Tag Archives: God

How Redemption is Found in a Changing Landscape


As I step outside on this spring day, my eye catches the transforming landscape across the way.

For as long as my family has resided next door to Ray, the small strip of land between our driveways has given witness to the hand of our Creator.  On Summer days, my first glance captured the vibrant multicolored blooms lining my black tarred driveway. Further up the strip, tomato plants, zucchini, cucumbers and giant sunflowers towered over anyone standing in their midst. Often our home was blessed with portions of this majestic bounty.

Ironically, as the fruit blossomed, his health withered. In the last five years, the strip of beauty gradually shrunk to a small rectangle. Patches of Earth spawning bits of grass spread where blossoms once lived. But not on the whole piece of land. Despite Ray’s fragile health, his passion for producing a bountiful harvest remained. His adult children now took on his role.
Once again, the symbols of Spring emerge. Traditionally, speaking, planting activity along his side of the driveway should be visible. But it isn’t. A few weeks ago. Ray died.

Much will change this summer. The blooms and the outdoor conversations will cease between us.I have written previously about those unfiltered moments between us. Ray resisted the longing arms of his Creator. Yet, God’s voice continued to speak-through the colorful display of nature dotting the land between our homes-and through neighbors. I’m not sure what decision Ray made at the end. We will never know.

Though death has occurred, God’s hand is still working. Today, there is new movement across the way. Yes, the evidence of death lies blatant. His voice no longer calls to me as I venture out to get the mail in my bare feet; an act for which he would chastise me. “You need to tell your husband to buy you some shoes,” he would say with a slight smile. His blue chair in the driveway appears lonely.  But the ceasing of one rhythm in my life has given way to a new one.

Laughter, the aroma of bbq, footsteps, and machinery compose the new beats. An audio soundtrack accompanies the visual changes. His son and grandson inhabit Ray’s home now; moving forward in steps of restoration and healing.  The deterioration of health coincided with the deterioration of his home. Although his son, lived there, Ray resisted any transformation of his home. I suppose whatever bits of feisty independence remained were reaching to exert control.

Now, a beautiful new landscape develops. Outside, large machinery reshapes overgrown, dried, brush.  New colors and textures emerge on a three dimensional canvas. One which flows inside as well. Fresh coats of paint bring life back into  these old walls. Brokenness begins the journey to restoration. Both in things and in relationships.

As I gaze out my window this morning, I watch a neighbor transport tree trunk sections on a dolly across the street to his home.  Until yesterday, the trunk, rooted in the ground, supported death.  Life had ceased in the body attached to it.  What will become of it now?
And then my mind made the connection: The hands of my neighbor, a skilled sculptor, will carve into the wood. Beauty lies beneath; anticipating it’s birth.

Tomatoes and blooms yield to new. different. hopeful.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?” (Isaiah 43:19).
The master hand of the Creator is at work. That which is created takes new forms. The process is not yet complete. But what a privilege it is to watch it unfold.

Just Because You Can, Should You?


Living in dual citizenship has its challenges, don’t you think?
Our feet trod this Earth while our hearts pursue a Heavenly destination. Both places bear witness to the Creator. Daily, we encounter the reminders of the divine craftmanship at hand in a world that resists redemption and restoration. Beauty in the temporary; Sovereign arms reaching out to bodies turned away. Our God-in a perpetual motion of movement forward to remind us where truth, wisdom, comfort are found.
 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:4-5).
What happens when we lean on our own understanding?
Impulsive and irrational decisions often appear tantalizing. We quickly jump to the resolutions, yet, later realizing our feet stuck a hard landing.
Sometimes, the choices don’t appear sinful. And, for others, they may not be.

  • taking on an extra work project
  • investing in a large purchase
  • refusing to humbly surrender to God’s mercies and grace when holding a difference of opinion with someone
  • lunging toward our own desires without considering the implications for ourselves and others (is the goal a reflection of wise stewardship of time, talents, and treasures?)

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matt. 6:33, The Message).
When we are next tempted to run towards the lure of a “should”, perhaps the best course of action is to pause and discern whose voice is speaking.
(This post is written for the Five Minute Writing Community on the prompt “should.” Come join the fun: http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/)
 

When God Speaks But The Fulfillment Appears Incomplete

Traditionally, the Holy week observances exhort us to reflect on events of Jesus’ last days. Moments that affirm the story of a new kingdom unfolding “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We recognize and recount Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But what about Saturday? Why, as Christians, do we brush off that “extra” day? The Jews recognize Saturday as the Sabbath day. However; for those of us who follow Christ, the Sabbath transitioned to Sunday. Perhaps the implications of what that in-between day meant to those closest to him do not even cross our minds. We know what happened on Sunday. But I’m guessing they were left:

Reeling from the gut wrenching events witnessed the day before. Had the words uttered by Jesus as they lived under his leadership adequately prepared them for the reality of his crucifixion? How do you set aside the images captured in your mind? On what do you draw in order to move your legs forward from their state of “paralysis?”

Pondering why they felt compelled to risk everything to follow this man who claimed to be the Messiah. Certainly others had claimed the same title in the past. Yet, what were the convincing characteristics of Jesus? Peter, in his second letter, reflects on what his eyes observed.
16For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power andcoming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we wereeyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice from the Majestic Glory said to Him, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”…
Hoping: that Jesus was right. “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.” (John 15:18-20)

Believing: All the promises poured over them by Jesus including: “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” (John 15:25-27)

Can we not empathize with the disciples as they wrestled with the tension of faith in the face of dreams unfulfilled?  It points to our humanity. One that cannot grasp the unfathomable character of God.

In visiting my great nephew a few weeks ago, I was reminded of the stage of human development when the existence of objects (and people) within a baby’s sphere, only claim existence if they are seen.  Anxiety appears in the wide eyes of a five month old when the mind realizes the person in view is not the parent. Their sustainer, provider, source of life. The mouth begins to quiver, the eyebrows furrow and tears form in the pockets of the lid….until a rotation of the body points to the one whom for whom they long.

Perhaps, like an infant, our eyes and mind, and heart often find themselves disconnected. Have you ever heard the Holy Spirit speak to you a word about your future but later find your ability to see it waning? Dreams planted in your heart that seem to have failed to bear fruit?

Like the disciples, we are left wondering and seeking Jesus. Though our hearts bear evidence of an undeniable connection, our eyes fail to sense him. We haven’t rotated our view. We are looking at the place we expect him to show up. But he hasn’t moved. We’ve been consumed with waiting for Jesus to appear according to our assumptions.
If we are still, we will live into that moment of transition from quivering lips and teary eyes to abundant rejoicing at the reunion. And the reminder that our perspectives fail us. He is always here.

Where have you been expecting to see Jesus? How can you rotate your view?

Why an Empty Day Can Lead to a Full Life


As I gaze down at the square , a tinge of guilt begins to wash over me. The day on my calendar is blank. Not one pencil scribbling nor erased mark evident.
Empty.
What do I make of that? The voices surrounding me beckon my mind and my days to be full. A non-stop marathon of ingesting information, engaging in relationships, pursuing dream vacations, and thrusting myself into a plethora of activity.
I’m not sure how to stand still
To simply be. observe. listen. Give Thanks.
That echoes of Sabbath.
Of basking in the presence of my Creator
The opposing voices label the stillness as lazy, withdrawn, unmotivated
“Identity is determined by our activity”
God’s word says my identity is determined my Creator
“Be still and Know I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
The temptation to resolve the uncertainty lurking inside as I recognize an empty day is to find something; anything to prevent the reality
But I’ve been blessed with these hours of life. I long for rest. For enjoyment in simple things. Why do I want to push it away?
Jesus said he came to give us life.  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
But his “full” is different. Ironically, the path to realizing a sacred full life demands emptiness. It means setting aside our own agendas; of which we carry without a second thought, and listen to Our Creator. We find contentment in the submission. We sense fullness as we feast on the voice of the Holy Spirit.
I will strive to find joy in the empty. For it is a Holy gift.
This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Prompt “Empty.” Come join us http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/
 
 
 

You are Not Alone: Hope for Parenting in Those Unexpected Moments

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Upon giving birth to my first child, I was determined to be “that mom”-the one whose children would never fall prey to the sneaky dangers surrounding them. The phrase “My kids would never do THAT” found a place in my mind.

What is “THAT” exactly?

Electrical outlets? Covered (nevermind the fact that I once found a way to stick my finger in one as a toddler). Cords to the blinds? Well, we don’t have any. Toxic substances? Locked away in the childproof cabinets that I can’t even open sometimes.  As a new parent, I scoured the lists for precautions to make sure my child would be safe.  Of course there were some things that I didn’t worry about because in my mind, “What kid would really do that?”

Like plastic grocery bags?  The ones that my child would never put over his head? Yet, in his state of natural human curiosity did it anyway?

Like toilet screw covers? Those small white caps that just happen to fit the size of a toddler’s mouth perfectly? In fact my daughter managed to fit one in her mouth (don’t go there) while I was in the bathroom getting ready to preach at church. As she looked up at me gagging, my instincts sprang into action. Fortunately, I noticed and quickly resolved the situation. And then it was on to leading worship an hour later.

Ahhh, the naivety of parenting. Actually, there is good reason for that.

We’ve Never Done it Before

A toaster comes with a manual. In fact, even a Happy Meal toy comes with one.  But parenting? Nope.

Sure there are books out there to help.  Social Media groups beckoning you to join their posse. Conversations with people who have “been there.”  But, ultimately, there is nothing to prepare you for the moment by moment process for raising a human-one whose DNA is unique from any other. Add in family history, genetics, personality traits, lifestyle….and it is a learning experiment.  We hope and pray for the best.

In a sense we all become “That Mom.”  Most of us truly want what’s best for our kids. We become schooled in how to keep them safe; trying to keep a balance between not being concerned enough and being accused of being a helicopter parent (I’m afraid of heights so that probably wouldn’t describe me).

Unexpected Problems

Just when you think you have prevented catastrophes, some other strange quirk pops up and catches you off guard.

Prolapsed rectum? Yep. Experienced that.

Body suddenly covered in hives? That too.

How about Teen onset Epilepsy? Mental illness? Cholesteatomas (I had to look that up too) in the ears leading to chronic ear infections and destroyed ear bones? Triple yes.

It’s Not All About Us

What we learn as we parent is that we can set our eyes on being the most competent parents ever, yet we are not in total control. That demands perfect people or robots.

The beauty is that God has trusted us with a most humbling responsibility. We get to participate in it while resting in the assurance that no matter what happens these are God’s children (Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5).

Upon leaving the hospital with my firstborn, I remember thinking, “I really get to take him home?”

There is nothing that can fully prepare you for this journey.  And that’s O.K. Because this parenting thing isn’t all about us.  We are partners with their Creator; the One who also created us and knows us intimately.

We will make mistakes. Unexpected circumstances are a given. You are not alone.  In the words of a once popular song from a teen Disney Musical, “We’re all in this together.”

What I Learned About Hospitality From My Back Door

Last year, something exciting happened around here.  After living here for nineteen years, we bought a new back door! It is a beautiful white door with a small window. No scratches or marks of age. New. As a child, I could have never expected a door to be a source of fulfillment.  But once you reach adulthood, you set your eyes on different “toys.” A new dishwasher? Yippee!

Our home is small and quaint. Originally we bought it as a “starter” home but due to a lot of factors since then, we are still here. And truthfully, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This is the place our stories have unfolded. We have hosted Bible Studies, birthday parties, dinner parties, brought new babies home. These walls have witnessed despair, sorrow, hope, celebration. God has weaved our lives together here.

The distance between the back door and the front door is fairly short.  Yet, as you know, there exists a cultural nuance about house entrances. Typically, the front door is used formally and the back door for more intimate relationships. Things like:
The neighbor coming over to ask to borrow a cup of sugar (yes, we are fortunate to have those interactions in 2016!)
My kids’ friends looking for a playmate
The dogs, coming in refreshed and a bit calmer after some time in the backyard.
The Summer parade of kids going back and forth between the inside for refreshment and the outside for watersports (hopefully not dripping). The glorious breeze and the waft of grass coming in with them.

Because our home is small, there is not a lot of space for storage.  Coats and shoes find their place on hooks and a shoe bench immediately after entering the back door. And it opens right into my kitchen.  Let’s just say there is always something “cooking” in there.

I’d like to say that the “mudroom” was always organized but it wasn’t. Once I even lost a bike helmet there in plain sight ! http://stephaniejthompson.com/2016/09/30/how-a-purple-fan-reminds-me-that-god-repurposes-us/
In the summer, flip flops, packages of sparklers left over from fourth of July and swimming goggles are stored (loosely!)  in this space.

In the winter, it becomes cluttered with boots.  Not just our boots.  The boots of those who grace us with their presence.  Whose interactions are woven into our life stories. Which brings me to what I have learned from my back door.

You see, I used to be embarrassed for guests to use it.  Even if I tried to cue visitors to use the front entrance, which is so much more elegant and clean, people still chose to use the back door.

Sometimes, my father-in-law would pop over on a Saturday morning to have coffee. There would be a knock on the back door. Yikes! Pancake batter adorned my counters. Dirty breakfast dishes stacked in the sink waiting to be bathed in the dishwasher. I tried to be gracious but inside I was swallowing my pride. He was seeking relationship with his son. I was focused on logistical details.

And then there was the next door neighbor girl, seeking a place of refuge from the insecurity in her own home.  There would be a knock on the back door. I saw the door opening to the array of boots and coats strewn about. She didn’t focus on that. Our back entrance provided affirmation that she had value and was loved unconditionally.

So last year, when we bought a new door, there was a feeling of accomplishment on our part.  Everyone likes to make their home more appealing and welcoming.  We saved and bought a door that added aesthetic value as well as heat efficiency. It was nice to have something new.
But nothing else about the “back door” has changed. Except my perception of it and what it means for us.

I have learned that when people use that door, they feel comfortable. Intimate. Our front door is for people like the UPS carrier, a girl scout selling cookies, trick or treaters, or guests with whom we haven’t developed much of a relationship.

The back door crowd sees us in all our “nakedness”, and still choose to enter our home. And I need to let down my guard and accept it. For, despite what my door may look like, it represents something beautiful.

What area of your home has become your unexpected place of hospitality?

Why Scraping Your Life’s Windshield Affects Your View of the Road


Every January, my husband and I ask each other the same question: “Why do we live here?”

The air stings. Grey skies hover without a slight peek at the sun.  The trees bare their nakedness. Sometimes snow; despite it’s nuisance as it mounts, adds a texture of beauty to this somewhat drab palette. This is Winter in the midwest; Chicago to be specific.

Several years ago, my husband worked temporarily in San Diego. On a weekend whim, I flew out to visit. You can eat outside in January? Who Knew? And the scenery…..hello ocean and hills!
Though we considered the prospect of God perhaps moving us out there (ok wishing), it was apparent that Chicago is our home.

Scraping the ice off the windshield after the night temperatures have plunged below zero is not my favorite activity. It requires early preparation in the midst of a hectic school morning routine. Even with the defroster at work, the ice hardens and resists the effort of my chilled to the bone fingers.

In my rush and frustration, the temptation to simply scrape off enough ice to provide a small “window” of visibility seduces me. Yet despite the increasing windchill whipping my face, I know that taking the shortcut increases my chances of an accident. If the back window is not clear, I cannot see what’s approaching behind me. Despite my kids thinking that I do indeed possess eyes in the back of my head, it’s simply not true. If my rear vision is incomplete, my abilities to prevent certain collisions is impaired. If the side windows are still frosty, I may not see the car next to me as I attempt to change lanes. And even a small circle of transparency in the front windshield does not allow me to gauge the elements of all that lie in front of me.
How similar I find the act of scraping a windshield to approaching sinful areas of my life.

What is blocking your view? 
Fear? At times, it floods the senses; resulting in anxiety as we take in the implications of the journey ahead. The heartbeat escalates, eyes grow big, and hands quiver. Is God really big enough to keep us on track despite detours, pot holes?

Pride? The ever seducing voice in our head lulls us into a false reality. Our wisdom, though faulty and biased to self, rules the world. We know better. Especially when time constraints beckon. But as the sun bears it’s light onto the foggy windshield, we are blinded.  As navigation continues, we find ourselves suddenly braking to prevent colliding with a car which was hidden by the glare. Why am I afraid to “trust in the Lord with all my heart? (prov. 3:5)”

Discouragement? Perhaps staggering to the car, while feeling the sting of the air seems like the best you can do. Scraping off the windshield? The task seems too daunting. Confronting the dawn of a new day while deceitful voices whisper words devoid of hope keep us from preparing early. The defroster’s warmth cannot melt the iciness of the morning’s frost quickly. What thoughts can I surrender to God so that the warmth of His light thaws the frost surrounding it?

How are you enlarging your “window” of visibility? Little chisels at a time or engaging in the more arduous process of scraping the covering all at once?

Sin, when not scraped off immediately, becomes a hardened base upon which more layers mount. The longer it sits, the more overwhelming the task becomes. The temptation, then, becomes avoiding the removal. Little chisels may provide brief glimpses of the road in front but we find ourselves impaired by the lack of visibility.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

Or, In this case, “scrape off” everything that hinders.

Fear, pride, discouragement……….Satan wants nothing more than to block our view of the light going before us as we travel. With nothing impeding the view, we can aim clearly toward the destination.

What is hindering yours?

How I Found Peace Living in the Not Yet

Sometimes, life leaves your brain full and your mouth empty.A season of life two years ago encompassed one of those times for me. The thing is-these seasons don’t just end with a nice and tidy resolution. They don’t leave us with an instant epiphany of profound theological insight. Rather, we are left with a reminder-:spiritual, physical, emotional- that we are humans wrestling with the realities of living in a place of in-between.

It is not yet Heaven.

The days of December 2013 quickly filled up with preparations for Christmas as well as doctor’s appointments. My eldest son became increasingly ill. A periodic problem with an upset stomach evolved into a daily issue. Watching your child feeling sick packs a punch to the stomach and the heart. The immediate desire is to fix it.

Yet, beginning in October, we sought an answer from many physicians and no one could fix it. How can that happen? We live near Chicago; a mecca of renowned and state-of-the art medical centers. A gold mine of wisdom on the complexities of the human body. Yet, each visit to a different specialist yielded more questions. We just wanted answers.

Emergency room doctors ruled out some things But nothing made him better. Daily, he made the trek to school with virtually nothing in his stomach except a bit of protein shake. Sometimes, he couldn’t gather the stamina to make it to school. My husband and I worried. The school pressured. The bills mounted.
We prayed. Friends prayed. Strangers prayed. But there were no answers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV).

Embracing the peace of Christ in the midst of uncertainty challenged me.

Finally, after many tests and procedures, a diagnosis was reached. Whew!  Finally a name and a course of treatment. Finally, an answer! Medicine would bring healing and resolve the problem. I grabbed hold of the answer and felt a sense of relief; control; no uncertainty. How easy is it to acknowledge the “peace that passes all understanding” when circumstances line up according to our expectations?
But would that peace permeate if the circumstances change? The events of the next day confronted me with that question.

Following dinner, upon preparing to study for finals, he fell to the couch and began to seize. Never having witnessed a seizure, it was the most terrifying moment of my life. The limp look of his body; the lifeless look in his eyes, will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Those five minutes led me to a profound realization as my mind grasped to acknowledge the surreal reality spinning around me: there are many things I can control-but death may not be one of them.

Fortunately, he came out of the seizure, was quickly rushed to the hospital, and the scans came out clear. But, more questions arose...and yet no answers. In my frustration, I hesitated to let go of what I thought to be a resolution. I didn’t want to believe that our lives were once more catapulted into the abyss. How do you embrace the peace that transcends all understanding when God’s movement does not align with Earthly expectation?

As we dealt with the uncertainty in his health, we attempted to proceed with the rhythms of life. That wrenching moment rewound in my mind in the midst of my days. Ambulance sounds caused shivers down my back. Yet, I attempted to let Jesus, not me, guard my heart.

The dark, frigid winter painted an appropriate backdrop to the events and feelings over those next several months. While we continued to hold on to the glimmer of light held out for us through scriptural promises, the realities of living in the “not yet” continued to speak into our lives. How does one live in the truth of new life in the resurrection, yet, face the reality of destruction and death of the things of this world?

My heart and my mind bear the scars of living in a kingdom that is both now and not yet. But I am keenly aware that I am not the only one. In one way or another, all of us feel that paradox. Circumstances may differ. Our expectations and God’s answers may or may not merge. Yet, the testimony and scars of others bear witness to the peace that Christ offers, while living in a kingdom that unfolds toward completion.

It’s the peace that Jesus promised to his disciples, who had given up everything for him. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLV).

Eventually, the winter season yielded to the brighter, warmer days of spring; not just meteorologically, but symbolically as well. My son’s health improved. I am aware that I am bound to encounter those seasons of restlessness again. They too are promises of Jesus. But He also imparts a peace that “transcends all understanding” as we navigate through them. 

Overcoming Restlessness on Those Long Detours: Learning From Mary

Several years ago, my preschool son drew a picture of Mary and Joseph. Not just any picture, mind you. Usually, the manger scene as represented through the eyes of a child wielding a crayon finds its place on a paper canvas.  But Eli’s mind captured a different scene in the narrative. He captured what he believed to be Mary’s perspective on a long journey.

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“Are we there yet?”
Long journeys arouse restlessness in my youngest. He tends to be very organized and finds comfort in checking off lists. Oh, he loves adventure and even surprises but he’d prefer them to unfold in a brief, orderly process. His eye is fixed on a goal and arriving there according to his timeline and expectations of the journey. Imagining Mary on a long trek to anywhere brought empathy from him.
Little did he realize that traveling to Bethlehem signified a very small milestone on the road leading to God’s purposes for her.
Only nine months earlier, this teen found herself ordained to a new purpose. Unexpected, Holy. Scandalous. Sometimes new paths entice us with a sense of exciting adventure.  Although Mary offered praise to God for this new calling (Luke 1:46-55), I’m not sure even she fully understood the earthly ramifications of such a journey.

How do we respond to those seasons in our own lives when we suddenly find that the familiar path we are accustomed to trodding is closed off?

A detour sign emerges-signaling that the better route is the new, unfamiliar one. Reluctantly we begin; not knowing where it will take us. Unaware of what we may encounter along the way. Often, it seems, the detour takes way longer to arrive at the destination than had we taken the shorter, familiar one. At least that’s what we believe. But….the detour sign was there for a reason.

Are we there yet?

As the detour continues longer than anticipated, we grow weary. Surrendering ourselves to the One who plots our course can take us to places we’d rather not visit. The physical, emotional and spiritual compressing takes its toll on our earthly selves. Haven’t I walked far enough? Is there something else of which I need to let go? 

 Nearly nine months into her pregnancy, she and Joseph were required to register for the census in their hometown. Not convenient for this couple. Three grueling days is the estimated time span of traveling by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Ninety miles were spent navigating a rugged terrain and daunting hills. In addition, the chilly weather, dense forests of the Jordan Valley, and hidden predators made the trip particularly dangerous.

However, it was not as dangerous as the place that exists outside of the will of God. Mary, in her praises to God, acknowledges the accounts of God’s character displayed through His people. Merciful. Liberator. Provider. Creator. Sustainer. Holy.  With those narratives alive in her mind, she kept walking.

Are we there yet?

The detour continued. Did Mary wonder if her detour culminated with Jesus’ birth? Is that “there?” As she feels the baby wiggling, does she ponder where along this road, the promised King living inside her would make his debut?  “There” may have appeared as a foggy destination.

Henri Nouwen writes, “To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction.” (The Spirituality of Waiting)

Mary trusted that God was weaving a narrative far beyond her own imagining. And that is why she kept walking. To “There.”

As I ponder Mary’s journey, I am reminded of my own detours. Some I have embraced. Others have been met with protest. The new journeys took me into unfamiliar territory. Some treks I would prefer not to take again. Yet, God walked with me. And molded me. And loved me. And assured me that I had nothing to fear.

Because no matter my destination, or where I think it may be, God is with me. Always.
When I question the unexpected turns, God is with me.
When I stagger because my body is worn from fighting evil forces preying on my soul along the way, God is with me.

God is with us. Immanuel.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Because of Him we have hope. We have no need to fear wherever life takes us. Like Mary, we can keep walking.

Sometimes God's Purpose for You is Right in Front of Your Eyes

Have you ever dreamed up big plans concerning how you can be used by God to change the world?  Sometimes God puts big plans in our hearts.  Plans so big and so overwhelming that the immediate reaction is to run; or at least find excuses.  (Let’s not forget that Moses, Jeremiah, Saul, Peter…. encountered those fears). Without a doubt, God is in the business of using us, imperfect as we are, to accomplish great things.

Yet, we easily can get so caught up in those big dreams that we lose sight of the many opportunities we have everyday  to bring the face of Christ to others. Many of those opportunities happen in the mundane, moments of our lives. Jesus regularly spent moments with those who he encountered….while traveling, stopping at a well, eating with friends.  We get so accustomed to the tasks in our routines; so distracted by the images on our electronic devices, the agendas that fill up our days,  that we don’t see others the way Jesus saw them. 

 Sometimes, we don’t see them at all.
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I am reminded of a few scenarios in which I, unexpectedly, encountered what I call “Divine” moments.  

  • Finding myself lost in a lonely hospital hallway while looking for the meeting room of a support group I attended, I encountered a man. After helping me out, he shared with me that his wife just underwent a double mastectomy earlier in the day.  He was on his way to her room.  
  • While we were cleaning out my grandmother’s space following her funeral, I engaged in a conversation with a man who poked his head in to my grandmother’s room . It was an encounter that, at first, seemed inconvenient with a man, who seemed “grumpy.” I left blessed.  (For the full story:http://stephaniejthompson.blogspot.com/2013/04/divine-interruption.html
  • Helping a woman at a party learn to use her smartphone to see pictures of her grandkids, led to her sharing about a predicament in her life and an opportunity to pray for her.
I don’t share these glimpses into my moments in order to bring glory to myself.  In fact, I’m sure I would have been blessed many more times, had my eyes been looking for the opportunities.
So…my challenge to you as well as myself is this:  When you wake up, ask God to give you the eyes of Christ.  Lend yourself to being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 
 What would happen if you went into the bank/ gas station and actually talked to the person behind the counter?  
What if you paid for the coffee of the person in line in back of you?
What if you practice grace when the waitress/restaurant staff messes up your order?

What if you listened (really listened-you know what I mean) to your kids/spouse tell about their day?
None of us knows the stories behind those whose paths we cross in a day. Only God knows.  But what we do know is that all of us are broken people in need of grace and hope and validation that our lives matter. Sometimes, God’s purpose for you, is right in front of your eyes.