Come Walk with Me

Last month, I received a text from a friend: “Enjoy this fall weather. I’m imagining you in the trails.” When I confessed that I hadn’t even contemplated it, because I hadn’t had the time—the two-month hiatus from this blog is a testament to just how busy I’ve been—she replied, “I say make the time.”

Make the time.

This friend of mine, she knows me. Knows I love being in nature, love the trails, and love the hours I spend hiking, soaking in the beauty of creation, and capturing bits of it through my camera lens. Maybe she also knows those hours alone in the woods are not really spent alone. When I venture onto the trails, I do so with expectation: I expect to meet God there, and I’m never disappointed. That day, I recognized the suggestion that came through my friend’s text for what it was: an invitation from Jesus to take a walk with him.

Come, make the time to walk with me.

A boardwalk covered with fall leaves in the woods.How could I refuse an invitation like that? I couldn’t. I didn’t. A few days later, I took to the trails in my favorite state park and Jesus met me there. We spent hours together roaming, talking, listening, laughing, crying, and admiring his creative handiwork. As Jesus walked with me, his presence was tangible—so tangible that his peace and joy overwhelmed me.

Have you ever heard that invitation? Your invitation may not be one to venture into the woods, but wherever there is for you, the invitation is present nonetheless: Come, make time for me. Spend time with me. Make the time to walk with me. Jesus’ Holy Spirt whispers—sometimes even shouts—an invitation to every heart including yours and mine (Revelation 3:20). You’ll be able to hear it if you are willing to listen (Acts 28:27).

A boardwalk in a marsh with fall foliage in the background. Jesus knew I needed his invitation. He knew what was coming. He knew I’d need the reminder of what it feels like to walk in step with him.

In the intervening weeks since that walk, I have fallen further and further behind in what seems like everything—work, home, service, life in general. I have felt the distance between my present reality, my dreams for it, and my heart grow. I’ve struggled through the gamut of emotions, having been immersed in surprise, anticipation, excitement, discouragement, exhaustion, joy, grief, anxiety, sorrow, and longing. In the busyness that has been my life, in the hectic chaos of my “ordinary day to day,” I’ve found myself longing for deceleration, for order, for a retreat. I’ve also been hoping against hope that a neon sign will light up the sky, labeled with my name, and point the way to the path I’m supposed to be on—even if I’m already on it. I’m quickly approaching a crossroads in my life and career, and a little reassurance wouldn’t hurt.

A boardwalk through a marsh and into a fall forest. What I’ve found is that God doesn’t often send neon signs to light up the sky. At least I haven’t seen any—and I try to keep my eyes open (yes, Acts 28:27 again). Sometimes God does send clouds, pillars of fire (Nehemiah 9:12), stars (Matthew 2:2), and/or people with clear directives (Acts 22:14-16) to show people the paths they are to take. But in my life, at least, God seems to like to work through surprises. Surprises, and whispers.

God’s surprises are amazing and astounding. They both exhilarate and terrify me all at once, but on my best days I’m learning to lean into them and just keep walking with him. His whispers, though—they are what speak to my heart. And, I suspect, God’s way of keeping me on my path. Lately, he’s been whispering a very specific message to me.

I am jealous for you.

A hole in a boardwalk with a mossy branch underneath. He is jealous for me. Think about that for a minute. God becomes jealous for me, for us—for us to put him above all else, to love him and be devoted to him (James 4:5). The thought that he is jealous for me—me!—is thrilling. God loves me so much that he is protective of our relationship and of my love. When I recognized that the whisper I had been hearing over and over was for me, personally, it immediately reminded me of way he intimately loves me (Psalm 139:1-6). It overwhelmed me and thrilled me. I adored his jealousy.

Until the whisper kept coming and I realized what it said about me. Then, on top of my adoration, came shame: God wouldn’t become jealous without cause. If he was jealous for me, then I had given him reason to become jealous for me. Like so many times in my past, I had let the chaos, the anxiety, the fill-in-the-blank come between us and take my eyes away from him. But with this realization another whisper immediately followed: I have already forgiven you. Here is my grace (James 4:6).

Red leaf on a boardwalk. That is the reason I can adore his jealousy. Because when we give him a reason to be jealous, he immediately turns to us and gives us more grace. Grace to turn back, take the hand that he offers, and walk in step with him once again.

Do you hear him? He’s whispering to you as much as he is to me.

Come walk with me.

Blue lake in a marsh surrounded by fall trees and a brilliant blue sky, which are reflected in the lake.

New Beginnings

September in the midwest. The weather has begun to turn, the sticky heat yielding to cool breezes, cooler nights, and not-quite-yet crisp mornings. Glimpses of red and gold are appearing amongst the green of the trees. Cider mills are open and apples are ripe for the picking. Pumpkin spice everything is everywhere, equally loved and despised. Halloween (sometimes even Christmas!) merchandise is on store shelves. And back-to-school pictures began appearing on social media—a few here, a few there, and then in droves.

It’s a season of new beginnings.

I have to admit—I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I love the weather, the beauty of the season shedding the vestiges of summer in preparation for a season of rest. I love it even more when it hangs on and on, not wanting to let go and give in to the bitter cold of winter, like a child on the verge of sleep trying desperately to stay awake and keep his eyes open. But as creation winds down, my life speeds up. I can’t sync to the rhythms of nature; I need to keep pace with humanity. So when that school bell sounds to begin the long-distance race that lasts from September to May, I start running.

This Tuesday, I turned forty-five and started running.

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If you’re new to this blog, you may not know that I teach writing at a local university. Unless you’re familiar with the nuances of academia, you may not know the differences between assistant professors, professors, full-time and part-time lecturers, etc. For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time lecturer, which simply means that I a) can’t get tenure (basically, a job-for-life guarantee); and b) my is to teach—a lot—rather than do research. In my job, I teach writing to a lot of people that don’t necessarily like to write, but will need to for their careers (it’s called technical writing).

Like I said, though, it’s a season of new beginnings. And this season is full of new new beginnings for me. Beginnings I’ve been eagerly waiting to announce to the world, and now I’m free to do so.

This season, I’m choosing to follow God’s leading in my life. I’ve been feeling the pull away from teaching and into more intentional ministry for a while now, and this season I stepped out in faith to follow that guidance. So starting in November I’ll be teaching part-time and freeing up more time to serve my local church body. I’m not hoping to be a minister (as in pastor) as some people outside the church have mistakenly thought, but to serve by offering my time and talents to God and to his people. For the foreseeable future, that means starting a guinea-pig, small group/writing group (October 1 start date! Eek!) and serving in a different and (I think/hope) more frequent role on the production team that runs the weekend services. For the long-term future? I have my hopes and dreams, but what’s exciting is that God has his plans—and they’re much better than I could ever dare to dream.

This morning, as I was pondering the new beginnings in my life, I thought of God’s promise in Revelation:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, ESV)

All things new. That’s what I’m looking forward to this year, and in the future, and definitely in the end of the age when truly all things are made new. But the moment God started working in my life—and each moment I let him work in my life by saying “Yes!” to his leading and following in obedience—is a moment that God begins something new. I can’t wait to see what God brings, and I ask that you pray along with me that I will be faithful with these few things and prove worthy of being faithful with much (Matthew 25:21).

Challenge Day 31

Today’s Inspiration. I’m sitting in my car using my personal hotspot to write this post two days early, since once again over the weekend I’ll be out of town, this time without access to wifi or even a cell signal. The simple life. But even in pared-down, simple (technology-light) life, it is important to remember.

Today’s blog—the last day of the Writing Life Challenge posts—will be about remembering. Jesus admonished his own disciples to remember when he said “remember what I told you…” (John 15:20). Paul asked his readers to remember what he had previously told them, too. In fact, if you search for “remember” in a Bible app, you’ll see several verses that instruct us to remember.

Challenge Day 31 remember #writinglifeaugustchallenge

Today’s Challenge. Today, your challenge is to pray, to review your own notes or thoughts from the previous challenge posts—especially those you completed—and to journal for a few minutes about what God has taught you this month. Ask God to help you assess your own heart and ask him what’s next. I’ve included the previous posts to make it easier for you:

Day 1 – Thankfulness & Prayer
Day 2 – Praise & Prayer
Day 3 – Watchfulness & Prayer
Day 4 – Devotion & Prayer
Day 5 – How to Pray
Day 6 – Who to Pray For
Day 7 – What to Pray For
Day 8 – When to Pray
Day 9 – Where to Pray
Day 10 – Why to Pray
Day 11 – Fasting & Prayer
Day 12 – Why Read the Bible?
Day 13 – God-Breathed Scripture
Day 14 – The Bible is Useful
Day 15 – Bible-Trained
Day 16 – Bible-Taught Teaching
Day 17 – Bible-Rebuked
Day 18 – Bible-Corrected
Day 19 – Just Love
Day 20 – Heart Love
Day 21 – Soul Love
Day 22 – Mind Love
Day 23 – Strong Love
Day 24 – The Lord Your God
Day 25 – Self Love
Day 26 – Neighborly Love
Day 27 – Encourage One Another
Day 28 – … Daily
Day 29 – Build Up
Day 30 – Continue

Today’s Participation. For today’s participation, I’d like your feedback whether it’s in the comments or in a private message—what did you think of the challenge? If you did it, was there anything about it that stuck with you (and would you mind sharing that with me)? Would you like to see something about it again in the future?

As this challenge month draws to a close, I want to say Thank You! to all of you who took time to read (and do!) even a few of these challenge posts. It’s been a challenge keeping up with writing them! I won’t be doing a daily devotional challenge again in September—with back-to-school (for me, too, since I teach) it’s a bit too much for me to add to my daily routine. But look for regular weekly blog posts and a special, different type of challenge I’ve been thinking about coming soon.