Safe Passage

June 11, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

A bead of sweat courses down my spine, making it easier to dive into the chilled river. I emerge eye-level with caddis, baetis, pondering the small shucks left adrift as wings are loosed, and they discover flight. Fish careen around me. My fingers reach down to grip a mossed rock, an anchor to hold me mid-drift. The current swirls and my son grins, telling tales of moms and mermaids. My children’s laughter rings on the water, my body is cooled in the rhythm of the river, and the weight in my mind is interrupted with peaceful praise.

There is a continuous stream of need to see God’s hand in and on my life circumstances. I was born inquisitive. I think there is an added measure of grace for those of us who grapple with the “why’s.” God’s arm rests round my shoulders, He beckons me to see the love behind the courses He has put in motion. Look back daughter, don’t you see? He calls my uncertainty to remembrance.

A fresh generation of Israelites stand on the cusp of their new land, their inheritance. A mixture of excitement and fear tightens their bellies. The hello of a new adventure and a farewell to the wilderness. Roaming and wandering for forty years, the cloud and the pillar were in plain sight. What will life be like when God chooses a less direct way of providing shelter and food? It will be Him causing the rain to fall and the crops to grow. Will they remember this? When the giants stand to their full height and the city walls loom impenetrable, will they know the only battle is obedience?

Moses stood at the end of life marked with meekness: quiet confidence. This was not a man who needed to be seen. He gave palace life up in exchange for sheep herding. Hebrews 11 tells us that he would rather suffer and identify himself as one of the Lord’s than enjoy sin for a season. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king” (Hebrews 11:27a KJV).

Moses obeyed. Moses chose well. Who better to declare confident praise at the crossroad? Remember who led you. Remember who fed you. Remember who fights for you. He will lead on. He will feed you. He will fight for you. Moses stood, his voice calling a new generation to their inheritance. Was the sky charged with angels awaiting God’s command? A promise made long before was on the verge of coming to pass. God is not slow, He does not forget.

Life is composed of a million moments. And in some, God will call you to remembrance. He will remind you where you have been, strengthening you for the journey ahead. Remember Him when you are ankle deep. Remember Him when you are mid-current. Remember Him when the river rushes at flood stage. Its course runs through His divine hand.

Longing for a Better Country – A Heavenly One

February 25, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

A man, a stranger, sat himself at our table. I was drinking a cappuccino and playing speed scrabble with two good friends. He started talking, sharing life stories, then shifted into telling Bible stories. He wanted to be sure we knew Jesus. He left our table. I eyed him as he moved thru Barnes & Noble bookstore, wondering who he was. He came back and told us there was something more to say. “Jesus is coming soon,” he said intently. Before leaving, he instructed us to tell others, and to live as if this were our last day. Squinting at my letters, I tried to separate my thoughts from the stranger’s thoughts. There was something unsettling working at the back of my mind. I continued to mull over his words, demeanor, and intensity. I began to pray as I fiddled with my tiles, resigned to an inevitable loss.

For days, I replayed the conversation, examining the way I spent my time. Wondering if the things I pour myself into have value. We live in strange times, quietly assaulted with horrific stories of brutality, decadence, and greed. There are others who believed they would see Jesus return, maybe for the same reasons we believe. But the stranger’s thoughts stirred me. I cannot recall every word he spoke, but the words I woke to at night were these two: stay awake. So I called a few friends, read scripture, and tried to understand what it looks like to stay awake. And I began to implore the Lord during those quiet periods of lying wide-eyed. And He unfolded scripture. Timothy 5 says a widow living for pleasure is already dead. She is contrasted with one who puts her full hope in the Lord, and calls to Him day and night. Waking up means dropping the self-reliance. Everything holds together because God has decided to let the Earth continue for another day. He is the first, last, and only hope.

The Lord alone knows the timing on the eternal clock, but I can tell you that I am carrying my pack and setting my heart on pilgrimage. This is not my home. I am looking for a new country: eager to live in a better one, a heavenly one. I know God has prepared a city. I am at the back of the line. Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Enoch, Abel and thousands of others have already traversed these earthly roads searching for heavenly ones. They lived faith. There were promises they never saw filled, they held on anyway. And so God was not ashamed when they called him their God.

As I wait for my bridegroom, I do so acknowledging that I am poor, pitiful, blind and naked. So I ask for refined character, salve so I can see, and to be clothed in white. I want to be awake, watching the sky as my redemption draws near. Come soon Lord Jesus!

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Revelation 3:2-3 NIV).

Learning to Wade

January 23, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

My first fly-fishing adventure was in the cool, hauntingly still Blue Ridge Mountains. Small shantys scattered along the dirt road followed the bends and twists of the stream, and had their own slow Southern drawl. It would not have been a surprise to cast in time with an impromptu fiddler. Or find myself trailed by an old, mangy mutt.

Yet here, clotheslines flapping, corked moonshine resting on wooden porches, I found a new kind of appreciation for my Maker. My hubby led me straight into this wonderful world of trout and entomology. He had me crawling on hand and knee to the banks so we would not spook fish out of a run. He had me flipping rocks and taking pop quizzes on what insect life I was beholding. And then he would take out a fly he had tied with feathers and thread designed to replicate the insect we looked at, tie it on, and catch a brightly colored Brook Trout.

If I did wade in to release a fish, or to climb one of the enormous boulders that shaped the stream I would be not much deeper than my knees. The river had deeper pockets but they were easily avoided. It was the perfect environment to learn: peaceful wading and stunning scenery.

But the day came when we would leave the South and fish new, fast flowing rivers and my belly kept me off balance. Seeing where I was placing my wader boots became tricky. One hand carried a fly rod the other protectively swaddled my unborn baby. And it felt new and scary and I stepped off a ledge. I bobbed around trying to get my footing. My husband’s ashen face as he ran down the bank trying to rescue me is as sealed in my mind as my own panicky thoughts. Months and an infant later I felt brave enough to try again. The waters were deeper, unfamiliar and fast. I knew I wanted to know how to maneuver through them, but I understood how fast they could take me down.

Jesus invited His disciples into a boat and into a storm and went to sleep. The waves rushed over and they woke Him and asked if He cared that their lives were in jeopardy. I know how those thoughts come when life seems to take a misstep and you fall off the ledge and cannot seem to find your footing. I have laid on my face seeking. Jesus knew there would be a storm. He speaks; the storm ceases. He questions their fear and faith. Wide-eyed and afraid the disciples question, “Who is He?”

And it all comes back to that. How deep I’m willing to wade, the lengths I’m willing to run, the journey I’ll follow Him on will flow from who I believe He is.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1 (KJV).

Follower

November 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen-

I was resting on a floral couch, swirling the ice and water in my cup. Focused on the cubes, I smiled thinking how preferable sitting in my friend’s sun porch was to the lengthy to do list waiting at my doorstep. We swapped kid stories, shared laughs, grimaced over concerns, and then she mentioned something her husband shared at church. My head came up. ‘Being uncomfortable in our situations is not a bad thing”, she went on. “It can mean that God is bringing necessary change”.

I nodded my head as this flowed off her tongue. Not even eighteen hours before I flipped on the radio as the host said, “The solution to your problem lies outside your comfort zone.” The little orange notebook, in my purse, holds these words.

There was a misunderstanding after breakfast. I like the kitchen cleaning to begin when the meal finishes. This morning my timeline caused a bit of conflict. And there were discussions and elevated voices as we tried clarifying and compromising. We found it was not working.

So we sat at the table, the surface still slick with halfhearted washing, me soundlessly praying for the ability to pole-vault out of my pride, her seething red from the injustice of being misunderstood.

I hand over pen and paper, explaining that we will clarify the expectations and what it means to clean the kitchen. The writing pauses and steely eyes look me square in the face “I will write what you say, but it doesn’t change what I think”. I think over my prepared response, breathe and say it lightly. Neither of us is comfortable.

I flip open my Bible to a long loved passage. Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV).

I am gripped with this thought, lie out your petition, and present your request. There is nothing here instructing me to figure out solutions and then pray God will use them. I tighten my hand into a fist, watchful, turn my hand up and uncurl my fingers. These hands, this mind, this body, they are frail and finite. I pause thinking how peaceful life is when I do not fight for my way. I carry the thought further wondering if the root of my striving is anxiety. My plan is a well-worn rug. His seems a bit foreign, a bit scarier. But why fight for a path without knowing its destination? Why would I do this? I ask aloud. Why would I pay so much attention to my own directions?

The beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, is Immanuel, God with us. He knows where each path leads. Sow to flesh, reap flesh. Sow to the Spirit; reap Spirit. The fruit of His Spirit turns self-absorption and striving into self-control and peace.

A willful girl can willfully hold her life up as a sacrifice. And though her arms shake under the strain and pressure, they will grow stronger. Time and new habits do that. Fortifying a heart that resolutely yearns to beat for another. Humility is a tether, reminding me, I do not know how to lead. My petition, my prayer is that I will learn to follow.

Passing Over

October 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

Spring is coming. Trees are already budding as we experience an unseasonably warm winter. Passover is approaching and with it my anticipation of celebrating God’s divine protection. A few years ago my family was invited to celebrate our first Passover Seder. The experience was rich as we recalled how Moses and Aaron were called to be spokesman, plagues came on a stubborn ruler, and then thousands of years later Christ became the Passover lamb.

After the Seder, I began studying the Passover and other feasts in scripture. A beautiful painting took form as I traced God’s preservation of His people throughout history.

Several Passover truths stood out as I studied. Under King Josiah & Hezekiah, Israel celebrated the Passover, renewing their covenant to follow God’s law and repenting for their sin. While under Persian rule the Jewish people were handed a death sentence also known as Haman’s edict. This edict would have come as they prepared for Passover. And just as God spared His people in Egypt, he again spared them in Persia. Both times they were integrated into another culture. As deliverance came, perhaps the realization that they were a separate people followed. There was a covenant in place. And then Christ’s death fell on Passover, His last breath coming as the Passover lamb would have been slaughtered – A man should have taken much longer to die, but Christ gave up His spirit at that exact hour.

There is a pattern I am noticing the more I study the Jewish feasts, a divine calendar. These dates were not merely historical dates with significance for the Jewish people; they are significant today. I believe we will continue to see prophecy linked with these dates. God still distinguishes between His own and those who are not. This is a covenant relationship. Do I believe we may see God pass over us again on Passover? Perhaps. Blood on our doorposts will not separate us. Rather Christ’s shed blood covers our sin.

An identity shift should take place as we embrace the reality that we are His people. We belong to the God who called forth water from a rock. He will be enough for us in any circumstance. He is a covenant God, faithful to all generations.

“Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until His wrath has passed by. See the LORD is coming out of His dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins” (Isaiah 26:20-21 NIV).

(The cross reference on this is the first Passover is Exodus 12:23)

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