The Zippy Factor

“You are a bloody husband to me!”

Can you hear her words echo in the desert wind?  Zipporah.  Wife of Moses.  These words of hers have the sound of accusation.  As if a fault lies somewhere hidden below the surface.  Scholars often point to Zipporah as bitter, spoiled, and possibly the controlling factor of Moses’ decision in not circumcising their son.  Why do we so often tend to see the negative in others and not look at the events surrounding their circumstance?  Let’s ponder a moment what could have been going on at their stopping place in the middle of the desert.

Zipporah lived in the Midian desert with her family.  One day, she and her sisters were being mistreated while trying to water their sheep when this dashing young man in princely clothes shows up to save the day!  In time Jethro’s daughter and the young prince marry.  Mazel Tov, Zipporah!  Now she finds herself married to an Egyptian raised Israelite who fled the palace to save his own life.  Two cultures from the same forefather were merged together with this union.  It’s hard to know how much of the teachings from his mom that Moses put into practice within Pharaoh’s home.  But he knew of them.  He knew of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He cared enough for his bloodline family to defend it physically.  This unique couple lived their lives tending sheep and toiling the land.  For Zipporah, it’s all she had ever known.  For Moses, from the windows of luxury he had watched others working hard, toiling in the African heat.  Yet he learned from his bride the art of living off the land.  And he learned to be a shepherd.

Then came the day Moses met God out in the middle of their desert.  Although he recognized the holiness of God and covered his face, he did not run.  He listened and obeyed.  And that began a new chapter in his life.

Can you imagine the shock Zipporah must have had the day her desert prince entered  their tent with a story about hearing the voice of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  And then he added,  “O, by the way, we are going to Egypt to tell the King to set free all of his Israelite slaves.”

Take a breath Zippy! “Let’s get this straight.  The Unseen God talked to you, from a bush that was on fire but did not burn.  He is wanting you to go back to a country where a death warrant is on your head, give commands to the king, and walk away with a million people following?”  Kudos to Zippy for boldness to travel to a foreign, hostile land just because Moses believed!

On their way to Egypt, Moses gets sick and nearly dies.  Only one thing could save him.  Circumcise the boy.  Only one person was well enough to do the task.  Zipporah.  The quick, minor surgery on her own son saved the life of her fugitive husband.  She, like Moses, did not run but stood in the gap.  When everything was falling around her, something from within rose up and gave her the strength to face the adverse circumstance.

Ever been there?  I have.  Often.  Those times when, whether a test from God, an attack from Satan, or just events of life comes against the man of God.  When he is basically knocked off his feet, who usually is left to stand in the gap?  The person who has vowed ‘until death’.  Or those times when it seems everything is against your child, parent, best friend, church body, etc.  Whatever the fight, it challenges everything within you.

I still see one such night clearly as if it were yesterday.  Kids were now teens.  Each busy that night doing their own things.  We were in the midst of transition and had no idea where our next assignment would take us.  Challenging time for us all.  And it happened.  My husband went off to our room.  In my mind, I thought nothing of it at first.  Then I was drawn to follow.  Walking  into the room, I found him lying on the bed.  He was able to whisper to me, “Pray for me.”  Immediately intercession began.  After a few minutes, I walked out and told the kids, “Pray for dad.  Pray like you have never prayed before!  And pray NOW!”  I went back in the room and dropped to my knees.  All I could get out was, “Not now Lord!  Don’t take him.  It’s not time yet.  We need more time.”  And I wept. My vigil continued until I felt a release.

Where had those words come from?  Spirit.  About thirty minutes after my vigil, my husband came out and asked what had happened.  Then he proceeded to inform me that a dark being came in and was attempting to choke the life out of him during that time.

In Zipporah’s culture, circumcision was done by the new bride.  The foreskin was tossed to the ground as the bride pronounced, “You are a bloody husband.”  This was Zipporah’s understanding of blood covenant.  This was her act of accepting her position as one with Moses. And she aptly rose to stand in the gap.  He chose to follow God’s voice.  She chose to follow him.

So often the families of those in leadership are judged by others who have preconceived ideas as to what that role looks like.  Perfection is often expected.  Or maybe it’s the concept that each child should operate in the same gifting’s or callings of their parents.  And have the same wise answers.  But that is not God’s way.  Nor should it be expected.

Maybe you have the tendency to judge someone’s action without knowing the full story.  Step back.  Take a breath.  Listen to God’s voice of grace first. Just like there is usually more to your own story, there probably is to theirs as well.

Maybe you are familiar with the judgments of others.  Find who you are in Him and rise above other opinions.  The more time we spend with Him in a true intimate relationship, the more we become like Him and start walking with an unoffendable heart.

Or maybe you are facing a situation that was not of your choosing.  One that causes you to take action and rise above.  Have a friend or family member that needs Christ?  Do warfare.  Have a body of believers needing a visitation?  Pray until it happens.  Whatever the situation –   choose to stand in the gap.  Stand, without judgment, until released.  Life will come forth!

Whether they had chosen to circumcise one son in Moses’ custom and one in Zipporah’s, we do not know.  But we know she didn’t run from the ordeal.  Once again, my research  of the wife of Moses has shown me truth.  It’s the truth of walking in MY calling – next to my Moses.  There might be several things I see differently than he does, and I might not have that mountain top conversation with God, but I still have to know who I am and what I am called to do.  And in that confidence, resting in the strength of My Center, I am able to rise above other’s opinions and stand!

Rise up to the Zippy factor!  Walk in the confidence of His calling.  Lean into that Center of your life because HE is that center.  He is the strength when there is nothing left to hang on to.  When we keep that focus, something will rise up from that Center at the time of need and will give us strength to stand.

Be blessed today!

 

“I Gave You Three”

I can still recall the joy I had when my husband and I accepted our first full time ministry position.  Even as a child, I knew my calling was that of a pastor.  It was a knowing that just grew with age.  And that still small voice kept calling me to prepare for what He would one day make a reality.

Then it came.  That first night to stand in front of the youth of our church was such an honor.  I had dreamed of this moment.  The altar times; praying with the girls.  The late night chats and shopping events.  The small group setting where one-on-one ministry could altar the course of a life.  Yet within weeks, events went out of the picture perfect lines of ministry.  You know, that picture you can create in your own mind of what something will look like.  It was ingrained in me.  That ‘how my ministry would unfold’ picture.  Instead I found myself rarely even in services with our youth.  The reason: there was no nursery available for my little ones.

About the same time we transitioned into youth ministry, our church transitioned into small groups instead of mid-week service.  Parents were in cell groups while the youth still met at the church in our youth building.  That left only my little ones in need of nursery.  Nursery room was even in a separate building.  So while other ladies were bonding during small groups, I was in a large building alone, marching around in circles with three little ones marching behind me singing, “following the leader”.  And that one-on-one ministry time during our youth’s Friday night small group?  Same thing.  The youth sat in the living room listening to my husband teach.  I was in the den watching Balto save an entire town or Andy pull Barney out of another sticky situation.

My mind went tilt.  And it was time to have my own one-on-one with my Father.  This was not what ‘He and I’ had planned for my life.  And I knew He would listened.

I vented.  “This was not what I had in mind.  This isn’t fair.  My husband wasn’t called into ministry until he was in college.  I’ve know my whole life!!  I am supposed to be influencing world changers from today’s youth……not watching Bambi!  Why would You allow me to walk through the door only to face a wall?”  I vented until I had nothing left to say.  He listened.  Then came that still small voice.

“I gave you three.  Duplicate yourself in those three.”

And my world stilled.  Cracked.  Then came back off from ’tilt’.

As I sit here typing this, those words are still clear and tears fill my eyes.  See, mentoring sometimes looks different according to our seasons in life.  Duplication is still the end game.  Everything I did with my kids became an intentional time to mentor.  If we were planting seeds in the back yard, I taught about the process of seeds dying in the dirt in order to grow into a plant.  Just like Jesus died and rose again.  When we rescued a stray dog and took it in for care, or tried to save a hurt bird, or caught the lizard at the local nursery……only to have it get loose in my car while driving home……they all were times to teach them a character of Christ.  Sometimes I blew it in mentoring of my three.  But God’s grace always covered the empty space where I had missed the mark.  And my Father taught ME how to be creative in mentoring youth as well.  Girls joined me in grocery shopping or various outings with my kids.  Those are times I taught the life lesson of being a godly role model.  Or we baked together.  Or had coffee.  No matter how creative it became, it was all still the intentional art of duplication.

In the last few years I have been able to minister in Peru, Guatemala, Alaska, Tanzania, Morocco, Spain, Zambia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia,… and I have a kids’ home in Haiti.  Yet I’ve never visited another country except Mexico and Canada.  So how could I have ministered in other places?  Just one answer……….

HE GAVE ME THREE!

 

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Life of Zippy!

“Moses is on the mountain again.”

Those words started becoming a common phrase as I entered the church looking for my husband on any given day.  It was said in a tongue-and-cheek manner, yet to me it had become reality.  My husband was being drawn away by the Spirit into a time of prayer. At all times.  Day or night.  At home or at the church.  His life was being transformed.  And so was mine.

Family time was priority to us as parents.  We had breakfast and devotion every morning.  Supper and family prayer was practically every night depending on activities.  Having weekends usually busy with activities, Monday nights were our family nights.  We had established routines.  Then it happened.  Dad started being called ‘up the mountain.’  If we were home together, we knew when he was going into prayer once we heard both the living and dining room doors closing, shutting off that part of the house.  Or if he had called saying he was on his way home yet ended up walking in the door much later, he probably had passed the prayer room and felt drawn to go pray.  Yes, these times of prayer were taking him spiritually to a new level.  Any time someone would ask where they could find Pastor Ralph, the typical answer was, “He’s praying.”  Thus came the ‘Zippy’ time of my life.  Because as ‘Moses’ was praying, his wife was with three kids and a dog.

See, few people stop to realize the simple fact that Moses had a wife.  And two sons.  Imagine being left with two young boys for 40 days, among a million people you don’t know……and in the middle of a desert.  After hearing the ‘Moses’ comment enough times and watching the awe some had in their eyes for this godly man and his devotion, I wanted to get on the rooftop and let everyone know, “MOSES HAD A WIFE!”  Instead, I decided it was time for me to find more details about that wife.  Honestly now!  How did she do it?  How did she live with this man who had experienced the glory of God up on that mountain?

We only have a handful of scriptures that mention Zipporah, and none of them are during the time when Moses was on the mountain. Or when he sat judging a million people.  No details of her life during the 40 years of wandering.  Yet the little information I read spoke volumes to me of this woman who found herself in the midst of God’s plan for an entire nation.

Born into the home of a priest, she understood the cost of leadership.  As a Midianite, there is much doubt as to which god her family worshipped.  However, as a descendant of Abraham through Keturah, and seeing how her father later gave praise to God for His protection over the Israelites, there is strong possibility they were of a sect that actually worshipped the God of Abraham.  Whether that is true or not, through her actions towards Moses we can see that she understood someone following their call.  She was willing to follow him even though she had not heard from God herself.

Can you relate?  I can.  The call.  The reality of being one with someone else who is answering their call…..even when you don’t fully understand why.  It sometimes requires you to live out life with your own unfulfilled dreams.  A life of self sacrifice for the sake of another person living in obedience.  A life often spent knelt by an altar.  The altar brings peace in acceptance.  For the sake of the souls that are yet to come to Christ.  Sometimes it’s lonely.  Sometimes it’s indescribable joy!  But always it takes leaning on the secret strength found in His center.

This modern day ‘Zippy’ is encouraged knowing others have walked this road before.

Solitude

We all need it.  That time alone without interruptions.  Yet so often we have too many things fighting for our time and attention.  And when the unexpected shows up at our door, we realize how much we depend on those times of solitude.  We’ve all been there.  You know –  those days when everything came crashing down at once.  The days when you just wanted to run and scream and let everyone know that you really do not have that super hero cape hiding in the closet.

I still remember December of 1991.  I had just scheduled a doctor’s appointment for my very sick one-year old daughter when the phone rings.  My mom’s voice breaks through to inform me that my Mam-maw had just had an aneurism and was taken to the ER.  She might not make it.  At the doctor’s office, I learn that my daughter is very sick with the croup and is borderline of needing to be taken to the hospital.  That’s impossible!  I have a four hour drive to take to see my Mam-maw! I had not even had the chance to tell her I was once again expecting!  That was to be part of her Christmas present.

No drive home that night.  Instead, a recheck was scheduled for first thing the next morning with our pediatrician.  My husband and I were taking turns being up nursing and praying for our daughter.  In between my turns I was making a beeline to the bathroom.  Morning sickness had decided to visit early.  As our daughter is crying and I am losing what little I had in my stomach, my husband hears a great song come on the radio, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year……..”  I don’t thing Andy had gotten the memo that our house was not experiencing such a wonderful time!

Or what about the time you find out your husband’s job was just given to someone else without him knowing and now your family is without a job or insurance, and baby number three is on his way?  And you need four brand new tires for your car.

We all can list those times.  The news of a lay off.  Learning your 13 year old was just hit in the head by a brick and has a concussion while in Guatemala.  Watching a parent slowly drift away to eternity.  Hearing a spouse on the other end of the line barely able to breathe and you can’t seem to get to them fast enough.  Watching your child’s world fall apart and there is nothing you can do to fix it.

These are the times you learn where your inner strength really lies.  As one of the animated shows asked, what is your center when the things around you seem to be overcoming your very being?  For me, it is the quietness with my Father.  I depend on it.  My responses to the unexpected reflect it.  Being my mom’s caregiver was an honor.  But how could I have so much peace in the midst of watching her earthly body drift away?  It’s my center.

My center is my very being.  That being that knows that no matter what comes my way, my Father holds me.  Sometimes I lose sight of that center.  Sometimes I rush to judgement on others who hurt me.  Sometimes I scream into space that I am at the end of my rope and can not take another thing thrown my way.  But every time that life gets to that place, I find my center again when I quietly walk back into HIS center of peace.

He holds me.  He is my center.  Abba Father.  Creator.  God Almighty.  My Eternal Lover. And no matter what comes my way or how I respond, He still puts His arms around me in comfort and love.  He created me so He knows me like no one else.

He is my secret strength in this life.  Is He yours?  If not, I challenge you, find HIS center for your life.