Tag Archives: Purpose

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

In our convenience-driven, consumer-dominated society, patience is often in short supply.  This is especially true when we are tested.  The Bible tells us that we are to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3).  Notice that these trials are not one’s that you seek out.  In other words, don’t go looking for trouble and then decide that God is testing you for your spiritual development.  Secondly, “meeting” a trial indicates an encounter, not an avoidance.  Yet we often buy in to the lie that just because something is difficult, it must not be God’s will, or must not be worth the effort.  When God appoints a trial to greet you, according to Scripture, it is with the intention that you will confront it, learn something from it, and the result will be steadfastness.  To be steady is to be constant, solid, strong, and certain.  Verse four says that when steadfastness has its “full effect,” you will be complete and lacking nothing.  It is not speaking of material wealth, but intangibles that are beyond value.  In fact, the next few verses speak directly about wisdom – an intangible that applies to every other area of your life.  Who possesses it? God does.  Is He stingy?  Never.  He “gives generously to all.”  Notice that full steadfastness lacks nothing – that includes wisdom.  The number one obstacle to becoming steadfast and managing trials is often a lack of wisdom.  The one condition for receiving wisdom?  Believe and do not doubt (verses 6-8).  Keep your eyes focused on Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Don’t get distracted.  Remain steadfast and the ultimate reward is a crown of life.  Is it a physical crown?  No.  The crown is not of gold or silver, but of “life.” What does it look like to be crowned with life?  Doesn’t that sound awesome!?  Rather than simply envisioning a fragrant garland of flowers, I imagine a legacy of bringing life to others, hope, compassion, and the love of Jesus.  I picture Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, and more recently Gary Sinise.  What an incredible legacy – to have so many lives touched in potent and eternal ways.  That is the kind of crown that far exceeds anything created by precious metals and stones.  So how do we sum up this loaded short passage of Scripture?  Be joyful – content and at peace, with thankfulness – when you are tested.  Ask the Lord for wisdom as you confront the challenge, and remember the lessons learned from it.  Over time, you will become more steady, patient, confident and complete.  This transformation is not going to happen overnight, but it will happen if you keep your eyes focused on Jesus.

 

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Mountaintops

 

Mount Snowdon.jpg

Mount Snowdon

Back in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a student ambassador trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  While traveling through Wales, one of our excursions was a trek up the highest mountain in the country, Mount Snowdon.  At 3,560 feet, it was the first time I had ever made an attempt to climb a mountain, but I made it to the top only slightly winded and the view was amazing!  I even went after a mountain goat and caught a small tuft of wool from its backside!  Several years later I attended a family reunion at Yosemite National Park, and had the opportunity to climb Mt. Yosemite with some of my cousins.  For context, I should explain that I live in Texas.  It’s mostly flat here, and much closer to sea level than the base of Mt. Yosemite, let alone it’s peak.  My cousins, however, live in Washington state and spend a lot more time climbing than I do.  My only previous experience was that of being in Wales, so I enthusiastically agreed to go.  It wasn’t long before they had to leave me behind, but I was determined to finish what I’d started, so I continued on.  Mount Yosemite is quite a bit steeper of a climb, and at 13,061 feet, I was in way over my head.

Yosemite Falls.jpg

Yosemite Falls

By the time I’m three-quarters of the way to the top, my whole body is shaking, and I begin to cry out of sheer exhaustion.  I sit for a moment, wishing that there is some way a helicopter can retrieve me, because I really don’t believe myself capable of going any farther.  A few other hikers begin to pass me coming down the mountain, and seeing my condition, they offer several words of encouragement.  While it is nice of them to say so, “You can do it” just is not believable.  What is the most encouraging is one woman who says, “You’re only 5 minutes away.  It’s just over that ridge.”  My problem is that I am focusing on my lack of physical strength, instead of the summit.  True to her word, the peak is just over that ridge and I am able to rest my feet in a clear pool of water and lay on the sun-baked rocks to restore my energy.

At church this morning, we were singing about God’s ability to move mountains, and I started thinking back to these two previous experiences.  Right now, reflecting on 2017 and looking forward to 2018, it feels somewhat like the Yosemite climb five minutes from the top, but there’s so much farther to go!  So maybe this is more like the Everest base-camp?  I looked that one up too, and base-camp sits at 17,600 feet!  I wouldn’t even make it to base-camp on my own strength, but this metaphorical climb has a summit worth reaching for… I’m not referring to wealth or fame, but the face of Jesus himself!  If I knew God were waiting at the top, I would do whatever necessary to make it because focusing on the knowledge of what is at the summit would be motivation enough.  I’ve been far too short-sighted, making things too complicated, trying to just balance the needs of today and feeling like tomorrow’s goals are always beyond reach…

2018 will have its own challenges, maybe you are struggling with a Mount Snowdon, or maybe you share my sentiments that 2017 got you to the base-camp of Everest and you’re staring up at the summit but focusing on your own failures, weaknesses, or limitations.  Let me share with you what God reminded me of this morning – one week in to the New Year – “But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  I haven’t reached the summit yet, so I can’t tell you that you only have five minutes to go or that rest is just beyond the next ridge.  I can tell you that God has been with me, and often carried me, through an awful lot of very difficult times, and His strength is more than enough to carry you too.  He is here – in the middle of our weaknesses – cheering us on to the summit.  The climb is worth it.  He is worth it.  Don’t give up.

Path to Mount Everest.jpg

Mount Everest (near base-camp)

Born to Do This!

Born to Do...

When I was starting out in college (the first time around) I came across a letter-sized black poster with a white swoosh symbol on it. Being familiar with the commercials for Nike and the tag line, “Just Do It,” I put it on the wall in my dorm room as a reminder that no matter how tired I was, or how directionless I felt, I could not give up. The problem I had was never a lack of determination, but a longing to understand my purpose. Why did God choose to place me in the time period that He did, with the family and in the birth-order that He did, and what in the world was I supposed to do with any of the talents and resources that He’d handed me? I’d heard people with regard to this or that say to me, “You were born to do this!” But was I? Just whose voice was speaking on behalf of God? Who should I listen to?

Our oldest child wasn’t much for listening through his teenage years, but after becoming a father at age twenty on Christmas Eve 2014, he’s started asking a lot more questions, and really taking to heart the answers given. Our second oldest is getting ready to go off to college and is struggling with which university to pick. When I was where they are now, though I believed fully in Jesus Christ, I didn’t truly understand what it meant for Him to take the lead, or for me to follow. I still attempted to do things in my own strength – to do what seemed rational, logical, or responsible rather than asking the Lord AND WAITING for Him to answer. He knew I would do that, and He graciously carried me through a host of poor decisions anyway.

So I’ve walked quite a bit farther since then, but focused on keeping more in step with Jesus and His Word, and I’ve learned a lot. One of the many things He’s taught me is that (See Exodus) the enemy is always in hot pursuit. If I am listening to anything other than His Words or following any other path than the one He’s carved out for me, I will get distracted and overtaken. The enemy will pick me off and consume me. If I will wait, listen, trust Him, and follow, He will make straight my path. That path may not lead to immediate prosperity – I may wander in a desert for 40+ years – but in the midst of that, He still provides (quail, manna, water). The banquet is yet to come.

So what am I born to do? I am a missionary. It is my life’s mission to be actively involved in an intimate relationship with Jesus and to introduce others to Him. How? Find where you are motivated – What stirs you up, brings you tears of joy or frustrates you the most? As an example, when I was seven years old, the Reflections art contest theme was “I Have a Dream…” patterned after MLK Jr’s famous speech. My dream was for every child who was too poor to have a birthday party to come together and a celebration would be provided for them. When I received an allowance at age thirteen, the first thing I wanted to do was sponsor a child, which I began doing through World Vision. Imagine my tears of joy when, years later, World Vision added birthday celebrations once a year in every village and I get to be a part of it! The point is not to pat myself on the back, but to point out where my obvious motivation always was (never discount the passions of a child – there’s always an underlying theme). Take that motivating factor and mix it with the talents, abilities, and interests that God gave you & presto! You’ve got a good idea of how He wants to shape and mold you – you’ve got your starting point. You still need the light of truth that only He can provide to guide you step-by-step. My starting point is a compassion for others that leads me to combat injustice through service. The gift He’s provided that I’ve used most prolifically throughout my life is my voice. Most people thought that meant I had to perform on a stage and live in a tour bus, but God had other plans. I am a voice-over actor. I am a teacher to my children and of preschool music in my church. I am an encourager and editor to my husband (who’s soon to be a professor/preacher). I am learning to translate into other languages. I still sing – but now for an audience of One.  I am a writer, passionate about research and sharing God’s Word. And I will not give up, shut up, sit down or stop moving forward as directed by His Word until the day He calls me home. What are you born to do?