Tag Archives: pause

Growing in God despite Disappointment: Pause, ponder and praise

During my last article, we learned about growing through perseverance.  Seasons of the “pause button” can work in us peace, pruning, peace and preparation for later seasons.  God does deep heart surgery in our hearts at this time.  We can turn these times into times of worship.

We also learned during an earlier article of the peculiar combination of suffering and joy.  God’s grace is such that he empowers us with joy as we trust him in very difficult circumstances.  This isn’t just about the refiner’s fire of life – it’s about living a victorious life despite suffering.  Examples of people who do this include Heidi and Rolland Baker, Supresa Sithole and more.  They also live a life of worship in the midst.  They are grateful for all God does in their lives and ministry.  They praise God often.

Some people call pause seasons time in the desert.  I’ve spoken about this as well.  Deserts can be even more refining than regular waiting seasons, but they are necessary to refine us. This is when we learn to let God refine us from the fear that holds us back, like Hannah Hurnard’s character called “Much Afraid” in her book Hinds Feet in High Places. The desert can transform the image we have of ourselves as well as our image of God. These false images we stored in our hearts are shattered in the desert. Once they are destroyed, we can then see and discover what is real about God. We are transformed as we journey on in four unique desert gifts: spiritual transformation, psychological change, a new role and a new future.

That transformation can take further seasons in the desert for pause and reflection.   I shared about this in an earlier broadcast about persevering what I called seasons of the “pause button.”  Yet even in seasons where we are gladly busy and moving along, we have disappointments.  Some of these are small, and some are deep.  In the midst of the waiting, or the pause, as I like to call it, is an opportunity to assess and remember God’s faithfulness.  Iris base leader Surprise Sithole has endured much persecution and trauma in his life, yet he is always filled with joy.  Every day can be a good day.  His attitude towards pausing is that waiting on God is worship.

I recently read Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God. He deals with our human view of personal disappointment and suffering, and then God’s view through Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He shares that three questions surface in human suffering. These are:  Where is God?  Why is God silent?  And Why is life unfair?

Sometimes it seems like God is absent in the midst of pain and darkness. This especially is shown in the middle chapters of the book of Job, although the first chapter and last chapters reveal that God had been there all along. The story had a good ending. The Old Testament showed God the Father as so holy that he was nearly unapproachable in the temple, and showed himself in a burning bush and other miracles. While he is invisible, he made himself clearly known. However, most of the people cowered in fear so most did not seek him out, which was his deepest desire.  His love was rejected except for the prophets and David, who was known as a man after God’s own heart. When the Israelites turned away in sin and worshipped idols, it broke God’s heart like a spurned lover.

It was the Israelite’s way, and later the Pharisee’s way to demand signs, and miracles.  And yet their hearts did not come close to the God of miracles.  God doesn’t like to be put to the test. Listen to Mark chapter 8. Even Jesus response towards the demand for a sign showed his disappointment “When he heard [the Pharisees’ request], he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.”  So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.”  Miracles may catch our attention, but it is love that changes hearts.

Then Jesus came to earth as a human being. He was neither silent, not invisible.  He was approachable. He still is. Then he showed his love when he died for us. He was resurrected, and sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us, so we could experience that love all the time.  So if we have faith in Jesus Christ, God never leaves us. He is always Emmanuel, God with us, through the Holy Spirit. So God is not absent, nor is he silent; although there are times that it seems like he is.  Sometimes that’s when we’re asking the “why” question, or shouting at God, “life isn’t fair!”  Life isn’t fair.  We are NOT immune from suffering.  And we see unfairness and suffering all around us. God is working out an answer to this pain through US.  Sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves and forget that we can make a difference.  WE can do something as Matthew West sings in his song “Do Something.”

“Why” questions are often difficult, since we are steeped in self-pity. Quite often we struggle most not only from the pain of difficult times, but from our own attitude of self-pity.   This attitude is reflected by the sayings, “poor little old me,”  “pity me,” “what about me?” and one that I learned in an inner healing school I took in the 1990’s.  It was “PLOMS” disease:  poor, little old me syndrome.  This outlook doubles or triples the pain you’re in and focuses either just on your or on your circumstances.  Sometimes cartoonists draw someone like this under a perpetual raincloud.  They can’t see the sunshine that is just beyond the cloud, nor the rainbow that accompanies the sunshine after the rain.  This attitude shows up as Eeyore, the depressed donkey that is a friend of the Winnie the Pooh character. He is always saying, “Oh, well.”

While there is a place for not rushing the process of genuine grief, self-pity can keep you stuck for weeks, months and even years.  Leanne Payne called this ‘descending into the hell of self,’ which essentially makes you your own worst enemy.  I know this personally, since I often fell into this mode of thought.  My Australian friend Jan went with me to experience a Leanne Payne Pastoral Care Ministry School in Wheaton. I received deep emotional healing for past abuse, and the beginning of healing for crushed will issues.  Yet one part of my healing was to lift off a cloak of shame and self-pity.  Even though I had a larger degree of freedom, I had to choose to walk as a free person.  We develop habits and coping skills that are based on lies we believe about ourselves, our environment and God. When we deal with these, and also form healthier habits, we maintain our freedom.

Pause:  So we pause and reflect. The Russian Christians have a wonderful attitude of pausing in a retreat.  That’s not a retreat that goes backwards, but a retreat to spend time with God. They call this cabin in the woods a poustinia, where they seek God in silence and solitude. Jesus also often went to solitary places to pray and spend time with the Father. We need to do this as well.  This is when we can come to Jesus with our broken hearts and disappointments.  He is still with us and cares.  Don’t harbour it in your heart and get bitter.  Stop going around in circles in the desert of disappointment.  I had a friend who did this.  Let’s say his name is Jack. Jack became bitter and continually railed against God because he wanted a wife.  He fell in love with another friend of mine, who was in love with two men – Jack and Ted.  She finally decided for Ted, rather than Jack. I don’t think Jack ever got over it.  And so Jack stayed in his disappointment and did not move on, until just recently. He made an announcement on Facebook that he just got married, but gave no details.  At least I hope he’s happy.

Ponder:   Once we stop and pause, look up and ponder.  Look all around you.  Are you still under that rain cloud? Or are you ready for a second touch from God?  Jesus is with us.

Our Afrikaans pastor Johan shared about God’s second touch, through the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8.  Let’s take a look at that chapter.  Jesus had encountered blind men several times in his ministry. One of the times is written about in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8.  It was the time that Jesus made a mud poultice to put on the blind man’s eyes.   The man had to be prayed over more than once.  The first touch restored the man’s sight, but he could only see in a very blurry way.  People looked to him like trees.

This showed that even Jesus sometimes had to give a second touch for healing prayer.  Healing has come, but not in its fullness.  Johan shared that we should content that God has touched us in the past, but not satisfied with mediocrity.  So let’s turn the disappointment around.  Yes, there is a need.  Just think – Jesus didn’t want that man to be stuck in limbo.  In his case, the second touch came right away, and Jesus prayed again.  Often that completion of healing comes later on. Johan told us prophetically that we may be satisfied with a little touch, but God actually isn’t.  He has a second touch coming our way.  Since he is the one who gave us saving faith, he is the one who will complete us in all ways.  God did not create us to have half of our destinies.  So while we pause, ponder and consider all our little blessings. While you are counting them, he just may surprise you with what you need.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:15 to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”  May you fill us with that peace, Lord as we ponder you.

Praise:  Once we know that we can trust God, we can take time and praise him.  We thank him take the focus off of ourselves.  We were never in control anyway – it was always just an illusion. It can be difficult to be thankful, but if you make a habit of it, your eyes will open at all the little blessings in your life.

Here’s an example of what praise and thanksgiving can do in scripture. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were on a mission trip in Philippi, Greece.  Paul got annoyed by a girl who was demonized, because the spirit drew attention to itself.  After the girl was delivered, her owners were angry that the girl could no longer tell fortunes.  This had an effect on their finances.  So they reported them to the authorities with lies, and they were publicly beaten and thrown into prison. “The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”  Did you notice what Paul and Silas did in the midst of being in prison?  They were singing worship songs!  They were praising God in the midst of their trial!  I’ve heard other mission stories that are similar, although deliverance didn’t always happen that fast.

Psalming:  Finally, there is another step in pausing, pondering and praising.  It’s Psalming.  There are 150 Psalms right in the middle of the Bible.  King David was one of Psalm writers. He had a pattern of complaining to God of difficult circumstances, asked God what he was going to do about it, and poured out his heart in distress.  But always at the end, he chose to trust God.  Either he asked for vindication due to God being just, or he just chose to trust God in that situation. In Psalm 4, he declared that God would keep him safe so he could sleep.  In Psalm 5, he declared that God was a shield of protecting love. Psalm 6 declares that God has heard David’s prayer.  Psalm 7 ends in thanks, and 8 ends with praise. Psalm 13 ends with trust, David sang, “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” And so, the pattern of complaint, praise and trust continues.

My seminary professor David taught me a course called Foundations of Christian spirituality.  One of the topics he shared was about writing your own psalm in difficult times.  It allows one to pour out their grief and sorrow, and then offer it back to the Lord.  That emotion could also show more than sorrow – there are one or two psalms in the Bible that were written in anger. If you remember reading about dashing babies against rocks, this was an example of something akin to road rage.  Does God condone infanticide?  Absolutely not.  But he does understand anger, and you can bring whatever that is in your heart to him.   Together with him, he can give you peace as you work through your feelings.  It could be then that you get your second touch.

So remember to pause.  Look up to God, past your disappointments.  He is not silent.  He is with us.  Then ponder. You are not forgotten.  You are in the midst of a process where he is making you beautiful.  And Psalm, like David.  Pour out your heart to him in your own poem.  Then turn it around as a declaration of trust or thanks.  You’ll find that you’ll grow in the process.   You might even write a song through the experience.  Let me pray over you.

Lord, thank you that you never leave us.  I ask you to help us pause and look up to you, no matter our disappointment.  A delay is not a no.  Help us ponder all the wonder you’ve created around us. There is suffering but there is also beauty and joy.  Help us praise and be thankful for each thing you’ve given us.  And help us to psalm – to remember your loving kindness.  To help us turn our perspective from the pit, to the plain, to the mountain top. You never leave us.  Fill my friends with your peace.  In Jesus’ name.

Love and blessings, Laurie-Ann
Waystogrowingod.org and coppleswesterncape.ca

If you’d like to hear the audio version of this talk, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on our Copples missionary website, then scroll down to Podcast 25.

 

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Growing in God through Perseverance and Waiting: Seasons of the Pause Button

 

During my last article, we learned the importance of simplicity. It is something that impacts every area of our lives – our faith, our finances, shopping, driving, possessions and how we manage time. Simplicity requires a generosity of spirit, by knowing that your life is not entirely your own.  It gives more space to live, less chaos and less stress.  We yearn for it, yet we also want our choices.  Most of us have a pull in both directions, so this can be a long process. I can say that I like my choices, yet I also am becoming used to our simpler way here in South Africa. It doesn’t make sense to live like we’re rich, when we’re working with the poor – even if poverty and riches are subjective.

One aspect of faith involves waiting. Waiting and delay has been a theme throughout my life. Waiting was again highlighted to me when I recently took debriefing training through Le Rucher ministry.  We explored our personal timelines and marked small and significant changes, concerns, criciticisms, conflicts and crises along the journey.  These are called the 5 ‘C’s.’ Each “C” had to be addressed, by mapping out our story, and identifying the losses connected with those issues. This timeline was understood through the biblical story of Jesus walking with minor disciples on the road to Emmaus.  This story happened after Jesus rose from the dead. Despite this, these followers were still grieving and walking in disappointment. Jesus helped them to realize they were stuck in their sense of loss. He drew them out of it by explaining the scriptures, and he eventually opening their eyes to see who he really was.

I realized at the end of the workshop just what all my own little delays meant. These delays were put into the context of our first six months in South Africa. They seemed bigger than they were because they were fed by a river of delay and disappointment of a much bigger loss.  All the delays were like pause buttons. They were fed by a disappointment that had to be addressed. So I brought these delays to God. I told him, “thank you that your delays are not a ‘no.’   I choose to trust you.”  Indeed, delays are NOT a no.  In the end, it’s about trust.  The scripture given to me at my baptism was Proverbs 3: 5-6, which is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.” This scripture is about trust and direction, but also about God’s way of doing things. His way may be completely different from what you expect. We also need to wait for how he wants us to go.

This theme of waiting is shown in many worship songs.  Randy Thomas wrote songs with the Maranatha Singers in the 1970’s and 80’s.  He encouraged a generation of worshippers to sing the words “We must wait.”   This song was one that I first learned after my faith came alive.  It goes, “We must wait, wait, wait on the Lord, We must wait, wait, wait on the Lord.
And learn our lessons well; In His timing He will tell us, what to do, where to go and what to say.”   Now let’s fast forward to 2017, where Kristene DiMarco of Bethel Music picks up the reminder of waiting.  Kristene powerfully sings these words:

“Slow down, take time. Breathe in, He said. He’d reveal what’s to come. The thoughts in His mind, always higher than mine. He’ll reveal all to come.

Take courage my heart, Stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting. He’s in the waiting. Hold onto your hope, as your triumph unfolds. He’s never failing, He’s never failing.

Sing praise my soul, find strength in joy, let His words lead you on. Do not forget His great faithfulness, He’ll finish all He’s begun…”

These are two of the most powerful waiting songs that I’ve ever heard.  There are even more songs about trusting God and finding him faithful.

Waiting is revealed throughout the Bible. It’s a major part of the biblical worldview.  Abraham waited for the promise of his son Isaac, and in the middle of the wait, he faltered and Ishmael was the result.  Moses waited forty years for his ministry, before delivering the Hebrews out of Egypt. Jesus waited until he was 30 to begin his full-time ministry. The Apostle Paul waited in the Arabian desert for years, before beginning his itinerant ministry, although he was vocal from his very conversion.  David Matthis shares in the devotional blog desiring god.org that “waiting is the hardest part”.  He says, “our perspective on waiting is perhaps one of the stronger ways our society is out of stride with the biblical worldview. Not that waiting was easy for our forefathers, but they were more at peace with it, and more ready to see its goodness and potential.”

In the Old Testament, we find many Psalm writers who sing about waiting for the Lord. David wrote in Psalm 40, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”  The prophet Isaiah promises us in Isaiah 40: 31, that those “who wait for the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

David Matthis shares that waiting on God is a regular refrain in the life of faith.  It is an expression of the healthy heart’s desire.”  Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 26:8,  “Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.” The Jewish people waited centuries for the Messiah. Some of them don’t recognize Jesus and so are still waiting.  As Christians, we also wait – for Jesus’ second coming. We live in the shadow of his return.  Anglicans regularly say the liturgy refrain, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” And while Jesus said, “I am coming soon,” that ‘soon’ is relative, and has us wait.  Jesus’ original disciples believed that Jesus would return in their own lifetimes.  However, yet God also waits. As he waits, he also draws more and more people to him.  This is actually a good thing – although we do long for the time when all will be made right.  The Apostle Paul shared in Romans 8: 23 that we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  Peter encouraged us to live in “holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God… to wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11-13)

And so we wait.  We PAUSE.  It isn’t a matter of how long the pause is. It’s like the South African concept of time – now, just now and now now.  Now is between now and eventually. Just now is a bit faster, but still may take longer than expected.  Now now is more urgent, so it could be immediately, but don’t count on it.  But don’t be distracted by looking at how many minutes or hours tick by.   Just sit in the pause.

How do we pause and wait?  In the generations of baby boomers, generation X, generation Y and millennials, we don’t want to pause and wait.  We grow agitated and want everything immediately.  I found myself profoundly affected by this mentality when I attended radio school with millennials. I grew more restless and I began to lose my precious ability to concentrate on one thing at a time. My attention span grew shorter, and I could not learn as quickly. I couldn’t wait as well, even though I still practised soaking prayer with my friend, Lorna. So the lesson of pause and perseverance became even more difficult.  Pause was no longer understood as a blessing because of this mentality. However, God can transform the hearts of the impatient and the restless, with the invitation to “be still.” Psalm 46:10 reminds us of the command to “Be still, and know that I am God!  I will be honored by every nation.  I will be honoured throughout the world.”  Pausing, otherwise known as “Waiting on God’ is actually a discipline in intimacy with God.  It’s even deeper than the disciplines of soaking prayer, practising the presence of God and meditating on scripture. Waiting is often done in silence.  The author Catherine Doherty journeys through this discipline through her book Poustinia – by encountering God through silence, solitude and waiting.  So PAUSE, be STILL and let his peace fill you.  When we finally  pause, we can realize there are different receiving seasons in that space.

The Different seasons of the “Pause Button“

There are different purposes for what I call a “life pause button.”  I had one pause season that was quite painful.  I grew sad instead of looking to the Lord in hope. I still had the deep trust that I gained after Rolland Baker prayed over me. However, I didn’t have a focus point and or know where I was going.  Hope looks forward to the future.  I needed vision for what would come. I was still very much in transition. I worked as an Ottawa church volunteer in many ministries: including outreach, admin and media. During that time, I was part of a connect group that explored something called a possibility board.  We were to paste onto a board our hopes, callings and dreams of our life. Some of these included ministries that we were already involved in, others would be ones we hoped to join.  I pasted on my own possibility board far more than I expected! Yet, in the middle of it was a great big pause button.  My life felt like it was on pause – yet not everything actually stopped.  During this time,  I took an inventory of my life. I shared with my connect group leaders that I had always wanted to write a book.  They encouraged me to write about my life, since I had so many great stories.  I began compiling many of these into a future book which will be called Holy Ghost Sommelier.  I was able to reflect on God’s faithfulness in my life, and was reminded that he will continue to be faithful. Reflecting on God’s faithfulness brought me peace.  We are meant to stop before God and receive God’s peace.  If we continue to rush around as fast as we do, it becomes hard to hear God in the midst of that adrenaline rush.

The first season of pause brings us PEACE in the the storm.  These storms can be many things: difficulties, loss of expectations, change, upheaval, war, disaster, hurt, disappointment and loneliness.  Yet, the Holy Spirit calls us to wait and trust both through seasons of pause and seasons of acceleration.

Here’s one of my “pause buttons.” During my university and seminary years, I had an extensive network of friends and churches I was involved in. I was spiritually hungry. I also longed for wisdom, identity and deep love.  I was one of the lonely, as mentioned in Psalm 68:6. That scripture gives the promise that “ God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”  This was wonderful.  I received much love and affirmation through my Christian family and networks.  Yet part of me still longed for a husband. I was in my thirties, and I didn’t know if there was such a person.

Then I was given a word while I was on my first mission trip to Northern Ireland.  I travelled there to work with army teens, wash dishes in an army canteen, and encourage the local Christians.  I fell in love with that land, and returned the following year to do prayer walks throughout Belfast.  I even received a call there, which I still carry in my heart for a later time.  Meanwhile, Maisie, a wise older lady from Ballynahinch, shared this word with me from Isaiah.  I had read this scripture before, but this time, the words seemed to jump off the page, into Maisies’ mouth, and right into my heart.  It was the message about our land being married by the Lord. She saw an impression of the man who would marry me.  She read Isaiah 62: 4: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”  I remember looking at her and saying, “Does it really said married?”  She assured me that it was so.  I had assumed that the scripture meant that the Lord was marrying his people, which is true. But this word was also telling me that indeed, God had someone for me.   I had spent so much time waiting, that I had assumed I was to stay single.  So in the waiting, I now had peace.  Yet even five years later, when Tony began to court me, I told him,  “I spent so much time waiting, that I didn’t think I would this would happen.” Tony told me, “it is happening.”  Singleness doesn’t always end in marriage. Some people are called to a lifetime of that state; but it is a unique part of their calling.  I was never given a specific calling to be single. I just assumed in my disappointment that I was. When I married Tony, my life changed in so many ways. I went into another pause season, until I realized I had to say goodbye to my previous life expectations. I had to let go before I could say hello. When I did, I was again at peace.

Another season of pause brings PRUNING

This season of pause can be within a time of physical activity. You might mentally learn things, and physically do things. But your heart feels like it’s being sanded with harsh sandpaper: this is a time of refining and pruning.  You really do have to stand still to be pruned!  Jesus tells us in John 15: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful, unless you remain in me.”  We need to lean on God even more during times of pruning and refining.  Although it’s uncomfortable, it’s a good thing in the long-term. We begin to look more like Jesus through the process. We begin to show the fruit of the Spirit, as Paul shares in Galatians 5: 22-23.  “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”  Notice that patience is right in the middle of this list!  Patience requires waiting too!

The storms of life are also pruning instruments, just like the way the famous South African “Cape Doctor” wind blows autumn leaves off the trees.  These are times of letting go.  We too, have to let go of what hinders us.  Before Tony and I travelled to our Iris Harvest School, the leadership team at Ottawa’s Kingdom Culture intensely prayed over me. I received wonderful words of promise and hope for both Tony and myself.  Tony already had been given several prophetic words that he was to step into ministry after he retired; but he didn’t yet understand what that meant. He didn’t know what that would look like.  He decided to attend Harvest School with me, and see what would happen.

Tony was to grow and blossom. He sure did.  It was wonderful – he was and still is, a changed man. He was changed for the better.  However, I was to receive a much different blessing. I had looked forward to Harvest School for over two years. I already had a year delay so Tony could be available to take the school with me. I found that waiting period difficult, but it was necessary.  I will return to this shortly.  My pastor Shawn Gabie  had a specific word for my time at the school. He said it would be a “season of shredding and shedding,” of refining and purging.  It would be difficult, but necessary to prepare me for the  future.  He specifically told me to not give up, but to “fix my focus forward on what the Father had for me this season.”  I clung to these words during my time in Mozambique! The school was as intense as it was in radio school. Both were curriculums meant for much younger people, nearly all of whom were able bodied. Here I was in contrast, walking with a cane on the steep uphill grade of the base. I spent a year exercising with my friend Lynn, just to prepare for the physical requirements of the school and the bush outreaches.  I also had to endure Tony’s struggles as he resisted, relented and finally received.  I instead waited and was refined. Not that I didn’t enjoy the amazing worship, fellowship and excellent teaching.  I did – just differently. I had received a pause to prepare for Harvest School, and found that the school itself was another pause.  But this was a pause of growth through pruning.  This brought me to the lesson of perseverance.

Another season of pause develops PERSEVERANCE.

The Apostle Peter encouraged and guided early Christian disciples into maturity.  He reminded them that we are given very great and precious promises. These promises are part of the maturing process. Through them you may participate in the divine nature. He told them and us in 2 Peter 1: 5-9, to make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge. And to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

When you are in a season of perseverance, this pause looks like a delay!  As of June 2018, this is my current pause season.  It is true that Tony and I are also busy in many respects:  especially in our outreach with children and the vulnerable.  Yet, I have found myself in one big delay: that of my physical healing.  I have been given many prophetic promises about healing, and I have received different forms of healing. I’ve entered deeper into peace and freedom emotionally and spiritually.  I have received physical healing in my back and knees. I have been given extra strength when I needed it most.  I was given extra endurance when I was in Mozambique.

Tony and I later attended the revival leadership conference at Toronto’s Catch the Fire. This was during our preparation to return to South Africa. I brought my little stool to sit on during ministry times, so that I wouldn’t have to endure long times of standing on my feet.  I didn’t even have to fall down when I received prayer ministry.  All of this was fine. When I received prayer, I was given a little impression that there were angels pouring bucket showers of joy into me.  Each bucket filled me with joy and strength to persevere.  I shared this picture with the congregation, and a young woman named Peyton had a word for me that God would heal me that year.  I fully believed this healing would come during our visit to Bethel Church in Redding.  We had just booked our 18th anniversary holiday to northern California. We were expectant that I would receive during their healing rooms ministry five months later.  I did, but not in the way I expected. I again was given strength to persevere, although also received some temporary relief for my knees.

Before we finally left for South Africa, I was again given a promise, which was: “As I stepped onto South African soil, the next stage of my healing would begin.” We again thought it would involve my knees and weight, but so far, it hasn’t. I was overcome by a heel injury, which was healed.  I also was hit with a wave of colds, exhaustion and brain fog, which required me to rest often, and limit myself to what really mattered.  Then I had an intense illness that was menopausal related.  I’ve endured hot flashes, chills, headaches and other symptoms for a number of years, but I wasn’t taken seriously by my doctor.  I was put on the wrong medication, which made me ill, so I stopping using it.  Then fast forward to March 2018, when I had an emergency visit with our new South African doctor. I had at least one tumour that made its presence known in a very uncomfortable way.  When this doctor confirmed the need for a specialist, he also confirmed that the medication I had been prescribed was dangerous to my condition.  It didn’t help that I now had endometriosis and tumours.  I was quickly scheduled for an operation to treat me. I trusted both this doctor and the specialist, and after the procedure, I have received complete healing in that area.  I may not even need progesterone.    But we had to persevere through the process.

There was still the healing of my weight and mobility.  There was still the healing of this ever-present virus that is the thorn in my flesh, slowing me down to often rest.  Then I listened to a sermon by our Afrikaaner senior pastor, Johan. He spoke on our need for hope, and how God is a God of hope.  During that time, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart with hope that I also needed.  He said:  “The enemy has been trying hard in an assignment to kill, steal and destroy you, and your ministry in South Africa.  But South Africa will instead be the place of your healing and my shining glory.” This word filled with deep peace. While I wait in hope and persevere for this healing, there is a purpose for this pause in the healing process.  This is a time to deepen my compassion and understanding for the disabled.  Sometimes the disabled just survive.  Often people in the townships just survive.  Sometimes the best way to identify with someone is to become one of them. There is a purpose in it.

Jesus identified with us so much, that he became one of us. At the same time, our town of Worcester is known as the care capital of South Africa.  Not only am I to receive this care, as I did in the Medi-Clinic, but I am to receive divine health care in other ways. One of the things I am receiving is resilience and strength. So there is a purpose in it. Heidi Baker wrote a book called Birthing the Miraculous.  Throughout the pages, she often says that we should not quit. She later cautioned at a Toronto leadership conference that we cannot allow ourselves to abort our dreams.  She took this further in our Harvest School. She told the future missionaries, including us: “Don’t give up.  If you don’t quit, you win.”  This is the call to persevere.

And the last season of pause develops PREPARATION.

Earlier I mentioned a painful pause when I was a volunteer.  I began a deeper pause before that when I was let go from my full-time radio job.  Both pauses brought deep searching. But looking back, I can see this was actually a time of learning and preparation.  While I was a volunteer, I learned to live on little income. It was a season of increasing my trust in God as provider. I also developed skills at Kingdom Culture that would be used for South Africa.  These skills were expanded after we returned from Harvest School.  We already were strongly directed through our call to South Africa.  We were in extreme downsize mode.  At the same time I was given a job for 13 months as social media assistant to Canadian prophet Darren Canning.  I learned the tools of Mailchimp and Weebly websites to help him, but I was also training myself for our own newsletters and website.

All of the work that I previously did, including the art and seminary began to converge and be weaved together.  And still Jesus is drawing all the strands together from my former tasks, jobs and ministries so everything will be used, from media and admin, to art and prayer counselling.

So what pause are you encountering in your life? Do you intuitively feel a pause button or stop sign in your heart?  Ask the Holy Spirit,  “What are you teaching me?  What are you showing me?”  Pause seasons can be refining deserts.  Pause seasons can be training.  Pause seasons can be soaking and leaning on God in intimacy.  Pause seasons can be times of deep worship.  So pause seasons can actually empower us for the next season!  Pause seasons must not be skipped! They aren’t an inconvenience – they are meant to be a blessing.

So don’t skip your own pause season.  Take time out to ponder and reflect – it’s preparation for what’s to come.

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann
Ways to Grow in God
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This talk is #19

Selah: The pause between thankful and grateful

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Last time we discovered we have a lot to be thankful for.  We also found that being thankful is good for us – in our walk in faith and in our daily lives.  Thankfulness grows our hearts so we can be filled with more love.  When you have an expanded heart, you can experience more joy, which is also our strength (Neh. 8:10). This requires waiting, and pause for reflection.

I had meant the next article to be on being grateful beyond thankful.  However, I discovered there was far more involved in the area of growing in thanks. I found that this is a very deep area of our faith.  It’s the underpinning of so many areas in which we grow closer to God.

Thankfulness is part of our healing: both inner (emotional) and physical.  Just think of the one leper who returned to give thanks to Jesus after he was healed!  (Read Luke 17: 11-19)

Thankfulness is also part of our first step of faith.  Many of you came to faith in Jesus Christ through praying the “sinner’s prayer” of repentance. One simple form of that prayer is featured in Nicky Gumbel’s “Why Jesus” pamphlet that we use in the Alpha Course.  Nicky highlights this prayer “can be summarized by three very simple words:  Sorry.  Thank you.  Please.”  (Sometimes when I’m on the mission field or with people asking about faith, this summary is what comes to mind).

Some of you reading this article may not have faith in Jesus Christ yet, even though you have a desire to grow deeper in God.  If you pray this prayer with me, and mean what you’re praying, you are now a Christian.

Sorry!  “You have to ask God to forgive you for all the things you have done wrong and turn from everything which you know is wrong in your life.  This is what the Bible means by ‘repentance.'”

Thank you!  “We believe that Jesus died for us on the cross.  You need to thank him for dying for you and for the offer of his free gift of forgiveness, freedom, and his Spirit.”

Please!  God needs you to invite him into your life, he’s been waiting for your ‘yes.’  “You need to accept his gift and invite him to come and live within you by his Spirit.”

Here is a simple prayer that incorporates sorry, thank you, please (you may find it helpful if your mind goes blank on how to start):

“Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life (take a few moments to ask his forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience).  Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong.  Thank you that you died on the cross for me, so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Spirit. I now receive that gift. Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me forever.  Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen.”  (Nicky Gumbel, “Why Jesus?” (Alpha North America, 2008) p21

If you prayed that prayer for the first time, welcome to the family of Christ!  You are now my brother or sister.  Make sure you seek out a church, and small group of Christian believers who can encourage you in your faith, pray with you, and study the Bible along with you.  The Christian faith is not meant to be lived in isolation on your own, but with each other.  However, if you are living in an area where Christians are persecuted, then ask God for wisdom on when to share and with whom.  He will keep you close to nurture your faith, heal your heart wounds and fill you with love.  He can also bring you to people who can grow with you in faith. Yet most important, God will never fail you, for he is very definitely faithful.

And so, salvation is the foundation of things to be thankful for as we focus on and worship the Lord. The Apostle Paul encourages us to pause and remember all good things, which cause us to be thankful.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8 (Message version)

We can also combine thankfulness with soaking prayer. If you’re new to the idea of soaking prayer, I write about it in my article from March 2013 (Slow down and let God’s love fill you). When you are filled with God’s love, you become more thankful, and consequently open to receive even more of his love.  Pause and let his love fill you! And always be thankful.

We stop again to think on the word Selah, which often appears in the Psalms (71 times as well as 3 in Habakkuk). Some writers believe it refers to a musical interlude between sections of reading Psalms. Others see it as a pause, or liturgical meditation on what the listeners have heard in the recited Psalms.  For this article, we will borrow the concept of Selah as a pause and reflection.  Sometimes it is necessary to stop and remember all we are thankful for before we continue on our journey.  Funerals are like that – although we are sad at the loss of our loved one, we also celebrate their life and are thankful that they were with us for the time we had them.  These people were part of our life stories.

Let’s continue with the idea that our lives are like stories.  When we walk through difficulties and joys, these impact us and become part of our stories; part of who we are. Sometimes circumstances and pain may cause us to become stuck in grief.  It is good to grieve, but it is not good to become stuck in the same emotions in an endless loop. It also is not good to become stuck from painful memories that cause us to be locked in a prison of unforgiveness. When we forgive those who hurt us, we can choose to react  in a positive way. We take charge over our own story, with God’s help.  We aren’t accountable for what has been done to us, but rather, for how we react. When we choose to react positively, and make a lifestyle of thankfulness, the fruit we show is sweet.

We can re-story our own lives by ‘psalming.’  King David and other Psalm writers did this in the book of Psalms. Some of those Psalms start out rather angry (Read Psalm 69) but end up with praise. David cries out to the Lord with everything in his heart.  He trusts that God is hearing where his heart is at; and then he turns his lament into praise and thanksgiving.  Yes, he said some pretty nasty things about his enemies, but how better it is to confess that to God, then let it fester in his heart!  I personally believe that God likes it when we are honest with him.  He knows what is in our hearts, and is waiting for our invitation to set us free.  You can write your own psalm before the Lord.  It doesn’t have to be fancy. But it does need to be honest, and allow you to trust God more for the great ending.

Being thankful also helps us in transition from one stage of your life to another (being phases of your physical life, or seasons of your spiritual life). We don’t always know where we are going in the midst of moving from one place to another. Sometimes we feel lost in the desert.  Other times we just need a rest stop on the highway. We may feel like we’re in the middle of a storm and can’t see much beyond our circumstances.  This is the time to pause and remember God.  This is the time to remember all we are thankful for!  Thankfulness helps keep our eyes on what God is doing. Thankfulness keeps us from keeping our eyes inward on our own circumstances.  Even if you don’t hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit right now, you will.  You are still being carried towards your next destination.  He is growing in you a deeper trust as you grow your heart deeper through prayers of thanks.

So, while I am continuing to think of the deep connection between thankfulness and gratitude (which is to come soon), remember to pause and give thanks to God.  You can fill out your thanks items on a piece of paper, on your computer, or even on your phone (I use the “Remember” application on my phone). You may be surprised what the Holy Spirit reminds you of!

Have you given thanks today? Next time we will grow in gratitude as we share in the cup of Thanksgiving.

Yours in Christ,
Laurie-Ann Copple
Ottawa, Canada

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