Have you ever had a moment when you see the pieces begin to fall into place? I had one this morning. This time last week, I was at Bastrop State Park. I love state parks, I love hiking trails and exploring; I hate spiders, but everything else about the journey is an adventure to me, so to spend some much needed time with the Lord, walking the trails at the park is a good place for me. I knew the park had been devastated a few years ago by wild fires and driving through the area the following Spring did not give me a real visual of how truly devastating it really is.
Driving into the park, I was not prepared for what I saw, even after the Ranger told me there is no canopy, I did not expect for all of the trees to be gone. The ground is green, life is returning, but anything over twelve to fifteen feet high are the remains of century old guardians of the Lost Pines Region of Texas.
Like I said, I love hiking state parks and the lushness of the trees but knowing there was not a canopy and actually seeing it are two extremely different things. This is not hiking the beautiful Texas Hill Country, this is hiking a desert; this strikes me as odd, knowing this area is also recovering from not one but two massive floods in one year.
- September 2011 – Bastrop County Complex Fire – 34,068 acres and 1645 homes destroyed. Two people perished. It totally changed the ecosystem of the state park.
- May 2015 – Memorial Day Flood – dam on the lake breaks, totally draining the lake and flooding the park, causing Park Road 1C to be closed because parts of the road are washed away.
- May 2016 – Late May Flood – Again, the lake totally drains, destroying camping areas and washing parts of roads away.
Yet, as I walk through what was once a thick wooded area, what I continue to hear is “beauty for ashes.” However, in my “pursuit” to hear God’s voice, I don’t think these words apply to me in my current situation and requests to the Lord, so I push them aside.
What did I see? That afternoon, when I am back in the hotel, I grab a dry erase marker and begin to write all that I had seen on the mirror. After my extensive list is complete, I sit and write down what I think God is showing me through each thing.
Sometimes old things need to burn away for new things to grow.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, the new has come.”
Sometimes the ground isn’t solid, it is sandy or rocky.
At one point it required me to walk over logs that were constructed to be a bridge over a small stream that formed during the flood. I have to pay attention to where I am walking and even though there are fascinating things off the path, it is important that I stay on it; it directs me to my destination. Just because things look interesting off the path does not mean I should entertain them, they are not mine, my path is set.
Jeremiah 29:11 -” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Psalm 40:2 – “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
It isn’t alway beneficial to look around.
There is one spot on the path when I am standing in a debris line. For clarification purposes, a debris line is the furthest point the flood waters push the debris that is in the water, before the waters begin to recede. On either side of me were fallen or cut trees that have been washed into the area. It is obvious when you look around, there had been a flood, yet now, everything is dry and the path is clear. If I only look at the path, I would not see the damage, but when I start to look around, that is when I see troubles and when the sorrow comes. When I keep my eyes on Jesus, I have nothing to fear.
Matthew 14:22 – 34 tells about Jesus walking on water. It also tells that Peter walks on water, but the second he starts paying attention to the wind and what is happening around him, he begins to sink. He is fine until he takes his eyes off of Jesus.
Scars happen, wounds happen, devastation happens.
They mold us, but they do not define us. It does not matter that trees fell and those standing are black with char, it does not matter that the lake is dry and roads are washed away. IT IS STILL BEAUTIFUL. Because God’s design does not change.
As I flip through my Bible, I come across a scripture reference I have in the front,
Isaiah 61:3 – “to bestow beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Um, yeah, there is that verse again. So, I start at the beginning:
Isaiah 61:1 – 4 – “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
As I sit on my bed, smiling and relishing in the words, I feel the Lord say, “This is you, this is what I’ve called you to do.”
God speaks to my soul in the middle of a beautiful, burnt our forest, He speaks to me of new life, of direction, of faith, and of beauty. He speaks to me of a rebuilding, of restoration, of proclamation. He speaks purpose; it requires me to walk out of the woods to hear it.