Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Changes


Summer's heat has been left behind, Fall has shown it's color, and the chilly grip of winter is just around the corner. With the season's change, a new chapter is opening itself in my life. This Sunday, I will once again be boarding a plane, this time for Indiana.

Third-World mission work has been my heart's cry and desire for many years, and God has been leading me to pursue some specific medical training as preparation. This has never been an area of natural interest to me, so this all has been a huge leap of faith. At this point, I have no clue what the exact direction the Lord is going to lead me in, how far I'm going to go, or how it's going to be used. I have many, many more questions than answers, but my Lord has said 'go', and I'm following. The specifics are yet to be discovered!

In the month that I am gone, I'm guessing I will have little or no time for any posting here. I'm hoping, but not at all counting on it. All that said, I do hope to send out a weekly e-mail, sharing my experiences, what God is teaching me, and maybe a few photos. In there I will be sharing more personally the specific avenues the Lord is leading me at this point in life. If any of you blog readers want to be included on my mailing list, please comment with your e-mail address. Comment moderation will be enabled, so I will be the only one that will be allowed access to your information.

I thought I would also take the opportunity to initiate my first ever de-lurking day! :-) I've enjoyed tracking visiting statistics, and the states and countries represented never cease to intrigue me. Who are they? How did they end up here? You regular, non-commenting visitors especially have me baffled! My curious mind has long desired satisfaction to these questions, especially as page hits are rising, and comments few. Now would be the safest time ever to introduce yourself and say hi! I don't bite - promise! :-) :-)

Till next time!

Quotes Recorded In My Journal

Whenever God gives a vision to a Christian, it is as if He puts him in "the shadow of His hand." The saints duty is to be still and listen. When God gives you a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will bring the vision He has given you to reality in your life if you will wait on His timing. Never try to help God fulfill His word. Abram went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all of his self-sufficiency was destroyed. He grew past the point of relying on his own common sense. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not a period of God's displeasure. There is never any need to pretend that your life is filled with joy and confidence; just wait upon God and be grounded in Him.

Do we not see God at work in our circumstances? Dark times are allowed and come to us through the sovereignty of God. Are we prepared to be separated from the outward, evident blessings of God? Until Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, we each have goals of our own which we serve. If we are willing to wait, we will see God pointing out that we have been interested only in His blessings, instead of in God Himself.

In the Bible, clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through those very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. The clouds are the sign that God is there.

-Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More Life Lessons in the Fields

After spending over five months of my Spring and Summer working in 15 acres of wildflowers and native grasses, I've had ample opportunity to observe many of the different facets of nature. From planting to harvest, I've taken part in just about every aspect of the farming operation, and have found myself in awe over and over again at the intricate order of God's creation. For those of you who have never experienced the blessings of spending the majority of several months outside, I do hope that experience will be yours someday! It is truly eye-opening and life-changing!

One of the aspects I've unfortunately had to witness, is the effect of drought upon the crops. For the third summer in a row, this part of WI had experienced unnerving shortages of rain for extended periods of time. There have been times where we've known if we didn't receive rain in the next day or so, many of the crops would be complete failures. Though God graciously never allowed this in the entirety it could have, many of the flower species only gave half their normal production. Some of the yields are barely worth mentioning.

The lack of rain through much of the Spring and Summer threw many of the plants into survival mode. Their concern was no longer in optimum performance, it was simply the grim struggle of living. Leaves curled up to conserve moisture, and their deep green hues paled into a sick looking reminder of the lush foliage it was created to be.

In many of the species, flowering came early, and in small amounts, as the plants put forth every effort they had to at least produce a few seeds for further propagation. Because of the drought, many of the species were ready to harvest over a month early. Others put forth showy looking seed pods, only to disappoint us by their sparsely filled, or empty cavities.

Drought. It's been something I've been thinking alot about lately. I've realized it has many faces when pertaining to our lives. It can be the death of a loved one. The rejection of fellow-Christians. The debilitating effects of an illness. Lack of like-minded fellowship. Financial difficulty. A spiritual wilderness. The list could go on and apply to nearly any struggle faced in life.

Natural inclination wants to push us into survival mode as well. Retreat into an introspective shell has been an option many have chosen when losing a loved one. Bitterness has claimed those who refuse to forgive when hurt. Loss of joy has taken captive many who are faced with the prospect of never being healthy again. The hardships of the Christian life have caused many to wonder what is the point in even trying. The list could go on....

In a desert, this choice turns a healthy soul into one solely concentrated on it's own well-being. It's life ceases to bless others as it's openness and fragrance is lost. It becomes self-absorbed as it's focus is turned to the circumstances God has brought their way. Thorns replace succulent stems, and this life becomes a painful one for anyone else to observe or draw near to. It leans on it's own, faulty human understanding of the circumstances it's being brought through, and fulfills the words of Jeremiah 17:5-6

"...Cursed by the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness..."

What attitude and results are the difficult circumstances supposed to bring, and how are those things obtained?

I believe that first of all we need to have an unwavering trust in the sovereignty of God, and His complete control over everything that happens in our life. Secondly, we need to realize that He has a purpose in these desert times. I like what Nancy Leigh DeMoss says in regards to this.

"God uses circumstances to expose our need and bring us to the end of ourselves. In the face of pressure, we can choose to respond in pride, by resisting and resenting the circumstance, or by giving in to despair. (drought response) Or we can choose to respond in humility, to submit to the hand of God and allow Him to mold and shape us through the pressure."

One evening, not terribly long ago, I was pondering the various stretching times God's brought me through this summer. It's truly been a summer like no other. If at the beginning I would have seen all it was going to hold, I think I would've given up in discouragement. An almost unrelenting, driving schedule left me oftentimes feeling stressed, exhausted, and discouraged. As I pondered this, I started to realize I had slipped into survival mode rather than the flourishing Christian life I longed for. As I was seeking the Lord for the lessons He wanted me to learn through the difficult times I was facing, my Bible literally fell open to Jeremiah 17:7-8. These verses are in contrast to the ones I just shared above.

"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her root by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."

I remember that evening so clearly. I literally sat in stunned silence for several minutes. "God wants me to flourish through this? You mean I can flourish through this?"

There is nothing more absurd sounding than a beautiful, lush green tree standing in the midst of barren, dry wilderness. Yet this is what our life is to be. The dryness forces us to realize there is absolutely nothing for us outside of the Water of Life God provides. The hard times cause us to sink our roots deep, burying them in the ever-flowing stream of God's promised grace and provision. And that is why God sends them. Drought is a blessing in disguise - one the biggest blessings God can give to us.

Field work is over for me this year, but I pray the many lessons God has taught me through this 'summer like no other' will continue with me for a lifetime.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Vision to Reality


Oswald Chambers puts a refreshing perspective on the oftentimes painful seasons of vision we are brought through. While often tempted to discouragement and despair because of what I am not, it should be a time for rejoicing at what God is going to make me become.

"Thank God for being able to see all that you have not yet been. You have had the vision, but you are not yet to the reality of it by any means.

We thank Thee, Lord, for pilgrim days
When desert springs were dry,
And first we knew what depth of need
Thy love could satisfy

Days when beneath the desert sun,
Along the toilsome road,
O'er roughest ways we walked with One,
That One the Son of God.
-Author Unknown

How is this vision turned into reality???

We are not quite prepared for the bumps and bruises that must come if we are going to be turned into the shape of the vision. We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered into the shape of the vision to be used by God?" The beatings will always come in the most common, everyday ways and through common, everyday people.
-Oswald Chambers

It is my response to these common, yet oftentimes challenging circumstances that determine the extent of their usefulness in my life.