Friday, March 13, 2015

Jesus Take My Skis

            I like to think of myself as a pretty “gung-ho” gal. I’m usually up for some good high adventure type fun. However when it came time to go skiing my knees started to get a little wobbly. We had been blessed with a beautiful cabin in Angel Fire, NM where we could spend the week together as a family. There isn’t much else to do in Angel Fire if you aren’t going to ski and we were excited to take the kids for the first time. 
        We woke up Wednesday morning and I confessed my fears to Chad. My main fear being that I would get to the top of the mountain and not be able to get down. Still, I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. I decided to quit being a scaredy cat and go. 
            After breakfast we loaded up the kids and went to the ski shop to rent our gear. There is a high intimidation factor to skiing and it starts with making sure you have all the right gear. Thankfully, the man at the ski shop was helpful and very knowledgeable. He could tell this was a new experience for our family, so as he fitted us he offered expert instruction, no extra charge.
The tips he gave seemed pretty easy to grasp in the warmth and shelter of his cozy little shop. But an hour later, from the top of the mountain, I was screaming, “THE MAN AT THE SKI SHOP TELLS LIES!”
The First Lie: Skiing is a natural body movement.
            He reiterated this statement by telling us about how he began teaching his children to ski at twenty months. “Good, a baby can do it!” I thought. If a baby can do it, this grown woman can too! Grown woman are the two key descriptors here. It is my personal view that I am too grown to be strapping waxed boards to my feet and propelling myself down a mountain.
As a matter of fact, if there were an award for gaining momentum, I’d take GOLD. Gaining speed was not an issue, but once I got going the only thing capable of stopping me were large piles of snow, padded barricades and condensed masses of human beings.
            Do you know what else is a natural body movement? Falling down. It is perfectly natural to just fall right smack down on your rear end. I repeated this natural movement more times than I could count. Time and again I’d get back up and try to ski again all the while thinking, “It’s going to be a long day.”

The Next Lie: Pizza and French Fries
            It was just as simple as that, he told us. Make a wedge with your skis to stop, line them up parallel to go fast. Pizza and French fries, got it. Pizza is break, French fries is gas. Sending me down the mountain with such little information is like saying, “Okay, gas on the right brakes on the left, now let’s go drive some NASCAR!"
            So here I am with my full grown woman self, headed down the mountain with enough momentum to take out a family of five. I hear Chad behind me yelling, “pizza, pizza, PIZZA!” Another instructor skied by with a student and yelled, “JUST LEAN INTO YOUR WEDGE!”
            About the time I’d get going and feel in control of the speed, I’d see Sean or Ruby skid out. I’d take my skis off and walk out to get them back on their feet so they could keep going. Every time I’d put my skis back on it was like learning all over again. Chad was out front patiently picking us all up and getting us back on our feet. Finally, I just took off my skis and decided to walk.
            Chad tried to encourage me to keep going, but I. was. done.
It was more important to me now to help Ruby. As I was walking along a little five-year-old girl in a puffy pink snowsuit sped by me. She saw me carrying my skis and yelled, “You should be skiing, but suit yourself!”
In that moment, I felt like putting Ruby back up on her skis, setting her on a trajectory of the pink puffy ski expert because, “Ruby, it’s time to go full French fries!”

The Whopper: Once you can all stop and turn, you’re ready for the Homeward Bound trail
            The homeward bound trail is a two and a half mile trail. It’s the easiest trail to take down the mountain. It’s easy if you know how to ski on even an beginner level. The man at the ski shop told us that we should be able to “take it slow”, “stop to have a snack and get a drink” and “gain some confidence along the way.” He said we should expect to be down the mountain in about two and half hours.
            After two hours, we found ourselves spread out across the mountain in varying states of disrepair. It was starting to get late when the same instructor who told me to lean in to my wedge stopped to check on us. He could see that we had probably made it as far as we could go and said, “You know it’s about that time that they start to sweep the mountain for stragglers. If you want to just wait where you are, they’ll be by in a little while to pick you up.”
            Chad and David were doing good. They decided to ski ahead while Sean, Ruby and I “straggled” until the truck came. About ten minutes later, the familiar face of a grizzly bearded man came riding up on a snow mobile. “Do you all need a ride back down?” This was the same man I had run into getting off the lift. By this time, I had become numb to my humiliation and said, “Yes! We do!”
            “I can take the two kids. That way you can just ski down and pick them up.”
“Just ski down” he said. I appreciated the vote of confidence. Part of me thought that I might could give it a try now that the trail wasn’t as crowded. I said, “Okay, I guess I can just ski down. About how much further do I have to go?”
            He hesitated to give me his most honest estimation, “Well, you’re still pretty close to the top”
I started to cry and said, “Then I’m not going to make it.”
He really didn’t even wait for me to answer. He was already on his radio calling for back up. “Yeah, uh, we’ve got a basic 10-14 up here in need of transport.”
            I’ve decided that whoever came up with radio code talk is a person who understands mercy and grace. I never want to find out what a “10-14 in need of transport” means, but I was just glad he didn’t say it to my face. At this point I didn’t care if every guy on ski patrol was sitting around snickering when the dispatch came in, as long as one of them responded to this 10-14’s need for rescue.
            Before speeding off with Ruby and Sean, he said, “They’ll be by for you in about 20 minutes. I’ll keep these guys safe until their dad or you come to get them.”
            There I was, the last straggler on the homeward bound trail. As soon as I lost sight of Ruby and Sean, another ski patrol came riding up in the distance. He pulled up beside me and asked me if I needed a ride back down.

As I was loading up on the back of his snow mobile he said, “Are you doing alright?”

 “Yes, I probably shouldn’t be up here.” Was my response.

He paused and said “Look up at where you are! You’re on top of the mountain. Just enjoy the beautiful view!”
            The sky couldn’t have been bluer. The air was cool and crisp and it was a privilege to enjoy the mountains from the top. On the way down, I saw David and Chad smiling as they soldiered on, Ruby and Sean got to add a snow mobile ride to their already exciting day. It was a beautiful day on top of a beautiful mountain, just like the guy at the ski shop said it would be.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Waking Up In The Elisha Room

    Silence. I sat in silence in Dr. K’s office because I had no response to her simple yet profound question. She had listened to my entire life story up to this point. By now she knows where I’m coming from. I had come to her for help moving forward. So when I stopped talking she gave me a moment to take a breath then asked, “What is it going to take for you to see what you’re doing now, this place that you are in, as something new?”
   Admittedly, my soul had become weary, and instead of looking at my life now as a fresh start I was seeing it as, “Here we go again!” To me, any bit of progress was just more set up for failure. It’s a sorry attitude to have and an even more depressing outlook on one’s future.
     I had no answer for Dr. K other than to promise that I would think about her question, make it a matter of prayer and see what changes could be made to gain a new perspective.
     I also wanted to discuss this question with Chad, and to be honest with him about how I was feeling. Thankfully, we were blessed to have an opportunity to travel together coming up. A church in Sedalia, MO had invited us to come speak to their congregation about Mission OKC. I don’t always get to travel with Chad, so this was going to be a special overnight trip. No kids, just us on an apparently God ordained road trip.  
For months, Chad had been corresponding with the mission’s pastor of the church. Somehow in all the correspondence we missed the email containing details about arrangements they had made for our overnight stay. Not knowing that they had already made accommodations, we went ahead and made our own reservations to stay in a hotel close to the church.
     A couple of hours outside of Sedalia, Chad gave the pastor a call to give him our ETA. The mission’s pastor graciously invited us to dinner and wanted to confirm what time we would meet, “Well,” Chad said, “My wife and I will need to check in to our hotel room and change clothes first.”
     The pastor sounded confused then asked, “Did you not get my email about The Prophet’s Chamber?” Chad’s response was, “What’s that?” Apparently it was expected that we would be guests in their associational missionary housing. The name they have given this cabin is “The Prophet’s Chamber.”
      We felt horrible that we had missed their invitation, and immediately called the hotel to see if they could cancel our reservations. In an act of rare kindness and over the top customer courtesy, the receptionist at the front desk assured me that it would be not problem at all to cancel our reservations even though we were within an hour of check-in time. It would seem that we were predestinated to spend this night in the “Prophet’s Chamber”. 
      We called the missions pastor back to confirm that we appreciated his efforts at making accommodations and ask for the address. “Great!” He said, “We’ve reserved the Elisha room for you!”
       An hour later we had successfully navigated our way to The Prophet’s Chamber and were parked in front of a big white door inscribed with the name ELISHA.
After enjoying a nice dinner we came back to the room. Chad spent the evening going over his message for the next morning, and  I decided to spend some time with the Lord.
There could never be a more obvious time or place to take my question to God in prayer. So, in that quiet space, I just came out with it. 

“God, I want to be excited about the new work you are doing in my life, but I know that means letting go of the past. I have to trust that You are at work in our lives right now. I want to move forward in faith and with joy in your plans for us. Please give me a fresh vision and renew a right spirit in me.”

        I said amen, picked up my Bible and for obvious reasons, turned to 1 Kings 19:19-21 to read about Elisha. As I read, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit instructing me through His word. He had searched my heart and was delivering an answer. By the power of His Word, God lifted me up onto His shoulders, allowing me to see beyond my shortsighted human perspective, and to share in His much grander view.  I could see that if I wanted to be a part of God’s big picture for our lives, some things in my heart needed to change. Here is the instruction I took away from my devotion time that night.

1.) Work Expectantly In Your Present Field
 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.” 1 Kings 19:19

         Ruth, David, Joseph, Rebekah, Daniel these heroes of the Bible were all discovered by God as they were faithfully performing seemingly ordinary tasks under difficult circumstances. Every time I am not sure which step to take, I think of Ruth waking up in a foreign land, asking Naomi if she could go and glean in the field. This was the ONE thing she could do. She wasn’t going to become idle and depressed over her current circumstances. She saw an actionable step and she took it. I love how Scripture tells us, (and I am paraphrasing), “As it turns out she ended up in the field of Boaz.” It just so happens that her few, faithful diligent steps landed her in the one field, belonging to the one man who would be willing and able to redeem her situation.
          Here we find Elisha, behind a team of oxen, working diligently in a field where he was now being called away from plowing the hard soil of the field to be the voice of God, plowing through the hardened hearts of the Israelites.
         God takes notice when we put feet to our faith. He sees the smallest efforts we take toward the call He has placed in our hearts and meets us in that place! As I heard it put another way, when we get up off of our “blessed assurance” and get to work; it is there where He blesses and multiplies our efforts.
            When Chad and I landed in OKC we had zero options. After many failed attempts at job finding, I found myself begging the manager of a dry cleaner to hire me. Once we surrendered to God’s way and saw an opportunity to move in to a low-income apartment complex, we took it. We have done some really foolish looking things to keep moving forward, but God kept meeting us in those places, giving us favor and revealing another step forward.
            Sometimes you hit a really big obstacle, and you feel like you’re at a stand still. That’s when God reminds us that none of our efforts will be wasted. He sees you in your field. He sees the work you are doing! Be faithful!

2.) Say Your Goodbyes To This World
“He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 1 Kings 19:20

When Elijah cast his coat representing his mantle, upon Elisha it was a call from God. It was God saying, “You’re next, Elisha”. Picking up that mantle meant living the life of God’s man, always ready to answer and obey. Always ready to kiss the world, as you know it, good-bye.
            I have learned the hard way, that anyone and anything can become an idol. I have become ashamed by how I had let my identity become so consumed by a name, by other people in my life, by an address etc.. Jesus is looking for men and women who will serve Him with an undivided heart. Every day, moment by moment, we have to redirect our affections from worldly things on to the things of God. When we engage fully, with abandon into His Kingdom work, the rest of our lives will come in to order. (Matthew 6:33)

3.) Burn The Bridge To Your Past
“ So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.” 1 Kings 19:21

     Elisha said his goodbyes to the cares of this world, then he killed the oxen. This team of oxen represented his old way of life, his livelihood and all he knew up this point. He killed it dead. Not only did he kill the oxen, he started a fire with the plow and threw himself a big-oh going away party. He wanted all his friends to know, “Hey guys, if you need a field plowed, don’t call me, I’m God’s man now!”
     It can be painful and messy sometimes to untangle from the past. God has shown me that sometimes, it has to be done in such a way as to remove any temptation of going back or we will not face the fear of moving forward into the unknown. If I was truly going to be able to face the future, then I had to quit looking back.

    I woke up in the Elisha room with a new song in my heart. God is doing a new work in our life; He had renewed my vision so I can see it. Now, all that is left to do is to walk in His way.