All posts by Linda Winn

About Linda Winn

The Writer...In the fourth grade when I first learned those squiggly lines of cursive actually meant something, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Naturally, I got busy deciphering the cursive code and writing my first novel. Sadly, that story is lost in time. In the fifth grade, Miss Mae Shelton at Washington Elementary School in Kingsport, Tennessee asked my class, “Who has a vocabulary?” I sat stunned that I didn’t even know what a vocabulary was, so I slowly turned around to see if any hands went up. None. Whew! I wasn’t alone. From that moment on, I wanted a vocabulary, whatever it was, of my very own. Years later, after a B.S. from Tennessee Tech, an M.A.T. from Winthrop University in South Carolina, plus 15 post-master’s hours, and a Professional Rating from the Professional Tennis Registry, I became a tennis analyst and writer for a professional tennis journal and other tennis magazines. From there, God placed a series of people in my life to lead me from serving on the tennis court to service in The King’s court. Since then I’ve written 200+ columns for The Intercessor, some of which are posted on my blog, Light’s On. My first book, Happy Tails, was published by Thomas Nelson in 2008. After a three-year hiatus due to a series of tragic family events, I'm back full force writing for Light's On, co-teaching the sanctuary class at my church, and working on my next book. I stay busy coordinating “Food for Thought,” a program I founded to provide weekly groceries for the families of backpack kids in our neighborhood elementary school. And, I continue to write, play golf, fly fish, photograph area lakes and rivers from my kayak, play with my dogs, work in my gardens, and enjoy God’s presence in the process.

God’s Divine Plan

heavenlyhost

Have you ever wondered about God’s divine plan for your life?

This year as I re-read the Christmas story, I was struck by the way God confirmed His will for Mary’s life — that she was indeed pregnant with His Son — and how He continually reminded her that Jesus is His Son.

Through Gabriel, Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon, and Jesus Himself, God gave Mary many moments that caused her to think back, to ponder, treasure and marvel at how her son was God’s Son — the One Who would bring salvation to the world.

Gabriel revealed God’s plan
What a mind-boggling moment that must have been for Mary when the angel Gabriel appeared to tell her about God’s plan for her life. She was chosen to give birth to the “Son of the Most High.”

Her reply? She simply asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).

Gabriel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God,” (Luke 1:35).

Now, if somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind you are still harboring some doubt about the virgin birth, this account was written by a scholarly physician named Luke, who knew full well how babies are made. Then he researched the event to provide an orderly account for you.

If a residue of doubt still remains, consider the explanation that Gabriel gave to Mary.

“Nothing is impossible with God,” (Luke 1: 37).

And if you yourself have experienced the Holy Spirit of God coming alive in your life, you know full well that nothing is impossible with God.

So, from Mary’s humble and devout faith she replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said,” (Luke 1:38).

Elizabeth confirmed Mary’s pregnancy
When Mary went to see her much older cousin Elizabeth, who was also experiencing a miracle pregnancy, she was greeted with a blessing.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:42-45).

Shepherds confirmed Jesus’ birth
After Jesus’ birth, shepherds hurried to town to find Jesus. They told Mary and Joseph how angels had flooded the night sky with the light of revelation that the Son of God had come to all people.

Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart,” while the shepherds returned to their flocks praising God all along the way (Luke 2:18-20).

Simeon confirmed Jesus as the Lord’s Christ
Thirty three days after His birth, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate Him to the Lord.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon– a righteous and devout man filled with the Holy Spirit– waited in the temple courts, because God had promised him that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ.

When Mary and Joseph brought Him in, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God saying, “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel,” (Luke 2:30-32).

Mary and Joseph marveled at what Simeon said.

Jesus confirmed God as His Father
Twelve years later God continued to send Mary and Joseph reminders that HE was the Father of Jesus. After the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph were on their way back to their hometown of Nazareth when they realized that Jesus was not with them. They backtracked to Jerusalem and found Him in the temple courts sitting among the teachers who were amazed by His understanding.

Mary and Joseph were astonished too, but Jesus simply said, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

Although Mary didn’t understand at the time, she “treasured all these things in her heart,” Luke 2:51).

This season as you re-read the Christmas story, I hope you’ll take time to ponder, marvel, and treasure all that the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, means to you personally. And as God continues to search your heart for a willingness to accomplish His divine plan for your life, may you respond in humble faith as Mary did.

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said.”

Voice Control

Go around

Jethro, my black lab, is half my weight but twice my strength. Walking him can be a difficult task especially when he’s being lured by a fresh or different scent. So it’s important to keep him under voice control.

In times of his enticement, he wants to leave my side to follow wherever his nose leads him like the other night when he kept trying to cross the street. Over and over again I had to stop, apply the brake on his leash, and say, “Go around,” to keep him out of the street and by my side.

Jethro knows what it means to “Go around.” He learned it the hard way.

Being a head-strong dog, he would often sniff his way to the far side of a tree or mailbox, get his leash wrapped around it trying to free himself, then look to me to get him untangled.

In order to enjoy an otherwise peaceful walk with Jethro, I taught him how to backtrack and get himself out of his own mess by applying the brake to stop his forward progress and saying, “Go around.”

Now I can use the same command to prevent him from following his nose to the far side of an obstacle in the first place. But on this particular evening our walk was a constant struggle–a battle of wills. Jethro’s will versus my will for him.

He wanted to walk on the side of the street where there were lots of new smells to investigate at a house that’s being renovated. His enthusiasm to explore far outweighed any possible concern for dropped tacks, nails, and other sharp objects in the yard that could hurt him.

Our twenty minute walk was a constant herky-jerky stop and go. He waited while I took two steps forward then tried to sneak behind me to cross the street. I’d stop, brake the leash, say, “Go around,” and wait for him to come back to my side before resuming our walk.

After we had gone through that routine numerous times, I wondered how God puts up with me during those times when I’m as stubborn, strong-willed, and prone to wander as Jethro is.

Jethro’s struggle also mimics the universal one–the desire to control our own destiny, to go our own way, and to do our own thing in our own time.

But the thing is, we don’t often know what’s best for us. We don’t see the big picture, so we make poor decisions. We go where we shouldn’t go; say what we shouldn’t say; and do what we shouldn’t do.

Struggling against God’s will for us is a struggle we tend to repeat. But God is good. His patience with us exceeds our patience with our circumstances. His love for us exceeds our love for ourselves. His grace is greater than all our sins and wrongdoing. His mercies are new every time we need His forgiveness. And if that weren’t enough, His gift of the Holy Spirit guides us with a loving yet convicting voice that prevents us from wandering too far from His side if we only listen.

Just like Jethro’s hearing me say, “Go around,” prevents Him from getting hurt or in trouble, our listening to and heeding our Master’s voice prevents us from getting hurt or in trouble, too. That’s why it’s important that we stay under the Master’s voice control.

I’m listening. Are you?

Down and Out? Look Up!

Fish symbol 4

Have you ever had a series of days when nothing seems to go your way? Trouble after trouble keeps piling up? Days and days that you’re supposed to be counting it all joy, but the only question you have is, “How? How can I count it all joy? It isn’t!”

I have.

While putting up my gheenoe for the winter, I ripped a hole in my left calf on the trailer’s tail light holder and will be in wound-care for six weeks.

A couple of days later, I drove through some unknown, unseen something that made my lungs shut down immediately, so I’m on big drugs just to breathe again and wearing masks to avoid further damage from the mold and dust of dying leaves.

Then I went for another oil change at Walmart. I know–pure stupidity, but I thought I’d give them one last chance to get it right. I checked their shelves, told them I’d seen Motorcraft Synthetic Blend 5w 20 in stock, and asked them to change my oil with it. They did the deed in record time–30 minutes–and charged me $75. They said, “The price of oil musta went up.” I paid it, looked at the receipt when I returned home and discovered they had put Mobil 1 in my car.

And running in the background of injury, illness, and emotional distress is an ongoing battle with TVA allowing the guy who bought the lot next to me to cut down a live tree on my shoreline so it won’t fall down on his dock which hasn’t even been built yet. To add insult to injury, TVA is allowing him to ignore the rule that requires owners to build their docks 10′ inside their own property line. For the record, that would place his dock on dry land, 60′ from the water’s edge. He has no waterfront property, but he will cut down a live tree, build his dock, and park his 22′ pontoon in my backyard with TVA approval.

Count it all joy? How! I started counting my blessings.

1. The wound-care staff is warm, friendly, and really good at their jobs. I enjoy going there, and they will heal my wound.

2. Even though my lungs are ultra-sensitive to environmental changes, my doctors have me on meds that allow me to live a normal life and immediately deal with life threatening situations.

3. I’m all for giving people a second and third chance, but at least I have oil in my car and the money to pay for it until I decide where to go for the next oil change.

4. And I’m so blessed to live in my own home on a beautiful lake with wonderful neighbors who call to check on me if my blinds aren’t open when they pass by.

Counting my blessings changed my perspective. Then just this morning, Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING reminded me, “Instead of wondering about what is on the road ahead or worrying about what you should do if…or when…, you can concentrate on staying in communication with ME [Jesus].”

Peace began to replace my inner turmoil. After breakfast I walked Jethro by the lot next to me that has already been cleared. I looked up to see a grapevine that had doubled back on itself to form the sign of the fish. And I was reminded once again that God is my ever-present help. He is with me always in all ways, and with Him, I can handle anything life throws my way. He promised.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Knock! Persistence Wins

persistence

In teaching His disciples about prayer, Jesus made it relevant for them.

He said, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity [boldness] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need…to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

Knocking means never, never, never giving up. It requires the same kind of persistence and repetition that Jethro, my black lab, uses to wake me up every morning. 

I pretend to be asleep when he enters my room, but the sound of his 3-footed gait makes a distinctive sound as he limps down the hall, so I’m awake but playing possum by the time he arrives bedside.

He begins his persistent get-up-and-feed-me routine with a single “Woof” while sitting as close to my face as he can sit. The second “Woof” comes before I can count to ten. By the third “Woof,” Jethro has become a little impatient and puts his foot on my bed to push it for emphasis. Now, our morning routine has reached the critical point.

If I keep my eyes shut and quietly say, “Lie down,” I can buy two or three more minutes of sack time before he sits up and starts the routine all over again. But if I open my eyes when he nudges my bed, he starts a series of joyous body slams that shake my bed until I get up. Either way, his persistence wins.

Like the man in the story, I don’t get up to feed Jethro because he’s my friend or because he’s hungry. I get up to feed him because he’s not going away until I do.

Jethro’s “Woof,” nudge, body slam routine is equivalent to “Ask,” “Seek,” “Knock.” His efforts escalate until he gets what he wants.

That’s how we are to approach prayer.

If asking doesn’t generate immediate results, we must invest more time, patience, and persistence in our prayer lives, because God knows we need more face to face time with Him.

He knows we are a work in progress, and through prayer we are conformed to His will for us. So the amount of time it takes for God to conform us to His will is the amount of time it will take for Him to answer those prayers that require knocking. The more stubborn we are, the longer it takes.

So pray without ceasing and never give up. Go boldly and persistently before the throne of grace and keep on knocking until the door of opportunity opens, and you walk through it.

If it’s time to storm heavens door for a job you want, or forgiveness for something you’ve done, or salvation for a loved one, keep knocking!

“For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

That’s a promise from the One Who keeps His promises.

Seek: A Command with a Promise

magnifying glass

“Seek,” is the another of God’s commands followed by His promise, “You will find.”

Remember, God answers our prayers based on His plan and purpose for our lives and His will and perfect timing in any given situation.

“Yes” answers come immediately because whatever we’ve asked for fits within God’s plan and timing for us. “No” and “Wait” answers require some seeking and knocking on our part.

Seeking is an active process rather than just a verbal one. It requires time and patience for searching. Whether you’re looking for a lost item or a hidden meaning, your search will lead you to deeper understanding of what God wants you to learn.

While “Lord, where did I put my car keys,” might lead me to a lot of drawer opening, paper shuffling, and frantic room-to-room searching, God will use the time I spend searching to reinforce the adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

I’m not saying that God is into adages. But He is a God of order and peace rather than confusion and would much rather see me at peace than scurrying around the house like a squirrel trying to cross the street.

Whether you’re looking for your car keys or something much deeper like the meaning of life or a better understanding of a Bible verse, your quest for answers begins with your need to know. Your wait for answers can turn into hours, days, months, and sometimes years of seeking and searching until finally through that wall of silence comes an understanding and the discovery of God’s greater purpose as His promise, “You will find,” comes to fruition.

When the mystery is finally revealed to you and the puzzle put together in your mind, you will discover that through your time of seeking and searching, God has brought you into agreement with Him. And that’s what He wanted all along.

Three Levels of Prayer

ask-seek-knock

You’ve probably heard that God answers our prayers with “Yes,”  “No,” or “Wait.” But did you know that your very first prayer of forgiveness establishes a relationship with the King of the Universe Himself? Continuing prayer, or simply talking with God, maintains that relationship with Him.

When we ask according to our needs (not wants), God answers according to His plan and purpose for our lives and His will and perfect timing in any given situation.

“Yes” answers come immediately. That means that whatever we’ve asked for fits within God’s plan and timing for us. “No” and “Wait” answers require some seeking and knocking on our part.

Jesus told His disciples, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,” (Luke 11:9-10).

Did you notice that God’s commands to ask, seek, and knock are all followed by His promises?

It will be given to you when you ask.
You will find when you seek, and
The door will be opened to you when you knock.

In other words, if you do what He tells you to do, He’ll come through for you. That’s a promise.

Ask, seek, and knock represent three different levels of prayer, all of which arise out of a need.

ASK prayers are verbal requests that will be met immediately with a “Yes.” All you have to do is ask. For instance when we ask for one of God’s attributes like wisdom, we will have access to His wisdom immediately.

That’s what James 1:5-8 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God…and it will be given to you.”

James goes on to say, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because…that person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

You see prayer is a two-way street. When we ask, God answers based on our trust in Him. We prove our trust by putting His shared wisdom into action.

Here’s an example: As I was multi-tasking in the kitchen, my back was turned to the wok of oil heating on the stove behind me. When I felt heat on my back, I turned around to discover the oil on fire with flames leaping three feet high and toasting the cabinet above the stove.

While a gazillion solutions for putting out the fire raced through my mind, in rapid succession I said, “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?”

Quick as a flash, the answer came to me, “Stick it in the oven!

I grabbed a hot pad, wrapped it around the handle, flung open the oven door, stuck the fiery wok in and shut the door. No fuss. No mess. It was a solution I’d never thought about before. But I asked, trusted, received and acted on God’s wise answer and lived to tell about it.

God sits on ready to supply all our needs. So ask believing, and you will receive.

(The next blog will be about the next level of prayer: SEEK. Stay tuned.)

Repaired Gates

Nehemiah's Jerusalem

The repairing of the gates and walls surrounding old Jerusalem was critical to the safety of the city. So everybody pitched in. They repaired their own section first, then helped their neighbors complete their sections. As a result, the wall and it’s gates were completed in a record 52 days.

I was intrigued that each of the gates not only has historical and prophetic significance, but altogether they parallel our journey to salvation and living the Christian life. The complexity of it all isn’t surprising considering that our God is a God of order and depth beyond our understanding. So I started digging to learn more.

Knowing that Scripture must interpret itself, here’s what I found…

The third chapter of Nehemiah begins and ends with the Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3: 1, 32) through which the sheep were brought for sacrifice. You’ve probably caught the significance already. Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, through whom all things were brought into existence is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for our sins. His death on the cross was the turning point in human history; and believing that He died for our sins is the turning point in our spiritual lives. So sheep are a symbol of sacrifice.

Going counter-clockwise around the wall, the Fish Gate was for the fisherman from Galilee to enter into the city to sell their fish. Centuries later when Jesus multiplied two fish to feed thousands, Christians used the fish symbol to identify those of like faith. The Greek acronym for “fish” was also the acronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. So the Fish Gate represents sharing the fish or evangelism. As followers of Christ, we are called to sacrifice our will for His will and to be “fishers of men.”

The Old Gate may have been one of the original gates. It represents the old ways–the ancient ways–of truth as opposed to new ways. I’ve heard it said, “If something is new, it’s not true; and if it is true, then it’s not new.” Truth never changes–not even with the New Age Movement. The Lord calls us back to, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Jeremiah 6:16).

The Valley Gate represents humility. The suffering and pain, trials and tribulations of our lives remind us there is no place for pride in our lives. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Valley experiences help clear away the garbage in our lives and bring forth opportunities for great personal and spiritual growth.

The Dung Gate was the exit for all the rubbish, refuse, and rot. Once we are aware of the rot and corruption in our own lives, we sense a need to be cleansed of its filthiness. Confession is our Dung Gate. “When we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness,”

The Fountain Gate is located at the end of the Pool of Siloam. It’s streams of living water describe the work of the Holy Spirit who cleanses us of the dung in our lives and empowers us to live the life Christ wants us to live. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me…streams of living water will flow from within him,” (John 7:38).

The Water Gate, the only gate that didn’t need repair, led down to the Gihon Spring where Ezra read God’s Word to the people. Water refers to God’s Word, and God’s Word is truth–the same yesterday, today, and forever. It doesn’t need repair either. The streams of living water by way of the Holy Spirit make God’s Word come alive for us, in us, and through us so we are truly washed in the water of His Word.

The Horse Gate follows the Water Gate because wherever God’s Word is read, spoken, or discussed spiritual warfare is sure to follow. The King’s men left for battle through the Horse Gate located close to the soldiers’ barracks. In Scripture, the horse symbolizes battle or warfare and reminds us that we too are on a battlefield swirling with spiritual warfare.

The East Gate faces the Mount of Olives and speaks of a future time when Jesus will return and stand on the Mount of Olives. He will then enter the city of Jerusalem through the East Gate. Jesus told His disciples, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” (Luke 21:28). So the East Gate assures us that Jesus is coming again. Till then we wait expectantly for His return.

The Inspection Gate is also called the Mustering Gate. This is where King David met his troops for inspection or to see if they passed muster. It reminds us that we too must pass muster. We will be held accountable for our lives and face a final inspection.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him,” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

As we wait in eager expectation for His second coming, let’s repair and restore the gates of our own spiritual lives then lend a hand to help others.

Remembering Aunt Ludy

Aunt Ludy note

Senior saints make great mentors, and Aunt Ludy was one of mine. No, she wasn’t my real aunt. She just wanted her younger friends to call her that.

I first met Aunt Ludy in the senior adult Sunday School class at Pleasant Valley South in Lindale, Georgia. In the year 2000, her 1940’s look with her little white gloves and hand-made dresses reminded me of Sweet Polly Purebred. The fact that she topped off her look with a Marilyn Monroe wig startled my sensibilities. I had to get to know this woman.

Even though she was twenty years older than I, our friendship grew. She became one of my spiritual mentors. She’d read her Bible cover to cover every year since the printing press started churning them out, so I figured she had all the answers. Besides, she’d already rewritten the entire Bible and had a friend type it for her. I called it the ALV–Aunt Ludy Version.

She enjoyed searching the Scriptures, answering my questions, and recommending books for me to read. She even gave me a copy of Arthur W. Pink’s Gleanings in Genesis.

Aunt Ludy book titles

Aunt Ludy and I enjoyed lively and sometimes deep discussions. She said my questions made her think.

We laughed a lot, too. After I got to know her pretty well, I told her she reminded me of Sweet Polly Purebred in a Marilyn Monroe wig. She raised her delicate hand to her lips and said, “You make me blush.”

Those chats with Aunt Ludy were like salted mines that always yielded spiritual nuggets and life lessons that stuck with me. I especially remember the time I joined her in the common room of her building to work a jigsaw puzzle. As we searched the table for just the right piece of the puzzle, our conversation turned to “witnessing.”

As if on cue, the lady mail carrier stopped by to say, “Hello.” When she continued down the hall, I asked Aunt Ludy if the mail lady was saved.

She said, “I don’t know if she is or not.”

“Well, don’t you think you should find out?” I asked. My boldness usually elicited an equally bold reply.

“No,” she said.

Shocked by her swift and negative response, I tried to create a sense of urgency in her.

“What if she steps onto that elevator, and it crash-lands and kills everyone in it?”

“Well…” she said without finishing her sentence.

I sat dumbfounded by her apparent lack of caring. Then I realized that I was just sitting there, too, with my imagination running wild.

What if the elevator really crashed? What if she really dies? What if she goes to hell because I didn’t witness to her? What if I’m her last chance to hear the Gospel? How can I live with her blood on my hands?

I bolted from my chair and hurried to the elevator.

“Excuse me,” I said, “do you live in this neighborhood or do you just deliver the mail here?”

The mail lady looked at me curiously without responding, so I continued. “I just wanted to invite you to church if you don’t already have a church home.”

She smiled and said, “I do have a church home, but I haven’t been much lately.”

“God surely does miss you,” I said. “Why don’t you go this Sunday? You’re saved aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am…” Her voice trailed off as she lowered her head.

“Then I know God really misses you. Why don’t you talk to Him about it?”

Just then the elevator door opened, and she made a quick exit.

I walked back to the table amazed at my reaction.

“She’s saved,” I said, feeling relieved.

“Good,” Aunt Ludy responded without looking up.

I sat down to look for another piece of the puzzle. But, not willing to let the subject drop, I asked, “Why haven’t you ever talked to her about her salvation?”

Aunt Ludy studied the piece in her hand, reached across the table and firmly snapped the piece into place as she said, “Because I wasn’t the one convicted. You were.”

Wham! Wisdom landed a blow.

God didn’t command me to tell others to witness; God commanded me to witness, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil,” (Ephesians 5:16).

And Jesus said not to put it off. Don’t procrastinate. “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest,” (John 4:35).

Senior saints have fields wisdom and life lessons ripe for the picking too. And I’m so thankful for the time Aunt Ludy allowed me to glean the fields of her learning.

Rest in peace, Aunt Ludy.

Aunt Ludy memo

The Jordan River Decision

 

 

Don't settle 2

Why settle for an ordinary life when you can live an extraordinary one? After all, the convenient path in life is rarely the most rewarding.

In chapter 22 of the history book of Joshua, God promised Joshua that the 12 tribes of Israel would cross the Jordan River, enter the land of Canaan, and defeat all the enemies they faced. If they settled there, they would enjoy rest on every side. All of God’s promises came true for those who crossed over.

But the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh liked the fertile grazing land east of the Jordan River for their massive herds of cattle. All the tribes had camped there before crossing the river, and the two and a half tribes grew comfortable there. So they promised Joshua they would lead them across the Jordan and into battle to defeat their enemies if he would allow them to return and settle on the east side of the Jordan River as Moses said they could.

After seven years of battle Joshua conceded, “You kept your word to the Lord, to Moses, to me, and, perhaps most importantly, to your brothers in arms…therefore turn and go to your home in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. Take good care to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away; and they went to their homes.

On the surface it might appear that the two and a half tribes lived happily ever after. But when we look a little deeper into God’s gift and Moses’ concession, we discover a different result.

God gave the land west of the Jordan River.

Moses gave the land east of the Jordan to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-tribe of Manasseh as a concession for fulfilling their promise to fight with them. There is no record of Moses consulting the Lord about it or receiving His approval.

It was God’s will that all 12 tribes cross-over, claim their inheritance, and settle into a close relationship with Him. Nine and a half tribes were obedient and enjoyed rest on every side.
Two and a half tribes chose not to cross-over. Instead they chose to divide the nation of Israel, abandon the covenant of the Lord, separate themselves from God’s promises, live in a pagan land, and bow down to gods they did not know. In doing so, they invoked the wrath of Almighty God and later were carried away by Assyrian kings, never to be heard from again.

As believers, we face the same Jordan River decision–to cross over or not to cross over–to move forward in God’s will and receive His blessings or retreat to our comfort zones and leave His blessings behind.

God has so much more for us than we can imagine. He doesn’t like for us to distance ourselves from Him. He doesn’t want us to settle for the comfort of what we know. He wants us to step out in faith, trust His plan, and claim all that He has for us. He wants us to lean on His promises of safety, security, and rest and exchange the ordinary life for an extraordinary life with Him. That is the desire of His heart.

 

 

Dragging Dead Weight

Driftwood

Kayaking one morning, I found a piece of driftwood floating in the lake that I thought would look good as a free-form garden sculpture. I could just picture Creeping Jenny crawling all over it.

Hoisting it onto the back of my kayak required strength I didn’t have, so I tied a rope around it to drag it home.

What a lesson that was.

Paddling a straight line is easy by myself. But I struggled with the weight of this big, weird-shaped piece of driftwood in tow. The heaviest two feet of it dragged underwater like an anchor holding me back. I tacked back and forth so much, it was hard to tell if I was making any forward progress at all.

I paddled hard and gave my body a good workout. Then it dawned on me: sometimes life is like dragging dead weight. The burdens we carry get heavy. We may not be able to see the progress we’re making, but we are strengthened in our struggle.

And the burdensome things that slow us down are the things that God will turn into something beautiful…even more beautiful than the garden sculpture I envisioned.