Category Archives: Where Are You Headed?

Metamorphosis: Birthed into a New Season

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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  I never would have thought it possible that I would feel outdated, outmoded, or that my familiar ways of functioning would be rendered ineffective.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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Hitting the Target

ImageAs anyone involved in archery will tell you, hitting the target is all about proper aim.  From the archer’s perspective, the point of aim may be above or below the actual target, depending on the distance to the target.  In fact, the ability to aim accurately at one’s target is vital to nearly every sport; football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and bowling are only a few examples of sports that require a player to aim well.

Unfortunately, as a child, my athletic skills were nearly non-existent.  I was extremely nearsighted and wore thick glasses that limited my freedom in playing sports.   Sadly, I doubt my athletic performance would have improved with perfect vision, as I was truly not well-coordinated.  One year I made the mistake of signing up for a bowling league.  My friend’s father was an excellent bowler, and he kindly took it upon himself to coach me in the effort to help me improve my score.  He made the erroneous assumption that simply understanding HOW to aim the ball would solve my problem.   However, I could probably have explained to someone else all the details of his instructions on throwing the ball; I understood them perfectly.   Alas — I simply was unable to make my body cooperate with what I knew it should do!  At the end of the bowling season, to my chagrin, I was selected as the most improved bowler in our league.   I was given a patch for my jacket; despite my embarrassment, I dutifully sewed the patch on my jacket.  Upon seeing the words “most improved bowler,” other people I met would often ask me with admiration what my scores had been.   Humiliated, I was compelled to confess my average score had improved from 63 to 95 — abysmal at best!

Most of us are all too conscious of how often we fail to hit the target in other areas of our lives as well.  In spite of constant practice, study, and even understanding what we should do and how we should do it, we miss the mark so often, at least in our own eyes.   Life is replete with challenges, and we cannot possibly meet every challenge perfectly.  I have often disappointed myself as well as others.   I have found it impossible to be the athlete, student, musician, wife, sister, mother, and even the friend I would like to be.   When it comes to my spiritual walk, I also often fall short.   However, there IS good news!   By living a flawless life and dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus already hit the target on my behalf.  He completely paid for the times my aim was too low, too high, or way off the mark.  What’s even better is that He empowers me to do the things I am patently unable to do in my own strength.   All I need to do is fix my sights on Him and keep my focus on His face while I run.  His strength and power sustain me and more than compensate for my weaknesses (His strength is made perfect in my weakness! — 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Of late, Hebrews 12:1-2 has become one of my favorite passages:  “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.”   Jesus is my goal; He is my target.  He is my focus, no matter how bumpy or rocky, uneven, slippery, or muddy the path might be.   His glory and goodness sustain me!  He delights to draw me to Himself, and my success does not depend on me, but rather on Him!  All I need to do is be willing to run to Him.

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