Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dangerous Detours - A Message of Journey

Tallin, Estonia 2011
Last Wednesday evening I had the awesome opportunity to speak at the Faith United Methodist Church Mother Daughter Banquet. Their theme was "Journey with Christ" and I was thrilled to be asked to share a portion of my journey with them. Here is an excerpt of the evening's presentation.

Thank you for inviting me to be with you this evening. I didn't have to think long or hard about accepting your invitation to address you tonight as your theme, Journey with Christ, is a deep reality in my own life.  One that I am particularly and tenderly aware of, especially in the last few years. I whole heartily commit to the idea that my life is a journey and I am pleased and honored to be asked to share just a portion of my story with you tonight.

And that's of course what all speakers say, "I am pleased and humbled to be asked …. blah blah blah” but I want you to know that it is not a responsibility I take for granted. I am humbled, so very humbled to be able to be with you tonight. Because I believe the only thing I feel worthy of standing before you and telling you is my own story. I'm not special or schooled in public speaking, I simply am me.

As a mother of 5 children, a nontraditional missionary & employed outside the home I am often asked, "How do you do it?"
So tonight, here, I am going to reveal my big secret:
I have no idea! I never know what to say to that question because I’m really not trying to impress others with my high capacity for activity. Truth is I don’t even love all the work and chaos and exhaustion that comes with being me.
I’m just trying to survive and God willing thrive a little.
But whether or not this is the life I planned for me is irrelevant because this is the life I have. This is my journey. There is no other for me. This is it. I believe that my journey is mine. It’s unique. It’s different that yours. Your journey is unique. And I wouldn’t dare stand before you today with instruction as to how you should walk your journey or what your journey should look like.  That would be sinfully assumptive of me.
So while each journey is unique, I do recognize that our journey’s can often overlap. One of my favorite phrases is this: “I’m so happy that our paths have crossed.” I often use it instead of “It’s nice to have met you” or “I am glad to have known you” because I celebrate the times that my journey and your journey has intersected.
But not every intersection is a good one is it? Our journey’s are not always full of wonderful experiences.  Journey’s are filled with friendships, and play dates and warm fuzzy memories. But, chance are, our journey’s also have stories of heartbreak and betrayal and sicknesses and loneliness.

I know these things to be true as well.  And that is where I’d like to offer you encouragement this evening. In my 20 years in the ministry both as a pastor’s wife and now a nontraditional missionary, I’ve encountered 5 beliefs that I’ve identified as potentially dangerous detours that we should be able to recognize as we journey through life.

1. It's not fair!

I will admit to you that I have spent a lot of mental energy in my life believing that I got the short end of the stick. I could tell you how I didn’t intend to drop out of school, or how I didn’t feel called into a ministry I found myself immersed in, how I didn’t want to move to a rural community, or plant a new church or have so many kids or….
I’ll never forget the evening, not too long ago, I laid in bed, tears rolling down my cheeks as I prayed before the Lord, “Lord I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. I did everything I could and here we are in a terrible mess. It’s so unfair!”
And I sat perfectly still. I honestly believed I would be able to hear His voice. I didn’t pray a verse (not that there's anything wrong with that). I didn’t have any supplications to make I simply, heart-fully and in all the brutal honesty I could muster wanted to let God know I had done my part and He neglected to do His. And I wanted to know what He was going to do about this terrible injustice. 
Part of me wondered if lightening would strike me in my bed. I was essentially telling the maker of heaven and earth He dropped the ball. I was telling Him I didn’t want what He wanted me to have.
I waited in anticipation. My heart literally broke and in a million pieces, I begged for answer. I mean, He had to answer me, didn’t he?
Didn’t he?
John 16:33 Jesus told his disciples “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”

As I’ve grown up in church I often focused on the “overcome” portion of this passage and never the world “trouble”. I always skimmed over “trouble”. But trouble is not for skimming, is it?
So whenever I encounter others who believe what they have is 'unfair' I am reminded of this passage of the scripture and I want to ask them "Who told you it would be?" Not God. God never, ever told us it would be fair. We want it to be. It seems right to us. But it’s not the way. On your journey you will experience unfairness.
This is not to trivialize our problems. Heartache is real. Sickness is real. Injustice & betrayal are real. So you’re right. It is unfair. But take heart.  Because we’re talking about journeys today. Unfairness is not your destination.

2. Well, it’s not what I expected!”
Did you know that the Danish are some of the happiest people on the planet? It's true! I recently read about a poll that found that the people of Denmark are famous for having low expectations. That means they never expect anything good could happen and therefore if anything pleasant does come their way their expectations are surpassed and they feel happy!
Now I wouldn't necessarily prescribe this attitude as a good idea, especially seeing as how I personally am a "glass is half full" individual but I’ve met and counseled women who are so bitter because of expectations. They are detoured on their journey because what they thought should happen didn’t happen. And that’s what makes expectations a dangerous notion - they alter our reality.
Expectations are a funny thing. The tighter we hold on to an expectation, the more it shapes the actual experience. When you think something is going to go a certain way, you tend to judge how it actually went by your preconceived expectations. They become your measuring stick, filter and scoring system. What was ultimately just an idea in your head can strongly impact the reality in your life. (see Jon Acuff's The God You Least Expect)

London, England
For example, I was able to take our oldest daughter on her first mission trip last October. As we journeyed to the United Kingdom we encountered long wait times, long flights, cramped conditions, hot bus stops and all the regular inconveniences of travel.

In fact it was about 36 hours from the time we left our home until we arrived to our hotel room. We literally arrived at the conference just in time. No rest, no showers, we changed clothes and was swept off to our first event. As we stood in line, dressed up waiting to enter a gorgeous British banquet Halee turned to me and said, "Well! This is not nearly as fun as I thought it would be!"

Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way but the Lord directs his steps.


3. "This is too hard!"

"It’s too hard to deal with this! It's too hard to work there, to help them ...."

I know about too hard! I think it's hard to raise 5 kids. It’s hard to work 3 jobs. It’s so hard to break into writing. It’s too hard to be in a ministry I’m feeling ill prepared for. It’s too hard to send my husband back to school. It’s too hard to be 40 years old, raising a family and teetering on such financial insecurity.
I’m currently in a too hard season. I really am. It hurts my pride to admit I’ve got too much on my plate and that I can’t seem to ever get ahead or alleviate any of the stress. I’m not over committed. I don’t have a problem telling others “No!” I’m simply very very busy trying to survive this season of our lives.
There is no way to sugarcoat what’s going on with us. It’s hard. But let me tell you what I believe about it the belief "it's too hard". It may surprise you. I agree with that statement to a degree.
It IS hard.
But I do not believe it is TOO hard for you.
Life's bumps and bruises are hard work. It is taxing on your soul. It does make you weary and your heart faint.
But it’s not impossible.
It might feel impossible but it is not. How do I know? Because God is with us friend. God is with us on our journey and I don’t believe that He in His infinite wisdom and love and care for me would burden me with a load I cannot carry.
Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
There is only one good idea when you find yourself entertaining the notion that your life or circumstance is too hard … you must take hold of God’s hand and remember He is with you. And He promises to help me and give me rest in the hard times.


4. "There is nothing I can do!" 

On the heels of "It’s too hard" I often encounter women who become inactive, as they believe this is the way it is and there is nothing I can do about it. And very quickly apathy sneaks in and begins to drain your life and vitality. I pray you don’t get waylaid by the belief that “There is nothing I can do”
Resignation should never be a long-term solution in our journey with Christ. You might feel like letting go. Heck, we all do and there is nothing to be ashamed of when the weight of your trials and tribulation make your shoulders sag and your heart drop. But I want to tell you with the utmost sincerity that as long as you have breath in your lungs there is something you can do.
If you’re an exhausted mother, you can get a good night’s sleep.
If you’re hopeless you can grab a hold of faith with a relentless tenacity.
If you’re lonely you can give friendship.
If you’re afraid you voice and release your fears.
If you’re sad you find someone to cheer up.
If you’re struggling you can share your burden.
John 10:10 reminds us that Jesus came to the earth that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.

I'll never forget the day I discovered I was having twins. I was exhausted from pregnancy. I was overwhelmed with the idea of having 5 children. I was certain my life, my dreams & aspirations were over. How could I ever be me if I was going to be so busy being a mom? I believed I had to give up.

And if I had - I wouldn't be here with you, I wouldn't be an international traveler, I wouldn't be writing.

Friend, quitting is not abundant. Please don’t give up on life or circumstances. Don’t give up hoping for reconciliation and love. Don’t give up on what God can do. God will not quit on you. He cannot. It is not in His nature to give up on you. He is always calling you and beckoning you and moving you.

5. “It’s unimportant”
If there were any one message I could spend the rest of my life sharing it would be this. That your life is important! I’m so weary of the belief that seem to have invaded our mindset that some jobs and some people are more important than others.
I work at a local retail store and I have heard for 4 months straight by almost every one who knows me this: “I didn’t know YOU worked HERE?”
Do you hear the connotation in the subtle tone? As if retail was below me. As if I couldn’t get a better more respectable job. As if I was stooping. And honestly, it really hurt my feelings. I began to feel shame creeping in and I would hope no one I knew would see me when I went in to work.

We’ve mistakenly believed that if you don’t do something important you what you do doesn’t matter. I aggressively dispute this notion. The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I made this morning matter. Working retail so that I can save money for missions matters (see EMERGE).
Delivering a meal to the elderly matters. Listening to a child matters. Sending a Thinking of You card matters. Picking up trash matters. Flowers matter. A smile matters. If I live honestly, it matters.

Why do we ascribe to the belief that only people with microphones and positions of authority and influence matter? What makes something matter anyway?

Henry Ward Beecher once said “We should not judge people by their peak of excellence but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”
Your journey is important to your children
to your grand children
to your neighbors
in this community!

He doesn’t go to all the trouble to create you, form you in your mother’s womb, as Psalm 139:13 says, and give you breath a life if it didn’t matter. You matter. And it is important.
Surely we’ve all felt one or all of these ways at point in our journey. I don’t highlight them to bring up any shame or embarrassment. Please, I struggle regularly with these tempting pit stops. Instead it’s been my joy and honor to stand before you tonight and offer you encouragement on your journey.
There is no groundbreaking theological breakthrough tonight.
The message is the same: God is with you.
But friend I want to remind us tonight that He is deeply connected to you and He doesn’t believe you can’t do it.
He doesn’t want you to quit.
He wants you to know - in that heavenly father sort of way - it was never going to be fair or easy but that it matters and you’re important.
He loves your journey.
He takes delight in you.
He doesn’t want you to be afraid of detours or bumps along the road.
He is a God of justice and mercy and grace. And he walks with you.
Your journey matters. My journey matters.
The path to our destination is not always a straight one, that is true. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back and get delayed. Maybe, however it doesn’t matter what road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.

Ladies, may your journey be blessed. May we each find joy in the journey. My utmost thanks to you tonight for your gracious attention and I can only pray “Our paths would cross again!” 
for more about my journey I invite you to visit our website


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