Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


Traveling Light with an Eye Towards Home

1991 Europe
In the spring of my junior year of college, I was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in London.  The program was structured to allow all the students ample time for traveling on weekends.  We even had a ten-day break in the middle of our studies to take adventures to more far flung destinations.

I’ll never forget our first weekend trip.  My friend, Kristi, and I packed up our large travel backpacks and headed to Paddington Station in central London.  By the time we arrived at the station, our backs were already aching and our shoulders were sagging under the weight of our large loads.  What we quickly realized was that the full size bottles of shampoo, multiple pairs of shoes and outfit changes we’d packed led to unbearably heavy baggage.  A few weeks later when we packed for our longer trip, we had learned our lesson and brought as little as possible.  The things that had seemed so important to bring lost their value when we realized how much they weighed us down.

My lesson traveling in Europe seems to fit well with Sheila Walsh’s final chapter in The Shelter of God’s Promises.  As she explores The Promise of Heaven, she likens our time on earth to a short camping trip.  She says: “I think we will all be more than happy to pitch our tent and be in a mode of traveling light because what is ahead is so much better!” (p.196) What things do you need to jettison from your baggage so that you can travel lighter on the journey?

For many people, focusing on this life supersedes thoughts of the life yet to come. Yet, God’s plan all along has been to use this life as a training ground to prepare us to spend eternity with Him.   Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:1-3  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  When we fret over earthly things, we are losing sight of truth.  When we focus all of our energy on making life here and now perfect and comfortable, we’ll be disappointed repeatedly.  Sheila Walsh puts it well when she says:  “We will always have an experience here of It isn’t quite what I hoped it would be, or It isn’t quite as fulfilling as I thought it would be.  That is because we were not made to live in our earthly tents for very long”  (p. 196).

I have had the privilege and the heartbreak of watching three different family members go home to Heaven in the last 9 years.  It may sound strange to read the word “privilege” in response to seeing a loved one die, but those experiences have had a profound impact on my faith and my understanding of God.  It’s hard to put words to the experience and of the intimacy of watching someone move from this life to the next.  There is a sense of relief knowing they are no longer suffering, but also the realization that they actually have the better end of the deal.  Something about it makes everything seem more real, more profound- God’s word and promises, our faith, our relationships, the love we share, the hope we have because of who Jesus is and what He has done.  The fussy things of this life seem shallow and meaningless by comparison.  The hurt and the pain are raw and powerful, but the hope and peace are deeper still.   They bring an unspeakable comfort that words cannot adequately express.

Through the journey of grief, I found powerful healing and comfort through songs with themes centered on Heaven.  Some have become like well-loved companions holding my heart in times of intense pain.  I thought it would be fitting to include a few of my favorite titles and artists.  They can point you toward the promise of heaven in a way words alone cannot.  I hope you’ll take time to listen to them, to download the ones you love and to share your own favorites by commenting below.

I’ve included links that will play the songs and show the lyrics.  Carve out ten minutes for a “worship moment”  to listen and  praise God for the promise of Heaven that gives us ultimate joy and hope.

This Is Not My Home by Building 429

I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me

I’ll Fly Away traditional hymn sung by Jars of Clay

Deep Enough to Dream by Chris Rice

Take Me Into the Beautiful by Cloverton

Softly and Tenderly traditional hymn sung by Amy Grant

Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice

I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin

Finally Home by Mercy Me



Candy Canes and College Dorms

Watching old home videos recently, I came across a short clip that brought a smile to my face.  It was a few weekends before Christmas and we’d brought our boys to visit Santa.  At the time, they were about three and five and totally enthralled by seeing Mr. Claus in the flesh:

“What would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?”  The red-suited man asks.  Staring wide-eyed, my younger son stammers shyly:  “A candy cane.”  Reaching into a basket, Santa chuckles, hands him one of the many candy canes he’s been giving out all day and responds, “Here you go!  Santa will try to think of something else to bring you for Christmas day.”  Smiling sheepishly, my boys say “Thank you” and slide off his lap.

We all laughed as we watched the video and my older son, now thirteen, asked his eleven year old brother:  “Why did you ask Santa for a candy cane when you already knew he had a basket of them?  You could have asked him for anything!”

My younger son had no real explanation other than, “Well, I saw the candy canes and I wanted one!”

Sheila Walsh shares similar stories in her teaching on “The Promise of More” in The Shelter of God’s Promises.  She points out that people often ask God to give them things that are familiar and comfortable, but not necessarily best for them.  She admonishes us not to settle for what will satisfy us for a moment when God wants to give us so much more.

Sheila highlights an uncomfortable truth:  “We have more than one hundred prophecies in the Scriptures that Jesus fulfilled.  It is easy to ask how the Jews could possibly miss Jesus being the One.  Yet we miss Him all the time because our appetites are not hungry enough for Him.  Governing the world was not what God has in mind, but rather governing our hearts.”  (P. 177)

In our culture, when we hear “The Promise of More” many of us think in terms of the things we’d like for ourselves:  more money; more time; more success; more respect; more friends; more entertainment; more technological gadgets; more health; more security.  You can probably fill in the blank with any number of things.

We might read a passage like Matthew 7:7-8 and see it as a promise that God exists to fulfill our desires:  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”   At first glance, it seems like an easy promise to claim and to see fulfilled.

However, many of us have prayed for “more” and not seen results or have received answers that look different than we’d expected.    In my life, this is usually because God is looking to change me more than my circumstances.  As we ask and seek, we grow in relationship with Him.  When we repeatedly ask, He begins to move and work at refining our hearts and aligning our desires with His will.  He has more that He wants to give us than what we’re asking for, which is why He usually isn’t interested in quick fixes.  Like the mall Santa with my son, he could grant our shallow requests for a candy cane and send us happily on our way.  However, in His infinite wisdom, He often says “no” to the “candy canes” in our lives that would keep us from seeing the “more” He has to offer.

The first time I experienced this was in my freshman year of college.  Living in Southern California 350 miles from all that I knew and loved I felt lost in a sea of students.  I struggled to embrace the lifestyle in the dorms.  I was constantly surrounded by people, but felt totally alone. I longed to find deep friendships with others who cared about knowing me truly.  Even the campus ministry I attended just didn’t feel like “home” and I had a hard time finding friends there.

In my loneliness, I pleaded with God to bring me a true friend and to help me find my place in the huge, impersonal university setting.  For the first time in my life I began spending time with God consistently.  I combed the Bible for truths I could claim and poured out my heart to Him in the pages of my journal.  I trusted Him in a way I couldn’t trust my new acquaintances and casual friends.  Spending time with God became my life- line and the only thing that gave me the strength and confidence to face each day.  I ached for a true friend, but I see now that God kept that from me until I was totally dependent upon Him.  He wanted me to lean into Him and to develop the deep relationship with Him that I longed to have with another person.  He wanted to give me more of Him than I ‘d ever had before.  Looking back, I remember all the feelings of insecurity and loneliness, but I also recognize how God met me and stretched me. He laid the foundation for a deeply personal relationship with Him that has continued growing ever since.  Eventually He did bring solid friendships into my life, but He also gave me more than that.  He knew what I needed better than I did.

All these years later, I still seek God daily and trust Him to give me the wisdom and confidence to carry me through each day.   I pray for Him to pour out His Spirit on me so that I am filled to over-flowing.  I see now that each time we ask Him for more of Himself in our lives, He expands our capacity to receive Him and to bless others.  When we stop asking Him to do only what we want and instead invite Him to let His will be done, we will see the “more” that He has to offer.

How about you?  Do you see places in your life where you are seeking the world’s version of “more” and missing out on the deeper things God wants to give you?   Where would you like to see Him give you “more” this week?   Post a comment and share it with us!