Traveling: People Along the Path

 

We are fellow travelers, you and I, each taking different roads, riding in different vehicles, and following different itineraries. Some travel at a leisurely pace, others are destination driven. Whatever our style, we all meet people along the way, which can be a bane or a blessing.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

People can fill us or drain us, enrich us or deplete us. Either way, they’re unavoidable and part of God’s plan for our journey. Did I just hear a collective sigh? I could respond with comments about setting parameters or suggest possible purposes why God put them in our path, but instead, let’s look in a different direction.

Am I a blessing to the people along my path—all of them, not just friends and A-listers?

Our son David has taught me a lot about accepting people. David is disabled, a 38-year-old child with an uncomplicated, trusting view of everyone he meets. He embraces strangers and kisses the hands of waitresses. He is never put off by class, needs, or ethnicity. Like his dad, a stranger is simply a friend he’s not yet met.

And David prays for everyone—the sad, the sick, the troubled, the teen, the imprisoned, the addicted, the challenged, and those on the front page of the newspaper. On David’s life journey, each person he sees (whether or not he’s introduced) is worthy of his friendship and intercession. I think disabled is a relative term.

When I grow up, I want to be like David.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Traveling: Disturbing Detours

2detour

Detour! Are you kidding me? I was already late.

Detours—on the road or in life—don’t shorten because we’re inconvenienced. Frustratingly, life is filled with them. As good as our planned path may be, the new home is deferred, the degree takes too long, the pregnancy is delayed, an opportunity eludes us, financial relief is too far off, or the medical procedure is too lengthy.

Life doesn’t come with GPS. The abrupt appearance of detours, usually unexpected and often irksome, is never welcome. But wouldn’t we be better served if we accepted them as part of life? Think about it, detours are not there to harass us but to keep us from danger and get us safely to our destination.

They take us down roads we would not commonly travel—through unacquainted neighborhoods, along undiscovered back-roads, past unfamiliar scenery. When eyes are open and hearts are pliable, detours can lead to discoveries we would otherwise miss, on the road and in life.

We travel two roads—one leads through the hills and valleys of this temporal world, the other is a sure path to a new and eternal earth, one without detours. Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going…I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:4,6).

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Proverbs 4:18

…with no detours

Traveling: Destination Decisions

road-pixabay.com

Our next trip is to Lancaster—plowed fields, horse drawn buggies, and home-cooked meals with far too many carbs and calories. I’ve checked the forecast so I’ll know how to pack, made reservations in our favorite hotel, and purchased tickets for Sight & Sound. I can feel my body relax just thinking about it.

We choose a destination, make travel plans, and sketch out an itinerary. Or, we enroll for the course, apply for the job, make an offer on the house. We choose a church, prepare for a birth, cook for guests. We upsize and downsize, change cars and careers, watch our kids move out and our parents age out. Even when unseen, there’s change on the horizon, welcome and unwelcome, with disappointments and opportunities.

We’re always on a road to somewhere, traveling to a destination or toward a goal. What road are you now on? Is it long or short, bumpy or smooth, city traffic or country lane, toll road or scenic route? Are you happy to travel this road or longing for the trip to end?

It’s to our advantage to remember that life is merely a journey, not our destination. The many mini destinations of life are simply stops along the road to our final, great destiny, where the roads are gold, the water clear as crystal, and the neighborhoods vibrant. There are no detours, potholes, or disappointing accommodations. The food is great and the company even greater. There’s no crowding, no distress, and nothing holding us back.

So, pause in your earthly journey and remember your true destination. It puts life in perspective and makes current frustrations and disappointments tolerable. Psalm 84:5-7 always encourages me (emphases mine).

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka [weeping],
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

My friends, the path we’re now walking is part of a pilgrimage. By faith, let’s turn the places of weeping into life-giving springs and move from strength to strength—soon we’ll reach our ultimate destination and it will be worth the challenges we pass along the way.

Photo compliments of pixaby.com

 

I Love the Fall

The Lighter Side

fall-pixabay-valiunic

I love to see the trees clothed in orange, red and yellow, and watch the leaves gently float to the ground, offering a delightful swish when I walk through them.

I love the return of fleecy sweatshirts and fuzzy sweaters and the weight of an extra blanket on my bed.

I love fall’s crisp air, crisp apples and apple crisp. I love homemade applesauce, apple cider, and apples covered with caramel.

I love orange pumpkins sitting on front porches, all friendly and bright; toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin breads, and pumpkin pies with real whipped cream (but not pumpkin lattes, thank you.)

I love the warm glow of windows in the early darkness, allowing me stolen glimpses into homes of strangers.

I love mums of yellow, purple and burnt orange (my favorite); showy cabbages flaunting curly leaves of white or purple; and colorful gourds, round or elongated, bumpy or striped.

I love the way fall rouses my heart and inspires me and fills me with gratitude, as if preparing me for its crescendo at Thanksgiving.

I love the seasonal reminder that God is faithful and oversees everything. And that the Creator of fall and winter, spring and summer is good—and, like His creation, He is very, very beautiful.

Photo courtesy of valiunic@pixabay.com 

 

Easing in—Seasonal Change

four_seasons_by_nalmesChange is not always abrupt and unannounced. Sometimes we sense it coming and even anticipate it. Seasonal changes seem easier to accept—they are predictable and transitory. They give us time to prepare and even appreciate the phase of change, comforted by the knowledge that this will pass, like the seasons of nature.

Spring, summer, fall, and winter are descriptors of life’s stages—spring symbolizing birth and childhood; summer, a time of growth and young adulthood; fall characterizes maturation and middle age; winter depicts the slower, deliberate pace of senior years. And within each season are additional seasons.

Each phase of life holds areas of change that require our acceptance and cooperation—marriage or sudden singleness, new job or no job, recovered health or unwelcome diagnoses, parenthood or grand-parenthood, productivity or postponement, certain faith or questioning doubt, anticipation or angst.

What’s your season?

Whatever your answer, I am sure of this. The Lord is near—not only near to His return, but near to you. So don’t be anxious, but pray. Search for the blessings and be thankful, and God’s peace will guard your heart and mind (paraphrased from Philippians 4:4-7).

What are the joys of your current season? There is a beauty and rhythm to each chapter, blessings within the burdens. Let them be the focus of your heart and be at peace.

Artwork by Nalmes

How Do I Stretch? Let Me Count the Ways.

stretch-freelyphotos-DinoReichmuth

 

This is our third discussion about change and I trust we agree that though change is inevitable, growth is optional. To stop resisting change and accept its challenge, is a choice for growth. It says we want to get better, be more, rise higher! But as soon as the growth process begins, we feel the stretch.

We stretch our attitudes, preconceived notions, traditions, and personal peeves and preferences. We stretch our intellect, emotions, patterns, and assumptions. We stretch our feelings, habits, comfort levels and personal space. We stretch our I-never-did-it-that-way-before stances.

Stretching may tax our endurance, strain our muscles, and challenge our brain, but it also prepares us to go further, reach higher and become fuller. In the process of stretching we find ourselves expanding and learning—becoming more, greater, better.

Stretching extends us beyond our preconceived limits, expands our world, opens our hearts, enlarges our lives—which is exactly what God wants for us!

Jesus said He came to give us life that’s abundant (John 10:10).

Resisting change causes the opposite of abundance—it leads to decrease. These synonyms are not what we want: shrink, wither, shrivel, minimize, dry up, decline, diminish, lessen. They’re not what God wants either.

In Isaiah 53 the prophet describes all that Jesus would suffer to release us from sin. Then he calls out to us, as God’s redeemed people:

Enlarge the place of your tent,

stretch your tent curtains wide,

do not hold back;

lengthen your cords,

strengthen your stakes.

For you will spread out to the right and to the left…”*

God wants to make us more. Do you hear His heart cry in Isaiah’s words?

Let’s stretch high to receive His blessings. Stretch wide to touch lives we’ve not yet met. Stretch out to seize new possibilities and stretch deep to fulfill God’s purposes.

*Isaiah 54:2-3

Photo credit: Dino Reichmuth/freelyphotos.com

Change = Growth. Maybe.

Change=growthChange presents fertile conditions for growth, but growth cannot be assumed.

Change arrives and alters our lives, things are different than before. The opportunity for growth looms before us, but so does the potential for disappointment and bitterness. The unpleasant truth is, it’s our choice—resist or grow?

Any change is a challenge, but when it is unanticipated, takes something from us, and doesn’t reveal what’s ahead, it’s what I referred to last week as ugly change. That criteria describes the situation of a young woman who could never have anticipated the change that came to her. It took her reputation and left her misunderstood. She didn’t know what to expect as her plans fell around her feet. Yet, she responded with humble grace and her words are still repeated with reverence:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

We may reason that if an angel delivered a message of change we would have the same grace. I can’t be sure of that, but I am sure that a response similar to Mary’s will serve us well whenever and however change comes our way. When we put faith before fear we can say, “I am yours. Have your way in my life.”

I can choose this response only with God’s help because I do like the comfort of what’s familiar. But when I let go and embrace the challenge of change, I grow. And what’s the alternative—bitterness, anger, rebellion? That most certainly will stifle growth, cement me in place, and cause atrophy. That’s not the life I want.

The familiar may be comfortable, but it’s also restrictive and God’s desire for us is higher and better than we imagine. He purposes for us to have hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). To that end, He prunes us through change, enabling us to produce fruit, more fruit, and much fruit (John 15:1-5).

Let’s trust Him along the path and watch His grace unfold.

Previous Older Entries