Author Archives: chrissege

About chrissege

Vice-President of Administration, East Texas Area of Aglow International

Come Up Higher? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

When someone asks me about my dreams for the future, I typically respond with enthusiasm, as I love to consider myself a visionary with exciting plans. After all, it is important to set goals and move toward fulfilling them. Progress is paramount, and no progress can be made without a plan.

If I am honest with myself, however, after an initial sprint up the rocky trail, I have a tendency to grow weary halfway up the mountain. In the interest of cultivating the virtues of contentment and satisfaction, I tell myself that I am quite pleased right where I am. Breathless from the climb, I pause to reward myself with a much-deserved break and admire the view. I even discover that the view is stunning and linger longer than expected, finding myself reluctant to resume the trek.  A thought nags at the back of my mind:  Am I actually that content with what I see, or am I growing complacent and less passionate about the dream of reaching the pinnacle?

Somewhat begrudgingly, I force myself to abandon this hard-won vantage point and resume the now-arduous ascent. I find myself wondering why the thrill of finishing the climb has so quickly lost its appeal? Am I too easily satisfied with the immediate reward and therefore less motivated to press on? Even more disturbing, am I too quick to re-evaluate and abandon God’s promises? Am I simply unwilling to press on to the finish? Am I yielding to complacency and passivity? Have I lost my vision by exchanging it for something beautiful but far less glorious than the finished work?

Certainly, the view from the top of the mountain is far more breathtaking than the perspective from the halfway point, regardless of how lovely the pit stop view might initially appear. However, climbing higher has its price; the upward trail may involve affliction, buffetting, a stony or steep path, narrow passageways, or even unexpected encounters with wildlife. However, if I allow fatigue, complacency, and distraction to lure me into giving up before reaching the top, I will certainly miss the view from the pinnacle and fail to grasp the bigger picture. The ascent is doubtless worth the effort when I focus on the glorious view that awaits me above the treeline.

During this recent hike in Wyoming’s spectacular Teton Mountains, I found myself reflecting on my spiritual journey.  While it may sound glorious to have high aspirations, even dreams and visions, actually making the climb is often far from glorious.   Often such climbs are fraught with challenges.   Do I want to be a person who resists moving onward and upward, despite difficulties, or do I want to be satisfied with where I am and fail to reach the goal?  More often than not,  speaking with great enthusiasm and passion about a dream comes easily to me, but actually moving forward with realizing the dream is another matter entirely! 

In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul urges us to press on to the goal without wavering:  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV)

 

 

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The Need to Be Right: Does My Heart Need a Tune-Up?

Thirty years ago, I heard a relatively unknown Bible teacher  declare that “opinions are strongholds.”  At the time, I found this puzzling, as I failed to fathom that even a correct opinion could be a stronghold — a filter that might determine whether or not I accepted or rejected another person — or a filter that might prevent them from accepting me.  Over the past several years, I have come to understand the wisdom of that teacher’s assertion!

Of course, no one likes to be proven wrong.   At least, I have never met anyone who enjoys being on the wrong side of truth.  I honestly believe that most people have a hunger to be right and to be able to defend their positions on various issues, whether moral, spiritual, or factual.  However, when being right becomes my primary focus — as opposed to knowing the TRUTH (the Person of Jesus Christ, not a set of facts or defensible opinions), I risk alienating everyone around me.  A know-it-all who is always right (or who views himself or herself as always right ) is, after all, hard to live with! 

When it comes to politics, it seems our society has become increasingly toxic.   People I love have begun to set up camp with others of like opinions, camps from which they launch rockets of vitriol against those with whom they disagree. Under the guise of “righteous anger,” the discord and disputes have expressed themselves in the form of increasingly bitter voices and even shrieking accusations of those on the opposite side of the fence.  Indeed, the condemnation is flung as vehemently as a flurry of snowballs with stones at their core.   In this maelstrom of outrage, it is challenging to truly hear one another.   I have even seen posts by very dear friends (on opposing sides of the political continuum) who post self-satisfied memes implying that anyone supporting the “enemy” party could not possibly be a “real” Christian!

This acrimonious mud-slinging is surely grievous to the Holy Spirit.  According to Paul, “Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God. [Romans 13:1, TPT].”  That means that somehow, in ways that are beyond my own understanding, every person in authority has been allowed by God to hold that position.  Whether I like someone or not, whether I voted for that person or not, I am obligated by God to respect his or her authority (irrespective of opinions or my agreement with various policies).  

Certainly, within the Church, I am free to hold different opinions and have civil discussions about those positions.  However, using my opinions as a limit test for accepting or rejecting relationships can become a toxic strategy.  

Paul explains the attitude I should cultivate toward persons in authority:

“Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion.  And pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts.  It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them.  He longs for everyone to embrace his life and return to the full knowledge of the truth.

For God is one, and there is one Mediator between God and the sons of men—the true man, Jesus, the Anointed One. He gave himself as ransom-payment for everyone. Now is the proper time for God to give the world this witness.  I have been divinely called as an apostle to preach this revelation, which is the truth. God has called me to be a trustworthy teacher to the nations.

Therefore, I encourage the men to pray on every occasion with hands lifted to God in worship with clean hearts, free from frustration or strife [1 Timothy 2:1-8, The Passion Translation]. 

Moreover, nowhere does Scripture exhort me to pray that people in authority would come into alignment with my own opinions or preferences.  Nowhere does it exempt me from the obligation to pray fervently for those in positions of authority for whom I did not vote.   What I do know is that the same loving God Who has poured out His mercy on me does NOT desire that anyone perish (see 2 Peter 3:9), but that every person would come to repentance.  

Is there someone in governmental (or church) authority that you hold to be a liar, a criminal, or a reprobate, someone you dislike?  If we are honest, most of us could name at least one or two such people.  Let’s take up the challenge to pray fervently for those people and ask God to give us HIS heart for them.   If we pray with humility and passion, I doubt our rage and bitterness will remain.   Yes, we WILL know the truth — not a set of facts, but the Person Whose Name is Jesus — and we will be free!  (See John 8:32)

Father, cleanse me of unrighteous and bitter attitudes towards those with whom I disagree.   Forgive me for failing to be consistently praying for those in authority in my church, my community, my state, and my nation.  Quicken me to have YOUR heart for all those in authority, and may YOUR mercy triumph over MY judgment, in Jesus’ Name!

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Holy Release

During the past couple of months, I have made an ongoing, concerted effort to function from a platform of peace and not allow myself to be tormented by the prevailing atmosphere of anxiety that has been threatening to overwhelm our nation and even our world.  Resting in God’s Presence to drink in His peace takes WORK, particularly when the tide of sorrow and suffering is rising around us.  (Resting in peace certainly does NOT mean I am lying around in a bathrobe popping chocolates in my mouth!)  Dwelling in His peace entails a serious examination of my thought life and heart attitudes, combined with a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to correct and re-align my mind and heart to agree with His Word and character.  More often than not, this process is exhausting and messy!

On Friday, May 29, I happened to be on the phone for a regularly scheduled prayer call.  Toward the end of the brief call, I felt strongly prompted to pray a release over the things and people for whom we had been praying.  This sense of release also applied, I felt, to some personal concerns of those on the call (including my own needs).   I felt a strong impetus to speak the release of the Lord for those people and circumstances from specific hindrances and into the future the Lord would appoint for them. It was not a lengthy prayer, and the call concluded with additional prayers and mutual encouragement from the others on the line.

The fact that we were in the midst of the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) was not lost on me.  In fact, the Lord promised His disciples that, if they WAITED for the promise of the Father, they would be immersed in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). He also informed them that they would receive power from this experience — power to be His witnesses even beyond their regular circles of influence (Acts 1:8).  They waited, not knowing when this (probably strange-sounding) promise would be fulfilled.  Suddenly, when the Feast of Shavuot arrived, what had been promised came to pass in the form of a mighty wind of God’s empowering Presence (see Acts 2).  That experience became the ignition and fuel for Peter’s famous testimony that released thousands into an encounter with the truth and power of the Gospel.

We are always released FROM something INTO something else.  The timing is of pivotal importance, as the wrong timing can lead to disastrous results.   For example, oddly enough, the Spacex launch that had been planned for May 27 was delayed at the last moment, as conditions were not optimal for a successful launch.   Instead, the fabled craft was launched a couple of days later (the final day of the Feast of Shavuot!).  

Without any intention to assert that anyone deliberately delayed the timetable to ensure the launch could happen during Shavuot, the coincidence strikes me as interesting, as the Lord often uses physical examples to illustrate spiritual principles.  In this, case, the prayer of release I felt prompted to utter on that very ordinary Friday morning proved significant on several levels.   First, the next morning I learned of an unexpected but specific answer to one of the items for which we had prayed, and it struck me that this breakthrough was a clear response to the Pentecost prayer of the previous day.  Over the course of the next two days, multiple other releases came to pass (some of which had been “back burner” prayer requests over the course of several months!).

Meanwhile, I discovered later that day that the Spacex had finally been gloriously launched.  As I pondered the intricate and mind-boggling design of the equipment that powered the release of that massive spacecraft from the launch pad and propelled it into space, I saw a picture of the principle of release — God’s power to release us FROM things that restrain us (our past, our sin, our pain, or even roles we have outgrown) and INTO new realms of experiences and new vantage points.   

How glorious He is!  May the shaking we currently experience remind us of an impending “launch” and fill us all with holy expectation instead of fear, and may we experience release from hindrances and into His promises, in Jesus’ Name!  

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On the Road or Off in the Ditch?

“Pass through, pass through the gates, and go from old to new.  Prepare a new path for the people.  Build!  Build up a highway for them to come to me!  Remove every hindrance and unfurl a banner for the nations!”  Isaiah 62:10  (The Passion Translation)

 

Recently, I read a contemplative piece that caught my attention.   The author mentioned the frequency with which we lament that we are “going through some things” as a way of expressing the pressures we feel due to life’s circumstances.  He then reminded the reader that the point is that we ARE going THROUGH!  Suddenly,   I realized that I often assume I AM going where I need to go, and that I am proceeding along the correct pathway, when in reality, I am wallowing in the ditch alongside the road I thought I was navigating.  Indeed, in our contemporary usage, the expression “I’m going through some things” smacks more of self-pity than of the progress the word choice should indicate.

God invites us to transition; He invites us to leave behind baggage and sorrows of the past.  On occasion, He even directs us to abandon the activities and seasons that brought great joy to our lives, as He has appointed an end to those seasons and is calling us forward to as-yet-unfamiliar adventures.  How can God release new experiences to us if our hearts and hands are already overloaded with regret, sins, sorrows, business, and even nostalgic memories of bygone eras?  He beckons us to pass through the gates, proceed from old to new, and begin to encounter the next season He has ordained for us. 

As we pass through the gate and enter into new “land,” He commands us to prepare the path for others and build a highway (an easily navigated path) for them to come to Him, the King of the universe.  He instructs us to remove obstacles and hindrances that might lead to stumbling or needless delay and set up His banner of love for all people.   

Obeying these instructions requires that we ourselves make every effort to STAY on the highway.  That means we can ill afford to slip aside, fall into the ditch of depression, or lick our wounds.   The challenge is to recognize when we have slipped into that mindset of wallowing in the ditch while thinking we are still on the road.   (After all, deception would not be deception if we recognized it readily, would it?)  As one who tends to be overly sensitive to my own responses to my surroundings and excessively scrutinize my own heart, I can easily veer off into the soft grass and inadvertently tumble down into the stagnant waters of self-reproach, sorrow, and missed opportunities.  

Holy Spirit, reveal to me when I have strayed from Your highway and even failed to go through the gate through which You have appointed me to pass!   Restore to me the JOY of Your salvation, Father, and renew a right spirit within me!   Thank You, Lord, that You have called us to pass through the gates and build up the highway rather than  wallowing in failure or sadness.  You set our feet in a wide place and enable us to move forward.   Amen!  May it be so!

 

 

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Ordinarily Extraordinary Amid the Extraordinarily Ordinary

DishesSometimes we become restless, bored, and dissatisfied with the seemingly incessant pace of ordinary life.   One of my former professors once stopped for the night at our home on his way across the country.   He had only known me when I was a university student in a specialized academic context.  When he visited us, my husband and I were in the throes of keeping our five young children properly fed, clothed, and out of danger. My days primarily consisted of preparing meals, grocery shopping, washing and ironing mountains of clothing, supervising outdoor play, and taking various toddlers to the bathroom.  That didn’t count homeschooling the homeschooled ones and helping the public-schooled ones with their homework assignments.  To top it off, we had moved from a beautiful, mountainous European nation to a dry, barren wilderness town in the Panhandle of Texas.  We were culturally, physically, and spiritually challenged.

As our professor friend prepared to resume his journey after less than 24 hours in our home, he inquired how I managed to survive in that environment.   I responded by explaining that I really didn’t have time to engage myself in any academic or cultural pursuits beyond my own routine of caring for the children.  “Do you find it fulfilling?,” he asked.  “I know it is my job at this point in my life,” I replied.

The fact was, I longed for significance.  Although I was familiar with the old adage, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,”  I failed to see any evidence of such greatness in my life.  Despite the fact that I adored my children, I began to wonder who I was.  The days were a blur of activity, yet I wondered whether I was pleasing God or not.

I had much yet to learn about the extraordinary nature of God and how He intervenes in our ordinary lives.  I did not understand the extraordinary power He imparts to our lives as ordinary people in our ordinary places.  The story of leprous Naaman the Syrian warrior in 2 Kings 5:1-19 illustrates this point well.  Naaman made the trek to visit the prophet Elisha for the purpose of requesting healing from his leprosy.  To Naaman’s astonishment and annoyance, Elisha advised him simply to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and he would be clean from the leprosy.   Naaman was clearly disappointed and even angry at this proposed solution to his problem, as he had expected the prophet to pronounce powerful words from God;  he had hungered for a more dramatic encounter.   Washing in a river seemed rather banal, as he could have done the same at home and spared himself the trouble.   However, Naaman’s servants persuaded him, saying, “My father! If the prophet had asked you to do something really difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So, doesn’t it make even more sense to do what he says, when it’s only, ‘Bathe, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13)

The story concludes with Naaman’s change of heart to obey the prophet’s directive to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  He was then completely cleansed of the leprosy that had afflicted him.  

This story grips my heart, as I realize that the Lord often injects His extraordinary power and presence in the humblest and most ordinary aspects of my life.  As I reflect on various scenarios of life with our children, I see certain glimpses of God’s glory, glory of which I was unaware or to which I was blinded at the time.  Their gifts, their quirks, their enthusiasm, their questions, their beautiful smiles and whimsical antics were expressions of God speaking of His extraordinary creative power.

He often works in ways we do not see.  He does not always trumpet forth His plan in advance.  He works extraordinary wonders in our daily, ordinary lives.   Our Lord is ordinarily (typically) EXTRAORDINARY and reveals Himself in our extraordinarily ORDINARY lives.   How wonderful He is!  Many of the miracles He works use very normal props:  loaves, fish, a stick, a rock, a word of hope.  Often, He has not exaggerated or dramatized His work in my life; He has simply done what He wanted to do, sometimes in the quiet, secret places of my daily routine.

Lord, open our eyes to see Your glory in the smallest things, in the most ordinary moments!  May Your Presence infuse our very being and transform us to experience Your miracle-working power in the apparently powerless places of our days!

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The God of the In-Between

Book.twowheelsgroverIn view of our need to get some exercise beyond wrestling matches with the vacuum cleaner during this season of isolation, my husband and I decided to venture out on our bikes.  For various reasons, I had not actually ridden any bicycle (apart from a very tedious stationary bike) for twenty years.   Although I feigned interest, I was secretly hoping that we would end up postponing this outing, as I lacked confidence in my balance of late (largely due to multiple successful but traumatic eye surgeries).  

Despite the fact that I had learned to ride a bike without training wheels when I was five, the challenge seemed daunting.  After all, after six decades of life, one’s perspective changes!  Moreover, the surfaces to be navigated near our house are often irregular and far from level.  As my husband aired up the tires,  I dubiously inspected the dusty gear shifts on the ancient handlebars.  Tremulously, I mounted the bike and wondered if I would make it around the block. 

However, when I began to pedal (quite vigorously, due to my fear of tumbling to one side!), the old thrill returned!  As my husband sped on ahead of me, I shifted the gears quite easily and streaked on in his wake.   Suddenly, I was in a different world — remembering the freedom I had felt as a young person riding a bike around my neighborhood, to classes at college, and even as an adult around Lake Dillon in the Rocky Mountains.   I stopped wondering whether or we would ride back home via the same route.  Instead, I meditated on what the end goal of this test ride might be and contemplated what adventures might lie before me.  

Exhilarated, I nearly forgot myself as the bike lurched with a sudden change in pavement.  Forced to look down just beyond the front wheel, I noticed gaping cracks in the sidewalk and changes in the level of its surface.  A squirrel unexpectedly darted in front of the bike and barely avoided certain death.  With a fresh resolve to pay more attention to my immediate surroundings, I purposed to abandon my reveries.  

That deliberate focus on the immediate challenge, however, robbed me of any sense of purpose.   Even as my husband continued to pedal swiftly on, I was distracted by what I would or would not encounter on the ground directly ahead of me — so much so, that I lost him and didn’t know what direction he had taken.  (Of course, it turned out he waited for me at a crossroads and had been keeping an eye on me the entire time!)

The situation reminded me of two specific lessons:  

When our children were young, we enjoyed a book entitled Two Wheels for Grover, a story of Grover’s hesitation (despite the encouragement of others) about learning to ride a bike and how he conquered his fears.  I could certainly relate!   The fact was, the lessons learned in the past about overcoming challenges are available to me still, and I certainly felt confidence and strength return once I dared to confront the task!

Secondly, I love the truth about God being the God of the first and the last, the Lord of the “already” (the things that have already been established in the past) and the “not yet” (those things He has yet to fulfill).  What a glorious juxtaposition of what He has completed and what He has yet to complete (yet regards as completed)!  His fulfillment of His plans and purposes is in process based on what Jesus did at the Cross.  Healing, freedom, and deliverance from earthly sorrows and pain are provided for by the Cross  and Resurrection, but some aspects of that Kingdom-appointed fullness have yet to be manifested this side of Heaven. 

Somehow this truth connected to the bike ride for me!  I dared not turn to focus on what I left behind me, as I would surely lose my balance and topple over.  When I focused inordinately intensely on where I was headed, I risked overlooking hazards in my immediate path.   When I was absorbed in looking directly down in front of the bicycle, I did not appreciate the ride and failed to gain the greater perspective of the journey.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that, if God is the Lord of the “already” and the “not yet,” He must also be Lord of the “in between,” the journey from where we have already been to where we are headed.  HE is the stability of my times, and HE is able to sustain me, alert me, and carry me to new places.  He is my compass and strength as I travel on these heretofore-unknown roads.  

As we read in Isaiah 33:6, “He will be your constant source of stability in changing times,
and out of his abundant love he gives you the riches of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.  Yes, the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure! Yes, the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure! (The Passion Translation)

Father, thank You that, “You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me…Wherever I go, your hand will guide me; your strength will empower me.  It’s impossible to disappear from you or to ask the darkness to hide me, for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night. There is no such thing as darkness with you.  The night, to you, is as bright as the day; there’s no difference between the two.”  Psalm 139: 4b-5, 10-12

 

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Battling for Breakthrough: Lessons from the Dirtmeister

Historically, I have considered myself a meticulous housekeeper;  however, since the last child graduated from college and various volunteer commitments began to fill my days, I have become less rigorous in actually executing my formerly meticulous practices.  Lately, a careful observer would certainly have noticed an impressive layer of dust on the ledge above the front door, and the blinds only looked clean at night.  I excused myself by reasoning that I am home far fewer hours now than when I was shepherding a tribe of children and their young friends; moreover, I reasoned, most people would consider my home clean and inviting, as I am assiduous in cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen, and I am a neatnik by nature.

Even so, as the months flew by, I felt an increasing concern that the house was screaming for attention, and I simultaneously began to dread the length of time it would take to clean everything properly.  Thus began my experience with staying home to avoid exposure to COVID-19.  Finally, my months of procrastination screeched to a halt:  unable to tolerate the ever-expanding pile of cleaning chores at home, I carefully made a list and grouped various tasks into categories that could be tackled over the course of several days.

Last Friday morning, I faced the most daunting task:  two days of vacuuming everything in the house:  blinds, shutters, window sills, baseboards, floors, carpet, and area rugs.  I had remembered that our vacuum cleaner was heavy as well as powerful, but somehow I did not recall it being THIS heavy!  I speculated how much time might have passed since I had last dragged this veritable “dirtmeister”  all over the house, up and down the stairs, all the while disconnecting, attaching, and re-attaching the various vacuuming tools for different surfaces.  This machine, however valuable and effective it might be, had never felt this ponderous!  I wondered to myself whether I simply had somehow morphed into an elderly, feeble lady since my last rodeo with this vacuum cleaner.

In addition to its impressive weight, the machine kept tipping over backwards when I attempted to pull it along behind me.  To make matters worse, the tube accessories that connected to the hose flew apart quite often (except when I wanted to pull them apart to attach a different tool).  Suddenly I found myself vacuuming with a tool attached to nothing.  As the hours of battle wore on, the level of my ire was growing.   That night, with calves aching from dragging this megaton machine around the house, I collapsed into bed.   Perhaps I needed more rest and more regular exercise, in view of my new weakling status.  I consoled myself with the thought that I had vanquished at least half of the house.  As Scarlett O’Hara valiantly declared in the film Gone with the Wind, I asserted, “Tomorrow is another day!”  

The next day continued in the same vein; I tackled the master bedroom and was hopelessly losing the hose behind me and jerking on the recalcitrant beast when it refused to move forward.   Apparently, I started addressing the vacuum as if it were alive, yelling, “Come OVER here!  Stop breaking!”  Unbeknownst to me, my husband came downstairs to check on me, as he had actually overheard my yelling from the upstairs office on the other end of the house!  

At some point in the throes of this battle, I remembered a parenthetical comment my husband had made during the first day of this wrestling match.  I suddenly decided I might as well check the dirt bag to verify whether or not it needed to be emptied.  As I unzipped the cloth bag containing the dirt collection bag, I was aghast to see a bulging vacuum bag that was inflated to the point of bursting (mercifully, it had not done so!).  After laboriously disconnecting it, I lugged it out to the trash — horrified to discover that it weighed as much as a newborn baby!

A few moments later, still aghast at the volume of dirt packed into that bag, I fitted the dirtmeister with a clean bag and re-initiated my quest to finish vacuuming the house.  To my astonishment, I was no longer an elderly weakling!  The machine followed my lead quite readily without toppling over, and I lifted it over obstacles with ease.   (The hoses still fell apart, and one of the tools broke, but I persevered.)

The lesson was not lost on me:   how many times to we long for breakthrough into a new season without realizing we are encumbered in entering it?   How often do I exert an earnest effort to do what needs to be done without considering that I may be carrying detritus around with me that actually impedes my progress into the new season (in this instance, a clean house and a new sense of order in our personal space)?  Oddly, I had wondered for a day and a half why the battle was so fierce and the burden was so heavy — not realizing for a moment that the greatest source of the problem was my own baggage, baggage that belonged in the trash!

Jesus Himself invites us to come to Him when we find ourselves overwhelmed and weighed down by things visible and invisible:. “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.  I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.” (The Passion Translation) Father, expose any hindrances to my spiritual growth that I may be lugging around with me.  Show me what to do to divest myself of things that should be consigned to the trash bin — dead things from past seasons, sins You already forgave, pain You want to lift from my heart.   Help me to be willing to respond quickly to Your revelation so I will be able to move more easily into breakthrough. Empower me to recognize and discard the harmful burdens of the past.  Be glorified in and through Me, Father!  

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The Holy Hunker

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV)

In these days of increasing challenges, I find myself scrambling to meet obligations, yet grasping for some sense of routine and normalcy — even without an international health pan(dem)ic!  It seems that life these days is being lived on an increasingly precarious edge.   Attempts to cut back, set boundaries, and re-focus on personal priorities often are sabotaged by the urgency of various commitments to which I strive to be faithful.

Suddenly, I find myself confronted by governmental directives to cease and desist from routine activities:  gathering, traveling, meeting together in small groups, using public transportation.  Events I may have felt led to plan or even just attend are summarily cancelled.  Even education is moved online out of concern for infection.

What is the good news about this outwardly imposed isolation?  How could hunkering down in the bunkers of our homes or apartments lead to anything remotely positive, particularly when we witness the economic impact of the corona virus (and understandable fear of it) wreaking havoc with people’s jobs, incomes, and bank accounts?

What remains?  Personally, I am confronted by my own insignificance and human sense of helplessness.  However, I believe the Holy Spirit is calling me to seek Father God more passionately.  Desperation can be good for the soul; the Lord promises to meet me when I seek Him with my whole heart.   After all, He gave Himself wholeheartedly for me, and He is faithful even when I am faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). He is always listening; He longs to hear my voice cry out to Him, and He loves the sound of it!

What an amazing thought that the God of all Heaven and Earth wants my full attention!  I certainly do not deserve HIS attention, yet He gives it to me!

May I cease my restlessness and fretting, and may I seek the Lover of my soul with my whole heart in a deeper way than ever before!  Moreover, may my “hunkering down” not be self-protective, but outwardly directed to the magnificent Lord of the universe.  He wants to heal and touch, not only me, but the hearts of many around me who need His Presence and love in the midst of this season of trouble.  May my response to Him during this tumult be pleasing to Him, and may I reach out to others in need rather than focusing on my own losses, in Jesus’ Name!

 

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The Times, They Are A-Changin’

As a friend recently described a special envelope she had typically kept in her Bible for safekeeping; in this envelope was a list of significant events in her life, events that served as milestones in her family over a span of several decades.  In hearing her describe the joy she experienced upon discovering the list after having misplaced it for a period of time, it struck me that that list was a part of a permanent, even eternal legacy.  She will give that paper to her children as a record of momentous spiritual events in the life of her family.  Those events have eternal value.
Conversely, some things may contribute to our legacy but may not be a permanent part of it.   Just as we buy different kinds of clothing for different seasons, and we accumulate various types of supplies for particular chapters in our lives (baby bottles, children’s books, snow suits or sleds, pool toys, cameras, typewriters, computers, bread machines, even sound equipment that subsequently becomes dated), some items outlive their usefulness.   At intervals, we are compelled to sort through our “stuff” and give away or throw away things we no longer need (but to which we may have become attached).  This process is not always as simple as it sounds, as nostalgia can easily overwhelm us!
The challenge is to discern what is part of the permanent, eternal legacy of our lives and what might be temporarily vital but not carry lasting value.   With Aglow, we also face new seasons:  we distill what is and will always be part of who we are as a ministry, but we must lay aside the strategies that may have been pivotal in the past, but which no longer are proving useful or relevant in our current culture.   When God has used certain things to minister deeply to us, it can be very challenging to release those activities and approaches.   (Just yesterday evening, I was looking through a photo album and was overwhelmed with nostalgia at the sight of photos of our eldest two children when they were small; even their clothing was very dear to me, as it was passed down to their younger siblings yet ultimately given away or thrown away.  I remember how difficult it was to part with those clothes, as they symbolized the end of an era!  As a result, it was a bittersweet experience to gaze on those photos and wonder how those years had evaporated so quickly!)
The temporary things may CONTRIBUTE to the legacy, but they are NOT the legacy.   Jesus is our inheritance!   I am so grateful!  These days, I am continually asking God what has eternal value and what is merely temporary — what has outlived its season of usefulness — so I can focus on the eternal things.  Often, despite my earnest desire to move forward with Him, I find it challenging to welcome new seasons that, at least at first glance, seem unfamiliar and even frightening.   May the Holy Spirit empower me afresh to embrace the next part of my journey with confidence in His goodness and in the knowledge that He can be trusted to retain those aspects of the past that have eternal value!   Yes, we can agree with the Psalmist that we have a beautiful, eternal inheritance:  “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, my cup [He is all I need]; You support my lot.  The [boundary] lines [of the land] have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”  (AMP:  Psalm 16: 5-6)
I love this song by Amy Grant called “Heirlooms.”  Jesus is more than an heirloom to you and to me.  We can praise Him forever for that!

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Marooned or Moving Forward? Pilgrimage & Promises

pilgrimSometimes we travel through desert seasons in our lives — seasons where we feel the heavens are brass, God isn’t listening (and certainly in not answering!), and our provisions are becoming increasingly depleted.   We wonder what happened to our initial sense of adventure.  In fact, whatever became of our vision?  Will we perish in the dry, desolate, silent space?

God’s Word describes this very predicament:  “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”  (Psalm 84:5-7)

It is interesting that God promises blessings to the one whose heart is fixed on pilgrimage, on continuing the journey, no matter how desolate the circumstances in which he finds himself.  That person is determined NOT to stand still and feel sorry for himself, but instead to press on through the Valley of Weeping (Baca in Hebrew), to continue his journey through the difficult straits of life.   Somehow, in the process of moving forward in the dry, sorrowful places of life, water ultimately springs forth in that wilderness.   Rain begins to fall and covers the dry ground with pools (the same word for blessings in Hebrew).  God brings life out of the barren, dry places of our lives if we purpose to move forward through them.

Luke corroborates the principle of pilgrimage when he relates the story of an encounter ten lepers had with Jesus:  “As He went on His way to Jerusalem, it occurred that [Jesus] was passing [along the border] between Samaria and Galilee. And as He was going into one village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance. And they raised up their voices and called, ‘Jesus, Master, take pity and have mercy on us!’ And when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go [at once] and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cured and made clean.” (Luke 17:11-14 AMPC)

Sometimes, Jesus heals people instantly.  At other times, healing is a process.   More often than not, we are healed when we purpose to move forward in our inadequacy on the path set before us.  Pilgrimage is a journey with a purpose, often to a new, unfamiliar place.   When we set our hearts on pilgrimage, despite our weaknesses and inadequacies, even infirmities, the Lord brings forth springs of refreshing and blessing, even in the midst of those infirmities.   We are often healed in the going, regardless of how lame or halting we feel.   He meets us in the process of moving forward in the face of lack.

Can I dictate to the Lord how and when He heals me or meets my need?  No! He is God, and I am certainly aware that I am powerless to change myself.  However, as I obey Him in the process of pilgrimage, often not understanding even when I will reach my destination (moving stolidly, even with baby steps, toward Him), He heals me and brings forth life in the wilderness places of my heart.

Father, empower me to keep putting one foot in front of the other!  Strengthen me to move forward on this relentlessly challenging path and trust You to speak life to my personal wilderness.   You will bring forth streams in the desert and will heal my heart “in the going.”

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