The Call To Perservere

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Perseverance is described as “the patient endurance of hardship; persisting in a state or enterprise in spite of difficulties and discouragement…” according to the New International Version of my Life Application Bible published by Zondervan.

Several New Testament writers talk about perseverance. Here are a few of them:

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3

Rejoice in my sufferings? I’ll try.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:36-39

Don’t shrink back? I’ll give it my best shot.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3 & 4

Consider it pure joy? I’ll never make it. Rejoicing is hard enough.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

Make every effort?!? Okay. Okay, already. I get it. For crying out loud….

Perseverance….it’s not my best trait. BUT, it’s something I’ve come to realize is very necessary in my walk of faith. When I think of “patiently enduring” I almost have to laugh. Only at myself because I know Me so well. I’m not what you call an extremely patient person, but I do think I’m enduring…

enduring in the sense that I know God “will complete the good work He has started in me and will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

I am not about to give up on myself!! I WANT to produce this quality of Christ that is so perfect and complete. I may not reach this perfection in my earthly body, but one day…ONE GLORIOUS DAY…I will see Jesus face-to-face and on that day I will be perfect. Until then, God is forever “working it out in me.”

Thank heaven for that!!

One of the prayers I frequently pray is Psalm 138:8,

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the works of Your hands.” 

To think, there is actually hope that this perseverance I struggle to characterize in my imperfect, little self will actually produce something of great value and worth in God’s sight.

When I think of seasons of hardship and keep them in proper perspective I can actually find something to rejoice in.

When I think of seasons of difficulty and keep my eyes on Jesus I can actually believe and save myself from a lot of inner misery.

When I think of seasons of disappointment and keep my mind on Forever I can actually find great joy.

Because this moment in which I am living, in light of Forever, is very short.

Whatever I’m facing, whatever I’m patiently enduring, is but a speck when compared with all of eternity. These moments here on earth are really just one long season of waiting…

waiting for something bigger and better and more beautiful than anything I can possibly imagine.

And so I patiently wait…

God is all about patience, perseverance and perfection.

Over and over again He teaches me, trains me, and tests me

to build a faith within me that anchors me, ables me, and arms me

to take a good look inside of me, above me, and around me

that I might be a child of the King who keeps a proper perspective.

This world is full of people who have no saintly help, no earthly hope, no heavenly home to look forward to.

Deep within me is a longing for this heavenly home. God has placed it inside us all, but some don’t even know what this longing really is. It’s the place where Jesus is preparing our forever-ness.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Perfection takes time.

It can’t be rushed. There are many more who still need to be brought into the Kingdom. Jesus has many more glorious riches to bestow and more great rooms to build.

And this is why I can patiently endure. This is why I can persevere. This is why I can strive to rejoice, to not shrink back, to consider it pure joy, to make every effort. This is why I can wait…for those who seek Him to find Him, those who find Him to know Him, and those who know Him to love Him.

Because my life on this earth was meant to draw others to the Savior and, somehow, God uses my faithful perseverance through hardships, through difficulties, through disappointments to speak His Truth, shine His Light, and share His Love. Oh, yeah.

Yeah. Okay, already. I get it.

And I am so very grateful God never abandons the work of His hands.

It Was One Of Those Days–Part 2!

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Have you ever wondered why we seem to be able to keep ourselves together better in the roaring storms of life than we do in silent showers?

Or how we seem to hold ourselves up better in the bigger trials than smaller struggles?

Or when we seem to press on better through major distractions than minor frustrations?

Yeah…I’ve wondered myself.

When I’m having one of those days, it’s usually the little things that pile up until they become a mountain of turbulence threatening to spew out hot bottled-up feelings and fiery pent-up emotions. I’m the type of person who has to let it all out with a good cry.

See, the thing is, as bad as that sounds, I know I have a God whose rain is more refreshing than any silent shower, whose hands hold me tighter through every small struggle, whose strength presses me past all those minor frustrations. I need Him just as desperately in the day-to-day of life as I do in life’s fiercest battles.

And He’s not turned off by my tears.

If I can trust God for the big things, I can trust Him for the little things, too, because He’s the God who cares about every little detail of my life. To think that God isn’t in the quieter showers is to say that He doesn’t care. To think that God isn’t in the smaller struggles is to say He doesn’t understand. To think that God isn’t in the lesser frustrations is to say I don’t matter to Him and I know all that is a lie.

If you read my last post, you know I’ve had days lately when I just needed a good cry. Shortly after that long 10-hour work day in which my body was both physically and mentally depleted, I went to spend a few days with my parents in Virginia. My father pastors a tiny church and I enjoy worshipping with these gentle “older” folks who have big hearts and a lot of soul. Besides, every opportunity that I can hear my father preach is always sweet.

There are very few young adults in my father’s church, but there’s a young woman named Pam who attends with her Mom when she isn’t working. Pam is precious. She’s sweet. She’s kind. And she can sing. I love it when it’s her turn to provide the special music on the Sundays I’m there.

I drank deeply as Pam sang, “Will You Hold Me While I Cry?” by Karen Peck and New River. It’s blue grass. Even if you’re not a blue grass fan, this song speaks to the deep caverns in every one of us who’ve ever had one of those days. I’d never heard it before and it didn’t take long for my spirit to respond with tears that flowed freely. I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t even try. Because the words Pam sang spoke to that place inside of me where I know why I love Jesus so. Why I love how He cares for me. Why I love how He loves me. Why I love how He understands me. Why I love how I matter to Him.

Why I love how He cares about my tears.

Because over and over again He’s proven Himself to be my Comforter. My Friend. The One who pours out mercy like a river and love like an ocean when I feel alone. Who reaches out for me with strong hands and a firm grip when I feel weak. Who picks me up and carries me when I have nothing left.

I don’t care how long I’ve been walking with Jesus or how spiritual I think I ought to be, I still have bad days.

I still struggle with laying my burdens at my Savior’s feet. I still wrestle with my inner man and battle with my imperfect faith. I still fall apart at the seams and I still let Him put me back together. I still pant for streams of Living Water and I still long for the Lover of My Soul.

I hope I never get tired of running back to Jesus, over and over and over…

So…gracious me, if you feel like you need a good cry…go ahead. Because when the tears flow…so does the Spirit. He pours out love in a never-ending supply.

Because that’s who God is…He’s love, even when you’re having one of those days.

It’s been one of those days; if anything could go wrong it went wrong

I know I’m feeling sorry for me, there’s a lot of self-pity going on

Tomorrow I will be okay; the dawn will bring a brand new day

I’m sure by then I’ll be fine

Lord, today I really need a friend; I know that You would understand

Would you hold me while I cry? (Karen Peck and New River)     https://youtu.be/3v40qZSX5sQ   

It Was One Of Those Days-Part 1!

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I. Am. Pooped.

Sometimes I’m “too pooped to pop.”

Simply put…sometimes I’m a little more than just plain tired. I don’t know, maybe this term is vulgar to some, but I remember my Mom saying it when I was growing up. I’ve always thought it was kinda funny and it makes me giggle. It helps me down-grade the blahs and lighten up days when skies look kinda gray.

I started a new job a couple of months ago working part-time for the same chain of grocery retail stores where my husband is a co-manager. I unpack boxes and stock shelves on Thursdays, sometimes Fridays, too. I feel the need to remind you that I’m 57 years old.

In the past year, I’ve taken on some other roles, both in the church and in my local community, that have kept me busier than I’ve been in the last 8 years since we moved to our tiny town in North Carolina. Some mornings I wake up and I can’t remember what day it is. I have to lie in bed for a few seconds and think about it. Please tell me some of you have this problem, too. Yes?

No? Alrighty then. Moving on…

I remember being so physically and mentally exhausted a few weeks ago after working a nearly 10-hour day that when I punched the clock and got in my car I started to cry…”Lord, what am I doing here? How long can I possibly work like this?”

Don’t get me wrong…I love to work. I actually like to work hard. I believe God created us to work. After all, He put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it and care for it and Paul mentions in his New Testament letters that he didn’t rely on others to provide for him but chose to work at his skill as a tentmaker to provide for himself. I decided early on when I first began working grocery retail that I would pretend I was going to the gym to work out.

(Since hitting my mid-century birthday, I’ve come to realize the importance of keeping my temple clean. Let’s face it, the older we get, the harder it is to keep off the unwanted weight and the extra pounds. I try to walk as part of my fitness routine, but I’ve also had to make a lot of dietary changes.)

My work is pretty physical. Between climbing up and down a 6-foot ladder to reach the top of a mountain of stacked boxes, loading them on carts out to the floor then unpacking them, lifting, carrying, bending, stooping, reaching, rearranging, blah, blah, blah…you get the picture…I am literally pooped at the end of the day.

Anyway, back to that 10-hour day when I was so tired I couldn’t help but cry…not only had I hit my funny bone that day on a metal shelf (I actually danced in the aisle, rubbing my elbow, with tears streaming down my face), but I also smashed the middle finger of my right hand, drew blood on my left forearm breaking down a cardboard box, and THEN….the icing on the cake was banging my head on a wire bracket sticking out from the wall that I didn’t see because I have no vision on my left side. I had to hold a paper towel to my head for 5 minutes to stop the bleeding. After that, came the pounding headache. My head was sore for days after.

But, here’s the thing…when I left work that night at 8:00 with a downcast soul, God gave me the most beautiful gift. I drove down country roads with my eyes on the most amazing sunset. At 8:15 I actually pulled over into a farmer’s field of soy beans, parked the car and snapped a sweet picture as a reminder of the goodness of God.

When every muscle in my body was screaming at me, God. Enouraged. Me. He reminded me,

He keeps me and sustains me.

He lifts me up and makes me strong.

He is the lifter of my head.

He never, never leaves me.

He gives me everything I need to carry on, day after day after day, no matter what I’m doing, no matter where I’m going, no matter who I’m gracing.

Not only does He paint the skies, but He colors my whole world, even when I feel all gray and washed out.

When I’m having one of those days God gets right in the middle of it and even in busy seasons when one day seems to run right into another I know each day is a gift. We don’t know the impact we have when we learn to appreciate the length of our days. To think of a difficult day as meaningless and purposeless is to lose sight of the gift. To live as though my life is short in light of an eternity with God is to keep a proper perspective and cherish each day as priceless.

So, when I’m having one of those days, I want to be the kind of person who says to God,

“Teach me to number my days, that I may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

And then, when I least expect it, He will give me a prize…like a sunset.

And I am no longer pooped.

I am renewed.

The God Who Accessorizes

Okay, people. Here it is. The moment you’ve all been waiting for….

Ta-da!!!!!

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I have pimped my hearing aids.

Oh, I’m sorry…maybe I shouldn’t have said it quite like that. Let me rephrase…

I have jazzed up my hearing aids. I have reached a pivotal moment in my life. I am showing them off and making them stand out by accessorizing them.

I needed some new molds recently. My old molds were giving me an absolute fit!!!! They just would not stay in my ears. Every 5 minutes I was having to push them back in…with every move of my jaw they would ease out of my ear canal like an inch worm. Now for someone who likes to talk a lot you can certainly understand how my jaw is constantly on the move. I was ready to curse my hearing aids and put them death.

My ear doctor (and if you’ve been keeping up with me on my blog you know she is my fabulously sensitive and compassionate daughter-in-law) recommended some new molds made out of a different material. I’d been looking at some pictures of hearing aids on Pinterest all dolled-up with washi tape and brightly dyed molds…some of them even had glitter mixed in the dye!

Can I just say….to-die-for-cool!!!!

Oh, yes, can I have some of these, pretty please?!?

My new molds are actually tie-dyed yellow and green and of course, absolutely, without question….they have glitter.

Oooooooooo, I’m so giddy I’m ready to pop out of my chair.

I found some really pretty complimentary washi tape at Hobby Lobby and picked out a charm and some chain in the jewelry findings section and twa-LA! (don’t know what that word is, I just made it up) I made a darling little dangle to hang from my tubes.

BUT!!!! The best part of all is that my new molds stay in my ears ALL. DAY. LONG.

Oh, Sweet Jesus, I think I hear the Hallelujah Chorus….

For anyone who wears hearing aids you’ll understand when I say this is all a very huge, very major, very bold statement for me. When I was growing up they didn’t even make hearing aids to help people with hearing loss like mine. As a teenager, I was so ashamed of being hearing impaired, partly because I was already visually impaired due to the loss of my eye, that I didn’t talk about my hearing loss at all. I didn’t talk about my eye accident. To anyone. EVER.

Now you can’t shut me up.

I was talking to someone earlier this week about hearing loss. A woman I met who also wears hearing aids. We were talking about some of the ‘issues’ we encounter in life being hearing impaired and, like me, she doesn’t consider herself disabled or impaired. When I shared with her the issues I have of being hearing impaired without the peripheral vision, though, she actually stopped talking and blurted out a not-so-nice word that I won’t repeat here. It was her of way of saying, “Well, that stinks…”

Anyway, I use every opportunity I can when I share with others just how good God is to me in all of this. I guess I’ve become so comfortable that pimping-up my hearing aids (that’s actually what it’s called on Pinterest) is just another way for me to show God off. Cause when I show off my hearing aids, I can show others how beautifully God has accessorized my life…

Yes, God is a God who accessorizes. He makes all things beautiful in His time. And He’s made some wonderfully beautiful changes in my heart and soul. Over time, in His way, He has given me

…a crown of beauty for ashes… (Isaiah 61:3)

…a garland of grace on my head and presented me with a crown of splendor…(Proverbs 4:9)

…clothed me with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (still working on that one)… Colossians 3:12

…treasures in heaven that are like fine pearls…(Matthew 13:44-46)

…the best robe, a ring on my finger, and sandals on my feet…(Luke 15:22) 

I think you get the picture.

I have so much to be thankful for as a child of the King. That’s the real reason I pimped-up my hearing aids. To give me more opportunity to tell people that.

God’s riches are so much more than just washi tape and tie-dyed hearing aid molds. So much more than hearing loss and vision loss. So much more than anything on this earth that I think is to-die-for-cool. I can jazz up my hearing aids all I want. I can change the washi tape and change the color of my molds and change the cute little dangles, but I can never change the fact that God’s way of accessorizing my life is better than anything this world could ever offer me.

So….ta-da!!! This is the real moment I’ve been waiting for….

God, can I show You off?

How I Want To Honor God

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OH Gosh.

A few Sundays ago in church we sang Amazing Love as our Call To Worship. I came completely undone when I sang the words,

“Amazing love, how can it be?

That you, my King, would die for me.

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You.

Amazing love, how can it be?

That my King would die for me

Amazing love, I know it true

It’s my joy to honor You.

In all I do, I honor You.” (You Are My King, Amazing Love, lyrics written by Billy James Foote/Performed By The Newsboys)

I was so unglued that my friend standing beside me put a comforting arm around my shoulders while another friend behind me passed a tissue. Spontaneously, without thinking, I blurted out loud, OH Gosh! Sobs were welling up so thick in my throat they threatened to cut off my airway. I had to swallow repeatedly to keep my composure.

I don’t know, I guess I got hung up on the words it‘s my joy to honor You, in all I do I honor You.” 

I couldn’t help but wonder…do I have joy in my heart when I honor my King? Do I honor Him in all I do? Do I have joy in all the ways I honor Jesus?

Let’s face it, we’re going to honor most what we value most in life. Sometimes that honor is misplaced or misdirected and, in all honesty, we all have hearts that are easily led astray and attitudes that quickly run wild. I didn’t even mention wayward tongues. Oops. I just did.

God grace me. Please.

Oh, how I want to honor Jesus. Not just with words and deeds, but in attitudes of my heart and actions of my flesh…in those places where I seemingly put value on worthless things, meaningless stuff, and fruitless labor. When I think of what I set my heart on sometimes I admit…I am guilty of failing the honor test.

My girlfriend and I are doing a Bible study together, No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. It’s about…you guessed it…idols, personal pharaohs, functional gods…the kind of stuff nobody wants to talk about. I won’t scare you off with the details, but I will share this from page 13:

“Most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone, or metal worshiped by pagan people…In biblical terms, it is something other than God that we set our heart on (Luke 12:29; 1 Cor. 10:19), that motivates us (1 Cor. 4:5), that masters and rules us (Ps. 119:133; Eph. 5:5), or that we trust, fear, or serve (Isa. 42:17; Matt 6:24; Luke 12:4-5)….” {Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, Revised and Updated (Grand Rapids; Baker Book House, 2006), 104.}

I actually wrote in the margin…Lord, have mercy. Seriously, I’m thinking outside the box as I address this issue of “no other gods.” I really want to get to the heart of the matter. I can’t just honor God outwardly…I have to honor Him inwardly, too. That’s where a lot of us get hung up.

And this is why I got hung up on the phrase “it’s my joy to honor You, in all I do I honor You,” as I sang Amazing Love in church that Sunday. I know I have attitude issues. I know I have flesh issues. I know I have heart issues. Kelly Minter roped me in when she shared a Scripture from 2 Kings 17:33 & 41,

“They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods…Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols.”

See, I really want to honor God in all that I do because, after all, He gave His all for me…He gave His Son who gave His life and I just want Him to know I’m so very grateful. So–o-o-o, when I think about all of this and ponder all of that and meditate on what this means for me, my spirit really wants to honor God with as much of me as I can give Him. As Kelly says, the whole purpose of getting rid of idols is to make more room for Jesus. (If you read my last blog post, When I Am Distracted, you’ll know this is what I want.)

I’ve come to this place in my life where I want so much to honor God. And if that means I’ve got to give up more of myself and more of my wants and more of my attitudes and….and…more of the stuff in my heart that isn’t necessary, then that’s what I want to do. Some might call this a quest for personal holiness or sanctification, but I won’t scare you off with any of that, either. All I know is I need to tear down some idols. And I’m not talking about wood, stone, or metal. I might even have to grind some to powder and burn them.

But, OH Gosh! This is so-o-o-o-o hard. Yet, I have this feeling that the more of me I give up, the more of this honor I desperately want to give God will actually be the joy of my heart.

Who said this faith journey would be easy? Not God.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while,

‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39

But, who said it would be worth it? He did.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11

And that is enough for me.

Still Believin’ No Matter What

UnknownThis post was originally written for another ministry blog, but since that ministry has restructured and redesigned it’s website I wanted to repost.

As I prepare to end my month of fasting and prayer, I’ve already seen glimpses of God’s hand at work in my life. I foresee a year of change ahead. Part of me is excited to live out God’s purpose for me in this season of life and part of me is afraid. Afraid I’ll fail, afraid I’ll fall on my face, afraid I’ll take a wrong turn somewhere. I have to keep reminding myself that my life is a journey and when I surrender wholeheartedly to God I can be assured that He will order my steps. Even if I take a wrong turn He has the wisdom to steer me back on track. Even if I fall on my face He will pick me up. Even if I experience fear I will know His peace. So, here I am… still believin’ no matter what.

In November, 2002, about a week before I was scheduled for brain surgery I was reading John, chapter 17, one of the last prayers of Jesus before He went to the Cross. He first prayed for Himself, “The time has come. Glorify Your Son…” Then, He prayed for His disciples, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours…Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name–the name You gave Me–so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name You gave Me…”

I read the chapter over and over again with tears streaming down my face because my spirit was responding to the words of Jesus and I was deeply troubled. I asked God, “Are You telling me that I’m going to die? What about my family?”

His response was, “What if you did? Could you trust Me with your family? I’m what they need the most and I can go to the places in their hearts that not even you can go.”

A great peace came over me and I realized what God wanted from me more than anything was to hear me say, “Whether I live or die, You are Sovereign and You will be glorified in life or death. I’ve done what I could. There rest is up to You. I give You my family.”

In essence, this is what Jesus was saying to God…”the time has come…I’ve done all that You’ve asked of Me…the rest is up to You. Now glorify Your Son.” Jesus went so far as to pray in the Garden before the soldiers came  to take Him away, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not MY will, but Yours be done.”

How many of us who claim to know and believe that God is perfect and perfect in all of His ways can really pray like this? Yes, I was able to pray something similar before I allowed a neurosurgeon to slice into my skull and perform the very tedious task of cutting a tumor away from the nerves of my brain, but if I’m completely honest with you and with God I don’t always surrender so willingly to the trusting hand of the One who keeps my heart beating every minute of every day.

As much as the child of God wants to know what tomorrow brings, there is always a moment of truth when faced with the unknown when we are genuinely seeking God: Can I trust in the Sovereignty of God no matter the outcome? Somehow, I think when we can answer with a resounding “Yes!” to this question we have reached a pivotal moment in our faith journey. No longer are we weighed down by doubt and unbelief. We can trust in the power and goodness of God. That goodness will always prevail. Love will always rule where hearts are completely and totally surrendered to the work of His hand. To those who can say, “I’ve done all that You’ve asked of me. There’s nothing else I can do. No matter what, I will always love You. I will always trust You because You’re faithful.” It’s such a beautiful place to be.

How can we trust God with some things and not all things? Scripture tells us He doesn’t change. He’s not capable of changing. He’s the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He will always be faithful, He will always be trustworthy, He will always be good. When we doubt, worry and try to take over where only God can rule, in a way, we try to dethrone Him. I’m sorry, but that just can’t be done.

So, I’m still trustin’ and believin’ in the redeeming grace of God to save, no matter what. Sometimes I have to surrender again and again, but that’s ok. My heart remembers the Garden and my spirit responds to the words of Jesus because His words will never fade, never pass away and I’m comforted. I can do this. Life isn’t meant to be lived in fear of our tomorrows. After all, I’m still livin’ and breathin’ on this earth. Our worst fear could turn out to be our greatest miracle. You never know.

Can I hear an “Amen”, please?

“Because he loves Me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16

At The End Of The Bethlehem Road

3b17288306b4ff728bdb6ed9c6f87894I wish I was one of those people who loved to travel. Don’t get me wrong. I love sight-seeing historical landmarks, hiking mountain trails and walking through ancient ruins, but I’m not what you call a world-traveler. I’m not a jet-setter. I’m not even a happy-camper.

In my lifetime, I’ve journeyed to New York more than once both for pleasure and for ministry. I’ve toured New England and crossed the border into Canada. I’ve flown across country to visit a cousin in California who drove me up and down scenic Highway 1 and around winding mountain roads to stand beneath the mighty redwoods. I’ve been to the Holy Land and walked where Jesus walked and to Greece where I stood on the Acropolis and listened to the wind sweep through the ancient columns. I’ve been to Disney World and even cruised around Mexico, but I still don’t like to travel. It’s not that I don’t like experiencing more of God’s big, beautiful world. I just don’t like the journey.

I can’t seem to put aside my fear of flying. I can’t rid myself of this awful curse of motion sickness. I can’t even get a good night’s sleep if I’m not sleeping in my own bed. The older I get, the less I want to leave the comfort of my home. Somehow, though, I don’t think God wants me to become a homebody. I think God’s got something in mind for me that includes the discomforts of all that traveling requires…the loneliness of days on the road, the weariness of sleepless nights, the restlessness of a queasy stomach, the helplessness as I face my fears.

I happen to believe there’s a Bethlehem Road we all have to travel. Forced by Roman law to leave the comfort and familiarity of their home in Nazareth, Mary and Joseph journeyed over a hundred miles to Bethlehem to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for Jesus’ birth. It wasn’t an easy journey. They traveled on foot…Mary on the back of a donkey and very pregnant. (I’m sure she experienced a few bouts of motion sickness.) They slept under the stars every night of the journey…on a cold, hard ground.  (I’m sure they experienced a few sleepless nights.) They fought off waves of fear…at the thought of raising the perfect Son of God. (I’m sure they wondered what in the world they would ever be able to teach the Omniscent One.)

Yet, the Bethlehem Road was the most important journey of Mary and Joseph’s lives because at the end of the road  God performed the greatest miracle of all time. Jesus was born without the comforts of home, without a midwife, without family gathered around to share in the joy of His birth, without even a proper blanket for He was wrapped in swaddling cloths, long strips of linen wrapped around His body to keep Him still and quiet.

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:4-7

I’d say the loneliness of weeks on the road, the weariness of sleepless nights, the restlessness of a queasy stomach and the helplessness of their fears was worth it. To witness the miracle of Jesus’ birth, to hear the Son of God cry out with His first breath, to cradle the Hope for all mankind…oh, yes, it was worth it. The road to Bethlehem with all it’s discomforts and potholes and uphill climbs was so worth bringing the Savior into the world.

Wanna hear something wonderful? Miracles still happen at the end of the Bethlehem Road.

As I approach yet another year in my faith journey I wonder just what lies ahead. Sure, there will be potholes to avoid, mountains to climb, starry nights to keep me company on sleepless nights and upset stomachs to pamper, but I’m convinced God is up to something new in my life. The birth of Jesus was a new beginning for God’s people and Mary and Joseph witnessed God work a mighty miracle in their lives. The journey to Bethlehem may have been difficult, but it was life-changing.

I’m believing God for a few miracles of my own. Since I have an active imagination I like to ponder things and I wonder…what if Mary and Joseph hadn’t obeyed God and taken the road to Bethlehem? As I sit at my computer and type this question tears pool in my eyes because I don’t even want to think about it. Life might be so different for all of us, but I also have to ask myself: What if I didn’t want to take the road God has mapped out for me in my own life? What if I choose a road that doesn’t lead to ‘Bethlehem’ where God wants to birth something new? What miracle would I miss out on?

I don’t know about you, but I want to see God work miracles in my life. I want to see Him birth change. I want to see Him create something new in my life. I may not always know where God is leading me, but I know He will never take me down a long and weary road if it won’t be worth it. I’d rather have a hundred sleepless nights and face a thousand fears as I journey through life than to miss the miracles waiting for me at the end of my Bethlehem Road.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll become a world-traveler after all. Maybe God will lift the curse of motion sickness. Maybe I’ll learn to love flying across friendly skies with God as my Pilot. Maybe I’ll sleep like a baby on unknown turf wrapped in the swaddling cloths of God’s protective arms.

Maybe…all I know is, I don’t want to miss out.