Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Following the Wind

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Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved windmills. My heart would soar at the sight of a scene from Holland with a charming windmill surrounded by tulips. Today I am still delighted by windmills, including the looming white giants that dot hillsides and other landscapes where wind is present. Regardless of the type, when I’m around windmills I have feelings of awe, wonder, and peace.

Windmills come in many shapes and sizes, but the purpose is the same: To be moved by the wind to generate power in order to accomplish a task. The task may be to produce electricity, saw wood, pump water, or, as in the case of my beloved Dutch windmills, grind grain. The common factor, though, is wind.

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I want to be a windmill. I want my life to be powered and moved by the wind. Before you raise an eyebrow at my statement, it’s important to know that wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

At the time of creation, the Holy Spirit hovered like wind over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came as “a rushing, mighty wind,” breathing life into the Church (Acts 2:2). In an earlier scene, Nicodemus asked Jesus what He meant by being born again, and Jesus explained.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

There are two important characteristics of wind—direction and speed. The windmill is affected by both. The windmill sets neither the direction or speed of the wind, but rather is responsive to it.

My heart longs to be responsive to the wind of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is life-giving and produces spiritual growth. He seals our relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. He can be grieved by wrong choices. He is unstoppable and dynamic like a hurricane, yet gentle and refreshing like a cool summer’s breeze.

I want to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead for my life. May I never set my own course and make decisions based on my human intellect alone. I want also to follow His timing. May I never rush ahead because of eagerness or impatience. And ultimately what tasks will be accomplished? To glorify the Lord on this earth and to do His will.

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Galatians 5:25, NLT).

Following in every part of our lives is a lofty but wonderful pursuit. We thrive as we allow ourselves to be carried along by the Holy Spirit. It certainly isn’t easy or natural. It takes mindfulness to say “yes” to the Lord and reject the tendency of our human nature. We must evaluate ourselves often by asking, “Am I surrendered to the flow of the Spirit or am I fighting against Him?”

I want to be a windmill yielded fully to the Wind. What about you?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide my life. Help me remember that He dwells in me and empowers me to live for You. Let me be aware of the Spirit’s presence. May I have a willing heart to follow His direction and timing for my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Faith

Put Away the Cookie Cutters

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My husband and I own a home-based pie business. This may surprise you—my husband is the one who makes the pies. I help where I can, but he is the one with the expertise for pie crusts and creating artisan pies. My primary job is to make the cut outs for the top. It’s fun to roll out dough and use cookies cutters to make decorative shapes. Throughout the month of February, I cut out dozens and dozens of hearts. Each heart was the same shape and size, and made a lovely pie crust. We have a pi symbol for National Pi Day. We have a cross for Easter. Cookie cutters are handy for baking, but not for our lives.

When I was a young woman in ministry, I assumed my journey would look like the journeys of my mentors and others I respected. I thought that successful ministry meant to lead a growing, thriving church or evangelistic organization. Humble beginnings were fine but only if it developed into something bigger and more notable. I myself was on the track to God-honoring success. At the age of 18, I was a featured soloist for Christian community events and led worship with a trio for evangelistic meetings with attendance of over 2,000 people. I believed that, as I followed Jesus in obedience, ministry would only increase. That’s what my cookie cutter for ministry looked like.

How shocking that God’s path went a completely different direction. By the time I was 24, I had four small children and was hidden away as a youth pastor’s wife in a tiny logging community. When I prayed about ministry opportunities that were offered to me, I sensed over and over again that I needed to decline. I would politely say “no” while arguing furiously with the Lord. This clearly did not fit my mold.

Eventually the doors were open for music ministry again. I loved leading worship for services and conferences. I wrote songs and recorded two CDs. Music was my passion and I thought it would be a part of my life forever. Then, four years ago I started to feel the stirrings of a new direction. It led away from music and church ministry altogether.

Today, I love serving Jesus as the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, a speaker and a writer. But it isn’t what I ever imagined myself doing. No cookie cutters for successful, vibrant ministry looked like this. But that’s okay.

Our heavenly Father has called us to an adventure with twists and turns that require trust. We keep our eyes on Him as He directs our next steps, with confidence that He truly knows what’s best for us and His Kingdom.

Have you followed a carefully charted course, and yet find yourself in a place that surprises you? Has life thrown some twists and turns your way? Do you believe you are where God wants you, but it doesn’t look like what you imagine? It’s okay. Put away the cookie cutters. Success isn’t measured by numbers, results, or position. It’s measured by loving obedience to our loving Father.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8, NIV).

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 (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I praise You that Your plans are good. I surrender my life to You, and trust You to lead. Help me not to measure my success by the standards of this world. Help me measure it according to Your Word. Thank You for calling me to follow after You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

It’s Time to Take Inventory

But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22 NLT

It is so easy to be fooled when it comes to practicing God’s Word. As Christians, and especially leaders, we know what God’s Word says and we readily give answers to situations when they arise. We know God’s standards and are quick to instruct others in the way things should be. Knowing what ought to be done and diligently following God’s Word (and our own Bible-based advice) are two different things altogether. Leaders must regularly take inventory of their lives to avoid falling into the trap of deception.

Here are some questions I often ask myself:

  • Am I motivated by the love of Christ in thoughts, speech, and actions?
  • Do I show kindness, patience, and grace to others, especially to those within my own home?
  • Am I willing to share my faith with others?
  • Does my lifestyle reflect Christ well?
  • Do I spend time with the Lord daily in His Word and prayer, not as a strict ritual but as a means to commune with Him?
  • Is there unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart?
  • Are there areas where I feel that I can’t or won’t obey the Lord?
  • Do I reach out to the hurting and those in need?
  • Have I built margin in my schedule, intentionally creating opportunities for rest and renewal?

My husband and I are currently enjoying a summer sabbatical. We are intentionally spending time in God’s presence, to grow in relationship with Him. We are seeking God’s will for ministry at the church to which He has called us. In the midst of this season of blessing, I have taken inventory of my own life and have discovered a problem. I am not fully relaxed. I still have much on my mind. Although I am not involved in planning and conducting worship services, I have too much on my plate. There are things that I really love doing, and they take my attention.

I have sensed the Lord challenge my heart to take a break from blogging for the remainder of my sabbatical, among other things. I admit, this is difficult for me. I am passionate about communicating to others through the written word. Writing also nourishes my mind and heart. Nevertheless, I am committed to listen to God’s leading. I have experienced the blessings of obedience over and over again. I may not like it or understand it, but following God’s written (and spoken) Word is always best.

So with that…I look forward to connecting with you again in a few short weeks. In the meantime if you haven’t done so in a while, it’s time to take inventory.