Pilgrim Life with Other Believers
Traveling in a van full of biblical counselors is bound to be an experience where you can learn wisdom and see grace in action. The Lord recently provided me with this treasure trove of blessing as we headed out to California for a conference on how to love prodigals with gracious truth. Throughout the trip, I was conscious that I was surrounded by gifted brothers and sisters and as I reflected on the experience I appreciated anew. They haven’t written books or are not paid to speak to groups of people, but I was profoundly affected just to be with them. I was blessed by their spiritual gifts as well as their practical ones.
It isn’t the platform, but the wisdom of the Word that takes root in the soil of our hearts. How conscious are we to weed out the thorny seeds of pride? Those prickly spikes that cause us to mutter to ourselves, “Yeah, I know that” and shut our ears. Or worse, we wait for the other person to be quiet so we can blast out a response. The truth is that we don’t know. We might have an inkling of salvation, of prayer, of the Gospel, of doctrine, you fill in your favorite blank here, but there is always more to learn. Mary said, “It is when we turn away from God that we turn to our own selfishness.” Each person has something to add or share, a blessing to bestow. But often we miss it because we are too focused on ourselves.
Mary was full of prayer, full of wisdom, and quick to laugh. She was the one who found us incredibly affordable restaurants that delighted us with delicious food. We enjoyed our meals together no matter what table we were gathered around. There were breakfasts cooked by rotation in the morning at the house we stayed in, eating out, and on the last day, we were lavishly hosted by three other New Mexican sisters. I think Pam summed it up in her prayer before the meal when she said, “Oh, Father, what a taste of heaven it is to eat with brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Pam would look for ways to encourage us. She would listen, pray, and watch. Pam is a quiet woman of wisdom. When Vera said, “It takes experience to express the wisdom of Psalms”, it was a vivid description of Pam.
Vera is a sweet saint who took the time to appreciate the aesthetics around us and call our attention to our Lord’s attention to detail. She was drawn to flowers in particular. How much I would have missed if it hadn’t been for her! Did you know that there are trees that bloom purple flowers? There are stalks of fuzzy green stems, there are yellow flowers with orange triangles, bushes with red leaves and white berries, and I actually saw lemons on the tree! How creative is our God!? I wanted to take pictures, but it would never have done justice. Vera’s husband, Keith, said, “A photographer can only capture what he sees, but it is God who can see the full picture.” Keith is a retired fire-fighter who protected the little band of women folk under his care. He calmly drove us through the crazy California highways. We raced each other to get into the IBCD bookstore first each day.
Keith and Vera have provided marriage counseling at their church for several years, but I am struck by their humility. They are so hungry to learn more.
Carmen added a spark to our group. She was the one to see the humor in situations and point them out. She noticed if someone was on the fringe and was quick to serve. After the first day of the conference, she talked about the prodigal in her life. Carmen shared how hard it is to balance love and truth as she prayerfully sought ways to engage. She said, “If I am unwilling to look for ways to enter her world, how will she ever trust me?”
Each person in the van that week had gifts to share, in abundance. By listening, engaging, and simply being aware, God opened my eyes to see their gifts and appreciate them afresh. How can you be more aware and more appreciative of those around you as they share their practical and spiritual gifts with you this week?
Check back next week as we share more about Elizabeth's experience at the 2018 ICBD Conference!