Tag Archives: perseverance

Growing in God through developing perseverance

“From a Rainbow to a Tapestry” – July 2021. Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (copyright)

Tony and I have been Canadian missionaries in South Africa.  We have learned through our African friends in different countries how to slow down and be relational.  This is something all of us in fast-paced countries need to learn.  So come along with me and we’ll learn together on the adventures of Growing in God.

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we are living in Toronto, Canada.

During our last article, we learned about growing in God through a different kind of pause:  that of an oasis rest between seasons.  Transition usually is a difficult period of adjustment.  We had an unexpected month at the end of our season in South Africa.  On the day of our flight we were found to be Covid-19 positive, without a planned place to stay still in South Africa.  We had sold or given away most of our belongings (that weren’t accompanying us).   Thankfully, the very kind friend who was to take us to the airport instead took us to his home, until our third attempt to leave the country (the first was at the beginning of all the lockdowns).   We had a quiet place to rest, recover and by the time we were taken to the airport (Covid-free this time!), we were given the grace and favour to travel.  We both ordered wheel chair assistance at three airports, were picked up by my cousins at the airport, and taken to our second quarantine stay – a Residence airport hotel on the same street as our future Toronto church (Catch the Fire Toronto). 

Again we had a little oasis for fourteen nights, which allowed us to acclimatize to winter in the northern hemisphere (we had come from southern summer), and we purchased phone plans with new Toronto phone numbers.  We couldn’t do anything without them – whether ordering food, groceries or update our IDs with Service Ontario.  But we managed, apart from a fault on L-A’s phone with sending texts.

We knew that we would be in for a challenging season between the care of my frail dad, who turned 93 recently, and care for Tony.  I did some research on the asbestos.com website and discovered that naval personnel were exposed to asbestos on their ships.  This could explain Tony’s diagnosis of potential mesothelioma.  Thankfully, when we discovered this in October 2021, I researched if there was anyone I could reach out to for help.  I discovered that Toronto General Hospital is a world leader in mesothelioma care.  There wasn’t any answer, but a day after we arrived back in Canada, we received an email from the secretary of the thoracic surgeon I had emailed.  So we were noticed!  It took three months, but we found out later that it takes three months to respond to family doctors referring patients.  We waited that time in South Africa, so that worked out.   Tony went through a series of tests, and after two months, he saw his specialist. It wasn’t time to diagnose him yet – he needed a special biopsy where the thoracic team would cut a one centimetre hole in his side, so they could insert a little camera and the biopsy equipment.  

Again, we need to stop, wait and trust.  This time, while we wait for the final results of Tony’s biopsy (pleuroscopy), and then the treatment plan, we are learning perseverance.   We also are learning that virtue while caring for my dad, who keeps getting TIAs (mini-strokes) that take a little more of him each time.  The first one that we observed (there were many before we arrived), had him lose his balance and he could not get up off the floor.  At that time, his legs were weak like jello.   My sister called 911 to get the firemen to pick him up and let him be comfortable on a couch.  He was also looked at by paramedics.  He did not want to go to the hospital or a care home.  He recovered after an hour, and seemed stronger.   This TIA was unusual.  In the ones afterwards, he has usually just had a meal, and then goes off into dream land, or half asleep in a kitchen chair.  One time Tony could not move him, and he strapped him in with a luggage strap.  It kept him from falling.  Since then, my dad knows the drill.  When we see him acting strangely, we get him sitting or lying down in a safe place where he cannot fall.  Are we trained for this?  No, but we have learned.   Otherwise, either Tony or I constantly cook and have snacks for dad as he makes his rounds through the house, looking for things to graze on, and sights to see.    He has a PSW to come give him a daily shower or sponge bath, which he needs since he deals with incontinence.   Well, he is 93.   Tony in particular is kind but firm in our care of dad.  In some ways it’s like he is like a child, being inquisitive.  Yet with each TIA, he remembers less.  So we turn on music that will stimulate the stories and thoughts, when he has little awakenings.

We have no idea how long our season with my dad will be, as well as the time for Tony’s treatment.  Yet we know we are to be here.  My dad is our assignment.  That is good. God has us in the right place, before we eventually return to our Ottawa condo.    Because I seldom leave the house, the only time I get to go out is when we go to church.  My sister comes most weekends and sees our dad, and with her daughter spends family time with him.   One Sunday, one of the church’s leaders asked the congregation to ask the Holy Spirit for a personal word for this season.  I was indeed given a word that was whispered with love into my heart.  The word was perseverance.  I’ve written about perseverance before, but it was in a different context.  At that time, I just had trouble waiting to get to the next season.  Now, I’m wading through just a difficult time that we must pass through one hurdle at a time.  I’m not the only one who is going through or has gone through this journey.  The families we served in Avian Park developed SOME perseverance in the form of coping, but then their desperation also made them shut down in sadness.  At this time, I choose not to go that route, but to instead TRUST in God.  He will give his grace that will be sufficient in this season.  2 Corinthians 12:9 gives this promise, when the Apostle Paul shares of his struggle with something he could not shake.  Holy Spirit told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

What IS perseverance?  Is it coping?  Resilience?  Or is it not quitting out of pure stubbornness?  I believe that it is in choosing not to quit, with a goal in mind. Tony tells me that when he was in training for the navy, he was taught the skill of “dead-reckoning.”   If a ship or an aircraft loses communications and is unable to find land or hazards, they will look back on their chart for the last accurate position recorded, and calculate the direction they should have taken from there, and then follow that compass bearing, with an awareness of the uncertainty since that position was recorded.  They then steam on (or fly on) using the calculated bearing, and hoping that eventually they will recognize a feature of the land.   This takes perseverance, because their sense of direction will suggest a myriad of alternatives.  

This is similar to when Pastor Shawn Gabie prophesied over me before we went to Mozambique for our Harvest Missions School in 2016.  He told me that I must “keep my focus forward on what the Father has for me that season.”  This goal orientation meant a laser focus on the promises that were to come.  This word was a reminder to me to allow the refining and uncomfortable difficulties to purify me, without my giving up.  Proverbs 4: 25-26  confirms Shawn’s message, which is to “let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure.”    Sometimes there are difficulties in life, and especially when you are in ministry.   Unfortunately, the average time that a full-time missionary stays in the field is a year.  Many give up before that.  We lasted four years in our South African assignment, throughout my cancer journey.  Mind you, Covid stopped travel for some time, and it was difficult to get back to Canada.  Getting back required not giving up and returning at the right time.  We did try multiple times, to the chagrin of those well-meaning advisors, who insisted that we return even earlier.

I am coming to believe that perseverance involves actively pushing towards a goal.  Sometimes you push hard together with others, other times, you stand alone – standing in the place where you must be to ‘hold the line.’  Holding the line is exactly what we are doing in caring for my 93 year old father.   It’s a daily process of continual care.  At times when you are corporately persevering together, there is even more strength, because you can encourage each other, or change roles for a time.  It’s like the birds when they migrate south or north, depending on the season.  One bird will be the head bird leading the pack in their V-formation towards warm climes.  After that head bird gets tired, they retreat to another position, and another bird takes over for a while.  I’m thankful for the human equivalent, of leadership in teams, where there is a shared burden.  And in life, I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit, who gives me life and strength, and for my husband Tony.   Yet at the same time, God gives you little “kindnesses from God” as like a breadcrumb trail of blessing.  If you are moaning and complaining about the difficulties, you miss the little (and sometimes big) blessings he sends you along the journey.  It IS a journey.  You aren’t stuck in a little valley, surrounded by rain clouds or tornadoes.  And even if you do encounter severe storms, such as those that hit Ontario in the spring and summer, you can withstand the strength of a (spiritual) tornado far more than the fences of my sister and cousins that blew over in a recent derecho storm.  Those fences could not persevere.  But, if we don’t give up, we CAN.

How can we persevere?  Perseverance is something that we develop during the difficult times, whether it is illness (like our cancer journeys), financial stress, war (like the Ukrainian conflict), transition difficulties, domestic violence, gang issues or being in the middle of various chaos.  Through those storms, Jesus brings peace.  He can bring the peace that passes all understanding, so that it feels like you are in the eye of the storm.  It will not harm you, as long as you stay connected with Jesus.    Romans 5:3-5 reminds us that our suffering isn’t wasted, especially when we choose to trust God and not become bitter.  The Apostle Paul said that “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”   Suffering produces perseverance when we trust God that he is at work in our lives, in our ministry, and in situations that are way beyond our control.    When we stand alone in perseverance or push in community together in perseverance, we are refined and become better people.  Then we have renewed hope.  It’s a refining fire, where what is against us, becomes a pruning force to make us better.

Perseverance in the faith:   We grow stronger through engaging with scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  We are encouraged by scripture being a “consistent anchor” that helps us to avoid traps of discouragement and apathy.  It encourages us to stay away from becoming prideful. It gives us direction and insight.  In ministry, scripture (along with Holy Spirit’s insight”) becomes the toolkit to live a life of outreach, as well as helping in our personal lives. https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/     Holy Spirit helps us with the next step of persevering.  We gain strength to persevere by praying (communicating with God) and thinking on his revelation.  This is contemplation.  The Apostle Paul encourages us in Ephesians 6:18 to: “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”   “Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to pray at all times, regularly, genuinely and in faith.  Moreover, prayer is a conversation with God, in which we cultivate deepening intimacy with him.” https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/    

When we pray, God often answers right then, before we know it.  Other times, he answers those prayers gradually.  Sometimes, the full answers come a lot later.  But in hindsight, they end up being answered at just the right time.  In overseas ministry, we encountered insurmountable difficulties in the townships.  The emergencies and calamities that had been happening with the girls we mentored happened nearly continually.  Tony would constantly say to me that “they always seem to be living on the edge.”  In the first world, we can’t imagine those difficulties, although we have the hidden poor among us in cities and in rural areas.  We just don’t see them (but the need exists).  In South Africa, they aren’t hidden; the real poverty is confirmed with our eyes.  In less developed countries, roads can be washed out in cyclones (even British Columbia had that issue in Abbotsford).  People in hidden communities had no access to the outside world for help.  In that circumstance, medical emergencies can happen with no access to a doctor.  Or in the case of northern Mozambique, there are terrorist insurgencies that disrupt peaceful villages, where they persecute and kill Christians.  Corrupt government or police can stall aid workers and missionaries from making a difference in a practical way.    How do we move forward?  No matter what, God is ready to listen and make a way forward.  Prayer and contemplation gives us the inner strength to do what God would have us do.  Jesus is always with us.  We are not alone.  As we depend on God, our trust and intimacy with him grows.

We persevere better when we actively participate in a local church.  It is there that we ‘plug in’ to the Body of Christ.  Pastor Murray Smith encouraged us at Catch the Fire Toronto (May 22nd, 2022 11:15 am sermon) that we do need small groups in order to grow and develop relationship.  But in the setting of a larger church service, there is a corporate anointing, where the Holy Spirit isn’t just in us and around us, but then he works among us.  Something special happens.   We go to honour God, give him sacrifice and offer ourselves to him.  Yet, as a tribe or multi-coloured family, we grow both individually and as a group.  We are strengthened organically in a deep spiritual way.  It is like Hudson Taylor’s secret of abiding in the Lord, which is shown in John 15: 5-7.  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”   You are pruned – yet you produce fruit by remaining.   This is what happens when you truly follow Jesus.  When we sat with young township kids, their mothers, and the local widows, and the inmates, we felt like we heard the heartbeat of Jesus.  It was like we were deeply in his presence.  They were the least of these, and Jesus was strongly with them.  Wendy McMahon at Food for the Hungry describes the dynamic for which I just can’t find the words.  She says, “we know that the poor are very close to the heart of God, and Jesus loved to spend time with them when He was on earth.  By seeking to closely follow Jesus each day, we invite Him to make us more like Him.” https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/      

The writer of Hebrews also encourages us to not give up on being a part of church in Hebrews 10:24-25:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on, towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day (of Jesus’ return) approaching.”  God reveals himself in a different, collective way – where different strands of his revelation and encouragement bless others.  He weaves us together like a beautiful tapestry, similar to an impression I had in South Africa.  In the vision, I saw God changing the South African rainbows (aka the Rainbow Nation) into a Rainbow tapestry.  The tapestry is much stronger than the rainbow, even though it’s inspirational.  The bands of colour are stronger and more useful when they are woven together with the other fibres.  It is in the local church that we are encouraged in our own calling, and are cheered on not to give up.

So when we are to persevere, we know that we are not meant to be alone.    Perseverance is meant to be a continual lifestyle, whether it’s to achieve the end of a big project, an entire life’s accomplishment, or something that is inter-generational (like building a cathedral).  My Iris and Harvest Family Network mentor is one who encourages, and cheers alongside those running the race in ministry and assignments.  He is mentoring me even in a season of hidden family care giving.  It matters just as much to God as our four year missionary season in South Africa.  Brian shared on his Facebook page in April 2022, this important message.  He said, “most people today, especially in our western culture, want to achieve great things very quickly.  But most great achievements happen through years of hard work, dedication and perseverance.  So most, when things get hard or time is required, will quit.   I know so many who were called and made for great things, who simply gave up over the years, as they faced resistance or things didn’t look like what they planned.  I have found that there is always resistance and things seldom look the way that I planned. Hold on to the promises of God, move forward with Him daily, pray, listen and trust Him!  You WILL see victory, and what He has shown you in the secret place, shall come to pass.  I believe in you!  You have been created for a purpose.  You have an anointing that abides within you! He will never leave you or forsake you! Expect to win! (Brian Britton, Facebook page, April 12, 2022)  What a rich heritage this gem of wisdom is!  Again, Brian encourages us to trust in God throughout the journey.  He is the one who will carry you though the journey as we grow close to Him.   He even carries us through senior issues!  Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you,’  I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  This encourages Tony and me as we care for my dad, but also in Tony’s physical issues as a senior.  Trusting in God isn’t just a “senior thing.”  Sure there are a lot of ‘gray hairs’ in the church, but challenges and growing through them is an intergenerational journey. 

There is nothing in life that is wasted as we continue on.  Absolutely nothing.  If we stand still, it’s only to rest and regroup.  It’s never in running away or quitting.   The Psalmists often exhort the people to trust in God.  Psalm 71:5-6 shares, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.  Upon you I have leaned (trusted) from my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.  My praise is continually of you.”   The prophet Jeremiah was encouraged at his young age to trust God as he picked up his calling and assignment as a prophet to Judah.  He was given strength, fortitude and extreme perseverance.  Such endurance shines as an example that only God can give.  It is beyond super-hero! 

So do not give up, choose to grow in the journey.  Grow in your assignment with the Lord, whether in a difficult task, ministry, job or being in a situation where you are called to make a stand for righteousness (like Jeremiah).   Let us remember the Apostle Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 3: 14-15: “Brothers (and sisters), I do not consider that I have made it on my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   So as the writer of Hebrews shares in verse 10:23: “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Perseverance is actively tied to hope and trust in God while in the midst of staying IN the battle.  The battle is the Lord’s.  But we are IN it.  

Lord, thank you that you are there for us and with us while we persevere in your assignments for us.  Sometimes it’s a time to learn and grow.  Other times it’s to rest and be healed.  Then it’s times where we minister, whether in hidden places, or public.  You are always with us.  We choose to stay in our assignments, whether they are difficult or seemingly easy.  We choose the path of going “low and slow” (as we say in Iris):  in humility and patience; in trust and compassion, in illness and difficulty, and in all the things you experienced in your life on earth, Jesus.  We choose you, and we choose to persevere.  We choose to be rooted in you during the storms, and choose to pick up with you in transition. Thank you that you are faithful.  We choose to walk with you on the water, as we look into your eyes.  Carry us Lord, despite everything, and draw us deeper into you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on coppleswesterncape.ca.  Mouse over the “Listen” drop-down menu, or click herehttps://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html and scroll down to #77

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know! 

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer-free as of February 2021, and as of May 2022, I am currently having ultrasounds, mammograms and an upcoming biopsy of a lump on my remaining breast.  I expect it to be benign, but it’s worth checking.   Tony is in care at Toronto General Hospital for malignant mesothelioma in his left lung lining.  He had a pleuroscopy and we are waiting  to hear an analysis of the chemical components of the tumour.  I remember this process when I had breast cancer.  In Tony’s case, he hasn’t met his oncologist yet (that’s to come in early June).  Everything seems to be in slow motion, despite multiple scans and reports that don’t look good.  However, the reports (and the doctor’s diagnosis) isn’t the whole story.  We will see what God will do, especially as Tony is one of my dad’s caregivers, an essential team member.  Tony is having major eye surgery a week from now to complete retinal reattachment that was started a year ago.  We ask you to give thanks for the skills of his surgeons, and that in the case of the cancer the tumour responds and spurs into an accelerated healing like mine did.   Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.   If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under his senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  All my teachings are online for free to bless you, with no pressure.  Here is our Paypal for any of you who feel led to contribute: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Laurie-Ann’s Colouring Books:   If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson.  Or you can have your own copies printed for you through Print on Demand through Takealot.com. 

Link for Colouring with Jesus 1https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Link for Colouring with Jesus 2: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

We plan to republish the updated books in North American format (and in English only) in the future (after taking care of family).   Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free, please just let us know.  Bless you, and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

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.

Ways to Grow in God
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This talk is #19