Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Of valleys and mountain tops

When I was in my internship in ministry I learned a very valuable lesson - one that my wife already knew about me and affirmed when I mentioned it. I call it the Sunday Blues - a kind of spiritual hangover experience. Being a sanguine I have not been one to analyse my emotions as they usually range between happy and exuberant. But, after going through a few very involved Sabbaths I noticed that the following Sunday was not a fun day. I was less than happy (off my previous scale of emotional reckoning) and I didn't know why or what to do about it. Then, amazingly on Monday (or sometimes by Sunday afternoon) I would be back to my old cheerful self.
Everytime you climb over a mountain you go through a valley. That was the lesson I learned. So I started calling Sunday my "rest day" (that's why 666 is tattoed on my forehead!) while Jenny called Sunday "The day that Dave is useless!" Now, being accustomed to preaching, I find less and less Sundays that require solitude. I now block out a couple hours during each week for a time of Prayer and Quiet (minding my P&Q's!) That helps me stay balanced and focused. How do you do it? What strategies have you developed to maintain your sanity in a busy life of ministry and madness?
I found the following article about Elijah's "post mountain top expereice" to be an enlightening reminder of the neccessity of staying focused on God.


Mount Horeb

So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. - 1 Kings 19:8

Elijah and Moses were men of great zeal. They were passionate about their causes. Moses sought to free the Hebrews from the tyranny of slavery by killing an Egyptian with his own hand. Elijah, after calling down fire on the evil prophets of Baal, found himself spent physically and emotionally to the point he asked God to take his life.

Immediately after these two events, 500 years apart from one another, both men were led to the same Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. In Hebrew, Horeb means "desolation." This barren environment mirrored the condition of Moses and Elijah. For Moses, it was 40 years of barrenness. For Elijah, it was 40 days without food. Elijah became tired of standing alone for God.

As workplace believers we often become so focused on the goal we forget to meet God at our own Mount Horeb. This was the place God met both Moses and Elijah. It was a place of renewal, a place of new beginnings, a place of personal encounter with the living God.

Perhaps Elijah's greatest virtue was his zeal. Indeed, we shall see that twice in his communication with God, Elijah speaks of having been "very zealous" for the Lord. But zeal, unattended eventually becomes its own God; it compels us toward expectations, which are unrealistic, and outside the timing and anointing of God.

To remain balanced, zeal must be reined in and harnessed by strategic encounters with the living God. We otherwise become frustrated with people and discouraged with delays. We step outside our place of strength and spiritual protection. Many of us become so consumed with our battles that we are no longer aware of the presence of Jesus. We have been traveling in our own strength. [Francis Frangipane, Place of Immunity (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Arrow Publications, 1994), 5.]

Pray that Jesus will teach us that intimacy with Him is the greatest measure of success. Lord, guide us to the mountain of Your presence.

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