on scripture, a quote, or the life of a Saint to ground you in God and His peace. I would highly recommend it to you!
It’s Mother’s Day, such a great holiday in my opinion. Well, not just because I’m a Mom. I love the opportunity to honor our parents… it’s one of the 10 Commandments after all!
On this Mother’s Day, I think it is a good chance for all Mom’s to remind ourselves of a few things.
God didn’t invent Pinterest.
Pinterest has become the symbol of societal pressure on women the world over.
Mother’s can no longer bake a simple cake for the Birthday party. Move over sheet cake, hello Dora in buttercream.
We can no longer just decorate our homes, they need to be gorgeous, unique and reflect our “personal style”.
Don’t just take your kids to church, family devotions with a craft each night would be better!
Let us remember this Mother’s Day that God didn’t invent Pinterest. The pressure we feel. The expectations we carry. The standards we hold to. Those are not from God. They may be real to us but they ain’t from the Father.
No matter what type of Mom you are, it’s not good enough.
So what about the things that do matter? Well, we fail at those too.
We yell when we shouldn’t. We show endless re-runs of cartoons just to survive certain days. We hold secret guilt over our failures. We hide in the bathroom reading People Magazine while our children fight outside the door. We take pride in things that don’t really matter.
Basically, we can be a bit of a mess.
The good news is we don’t have to hide this. With Jesus, our role as Mother can be enough because it’s not about what we can do, it’s about what He has done and will do.
God made us a Mother and he will sustain us… He was “good enough” so that our “not good enough” can be enough. Got that?
It is a miracle that God would trust any human being in to my care… truly. I think of this every day. Some days more than others, as I’m sure you can relate. On those days that we wonder if we are ruining these young persons lives, remember this: He’s not entrusting us to be good enough. God is trusting us to trust Him.
When it comes to being a mother, let this be our motto: God draws straight lines with crooked sticks. It’s his speciality. That is exactly why he made you a mother.
I’m not succeeding because I’m so great. I’m succeeding because He is so great.
Mom’s need Jesus to survive.
Today, while everyone is celebrating us we can have a different celebration that is going on inside our hearts. A celebration that looks like this: Falling into the arms of the Father.
We need Jesus to survive this journey. We need Jesus to make straight lines with our crooked sticks of a life. We need Jesus to rescue our children from our own inabilities.
Our hearts are willing but the flesh is week. That’s ok. Jesus is in this journey. He knows that secret list we have of “Top 10 Reasons my Children might end up in Prison by their 21st Birthday.” Let us throw ourselves, with all our weaknesses and worries, in to the hands of the Father who will carry our family in to the future.
May our children not remember any craft projects, wonderful meals, or well planned birthday parties. May our children honestly say, “Mom wasn’t perfect but she sure did trust Jesus.”
I don’t know about you but that sounds doable to me. I can throw all my mothering dreams and failures into the hands of Jesus and trust Him with this journey. I can’t trust myself always. But I know He is always trustworthy.
That’s the type of mother I want to be on this Mother’s Day. I’ll leave everything else to Pinterest.
Living cross-culturally is awesome. Most people move to a new culture because of the excitement and fascination with other other cultures.
But, I suspect you would get a similar and surprising answer if you interviewed 100 expatriates and asked, “What have you learned the most about other cultures?” The answer would be along the lines of, “Frankly, I’ve learned the most deeply about my own culture.”
I remember being in a conversation with three people from three different African nations. Two of them were “orientating” the third person to “Westerners”. They got really enthusiastic as they explained the way we Westerners work.
“First of all!” the one said, “When they ask, ‘How are you doing?’, they don’t actually want to know ‘How you are doing.’”
“What! Then why do they ask?” he replied.
“They are just saying ‘Hello’, if you actually tell them how you are doing they will get a funny look on their face.” (I imagine it is a mix of a blank stare and aggravation… just a guess)
The three of them all burst in to hysterical laughter and I couldn’t help but join in. The newbie now knew to just say, “I’m fine” and elaborate no further, when a Westerner asks.
“Then what DO they want to know?” the third enquired.
“Oh, oh, oh! Ask them ‘What do you do?’ That is a very common and polite way to greet a Westerner that you have never met before”.
As I listened I was getting schooled… in my own culture and in all of life.
I asked all three of them what a common greeting would be after saying “Hello” in each of their countries. All three said the same thing…. “Where have you come from?”
I thought about this for a long time after that day passed.
Two ways of relating:
“Hello. What do you do for a living?”
“Hello. Where have you come from?”
Isn’t this the essence of building true relationships? Knowing what a person “does” is great information. But, does it really reveal who I am? Does it reveal me? Perhaps a little.
Knowing where I have come from. Retracing my journey. Talking about my stories and hearing yours. Those are the things that truly build friendship.
I see the same with God. Really, how do I deeply know God in a way that is beyond the surface? I know Him because He has told me His story. From Genesis right through to the end… all the joys, the pain, the unfaithfulness of his people. The moments of His dramatic rescue of a dramatically inept people. It’s all laid out on those pages.
What does God do? He does Grace. How do I know it, truly and deeply? Because I’ve heard and lived His story. I know it. I’ve seen it.
This is what I know about my “Western” culture:
First we tell what we do.
Second, we tell what we are like.
Third, we tell our stories.
Telling our stories is at the bottom of our relational list. The reality is that we rarely reach that third place. We stop short.
“I’m Lindsey, I work at a University and I like South Africa”. I feel so empty just thinking if all my relationships stopped there. If people truly knew me and understood me, they would know my story.
This year, I want to tell my story more… to show people who I really am. This year, I want to truly hear people’s stories. It will take time. It will take people I trust.
Our stories are valuable because we are people of value.
When is the last time you told your story? When is the last time you sat down and truly listened to another person’s story?