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Even the high places have rocks

Arkansas-12

There are times getting away is an absolute necessity. The weariness of months of almost non-stop activity became unbearable when the hurricane blew into my life. It left me empty and broken and hurting, precariously hanging by the proverbial thread. So in the middle of duties undone and responsibilities unfulfilled, I took time off. I have family in the foothills, so in my need of deep soul healing and rest I made arrangements for a visit. And while there I went to a high place to meet with God.

Compared to living in an area that isn’t that much higher than sea level, just about any place you go is a high place. The high places of the bible, however, were not necessarily defined by elevation. They were places designated for worship, for meeting with God. Jesus changed that by giving us His Spirit to dwell within, but there’s still something to be said for finding a way to meet with God in your own high place. A place where intentional worship will occur. Worship that is free to be messy and frustrated and tearful and even angry if that’s what needs to be dealt with. I believe the greatest worship we offer God is our attention, acknowledging He is, fearlessly coming to Him with no pretense that we are anything but who we are in that moment.

I found a place beside still waters where I set up “camp” – my folding chair, my blanket, my bible and journal, and of course, my coffee. I had determined to stay until I heard God. It was a perfect day with cool temps, a bright blue sky, low mountains in the distance. I sat for a while just taking it all in. The beauty of nature has always moved me and this day was no different. Combine that with the events that preceded this escape and the tears flowed readily. I knew it shouldn’t and couldn’t be rushed, this seeking of answers from God.

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I’d opened my bible to Isaiah without a lot of forethought, flipped through the pages and stopped at the first thing I saw highlighted – “but those who wait for the Lord…” (40:31). I wasn’t even giving it much thought when I looked up and saw three bald eagles effortlessly moving above. If you are not familiar with the rest of that verse, it speaks of renewing your strength and soaring as eagles. God’s good that way, you know?

I knew this time wasn’t going to be one of lengthy bible passages or deep, wordy prayers, but rather just “being still and knowing”. I got up to walk along the edge of the water, exploring the view surrounding me. Now, if you’ve ever been in a mountainous area you know you there are rocks. Lots of rocks. To walk along a shoreline every step must be strategic lest you want to face plant on the stones or take a tumble into the waters. Honestly, I’d rather walk on pristine white sand with clear blue water washing in waves over my feet, mindlessly moving along, not having to measure every step. It’s hard to walk on rocks.

We have a tendency to think that if we’re obedient, if we’re following where God leads, if we keep our hearts right and strive to learn and grow, the walk will become smoother, easier. And it does. But there will always be rocks. There will always be people He brings into our lives that grate on our nerves. There will be responsibilities that He calls us to that are difficult and frustrating. There will be challenges as He moves us into the uncomfortable. There will be pressures demanding action and questions He seems to be slow to answer. There will be rocks.

I returned to my chair, picked up my bible, and begin to skim the next few verses. One phrase was repeated several times and caught my attention “…I will help you…”  I’ve had some wonderful times with God in the past when many words were exchanged and I was led to intense study. This was not one of those times. The four words of that phrase brought me more peace than I’d experienced in months. There were details I still wanted Him to speak to, situations for which I still needed His counsel, wounds that needed to be healed. But this day it was enough to know He would help me. This day was to worship amid the rocks in the high place.

 

Even the high places have rocks” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

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There are victories to be won

 

heart of hands

Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

On birthing an Ishmael

Wilderness south of Machtesh Ramon3, tb q010403

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, the raging storms have slowed to heavy clouds and scattered showers. At least for now. I sit here sipping my herbal brew which has replaced my morning coffee and am fully enjoying both the brew and the stillness. I’ve had a full and productive week which brings its own satisfaction, a feeling which has escaped me for quite a few months. I embrace this return of peace to my soul and vow to never let go again. Easier said than done…

I think of Abraham and what it must have been like to pack up everything he had and move his family when he didn’t know where he was going. The changes God brought in my life a few years ago weren’t quite as dramatic, well, at least not geographically. I remain in the same city with family and friends near. I thought I knew where I was headed but my “wandering” has lasted longer than expected. Seeking His direction has become a much deeper experience and I’m realizing just how often I distrust my ability to discern the difference between my own way and His.

I can certainly identify with Abraham’s impatience. He’d heard from God a profound promise for his life. He’d obeyed the instructions that did not make sense and began his journey as a man of faith. He had every intention of doing exactly what God wanted but found himself yielding to the pressure to make something happen. So he did. And Ishmael was born.

There is pressure in the not knowing. Pressure from people…what are you doing? Pressure from the checkbook…how are you going to make ends meet?  Pressure from within…are you sure you heard Him? It’s easy to believe the pressure can be relieved if we would just do something. 

I embarked on a venture last year that had all the potential in the world to be successful. There is an untapped market in this area, I have the talents and abilities to provide the product and services, and the high-end nature of said product could provide a very sizable income as the business could expand even into international arenas.

I had someone to introduce me and guide me through the details of this particular market. I easily found the resources and supplies I would need, and so I began. The logistics and timing of my first productions were challenging to say the least. It was definitely a learning process for me and my guide, and we were both making our notes of how to do it better the next time. And while I was confident that I could do it and could envision the potential of this business, I was striving to make it happen.

Working hard and striving are not always the same thing. To strive can mean to devote serious effort or energy. That’s a good thing and can bring the sense of satisfaction I mentioned above. But striving can also mean to struggle in opposition, and deep in my soul I was striving with this new endeavor. I didn’t have that absolute peace that I was headed in the right direction.

Abraham yielded to the pressure from his wife and he acted on it hoping that it would bring him peace. It did not. Ishmael was an innocent child and Abraham loved his son but he was not the son of promise. I’m sure Abraham tried very hard to make him the son of promise, he could see his potential, but in his soul he knew. Ishmael’s presence brought grief rather than peace. There was nothing wrong with Ishmael but he was an obstacle in the plan and God had Abraham send him away into the wilderness.

I can only imagine the grief in the heart of Abraham at the loss of his son. It surely was an obedience that he wrestled with greatly. Yet he obeyed. And when he did, peace returned to his camp. The promised son would come in the right time and it would be because God did something, not Abraham.

While I still see the potential for this business endeavor, I have sent it to the wilderness. It’s not a part of His plan for me. Once I obeyed in the letting go, peace returned. Direction became clearer of where I am to continue walking. I’m tempted to look back and lament wasted time. But that in itself is wasted time. Rather I will chalk it up to the experience needed to get me to exactly where I am. At peace.

This is not the first time I’ve had to send a desire to the wilderness. I’ve spent much time in my life trying very hard to make things work that just weren’t right for me. Or their season had ended and I just wouldn’t let go. And leaving these things in the wilderness wasn’t easy. But realizing that these things would only bring grief if I held on was the call to obey.

Jesus talked about the kind of peace He provides. Peace that defies pressure. Peace that isn’t logical and that cannot be fully explained. Peace that positions us to hear Him more clearly. Peace from within that cannot be taken away. Peace that has nothing to do with what I can make happen but rather what He has already done. Peace that remains in the midst of hard work. Peace that will cause the world to hunger for what we have.

*There are many families in the greater Houston area that are dealing with the devastation of floods. Please pray that these families find God and His peace during these difficult times. Please consider a donation for disaster relief to help the many who have literally lost everything. Samaritan’s Purse is a favorite organization of mine and I invite you to follow this link in order to help Houstonians:   http://www.samaritanspurse.org

 

“On birthing an Ishmael” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com