I wept today. Hard. I wept after experiencing the manifestation of God’s goodness during a season of pressing. In this instance of goodness, God reached down from heaven and placed an unwrapped gift before me to open. As soon as I opened this unexpected gift, I could not refuse what was overtaking my heart, and I could not stop my tears. It wasn’t silver; it wasn’t gold. It was God’s response to my prayers, praise, service, and sacrifice to Him! God heard my faintest cry, and He answered! He came to see about me in the midst of my pressing, and He encouraged my heart. He continues to prove Himself over and over again! That’s why I love Him. That’s why I trust Him to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I can ask or think. There’s nobody like God! I invite you to commit your life to Him today.
There’s a beautiful overlook in the Oakland Hills where we take visiting family and friends for a breathtaking view of Oakland, the Bay and in the far-off distance, San Francisco. On every trip to the overlook we would guide our guests along a short trail lined with flowered weeds to a designated spot furnished with a dilapidated wooden bench. Everyone would gaze at the amazement of such a beautiful view. Wow!
On one specific occasion, our trip to the overlook rendered a different experience. My aunt and cousin were in town and my youngest had a friend visiting from the east coast. All of us, including my oldest daughter, went to the overlook. We took them along the trail and relived the usual “amazing” moment. But that day my cousin presented an option to travel a faint path just along the edge of our amazing view. Before we could talk ourselves out of the unusual suggestion, my cousin was already leading the way. She simply hollered for us to “come on”. A little fearful, we all took each other’s hand and led each other through the sticky brush. Some of us squealed. Some of us hollered. Some of us were silent. But we stayed the course, anxious to get to the end. Along the way we happened upon a serene clearing that fancied a huge tree with hanging strong branches. We stayed a while there, the younger ones playing from the branches, enjoying the hovered area and the cool breeze. In no time my cousin was back on her feet leading us further along the trail, determined there was an even greater experience ahead. We followed suit, hand in hand, one behind the other. Then it happened.
There was another clearing. However, this one was much bigger than the last. There were no hovering trees or branches. Just an open clearing where the sun had its stage to shine freely. And then we saw it. The view left us speechless. The “amazing” view we thought we experienced along our usual path was magnified ten times over with what we were experiencing in that moment. Wow!
The impact of leadership is realized in these two experiences. The leader who takes his/her followers down clear paths of opportunity will yield expected outcomes, leaving usual impressions, right along the edge of promise. The leader who takes his/her followers down hidden paths will inspire faith and courage, yielding joy and peace, leaving an impact of purpose and an assurance of being in the right place at the right time. The glory of God shines the brightest on the unusual leading of God, on the uncomfortable journeys that lead to an anticipated destination of indescribable beauty – indescribable grace. Wow!
I met a stranger a few days ago who shared something powerful with me. In our brief interaction she said she was having a challenging day. In that moment she was pressing her way through her work shift while also pressing her way through the realities of taking chemotherapy every day. The more I listened intently, the more she shared. She explained she was living with a rare blood disease that required a daily chemotherapy pill for her survival. My jaw dropped, and my forehead wrinkled. This woman didn’t look ill, nor did she struggle to move around. However, she did look a little worn, no doubt tattered by the issues life. Still she mustered up a big smile on her face and fashioned a smile in her eyes. She looked determined, wearing her work uniform with pride and what seemed to be a shield of perseverance across her chest. This woman was a walking sermon. A walking testimony that edified me in that very moment.
Yes, I’ve experienced life and death situations in my personal journey. Situations where God’s mighty hand saved me. Yet, somehow, I was finding it difficult to allow those experiences to minister to me in my current realities; realities that include aging parents with health challenges, finishing my doctoral studies and wearing multiple hats in carrying out the responsibilities of wife and mother. Meeting this stranger reminded me of the gift of life. No matter our predicaments or setbacks, God gifts to us seconds, minutes and hours in days we’ve never seen before. God gifts to us a world to walk freely in, humbly living our testimonies in the midst of people who need to be edified, who need to be resuscitated and encouraged. Sermons are not always preached from a pulpit. They are effectively lived. What sermon is your life preaching? Whose life have you edified without bringing attention to yourself? Someone is waiting for you to walk their way.
There are mysteries in this life that leave me often times perplexed. How the newly healed return to ill-mannered behavior. How the professed ‘delivered’ resort to trouble-making. How the resurrected reject a new life to hold on to the former. Yes, it’s all quite puzzling. It appears the second chance God awards in our cries of need are quickly discarded as trash at the first trick of the eye, the onset of a compelling lofty thought or the sleek sly whisper in the ear. And still, our loving God continues to give. He gives us another chance. And another chance.
Are we content with leaving such an ungrateful impression with God? Or is our response to God’s gracious acts, “We deserve them”? Our bold disrespectful behaviors reveal such suggestions. I can hear the ancestors moan in disgust. Was their living in vain? Is our living in vain? Our testimonies are not to be episodic tales we share. Our testimonies must motivate us to live a transformed life, which in turn encourages others to live transformed. For the Lord is good. He deserves our respect. He deserves our best.
We are living in the days of spiritual warfare where retreat is not an option and action is necessary. We are living in the days where it is necessary for us to hop down from the pedestals of posturing and celebrity-minded living. Not heeding this necessity makes the guilty parties look foolish, like little girls and boys in adult bodies playing dress up and make believe. There’s no time for this kind of mockery in days where the struggle of life and death is the reality pressing against every generation – from the youngest to the oldest. There is no time for fruitless, deceptive, mindless behavior!
Instead, we, the redeemed, the transformed, the ‘yet holding on’, must show up; we must patch up our wounds and brush ourselves off from the disappointments and uncertainties of life; we must untangle ourselves from our fetal positions of despair; we must dry our weeping eyes; and we must join the fight pressing against us with the full armor of God, standing firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet wrapped in peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.
We must commit to this fight because God is declaring Now is the Time! Now is the time to use what God has already poured into us. Now is the time to use our position of favor to help turn our communities around, our world around – from utter death and destruction. For such a time as this!