Posted in focus on faith

What’s the difference between dead and dormant?

My husband and I were in California in the late 1990s and we took a drive down memory lane. The last stop would be an acreage near Modesto where we had lived more than a decade earlier. That property had been covered with fruit trees of every description. Delicious fresh fruit was available to us every day of the year. For people from a northern climate where fruit was scarce and small, this was paradise.

A six-foot high chain-link fence enclosed the entire property but another wooden fence divided the grassy area around the house from the orchard and outbuildings in the back half. Those fences were heavy with grapevines.

The orchard produced everything from figs to kumquats. Pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, apples, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, persimmons – you name it, we had a tree for it. Beside the house was a rose garden that provided a fresh bouquet of vibrant color every week of the year. Wisteria vines covered the veranda, offering their heady fragrance in summer. It was idyllic.

When we returned, more than a decade later, we arrived at the tiny rural settlement where the acreage was located and turned onto the street where we had once lived. But something was different. We didn’t recognize anything. What we recalled was not there. Thinking we were on the wrong street, we idled one block over and tried again. Nope. The house wasn’t there either. Eventually we drove through the entire community and returned to the street where we had begun.

Driving up to the place where our old Eden should have been, we got out of the car, camera in hand. We had planned to take a photograph to show our kids who were too young at the time to remember much of their years there. The property in front of us had no security fence. There was no vine-draped veranda. The rose garden was gone. The outbuildings were gone. There were no citrus trees in front of the house. No orchard out back. No lawn.

In fact, there was neither tree nor grass on the entire property. What remained was a rundown house, badly in need of paint and a new roof. Where the veranda should have been was a sagging front stoop. The shabby house stood in the middle of an acre of dust so fine it was like dingy baby powder. We still could not believe this was the place we had once lived and thought we were mistaken until I saw something.

A little boy was sitting in the dust in front of the house, watching us with vague interest. He was pushing a toy truck back and forth along an imaginary road. His truck had scraped away just enough dirt to reveal a small patch of pavement — what was left of the circular drive in front of the house – hidden under the powdery dust. I felt sick. This was the place all right but it looked like it had been hit with a 10-year drought or a tornado or both.

“Let’s not take a picture,” I said. “I don’t want to remember it this way.” Gerry agreed and we drove away, our day suddenly cloudy and dull. We didn’t talk for a long time as we retraced our passage back through the Silicon Valley and over the mountains towards the Bay area.

We felt wounded. …

When my husband and I were finally able to talk about how such a complete transformation could take place, our best guess was that after we left, the new tenants must have stopped watering. In Modesto, where it does not rain for half the year, grapes, almonds, tomatoes and a bevy of other produce are grown in abundance due to a system of canals that provide the needed moisture. Without irrigation, very little can survive the long summer drought. But the soil is so rich in nutrients that one can grow almost anything – as long as it gets water.

We knew that within the dusty wasteland of our acreage was the potential for great abundance. We knew that the entire place could be restored to its former beauty. God knew the same thing could happen to me in my wilderness by the addition of life giving Water and the tender care of the Gardener’s hands. The potential was all there but for lack of water, it was invisible.

There is a difference between dead and dormant. Take heart, fellow wanderer, what seems like death is only a season of dormancy. (excerpt From Faking it to Finding Grace)

Why is this good news?

Dead means done. Over. Kaput.

Dormant means asleep. In waiting. At rest. Will rise again.

After several years of thinking my faith was dead I felt hopeless. When I began to experience tiny urgings from God, I was surprised to discover that my “dead” faith was coming out of hibernation.

Yes by yes, I came out of dormancy and the fruit began to grow again. Every yes was a decision to trust God and to do what He asked.

 

Posted in focus on faith

What does true love look like?

Tammy called in the middle of the night. She was hysterical. Her husband had abandoned her and the baby. I went over to her house and made tea. She wept as we talked and prayed. Just over her shoulder, on the mantle, was a gilt-framed portrait of the couple on their wedding day. They were astonishingly beautiful – like celebrities. Four years later, Tammy was still gorgeous even though she had gained some weight. When I asked her why her husband had left her, through her tears she repeated some of his last words to her: “You don’t look like you did when I married you.”

The night Tammy told me her husband’s shallow, spiteful comment, my thoughts immediately flew to another couple I know. A couple whose marriage, now more than 25 years old, stands as a beautiful example of undying love.

Kyle and Cheryl started dating in high school. Their first date was when Kyle asked Cheryl to be his grad escort. Four years younger than him, this was Cheryl’s first date. Kyle’s too. She was the only girl he had ever been interested in. She finished high school while Kyle was away at college. One year after she graduated, they celebrated a summer wedding. (Excerpt From Faking it to Finding Grace)

Connie, Caroline and Lisa, three (of seven) sisters, sharing some laughs in March 2007

The story of Kyle and Cheryl is really the story of Kevin and Caroline. Caroline was my little sister.

[Kevin] joined [Caroline’s] father in business in their hometown and they bought a house next door to Caroline’s parents. They took to married life like it was second nature. Caroline worked [at the bank] and kept up with her old friends. Kevin played ball and hockey with the men’s teams. Together they camped and fished, went to movies and ate Chinese food at their favorite café. One year later, in the middle of the night, their future changed forever when Caroline had a grand mal seizure.

The tests began and the diagnosis came in. Caroline had a brain tumor. It was inoperable. The specialist told Kevin that Caroline had between two and five years to live. But he added, “I have one patient with a tumor like Caroline’s. She’s still here. It’s been 20 years.” Kevin grasped that hope like a straw and held it.

The doctors recommended surgery, then radiation and chemotherapy, as much as she could stand. Twice, Caroline’s hair fell out and returned. The first time it came back curly. The second time, it came back wispy and thin. Caroline was taking so many drugs to control her ongoing seizures that Kevin had to keep track of them for her. It was all so confusing and very frightening.

The years began to roll by. Caroline stayed home and Kevin arranged his work schedule so he was home for lunch every day. Caroline always made his lunch – a tuna sandwich – by herself. It took her 30 minutes. After they ate, they played a hand or two of Rummy before Kevin went back to work. He made supper when he got home around five. They ate together, watched their favorite television shows and went to bed early.

And the years passed. Eventually, Kevin stopped playing sports and fishing as it got harder and harder for Caroline to leave the house. He taught her how to use the computer and she spent many happy hours playing Solitaire and other simple games. He built her a tray on which to do puzzles and she did hundreds of them. Kevin did all the shopping, even for his wife’s clothes. Years later it was discovered that Caroline’s cancer was completely gone. However the residual scar tissue in her brain required continued seizure-control drugs. These drugs changed her physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. She became forgetful and repeated herself. She had a hard time understanding plots in movies and books. She seldom cried but sometimes laughed inappropriately. She forgot the names of her nieces and nephews. And everything she did was at a snail’s pace.  

After 23 years, Kevin had to put Caroline in the local nursing home when she fell and broke her hip. It was an excruciating decision. She did not want to go but he could no longer care for her at home. He felt like a traitor but he had no choice. The drugs had swollen her body to twice its normal size and she needed the help of mechanical lifts and professional caregivers. Over the next few months Caroline almost slipped away. Kevin thought he was losing her; he was despondent. She could not speak or move, was fed by tubes, and barely recognized him or her family. Every spare minute he had, Kevin was at her side. Slowly she began to rally as her new home became more familiar.

A year later, she was up and around in a wheelchair, joking with the nurses and teasing the staff. She became the classic “teacher’s pet” of the nursing home. Kevin no longer had to spoon-feed her so they ate all their meals together in the dining hall with the other residents. After they ate, Kevin pushed Caroline back to her room or to the common room if she had visitors. Seldom sitting, Kevin hovered near her chair. He would brush her wispy hair, gently caress her arms and every few minutes, kiss her somewhere on her face. Always laughing at her silly comments – some the result of drug-induced confusion, some truly funny quips – Kevin brought sunshine into her world. Careful always to guard her dignity, he answered her every question, no matter how often repeated or how simplistic, with kind clarity and a smile. Caroline knows she is loved. And she is grateful.

Kevin is one of my heroes. He is the best example I know “with skin on” of God’s undying love. Caroline isn’t the girl he married if you compare photos. But she’s every bit the person he fell in love with on the inside. And he has never once forsaken his promise to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health. As God promised the Children of Israel, and us, the children of the new covenant, through His prophet Jeremiah: I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you (Jeremiah 31:3).

Undying love. It is the kind of love that looks past our outward self and sees our inner beauty. Undying love does not abandon us in our wildernesses. (end excerpt)

Caroline took her last breath almost two years ago, held by Kevin and Chelene (their miracle child, now grown and married with two children of her own). She was loved with an undying love.

True love not only looks different, it sees us differently than we see ourselves. Jesus promises us He will love and cherish us, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, and not just “until death us do part” but beyond the grave. Caroline is being held and caressed in the arms of Jesus now. Kevin did a good job of preparing her.

If you have drifted away from God, lost touch with God, feel abandoned by God, are disappointed in God, or just royally ticked off at God please think about this love story. It is both true (factual) and real (possible) and it is a beautiful picture of God’s true love, His undying love, for you.

Posted in focus on faith

When things happen out of the blue, look up.

After I had prayed the “I will say yes to You God but You’re going to have to come after me because I don’t know where to find You!” prayer, I trudged home and forgot about it.

Meanwhile, without my knowledge, my friend cut a small piece of blue glass into a triangle shape about four inches high and two inches wide at the bottom. She stood the triangle in her east window. When the sun shone through it in the morning and she espied the little patch of blue in her living room, she would pause to pray for me.  

 Months passed. One day, out of the blue, I got a call. A friend of a friend had heard that I might be a good speaker so would I fly to Ontario and speak at their women’s retreat several months hence? I was stunned by the request and my first inclination was to refuse. After all, what could I possibly say that would be worth the expense of my travel? Suddenly I remembered my “deal” with God and with great fear and trepidation said, “Yes.” I hung up the phone and wondered if I had lost my mind!

The event organizer sent me details via email over the ensuing weeks. The first email I received was short and obviously rushed. “I don’t have my Bible or my notes in front of me but I think the scripture is Psalm 56:1.” I turned to that verse: Be merciful to me O God for men hotly pursue me… I grinned at the humor of the obvious misquote. I knew in my heart that she had mixed up the numbers and the scripture was Psalm 51:6: Surely you desire truth in the inner parts. Just a coincidence, I thought. 

The phone rang a few weeks later with another invitation. Would I be the keynote speaker for a national women’s event to be held in four provinces over four months? Let me say again, I had spoken only rarely up to this point – once per year at most. Suddenly two requests one after another arrived — out of the blue. Remembering my promise, I said yes, and again, wondered if I should have my head examined!

The event organizer called me and told me the theme: “Restoring Joy.” The scripture was Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me (Psalm 51:12). This was uncanny, but I had heard of lightning striking twice in the same place so I was still skeptical. Can you believe it?

As the time approached for my talks, I grew desperate and called out God. “We’ve got a deal here,” I railed. “I said yes. I did my part. You’d better come through with a message!” Silence. I read Psalm 51 over and over and over. Hearing no clear direction, I sensed that God probably wanted me to tell the truth about my wilderness. This scared the liver right out of me.

At the first event, I spoke four times. The first three talks I just kept them laughing. Finally on the last day, I tagged on the truth about my wilderness journey. I told them I had been there for several years, that I wasn’t sure how I got there, or how to find the way out. Then I told them that God was pursuing me. He hadn’t abandoned me. There was hope. (Excerpt From Faking it to Finding Grace)

And that was the beginning of my journey out of wilderness and into a new experience of walking with God, a journey of continued learning, change, and surprise.

What can you do if you are in the same dry place? 

  1. Talk to Him and ask Him to come after you. (He already is but you can’t see it until you open yourself to it)
  2. Tell Him you will say yes to whatever you think He might be saying (very scary but He will help you)
  3. When something happens out of the blue, realize it is no coincidence. It is God throwing you a lifeline. Grab it and go forward. (and stay tuned as we continue this blog series about spiritual dryness) 
Posted in focus on faith

When you can’t find God

A pivotal moment in my wilderness experience began with a cup of tea with a friend, a stained-glass artist who wishes to remain anonymous. Little did I know that God was reeling me in.

As much as she loves her art, stained glass is not the passion of this woman’s life. Jesus is. Her primary ministry is intercessory prayer. She informed me years ago that she prayed regularly for me.

In the winter of 2000, she ushered me out of the bitter cold and into her quaint cottage. After a few steaming sips she paused, placed her hands reverently on her Bible and told me something that would eventually change the course of my life.

“I prostrated myself before the Lord this morning,” she began. This was her custom; she never entered her glass studio unless she first humbled herself before God and stayed there until He released her. “And He gave me Psalm 51,” she continued. “But He told me this scripture was not for me (pause, sip, gaze intently) but it was for you, Connie.” She watched to see if I had fully comprehended the enormity of this spiritual transaction.

I nodded and smiled, acting duly impressed even though I was skeptical that anything she had to say could impact my stone-cold heart. After all, I was a wanderer. I wasn’t so sure there was a God any more. She opened her loved-to-death Bible and began to read. She took me through all of Psalm 51, stopping here and there to exhort me with certain words or thoughts. The first passage she parked on hit me right where it hurt: Surely you desire truth in the inner parts (Psalm 51:6a). Boy did I! I hated my hypocrisy but could not seem to change.

 Create in me a pure heart (10a), was the next place that grabbed me. Oh how I longed to be pure. Everything had been so simple in my early days of faith, so black and white. But a lot of water had passed under the bridge; my heart and mind were so twisted that I despaired of ever finding peace. Then she asked me to listen carefully because what she was about to say was her message to me from God. She read: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me (v12). “Isn’t this what you want Connie?” she asked with heartbreaking earnestness. It was exactly what I wanted but was convinced would never again be mine.

She continued: Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you (v13). She stopped, locked onto me with her steely gaze and said, “This is what you are called to do, Connie dear.” She was dead serious. If she hadn’t been I may have burst out laughing. Teach transgressors? I was a transgressor!…

I felt terribly empty and guilty and hopeless (because I had lost touch with God years ago).

After more tea and a lengthy time of prayer, I bundled up and was sent on my way with a warm hug. As I trudged homeward, a faint glimmer of hope, an ember of possibility glowed somewhere deep in my soul. Without knowing I was praying, I mouthed a prayer — it was more like a challenge — to God. “Okay God. If what she says is true and You are calling me to speak up for You, I will do it. But I won’t go looking. If someone calls and asks, then I will say yes.” Unknown to me, I had played right into the hand of a pursuing God! (Excerpt From Faking it to Finding Grace)

If you have lost touch with God, like I did, would you consider praying that same prayer? Basically you are saying: I want to follow You God, but I don’t know where to find You. I give you permission to come after me.

The fact is, He is already pursuing you but you are blind to it because your spirit is closed. Once you open your heart/mind/soul to the possibility of His involvement in your life, you may actually catch a glimpse of His activity.

Posted in focus on faith

What’s the “Fix” for Spiritual Dryness?

button-fix-it“My soul is so withered up I barely recognize it any more!” Comments like this come to me on a regular basis. I hear from people of both genders and all ages who feel frustrated, sad or even desperate because their faith has eroded. Most of them don’t know why or how it happened nor do they know how to rediscover the vibrant faith they once knew.

I understand! I was in a spiritual wilderness for at least 10 years. It was my Big Secret because I was married to a minister (and did not want to negatively impact his calling) and I was in ministry myself as a writer for religious publications. I kept asking God to fix me since I had no idea how to fix myself. 

Let me insult your intelligence by telling you something you probably already know: there is no quick fix.

But there is a fix — or at least some points to consider to guide your steps as you seek answers and direction. (For a more complete study of this topic, check out these books.)

  • If your faith had worked for you, you wouldn’t have lost it. More to the point, if the practice of your faith was mature, growing and sustainable, you would still have it. The problem is that many of us, myself included, have heart issues, old wounds, new fears, hardships (and much worse) that our faith cannot adapt to. Our faith that has worked thus far runs into trouble and begins to erode as we subtly drift away from God.
  • God hasn’t left you even though you might feel abandoned. Because most of us in spiritual dryness drift away slowly, we are blind to what caused it and where it began. As a result, we feel like a victim rather than the pilot of our own faith. Ergo: God must have moved! It surely wasn’t me! We forget (or disbelieve) the myriad times God says: I will never leave you nor forsake you. He didn’t move. You did. If you moved away, you can move back.
  • Admit the truth out loud. Break the conspiracy of silence. Just say it: “I’ve lost my faith” or “My faith no longer works” or “I don’t believe in a personal God any more.” Use your own words to say the naked truth about the current state of your soul. God can take it! You will not shock Him or hurt His feelings. He may be waiting for you to come out of denial before His redemptive work can get some traction. “When our embarrassment level is exceeded by our desperation level we are a candidate for God’s grace” (Peter Lord) Your pastor and others in your church can probably take it too. Choose a few safe people to tell so that your “secret” loses it’s hold on you.
  • Ask Him to come after you. If you aren’t praying any more, this counts as your first prayer. It’s like saying sic ’em to a dog (no disrespect intended). In fact, He is already pursuing you but you are temporarily blinded by your unbelief. What this prayer really means is that you will now be on the lookout for the invisible God. God will begin to remove the scales from your spiritual eyes and the wax from your spiritual ears.
  • Risk saying yes. Spiritual dryness is the result of mistrust and disobedience. In other words, as we drift away from God we lose faith that He is trustworthy and we stop doing what He asks. We say no, not with our lips, but with our lives. But we never stop having a vague sense of spiritual nudging. Say yes to one of those nudges.
  • Get back into (or stay in) “God’s habitat”. When hunters want to bag a moose, they don’t dress up in camo gear and hike into downtown Chicago. They head for the forests and swamps — the places moose hang out! If you are looking for God, spend as much time as possible in His territory. You know what that means but for the sake of absolute clarity here are some suggestions: the Bible, Christian books (fiction and nonfiction), church, bible study groups (real and virtual), prayer groups, music (worship band, choir, solo listening), godly friends (old and new).
  • Never lose hope. Remember there is no quick fix but there is a fix. You did not drift away in a day, you won’t come back in a day. Take it one day at a time and follow God one yes at a time.
Posted in focus on faith

Take the Spiritual Dryness Test

How do I know if my faith has run dry? Honestly answer the questions in bold test-taking-strategieswith a YES or NO — after each question is more explanation so you know exactly what’s being asked:

  • Do you operate from a sense of duty or from a spirit of gratitude? Are you trying to live a good, moral, responsible life because you feel like you should or because you are so thankful that God profoundly changed the direction of your life at some point? Where are you Right Now?
  • Have you lost (or never found) the desire to share the gospel with unbelievers? Is the Good News still good news to you? Do you find yourself looking for ways to spread this good news to others or are you quite happy to keep it to yourself?
  • Do you have to feign enthusiasm when hearing that someone has chosen to follow Christ? How do you feel when you hear that a person you know has become a believer — does it thrill you or trouble you? If it troubles you, do you pretend to be happy since that’s the “proper” religious response?
  • Are you driven by material pursuits while paying lip service to God? Where do you find your joy and your enjoyment — in the new colours you’ve chosen for your home or wardrobe or in your personal interactions with the Lord?
  • Do you go to church to “get it over with” or to encounter God? If you could do whatever you wanted to do on Sunday morning without it affecting your family or reputation or commitments, would you go to church or is there somewhere else you’d rather be? (note: every Canadian would choose the beach in Hawaii in mid-January so think of the big picture here!) In other words, are you putting in time like punching your time card at the factory — been there, prayed that — or do you attend church with a holy expectation of hearing from the living God?
  • Are you apathetic about matters of faith and spirituality, eager to change the topic when discussion arises? What do you like to talk about with your friends? I don’t mean that you have no interest in family or food or fun but if the conversation veers into spiritual matters are you pleased and ready to engage or do you silently hope the topic will be changed soon?
  • Do you pray other than to “bless the food and the hands that made it”? Has your prayer life been reduced to public display — you only pray when others are looking?
  • Is your Bible more than a Sunday accessory? Do you pick it up during the week or is it exactly where you put it when you got home from church last week?
  • Do you ever feel like a hypocrite? Like you are leading a double life? Do you have an uneasy feeling you are pretending to be something your’e not? Are you worried that your behaviour might blow your cover and reveal the emptiness inside?

How did you do? There were nine questions, what’s your ratio of yes’s to no’s?  If your number of yeses alarmed you, you’re not alone. About 80% of believers experience spiritual dryness at some point in their journey of faith.

So what do you do if you find yourself with a little spiritual sand in your shoes? Stay tuned. The next post will give you some solid tips to get you moving “God-ward” again.

Posted in focus on faith

Majestic and Wild

Majestic and WildWhen you love stories and nature like I do a subtitle like TRUE STORIES OF FAITH AND ADVENTURE IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS is almost irresistible. I have read several of Murray Pura’s books, mostly fiction, and have been carried away by his storytelling mastery. So when I got my hands on this book, a non-fiction, I was eager to read it because this was the author’s real life, not his imaginings. Like most avid readers I am always a bit curious about an author’s real life.

Each chapter stands alone and has an un-preachy devotional feel. I could see the sunsets, hear the elk’s call, feel the cold shock of river water and smell the campfires in Pura’s backcountry adventures. I fell in love with his loyal dogs and I don’t even like dogs! I read this book slowly, over several weeks; savouring it like fine chocolate that I will squirrel away and nibble on over several months.

While the chapter that blew the cover on Pura’s wife Linda’s nocturnal imaginings was amusing, without a doubt, my favorite chapter was the second to last where he describes encountering a bear in Waterton National Park. My husband Gerry and I have holidayed in that very place for more than a dozen years. I have been on the hike he described and several others and his description of the breathtaking beauty there is entirely accurate.

But it was Pura’s final anecdote in the final chapter that touched my soul. Because I was once in spiritual wilderness for a long time, his description of walking into the real wilderness to heal his hurting soul was particularly poignant:

Once, I went into the wild a dead man. Death had broken my heart and I grieved. I had nothing left for wife or family or the church where I pastored. I sat among the trees and read the Bible and gave God my pain and anger and hopelessness. One by one the stars came out. At dawn, the sun rose clear of the mountains and hills. The birds moved swiftly from branch to branch. Whitetail drank at the green river. I walked with the dogs to a marshland and jumped when a bull moose with a full rack roared and splashed through the water away from us. The sun set in red and purple, the moon came back with the stars, fire warmed my face and hands, stew bubbled in a cast-iron pot. I slept in a dark as thick as a wool blanket. In the morning a breeze stirred the ashes of my fire pit and a flame shot up.

God’s words in God’s pages made more sense to me in God’s wild. After a few days I was a new man. God was as close to me as the sweet air I took into my lungs. In fact, he had never left my heart. Or left me without strength. It was just that I knew that better now. And lived again. (pp 234, 235)

If you feel like the walking dead, like God is no nearer than the Milky Way, I encourage you to step outside and take a look at the night sky — get out on your balcony or walk to a nearby park on a starry night. Just drink in the majesty of God’s handiwork. He has never left you. Let the breeze on your face be the feel of His gentle touch, let the sound of wind in the trees be His whisper as He says, “I’m right here. Call out to Me in your time of trouble and I will heal your soul.” When you step back inside, pick up His Word and read Psalm 139 as if you had written it yourself. Let the truth of His Word comfort you and give you hope.

 

Posted in focus on faith

Help for your Spiritual Wilderness

Mavis Peters showed up at a weekend retreat where I was speaking last year. We soon realized may have met decades ago but we can’t remember it. However, we both know many of the same people. We embarked on a faraway friendship — the only kind I seem to be able to sustain!

Mavis let me know she was in a season of spiritual dryness. My own prolonged wilderness experience and subsequent reconnection with living faith has been an encouragement to her. And our ongoing dialogue has been a boost to me.

Mavis offers the following book review as a help to others who also struggle with spiritual dryness:

51wmEIqGiML._AA160_

This 74 page booklet begins by quoting Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”  Daniel Kolenda then comments, “Adversity does not have to become our destination.  It can be a pathway to something greater.” (p5)

This positive, forward-facing attitude permeates “Surviving Your Wilderness”.  Showing a striking parallel, Kolenda takes the six recommendations for surviving a physical wilderness and applies them with clarity, insight and succinct examples, to surviving a spiritual wilderness.  The overall structure is simple and easy to follow; each chapter contains helpful tools.

Tip #1 – Don’t Panic:

Lies from the enemy bring fear.  We need to hold on to our beliefs that God is real and He is good.  Remembering who we are, as His children, we can resolve to keep our heart steadfast, and not give into the tendency to give up.

Tip #2 – Assess Your Situation:

Taking stock of your resources, and understanding your surroundings, are essential physically and spiritually. “The resources for spiritual life are always precious, but in the wilderness we must rediscover them and cling to them like never before.” (p 13)  Our greatest resource is the Word of God; it can give new perspective.  The fellowship of the saints is another, for “once isolated in a spiritual desert, we become especially vulnerable to discouragement and deception.” (p 17)  The comfort of the Holy Spirit is discussed by Kolenda through the story of Joseph, who experiences our wildnerness from within us, present with us through it all.

Personally, the second half of this chapter was extremely helpful.  Kolenda describes what kind of wilderness we are in, and describes two: 1) The Wilderness of Opposition comes to us as a result of sin.  The mercy of Christ and His forgiveness are proclaimed clearly; the need for repentance as turning not just from  sin but to Christ is powerful and well articulated!  2) The Wilderness of Promotion – We are each called to become “like Jesus”, and the wilderness can be the necessary training grounds, preparatory for the calling on our lives.  “You can’t get such results quickly.  You can’t get them cheaply….Before promotion there must be process; before resurrection there must be death.” (p32)

Tip #3 – Find Shelter

“…the way a child of God finds or builds a shelter is by seeking God all the more diligently as a haven..”(p38)  “The wilderness is not the place of God’s absence.  It is the place where He establishes His presence in a fresh way.” (p 39)  We can experience Him in this way, but we must rouse ourselves to seek Him.

Tip #4 – Build a Fire

In Israel’s 40 year wilderness, they did not start their own fire – God did.  Teaching them how to worship Him, He established sacrifice as the centre – fire, sacrifice.  It is our job to maintain that fire, to “stoke the flames by worshipping Him during hard times.” (p47)  God set the Israelites on fire before they reached the promised land – they emerged from the wilderness already ablaze.  “God brings us into the wilderness to set us on fire.  Then He can bring people into their destiny who have learned to worship – truly worship – Him with loyal, fervent hearts.” (p 47)

Tip #5 – Drink water

“Survival experts warn us not to wait till we feel thirsty, but to drink as much as possible.  Likewise, it si critical that those in a spiritual wilderness constantly be filled with God’s Spirit.” (p 51)  Praying in the Spirit is how we can keep ourselves hydrated.  “We pray ini the Spirit when we connect with His presence, partner with His leading, and permit Him to empower our prayers.” (p 53) Note: some may not agree with Kolenda’s brief reference also to praying in tongues, but much is offered in this chapter re prayer.

Tip #6 – Find Nourishment

It will be no surprise to the reader, that the “nourishment” we find, as Christians, is  the Word of God.  Kolenda suggests two ways to live by the Word: feasting on it, and obeying it.  The latter closes out this booklet with a powerful challenge to those in the wilderness, to “…continue to believe (God’s) promises even if they seem contradicted, for the moment.” (p 66).”The reason God took us down the route of hard places is to see if we would still believe His Word while there.  That’s when it counts….Those who are proven to be people of ‘spirit’ may not enjoy everything about the wilderness, but they are willing to embrace it.” (p 69)

The underlying tone of encouragement is maintained throughout this very readable booklet.  We have been provided with all the tools necessary for survival.  Personally, I benefited most from the realization that God has a GOOD PLAN for me, coming out the other side of my wilderness; that my being there is actually PART of His good plan.  To sense a purpose in this period of my life gives me strength to fight through it. “So take courage.  Keep moving forward.  The pain of the wilderness may be great, but greater still is its significance for your life.  The Promised Land awaits you…” (p 7)