Category Archives: Where Are You Headed?

The Power of the Trickle

water_dropletI am learning that we should never underestimate the power of the trickle to erode strongholds in our lives and to flood us with God’s goodness.   Most things begin with small cracks in the fabric of our everyday routines. Typically, nothing changes dramatically overnight, and even the apparent dramatic changes are, in fact, the fruit of a protracted period of systematic beating against walls of resistance to what God desires to establish in our lives.

We read in Ezekiel 47:  1-12:

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The Power of Trans-Generational Partnership

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SYNERGY:  1 + 1 > 2

The principle of synergy consistently characterizes God’s economic system:  He is capable of making more of what we have (or think we do not have) and seems to function above and beyond the physical and mathematical laws He Himself has created. The feeding of the five thousand and scores of other miracles recounted in Scripture illustrate His creative and multiplying power.  When we contemplate the power of partnership between generations, this principle of synergy proves particularly powerful.

According to our linear, western rationale, one generation succeeds and ultimately supersedes the previous one.  Certainly, the flower children of the sixties scorned the “establishment” built by their parents’ generation and demanded a fresh brand of freewheeling independence. They rejected the lessons of the past and attempted to develop a completely different culture. However, identifying  another’s mistakes does not necessarily mean we should completely discard everything about another person or group of people.

In contemplating the gifts of my children and their generation, I can readily see a sense of daring, love for adventure, and intolerance for hypocrisy and pat answers.  These young people are fervent about pursuing their dreams; they are also quick to identify the failings of their parents and grandparents without losing the idealism young people need to fuel their passions.  

On the other hand, those of us who are older and more experienced might prefer to take fewer risks and instead adhere to systems we feel have worked well in the past, even when facing new challenges that might demand different modes of operating.  Some of us have lost our passion and perseverance; we may be exhausted and disheartened at the lawlessness of our culture and tempted to separate ourselves entirely from what we see happening around us.

In view of our different perspectives, do we truly understand that parents, grandparents, and children carry a corporate anointing for partnership and that we need each other?  While it is easy to rest on our respective strengths and discount what we perceive to be the flaws in another generation,  we would be wiser to actively cultivate their partnership to effect lasting transformation in a chaotic world that desperately needs to know the love and power of Jesus Christ.

Ruth, a Moabite widow, refused to abandon her Hebrew mother-in-law (Naomi) when the latter made the decision to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.  She committed herself to Naomi, to Naomi’s people, and to Naomi’s God.  As the story unfolds, we find that Naomi was not the only beneficiary of this partnership.  Not only did Ruth work to provide for Naomi, but Ruth herself ended up marrying Boaz, a wealthy, kindhearted relative of Naomi’s deceased husband.   Ruth gained a family and a heritage, and her son with Boaz is recorded as an ancestor of our Messiah.   

Similarly, there was partnership and mutual affirmation between Elizabeth, the future mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the future mother of Jesus.  Mary heard from the angel Gabriel that her older, formerly barren relative was pregnant, and she went to visit her.  The yet-unborn John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her Lord.  She uttered a prophetic blessing on Mary, who then broke into a prophetic song of her own magnifying God and affirming what He was doing to save His people.  

As a mother and grandmother, I am asking God for specific ways to partner with the younger generations.   I want to collaborate with the Holy Spirit to affirm and honor the gifts He has deposited in them; I love encouraging them to pursue their callings and their dreams.  I NEED them, and I believe they need us, the more experienced generation, as well.   We can certainly learn from one another.   Surely one generation plus one more generation add up to more than two!   Who knows what God will do when we cease dismissing and criticizing one another and begin to actively cultivate righteous partnership?

Psalm 145: 1-4 (NASB) 

I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.

 

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I Am Not Your Mother, but…

I love this story about a baby bird that hatches from its egg while its mother is away imgresfinding food.   Greeted by an empty nest, the hatchling has no idea where his mother is or what she looks like.  He consequently sets about searching for her.   When he asks various animals in turn, “Are you my mother?,”  he repeatedly receives a negative answer.  In the end, the little bird is catapulted back into his nest by a power shovel, just in time for his mother’s return to the nest.  Unfortunately, real life does not always match P.D. Eastman’s plot line!

As a mother of five children born over the course of just under nine and a half years, I was thrilled with my little brood.   Had I wanted to have more children, I could have continued that process.  Although I desired to be their mother and wanted each of my own children, I was patently unprepared to parent all their friends and the friends’ friends. After all, I was not THEIR mother!

However, God used one event to completely transform my attitude.   During my fifth pregnancy, a pleasant little boy lived next door us; apparently he preferred our house to his own, most likely due to the availability of multiple playmates.  As the months of my pregnancy wore on, I was lumbering around the house like a beached whale and often needed to lie down for a few minutes during the afternoon.  This neighbor boy would walk home from school every day with our oldest son, run next door to drop his backpack at home, and return to our house until dinner time.  Sometimes he would stay for dinner as well.  He was well-behaved and polite, but, as a responsible adult, I did not think it wise to be asleep while other people’s children were in the house.   One particular day, I was exhausted and desperate for a quick nap;  when my eldest son came through the door after school and made a beeline upstairs, I instructed our second child to please inform the neighbor (when he knocked on the door, which he surely would in a few moments) that I simply could not have him play at our home that afternoon.   A few moments later, I was lying down when the doorbell rang.  Through the fog of half-sleep, I heard child number two run to the door and open it; not one to mince words, he declared, “Go home!  My mom doesn’t want you here!” and proceeded to shut the door.   My heart was filled with remorse at his choice of words.   Nonetheless, as I explained to my son that diplomacy was important, I was also grumbling silently to God that I would’ve birthed a pile of nine-year-olds myself, had I wanted a pile of nine-year-olds.   The Holy Spirit wasted no time in correcting my attitude:   He spoke distinctly to my heart at that moment and instructed me to get up off my bed  when that neighbor rang the doorbell the next day, smile at him, welcome him, and receive him as if he were my own.

From that day on, I did exactly that.  In fact, that little boy was the first of  numerous “sixth” children in our family.  To this day, I treasure fond memories of him (he is now 35!).  Moreover, nine months after that particular day when the Lord so clearly reprimanded me for my attitude, that little boy’s mother died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism.  Can you imagine the guilt that would have shrouded me, had I not received this child and made him feel welcome after school in our home?  

I may NOT be someone’s mother from a physical point of view, but God calls me to be available like a mother whenever He sends me someone He has called to be a part of my life.  Everyone needs to be welcomed, included, listened to, and loved.  My sixth children have truly blessed me in ways that words fail to describe — and I consider myself the richer for the experience!  “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”  (Psalm 68:19, NKJV)

 

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Metamorphosis: Birthed into a New Season

image courtesy of play.google.com

image courtesy of play.google.com

As a child, I always looked forward to whatever new season was approaching.  I recall the restlessness of hot August days and my excitement at the prospect of new books and a new teacher for the upcoming school year.   In fact, I regularly had difficulty sleeping the night prior to the first day of school.   As we devoured the remains of the Thanksgiving turkey, I could hardly wait until Christmas;  I think I relished all the preparations as much as I loved the holiday itself — the music, the smells of special treats baking, the challenge of wrapping the packages and making the bows myself (yes, we did that back then!).  Of course, I loved the first scent of spring in the air; in fact, one sunny February day, as I watched the snow melt outside my dormitory window, I even wrote a poem about what I imagined to be the smell of dusky books and robins’ eggs, with snowmen basking in pools adorned with tiny green blades of grass.  As May approached, I was always excited at the prospect of summer at home with my sisters.   

As an adult, this sense of constant anticipation has turned, in some cases, to a certain degree of dread.   Of course, I still feel excitement at times, but I have learned through experience that the things I use to long for and excitedly await were generally too quickly behind me.   A child’s graduation seemed to come at warp speed, almost hard on the heels of the miraculous birth process.  Over the years, I have developed a rather complex set of coping mechanisms in an attempt to keep the roller-coaster passage of time at bay.  Nevertheless, despite my efforts, I feel myself catapulted into new seasons that I am abysmally unprepared to face.   I never imagined myself as a mother with no children to supervise.  I never imagined that Christmas could come far too soon for my taste and find me behind schedule!   I never imagined I would NOT want my next birthday to hasten its arrival.  I never would have thought it possible that I would feel outdated, outmoded, or that my familiar ways of functioning would be rendered ineffective.

What is the Holy Spirit saying to my heart?   I believe He is directing me to move with confidence out of my old season and into a new, unfamiliar season where I have much to learn and must trust Him completely.  Just as a caterpillar (who is probably perfectly happy munching his way to oblivion every day) must move into a dark, confined space and be rendered immovable, at least for a season, for God’s magical transformation to take place, I am compelled to recognize I can no longer fuel myself with the things of the past and trust Him in the places I cannot understand.   Only then can the metamorphosis take place; only then can He fashion wings for me to fly in the next season.   

Of course, I could very well insist on staying the same.   However, I would miss the mystery and glory of what God created me to do and be.   Each season of life serves to move us into a greater experience of His glory and goodness (“And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];”  Philippians 3:10, Amplified Bible).  Even if we do NOT enjoy the transformation process while we are in the throes of it, Hosea admonishes us NOT to remain too long in the womb, which ultimately would mean certain death:   “The wickedness of Ephraim [which is not yet completely punished] is bound up [as in a bag];
His sin is stored up [for judgment and destruction].  The pains of childbirth come on him;
But he is not a wise son, for it is not the time to delay [his chance at a new birth] as the womb opens [but he ignores the opportunity to change]”  (Hosea 13:12-13 AMP).  The name Ephraim has to do with fruitfulness; if we refuse to move out of the womb of the past or present into our next season of life, we will surely die in situ and will not experience the fruitfulness God has planted is us.

I pray that I will move willingly from each larval stage (aka caterpillar) to the dark changing room of the pupa in the cocoon, then fly free and reflect God’s light and life to others.  Hanging onto my old coping strategies, the old seasons, and the glories of the past will not look too glorious as time rushes past me.   My former clothing has become tattered, and what used to be fresh bread is old hat now.   Father, help me to shed things from the old season that have become a shroud, and teach me to fly!

 

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The Price of Remodeling: Need a Fresh Wind?

A friend recently described that she was inspired to knock out two half-walls that divided her living room from her entryway.   She and her husband have lived in this house for decades, and she simply wanted to open up the living space.   When her husband found her knocking down the walls by herself, he was alarmed and raised the issue of whether those walls might be supporting walls.   No one wants the roof to collapse!  A friend who worked in the construction industry stopped by during the demolition process; when questioned about whether or not those walls were supporting walls, he stated that they probably were, in fact, supporting walls, but they were not essential to the construction.  In fact, the roof and ceiling in that part of the house had quite enough support to stand without the aid of those walls. Needless to say, my friend’s husband was tremendously relieved!   

As I meditated on this matter, it occurred to me that often our personal spaces (both in our homes and our hearts) are thrown in a state of disarray when we determine that remodeling (or even moving) is needed.  The transition process typically looks like a wreck before it shows the slightest signs of the home improvement we had in mind.  However, if we apply patience and presence of mind, the freshness of the new arrangement, new construction, or new home begins to emerge.   

In the movie Mary Poppins, or even the book The Cat in the Hat, children’s messes are cleaned up by magical forces that mysteriously set things in order.   How much more can a fresh wind from our Heavenly Father put the affairs of our heart in order at the end of a Holy-Spirit-ordained remodeling process!   Do you feel a shift taking place in your heart or mind, or even in the circumstances of your life and ministry?  Take heart, for the Lord will respond to your cries for His refreshing, cleansing, healing Wind to settle things in new places and re-arrange the furniture of your soul.  

When tremors begin to shake the basement of our soul, we can bet that God is about to begin a re-modeling or even a major shift in our hearts.  Some of the things in our lives and ministries that we have relied on are no longer the supporting walls we perhaps considered them to be.   The Holy Spirit desires to open up new vistas to us and move things out of the way that supported us in the past but have become hindrances, thus blocking our view of His purposes for us in this next season.

Lord, blow with the refreshing, healing wind of Your Spirit into our hearts and our lives.   Remodel, re-arrange, and shift us according to Your pleasure.  During the process, help us to be more afraid of staying the same than we are of changing!The-Fresh-Wind-Continues-400x400[1]

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The First and the Last, the Beginning and the End

images[3]“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (the Before all and the End of all)” [Amplified Edition].  We are all familiar with this verse from Revelation 22:13.   However, we typically think of the beginning as something we leave behind and the end as a point where we stop.  The beginning is the place where we take our first step in a journey, and the end is our goal — the finish line.   One of my favorite Scriptures about this aspect of the beginning and the end is Hebrews 12:1-3:

“Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.” [Amplified Edition]

These verses have always motivated me to focus on Jesus as my goal, my finish line, the one to whom I am running.

A recent trip to San Francisco expanded my thinking about the race we are running toward our Savior.   Our daughter-in-law used a panoramic setting on my camera to take a picture of our son at the Golden Gate Bridge.   Timothy initially stood at the left side of the photograph, then ran around to stand at the right.   Even though he couldn’t possibly be in two places at the same time, he actually does appear in two places of the same still shot.  As I contemplated this phenomenon, the Holy Spirit reminded me that Jesus is our Source AND our Goal — the Beginning AND the End, the Author AND Finisher of our faith, the First AND the Last, the Alpha AND the Omega.  He also is with us every step of the way on this grand and glorious race we are running — up and down mountains, in and out of tunnels, over bridges and (sometimes) under water, slowly and rapidly, on rough terrain and on smooth pavement, in fair and foul weather.   His empowering Presence NEVER leaves us, no matter how we are running.    Praise God for His faithfulness to launch us, strengthen us, and beckon us to Himself, our Creator and the End of all things! 10680040_10152891664472953_6506291108140053399_o

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The Power in the Process — Part Two

IMG8680-L[1]In discussing the lessons to be learned in the throes of a process (as opposed to the quick-fix solution to a problem), it occurred to me WHY I was more than willing, as a child, to endure the rigors of a multiple-day car trip from Massachusetts to Colorado in the heat of summer.   The motivation was the prize at the end of the journey:  time spent playing along the mountain stream near the cabin where we stayed, the chance to ride horses up the mountainside, the fresh smell of pine and fir in the crisp morning air, the sounds of wind and water as I lay in bed at night, the afternoon rain showers, and, best of all, time spent playing cards with my grandmother. 

Years later, in our microwave world, I realize I have lost some of my ability to savor the process for the sake of the goal — yet persevering through the process is a skill that is vital for our spiritual growth and development.   The prize is definitely worth it!  Paul encourages us in  Hebrews 12: 1-2:  “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..”  When we face earthly challenges that require perseverance, it is all too easy to complain about the rocky path, how steep it is, how slippery, or how difficult or long the race proves to be.  Before we know it, we are focusing our eyes downward on our difficulties.  However, if we determine to look up and fix our eyes on the goal — Jesus Himself! — we will have what it takes to run the race and endure the process, regardless of how hazardous the path might seem.    The promise of His presence is both the goal of the race and the experience of it, as He never leaves us alone on the track!  

 

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