“Lions and tigers and bears…OH MY!”from The Wizard of Oz
By now, I’m sure most of you have seen The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy gets transported to a strange land far away from home (via tornado) and encounters some strange and interesting characters the moment she arrives. (Anyone else creeped out by the Munchkins singing about the Lollipop Guild? *shivers*) All Dorothy wants to do is go home and the only advise the Munchkins and Glinda can offer her is to, “follow the yellow-brick road” to Oz and seek council with the wizard there. Not much to know about him aside from the fact that he is all powerful and mysterious. (I personally wouldn’t trust that lack of insight from people I just met to just venture off alone to meet some magic guy BUT that wouldn’t make for a decent story plot, now would it?)
Along her journey, she befriends the Scarecrow (who wants a brain), the Tin Man (who wants and heart), and the Cowardly Lion that wants…well….courage. Now, their adventure to Oz doesn’t come without hardship. Between the trees throwing apples at them, the flying monkeys, the poppy field that induced sleep and the evil Wicked Witch of the West, they had a pretty rough adventure. Arriving in Oz, their luck appeared to change as they are pampered and made to look their absolute best. Refreshed and no longer showing any outward signs of distress or struggle, they were ready to be presented to the great and powerful Oz himself but I’ll get back to that in a minute.
How often do we find ourselves in what seems like a strange land/unfamiliar territory? We just want to go back to where ever home is…that place of comfort, love, and calm.
Calm (n): not showing or feeling of violent or confrontational activity within a place or group. (n): the absence of wind. (adj): not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other strong emotions
I’d say Dorothy and her friends experienced anything but a CALM adventure. In all reality, none of us ever really have a calm adventure, right? Things could be going great one minute then you’re thrown a flying monkey or two that creates a bit of confrontational feelings or other strong emotions. Finances, work, your kids, your family…the list goes on. Life gets in the way or just gets hard. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion or you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe your car broke down or your kids are taking turns driving you nuts. Maybe it’s a lot of things. Each and every single one of us have issues that pop up unexpectedly but it’s how we react (or don’t) that truly matters. It might feel like you’re in a long, deep valley with the mountains blocking out the sun. If I could just make it to the top, I could see the light more clearly. I could see the world below me and everything would be ok because I made it! The real question is, what to you do in the valley? (I’m sure there’s a tourist outpost around here somewhere…)
When you’re in your valleys, how do you handle it? Are you cool as a cucumber? Or do you freak out a bit and get anxious? Do you put your trust in God to walk with you through it and lead you to the mountain top or are you putting your faith in yourself and others to get you out of it? I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to believe in yourself and have others around you for love and support. Trust me! I don’t know what I would’ve done without my support system the past 3 years guiding me through my valleys! (My unofficial valley tour guides, if you will.) What I mean to say is that trusting in God in the number one way to ensure you get out and hike that mountain and succeed. You might have some bumps and bruises for your efforts because, let’s be real, being a Christian isn’t an easy feat some days, but the end result is so worth it.
It’s easy to put our faith in God when things are easy. I have a great job. I’m active in church. My bills are paid. Then, we get an apple thrown at us and it hurts. Then another apple and another. We get pelted by them so much that we wonder when it’s going to end. We might try to throw them back or even run away from the chaos altogether. Are we taking the time to trust God in those moments? Sometimes. When we do trust Him, are we giving Him everything or just the parts of us and our mess we think He cares about?
In Pagan cultures around the globe, there are many beliefs that there are different gods and deities for various facets of life from fertility, the sea, love, the moon. Depending on what you need/want determines who you pray to or make offerings to. Are we treating God the same way? Only talking to Him about the things we think He controls and leaving the rest up to chance or for someone else to handle? The truth is, He is the God of ALL. Everything. Land, sea, sky, emotions, hills, valleys…you name it. (1 Kings 20:28; Psalm 24:1)
Unless we’re disciplined enough to keep our faith in God strong during the valley moments, it’s too easy to feel like He’s not around. Almost like you’re forgotten, unprotected, unseen. Can I tell you a secret? He is ALWAYS there.
Take Peter for example. On a boat with the other disciples and a storm rushes in. Jesus is walking on the water and calls out to him to focus on Him and walk on water with Him. His first steps are successful but he begins to focus on the storm and become afraid and sink. He lost focus on Christ and focused more on the storm around him. How often do we as Christians hyper-focus all of our attention on the storms and valleys that we forget to focus on Christ when He’s right there calling out to us to just trust Him? If you keep reading the story, he does trust Jesus and walk with Him on the water. (Matthew 14:22-33)
In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus asks His disciples to get in a boat and cross to the other side of the water with Him. As He is sleeping below, a storm hits. The disciples all begin to panic, asking, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (v. 38) to which he commands the storm to be quiet. In Exodus 14:9-31, God’s people were fleeing from the Pharaoh of Egypt. Just as they thought they were getting away, his army is getting closer and they are blocked from escape by the Red Sea. Yet again, God is with them and provides a way out by commanding Moses to use his staff to part the waters. The Israelites walked on dry land all the way to the other side of the water and just as Pharaoh and his men were closing in on them, the Red Sea closed in and drowned them.
In 1 Samuel 17, we read the ever popular story of David and Goliath. David was young and unqualified in the opinions of the men around him to kill a giant. Yet he did it! With a small stone, I might add. In the face of Goliath, David’s faith in God didn’t waiver. He stood firm in his beliefs and his faith in the Lord helped him defeat the giant in front of him. Are we following his example in our own lives?
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.”Romans 15:4 (AMP)
The Bible isn’t just some book of stories we read for entertainment. It is our instruction manual on how to beat the giants in front of us and get to our mountain tops (the best one being Heaven). Non-believers may argue that the Bible is just a book because it was written by man but aren’t all books? We believe it is the living Word of God because we are taught that the stories are God-breathed (divinely guided by God Himself or the Holy Spirit to communicate the things He wanted us to know.) There have been various archeological findings to back up some of the events and locations documented in the Bible. The stores are real. The lessons we can learn from them are real. God’s promises to us are real. He is real!
You know who wasn’t, though? The Wizard in Oz. (Told you I’d get back to that.) When Dorothy and her friends finally arrive to see him, he tries to intimidate them and instill fear and say that, despite the journey they went on to see him, he couldn’t help them. Turns out (spoiler alert!) that he was just some old, cranky guy hiding behind a curtain that got stuck in a strange land himself. He wasn’t all great and powerful as he claimed to be. In the end, Scarecrow got his brain once handed a diploma. Tin Man received his heart. Lion was presented with a badge of courage. Dorothy, on the other hand was told that she had the power all along to go home. (the magic in the ruby slippers)
Life happens that way. We get in a valley, destination mountain, and we have the power in us all along to keep our faith steady, let God guide us, and to trust that He has it covered. (no magic sparkle shoes needed.) When we focus too much on the destination and the apples and flying monkeys making our journey harder, we miss out on the things that are right in front of us that could aide us in our mess and get us out of it faster. We then struggle and face even more obstacles than were necessary just to be presented with material objects or no help at all simply because we’re seeking guidance and wisdom from people hiding behind the curtains of their own mess they have yet to get out of.
We’re not here for the hot air balloon ride and to wake up thinking our struggle was just some weird dream and to believe we might be a little crazy. We want the beautiful hike up the mountainside, smelling the wildflowers, listening to the wind blowing between the trees and to finally make it to the top, arms raised above our heads in triumph. We did it and God was right there every step of the way.
“I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from the mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and the mountains.”Psalms 121:1-2 (Msg)
“Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let my perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.”John 14:27 (Amp)
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