Tag Archives: trusting God

Unpacking our journey in the Rainbow Nation

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Hi! Tony and I continue to unpack from our adventures in Africa.  I shared in September about our Harvest Mission school in Pemba, Mozambique, as well as about building a house for a widow and her five children in that same town.  The house building is happening!  Next week, the Iris Mercy department is adding a roof to her new home.  The rainy season in Mozambique is from mid-late November until early March, so we are just in time to keep their heads dry.

I can’t deny that Mozambique was a challenge (although Tony thrived). We looked forward to South Africa – but only partly for the amenities offered (in a country with first world amenities and third world opportunities).   We found a varied nation that won our heart even deeper than Mozambique.  This is a divided land – which still bears the scars from the apartheid and colonial years.  We were in the Johannesburg area at an Iris base for three nights, due to a change in our flight out of Mozambique.  LAM (Mozambique’s airline) decided it would be more cost effective to move all Wednesday flights to Mondays, so this meant we had to end our Iris School a few days earlier. Rather than a one night stopover with our Western Cape team in a Jo’burg hotel, we now had three nights in limbo between the mission school and our outreach.  So the Iris base “Footprints” took us in as well as five other outreach teams.

We found Footprints was a wonderful base with a family of 32 sweet children, loving long term missionaries, and American visitors who were on their own mission trip.  We are incredibly thankful for their hospitality and the sparkle brought to us by bright and fun-loving children. Fierce love showered us by “Mama” Yolanda (the base leader), Natasha, her husband Mark, and others that showed deep kindness.  They took pity on my disability and that Tony had packed all our belongings together in three suitcases, rather than separately. Originally we were going to be housed with other guests in dorm according to our gender.  Thankfully, a long term missionary couple loaned us their cabin, so we were able to rest and get ready for our Western Cape outreach.  I brought maple syrup candies and Canadian souvenirs with me to share with the South African children in Robertson.  But we didn’t have to wait to share, since we had more than enough between the two bases.  So we gave away our goodies, via the leaders, so it was done in proper fashion, with each child receiving something.  The base leader spontaneously gave Tony an opportunity to teach the children about Canada (since their class was learning about other countries).  So as they learned about Canada’s flag and the maple leaf, while they enjoyed the taste of maple syrup candy.  These kids were very receptive, and it was wonderful that they could respond in English (a luxury we didn’t always have in Pemba, Mozambique).

We were really excited by the journey into Robertson, as two of the long-term missionaries, Kathryn and Barbara, drove us from the Cape Town airport.  Robertson is two hours east of Cape Town through mountains, and valleys where many wineries are located.  We were given plenty of opportunities to rest, relax, journal and pray.  The area is farming country, and farmers are, well, quite easy-going!  We were housed in a mountain homestead that had no cellphone signal, no wifi and the electrical power was generated by solar panels on the roof. Our homestead was located in a beautiful mountain valley, where my drawing inspiration exploded.  I had already drawn two drawings in Mozambique.  I drew at least five more in this place! Part of my practical ministry was to draw for base leaders Johan and Marie Fourie. They kept a drawing that was commissioned of national flags in a field (Flag World, shown above) and another that I gifted them of the house that we stayed in (Pomegranate Homestead shown below).  Because we were a couple, we are again blessed with our own room (with a toilet and shower!).  Our team of ten all shared cooking duties and spent a lot of sharing and prayer together.  We were from Australia, England, Germany, Ukraine, South Africa and Canada.

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We visited nearby “townships” – neighbourhoods of either the local Xhosa tribe, or “coloured” community.  We fell in love with all of the people, but found the most receptive ones were the “coloured” people. These are a mixed-race people that seem to be forgotten in South Africa.  I had not known about this demographic group, despite their presence in a documentary I watched this spring about a ministry who works in some Cape Town townships. Many of these people (but not all) are in the service industry, and they are very hard workers. Many of the farm workers in the wine growing region are from this people group. We listened to, prayed for and loved on quite a few of these people as we walked through one of their townships.  We also worked with coloured children in an orphanage and others in the local hospital.  I found in particular a tender compassion as I was with them, and a sense that I was “at home.”  The local Xhosa (black African tribe) were also quite welcoming, although their township, Nkqubela, had an entirely different feel to it.  They felt more ‘typically African’ and we connected with them as well. (We also were in community with some local Afrikaans people).

We also worked with the local farm worker’s children through a nursery “crèche” and a weekly kids’ club. We found these youth quite rambunctious. I think they wore Tony out through their games of soccer, baseball and catch.  I helped in the art room, by helping children draw, as well as praying for them, loving them and speaking into their lives.  During the second week, we staged a play based on the Good Samaritan parable. Our South African team member played Jesus, and read scripture in Afrikaans. It was well received, as were our Canada flags, pencils, stickers and maple candy.  One of my most treasured moments was of one of the girls asking me about Canada. When I showed her a picture of northern lights I had on my phone, she wanted to see more. She’s now a fan of Canada and would love to visit us here in Canada. Also from this girl, I learned proper pronunciation of the Western Cape place names around us.

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We also had a retreat in Whitsand, on the Indian ocean coast.  It was during that time that I was able to share with the Fouries about a series of dreams that Tony and I had while in Africa.  ALL of them pointed towards ministry in South Africa – especially the dream where Tony dreamed that I had a baby.  When he told me the dream, I knew that babies often symbolize something new or the birth of a new ministry.  But we were in Africa, so I asked Tony what colour the baby was.  He couldn’t remember – he didn’t think he even saw it.  Later during that day, I was given the same dream, and I asked in prayer if I could see the baby.  It was one of those dream-visions that you were wide awake so you could stop and pray. My prayer was answered, and I was shown the baby – which kept changing colour!  The baby was white, then turned black, then mulatto, then red, then yellow, and so on!  I wasn’t sure what that meant, at the time.  When I shared with Yohan and Marie, Yohan cried out in laughter, “it’s Rainbow Nation!”  When I heard that, it made perfect sense. Rainbow Nation is the nickname that Nelson Mandela had for South Africa.  And, that was only one dream. There were many more, as well as a deepening love for all the people there.  We felt we were more and more in tune with how that Iris base operates.  They see everything in terms of building family – which is exactly what a fractured society and people need, no matter the group or colour to which they belong.  It is Jesus who brings us into family, as is promised in Psalm 68: 5-6.  To me, these verses speak to South African townships:  Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families; he sets prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Our hope is to be a spiritual mom and dad to a township in the Western Cape, while we also help with various ministries at the base.  I will definitely be drawing, and there is even a community radio station we could join, unless we are called to start another one. There is so much room for different ministries at this base – with different couples and families ministering in the area, as well as the long-termers right on the base/farm with the Fouries.  Meanwhile we have a lot of preparation work to do here in Canada, including a lot of downsizing, and finding people to take our place in ministries we do in Ottawa.  Please keep us in prayer for the process, since this isn’t official yet.  When it is, you can celebrate with us!

If you’d like to know more, message me.  To learn about the Iris Western Cape base, visit  https://www.irisglobal.org/robertson/home

Love, Laurie-Ann

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Growing in God through thankfulness: What are you thankful for?

what are you thankful for

Last time we learned that when we allow ourselves to depend on God in our service to him, our attitude changes. God has invested special gifts in us – both natural and supernatural. The gifts we are given became an opportunity to serve the Lord and others in a unique way. When we serve, our attention is in two parts – on God, and on the task at hand. Sometimes that task involves stopping for the one. Other times that assignment involves practical service so that needed infrastructure is there for ministry: feeding the poor, clothing the needy, loving broken people, encouraging people through arts that inspire and bless. That requires administration, health care, engineering, and many more skills that take hours to develop. When we serve, we need to keep our eyes on the one who loves us and gives us opportunities. It’s not like we have to serve out of obligation. If you are doing that, then it’s better to set aside the service for a while and just receive God’s love. If we never do a single thing for God, He will still love us very deeply. However, when we do serve, it gives us many ways to express our love and gratitude to God. That gratitude causes us to focus on Jesus and allow our hearts to be filled deeper and widened to contain more love.

How do we develop a thankful attitude? Some people have a hard time being thankful – especially if they feel entitled, and self-focused. How do we rid ourselves of cold hearts, entitlement thinking and ingratitude? A cold heart could be called a heart of stone; a heart where the conscience is seared and there is no compassion. The very opposite of thankfulness and gratitude is unforgiveness, bitterness and complaining. Do we really want to go there? Bitterness causes all kinds of complaints and mean spirited acts. Hebrews 12:15 warns us to not store up a bitter root grows up in our heart and so defile us (and many). When we are bitter and self-focused, we fall into a form of worshiping ourselves. Unfortunately this is the very heart of the old baby boomer motto of “me, myself and I” and “looking out for number one.” If you focus on yourself, you’ll find lots to complain about! And so the cycle spirals down into self-pity and what Leanne Payne calls the ‘hell of self.’ This self-affliction is a horrible prison to be locked in! While the barometer against entitlement is thankfulness, you still need a change of heart.

Thankfully, God gives us a promise through the prophet Ezekiel in Eze. 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” So God has the key to unlock our prison. Lord, please save us from ourselves! (Read Romans 7:7-25) I am thankful that I was drawn out of this kind of thinking – but if I’m not careful, it is easy to forget. I am thankful for God’s faithfulness and share the writer’s shout in 2 Chronicles 20:21. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.”

Let’s go deeper to discover more. What is thanksgiving? Thanks isn’t just one of the “magic words” of politeness that we teach children (like please and thank you). A simple definition may be (according to Wikipedia) “Thankfulness is the expression of gratitude, especially to God.” This is especially true in the example, “he offered prayers in thanksgiving for his safe arrival.” Or thankfulness can be the appreciation of a benefit or a gift. Thankfulness can be shallow or very deep from the bottom of your heart. Most of us are thankful for something at some time in our life.

What am I thankful for? What are you thankful for? When I was living in the Kootenay mountains of BC’s southern interior, I was always thankful for the incredible beauty. Every day I chose to explore the mountain roads, lakes and ranges, I was thanking God for what I could see around me. And so one of the reasons why I remember Canadian Thanksgiving of 2013 is from the sermon that Jim Reimer gave at Kootenay Christian Fellowship in Nelson BC. It was the first time I remember such a talk, which was especially needed at a difficult time. So Pastor Jim started us off with things and people to be thankful for. Later on we shared communion together, and we were to share one word to reflect what or who was the reason for thanks. Jim held his microphone for each person to share, and my word was “church family.” Jim’s list included thankfulness for: Parents, family, friends, rainbows, sight, oxygen, hearing, touch, smell, taste, speech, a heart to pump, lungs, immune system, hands, legs, mind, health, tears, fears and pain, sadness to appreciate happiness, sun, sunset, rain, snow, rainbows, nature, animals, Internet, transport, technology, movies, time, job, music, bed, home, soul mate, best friend, enemies, lessons learned through mistakes, joy and love.

Recently I asked my Facebook friends what they were thankful for. Some were deeply personal about their faith, encouragement from others and family. Others drew connections between gratitude and forgiveness or thankfulness and happiness. I agree with these connections. But one statement stood out – from a friend in Sierra Leone, who has lived through war and the Ebola crisis. She was thankful for being alive… the most basic gift.

Thanksgiving is a holiday in North America. In the US, it is traditionally based on a Plymouth, Massachusetts celebration of a good harvest between 1621–23.  Although there was an earlier time of “official” Thanksgiving at what became Berkeley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia (in 1619). American Thanksgiving is generally celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In Canada, the origins of Thanksgiving can be traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. He tried to find the northern passage to the Pacific Ocean and took a break off of Frobisher Bay (perhaps near the present-day Iqaluit). They held a formal ceremony and communion thanking God for surviving the journey through storms and icebergs. Others also trace Canadian Thanksgiving to the French settlers in New France (Quebec) in the early 17th century. Other immigrants added their own voice to Thanksgiving celebrations, although the United Empire Loyalists may have brought the turkey theme to the day. It is good to use Thanksgiving, or perhaps Christmas Day or New Year’s Day as foundational days to stop and be thankful. Yet, what if we chose to be thankful every day? Thankfulness is an attitude – perhaps of gratitude, but also thankfulness causes you to think outside yourself and your circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Giving thanks was what I was encouraged to do in October 2013, after I was let go by a radio station I was working for as an ad writer and producer. It’s no secret that the broadcasting industry is a cutthroat business, but still this was an opportunity for God to work something deep into my life: gratitude. My pastor comforted me, but also reminded me that “perhaps this was God’s timing for this to happen at Thanksgiving.” He encouraged me to keep thanking God in all the little things and that Jesus would carry me through. He told me “I feel God is up to some good things. I wonder what door will be open to you. He is our provider and source. In times like this all we can do is trust him. He will make a way…” And so he has. While I’m not working for pay (yet), I moved back to Ontario to be with my husband again. I volunteer in one of my churches in admin/reception and media team. I continue to write, teach and blog. I do prison ministry. I carry on and am thankful for all the little things God brings my way. That thankfulness for each little surprise and gift that came my way made a huge difference. It was like Jesus was carrying me, like the person in the Footprints poem. What happened was a deep outpouring of love from my church families and my own family – especially my parents and my husband.

So Christian living places thankfulness at the centre. We can express thankfulness in many ways. We give traditional thanks for the meals that sustain us physically. Jesus gave thanks as he broke bread and fed five thousand (Matt 14:19/Mark 8:6). The Apostle Paul gave thanks for a meal in the midst of a major storm at sea, and God was with them despite their circumstances (Acts 27:35). Rabbis even encourage giving thanks before a meal AND afterwards. (rabbi blessing link)

Thanksgiving is also is part of other prayers. Many times the Israelites gave thanks throughout the Old Testament. Often thanks are found connected with praise and testimony, such as: I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Ps 9:1)

Thanksgiving is also part of the ACTS acronym of remembering how to pray liturgically: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It reminds us of the prayers that have already been answered before we add to our prayer list. This keeps us mindful that God will not forget what we have asked.
Thankfulness is also something that is deeply needed in the church. Sometimes when people minister to us, we forget to say thank you. We forget and think, ‘why should I? They know how much I am thankful.’ But no! That is not the case! Thanking someone isn’t trivial – the person who is thanked receives deep encouragement and it shows that their gift or action actually meant something. I was involved in the local Cursillo movement and have been deeply blessed by their ministry. Unfortunately it was frowned on to thank your sponsor and those involved in blessing you. Yet, does it really diminish the sacrifice of those who have given? Those who give most often just want to see the person happy and or blessed. Your true gratitude is a gift to those who have ministered to you. And for me, my best gift on holidays and birthdays is when you see the giftee’s face as they are receiving my gift.

Thankfulness also causes us to grow in our faith. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Col 2:7 to continue our walk in God, be established in our faith and overflowing with gratitude. Perhaps deepening faith and being thankful are like two poles that long distance walkers used to keep their pace and balance steady (Christian Answers link).

The Christian life is like that long distance journey. Some of the circumstances we encounter are more difficult than others – and it is then that we remember the thankfulness and trust connection. Paul reminds us in 1 Thess. 5:18 to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. This does not mean to give thanks FOR all things, such as the difficult times, but to be thankful in some way at all times. Thankfulness is a lifestyle, almost like being an optimist – looking for how God can redeem a situation and make things better. Some of you may have read Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. In that book, Corrie shares about her family’s time in a WW2 concentration camp. They were sent there after they were discovered helping hide Jewish people from the Holocaust. Corrie and her sister Betsie were thrown into a building that had many fleas. While the fleas made life uncomfortable, Betsie was thankful for them! Why? Well, the Nazis avoided their bunker due to the fleas. That meant they could have uninterrupted Bible study and fellowship! So Betsie went even further for being thankful for something unpleasant, because she had the big picture in mind. She trusted that “everything works together for good with those who love God”(Rom 8:28)

Thanksgiving is also a deep part of worship. Psalm 110:4 ties thankfulness and praise: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Think about it. Many Psalms and other scriptures are put to our worship music. Giving thanks and being thankful is a deep heart felt theme. Our thanks also touches God’s heart. Remember when Jesus healed the ten lepers? Ten were healed of leprosy, but only one returned to thank Jesus. When he did so, Jesus healed him in an even deeper way – beyond the leprosy. “One of the [lepers], when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well. His gratitude was connected to a deep healing and wellness. (Luke 17:15-19)
Andy Cook even likens the “faith has made you well” to faith has saved you, since the Greek word for well used in this passage is the same as salvation (σῴζω). (Andy Cook link)

And so, salvation is another thing to be thankful for as we focus on and worship the Lord. Let’s move beyond our day to day grumbling about the little things and be thankful for what is going right. Let’s be thankful for how God has helped us through difficult times; for kindnesses shown through others, for the big and little blessings he brings our way. They are there if we look. I thank God for your reading this article. May He bless you through and through as you (and I) learn more about thankfulness and our faith. Let’s examine ourselves, give thanks and encourage each other. Let’s sing as in the song “Give thanks with a grateful heart,” and allow God to enlarge our hearts. Let our hearts be filled with love as we continue to thank God in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19)

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

Bless you and Happy New Year!

Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through the Desert

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by Laurie-Ann Copple

Last time we discovered that our faith grows when we discover the special places where we can encounter God as easily as breathing. Many Anglicans love Canterbury, others go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and or places with a Christian history like Lindisfarne or Iona. We have our own experiences, yet they are rooted and shaped by the wider church. Now, oh weary pilgrim, our faith is given depth as we grow character through the desert.

Often when we first discover Jesus Christ and the love of God for ourselves, we have a ‘honeymoon period.’ We experience the intimacy and love of the Father, the fellowship of Jesus, and the sweet wooing of the Holy Spirit. It feels like you’re in love. You ARE in love! But then later on, you may enter a period of God’s silence that appears to go on forever. It seems like a wilderness that can stretch our trust.Is it this time a punishment or a test? Is it abandonment or a preparation for something wonderful in store for us? Is it God’s judgment or His infinite kindness that helps us grow spiritually mature? Is he in fact carrying us, like the example in the famous Footprints poem? We don’t sense him but we know he is there.

These times of difficulty have been compared to the ‘dark night of the soul.’ But since God has not left us, we also grow deeper in faith. During this process, we are refined of hindrances, and we gain the fragrance of Jesus by the fruit of the Spirit if we keep a good attitude and our trust in God.

One of the cries of my heart as a Christian has always been the desire for spiritual maturity. When I was a young Christian, newly baptized in the Holy Spirit and so enthusiastic that I embarrassed older believers, I begged the Lord for maturity. At the time, I had experienced healing, love and empowerment, and from there, I tried to break through an unapproachable “more.” Now I know that we should always be hungry for more of God. Yet at this time, I almost felt like there was a glass ceiling over my attempts to press in for more.

Eventually, my prayer was answered when I was in Northern Ireland doing prayer walks. A hostess in Belfast gave me an unexpected prophetic word. She asked me if I had been asking God to take me deeper into maturity. I answered, “yes.” She told me that it would not be easy and that it required something that I did not expect. This requirement was suffering, not as a punishment, but as the necessary instrument to bring me past the shallowness I’d been feeling even as a Christian. God’s relative silence intensified as I entered the desert of finding Him in a new way, and I began to learn identification with Christ (Phil. 3:10). I had to no longer live as if I was in control of my life, but to allow for a Christ-centred life. I was learning to know him in the fellowship of his sufferings, as well as the joy of salvation.

This desert has lasted over nine years. During that time, I audited a course called “Into the Wasteland” taught by Charles Nienkirchen at Tyndale Seminary. Not only did I learn that desert experiences are common, but they are also biblical! The desert is God’s gift that demands transformation. Isn’t that what being sanctified is about?

God has written two “books”: that of creation (Ps. 19:1) and that of His revelation in the Bible. Both of these show an abundance of desert imagery. The world has an abundance of deserts.1 The biblical lands are mostly desert2 or semi-desert.3 Many biblical characters encountered difficult ‘desert’ times, such as the Israelites in the book of Numbers, Elijah’s sojourn in the wilderness while in danger (1 Kings 19), David’s refuge in the “wild places” while hiding from King Saul (2 Sam 1) and Jesus’ own temptations in the Judean wilderness (Matt. 4). There is also the ‘interior desert’ (solitude, withdrawal and seeming abandonment) such as the testing of Job and Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane and Calvary. Desert experiences have also empowered and left God’s servants changed from divine encounters, such as the experiences of many in the Old Testament.4

The Apostle Paul also experienced the beginning of his transformation while travelling the desert road to Damascus. His conversion was further strengthened during a three year duration in the Arabian desert (Gal. 1: 17-18). Antony of Egypt gave away all his possessions and depended on God in a fourth century desert. Many Christians desiring something more followed a similar call. Some lived in solitude or wandered the oceans as missionaries as did the Irish monks in the sixth to tenth centuries. Others were transformed during extended illnesses while waiting for a miracle. So why are we surprised when we enter our own wilderness?

Perhaps, part of the reason we are surprised is due to our North American materialistic culture which sees simplicity as a weakness. Even in many churches, mountain experiences can be glorified and the grief of varied suffering is minimized. We want comfort in the midst of suffering and our one-dimensional ideas of God and all-encompassing self-experience are challenged. The desert calls us to transformation, yet we have a choice to make. We can turn to self-pity and bitterness5 during these hard times. Or, we can call out to the Lord for purification. Which would you choose? I’d far prefer the purification, and become a better Laurie-Ann.

How does the desert make us more Christ-like? Charles Nienkirchen, says that the humbling effect of the desert “becomes a transforming event in one’s spiritual development only as one’s idea of God and self-image are changed. In the process, faith, hope and love are purified.” The desert can help to clear our senses of wrong illusions of who God is and who we are, although it is often a long process. Sometimes we struggle with faulty perceptions of God as a judge or angry parent. Other times we may struggle with self-condemnation and poor self-image (or vanity and pride). When these perceptions melt away, the truth can be more easily discerned. God is no longer what you thought He was, and He is now free to show you who He is! You are no longer what you thought you were, but are loved and accepted. God is allowed to be God, since you have realized that you are not God in your life.

The desert may give us four gifts if we co-operate with God’s purposes: spiritual transformation, psychological change, new roles, and new futures. The first gift can include salvation and the refining that comes after it. If you’ve ever read Hannah Hurnard’s book Hinds feet in High Places, you may have identified with the character ‘Much Afraid.’ We struggle through a lot of fears, but the process of perfect love, the fear is winnowed out of us.

Much Afraid was spiritually transformed by the love of the Shepherd. She turned her lessons and trials into glittering gems. This transformation is a difficult but very rewarding journey. The second gift can be the gain of a new confident humility in what Paul calls being content in all situations (Phil. 4: 11-12). This is a difficult gift to nurture, for it demands a trust in God that puts him at the centre of one’s environment. This is the desert gift that took me years to accept. He has taught me to trust Him in all circumstances, even when He seems silent and I begin to doubt my calling. It’s a lesson that I’ve learned deeper and deeper over the past fifteen years, through difficulties on mission trips, closed doors in careers, cross country moves, and living by faith.

A good analogy for this is illustrated in how a poinsettia grows. Apparently these beautiful flowers require a time of darkness so they can germinate. I believe we also need this barren time for essential spiritual growth in faith, hope and love. We still experience God’s care and provision in the desert, even when He is silent; although we may not yet perceive this with the eyes of our hearts. This time can be likened to being hidden in God, like Col 3:3, where you are hidden in Christ. Yet the Apostle Paul encourages us to “keep our minds set on things above” (Col 3:2) – that perspective gives us deeper grounding.

The third gift can include such identity change as experienced by Abram/Abraham and Jacob/Israel in the Old Testament, and Simon/Peter and Saul/Paul in the New Testament. To the ancients, a name change signified a complete metamorphosis in a person and their role. Abram changed from a childless man to the father of many nations (Gen. 17:5). Jacob changed from a deceiver to Israel, one who wrestles with God (Gen. 35:10). Sanguine Simon became Peter the “Rock,” one of the leaders of the early church. Law-loving Saul of Tarsus became apostle to the Gentiles and used his Roman name Paul (Acts 13:9). My own name Laurie-Ann means “Victory through Grace, Remember.” I was often bullied as a child and had to move neighbourhoods because of the harassment. When I moved, I changed my name by dropping the ‘Ann’ (which means grace). After I did this, I tried to change my identity and became a people-pleasing striver. At that time, my name became Laurie Zachar (victory, remember) Years later as a Christian, I was convicted that I never should have changed my name, and after I received some needed prayer ministry, I changed it back to Laurie-Ann. With the reminder of grace in my name, it shows me that it is His grace that is victorious, not anything that I can do on my own. After all, it is in the desert that I have learned that apart from Him, I can do nothing. (John 15:5) When I add my married name to the mix, it comes out as Victory through Grace. Remember to Persevere. Ah, the difference of perseverance in the identity change!

The fourth gift concerns our calling: whether great miracles or a quiet life of faith that draws others to Jesus. It is a gift that gives us hope; we can know where we are going. It may take time to determine what we are called to specifically – I am in the process of fine-tuning this journey myself. Yet, if you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, you ARE called. We are all part of the wonderful body of Christ, and each of us has a role to play. We are vitally important to each other. Don’t expect just those in leadership to do all the ministry. We all minister to each other.

Are we willing to be changed? Do we want to grow further in God? Then at some time in your journey, the desert is the place for you, as it has been for me. Don’t be afraid, it is a road that many have followed in Christ. Just remember that He will never leave you and does not forget his promises. It is in the desert that we discover just how faithful God really is!

We’ll next explore how we can translate some of God’s faithfulness in our world through Christian social conscience. Perhaps part of our callings are through social justice?

Footnotes
1. Some of these solitary places include: the varied desert of the Sahara, the emptiness of the Arabian “Empty Quarter”, the vast arctic wilderness and the wide oceans that span our planet.
2. Mesopotamia, Negev, Sinai, Egypt
3. The Judean wilderness
4. Elijah’s still small voice and Ezekiel’s visions filled them with the hope that God was in control.
5. Self pity is a downard spriral that Leanne Payne calls ‘descending into the hell of self.’ Another inner healing teacher of mine has called it PLOMS disease, or Poor Little Old Me Syndrome. This effectively stops all growth and is like quicksand that pulls us down.

Laurie-Ann Copple