Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wilderness Survival Guide (IV)

Welcome back to the wilderness!

Just in case you forgot where we were :)

This week I feel like I am writing with a deeper found passion and a fresh perspective for this particular subject matter. My grandmother has always been a huge fan of bus trips. You know those tour bus companies that pick you up in a random parking lot and whisk you away to some destination day trip like the icecapades or some spectacular Christmas event? But then maybe that's just in my town. People LOVE those things here.

Anyways. My grandma and her friend, my mom, and I took quite the day trip to Lancaster, PA to the Sight and Sound Theater to see a theatrical production of Moses. I say quite the day trip because we literally got on the bus at 6:00AM drove 6-ish hours to the play, had some lunch, watched the play, and loaded up on the bus for another 6-ish hour drive home.

Now that I have set the scene for was AMAZING. I am usually not so much into these sorts of things...but I have to say, this play was spectacular. I was literally in tears for most of it. Watching the story of Moses and the Israelites come to life certainly struck some heartstrings for me. And the music! I could not leave that theater without a soundtrack and I have been listening to it and crying along with it in my car since last week. I can't even tell you the last time I bought a cd. Believe me when I say I will be quoting the heck out of those lyrics throughout the rest of this series.

Alright. Now let's get to it!

This week we are going to talk about utilizing your resources while in the wilderness. 

I know, I know. That sounds a little crazy. You are in the middle of nowhere...what resources am I even talking about...? 

Perhaps we should start with recognizing our resources and then we can naturally utilize them from there...

Although it may feel at first observation that the middle of nowhere has nothing to work with, let's not forget that God NEVER leads us anywhere without sticking by us and providing everything that we need in that place. This is a fact. It's truth. So start looking around because they are there.

If you are still struggling to wrap your head around this concept (or stubbornly refusing to see them), let me tell you about a few resources I have discovered thus far in my own wilderness place and also about a few that our friends the Israelites had at their fingertips (whether or not they chose to make use of them.)

#1 People Resources
The Israelites may not have had a direction to go or a "place" to call home, but they did have each other. Unfortunately they used even that against themselves. They could have encouraged each other and reminded each other of how far God had brought them and how much He had done for them, all that He had rescued them from. Instead, they grumbled and complained and made each other more miserable. ATTITUDE IS CONTAGIOUS, and they are a prime example of this.

The truth is, you have people resources too. Whatever the place is. It may require some searching with eyes and heart wide open, but they are there. I can personally attest to this. I was convinced that I would have no friends when I moved back to my hometown. But, now that I have moved past my resistance to this place and have decided to embrace it, friends are literally coming out of the woodwork! Friends who love Jesus and who will encourage me and inspire me to do the same and walk along side of me on my wilderness journey. I should have known, because like I said, the truth is that God never brings us anywhere without giving us every resource we need there.

Be aware of your people resources AND the kind of resource you are being for others.

#2 The Past 
Say what!?

Of course it seems strange that the very thing we have just escaped could somehow be a resource here in the wilderness, but just hear me out. (Gosh I certainly have to ask you to do that an awful lot...)

Our past and lessons that we have learned there, can actually be one of our greatest assets and resources in the place we are now, especially in a wilderness place. Here's why. Not only is this helpful for the obvious reasons, to prevent us from making similar mistakes and providing insight when handling similar situations, it's an even greater resource because God's hand has been in our past and of course is very much in our present. That means, the past and all of those lessons learned were specifically designed to resource us in those to come. It's like God is building our resource stock pile in each season in order to carry us through the next. That's a pretty profound idea!

It may be a little uncomfortable to go back in time and dig up the past. It's not always fun to see where we have come from...but if we will be willing to do that, to remember where God has brought us from...the highs and the lows and how He used them all to shape us, we will feel a lot less helpless in a wilderness place.

Keep in mind also, that there will be another place after the wilderness. Maybe more wilderness, maybe not. But this truth that God is building our resource stock pile all along the journey should make us that much more observant in this wilderness place.

I honestly think this was one of the greatest tragedies of the Israelites in the wilderness. They had so much to look back on! So many miraculous moments they could have carried with them to encourage them. They had 400 years of struggle that God had been using to shape them and prepare them for their wilderness season. Instead they chose to ignore all of the rescuing and miraculous work God had done and focus on the struggles. They missed out on the stockpile of resources God had sent them there with. Let's try our best to not do the same.


Use your past as a valuable resource here and keep your eyes open for lessons that present themselves here that you can carry with you into future places and seasons.

#3 Solitude
Perhaps thus far in your wilderness space, you have yet to find or discover those people resources. (Rest assured you will find them.) Even still,  your temporary loneliness and solitude can serve as a resource. Use it as precious time to be alone with God; to rely on Him, wait on Him, trust Him, undistracted by other voices. Also, use it as a time to reflect on the people resources you have had in the past and may have taken for granted or not recognized.

I know that I am certainly using my wilderness season to appreciate being near family (something I have not been for nearly seven years!) I am beginning to discover the people resources God has placed here, but also I am investing in those that have been walking with me all along and the richness they bring to my life. Since they have been walking with me all along, I know they will bring much needed insight and encouragement for me in this place.

#4 Heart Condition (ATTITUDE)
The very condition of our hearts can serve as our greatest resource. If our heart is open to whatever God has and wherever He wants us for however long, then the wilderness can be a beautiful place to explore and a wonderful experience. When our heart condition is such, our attitude will naturally follow and we will be able to embrace the place rather than simple facing it. And believe me--embracing life (ALL of it) with positivity and joy rather than just facing it ALWAYS make ALL the difference. 

If we are angry and lost in the bareness and loneliness and confusion, our attitude will be negative and surviving anything, especially the wilderness, will of course be more miserable and challenging.

When I moved back to Ohio, I made it my main focus to keep my heart condition one that would help me in what I had discovered was the wilderness and not hinder me. Some days this requires a lot more work than others, but I can tell you that embracing this place and season rather than resisting it has made all the difference. Keeping my eyes and my heart open to what it is God has for me here and insisting on seeing the beauty here has made this experience a rich one already. Truthfully, I am looking forward to the duration of my wilderness season, and I know it is only because of my heart condition and my attitude.

#5 The Openness 
The very landscape itself can be a resource. The openness and freedom to move about, to take steps of faith in order to discover what's here and what's coming next...the space to dance and to find places of solitude and to discover the beauty around us with an unobstructed view of the horizon. Although it may seem that we are looking out into a vast amount of nothingness, in truth we are getting the clearest view of what's in front of us and the opportunity to actually see what God has ahead! Often in life we are so distracted by all of the things right in front of us, we never actually get to see what's up ahead! Embrace the wide open spaces here in the wilderness!

#6 Rocks
Perhaps I am stretching it a bit with this one. But hey, like I said, we gotta make the most of whatever it is we stumble upon while wandering the wilderness!

A very Old Testament idea and something God asked of people often, was that they build alters of remembrance. Meaning, when they saw God moving or heard Him speak or recognized His hand at work, they were to build an alter (often out of rocks or whatever was lying around) in order to make a physical and visible memory and reminder. The sad truth is that we as humans have the memory of goldfish. We absolutely have to make these physical reminders for ourselves or else we will forget so quickly where God has brought us from and our heart condition and attitude will change in the blink of an eye.

For me, this is my journal. For years I have been documenting daily my journey with Jesus. It serves so many purposes in my walk with Christ, but it provides these physical markers for me to look back on and to remind myself of God's hand in my life always. Often I find myself in a place that feels very similar to somewhere I have already been. Sometimes this is a wonderful feeling, sometimes not so much. But either way, I have reference points to use as resources in my journal and to help me in moving forward

So there you have it! A little kick start in finding and utilizing your wilderness resources! Keep your eyes AND your heart open this week. I would love to hear about the resources that "show up" in your wilderness!

Stay tuned for more wilderness survival tips next Friday :)

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