ONE VOICE

By Lisa Huddleston

 “A voice of one crying out:

Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness;

make a straight highway for our God in the desert” (Isaiah 40:3).

Our church is preparing for a Spiritual Renewal Weekend that begins next Friday.  I guess because I tend that way myself, I can already hear the voices of skeptics out there saying, “Isn’t that just another name for a revival?”  And, “How can anyone schedule revival?  Doesn’t it come when He chooses it will?”  And, “I don’t even want to get my hopes up only to feel disappointment again instead of renewal.”  Oh yeah—I hear you.  And I have to admit that I’ve been feeling some of those same things, but I also must confess to a flickering fire of hope that just won’t die.  I long to see His Holy Spirit move among the people I love and to stir up my own timidly burning embers.  I literally hunger and thirst for it—just like that panting deer we sing about on Sundays.  And so … I hope, pray, and get ready for Him to move in with power.

But how does one get ready for God?  Isn’t that the Million Dollar question?  I guess the best answer is to discover whatever stands in His way and remove it.  Isaiah put it like this:  “Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth, and the rough places a plain” (Is. 40:4).  And Hosea said:  “Let us strive to know the Lord … break up your untilled ground.  It is time to seek the Lord until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain” (Hosea 6:3, 10:12).  Both prophets, inspired by the same Holy God, told their people that they had work to do to get ready for His arrival.  And I can only assume that we as children of that very same God must also have some work to do to “prepare the way of the Lord” into our little part of this world.

What valleys and potholes lie on the road to Lebanon … and to my heart?  After all, all I can truly work on is my part of the road, my heart.  What mountains, some mole hills and others Mt. Everests, are in His way?  What rocks or stumps hide uncovered in my untilled ground?  How do I discover the obstacles that are in the way of His coming, His renewal, His revival in my life?

Only He can do it.  Only He can transform my heart and mind.  Oh Lord, show me what still lies hard and unbroken in me.  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns.  See if there is any offensive way in me” (Ps. 139:23-24).  And let me see my heart as it really is.  Show me my selfishness.  Show me my laziness.  Reveal my lack of love and my desire to have my own way.  Let me see where my anger gets in Your way and instead make me an instrument of Your peace.  Expose the untilled, hard, and unprepared ground in me. Give me a sharp blade of Truth, and help me to make it ready with clear eyes and strong arms as Your rain of righteousness falls to wash away my sweat and tears.

It only takes one voice.  And one more.  And one more.  Crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”  “And the glory of the Lord will appear and all humanity will see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Is. 40:5).  Ready?

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RAIN SONG

By Lisa Huddleston

July 22, 2009

 

Rain Song

 

Ghostly fingers strum the trees

and strike the brass chimes

with intermittent tones of

distant, familiar

 melodies in minor keys …

Steady, ever steady, the rain

falls and beats

on the porch roof–

soothing, dulling

monotony–

broken at irregular intervals

 by golden trills of birdsong

and rude blasts of chilling wind …

Sitting on the porch,

wrapped against the cold and

in sync with the melancholy morning,

I scratch the descant with my pen:

“This is the day that the Lord has made.

I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

And the summer rain keeps falling …

GROWING PAINS

By Lisa Huddleston

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12).

When I was a kid I spent huge amounts of time anxiously, almost painfully, anticipating the future. I couldn’t wait for Christmas. I couldn’t wait for summer camp and swimming and horseback riding. I couldn’t wait to learn to drive. I couldn’t wait to graduate. I couldn’t wait to be a “grown up”—to have a family, to make my own decisions, to do something important, to make a difference in the world, to matter. I spent a lot of time daydreaming, reading, and even writing about my future—and perhaps wasting a lot of the present.

And it didn’t stop when I reached adulthood. I pushed my children. I couldn’t wait for them to walk, to be potty trained, to ride a bike, to learn to read … I just couldn’t wait. But before I knew it, the baby—the third and last of my little brood—walked down the stairs one morning looking more like a man than a boy. All six feet two inches of him. It didn’t literally happen overnight, but it was close. Three babies grown and heading out the door. And like the pains they experienced in physical growth spurts—one added six inches in less than a year—I found myself still suffering growing pains of my own.

As I approach half a century of living, I’m amazed to discover that I still don’t feel like the “grown up” I expected to become. I still struggle to reach new heights and still ache as I stretch and strain toward the next experience. Similar to my childhood craving for a warm, lazy swim in the lake while my reality was sitting in a schoolroom on a cold February day, I long for the next season. I long for the day when I will outgrow my childish behavior, when I will finally put an end to my selfish desires and my painful thirst for something more and arrive at the end of my strivings.

It is good and encouraging to read that Paul was a striver, too. And he didn’t feel “grown up” either. He realized that he had a lot of maturing to do and experienced a lot of pain in the process. But he didn’t quit, and he didn’t back away. He kept growing, making every effort to take hold of the goal, and celebrating that he didn’t have to do it on his own. He was sure that it was God who had placed his hunger in him and knew that the One who began that good work would carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).

And that is where Paul finally found contentment. “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Phil1:21). It was his faith in the certainty that his strivings would end and that he would reach his goal because of Christ that brought him to that place. Not to an immediate end to his suffering, but to a lessening of his emotional strife because of the promised fulfillment.

No, I haven’t outlived my growing pains yet. I still ache to arrive at who I know I should be. But it comforts me to know that it is Christ who makes my arrival secure. No, not yet content in whatever circumstance I am, but longing to be so. And thankful to know, at least in my head, the secret: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). God isn’t finished with me yet.

And He’s not finished with you either. How are you still growing into maturity as a believer? What do you need to “make every effort to take hold of it?” Ask the One who began this good work to help. He will carry it and you on to completion!

CLOSER TO THE TRUTH

By Lisa Huddleston

“Wherever you are, be all there.”—Jim Elliot

Death is in the news.  Michael Jackson.  Farrah Fawcett.  Steve McNair.  Talent.  Beauty.  Strength.  Shining stars in the cultural heavens, yet as frail and impermanent as the rest of us.  And while fans—many who oddly grieve as those who have lost family members—challenge us to “remember him for all the good things he did.”  The truth is the truth.  Each person’s path is made by his journey, and the steps that each one takes lay a course that cannot be undone.  Good and bad.  A whole life is made up of a series of smaller pieces laid end to end like stepping stones.  No stone can be skipped if one is to arrive at the determined destination.

As I ponder the lives of these icons—and one can hardly help it given the vast amounts of media attention that has been dedicated to them—I am forced to think about the missteps on my own life’s path.  Choices I wish I could unmake.  Actions I hope will never be revealed to my adoring fans (as if).  Even times of inactivity that I wish I could relive with more passion.  “Wasted days and wasted nights” … anyone else singing the same song about now?

But living in the past is just continuing to waste the present.  Although as believers our mistakes (some may call them “sins”) are gracefully forgiven—washed as white as snow and removed as far away as the east is from the west—it is sometimes hard for us to stop living lives of regret.  It’s just too easy to play the “What If” game.  What if I’d taken that other job?  What if I’d married someone else?  What if I’d stayed home that night?  What if I’d never driven that car?  Pointless questions because the facts are that the past is past.  And the past, even your mistakes, have carried you to the place where you are today.  Every step can be worthwhile if you let it finally lead you to the truth of today.

Oh oh—there’s that word truth again. “Whose truth?” you may ask.  The Truth.  The truth that you are not your own.  That your life was created and loaned to you for a short amount of time.  That you are dependent on your Creator for the sun that shines and the rain that falls.  And that no one but that Creator knows the number of your days.  Nothing you do will ever be hidden from Him or be able to thwart His plans for your life.

Now I’m in over my head.  Do I mean that even the mistakes we make are a part of His plan for our lives?  Good question.  I wish I could give you as good a response, but this is what I believe.  God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.  He numbers the hairs on our heads and gathers our tears into His bosom.  He has prepared good works for us to do, and He alone has made a way for us to arrive in His presence.  But He lets us walk the path we choose.  He knows what steps we will take, but still He lets us take them.  No surprises.  No real mistakes.  Nothing that changes His plan … but still—always—the freedom to choose.

This is the day that the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24).  How will I choose to walk in it?  Will I waste it in regret or will I rejoice and be glad in it?  This is the day.  Step out.

WHO ARE YOU?

By Lisa Huddleston

“‘But you,’ He asked them, ‘who do you say that I am?’” (Matt. 16:15)

Not long ago, I attended a conference that began with people introducing themselves and telling what they do for a living.  Most attendees were in ministry work so they rattled off their titles without really giving it a lot of thought.  However, three women in this group were stay-at-home-moms, homemakers, housewives, … well … what do you call us these days?  The first woman listed her activities as a homeschool mother and busy church member, and she did a graceful job of making her life sound meaningful (which, of course, it is) while appearing just barely apologetic that she was not in the “work force.”  There were many respectable “titles” sitting between us so by the time it was my turn to speak, I was feeling pretty out of place.  What could I say that would sound worthwhile?  Thinking of nothing to add to the previous homemaker’s list, I decided to go for a joke.  Oh boy … wrong!  With raised eyebrows and red cheeks, I squeaked, “I guess I’m unemployable.  I do a lot of things, but I don’t get paid for any of them!”  I expected some laughs, but received painfully quiet stares instead.  Ha!  It makes me laugh now, but it sure felt awkward then.

Later, I overheard a man telling the third woman who said she was “just a pastor’s wife” that she should never say that.  That her job was one of the most important things a woman could do.  Oh boy … awkward again.  Sort of like telling someone from another ethnic group that you know just how they feel.  Impossible … but I know he had the best intentions and again that woman responded very graciously.  Thus, I appeared to be the only social klutz in the group.  But, hey, every group has one, right?  The next day, the three of us talked for a few minutes about how uncomfortable we had felt, and they shared that they wanted to laugh at my lame attempt at humor, but felt stifled by the shocked responses of the rest of the group.  I wanted to say, “It’s a Stay-At-Home-Mom thing.  You wouldn’t understand.”  But figured I’d probably already said enough.

No offense to the director of the conference—who is a great friend and will read this article.  I know he doesn’t think any less of me because of my lack of a title.  The truth be told, I was probably the only person in the room who thought less of me for that—at least, before I opened my big mouth.  I’m sure some of them didn’t know what to think after that.  But, it’s not really “what” you do that is the main thing.  It’s more important to know “who” you are.  I think I could have answered that question a little more comfortably.  I am a learner, a writer, a ponderer, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a mom, a friend, a music lover, a Christ-follower, a disciple, and on and on the list could go.  But I probably would have messed that one up, too, given my distaste (PHOBIA) for speaking in front of a group and my general sense of insecurity.

The problem is that I have to adjust my thinking even a little more here—or maybe a lot more.  It’s not “what” I do or even “who” I am that really matters most.  What matters is “Who” do I say that Jesus Christ is?  If I were more comfortable in my identity as a believer, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to try to beef up my resume to impress other people or to make jokes to distract from my insecurity.  As it’s become so popular to say, “It’s all about Him.  It’s not about me.”

Hopefully, I will get a chance to redeem myself a little at the next training event I attend with this group.  Or better yet, maybe I won’t even feel the need to.  But, if I do—and odds are that I will—please, smile at my awkward attempts at humor and remember that I’m still growing into my spiritual skin.  Jesus knew that it was hard for us to get ourselves out of the way.  That’s probably why He followed his question by telling His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).

Thankfully, it’s all about Him!