Walking In Your Wilderness

wilderness

Deuteronomy 32:10 says “He found him in a desert, and in a howling waste of a wilderness, He encircled him, He cared for him as the apple of His eye”. What a powerful picture is painted here of God’s concern and care for those who a wandering in a wilderness of life. It matters not if they chose it for themselves, it happened unexpectedly or God Himself actually took them there. The point is, they were in it alone, and in His own time God came to them and cared for them, whether they deserved it or not.

I say the above because there is a time in everyone’s life when they find ourselves totally alone. This is not so much a physical thing, but it’s more of an emotional and spiritual season of isolation. When it finds us, we cannot avoid the impact it has on everything we hold dear. This wandering might last a few weeks, a few months or even longer, but once it arrives, it does not depart until it’s work is done. This isolated plateau of the soul is identified in the Bible as a place called “the wilderness”. We arrive in this place by ourselves, distracted and in an unrefined condition, but rest assured, we will not leave it the same way.

In this empty season no one is there to carry us, guide us or give us the companionship we think we need. Not one person is there at our side, providing step by step instructions to bring us into the new place we need to be. The fact is, every man or woman of God who is destined to fulfill their life calling, has to make this journey. Even those who do not know God, but are hungry to do better, will be taken to this place. The truth is, I believe this trip into the wasteland of our soul, is a necessary part of healthy personal and spiritual growth. As a result, it is my conviction that these times of barrenness should not be avoided, but they should be looked at with clarity, embraced with sincerity and fully walked out.

It is only during our wilderness experience that we are fundamentally changed. Our metal is tested, our character is developed and our flaws are painfully exposed. It can be a powerful time of personal evaluation and transformation. The excess baggage and wrong thinking we have picked up in life are finally thrown off. What is really important and genuinely necessary comes into clear focus, perhaps for the first time. For some, this brings a shocking revelation of how shallow and self-absorbed they really are. For others, it is a grand adventure as they rediscover who they are, and begin to build upon that good foundation to become even better. These are powerful times we enter into alone and unsettled, but emerge focused and quite comfortable in our own skin.

I was just in such a season not long ago. I got back from a powerful ministry trip to the Philippines. Myself and an Apostle did two conferences and ministered at numerous church meetings. When I returned home, my wife then flew off to California to be with our daughter, who was having our 10th grandchild. I was alone in our house, after all that personal attention and activity, surrounded by the “stuff” of our lives. I was totally alone for two weeks, and the impact this had on me was quite deep. It became a time of introspection, where I was able to seek God, ponder my life and consider how I got “here”. I reflected on the family I grew up in, the wilderness seasons I had been through, and the lessons I learned that made me the man I am.

I pondered how my father was a strong presence of security in our home. He made us feel wanted, valued and safe. He was an intelligent, slender, quiet, thoughtful man who spoke very few words, but meant every word he said. He was kind and gentle, filled with internal strength yet tender. He had a will of iron and a backbone that could support it. He was an outdoors-men to the bone and loved the woods, but could still carry his own with any city dweller. His word was his bond. He had a peaceful stability about him that filled our lives, and had the power to make everything alright, even when it wasn’t. On his death bed, his bright blue eyes looked at me with a calm resolve and they were able to reassured me that even this would be fine.

His example, both the good and the bad, served to shape me in ways I am just now discovering. Among other things, he taught me the wholesome value of a strong cup of hot, black tea and a slow cooked venison stew. He taught me the blessing of honest work and the need for personal sacrifice when it came to family. He showed me that failing to plan for retirement meant you could never retire. He showed me how to love the wife God gave me, and how to care for my family, no matter what the personal cost might be. He demonstrated the value of living debt free, and within our financial means. He also showed me why it was important to pay cash for the things we needed or wanted. The truth is, my father taught me how to be a real man.

Because of that, I became the kind of man my children could look up to. I showed them it’s OK to not always be right, but it is good to always be willing to make things right. They learned how to be a leader in their own homes, and the voice of reason to their children, when it is needed. They were shown how to love their wives and children in ways that are meaningful to them, and to do what must be done to provide for their families. Most of all, I taught them not to see the government as their source of income. Welfare is NOT a lifestyle, it is an emergency crutch until someone who needs it can get back on your feet. They were taught to seek God, plan with care and work hard. They learned from me that these things are more than enough to bring them all the provision they will ever need.

How did I learn these things, you might ask? These truth’s became life lessons during my wilderness wanderings. They became real when there was no one to prop me up or carry me, but Jesus. It was the time I found myself needing a teaching job. I prayed and sought God, and the perfect job opened up where there had been none the week before. It was the time I quit my teaching job, at age 35, and my a wife and three boys followed me back to college. We needed a place to live in Plattsburgh NY, and out of nowhere an apartment opened up near the college that we could afford. It was the time our cupboards were totally empty and I gave my sons the last of the powdered milk and instant mashed potatoes for breakfast. I went to class hungry that morning, but when I returned home that evening, food filled our shelves, our hallway and every counter top in our kitchen. I told no one but God about our need, and He showed me His faithfulness.

Without those wilderness journey’s my knowledge of God, and experiences with Him, would be sorely lacking. Unless I had been willing to walk through those barren wastelands, I would have never seen God’s ability to bring such abundant provision in my desperate lack. My faith was built up, my trust was properly anchored and my life story was enriched, all because of a desert trip. How grateful I am that many times God has led me into a waste-howling wilderness, to be tempted, tried and tested. At times I failed, but even in my failure I still learned valuable lessons that changed my life forever. The truth is, I would not trade those experiences for any amount of money or fame, because they made me, and my family, what we are today.

Right now, are you looking at a dry, sandy landscape, where there is no water and everything looks dead? Are you feeling alone in a barren landscape, with no clear answers, and you wonder where God is in all of it? If so, let me suggest to you that your current condition is actually designed by God to change you in ways you don’t yet understand. He is simply doing with you the very same thing He did with Jesus. What a privilege that is!

You need to walk it out, one step at a time, and pray with an honest and pure heart. You need to get real about your weaknesses until you find the place of rest in God. Once you are open to change and ready embrace your own weakness, you can then exchange your whole, weak mess for the strength God offers. Until then, you will find yourself a desert dweller. Perhaps this is your time to finally change and fully embrace the truth about who you really are. Once that’s been done, you can move on. Never forget that today’s wilderness is the perfect foundation for the God-ordained life you will walk in tomorrow !

The Rewards Of Honor

My wife Esther is a beautiful woman inside and out. She has a heart of gold, a wonderful figure and is just pleasing to look at and be around. When God gave her to me He knew exactly what He was doing. That being said, she also is a city girl who did stand-in work and stunts in the movie business. I however am a country boy who grew up in the back woods of the Adirondack Mountains. This fact of nature lends itself to some very interesting things in our life together. One such thing occurred right after we were married and Esther had moved from LA to my country home in upstate New York.

Our property at that time was nestled between some farm land, a pine forest and a nice stand of hardwoods. Best of all there was a huge patch of wild blackberries at the top of the hill, right on our property line. These created a perfect barrier and food source for a flock of turkeys that were in the area. So, on one particularly beautiful Fall day I planned to go turkey hunting, and to my surprise, when asked Esther said she would go with me.

With that fact,  I knew one thing for sure, there would be no turkeys brought home that day!  In fact I was so certain we would see nothing that I decided to take my old Remington, single shot 20 gauge and two shells with number 4 shot, just in case we flushed a partridge. The point being, this was my new bride, and her willingness to go with me changed the story. I was certainly not going to withdraw the invitation, and I thought to myself, “If nothing else, we will have a nice walk around our property”.

So, with the above in mind, we put on our camo, I gave her some brief instructions about the basics of hunting and we headed out the back door and up the hill on our property. Within 5 minutes we were standing behind the blackberry bushes and I whispered to Esther about where the turkeys might be. I pointed to the right along the hardwood line and then to the left along the freshly plowed field. Then in complete innocence Esther said “look at those big birds right in front of us, are those Turkeys?” Sure enough, there they were. The whole flock was in the freshly plowed field not 30 feet from where we were standing, and they had not heard us.

I told Esther to plug her ears and I fired at the closest Tom. To my shock the bird fell over while the rest of the flock sailed up into the air and vanished in the hardwoods. I quickly reloaded as I noticed the big bird starting to run, trying to get into the air. The second shot brought the bird to it’s final resting place and we stepped out in the field to claim our prize. In the eyes of my wife, there was now no doubt that she had indeed married a county boy. In her eyes I must have looked like the “mighty hunter”. We walked home together that day carrying our fresh Thanksgiving dinner after a 10 minute hunt!

What did I learn from this event? When we put others first God honors it. Had I stuck to my old thought patterns, not requested her presence, and left Esther at home alone, I would never have gone into the woods where we did. Because I wanted her with me, I took the path that was best suited for her, not best suited for hunting. That decision brought us to the very place we needed to be and God honored the fact that I honored my wife.

What lesson did I learn that day? If there had been a lack of honor between me and my wife  the outcome would have been very different. My question is this, is there any evidence of a lack of honor between you and your wife? Have there been blessing withheld, and opportunities missed because you did not honor one another as God intended? If the answer is yes, perhaps now is the time to make things right.

Men, we have no excuse. If God gave you a wife, she is a gift for life and He expects us to bring out the beauty that He placed within her. If your wife does not shine then you have failed to polish her as God intended and it’s time to change! Today, look for ways to begin nurturing your wife. Get your eyes off yourself and start to bring out the hidden beauty that is in her. The rewards last a lifetime and the blessings will overtake you from every direction. If you want the best God has, begin by learning the language of honor and then start using it on your wife.  You’ll be glad you did!

What Do I Really Value?

Every person I have ever met says with great conviction that they hold certain things as valuable in their life.  For some it is people,  others say a job, a hobby or even a prized pet. However,  when I really examine what they do, it becomes painfully clear exactly where  their real priorities are focused. You see, what we value in life, I mean what we honestly hold dear,  is always reflected in where we invest our time and money. Whenever there is a discrepancy between what we say and what we actually do, trouble will be like a massive storm that is right on the horizon.

In doing marriage counseling over the years I am always amazed when a husband says he loves his wife but he just can’t understand why his wife and marriage are doing so poorly. Yet when we look at his track record of time and finances it only takes a moment to see where his real priorities are. Yes, he did take his wife out for dinner on their 10th anniversary and he even bought her a card. That was a wonderful investment of perhaps $60 and 2 hours of his time. However, when you compare that to the $1200 he spent on a new deer rifle or the endless hours he and his buddies sat watching football while his wife sat alone, it becomes abundantly clear what he really values in life.

What about you?  Is there a genuine connection between what you say has value and what you demonstrate is valuable? When our words and actions don’t line up we are usually the last one to recognize this for what it is. We think we are doing great and just setting the world on fire when those closest to us can see it’s just not so. What we all need is a wake up call, a reality check from time to time. It needs to come from someone we genuinely respect and will actually listen to. Unfortunately, many people live life on the surface and have no such sounding board in their life. The end result is that we tend to live a selfish, self-absorbed life that works for us, but it is silently killing those around us.

For me, it’s my wife Esther. She has the perfect mix of strength, love, honesty and truthfulness that grabs my attention. Her words, on more than one occasion, have been the voice of reason that got right in my face. When I was distracted or disconnected from what was really important, she has been there by my side. Especially when I lost sight of those landmarks which we both hold as truly valuable, her voice helped me find my bearings once again. My question for you is, do you have such a person in  your life, and if you do, do you really appreciate their ability to keep you focused on what is of genuine value?

If you have wandered without clear vision, if you have gotten bogged down in a swamp of unfruitful activity, perhaps it’s time to consider something. When you strip all else away, who is it you turn to in those times you need to be absolutely honest? What one person, or couple, on planet earth do you know who will be painfully truthful when you need it most? If you can answer that question you really are blessed!

In case you don’t realize it, these my friends, are the most important people in your life. They hold the key to that which really has value for you. Let me encourage you to connect with them on a regular basis. Allow them to do their work, as painful as it is, and they will help you keep your life compass pointed in the right direction. Trust me when I say you’ll be much happier for it, and so will everyone around you. The bottom line is quite simple; life is way too short to be lived in any other way. Pursue those things your really value and everyone, including yourself, will be much better off for it!