Things You Learn In The Cleft Of The Rock....
by Shannon Heiden

An elderly man, in the final days of his life, is lying in bed alone. He awakens to see a large group of people clustered around his bed. Their faces are loving, but sad. Confused, the old man smiles weakly and whispers, "You must be my childhood friends come to say good-bye. I am so grateful." Moving closer, the tallest figure gently grasps the old mans hands and replies, "Yes, we are your best and oldest friends, but long ago you abandoned us. For we are the unfulfilled promises of your youth. We are the unrealized hopes, dreams and plans that you once felt deeply in your heart, but never pursued. We are the unique talents that you never refined, the special gifts that you never discovered. Old friend, we have not come to comfort you, but to die with you." (From, "I believe in you")

Beautiful One, did you know that there is no one like you on earth? You are one of a kind, made in the image of God, destined to fulfill a calling and purpose that is so unique and specific, that no one but you can do it. Therefore, if you don't do what God has gifted, purposed and called you to do, do you realize that it will never get done? And not only will you have robbed yourself of a precious gift but you will have robbed me and everyone else on this earth as well...

For the past 13 months I have worked in a Cafe. It is not your typical, usual quaint Cafe that is hidden off the road in a little town somewhere. This Cafe sits high up on a mountain and is actually built-carved right into the inside of it. This Cafe overlooks downtown Phoenix and the beautiful waterfalls and desert landscape that are on this mountain can render one breathless.

If someone would have told me twenty years ago that one day I would be working inside a mountain, I would have laughed or better yet asked "Why?" I have to tell you that no matter how I am feeling or what I am facing, every day that I go to work a smile comes to my lips as I start my drive up the mountain.

You see, every day that I go to work I am reminded that I am exactly where the Lord has placed me. I am reminded that He, God himself has me hidden in the cleft of the rock (literally) and no matter what kind of day I'm having or what kind of mood I'm in, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has ordered my steps and brought me to this mountain. One year ago,exactly ten days before this job came my way, I had just left my current job; being on staff at my church. The Lord had shown me clearly that He wanted me to leave all the leadership positions at my church.

I absolutely loved my job and, for the first time in my life, I thought I had found my purpose on this earth. Actually, it wasn't a job to me, it was a lifestyle. It was everything and it was easy to get out of the bed in the morning. I was good at it and I loved it; those three years in ministry where the best three years of my life. So when the Lord told me "to go," I knew in my heart, that God would never call me to leave something good unless he had something better in mind.

I was a little fearful and apprehensive, but had walked with the Lord long enough to know that when He speaks, to just do it. So I did; I obeyed, gave my notice, and left the place that I loved. It was not easy and many disapproved of my choice. People told me I was making a mistake and jumping ship; that I had not heard God right. My favorite "input" was that since this was out of the blue and God did not tell anyone else first, it wasn't God.

But I can be truthful and say that even if I don't always appreciate the way God works some times, I know that He had called me to leave. I really did believe that God was going to open up another ministerial job. But He didn't. I wish I could tell you that it all made sense but it doesn't. And as much as I thought it would go a certain way, it hasn't; the only opportunity that presented itself to me was straight up a hill where I have been hidden in the cleft of a rock ever since!

This past year in the Cleft of the Rock, I have learned many things. Some lessons were easy to embrace and others took a while. There were times when I doubted, I felt foolish, thought I didn't hear God right and that maybe they were right; after all, here I am, no great ministry...I am a waitress!

The days when I fought back tears and wrestled with God in prayer as I drove to my mountain were tough, but graced with joy, hope, and expectancy. It has been a very odd year to say the least. I've been weaned away from who I used to be and thrust into an identity crisis. Who am I now? What does the future hold for me now? Now things look completely different. Two years ago, I thought I would've still been at the church. The Lord sure knows how to hit us upside the head with a wrecking ball!

As much as this last year has left me questioning, I have to admit that even in the midst of all the doubts and anxieties, my heart has always believed that this is part of His overall plan. I still believed and could see God working in my life. How many times did I hear a voice tell me I was stupid and at 37 years old I'm just a server, but then God would get on the intercom and loudly remind me, "you were serving -feeding homeless people every week, now your serving- feeding people who can afford to eat!" Serving is serving and the greatest is the servant "to all."

I may not be inside a church anymore but ministry is everywhere. God has pushed me out of the nest of familiarity and, just as a young bird learns how to soar, so will I, but I can admit, I have found myself flailing in the wind more than flying as I have plummeted towards the ground many a time.

I have learned to be with people who are not going the same direction as I am; this hasn't been easy. Many of my new friends and acquaintances are, by their own admissions, unbelievers. Many of them are really nice, good people. They are descent, fun, and smart, but they are also hurting people who have all have one thing in common; painful experiences with "church" and "church people." Most of them haven't been to a church since childhood. One has such disdain for church because his parents brought him to a priest to do an exorcism on him. That left a "great" taste in his mouth for the things of God!

I have come to know that most of them have judged God based upon their experiences with man and therefore it has left them wounded. They have turned away from Him completely because they didn't understand that God is not a man that He should lie nor is He anything like the experiences they have endured.

I have come to understand that God never called me out of ministry but straight into it- only in a different way. Every day I have the opportunity to show each of my new friends who I have come to love and understand- a loving, kind, gentle God who loves them and accepts them just as they are. And even if I am the only one who knows that He loves them too much to leave them where they are, for now, my act of ministry and service is being a tangible, loving, and accepting witness to the goodness of God.

Beautiful One, I could sit around and feel sorry for myself that I am not doing what I really want to do. I could let disappointment turn to bitterness, but what good would that do? I have come to understand God's timing and just because God shows me a certain thing, doesn't mean it's happening today. That's the easy part; being prepared and polished for it takes time and depending upon how willing I am during this season of refinement, will determine how quickly or slowly it takes me to get there. But know this- I will get there....God willing.

Even though things in my life are totally different than I expected, I don't want to get side tracked with the why's or hows. I made up my mind a long time ago that God is God and I am not. I believe that God will get me where I need to be. In the meantime I want whatever my hand finds to do now, today, to prosper and be blessed. And right now, God has chosen to hide me in a specific place while He is teaching me, and refining my character and the parts of me that need to be toughened up or softened. God has placed me in a position as His ambassador to people who have lost faith. God has chosen to place me in the Cleft of the Rock.....

My beautiful friend, I have been given the gift of being a Christian. I am a Child of God. No matter what title I will ever hold, none could be greater than " daughter of God." With that one simple truth, knowing I am sealed with the deposit of a loving God through his spirit, I am under contract with the CEO of heaven to make the most and the best of every opportunity afforded to me. In fact, shame on me if I don't.

If the Lord called me home today and asked, "What did you do with the talent I gave you?" Could I stand before my Father and say "well, I was waiting for you to bring me into the place I thought I should be, so I did nothing?" I think we both know that answer just will not do.

Beautiful One, no matter where we are or what our life looks like right now, the truth is: our steps are ordered by the Lord! God knows exactly where you're at, how old you are, and what you are dealing with. God knows the dreams and potential He has placed within you. You have already been given all that you will ever need. Remember, it was Him who knit and intricately wove you together in your mothers womb. It was He who called you by name......

Let us keep on the forefront of our minds that; "All things work together for good, to those who love God." All things- where you were, where you're at, and where you're going will all work together for your good. Live in the moment, not the past or the future, live in today. Faith is Now! "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Change today now, change someone elses today. Impact and influence your now, because every step today will determine where we end up tomorrow!

We cannot afford to forfeit our futures on self-pitying pasts that pollute our today's. Let us not be like the old man who abandoned what was given to him and the dream and purpose die right alongside him, robbing you and I of the gifts that God had for us- through him. Let us use wisely what we do have NOW! Let us be faithful in the little so that we may be given more and to whom much is given, remember, much will be required........

Remember the church God had clearly told me to leave? Well, for whatever reason, they closed their doors exactly one year later, almost to the day I served my last one. We don't know all the reasons God directs us and places us in the Cleft of the Rock, but we can be sure of this-God is God and we are not and whatever He does, whether He makes sense or doesn't, He has us there for a reason and a definite season. We will be changed and transformed and we will be come out of the cleft and down the mountain with Gods perspective. We will have learned to see Him in a new way, one we never knew before. We will have learned how to be still and we will learn the strength of silence.

The things we learn in the Cleft of the Rock are priceless and they prepare us to be useful in His Kingdom.

Beautiful One, just believe, and embrace the things you learn in the Cleft of the Rock!

Shannon Heiden

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