Saturday, January 22, 2011

Continuing In Between

Three weeks ago, I posted a blog entitled "In Between Days" about those times in our life when we find ourselves in transition. I am a fairly avid reader and have been blessed to live within close proximity to a place called Ollie's. Their motto is "Good stuff cheap!" They also have a healthy selection of "Inspirational" books. I have been fortunate to have found many books, both required and supplemental, that I have used for my seminary coursework. As an avid reader though, I have the same problem at a place like Ollie's that people with weight issues have at the all-you-can-eat buffet. I find myself loading up more than I can process or go through.

I made a trip this week to Ollie's in search of a book that I am preparing to lead a group through. While I had that specific book on my radar, I was still open to other books that might present themselves to me. In my perusal, I came across a book called "The Land Between." The title and cover caught my eye enough to have me pick it up and examine it further. The subtitle of the book is "Finding God in Difficult Transitions" and that really sparked my interest. I have been in the process of walking with some people through some major life transitions and I am always seeking wisdom in how I can best encourage them. So, I picked up the book.

I'm not one to recommend books which I haven't read before, though I have done it on occasion. I knew, though, that the person to whom I was going to recommend this book would probably not look favorably on it had I not read it myself before recommending it to them, so I dove into it yesterday. I finished it today.

The one word that I would use to describe Jeff Manion, the pastor and author who penned this book, is humble. I don't think he ever mentions the exact size of his church, something that pastors have a tendency to do in a similar way to men comparing any number of various conditions or conquests. His 25 years in the same church gives him incredible clout in my book having a father who retired after 36 years in the same church. Manion never comes across as a "know-it-all" or attempts to belittle, his writing style is very conversational, winsome, engaging, and disarming.

Manion uses the story of the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness as a comparison to those who find themselves in difficult transitions in life. He interjects personal stories, both his own as well as of people whom he knows. Ultimately, he points out that there is hope. Regardless of what our situations may look like, regardless of our feelings in the midst of them, if we trust and put our faith in God, he will truly make all things work together for good. There is no guarantee that it will happen on this side of eternity, but it will happen.

After finishing the book, I was so antsy I wanted to run to Ollie's to see if I could find a few more copies to give to 2 special people in my life. I will settle for loaning out my copy for now. My prayer is that the truth of God's word will strike them in the same way that it struck me, or even more powerfully.

Transition is such a funny word to me. I was led to my former church because it was a church "in transition." A pastor friend of mine wrote books on having "transitioned" churches. Generally, transition and change can easily be placed in people's "4 letter words" category. The reality is that life is full of transition. If we're not encountering some level of transition, we're probably doing something wrong. As I surveyed my life, I found that I am no exception to the rule. The transitions that I am or have experienced may not be as significant as other people's, but every transition feels extreme when you are in the thick of it.

My church recently finished a series called "Reset" where we talked about waking up, paying attention, and telling about what God has done in our lives. We're jumping into a series called "Maximum Impact" tomorrow. As we all try to slow our lives down and find more breathing time in the spaces, it's so important not to fill in the space with more stuff. When we make space in our lives, we will only help ourselves when we encounter the inevitable transitions.

If you have a couple of hours, pick up a copy of "The Land Between." It might not impact you in the same way that it did me, but the story of God's people and their transitions can be encouraging to anyone, regardless of what they are in the midst of. If you're facing major transition, may God be your guide in the midst of it. May he shower you with grace, peace, and mercy as you listen for a familiar voice in unfamiliar territory. If we seek after his face, he will lead us home. It may not be in our time or even in our way, but it will be the best possible timing and the best possible way.

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