Mountain Top Views while Walking Through the Valleys

The state of Arizona has some very beautiful hikes. One of my particular favorites is hiking Camelback Mountain. Camelback Mountain has an elevation of 2704 feet and isn’t considered very long in distance…approximately 2.3 miles to the top.

The first time I hiked Camelback, I remember having to stop several times to catch my breath. What makes this hike more challenging than others is not necessarily the distance to the top but the fact that it is rather steep and not gradual like other nearby hikes. There are certain places that you actually have to put your hands down on the rock to climb and the city has even tried to help hikers by adding a pole to help you get up.

The one thing I vividly remember on my first hike up Camelback Mountain was looking ahead and up to see how close I was getting to the top. Being my first time, I didn’t know where the top was or have any markers in my head to know how far I had hiked. It was actually deceiving because after hiking for awhile I would look up and think I was near the top, but then as I continued to climb I realized I wasn’t!

When I finally reached the very top, the sweat, strain, and muscle fatigue quickly diminished in awe of what I saw. The mountain top view was absolutely breathtaking! I was amazed that I could stand and turn 360 degrees and literally see the entire Phoenix valley. A sense of peace and calmness overcame me as I took it all in. I actually felt closer to God and his presence. Funny how you feel closer to God at the top of a mountain when really God is with you always everywhere you go!

I began to thank God and greatly appreciated the beauty of His creation that I saw all around me… from the blue skies to the panoramic view of other mountains in the distance to the sun just beginning to go down. Absolutely breathtaking!

As I experienced all this at the mountain top, I didn’t want to leave. I was in such a place of victory, accomplishment and peace and I wanted the mountain top view experience to last as long as possible. But unfortunately, I was not able to stay too long as I needed to head back before the sun went completely down.

The mountain top views I experienced on my hike can be similar to the mountaintop views in our lives. We will have mountain top view experiences in our lives…it may be the big victories and even the small victories that God allows us to achieve. It may be the breakthroughs we have in our marriage relationships, our finances, our children, our families, and in our personal relationship with Jesus. 

What do these mountain top views actually look like?

1)      These mountain top views are seasons in our lives that we stand in awe and amazement of what God has done…what he has pulled us through… just like the awe and amazement of the mountain top views we may experience on a hike. It’s like wow! God just did this for me!

2)      Along, with that awe and amazement is a sense of peace that overcomes you…the peace that comes after you survive a difficult situation, trial, or test in your life. The peace and courage that you can get through anything with God’s power and strength.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13NIV

3)      And finally, there is thankfulness and great appreciation for your victory with Christ after you may have battled in your situation for a long time.

But what about during the difficult situations, circumstances, trials, and tests…the valleys…that we face in life?

Walking though the valleys are never easy…and if you notice, I said “through” (meaning there is a beginning …and an end!!!) The valleys of life are hard no doubt. You may be walking through the valley right now.

Are you in a valley in your life right now?

Sometimes when you are in a valley, it’s hard to know when it will end and it can get very discouraging. You may feel lost, alone, and without hope. I can tell you from my own valley experiences that I know it is not easy but it is possible to have mountain top views while walking though the valleys.

You see, it is through these valleys that we grow stronger. It is through these valleys that we allow God to take control because we just can’t do it in our own strength. It is through these valleys that we rely on God and his lead because we may not see the end. It is through these valleys that we grow…closer to God.

Have ever noticed the amount of green vegetation that exists in a valley? There is so much growth and life in a valley…it is full of trees, green grass, bushes, and plants. Even Death Valley reports an abundant growth of vegetation year after year!

It is in the valleys of life that we grow… not on the mountain tops… but our growth depends on the mountain top views that we have as we walk…and sometimes trudge…though our valleys.

Be encouraged and know that we can have mountain top views as we walk through the valleys of life. We don’t want to be stuck in the valleys… we want to walk through it (more like sprint through it!)

How do you keep a mountain top view as you walk though the valleys of life?

1)      Trust God…keep focused on Him and not on your situation. He will bring you peace in the midst of your valley.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3NIV

2)      Always pray…even when you may not think he hears you! Trust me God hears you!

“I love the Lord, because he has heard [and now hears] my voice and my supplications.” Psalm 116:1 AMP

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22

3)      Give God control…He is your strength when you are weak.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

4)      Be thankful…Gratitude has a way of changing your attitude. It takes your focus off yourself and your situation and on God.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1Thessalonians 5:16 NIV

5)      Remind yourself of your past victories. Remind yourself of your past mountain top view experiences.  Remembering your past victories will remind you of God’s love and goodness and encourage you to keep pushing forward as you walk though your valley.

Hebrews 11 is a great chapter to read to remind you of God’s faithfulness and goodness and what He has done in the past.

6)      Be obedient… God will bless your obedience and faithfulness to him.

The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” Psalm 84:11

7)      Be joyful…I know what you are probably thinking…you are crazy! Ok, you may not feel joyful in your valley but the bible says to try and just consider being joyful.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,       because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 NIV

Consider it to be pure joy because you know you will persevere and come out stronger than before.

As you walk though the valleys of life, remember to view them as a mountain top view experience! You will then be filled with awe and reverence for God Almighty, have greater peace, and be thankful that God is doing something greater for you and in you as a result of your valley.

Reflection Points:

1)      Are in a valley in your life right now? Do you feel stuck in your valley and without hope?

2)      Are you focused, steadfast on God in the midst of your valley? Or are you focused on your circumstances?

3)      What changes can you make in order to experience a mountain top view while walking through your difficult life circumstances?

 Action Points:

Review the steps outlined above to help you have mountain top views while walking through your valleys.

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Never Early, Never Late, Always on Time!

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had to read a number of books about pregnancy…books like “What to Expect While You Are Expecting” and “Your Pregnancy Week by Week.” These books helped me because I had no clue about counting weeks and the different development stages of my baby leading up to my due date. My first son came one day after my due date while my second son arrived 9 days early. In our world of calendars and clocks, we can get so caught up with this concept of time. In my eyes, my 1st son was late and my 2nd son was early…but in God’s eyes they were both on time!

Our concept of time is certainly not the same as God’s concept of time because God is the creator of time and His timing is perfect! Would you expect his timing to be anything less than perfect from a God who is perfect himself?  

The word “perfect” is defined as “excellent or complete beyond improvement, without flaws, accurate in every detail.” Sure sounds like our God! …Doesn’t it? When it comes to God’s perfect timing, he is never early, never late and ALWAYS on time!!!!

I know waiting on God is never easy…praying is one thing, waiting another! I know it can be hard at times when you are believing and waiting on God to answer your prayers. You can be believing for a new job, a healing in your body, a Godly man to propose (to all you single ladies in waiting out there…and yes, I did say Godly man), or a child to be conceived. Or maybe you are praying for guidance in making life decisions such as when to buy a house, when to change jobs/careers, when to move to another location. The list of what we are praying, believing, and waiting for can go on and on!

 Never Early

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37, 39-50 is a great example of God’s timing… timing that is not early but perfect! 

To summarize…Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  He was sold in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials who was the captain of the guard. Joseph found favor in the eyes of Potiphar because Potiphar could see that the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in everything he did. Through everything Joseph went through, the bible says over and over that “the Lord was with Joseph” Genesis 39:2

Now Joseph winds up in jail after being falsely accused of making a move on Potiphar’s wife. Even in prison, Joseph found favor in the Lord’s eyes and was put in charge of the prisoners which specifically included 2 individuals…the cupbearer and the baker who offended their master, the king of Egypt. These 2 men had dreams one night and God had given Joseph the ability to interpret the dreams. Basically the dreams meant that within 3 days, the cupbearer would be restored to his position as the king’s cupbearer and within 3 days, the baker would be hung on a tree and killed. And within 3 days, everything Joseph said happened proving his interpretations to be true.

After Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream he asked him, “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness, mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” Genesis 40:14

Unfortunately, the cupbearer did not remember Joseph and Joseph remained in prison for 2 more years!!! If I were Joseph, I would be pretty upset…wouldn’t you?!

But God’s timing is never early…you see if God had rescued Joseph from prison at that time because of what the cupbearer told the king, Joseph would be put back into his original position as Potphar’s servant. But God allowed 2 years to pass because God had something much greater in store for Joseph even though Joseph didn’t know it!

Joseph was remembered years later by the cupbearer when Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had a dream that no one could interpret. The cupbearer mentioned Joseph’s name to Pharaoh and how accurate his interpretations were while they were in prison. Pharaoh called upon Joseph from prison and God once again gave Joseph favor and the ability to interpret the king’s dream. The king’s dream had very specific instructions for the land of Egypt to survive the great famine they would face in the near future. Joseph was then rewarded for interpreting the king’s dream.

Because of God’s perfect timing, Joseph was placed 2nd in command over all of Egypt! Can you believe that? He went from Potiphar’s servant, to prison, to being in charge over all of Egypt.

“So Pharaoh said to Joseph ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.'” Genesis 41:41

Sometimes when we doubt God’s timing and feel that we have done enough waiting, we may not necessarily see the big picture just like Joseph. We have such limited views of our lives. God knows the beginning and the end and everything in between. He may not answer you too early because he has something much greater in store for you!

Never Late

God’s timing is perfect and his timing is never late. Another example of God’s perfect timing is in John 11: 1-44 in the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.

Lazarus had become very sick and his sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to come quickly to them.  At this time Jesus was with his disciples and he told them “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory, so that God’s son may be glorified though it.”  John 11:4 NIV

What is crazy is that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha very much but when he heard of the news, he stayed where he was for 2 more days! He didn’t drop everything and rush to Lazarus to heal him while he was sick. No, because again God’s timing is perfect. It gets even crazier! When Jesus arrives, he finds that Lazarus was dead and had already been in the tomb for 4 days! Uuuuugh…you would think God’s timing is for sure too late here, I mean the guy is dead! How much later can you get than that?! 

But Jesus has the power over life and death because he is the creator of life…and he who is life can certainly restore it. Jesus raised Lazarus form the dead and said “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40

There were many Jews who eye witnessed this miracle and afterwards put their faith in Jesus. God had a purpose and plan in raising Lazarus from the dead. If Jesus healed Lazarus while he was sick, there would not have been as many people gathered as there were when they came to mourn his death. Without God’s perfect timing, all these Jews would not have put their trust in him.

God’s delays are not necessarily his denials. Again, when you think you have been waiting too long for an answered prayer and you pretty much think your request is as good as dead like Lazarus, God has a greater plan and purpose that can be beyond you and your prayer. His timing is perfect and he is never late!

God is not limited by our timetable. I may not always understand his timing but I continue to trust and believe that my Creator and the Creator of this universe has got it together more than I do!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9NIV

It is also important to remember that we may not always see God’s timing here on this earth. He may not answer you the way you think or when you think He should answer you. I know that’s a tough one to swallow!

When my mother was very ill 3 years ago, I was praying and believing in her healing. She ended up passing away… I may not always understand God’s timing but what I do know is that she has received her healing in heaven. I didn’t see it here on this earth but I will see it one day when I see her in heaven.

So when you get tired of waiting and feel like giving up….remember God’s timing is perfect…He is never early, never late and ALWAYS on time!

Reflection Points:

1)      What prayers are you waiting for God to answer? Have you been waiting so long that you are ready to give up?

2)      Do you have a difficult time trusting God’s timing?

3)      Have you placed expectations on God to answer your prayers a certain way or at a certain time…your way and your timing?

Action Points:

1)      Pray for God to help you develop greater trust in him and in his timing.

2)      Do not give up praying…even when you feel like you can’t wait any longer. 1Thess. 5:17 says “Pray without ceasing.” We still need to be persistent in prayer.

3)      Remember that God’s ways are not your ways and that his thoughts are higher than your thoughts. He may not answer you when you want him to or the way you want him to but “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NASB

“You do your job, and I’ll do mine!” -GOD

This title sounds like one of those billboard signs you see while driving across the country, doesn’t it? It isn’t one but it sure can be! When I first saw these billboard signs with slogans by God popping up, I was very amused. Here are a few I have seen I thought you might enjoy!

“Need Directions?” – God

“Have You Read My #1 Best-Seller? There Will Be A Test.” – God

“That ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ Thing, I Meant It.” – God

“Keep Using My Name in Vain and I’ll Make Rush Hour Longer” – God

We live in a world of ever increasing roles and therefore our job descriptions may overlap due to wearing these many hats. Whether it is in our workplaces, our marriages, our families, or other relationships, we have specific jobs to fulfill. We have jobs with defined roles whether it’s being a wife, mommy, single parent, single woman, coworker, or a friend.

Have you ever stepped out of your defined role and did someone else’s job? Why?

Obviously, there can be good and valid reasons to stepping out of your defined role and doing someone else’s job. But I have noticed that people have a hard time staying in their defined roles and performing their specific jobs. Why is that? I mean if your role has been defined why do we step over or into other people’s defined roles? I think one of the top reasons is …control.  We want to be in control!

But why do we like control so much?… We may want things done a certain way…our way. We don’t trust someone else enough to give up the reigns. It gives us security and confidence being in control. We may feel superior being in control which really comes down to our pride. And I am sure there are many more reasons!

Well, there is another role we have that is defined for us in the bible and that is our role as a child of God.  Many times as a child of God we try and take control and do what would be considered… God’s job!

I believe God is a conditional God who loves and cares for us so much that he has given us thousands and thousands of promises for our benefit!

“Conditional” is defined as subject to, implying, or dependent upon a stipulation or prerequisite…dependent upon something essential to the appearance or occurrence of something else.

The bible is full of thousands and thousands of precious promises that God has for us! And yes, many of them are conditional!

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” NIV Our job is to delight ourselves in the Lord. His job is to give us the desires of our heart! (Not go try and make those desires of our hearts happen on our own.)

Matthew 6:33 says “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” NLT Our job is to seek God’s kingdom first. His job is that He will give us what we need.

Proverbs 3:4-5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” NIV Our job is to trust him and not try and understand and figure everything out in our own minds, and His job is to guide us on the right path.

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Our job is to not be so stressed out and anxious (I know…easier said than done!) but give God our requests so that He may give us peace in our hearts and minds. (Peace beyond what we can comprehend!)

These are just a few of the promises God has for us! I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the precious promises God has for you and me. As you can see there is a condition to be met each time in order to receive the blessing.

Have you ever taken matters into your own hands instead of waiting on God?

I know it is human nature to be impatient at times and decide that when you don’t see your prayers being answered right away that it is time to take matters into your own hands. Because you know… maybe God just forgot, or is too busy, or just maybe you can just get it done faster or better than God. Ever think this way?

Unfortunately, when we take matters into our own hands and play “hamburger helper” with God we can have some negative consequences to face that is more serious than a subpar dinner meal.

In the book of Genesis, the story of Abraham and Sarah is a great biblical example of taking matters into your own hands . To set this background for you…Abraham and Sarah are very old…and Sarah is barren. Because they have no children, they have no heir to their estate.

In those days, a married woman who could not have children was shamed by their peers and was often required to give a female servant to her husband to produce heirs. The children born to the servant woman were considered the children of the wife.

But God promised a son to be born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age who would not only be heir to their estate  but whose descendants would multiply as many as the stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore…basically too numerous to count! Abraham was a great man of faith and believed in God’s promise.

But as time went on and they were not pregnant (and they certainly weren’t getting any younger!), Sarah began to doubt God’s timetable. So she decided to take control and have her maidservant Hagar sleep with Abraham so that she would become pregnant and bear him a son. Sure enough Hagar became pregnant and now Abraham and Sarah had a son named Ishmael whom they believed would be their heir.

But God still kept his promise of Abraham and Sarah having a son of their own. God fulfilled his promise to them and Abraham and Sarah had a baby boy of their own named Isaac…25 years after God first promised to Abraham that he would be a father of great nations! Wow! Can you even imagine waiting that long!

Unfortunately, there were some very serious consequences from Sarah taking matters into her own hands. Just to name a few…

1)    Hagar bore a son Ishmael whose “hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him, and will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” Genesis 16:12b Ishmael and his descendants lived as nomads and became a large tribe/nation who were hostile to Israel and to God.

2)    Sarah had a very strained relationship with Hagar full of anger, bitterness, and resentment which caused Hagar to initially run away. And eventually, Hagar and Ishmael were permanently expelled from Abraham’s family.

3)    Although Sarah arranged for Hagar to have a child with Abraham, she took out her anger on Abraham and later blamed him for the results.

Now, I have certainly had my share of taking matters into my own hands and not trusting God. But I have learned that God loves and cares for me so much and that his promises are for my benefit…every single one of them!

When you get the urge to step over your defined role as God’s child into God’s role, remember… Don’t play “hamburger helper” with God…He doesn’t need your help!

And I guarantee you will have greater peace and blessing staying in your role and doing your job versus trying to do someone else’s job…or God’s job!

Reflection Points:

1)    Do you find yourself always trying to control people or situations in your life?

2)    Do you have a hard time giving God 100% control over your life?   Are there areas of your life that you still like to control and hold onto instead of handing the reigns to God?

4) When you don’t see the results you want or don’t want to wait on God, do you take matters in your own hands?

Action Points:

1)    Determine the areas of your life that you have difficulty giving God control of. God wants to be the driver in your life..not the passenger.

2)    Pray for God to give you strength to hand over the reigns. Pray for greater faith and trust in Him.

3)    Dig into God’s word to understand more the many precious promises he has for you…and what your role is as a child of God.

Activating Faith

Last summer our family joined our town’s community swimming pool. Since we don’t have a pool, I wanted to get the boys more exposed to water. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go much at all because both boys didn’t know how to swim and it became very challenging for me alone to keep a close eye on them.

My youngest son, Bryce, my little daredevil, has absolutely no fear. He is so bold and will walk right into the deep end if I don’t stop him! …Which is not comforting for me at all. My older son, Connor, is very cautious and hesitant which is good but when it came to getting him in the water, it was no easy task. I stood there in the pool about waist deep and told him to jump and I would catch him. He looked at me like I was crazy!

He stood at the very edge of the pool with his toes barely hanging off with a look of absolute fear and terror. I continued to encourage him to jump reassuring him each time that I would catch him. He even said, “Mommy I know you will catch me but the water is so deep!” And then finally, after what felt like hours, he jumped into my arms! Certainly a thank you Jesus moment!

You see, Connor said he trusted me but he was afraid to demonstrate his trust by jumping in the water. Until he actually jumped in, his faith was not demonstrated and was only just a thought in his mind. It was empty faith with nothing to back it up! There is a difference between believing and agreeing in your mind something to be true (called intellectual assent) and having genuine true faith proven by action.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead. James 2:17NIV

You see his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. James 2:22 NLT

Many times we hope, believe and pray for things to happen in our lives…we say that we have faith and trust God, but we hold ourselves back from taking the first step because of fear, insecurities, pride, maybe even laziness. So we wait and say that we will move forward when we overcome what’s holding us back…Or we wait and believe God is going to make the first move.

It is not merely enough to say or think that you have faith or trust God. That faith must have action behind it. It must be activated!

What are you hoping and believing God for in your life? What are you doing to activate your faith?

There are many incredible instances in the bible of activating faith. In Exodus 14:15-22, we find the story of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. God had promised to deliver the Israelites from Egypt and now the Israelites felt they were trapped. With the Egyptian army behind them and the Red Sea in front of them, they began to lose faith in God. Their response was one of fear, grumbling, complaining, and despair.

The Lord said to Moses in Exodus 14:15-16, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry land.”

And later, verse 21 says, “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land.”

Check this out! God told Moses what he had to do. He just needed to do it! It wasn’t enough for Moses to know that God could deliver them or that He could part the sea. God did not perform this miracle until Moses stepped forward and put his faith into action…activating faith! When Moses raised his staff and reached his hand out over the water, then God parted the sea!

Sometimes we know in our minds what we need to do, but we pray for more guidance and direction. As a result, we postpone doing it. If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving or “move on” like God told the Israelites! Many times we know God can do this and God can do that but we must activate our faith and step out.

In Joshua 3:13, we see another amazing example of activating faith when Joshua crossed the Jordan River. Joshua has now taken over as the leader of the Israelites. Joshua and the Israelites were carrying the Ark of the Covenant when they came up to the Jordan River. At this time, the Jordan River was in its flood stages so the water was very high. God told Joshua to tell the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant that when they reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, they are to go and stand in the river.

Joshua 3:15 “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away…”

I absolutely love this! So interesting that God chose the springtime when the Jordan River was at its’ highest water levels to demonstrate his power… and when the priests needed to activate their faith!

Sound familiar? Do you feel like what you are believing for is like those insurmountable high water levels? This is the perfect circumstance for you to activate your faith and for God to show his great power!

What if these priests were afraid to step into the river? They had to step into the water in order for God to perform this miracle.

You don’t know the miracle God has for you until you activate your faith and step out!

In these examples, Moses and Joshua and even Connor demonstrated activating faith by putting their faith into action.  They may have felt afraid, discouraged, or insecure but they exemplified genuine true faith…doing it afraid, doing it with discouragement, and doing it with insecurities. They are no different than you and me and if they can activate their faith, so can you!

Reflection Points:

1)    What Red Sea or Jordan River are you wanting to cross? What are you praying and trusting God for in your life? Have you activated your faith?

2)    If not, what staff do you need to raise? What river do you need to step into?

3)    What is holding you back from putting your faith into action?

Action Points:

1)    Determine what you need to do to activate your faith.

2)    Determine what is holding you back from taking that first step.

3)    Pray for the Lord’s courage and strength to help you overcome what is holding you back and activate your faith today!