I have begun taking early morning walks again. Popping out of bed, putting on my shoes and heading toward the park before the general population rises is about the only sure way for me to get in my exercise for the day. If I wait until my foggy brain clears, it would surely come up with a legitimate excuse not to go!
A beautiful park near my house has a winding trail that takes me along a shallow creek through the forest. It is a peaceful place where the early morning fog hovers above the grass like the spirit of morning rising. It is the perfect setting for a conversation with God.
This particular morning as I put one foot in front of the other along the trail I cried out to God for clarity. The past few weeks had been for me like a spiritual wandering in the wilderness. Everything was changing in my life’s ministry and nothing seemed clear. I was grieving the ending of one phase without knowing for certain what lay ahead of me. Obedience was becoming a challenge in a way that I had not expected.
So now as I was striding down the trail this summer morning I cried out to God, “What is it that You want from me?” At that moment two beautiful sun speckled deer walked across the path. They paused, gazed at me for an instant and then sprang into the trees on the other side.
Psalms 42 resonated in my spirit.
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
And then I knew what God wanted from me.
He just wanted me. All of me.
Sometimes He allows me to walk in the wilderness. Not because He has forsaken me, but because He knows that when I am free from the distraction of knowing what is to come, I develop a thirst. A thirst so strong that can only be quenched by the Living Water of the Most Holy God.
I am waiting in the wilderness for You, Lord.
Come, fill my cup.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s your choice.”
My daughter Rachel was describing her interaction with my grandson Isaiah as she was trying to get him dressed. Like a lot of two and a half year olds he can’t be bothered with things like pants or shoes especially if it means interrupting his play time. She had given him plenty of forewarning that they were going to leave the house and that he must stop playing to get dressed. Finally when time had run out she gave him the choice of doing things the easy way or the hard way. The easy way meant he would cooperatively participate in putting on his clothes. The hard way meant screaming and thrashing around as she navigated his body parts into the proper arm holes and pant legs. After a moment of thoughtful pause he simply said, “The hard way.”
That totally cracked me up! The fact that he would choose to exert that much effort to resist the inevitable showed such strong will. But then again, that attitude seemed strangely familiar. Wasn’t that what I had been doing for the past year?
About a year and a half ago God called me into new ministry. He asked me to venture into the unknown and frankly I was terrified. And yet, believing the call was authentic I knew I had to say yes. Still over the past few months my response has been measured, as if I had some control over the outcome. I kept trying to figure out the path in a way that suited me instead of giving control over to Him. And God had been very patient with me. It wasn’t until recently I have heard God say, “Anne, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but ultimately, my will is going to be done.”
Reality stepped forward front and center. Week after week I had stood before the congregation leading worship singing that I would go where He led me and yet my spiritual heals were caked with dirt where I had dug in hard to keep from going forward. What a hypocrite you are! I thought. You say one thing while you do another, choosing to stay safe and secure in a holding pattern. Suddenly I was the two-year old in this story choosing the hard way. I had been thrashing about with indecision and worry instead of acquiescing to the easy way where green pastures and still waters flowed.
And so I have made some hard decisions. Decisions that will lead me out of a wonderful ministry that I love into new areas of ministry opportunity. The funny thing is, I no longer feel angst about the future but am resting in peace. I still do not know exactly what the future holds, but I am O.K. with that. I know that God goes before me and will prepare the way. “The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23: 1-3
My church offers a Sunday morning van ministry to families who do not have transportation to church. One of those precious passengers is a child in my class. Last week before service he approached me with a concerned look on his face.
“Mrs. Gatts, my mom wants you to call her!”
I peppered him with questions to see if the need to call was as urgent as the look on his face. From his answers it didn’t seem as if his family was in crisis, so I told him I would talk to her as soon as I could.
As I was exiting the sanctuary after the worship service I saw his mom standing in the hallway collecting her three children to go home. It was uncharacteristic of her to have made the trek into town instead of letting the kids ride the van home so I went to her to ask if everything was all right.
“It’s all taken care of now,” she said. “But when the van came to get the kids this morning one of the men who sends his kids on the van told my kids they couldn’t go. My kids all ran back to the house in tears and I told them that they could ride the van because Mrs. Gatts had invited them.”
I was so pleased that she had spoken with authority to allow her children to take their rightful place in that van. Of course it was my hope that someday she would join them, but for now I was ecstatic that her little ones were being given the opportunity to learn about how much Jesus loves them.
There will always be people and circumstances that speak to us telling us that we do not belong. We are not good enough, clean enough, smart enough to be a part of the family of God. That is a lie of the evil one. For although we could never be good enough, clean enough or smart enough, the reality is that we don’t have to be! Jesus invites us into fellowship with Him just as we are. He loves us in spite of sinful selves.
That is what the message of Easter is all about. Jesus was murdered on a cross, buried in the tomb and Hallelujah rose again for all of us. We are His invited guests into the Kingdom. We only have to believe, dear ones. Do not let anyone or anything keep you from coming to Jesus. Speak with the powerful authority you have been given through the blood of the Lamb and claim your rightful place. Jesus has invited you.
I received a text from my younger daughter this morning telling me she had missed her flight out of Miami and would now be spending the day in the airport waiting for a flight home. I could sympathize with her frustration. A couple of years ago I had a similar experience when I missed a flight home out of La Guardia. I had been in NYC with my two sisters visiting family and enjoying the city. As we arrived at the airport to depart for Indianapolis we encountered a problem with airport security. The airport officials had closed down the check-in line we were in and when things were finally settled our plane was already in the air.
We spent the next several minutes haggling with an airport agent trying to book a flight home only to be told there were no seats available on any outgoing flights that day. Although my younger sister was able to secure a flight, I was told by the agent that I should “just go home and come back tomorrow.” All I wanted to say was, “This is not my home!”
I wonder how many times that thought has flashed across the minds of others. Is that what Abram thought when God called him into a new land? Genesis 12:1 records that, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” What was Abram thinking when he heard that call to leave his home and family? Did he think “This is not my home?”
Or what about Mary and Joseph when they fled to Egypt with Holy baby in arms? They went in the night to escape the wrath of an insane king, but I can’t help but think that they were wondering about the home they had left. What blind faith it took to follow after the voice of an angel in a dream to a strange, new land. A land that was not their home.
In truth, we too are wanderers in a place that is not our home. The struggles we face remind us that our temporary home on this beautiful blue marble is an imperfect place. A place where physical and spiritual hunger abound. Our need is great, but God’s grace is far greater. And as I reside in this land of earth and sod I pray that I can listen closely to God’s call on my life. I want to hear Him when calls me to a new land.
But not only that. Lord help me be willing to travel to the foreign spaces. The places where only You can lead me. Father, help me to go willingly to where the unknown opportunities of ministry await, because I know that is the only place where I will truly be at home.