See You There

The following is an all-too-common scenario in my life while driving in an unfamiliar area or to a new location:

Leave early knowing I will need extra time because I will get lost.

Oops. I missed my turn.

Heart beats wildly while I look for a convenient place to turn around. I especially despise being late for any appointment.

Pull over, reread the directions, and try again, sometimes several times until successfully reaching destination.

When asked, “Did you find it easily enough?” I reply, “It was easy in the end.” For someone who is not directionally challenged, that is.

Psalm 25:4,5,10 TLB “Show me the path where I should go, O Lord; point out the right road for me to walk. Lead me; teach me; for You are the God who gives me salvation. I have no hope except in you…And when we obey him, every path he guides us on is fragrant with his lovingkindness and his truth.”

I’ve been lost many times in the different cities we have lived in over the years. Thankfully, with the advent of cell phones, I am able to pull over and call my husband for help (he still wonders how I am so prone to losing my way). When I call, he is prepared to help me find my way. He knows I work better with landmarks than road names so he will tell me to watch for such-and-such a sign or building. The moment I see something familiar, relief floods my soul. I’m on the right path!

Finding the path God has for us is not difficult, once we pull over to the side of the road and ask for directions. “Show me the path” is a prayer that He is very ready to answer; His paths are replete with landmarks that help us make the right turns. When we “oops” and miss it, there will be opportunity to stop and get our bearings again.

I used to think that finding God’s will for my life was a mysterious and difficult process, fraught with dangers of “missing it” along the way. Now that I’ve known my Father for a while, I understand He wants me to be on His path even more than I want to be there. His paths are the ones that are “fragrant” with His truth, and lovingkindness.

God’s motivation in leading us along His paths is evidenced by a full fragrance of lovingkindness (acts of unmerited kindness) and truth. No one else is as motivated as He is to help us for His intentions for us are the best; what can we possibly offer to Him, the King of the Universe? He simply wants the best for us and He is the very best.

So when you are wondering if you have taken the right turn, pull over. Make a call. Trust Him as He guides you, as He has no hidden agenda in leading you other than loving you more than anyone else in this world. He will speak to you and show you those landmarks to help you get to where you are going on time and as you start back on your way, He will say, “See you there.”

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I’m Offended

Luke 17:1 “…It is impossible that no offenses should come…”

“That offended me.” What an overused phrase by Christians all over the world! When it is said, somehow, we are supposed to excuse the person for being offended. There’s a reason, so being offended is all right. Oh how “not all right” it is to be offended! It seems to me that a large number of Christians are blind to the fact that they are living in a continuous state of offense. Their pain justifies their feelings and allows for them to remain angry. Often, the offense is caused by fellow Christians, loved ones, family, and this makes the offense even more difficult to overcome.

Psalm 55:12-14 “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it the one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng.”

Only those you care about can hurt you, true? You have given your heart to them and you expect them to care for you – but the higher your expectations of the relationship, the greater the fall when the offense comes.

Satan successfully keeps people in an offended state by keeping their offense hidden, covered in pride. Pride hinders a person from admitting their condition.

There was a time that I was offended by what was said by other Christians about my husband and me. Those comments went deep into my soul and my husband, knowing how deeply I was hurt, would often ask if I was all right; if I had forgiven those people. I would say, “of course I have!” I said this because I knew it was wrong not to forgive. I even told myself I was fine and didn’t hold a grudge or offense. I was too proud to admit that I had an offense. Pride opens our hearts to an offense and pride then keeps an offense hidden in our hearts.

To break free from being deceived is to come to an understanding our offended feelings and do as Jesus said in Revelation 3:18 “buy from Me gold refined in the fire.” Gold from the fire is pure and soft. Gold is only hard when other metals are added to it to keep it from bending. In the same way, we are refined in God’s school of life. The heat, the tribulations of life, separates impurities such as unforgiveness, strife and offense from God’s life and character in our lives. In the fire, the impurities rise to the top and are skimmed off. God wants our hearts to be like pure gold, soft and easy to bend.

As Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come.” Opportunity to be offended will come, perhaps even today. The question is, what will we do when offense comes knocking?

Take Words

Hosea 4:12 “Take words with you, and return to the Lord, say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.’”

Sacrifices. When I think of that word, I think of something I can do or something that I can offer or give up for God. You can probably name many things you’ve sacrificed over the years – and you’ve done so willingly, as have I, just to be closer to the Lord. I wouldn’t take anything back that I’ve given to God in the past.

This morning I read Hosea 14:2 where God’s people were told to “take words” with them when they returned to God’s presence; they were to prepare something to say to the Lord. Israel had enjoyed a time of relative peace and prosperity when the book of Hosea was written but they had, at the same time, gotten off track in their relationship with God, in effect, they had left Him. Spiritual leaders were corrupt, families were unstable, there was a lot of prejudice and poverty; sounds a lot like the conditions we are facing today. The depravity of the fallen nature of man is not a new phenomenon and neither is the way we need to address that fallen nature. We need to take words with us.

I’ve prepared words before – words for a presentation at school when I was young(er), words for presentations at work, words for a message that I would give in church, and words to win arguments. The importance of the task was at hand would determine how much preparation I would put into getting all my words in order. As a youth in school, there were times that the right words for a presentation were difficult to find so I wouldn’t spend much time working on the assignment. The grade I received reflected my lack of preparation and my parents made sure that I knew they expected more from me. As time passed, I slowly grew to understand how important it was to prepare and began to take my time making sure my presentations first for school and later on for work were done well. I had people proofread them, critique my presentation; I was serious about getting it right. That need to be right bled over into my relationships with others; I was always prepared with an answer whenever a disagreement arose. I’d find myself rehearsing with great effort all the words needed to win; I wasn’t really interested in reconciling the relationship as much as I was interested in being right and winning.

Why is it so important to be right? To win every argument? Why is it so important that my “side” of the argument is broadcast until I am sure that my “rightness” is acknowledged? Pride keeps me in a tangle of opinions that gets me nowhere yet I insist on remaining on my course of utter loneliness. My words dig me deeper into holes of isolation from the ones I love and into agreement with those who only are interested in being on the “right” side. What is the answer? Taking the right words, not just words to win by. Words like, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking of your side as much as I should have. Please forgive me.” Those are hard words to say but they are words that dissolve the bonds of pride in relationships.

The Israelites, to correct their state of depravity, were told to “take words” with them to the presence of the Lord. They weren’t told to take sacrifices or bring money – they were to bring words. It’s often much easier to offer sacrifices, to give monetary offerings, than it is to bring words of repentance to the Lord or to those we have disagreements with. It’s especially difficult when we know we “have a right” to be angry or upset. I’ve learned, however, that the way to the Presence of the Lord isn’t climbing up to places of prominence and recognition for my “rightness.” The way to His presence is bowing low when everything within me says I need to prove how right I am.


***It is important to note that I’m not advocating bowing to abuse or anything of that nature. It’s not God’s will that anyone be abused physically or emotionally. If you are in a situation where your well-being is in question, know that God’s not pleased when anyone is abused. Please take time to consider what your options are by calling a counselor or hotline.

Yes, Lord

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This year I’ve felt challenged to follow Jesus closer than ever before. My husband preaches an amazing message about the importance of following Jesus closely that I want to briefly share with you. He talks about the account in the scriptures  when Jesus is taken from the garden and deserted by His followers. While everyone else ran far away when the darkness fell over the Lord, Peter followed Jesus “at a distance.”

Luke 22:54 NKJ “Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.”

There’s a danger in allowing distance to come between us and our Lord. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, followed at a distance. As he allowed distance to come between him and Jesus, his commitment to his Lord changed. One moment he was a close follower and the next, he denied Jesus three times. While Peter was later restored to the Lord, I’m sure he had many regrets for having denied Him. I so want to live a life of no regret!

I’m reading a book right now by Amy Carmichael (compiled by Bee Trehane) called, “Fragments That Remain.” In it, there’s an account of Amy’s early missionary service in Japan which began in 1893. While in Japan, she had two words written on the wall of her room: “Yes, Lord.” (Prologue p. ix) Such was her commitment to obeying the Father.

Whatever is asked of me, this year the answer I’m giving is simple: Yes, Lord.


Yes, Lord

I’m a sojourner, a pilgrim of sorts

Walking and running

A Shepherd guiding me

To destinations unknown.

 

At times in a valley

The night surrounding me

I’m climbing mountains

Darkness behind and shadows on either side.

 

Tables of plenty

And goodness all around

Mercy as my guide

Comforted in depths previously unknown.

 

You’re next to me

Even though death closely follows

You protect and keep me in the deep

Yes, Lord, where You lead, I will follow.


Psalm 23

 

Day 21 – We Made It!

We made it to day 21! Congratulations!

This has, for me, been an amazing 21 days; it has been a very good fast. You may ask, “How can a fast be good?” The benefits of fasting far outweigh the discomforts and inconveniences we face when on a fast. Fasting is a time that we set aside to turn our concentration away from the noise of daily life and set our hearts to hear from God. This is what we’ve been doing and God has surely been speaking to my husband and I and our churches in Africa.

What we face as we return to “normal” life tomorrow is keeping the revelations of the fast before us instead of forgetting them when life hits us in the face. If we aren’t watchful over the ground we have gained spiritually during the fast, we will lose it very quickly. In spite of the fact that life is now going back to normal, we can’t live life as we did before and hope to preserve the treasures we have found during this time.

Proverbs 1:29-33 TLB “For you closed your eyes to the facts and did not choose to reverence and trust the Lord, and you turned your back on me, spurning my advice. That is why you must eat the bitter fruit of having your own way and experience the full terrors of the pathway you have chosen. For you turned away from me—to death; your own complacency will kill you. Fools! But all who listen to me shall live in peace and safety, unafraid.”

What we have experienced in the past has, at times, looked and tasted like “bitter fruit.” This happened because we didn’t choose to reverence the Lord, honor our relationship with Him. We became familiar with what is holy and we chose to turn away from Him and His advice. The journey of life lived this way is increasingly bitter and full of “terrors” because of our choices. It isn’t God Who brings destruction – our own complacency, lack of passion for God, that brings destruction.

Like you, I’ve heard it said many times we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. A fast like this one we have been on is meant to get our eyes off of our own opinions and to turn our focus onto God’s opinion. If we go back to living as we were before without making adjustments, life will certainly return to the way it was before the fast.

There are a few practical ways I’d like to share with you on what you can do to keep the “spiritual edge” you have gained during this special time. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Create a vision board – where you post the things God spoke to you for this year. As a family, we have done this this year. Our vision board is in a prominent place in the house where we will see it often (Habakkuk 2:2,3). Ishah Whipple, one of our guest bloggers during this time, wrote a wonderful piece about vision boards. Click here to read more.
  2. Be diligent to spend consistent time in the Word of God and prayer. There are many Bible reading plans available online and in books, I encourage you to find what works best for you and stick with it. Prayer is not as difficult a discipline as we might think; prayer is simply communicating with God. God just wants to spend time with you. Write your chosen time in your daily planner – the time that works best for you – and stick to it.
  3. Create spiritual goals for the year that are attainable: reading books by solid Christian authors, taking a Bible class online or at your home church, and finding something that keeps you challenged spiritually.
  4. Be consistent with your attendance in your local church. If you’ve never taken notes during the sermon, maybe now is a great time to start.
  5. Involve your family in setting “God goals” for the year.
  6. When you fall short at some point, don’t give up. Pick up where you left off and keep going.
  7. Take short breaks for fasting during the year. For many years, I’ve fasted on Wednesdays to keep myself spiritually sharp. This past year I didn’t fast on Wednesdays as much as I would have liked – but that will change. I will be fasting more consistently on Wednesdays once again.

One of the main reasons people cite for not spending more time with God is that they “don’t have time.” Well, we make time for the things that matter to us. I encourage you to review your timetable and delete those activities that keep you from growing in your relationship with God.

I’m truly blessed that you have journeyed with me these three weeks, thank you. Now that the fast is over, I look forward to a wonderful vision-filled year! I’ll still be here, writing as The Cultural Misfit, talking about laundry, kids, church planting, coffee, and whatever else inspires me. I hope to find you here.

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Ah, now it’s time to go and get something to eat!!!

Day 20 – The Laundry

Are you a planner? An organizer? Someone who likes things to fit into neat boxes? I like to plan and organize as much as I can. I find if I can keep things as orderly as possible, life proceeds a bit more smoothly. I’ll make mental lists of chores to do for the day – I’ll add memos to my phone, write sticky notes to remind myself of “things to do” for the day. Unfortunately, when I resort to using sticky notes I forget that I’ve written them until days later.

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One of the things in life that needs to be done regularly is laundry. There’s no panic quite like the panic of needing school uniforms only to find they are all dirty, or for a preacher to wake up on a Sunday morning only to find that there are no shirts for him to wear! Then the manic digging through the laundry hamper begins – trying to find a shirt that isn’t “that dirty.”

I’ve seen shirts pulled from the laundry, sniffed and sprayed with deodorant and declared fit for use. The image of this ever happening on my watch as main caretaker of our laundry makes me shudder. When I was first married, my mother drilled it into my mind that the state of my family’s laundry was a direct reflection on my character. Now, I know that’s not true, that my people are capable to figure out their own laundry, but somehow I can’t seem to accept that truth at my core. I’m the “laundry police” and am almost obsessed with clean laundry.

This mentality of mine, for clean laundry, has been further drilled into me living here in Africa. With the ever-present threat of water shortages, I take care of getting the laundry done as often as possible because it is likely that at least one day in the week the water will be turned off.

To keep things flowing at the “laundry level” it means there’s a price to be paid! Laundry has to be washed regularly. But, it’s bound to happen, that the odd, unforeseen emergency pops up. Maybe the water won’t go off but something else is bound to complicate the process. What to do when the baby dirties each and every bib in the house or the dog messes on the folded laundry or the children track mud everywhere? We pay the price and get the laundry done if it means we stay up til midnight so that life can carry on tomorrow.

Psalm 68:19 ESV “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”

I’d like to think that when the unforeseen happens, our Father helps us step up and get things done that need doing.

In this New Year, as we prepare to end our 21 day fast tomorrow and set our faith in alignment with the will of God for us this year, we need to keep in mind that just like the laundry – the unexpected will happen. It’s very easy after an intense and amazing season with the Lord to forget that on the other side of this time, there will be tests and trials of the vision God gave to us during this fast.

This year’s wash is bound to have a few unexpected dirty t-shirts. The Father’s there to bear us up when He needs to. He has all that we need to help us not get behind with the laundry, we don’t have to do this alone.


Day 19 – What Do You Want?

Here is a conversation that I regularly have with my husband Jamie when I want to do something on a Friday, which is his usual study day:

Me: “What are you doing on Friday?”

Jamie: “Oh, the usual, it’s my study day. I’ll be preparing my Sunday sermon.”

Me: “So you’ll be home all day?”

Jamie: “Of course, I need to study!”

Me: “Fridays are important.”

Jamie: “What do you want???”

I’ll usually keep making my “faith hints” until such a time, as Jamie is so exasperated with me that he needs to know the real reason for my hinting. My questions have nothing to do with his studies or what day of the week it is; I just have something I need to do and I’m “testing the waters” to see if they will stir them in my direction on a Friday. Jamie says I always manage to get things my way; hmmm, I must have some amazing skills that I have honed over the years.

In Mark 10:46-52, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting on the side of the road. He was begging, as this was the acceptable practice for the disabled to earn a living in that time. When he heard Jesus was coming, he “began to cry out” for Jesus to “have mercy” on him. He was told to quiet down but “he cried out all the more.”

Jesus called Bartimaeus out of the crowd, and I find it interesting that the crowds, who had initially told him to be quiet, turned to him and said, “be of good cheer, He is calling you.” Isn’t that just like people today? One day you are discouraged for reaching for your apparently crazy dream (as Bartimaeus was reaching for his dream to see), and the next day, when it seems your initially crazy dream is getting some attention, you are encouraged. When God gives you a dream, don’t expect it to be celebrated when it’s only a dream. You’ll go through a season of “blindness” when your dream is just that: a dream. Be patient until the time comes for God to bring it to pass (Habakkuk 2:2,3). Once it does, it will be a witness to all, but in the meantime, don’t be discouraged when you’re told to “be quiet.”

When Bartimaeus finally found his way to Jesus, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” My initial impression is that Jesus already knows what he wants; Bartimaeus wants the obvious – he wants to see. Why did Jesus ask a question with such an obvious answer?

In times of blindness, we cry out to God in spite of everyone telling us to “be quiet.” If we can persist past the criticisms and rejection of people and cry out, “all the more” to Jesus, He will call us and ask us as He asked Bartimaeus, “What is it that you want Me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus didn’t ask Jesus why He asked what he wanted, he didn’t make any “faith hints” like I do when asking Jamie to do something on a Friday. He simply replied, “That I may receive my sight.” Jesus answered, “Go your way; your faith has made you whole.” The scriptures go on to say that immediately he saw and followed Jesus on the road.

We are now in day 19 of our 21 day fast and I have heard in my spirit the Lord challenge me with those words, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He already knows what I want but I need to hear myself say it. I need to “cry out all the more.”

Mark 11:23,24 NLT I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.  I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”

Faith works this way: you must believe and speak. It is how we receive our salvation once we have repented (Acts 3:19; Romans 10:9,10) and it is by faith that we live (Habakkuk 2:4) and receive anything from God.

Words have power as we have discussed already in Day 6 – Words. We activate our faith in God as we speak His Word and agree with Him instead of agreeing with our feelings or what appears to be real. Now is not the time to be hinting in faith about what you need – tell God and expect Him to have the answer!

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So what is it that you need from God? What does God say about it?

Do you need the doctor’s report to change? Do you need a healing? See 1 Peter 2:24

Do you need God to provide for you? See 3 John 1:2; Philippians 4:19

Do you need God’s protection? See Psalm 91

Whatever you need, there’s a promise for you in God’s Word. He has promised it and since He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) you can trust Him to take care of those needs.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) what will you choose today?

I challenge you to make 2017 be a year of breakthrough faith for you, I know I am ready for the challenge – are you?