Light for One Step

 

panoMingusLookoutSome things we learn theoretically when life is going smoothly are the things we’ll need to apply practically for getting through the “test” successfully when life throws ugly curves at us. I still clearly see in my mind the dark night we were walking back from the overlook  on Mingus Mountain to the youth camp. Because the ground was uneven, strewn with rocks and fallen trees, I had to shine my flashlight directly in front of me, not out ahead of me, to see what  I needed to step over or around. It occurred to me that all I needed was light for the next step. I shrugged off the knowledge that a skunk could be anxiously poised  two feet away from me, unseen in the dark, and planted each step in the patch of light I had for it.

Oh, Rose, remember! Believe!

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Easier said than put into practice and lived, BUT, nevertheless, regardless, God has been that steady mini Maglite on my path the last eight years, even though I confess I’ve tried to shine it far ahead of me, scanning the future to see where God’s blessings might lie, and yes, missing two that were right under my feet. Did that mean God stopped loving me? Does that mean God stopped blessing me? NO!

If you’ve read this blog or look over posts of the past eight years, you read how God has been faithful to me even while the winds and waves thrashed around and towered over me. Just as He led the Israelites across the Red Sea on a miraculously dry path, God has led me into His blessings and goodness, even though I’ve wandered around as much as  they did, partly because I listened to well-meaning but unwise advice, and simply because God’s blessing didn’t look like I thought it would. Truly, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”… Lamentations 3: 22-25 NASB

Twice in the last five months GOD has brought HIS opportunities directly into my path. I didn’t  scan the horizon looking for them; God simply put them “right under my feet.” People came looking for me. Now it’s my job to use what God put into me, empowered by His Holy Spirit, to make the most and  best I can for God’s Kingdom purposes and victories from them.

As my friend Donna Partow wrote, “This Isn’t the Life I Signed Up For.” Hmm, well, maybe it is, and I just didn’t know it at the time I “enlisted.” What I DO know is that God IS good all the time (ironically and NOT coincidentally the title of a women’s devotional gift book I  was just asked to write for Christian Brands). O Lord, how You love me! I do call it irony, but lovingly – and firmly -You’re reminding me that 1) YOU are in charge, and 2) You love me, and 3) You see value in me, and 4) You WANT to accomplish Your purposes in me, and 5) You are good all the time and Your will for me is good, and 6) You aren’t done with me yet!

I lean into God’s Word every day because I NEED to! I NEED Jesus to be my loving Lord, Guide, Shepherd, Sword, Shield, Father, and Almighty King.

Oh you foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3: 1-9, 14 NIV

Yesterday as soon as I awoke, three songs came into my thoughts in succession:

  • Holiness, Holiness Is What I Long For
  • The Strife Is  O’er, the Battle Won
  • Lead, Kindly Light

Holy Spirit of the Living God, speak to me (loudly, please, with mercy for my sometimes deaf ears) what You are saying in those songs, and help me to walk in the one foot of light You give me today. I pray you help my emotions, my over-active brain, and my spirit to rest and trust in the Light of the World, even twelve inches at a time.

Simply Amen! In Jesus’ name, God, get YOUR glory!

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More Steps

Rose Jackson© 1/6/2011

If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm (the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the LORD); though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37: 23-24.

I seem to stumble into God’s purposes more often than I intentionally, clearly see and follow. But it’s comforting to know that I can’t accidentally fall off the path of God’s plans and purposes involving me – and what fun it is to find yourself in the right place at just the right time!

Time almost caused me to miss a God-appointment on January 1.

A few days before, I received an e-mail from Bridge Builders about Mountaintop Prayer throughout Arizona on New Year’s Day and thought it sounded nice to watch the sun rise and ring in what I fervently pray is a year of victory and blessing with a bunch of other people praying on a high place. There are LOTS of mountains in and around the valley that is Metro Phoenix. Two venues in the e-mail caught my attention: one just four miles from my house, and one about 12 miles away on “A” Mountain in Tempe, overlooking Arizona State University.

I filed the thought as “act on later.” Life was too hectic with Winter Camp in full swing at the Zoo to make firm plans in advance. So December 3oth found me firing off a quick phone call to the leader of one hike. I leaned toward the “save time/save gas” option, but “A” Mountain still beckoned me. I met my husband at ASU, and it seemed somehow fitting to pray overlooking the place we met, the place we lived, the place he gave me his Aunt’s garnet ring, the place where our life together began. I wanted to take back territory lost!

But doggone it, I’d picked up the bug going around our office (my boss had strep), and after a week of raising my voice over 19 kindergarteners going in 16 different directions at once, Wednesday in one day of cold and constant rain and Thursday in bitter cold, I’d awakened at 1:25 am on the 31st feeling like someone ripped my throat out and shoved a piece of rebar in my left ear. Stay home? Go anyway? I e-mailed the leader of the “A” Mountain hike and got the map and details, just in case I felt better on New Year’s Day: park somewhere close to the trailhead at 6:30, hike to the top, meet the group, bring a flashlight. Just in case, and just in case, I went to bed in my long underwear, turtleneck top and wool socks.

I woke up just before 5 a.m. still feeling miserable, knowing it was still hovering around the freezing mark, and “sensibly” talked myself into going back to sleep. But I awoke again at 6:05 and thought (very spiritually) “Oh, what the heck!” Panic leaped out of bed with me, because at the very least I needed to feed the dogs and let them out and back in, throw on jeans and a sweater, hiking boots, and a heavy coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and drive 12 miles to Tempe – yes, I chose “A” Mountain – in 25 minutes! Cursing my waffling, I slammed down some orange juice and gave up on breakfast, splashed some water on my face and gave up on makeup (it would be dark anyway) and brushing my hair (it would be under a hat), gave up on leisurely hiking to the peak, and sped off into the frigid darkness.

My quick look at the map the day before showed nebulous parking lots, but several approaches to the trail. Where in the world was the closest trailhead? I passed up a parking lot, only to find I couldn’t turn left at the next one. U turn at the light, back to the lot, but where was the trail? “Fortunately” a young woman pulled into the lot at the same time I did, and though she wasn’t part of the prayer group, she did point me in the general direction of the trail. Shoot – no flashlight! I gratefully thanked God for the low-sodium city glow that sort of illuminated the path. Clock ticking, I chugged up the trail, turning at what seemed to be the right spot to head higher up the hill. Nose running, throat aching, breath heaving, I made it to steps that aimed me toward a black outcropping of rock just beneath microwave tower.

No one was there. Rats! Had the bitter cold kept everyone at home – where I should have been if I’d had any sense? I saw movement as dark figures ascended on the trail below. I didn’t know any of these people, not Pastor Yoo, none of the young people with him, no one else. I scaled the boulder and found a rough depression in the rock on the top. Positioning my backside in the icy-cold natural bowl, I sighed and set my thoughts to singing and praising God and calling forth victory, even as I felt sick and sorrowing over all the promise of love lost. Husky early morning voices, more fervor than melody, but we praised!

Pastor Yoo asked us to get in groups of two or three to pray. A woman about my age was perched in the cleft in the boulder opposite me. I asked her if she’d like to join me, and she crawled up to a little ledge just down from my bowl. After we shared our individual concerns, we prayed for the city, university, students, state, nation, and the world. Funny how quickly you can feel connection with another believer!

I told her why I’d come to this particular peak, and she told me of miracles she’s seen in the hearts of some very hardened people. I prayed for her to find greater intimacy with God. Our prayer wound down, and I asked her if she’d been to the big Bridge Builders events at my church, City of Grace. Even in the dim morning light I cold see her eyes widen.

“Yes. I’ve been praying for City of Grace since last summer, and three months ago the Lord told me to start attending there at the first of the year!”

Ha! Jesus did it – got my less-than-willing body out of bed, directed me to the right mountain, and plopped my keester on a cold rock where he had a meeting scheduled for Jessica and me. As of last Sunday and yesterday, she’s already plugged into the prayer ministry at City of Grace.

Today I went to the gym after work – not the one with the nice hot tub where I wanted to go, but the one closest to my work – asked a simple question about discounts for Zoo employees, and BAM ran smack into another God-incidence with a remarkable young man, trainer, and Christian brother named Rob. Wow, this meting holds potential blessings for both of us in the incredible purposes of God.

Last Saturday it was, “Oh, heck.” Today it was, “Oh, well.” I make a seemingly insignificant choice and fall into the hands and plans of the Living God. Stumbling and defaulting, I find somehow I’ve been on the path of God’s desires and purposes, unknowingly, all along. What an awesome Father, Redeemer, and Guide we have! As much as I fear making huge mistakes in this painful pre-dawn journey I’m on, how reassuring it is to know that there is a loving hand that guides me into remarkable goodness. And that reassuring truth gives me reason to hope yet, still, that the sunrise miracle is coming.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73: 23-26

God of My Steps and Missteps

(entering the cave before descending to Mooney Falls, Havasu Canyon)

“Who would have thought,” I mused, “that parking at the wrong end of the mall would turn out to be so much fun?” What a morning of mistakes and missteps! They started when I read the wrong appointment card for my hand surgeon and missed a day of work, cutting our dogs’ walk short by 20 minutes so I could fly out the door, leap into the car, and speed to what I thought was a 9:00 am appointment. The puzzled look in the receptionist’s eyes morphed into a bemused grin of “Oh, this poor confused old lady” as she sadly informed me that my appointment wasn’t until four that afternoon. Wrinkles from too many hiking trips move younger people to see senility instead of a love for the outdoors in my appearance!

“Oh, crumb!” I chided myself. “I must have read the ‘4’ I wrote as a ‘9’!” Quickly shrugging off the $72 I had just lost in missed pay, I opted to make the best of the situation and save gas by popping over to the quick-fix jeweler in the nearby mall to get two bent prongs on my engagement ring repaired.

June in Arizona marks the beginning of the season when one is willing to walk from the farthest spot in the parking lot as long as it’s under a tree or even a healthy bush offering a spotty patch of shade, so I rejoiced in finding a parking space not only close to a mall entrance, but also beneath a leafy canopy of shade. Imagine my consternation to discover that the store whose entrance I parked near didn’t open for another hour! Grumbling at misstep number 2, I tramped back to my car and drove around to the northeast side of the mall, where surely the generic mall entrance MUST be open at 9:00 a.m. And true enough, it was.

Misjudgment number 3: the jewelry repair shop was in the northwest corner of the mall, so I had to walk the entire length of the mall!

“I needed the exercise anyway,” I philosophized, still leaning into optimism – or at least leaning away from mounting frustration. That meant I had to hike the length of the mall again at 10:00 when my ring was fixed, running the gauntlet of the now-open kiosks that flanked the food court.

“Have you heard of Dead Sea Minerals?” a young man called as I attempted to zip by.

“Yes- are you Ahava?” I shot back breezily, hoping to brush him off.

“No, we aren’t . . . ,” he replied.

“Oh, what the heck?” I thought, “I might as well get the nails on one hand buffed.” That’s fully what, and all, I expected to happen. Twenty minutes later, though, I wonderingly waved good-bye to Avi and Elan after chatting with them a bit, sharing what I recently learned of the meaning of the Hebrew letters Yud, Heh, Vav, Heh (the hand of grace nailed in grace), Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions . . . ,” and praying for the success of their little stand and for peace in Israel.

Elan was genuinely touched that I would pray for them. Yes, I walked away with a nail care kit, too, but I walked away with an awed joy that Jesus continues to use me, even in my brokenness, to touch other people’s lives with his love. After the person you’ve trusted the most tells you that you are worthless, hearing from Jesus that you are precious enough for him to speak through absolutely rains down worth, dignity, value and a joy that sets your heart dancing!

Oh, those blessed missteps that led me to a God encounter! Abba, can I dare to believe that even this trek through a valley of shadows deeper than death is, in fact, a pilgrimage under light I simply can’t see – a journey to a victory more beautiful than I can imagine?

Some days – days of mistakes and missteps – my heart dares to trust this is, in fact, the truth I can hang my heart on!