Off The Grid

I was thinking the other day, what would it be like to be ‘off the grid’?  I thought, how nice it would be to not have to color my hair, I would have plenty of time to write and read books, I would exercise. Oh, my worship would be go good, because I wouldn’t have all of those distractions. I would live off of fruits and veggies and seafood in my tropical, coastal home; my health would be better, my outlook would be better, I would be better.

Of course, I wouldn’t be totally disconnected, because I would still want to be in contact with people and would need to do research.  Pinterest is research, right?  But I wouldn’t have internet in my home, I would have to go into the village to use it at the library or coffee shop. I would go into the village just enough for the folks to know my face, but not remember my name.  Such an awesome picture I was painting, it my mind, I was picturing the place where Jason Bourne lived at the very end of Bourne Identity.

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However, I more I thought about this picture, the more I realized that I had created this perfect life, complete with hammocks and coconuts, but devoid of a very important element in God’s design for me: People.  In my dream retreat, I had isolated myself, apparently, even from my family.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I enjoy being around people, but I also love to go on trips.  Weekend trips, weeklong trips; as a family, we took a two-week vacation last summer and that was the greatest for me.  I love to travel, see new places, meet new people.  I’ve always said, if money were not an issue, Molly and I would be on short-term mission trips all the time. We love being around people, so the idea of actually being without people is foreign to me.

This is because, God did not create us to do this life alone.  Even in the garden, with life as perfect as it could possibly be, God saw that Adam was lonely.  Genesis 2:8 says, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” This always blows my mind just a bit, because Adam communed with God, but God could see that Adam needed someone more like Adam and less like the Almighty. I can picture it now, God telling Adam, “I love you little one, but you need some friends of your own.”

I can hear all of my introvert friends screaming now, “but I like being alone!” Yes, you do! I do too, sometimes, but total isolation isn’t healthy.  Through many of the stories I’ve read, even those of people who may have lived well off the grid, they still had contact with other people.  One man, who only talked to one person 27 years, still had contact with other people when he would go into their camps and stole their property.  Even in my own dream of living off the grid, there are still people.

There are countless studies about the effects of loneliness or being alone; depression and poor health are at the top of the list. English author John Donne said the very famous words, “No man is an island entire unto itself,” and Tenth Avenue North even have a song about it. But the Bible, God’s word, says a lot about it.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~ Romans 12:4-5

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” ~ Psalm 133:1

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” ~ Matthew 18:20

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

My favorite, coming from Jesus himself:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Matthew 22:36 – 39

 There are so many more scriptures in the Bible about being with other people; God did not intend for people to be alone.  He created us for community, He wants us to live with and learn from and love other people. You are not alone and you don’t have to be either.  Join a Bible study, go out with friends, make some friends.  Go on a date, go to a family reunion. You are not alone.

Father, you are so amazing, you created us to be a people that live life together.  It is your desire that we are with people who will lift us up, encourage us, and walk with us in our journey.  I pray Lord, that you will open doors of opportunity for us to meet new people, be in new places, grow in the knowledge that You designed us with two purposes, to love you and to love other people. I pray this in Jesus precious name. Amen.

He wants us to live with and learn from and love other people.

In The Hot Seat

Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve realized that you have heard the same thing from two different people and you wonder if the message that God has given them for their growth and encouragement may have actually been for you? This is where I am currently.

Recently, the men from our church attended a men’s retreat.  They were at a facility that is in the country.  And since God created man to be hunter/gatherers, they fished, did ropes courses and built fires. It was in the building of fires that God spoke. The men collected sticks, that represented their past.  Each one, when they were ready to let go, threw their sticks into the fire.  It was a pivotal moment for many men.  It was a pivotal moment for my husband.

In the brief time between their return and when I needed to be back at the church, he began telling me about the stick story and I couldn’t help but think, “that’s good.”  It gave understanding to Isaiah 61:3, “he bestows a crown of beauty instead of ashes.”  Our ugly past and our beautiful feature.

The same evening, I was talking to a friend.  She was telling me how God has been working on some things in her life; He is refining her.  We talked for a few more minutes about this and about what God is working to remove from our lives.  It was an interesting conversation because, not only was I able to put voice to something that God has been working on in me, causing me to be accountable to a trusted friend, but it also caused me to think a lot about fire.

As I sat and thought about fire and the uses of it, I couldn’t help but think about the many reference to fire in the Bible.  God used fire to consume offerings and He gave it to His people as they wondered in the wilderness; we read all over the Bible about fire being used to forge, refine and consume. God himself is referred to ask our Consuming Fire in Hebrews12:29.

When I think about the words refining and forging, I think of all of the blacksmith shops I have stood in with Jim while he watched and asked questions of the smith as he worked.   I don’t remember any of the smiths ever being small men, they were always big and wide shouldered from years of swinging a hammer.  When a smith starts a project, he has an idea in mind of what the end result will be, a promise.  He knows that with a little patience and a lot of fire, he will get his desired outcome.

That’s how God is with us.  He refines us by burning out the impurities.  This part hurts, because this is often the time that God makes us deal with the things that have been holding us down.  These are the things in our life that we have held onto because we unknowingly have found comfort in them. This could be things like rejection, unworthiness, or a feeling of hopelessness. But, it can also be as big as un-repented sin in your life that you need to release and ask forgiveness for. Once the impurities have been purged, then God starts the molding process.

Doesn’t molding sound so much nicer than forge? But, that is what is really happening.  God gives us time to cool down into a solid form, then, He sticks us back into the fire.  This time, the fire isn’t burning off anything, it’s making us soft, so God can craft us into His vision, His promise.

If you have watched the blacksmith at work, they put the metal into the fire and hold it there for a few minutes.  Not too long, because it will become too soft and unusable. Not too quick or it can’t be formed.  It has to stay in the fire for that perfect amount of time to be usable.  Then, the molding starts.  Did I say that purifying was painful?  It didn’t involve a hammer.  This is when God starts twisting us and turning us; this is the time when you think you have it all together but God knows different.  He sees a bend in us, so He hammers it out.  He sees a sharp point, so He files it down.  He sees an area that is preventing you from moving the way He intended for you to move, so He may put you in the vise to shape you even more.  And, after all of that, if you are still struggling, you make go right back into the fire to start the process again.

Do not lose heart, He is only trying to rid us of things like pride, control, fear, doubt, or any other that seem to keep us from walking fully in the direction God is leading.  Putting you in the hot seat isn’t to hurt you, it’s to make you better, stronger, and so much wiser.  Remember, He is a consuming fire and once you’ve sat in the hot seat a few times, letting God do what He needs to in your life, then you will be able to walk in His promise.

Hot Seat