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this journey of today

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Photo Credit: Gaylon Wampler
Photo Credit: Gaylon Wampler

I don’t always understand the journey of the day.

The sideways paths, the detours, the moments that slip away.

But I know the One who holds the hours in knowing and capable hands.

Which gives me assurance that he controls all that today demands.

Help me to walk with peace in my heart and guard my mind with that truth.

This journey of today can not compromise the plans ordained by You.

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Leaving.

We all leave at some point in our lives.

We leave a job. We leave a career. We leave a home. We leave a school. We leave an activity. We leave a group. We leave a grade level. We leave an identity.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do…eventually, we all leave.

I made a commitment to myself and God, almost two decades ago, that when I leave I want to leave well. That includes every type of leaving. Have I always hit the mark? No. But I’m still striving.

I want to leave well.

I don’t know about you, but when I leave a significant place or season in life, I don’t just want to leave well, but I want to leave a legacy. I want to pass on something to someone that is substantial, important, meaningful and timeless. I want to know that what I did mattered. Not just what I did, but that who I was really mattered.

Sometimes we know. Sometimes we can look back on the files and charts and great success stories of accomplishment and achievement and gain sense of significance.

Sometimes we don’t know. Sometimes there isn’t much in the way of concrete evidence that something really good happened while we were there.

God has uniquely called each one of us to participate in his work in various ways, seasons and places. Nothing, typically, is permanent. And we are also called to do the task that he has pre-ordained for us to do. And sometimes that task is a hidden task, out of sight from onlookers and spectators. And sometimes the task is under a spotlight for all the world to see.

I think it is safe to say that many of us want to be the builder, and we would even prefer a little bit of that spotlight. We want to leave tangible evidence of our significance behind.

And sometimes God says, “No.”

David wanted to build the temple. He had established the city of Jerusalem as the worship center and capital of Israel. He had made Israel strong, defeating enemies from every side. He had brought peace to the land, and now he longed to give the ark of God a permanent dwelling place. His heart was sincere. He wanted to leave a legacy that would not just leave the nation of Israel with his imprint, but one that would glorify God.

And God said no.

Sometimes our legacy is not the sum of all we did and the works we leave behind, but instead it is the sum of who we were and how well we loved.

Sometimes God calls us to build a temple.

Sometimes God calls us to build a people.

Either way, it is good. It is well. It is significant.

We don’t own the work. The work belongs to God. And it is the outcome of our obedience. He places us in the process as he sees fit, then he requires faithful submission to his plan. In both the hidden and under the spotlight, God is working.

The legacy that I want to leave is one in which I can say, I was obedient to the call, and my part in the grand design of God’s plan, and fulfilled my role to the best of my abilities.

What is the legacy you will leave behind?

You are going to leave at some point in this journey. What will you be remembered for long after your work days are done?

Think about that for just a little while. Perhaps it will change the trajectory of your focus and lead you into something much more meaningful.

Leave well. Leave good. Leave loved. Leave with God’s favor, and you will leave behind the best legacy of all.

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:4-7

follow the way of love

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I really, really hate to admit this, but there have been times when people get under my skin. Please forgive me. But it is true.

I get irritated, frustrated and annoyed. Bent out of shape, angry and drained.  Offended and hurt, perplexed by their behavior. It festers deep under the skin like an itch that can’t be scratched.

Can you relate?

Have you struggled relationally with relationally-challenged people and wondered, “Why can’t you be more like me???”

I am going to go out on a limb and assume that I am not alone.

I think what causes me such pain in all of this is knowing how seriously Jesus takes our relational health to heart. Unity and harmony, forgiveness and grace are not just sprinkled in here and there throughout the Bible, but they are the fundamental building blocks for living a Christ-centered life.

And so, when I find myself perplexed by the behavior of another person, and when I allow that behavior to get under my skin, the discomfort I am feeling is not so much the itch that can’t be scratched, but it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit reminding me that I am out of God’s perfect will.

There are times when relational disjointedness requires confrontation. It demands a conversation. When we are not seeing eye-to-eye, and offenses are being traded back and forth, then we need to approach that individual, in love, and have a heart-to-heart.

There are other times when hurt and brokenness can’t be resolved in a conversation. Perhaps the offender is no longer living, or they have cut you out of their life, or you are dealing with a person with deep emotional brokenness themselves, and they are not open to listening. What are we to do then?

And what about those individuals who work tirelessly to bring pain, slander, and insults to you because of your faith? Their words not only create an itch that can drive one to virtual insanity, but they wound, kill, and bring bitter tears. What can we do?

The salve for the un-scratchable itch, that thing that protects the heart from growing bitter and turning hard, and the bandage for the wounded soul is prayer.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:3-10, 44

Love our enemies? Pray for those who persecute us?

What?

Why?

Because it’s the merciful who are blessed.

Loving and praying do not excuse the painful or irritating behaviors that cut us deep and leave us broken. On the contrary. Loving and praying is the most effective way of rebelling against our own sinful nature which is wired to fight back and retaliate with the same pain and irritation. Loving and praying keeps our hearts pure and our minds steadfast.

How do we pray?

Joel and I just completed a class led by Dr. Dick Brogden where he taught each of the participants how to pray for those who have wronged us, hurt us, or simply drive us crazy. It is called the Mercy Prayer.

Lord, flood the one I am thinking about with your fulfilling mercy. Meet their every need as YOU see it, and draw them to yourself. Fill them with the Holy Spirit. Make Jesus real to them, and draw them to yourself.

I have started to use this prayer frequently in my daily prayer time. While the words themselves are not magical or mystical, there is definitely a powerful interaction that takes place between me and God when I pray them. Anger is diffused. Bitterness loses its stronghold on my heart. And love overwhelms. I’m becoming more merciful.

The kind of love that Jesus wants us to cultivate is not the emotional, feelings-based, warm-fuzzy-type of love. Jesus wants us to cultivate the kind of love that endures, is sometimes messy, and always producing in us His character.

Which means it requires sacrifice.

Which means that, instead of punching back, we pray.

Pray mercy over the ones who hurt you the most.

And follow the way of love.

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it is well

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

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Looking out of the kitchen window I see gray skies. The springtime rain is more of a mist falling from overlapping, dense clouds.

I feel at peace.

Through the overcast sentiment that today is giving us, I can still hear birds chirping and singing and bantering back and forth.

It is well.

It may seem an odd statement coming from someone who is not fan of gray, cloudy and rain – who prefers warmth, sunshine, and blue skies.

Still…overwhelming satisfaction.

Contentment isn’t about how many sunshiny days we get to enjoy, or having all of our ducks in a row.

Contentment is taking a deep breath and accepting the right now. Embracing what is, and looking at the world through the lens of gratitude.

Contentment is not perfection.

Contentment is perfect peace when it’s gray and drizzly and also when the sun is shining bright. It is not contingent on all is well in the world, but stands firm in that all is well with my soul.

A hug from Jasper that melts my heart.

A note from Sydney that affirms the hard work of motherhood in me.

Listening to Jackson talk about Africa and God’s plan for his life, reminding me that shaky seasons don’t mean the absence of God’s presence.

Watching Brooklyn open up and get into the nitty gritty of emotions, connecting heart, mind and soul. This girl is going to be okay.

And even when it all erupts and there are no hugs or smiles or warm fuzzy conversations…contentment keeps me settled and steadfast.

Because regardless of where this journey takes us, we can always trust in the absoluteness of God.

When dark clouds blow through your ordered and structured world…think on God.

When anxiety keeps you from sleep…consider what is true.

When you feel upside down…praise the living God.

When you are sitting in the drizzle and you’d much prefer the sunshine…remember what is lovely.

Breathe in grace. Exhale gratitude.

It is well.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well. It is well with my soul.” Horatio G. Spafford

respect the path of grief

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Grieving is a funny thing.

It’s amazing how you can be rolling along, smelling roses and such, and all of a sudden…BAM…it hits you. It comes out of nowhere, this longing for the old normal, and how unsteady you feel in the new normal. Maybe it’s a conversation with a friend or colleague, or maybe you’re just going about your normal business, and something just feels…off. That awkward sensation that you’ve lost your balance, and you aren’t quite sure you can regain your equilibrium.

Joel and I were at a one-year-old’s birthday party a few weeks ago, mingling with friends, enjoying the sunshine (rare in our neck of the woods), and the next thing I knew there was a lump in my throat. Talking with one of the dads I could feel tears pooling in the corners of my eyes, and internally pleading, “Oh please Lord, NO! Help me hold it together!” Grief suddenly seized my heart and I spent the remainder of the party trying desperately to avoid conversation (not an easy thing to do, mind you).

Grief doesn’t give a heads up. It’s not something you can mark on the calendar. It just walks into our lives in the most unexpected moments, and we have to let it run its course.

We are experiencing the ups and downs and sideways moments of unexpected grief in our home. And I am being stretched. When grief hits me I can work through it, own it and understand that this is part of the letting go process. When grief hits my kids I feel totally helpless. But God has been revealing to me that I needmust…respect the path of grief – not just for myself, but for my family and those around me.

Everyone grieves a little bit differently. Some people want to talk it out, cry it out, let it all out. Others contemplate. Order their thoughts; feverishly work to understand why they feel so helpless and upset.

When life goes from one normal to the next, regardless of what the new may be, we have to work our way through each stage of grief. Since Joel and I, and our children, began stepping into the missions call, there has been a lot of grieving taking place. This grieving is not due to a lack of thrill and excitement in looking forward to our future, but it is the reality that sets in as we let go of an identity we have shared for thirteen years. If there was no grief present as we transition from one call to the next I would be gravely concerned.

Respect the path of grief.

There is no rushing it. It truly does come out of nowhere. Letting go is hard. Because it is all so fresh in my life right now, I thought I would jot down a few insights I’ve gained as it pertains to respecting the path of grief. If you are grieving, or you know someone who is, perhaps these simple thoughts will encourage and inspire you on your own path.

1. Don’t be a pushy listener. My thirteen-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, is a mental processor. She needs time to sort her thoughts and feelings. Dramatic displays of emotion overwhelm her and cause her to shut down. Walking with her in this season of transition is teaching me that it does more harm than good to try and squeeze the feelings out of her. Patience and presence are the most effective way to encourage her to open up. If you can relate, communicate to those close to you that you just need time. Words aren’t yet formed, but by simply being present, you will eventually have something to say.

2. No feeling is off limits. We told our kids from the very beginning of our transition that no feeling is a bad feeling. If they feel angry, then go ahead and feel angry. Jackson’s way of dealing with those out-of-control feelings is to grasp the one thing he believes he can control, which is his willingness to move to Africa. If it’s been a particularly challenging day at school, if he’s feeling rundown or fighting off a headache, he will declare to us, “I’m not going to Africa anymore.” I have learned to just let those words hang in the air. Don’t try to fix them, or him. When walking with someone who is grieving, giving them permission to say how they feel out loud, without being corrected, is one of the most powerful ways to open up meaningful dialogue. Connect rather than correct.

3. Tears are healthy. Go ahead and cry. Cry until the tear ducts run dry. Don’t be embarrassed by the need to shed a tear or two. Tears tell the story of our hearts. And a good cry makes everything seem much, much better. If you are grieving, and you’re trying to be calm, cool,  and collected don’t be afraid to cry. Let the release from your heart pour out from your eyes. You are stronger when you cry.

4. Lean in. One of the biggest temptations that pulls at our hearts when change is on the horizon, or change has already taken place, is to pull away – withdraw. It comes down to self-preservation. We don’t like to hurt, so in order to control the pain we are already experiencing, we start to pull away from the very support system that we need. While I understand the necessity for space and processing, there comes a point when too much space can lead to isolation. As challenging as it may be, when all you want to do is hide in a corner, you’ve got to lean in. Surround yourself with safe people. Don’t grieve alone.

5. Let it be. In our fast paced culture where we move from one thing to the next and rarely stop and take a breath, it can become easy to toss out the past, hurl it to the far side of the sea, and power through, stuffing emotions out of fear of looking weak. We are not a weak people, at least that is what we project to the world. Feeling sad that an end is coming, or has come, is not weakness. The next chapter may be a really good one, and you may genuinely feel some excited anticipation about the future. Feeling sad, feeling struck by loss, does not diminish in any way the joy of the new season ahead. If you feel sad, if you feel the loss, if you feel unsteady and little bit off kilter, it’s okay. And when grief sneaks up on you in the middle of a one-year-old’s birthday party, just let it be. The effort it takes to stuff the feelings simply isn’t worth it. Let the grief come, let it sit there, and if you need to cry, then go ahead and find a place to cry. Affirm the process to yourself. This is healthy. This is good. Let it be.

As Joel and I walked to the car after the sweet birthday party, Joel wrapped his arm around me. He affirmed my feelings. He didn’t try to correct me or cheer me up or find a way to avoid the grief. It was really quite beautiful.

We are somewhere in the middle of the old normal and the new normal, so my insights are very fresh…and perhaps underdeveloped. As we continue to walk this tight rope of emotions, I am sure much more wisdom will be gained. And there in lies the beauty in all of this. From the ashes of goodbyes and grief, sprouts wisdom, strength, empathy and hope. There is always gain after loss.

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Respect the path that grief takes you on.

Let it do its work in you.

And the mourning will truly turn into dancing.

One day at a time.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.” Psalm 30:11

*Picture credit goes to Brooklyn

God is always

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

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Through the in’s and out’s, the upside downs’s and the right side up’s, God is always.

He’s working and refining and completing all good things for our lives.

Even in the barren seasons where it seems there is no growth, there is no light, there is no fertile ground for sowing new things.

God is always.

I am leaning into that more and more, and the truthfulness of this principle has increasingly become real and confirmed to me over the past several years. Hard times and good times are all a part of this journey on earth. And through it all, God is.

God is faithful.

God is merciful.

God is mighty and fights for us.

God is gracious.

God is forgiving.

God is love, even when it seems that the pressing feels very unloving.

God is true.

God is just.

God is…always.

Pressing and crushing, breaking and bending. We don’t need to understand. Even though understanding is what we long for. His ways of working all things for our good don’t often make sense to us. Even more challenging when those seasons seem to carry on and on…as if there is no end in sight. I’m all attentive and at the ready when I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I waiver and struggle when time seems to stand still in the middle of the dark.

God is always.

He is for our good.

He is for our future.

He is for the redemption of our past.

He is for our deliverance.

He is for us in our battle.

He is for us.

God is always, He is for us, even through the valley. Even through the unspeakable. Even in our doubt and our anger, our fear and our rebellion.

He is always and He is for us through our tears, through our questions, through our illnesses and through our grief.

And while it may bring no consolation to the one who is sitting in their dark season right now, God is always working all things for our good.

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.” Romans 5:2-4

Sit back for a moment and inhale deeply. Let it settle in for a moment.

Through the in’s and out’s, the upside down’s and right side up’s…God is always using all things for our good. The highs and the lows. Each life experience, each joy and each pain…he is using and forming in us the character, the fortitude, the gentleness of spirit and, by his Holy Spirit, the very image of Christ.

It may not bring you much comfort in this exact moment of your life. Your world may be upside down right now. The suggestion that God could use this for good and for glory may feel like a slap on the face. Pain makes it very difficult to see or feel hope; to even have the strength cling to hope. I know.

But I also know that even when the hours of the night seem to overshadow the day, God is always. And this suffering is producing in you something richer and sweeter and purer than all the right side up seasons you will ever have in your life.

If there is anything in this world proven to be sure, proven to be faithful, proven to outlast and exceed the far reaches of the universe and beyond the hands of time, it is this: God is always.

The night was long, and the shadows spread as far as the eye could see;

I stretched my hands to a human Christ, and He walked through the dark with me!

Out of the dimness at last we came, our feet on the dawn-warmed sod;

And I saw by the light of His wondrous eyes I walked with the Son of God.

H.W. Beecher

it’s the little things

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“…and after you have done everything, to stand…stand firm…” Ephesians 6

It’s never easy, is it?

The curveballs that come our way, the challenging people we engage with on a regular basis, the quick swipe through our social media accounts reminding us that we missed out on something, or we are obviously not as happy and fulfilled as so-and-so, all have a way of shutting us down and drawing us inward. We might laugh and call these “first world problems”. Yet, these are the very things that tend to pierce my heart and send my mind spinning out of control. These little, seemingly insignificant, things are the very tools the enemy uses to steal my sense of purpose, my confidence, my clarity and my identity.

Maybe those little things are not so little after all.

I have discovered that if the enemy is successful in hijacking my sense of purpose, my confidence, my clarity and my identity then he has also successfully disarmed me for the bigger battles that are coming my way. Those “first world problems” are typically the distraction tactics that keep me from embracing and walking in the call of God on my life.

Can you relate?

Is there a voice, externally or internally, that is hammering you with half-truths and condemnation and you feel like somehow you are not measuring up?

Have you been plowing and sowing and pouring yourself out in obedience to God, but it seems as though most of your hard work and faithfulness has gone unnoticed?

Are circumstances inside or outside of your home breaking you down and shaking your confidence?

Have you allowed social media to dictate your worth, your relevance and your purpose?

Has the car repair and the broken down washing machine taken your eyes off of Jesus and turned you inward toward self-pity?

It’s the little things that bind us up and knock us off track.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.”

When those little things come blowing in like a gale-force wind, remember to stand firm.

“Let nothing move you.”

Accusations, condemnation, upsetting circumstances, disappointments and unmet expectations will make every effort to shake your footing and cause you fall. Remember…let nothing move you.

“Always give yourself to the work of the Lord,”

The most powerful and effective way to overcome the influence that the little things try to have on your life is to always give yourself to the work of the Lord.

“…Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

And here is where I really want to speak a work of encouragement…

What an incredibly gracious God we serve who invites us – ordinary, inadequate and messy – to walk with him, serve alongside him, minister and love, and to extend mercy and grace to the unlovable and needy of this world. It just takes my breath away and causes my heart to skip a beat that I get to be a part of this God-story. The enemy hates it. And if you are also giving yourself to the work of the Lord, whether that be ministering in your workplace, raising your family to love and serve God, teaching, serving in your church or active in full-time ministry, the enemy is not happy with you either.

And so, it oftentimes will be the little things that will distract, send you into an identity crisis, hold you captive and draw you inward so that you do not walk in the confidence of your calling. And this makes me sad. The work of the Lord is precious, unique, necessary and impossible to accomplish without you.

So when the little things begin to agitate and upset…stand firm, and let nothing move you.

Keep plowing the field and sowing the seed. Remember to whom you belong. Remain faithful to the One who called you. Don’t allow the little things that have disrupted your life and your world to take your eyes off of the One who called out and called you by name.

Your work is not in vain.

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

again

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I am here again,

Needing your grace again,

Pouring out my heart again,

You have proven faithful again.

I tried again,

To go my own way again,

And you drew me back again,

Your mercy sustains again.

I come weary again,

God, I’m empty and tired again,

I’m reaching for you again,

You hold me in grace again.

So desperate again,

My soul aches for your Word again,

My hands lifted to you again,

Your presence refreshes again.

Broken again,

Clinging to you again,

Your hands lift me up again,

You make all things new again.

I won’t move again,

Waiting for you again,

Pausing and quiet again,

You come and renew again.

Peaceful and still again,

Such love abounds again,

You hold nothing back again,

You meet every need again.

Lord, I am here again.

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We strive. We push. We plan. We pursue. Through blood, sweat and tears we power on to meet our goals, fix our problems and cling to control.

In our striving, pushing, planning and pursuing, we oftentimes find ourselves empty, weary, angry and spent.

We gained, but we also lost.

Ambition will eventually fade into either self-reliance and pride, or depression and loss of joy. While it sounds respectable and commendable, the unintended consequences can lead us further from the heart of God rather than the closeness with Christ that we are longing for. Even if the work is good, and even if it centers on Christ, it is the heart – our hearts – that take a beating.

Goals and plans and hard work are not to be discounted. In fact, God commends a studious and faithful worker! Laziness is not the alternative for ambition. However, ambition, as noble is it may seem, will get you nowhere.

So counter cultural, I know! Most of us in our western mindset can hardly fathom this concept that ambition might not be God’s perfect way. Ambitious people win the world! How dare I question the motives and outcomes of ambition?

My answer: Jesus.

“After the approval of heaven at Jordan came the assault of hell; after the dove, the devil. This is the usual order in spiritual experience, and in this the Master was no exception.”  J. Oswald Sanders

After his baptism, and after God’s public approval, came what we know to be Christ’s wilderness experience. Forty days of fasting and prayer. Alone. Pulled out of the public square and into battle. Temptation came at him. And while his body was weak and weary, Christ did not succumb to the prodding and agitating words of the tempter. It was out of this experience that Christ modeled for us the “how to’s” to following God’s call.

In our human nature when God invites us to join him in pursuit of a dream, a calling, a ministry – whatever it might be – we instantaneously want to grab it by the horns and make it happen. Bend it into submission. Work ourselves to the bone in order to see the end result. I find it convicting that Christ did nothing of that nature when God’s mantle was placed upon him.

Rather than jump into his role as the Son of God – God incarnate – picking disciples, embarking on a preaching circuit, and disrupting the status quo, he first went into the wilderness.

We hate the wilderness. We try so hard to avoid it at all costs.

But if Christ is our model, and if Christ chose the wilderness over an ambitious agenda to please his Father, what makes us think we can avoid the wilderness ourselves? Are we better than our sinless Savior?

Interesting to me that the second temptation that came to Christ was in the form of  ambition – the desire to achieve things. (1)

Tempted to jump off of the highest point of the Temple and to command his angels to save him, Christ refused. The Jews were waiting for a Messiah that would overthrow the government, wield his power and position and stun them with his wonders. This stunt would have given the world what it wanted. But it was not God’s way.

Ambition can get us what we want, but it may not be God’s perfect way.

Humbling and convicting, so often is Christ’s example to me. We have to fight hard to overcome the mindset of this world, even in the world of ministry where self-promotion, numerical success, attractive ministries, attractive ministers, cross-less expectations, full bellies and hungry hearts are common distractions. The way of Jesus is so counterintuitive. Completely upside down to our societal and cultural norms. And yet so affirming and satisfying.

“For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:30 (NLT)

Chasing after dreams and obeying the call of God was never meant to leave us empty, weary, angry and spent. Pursuing God’s call and mission was meant to be a joy…a task, perhaps, beyond our capabilities, but well within our reach.

I think the lesson in all of this is that before we begin the task, we must spend time in the wilderness.

Let the wilderness drive us closer to Jesus.

Let the wilderness teach us the heart of God.

Let the wilderness instruct us in the rhythms of God’s grace.

Let the wilderness empower us for the task ahead.

Ambition will get you nowhere.

Submission to the wilderness will lead us to Jesus.

“We long for showy fruit when the Lord calls us to focus on clinging to him. We want to produce, but he reminds us that he provides as we abide. Abiding is not inactive.” Ruth Chou Simons

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

1. The Incomparable Christ, by J. Oswald Sanders, page 87

He calls you by name

During World War II more than 140,000 wartime prisoners served in Japanese POW camps. Thousands of them died from exhaustion, dehydration and starvation. However, for many it was not the inhumane living conditions that threatened their survival, but the constant mental and emotional abuse suffered daily at the hands of the Japanese prison guards. The dehumanization of their souls was more than they could bear, and for many, the loss of hope and the crisis of identity was beyond survival.

We have an enemy. We often do not fight flesh and blood, but our battles rage in the mind. Our enemy would love to steal our identity. He knows that if he can crush our dignity and distort our identity, then he will win.

Maybe you are a mom, working feverishly to juggle all of the demands of your family, and in your most mentally exhausted state of mind, you hear a little voice in your head telling you, “You are not good enough”.

Maybe you’ve been trying to have a baby for years, and things are not working out the way you had planned. Disappointment, hurt and anger begin to set in. And in quiet, lonely moments you hear a little voice in your head telling you, “You are not worthy”.

Maybe you are single, hoping to find true love, someone to spend the rest of your life with, but time and time again you find yourself broken-hearted and rejected. And in those moments perhaps you hear a little voice in your head telling you, “You are unlovable”.

Maybe you have hit a moment of crisis in your life, and depression has settled in like thick fog on a winter morning. You can’t seem to rise above it or see beyond it, and you hear a little voice in your head telling you, “You are not strong enough”.

I don’t know the narrative playing in your head. I don’t know what lies are trying to steal away your dignity, and essentially your identity, and I don’t know if your faith is at its breaking point.  I do know, however, that the God who created all things created you. And I know that he knows you and has called you by name.

“Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

God has redeemed you.

God has called you by name.

You belong to God.

When you feel your identity is being threatened, just remember to whom you belong.  Don’t lose hope.  Don’t let the enemy run away with your identity.  You belong to the God of all creation.  You belong to King of kings.

Slater Family | Fall 2017-82

He calls you by name.  And he says, “You are mine”.

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