The Good Long Way

Today I was thinking about how often we get tempted to take the easy way out. It happens all day long. Cut this corner, skip that duty, do what I want instead of helping someone else who needs something…

I usually don’t take the easy way out anymore. I used to when I was younger, but my dad was the king of the good, long way. After watching him persevere for years and put our needs above even his own comfort, I knew he was a treasure and a living example of the Lord Jesus to us.

My dad’s life is a kindness from the Lord. Through many ways, the Lord guided his feet into the way of peace; the long way that builds strength and brings great joy.

Now it’s my turn. It’s my turn to give and bless, and I can tell you that it makes me so happy to be a blessing to anyone who will receive it.

It’s hard though. Sometimes it’s really, really hard because you love your loved ones so much and it’s terrible to see them suffer. Yet you keep going.

Then you get tired and discouraged. It all starts to seem like a dark valley that has no end.

Over the years, the Lord has shown me that this feeling of being alone in a dark valley is really just an illusion. It’s a trick of the enemy. Don’t ever fall for that trick.

Especially when you feel the discouragement, because just when you think you can’t stand the pain anymore, when you can’t take one more step, the sunlight streams in and warms your face.

Then you see the truth: the valley may be long, but it is not dark. It is green and lush and filled with living water. It is a place of growth and of resting in the strength of the Good Shepherd who walks with you through the whole thing.

You know, I have never regretted putting aside my own desires in order to bless someone else. I’ve never regretted spending time I didn’t think I had to minister to someone else. I’ve only regretted not doing those things.

Jesus walked and walked all over Israel for over three years and hardly ever had a minute to Himself. He preached, taught, and healed all who came to Him. He was thronged by crowds, had no place to lay His head, and had to get up in the middle of the night to have time to talk with His Heavenly Father. And yet, He did all this with great calm and perfect joy because He came to deliver all who were oppressed of the devil.

Blessing others is not about giving up things we want. It’s about getting to travel a higher way – the long, good way that is the way of peace. Traveling in the way of great joy of watching Jesus minister to those we love, and seeing them blossom in the unwavering love of God.

…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38, NKJV)

Phyllis Keels

When Winter is Past

Crocus

Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

Yesterday was the first day since last autumn that I didn’t have to wear a coat to work. Do you know how happy that makes me?? Spring is almost here!

This is what came to my mind just now:

My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:10-12, NKJV)

The winter is past… Oh, what beautiful words! Flowers appear, singing has come, and the voice of the dove is heard!

I really don’t like winter. I mean, I really don’t like winter. It’s dark, depressing, and cold. All of these are things I don’t like. There is no green on the land, the sunlight feels weak, and it’s cold (I know I said that already, but cold is painful).

But when springtime is near, it changes our outlook about almost everything. At last, the sunlight feels warm, we feel like singing, and the green appears again. Once more, hope sprouts in our hearts.

There have been times when the Lord has given me “springtime” in the middle of winter. Many times. I go through winter often – grief, adversity, struggles. You probably do too.

Even though I resist going through those times, the Lord does something wonderful in them. He is able to make our roots go deep during winter. He is able to make us rest in Him during winter. He is able to strengthen us during winter.

If we allow Him, if we remember Him, if we rely on Him, He will do it. He waits for us to say, “Yes, Lord. I will trust you through this.”

When we allow Him to give rest, growth, and strength in the valley and then He brings us out, the greenery and flowers that come in springtime are healthier and brighter than they would have been otherwise. The singing is lovelier and the voice of the dove is more peaceful and comforting.

I can say all this because winter is over. It begins to make sense once we come out of the darkness, doesn’t it? When we are in the dark valley, all we can see is our grief. But the Lord is able to help us see something else during that time – He is able to help us see Him.

When we see Him in the winter with us, we can rest, we can stretch our roots, we can allow Him to strengthen us. Then, my dear friend, when the winter is over and springtime has come, our rejoicing is even greater, even sweeter, even brighter.

All we have to do is to say, “Yes.”

Praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus! For He has brought us through the cold winter and into the glorious light of His eternal springtime!

Phyllis Keels

The Mentor

"The Mentor" (photo by Kim Lance. Used by permission)

“The Mentor” (photo by Kim Lance. Used by permission)

The older I get, the more I value old people. Maybe because I’m sort of one of them…

Seriously, as we get older, we value those who have passed wisdom on to us, and we want to pass it along to others. Not so we can tell people what to do. We really do just want to help.

For instance, if you’ve walked on a hiking trail before, and you know where the mud pit is, you want to tell others to watch out for it, don’t you? I would hope so.

Sure, I know. Some people don’t want that kind of help. They have to learn things the hard way. Maybe because they are stubborn, maybe they are prideful, or maybe they just want to do it themselves. Lessons seem to stick with us when we learn that way, but I’m not sure that’s really the best way.

The mentor (or master)/apprentice model has been around for centuries and I think there’s a reason for that. It works. And there’s more to it than passing along information.

Character is built by doing things the way the teacher asks you to do them, even when you think you know better. The heart of this whole thing is that the teacher wants us to trust him or her. It’s not about the stuff. It’s about the relationship.

I wish I had submitted myself to my parent’s wisdom when I was a young adult. I did it when I was a child because I didn’t want to get into trouble. Then I went my own way just like most of us do.

Eventually, I would come back from time to time and ask for their help or advise. I just didn’t stay at the well. I would only come and draw enough to survive on and then leave again.

Life is complicated, and it’s difficult, but we don’t always have to take the hardheaded way. There is a higher way that leads to real maturity and real character.

It’s like that with spiritual things too. If you want to know what your Heavenly Father is like, find someone who really knows Him and speaks well of Him – someone who has a good relationship with Him.

All of this to say that if you already know someone like that, someone who loves the Lord, and is full of faith and peace, and really does care about you, then hold onto that relationship and receive from them everything they will give you.

Before you know it, you’ll turn to find someone tugging at your sleeve asking, “Would you help me?” That’s the day you graduate and become the mentor. That’s the day you become like the Father who loves you with all that He is, and He always will.

Sure, you might look like the wise old tree in the photo above, but there are those of us who think those are the best trees, the most beautiful, and the most desirable to be around. They are priceless and we wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Phyllis Keels