The Purpose Of the Yoke

In the days of long ago, before farmers had tractors to do the work, donkeys, horses, or oxen were used to plow the fields.  A wooden crossbeam, called a yoke, would be attached across the neck of the animal with reins that the farmer would hold to guide the animal in the right direction.  The farmer held a plow and together with the plow and the yoked animal, straight rows would be furrowed, ready to then plant the seeds for the desired crop.  While the yoked animal assisted greatly with the task at hand, it was only the skill of the farmer that could guide the animal to keep the rows straight.

I was thinking about the yoke earlier this week as I was reading in Matthew 11:28-30, “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.'”

This passage, upon first reading, can seem anything but helping to ease a burden.  We picture a yoke as onerous and vexing.  Why would anyone want to wear one?

If we concentrate merely upon the yoke, then yes, we get a picture that is oppressive and troublesome to even think about.  The yoke definitely does not paint a pretty picture in our minds.  Good news!  It’s not about the yoke; it’s all about the farmer.  It’s the farmer who has the skill to guide the animal in the right direction.  In the above illustration; again, it’s not about the yoke, but about Jesus who guides us with every step we take.  As the verse reminds us, Jesus teaches us the right way to go.  He is gentle in His guiding and He uses everything in the fields of life to instruct us in His ways, and His ways are full of beauty.

If all we do is focus on the yoke, the difficulties of life that we face, then we will fail to pay attention to the One who instructs us into all truth, guiding us along the furrows of untamed soil, that we may reap crops of joy and peace and courage.  The yoke is merely an instrument that our perfect Teacher uses to keep us close to Him so that we may feel His tugging here and His guiding to the right or the left there.

Without Him, we will be all over the fields of life, making senseless tracks that lead to destruction. However, with Him, we are always pointed in the right direction that promises fruits of goodness for all our days.

In our passage, the phrase “let me teach you,” is also translated “learn of me.”  You see, as we become familiar to the guiding of the One who holds the reins, then we sense His gentle touch, we recognize His words of encouragement.  As we learn His ways, what happens then?  Trust grows.  Faith grows.  Therefore, joy in the midst of any unfurrowed field, grows, too.  Why?  Because our faith is in the One who holds the reins. We trust that He indeed knows the way we should go.  Therefore, in gladness, we bear the yoke, and take off with His leading into the fields of uncertainty, at last realizing that He always knows the most wonderful way in which we should go.

The Lady On The Train

The past several posts I’ve been walking down memory lane.  I can tell you why.  I’m working on my next book which will be a collection of stories from my travels.  I hope you will enjoy it.  Today I take you with me on a journey that took place nearly 37 years ago.

I was embarking on my first overseas trip as an adult.  I flew from Atlanta to New York; from New York to Iceland, and from Iceland to Germany.  I was met by a couple (whom I had never met) who had instructions to put me on a train bound for Salzburg, Austria.  I was led to a compartment with six seats, three on each side.  I sat in a middle seat and was told that my reservation would take me all the way to my destination.  I was to learn that this was a mistake.

As the train eased forward, my tired body fell in with its rhythm and I dozed off and on.  At times the train would stop at stations along the way, letting off some passengers while taking on others.  At one such stop, a man opened the door to our compartment.  He looked at his ticket, looked at me, and said something in German.  I didn’t know a word of what he said, but I sensed it was not good.  The man left, but returned with the conductor who also said something to me that I couldn’t understand.  “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak German,” I heard my nervous voice speak.  The conductor then pointed to me and the aisle outside.  I understood the gesture and got up to leave.  The conductor took down my two suitcases from the overhead and set them outside.  The man with the ticket took my seat.  The conductor left.  I didn’t know where to go or even how to ask what I should do now, so I sat where I was.  I was balancing atop my suitcases, looking into the compartment with six people looking back at me.  Awkward!

Suddenly the woman who had sat opposite me stood and left the compartment.  I watched her disappear down the aisle.  In minutes she returned with the conductor.  She motioned for me to get up.  I did.  The conductor picked up my two cases and we followed the woman.   We passed through several carriages until we came to a particular compartment — in the first class section!  She opened the door and motioned for me to go inside.  I wanted to politely protest, to explain that I couldn’t sit there, but I could not speak the language, so I did as I was gestured to do.  I sat in one seat and the woman sat next me.  She smiled.  I smiled in return.   For hours we sat in companionable silence, me dozing off and on while she browsed through a magazine.  At one point when the train stopped, the woman stood up.  Impulsively I stood, too.  The woman motioned no and gestured for me to sit down again.  I did.  She smiled, waved, and was gone.  The conductor never returned and I sat safely for the rest of my journey.  I can only deduce that the woman purchased first class tickets for both me and herself.  What kindness!

I have experienced many such acts of kindness from strangers coming to my aid in my journeys, and I have had the opportunity of being that stranger to aid someone else.  It’s part of the thrill of traveling to new places, and it provides opportunity to,  “Be kind to one another…”  Ephesians 4:32  The power of kindness cannot be measured.

I was 23, alone, and traveling through a country where I didn’t speak the language, going to a place I had never been, but God had a stranger ready to help.  We never need fear when God leads us to unknown places; after all, it is Him who is in the navigator’s seat and, “He knows the way that I take…”  Job 23:10


Reaching The Destination

My time in Africa has been among the most amazing experiences of my life.  To be up close and personal with so many animals, working with fascinating people from around the world, experiencing life in the bush, trekking through the jungle, and bumping along the way (literally) but knowing of a certainty that the outcome will be so worth it all!  

I have had the pleasure of flying in a bush plane.  As we ascended, the plane lifted and fell, wobbled to the left and to the right, but when we reached our intended height, it became a smooth ride.  The ariel view of the African bush stretching for miles in shades of brown, gold, and cream was a fabulous sight.  What our eyes beheld was certainly worth the bumps.

I learned on many occasions just what is meant when someone laughs and shouts, “African massage!”   For miles our landrover would jump and bump over a million rocks and ruts in the road.  Every passenger bumped and jostled, too.  A rough ride but when we would reach our destination, perhaps trekking a lioness, or perhaps to sit and find zebras grazing, or hippos enjoying rolling in the water, it was spectacular in every instance.

A most exciting moment was reaching the Mara river in Tanzania to find hundreds of wildebeest gathering on the other side.  It was the time of year for the Great Migration.  To get to our viewing spot with the speed our driver took to get us there, was yet another wild “African Massage.”  We watched for a half hour and another half hour and yet another.  Finally, one wildebeest crept down the slope of the bank; then, a second and a third followed close behind. The three stood together watching the water.  Crocodiles are often waiting their chance for a meal.  When a fourth wildebeest came down the slope, a hundred, then a thousand and more descended down the bank, jumped with wild abandonment into the water, swam to the other side, ran up the waiting bank, and divided themselves to race around each side of our vehicle.  What an amazing moment of time!  For forty minutes we watched in wonder as 10,000 wildebeest migrated to the other side in a wild dash of great speed — and we were in the middle of it all!   What a terrific thrill and privilege to have witnessed this event.  It was worth every hard bump to reach that destination.

Trekking up the Virunga mountains in Rwanda has been amazing!  Our trekking guides were armed with machetes and literally had to cut paths for us.  Tall, thick, green foliage was all around.  A smell of damp lingered in the air mixed in with fragrances of wild flowers.  Vines tangled themselves around every piece of foliage.  My back and leg muscles began to ache with each step up and up and up.  At last, after many pauses for sips of water and resting for moments to catch our breath, we stepped into the presence of the Silverback Mountain Gorillas.  Every ache was well worth the journey, not to be traded for any comfort that would have otherwise been offered had we stayed at the bottom of the mountain.  Avoiding the bumps would have led to — nothing special. 

As we travel through life there are plenty of rough patches along the way.  Bumps and bruises come to us all as we climb our mountains of difficulty and challenge.  Even so, it’s the climb that makes us stronger.  Then, when our life’s journey is over, we slip from this life into our eternal destiny where our Father will welcome us home with words of, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  Every bump and hardship will have been worth it all and the view that awaits us is promised to be breathtaking!

“He knows where I am going.  And when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.  For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed His ways and not turned aside.”   Job 23:10-11

The way is not always easy, but don’t surrender to hardship; takes God’s own strength and press on!  The destination is out of this world!

When The Light Shines Brightest

I returned to my Bishkek home last evening after another wonderful day in Kyrgyzstan.  It was still daylight.  As I walked past my window, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a very small white something glisten.   I looked, and there I saw an outside light had been left on.  The smallest of white light could be seen through the glass globe of the light fixture.  As night time fell,  the light shone brighter, making it easier for anyone to see their way in the dark.

I could not help but think of the light of Jesus available to all who know Him.  Why is it that, at times in our lives, when the troubles of this world brings darkness across our paths, we forget to look to the Light to show us the way?  When things are going well for us, we don’t notice the Light so much.  It’s always there, but it’s in the darkness of our days that it shines brightest.

By nature, we don’t like the dark.  We want light.  We want good times and happy times to fill our days.  We want less struggles and more ease.  However, our heavenly Father, who loves us so very much, He knows it’s often in the dark that we cling the closest to Him.

The light always shines brightest in the dark — therefore, we need not fight against the hard times, or turn from Father’s face in difficulties.  The light of His love and grace and guidance is always available to us.  It’s ours for the asking — focus and see the Light.

“But He knows the way that  I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”  Job 23:10