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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Breathless from Relentless Love

How intimately our Father knows us! And oh, how he surprises me on a regular basis. Just when you think you have God’s intentions tracked and figured out . . .

Back on January 6, 2011, I thought I had been waiting in the dark and cold on January 1st on “A” Mountain for an unexpected appointment with Jessica to bless her with connection to City of Grace and our prayer team. Just three weeks ago I felt a prompting to call Jessica. I hadn’t seen her at church for a long time, wondered how she was doing, and really, really wanted her visionary prayers for my ongoing and seemingly headed for defeat battle for my husband’s faith and our marriage. Honestly, I have plunged into bouts of the deepest pain and despair I never imagined I could endure. So much for trusting God ruthlessly, as Brennan Manning writes in his book I read on my way to Chiang Mai in 2008. Had I only known then how I would need the ruthless love of Jesus one year later . . .

And that is exactly what showed up on “A” Mountain, though I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t know it till April 13, on a day I was flat on the floor feeling totally abandoned and devastated by yet another sign that this war in and for my husband and our marriage is advancing ruthlessly on toward defeat. Prayer, prayer and guidance – “Oh, GOD,”- let’s be honest, I screamed – “show me your will! I need to hear you!” I reeled to the phone and dialed, forcing my voice to be calm.

“Hi, Jessica, it’s Rose. How are you?”

“Rose, I’ve been thinking about you for weeks, but I though you were probably too busy . . . .” (Note to me: NEVER assume anyone is too busy for me to call if the Spirit puts her/him on my mind!)

And thus began the conversation and prayer that totally changed my understanding of New Year’s Day. In our initial catching up Jessica revealed that she’s moved back across the valley and is attending our former church. “Hmmm . . . ., “my brain started churning, “Then what was January 1st about?”

Prayer followed catching up, and out of Jessica’s prayer for me poured visions of my husband, visions of our younger son, and visions for me, including “I see you in God’s arms. He cherishes you!”

How I wish I had a pencil and paper with me that afternoon to record her words accurately! To say I was blown away is to understate the lifting that was going on in my heart. What I do remember precisely was her momentary pause, then this instruction: “God wants to give you a new outfit . . . . He wants you to go buy a new outfit.”

How funny, how unexpected, and how I suddenly recognized that back on January 1, 2011, Jesus knew I would need Jessica’s insight and prayers on April 13! I though I was there for her, but Jesus placed her there on that cold rock for me! I know this; I know how many times God has maneuvered and moved me literally across the world to meet other people’s very pointed and specific needs at pointed, specific times.

He’s positioned me to carry his word and love for someone else, and what a jazzed juice that is for me to be part of what God Almighty is doing! But to experience him doing that for me – how humbling, how powerful, what a profound sense of his loving and knowing and being more than able!

Now this is what the LORD says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep, and my sheep know me . . . . “ John 10:14

Oh, to be known by the Creator of the Universe – to be called HIS! Treasured, cherished, known!

So what did I do? Given the financial vise our joint checking account is in, I couldn’t afford to splurge on a new dress, but on April 14th after a doctor appointment, I went to Savers, a local thrift store chain, and found a spectacular ruddy crimson, gauzy, ankle-length dress embroidered with gold thread and gold sequins for – drum roll please – $6.99. I wore it last weekend while I presented the Sunday morning devotional message at a women’s retreat, testimony to the truth that our Father knows us uniquely as individuals and CARES PASSIONATELY about us, uniquely, as individuals, as his one-in-a-billion beloved child. That dress restored broken hearts! Thank you, thank you again, Father!

He showed up for me the next week at the fountain at the Forest of Uco at the Zoo, where I was waiting for a very late high school tour group to show up for their rainforest tour. Many people passed me heading up the trail, but one woman with her husband stopped and turned to me. “Rose . . . mary . . . Rose?” Fourteen years since I’ve seen her, but I recognized Jan immediately! She’s moved out of the valley and lives about 100 miles north now. Amazed and joyful reunion! We had a wonderful time of reconnecting and prayer right there in the middle of traffic, and to top it off, she and her husband are great friends of the brother of our counselor, who lives in the same town they do.

What are the odds? Spot on when Jesus is at work loving and knowing me. What does this mean for you? He knows you, truly knows you, and is already at work to meet your deepest heart needs with his ruthless, relentless, mighty, able, and more-than-willing love.

Yes, I believe in miracles . . . .

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