This is part two of God’s amazing leading. If you missed part one, The Long Valley, you might want to start there and come back for part 2.
10 January 2008
It is a bright day full of warm sunshine. I begin to prepare for my winter wanderwege (winter hike) by getting all the things I will need to spend time with God in my backpack. When one prepares to go for a hike in a new area you need to familiarize yourself with the local trails.
A good map helps.
One also needs to become familiar with the road signs,
Pick your destination carefully
And be well rested.
However one should always be prepared to listen for new instructions.
When I took off on that bright day, I was not expecting to climb a mountain. I was headed for a trail just a short distance outside of town that had a small Gazebo. However when I saw the sign that said – zum wanderwege (to the mountain trails), it was almost as if God was whispering in my ear, “Go now or you won’t have another chance.” So after a moment’s hesitation, I changed direction and headed up Niederhorn.
During the first half of the ascent up the mountain, I was reflecting on a very different mountain experience 4 years ago. As a family had spent some time in California around Christmas and my time in the mountains was very different in December 2004. While I was in the mountains that time, God was preparing to perform heart surgery that was very painful.
Prior to going to the mountains, I had spent some time looking at Mary’s response to the angel as he told what was about to happen to her. She did not seem to struggle with responding in obedience, her struggle was in understanding how it could happen. The more I meditated on her wiliness to say yes, even though it could potentially cost her life was intriguing and I wondered how she got to that point. God used those meditations to do heart surgery in my life – a long and slow process. For me, to be willing to hold my life open to God for him to use, meant first learning to give up – giving up the things that I held dear and that seemed to be important. The first place He started was with my mountains in California.
So as we headed to California in 2004, I was excited to see Mt. Whitney again and to spend time with God once more in the mountains. However when we arrived in California, it was raining. It rained for the first week that we were there. I was beginning to wonder if we were going to make it to the mountains. God was indeed good and gave us a day with bright sun shine as we headed to the mountains.
My spirits lifted, but there was sadness in my heart. As we were heading north, I saw big white fluffy clouds kissing the mountains and I thought maybe I’ll be able to touch a cloud as I climb up my mountain. I also began to think maybe I wouldn’t see the mountain, as the clouds were really low. It seemed hard to believe that God would bring me 2000 miles, back to my mountain, and then cover it with a cloud! But God had a special plan for this day.
When I got to the mountain, it was clear and not a cloud in sight. There was Mt. Whitney, tall, proud and majestic. God even sent snow to remind me of Minnesota – which did not have snow when we left! While driving up the road leading to the mountain, a “road closed” sign blocked the road and so for a while we turned back and climbed around the foothills – the Alabama hills. While this was enjoyable, it was not the mountain I was looking forward to and it was somewhat difficult to be excited about these hills when the Mountain was in plain view the whole time. It was during this time that I sensed God was about to do something big and hard
Later in the day, we did drive farther up into the mountain. The road was covered with snow and it was not safe to go all the way to Whitney Portal where the trailhead up the mountain begins. Gary parked the van and I headed up the mountain. As I was rounding a curve in the road, to my right I saw the most beautiful sight. The sun was beginning to go down, but its light made the valley below ablaze with fire. The Alabama hills looked like streets of Gold. It took my breath away. As I looked at what Elohim, the creator God had laid out before me, I was undone and the tear ducts developed a huge leak. As I sat, rather knelt on the only snow less patch of ground, I knew that God had brought me back here to say goodbye to my mountain. As I stayed there taking in this sight, a cool gentle breeze touched my cheek and it felt like a kiss from God.
That was the beginning of a very long process where God asked me to lay all my dreams, hopes, desires and ministry opportunities at His feet. He seemed to take away all that I thought was important – all the things that I thought were important in defining who I was as His child. I also had to deal with some demons from my past. It was a long and hard process. I reached a point where I said to God, “how much more do I need to give up? There’s not much of me left!”
God had me right where He wanted me.
At this point in my hike, I reached a point where I could sit and reflect – on the beauty of the Thunersee Mountains and what God had done in the past year.
When one’s heart is willing to serve and one has been stripped of the external trappings that can distract – then God is ready to work. However there was still one area that needed to go and as I worked through this one, God continued to remind me of the benefits of following him whole heartedly, regardless of whether I understood or not. I had not yet told anyone of my decision to leave a particular ministry and really did not want to as I knew it would be hard and was also wondering where God was leading.
I did not have to wait long. Shortly after I made the decision to leave, God swung the doors to another ministry wide open. One could say He dropped a new ministry into my lap, literally. I would never have dreamed of leading teams to a Hurricane stricken area, but that is exactly what God had in mind. I have learned much from serving on the gulf coast and I have received more than I have given in many ways.
So after four years of yearning to be in the mountains and sensing that God is still has more to show me, God brought mountains back into my life. He didn’t bring to me any old mountain; He brought me to the Alps which are beautiful. My heart and soul were being refreshed as I looked upon the mountains every morning from my window.
Now as I continued to climb further up Niederhorn, I began to sense that God was again at work. This time not taking away but adding to what He has already given. The second half of the ascent was spent trying to get a handle of what was going on as a result of this week in Switzerland. I had been hearing most of the week how amazing I was and the kids program was. Having been through the past 3 years, I knew I was not doing anything extraordinary or wonderful. I was just a broken vessel being used by God in some amazing ways. By God’s providence I was reading through the Gospel of Mark and I read verses like;
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)
And they were bringing children to him that the might touch them and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the Children come to me, do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them (the children that the disciples had tried to shoo away) in his arms and blessed them laying his hands on them. (Mark 10: 13-16)
God obviously has a special place in His heart for children and takes the nurturing of their faith seriously. But how does that relate to me? Part of my reason for taking time off from weekly ministry was to hear from the Lord what He was doing and where He was leading. This week gave me some answers.
No one here knew what I was thinking or what God had been doing in my life. I was waiting on the Lord to give direction and guidance. The direction He seems to be providing caught me off guard. The answers came from people who don’t know me well, but had a sense of what God could do in and through me. I have been asked if I would consider doing this same type of things for other conferences in other places – two were specifically mentioned. As I have prayed, it seems like God is on the verge of opening some new ministry opportunities for our family. God seemed to confirm this in many of the comments I heard throughout the week and from what I read in His word. I think that comment that sums up best this new vision came from an old friend of mine, Jeff. He said, “When you are ministering out of your giftedness and doing what God calls you to, what you do really does seem amazing to others.”
God has laid out 3 very exciting ministry opportunities. The first continues to be in Pearlington, MS – as long as God keeps this door open, it will be my first priority to teach the children of the 4 African American churches there in the summer. It is my first love and I have been reminded by God to never forget my first love as the church in Ephesus did (see Revelation 2:1-7). The second is teaching at the 16/33 center – an outreach to the inner city of Minneapolis. I will begin teaching there in February. And the third is doing children’s programs for Missionary kids at family conferences. This will need to be considered as each request comes in to see if it fits in with the needs of my family.
As I headed down the mountain, my heart was full of thankfulness. I am thankful for the long and difficult years of heart surgery that God has done. I am thankful for the new ministries that God is bringing into my life. Four years ago, God asked me to redefine my mountain. Some of those mountains I traveled over the past years have been alongside my youngest daughter as she has learned a new language, culture and skills. Now God has given me new mountains to gaze upon as He has given new ministries to pursue. I like these new mountains, but would never have sought them on my own.
As I was sharing this with someone over dinner one night, her response was, “It seems like things are just getting better and better and more exciting as the Lord continues to lead.” I couldn’t have said it better. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that I could ask or think – May He receive the glory for anything accomplished through this broken vessel.