Mile after mile pass outside the window as we drive. My mind still struggles to grasp the fact that another season of retreats is beginning. I'm excited. But I also feel a greater responsibility than ever before...
There's no time for playing Christianity. Who knows how many more years of retreats we have left? What if this year is the last? Will it just be another encouraging weekend with blessed fellowship, or will it be life changing? That's what I've been asking myself of late...
Because really, I believe in the One who is the ultimate Source of power. And if our faith is in Him, who says that miracles can't happen?
So often we relax our hold on that power, and leave the forces of evil unchallenged. Jim Elliot states it so well...
We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are "harmless," and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are "sideliners" -- coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!
It's time for a change-- for action. Give us faith, Lord, that claims Your promises and acts on them. Let us taste Your power. Strengthen us to be a threat to the powers of darkness. Then we will see a year of miracles.
MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY, SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
-Sir Ernest Shackleton-
Quite a proposal. What would inspire a person to sign on to such a trip? What motive could possibly make a man want to leave his home and family for that? What if he did never come home? Could it be worth it?
Love does away with fear. In this case love of adventure...
Another quote comes to mind... this one from a famous astronaut.
"If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life." Virgil (Gus) Grissom
And later he and two friends did give their lives. While testing the Apollo 1, a fire broke out in the capsule and all three men died.
Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee before the fire.
What could have motivated them to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?
Yet again we find love. In this case, not only love of adventure but love for conquest.
And it makes me think... What would motivate us to endure long months of complete darkness? What would give us the courage to live a life of constant danger? What would we deem a worthy cause for which to expend our life?
And the same answer strikes again. Love. This time capitalized.
Because that add was not just something written to inspire men to join an adventure to the South Pole. Someone much greater asks for similar courage.
And if hundreds of men could apply for that because of their love of adventure, shouldn't hundreds of Christians be willing to face the same for love of their Master?
If three men were willing to give their lives for the conquest of space, shouldn't we be willing to give our lives for the conquest of something much greater?
Shouldn't we be willing to face hardship this year?
Sometimes God uses hardship as the very means of our growth. And I say that with more confidence than ever before...
Dec. 31 2012
Lord, I want a year of growth-- if that means a hard year-- let it be a hard year. Take me out of my comfort zone. Send me trials. All I want is the year of greatest growth in you that I've ever had. That will make it my best year so far.
Little did I know what I was asking for...
After various trials and several months of fighting an unknown illness, and then being diagnosed with Lyme disease in August, I have a little more idea.The seven months of sickness and pain have been God's answer to my prayer in the above journal entry. And yet I wouldn't have that prayer unsaid, or those seven months "unlived" for anything. I can truly say that hardship was my greatest blessing.
Fast forward to another journal entry a year later...
Dec 31, 2013
...Though I now know more than ever before the heart definition of pain, I know also the heart definition of upholding Love. I may have known personally what it is like to be utterly weak, but I have also known the amazing power of sustaining grace. I might have known disappointments and confusion but it was only so that I might now truly know trust. I may have experienced darkness, but it was only so that I could now appreciate more the one true Light.
I now see my greatest struggles as my greatest blessings. Hardship is not our enemy. It is a gift the Master allows that we may be strengthened to fight our real enemy.
This year, I'm excited to see what new things He has in store. I know my Jesus doeth all things well. I praise Him that the last few weeks have marked improvements in my health, and the beginning of a slow, but sure, recovery.
And for the record, Lord, I am willing to endure hardship for You this year. I deem You worthy of risking my life.
After all, didn't You deem me worthy of risking Yours?
The last several weeks have provided a lot of “think time” for me. Time that was not on my to do list… Time I didn’t think I could afford. I had plenty of plans and deadlines for this summer, but sometimes He blows our plans apart so that we will accept His much greater ones. I’m grateful He does.
And so instead of fighting Him, I’m choosing to make the most of the time He is giving me. I see already that He’s had a purpose in my unlimited “think time.” I’m learning lessons… far greater than anything I thought to learn in school this summer.
The lesson that is engraving itself on my mind and heart first came through our evening family story time. Let me share...
*He was an ordinary guy, only nineteen. He had felt God’s call to go and give his life to reach a certain Indian tribe for Him. So he left all he knew, home and friends, and purchased a one way ticket to South America. After years of seeking to get to them, he was brutally injured by an arrow shot into his leg by the Indians he came to love. But he did not give up. The work God did in him to reach the Indians was miraculous. Despite enduring terrible injuries and potentially fatal illnesses, he was faithful. And because of his efforts, God brought the whole tribe to a knowledge and acceptance of Jesus. The cross was exalted. Captives were freed.
In time, our young friend became engaged to a sweet girl who also loved the Indians and the the Savior. They eagerly looked forward to their future of service together. But the devil can never stand the exaltation of the cross. Their wedding day never came. She died in a heartbreaking car accident. Her fiancée received the telegram sent by her mother weeks later.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Indians were being threatened with the loss of their land or death, by the colonists. And it was our missionary's best friend and adopted brother, the first Indian to accept Jesus and the spiritual leader of the tribe, who was first to suffer. He was cruelly murdered.
In the midst of his heartbreak and dismay, our missionary friend went to visit one of the Columbian officials to report the death of his Indian brother. It was their conversation that has been burning itself onto my mind the last few days…
The Columbian official reminded our friend that the struggles and death they were going through were not in spite of Jesus but for Jesus.. They were because of the honor and exaltation of the cross. The devil was angered at the work done.
It was for this cross that they suffered.
The lesson imprinted itself powerfully on my mind. So often we find our willingness to suffer, in the knowledge that the pain is for our good. But is that the only reason for our suffering? Might there not be a greater reason, a reason that is far above our little lives?
Might it be that our suffering is for the exalting of the cross?
The devil is angry when we give our lives to be a testimony to the power of the cross, angry when he sees captives set free.
Could it be that we are called to suffer because the cross is being lifted high?
And might it be, that through our suffering, our Jesus wants to raise the cross higher still, by it’s visible power in giving us strength to bear our pain with trust and joy?
Could it be that our suffering is God's tool to break our self-reliance, so that He can then use us to lift the cross higher still?
I’ve noticed something lately. Many of us who are giving our lives fully to God’s work are facing trials. Sometimes its health challenges, or loneliness, days when it feels like the sun forgot how to shine.
But could it be that its for this cross?
The thought makes my heart leap. If this is the reason for our pain… Oh Jesus, send us more, that through it the cross can be lifted just another inch higher.
And when we suffer, more and more of the cross becomes our own. Jesus becomes dearer.
Paul counted his gain as loss, and his loss as gain. Think about that.
And so I’ve started praying a scary prayer-- scary because I mean it.
My plea is that I would be allowed to suffer more if the cross can be lifted higher by it.
That every gift I treasure most will be taken from me, so that I can gain more of my Jesus and His cross.
And that He will break me, so that I can be a more powerful vessel in His hands to uplift the cross.
Isn’t it worth loosing everything to gain everything? Even if we loose life itself?
I don’t know what will be the result of this prayer. It still makes my heart skip a beat when I pray it. But I'm convinced... Anything suffered or given up for this cross is not in vain.
I long to say with Paul,
…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and so count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Don’t run from your trials, from your losses. Be encouraged that even pain, health challenges, confusion about your future, and lonliness are not your enemies, but tools in the hand of the Master. Count them as gain.
Through them you may lift the cross an inch higher. And you may make an inch more of it your own.
Oh Jesus, we’ll willingly bear anything….
…for this cross.
It was only a week ago. I lay on my hammock outside (my summer sleeping spot J) gazing up at the stars. Inside I knew my Jesus had something to say to me. Something deep. I’ll be honest, I’d been resisting it because I was worried He would ask me to do something I didn’t feel I could do. Now under the blanket of the starry sky I was ready to listen.
Child, are you willing to give up your dreams, plans, and yourself and be used up for the good of others? Are you willing to live your life only for the good of others? Will you let me use you to make a mark on this world?
Silence. Of course I had told Him before that I wanted to live my life for others, but somehow this time was different. It was if He was asking for something deeper.
And I knew He was asking for action. I am far too good at talking and dreaming, yet never doing much about it. Just a few days ago we were talking with some friends about what it is that stops us from acting on our talk. Fear of the unknown and lack of commitment. Ouch. I knew that He was asking for my answer to be more than words—He wanted a “yes” in actions. And I paused. Was I ready for this?
I looked up at the stars again. And then a thought flashed through my mind…
This little world that you call home, it is the only world that hast fallen. And yet all the riches of the universe have been poured out on it. The Maker of the Universe has trod here. Angels have poured themselves out for your little world. Do you count your life too much to be given?
My answer comes. No Jesus. No cost is too much. I give you my everything. Just pour me out for the good of others and I will be satisfied.
And this last week I have really experienced it, and it has been thrilling. He has changed my desires so that I really desire the good of others above my own good. That’s a miracle.
Sometimes we tend to think that pouring ourselves out for others can only be done in some desert Africa, but that can be a subtle deception. Sure I’d run all the way to Africa to pour myself out for all those starving people if I could. But I’m learning that there are starving people here too.
Even if the only place we can pour ourselves out is our own homes it is worth it. It is necessary. Every heart longs for love. We can fill that longing.
We can never touch the hearts far away until we touch the ones closest.
By His grace, I’ll love every individual He places in my pathway. And maybe one day it will be a starving African. But for right now I’ll be content with serving the people around me.
This Sabbath finds me lying on my bed, head pounding, stomach churning, back aching, and throat sore. But I’m not giving way to feelings of frustration. If my miniscule suffering can help me relate to the greater suffering of others just a little more, then it’s all worth it.
I turn on one of my favorite songs and let the words sink in. They mean more than ever before…
There is a candle in every soul,
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold.
There is a Spirit
Which lights a fire,
Ignites a candle and makes His home.
Carry your candle!
Run to the darkness.
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn.
Hold out your candle!
For all to see it.
Take your candle,
Go light your world.
Frustrated brother, see how he’s tried to
Light his own candle, some other way.
See now your sister.
She’s been robbed and lied to.
Still holds a candle without a flame.
We are a family whose hearts are blazing
So lets raise our candles, light up the sky.
Pray to our Father
In the name of Jesus,
Make us a beacon in darkest night!
I would never have thought it was possible to learn such a deep spiritual lesson from the top of a castle in England—a lesson that has had my mind spinning ever since.
As we climbed up the spiraling stone stairs, my mind flashed back to the Apostle’s day. I could almost see them climbing stairs just like these, maybe to a prison cell. I’ve long dreamed of being thrown into a prison cell for my faith. I long to know the experience Corrie Ten Boom had… “You never know all you need is Jesus until all you have is Jesus.” And I’ve always thought I would be faithful even if they should ask for my life.
But I didn’t know what awaited me when we reached the top of the castle. I walked to the edge and stared. The distance to the ground just took my breath away.
And then the familiar inaudible voice…
Would you be willing to be thrown from the top of this castle to the ground far below if you were told it was renounce your faith in me or be thrown over the edge?
Silence. I could see in my minds eye those faithful soldiers—the Waldenses—being tossed over a cliff face because of their faith in Him. I gazed again over the edge…An answer was forming in my heart, but it was not the answer I wanted to give.
I don’t know Jesus—I don’t know.
How could I be saying this? I had always been determined to stand. I had even dreamed being a martyr for Him. And here I was, and all I could mumble was-- I don’t know.
That really bothered me. If I couldn’t say yes now, how could I ever say it then? Why was I suddenly fearful? Staring over the edge the answer seemed clear. It’s one thing to imagine giving my life when I’m at home in my comfortable room… it’s another thing in reality.
But I couldn’t be content with my answer. What would it take to give a whole hearted “yes” if the moment ever came? Another glance to the ground far below and I knew. Love for Him was the only way—deeper love than I had ever experienced. Perfect love casts out all fear.
All day that question spun around in my head. And all of a sudden I found another answer forming in my heart.
Yes Jesus. Anything to be faithful to you. But you’re going to have to help me. I realize how powerless I am. Please do whatever it takes.
And He has been teaching me far more than I could dream since that moment. Driving back to my grandmother’s that day He reminded me that it’s only by resisting every dart of the devil, now, that I will resist, then.
Ouch. That’s a weak point of mine.
But He has amazed me again in the last couple of days. It’s been awhile since He’s seemed so close that I feel like I can hear His heartbeat if I listen long enough. And it’s a experience like nothing I can explain. He’s teaching me… and I know if I am willing to learn He will help me be able to look over the edge and give a firm, unwavering, yes.
I was listening to a favorite song yesterday and one of the lines popped out at me in a new way.
If from His side we fall we’ve lost it all—for in Him all things are found.
We loose nothing if we are tossed over the face of a cliff because we will not leave Him. We loose everything by giving up on Him. So often we think we give up more being faithful, but could it be that we give up more by not being faithful?
Jesus, I plead earnestly that you will do whatever it takes in me so that I can give you an unflinching “yes” if it ever comes to it. And I ask for more than the courage to say yes to you then-- I ask that you would help me say yes to you every time now. And I plead that you would not work in my heart alone…
He's asking you too... What's your answer?
I’m tired of dreaming Revolution but not acting it. I’m tired of the complacency that follows me everywhere. I’m tired of the fact that it’s so easy to spend hours talking with friends, and yet so hard to spend an hour on my knees. I’m tired of reading those quotes about young people finishing the work, and not doing a thing different. I’m tired of having plenty when there are children starving with nothing. I’m ready for a change. Aren’t you?
I might not be going to Africa tomorrow. In fact I know I won’t be. But aren’t there people starving here in America too? Starving for love—starving for Jesus?
Isn’t it time for a change? I mean a real one. Not one that just begins and ends in our imagination; but one that changes us, our friends, and eventually our corner of the world?
Isn’t it time to pray like we’ve never prayed before? Not just for ourselves but for each other? To not even think twice about spending an hour on our knees, at any time, if that’s what the Master calls for?
And isn’t it time to put aside all foolishness? I mean, when was the last time we got together and our first thought was to talk about Jesus? And even if it was, somehow it wasn’t what came out. I’m tired of how awfully easy it is in the moment to burst out laughing at the end of a funny story and soon be on to one of my own, and yet how hard it is to keep a straight face and totally change the direction of the conversation. Where do funny stories fit into the Revolution?
I’m only sharing what He’s put on my heart. And I know it’s not just my heart He’s working on. Because this whole Revolution--it’s something we embark on together.
And yet somehow we’ve got to start living it, not just for a day, but for a lifetime. How? This is the question I’ve been pondering, and I’m coming to the conclusion that the only way is through a total heart change.
Because you know what it’s like. One morning I wake up all ready to jump out of bed and spend time with Him, and the next day I have no enthusiasm. That’s got to change.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has those times when I’m so close to Him that I can almost sense His heartbeat, but then a few weeks (or days) later I feel a million miles from Him.
And yet somehow, I just don’t think we can be living the Revolution one day and not the next. He’s got to change our hearts so that we get out of bed whether we feel like it or not, and fall on our knees. He’s got to place in us the burning desire to live in His presence, so that when He feels a million miles away, we won’t rest until we know our heart is knit with His.
And we’ve got to put aside our feelings and live by faith. We can’t just live it when we feel like it and just dream it when we don’t.
Luther lived revolution in his day. What was his key? Prayer. Bible study. He didn’t just read a daily devotional and pray a “help me be good today” prayer. It was hours of prayer, hours of time in the word. It’s what gave not only Luther, but the fathers of our faith their power.
And so, I am challenging myself, and I’m inviting you to join me. An hour of uninterrupted time on my knees everyday. Maybe you’re all doing it already, and I’m the last to catch on…
As for all I’m going to say on my knees for an hour, or how it’s going to fit into my schedule when I’m traveling, to be honest, I don’t know. But He does. And this Revolution is because we love Him.
Let me share a prayer from my journal this morning, and let me tell you again--I want to live this Revolution together.
“Revolution’s flame, begin in me. Put my heart and life aflame. More than anything this world offers, light my heart with loyalty. Self—let it be no more. Only the dead wood is ignitable. Take away my plenty; my all is Yours. Just let that fire burn bright in me. Bring the furnace seven times hotter, until I am pure gold, reflecting You. Change my heart—make it like Thine, until my life matches my words. No more dreaming about Revolution—let me live it.”
The enemy is waiting to knock us flat. But in my mind I see a battlefield with a line of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder. The enemy tries to break through their ranks, but he can’t. Sooner will they give their lives than give him the victory. Their prayers are constantly ascending for each other. They stand, a solid line of soldiers--fighting together.
I’m ready for Revolution. Jesus, I’m looking forward to that hour tomorrow morning. And I’m thinking I won’t be the only one. Do whatever it takes to make us live Revolution. I’m in, if You’ll lead me.
Will you join me?
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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