Only God

God called Moses out with a burning bush. Nope, I have never seen that one. But a carefully spoken word? Yes. Yes, I have experienced that. When the speaker’s voice is all I can hear, and the other listener’s fade away. And, suddenly, the message is tailored to me, Lisa Ostreim. Yes.

This week, I was called out during a message from Exodus 3 and 4. The burning bush story. But, also the staff turning into a snake story. This story has always resonated with me. Being a person that can completely relate to Moses’ slew of excuses. “Not me, God. You can’t possibly mean me, God! I can’t speak. I cannot do what you are asking of me. You chose the wrong person!”

But, read on! As it turns out God did not make a mistake in choosing Moses to lead the Israelites out of captivity. And, this week, I was reminded that God did not make a mistake in choosing me to step out into what He has called me to. And, dare I say, He has not made a mistake with you either?

God told Moses to throw down his staff. His staff. The thing he had held onto to guide him, support him, and protect him. It was an ordinary object. But, it was his comfort. And God said, throw it down! Moses obeyed.

What is God calling you to THROW DOWN? Not just let go of, but THROW DOWN. That is a whole new level of surrender.

God called me to throw down the cocoon that my health trials provided. My staff, my crutch. Now, I am not saying my kidney disease and ultimate kidney failure, were not real. They were and are very real. But, the crutch, the bubble my health provided for me, allowed me to stay safe. I was very, very sick for quite some time and I needed the rest and protection. But, there was a part of me that held too closely to the disease. So much I could say no to because of my disease.

A while back, God called me to “throw it down!” Not just let go of it, but, “THROW IT DOWN!”

For Moses, He no sooner threw down his staff, and God was transforming it, and instructing him to pick it back up. Only, now his staff was a snake. A SNAKE? No, thank you!

I threw down my identity as a sick person and God transformed it into a health coach! What? No, thank you? A health coach is consistently healthy and never has sick days. A health coach has always maintained good health. A health coach would never need to take a sick day to get an infusion of life-saving medication.

But, as it turns out, God knows what He is doing. And, when He transformed me into a health coach, He did not make a mistake.

It’s scary picking up this new identity. As scary as picking up a snake by the tail? Maybe. I mean, what if I fail? What if no one wants a health coach with a transplanted kidney and box of medication to go with it? What if health coaches go out of style? What if…

“This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.” Exodus 4:5

Only God can take a person sick with kidney disease for 20 years and mold them into a health coach.

Maybe your story is coming from a broken family and now you are holding on to the promise of an intact family. Only God!

A past life of addiction and now living in freedom. Only God.

A heart filled with anger and rage and now walking in peace. Only God.

THROW IT DOWN. Watch God transform it. And, then pick it back up and shout it to the world, “ONLY GOD!”

Not My First Choice

The storylines in the TV show This is Us can be raw and almost too real at times. That’s exactly what I love about it. Watching the actor who plays Randall process all that was taking place in the adoption group he found himself in was definitely real. He stared into the woman’s eyes as she described finally coming to terms with what she knew to be true, “I wish I had never been adopted. I wish I could have stayed with my bi-polar birth mom.”

I can imagine hearing that phrase in my own home. It hasn’t been said, but it could be. I could one day hear, “I wish I had never been adopted.” And, truth is, that’s okay.

I wish my girls did not suffer the separation they experienced and continue to feel. I wish they were biologically mine.

Truth is, the original design was for a husband and a wife to come together and from them a child would be born. And, that child would forever remain in that connection which began right at conception. That is the plan. Perfection.

There was another perfect plan way back in history. Adam and Eve lived in paradise. God gave them everything they needed to live a glorious life. Then from their choices, sin led to a different life. A different plan. Now there was pain. Hard choices. Loss. Tears. Separation.

Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. It’s a redemption story. A story including a beautiful plan. A beautiful Savior.

Those of us who know the beginning of the story, before sin took root, long for the beauty of the Garden. A garden full of freedom and peace. We wish that was our reality. But for now, it is not. We live in this broken world, longing for the perfection only found in the Garden, and one day with our Savior in Heaven.

We long and we struggle. And we struggle and we long. Here in this broken world. But, we have this promise we cling to. And, we have this Jesus that gives us beautiful gifts while we wait on the promise.

So, beautiful girls of mine, you may wish you were not adopted. You may wish your reality is something other than it is. You may wish that your story is more straight-forward, simple. I am with you on this. Ideally, your story would be easier. Free from loss and separation.

Beautiful girls, you can tell me this. You don’t need to wait for an adoption support group in your 40’s one day to share this. You suffered a loss and it’s not what you would have chosen. It’s not what I would have chosen for you.

But, please, beautiful girls, remember the redemption. Remember your Savior, who made a plan for you thousands of years ago. Remember that from broken messes, comes rescue.

Remember that just as Jesus redeems the brokenness in the Garden, He redeems you.

You Can Run

“You can run,” my doctor replied.

You could have heard a pin drop in the silent room as I turned and stared wide-eyed at him. Was he even listening at all? I had just explained to him that most days I couldn’t get up from the couch without my heart racing and everything turning black. I explain those symptoms and he gives me permission to run?

“but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Isaiah verse has been precious to me for some time now. Every couple of years God reveals more of the verse for me. When the doctor said to me, “you can run”, I just marveled. Honestly, I am marveled at his stupidity! But I also marveled that maybe one day running would be possible.

That day is here. I have been doing what I can since my kidney transplant in December 2018. Beginning with very short walks and building up. But each day is different. Some days I sit. Some days I lay down. Some days I walk. And now some days I jog.

It is seriously just a jog. Not a run. And it doesn’t last long. But it is a step above walking. And it feels marvelous.

As a kid, I loved to run. I played all the sports and loved the feeling of working hard and pushing my body to the brink of exhaustion.

Chronic disease stole that from me for a long time. I’ve never given up exercising and I’ve just always done what I can.

This side of heaven, there are times when I just stagger along on a good day. Other days I am paralyzed by pain, fear, or worldly cares. And sometimes I have days where I can jog.

It’s so hard to wait on the Lord. It was especially hard when a medical professional was looking at me telling me I can run and I knew that wasn’t possible. The Lord wanted me to wait. He wanted me to rest. He had and still has so much for me to learn.

The Isaiah verse tells me to wait on the Lord to renew my strength.

I will wait on you, Lord. And as I wait, some days I will walk and some days I will run.

And one day I will soar.

Off My Pedestal

She says to me, “How can I stop being so selfish? How can I stop focusing so much on myself?”

Oh God, isn’t that the question I’ve been facing for months?

Look up, child.

See the sun illuminating the trees? That sun shines from above. Look up.

Look up, child.

See the wispy white clouds blanketing the sky? Something greater than you painted those clouds up there. Look up.

Look up, child.

Hear the bird singing atop the tree? He flies high above you. Look up.

Look up, child.

Lift up your chin. Lift up your eyes. Lift up your mind.

Looking downward I see my flesh. I think about my aches and pains. I think about the rip in the side of my shoe. My to do list begins flooding my mind.

But You say, look up, child.

I can’t see me anymore. I only see You.
You in all your glory. You in all your beauty. You in all your strength. You in all your creativity.

I’m off my pedestal and in the palm of your hand.

Look up, child. Look up, child

Church in the Woods

The cross hangs prominently in the sanctuary of evergreens. The filtered light illuminates the aisles between the forest growth. The words of praise fill my ears, mind, and heart.

“My God will never fail. I am going to see a victory! I am going to see a victory. The battle belongs to you, Lord.”

Walking further down the trail, the worship quiets and the sermon begins in this church in the woods. It begins with a lesson of overcoming.

The attacks come. Discomfort, sweat pouring down, hungry stomachs, scratchy clothing. Pain, aching feet, sore muscles. Fatigue, body weak. Complaints, overwhelming focus on everything wrong.

“But God,” the preacher in the woods continues. “But, God is our strength and refuge. Our ever present help.”

Next up, a prayer of thanksgiving. “Our pain is real. But we thank you, God! Blue sky. Colors abound. My family. This worship. This day. This body carrying me on this hike. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, God. Praise you!”

The preacher in the church in the woods continues on. This portion of the sermon designed to focus our hearts on God.

“See how the flowers all point upward toward the Maker. The trees stretch high up to the Maker. The river water rushes toward the Maker. Every good and perfect gift is from the Maker.”

This Spirit-led service continues on to more worship.

“Everything you have made is beautiful. Oh my God, I can’t believe my eyes. In all of this to think that you’d still think of me, makes my heart come alive.”

The preacher isn’t done yet.

“The church is not a buliding. The church, Christ’s church, is everywhere. Anywhere. Anytime you see Jesus. Anytime you hear His words. Anytime you are filled with His Spirit and walk in it. There is the church. These woods, this very moment, you are at church.”

The preachers words and this church in the woods are what my soul needed this morning. No building. No plan. No choir or band.

Just Jesus.

In this church in the woods.

Honesty Leads to Compassion

“Many people will not be honest because they fear loss of intimacy and togetherness. In reality, honesty brings people closer together.”

Dr. Henry Cloud

It’s easy to hide. It comes natural for most of us. Saying we are okay, when truly we are hurting inside.

When we bravely share our true self, we give others the opportunity to move with compassion.

Of course it is true, I may share my hurting heart with someone who is not able to respond with compassion. Maybe my hurt pricks a wound in their heart. And they become immoblized.

This is not reason for me to stop sharing honestly.

It is also true that I may honestly share my hurt with someone who learns of my pain, identifies with it, and responds with compassion.

Matthew 20:30-34, “Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “LORD, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “LORD, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “LORD,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

The crowd wanted the needy, weaker, blind men to be quiet. But instead, the men revealed their true selves all the louder. Their true needy state. And they revealed their need to the One with the solution. Jesus responded in compassion.

When I honestly look at my pain, rather than bury it down deeper, I can bring it to my Source of Compassion. And He draws me closer to Him. He brings others to me with hearts of compassion. He reminds me the enemies lies of isolation simply are not true.

Dear One, are you hiding today behind a wall of hurt? Can you, like the blind men, bring your true self to Jesus? Can you receive His compassion and healing?

I Am Small

W. Phillip Keller writes in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, “It makes me see myself as a mere mite of material in an enormous universe.”

Scanning the horizon. The vastness of the mountain ranges. The forest containing trees too numerous to zero in on an individual tree. The lingering fog floating above the land. The expanse of sky connecting heaven and earth.

I stand atop Hurricane Ridge with a body hurting from immune suppressant medications. I rest above a world filled with fear of a virus and all it’s implications. I linger amongst a few strangers all facing their own enemies.

And I stop. Survey my surroundings.

I am small.

These mountains are huge. This sky is endless. These trees are infinite in number.

I am small.

My creator who stretches out the heavens, sits above the universe, is maker of all the earth, giving life and breath to all, and laid the foundation of the world.

I breathe in. And out.

This air. Enough for all. Filling every space.

I am small.

My creator who’s ways are higher than mine, never grows weary, is abundant in strength, numbers my hairs, and is mighty and awesome in power.

I close my eyes. Open again.

I am small.

My creator is not.

Dear one, He sees you today. He loves you. And, He holds you. Because you are small, but He is not.