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When you’re in the wilderness, you can’t just roll over and play dead.  (Even though that’s exactly what you want to do- stay in bed with the covers up and the curtains shut tight!)

You just can’t.  Because if you do…you’ll be stuck in the wilderness for a very long time.

Trust me.  I know…because in my wilderness season, escape and self-pity were my faithful friends for a good long while.  And they didn’t serve me well.

So if this is you…if this is where you are… I get it.  I’m there with you!  (You’re not alone!)

But if you’re stuck in your wilderness like I was, wallowing in self-pity, I have a very important message for you.

You have to fight, or you will die.

I thank God every day that He didn’t allow me to die in my wilderness.  He didn’t allow the enemy of my soul to destroy me in my weakened, vulnerable state.  And He didn’t give up on me while I wallowed in my misery, refusing to pick up my sword and fight.

Last July, I think I was at the lowest point of this wilderness journey.  I couldn’t write.  I could barely pray.  I had no words.  I felt that my soul had completely dried up and that it might crack into pieces at any moment.

That moment happened.  I was in Yellowstone National Park with my husband.  We were on our pastoral “getaway” for the refreshing of  our mind, body and spirit.

But (just in case you haven’t put two and two together yet), it was Yellowstone National Park, in July.

The height of tourist season.

It was about as restful as rush hour in downtown Hong Kong.  A steady stream of tourists with National Geographic-sized camera lenses in hand, and hourly traffic jams due to buffalo sightings. (How many pictures do you need of buffalo??)

And it rained.  Constantly.

That fateful evening, we were driving through a particularly torrential downpour after a failed attempt to cook steaks on our Coleman stove under the meager shelter of a tree (did I mention that we were tenting?).  We had given up and were headed into town to find something to eat and wait out the storm.

It was in this moment that I broke down.  I started talking, and that was it.  The dam burst, and the pieces of my broken heart spilled out into the car and onto the lap of my dear husband.  All of the pain that I had been stuffing inside for over a year finally found its way out of my heart and filled every inch of our Toyota Camry.  Flying down the highway, windshield wipers going a mile a minute, my soul cracked wide open.

It was the moment that God had been waiting for.  For me to fall apart, so He could put me back together.

It was also the moment that I realized this one truth, and it changed everything:

I can’t fight this battle alone.

I was dying because I had thought all along that it was up to me- that I had to figure this thing out, or die trying.

But it’s so much bigger than me.

So in that moment, I laid my weapons down at the feet of Jesus.  I asked Him to help me fight this battle.   I told Him, “I give up.  I can’t face this thing alone.  I’m dying, and I need Your help.”

Huh…that almost sounds like a Bible story.

In 2 Chronicles 20,  three massive armies were joining together to take out the nation of Judah, and Judah had NO HOPE of a win.   King Jehoshaphat’s army was simply no match for these guys.  So what did Jehoshaphat do?

Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed. He went to God for help and ordered a nationwide fast. The country of Judah united in seeking God’s help—they came from all the cities of Judah to pray to God.

2 Chronicles 20:3-4, MSG

And King J prayed.  He threw himself on the ground, along with the whole nation of Judah (verse 13).  He reminded God of how BIG He was, how small they were, and that their only hope was in Him.  In verse 12, Jehoshaphat tells God,

“We’re helpless before this vandal horde ready to attack us.  We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to You.”

And guess what.

God shows up.

He speaks to His people through one of the worship leaders, Jahaziel, with this word (I love it!):

He said, “Attention everyone—all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat—God’s word: Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you.”

2 Chronicles 20:15-17, MSG

And then, here’s the key.  They listened to Jahaziel- God’s mouthpiece.  They obeyed God’s voice.  And the result?  Read for yourself:

Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!

They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!”

After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,

Give thanks to God,
His love never quits.

As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead. The Ammonites and Moabites mistakenly attacked those from Mount Seir and massacred them. Then, further confused, they went at each other, and all ended up killed.

As Judah came up over the rise, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies—not a living soul among them.

When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder they found more loot than they could carry off—equipment, clothing, valuables. It took three days to cart it away! On the fourth day they came together at the Valley of Blessing (Beracah) and blessed God (that’s how it got the name, Valley of Blessing).

Jehoshaphat then led all the men of Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem—an exuberant parade. God had given them joyful relief from their enemies! They entered Jerusalem and came to The Temple of God with all the instruments of the band playing.

When the surrounding kingdoms got word that God had fought Israel’s enemies, the fear of God descended on them. Jehoshaphat heard no more from them; as long as Jehoshaphat reigned, peace reigned.

2 Chronicles 20:18-30, MSG

Their strategy?   Prayer.  Obedience.  Worship.

The result?  Victory.  Blessing.  Peace.

 

Here’s my “How to Fight Well” strategy based on Jehoshaphat’s story:

 

~How to Fight Well~

1. Fall on your face before God.

Humble yourself before Him. Repent.  Search your heart. Focus on God’s face, not your enemies’ threat. (“We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to You.”)

2. Listen for His voice.

Ask God to speak!  Read His Word.  Get quiet and listen for His still, small voice.  Seek the wise counsel of your mentors and spiritual leaders (Who is your Jahaziel?).

3. Act on it!

Obey immediately.  Look back to our story- after God spoke, all of Judah praised Him, then they got up early in the morning to act on God’s orders.

4. Worship

Jehoshaphat sent the choir out ahead of the troops.

Worship is our warfare!  Worship is the key that unlocks God’s power in you and confuses the enemy.

5. Praise God and plunder the enemy!

Praise God for the victory that HE won for us, and loot the enemy.   The armies that came against Judah planned on destroying Judah and stripping the nation of its wealth, but God turned it against them!  Instead, it took Jehoshaphat’s men three days to carry off the plunder!  When we fight GOD’s way, He turns the enemy’s plan against him, and WE get to loot the enemy of his bounty!  Not only does he not rob us, but we get to plunder him of all the stolen goods he’s been carrying around from past victories.

So, friends- I know that fighting in the wilderness is TOUGH STUFF.  I’m so with you there.  But if we take these truths with us into battle, we WILL win!

We win…and it’s not even close.

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/91994044@N00/22163297493″>Armour and helmet</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Reaching people. Loving people.

It isn’t about programs.  It’s about us.

Because programs don’t have hands and fingers and heartbeats.

But you and I do.

This is what God has been wrecking me with for the last week. 

Last November, our church launched an Adopt-a-Block program called Operation 3:18.  Our mission is simple- “How can we help you?”  Our name is based off of 1 John 3:16-18:

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

It’s only been a few short months, and we’re already seeing miracles.  Empty houses have been completely furnished.  Meals prepared by loving hands.  Prayers prayed.  Tears shed.  Friendships birthed.  Broken hearts healed.

Jesus has moved into that neighborhood- with human hands and feet.

I’m pretty excited about this program.  God is showing up and multiplying our efforts, much like the little boy who gave Jesus his loaves and fishes, and thousands of hungry people ate lunch that day.

But what God’s been breaking my heart over this past week is how small we are…how we humans (me) get so excited about our  little visions and programs and ideas, and God is like shaking His head, wishing we would wake up to the BIG STUFF.  The miracles, signs and wonders that He promised us in His Word.  The “greater works” that Jesus promised to His disciples as their inheritance (John 14:12).  Or the promise of the ” power that was wrought in Christ” living in us (Ephesians 1:18-20).

I am satisfied with too little.

In that moment, wrecked over the smallness of my dreams, I had a vision of God holding out an enormous gift box and lifting the edge of its lid…inviting me to SEE.  Summoning me to be part of His Heaven-sized vision for this small place we call Earth.

Not that programs like Operation 3:18 aren’t His plan- they are!  Reaching out to people with no strings attached, just out of pure friendship and love- that’s Jesus personified!  But God is showing me that I’ve stopped so short- we all have.  God longs for us to have an insatiable hunger- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)   When we catch a glimpse of what Jesus can do when we answer His call to GO and LOVE, let our prayer be, “Lord, SHOW US MORE! We want to see Your glory FILL the earth!  Show us Your glory, God!”

 

So programs and worship services and conferences are all really nice, but they don’t mean a thing until we occupy them.  Because WE are the church.  WE are the “program”.  You and me.

If you and I really want to see a God thing take place in our life, neighborhood, community, and beyond, the only way is ALL IN.

I think Jesus summed this up pretty well in His parable of the Good Samaritan:

But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him.  He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this way.’

Luke 10:33-35, NET

This is Love. This is fulfilling the greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  He poured oil and wine into this stranger’s wounds.  Oil and wine aren’t cheap commodities now, and they weren’t then, either.  Then he carried this broken man on his own mule until he found a hotel, and paid for the guy’s room and board out of his own pocket.  Oh, and he told the innkeeper to pull out all the stops in taking care of him, because he would pay him back when he returned.

The point?

Love costs us.  To reach our world, we have to pour ourselves into the hurts and messes and untidy lives of people like you and me, with a God-sized vision of what will happen when we do.

The point is to jump in, with no reservations, boundaries, limits, whatever.  The Good Samaritan, as far as I can tell, didn’t give the innkeeper a budget. He just told him he would repay him “whatever else” he spent.

Wow.  That’s a God-sized Love.

 

Again, I’m not writing this from my soapbox of “This is how it’s done, y’all, watch me.”

Not at all.  I’m writing this after having that God moment last week where He showed up and showed me my imperfect self in the mirror of His perfect Love and told me that He’s looking for someone who isn’t so easily satisfied.  Someone who is ready to dive in to His plan with no back-up plan, no life preserver, and no way out.

I saw myself way too clearly in that moment.  It became abundantly clear to me that If I’m for real about this God Thing of loving people and seeing my world changed, that I’ve got to change first.  Because until now, I’ve just been hanging out on the shore.  Dipping my toes into the water’s edge before running back to the safety of solid ground.

God showed me, in that raw moment with Him, that I’ve been tricking myself into believing that I was all in, when I’ve just barely gotten my feet wet.

And in that same moment, instead of stomping on my broken heart, He offered me an invitation.

No condemnation, no guilt trip, no “What in the world is wrong with you?” (I love that about Jesus!)

Just an invitation.

An invitation to dive in.

To take a peak into the Box that contains His Dream.

Instead of adopting a block, to adopt His heart.

Instead of filling my weeks with appointments, to be open to His Divine Appointments.

And instead of just putting my time in, to give Him my time.  All of it.  Then let Him decide when I am to work and love and rest and play.

And what was my answer?

YES.

Yes, yes, yes, Jesus!

So my new journey starts today.

What about you?  Do you hear His invitation to dive in?  What will you say?

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In case any of you dear readers are thinking that my “Lessons in the Wilderness” posts are just sweet, inspirational thoughts from a person who has it all together and wants to help to rest of the world as they limp along in life…

They’re not.  In fact, the reason my blog posts lately have been spotty, at best, is because I’m smack-dab in the middle of my own wilderness, and honestly, some days I’m just proud of myself for making my bed and showing up to church (and I’m the pastor’s wife!).  I’m just being real with you.  Because if we’re not real, after all, what’s the point?  No one likes fake. And fake can’t hide your flaws for long.  Even Jesus told His disciples,

“For nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known and brought to light.”

Luke 8:17, NET

So, why hide our flaws?  Why be fake?  It’s so much work to keep up the façade of perfection, anyway!  (I know; I’m exhausted!)  Fellow recovering perfectionists, YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL!  In fact, you weren’t created to!  You were created to do your Best Thing, and do it well.  

What is your Best Thing??  That’s truly your assignment- find your Best Thing, and do it well.

Jesus has gifted you with talents and interests and skills that only you can do, like you do. What are they?

Loving your kids and your husband?  Cooking delicious, whole foods for your family? Sitting at Jesus’ feet in Bible study and meditation?  Interceding in prayer for the unreached peoples of the world? Starting a business? Teaching a women’s Bible study?  Creating art?

What is your Best Thing?

I’m asking myself this very question.  Because what I’m attempting to do now, and what I have attempted to do for many years (aka, everything), just isn’t working.  I’m always coming up short.  Not good enough.  Not meeting expectations.  Letting people down (or worrying that I’ve let someone in the universe down, somewhere).  Exhausted.  Stressed.  Frustrated.  Feeling sapped of energy and joy.  Constantly wondering, “Is this it?  Am I really living life, or did I miss my turn somewhere?

Have you girls also asked yourselves questions like, “When does Life begin?  When I get married? When I have my first child?  Or buy my first home?  When I get a dog? When I…?”

How about, NOW?  This is Life.  Today.  This moment that we’re in together, right now.

So it’s time to start living.

What will this mean for you? I think I can tell you what it means for me- at least, what it is beginning to mean for me.

It means doing LESS, and loving MORE.  Loving myself, as I was created, wonderfully and marvelously shaped and formed by my Creator.  Delighting in my normal, everyday life- grocery shopping, Bible studies, cleaning our cozy little apartment, holding hands with my amazing husband, sitting in God’s presence in the early mornings with my coffee and my journal, FaceTiming with my precious family….

Instead of squinting my eyes off into the hazy horizon of the “whens“, I’m going to live and delight and love in my NOW

(Lord Jesus, help me!)

So back to my original thought…

You can’t do it all.  I can’t do it all.  We were never meant to.  And no, I am NOT writing this blog from a place of “got it all figured out”.  We’re in this beautiful, messy journey of life together.  (And that’s the only way we’ll get through this thing, anyway- is TOGETHER.  My lovely ladies, we need each other!!)

The question remains, then,

“What is my Best Thing?”

One of the chapters in my Bible reading plan for this morning was Luke 10.  I read about the seventy being sent out, and their excitement at being able to cast out devils, and the parable of the Good Samaritan, and all that good stuff…and then I got to Luke 10:38:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

And I was like, “Oh…this Martha girl again.  I am SO her!”

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

And here I was like, “Why can’t I be like Mary and just lounge on the floor at Jesus’ feet?”

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Now, I’m sure I’ve read this story about a hundred times.  But this time,  I stopped at the word “cumbered”.  I wondered, “What does that word really mean, anyway?”

So I looked it up in my trusty Bible app that finds those sorts of things out for me.  And here is what I found:

The Greek word for “cumber” is perispao, and it means:

“perispao”:

1. to draw around, to draw away, distract

2. metaph.

a.  to be driven about mentally, to be distracted

b.  to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing

Oh.

Wow.

I’m not going to fully unpack this definition for you…I want you to just sit on it and let it soak in.  Ask God to reveal this to you, for you, where you are.  What are you distracted by?  How are you “driven about mentally”?  What is the “thing” that you’re over-occupied about?

And now, what our dear sweet Jesus has to say to Martha’s (and our) frantic, frenetic heart:

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Sisters, only one thing is needful.

Truly, completely, totally, LIVING.  Not doing.  Not tasks and to-do lists.  Not rushing around to meet everyone else’s needs.  No.  What that one thing is, really, is CONNECTION.  Connection with those that matter the most.  With Jesus. With amazing women and people who love us even though we’re a wreck.

Then, and only then, will you find your Best Thing.  Because it’s a thing that can’t be found in our striving and our working.  No, it reveals itself in our hearts as we allow ourselves to live and to love and to laugh, with people who love us in spite of us.  It’s found in the living of Life.

Another clue-  your Best Thing is that thing others are always telling you you’re “so good at”.

I leave you with a question to aid you in your quest for your Best Thing:

What is essential, and beautiful, and life-giving for you?

Do that!  And in the process, you will find your Best Thing…and finally be really LIVING.  Surrounded by people you love, doing what you love, creating beauty in just being absolutely, imperfectly, authentically YOU.

Because YOU, my dear girl, are amazing, and you rock God’s world.  He’s crazy about you and He’s so behind you on this.

And I am too!