Have you ever felt like you were in a time in your life that really doesn’t qualify as a season, but more as a time ‘in between’ seasons?

You know in your spirit that you have come out of a season of life – whether good or bad – but you just haven’t quite stepped past the threshold leading to the next phase of your spiritual journey.

I have often heard this ‘in between’ time referred to as a wilderness time.

I was uncomfortable with that term the first time I heard it because the term wilderness reminded me of a desolate and unproductive place.

Isn’t it interesting how a perception of a place can change when you are living it instead of looking at it from the outside?!

I am able to embrace the term now because I am living a wilderness time at the moment and the experience of it has proven to be anything but desolate and unproductive.

The Bible gives many examples of wilderness times in the lives of faithful believers:

God brought His emerging Israelite nation into the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt.

The prophet Elijah was brought to a place of rest in the wilderness after one of his greatest victories.

Paul was brought into the wilderness of Arabia for three years after his Damascus Road experience.

It was a tough go for all of them; however, during their wilderness time they all realized it was a time of teaching and training. It was a time necessary to experience so they could be properly prepared for their next God-ordained season.

The common thread among them all was that God brought them into that desert experience because He had great plans for them. He needed time with them alone – way from the noise and influence of the world. He wanted them to learn and rest and gain confidence not only in themselves, but in whom they were in God.

Exodus 19:10 contains a key phrase that put into perspective this whole wilderness thing for me. In this verse, God is talking to Moses and He tells Moses how to prepare the people to be in His presence.

God said, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes.”

Seriously, God wanted His people to wash their clothes!

Remember the young Israelite nation had just come out of a season of slavery in Egypt. God, as He had promised, brought them out of the heavy yoke of bondage they were under for hundreds of years. But God didn’t immediately bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey; instead He brought them into the wilderness.

So, now we have a picture of them in the wilderness and all God wanted them to do at that point was for them to wash their clothes.

I have been told, the reason God requested them to wash was as preparation to meet their Holy God on Mount Sinai. They had 400 years of dirt…of a slavery mindset…of the heavy yoke of bondage…to rid themselves of. God required from them a tangible, yet highly symbolic gesture because the preparation for their next season was beginning.

As we apply this to our own wilderness experience – that often awkward period between leaving, yet not quite arriving – we need to embrace the lesson presented here.

It teaches before we can walk into the next season God has for us, we need to seek His presence in ways we never have before…we need to wash our clothes.

When I look back on previous wilderness times I have experienced, I realize that I always failed to wash my clothes.

I had no time for that! I was too busy trying to escape what seemed like an uncomfortable and unproductive time in my own strength. I sought whatever ‘spiritual opportunity’ that presented itself, and used it as a springboard to catapult myself far from wilderness and into comfort and accomplishment.

Why bother with wilderness times when there is so much to do for the Lord?!!

We ‘bother’ with wilderness times because it affords us the opportunity to wash our clothes and prepare ourselves to receive, at the proper time, our Holy God’s anointing. It is that anointing that will prepare us spiritually to cross the threshold of our new season.

We can, and often do, create our own “next season”, but without our submission to God’s will and His anointing on it, we have just created worldly busyness.

Wilderness time affords God the opportunity to press for our undivided attention. As we enter into His presence and submit to His plan for us, He is able to teach, stretch, grow and mold us into the person He created us to be.

The wilderness is a place of trial and transformation, of purging and purifying, and of groveling and growth.

In Psalm 32:8 God promises, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

If our energy is focused on just enduring or escaping this precious and life-giving time, we will miss the opportunity for wisdom and blessings that will be needed to sustain us during our next God-honoring season.

Use your wilderness time to ‘wash your clothes’…

By heartfelt prayer

By reading and meditating on Scripture

By sharing a cup of coffee (and your ear) with a seasoned sister in faith

By worshiping throughout your ‘routine’ day

By journaling the nuggets of encouragement straight from the Father’s heart

By resting in and enjoying His presence

By being still and embracing that He is God

I have now learned that in order to truly discern the path God has ordained for my life, I need to embrace wilderness times. I no longer pray that they end quickly, but I pray God gives me divine encouragement when the enemy tries to whisper to me that I am in a desolate and unproductive place.

The wilderness is not desolate or unproductive.

It is a place that allows our damp clothes to dry as we sit still, soak in His presence, and allow ourselves to be refreshed.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Promised Land

A friend of mine recently pointed out an often overlooked fact concerning the death of Moses. Honestly, I had forgotten about this truly significant event of Moses’ last days until I went to Deuteronomy 34 to confirm it.

But first, it is within this chapter we are reminded of the close relationship Moses shared with his Maker. The Lord loved and trusted Moses so much that He appointed him to lead the chosen people of Israel out of slavery and toward their God-ordained destiny. Moses met with God, spoke to God and even questioned God during times of frustration.

Deuteronomy 34:10 tells us that “no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

During Moses’ last days, the Lord was with Moses on the top of Mount Nebo to show him the land He had promised to His chosen people.

But remember, Moses himself did not enter into the land. He actually died in the land of Moab, just short of the Promised Land.

At first glance, it seems a bit cold that God would allow Moses to die without ever making it to the place he had dreamed about entering.

But, here is the part which might help put all of this in perspective. After describing the death of Moses, we are told in Deuteronomy 34:6 that, “He [God] buried him [Moses].

Just ponder that concept for a few minutes.

God buried Moses.

As my friend so eloquently stated when relaying this story to me, “Isn’t that just so sweet. God buried Moses.”

Through these events, we can see that Moses obviously had fulfilled the plan God ordained for his life. Moses had served his purpose in advancing the Kingdom by being the earthly vessel used to bring the nation of Israel into reality.

Now God’s plan for Moses was done. Moses had faithfully served the purpose God needed him for.

I am sure the Israelites might have been a little more than surprised that their fearless earthly leader over the past 40 years was not going to complete the journey with them. No doubt they were concerned about this turn of events. Remember the nation of Israel had a bad habit of not trusting in God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

But God is sovereign and faithful and gracious and He really does have a perfect plan for our lives. He even has a way of redeeming His plan when we take it off track and mess it up.

God knew in order for the destiny of His chosen people to move forward as He ordained it, something had to be left behind…something had to be buried.

I believe God understood how deeply the people felt about Moses. I also believe they knew God felt their pain in losing the person of Moses, and his leadership which they had grown accustomed too.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons God chose to bury Moses Himself. I believe God wanted to show His grieving people how engaged in their lives He was. It was an act of humility and love from God that showed not only respect for Moses, but also His willingness to get His hands dirty while involved in the lives of His beloved children.

In the midst of the grief over Moses’ death, I get a sense of a very special moment occurring – the bond being strengthened- between the emerging Israelite nation and their God.

I believe this event in their relationship…the act of God burying Moses…revealed a character trait of God that is often overlooked.

Our God proved not only to a young Israelite nation but to all believers’ what a sweet and tenderhearted God He is.

God’s final action toward Moses is so symbolic of the role He wants to play in our lives.
Our sweet and tenderhearted God stands ready to help us bury whatever is in our life that is stalling our progress toward our own personal promised land.

As we move along our spiritual paths there are things… sometimes seasons… that make us feel insignificant or stagnate. The journey might be good enough, but there becomes a sameness to it that leaves us uninspired or even apathetic.

I have learned over the course of my journey that those feelings usually indicate the something needs to be released…buried…in order of our steps to be renewed and redirected.

Without the ‘burial’, then our wilderness march is destined to continue.

Is there something you know really needs to die in your life, yet you are not sure you could move on without it?

Take heart in the fact that we serve a sweet and tenderhearted God who desperately desires to not only support us, but also work alongside of us to bury what needs to be laid to rest.

God wants us all to enter into the unique destiny – our own personal promised land – He has ordained for all of us.

Trust Him enough to ask for His help and direction believing He will move toward you with shovel in hand.

His Pleasure

The 1981 British historical film Chariots of Fire tells the story of two British long distance runners who eventually competed in the 1924 Olympics. One of the men was Eric Liddell, a devout Christian born in China to Scottish missionary parents, who actually won a gold medal in those Olympic Games.

Eric was expected to follow in the footsteps of his parents by training to become a missionary in China. He knew he was called to be a missionary; however, he was also gifted by God to run very fast.

Eric sister’s felt the time he spent training for his running took away from the time he should have spent preparing to be a missionary. Eric responded to her concerns with these words:

“I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Did you get that last part: “I feel His pleasure.” I just love that! That tells me God gifts us not just for our benefit or pleasure, but also for His pleasure!

Back in the day (which is code for when I was much younger!); I was a very natural athlete. It was my ‘talent’. I could play just about any sport fairly well, and I truly enjoyed every minute I was able to participate in anything athletic.

I loved being part of a team. I loved the way I felt when I was in good shape. I loved the competition. I loved the sense of satisfaction when diligent practices flowed into game-day victories. Again, having a talent for anything athletic gave me pleasure on many levels.

Over the course of several decades, I entered in different seasons of my life that just didn’t leave room for too many sporting activities. A back injury was one of the main culprits for my need to curtail my focus on athletic endeavors. I do still dabble in some sporting activities, but usually just to the extent that leave me very sore a few days later.

Let’s fast forward to this past spring…

One weekend, during announcement time at my church, the call went out for softball players as co-ed teams were forming for the Spring League.

For a brief second after hearing that, I remembered the days of playing softball and how much I enjoyed every aspect of the game. That thought was soon replaced with the memory of my age and the many years that had passed since I last attempted to play.

While leaving the building after service, I saw the softball sign-up table. I kept my eye on it as I attempted to walk by, but was actually shocked when I walked to it and found myself talking with these folks as if I was really going to play. They were very encouraging to me, so I took one of their information sheets and told them I would think about playing.

Over the course of the next several days during my prayer time with God, I brought the subject of softball up with Him. My thoughts on the matter ranged between remembering how I loved playing and how ridiculous it would be for a woman in her mid-fifties to even consider playing.

One morning, in a rather frustrated tone, I spoke out loud to God and said,

Why didn’t you give me a talent that would be useful as I aged? Why could I never grasp anything musical or have been an artist? Those types of things I could have done until the day I die!

God countered:

You have a talent that has served you well and has given Me a great deal of pleasure.”

This exchange, along with the recent announcement of softball teams forming, was the catalyst for me to understand, embrace really, a new depth to the relationship God desires to have with me.

Now, I know the joy that I feel being in relationship with Him. I have felt His grace and love in amazing ways over the course of my faith journey. However, I never truly connected that the talents he gave me, or gives any of us, brings Him pleasure much in the same way significant people in our lives love to watch us engage in what God has gifted us to do.

Here is another part of the story to show how God weaves everything together so perfectly. A few years ago, during a healing service at my church, God did grant enough healing of my back issue to allow me to do many things I was previously unable to do.

Well, as you probably have figured out by now, I did play the co-ed softball season last spring.

I enjoyed every minute of it and for the most part was easily able to hold my own. But the most joyful part of the whole adventure was for the first time in my life I played just to give Him pleasure.

I felt His pleasure when I was playing.

I have been involved in athletic activities all my life, but it took until my mid-fifties before I learned to enjoy my talents just for His pleasure. No stats. No accolades. No worries about my performance.

Just for His pleasure.

Perhaps that is true freedom. Doing what we love and were gifted to do by our Creator, first and foremost, for His pleasure. Not as any type of pay back for His gracious gifts, but just because we really can give Him pleasure.

I believe as we allow His pleasure to be our primary focus in anything we do, we lay a solid foundation for success in all we do. God created us because He desired relationship with us. I believe he gave us all talents so we could interact and enjoy the world He created for us. I also believe it is those talents He bestowed on us that are meant to create a unique bond, a special place of meeting, between the Heavenly Father and His beloved child.

I played softball last spring partly out of gratitude for my back healing, but mostly because I love my Heavenly Dad and I understood my pleasure was His pleasure as well.

Do you play musical instrument? Play so He can take in your sweet melody.

Is your talent in gardening? Plant and grow a bouquet He can gaze down upon on a warm spring morning.

Do you love to sing? Sing out loud in the course of your day so He can enjoy the song in your heart.

Are you an artist? Draw, paint, sculpt or create that masterpiece He placed inside of you so He can hang it on His refrigerator.

Do you enjoy writing? Write from your heart each day and allow your words to touch His heart.

Dust off whatever talent you process that has become lost in the busyness of life.

Allow yourself to re-ignite the joy of your talent in the pureness of its original intent.

Allow God to feel pleasure in His gift to you.