Tag Archives: waiting for God

Growing in God: Learning how God guides us part 4

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 and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last three articles, we began to learn how we can seek guidance, and some of the ways that God guides us.  The list isn’t exhaustive, but Nicky Gumbel compiles main groups of the ways under the term CSs.  These include Commanding scripture (like when scriptures come alive to us personally), and Compelling Spirit (which includes some of the many ways the Holy Spirit can speak more directly).  We were caught up in more of the supernatural ways under compelling spirit.  We can hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a whisper.  We can be given impressions, full movie-like visions, dreams, and inner knowings, which is similar to intuition.  We can be helped and strengthened by angels, and some people have even had experiences of the audible voice of God.  Some of these people include Jesus, the prophet Samuel and Heidi Baker, upon her conversion when she was 16.  Heidi shared in the Compelled by Love movie that the voice told her that she “was called to be a minister and a missionary, and she was to go to Africa, Asia and England.”

The other three CSs that Nicky Gumbel mentions in the Alpha Course are common sense, counsel of the saints (or wise, praying Christians) and circumstantial signs.  Last time we journeyed through the next two – common sense and counsel of the saints.  These two keep our feet grounded in relationships and thinking things out.  Life experience is important when considering your life’s direction.  It’s important to be naturally supernatural – remembering that we are more than a thinking mind, but also not to ignore the supernatural.  After all, God IS supernatural. We are encouraged to use our minds, although with divine inspired ideas. The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 to learn and grow. He told him to “think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.”

Just five months ago, I struggled about whether to help my parents during my mother’s illness. She was in the hospital for over a month, just as my father had been three years before that.  At that time, I left behind my volunteer work in Ottawa, to help my mother care for my dad, but also to help her, because she is frail. She still is, since normally my dad is her caregiver, despite his own health.  I reasoned out whether I should go by considering my options.  Leaving South Africa is a lot more expensive than leaving Ottawa for Toronto.  This was a big factor.  So was leaving Tony behind in the pre-Christmas season, right before school exams, where we are two of the teachers.  I also had remembered a dream that I had where I was promised that God would basically take care of my parents while we were on our mission.  So between the reasons of finances, mission work, our school and the dream, I had to trust God.  And it turned out well in the end.  Strangely enough, I got quite sick myself here in South Africa, but that’s a different matter. What kept me in South Africa, apart from the dream I had been given, came down to two things: common sense and trust in God.

The next CS is Counsel of the saints, where we seek wise mature Christians for prayerful advice.  These people could be mentors, pastors, other family members and people you are drawn to for their godly wisdom.  Proverbs 12 verse 15 reminds us that “A wise man listens to advice.”  However, Nicky Gumbel shares that while seeking advice is very important, we need to remember that ultimately, our decisions are between us and God. They are our responsibility. We cannot shift that responsibility onto others or seek to blame them if things go wrong.”  The counsel of the saints is part of guidance; but it is not the only part. Sometimes it may be right to go ahead in spite of the advice of others, particularly if there is other guidance that leads that way.

Now to the fifth CS of God’s guidance, which is Circumstantial signs.  Some people in church history have made it their ‘mantra’ to seek signs, particularly if they don’t know the other ways that God can guide us.  Signs can be surprise answers to prayer, and other times, they can seem like perfectly ordinary situations that are what you need right now.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a door opening with favour in a job search, and other times, more supernatural, like a manifestation of favour.  Some people are skeptical of obviously supernatural things like the occurrence of gold or crystal dust appearing on people during meetings, as well as gemstones and feathers.  These are signs of God’s glory, giving us a little peak into the wonderful aspects of what heaven is – creative, colourful, and beautiful.

However, signs also can be simply directional.  They point us towards the way we should go, like a signpost on the highway.   If you are driving on the N1 in the Karoo, you need to know where the next town will be.  You may need to stop for petrol and something to eat.  You are looking for a signpost, and direction on where to find what you need, without getting lost.  We need a map, a signpost, and assurance that we’re going in the right direction.  It is the same with our lives.  We plan our route, but sometimes there are a few detours.

God is in ultimate control of events. The writer of Proverbs points out in Proverbs 16:9: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Sometimes God opens doors, as the Apostle Paul mentions a door of opportunity 1 Corinthians 16:9. He says, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”  So opposition isn’t a no to a great opportunity, it’s just a challenge.  Sometimes God closes doors.  In Acts 16:7, Luke shares: Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.”

Nicky Gumbel shares in Alpha about two occasions where God firmly closed the door on something he really wanted, and he also believed at those times that it was God’s will for the doors to be open.  He said, “I tried to force the doors open. I prayed and I struggled and I fought, but they would not open.  On both occasions I was bitterly disappointed. But I understand now, years later, why God closed those doors.  Indeed, I am grateful that he did. However, I am not sure we will ever know this side of heaven why God has closed certain doors in our lives.”

I distinctly remember a door closing to me before I came to faith in Jesus Christ.  I was a semi-professional artist and was keen to work in set design and props for theatre, film and television.  After all, I was from Toronto.  Toronto was known as Hollywood North, although that term has expanded to include Vancouver as well.  Even though I had contacts, those doors slammed tighter than ever.  If my art career didn’t come to a struggle, I might not have begun seeking God as I did.

Then later, after my third attempt to start a career ended; this time in radio broadcasting, I was stuck in a hallway with closed doors. I had been told in radio school that you normally get three opportunities as a professional in that industry.  Many people struggle with the first job, which is usually in promotions, or in the studio as a board operator.  I was a board operator.  I wasn’t the best, but I was consistent and loyal, at least until the time that I had to be away while driving my then-housemate to Alberta for a new radio job.  While I was in Alberta, I visited radio stations and creative directors to gain contacts for future jobs.  After I returned, I was let go, because one of my bosses really needed me one weekend.  It didn’t matter that this was an act of kindness to another radio person, and helping another radio station in the same company.  I was devastated.  However, I found a full-time job doing what I trained for – in creative writing, audio production and scheduling of ads.  I moved across the country for this opportunity, and carried as much as I could hold in my little car.  I found a beautiful walk-in basement apartment in Nelson, British Columbia, and commuted to Castlegar, where the creative office was.

My enthusiasm and talent carried me a long way, as well as good nutrition and vitamins.  However, after a time I burned out, simply because I stayed in the station for hours and hours at a time.  The job was more than one person could handle. Although I did have help at times from a creative pool, it really was too much for one person, especially someone who was new. So after four months, I was let go.  By this time I had given up so much to be there in BC, including a bariatric by-pass surgery, since I was now in a different province.  My flat rental lease also meant that I had to stay for nearly two more months.  Then I got some beautiful referrals from a creative director I met earlier that year in Red Deer, Alberta.  He referred me to the creative director in Lloydminster, Alberta, and I applied for a vacant position as a writer.  Two months previously he referred me to another creative director in Medicine Hat in southern Alberta, but I had told this man that I didn’t think it would be fair for me to leave my new job yet.  He accepted that explanation and told me he would ask me again at another time.

Since I had glowing references and some experience, I thought I might have a chance in a job writing ads.  This job didn’t require me to schedule ads or produce; it was one position rather than three.  I could have done this – and he seemed excited about my references. This director must have dug deeply in my past jobs, because he wasn’t happy that I was let go twice within the industry.  Unfortunately, he didn’t give me that third chance that I was hoping for, and I had to move back across the country to rejoin Tony.    Upon my return, there was a job opening as an administrator in the community radio station that I had been a part of since 2001, as a volunteer radio host and audio producer.  I thought I would have a chance at that, due to my years there, over fifteen years in admin, and two years of radio school.  I was on the short list, but I didn’t come in first.  The girl who got the job apparently had more than fifteen years admin experience, although no radio school.  So the door again closed.

I spent some time in prayer and sought wise counsel from a prophetic lady, who is now part of a pastoral team at the Ottawa Vineyard.  I told her that I was still seeking radio work in some way, although I knew I would eventually return to consider full-time ministry.  She prayed and told me, “All I see are closed doors.  It’s useless continuing in this hallway – you need to seek a different direction.  Sure enough, I had further confirmation about that. Three months later, the Medicine Hat employer emailed me again and asked if I would consider working for him.  I did consider, although I had to be honest and tell him that it didn’t work out in BC.  Unfortunately, he never replied to my email, so I expected that door was indeed shut, as my pastoral friend told me.

Sometimes God opens doors in a remarkable way!  The circumstances and the timing point clearly to the hand of God (for example, Genesis 24, where Isaac’s servant was given specific directions to find his master the perfect wife for him).  He brought home Rebecca, who was smart, loving and willing to go).   Nicky Gumbel shares a special story of open doors in an unusual way.

“Michael Bourdeaux is the head of Keston College. (This is) a research unit devoted to helping believers in what were communist lands.  His work and research are respected by governments all over the world. He studied Russian at Oxford. His Russian teacher, Dr. Zernov, sent him a letter that he had received because he thought it would interest him. (This letter showed) how monks were beaten up by the KGB and subjected to inhuman medical examinations. (It showed)  how they were being rounded up in trucks and dumped many hundreds of miles away.  This letter was written very simply, with no adornment. As he read it, Michael Bourdeaux felt he was hearing the true voice of the persecuted church. The letter was signed, “Varavva and Pronina.”

In August 1964, Michael went on a trip to Moscow. On his first evening there, he met up with old friends who shared how the persecutions were getting worse.  In particular, the old church of St Peter and St Paul had been demolished. They suggested that he go and see it for himself.

So Michael took a taxi and arrived to the location at dusk.  He came to the square where he had remembered once housed a very beautiful church. He found nothing except a twelve-foot fence, which hid the rubble where the church had been. Over on the other side of the square, were two women, who were climbing over the fence to try to see what was inside.

He watched them, and when they finally left the square, he followed them for a hundred yards, and eventually caught up with them. They asked, “Who are you?”  He told them, “I am a foreigner. I have come to find out what is happening here in the Soviet Union.”  They took him back to the house of another woman who also asked him why he had come. He said he had received a letter from the Ukraine, via Paris. When she asked who it was from, he replied, “Varavva and Pronina.”  There was silence.  He wondered if he had said something wrong.  A flood of uncontrolled sobbing followed.  The woman pointed and said, “This is Varavva and this is Pronina.”

The population of Russia was over one hundred forty million.  The Ukraine, from where the letter was written, is over eight hundred miles from Moscow.  Michael Bourdeaux had flown from England six months after the letter had been written. He and the women would not have met had either party arrived at the demolished church an hour earlier or an hour later.  That was one of the ways God called him to set up his life’s work.” If you want to learn more about Michael Bourdeaux’s story, read his book “Risen Indeed.”

Sometimes we hear God correctly, but we get the timing wrong.  Don’t be in a hurry when you are seeking direction. Sometimes, God’s guidance seems to come immediately when it is asked for.  Yet often, it takes much longer – sometimes months or even years. One example of this time lapse concerns a calling I had, to go to Sierra Leone.  I was encouraged by a career missionary named Gladys, who prayed for me a year after I returned from my first mission trip in Kenya.  Gladys shared prophetically that I was to return to Africa, and I thought she meant Kenya.  But no, she meant West Africa. She asked me if I had ever heard of Sierra Leone.  This was in 1994, and I prayed into the opportunity and found that there were no current opportunities.  A few years later, Sierra Leone descended into an awful civil war.  So I put that prophetic promise on the shelf.  Later, I discovered that Tony’s spiritual mother was from Sierra Leone, I thought that was interesting, but didn’t figure that would be a future clue.

Then 11 years later, Tony tells me that he was very blessed by his first mission trip in western Kenya.  He had no idea that it would be so fulfilling to help plant the Alpha Course in Migori, Kenya.  He told me, “hey, let’s do this again. We can do this again somewhere.”  It was then that I had a word impression from the Holy Spirit.  His still, small voice told me, “Sierra Leone.”  Sure enough, in 2009, Canadian Alpha people were offered different international opportunities, and Sierra Leone was one of them.  We were to give two Alpha course conferences in the east and west ends of Freetown – the same city where Tony’s spiritual mom, Emma, lived.   A huge door opened up for us – despite circumstances that threatened to cancel our journey.  This was the Iceland volcano eruption that cancelled all flight traffic across the Atlantic for well over a week.  We eventually arrived, but that is a whole other story, where we made it despite adverse circumstances.

So, we may have a sense that God is going to do something in our lives, but have to wait a long time for the fulfillment, as it did for me going to Sierra Leone.  It took sixteen years! On these occasions, we need patience like that of Abraham. The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 6:15, that Abraham, “after waiting patiently … received what was promised.”  While he waited, he was tempted at one point to try and fulfill God’s promises by his own means – with disastrous results.  Just read Genesis chapters 16 and 21 and see what I mean.  Ishmael represents doing something in the wrong time and in our own strength.  Ishmael was not the planned promise.

Sometimes we hear God correctly, but we understand the timing completely wrongly.  The Holy Spirit spoke to Joseph in a dream about what would happen to him and his family in the future.  He probably expected immediate fulfillment, but he had to wait years. Instead of being promoted, he was sold into slavery, was dishonoured by his employer’s wife, and he then ended up in prison.

Indeed, while he was in prison, it must have been hard for him to believe that his dreams would ever be fulfilled. It took thirteen years after the original dream, to see God’s fulfillment. The waiting was part of the preparation. If you’re not familiar with Joseph’s story, read Genesis chapters 37 to 50.

In this area of guidance, we all make mistakes.  Waiting is HARD.  Bethel Music has a song about taking courage, where they sing “Take Courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting.  Hold on to your hope as your triumph unfolds, He’s never failing.”  This song has given comfort to many a person trying to figure out how God will fulfill his promises.   They may believe him but are confused as to HOW and WHEN this will happen.  There is a reason why we are reminded in Proverbs 3:5-6 to  “trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”  Sometimes, like Abraham, we try to fulfill God’s plans by our own wrong methods.  Or like Joseph, we get the timing wrong. Sometimes we feel that we have made too much of a mess of our lives, by the time we come to Christ, for God to do anything with us. But God is greater than that.

Joel 2:25 reminds us that God is able to “restore to you the years which the swarming locusts have eaten.  He is able to make something good out of whatever is left of our lives – whether it is a short time or a long time, if we will offer what we have to him and then cooperate with his Spirit.  It’s this same verse that gives me comfort for lost time due to my recent illness with boils, which is still ongoing. It curtails my work here in Worcester, but not completely.  God is using the circumstances to show fruit in the lives of the teens we disciple. I’m trusting that God will help us work out the details of what must be done while he’s still healing me.  Thankfully what I am able to do, is still a blessing to those we are serving.

Here’s another example from Nicky Gumbel.  Lord Radstock stayed in a hotel in Norway in the mid-nineteenth century. When he was there, he heard a little girl playing the piano down in the hallway.  She was making a terrible noise: “Plink, plunk, plink, plonk”  It was driving him mad!  Then, a man came and sat beside her at the piano bench. He began playing alongside her, and filled in the gaps.  The result was the most beautiful music!  He later discovered that the man playing alongside was the girl’s father, Alexander Borodin, the composer of the opera Prince Igor.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:28 that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” As we falteringly play our part, seeking his will for our lives: the Holy Spirit comes alongside us, and helps re-story our lives in the most beautiful way.   While I waited for the Iris Harvest Missions school to accept my first application, I was shown an impression that Jesus was weaving together my three dead careers: art, ministry and radio, into something beautiful.  He was taking these skills, talents as well as other abilities, and weaving them together into something unique.  It was this weaving that helped create my ministry here in South Africa – and he’s not finished the weaving.  He’s creating more and more in me, and in Tony too.  It’s all been a learning curve.

So likewise, when you are seeking guidance from God, you begin to open yourself to the ways that you can be led.  There are many, but the main ones include reading (commanding scripture), listening (compelling spirit), thinking (common sense), talking (counsel of the saints), and finally watching (circumstantial signs and waiting).  While we open our hearts, and explore these ways, God comes and sits alongside us.  Just like the composer came alongside his daughter, he works all things for our good.  He takes our plink, plonk, plink, plonk, and makes something beautiful our of our lives.

So it’s a matter of trusting him and being open to the many ways he guides us. Be still in your heart before him, for he does hear our prayers.

Lord, I ask that you will bless those who are seeking you.  Direct them in the way they should go.  Open the right doors.  Give them dreams, impressions and let them hear your still, small voice guiding them. Let them find encouragers who can give them wise advice, and figure out what they must do through good common sense. Give them confidence, hope and a spring in their step as they sense you walking with them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you missed the first three parts of this message, we have it available as podcasts on our Copples Western Cape website.   You can also take the Alpha Course.  Much of my series on God’s guidance is influenced by the talk on “How does God guide us?  This is my favourite talk on the entire course, no matter which version I’ve viewed.  If you are seeking and need to learn more about the Christian faith, please do attend an Alpha Course. You won’t be sorry.

As for our podcasts, you can visit audio versions of this talk (and many others) at the WTGIG podcast page on Coppleswesterncape.ca.  Scroll down to podcasts 44, 45, 46 and 47.  It’s free, although we gratefully receive any free-will donations through the Iris Ministries Canada Canada Helps portal.  We are missionaries who live entirely by faith, with the exception of my husband’s pension.  God does supply our needs through surprising ways.

I hope that you’ve been blessed by this message and other articles as well.  Please do share with me if this has impacted you.

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann

 

 

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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